Right here in Calhoun County.
Sure, they’ll be celebrating out in Hollywood, ground zero for the 85th Academy Awards ceremony (6 p.m. on ABC). But the last few years, Debbie Braun has given the glitterati a run for their money.
It should come as no surprise that Braun, the drama teacher at Oxford High School, has always loved the Academy Awards. Five or six years ago as awards season approached, Braun was online reading up on all the Oscar buzz.
“I saw other people were holding Oscar parties and I said ‘Why not?’” Braun said, and a tradition was born.
Over the years, Braun’s parties have developed a reputation to rival even the swankiest Tinsel Town soiree, complete with red carpet, Hollywood Walk of Fame, celebrity sightings — the photogs even showed up once.
“That year I gave out boas to the ladies and sunglasses to the men, and my daughter stood out front with a camera taking pictures like the paparazzi,” she explained.
Braun said she usually starts planning about a month in advance, hitting up movie theaters for posters from nominated films, writing Oscar night bingo cards and — like any good screen queen — hunting for the perfect outfit.
With a different theme each year — “come as a character from a nominated movie, come as your favorite movie character” — there is no telling who guests will be wearing. Or who guests might be, for that matter.
Past party guests have included Marilyn Monroe, “Pirates of the Caribbean” heroine Elizabeth Swann and the lovely Ms. Hepburn (Katherine or Audrey, take your pick. Both have made appearances). One year John Belushi even showed up twice, giving “Blues Brother” Jake the chance to meet his “Animal House” alter ego.
But the main event is the ceremony itself, when those celebrities, starlets and paparazzi alike gather around the TV, ballot in hand, to see who will win, who will lose and who will Joan Rivers being talking about tomorrow.
“We have fun with it each year,” said Debbie. “People look forward to it; they come up and ask, ‘are you having a party this year?’”
This year, however, she is handing the hostess reigns over to her daughter-in-law, Lindsay Tyson, who shares her mother-in-law’s flair for the dramatic.
Until recently, Lindsay said her typical Oscar night was spent sitting on the couch eating ice cream with friends. But after attending the 2011 Oscar bash — while planning her wedding to Debbie’s son Matthew — “I wanted to do something fun like that,” she said.
The young couple moved into a new house in October, and hosting her in-law’s traditional Oscar party seemed to Lindsay like the perfect occasion to break it in. And Debbie was happy to pass on the golden torch to the next generation of cinema lovers.
“She said go for it, ‘you can clean up later’,” Lindsay recalled.
Keeping with tradition, Lindsay’s first venture as Oscar party host will feature the obligatory red carpet and the Hollywood Walk of Fame, “where everyone is their own star,” she said. And Debbie is tasked with continuing her legendary Oscar bingo, where instead of B4, players are on the look out for award ceremony platitudes — Jack Nicholson in sunglasses, a winner claiming not to have a speech prepared, or the inevitable pronouncement “it’s heavier than I thought.”
But Lindsay plans to put her own twist on the festivities as well. New this year will be the award for Best Covered Dish in a Nominated Film.
“I’ve asked everyone to bring a dish that’s themed after one of the nominated movies,” she explained. “For instance I’m making a s’more ‘Amour’ dip.”
Like Debbie, Lindsay has always loved the glitz and glamour of the Academy Awards. In fact, she said every year she challenges herself to watch as many of the nominated films as she can. This year she’s 35 for 53.
“Of the films nominated for best picture the only one I haven’t seen yet is ‘Amour’,” she said, though she’s rooting for “Silver Linings Playbook” to take home the night’s big prize. “I’ve seen it three times. It just leaves you with a smile on your face.”
Debbie, ever the theater coach, will be pulling for “Les Miserables,” “of course,” she said. “I love the musical; I’ve seen it live three times.”
But a little friendly rivalry in the show’s final moments notwithstanding, tonight Lindsay is happy to follow in her mother-in-law’s star-studded footsteps, bringing a little Hollywood magic to Alabama.
“I’ve always loved the Oscars,” she said, “so it’s so special to get to be a part of this.”