Watching the Oscars at the Roxie Theater

I think I enjoyed the Oscars last night more than any other time in my life. And that’s not only because of the big surprise happy ending. I was part of an enthusiastic crowd at the Roxie, cheering, groaning, and applauding. And we were very well entertained during the commercial breaks.

This wasn’t the first time I watched the Oscars in a movie theater. In 2008, I was disappointed at the Rafael. In 2011, I had a much better time at the Cerrito. It took me nine years to do it again.

But the Roxie last night was the best, even though it was sort of a disappointment. It was advertised as Up The Awards Benefit Bash (the theaters are not allowed to use the word Oscar in advertising these events). The title and the graphic suggested that they would be making fun of the whole thing. I expected, perhaps, comedians.

The Roxie’s logo for the event

And you really do need a sense of humor if you’re going to stay for the first hour of the event. That’s when celebrities walk the red carpet, being stopped and interviewed by some of the stupidest, most fashion-conscious people ever to hold a microphone.

But occasionally, an interesting comment gets through. Parasite writer/director Bong Joon Ho explained through an interpreter that he originally planned to make Parasite a stage play. But as he kept writing, he found himself thinking about camera angles.

The Red Carpet

So what did the Roxie do to make the night special? When people watching at home had to deal with commercials, we got a lot of unusual and hilarious short subjects. Every time the advertising started, the folks in the projection booth switched to a collection of unique clips gathered by Stev Sechovec, the Roxie’s resident curator of film, video and digital recklessness. Some of the highlights:

  • Steve Martin and Gilda Radner attempting to do Dancing in the Dark and not quite getting it right (or more likely, getting it right…for comedy).
  • Several fake trailers, including one for The Ten Commandments, and another for a very violent Tarantino movie called Djesus Uncrossed.
  • Luke, R2D2, and Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back, edited into a rap video.
  • A very kinky middle-aged couple get interrupted by their teenage kids.

The only problem was that the shorts were usually stopped in the middle to go back to the Awards.

Another extra: Falafels and other Middle-Eastern snacks free of charge (aside from the cost of admission) from Truly Mediterranean.

Food in the lobby

The Roxie audience was overly talky during the red carpet silliness, but when the real show began, we were cheerful, excited, and attentive. People applauded and sometimes howled with pleasure when their favorites won. Parasite’s surprise win for Best Picture got a standing ovation (or maybe it was just me).

That win, by the way, is Oscar history. For the first time, a film won Best Foreign Language Film (now renamed International Feature Film) and Best Picture. All the more exciting, Parasite really is the best film of 2019.


As usual, the nominated songs were spread throughout the show. With every single tune and lyric, I had to ask myself when did I last like an Academy-nominated song? Even Elton John’s ditty was dull.

Only a couple of winners used their 45 seconds in the limelight to plea for a better world. Best Actor winner Joaquin Phoenix (Joker) used his time to call for switching to a vegan diet, although he didn’t actually say that directly. A fair amount of the Roxie’s audience applauded.

Joaquin Phoenix

It was a hell of a lot better than watching the Oscars at home.

One thought on “Watching the Oscars at the Roxie Theater

  1. I have always heard the Roxie Awards party was irreverent ad fun.But I am surprised they are not using a DVR to allow the commercial break programing to play out. When I ran the Balboa we always had a sold out house with magician/comedian/all around very funny guy Sebastian Boswell III as the emcee. We bought a Tivo on ebay for $35 and could go off screen during the commercials and Sebastian could start any number of audience participation activities. Many people came dressed as Oscar nominated films or celebrities so there was a costume parade and contest. There were trivia contests, “A Few Degrees of Separation” from an Oscar nominee (past or present) that audience members shared was always a big hit. There was live music including a singalong. When the commercials were over projectionist Jim Cassidy had a signal to let Sebastian know that whenever he was ready to wrap a live segment, the Oscar show was ready to roll. And we went back on screen as the next Oscar segment started (via DVR delay). Everybody saw the entire show and our live show played to its completion. Of course this meant that we were not in real time and sometimes an audience member looked at their phone and gasped or cheered about a winner but they knew to keep it ti themselves. When a local winner was announced the audience went wild.

    All audience members got prizes with cake and libations in the lobby after the show. Some past or present Oscar shorts might follow. It was a blast. The current owners continue with their own tae on the Oscars and maybe next year you should try it out.

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