In this Very Special Edition of Dinner at a Movie, film critic Moira Macdonald and food writer Bethany Jean Clement drink in the Oscars — and the bubbly — at Seattle’s historically glamorous Century Ballroom.
In eight installments of Dinner at a Movie, we’ve been here, there and everywhere — from the Eastside (we love you, Cinemark Reserve!) to the south (ditto, Tin Room Theater!) to right smack in the middle of downtown (hi, Cinerama! Mwah!). But one thing has been lacking from our cinematic/culinary adventures: FORMAL WEAR. With Oscar night looming, we thought it might be a good idea to haul out our slinky black gowns (Bethany) and tulle-and-feathered evening hats (Moira), hop into a Lyft — which quite possibly turned into a pumpkin later in the evening — and head to the Century Ballroom for its annual Academy Awards viewing party.
Best Performance by an Oscar-Party Venue
Moira: The Century Ballroom, celebrating its 22nd anniversary in March, is located in the historic Oddfellows Hall at 10th and Pine. Its mission is “to promote social dancing of all kinds,” and everyone is welcome at the venue’s many dance lessons and special events, or to dine at the adjoining Tin Table restaurant. But on Sunday, there wasn’t much room for salsa-ing; tables were set up on the dance floor, draped in red and sprinkled with glittery stars.
Bethany: The guests outdid themselves, entering on the Century Ballroom’s elegant balcony and then not falling down the stairs to walk the red carpet.
Moira: Did you hear that Best Actor winner Rami Malek fell off the Academy stage after the show ended? Seriously! That happened! (He’s OK.)
Bethany: Oh dear! Presumably, he wasn’t even wearing heels. Unlike the extremely glamorous Oscars co-host at the Century Ballroom — the inimitable Waxie Moon, who got the evening AND his slinky gold lamé evening gown off to a great start with a striptease number set to Queen’s “We Will Rock You.” He ended in just his high heels, mirrored sunglasses and a gold-spangled g-string and pasties. And no, he did not fall off the stage.
Moira: Consider us rocked. Immensely. Lots of Queen fans at the party, and lots of fabulous outfits. I particularly admired Century Ballroom owner Hallie Kuperman’s natty patterned tuxedo, and several gorgeously glittery gowns.
Bethany: Waxie Moon and co-host Rebecca Mmm Davis awarded Best Gown in the House to Michael Welke, dressed to the nines in a floor-length red sequined number — turns out, Welke’s a designer. Best Suit was deserved by multiple people of various genders sporting excellent tuxes, including one with stars all over it. I awarded Best Hat to Moira for the fabulous little black one — with both feathers and polka-dotted netting — perched upon her head. Moira’s overall look was very Helena Bonham Carter in “Ocean’s 8” (which Dinner at a Movie loved watching at the Cinerama, but apparently was unworthy of Oscar-love — too many women, maybe?!).
Moira: Also looking smashing: guest J. Von Stratton, also a designer, dressed in homage to the (recently) late Karl Lagerfeld, complete with high-pouffed white ponytail and fingerless gloves. And Bethany, who really should wear formal gowns to work more often. I intend to nag her about it in the future.
Bethany: Was Lagerfeld known for wearing odd little fingerless gloves? Von Stratton’s freaked me out. Also, did I see that Karl’s cat is inheriting a massive couture fortune?! That is bananas and also the best.
Moira: Yes to all of these things, which is making me very sad that Karl never joined us for Dinner at a Movie. We would have questions!
Bethany: Co-host Davis favored the crowd with a mini-medley of Awards-appropriate songs — the lady’s got pipes! — while Moira set about filling out her Oscars ballot. And yes, it is ideal to watch the Oscars with an expert: Moira’s like a personal IMDb for all the dazzling people at the Dolby Theater. And she tells you the best anecdotes, as in how she’s met Sam Elliott twice, and yes, he is really nice — he even remembered her the second time.
Moira: I suspect he did not really remember me — it had been MANY years — but he truly is that nice, and I wish I’d thought to ask him to record my voicemail message for me. On to less-nice matters: Worst Performance on an Oscar Ballot By a Person Who Actually Writes About Movies and Theoretically Should Know Things was won by me. It was a DISGRACE. 10 out of 24. I am ashamed. Bethany, who filled out her form saying things like, “I’m just going to pick my favorite names,” did way better than me.
Bethany: Clearly just beginner’s luck!
Moira: Oh, and there was also Red Carpet Bingo, which we didn’t play because we were already having sensory overload, what with the ballot and the TV and the menus and note-taking and tweeting. Oscar parties require a lot of multitasking! But many people did play — categories included “Wardrobe Mishap,” “Visible Tattoos,” “More Than Three Colors in Outfit” — and won bottles of wine.
Bethany: Those playing — let alone winning — Oscars bingo should get a special award for Achievement in Attention-Paying. I was far too busy asking Moira who various people presenting Oscars were, and also tearing up every time anyone mentioned their mom.
Best Performance by a Giant-Screen TV
Moira: There is something wonderfully ridiculous about putting on your best outfit to go watch TV. While our hosts — seated at a table onstage — chatted during the commercial breaks, during the actual show people were quite focused on the screen. The Oscars, unlike our party, were host-less this year — but it kind of worked? Though when Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler came out early to present an award, I let myself think about What Might Have Been. (Remember when Tina and Amy hosted the Golden Globes? It was fun!)
Bethany: That threesome would’ve been amazing — they should host everything, forever — but the hostlessness didn’t seem awkward, and it also kept the thing from being 117 hours long. Moira thought it was funny at about hour two when I asked if we were almost done.
Moira: Ha! Things I loved about the show: Bette Midler singing “Where the Lost Things Go,” otherwise known as That Mary Poppins Song That Makes Me Cry. Awkwafina’s sparkly pantsuit. Spike Lee’s fierce, joyful victory. The very excellent chemistry (is it real, or are they just really good actors?) between Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in their performance of “Shallow.” Ruth Carter, winning for costume design for “Black Panther” and saluting her 97-year-old mother “watching in Massachusetts.” Rayka Zehtabchi, one of the winners for the short film “Period. End of Sentence,” enthusing, “I’m not crying because I’m on my period or anything! I can’t believe a film about menstruation won an Oscar!”
Bethany: Never thought I’d hear the words “menstrual equality” in an Oscars acceptance speech — and the crowd at the Century Ballroom went wild! Then there was Spike Lee’s hat — and Barbra Streisand’s shoutout to it. And Barbra Streisand — “Truth is especially precious these days!” Massive love from our Seattle audience. Also many, many Gaga fans in the house. And huge fans of Ruth Bader Ginsburg!
Moira: It was uncanny how, during Lady Gaga’s performance, the room suddenly got really quiet and kind of electric. Then we all went back to drinking and complaining about our ballots. Well, I did.
Bethany: Best thing about the Oscars this year: way more women and people of color up on that stage. (Even if, as co-host Davis pointed out afterward, the “Green Book” win for Best Picture did not feel as meaningful as a “Black Panther” or “BlacKkKlansman” one would have.)
Moira: That inclusivity extended to the red carpet, where we saw a varied parade that included men in gowns (Billy Porter, in black velvet Christian Siriano, looked dramatic and gorgeous) and women in suits (Awkwafina, Elsie Fisher of “Eighth Grade,” Amy Poehler). Just like at the Century Ballroom!
Best Performance by a Snack in a Supporting Role
Bethany: The menu for the party was provided by the adjoining Tin Table — a dim, tucked-away-on-the-second-floor spot that’s a longtime Capitol Hill standby but feels like a secret hideaway. And we felt like our snackage merited a tie, with golden fork statuettes due both to the cured wild steelhead trout atop a perfectly crispy potato pancake ($10), and to the warm crab-and-artichoke dip ($12), a very fine rendition of the tart-but-salty-creamy classic.
Moira: After eight Dinner at a Movie outings with Bethany, how nice it was to eat at an actual table, with real-sized plates and napkins and knives and forks! Due to the dim lighting, we couldn’t entirely appreciate the visual appeal of our food, but I bet the arugula salad ($9) — with prosciutto, diced apples and pecans — looked pretty.
Bethany: I will say that the ricotta gnocchi ($17), while admirably pillowy and light, needed salt. But overall, a gold star on the D.A.A.M. walk of fame for the food at the Tin Table! If only they showed movies.
Moira: Agreed! But I wish the popcorn, brought to our table in little brown paper bags (cute!), was a little less salty and truffle-oil-y. (But did I still eat it? Yes, I did.)
Bethany: Truffle oil is like a character actor who gets hauled out every time Fanciness needs to be represented, but does it ever deserve an award? No. Stop with the truffle oil.
Best Achievement by an Alcoholic Beverage
Bethany: Our bottle of Santa Margherita prosecco came with its own gold-rope necklace.
Moira: You know you’re at a fancy party when the wine comes with accessories.
Bethany: And fancy prices — the bottle of bubbles, which retails for around $20, cost a nosebleed-inducing $58 at the party!?
Moira: I also ordered an Award of Merit ($11), which is a bubbly cocktail involving vodka and grapefruit, and which was served with an utterly delightful tiny star — made, I think of lemon rind — perched on the glass’s rim. Lovely! I wanted to keep the star as a souvenir, but that would have been weird.
Bethany: Definitely a winner for Best Supporting Role by a Garnish! They also were offering something called an Improved Manhattan ($12). In the hubbub, I failed to find out what the Improvement was, but a good Manhattan needs no such thing, and it was good.
The Overall Oscars Experience
Moira: As someone who has not been to an Oscars party in 20 years (I always have to work Oscar night, so am usually at the office), I was SO excited to go the Century Ballroom — the place is such a nice mix of elegance and welcoming warmth. My hat and I had a wonderful time.
Bethany: The Century Ballroom is so old-fashionedly, perfectly gorgeous — it’s difficult to imagine a better setting for an Oscars party. And the lighting was just right, so that the big golden cutout statuettes flanking the stage looked real for Instagram! And we have to thank our hosts Waxie Moon and Rebecca Mmm Davis for their amazing outfits (plural, for each!) and banter, and our moms, and… [music starts playing] Thank you! Thank you so very much!!!
Moira: [can’t be heard over music, waves goodbye]
Century Ballroom: 915 E. Pine St., second floor, Seattle; 206-324-7263; centuryballroom.com
The Tin Table: 915 E. Pine St., second floor, Seattle; 206-320-8458; thetintable.com