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As close as youll get to the Oscars

Oscar Night America promises local stars and movie pageantry

If you're planning on some local stargazing on Oscar Night, you won't do better than at Portland's official Academy Awards affair, which will boast Oregon's former first lady Sharon Kitzhaber, City Hall's Sam Adams and animator Will Vinton.

Oscar Night America, hosted by the Northwest Film Center in the grand ballroom of the Portland Art Museum, is one of a handful of luxury parties anointed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. All of these parties, wherever they may be held, benefit one local charity. Portland's party benefits the film center's Young Filmmakers Program.

Director Gus Van Sant ('Drugstore Cowboy,' 'Gerry') is the announced co-host of Sunday's soiree, along with animator and Oscar winner Vinton. While the celeb-wattage should be high, no one at the film center seems to know if the elusive Van Sant will actually put in an appearance.

All the same, the idea here is to make the Portland party as much like the real Oscar extravaganza as possible. Guests (at $100 a head) will make their entrance along a red carpet, albeit without Joan Rivers haranguing them about their fashion misfires. They'll receive Oscar programs just like the ones given out at the awards in Los Angeles. And they can have their picture taken with a genuine Oscar statue on loan from Vinton.

For dinner, guests will be served a sumptuous five-course feast prepared by Salvador Molly's. Each course will reflect one of the best picture nominees. The first course is 'The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,' or towers of phyllo dough 'ringed' with mascarpone, sherried figs and almonds; the second course is 'The Pianist,'a gazpacho soup with a 'medley of fortissimo vegetables,' and the third course is 'Chicago.' That's Chicago-style beef all jazzed up Ñ you get the idea.

At the grand ballroom, the awards show will be projected onto three large screens. There also will be goody bags for all the guests.

Veronica Rinard, executive director of the Oregon Film and Video office, will attend the party. 'We'll be there to support the fund-raiser, mostly because it's a benefit for the young filmmakers' program, and we want to help support the Gus Van Sants of tomorrow,' she says.

Oscar winner Joan C. Gratz, also an honorary co-host of the Portland shindig, had planned to attend the local Oscar night but landed a coveted seat at the main event in L.A. instead. Gratz was awarded an Oscar in 1993 for her animated short film, 'Mona Lisa Descending a Staircase,' which will be shown at the Portland party.

'I'm going back this time as my 10-year anniversary,' Gratz says.

This is the second year that an Oscar will be given in best animated feature film category. Vinton, who is a voting member of the academy (as are Gratz and fellow local animator Joanna Priestley), can't say which film he's voting for, but admits that he's a big fan of the kiddie film 'Ice Age.'

Vinton remembers a bit wistfully his win for best animated film in 1975 for 'Closed Mondays.'

'I was young and didn't know what to expect. And I was actually pretty cool about it. But it was an amazing kind of experience,' Vinton says. 'Being young, it seemed easy! Now I've had four nominations since then Ñ and it feels a whole lot harder.'

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