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L.A. Popcorn Adventure #5
February 28, 2006

Oscar Gets Dressed

Academy Awards + Motion Picture Costume Design Exhibit

In case an A-list event isn't on your calendar this Sunday night, try your own Oscar party on for size. Every year, we let the kids invite a few friends over for the Academy Awards, pass out nominee ballots and sit back to enjoy Hollywood's biggest night. Let those celebrities spend the day primping - we'll skip the red carpet, arrive in sweats and still have Wolfgang Puck to thank for dinner. (There's nothing like those frozen pizzas). This year, many categories feature films the kids can weigh in on from The March of the Penguins (Documentary) to The Chronicles of Narnia (Make-up, Sound Mixing and Visual Effects) to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Art Direction). It's an easy way for the kids to learn that behind every movie, there's a great team of people, each with a unique job. When the telecast ends and the stars saunter off to their power parties, we help our kids make their final costume change of the day, happy that we had a Hollywood evening, family style.

It's anyone's guess whether Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will win an Oscar for Best Costume Design at this Sunday's Academy Awards. It's up against Walk the Line, Pride and Prejudice, Mrs. Henderson Presents and Memoirs of a Geisha, as our kids discovered wandering around The Art of Motion Picture Costume Design Exhibition at downtown's Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. In kid-friendly sized galleries, we saw costumes from over twenty of last year's films. The boys loved Zorro's swashbuckling cape and sword, and stood awestruck before Professor Dumbledore's digs. The girls were glued to footage of Reese Witherspoon as June Carter and eagerly compared the outfits in the footage to the flouncy dresses on display. We moms gasped at Jane Fonda's tiny waist size in her Monster-in-Law outfit, and were all impressed with Nathalie Portman's sumptuous Star Wars outfits. Some girls just have all the luck! On the ride home, we polled the kids on their choice for the Best Costume Design Oscar -- this year's award unanimously went to the kimonos from Memoirs of a Geisha.

Film Title: Academy Awards
Directed By: ABC Television
2006, Rated U, Tivo Worthy

  • We've broken our mold a little to make room for an evening of television, but since Kids Off The Couch celebrates the magic of movies each week, we figure that exposing kids to the incredible array of talent behind each movie gives them a savvy view into cinema. It's easier to explain what cinematography is when there are 5 examples up on the screen.
  • Turn on ABC at 5 P.S.T for the official start of the Awards, but for a glimpse of the red carpet action, tune in at least an hour earlier.
  • Don't worry if your kids haven't seen any of the five Best Picture nominees --neither has host Jon Stewart, according to the Los Angeles Times. Chances are the kids have seen some of the films nominated in other categories: Howl's Moving Castle, Tim Burton's Corpse Bride and Wallace and Gromit in the Curse of the Ware-Rabbit (Animated Feature), March of the Penguins (Documentary), Pride & Prejudice (Leading Actress, Costume Design, Art Direction), Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire (Art Direction) and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (Makeup, Sound Mixing and Visual Effects).
  • Explain your rules for voting early and clearly. Ours include: completing ballots by the time Jon Stewart tells his first joke; no changing votes when you realize your sibling has done more homework on the Documentary category than you have; no gloating if you're winning. We also supply a grand prize for the winner (a DVD of one of the nomiated films), and small runner-up prizes for everyone who participated.

  • Beauty and the Beast was the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture (1991), but it took the Academy 10 years to create a new category for Best Animated Film. Shrek was the first recipient in 2002.
  • Edith Head was the most celebrated costume designer in Oscar history, winning 8 statues for films like Roman Holiday and The Sting.  Your kids will "know" Edith Head because she was the inspiration for Edna Mode, the beloved costume designer in The Incredibles.
  • From Hitch (our kids' vote for Best Picture) to Hitchcock (Alfred never won an Oscar for Best Director), the Academy's opinion is often different than the public's.  With 5,700 members, each voting in their field of expertise, there are always a few surprises inside the famous envelopes.

The 14th Annual Art of Motion Picture Costume Design Exhibition
Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising
919 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles 90015

Contact: 213-624-1200 ex. 2224
Hours: Monday - Thursday 10-6, Friday - Saturday 10-4
Time Allotment: 1 hour

  • Our kids loved this adventure -- it takes no more than a half-hour, and visually introduces the kids to the idea that many people work behind the scenes on movies. Once you are talking about how a costume designer prepares for a film, it's an easy seque to discuss Visual Effects or Screenwriting. Our kids loved the museum's cozy feeling.
  • The concept of a trade school was new to the kids. The outfits worn by students around campus were eccentric, even by LA standards, and our daughters were captivated by the idea that kids just think about clothing all day long.
  • FIDM is easy to find, especially if you can get yourself to Staples Center. Take the 9th Street exit off the 110 and continue for three blocks where you'll notice a lovely park (the campus) on the right. Pull into the underground parking before you get to Grand. Parking is reasonable ($5 on weekends and after 4 pm).
  • Admission is free.
  • Beware of gift-shop fever at the museum's entrance. Our daughters liked the school's store, which benefits the FIDM scholarship fund, and sells both clothing and fabric at deep discounts.

  • A costume designer's job is to interpret a character through their clothing. He, or she, does a great deal of research (especially for a period film) before making, or shopping for, each character's wardrobe.
  • The Fashion Institute began its annual showcase of costume design fourteen years ago. The show is timed to coordinate with the Awards season, but photographs from past shows are archived on their web site.
  • Directly across the park from FIDM is the Museum of Neon Art, 501 West Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90015 (213)489-9918.  A perfectly-sized museum for kids, with cool lit-up exhibits. If you park at FIDM, you don't have to move your car to enjoy this unique spot.
  • The excitement of the Academy Awards is something we grew up on, but our kids lump award shows in the dime-a-dozen category. The Academy itself worries about this trend and wants to keep Oscar special. For further insight, check out Hollywood historian David Thompson's article in last week's Sunday LA Times.
COOL FACT: No one really knows how Oscar got his name. The most popular story is that an Academy librarian thought the statues looked like her uncle, whose name was Oscar.

  • Our favorite printable ballot can be found on the Washington Post's website. Print out enough for each guest. In the past, we've given them to the kids a few days early so they can do some research. If you have a competitive family, this ups the ante.
  • We're not kidding about having Wolfgang Puck cater for you. Many markets carry his line of fresh food and frozen pizzas.
  • Ambitious hosts will create a menu with a movie theme: you could go Japanese for Memoirs of a Geisha, but between Brokeback Mountain and Walk the Line, down-home country might just win the award.
  • Don't forget the popcorn!

Want more? Here are KOTC's picks of films, books, music, and websites that connect your family to more culture.

Focus on Family Movies Nominated for Academy Awards in 2006.  Click here to see them all at the Kids Off The Couch store at

Click here to see the books that made the movies - visit the Kids Off The Couch store at