The potential for comedy and scandal at this year's Academy Awards is high enough to justify tuning in, even if Steven Spielberg walks off with most of the statuettes. Comedy because Roberto Benigni's Life Is Beautiful is up for a best picture Oscar, and, well, if you caught the director's act at Cannes, where he received his jury prize by falling to the floor and kissing presenter Martin Scorsese's knees, it's worth waiting to see what he does with a really big award. And scandal because there are rumors of protests, both inside and out of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, against On the Waterfront director Elia Kazan winning a lifetime achievement award. The debate continues over whether Kazan-the-artist can be separated from Kazan-the-man, who informed on his colleagues during the communist witch hunts of the McCarthy era. If that isn't spectacle enough, there's always the fashion parade and the running commentary that goes with it.
On the informal end of the local Oscar party spectrum, Lounge Lizard King Will the Thrill and Monica the Tiki Goddess host the Parkway Theater Oscar Telecast. Viewers eat pizza, drink beer, and cast their votes for best cleavage and best acceptance speech along with the standard Oscar categories. The party begins Sunday at 5 p.m. at 1834 Park (near Lake Merritt), Oakland. Admission is free (party packs with ballots are $5); call (510) 814-2400. Here in the city, the Roxie Cinema celebrates the last Oscar telecast of the century with its annual Up the Academy Awards!, where it's BYO-whatever. Festivities begin at 5:45 p.m. (arrive early) at 3117 16th St. (at Valencia), S.F. Admission is $6; call 863-1087.
Fancy bashes include the 19th annual Academy of Friends Oscar Night Gala: A Tribute to Hollywood Glamour, where the food is of the catered gourmet sort, lavish prizes are raffled, and proceeds benefit local AIDS service agencies. The gala begins at 5 p.m. at the Fort Mason Festival Pavilion, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $150; call 995-9890. The Film Institute of Northern California, meanwhile, holds a benefit for its own with Oscar Night America, a four-course dinner and auction beginning at 4:30 p.m. at the Sheraton Palace Hotel, 2 New Montgomery, S.F. Admission is $150; call 383-5256. (