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Beyond the Academy Awards

This month, Los Angeles offers a wealth of events and activities for those of us who aren’t members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences (AMPAS). By Rob Lovitt
Director Stephen Frears wears red sports shoes as he arrives for the BAFTA awards in London
So, you don't quite have what it takes to walk the red carpet? Los Angeles still offers plenty to do for the non-celebrities.Luke MacGregor / Reuters file

The ballots have gone out, the votes are being tallied, and the winners will be announced at the Academy Awards on Sunday, February 25.

Guess my invitation got lost in the mail.

No matter. This month, Los Angeles offers a wealth of events and activities for those of us who aren’t members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences (AMPAS). With a nod to Oscar, the nominees are:

Almost Oscar
Meet the Oscars: Want to know what it feels like to hold an Oscar? Head to the third level of the Hollywood & Highland Center and you can get your picture taken with him while checking out the 50 statuettes that will be handed out on Oscar night. Open Friday–Sunday through February 24 (free).

Concurrent events: In the weeks before the big blowout, AMPAS will sponsor several public events, including symposia, exhibitions of film memorabilia and a one-time showing of this year’s nominated short films. Visit for date and ticket information.

In costume: Through April 5, the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising is hosting an exhibition of 140 costumes from Oscar-nominated films, including “Dreamgirls,” “Curse of the Golden Flower” and “Marie Antoinette.” It’s open daily, except Sunday, at FIDM’s main building in downtown L.A. (free).

Child stars: On February 24, the Kidspace Children’s Museum will present The Red Carpet Walk: A Celebration of Children’s Entertainment. Festivities include a fashion show, theatrical role-playing games, and a series of short animated films (admission: $8).

Glendale gala: On Oscar night, the Alex Theatre in Glendale will host its first annual Red Carpet Gala. Guests are invited to don their best duds, stroll the red carpet — be sure to smile for the “paparazzi” — and enjoy hors d’oeuvres and champagne while the official ceremony is telecast on the big screen (tickets: $75).

More than movies
Iconic images: While Hollywood celebrates today’s stars, The Getty Center is honoring icons of another era. Holy Image, Hallowed Ground: Icons from Sinai features 53 Byzantine icons from the Holy Monastery of  Catherine, the oldest continuously operating Christian monastery in the world. Through March 4 (free).

Mysterious Magritte: The Los Angeles County Museum of Art is currently showing Magritte and Contemporary Art, a wide-ranging exhibit that intersperses pieces by the Belgian surrealist with modern artworks by Jeff Koons, Jasper Johns and others. Through March 4 (tickets: $12–$20).

Designs of the times: Anyone who appreciates the exotic outfits on display at the Oscars — you go, Björk! — will enjoy Skin + Bones at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Melding fashion and architecture, the exhibit features pieces by everyone from Frank Gehry to Vivienne Westwood. Through March 5 (tickets: $8).

Oz, the early years: “Wicked,” the hit musical, has just opened at Hollywood’s Pantages Theatre. Telling the story of Oz “before Dorothy dropped in,” the show runs Tuesday–Sunday through spring 2008. Reserved tickets are $32.50–$85.50, with a limited number of $25 tickets available through a day-of-show lottery.

Marriage, the angry years: Think “Babel” was intense? It’s closer to “Little Miss Sunshine” compared to “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” Edward Albee’s searing drama about domestic combat. Kathleen Turner and Bill Irwin duke it out onstage at the Ahmanson Theatre through March 18 (tickets: $20–$80).

Family-friendly fun
Stars, not celebs: After a five-year renovation, the landmark Griffith Observatory is once again open to the public. Note, though, that drive-up access is currently prohibited in favor of a shuttle-bus and timed-entry system. See the Observatory Web site for shuttle fees and schedules.

Sci-fi stars: Right now, in a galaxy not far away at all — OK, just southwest of downtown — you can revisit the world of “Star Wars” at the California Science Center. Running through April 29, “Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination” highlights the science behind the science fiction with costumes, props and hands-on displays (free).

Happy feet: Forget tap-happy penguins, we’re talking dancing dragons as the 2007 Golden Dragon Parade steps off in Chinatown on Saturday, February 24. Boasting floats, marching bands and plenty of serpentine excitement, the event typically draws more than 100,000 people.

Life in the bike lane: For a parade of another flavor, head to Santa Monica and take in the human pageant along the city’s beachfront promenade. Join in by signing up for a Blazing Saddle Bike Tour. The 90-minute tours roll from the Santa Monica Pier to Venice with guided narration along the way ($30 per person).

Denizens of the deep: Finally, note that February is prime whale-watching season in Southern California as upwards of 25,000 gray whales make their way along the coast. On Saturdays and Sundays, Spirit Cruises runs two-hour cruises that provide front-row seats to the show (tickets: $18 adult, $10 children).