Double the fun: RIFF Oscars gala features two local hosts

The Ridgefield Independent Film Festival will launch its 2019 season with its annual Academy Awards screening gala on Feb. 24 at 7 p.m, at Ridgefield’s historic Lounsbury House. While Hollywood couldn’t find a suitable host for the Oscars ceremony, RIFF found not one but two, ensuring a night of laughs and surprises. Storyteller Lisa Lampanelli will co-host the event with 17-time New York Times best-selling author Jane Green.

Lampanelli, whose career in comedy spans 30 years, got the co-hosting gig after being introduced to RIFF Festival Director Megan Smith-Harris. “Megan and I clicked immediately — she’s also a funny broad with big ideas — so when she told me about the Oscar night gala, I was like, ‘Duh, OF COURSE, I’m in!’ I usually watch the Oscars home by myself tweeting mean things about people on the red carpet, but now that I’ve gone from the Queen of Mean to the Queen of Meaning, that’s no longer what I do. So, why not start a new tradition: being NICE on Oscar night,” Lampanelli said.
Smith-Harris joked, “with the lack of a formal host for the Academy Awards show in Hollywood, we thought we’d fill the void this year and include not just one, but two celebrity guest-hosts at the RIFF gala. These two funny, wise, warm, irreverent women are great friends and will bring their own personal warmth and sense of humor to the evening. We’re honestly not sure what either of them is going to say or do, but we know whatever it is, it’s going to be a lot fun.
“I am so grateful that they are lending their talents to our annual RIFF fundraiser and I know it’s going to be an absolute blast.”

Green and Lampanelli are also friends so the two are thrilled to be sharing the stage. Asked what is in store for the audience, Green said, “You never quite know with Lisa because she is such a pro and she’s a little unpredictable in the best possible way. I know I’m definitely going to be the straight man of the night. We have a "couple little things planned, which hopefully will be fun but I think on the whole you’re going to see me standing next to her being ever so slightly bemused while she does her madcap comedy.”
Lampanelli offered her own take. “When I have a friend to plan an evening with, my imagination is sparked by them, so Jane has inspired me to think outside the box. I don’t want to reveal too much, but a few costume changes, a bunch of games and laughs will definitely be happening,” she said.
“Jane and I have done several events over the years and this should be our best yet,” she added. “However, I’m really looking forward to meeting some Ridgefield folks because I hope to woo them all to come to my show at the Playhouse in April. How often do you get the chance to meet the people you’ll be performing in front of BEFORE a show? Answer: not often enough!”
The Lounsbury House at 316 Main Street makes for a stylish venue for this red-carpet event, featuring a menu of passed hors d’oeuvres along with signature cocktails, wine, and beer. RIFF’s silent auction will offer a variety of collectible Hollywood memorabilia. Multiple big screen TVs will be set up for viewing, accompanied by movie trivia, complimentary popcorn, a candy concession stand, and a 3-D digital photo booth.

The 2019 RIFF season will continue through the year with exclusive screenings, community outreach events, and parties, leading up to the annual Ridgefield Independent Film Festival in October.
An accomplished author, Green likens film to books and is a strong supporter of films and the work of RIFF. “Books provide either a mirror or a window, you either want to see your own life reflected in it or you want escapism. And that’s film all over. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love film. And there are some really strong contenders this year. I’m looking forward to the whole thing and I’ve got a whole bunch of screeners I will be watching.”
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