Back in my Ball State days in the Theatre Department, the Academy Awards were taken as seriously as the NCAA basketball tournament. We used to throw Come As Your Favorite Oscar Nominee parties. I"ll save the tale of the year I almost went as Emma Thompson in Howard's End for another time.

To relieve some of the boredom of the Oscar broadcast (Johnny Carson once said it was two hours of excitement spread out over a four-hour telecast), here's a drinking game to keep the awards lively.

Use your own beverage of choice. And remember that blaming this column on failing your sobriety test won't fly, you poor sap.

Anyway. During the Oscar festivities, take a drink at the beginning of the event when the stars are entering the theater, everyone drinks when you see a star wearing something absolutely hideous. However, it has to be a unanimous decision by the group. If there's one person who likes something like Bjork's swan get-up, nobody drinks, but the veto giver gets unlimited ridicule for the rest of the night.

When the opening number hits the peak of suckiness.

When the first award is finally handed out.

At the top of every hour. ï

Any time a presenter butchers a nominee's name (usually during the foreign films, documentaries and technical awards).

When a nominee looks like they really don't want to be there (for example: any shot of Russell Crowe).

Any close-up of a star not laughing at a joke (for example: any shot of Russell Crowe).

Any nominee who fails to appear in person (there will be one automatic drink this year since we all know Roman Polanski won"t be there).

Any personal opinion or campaign that will cause controversy and make non-entertainment news shows the next day. (Vanessa Redgrave bringing up the Zionist hoodlums in 1978, Olympia Dukakis supporting her relative Mike when he was running for president in 1988, anytime Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins are onstage together, Kim Basinger's endorsement of Do the Right Thing in 1990 and last year"s Sept. 11 love-fest are recent examples).

Anytime a Best Song nominee is not performed by the original artist. ï When that song hits the peak of suckiness.

When a non-winner (used to be called loser) gives an obvious non-happy look as another name has been announced (Lauren Bacall in 1997, Kate Hudson in 2000 and Samuel L. Jackson almost muttering mutherf-er to himself in 1995).

When a winner (sorry, recipient) is interrupted by the orchestra. Bonus chug when they start to talk really fast over the band.

When a recipient starts to cry.

When the recipient cries to the point of your crowd yelling, "Shut up, already!"  (Halle Berry last year and Gwenyth Paltrow in 1999.)

When a recipient or presenter is obviously drunk, stoned and/or just plain stupid.

When a star is attending and you have no idea why they"re there (for example: Any year Steven Segal is there).

For every person you know during the annual Death Montage.

For every winning category that's just flat out wrong (Forrest Gump over Pulp Fiction? Dances With Wolves over Goodfellas? Titanic over L.A. Confidential?). This is also a unanimous decision by your group. Again, the veto voter gets unlimited ridicule for the rest of the night.

For every major upset (Everyone on the planet thought Lauren Bacall would win Best Supporting Actress for The Mirror Has Two Faces and it went to Juliette Binoche in The English Patient. Art Carney in Harry & Tonto winning over Jack Nicholson in Chinatown).

Take a drink for the number of years the recipient said it took to make this film (for example: three swigs for "This has been my life for the last three years").

Every time someone jokes about the length of the awards ceremony. Hey, here's an idea. The time spent not joking about the length of the ceremony could reduce the broadcast by half an hour in some years.

Here's to a happy and non-boring Academy Awards evening. Oh, and the day Joan and Melissa Rivers die, grab your favorite bottle of whatever and drink it all day long.