Saturday, November 20, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Midnight Premiere

Yay! I got to go to the midnight premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 in IMAX! It was quite the experience! First of all, it was a great chance to do something a little different and hang out with friends. Second of all, I was doing an anthropology research assignment on fandom culture at the premiere. And third of all, it was a really good movie!

Melissa and I joined our friends Kat and Maggie around 8:30 and managed to make it to the theater by 9:00. I know that sounds really early for a midnight showing, but the crowds show up even earlier and we wanted to get good seats (especially because we wanted four seats together). When we got to the theater, we were surprised to learn that, rather than making us wait outside, we all got to go straight into the theater and find seats. I was also shocked to see that almost a hundred people were already there. We grabbed some pretty good seats together and got ready to sit it out for three hours.

Because I was doing anthropology research, I had a notebook open and was writing down everything I saw. I had several charts, and as people walked in, I marked down whether they were male or female, their age group, and whether or not they were in costume. I also noted things such as what people were dressed as, what they were talking about, who they were with, etc. One interesting thing I noticed was that most people weren't dressed up as main characters from Harry Potter. Most people were either dressed as a miscellaneous Hogwarts student, or they were dressed up as a minor character for humorous effect (such as one girl who was dressed up as Hagrid, complete with beard). The audience was also very jovial and well-behaved. For example, the man who checked our tickets stubs was named Dave. By midnight, everyone had learned Dave's name and, every time he came inside the theater to announce something, the entire theater would wave and yell "hi Dave!" before falling silent and listening intently. At one point, Dave announced that a group of girls told him it was their friend's birthday. Then he had the entire theater sing Happy Birthday to the girl. There was a strange, community-like atmosphere about the premiere.

Anyways, when it was announced that there was forty-five minutes until the show, everyone cheered. At the ten minute mark, everyone cheered again. The movie theater etiquette rules seemed to reverse for our community-like fandom gathering. Instead of getting quiet, everyone talked loudly during the trailers and yelled things at the screen, and many people chanted "Harry! Harry! Harry! Harry!" between trailers. I was worried that this kind of behavior would foreshadow how people would act during the film. However, when the movie began, everyone shushed each other and yelled, "no more talking!" Then people stayed quiet for the rest of the movie.

So what did I think of the film? Well, let me be frank about my history with the Harry Potter films. I, uh... haven't like them. I love the books and I've read all of them more than once, but I've hated the films. I was willing to level with the first couple of films, though the second one was pretty damn lousy. It wasn't until the third movie, however, that I was filled with bitter hatred. The third book is my favorite in the series, and the third movie... I wish I could go back in time and obliterate its existence. It was a massacre of a fantastic novel. The fourth movie was only a minor improvement, and that's not saying much. It wasn't until the fifth movie that I thought a director might kinda be getting the right idea about how to put together a Harry Potter movie, and things stayed relatively the same for the sixth one as well. But, overall, I thought all the films were fairly lousy for one reason or another.

But I think the seventh installment in the film series might be the first one that's starting to get the formula right (though it's unfortunate that it's taken till the final book for anyone to start doing the novels justice). Here's the thing. People have to understand that, just because a book is about witches, wizards, and magic, doesn't mean it's a fantastical, lighthearted romp through the daisies. The Harry Potter series is dark, and it needs to be treated as such. I mean, sure, there's a whimsical air to the setting and storyline but, at its core, it's a very dark tale. I really agree with the director's decision to rate the seventh film PG13, in part because it allowed him more liberty to darken the film, and in part because the Harry Potter fans have grown up along with the films, and it's time we're taken more seriously.

The seventh film is very brooding (much like the novel), but never becomes dull or muddy. The darkness is sprinkled with lighthearted humor throughout, and action scenes are well-placed and frequent amidst the teenage angst that permeates the majority of the 2 1/2 hours of film-time. I expected to get bored, but never actually did. I also noticed that the special effects have improved immensely. The House-elves, in particular, look a million times better than in previous films. They looked painfully cartoon-like in the earlier installments, but in the seventh movie I could actually believe a House-elf might exist. The acting has also improved a lot. The child-actors have all matured into their roles really well, and the adult cast is amazing as always. Alan Rickman continues to impress as Severus Snape, and I was particularly impressed by the performance of Rhys Ifans as Luna Lovegood's father, Xenophilius Lovegood (for a fun bit of trivia: Rhys Ifans also plays the primary villain in Hannibal Rising). And, of course, I was delighted by Helena Bohnam-Carter's fantastically evil portrayal of Bellatrix Lestrange. She is, without a doubt, my biggest frustration. I mean... she murdered my favorite character in the series, so I'm supposed to hate Bellatrix, right? I went into the fifth movie wanting to throw popcorn at the screen the first time we see her. But then they went and cast Helena Bohnam-Carter for the role... and then she went and made it one of the most wonderfully absurd performances in the series. I want to hate Bellatrix Lestrange, but... I can't hate her when she's played by Helena Bohnam-Carter! I don't mean that as a negative or anything, cuz she's amazing, it's just... that's how it is.

My one gripe with the film - which is, in fact, a gripe with the entire film series - is Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort. I'm sorry, but I simply can't stand his portrayal of Voldemort. Some have told me that Ralph Fiennes is a great actor, it's merely a flawed screenplay that makes his Voldemort so lousy. But I disagree... he should be able to make magic out of that script - it's Lord Voldemort for heaven's sake, we have seven books worth of material to go off of. There's nothing wrong with the character of Voldemort, it's the way Ralph Fiennes portrays him that I find flawed. And I think I've finally figured out what it is that I don't like about his performance: Ralph Fienne's Voldemort is completely lacking in instability. He's certainly conjured up the smooth, sinister, snake-like aspect of Voldemort's presence, but not the terror of it. A scary villain can't just be a smooth-talker, he has to have an underlying sense of madness. I never feel like Ralph Fienne's Voldemort is going to snap or burst into fits of mayhem. He just floats around and whispers on the periphery of the screen without really invading one's psyche. I would buy this portrayal of Voldemort more if we weren't dealing with a villain whose soul has been split into seven pieces and stuffed into random objects. I mean... wouldn't a man who's had his soul busted and separated be a bit more, I dunno... unstable? Whenever Voldemort walks into a room, I don't really feel like he's going to randomly kill someone or blow stuff up. He's just sort of... wisping around, trying to act like he's evil. Where's the terror? The Voldemort of the novels is very frightening - a fragmented creature constantly teetering on the brink between calculated villain and deranged murderer. Ralph Fienne's Voldemort can be cunning and sinister if he wants, but he needs to have that glint in his eyes - that spark of villainous madness that makes Voldemort frightening. Ralph Fienne's Voldemort might as well just become a smooth-talking advertisement for KY Jelly for all the fear he brings to the table.

Just sayin'.

My other gripe is an unavoidable one: the film, as always, assumes that the audience has already read the book. For example, Harry, Ron, and Hermione come across a locket that is a supposed Horcrux (a piece of Voldemort's soul put into an inanimate object). They start wearing it, and whoever wears it starts to become corrupt and enraged. But the movie never really says that wearing the locket is turning them into jerks (as opposed to the novel version, where we spend a lot of time listening in on Harry's perspective as he realizes the locket's making him crazy). Anyone who hasn't read the novels is going to assume that Ron's just an asshole. Even when Hermione says, "you wouldn't be acting like this if you weren't wearing that", one could assume she means wearing the locket is making him paranoid, not that the locket has evil powers. I understand that most people at, say, a midnight premiere have read the books, but... not everyone has. My friend Kat was there and she hasn't read the seventh book at all. The script should've made things like that more clear.

But overall, I'd say the film is great. I'd give it a solid 9/10 (and that's a lot coming from me). It was suspenseful, dark, exciting, interesting, artistic (I love the scene in which they explain the story of the Deathly Hallows), and I never got bored. Many of the scenes were filmed in a style more reminiscent of a suspenseful horror movie than a fantasy, but... what's wrong with that? The book was suspenseful. Overall, I loved it, and I highly recommend it.

And... I'm done being opinionated, lol. See y'all next time!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Halloween 2010 - Going Ganguro

Hello everyone! I just wanted to thank all the commenters who left such kind words on my last post. For anyone who's wondering, Melissa and Hannah and I are slowly managing to recover from the sudden and shocking death of our friend and roommate. It's been hard, obviously, but we're trying to continue with our lives and stay positive. One of the ways we decided to do that was by celebrating Halloween this year. Madison never celebrates Halloween on the actual day of Halloween - it's always celebrated the Friday and Saturday of the week Halloween occurs. However, for my friends and I, Friday was the day of Dylan's wake and visitation services, and Saturday was the day of his funeral. We wondered how we could possibly celebrate Halloween this year under such circumstances. However, Halloween was undoubtedly Dylan's favorite holiday and he even passed away wearing a Halloween costume. He was in on the group costume that Melissa and I were preparing for, and the last time any of us saw Dylan alive was when he was driving me to a store to pick up the wig for my costume. I could think of nothing more insulting to Dylan's memory than neglecting to use that wig. It was the last thing we did together, before he drove away from the store and was involved in a terrible accident.

So we pulled ourselves together after the funeral and got ourselves dressed up to go celebrate Halloween the way Dylan would have wanted us to: by going to Madison's Freakfest celebration. Freakfest is an old Madison tradition. Every year, State Street becomes a mile long party. In the past it was known to be rather dangerous and always ended in teargas being released upon the party-goers, but these days an increase in sponsors and police officers keeps things under control. We always have lots of stages set up with lots of bands. This year's featured band was OK Go but I didn't bother to go see them. I went to State Street for the costumes!

So, as I'm sure you've figured out from the title, Melissa and I decided to go as ganguro this year. For those who don't know the term, ganguro is a radical Japanese fashion style mainly practiced in Tokyo. It involves darkening one's face and wearing white makeup, as well as heinously bright clothing. In the past, Japanese girls paraded around as ganguro as a way to rebel against traditional fashion and beauty ideals. Melissa and I thought it would be really funny to try and do the fashion ourselves. And here's how it went...

Melissa and I darkened our faces by mixing bronzing powder with moisturizing lotion, rubbing it into our faces, and then powdering over it with bronzer afterwards. The white makeup was a white cream-based stage makeup that I had used a couple of years ago to turn Dylan into Mana (see the post below for a photo). Here was the most basic stage:

Next, I added jewels to my face (using eyelash glue), and the pink wig. Voila!

Whaddya think? I thought it came out really cool! And the makeup wasn't that hard - it took me only a half an hour or less to do it. Here's a more complete body shot:

Ouch, my eyes, hahaha! Here's how Melissa and I wound up looking together:

Hahaha, we look so ridiculous!

Smooch <3

And I feel that I must show off my shoes. Dylan drove Melissa and I to Savers one day and we all went looking for "ganguro-like" shoes. I wound up finding the world's most absurd shoes for only $8. Hot pink platform sandals with pink, jeweled sea turtles on them. Behold!

Anyways, enough about my shoes! Let's get to the action! After pre-gaming at our apartment (ahem, Jägerbombs, ahem), we went to our first bar of the night. Before he died, Dylan bought all sorts of accessories to make himself into a ganguro for Halloween. One of those accessories included a blue-green starfish. Wanting to take Dylan with us to State Street the only way I could think of, I put the starfish in my purse before we left. Anyways, here's a great photo taken by the bartender. From left to right, me, Melissa, Jamie, Marshall, Katie, and Amanda.

I have to give a huge, special thanks to Jamie and Katie, without whose kindness and support my roommates and I never would have made it through that terrible week. I'm eternally indebted to both of you!

At the bar, we ordered a round of Liquid Cocaine shots and had a toast to Dylan. We miss you buddy, but we know Heaven throws better Halloween parties than we ever could!

State Street itself was getting goofy even before Freakfest started. Here's a guy dressed as the nurse Joker pedaling some kind of weird wagon in circles and laughing. And yes, if you asked for a ride he'd let you in the wagon and drive you around:

Here were the crowds getting lined up for Freakfest. We had over 60,000 people attend this year!

We had lots of ridiculous costumes out on the streets that night! Here's Melissa and Towelie from South Park. He kept asking if we wanted to get high, hahaha.

Squeeze toy aliens from Toy Story!

Dude, it's the chick from Kickass! I just saw that movie!

Pacman and ghost!

I don't know what the hell this one is, but it's awesome!

Then Melissa and I found The Ghostbusters!

There was also this amazing Jack Skellington costume:

My favorite part... he had a floating Zero on a leash. OMG so cuuuuuuute!!!

Okay, I don't even know what's going on in this picture. We've got Optimus Prime, stormtroopers, maids, and Ironman. Typical Madison, lol.

I found Beetlejuice!!! He was waiting in line to get into a bar, lol.

Probably one of my favorites of the night. Melissa and I, the ganguro, found the Oompa Loompas! Hahaha, we match, don't ya think? These Oompa Loompas even burst into song while our picture was being taken, except some of the words of the song were changed to things like "suck my dick" instead of the original lyrics. Once again, typical Madison, hahaha.

And here was my personal favorite of the night... Standing in the middle of State Street, unmoving, was Frank from Donnie Darko. This thing was so... freakin'... creepy! He was just standing there and people were totally veering away from him. Well, Melissa decided to run up to him for some reason, and he just turned his head slowly and stared at her like this:

Frank did not stop staring at Melissa until she freaked and backed away. Even then, he didn't turn his head:

OMG I can't believe how perfect this rendition of Frank was. This guy replicated Frank perfectly!

I also ran into the guy from The Hangover!

Aaaaaand I have no idea what the hell these things are, lol:

All the crowds leading up to the Capitol:

Eventually, we went into a gay bar that was heavily decorated for Halloween:

While there, something happened to me that is so absurd, it sounds almost made up. I don't mean to be insensitive, but I'm just gonna put this bluntly: an armless little person in a gay bar told me I was hot. Yup, you read that correctly. A little person without any arms in a gay bar told me I was hot.

Looks like I can cross that one off my bucket list!

While I sat down and rested my feet, my friends danced and had a great time!

And ran into an Obama impersonator. Huh, I didn't know Obama likes to go to gay bars, lol (also, I totally did the eye makeup for both Jamie and Amanda in the picture below. I'm gettin' pretty good at manipulating eyeliner, lol):

I also saw the most amazing Mad Hatter costume I've ever seen. This man accomplished this costume purely through makeup, my friends. Wow:

Then we left Freakfest and got indoors to warm up!

And that was our crazy night! We had lots of drinks, laughs, and got to see all sorts of people! And an armless little person in a gay bar told me I was hot! Good times!

I hope you all enjoyed my blog and my brief attempt at being a ganguro! See you all soon!