The Handmaid’s Tale is a grim story. Watching the appropriately dark and terrifying Hulu series adaptation of it is not something I would normally think of as a “party”, but I did organize an event to watch the first 3 episodes the week that they premiered with several friends. The purpose of the party was twofold: to provide mutual emotional support and validation for each other while we absorbed the trauma onscreen, and to raise money for the Center for Reproductive Rights in the hopes that what we were seeing would remain forever fiction. I think it was a success on both counts.
Category Archives: partyplanning
When you want to have an Anne of Green Gables party, (because it is of course when, not if), here are my suggestions for elements that you can include, based on recent parties I’ve organized for myself and some of my friends. First of all, PUFFED SLEEVES! Don’t let Marilla tell you that it’s a waste of fabric. You know watching Anne recite “The Highwayman” at the White Sands hotel and Gilbert lead the standing ovation afterward will be way more fun if you and your friends are wearing giant puffy sleeves while you watch it. My easy, no-sew tutorial video for sleeves that you can pop on over any outfit is below, (filmed & edited by Bianca Brown–thanks, lady!). The elastic should keep the sleeves on well enough for movie-watching, but if you’re going to be wearing them while being more active, such as three-legged-racing with your new bosom friend or climbing onto roofs to walk ridgepoles on a dare, you may want to use a safety pin or two to hold them in place.
So I went to see Catching Fire on opening night with a group of friends. I’m tagging this write-up as “midnight showing” even though it was technically an 8 pm showing; most movies don’t really wait to premiere at midnight anymore, and although part of me thinks that’s a little sad, another part of me is getting old and appreciates not having to stay up so late. It was a good premiere; I wasn’t able to organize and prepare as much as I did for the first film, but we dressed up in Capitol fashion and the movie itself was, in my opinion, better than the first.
The thing about shows that start before midnight is there isn’t as much waiting-in-line time to fill, so I kinda over-prepared and we didn’t end up doing all the activities I had planned, but that’s alright since a lot of them didn’t take much effort. (For example, if we needed to kill time I thought we could play a version of the “telephone” game were you start with a phrase and whisper it from one person to another to see if it ends up the same at the end, but call it “mockingjay,” and use phrases like “Peeta has hot cross buns.”)
We did play the game that I spent the most time preparing for, which was Arena Trivia. Everyone playing was a Tribute in the Trivia Arena and started with a perfect 20 health. When it was their turn, they spun a wheel to see how lethal of a “weapon” question they would be able to wield against an opponent; easy questions were a knife and would only take five health points away if the Tribute they selected to aim the question at got it wrong, but harder questions were a machete (minus 10 health if missed) or near-deadly trident (minus 15). Tributes could form allies by helping someone else answer a question if they wished, but, in the end, there could only be one victor. The wheel also had a small wedge labeled “a gift from your sponsor”; if Tributes landed on that section when it was their turn, they could draw a healing card instead of a question that would give them back a portion of the health they had lost. (Most of the healing cards would only restore 5 health, but there were a couple 10s and 15s in there too). It worked really well, (except maybe I should have made some of the questions easier), and I’m pretty dang proud of how well themed it was. I think it’s totally marketable.
I really have very few negative things to say about the movie itself at all, which is pretty amazing given my tendency to be very nit-picky and critical. It stayed very close to the book with a surprising amount of dialogue coming verbatim from the pages Suzanne Collins wrote. The things that were skipped or condensed didn’t really alter any of the action or character development, (like Katniss figuring out what the spile is right away, and realizing what Wiress meant by “tick tock” faster, leaving out the bread drop communications and the prolonged healing from the poison fog scars, leaving out Bonnie and Twill because it was established through the visualization of the Victory Tour that there was an uprising and that Katniss was an inspiration to people, etc.), and like the first movie the elements in the film that were not found in the book added wonderful insight and depth to the story, (like President Snow’s granddaughter idolizing Katniss–that was genius! And I’m so glad we got to actually see the painting of Rue that Peeta did for the Gamemakers, to “hold them accountable, if only for a moment…for killing that little girl” as he says in the book, instead of just hearing about it.)
They even included a tiny visual reference to one of my favorite characters from the first film, Seneca Crane(‘s beard). When Katniss hung the dummy labeled with his name for her evaluation, she painted his signature swirly beard on it’s chin! I remember this being a common idea among the fandom after the first film, that oh, wouldn’t it be great if they really show her hang the Seneca dummy in the second film and they include the beard? To see it actually transpire that way on screen felt almost like it was a bit of an inside joke for the die-hard fans, whether or not they intended it that way. Speaking of amazing visuals, that mockingjay dress was spectacular. Even though I had seen most of that scene already in the trailer, I was blown away by how incredible it looked. Whereas Katniss’ flaming dress at the interview scene in the first film is a bit pathetic and too-obviously CGI, this time around I literally could not have imagined it better.
So far the only criticisms I can come up with are:
- Prim’s “Katniss! Katniss! Katniss!” screaming at the Reaping is too shrill, but really, I thought that last movie too. Maybe that’s just the actress’s voice.
- The music in some scenes was too exactly similar (or exactly the same?) to the score in the first film. It’s fine to reuse/recycle themes, but in a couple places it sounded 100% the same, like the Tribute Parade, (which is maybe understandable if they basically use the Panem national anthem for that every year), and the Victory Ball at the Capitol, (which really didn’t seem to match the music beat for dramatic beat effectively).
- In the Arena, they establish that there is no fresh water source except for the trees, but then when Katniss, Peeta, and Finnick are leeching the poison from their bodies they are in what appears to be a freshwater pool, not the saltwater at the beach. I understand the change since it allows for the monkey attack to happen sooner, but it’s an inconsistency.
- This isn’t really a criticism, more of a funny observance–why does Peeta stand up in the middle of his living room to watch TV? (When they are watching President Snow announce the Quarter Quell). Is it one of the tricks they tried to make us think he’s taller than Josh Hutcherson really is?
But really, almost everything was perfect. Effie was perfect, with her shallow growth and her gold hair! Finnick was lovely! Mags broke my heart with her warmth and sacrifice! Beetee melted my heart with his nerd-speak! Prim impressed me with her calm taking-charge to tend Gale. Plutarch Heavensbee, Haymitch, Cinna, (*sob* Cinna!) and Johanna were great. The whole thing was just spot-on! Peeta was still not as good as book-Peeta, but he was much improved over the last film’s bastardization of his character, and really all I can think about Peeta-wise right now is this. (Warning: that last link is a spoiler if you haven’t read Mockingjay yet).
I’ll definitely be going to see Catching Fire again. But now my movie-party-planning focus has to switch gears for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. It’s only a few weeks away!
I did it! I finished the 13 dwarf beards in time for the midnight premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. It took me five and a half weeks overall, but I didn’t work on them every single day during that time. I didn’t do much of anything else in my free time, though. All the hard work was definitely worth it; they looked great, (not 100 percent accurate, but overall pretty close), and wearing them with a big group while in line for the midnight showing was just as much fun for everyone as I had hoped it would be. This is going to be an image-heavy post, but I’m just so proud of the work I put into this event, I want to be sure it’ s documented. And if anybody is planning a Hobbit- or Dwarf-themed party, maybe this will give you some ideas.
Stephen Hunter (@StephenJHunter1) December 13, 2012
Our company of dwarves was first in line at our chosen theater, although not all 13 dwarves were there right away. After the sun went down it was pretty cold, but the beards helped keep our faces warm, and I had arranged for a friend to deliver us hot pot pies, (because it sounded like a hobbit/dwarf-ish food), when there were still about four hours left before the show started. We also had somebody bring us hot chocolate, which we shared with the people behind us in line.
Themed activities that we did to pass the time (and to give me an excuse to hand out prizes) included an archery contest, (we shot at a goblin target with a toy bow and arrow, and the grand prize was a Kili action figure), a warrior attack contest, (charging at the same goblin target with a chosen fake weapon from our stash and seeing who had the best style), playing a dwarvish rune-based memory game (I made the cards based on the movie’s “dwarvish word of the day” from the facebook page), riddles, and trivia. And anybody that could correctly name/identify all 13 dwarves got an edible pipe. We also traded some edible pipes for lembas bread from some elves that were a few groups behind us in line. We also had an on-going burglary competition, but the caveats were that you had to be wearing your beard at the time and you couldn’t actually steal anything serious. (The winner ended up being a sneaky little dwarf who drank half of somebody else’s soda before they noticed, and the prize was a Bilbo action figure.) Other prizes were posters, some of them small ones that I made by cutting up a Hobbit movie calendar–I don’t exactly have an unlimited party-planning budget.
Another snack idea that I thought of but didn’t have time for was stone trolls; I was going to make rice crispies and cut them out using a gingerbread-man cookie cutter, then dip them in white chocolate almond bark with a little bit of candy food coloring to make it gray, so that they resembled Bill, Tom, and Bert after they were turned into stone. I thought about dipping all but their feet and calling it “Trolls at Sunrise,” but I didn’t end up having time to do any of it, and that’s not a snack that will be appropriate next year for part 2 since the trolls are only in part 1. I can re-use the pipes and candy-cane Stings ideas, though.
I’m definitely going to save the beards for next year when part 2 comes out, although personally I’d like to go to that one in a Smaug costume if I can, although I have no idea at this point where to begin crafting on that. I’ll probably tweak the beards to improve them before then anyway, especially now that I’ll have a lot more reference pictures from multiple angles to work with from the first film. And we didn’t have a Bilbo or a Gandalf this year, so maybe they can be added as well.
This project was a lot of work, and sometimes it seemed ridiculous or frustrating that I was putting so much effort into something that might seem silly or fleeting. But if you watched the Hobbit production videos like I did, you have an idea of how much work by how many people goes into making these movies that we love. And I think this is the best way to honor and appreciate the hard work that those people did–not just Peter Jackson and the cast, but also the people who did make-up, lighting, sound editing, digital enhancements, and every little step along the way, for months and months–by putting in a lot of hours myself to enjoy experiencing their work to the fullest.
And the highlight of the night for me was when the official Hobbit movie twitter account acknowledged all my hard work with a “so great!” stamp of approval.
The Hobbit (@TheHobbitMovie) December 14, 2012
There’s no way I’m going to reach 50,000 words in the few days remaining this November NaNoWriMo month. I’m okay with the failure, though. I intend to keep plugging away at my story on lunch breaks and weekends that aren’t already full. I just wasn’t able to get much writing done at all in the last week, because as I predicted, my dwarf beard project took over. One cannot commit to two massive time-consuming projects concurrently with any success, or at least not if one also wants to continuing such habits as “sleeping at night.” So, yes, I chose to crochet dwarf beards and sleep when I wasn’t working this last week. The beards have a December 13 deadline, and even though I did nothing but work on them through this whole four-day Thanksgiving weekend I only have 1o of the 13 crocheted, and then there’s still the additional, who-knows-how-much-time-it-will-take step of adding yarn “hair” to be braided and styled for each character. I’m pretty sick of yarn at the moment, and depressed about the likelihood I will be able to finish or that they will turn out looking great. But, extreme pessimism is a natural phase of my party planning method. I come up with great ideas, I start executing them, and in the middle I think it’s all total crap and too much work and why do I even bother, but then (usually) it turns out fine.The one that’s worrying me the most right now is Nori, because I’m just not sure how I’m going to do the three cone things with the hair on his head. I’m also going to have to crochet eyebrows for that one since his eyebrows are braided back into his hair, which is just so…dwarfish.
I hope the 12 friends that will be standing in line with me will have fun wearing these beards and keeping occupied with themed activities while we wait for midnight. I’ve started collecting Hobbit-related prizes for people to win, so I’m trying to nail down what sorts of competitions we can have to pass the time. (I’m also hoping they release some movie-merchandise stickers or buttons or some cheap tokens like that; I bought a calendar thinking I could cut it up into 12 small posters to give out as individual prizes, but the design of the calendar is making that difficult as each picture overlaps onto the date-page beneath it! Tricksy hobbitses…)
Activities I’ve thought of so far include dwarf markmsanship, (recycling my toy boy and arrow from The Hunger Games premiere and aiming at a goblin target; potential second round could be throwing a foam axe at the target, assuming I can make a foam axe in time…), riddles in the dark, (obviously! Although it probably won’t be dark, and I’ll just have people pull a random riddle out of a jar to test their opponent with so it’s fair and they’re all guessable), a rune memory game, (I’m thinking I could use the Dwarven Word of the Day posts on the official The Hobbit facebook page to create cards where you have to match the runes to a picture of their meaning; I could include the runes in smaller print on the picture cards to make it do-able for anyone regardless of rune knowledge, but people who studied up would have an advantage), and then maybe something like who can pose for the best picture or who can read a passage from The Hobbit in the best dramatic voice. I want to do something with music, too, especially since the soundtrack will be out by then, but how do you make that a game? “Describe what you think is happening during this song”, most creative answer wins? Maybe we can all just sing the Misty Mountain song from the first trailer together. And for that we all win the prize of being awesome.
As far as themed snacks, I’m trying to come up with a way to incorporate Sting with something blue, like maybe blue raspberry candy canes with handles attached to make them look like swords? I’m definitely going to have an accomplice bring us hot pot pies to eat at some point, possibly with runes carved into the tops for air vents. Maybe I could do something with the trolls or the ring, since they’re sure to be in this film and I haven’t incorporated them yet…or Gollum, for that matter. If I can’t come up with something better, I can always just make sugar cookies in whatever shape is needed, but sugar cookies are so unimaginative! Maybe there’s a way I can make dwarf axes out of, like, pretzel sticks with candy bars on top? Help me out–if you have ideas for Hobbit-related snacks, (other than the infamous Denny’s menu), let me know in the comments.
Despite the temporary depression I’m feeling due to the intimidating amount of preparation I need to accomplish during the next three weeks, I’m incredibly excited for this movie to come out. I watched the extended editions of The Lord of the Rings two and a half times each this weekend while I crocheted, first just with the film, then with cast commentary, now I’m halfway through the director and writer commentary. I love these filmmakers and I love this franchise, and I can’t wait to see their latest portrayal of Middle Earth while I sit with my face covered in a yarn beard surrounded by fellow nerd friends. It’s going to be awesome.
ZOMG you guys, who else watched The Hunger Games last night at midnight? It was so amazing, right? (Full disclosure, this post is being written on one hour of sleep and half a can of redbull, so please excuse any typos or outbursts of incoherency.)
I would have to say it was one of the best midnight movie premieres I have been to so far in my life. I mean, it certainly doesn’t compare to the magnitude and scale and passion and costumes of the last Harry Potter screening I went to. But I felt extra satisfied at this one because all of the work I put into preparing activities for my friends and fellow fans paid off, and people enjoyed my efforts just as much as I had hoped they would. Seeing their delighted faces and eager excitement was so rewarding it would have almost been worth it even if I hadn’t seen the movie. (But I DID see the movie, and loved it–more on that later!)
The two things I was most proud of last night were my tribute training target and my silver parachutes. I painted the target (with help from some of my siblings) from screenshots of this clip. It looked amazing, and I got permission from the manager at my theater to display it in the lobby. People were lined up using it almost the entire time, and I got to see one young teen’s jaw-dropping gasp when she walked in and saw it (and then spent a good forty minutes or so monopolizing it) that just made it so worth while.
The silver parachutes were made from a half yard of fabric I bought and some ribbon, with silver Hershey kiss anchors. They had notes attached to them that said “A gift from your sponsor–may the odds be ever in your favor!” I got permission from the manager to go upstairs and open the projection window and throw them out into the audience (about an hour before the show started). I had hoped that everyone there would understand what they meant, since I couldn’t predict where they would fall exactly. (They didn’t exactly float but they didn’t plummet either; I tried it with gum anchors and that was too light.) It could not have gone more perfectly. The first girl to catch one was actually also the first person in line in the lobby and was wearing a legitimate tribute training replica shirt like the ones in the movie, so you know she was a big fan. (I mean, everybody there at midnight is a fan. But she was a fan). She and her friends screamed when they caught their parachute–“WE HAVE A SPONSOR! YESSSS!” It was like I was a benevolent, unseen Gamemaker. I loved it.
I also brought trivia questions, which I made mostly from skimming through the book with a little help from the Hunger Games wiki, and the last tribute still “alive” in the Trivia Arena won. We decided an incorrect answer was a wound, and if you got three wounds you died. I didn’t think to bring arrow stickers or something, which would have been awesome, so we just taped the slips of paper with the questions on them to people that got them wrong. That led to some joking about where they had been injured–lost legs, arms, or ears–wherever they stuck the questions. As prizes I had a bag of trading cards that I let people choose from (blind), and the actual victor got to choose from a bag with bigger prizes (official tie-in magnets and small Hunger Games figurines.) I gave out the same prizes for winners in Rock, Poison, Arrows tournaments, which is what I decided the Hunger Games version of Rock, Paper, Scissors would be. Rock crushes poison, poison kills archers so it beats arrows, and arrows beats rock because it is a distance weapon but rocks are only effective up close. I’m sure the logic isn’t perfect but whatever.
I’ll update later with my thoughts on the movie itself, but I can summarize by saying: loved it, great companion to the books that really enhances the world and the story, Jennifer Lawrence, Stanley Tucci, and Wes Bentley killed it. Definitely going again. Wasn’t wowed by Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta but wasn’t disappointed in him, either, (I think the script just didn’t make him as likeable as the book). Would definitely recommend fans of the books to watch the movie, and fans of the movie to read the books. Lastly, why is there an “official soundtrack” if NONE of the songs on the album are featured in the film, and only two are played during the credits?
P.S. Here’s my awesome friend @martinchughes sporting his Seneca Crane beard!