Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Goblets & Glamour

So Saturday I attended the New York premiere of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire." It was held at the Ziegfeld Theatre on 54th Street, and when Rachel and I arrived early that afternoon, we were surprised and delighted to see we got to walk down the red carpet -- not with the stars, who were on the press line and separated from us by a movie-poster barrier, but on the red carpet nonetheless. Hundreds of fangirls were lined up across the street from us, shrieking at every black-windowed car that passed by, and we admired their homemade posters and enthusiasm as we waited in line to get in. Once inside, we met up with the other Scholastic people and found our seats in the theatre. After an hour of celebrity-spotting (our genius creative director David Saylor was seated next to Jon Heder from "Napoleon Dynamite," and Rachel saw James Gandolfini and Tim Robbins) and easy HP trivia questions while more important people made their way inside, it was time for the main event.

(Note: major spoilers ahead, and all opinions are of course only my own.) So, "Goblet of Fire." It's quite good, very pacey, and it manages to be both the funniest and the most intense of the HP movies so far. The focus is very much on the big action scenes: the Quidditch World Cup (though we see only the introductions, none of the game), the tasks, the Yule Ball, Voldemort's resurrection, the aftermath. The film does an excellent job setting up the Crouch/Moody plot, and I very much liked Brendan Gleeson as Moody; they managed to drop the house-elves entirely while still keeping the story clicking along, which is an accomplishment. Voldemort in the graveyard is as terrifying as it ought to be, and the Malfoy-as-bouncing-ferret scene is here in its entirety! (We once got a letter at work from a woman who kept pet ferrets and was upset that Buckbeak ate them in OotP -- I hope she isn't too distressed when the ferret goes down Crabbe's pants.)

But what's missing in the focus on the big scenes is the connective material that makes those scenes matter, particularly any sort of emotional transition from scene to scene or emotional context for the events. At the live Pottercast afterward, John Noe said that he felt he was watching an unfinished movie, and while he can't have been right -- thousands of rolls of film must be on their way to theatres this very moment -- I knew what he meant; it seemed a little jumpy in its hurry to pack everything in. (It reminded me of "Elizabethtown," actually, in the sense that both are good movies that feel as if pieces have been forcibly removed from them for reasons other than the filmmakers' vision.) It's hard to know if the movie is aimed at people who have read the book or not; the script takes the trouble to foreshadow Moody's secret identity through his endless slugging from a flask, and yet I don't think it explained "Priori Incantatem" fully (I could be wrong about this), which means the graveyard scene must have been absolutely baffling for some viewers. And while the romantic triangulations leading up to the ball are handled nicely, and Neville especially gets a wonderful not-in-the-book moment to shine, the Ron/Hermione tension doesn't snap the way it could -- particularly when the big "You should have asked me first!" scene ends with Hermione shouting "Go to bed!" at the boys. (Mrs. Weasley? Where did you come from?) But it's always hard for me to judge the HP movies on first viewing, and on the whole I very much admired the filmmakers' work at packing a big, bursting, rumbustious book into two and a half hours of efficient, enjoyable film.

After the movie, I said goodbye to Rachel, and it was on to the live Potter/Mugglecast at the Barnes & Noble at Union Square. Melissa had reserved a seat for me, so I walked past the fangirls (who seemed to have migrated down en masse, switching their undying devotion from Daniel Radcliffe to Emerson along the way) to a place near the side. The MuggleNet boys all look about twelve, but they'd be the smartest and smart-aleckest twelve-year-olds I know, and Andrew especially had many intelligent things to say about the film. Afterward I met Emerson, John Noe (for the second time), and the super-sweet Sue Upton from TLC.

And then began the surreal portion of the evening: Melissa had secured tickets to the premiere afterparty, so we shot uptown to an old church near St. John the Divine that had been converted into a party space. The Goblet of Fire stood on a pedestal outside, and the Triwizard Cup just inside the doors; the main space was decorated to look like the Yule Ball, with waterfalls of shiny silver material flowing from the balconies to the floor, where tables stood covered with white tablecloths and spindly ice sculptures. By the time we arrived, about 10 p.m., the party had moved downstairs to the dance floor and bar/lounge space. We saw Melissa's lovely mother, the all-powerful Mrs. Anelli; she and Melissa introduced us to Jamie Waylett (Crabbe), then Rupert Grint (Ron) and Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy). Melissa, John, and Sue met Daniel Radcliffe and the beautiful, beautiful Robert Pattinson, but I was feeling shy because of my lingering voice-warping cold, book-and-not-movie background, and not-very-swanky clothes (I feel I can safely say I was the only person at the party wearing something from Old Navy), so I circulated around the room by myself, thinking "Oh! That's Hermione. Oh! That's Fred or George, and there's also Fred or George. And that's Neville Longbottom, he did a great job . . ."

Eventually I came back to where Sue was talking to Jason Isaacs (and trying not to faint), and we three chatted for a few minutes about the books, "The West Wing," and American electoral politics. I excused myself to use the bathroom, where I found myself standing in line in front of a pretty Asian girl in a black dress -- Katie Leung, who plays Cho Chang.

"You were very good in the film," I said.

"Thanks," she said. "I'm excited."

"Is this your first movie?"

She nodded, then put her hand over her mouth and said, "Excuse me, I have the hiccups."

"I always try to hold my breath and take a drink," I told her. "That gets rid of them."

"Oh," she nodded again, and at that point a stall opened and I went inside. Then I thought, "Oh, my lord. I just advised a movie star how to get rid of the hiccups" -- and the incongruity, the unlikelihood, the sheer goofiness of that made me smile: for these stars were all people like anyone else, and they certainly acted like anyone else, getting hiccups and hating George W. Bush. And yet there is something about stardom that makes them seem more real: They are more seen than I am, and therefore more important in the world, even if they get hiccups too. But to the credit of all the stars of the party, none of them acted like this fact existed; I smiled at Katie as I came out of the stall, and she smiled back.

Then it was back to the main room, to observe, to listen, to chat with Mrs. A. and fan Sue (who was still recovering from her time with Jason Isaacs), till the three TLC'ers and I left for the PotterCast afterparty. I didn't stay for this -- the clock had struck midnight, literally, and my head felt like Cinderella's pumpkin. But I relished the memory of the whole night on the ride home, as I probably shall for a long time to come: my brush with glamour for 2005.

Enjoy the movie, all!


  1. Happy to know that you are back in the pink.

  2. Hi! I found this post to be really interesting, and just wanted to let you know that I linked to it here with regards to your comments on the live podcast and the afterparty. Thanks!

  3. I had to go see the movie myself before reading this blog. I, also, found myself wondering if anyone who hadn't read the book would know what was going on. Perhaps it will come out with an extended version like LOTR.

  4. What a wonderful post. I am so jealous, Cheryl.

    I went to see GOF this past Wednesday in IMAX and had very mixed feelings about the film. Rupert Grint/Ron was fabulous and I enjoyed seeing Parvati, Padma and Cho. However... it wasn't satisfying as a film. Don't get me wrong, I am all for liberal adaptations of books to film as long as the essence of the book is intact (i.e. PoA), but this movie was missing *too* much. Where were the house elves? Yes, we could have done without S.P.E.W, but Winky and Dobby were critical to the plot of the book! And, house elves, in general are super-important in Book 5 and, I think, Book 7.

    Anyways, much, much more to say. I think, in like 20 years, someone should remake all the HP films after reading and internalizing the series. The problem with this film series is that no one knows what is to happen at the end and what is/what is not important in each of the books. If I ever have the opportunity to direct/adapt (wishful thinking :)) the films, I would center the story around Snape, rather than Harry. Six books have shown us that the most important question in the series is not, "How Will Harry Kill You Know Who?" or something similar, but "Is Snape Good Or Evil?"

    And yes, I would cast Alan Rickman. :)