Monday, July 23, 2007

Partying Like They do at Hogwarts

A photo diary of the Grand Hallows Ball at Border's in Torrance, California (supposedly the biggest Harry Potter party in the South Bay). I wanted to take more pictures, but my sister had the camera in her purse and I kept losing her. There were a lot of Hermiones and Harrys, but I also saw Tonks, Snape, random Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw students, but I think my two favorites were a girl dressed as Ron and Hermione's child from the future and a woman wearing a Save Lupin and Tonks shirt. This is the culmination of Harry Potter month. After attending the premiere, the midnight showing of the movie, a John Williams concert, and the midnight book party, I've been observing the different levels of Harry Potter mania from the perspective of a fellow fan. I was happy to see that the book caused much more excitement than the movies. It may seem a little scary to see fans dressed up as wizards, but I still think it's amazing that all this was started by a book.

We pre-ordered our book, but Borders started giving out wristbands when it opened at 9 a.m. They organize the lines according to colors. I got there a little before 9 and there was a short line which went really slowly, but I got orange, which was the first group. Three thousand people ordered books from the Torrance Borders and the store ordered about 1,000 more than that for those who did not pre-order.

The entrance to the Grand Hallows Ball (yes, that's me, dressed as Hermione, it's more fun when you get into the spirit).

Wizards and muggles milling around Borders. Many more activities were advertised than there ended up being, but it was still quite an amusing evening. There was a dance floor, face painting, and wizard hat making. The spelling bee and Snape debate never happened, although there was a costume contest.

There were giveaways, such as these glow-in-the-dark "wands"

and stickers

The snake cake.

The books,covered in a grey packaging of some kind. When the Borders employees started wheeling these out, the excitement really started to build.

The books out of the grey packaging and now only in boxes.

My brother messed up taking a picture of us buying the book, but the line went very fast and we were out by 12:14 a.m.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

This gURL's Life: Remy Zaken

Check out my interview with Spring Awakening's Remy Zaken on For this piece I set up and conducted the interview, did some of the photography (she gave me the other pictures), and edited down the quotes.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Deconstructing Harry

For a film called "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," very little screen time is given to the members of the Order, or to anyone who is not, well, Harry Potter. New director David Yates and new screenwriter Michael Goldenberg chose to take the almost 900 pages of the book and focus mainly on Harry's inner battle. For fans of Daniel Radcliffe, this might not be a problem, but when there are so many interesting characters (who are not whiny and annoying as Potter is throughout the fifth book) played by so many talented British actors, some of the subplots are missed.

"Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" opened in theatres across America at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, July 11. Fans waiting to be first to catch the film wore their best wizard robes or favorite Hot Topic outfits and will most likely repeat this process in a week and a half when the final book is released.

Most fans already know the story going into the movie. The Ministry of Magic turns against Harry Potter and refuses to acknowledge that Voldemort is back. The papers make it look as though Potter is an attention-seeking problem child (which isn't far off, although he is telling the truth about Voldemort). Dumbledore and several others who believe Potter form the Order of the Phoenix to prepare to fight the Death Eaters. Potter and his friends follow suit by forming Dumbledore's Army in secret at school.

Somehow the longest book in the series, at almost 900 pages, became the shortest film so far, at two hours and 18 minutes. David Yates could have slowed down the film a tiny bit by taking out those montages. There are many entertaining and brilliantly acted scenes, but the film as a whole feels disjointed because so much is left underdeveloped. Percy Weasley shows up with the the Minister of Magic in one scene, but without reading the book, the audience wouldn't know that he turned against his family. The famous kiss with Cho Chang is in the film, but the relationship is dropped at some point in the film and never dealt with again. Gone from Hogwarts are quidditch (and with it some of the best subplots), the ghosts roaming the hallways, even most of the moving pictures. There is very little "magic" in this film except for the spells that Harry teaches the other students.

The acting, as always, is the strongest aspect of the film. Flashbacks show how much Daniel Radcliffe has grown since the first film. He certainly seems more confident as an actor. Rupert Grint always seems to fall most naturally into his role as Ron, but even Emma Watson, who continues to look less and less like the bushy Hermione, has matured as an actress and is able to play more emotions than just angry. Newcomer Evanna Lynch is sweetly eccentric as Luna Lovegood. But of the teenagers, Matthew Lewis stands out as the loveable Neville Longbottom, whose past is perhaps even more troubled than Harry's.

Imelda Staunton steps in as the new headmaster of Hogwarts. She is deceptively pink, but scarier than a Death Eater. Sirius Black is a favorite character among many Harry Potter fans, and Gary Oldman captures his childlike impulsive nature to perfection. Alan Rickman is brilliant as usual as the much debated Severus Snape and has some of the best one-liners this go around.

The biggest problem with the film is that there is not enough--not enough of the story and not enough of some of these brilliant actors. But if what is there leaves you wanting more, then it must be pretty good. Yates will have another go at pleasing Harry Potter maniacs with movie number six.

Monday, July 09, 2007

My First Red Carpet

Yesterday, hundreds of Harry Potter fans, both casual and obsessive, gathered at the Chinese Grauman's Theatre hoping to catch a glimpse of the young stars of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." I was one of them. Sort of.

My sister had read that the US premiere of the fifth Harry Potter film would be in Los Angeles this year and she wanted to go in the hopes of meeting Rupert Grint. I'm a Harry Potter fan as well, and would enjoy seeing Alan Rickman or Gary Oldman up close, but not enough to deal with all the psychotic fans. So we debated whether it would be worth it, ultimately deciding that it would be too crazy and many fans would probably camp out overnight, which I was not about to do. But the morning of the premiere, we decided to go check it out at the last minute. She had to at least try to meet Rupert Grint and I figured I would have something to write about after. We arrived at around 10 a.m. and there was already a huge line. I was expecting that everyone would just find a spot along the red carpet so was confused about what the line was for. I asked an unfriendly security guard who would only give vague responses, but what I took from the conversation was that the line was for the bleachers and standing room on the side of the red carpet and the only way to see anything was to stand in line and wait. Those in the front of the line had, sure enough, waited overnight. We made our way to the back of the line, behind 500 or so people, and waited in the sun for a few hours, not even knowing whether we would get in. At first it was fun to see how many people were dressed up and to read the crazy signs like "Marry me, Daniel." Plus, it's nice how everybody starts to mingle and discuss topics such as how miscast Sir Michael Gambon is as Dumbledore and how we miss Richard Harris. After spotting a young man wearing a Wicked cap, my sister and I started discussing the probability of a Harry Potter musical and thinking of possible songs.

Eventually, the line started moving slowly. Every ten or twenty minutes, we would move up a few feet. The bleachers seats were long gone by the time we got to the front, but we did get a standing spot. The first row was completely full, predictably, by the time we got there, but we stood next to this nice woman from Wisconsin and her daughter. She let us go in front of her because of our height, but there were still tall people in front of us. We decided to take our chances with that spot because it was right across from the red carpet. It was only 1 or 1:30 so we still had a good two hours before anyone was scheduled to show up. A woman with a very small child was also in front of us and her daughter couldn't take the heat, so we told her we'd save her spot. At this point everyone was still fairly kind to each other and just seemed happy to be there. The woman and her daughter eventually came back so there was more shifting around and there was a good spot next to them in the second row, so I told my sister to take it. Some of the people around us had arrived at 7 a.m., so it was comforting to know that even if we showed up earlier, it wouldn't have made too much of a difference. I couldn't see a thing from where I was, but I didn't really care at that point. Probably around 2 or 3 p.m., I would hear screams every five minutes, but it always turned out to be a camerman shooting for some local news station (or so I was told, I couldn't really see to confirm this). Also the guy who created Mugglenet was running around, handing out stickers and filming. At around 3:30, the Harry Potter music started playing and the fans were really going crazy. This is about when everyone who had been so friendly before started to turn on each other. Why is it that events like this always bring out both the best and worst in people? This one family from Chicago was the worst. The parents seemed more into it than the daughter. The dad, who was huge, had no regard for the children behind him and was pushing to get closer and closer. You'd think he would go to the back since he'd be able to see from anywhere. Then he had the nerve to yell at others for pushing, including an 8-year-old girl. He also yelled at a girl for hitting his daughter with her hair (which I'm sure was an accident), when his wife had been doing that to me the whole time. I don't mean to sound spiteful, but I'm just amazed at how many adults were acting like children just to meet some teenage actors.

So the first star to show up was Rupert Grint at about 4:00. People were yelling something about Cho Chang before that, but I'm not sure if she was really there. Rupert Grint came up right to where we were. And there were a few moments when I could spot his ginger hair, but my sister got a great look at him, and although he stopped doing autographs by the time he got to her, she yelled "Weasley is my king," and he waved at her or at least in her direction. She got what she wanted, to see Rupert Grint up close, so that made it worth it. Next was Emma Watson who also came up to where we were. I saw her face for about a second, but couldn't really see her outfit. Again my sister got a good look. She was wearing a white dress. And then, nobody came for a long time. I was getting reports of actors on the red carpet who didn't go up to the fans, but these were Disney Channel stars and someone from "Heroes" and Melissa Joan Hart. Pretty weak for a movie of this magnitude. I was ready to leave, but I figured maybe Dan Radcliffe would come and everyone would leave and then if anyone else came after we could have a better look. Rupert Grint hadn't gone inside yet and I didn't want my sister to miss an opportunity for an autograph in case he came back. We waited for so long anyway, so I figured we might as well stick around. At one point, my sister shouted that the actor who played Cedric in the fourth film was there (I'm not sure why, he's not even in the fifth), so that was another highlight for her. Daniel did not show up until about 5:00 and he did not approach the fans at all. I was told this because I did not see him at all.

And then it was all over. The actors went in. I'm not sure if anybody else from the film was there, but if so, nobody on my side saw them. I almost feel like I wasn't there (I don't even have pictures, I brought a camera, but I figured it would be futile to even try), but although I was sunburnt, thirsty, and ready to faint, I'm glad I went. I know what to expect for future premieres (not that I would ever go to a premiere again without a press pass), I didn't have to camp out or wake up at a ridicuously early hour, and my sister still left happy.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

All About Me

Raquel Laneri at Electric Warrior tagged me with this meme. I've never done one of these before, and although it feels a little like a chain letter, I'll give it a go.


1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.

So here are eight random facts that you may or may not know about me:

I've been in an academy award winning film.

OK. So I was an extra in American Beauty, but if you pause the scene at the basketball game in just the right spot, you can see me. I was also on TRL and appeared on camera twice in that episode. Combined, that probably makes up about 5 of my 15 minutes of fame.

I once wrote a juke-box musical of what else, Beatles music.

I took a class during my sophomore year of undergrad called "The American Musical." We had to do a creative final project. Most people did performances, but I did not want to subject my classmates or professor to my singing voice. So instead I wrote a musical using Beatles music. I got an A plus on it (probably the only A plus in my college career).

I've been published in Rolling Stone.

Technically. I had a letter to the editor published in response to a profile on Johnny Depp that I thought was particularly well-written.

I played the flute for eight years.

My elementary school started band in fourth grade and anybody who wanted to could choose an instrument. I chose the flute and loved it at the time, but I started to hate it in high school and haven't even touched a flute since then.

I'm old-fashioned and fearful of new technology.

I resisted CD and DVD players for a long time. I didn't have a cell phone until after undergrad. I don't have an iPod. And I still think it's weird that I have a blog.

I sometimes pretend to be younger than I am.

Since people always assume that I'm a lot younger than I am (I'm talking high school student), I sometimes lie just so I won't have to deal with the shock on their faces when I say I'm 24. This usually happens when I'm out with my family.

I went through a pick-up line phase.

Not that I constantly used them, I was just really fascinated by them and was always trying to learn new ones. My away messages in early college used to be a pick-up line of the day.

I have lots of collections.

A few items that I hoarde: buttons, keychains (I don't do this so much anymore, buttons replaced keychains, they're less noisy), shopping bags from stores around the world, postcards, playbills, and ticket stubs, but I think most people save their ticket stubs.

Now I'm supposed to tag eight other bloggers. I'm not sure if I know eight other bloggers who read my blog who haven't already been tagged.
Liney at Legally Committed
Carl at snarl_
Susie at the New F-Word
Jon at Syracuse Noise Forest
Suzanne at Meet You at the Crossroads
James at Last Exit Before the End
Jenna at Project Culture
Dave at Sincere Syllables