Hearts, chocolates, and romantic nights symbolize Valentine's Day. Easter has bunnies and eggs. Halloween is for pumpkins, scares, and treats. Thanksgiving brings gluttonous dinners of turkey and stuffing. Christmas is awash of presents. And New Years Eve, well, that's all about champagne, count-downs, and parties.
There are all sorts of parties on film -- from those that ring in the New Year to those that regale random celebrations. There are hootenannys of happiness, shindigs of debauchery, and gatherings of dysfunction. With all of the myriad parties that have graced the big screen, it's a bit ridiculous to pick a top seven, so here are some of the films that come to mind when I think of cinematic celebrations:
As we head out of the holidays and into the New Year, 200 Cigarettes has its place as a guilty pleasure of party-riffic ensemble cinema for the young eyes of the '90s. Set in New York City's Lower East Village of the '80s, the film follows a number of late teen and early 20-something people trying to make their way to a New Year's Eve loft party. From Long Island teens to artists and punk rockers, Cigarettes has one heck of a cast of '90s faces and some of today's big-bucks names -- Ben and Casey Affleck, Kate Hudson, Paul Rudd, Dave Chappelle, Courtney Love, Gaby Hoffmann, Guillermo Diaz, Janeane Garofalo, Martha Plimpton, Jay Mohr, Nicole Ari Parker, Christina Ricci, and even Elvis Costello. And if a whole bunch of recognizable names is not enough, what about Rudd's ridiculous sideburns?
The Anniversary Party
Alan Cumming and Jennifer Jason Leigh's directorial debut thrives in its rare and raw familiarity. A beautiful digital production, the film was written by the pair for each of the people involved, bringing out the best of their voices and talents -- from bringing Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates' family on-screen to Gwyneth Paltrow's stint as an awkwardly-hopeful co-star and apprehensive fan. The film follows the filmmakers as Joe and Sally, a Hollywood couple who have recently reunited and set up an anniversary party to celebrate the occasion with their close friends, co-workers, and short-tempered neighbors. However, everyone's happiness is tenuous, at best, and leads to awkward confrontations and drama laced with endearing quirk and sweet moments.
24 Hour Party People
Jumping overseas, this Steve Coogan-starring film chronicles the world of 1976 Manchester, the infamous Hacienda night club, the signing of Joy Division, and the world of Happy Mondays. A merging of real life and legend, 24 Hour Party People is a great serving of nostalgia, music, and debauchery, all served by the irresistible likes of Coogan. (He had been prepping for this role for years with his own spoof on Tony Wilson -- Alan Partridge.) Unlike some of the more serious Joy Division fare from this year, the film is fun, mostly-light, and with that Michael Winterbottom/Coogan energy that has brought both of them success.
This might not be a best-of list, but I can't whip up a list of party movies without including Peter Sellers' The Party. His carelessly destructive, yet enjoyable Hrundi V. Bakshi ruins an important scene during the production of a film, and instead of getting fired, he's mistakenly invited to the studio head's party. At the party, he naturally spends a heck of a lot of time trying to retrieve a shoe, delighting in birdie num-nums, and cocktails that turn into a hippie fest complete with a painted elephant. It isn't about making sense, or parading as anything even close to reality --The Party is just completely ludicrous and irresistibly fun.
Can't Hardly Wait
Yes, this is a guilty pleasure -- partly-terrible, partly-tacky, and completely addictive. It is an ensemble piece like 200 Cigarettes that presents soon-to-be-famous faces and completely embodies the teen landscape of the mid-'90s. (It was also a cast-grab for Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- Oz, O'Toole, Veruca, Marcy, Owen, Jesse, a Cordette, Pete, and Tara, and for Six Feet Under -- Claire, Frederico, Gabriel, and Jimmy.) From fragrance-of-love scented candles to Barry Manilow destiny, Can't Hardly Wait is both a fun graduation movie and a cinematic vault of other media -- in addition to its links to famous television shows, the movie also gives some screen love to films like Empire Records ("Romeo and Juliet" and Ethan Embry) and Dazed and Confused (hip, hip ladies).
Dazed and Confused
And this brings me to Richard Linklater's 1993 film, which is all about an end-of-the-school-year party, and yet another flick that deals with retro themes. (Why do they work so very well with party settings?) While there's lots of bum-beating and pacificer-sucking to the movie, there's also the wonderful fire of parties in the woods -- equipped with kegs, lust, and drunken, short nerves. There's one of those London twins, Milla Jovovich's own folk music, Parker Posey's bitchy ways, and Rory Cochranes lovable, stoned Slater. It's one of those films that doesn't have a distinct point, other than to sit back, relax, and enjoy a day in the life of party-obsessed Texan teens.
Maybe I'm in a New York state of mind, or a retro state of mind, or I've just discovered an addiction to retro party movies. Yes, yet again here's a movie that dips a bit into the past, and also into the world of the Big Apple. Whit Stillman's first film loosely adapts the themes of Mansfield Park into a world where yuppie kids' party attire isn't mini skirts and tuxedo tees, but rather fancy dresses and real tuxes. An entirely different sort of party, wild times for the young in Metropolitan involves drinking games and discussions about everything from literature to socialism. It seems completely unreal, but still holds a semblance of youthful familiarity.
Now that I've shared my seven of the moment... What are yours?