Midnight in Paris
The party begins at midnight, of course, and everyone has to dress as their favorite 1920s Parisian expat (although a cheeky few could get away with Belle Époque fashion). The place is decorated like a bohemian haunt in Montmartre — the neighborhood where Picasso and Dalí were known to hang out — and the soundtrack is pure old-school jazz. While there’s plenty of booze on offer, you’ll want to veto any contributions of wine as a preemptive strike against vino snobs like Paul.
A Clockwork Orange
Anthony Burgess may have hated Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of his dystopian novel, but regardless of how you feel about the movie, you have to admit it’s got a singular — and generally appealing — visual aesthetic. We suggest you steer clear of the rape-and-murder aspects of the plot and, instead, opt for some Korova Milk Bar-style decor. Why not seek out a cast-off manikin and make it into a DIY table? Whip up your own version of “moloko with knives” (we’re thinking something in the White Russian family), but be sure to provide an alternate beverage for lactose intolerant types. The soundtrack should be full of eerie retro-futurist tracks, along with the requisite Beethoven’s Ninth and “Singin’ in the Rain.”
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
Need an excuse for some ’60s-style debauchery? You’ll probably want to recreate the party from Russ Meyer and Roger Ebert’s rock ‘n’ roll B movie Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, complete with a live, all-girl band and a DJ spinning plenty of psychedelic music by Strawberry Alarm Clock — the garage-rock one-hit wonders (“Incense and Peppermints”) who also appeared in the film. Brightly colored thrift-store hippie costumes will be a must for this shindig, as will freely flowing alcohol (or, you know, whatever else) and loose morals.
But perhaps the debauchery your prefer would be more at home in the ’70s — home to theatrical glam rock, feathers and sequins, androgyny and pansexual hijinks. If so, you’ll want to throw yourself a Velvet Goldmine theme party. Decorate with dim lighting and as much velvet and brocade as you can dig up, and dust the entire space with a thin coating of glitter. Since the film’s characters are thinly veiled versions (or composites) of real musicians, your play list is a no-brainer: David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, T. Rex, Roxy Music and Brian Eno’s early-’70s solo stuff, along with the movie’s excellent original soundtrack. Oh, and while we won’t presume to advise you about what other party favors to have on hand, we do recommend you let people smoke cigarettes inside. It’s more authentic, and the smoke will create a romantic, hazy atmosphere that even non-smokers like us can appreciate (in small doses).
Sometimes the most stressful part of throwing a dinner party is deciding on a menu. But if you pick a great food movie as your theme, then you can save yourself the agonizing and wow your guests with an impressive spread. While there’s no shortage of films that merit the dinner-party treatment, perhaps our favorite is Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci’s 1996 Italian-restaurant dramedy. Replicating brothers Primo and Secondo’s last-chance feast could be impossible for amateurs, so you might want to narrow your focus to the chefs’ heavenly timpano — a mammoth baked pasta dish. Find a recipe for the movie version here, and don’t forget to instruct your guests to dress in ’50s, Jersey Shore-Italian style.
OK, so Lars von Trier’s sci-fi drama about debilitating depression and the apocalypse isn’t obvious fodder for a party. But if you’re truly brave, have a dark sense of humor, and are open to spending a ton of money on a really bizarre theme reception, then maybe it isn’t such a bad idea draw inspiration from Melancholia. You can’t deny the appeal of throwing your party at a beautiful, remote mansion — and the wedding-at-the-end-of-the-world vibe is sure to bring a nihilistic frisson (and perhaps some entertainingly brash behavior) to the festivities. One caveat: the bride should probably stop short of screwing a stranger in an open field. Just a suggestion.
Slaves of New York
Miss the artsy, tough downtown New York of the ’80s? Recreate it with an homage to Slaves of New York, in a party that would basically entail convincing someone with access to a loft space to let you install a bunch of pretentious, art world bubble-style sculptures, instructing revelers to dress in high ’80s-Soho style (think the missing link between New Wave and grunge), assembling a playlist inspired by the film’s somewhat eclectic soundtrack (Culture Club, Iggy Pop, Public Image Limited, Billie Holiday), and perhaps putting on an impromptu fashion show. Oh, and ignore the similarities to basically any other party happening in Bushwick ca. 2012. This is totally different.
Years ago, some friends of ours brought a blue velvet — that is, red velvet but with blue food coloring — cake to a screening of Blue Velvet. That’s a good first step in translating David Lynch’s finest film into a party. You’ll also want to hang some red curtains, replace your bright, white lightbulbs with a few blue ones, and find a smoldering lady lounge singer with the pipes to pull off some standards. Dress should be film-noir formal (suits, cocktail dresses, red lipstick, hats on men). Oh, and if guests overstay their welcome, you can always clamp an oxygen mask to your face and chase them out, crazed sadist style.
Anyone can throw a mob-themed party, but you’ll take the conceit to a new and thrilling level with a Pulp Fiction bash. Although we’d advise skipping the heroin overdose/cartoon violence portion of the plot, you’ll probably want to recreate Jack Rabbit Slim’s, the retro restaurant where John Travolta and Uma Thurman so famously owned the dance floor. People can dress in some combination of timeless gangster, ’70s nostalgia, and ’50s badass, and obviously you’ll need to cater with a whole lot of Royales with cheese. Just make sure your Pulp Fiction party goes better than Community‘s.
Enter the Void
Your guests enter a neon-lit nighttime world, the walls literally throbbing with propulsive electronic and industrial music, occasionally and disturbingly intercut with disconcerting avant-garde noise. Create a complicated scavenger hunt for each attendee to complete within your home. Slowly, your friends will learn that they’re the ones who are dead and that their true objective is to get reborn. Or, you know, they’ll just get stoned and spend the night talking about the The Tibetan Book of the Dead while immobilized by those nifty strobe lights you rented.