The ups and downs of hosting watch parties

Hosting a movie night is a lot like wielding a double-edged sword

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Samantha Cynn is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily.

Riley Walsh | Cavalier Daily

We’ve all been there. It’s a Wednesday night, you have 300 pages of readings due the next day, and you’re already stressing over an assortment of deadlines scattered over the next month or two. You’ve yawned at least seven times in the past five minutes and have had to reread the same paragraph 10 times over. Clearly, nothing is going to get done tonight.

Two options sit before you. You could be a responsible University student, dedicate yourself to the task at hand and work through the night. You could shake off the sleep threatening to overtake you and return to your readings with a renewed vigor, maybe after taking a short break to clear your head. Hey, you might even finish early! Then, you can bask in the pride and satisfaction of having completed all your assignments and being productive with your time and energy. Just think — your parents would be so proud of you.

Or you could host a watch party. That’s an option too.

In case this buildup wasn’t obvious enough, I spent a large part of the previous semester calling up my friends and inviting them to watch a movie or binge a TV show at ungodly hours of the night. Everyone I asked always accepted my requests without fail. As a result, we developed a habit of making bad decisions on weeknights. I could expect a message around 10 p.m. every night asking if anyone was free to meet up, and — regardless of whether I actually was free or not — I was sure to respond with a “yes” every time.

Hosting watch parties comes with plenty of ups and downs right from the start. First, there’s the issue of snacks, because you simply can’t expect people to watch a movie without something to munch on. Whether the snacks are chips, ramen or Auntie Anne’s cinnamon sugar pretzels, having a steady supply of food for the night is essential to the watch party experience.

Then, the group is tasked with the peculiar duty of picking out a movie or show that everyone present will enjoy. This can be especially tricky when one person’s favorite genre is horror, while another can’t stand the sight of blood and has a preference for action-comedy. We would drift from movie to movie, show to show, eager to find one that fit all of our tastes. There were inevitably some misses. “200 Pounds Beauty” was divisive and met with mixed reactions. “About Time” annoyed us all out of our minds. And — much to my well-deserved, yet perfectly reasonable horror — the old classic “Pulp Fiction” was not well-received by any of my friends, who found it stale and uninteresting.

Once all of the setup has been completed and the perfect movie has been selected, though, the appeal of hosting a watch party in the first place becomes crystal clear. Playing through the interactive “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” on Netflix kept us up until the early hours of the morning. “The Lobster” — a favorite of mine — had me cackling as I watched my friends react to a few of the more unorthodox scenes. We all visibly squirmed in our seats during “The Room,” and one attendee dabbed at her eyes during a particularly emotional moment in the movie “Gook.”

A favorite watch party memory of mine involves the HBO show “Westworld,” which I off-handedly suggested on one of these fateful nights. We ended up binging the entirety of the series’ two seasons in only a couple of weeks. Seeing the others puzzle out the intricacies of the plot and gradually piece it all together was more entertaining than the show itself at times. One friend became so fixated on finishing the show that he neglected to study for an exam he had the following morning, instead insisting that we spend the night watching “Westworld.” Unfortunately for him, he failed the exam. Given that he ended up getting near-perfect scores on all other tests in the course, the prime culprit for his poor performance appears to have been his “Westworld” addiction. It was a sign that it was time to start prioritizing actual classwork over movie nights.

Though perhaps choosing to have a watch party on a weeknight is not the brightest of ideas, it has certainly made for some fun times — and isn’t that arguably just as important a part of college life as academics? Spending time with friends should not get in the way of keeping up with schoolwork and other educational responsibilities, but it is also important to let loose every so often. Obsessing over grades and upcoming deadlines without any breaks will only serve to make your time at the University miserable. Being able to do something as trivial as eat snacks and watch movies after a long day can be a refreshing way to keep your spirits high and your stress levels low.

I don’t have any plans to put an end to these watch parties. Just two weeks ago, we saw the Korean film “Parasite” and are now going to watch the Oscars together as well — and, unsurprisingly, my friends are eagerly anticipating the release of the third season of “Westworld.” However, I am going to do my best this semester to only host movie nights at reasonable hours. In other words, I am hoping there will not be a repeat of last semester’s cycle of all-nighters and lectures spent struggling not to fall asleep. I encourage others to do the same. Take the time to enjoy your free time and forget about the stresses of everyday academic life, if only for a little while. Just maybe don’t do so at the expense of your much needed and extremely necessary eight hours of sleep — I’m speaking from personal experience here.

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