Thursday, June 30, 2011

15 Days and Counting!!!!

Fifteen days until Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, opens in theatres, in both 3d and regular format, imax and normal screen.

That's 360 hours. 21,600 minutes. 1,296,000 seconds.

Give or take.

Not that I'm excited or anything.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

All I ask is a quiet theatre...

I watched the trailer again. Actually, I watched both trailers again: the original one for both parts of The Deathly Hallows and the new one for Part 2.

The last movie looks awesome. I love the fact that the dragon at Gringott's is in, that the escape from the Room of Requirement is in, that Snape's memories are in and that Molly Weasley gets her chance to shine in battle.

I wonder if they've included the scene with Dumbledore in the phantom King's Cross near the end. I think they have but, in a moment of surprising consideration, they left it out of the trailer so that anyone who hasn't read the books will be surprised when they see it in the film.

Several people have asked me if I plan to go to the first showing of the first day. They know I'm a huge fan and just naturally assume that I will. At this point, I don't intend to go to see it at all that first weekend.

Why? Because the first time I see it I want to be able to focus and enjoy it with no distractions. And it will no doubt be packed at every showing on the opening weekend. Packed with people who will talk through the movie, continually get up to get snacks, crinkle their wrappers and do all kinds of other things that will drive me crazy.

That's exactly what happened to me for Part 1. I went to see it on the Saturday (the second day) and I sat in a packed theatre, surrounded by idiots, and just got more and more angry rather than enjoying the film.

If I do go on that first weekend (and I'm not so sure I'll be strong enough to resist, in spite of my concerns), I'll probably go to the first matinee on Sunday. I think that showing has the best chance of being free of irritants.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Watching Walters as she finally gets to whip out her wand

My colleague finally broke down and watched the trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, on line.

If you remember my earlier post, my colleague is one of those rare individuals who loves the Harry Potter movies but has never read any of the books. She's a huge fan without ever having tasted J.K.'s prose. I find that amazing.

Even more amazing is the fact that she has no idea how the story ends. For me, the excitement of the last movie is in finding out what they put in, what they left out and how they make that amazingly tense final part of the story come to life on screen. For her, it's about finding out how it all ends.

She made one comment about the trailer that made me laugh. She said she's always been an admirer of Mrs. Weasley and was pleased to see, from the trailer, that Molly finally gets a chance to show her stuff with a wand. My colleague has no idea how or why Molly Weasley gets involved in the action; she's just happy to see that she does get involved.

Of course, for me, I was delighted to realise, after watching the trailer a number of times, that the movie makers have apparently included Molly's duel with Bellatrix Lestrange in the film. Fantastic! Julie Walters, who is wonderful in the role, finally gets to whip out her wand and do some damage.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Hogwarts House Points make me crazy

I have to admit: I've never liked the way points are awarded to (or deducted from) Houses at Hogwarts. It just seems so arbitrary, doesn't it? I mean, Snape favours his own House so he is constantly taking points from Gryffindors while McGonagall, who is more fair, refuses to favour the House she leads.

I've felt that the system for awarding points at Hogwarts is a problem ever since Dumbledore manipulated the points at the end of The Philosopher's Stone in order to take the House Cup from Slytherin and give it to Gryffindor. I don't argue with his decision to give Neville ten points for standing up to his friends but I think it's highly problematic that he happens to give the four first-year kids just enough for Gryffindor to overtake Slytherin.

Oh well. I guess you can't love everything about the Potter world, can you?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Pondering the complexities of Remus Lupin

I really like the character, Remus Lupin, in the books. He's a good guy but a tortured soul. He knows he what he could have been but he hates what he has become.

I very much liked the way J.K. describes Lupin in the flashbacks Harry experiences to his father's time at Hogwarts. She always says that Lupin wears an expression of delighted surprise at having been included in the cool group at his school.

I think that's a really nice thought and great insight into the character he displays throughout the novels.

The scene in the kitchen at Grimmauld Place in the final novel, where Lupin offers to abandon his family and join up with Harry, Hermione and Ron, though really hard to read, rang true for me in every sense. I thought J.K. captured both Lupin's desperation and fear in that moment and Harry's genuinely angry reaction to his offer.

Most of all, I remember feeling very sad when both Lupin and Tonks die in the seventh book and I worried about their new-born son. I'm going to interpret the epilogue to The Deathly Hallows as implying not only that Teddy does all right as he grows up but also that Lupin's fears that he will be a werewolf too turn out to be unfounded.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The value of bringing a little happiness to the world

I read somewhere that J.K. Rowling earns $1.6-million dollars every three days from the Harry Potter series. Every three days! Wow.

I think it would take most of us a lifetime to earn that much.

I wish I could begrudge her the money but I really can't. First, because I think she worked hard to earn it. Second, because she's continued to be such a lovely person even despite it. And, perhaps most of all, because she's brought so much happiness to me and so many other people around the world.

If you divide how much she's earned by how much joy she's created, you'll probably find she's underpaid.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Writing our own Harry Potter fiction

I wonder how many people around the world have tried their hands at writing their own Rowling-World novel or short story.

I know I have. My novel is entitled The Way Forward and follows three of the more minor characters from the Harry Potter series as they try to recover from the re-emergence of Voldemort and the final battle at Hogwarts.

In coming up with a plot for my book, I found it interesting to think that two of those characters (George Weasley and Aberforth Dumbledore) lost brothers in the violence of Voldemort's rise and I wondered how each of them would react to their loss. Of course, George lost his twin, his best friend, his constant companion, while Aberforth lost a brother from whom he had been mostly estranged, against whom he felt a great deal of animosity.

But losing a brother can have impacts on a person that they would never have expected, whether they loved or loathed that sibling.

The third character I chose to follow was Minerva McGonagall, the deputy headmistress of Hogwarts who would be the most likely successor to Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape as leader of the school.

I've written a fair chunk of the novel and you can find what I've written here:

I only work on it from time to time and I'm happy to take suggestions on how to make it better or where to go next. So please, give it a read and, if you want to, make a comment on this blog to tell me what you think.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Will there be a 19-years-later?

I wonder. Will the final Harry Potter film include the epilogue from the book? You know, the 19-years-later part? My guess is that it won't. They'll want to keep open the possibility of another sequel.

After all, J.K. is hinting at another book, isn't she? Let's hope.

Monday, June 20, 2011

I just love love Gleeson's mutterings

Another line I like from the movies. Mad-Eye Moody in, The Deathly Hallows, Part 1, "Yeah, he's absolutely gorgeous. What's say we get under cover before someone murders him?"

I just love the way Brendan Gleeson growls this line while herding everyone inside the Durlsey's house at the start of the film. And it's not in the book.

In the novel, Mad-Eye says, "Change of plan" and then, "Let's get under cover before we talk you through it." I'm fine with that but I think Gleeson's "What's say we get under cover before someone murder's him" is even better.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The enigma of Mad-Eye Moody

The role of Mad-Eye Moody interests me. We all got to know Mad-Eye pretty well in The Goblet of Fire, only to find out that it wasn't Mad-Eye at all that we were getting to know but, instead, that it was Barty Crouch Jr in disguise.

This created an interesting situation at the beginning of the fifth novel. Harry, Hermione and Ron spent the entire previous year at Hogwarts with a man they believed was the famed ex-Auror. They grew to know "him" fairly well and even to develop something of a relationship with him.

The real Mad-Eye, meanwhile, was stuck in a box for that entire year. He doesn't know these kids. He barely even meets them at the end of the book.

Then begins The Order of the Phoenix. Mad-Eye is a part of the Order and so interacts with the many characters at Grimmauld Place, including Harry, Hermione and Ron. I would have expected there to be some kind of strangeness, some awkwardness between the real Auror and our dynamic trio when they meet up again in this fifth book.

After all, the young people must feel they know Mad-Eye pretty well; he, on the other hand, has never really met them. It would be a very strange situation for all of them.

Yet J.K. doesn't address the strangeness at all. In fact, she continues to write the real Mad-Eye exactly as she wrote the fake Mad-Eye, and she appears to let the relationship between Harry and the Auror pick up exactly where it left off the year before.

I think J.K. slipped a bit here. I think she worked so hard to develop both the character of Mad-Eye and his relationship with Harry in The Goblet of Fire that, in writing the following novels, she forgot that it wasn't the real Mad-Eye at all in the fourth book. It never occurred to her that she should have them "start over" as strangers in The Order of the Phoenix.

She wrote their relationship so well in the fourth novel that she fooled herself into thinking that they actually knew each other.

Friday, June 17, 2011

If I could turn back time...

I was chatting with a colleague today about the upcoming Harry Potter movie. She's a huge Potter fan but has never read the books. She's seen every movie and, in fact, has watched the seventh film, The Deathly Hallows, Part 1, three times in the last week.

It's strange talking to her about Harry and the gang. She's as big a fan as I am but doesn't know the first thing about the novels. And she doesn't want to know -- she's planning to read the series once the final movie has come out and she's seen it a couple of times.

The hardest thing for me is not to spill the beans both about the differences between the books and the films and about what happens in the final installment of the film series. The problem is, I consider the books so significantly superior to the movies I have a hard time holding myself back.

I'm interested to witness her responses as she works her way through J.K.'s novels. I think she's in for a real treat. I wish I could go back and read the books all over again for the first time.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Daniel Radcliffe is the weak acting link

The last couple of posts to this blog have got me to thinking about a couple of things: first, how lucky (or amazingly prescient) the casting people for the first Harry Potter movie were to have chosen so many very young actors who would turn out to be so talented and grow up to be so attractive; and second, how Daniel Radcliffe is clearly the very worst of the actors in continuing roles in the films.

I don't think anyone can deny that Emma Watson, Bonnie Wright and Evanna Lynch have all proven themselves to be very strong actors. And my review of the worldwide web tells me that all three are generally considered to be very attractive young women at this point. On the other side, Rupert Grint, Matthew Lewis and Tom Felton are all accomplished performers and, from what I've read, considered to be fairly easy on the eyes as well.

But what of Daniel Radcliffe? He plays the title role and he's on screen more than any other single performer. Does his performance stand up?

I don't think so. In fact, I find scenes where he's asked to show any kind of emotional depth to be particularly cringeworthy. I mean, any time the guy has to hug someone you want just to cover your eyes until it's over.

Go ahead. Watch the scene on the street in Hogsmeade in The Prisoner of Azkaban, just after Harry has overheard that Sirius Black is widely believed to have betrayed his supposed best friend James Potter to Voldemort. "He was their friend," Radcliffe barks, his eyes wide, his voice hoarse. It's a pivotal, emotionally charged scene and Radcliffe, for all his histrionics, flatlines through it.

Okay, so maybe he was still young then. It was, after all, only the second movie. He's learned, he's grown, you tell me.

Now watch the scene in The Deathly Hallows, Part 1, where Harry finds out from Hermione that his wand has been broken in the escape from Godric's Hollow. "Where's my wand, Hermione?" Radcliffe, now a mature, supposedly accomplished actor, barks. This is a scene where Harry loses his most trusted friend in the magical world, the implement that has saved him time and again from Voldemort, and all Radcliffe can muster is a couple of grunts and a hard stare.

I think Emma Watson is the best young actor by far in the films, the one most worthy to appear beside the who's who of British acting that populates the adult roles. On the other end of the spectrum, Daniel Radcliffe is pretty awful. He's just lucky the material is so strong it can carry him (and the movies) through his flat, emotionally vacant performances.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bonnie is the Wright one to play Ginny

The relationship between Ginny Weasley and Harry Potter is another point of continuity and consistency from the first book to the last that tends to support the argument that J.K. Rowling did indeed plan the entire series right from the start.

As you will recall, Ginny (who is at that time too young to go to Hogwarts) pines to meet Harry at King's Cross both at the start and at the end of The Philosopher's Stone. Her interest in Harry develops further in the next couple of books to the point where she is practically unable to speak in his presence.

Then J.K. adds the nice touch of having Ginny become mature enough to go out and meet people at Hogwarts, ending up as one of the more popular girls at the school by the time books four and five roll around. We find out later, of course, that Hermione had given her some good advice: if you want Harry to notice you, you have to stop noticing him so much and get on with life.

Their relationship is beautifully written and realistically depicted, both in the books and in the movies. I think they got lucky (again) in casting Bonnie Wright when she was so young: Wright blossoms into both a terrific actor and a lovely young woman, making the Ginny/Harry romance all the more plausible.

I particularly love the description J.K. provides of the fiery look Ginny gives Harry during the wedding at the beginning of The Deathly Hallows when the Weasley aunt comments on her dress being too low cut. It's just too bad that little gem didn't make it into the movie. I think Ms. Wright could have given it some real fire.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

One month? Just one month!!!!

One month. That's it. One month until Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, Part 2, premieres in theatres. The excitement builds.

It's coming out in both 3D and regular 2D and I'm not sure which one I'll see first. Probably 2D, to be honest, since I'd hate it if my first viewing were to be ruined by the disorienting effects of the 3D.

So exciting.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Making sure Neville appears in the seventh movie

I talked a bit about Neville Longbottom in yesterday's blog. He's an interesting character and I like the way J.K. has handled the growth in his confidence and abilities throughout the seven novels.

That's why I think it's too bad that Neville has such a small role in the first half of The Deathly Hallows. I understand why it was necessary to do this (with the focus on Harry, Hermione and Ron on the run, very few other characters had prominent roles) but that doesn't mean I don't miss Neville.

The decision to split the book into two parts for the purpose of the movies (which I think was a good one, by the way) serves to emphasize his absence. The scene on the Hogwarts Express is the only one in which Neville (played so well by Matthew Lewis) appears and it was an add-in by the film-makers, just to get Neville and several others a little screen time in that seventh movie.

I'm usually pretty critical of the scenes Stephen Kloves et al chose to invent in the films but I don't mind that one. I'd hate to see such an important character shut out of the movie altogether.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Neville is one proof that Rowling planned it all

Neville Longbottom. Introduced in almost the first magical-world scene of The Philosopher's Stone and still around to kill Nagini in one of the final scenes of The Deathly Hallows. Clearly, J.K. knew what she was doing when she created him in the first novel, proof that she had the whole series planned from the start.

Had Voldemort not chosen Harry, it would have been Neville who was the chosen one. Did Rowling have this plan in mind from the moment she wrote The Philosopher's Stone? I'm not sure. But if she didn't, she certainly did a great job of weaving what she wrote in that first book into the finale several years later.

I'll count Neville as one piece of evidence that Rowling had it planned from the start.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

How much did J.K. plan when she first started writing?

I have often wondered how far J.K. had gotten in developing the entire seven-book arc when she first sat down to write The Philosopher's Stone. It's sort of the same argument people have about George Lucas and the Star Wars movies: the author says the entire series was planned from the start but it seems pretty hard to believe.

And even if you do believe that the creator had some concept of the larger project when he or she sat down to pen the first installment, it's really hard to convince yourself that the creator had planned the entire extended story in detail before embarking on the first book.

I'll admit it, when it comes to this discussion, I'm a strong skeptic, with regard to both Lucas and Rowling. I am willing to accept that, for example, J.K. dreamt, as she began The Philosopher's Stone, of writing a series of novels but I doubt she got much further than that.

Certainly, the concept of Hogwarts being a seven-year school isn't strongly presented in that first book. Harry is simply there in his first year, interacting with older students in their upper years.

On the other hand, it is clear from the ending of the first book that Rowling anticipated writing more and that the Potter/Voldemort conflict would be at the core of the following novels. I'm just not sure she had the following six books outlined in detail in her mind at that point.

Maybe I needed to read The Philospher's Stone again, in English this time, and make note of all the examples that suggest she did plan the remainder of the books and the examples that undermine that claim.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sometimes you just have to complain a little

Okay, complaint time. I've just watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, again and, even though I like this movie a lot, there are some things that really bother me about it.

I've mentioned that ridiculous dance scene between Harry and Hermione before so I won't go into that debacle again.

Three things struck me this time, and the first two are related.

First, J.K. was very careful in the novel to explain how Snape finds out that Harry and Hermione are in the Forest of Dean in order to deliver the Sword of Gryffindor to them (remember, Hermione mentions the Forest while holding her bag open, thus allowing the portrait of Phineas Nigellus to hear her and report her whereabouts to Snape in the Headmaster's Office at Hogwarts?). I watched the movie carefully and Hermione is nowhere near her bag when she tells Harry where they are. So how, in the film, does Snape know where to find them?

Second, and on a related note, J.K. makes it clear that Ron, having abandoned his friends sometime earlier, begins to hear Hermione's voice through the Deluminator only after Hermione finally says Ron's name to Harry for the first time. In the movie, from what I could see, Hermione doesn't say Ron's name before he shows up. Yes, Ron says he heard her say his name but we never hear her.

So those two bug me.

An even bigger issue for me, however, is the fact that the screenwriter completely eliminates Harry's internal struggle to decide between pursuing Hallows or Horcruxes. The whole bit at Shell Cottage is intended to show that Harry is able to overcome his own needs and to focus on the needs of the magical world, thus allowing Voldemort to obtain the Elder Wand while he continues to hunt Horcruxes.

This is a huge issue and one that Dumbledore specifically mentions as a sign of Harry's worthiness when they meet in King's Cross Station near the end of the book.

Don't get me wrong. I understand why the movie makers chose to end the seventh film with Voldemort stealing the Elder Wand out of Dumbledore's grave (it's a very dramatic scene and sets the suspense nicely for the final movie).

But it just bothers me that, in order to give us that thrill, they have to sacrifice Harry's key psychological struggle, the pivotal moment where he proves himself worthy, to do so.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Evanna Lynch brings Luna to life

I think Luna Lovegood is the only character in Rowling's world who actually is more interesting in the movie versions than in the original books. Evanna Lynch does a wonderful job of bringing her to life, especially in her first appearance (The Order of the Phoenix) in the films.

While the Lovegood of the books has something of a hard edge, and not a really attractive one, Lynch's Luna is softer, sweeter and just slightly stranger. I just adore the scene where she first appears, sitting in the wagon, telling Harry that he's just as sane as she is.

Hilarious and wonderful. And the scene in the Forbidden Forest, where Harry stumbles across Luna feeding the Thestrals is another gem. Lynch does such a nice job of delivering her deeply meaningful and powerful lines with a distracted air about her, making the scene special.

Lynch succeeds in portraying Luna as a slightly melancholy but mostly content outcast, a flake with worthwhile contributions to make.

That being said, another of my favourite moments involving Luna was not presented in the films. This one takes place on the Hogwarts Express in The Half-Blood Prince when several younger girls invite Harry to sit with them, rather than with Neville and Luna.

Luna says, "People expect you to have cooler friends than us". Harry retorts: "You are cool. None of them was at the Ministry. They didn't fight with me."

Luna is delighted. But not too much so. Soon, true to her character, she's immersed herself back into The Quibbler.

It's a really nice moment. A moment that cements the friendship and makes both characters even more likeable.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The first book is an action-packed ride

As I read The Philosopher's Stone through in French, I find myself amazed at how much actually happens in this book. There's action on almost every page.

First, the zoo and the Dursleys. Then the letter and the flight to the rock in the sea. Then Hagrid, Diagon Alley and the Hogwarts Express.

Harry arrives at school and is sorted. Neville and the Rememberall. Quidditch. Nicholas Flamel and the Stone. Late night duels. Fluffy. It just goes on and on.

I've just gotten to the scene where Norbert hatches from his egg. There are only 50 pages left in the book and it's amazing how much has happened, yet also how much still has to happen before the book draws to a close.

An amazingly busy novel!

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Marvel-lous idea for Harry Potter

You know what would be really great? A Harry Potter graphic novel. Or a whole series of graphic novels based on the Rowling books.

Marvel Comics is doing a fantastic graphic re-telling of Stephen King's epic novel The Stand. They're taking the time and space necessary to do a faithful retelling of the original book but also providing amazing visuals too.

I'd love to see what they'd do with the Harry Potter series. I hope someone picks up the idea and runs with it. It would be another great way to enjoy Rowling's characters and her world.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Jim Dale makes Hermione too whiney

I've loved the novels, I've enjoyed (for the most part) the movies, and I have even discovered the joy of having the J.K. Rowling's masterpieces read to me through the magic of books on CD.

I have heard that Stephen Frye, one of the most talented performers in England today, has read for a line of such CDs but the only ones I've been able to find is the version featuring Jim Dale doing the reading. Not that I'm complaining. Dale does an excellent job on The Deathly Hallows (the only book-on-CD version I actually own).

Well, with one really significant exception.

I hate the way he makes Hermione sound like she's whining all the time. No matter what lines she's given in the novel, Dale makes her sound like a nagging whiner.

That's not the Hermione I know.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

That silly dancing scene

I know that it is a real challenge for filmmakers to capture the emotional depths of a novel on screen. But I still don't get the silly dancing scene in the first part of the film version of The Deathly Hallows.

I don't think it conveys what Harry and Hermione are feeling at that moment (just after Ron has abandoned them) and I think it adds an unnecessary subtext: is there sexual attraction between the Chosen One and the muggle-born wonder?

And it bothers me even more when I think about all the great stuff they cut out of the book to keep the movie a reasonable length, yet they choose to waste a good three minutes on this blather.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Ron's favourite phrase

I remember the first time I read The Deathly Hallows and I got to the scene where the doe patronus leads Harry to the forest pool and the sword of Gryffindor. The way J.K. wrote this scene, the reader knows that someone has been forced to rescue Harry from drowning in the pool but she never gives us any clue as to who it is.

We're as ignorant of the identity of his rescuer as Harry is.

When the mystery hero blurts out, "Are you mental?", once they're both safe, however, I needed to read no further to know that it was Ron, come back to save the day.

It's brilliant writing. J.K. had carefully trained us to recognise each character's patterns of speech and favourite expressions: anyone who had read all the books to that point would have known immediately who had come along and rescued Harry.

"Mental" had always been one of Ron's favourite terms. He calls Dumbledore mental in the first book and I believe he also uses that word to describe Mad-Eye Moody early in The Goblet of Fire.

Rowling does a nice job of keeping us in the dark as to who is saving Harry from the pool and then divulges his identity with a single, well-designed statement.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Hermione, Fluffy and Harry Potter's wand

Another detail I failed to notice the first 20 times I read The Philosopher's Stone: when Hermione performs the Alohomora charm to open the door that leads to Fluffy, the three-headed dog, as they run from Peeves and Filch, she uses Harry's wand.

I don't know why I find this so amazing but I do. I only noticed this little detail when I read it in French, probably because I'm being forced to read the book very slowly and to consider every word in order to understand it.

One of Hermione's first acts of magic under pressure is performed with Harry's wand! With all the discussion of wandlore in The Deathly Hallows, I guess we should be happy that Harry's wand actually worked for Hermione here and worked well. Remember how much trouble Harry has in the seventh book with the snatcher's wand.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Harry and the broom stick

So I'm reading the first novel, The Philosopher's Stone (or, if you're American, The Sorceror's Stone, or, if you're French, A L'ecole des sorciers), and I get to the part where Harry first climbs on a broom to chase Draco and retrieve Neville's Rememberall.

And J.K. goes to great pains to explain to us that, for Harry, flying on a broom is the first thing he's tried at Hogwarts that just seems to come naturally.

And I find myself thinking, "Of course Harry finds that it comes naturally; he got his first broom from Sirius when he was just a year old!"

And then I think: "Holy cow, I think I know these books a little too well!"

And then I think: "And hasn't J.K. done an amazing job of creating a consistent, well-developed world for Harry Potter and his friends!"