Friday, December 30, 2011

Part 2 still makes me angry, even after the fifth viewing

I can't watch The Deathly Hallows, Part 2, without getting angry. The filmmakers did such a good job with Part 1, I can't figure out how they could make such a mess of J.K.'s spectacular, dramatic, yet subtle ending.

I know I've complained about it before but I simply cannot believe that Steven Kloves et al would turn the final battle into such a farce, such a mano-a-mano battle between Harry and Voldemort, such an over-long, over-blown, comic-strip encounter. All subtlety is lost. All poetry. All class. All gone.

I'm finding myself getting wound up again. I have to stop writing.

For now...

Monday, December 26, 2011

A glorious Gryffindor surprise waiting under my tree

Christmas brought a Harry Potter surprise for me in the form of a fabulous Gryffindor scarf knitted by my sister. She tells me the pattern writers studied freeze-frame images from the movies in order to ensure that the knitted scarf would recreate, stitch by stitch, the scarves worn by our favourite characters. And she ordered the Gryffindor crest over the internet to add even more authenticity to the scarf. It's fantastic and warm and I love wearing it.

This photo was taken this afternoon as we began a walk through the woods with our dog. I guess, considering the popularity of the Harry Potter books and films, I shouldn't be surprised that the first person we encountered on our walk looked me up and down and said, "Gryffindor, huh? I consider myself more of a Ravenclaw".

A great response that made my day. The fact that I also found another Harry Potter surprise under the tree (the Blu Ray of The Deathly Hallows, Part 2) made this an even better day. I sat down this afternoon and evening with some friends who are visiting from out of town to watch both Part 1 and Part 2. They're huge Potter fans too so it was a pleasure to get the chance to watch the movies with them and then hear their thoughts on them as well.

I'm excited to get the chance to watch the special features on the discs too -- I watched part of the Daniel Radcliffe - J.K. Rowling conversation and was delighted with the quality of the discussion. I'm looking forward to watching that soon too. More on my recent conversations and the Blu Ray experience in upcoming posts.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Why I think The Prisoner is the best book of the bunch

I haven't posted anything in a while (probably my longest break this year, though I may be wrong on that) due to the simple fact that I am struggling with what I want to say about Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

I just finished re-reading this the third novel in J.K. Rowling's series last week and thought immediately, "I have to blog about this book". But when I sat down at the keyboard, time and again, words failed me. Why? Because I was struggling to convey just how much I like this book.

For me, The Prisoner of Azkaban is the best of the seven novels. I've read them all enough times to be able to say this with some conviction. Expressing the "why" is by far the tougher challenge.

And, instead of attempting to write paragraph after paragraph extolling the virtues of this novel, its plot and characters, the writing style, etc., I think it might be simpler if I reduced it all down to a list.

So here are the ten reasons I think The Prisoner of Azkaban is the best of Rowling's seven excellent novels:

1. It is the last of the shorter books, which means you can read the whole thing in a brief period of time, in one sitting almost, and get the absolute most intense reading experience from it;

2. It is the first of the more "adult" books in the series; whereas The Philosopher's Stone and The Chamber of Secrets are clearly childrens' books, with simple plots and a great deal of time spent (deliciously) wondering at the magical world into which Harry is suddenly thrust, The Prisoner of Azkaban sets a terrifically complex, subtle and often terrifying adult story in a magical world we already know, with which we are already comfortable;

3. It tells an exceptionally exciting tale of its own but also starts to set the stage for later novels. From first page to last, a shadow (of the Grim, really) looms over Harry and, with her characteristic flair for misdirection, Rowling makes us feel the tension build as Sirius Black slinks closer and closer to our hero. On the flip side, however, Rowling lays down important building blocks for the return of Voldemort, with Trelawney's eerie prediction and Peter Pettigrew's final escape.

4. The novel introduces two extremely important characters who will play significant roles in Harry's life from now to the end of the series: Remus Lupin and Sirius Black;

5. The book stakes philosophical ground in the discussion of good and evil, of perception and truth, that will have reverberations throughout the rest of the novels;

6. The Prisoner of Azkaban gives Hermione her first real chance to shine, to prove herself a worthy heroine to stand beside Harry and Ron, while still not losing that part of her that made her interesting in the first place: her commitment to education, intellect and rationality, even in the face of the scorn of her friends;

7. The book gives us our first real glimpse of the lives of Harry's parents, both through the characters who knew them (Black, Lupin, Snape, Rosemerta, McGonagall, Hagrid, et al) and through Harry's horrific recollection of his parents' last moments alive, a recollection that Rowling carefully builds in each successive encounter with the Dementors;

8. The novel gives us our first real indication that Harry could be a truly great wizard. His perfection of the Patronus Charm, a piece of truly advanced magic, shows us that he does, in fact, have it within him to take on the challenges we are starting to realise lie in wait for him;

9. The book deals with the issue of time in an interesting way, creating a truly memorable set of climactic scenes; and

10. The Prisoner of Azkaban gives us our first warning that Rowling doesn't intend to make Harry's life, nor ours as readers of the series, easy. There are some gruesome scenes in this book and some very violent passages: I find Harry's recollections of his parents' murders incredibly effective, serving notice that we're not reading simple childrens' books any more.

I know. I will probably now read The Goblet of Fire, The Order of the Phoenix and the other books again and declare that each one, in turn, is the best. But right now I have to say that The Prisoner of Azkaban is the standard bearer in the Harry Potter series.

Do you agree? What's your favourite Harry Potter novel and why? Use the Comments function to tell me your thoughts.