Tag Archives: Harry Potter

Appreciating The Boy Who Lived

I have now committed what I consider a major sin as a film critic for this year: I will not be reviewing Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. At least, not in a timely matter to where it will make a molecule of a difference in whether you will see it or not. I suspect that for the most part, Fantastic Beasts will perform very well at the box office this week. It’s written by J.K. Rowling herself, it’s directed by Potter loyalist David Yates, and it has a solid cast to boast proudly about, including the Oscar-winning Eddie Redmayne as the lead. I highly doubt that longtime Rowling fans will overlook this new venture into the Harry Potter universe, and I expect it to get a large turnout at the box office. Whether it deserves that turnout will be another matter decided once I have time to collect myself after Thanksgiving break.

I am a more recent fan when it comes to the Harry Potter franchise. My biggest appreciation of Harry Potter comes from the movies themselves, as I am one of the few that have not ventured far into the book series (I only read the first two. I lost interest after Chamber of Secrets).

Hardcore Potter fans criticize me frequently for watching the movies before reading the books, and maybe they’re slightly warranted in their frustration since they are more knowledgeable of the franchise than I am. After all, when Stephen Sommers changed the ending to Mark Twain’s endearing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, I was livid. I can only imagine how Potter fans reacted when entire clops of characters were missing in multiple films altogether.

My defense is that by watching the movies before reading the books, it allows me to view those films through a different, vital scope that most don’t even think about: the eyes of a viewer as opposed to a reader. When watching adaptations, the job of a critic is to watch and judge the movie fairly on its own merit, not through the pages of the book that it was based upon. You can’t judge a movie through the same criteria as a book. That would be like judging a fish on its ability to fly.

Because of this, I rarely read the books before the movie comes out, and I actually make it a point to avoid reading them if I can. I’ve done this with numerous adaptations, from Lord of the Rings all the way to The Fault In Our Stars. I’ve always tried to watch the movie first, judge it on its own storytelling, then read the book and go back and see if my view has developed any further. It is not the movie’s job to adapt events, but rather emotions. If they invoke the same aesthetic and feel that the book did, I consider the film a successful adaptation.

I held Harry Potter to this same standard, ever since The Sorcerer’s Stone came out over 15 years ago. While my opinions of those films may differ slightly from fans of the books, we can all agree that Harry Potter is nonetheless astounding. Whether you’ve read the books or not, all of the elements are in there and retained. There is a boy who was orphaned after his parents died when he was just a baby. That same orphan was forced to live with a cruel aunt and uncle who spoiled their own son while neglecting their nephew. That boy gets swept up into a world full of wizards, witchcraft, and sorcery, and he learns about the true value of life, love, and appreciating the things that we’ve lost.

No matter what stance you have on the books, this much is intact in the film series: who Harry is, what are his desires, why he goes on this epic quest, and who he grows into as his journey comes to a close. This is why Harry Potter is one of the greatest film franchises of all time, as well as one of the greatest film adaptations. If both fans and non-fans can see, feel, and experience the same things in the movies, then the movie succeeded in adapting its source material. And Harry Potter definitely did that very well.

Another thing that impresses me with Harry Potter is the fact that this is a movie series, as opposed to a trilogy. Most movie studios do not have the gumption or the ambition to pursue book-to-film adaptations past three movies. Heck, Miramax films wanted to shrink The Lord of the Rings down from three movies to two, then to one. With Warner Bros. venturing to adapt all seven books as opposed to combining or omitting a few, Harry Potter went on to become the second highest grossing film franchise of all time, grossing over $7 billion at the box office.

(Although, I silently suspect Warner Bros. allowed the series expansion for more than just monetary reasons. With how large of a fan base Harry Potter had at the time, Warner Bros. might not have survived the backlash if they decided to mess with the official canon.)

Being a fan of film as opposed to a fan of Harry Potter has allowed me to appreciate its success without bias. It allowed me to go on Harry’s journey with him with fresh eyes, watching him grow from a boy to a man to a hero, facing all of his fears and overcoming them with the help of his friends. Fans of the books will voice that they went on it first, to which I fairly give them credit for doing so. But the point is I did go on that journey with him, and it is in no way less or more amazing because I haven’t read the books.

To which I now say that I am excited to see Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them for different reasons. This is an original narrative crafted from the mind of Rowling herself. There’s no concerns with being faithful to the book, or with taking narrative liberties, or with making changes fans won’t appreciate. The movie’s creativity doesn’t stop where the book does, mostly because there is no book to base it on. It excites me to see what new ideas and characters Rowling comes up with, and it excites me even further knowing that for once, myself and Harry Potter fans will be experiencing the exact same thing. This is new territory for all of us.

All of that excitement and anticipation will be paid off… soon. For now, I’m going to appreciate the boy who lived, knowing that I got to live right alongside him, as well as so many other muggles out there.

– David Dunn

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Rod Needs Some Help From A Woman

I had a few thoughts while reading Rod Liddle’s editorial in The Sun about Emma Watson delivering a speech to the UN this past Saturday. She was talking about feminine equality.

Rod: Hermoine Granger has been addressing the United Nations General Assembly. Nope, not kidding.

Me: Who else is more qualified to address the UN? Ron Weasley?

Rod: The actress Emma Watson is a UN “Goodwill Ambassador”. What’s that, when it’s at home? I haven’t a clue.

Me: If you haven’t a clue, then you probably shouldn’t be talking about it in the first place. Just a thought.

Rod: Anyway, instead of telling them all the rules of quidditch or how to turn someone into a frog, she bored them all rigid with whining, leftie, PC crap.

Me: I thought Emma Watson was talking to the UN, not Hillary Clinton?

Rod: Just like all actresses do if people are stupid enough to give them the chance.

Me: I think the same applies to newspaper reporters.

Rod: Why do we indulge these luvvie slebs, most of whom know nowt?

Me: I believe the correct spelling is “naught.”

Rod: I don’t object to them having views and expressing them. I just don’t understand why we take them seriously.

Me: See note above luvvie slebs.

Rod: I suppose they got Emma in because Angelina Jolie is a bit tied up with other stuff at the moment.

Me: At least her divorce went down better than yours did.

And then I closed the window. If you can’t spell “naught” right, your opinion isn’t worth reading in the first place. Rod should have a woman spellcheck his writing before he publishes his next article.

– David Dunn

SOURCE: The Sun
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“BOYHOOD” Review (✫✫✫✫)

A scrapbook by Richard Linklater.

The main character’s name in Boyhood is not Mason. His name is also David. And Connor. And Warren. Aaron. Stacey. Tony. Eric. Steven. Ben. Richard. And so on and so forth until you’ve listed every masculine name in the dictionary. I probably went eight names over how many I needed to list, but you get my point. We’re doing more than just watching one boy’s journey into adulthood here. We’re watching ourselves grow with him.

Strange, I think. I don’t normally sympathize with characters to the point where I feel like I AM them. Relating to protagonists is a somewhat straightforward task; you merely need to introduce the character along with their conflict, and then let the filmmaker do his work to bringing their arc to life.

But with Boyhood, I face an interesting prospect: there is no one conflict that Mason faces in the story. Like myself and my closest family and friends, Mason’s conflict is life itself, complete with all of its blessings, gifts, challenges, and turmoils alike. If you’re still not getting the picture, let me put it to you this way; if I were a filmmaker, and I were adapting the full story of your life, would I be able to condense it into one or two events?

The answer is no, I couldn’t. There is a whole multitude of issues you’ve faced in your life, just like I did, and I’m sure we could turn those issues into ten or twelve more movies if we tried. Director Richard Linklater chose not to do that. With Boyhood, he took one boy’s life, a small child he found named Ellar Coltrane, and followed him from age six until age 18, gradually showing his life progress and the challenges he faced as he grew into a man year, by year, by year.

It’s fascinating I tell you, to watch a movie progress from one generation to another. I look at Ellar as a young boy obsessing over cartoons and action figures while his sister, portrayed by Linklater’s daughter Lorelei, constantly talks about makeup and Britney Spears. I look at these children’s parents, played by a significantly younger Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke, as they struggle to connect and be there for their children and to be the best parents they possibly can be. It’s interesting to see these children mature from young, simple-minded beings to young adults, trying to find their own paths in life while their parents mature from being those young adults to the older, more mature parents that have faced, and survived, every difficulty they could have ever faced.

It’s pointless to describe what the plot of the movie is like. What is the plot of the movie? Fill the movie with your life experiences, and you have the plot. I caught myself many times reliving past memories while watching the movie, sympathizing with Mason as I remember how I too faced issues such as bullying, peer pressure, puberty, growing up, and finding a place where I belonged.

It’s not so much a movie as it is a scrapbook of memories, and Linklater is merely showing the memories on screen like he’s pulling a photograph out of a book.

What of the performances then? Patricia and Ethan are the most emotive performances out of the movie, but that’s to be expected considering they’ve been working on this movie, among others, for literally a decade. Lorelei is cute as a child at the beginning of the film, but as the movie continues on, it begins to focus more on Ellar while Lorelei, more or less, fades in to the background.

That being said, Ellar isn’t the most compelling actor in the film. As a child at the beginning, he is the most believable, but that’s because he’s living, not acting, in the moment. When he’s playing with his friends or when he’s dressed up for the Harry Potter premiere, you know that’s him being excited in the moment, similar to how Drew Barrymore believed E.T. was real during the filming for E.T: The Extra Terrestrial. As he gets older, however, he gets less emotional about things and more or less goes through the motions wherever Linklater guides him.

At first, I thought this was an obvious criticism to the film, because how is a kid going to maintain his acting ability through 12 years of his life? As I look deeper, however, I realize that Ellar isn’t intended to give a performance. He isn’t meant to be an actor, but a surrogate, a character whose emotions and memories we fill in the film and then we sympathize with because those are the same emotions we faced when we were his age.

Mason goes through a lot in this movie. As a toddler, he witnesses his parents go through divorce. As a child, he faces abuse from his alcoholic stepfather. As a teenager, bullying. As a high schooler, heartbreak. This movie is so tangible that it made me want to grab hold of Mason. It made me want to hold him and hug him, telling him the same thing my mother told me when I was going through my own issues at his age.

I want to grab him and say to him, “You’re going to be okay, Mason. You’re going to be okay.”

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