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Looks like I’m missing a lot of weird, wild stuff out there: PUMAs and moral panics and tumultuous behavior in general.  Well, I have an excuse.  I’m housepainting and writing not one but two reviews of this book.  In fact, I have to write the second one by tomorrow.  So my discussion of Harry Potter and the Movie Everyone Hated will have to be brief.

Well, maybe everyone didn’t hate it.  That’s the impression I got from SEK’s survey of the terrain, but I see that tomemos challenges this in comments.  And I agree with Amanda that the whole thing would have worked much better as a television series than as a decade-long string of Major Motion Pictures.  But then, back in 2001 when the first film was released, there weren’t a whole lot of brilliant TV series going on.  Just The Sopranos, really. The Wire and Mad Men were still years away from production.  (That’s the other thing I’m doing with my time: watching season two of Mad Men with Janet at night.  Anyone who shows up in comments with spoilers about the last five episodes will be deleted and banned.  I’ll attempt a post on the subject when we’re done.  You all knew I originally planned to go into advertising instead of applying to graduate programs in English, right?)

But I don’t understand the people who didn’t like Jim Broadbent as Slughorn.  Broadbent was nearly a perfect Slughorn: he could have been a bit more arrogant, I suppose, but I think Slughorn’s distinctive combination of pomposity and toadiness (upon which Tom Riddle plays so effectively) came through very well.  I think I like the fact that the films have more or less given up on exposition, especially since Half-Blood Prince is itself one very long “As you know, Bob” device.  Keep the Pensieves to a minimum, I say.  As you know, Harry, Voldemort grew up in this orphanage.... As you know, Harry, Voldemort has a fetish for objects associated with the four Hogwarts founders.... The attitude by this point—it is number six, after all—has to be that if you’re coming to the movie without knowing Snape’s history (or Voldemort’s), you’re on your own.

Two important changes from the book: one, Snape doesn’t confront Harry after Harry slices up Draco with sectumsempra, and doesn’t demand to see Harry’s Potions book.  This strikes me as bizarre; it leaves Snape merely tending to Malfoy on a bathroom floor, and leaves the kids to decide to hide the book on their own.  Two, Dumbledore doesn’t immobilize Harry before Draco’s arrival on the astronomy tower; Harry restrains himself throughout, or at least until he is stymied by Snape.  I’m of two hands about this.  On the one hand, it’s not really credible; Harry is, as we have seen with his ill-fated attempt to “save” Sirius in Order of the Phoenix, impetuous and rash when it comes to heroics on behalf of people he loves.  And he does despise Draco with a passion.  Hard to imagine he’d stand down when it’s just Draco and an unarmed Dumbledore.  On the other hand, it underscores Harry’s fierce loyalty to the man: he’s just made him drink a nasty bowl of Voldemort-brand hallucinogenic punch, and now he’s standing mutely by while Draco threatens his surrogate father.  Maybe he really has learned a thing or two about trusting Dumbledore’s judgment.

But the whole scene—and the strangely truncated confrontation with Snape that follows—is just muted and muffled.  I can’t put my finger on it, but I’ve seen it twice now, and the impression was even stronger the second time: there’s just no climax in this climactic scene.  And one important feature of it gets left out: remember when Dumbledore says, “introductions are in order,” and introductions aren’t offered?  (No exposition, remember.) Well, we don’t get to meet Alecto and Amycus properly as a result.  No loss there!  But more to the point, we don’t get that critical moment when Dumbledore admits to being a bit shocked and disgusted that Draco would let a child-eating monster like Fenrir Greyback into Hogwarts, where all his friends live.  Draco, you’ll recall (and if you haven’t read the book, remember, you’re on your own), protests that he didn’t know Greyback would be among the invasion party.  But in the movie, Draco is working with Greyback from the start.

This seems to me a mistake, because something happens to Draco at that moment, quite apart from his agonizing realization that he doesn’t actually have the evil cojones necessary for killing Dumbledore.  Janet pointed this out, so it’s her point: Draco and the Malfoys are deeply invested in their sense of superiority to the Muggle-born and the half-bloods.  They think of themselves, with good reason, as the elite of the elite in the wizarding world, and never fail to sneer at the Weasleys’ relative poverty.  But the crew that attacks Hogwarts that night isn’t made up of Death Eaters from the country club.  They’re either utterly vile (Greyback) or distinctly ill-spoken Cockney-tinged thugs (Alecto and Amycus).  This gives pause to the young man whose first encounter with Harry, six years earlier, turned on the question of who hangs out with “the right sort.”

I’m not saying that I wanted to see a twenty-minute confrontation between Dumbledore and the Death Eaters.  It’s just that the whole thing is so muted—we don’t even get Dumbledore’s offer to put the Malfoys in a Wizard Protection Program so Voldemort can’t find them.  Any explanations for the mutedness and unclimacticalness?  I’m eager to hear them.

Two final things.  The opening of the movie seems quite effective.  The book, after all, was published a mere nine days after al-Qaeda’s 7/7 attack on London, and eerily opens with Cornelius Fudge getting a befuddled Prime Minister up to speed on the Global War on Voldemort. HP’s reflections on terrorism and antiterrorism were evident the moment Stan Shunpike got shipped off to Gitmo, but in the final three novels the tone becomes increasingly ominous, to the point at which, as Rich Puchalsky puts it, “Harry is effectively living in the equivalent of a death squad state, in which people are routinely kidnapped, tortured, and disappeared, and constituted authority is either complicit, corrupt, or at best ineffective.”

And what do we make of the ethics of Snape-Assisted Suicide?  This kind of thing is deeply controversial in the disability-rights community, you know.


Ah, one more final final thing. I see in the Intertubes that back in 2005, I wrote, “did you know that there are only two functioning sectors of the American economy now?  Housing sales and Harry Potter films.  That’s it.” Funny, that.  OK, so now we’re down to one.

Posted by on 07/22 at 11:16 AM
  1. wait, is he that kid with the glasses?

    Posted by  on  07/22  at  12:50 PM
  2. See, that mutedness and fizzle of an ending is precisely what’s bugging me about HP6. Harry wasn’t stupefied, and the death itself was almost treated like that line from The Meaning of Life: “Oh, and Potter? Your headmaster died.” And was anyone else supremely irritated by McGonagall’s wand tribute instead of an actual funeral?

    Speaking of . . .

    When Half-Blood Prince first came out, I read somewhere (I think it was on this very blog, but I could be mistaken there) that the book was one big head fake. And, indeed, someone absolutely called it. Well, here’s my prediction for HP7: the film will open with Dumbledore’s funeral, since the Bill and Fleur subplot was omitted entirely from HP6, and we thus will probably not have a wedding in the early part of HP7. Smart money’s on HP7 opening with Dumbledore’s funeral and the subsequent Death Eater attack taking place there.

    But, as my wife points out, that poses a major problem for the remaining two HP movies, since Bill and Fleur’s cottage plays a rather important role in Deathly Hallows. Oy.

    Finally, was anyone else irked by the flaming attack of fiery fire on the Burrow? Kathryn informed me on the drive home that we very nearly walked out during that scene, and we don’t really consider ourselves HP purists.

    Posted by  on  07/22  at  01:19 PM
  3. I still haven’t made up my mind on the Snape-Assisted Suicide - when reading HP 6 (& 7), it did strike me that, among the many topics for which Rowling was criticized ("She’s a pagan!” “She supports witchcraft!” “She supports homosexuality!"), the “she’s in favor of assisted suicide” faction was surprisingly quiet in what was pretty much a “right-to-die” theme. 

    As a plot device, I thought it was functional, but perhaps unnecessary.  I liked her forcing people to decide whether Snape was good or bad themselves up through 6, and it sort of seemed to take that out of the equation when we learn what happened in 7 (with the pensieve scene towards the end).  But at the same time, for those who secretly felt Snape was “good,” it did offer a broader vindication and sense of smugness, I suppose.  However, I’ve never been able to make up my mind on whether it was a USEFUL or SKILLED plot decision, though I more than respect her ability to bring the question into a “kid’s” book so non-chalantly.

    All of this is a long way of saying I still am not quite sure what to make of the Snape-Assisted Suicide, and given your allusion to those of you in the disability-rights community, I’m curious what you and/or others in that community have to say on the issue (unless that’s in some older post that I missed).

    Posted by Mr. Trend  on  07/22  at  01:50 PM
  4. I think they didn’t want to ape the previous movie with a shootout at the end.

    My thoughts:

    They fell short here, but it was fine. 

    1) I would have increased the importance of the flashbacks, but treated them like Lost, maybe even interleaving them- treating them not as hazy flashbacks but almost as “you are there” events.  That or I would have made them much creepier and surreal.  The in between nature of how they were treated here was tough.

    2) I agree with being of two minds about Harry not being frozen at the end.  I lean toward it being a bad choice, because regardless of Harry’s new found lack of rashness, the pain of being frozen and having to watch would be a much more extreme experience- and traumatizing.  Because by NOT freezing him, they are left with dealing with his self doubt about what he should have done, and if they choose not to deal with it, that becomes another thing they give short shrift.

    3) I love Jim Broadbent.  I would have wanted him in full Broadbent mode, at least at the beginning.  I felt he was too subdued.  I leave this at the feet of the director.  Broadbent was great at the end.

    4) I would have had the movie end with a little more craziness and no wrap up, saving that for the next film (as maybe mentioned above)- kind of like a complete shell-shock.  I know nobody would go for that.

    Posted by Pinko Punko  on  07/22  at  02:09 PM
  5. One more thing, while I think the movie dealt with some of the teenagey stuff less irritatingly than the book, one issue where they didn’t achieve the right balance was of the fear of the students intermingled with them having their usual teenage stuff.  I realize the Director tried to show Hogwarts as a bubble with one scene.  I think this just right there, but would have been a tough trick to get right.

    Posted by Pinko Punko  on  07/22  at  02:13 PM
  6. I would have had the movie end with a little more craziness and no wrap up, saving that for the next film (as maybe mentioned above)- kind of like a complete shell-shock.  I know nobody would go for that.

    Yeah, when the film cut black as Harry was crying over Dumbledore’s body, I thought for a moment that they were just going to roll the credits right then.  It would have been pretty effective, I think, and left the audience in a raw state.  They didn’t, of course, but there was really nothing important that happened in the concluding handful of scenes other than underlining the fact that “Harry is sad” and providing some sort of closure, I guess.  Much better to have just ended it with Dumbledore’s body.

    Posted by  on  07/22  at  03:10 PM
  7. Paul:  who is this “Bill and Fleur” you refer to?  And as for the flaming attack of fiery flamelike fire:  what was all that about?  Now they’ve gone and used up the “running blindly through the fields” shots they needed for the disruption of Bill and Fleur’s wedding Dumbledore’s funeral in HP7.

    No, seriously, I think HP7 will open with the wedding, as it must.  With no exposition in re Bill and Fleur.

    Mr. Trend:  given your allusion to those of you in the disability-rights community, I’m curious what you and/or others in that community have to say on the issue (unless that’s in some older post that I missed)

    It isn’t—there are some fights that even I don’t want to pick.  Suffice it to say that most of the disability-rights organizations came down on the Gonzales side of the Gonzales v. Oregon debate.  As, for example, here.  I don’t agree, but my disagreement is ... rilly rilly complicated and ambivalent.

    But yes, kudos to Rowling for addressing it so deftly in YA fiction.  See also the opening of HP7, which introduces a nice ethical dilemma regarding proportionate responses to aggression.  (You’ll recall that Harry’s unwillingness to use a curse that will effectively kill his pursuer has the unfortunate effect of identifying him to the Death Eaters.)

    Pinko Punko:  I’m down with all four of those thoughts.

    And Tom:  there was really nothing important that happened in the concluding handful of scenes other than underlining the fact that “Harry is sad” and providing some sort of closure, I guess

    What, you’re overlooking the importance of the final exchange, which, iirc, goes “we’ll have to hunt down the Horcruxes now, which will be an impossibly difficult task in which we may lose our lives, and oh yeah, keep the Ginny-snogging to a minimum around Ron”?

    Posted by Michael  on  07/22  at  04:00 PM
  8. We (the hubby and I) thought Broadbent was marvelous as Slughorn and the sole positive attribute of this film.

    We were bored and thought it fell flat.

    Choices like adding ‘rolage’ for Luna, Bellatrix, Fenria and Narcissa for no apparent reason seemed disjointed.  Several things made no sense in interest of art or efficiency.

    At first I thought OK, the conversation between Arthur Weasley and HP (about the vanishing cabinet) made sense if they were doing as way of efficient explanation but he then included a clear description in Draco/Dumbledore conversation later so it was pointless.

    There certainly was no need for the whole scene with Draco and the trio in the robes’ shop but it seemed a bit odd to have included Narcissa with Draco (not to mention throwing in the other deatheaters) to arouse suspicion for the trio to follow. 

    No invisibility cloak (either in snooping on Draco or upon the tower scene) - it clearly was out of character to have Harry standing by of his own accord and would have been much more effective to show him struggling beneath the cloak in his inability to help Dumbledore.

    This great visual emphasis on Fenria and ... for what?  The whole burrow scene was a waste of film and time.  The beginning with Harry out on the town in London was antithetical to the increased security and vulnerability at this point in the narrative and the point was what exactly - was the actress related to someone associated with the film?

    And rather than HP going down to console Hagrid over the loss of Aragog and attend his ‘memorial’ no he was just ‘popping’ down to see him - yet there was Aragog.

    As already mentioned having HP and Ginny hide the potions book ostensibly to keep if from Harry as opposed to Snape asking him for it - just for the opportunity of a kiss was contrivance at its worst.

    Our first thoughts upon leaving the film were given the hack job Yates did on this film why should he bother splitting The Deathly Hallows into two films.  Two thumbs way down as it were.

    Posted by  on  07/22  at  04:02 PM
  9. The films treat many of the subsidiary kids as cliches, or at least most of the girls, with the exception of Luna.  The dynamic in the last three books of Neville as the anonymous flip of Harry (or the could have been Harry) I think is quite touching.  I think the character of Luna is fun, but the actress who plays her does an even better job of what is on the page- that even though she is loaded with quirks, she’s a kid that does her own thing, and she’s probably the target of bullying, and she has innate value as a human being, something that Harry recognizes but people sometimes forget- and I think the readers/viewers forget- just like kids do when they are wrapped up in their own self-centeredness.  Basically I think Luna is great.

    Posted by Pinko Punko  on  07/22  at  05:20 PM
  10. I liked it.  It had a nice tune I could dance to.

    I was going to chime in with an explanation as to why Drace would be slumming with the Greyback and the Cockney dudes.  It was going to explore the vagaries of the English class system and how they only imperfectly translate into Wizardly “purebloods” and how we all know that there aren’t any “purebloods” anyway.  It was going to be a very learned and thoughtful explanation.

    And then I realized a much simpler explanation is that any straight 18-year old young man would do anything (ANYTHING) that Helena Bonham-Carter asked him to.

    Posted by  on  07/22  at  06:31 PM
  11. Pinko:  Hey, my theater cheered when Harry took Luna to Slughorn’s holiday bash.  And I know that many fans are mystified that Rowling assigned him to Ginny in the end.  And yes, Evanna Lynch is a luminous Luna. Her delivery of the line about wearing shoes to bed made me laugh both times.

    CJ:  oh yeah.  All that was bad too.  I completely forgot about Harry wandering aimlessly in the Tubes.  WTF?

    Posted by Michael  on  07/22  at  07:27 PM
  12. Small fyi, THE WIRE debuted in 2002. I realize that this doesn’t change the underlying point; TV has become more of a legitimately artistic and innovative medium in the last few years and it is hard to imagine someone proposing that avenue for the HP books when the film adaptations were getting underway. And yet, the geek in me couldn’t resist the point.

    Posted by Shaun Huston  on  07/22  at  08:02 PM
  13. Loved Slughorn, and all the little acting bits that gave the young actors a chance to show a little range in this one.

    (SPOILER; if not already assumed from the foregoing)

    My chief complaint:  during Snape’s face-to-face with Harry in the field outside Hogwarts after Dumbledore’s death, shouldn’t Snape have been far more agitated?

    Posted by  on  07/22  at  08:20 PM
  14. Good summary, Michael. The kids loved the film. I enjoyed it but came away with a bit of a “so what?” feeling, whereas I thought Book 6 was really strong. Besides Book 3, it’s my favourite. In the book that scene is so dramatic, it’s edge of the seat stuff. Mary (my 17-year-old) was devastated when she read it, and I mean sobbing.

    Favourite bits for me in the film included Ron on the love potion and Harry on the luck potion. Filler bits really, but fun.

    Posted by Clare  on  07/22  at  09:04 PM
  15. A friend of mine who happens to be a batshit insane wingnut but a perceptive film critic talks about one of the problems with books to screen, and when you have many books that have perhaps been written without a clear arc from the beginning (regardless of Rowling’s claims), things that could work in the books but be a little creaky can become straight jackets for the personnel you actually have in the films.  For example, Luna as we’ve been talking about as she is played is a very interesting character but there is little room utilize her more.  There is much less wiggle room in these films and that can add to the feeling of actors reciting lines verses actors inhabiting characters, because it becomes difficult to utilize chemistry that develops between actors, or sidestep problematic lack of chemistry.  Some of this is because we’re watching these actors grow up, and they could be right for their younger roles yet not really inhabit the older versions.

    On a different topic, in some ways the whole love potion business is an interesting allegory for the way hormones can kind of rage in teenagers as they enter adulthood, but it raises some pretty severe problems.  For instance, their is a sexist assignment for most of the love potion shenanigans to the female characters, but Rowling would have never spread that to male characters because of what might be more obvious issues with sexual assault.  It is tough to play with those things and keep them on a jokey level by never taking them to their much more uncomfortable conclusions.

    Posted by Pinko Punko  on  07/22  at  09:47 PM
  16. They should just rewrite the 7th film so that Harry ends up with Luna.  Everybody wants it to happen, anyway.  It’s not exactly like Ginny is full of personality or anything.

    Posted by  on  07/22  at  10:10 PM
  17. 1. How cool am I that I was on board with Mad Men from the beginning? Seriously, if that makes me cool, then it’s going to require a major readjustment in my self-acceptance as not particularly “cool”. Plus, the new wardrobe I’d have to acquire as part of the hip crowd is way out of my budget these days, even at second hand shops.

    2. I have not read the Harry Potter books (I have seen a couple of the early movies), but I did read this article in The Nation when it came out. I’m sure it was discussed somewhere over the internets at length, but I didn’t see it and I’m wondering what you Harry Potter fans here think about that assessment by Chaudhry.

    captch: blood - hey, how about that?

    Posted by  on  07/23  at  12:45 AM
  18. But then, back in 2001 when the first film was released, there weren’t a whole lot of brilliant TV series going on.

    Maybe not generally, but SF&F for 16-25 year olds was on a roll. Teh R0xx0r as you say in these pages. As well as some girl who kicked vampires, Herc and Xena were making Raimi’s reputation for him, Stargate SG-1 was doing stuff WAY beyond its paygrade and season one of Roswell is still my personal pick for the high-water mark of American television. I would also mention Farscape, Freakylinks, The Chronicle and X-Files, in case you are thinking I was picking on just one or two things. And we had proper Star Trek in those days too. In short there was a golden age of SF&F TV, beginning approximately with the AOL/Time Warner merger which apparently caused just about anything to get greenlit, and ending rather suddenly on 9/11. No wonder they didn’t want to put Potter up against that.

    Posted by  on  07/23  at  02:44 AM
  19. I’m glad to hear that you are a “Mad Men” fan, and I can’t wait to read what you have to say about it.

    Posted by  on  07/23  at  08:56 AM
  20. I loved Broadbent as Slughorn.

    The Felix Felicis scene worked very well, I thought, as a condensation of the section from the book.  It certainly makes no sense that Harry just wanders down to see Hagrid, but that aside, I was pleased with the rendering of one of my favorite parts of the book.

    Regarding the final Dumbledore death scene--I actually felt this worked well in one sense.  As Harry isn’t immobilized, this allows Snape to see him and motion him to remain silent.  Harry is struggling to keep the solemn promise he made to Dumbledore to do exactly what he said, and Dumbledore had just told him imploringly to FIND SNAPE.  This makes more sense of why Harry doesn’t act.  AND, it allows us a single glimpse of the good intentions underneath Snape’s hatred for Harry.  One of my favorite Snape scenes is in the Prisoner of Azkaban where Snape has caught up Harry and crew, but behind Snape Lupin in werewolf form rears up to attack.  Snape’s spins and puts his arms out to protect the children.  The gesture belies his outward malice toward the children--when spooked out of his veneer of disdain, we see his impulse is to literally put himself between them and danger.  Similarly, if Snape were really evil and in cahoots with the Death Eaters, he would not have shushed Harry before killing Dumbledore.  These two scenes give us enough to believe what will be revealed in the final films about Snape’s true intentions, etc.

    Amanda’s TV series thoughts are spot on, and I hope someone somewhere is working on getting that rolling.

    Posted by  on  07/23  at  09:38 AM
  21. Small fyi, THE WIRE debuted in 2002.

    D’oh.  I am so losing track of time this decade.  OK, then, except for the fact that The Wire was about to debut, and for all the SF&F Phil mentions in 18, there wasn’t much on TV.  (A girl who kicked vampires?  Really?  That sounds cool.  I wonder if it involves complicated physics.)

    Clare, when we were reading the books I braced Jamie for that ending.  It was devastating.  On screen, meh.  And Alkali @ 13, I do seem to recall that when Harry calls Snape a coward in the book, Snape loses it—with good reason.  I don’t see the logic of dropping that from the film.

    O-Girl:  How cool am I that I was on board with Mad Men from the beginning?

    Cooler than the other side of the pillow, m’fren’.  It always takes me a couple of years to catch up.  (See also The Sopranos, The Wire.) About Chaudhry’s essay, feh.  Take this bit:

    Yes, we all need to learn how to die, but Rowling is oddly coy when it comes to telling us what to die for. What has all this terrible destruction, loss and sacrifice been in service of?

    Rowling’s answer to this question, which has always been unconvincing, turns out in the end to be no less than damning. In her stinging critique of the Harry Potter series in 2003, author A.S. Byatt rightly observed, “Its values, and everything in it, are, as Gatsby said of his own world when the light had gone out of his dream, ‘only personal.’ Nobody is trying to save or destroy anything beyond Harry Potter and his friends and family.”

    Too bad Chaudhry and Byatt missed all that stuff about purebloods and Muggle-borns.  Shame, really.  (And I think Byatt’s misreading that line from Gatsby, too.) Oh yeah, and that stuff about Harry living in a death squad state in which people are routinely kidnapped, tortured, and disappeared, and constituted authority is either complicit, corrupt, or at best ineffective.  Hard to miss that, though some people apparently manage to.

    But yes, of course, the epilogue to Deathly Hallows is terrible.  I sometimes think Rowling made it deliberately Teh SuXX0r so that fans could finally decathect.

    Paula:  For one thing, I do love the actual details of the ad campaigns—and Draper saying that the people who say “sex sells” think monkeys can do advertising.  True dat.  And the name-check of Julian Koenig early in season 2.  It appears that the series is also about gender in some way.  It’s especially weird for me to watch these just after my extended Twilight Zone fest last month—it’s not only from the era of TZ, of course, but it’s like going back and revisiting a thoroughly horrific Willoughby.

    Posted by  on  07/23  at  10:02 AM
  22. I’m a long time reader/first time commenter (hai guyz!).  Couldn’t resist weighing in here.  It seemed to me that the Malfoys mostly hated the Weasley’s because they were race-traitors, and Arthur Weasley’s ignominious choice of profession of Muggle expert/sympathizer was directly connected to the Weasley’s poverty. 

    *Ahem* I quote from The Chamber of Secrets:

    “Arthur Weasley loves Muggles so much he should snap his wand in half and go and join them,” said Malfoy scornfully.  “You’d never know the Weasley’s were purebloods, they way they behave” (222).

    Furthermore, it strikes me that the Death Eaters are really an eliminationist pureblood supremacy movement, and analogous movements in our world cross class boundaries pretty fluidly. 

    And here I must admit that I found Half-blood Prince to be the least memorable of all the books.  It could be that my brain is purging all non-diss related material, but all I remembered going into this was the ending, so I wasn’t as offended by some of the plot omissions as some here.  As such, I got the sense that this film was really about establishing a mood rather than advancing a clear plot (sort of like Mad Men, actually), and I was ok with it.  I liked the meditative pacing and focus on small gestures.  In fact, the two epic fail moments occurred where they tried to be big:  the Dumbledore aftermath and the The Burrow arson (what the frak was that???)

    Oh, AND, my interpretation of Dumbledore’s Snape-assisted suicide is that he was actually sacrificing himself to save both Malfoy AND Snape (in a sense), recognizing that though bound to carry out his task, Draco may not have been beyond redemption.

    Posted by  on  07/23  at  11:25 PM
  23. Michael - thanks for your feedback on the Chaudhry piece. I would be bummed if the bottom line Harry Potter message to legions of kids was: Be a self-centered whiner who only takes care of their own and everyone else can go to hell. It’s bad enough the Twilgiht series is setting young people’s minds back to the 18th century.

    Michael: For one thing, I do love the actual details of the ad campaigns—and Draper saying that the people who say “sex sells” think monkeys can do advertising.  True dat.

    Dave Zirin has a recent piece on exactly what bullshit this “sex sells” thing is in regards to women’s sports: Sexism on Center Court

    We now have some definitive answers as to whether sex sells women’s sports or if it just sells sex. Dr. Mary Jo Kane, sports sociologist from the University of Minnesota, specializes in gender and sport for women and undertook a far-reaching study of images of women athletes putting their bodies on display for a wide-ranging focus group of both men and women. Kane found a very basic truth: sex may sell airport frat-porn like Maxim magazine, but it doesn’t sell women’s sports.


    As for the young men excited to see their Women of the Olympics Playboy issue, Kane notes, “They want to buy the magazines but they didn’t want to consume the sports.”

    Posted by  on  07/24  at  12:45 AM
  24. Oh, and I meant to say “hello” back to Ashley, too.

    Posted by  on  07/24  at  12:47 AM
  25. Since 2/3’s of the movie is devoted to teen romance, shouldn’t the love interests make some sort of emotional sense? 

    Take Hermione-Ron.  She is: (1) exceedingly bright and intellectually curious; (2) hardworking; (3) ambitious and driven to succeed; (4) conformist and eager to please; (5) empathetic and aware of others’ emotions and motivations; (6) poor,insecure about the muggle parentage that makes her virtually an orphan, and without useful connections of her own; (7) very pretty, giving her a wide choice of possible boyfriends.  He is: (1) of average intelligence, with no intellectual curiosity at all; (2) lazy; ((3) without any ambition, and with no clear view of his own future; (4) mostly interested in avoiding authority, not pleasing it; (5) immature and socially incompetent; (6) poor, of an undistinguished family, with scandalous siblings; (7) plain to the point of ugliness.

    Why on earth would Hermione saddle herself with a boyfriend who is so far beneath her in intellect, energy, maturity, ambition, and looks, who brings her nothing in the way of family, money, or influence?  Only because there is a genuine spark of attraction.  Do you see or feel that between these actors?  No, not only because neither one of them can act - although that’s a serious problem - but because Rowling and the screenwriters haven’t made even the slightest effort to write any attraction between them.

    Posted by  on  07/25  at  11:56 AM
  26. Bloix - I agree wholeheartedly about Ron.  He has always been the least interesting character to me.  Even in Hallows, where he is supposed to come into his own, I think Rowling falls short.  The best scenes between them actually just the opposite of what you suggest we need--Hermione tells him he has the emotional range of a teaspoon, etc.

    Posted by  on  07/25  at  01:58 PM
  27. Well, I never finished reading the HP series, so I will have to indulge in irrelevant effrontry and tomfoolery.  Which is to say, the usual.

    Teh SuXX0r so that fans could finally decathect.

    Chicka-Wow Chicka-Wow Wow!

    Anyone who shows up in comments with spoilers about the last five episodes will be deleted and banned.

    Tyler Durden doesn’t really exist, and his wife actually killed Carolyn Polhemus, and framed him for it


    Posted by  on  07/25  at  05:09 PM
  28. And Dil has a penis.  [Cue mds.]

    Posted by  on  07/25  at  06:00 PM
  29. One thing I did like about the movie was the actor who played the teenaged Voldemort, Frank Dillane. He was creepier and more foreboding than the previous actor who was too old to play the part this time around.

    Posted by  on  07/25  at  09:51 PM
  30. nashe - ron is the most boring, but that’s a function of his role in the story.  The loyal but bumbling sidekick has an honored role in children’s and wish-fulfillment lit - his job is to demonstrate just how superior the hero really is, and to provide comic relief when the hero’s intense sincerity becomes a little too much for the audience to take.  That’s Ron’s position in the Potter triumverate - just as Hermione’s role is to be the spunky girl who becomes the hero’s love interest while also giving the girls in the audience a character to identify with.

    Why Rowling, who began writing with this cliched convention at the center of things, decided to subvert it isn’t at all obvious.  Maybe it was just too boring - but if that so, she didn’t manage to create a decent alternative motivation or structure for her characters.

    The Ron character as a traditional sidekick works pretty well.  As the romantic lead he’s completely uninteresting.

    PS- it’s always irritated me that Hermione blew the teaspoon line.  A teaspoon doesn’t lack “range” - it lacks depth.  To say that Ron has the emotional depth of a teaspoon would have been pretty funny - it means he’s shallow, like a teaspoon is shallow. It’s a metaphor!!  But to say that he has the emotional “range” of a teaspoon - what can that mean?

    Posted by  on  07/26  at  12:43 PM
  31. But to say that he has the emotional “range” of a teaspoon - what can that mean?

    Maybe it’s supposed to be the whole inanimate object thing. I haven’t seen the movie, but she could have been a little less obtuse by comparing his emotional range to, oh, I dunno, a “bag of hammers”, perhaps? But maybe that degree of straightforwardness would have been out of character. “Teaspoon” is so much more gentile, if a little off the mark.

    Posted by  on  07/26  at  04:25 PM
  32. Oaktown Girl - well, sure.  But see, “depth” is a pun - literal depth-teaspoon (shallow) and emotional depth-Ron (shallow), ha ha ha!!!! But range - there’s no pun there.  It’s just, a teaspoon is - what?

    Posted by  on  07/26  at  05:24 PM
  33. “Teaspoon” is so much more gentile

    Oy with the teaspoons already!  Goyim and their cutlery, when hammers would do!

    I always had a problem with the fact that such indifferent students as Harry and Ron would actually make it through wizard school.  Potter, maybe, because of his family and some apparent raw arcane strength.  But Ron’s progress seems to suggest that the lowest grade possible is A minus minus.  Now, if Hermione had taken up with a Slytherin who was drawn to her obvious technical mastery despite her family tree, that would have been subversive.  Ron?  Meh.

    Also, at the end of Episode 12, “The Mountain King,” King Kong falls off the Empire State Building


    Posted by  on  07/26  at  05:32 PM
  34. Bloix - absolutely agree about the depth vs. range thing. I get it. I was just trying find a way they could have made “range” at least sort of funny and perhaps more meaningful. Sort of.

    And how does mds manage to keep posting comments even after repeated bannings? He must be some sort of wizard...sex wizard, no doubt. I think his screen name is “The Hammer"*. [chika wow wow]

    *"The Teaspoon” didn’t do well with test audiences.

    Posted by  on  07/26  at  06:09 PM
  35. Bloix - I hadn’t really considered the problem with the teaspoon line, but you are quite right.

    Someone who just saw the film today remarked that Ron in the movies is actually more interesting than Ron in the books, if only because Grint is older and more physically imposing as Ron.  I think Watson, Grint and Radcliffe are all outclassed as actors by all the adults in the films, but of the three, I think Grint gets his character right most often.  But the role is the least challenging as well.

    Oh, and Verbal is Keyser Soze.  “And like that...he’s gone.”

    Posted by  on  07/26  at  06:28 PM
  36. "I always had a problem with the fact that such indifferent students as Harry and Ron would actually make it through wizard school.”

    See, that’s the kind of thing that doesn’t bother me at all.  This is genre fiction, which means it’s about wish fulfillment, not believability, and the fact that the world Rowling has created is unbelievable, filled with internal inconsistencies, poorly plotted, repetitive, with incompetent villains and improbable escapes - that stuff shouldn’t give you a moment’s worry.  It’s when the fiction fails on its own terms that there’s a problem.  And Hermione-Ron, Harry-Ginny fails on its own terms.  No girl who’s been identifying with Hermione over the years would be satisfied with Ron, and no boy who’s been identifying with Harry can be expected to settle for Ginny Weasley when Emma Watson is up on the screen.

    Posted by  on  07/26  at  07:25 PM
  37. As always (captcha) while you all were out watching some movie and eating fine cheeses with a magnificent chianti (and apparently doing some sort of synchronized swimming dance), i was trying to help produce some strange musical events on the left (class-first) coast.  At the Oregon Country Faire we provided the massive infrastructure for two awesome performances: the opera Carmina Burana with fire ballet and the 40th anniversary celebration of the Beatles White Album (in the pouring rain, where Leapin Louie Lichtenstein tore up the thousands with a unicycle juggling fire whip dance to Helter Skelter).  [if you have Facebook accounts you can access hundreds of images of both performances]

    We followed that with a weekend of mostly acoustic stringed instrument music in the coastal range west of Portland, where two bands from Sweden played: Vasen and the Abalone Dots. 

    Now what’s this about another not so well made Harry Potter movie??

    Posted by  on  07/26  at  09:28 PM
  38. He must be some sort of wizard...sex wizard, no doubt.

    Sex change wizard, Ms. Girl.  But yes, circumventing fake bannings is indeed part of my armamentarium.

    This is genre fiction, which means it’s about wish fulfillment, not believability,

    If I had a teaspoon handy, I would hit you with one right now.  Ordinarily, this would also trigger mds Internet Rant #47 about painting genre fiction, especially SF & F, with such a broad brush (complete with the usual gripe about how it manages to not really be genre fiction when Margaret Atwood, Cormac McCarthy, or Richard Powers writes it).  But the weekend is almost over, so suffice it to say that not all genre fiction is pure escapism.  There’s a whole body* of criticism about “Mary Sue / Gary Stu” wish fulfillment in speculative fiction.  And some of us prefer at least some degree of internal consistency and depth in worldbuilding.

    Hmm, we might have to call this mds Internet Rant #47EZ.  Sorry.

    Oh, and in the Mad Men season finale, “The Deathbird”?  The serpent in the garden is actually the good guy


    *Well, at least most of a torso.**

    **And yes, I’ve already circumvented the above banning via footnote.  Armamentarium, people.

    Posted by  on  07/26  at  10:12 PM
  39. My number one complaint about the movie is the lamness of the potion drinking scene. That scene kills me every time I read it, and when I read it in radio-play voice for my daughter it about made us both apopleptic. That scene should have been nearly unwatchable for Dumbledore’s agony and Harry’s conflict at having to lie to hurt his mentor in order to get the McGuffin. What we got was rushed and muted and unremarkable.

    Posted by  on  07/27  at  02:07 AM
  40. Y’all strengthened me in my decision to wait for the dvd to appear all pre-thumbprinted and scratched in the local library. What’s going on here is certainly more entertaining and instructive. But you’ve also confused me: doesn’t Deathly Hallows reveal that Snape has been acting, finally, ultimately, in Voldemort’s interest all along? Or was I seriously not paying attention?

    Posted by  on  07/27  at  07:18 AM
  41. Actually, O.T., Deathly Hallows reveals that Snape has been acting in Dumbledore’s interest all along. 

    Boyce:  yes indeed.  Dumbledore should have been pleading with Harry and the whole thing should have been heart-rending.  And what was with the Inferi?  I believe Anthony Lane described them as a lake full of Gollums.

    And how does mds manage to keep posting comments even after repeated bannings?

    I don’t know, O-Girl!  And I can’t wait to find out the surprise ending.

    Posted by  on  07/27  at  10:43 AM
  42. Thanks, Michael. Rather than reread the darn thing I’ll take your word for it. My husband (would he had been awake at 7am, the slacker) points out that Harry names one of his progeny Albus Severus. I guess I must have bolted through the entire book and epilogue in weary irritation.

    Posted by  on  07/27  at  10:59 AM
  43. Sorry to hear it, O.T.!  So you missed the 400 pages of Harry, Ron, and Hermione pitching tents in forests?

    Posted by  on  07/27  at  11:13 AM
  44. Harry, Ron, and Hermione pitching tents in forests?

    Chicka-Wow Chicka-Wow Wow!

    Posted by  on  07/27  at  12:06 PM
  45. ok, I vaguely recall that. Didn’t Hermione, or Ron take off in a snit for awhile during said tenting pps? Really, I didn’t think there was going to be a test!

    Posted by  on  07/27  at  12:28 PM
  46. I would say that at 2 hrs 33 mins, they just didn’t have time to stage the big fight in hogwarts, and had to somehow rearange things so that they could hit the proper plot points – killing Dumbledore, etc.  This made the whole ending mechanical and totally anti-climactic.  I mean, we knew what was going to happen, and so the shock and disbelief one experienced in the reading of the book wasn’t going to happen, but still – we all knew the Titanic was going to hit the iceberg, but Jim Cameron still managed to put a little tension in the scene…

    And as for Harry’s newfound sense of quiet and restraint, well, maybe after charging into the wheatfields and nearly getting himself and Ginny killed and the Burrow burned to the ground (no wedding, I guess), he decided to try restraint on for size.  I think the real problem is the basic lack of attention to character displayed by film’s creators, which results in a Dumbledore yelling a lot and displaying not a whit of his characteristic whimsy, a Voldemort who is frantically energetic rather than quietly terrifying (kudos to the younger actors for nailing this in the young Tom Riddles), and a Harry who suddenly sits quietly and does what he is told.

    And I think Bloix has Ron and Hermonie a bit wrong: Ron isn’t the plain one, Hermonie is, such that when she gets herself all fancied-up for the Chrismas ball in number four, people hardly recognize her.  She’s a bossy, bookish, and mousy straight-arrow who had no friends at school until she found herself in a bathroom with Harry, Ron, and a mountain troll.  She’d probably have a lot of appeal among readers of a blog like this, but not necessarily in your typical English boarding school.  It’s actually a problem that she’s played by Emma Watson, who’s actually prettier than any of her fellow actresses in the films.

    As for Ron, sure he’s lazy and shallow, but as an indifferent student with a Ph.D., I don’t really have a problem with Ron wanting to cruise through wizarding school…

    None of this is to say that the Ron-Hermione relationship makes much sense, but since when does romance make sense?

    Posted by  on  07/27  at  01:49 PM
  47. Skipping ahead a bit but the discussion fo the romance angles leads us inexorably to the book 7 epilogue which I found to be pretty blah. The pinnacle of life is high school, and everyone ends up with their high school sweetheart. Noxious.

    A better ending would have been to keep the setting but change the circumstances. 20 years later, they all show up at the station to drop off their various children and we learn that they drifted apart, became different people and married others (or gasp! not at all!) and where a little wistful and standoffish, having little more then the tragic and strange events of their childhood to draw them together.

    Posted by  on  07/27  at  08:01 PM
  48. As far as I can tell, the only point of the epilogue was to kill off any possibility of more HP coming in the future.

    Posted by  on  07/27  at  08:11 PM
  49. Which I’m fine with, Bloix. HP is good and done. The world, however, is still rich and vast and mostly untapped, having seen it only in the glimpses of a not-so bright, muggle-born teenager. I’d love to see some adult oriented fiction set in the wizarding world.

    Posted by  on  07/28  at  03:46 PM
  50. Good call, Kieth!  I guess social opportunities are severely limited in the wizarding world, so you’re stuck with whoever you can grab in wizarding school.  It just kind of shows how backwards people can be when they have magic to solve all their problems.

    Posted by  on  07/28  at  04:38 PM
  51. The nieces were visiting for the weekend, so I saw both HP6 and Twilight (would have seen HP6 anyway), and I was struck in both viewings by the fizzle, not the bang, of each climactic scene. It seems, and I do write this only half-jokingly, that both directors aimed for mood over plot and landed in ennui.  However, HP6 was the most beautiful of the films so far.

    w/r/t Snape-Assisted Suicide, I think the whole Judas-Iscariot-paradox imagery so overwhelms this specific plot device that critics would have a very difficult time finding purchase in the argument. I mean, Dumbledore has to die, just like (spoiler alert!) HP does, and Snape plays the unenviable part of Judas--you’re supposed to hate what he does, but if he doesn’t do it, you’re ultimately screwed so you have to understand if not outright appreciate what he does.

    Final thought--can we just do away with the inevitable “watch us laugh in the Gryffindor common room” shot? I mean, I know a montage of all those shots from the series will play on Good Morning America when the last film is released, but maybe future WULitGCR shots could be saved for the DVD?

    Posted by Joshua  on  07/29  at  11:56 AM
  52. Vader is Luke’s father!

    Rosebud is a sled!

    Soylent Green is people!

    The Planet of the Apes is actually Earth!

    The Titanic sinks!

    Bruce Willis is a ghost!

    Reese is John Connor’s father!

    Spock dies! But he comes back to life!

    Maggie shot Mr. Burns!


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