Monday, November 29, 2010

How Long Until July?

If nothing else, the Harry Potter series has forced on us the virtue of patience.  We would anxiously anticipate the release of a new book, devour the book in a day or less, and then have to wait another year (or more) for the release of the next one.  The same is true of the movies based on the books, although I think the wait between Deathly Hallows parts 1 and 2 is going to be the most agonizing yet.

I've said before that I thought the first movie stuck a little too devotedly to its book, while others (like The Half-Blood Prince) seemed to wander a bit far from the original (not that I'm necessarily opposed to that, unlike my husband and son).  This latest movie stayed fairly close to the material in the book, and in some ways, I think it did an even better job with the storytelling than the book did.  I'm thinking specifically about the chapters in which Harry, Ron, and Hermione were wandering around the countryside trying to figure out how to find horcruxes.  In the book, those chapters (honestly) seemed to drag a little; in the movie, a handful of establishing shots (of some very different and very beautiful landscapes) accomplished what took lots of words in the books.  That allowed for more emphasis to fall on the characters, and I must say I am greatly impressed with the way these young actors brought out emotions.  I had never much liked Ron's character, in either the books or the movies, but Rupert Grint sort of changed my mind about Ron in this movie by giving him some depth I'd never considered.

Of course, I absolutely love Hermione, and this movie made me doubly appreciate just how invaluable she was to Harry during his mission (I want that beaded purse!). Emma Watson plays the character with a combination of a sort of grim understanding of what she's gotten into and a certain vulnerability that really shows what she's giving up to help Harry.  I guess that's what I liked best about this installment of the series. In the other movies, the actors are portraying what's on the page; in this movie, the actors are enriching what's on the page.  My husband has commented a couple of times on how well Jason Isaacs portrays a Lucius Malfoy who is fresh out of Azkaban; Lucius has lost a whole lot of his swagger, and Isaacs actually gives Lucius a slight tremble that really captures the essence of how his world, personal and public, has been turned upside down.  That's not an exception, either; David Yates seems to have pulled good performances out of everyone.

The action sequences were sufficiently thrilling, and the scary scenes were delightfully creepy.  But I think what I enjoyed most (being the English major geek I am) was watching these young characters take on the mantle of adulthood in a situation in which the stakes are impossibly high.  Story arc, you know.

The movie ends in just the right place, too.  When the credits started to roll, I wanted to stand and say, NO!!!! NOT YET!!!!!  July is so far away!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Good Role Model, in a Way I Didn't Expect

Our family hasn't yet been to see the new Harry Potter movie, believe it or not. We're planning to go tonight, but to settle my curiosity until then, I've been reading a few related articles.

I read one today that was an interview with Emma Watson, the lovely girl who grew up before our eyes as Hermione. The article was talking about how she has continued her education, unlike most of the other young stars of the series. One of the comments on the story pointed out that Miss Watson and Hermione were good role models for girls because they both value education, which the commentor pointed out was a major departure from how most girl main characters are portrayed in children's television (just watch some Disney channel shows if you don't believe it).

I thought that was a good point. But last night as I was watching the Half-Blood Prince on DVD with my daughter (to get ready, you know) I saw another good message Hermione sends - a girl can be friends with a guy without having a romantic thing with him. (I'm talking Harry, not Ron, here.)

One morning not long ago, the DJs on the radio station I listen to on my way to work where trying to decide if men and women can actually be just friends.  It surprised me how many people said no.  I suppose it shouldn't have.  In a lot of books and shows, if there is a man and a woman, they eventually will end up in a romantic relationship.  This is not only true of stories for adult viewers, but also for teens.  One of the shows my kids used to love to watch was Ned's Declassified, about a trio of middle school students, two boys and a girl.  At first Ned and Mose (the girl) were just best friends, but as the kids (and the show) got older, eventually they ended up dating each other.  I could probably think of other examples, but I'm lazy (and it's getting close to time to head to the movie!).

I'll admit I always wanted the same thing to happen with Harry and Hermione.  Alas, JK Rowling had other plans.  And yet, watching the movie last night, I decided it was a good thing for those two characters to not be romantic with each other. They can be close and share their problems and secrets without the baggage that comes with "being in love" with each other. It's nice to see that.  And one of the reviews I saw about the new movie says the friendship between the two characters comes across well.  Even though their relationship is not romantic, they love each other.  Nice. 

Can't wait to see it....

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

This is not the Taylor Swift Fan Club, Really

I feel rather self-conscious about writing another post about Taylor Swift, but I discovered her latest song, "Mine," last week (it's only been #1 for nine weeks now, ha ha), and I just really admire the writing in that song.  In the course of two verses, three choruses, and a bridge, Swift manages to tell an entire story that conveys plot, backstory, character, and theme.  Oh, and it's pretty catchy to sing along to.

In terms of plot, there's nothing especially original about the song - girl meets boy, girl gets boy, girl nearly loses boy, girl keeps boy.  But there's an economy to what Swift includes in the story that keeps only the details needed to move the story along to its conclusion.  Although she doesn't specifically say what the demons in the backstory are, she gives us enough that we can guess ("Brace myself for the goodbye, cause it's all I've ever known") what are her "parents' mistakes."

Ok, maybe the main reason I like the song is the line in the chorus, "You made a rebel of a careless man's careful daughter."  I just think that phrase is put together so well.  It has the antithesis thing going for it, but it also seems to me to capture a real sense of the character who is narrating the story.  And there's nothing wasted in it - every word contributes.

If only I could write that well....

Friday, November 5, 2010

It's Bad, but It's Good

My Kindle died yesterday, unexpectedly.  I had plugged it in to recharge the battery, and when I went back to get it, the screen was completely dark, like it had been burned out or something.  The image looks like a negative and it's actually hard to read anything at all on it, even to tell if it's on or off.

Thank goodness it has a one-year warranty instead of 90 days like a lot of electronics (it is like five days over that 90-day period).  I dreaded trying to call Amazon and try to talk them into repairing or replacing it, but today after work I made myself do it.  I was pleasantly surprised.  I explained the problem, and there was no conversation trying to find a way to say I did something wrong to mess up the device.  The guy simply confirmed my address and then said a new one should arrive Nov. 8.  I'm still a little shell-shocked, and I'm halfway convinced I didn't hear him right - I tend to have trouble hearing stuff on the phone, especially if the person talks softly or has much of an accent (and this person had both those characteristics).

I guess we'll see on Monday.  But if there's a new Kindle on my porch that afternoon, you can bet I'll leave some positive feedback somewhere on the Amazon site.