Autodidact: self-taught

Dec
16
2014

Last Tango in Halifax

by V. L. Craven

Last Tango in Halifax

Sixty years ago, Alan Buttershaw (Derek Jacobi) was madly in love with Celia Dawson (Anne Reid). The sentiment was mutual, but due to a misunderstanding neither knew of the other’s feelings.

In the present day, after being pressed to join Facebook by their grandchildren, they find one another again. The misunderstanding is cleared up–it’s something similar to the premise of As Time Goes By–and they quickly realise they feel just as strongly as they did over half a century before so they decide to get married. ‘Quickly’ in this case means the same day they met in person.

Their daughters Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) and Gillian (Nicola Walker) arrive at the pub to hear this news and to say they have a rough start of it would be an understatement. Chalk and cheese, as it were. Caroline, Celia’s daughter, is a headmistress at a private school and lives in a house large enough for five families while Gillian, Alan’s daughter, is a sheep farmer who lives, well, on a sheep farm.

Caroline is married to a once-successful author, though that union is falling apart due to his philandering. She’s found an uneasy happiness with a teacher at her school (Nina Sosanya). That relationship’s repercussions affect her sons, as well as her mother’s new love, in profound ways.

Gillian is widowed from an abusive husband. She has the darkest past of the group (though Celia’s first marriage wasn’t a grand one) and, as the show progresses we learn more about just how dark that past was.

Last Tango in Halifax was created and written by Sally Wainwright and it’s based on real-life circumstances–her mother really reconnected with a childhood friend on Friends Reunited and they married six months later. Wainwright has a gift for capturing the complicated way alliances are formed when new groups of people are thrown together, particularly when those people wouldn’t naturally get on. The evolving friendship between Caroline and Gillian is especially compelling to watch. The bond between these two women with nothing in common except thinking their parents have gone mad feels very real. Part of that is down to Lancashire and Walker’s phenomenal acting and the other part is Wainwright’s script.

Though the show could be all twee, happiness and light, there’s a great deal of darkness and drama, as well, particularly in Gillian’s storyline and Caroline confronting her sexuality, which is handled with a deftness and humanity not typical of television today. I highly recommend this one–it’s just excellent television.

There are currently two series with a third that’s been filmed, but no air date announced yet.

I’d give the entire series 5/5, though, as with any television show, some episodes are better than others.

Bonus grumpy note: Because Americans can’t leave anything alone, Diane Keaton (I love her, but really) has acquired the rights to remake the show for U.S. audiences who, apparently, can’t understand a Yorkshire accent.

Dec
09
2014

Ripper Street

by V. L. Craven

Ripper Street

It’s London. 1889. Jack the Ripper hasn’t struck in a few months and Detective Inspector Edmund Reid (Matthew Macfadyen) is certain he’s gone for good. Members of the public need a bit more convincing when a the body of a woman bearing marks similar to those left by the Ripper is found in Whitechapel–his old haunt.

That’s where the series gets its name, though Jack doesn’t come up again. Rather, each episode is a self-contained one-hour mystery solved by Reid, his Sergeant Bennet Drake (Jerome Flynn) and his American police doctor–the Victorian version of  medical examiner–Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rothenberg).

Each of the main characters (and some of the secondary characters) have their own back stories–tragic, of course–and get their own episode to be tragic at us. While they have their problems, the crime du jour is more interesting, given the means and motives of the day.

Speaking of the day, the show will be of interest to fans of Victorian history, as there are the women’s libbers, the arguments over the superiority of AC or DC current and a rather heavy-handed episode about the sodomy laws. Joseph Merrick (the Elephant Man, brilliantly portrayed by Joseph Drake) plays an important role in an episode of the second series.

The Tube was being built in one episode and, my, how it was going to change things. But the show isn’t as pleased with itself about emerging technologies as Murdoch Mysteries . Rather, we get to see the scheming and backstabbing that went into making our present lives convenient.

It’s a good show for people who like to say, ‘Everyone was so much nicer back then.’ Yes, those slums and the way people who lived there were treated was the picture of politeness. And the police! If you were being taken to the police station, you were getting the piss kicked out of you. Everyone was so much nicer back then.

Though the main characters are tragic in their own way they’re both likable and unlikable. They’re human that way. Reid is interesting in that he’s a detective without a crippling vice. He has problems, he’s just not constantly crawling out of a bottle or from under a pile of women for once.

The show does a good job with the guest stars–particularly in the first series. Including two of Jerome Flynn’s Game of Throne’s castmates Kristian Nairn (if you want to see Hodor in a suit saying words, here’s your chance) and Iain Glen (Jorah Mormont).

I’d recommend Ripper Street for Victorian history fans–the sets and clothes and whatnot are lovely. Beyond that, it’s fairly standard in terms of crime shows.

The third series is currently airing. This review is for the first two series, which I’d rate 4/5.

Aug
21
2014

Wonder Boys

by V. L. Craven

Wonder Boys

Based on the novel of the same name by Michael Chabon, Wonder Boys is one of my all-time favourite films. I’ve seen it close to a dozen times and it makes me laugh every time. The screenplay captures the feel of the book, I think, and that’s something, because I really loved the book.

And how could I not? It’s about a professor, it’s about writing. It’s about a writing prodigy. And many mad-cap adventures of a rag-tag bunch that’s throw together of a weekend. The book is profound and lovely and funny and human and the film handles all of that beautifully.

Wonder Boys is about middle-aged professor Grady Tripp (Michael Douglas) whose wife has left him, again, though this time it looks like it’s going to take. His previous novel was a smashing success, but that was several years ago, and his editor, Crabtree, (Robert Downey Jr fresh out of rehab, this was 2000) really wants his follow-up novel. Luckily, it’s the weekend of Word Fest, where visiting authors and literary types descend on the Pittsburgh university, giving him all the reason he needs to show up. It’s also the weekend that Tripp’s most gifted but morose student, James Leer, (Tobey Maguire) decides he’d rather hang around his professor than go home. Crabtree is all right with this, as he takes rather a shine to Mr Leer.

During all of this Tripp is trying to deal with his crumbling marriage, as well as the fact that the student who rents a room from him (Katie Holmes) has a bit of a thing for him, all the while fending off his editor’s questions about the next book. And then Tripp gets some news from his girlfriend that probably isn’t going to go over so well with her husband… And the weekend just keeps on getting better.

And, as if going for some sort of trifecta–the film also has one of my all-time favourite soundtracks . Including two of my favourite songs by Dylan.

When I was doing research for this review I came across this review that compares Wonder Boys to another professor-has-midlife-crisis-in-Pittsburgh film Smart People. It’s a good review–give it a look.

 

Jul
10
2014

Russian Ark

by V. L. Craven

Russian Ark

At the beginning of Russian Ark , you wake up, somehow transported to … someplace unfamiliar. You discover you can speak Russian, though you’ve never spoken it before. Before you, you see a group of boisterous people alighting from horse-drawn carriages. They’re in elaborate dress on their way to some sort of party. And they cannot see or hear you. Perhaps you’ve died.

Then you are joined by someone else, visible only to you and dressed in clothes from a different century. ‘The European’ guides you through the rooms of this grand palace, commenting on various pieces of art. The palace, though never named, is the Hermitage Museum  and the European is meant to be the Marquis de Custine , who was quite the critic of Russian culture.

Each room or section of the film depicts a different era of Russian history, though not in chronological order. Catherine the Great, Peter the Great, Nicholas II and his children all make appearances. It has the feel of a European dream-state novel–I often felt as though metaphors were sailing past my head, but then another piece of art would come into view and it wouldn’t matter.

The film itself is sumptuous. The art is beautiful, obviously, (there’s a wonderful 360 close up shot of The Three Graces by Canova) and the hundreds of costumes are breathtaking. Shot in a continuous 96 minute take and featuring over 2,000 actors and three orchestras, with an opera and an elaborate dance sequence it was no small technical feat, either. The documentary about the making of Russian Ark is called In One Breath (it’s available on the DVD, the first part of five is here  on You Tube) and it’s worth the watch to see how they did it.

The more you know about Russian history the more you’ll get out of the film (which I admittedly know very little) but it’s still gorgeous to look at and is probably the closest I’ll get to visiting the Hermitage. So I highly recommend it. 5/5.

Apr
24
2014

Erzsebet Bathory: A Life in Two Films

by V. L. Craven

Countess Erzsebet Bathory  (1560-1614) is remembered by popular culture as the female version of Vlad the Impaler–a feminine Dracula. She’s thought to have tortured and bled servant girls and maidens from her lands in order to bathe in their blood in order to remain young and beautiful. Apparently it’s not as straightforward as all that.

In 2008 and 2009 there were films made about the Countess that take slightly different views on the matter.

Erzsebet Bathory: A Life in Two Films

Bathory was the first of the two films–released in 2008 and starred Anna Friel. The Countess was released in 2009 and starred Julie Delphy (who also directed), as well as William Hurt.

Both are narrated by men. Bathory is narrated by someone who titles himself a ‘fool’ and The Countess by her lover, Istvan Thurzo, and the son of her greatest enemy, Gygory Thurzo (Hurt). They both admit that history is written by the winners, in this case, the people who sealed Erzsebet’s fate.

Bathory begins with Erzsebet’s betrothal to Ferenc Nadasdy,  the son of another family for political reasons at 8 or 9 [Wikipedia says this happened when she was 12] . She is portrayed as knowing nothing about sex–asking her new husband how it was supposed to work.

Likewise, The Countess begins at the very start of Erzsebet’s life and betrothal to Ferenc, but it is at her christening, when Nadasdy is a young boy that this is shown as happening. In this film she is knowledgeable about sex–sleeping with a peasant and bearing a child before her marriage at 15, which is taken away from her.


Erzsebet Bathory: A Life in Two Films

In Bathory, Erzsebet takes a lover–an artist–while she’s still married. In The Countess, she doesn’t take a lover (the aforementioned Istvan Thurzo, played by Daniel Bruhl) until after her husband has died. Thurzo is much younger than she is and this is when she begins to obsess about her looks.

In Bathory, after Erzsebet is accidentally poisoned she is saved by a woman who is said to be a witch, Darvulia (Deana Horváthová). In The Countess the character is portrayed as much younger and as a much dearer friend and companion, where she’s played by Anamaria Marinca. In the former film the character doesn’t come into Erzsebet’s life until later on, but in the latter film, she’s been in her life from very early on. They also meet drastically different ends.

Both films agree that there was a great deal of political motivation behind the accusations levelled at Erzsebet–the King owed her a great deal of money for one–but we’ll probably never know just how many peasant girls were tortured and killed.

Bathory painted Erzsebet in a much more sympathetic light. It felt like more of a historical drama than anything else. There wasn’t much blood shown but our woman was certainly not portrayed as a kind and loving saint either. It was a bit slow-moving. I’d recommend it for people interested in Erzsebet Bathory or Hungary during the 17th century, but it would probably bore people who were looking for something titillating. There is a rape scene near the beginning of the film, as a trigger warning. It’s brief and not graphic, but it’s there.

The Countess was closer to what most people have heard about Countess Bathory. There is definitely more blood and torture shown (but not even up to standard horror film levels though there is one bit that’s wince-worthy). Delphy’s interpretation is interesting because though this version is much more sadistic she still has a human side. She could have played the character as a two-dimensional, cold-blooded lunatic, but she didn’t. This one I would recommend for people interested in non-stereotypical psychopaths, along with those who like period dramas, Bathory herself, etc.

Feb
13
2014

Threads

by V. L. Craven

Threads
In 1984, after rising tensions between the Americans and Soviets nuclear war breaks out.  Threads is a documentary-style film about the events leading up to the warheads, the chaos during, the nuclear winter and rebuilding efforts afterwards in Britain.

The plot initially revolves around a couple in Sheffield, Ruth and Jimmy, who have decided to marry after accidentally falling pregnant. It then expands to include the emergency operations staff, which has been sent down into a bunker.

The real story is about what would actually happen prior to and after a nuclear attack, should you survive. The writer (Barry Hines) clearly did his research–every step taken by the government before and after seems terrifyingly likely. The list of people consulted includes Carl Sagan, as well as loads of other very smart people so I’ve no doubt it’s as accurate as possible. Which makes this all the more terrifying.

If you’re looking for a horror film that has a very real basis in reality, then here you are. You may want to have something by Pixar in the sidelines for afters, though.

You can watch the entire film here  for free and I highly recommend it. It’s grim as hell, but thought-provoking. I’m glad I watched it, but will not be watching it again.

From the Wikipedia page:

[The director Mick] Jackson later recalled that unlike most BBC productions, which once finished airing would immediately result in phone calls of congratulations from friends or colleagues, no such calls came after the first screening of  Threads . Jackson later “realised… that people had just sat there thinking about it, in many cases not sleeping or being able to talk.”

Nov
07
2013

Sleepy Hollow and Its Various Incarnations

by V. L. Craven
Sleepy Hollow and Its Various Incarnations

Ichabod Crane, Respectfully Dedicated to Washington Irving by William J Wilgus (1819-53)

There’s a new show based on Washington Irving’s ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’. I was going to give it a miss, but then I found out they shoot it where I live and it’s always fun to play spot-the-location. My introduction was a cartoon, which I’ll get to, but I wanted to compare some of the adaptions (cartoon, film and TV series) and realised I hadn’t read the story. So that came first. It’s available from Gutenberg  for free.

Irving’s writing is incredibly atmospheric and he captures nature beautifully. The characters are two-dimensional, though, and not likeable–particularly the protagonist and his crush, Katrina van Tassel. Typical of a short story, there isn’t a great deal going on–the descriptions and atmosphere are the selling points. Oh, and prepare yourself for the casual racism. This was written in the early 1800s. It’s pretty minimal compared to other things I’ve read written during that time, but it’s still there. Be warned.

Sleepy Hollow and Its Various Incarnations

This was the only scene I remembered.

As mentioned, my introduction to the story was the Disney cartoon , made in 1949. Which, upon, re-viewing, was rather disappointing. My young mind had glossed over the romance, greed, and singing and paid sole attention to the spookier aspects like the headless horseman and chase through the woods. The singing, however, does happen in the story. In fact, the cartoon is holds very close to the source material. They leave out the racism, thankfully, and they cut down on the general spookiness, but overall it’s quite accurate.

What was odd was that I could have sworn there was a bit where Brom Bones and his friends had pulled the prank where they chased Crane, pretending to be the Horseman. Because I was expecting it in the Burton adaptation. I have a very clear memory of this happening. The way the brain works, wow.

Sleepy Hollow and Its Various Incarnations

‘I swear, I’d lose my head if it weren’t screwed on… DAMMIT’

Many years later (as in decades) Tim Burton remade the tale with a bunch of spectacular actors, including Christopher Walken as the Headless Horseman. This will probably always be the definitive version for me because it’s Burton, whose aesthetic pleases me greatly, and because of the aforementioned cast. He changed…nearly everything. Except he made two very minor characters mentioned in passing in the story into important characters in the film.

Burton’s version is visually dark–it’s Burton, what do you want?–though the story happens in Autumn in New England when everything would have been reds and golds and oranges. Ichabod was, indeed, a wimp, so that remained the same, but Katrina became a witch (something that would carry over into the TV series), rather than the vacuous flirt from the story and cartoon and there was blood and a real horseman. Something that’s left up in the air in the story and cartoon.

Sleepy Hollow and Its Various Incarnations

Eventually spring will come to Sleepy Hollow…that won’t be spooky…

So then Fox announced they were making a television show called  Sleepy Hollow  and I was sceptical. How could they take a short story and make it into a series? But after reading this review  I decided to give it a shot and I’m glad I did.

The first two episodes were the set up and people getting to grips with their roles in the battle with the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The third episode felt like the first ‘real’ episode, if that makes sense. The one where they work out who a baddie is and take it down, Buffy-style. The entire show is very Buffy-like–dramatic and supernatural and occasionally laugh out loud funny. They’ve already renewed it for a second series, which I’m very glad to hear, particularly since our landlord’s daughter is now working on the show.

And I get to pretend I live in a city like Sunnydale, but I’m not one of the stupid people who gets killed on a regular basis. Seriously, that place must have had a ridiculously high death rate.

 

 

Sep
26
2013

Da Vinci’s Demons

by V. L. Craven

Da Vincis Demons

I’ve recently had the opportunity to catch up on some television recommended by GetGlue . One of the shows is Da Vinci’s Demons, which is an original show by the Starz network, and dramatises the life of Leonardo da Vinci. Going into the show, the only things I knew about our man was that he was ambidexterous, likely bisexual, and an artistic genius.

After watching the first series, I’m sticking to that set of things, as I’m sure all sorts of facts were altered to make the show more interesting. That’s fine by me, as I’m not a history major, though I would be interested in what was changed. It was fun to see some of his more fanciful creations on screen, though. And Florence was beautiful as always.

I most enjoyed their version of ‘Charlie vision’, which is what they called what happened on Numbers when Charlie began explaining his current plan for saving the world with some algorithm. They do something similar on Da Vinci’s Demons, but the graphics are in the style of Da Vinci’s sketches.

The plot of the first series is Da Vinci trying to solve an ancient puzzle with his brilliant mind whilst also being caught up in the political intrigue between the Medicis in Florence and the Vatican in Rome. During this he is also juggling his complex love life (to say he makes poor choices in this department would be an understatement).

Da Vincis Demons

This isn’t from a Saw movie. It’s something Prince Charming below has.

Then, episode six happened. It was entitled ‘The Devil’ (each episode was named after a card in the major arcana). Da Vinci’s quest takes him to a castle in Wallachia. From afar, he and his friend and assistant notice something odd around the walls… people impaled on spikes. They ride up and are met by the owner of the castle and his men. The owner in question is Vlad Tepes. Dracula.

Wow, was that a fun episode. The set was aptly dark, but I wish they’d thrown up the lights a bit so I could have got a better look at his castle. There was a spectacular skull and long bone chandelier and skulls in the torches. I’m sure there were loads of other fantastic details I simply couldn’t see due to the murk.

Da Vincis Demons

Not that the darkness is a hindrance for someone with no soul.

The entire first series was only eight episodes, but a second series has been ordered, so I’m looking forward to that.

If you’re looking for something based in reality–there was a very good show called  Doing DaVinci , which aired on the Discovery Channel where a team of designers built and tested some of DaVinci’s designs. Some with more success than others. The list of things they attempted to build is here.

The official website for Da Vinci’s Demons is here with extras and behind-the-scenes footage along with air dates and ways to watch the show if you don’t have cable. If you saw the show, let me know what you think.

Sep
05
2013

The Winter Guest

by V. L. Craven

The Winter Guest

The Winter Guest was the original film I thought of when doing this series of reviews set in cold climates. It’s also one of my top five favourite films. Everything about it is perfect–acting, directing, set design, score, cinematography. It’s the sort of film that, every time I watch it, I’m surprised yet again at how beautiful it is and at how well all of the pieces work together.

That said, it’s always difficult to write about one of your favourite pieces of media, be it book, film, or music, as the way it moves you is as much to do with who you are as it is about the actual piece of art. Still, I’m going to give it a go.

The film is directed by Alan Rickman (yes, that one), who also adapted the screenplay from the play by Sharman MacDonald. Prior to making the film, Rickman directed the play–three of the eight actors from the stage version appeared in the film.

The Winter Guest

Set so far north in Scotland that the sea freezes, the film focuses on eight people; a mother and daughter (played by Emma Thompson and her real-life mother, Phyllida Law), two young boys skiving off from school (one of whom will go on to play Oliver Wood, the Gryffindor Keeper), two elderly women who frequently attend strangers’ funerals, and two teenagers who argue and flirt.

It’s a quiet film that feels very much like a play–most scenes are between two characters at a time. For people who are used to blockbusters it will feel like nothing is happening, but all sorts of things are going on beneath the surface. Not unlike the sea that is outwardly frozen, but is certainly roiling beneath the ice.

It’s probably the most character-driven film I’ve ever seen. The depth of each character is such that it’s difficult to sum up each one succinctly so, for fear of cocking it up entirely, I’m not going to try. Yes, that’s a cop out, but I’m not trying to sell people on Remembrance of Things Past , either, even though it’s my favourite book. I don’t think I could do it justice.

On top of the performances and directing and the stark radiance of Seamus McGarvey’s cinematography (which I could look at all day) Michael Kamen’s score is the perfect complement. And then there are Robin Don’s incredible sets. There’s a beauty and delicacy to everything in the film. It’s a masterpiece.

And now that I haven’t oversold it at all , find it and see it for yourself. Make a mug of hot cocoa, wrap  up in your warmest blanket, and enjoy this under-appreciated classic.

The Winter Guest

Aug
08
2013

The Ice Storm

by V. L. Craven

The Ice Storm

I’ve always loved the look of an unbroken plain of snow. The hush it gives the world. How, in the moonlight, it can be so bright. How, when you live some place unprepared for it, you get out of school for flurries. Cold weather clothes are my favourite, as well. Oddly, I do not care to actually be cold. I do, however, like that when it’s cold one can use that as an excuse not to leave the house. And I like looking at cold things. Like films set in cold climates or during cold snaps. And since it’s currently ridiculously hot and humid where I am I’m choosing to chill out with some cool films over the next few weeks.

If the idea appeals to you, here are some lists of suggestions:

Time:  Top 10 Freezing Cold Movies
Letterbox: Gloomy Movies Set in the Cold
A.V. Club: No Cure for Cabin Fever: 16 Memorable Films Set During Cold Snaps

The first film in this series of reviews is The Ice Storm by Ang Lee.

The Ice Storm

It’s Thanksgiving 1973 and it’s a groovy time. Except for the ridiculous amount of dysfunction running rampant in the Carvers and the Hoods, the households the plot centres around.

You’ve got all of the 70s–swinging, Nixon, casual drug use, marriage counseling is all the rage, etc. And every single character is having some sort of sexual problem. Either they’re sleeping with the wrong person (or trying to) or they’re frustrated in their marriage or they’re a teenager–and not the kind having easy sex. Everyone is trying to figure themselves out–adults and kids alike. It’s like a metaphor for the 70s, in a way. the rules were no longer hard and fast and people didn’t know where that left them.

The backdrop to all of this is cold, cold weather, culminating in the titular ice storm. Even though it was actually shot during the spring, the cinematographer, Frederick Elmes, did an excellent job of making it feel cold. The scenes outside even before the weather turns is beautiful; and once the weather does turn towards the worse, one of the characters takes a walk. And it’s gorgeous.

The Ice Storm

The Ice Storm is a character-driven, quiet piece, much like Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, which puts much of the weight on the actors.

Which brings us to the cast. The younger set are Christina Ricci, Elijah Woods, Tobey Maguire, Katie Holmes and David Krumholtz. This was released in 1997 so they were really young. It was Katie Holmes’ film debut.

The adults are Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver and Jamey Sheridan. Allison Janney has a great smaller bit. All of the performances were excellent.

Released in 1997, it was based on a 1994 novel written by Rick Moody, who, apparently enjoyed the movie so much he wept through the closing credits. I’m sure many other authors have wept through the end credits of film adaptations of their work, but I’m not sure how many of those tears were out of joy.

This is one of those films where everything worked together very well. The writing, directing, acting, soundtrack, etc. It would be good any day of the year, but it’s perfect for a sweltering day in August.

Feb
21
2013

Puccini for Beginners

by V. L. Craven

Puccini for Beginners

I watched Puccini for Beginners at the weekend and it was a fun enough romp. New York was shot beautifully and the actors did a better job than what I was expecting–I don’t have high hopes for most lesbian-themed films, as they usually don’t have great budgets. Gretchen Mol was nice (this is the first thing I’ve seen her in–is it just me or does she look exactly like Kate Hudson?) as were the other two leads, Elizabeth Reaser and Justin Kirk.

The premise is a commitment-phobic lesbian (Reaser) is dumped by her heterosexual girlfriend (a Molly Parker look-a-like named Julianne Nicholson) and falls into bed with a man (Kirk). They have a relationship of sorts and have a rather ridiculous conversation about the differences between heterosexuals and homosexuals philosophies towards relationships. The friends of the lesbian-dating-a-man are two dimensional, but the actresses (Jennifer Dundas and Ute Lemper’s twin Tina Benko) do their best. And I know it seems like I’m saying everyone in this film looks like someone else, but that’s bound to happen, really. There are only so many ‘attractive’ faces in the world and a good number of them are on the screen–some of them are bound to resemble one another.

The thing about the film that’s stuck with me longest was the pronunciation of “Turandot” by Reaser within the first five minutes of the film. She pronounced it: TUR-in-dot. I thought it was a French name and therefore the ‘t’ would be silent. So I looked it up and the final answer is: Yay, I’m right. According to Puccini scholar Patrick Vincent Casali, Puccini never pronounced the ‘t’. Which totally kills the illusion that the character was supposed to be such an opera buff. Oh well. At least I learned something.

[Repost from now-defunct blog. Original post date: August 7, 2007]

Apr
07
2011

Harry Potter and the Nearly Incomprehensible Film

by V. L. Craven

I’ve finally seen the fifth Harry Potter film. I can’t believe anyone who hasn’t read the books could have any clue what the hell was going on. I know they only have so long for a film, but I don’t think a fifteen hour long DVD for the fans would go amiss. Watson was still in over-dramatic mode and Grint was Mr Mumble-Face but Radcliffe has improved a great deal.

What I found most confusing were the things they partially put in but didn’t explain. Like that Harry was the snake–there’s a half second shot of a snake but it’s not obvious that it’s a reflection. Then Sirius’s mother’s portrait is heard whispering behind a curtain but it’s never explained who she is or what the hell she’s muttering about.

I liked the look best of the films thus far (though the third one comes close) and the veil Siruis fell through was much more beautiful and haunting than I’d pictured. And have mercy but Helena Bonham Carter was perfect for Bellatrix, but overall the film felt rushed.

And there wasn’t enough of Rickman or Smith. And they cut my favourite scenes, but I always say that. Whinge whinge gripe complain.

And of course I’ll buy the next two films. Because I’m a good consumer.

[This is a re-post from a now-defunct blog. Original post date: 11 January, 2008]

Powered by WordPress