19 November 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part One) - Review

Note: This post will likely be revised after I see the movie a second time and am better able to consider the specific film making details that made this movie awesome (which it truly was). For now, here are my (somewhat disjointed) thoughts. Naturally, there are spoilers.

First: This year, due to the nature of my now responsible "I need to be an adult" job, I was unable to go see the movie at midnight (*sigh*). I was serendipitously transferred (much like Harry) back into a state of reminiscing - waiting all day at school (like I did for the first movie) in anxiety and then rushing to the theater the second I could get out of the building. Of course this time I had access to Facebook and reviews from friends. Cynical as I am, when I saw reviews from a few people who had seen the movie at midnight and enjoyed it, I actually got worried. Generally, these individuals are the kind who are bugged if the movie is not exactly the same as the book, whereas I am a huge fan of movies being adapted so that they are good movies, not good 'copy-paste' attempts.

Fortunately for me, this is a movie that is both beautiful and true enough to the book that both sides should be satisfied.

I do laugh a bit when I have looked at reviews where filmmakers complained about how the movie feels unfinished or slow. Well. . . that's how it should have been. The movie isn't finished. We've only seen half of a whole. And it should have been slow, because for the first time - we have a movie dedicated not to action and clear cut adventure - but a movie dedicated to building relationships and and overall feeling of being lost and confused about what needs to be done. Which is, essentially, exactly what the first half of the book is about. Many readers cheekily called the first part of the book Harry Potter and the Extended Camping Trip. If viewers leave that movie feeling as though they lost or have been through a long, confusing adventure - well. . . that's probably exactly what the filmmakers wanted.

My greatest excitement for this movie came in realizing that, for the first time, I felt like Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson were equally yoked as actors. They were all given good things to do, and they all did them well. In the past, Watson has read lines rather awkwardly, or Grint's character has been reduced to the stupid sidekick. But this time - they were a team. It was really great to see how much they had matured and grown into these parts with such confidence. They managed to carry a movie that was incredibly difficult to pace and, at times, laborious in how lost it was. They were great.

I appreciated how this movie didn't pander to the latecomers. In the past, some of the movies would spend so much time on exposition that a viewer could have seen the film cold and more or less understood what was going on. It was wasted time. This isn't James Bond - it's more or less a 20+ hour long movie that ultimately tells the same story. This movie is not for newcomers. If you hadn't seen the others, you'd be hopelessly lost and bored.

The animation: The animation was glorious. The way they handled the Tale of the Three Brothers was fantastic. Dobby and Kreacher were unbelievable. They made Gollum look like a cartoon - which is saying something, because Gollum looks pretty great. But Dobby and Kreacher were seamless and beautiful. Bravo.

The film was funny. It was sad. Ultimately, though, what made me love this movie so much - and what made it, in some ways, blow the other films out of the water - was that its core was a film that had heart. There was such love for the characters. Such care for what happens to them. The movie was handled with such obvious adoration for J.K. Rowling's creation and the fans that worship every word she's written that it would be impossible for me not to respect the accomplishment. You can see why they were so keen on splitting the film in two. It isn't for more money (though that's nice.) It's because the story is too good to do it the injustice of cramming it all into one film.

Was the film perfect? No. There were a few lost opportunities. (Did they ever explain the origin of the mirror? I also wish that they'd have left the conversation between Harry and Ron after the locket is destroyed.) But, on the whole, the film was wonderful.

How great is it to look back on the last ten years and know that I've been at every Harry Potter movie on opening day/night? To know that I've grown up with this series and now have the privilege of seeing it get another send off is fantastic. To loosely quote James Hook. . . "What would the world be like without Harry Potter?!"

Open Letter to the Deseret News

Dear Deseret News,

You are a delightful newspaper. I enjoy reading your articles. They make me chuckle. They keep me aware on long nights of work that there is, in fact, a world out there. I thank you.

But every once in a while, you do something so delightful that I cannot resist commenting. (Or, rather, I try to comment. But your registration feature has apparently read my mind, anticipated me words, and has kept me from obtaining access to your comment board on several occasions.) This particular day, I would like to thank you for helping to clear out theaters of Utah by taking quotes out of context, perpetuating non-existant scandal, and by continuing to remind would-be ignorant movie-goers of it in more than one article.

I am speaking, of course, of the article claiming large amounts of nudity in the new film Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part One). By taking a quote (and a scene) out of context, one of your writers managed to incite such fear and disgust as to leave many parents convinced that neither they, nor their children should be allowed to watch such filth. This will, I am assuming, leave plenty of room for us sinful movie watchers to enjoy the film without the cynical, pure aura of the angry part of your readers in theaters over the next few weeks. I thank you for this.



So here's the deal. I work with many students that come from very conservative families. I'm ok with this. I respect that parents have the right to raise their children in the way that they see best. This is a scary world and there are lots of nasty, not so good things out there. It's natural to want to protect your children from garbage. Do I think nudity is necessary in films? Most of the time, no. Particularly in films that are going to be seen by kids. But all of this ridiculous, false Harry Potter advertising (I'm not going to go into great deal about it now, just read the interviews/go see the film) has got me thinking about the arts and the role that they play in my life and the lives of the people around me and I've been frustrated by the hypocrisy that I've seen.

I am more offended by movies (or art, or literature, or music) that are dumb, or fluffy, or cheesy than I am by movies (etc.) that approach the heart and the depths of a human soul. Shutting out or being afraid of evil shuts out and protects you from the light as well. It's an Asian philosophy (if you are going to create good, you are going to create evil) - and a religious one (opposition in all things).

It is, to be perfectly frank, one of the things that eats at me most about the prominent culture in Utah Valley. People here seem more ready to accept fluff and chintz and 'safe' things, and less willing to actively seek after things that are 'virtuous, lovely. . . of good report or praiseworthy.'

I recognize, of course, that everyone has a different standard of what constitutes as virtuous (etc.) But it does make me sad when I see people living more with a feeling of fear for what is bad and less a feeling of joy over searching and finding things that are uplifting. I don't think that the Lord sent us to this earth to have us spending all our time running away from scary things that we don't have any time left to search out the glorious. That's not my job, at least. My job is to recognize that there are not good things out there, and to spend my time looking for those things that are uplifting.

And for goodness sake - this is Harry Potter we're talking about. They know their audience. They've made six more than good films and they're not going to put out something pornographic now. Use your brains. Go see the movie (or talk to people who have at the very least) before you start judging. Not to mention that this is the last (or second to last) of the Harry Potter stories - one of the most powerful and uplifting pieces of fiction I have read. A book about the power of evil - and the greater power of good. Give me a break.


(Plus. . . there is a very cheeky and cynical part of my own head that wonders how many of these people who are scared about the 'filthy' parts of Deathly Hallows are Breaking Dawn readers looking forward to a particularly exciting vampire sex scene next summer. . . *eyeroll* Give me good literature over that garbage any day. . . )

09 November 2010

How to Date a BYU Co-Ed

I gave my Creative Writing students a "how to" writing assignment recently where they are supposed to satirize something that they go through. I decided to do this writing assignment myself, and, very cheekily, wrote up the following. . .

How to Date a BYU Co-Ed

  1. The first thing you need to do is plan your approach. This is not something that should be taken lightly. You, as a man, want to make sure that the female specimen of the modern day knows that you know she is intimidating and frightening, so it is best to plan your approach from a distance. Don’t ever talk to her in person. This makes things very scary for you and makes her feel as though you are manipulative. Don’t call her on the phone because that may make her feel as though you consider yourself worthy to speak to her. The best way to ask a girl out, especially the one you know the name of but don’t ever encounter on a daily basis, is by TEXT or FACEBOOK.
    1. NOTE: This is especially true of the female who was kind to you and spoke to you once but has not talked with you since then. It is best to send her an impersonal message through impersonal means because you have an impersonal relationship with her, and you wouldn’t want to take things too fast, now would you?
  2. After you have sent your text message or Facebook event invite, the best thing you can do is wait approximately 24 hours for a response, then ask again. It could be that she did not get your message the first time. It could be that she has been stewing in awe of the generosity of your request and she needs to know that you are not, in fact, scary. Be sure to send a new request in the appropriate way.
    1. If she turns you down: Note - the best thing you can do at this point is to not give up hope: odds are if you ask her again for another night, she will be more free and willing to grace you with her presence. She may just have needed time to warm up to the idea. Do not give up heart! Try again.
    2. If she accepts: Congratulations! You now get the chance to proceed to step number. . .
  3. The planning of the event: Remember. The modern woman knows that everything - your entire future of a couple - depends on the first date. Like the male peacock, your job is to ruffle all of your glorious feathers. You must let her know that you are willing to devote hours of your time, and all of your money, strictly to her entertainment. You must take her to every desirable location in one evening. This requires planning and intense concentration. You must be sure, like the male peacock, that the female peacock knows that your feathers are sure to be the most attractive. This is especially true of the Utah Valley BYU Co-Ed, who has been raised from birth to believe that a person only dates to find a mate. You. Must. Be. That. Mate.
  4. The event should include. . .
    1. Eating at an expensive restaurant
    2. A clever activity in which you, as male peacock, can show off your masculine ability, and she, as female independent 20th century peacock, can demonstrate her intelligence.
    3. Dessert (Euphemistic or otherwise.)
    4. Followed by the in apartment movie watch. The date should never end until you have had the chance to sit on an uncomfortable couch and entertained yourselves by some viewing pleasure.
  5. On the day of the date itself, remember that the event is the most important part, followed shortly by the looks of the female herself. Your job is to flaunt your impressive planning skills, not your hygiene. Nothing will intimidate an intimidating woman more than a man who looks better than she does on a date. (Plus, she might think that you are, in fact, gay.) Thus, to prove your straight-ness and your consideration for her beauty, do not spend more than approximately ten minutes preparing yourself. Spend approximately five of those minutes showering. Find whatever shirt is clean, put on the running shoes you’ve had forever, and whatever jeans seem most appropriate for the event. This should take you no more than two minutes. Spend the remaining time brushing your teeth. (The “look no better than she does” exception does not extend to smell. The female creature loves it when you make it very clear that you do, in fact, wear aftershave and cologne at the same time - particularly if you are going to drive for long distances.)
  6. During the date, let her do all the talking. And only use one syllable words if you should feel the need to speak.
  7. After the date is over, be sure to send the appropriate text message thanking said female for her time. Then, should you feel the need, be sure to invite her out for the next weekend on an activity of similar grandeur. If you slack off on the next date, she will know you are a fraud. You must shower this female with every trick up your sleeve all the time to remind her that you “care”.

Happy Dating!