Goodbye, Harry

Here it is. The review of the last Harry Potter film to be released.  Part of my childhood ended Sunday, and I am glad to say that it was exactly what I needed it to be. So, without further delay, my review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2.

Warning!
This Review will have MASSIVE Spoilers so if you don’t want the film ruined, please scroll to the end.  After the last photo I will post my Summary Wrap-up as well as my Rating Scores.
You have been Warned…

I Loved it!  I was so worried when I finished my review of Part 1 that I would be disappointed, but the film lived up to everything I was hoping for and even exceeded expectations in some regards!  Also, this was the first film I had ever seen in 3D IMAX and it was a real treat to see that on such a large screen.  I truly felt immersed into the film.  One of the best movie going experiences ever for me.

For this review I want to break it down into a few sections, dealing with the issues I had with Part 1 first, discussing the changes and plot next, visuals and sound after that, and then finish on the very few issues I had with this one. Thus:

  • Issues with Part 1 Revisited
  • Changes and General Storytelling Analysis
  • Visual and Audio Stylings and Devices
  • Issues with Part 2
  • Final Summary and Scores

So with that I jump right into it!

1.  Issues with Part 1 Revisited

In case you haven’t already, please check out my review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt. 1. As we shall recall, my issues with the first film fell mostly to the PACE and the ACTING, as well as my frustration that Yates had “totally missed the major conflict of the book”.  Part 2 really seemed to hear me on that because they really stepped it all up 10 notches!

The pace was fantastic.  Only after the movie was over and the credits rolled did I realize I had been sitting for 2 hours.  It seemed to be perfectly spaced and I loved the connectivity of each scene.  It all seemed to flow together into one big sequence which works so well.  I will get into it more later, but I loved how the film/story was made in such a way that fans can see and follow it without any extraneous explanation of trivial elements, while still seeming accessible to Muggles who haven’t followed the series at all.  I also loved how it managed to surprise me at parts (more on this in the “Changes” section), preserving the magical quality I felt was lost in the previous movie. Truly a major improvement over the disconnected vignettes of Part 1, Part 2 conveyed the final chronicles of Harry Potter’s story in a well-constructed, beautiful manner that left me very content.

The second major issue I had with Part 1 was with the Acting, and Part 2 took that and blew it out of the water!!!  Every single person stepped it up about 8 notches and gave by far the best performances of the series. A few in particular stood out to me:

Best Actress goes to Helena Bonham Carter

HBC is BLEEPING scary!!! Not just because of the roles she plays for Tim Burton but because of how ridiculously she matches Emma Watson’s Hermione.  Seriously.  I am not the only one who originally thought that Watson’s face was digitally put onto Carter’s body.  She performs in what I would gladly call an Oscar-worthy performance – both as the creepy and insane Bellatrix LeStrange and as the Polyjuiced, yet timid Hermione breaking into Gringotts. However she does not get the best performance of the film.  That honor goes to….

Best Acting goes to Alan Rickman as “Snape”

By far the best performance came from the character who fans have lost there hatred for and come to love – Snape – played by Alan Rickman.  Such sorrow and pain I have never seen in a character.  I almost believe that Rickman decided to try to embody the word “Anguish” in order to play this immensely deep role.  Rarely have I ever felt, not just seen, such somber determination in a character and Rickman I feel was the only man who could possibly do justice to Potter’s nemesis and unbeknownst defender. Sorting Hat’s off to you, sir!  Job well done!

One final standout performance before I get to the trio’s was that of Ralph Fiennes’ Voldemort.  As you will recall, I was not a big fan of his portrayal in Part 1.  I said that, “He comes off as too human, which makes hating him a little difficult.”  While I stand by that statement for the first installment, I was surprised to find that this was the very quality that made him so great in Part 2.  Here is my reasoning: At the beginning of book/movie 7, Voldemort has 7 parts of his soul, his humanity, absent from his person.  Thus he should be practically a snake as he has little human existence about him.  However, as the Horcruxes get destroyed one could say that either the parts of his soul return to him or that he simply becomes more mortal as his extra tethers to life are severed.  Ergo, he becomes more human towards his final hour.  Fienne’s Voldemort was beautifully human after he had “killed” Harry and it was a joy to watch his Hubris lead to his climactic end.

Now for the Trio.  I will keep it brief though I could go on and on about it. Rupert Grint was magnificent. His humor was perfectly on character and his courage was wonderful. It will be hard to imagine Ronald Weasley without seeing Grint’s face anymore.

Emma Watson made me cry (well almost).  She is by far the best of the trio and her emotions ARE her sleeve.  She was brilliant in the role and I am sad to see an end to the girl that won all of our hearts.

And finally, Dan.  I must say the thing I was most worried about going into this film was whether Radcliffe could manage the intensely powerful, entirely internal emotions that occur in this final installment.  And much to my joy, he pulled it off!!!  You could feel his hard-set determination and his selflessness all throughout the film and he really did do justice to the Boy Who Lived. He still needs to work on really selling it with his eyes and his eyebrows, but on the whole it was a massive improvement on his previous work. Great job Dan. Be proud of your work and thank you so much for 10 amazing years of Potter.  Thank You!

And the final element, the “Hallows vs Horcruxes” issue, I feel might have a different explanation. While I still felt that the internal struggle inside Harry was entirely neglected, I think that is because internal struggles are a bleep to put on screen.  Thus, when watching Part 2, I let go of my expectations for that conflict and instead let the film be what is was. Through that zen-like letting go did I find how great the film really was.

2. Changes and General Storytelling Analysis

I said it before and I will say it again: the pacing was fantastic! I thought it flowed very well from start to finish.  It was only at those two points that I find issue. The “reminder scene” at the beginning was unnecessary and went as far as to throw off the pacing for me for the actual first scene.  It had no entrance, explanation (in context), or connection to the tone that followed.  And, because 86% of opening weekend movie-goers had just marathoned the ENTIRE series pre-screening, it was entirely unnecessary.  They should have just started with the fade-through-clouds WB logo with the music swell and leave it at that.

The only other issue I had with the story-telling (and I swear I had loads more positives about it than issues) was that the very end was beautiful and tragic – with the Hogwarts express trudging away into the fog and the final shot of the trio staring off into the future.  It was a truly beautiful moment with the music swelling, the fade out…..the music still swelling…..still black…..then music dies.  At the time I didn’t mind it because I was reveling in that last fading image of the trio who had made my life so wonderful.  However, after the film my dad pointed out an interesting thought: in all that blackness with music going they had not put up a “The End” slide.  Interesting move. Again at the time I didn’t mind the gap and after having thought about it, I applaud them not calling this “The End”.  We are not at the end friends, but rather the beginning of a new adventure. However it was a bit of an odd moment. Still pondering this one.

Other than those to items I was floored by how well the story worked!  It started off with a nice slow ramp from Shell Cottage, then thrust us into the action at Gringotts and kept the upbeat tone the whole way through.  It had some nice relief moments (room of requirement, the lull in the fight) and some good comic relief along the way to let up on the tension just enough for us to breath and get ready for the next crazy fight.

The changes made to the story, I thought, were well done and well chosen, and they made the story easier to follow in such a short time.  Obviously, I was sad to see the Dumbledore Subplot go; however I can see that it is extraneous to the major plot. Same with the treasure in the vault not burning – it doesn’t matter in the ultimate plot.

As a matter of fact I did like Harry’s confrontation of Snape in the Great Hall and the Severus-McGonagall fight because it broke me out of “Analysis Mode”.  Up to that point I had been seeing things for how they lined up with the book.  That scene threw me off that game and reminded me to enjoy the film for what it is, not what I think it should be. For that I thought the scene worked well, but also it was an improvement in that it gave Harry a chance to fully vocalize his feelings toward Snape before the final reveal of his motives. It worked on the story level and was powerful emotionally – I loved it!

Yates did a fantastic job of cutting through the fat of the story and giving us only the meat of it (even though we like that fat…a lot).  He presented Part 2 in a logical and accurate, yet surprising and magical manner that kept me enthralled throughout the entire 125 minutes. Fantastically presented – I, a devoted fan, could not be any happier with how he told the story.

3. Visual and Audio Stylings and Devices

In case you haven’t gotten it yet, I thought the story was told magnificently! David Yates made the film very well and in a style which played to the fans particularly.  I loved how he let things go – such as the Goblin Lore with Griphook – and allowed for things that extend beyond just the books – such as Matthew Lewis getting to voice his Real Life passion in his moment of glory speech.  The visual style was phenomenal.  I particularly liked the flying fight between Voldemort and Harry for the shot where their faces merge, symbolizing the incredible magical link between them.  And the “King’s Cross” afterlife scene, while not what I pictured it as, was beautiful and elegant.  And finally, Voldemort’s death was, as I wrote immediately following, “graceful yet gutturally satisfying”.

I seriously could go on for days about how it amazing it looked and how well the plot was handled, but I will make these last notes and leave it there:

  • Fantastic choice to end on the original “Hedwig’s Theme” (;_;) – Beautiful. Thank you.
  • Incredible use of sound – both silence and noise – to set mood.  Particularly the use of breath and breathing were nice as symbols of Harry’s impending doom and the frailty of life in general
  • Score was perfect – Desplat brought us the magical world in a magical way
  • Special effects for the fights (ie – the spells) were fantastic. It struck me as amazing occasionally that a scene was probably done entirely in computer
  • The aging of the cast at the end was incredible! Blew my mind how they must have done that!
  • Best looking and sounding film of the series by miles!

4. Issues with Part 2

The issues I had with Part 2 are exactly three-fold and all I have already mentioned, so I will be brief. The first is simple and criticized often by me – Daniel’s acting.  It was Better. It could have been Best. He did finally start to show some emotion but I still don’t believe him when I look in his eyes at every single second. Keep on working on those eyes and (recent revelation) your eyeBROWS, and I look forward your next film project The Woman in Black. Again thank you for bringing Harry to life for us. I think we can expect great things from you, Mr. Radcliffe. Great things!

My second issue was with the very beginning of the film. As I said the “refresher scene” was unnecessary, clunky, and gave the beginning a very rough start.  It didn’t have the confidence or poise of the start of Part 1 which I will again praise as excellent.  Start right into it as you did the first movie – Logo followed by action.

Finally, the end, which I am still not sure about.  While I am sure that the exclusion of a “The End” slide was a good choice, I can’t help but feel the oddness will return when I am staring at a black screen with powerful music going and I don’t have the hardcore emotional catharsis stirring my heart as I did watching it for the first time.  I might comment on this again later after I have seen the film again.

5. Final Summary and Scores

10/10 – Masterful & Cathartic

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was exactly what I hoped it would be. It accurately and magically captured the essence of the story and reminded us all why this series has become the defining point of an entire generation. It was elegant and eloquent. It was morose and somber yet filled me with joy – a bittersweet wonder.  I have said it a thousand times and I will say it again, it does NOT all end here.  No from here we, the devoted fans, go out and we take this story, this love, this passion wherever we go.  Whenever times get hard we have more that just the camaraderie of the fans to help us through. We have incredible role models to guide us:

  • the Selfless Potions Master who risked everything for love
  • the Wisdom of a School Headmaster who taught us best of all that everyone makes mistakes
  • the Heart of Service from a Friend who stays with you no matter what
  • the Power of Learning and how Knowledge really is power
  • the Boy who Laid Down his Life for Love and Friendship, who never backed down from what must be done, and who taught us that life without love is meaningless

The world has not lost this magic.  It lives, beating in the hearts of one billion young men and women, all of whom now carry something that cannot be forgotten – Hope.  We know that the world will get tough, that times will be hard and all will seem lost.  And we know how much we may have to sacrifice.  But most importantly, we know that will a little faith and a little trust and a little love, nothing can stand in our way.

Thank you Jo for uniting us, for showing us truth, bravery and love, and for giving us the kid we all want to be. Thank you for giving us 14 years of Magic.  We are Potter’s men and women, through and through. And Dumbledore’s Army, YOUR Army, looks forward to continuing to grow up with Harry and to preserving his legacy of courage, selflessness, and love for generations to come.  Thank you, Jo. Thank you.

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Wow.  I can honestly say that I have never been so close to crying writing a review.  If you don’t know me, I never cry, ever. God just made me that way. But I can say that when things move me this much, to the point of tears, I listen because I know God is up to something.  I will continue to document my passion for the Harry Potter series and will keep up commentary on his films and books in the future.

But in the more near future, I am just tickled PINK to announce that I WILL be able to review the Dark Knight Rises trailer!  It will be up on the Art of the Trailer soon. Thank you for stopping by, please check out my other reviews and ramblings, and please let me know what you think of this review in the comments below.  Thank you and God bless!

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Appreciation and Understanding w/ Dash of Irony

Hello all!  I thought I would take a break from my reviews to share some news, and have a little ramble.

First, my IRONY MOMENT OF THE WEEK!!!  I was cleaning my room recently, being all productive and stuff, when I found my old Pokemon Ruby Game. Now a bit of history: I have been playing Pokemon games since the first set (Red & Blue). I can still remember playing them on my Original B&W Gameboy at the ballpark when I was 10.  Good times… Anyway, in the 10 years I have had since I have never, repeat NEVER, beaten one. Seriously. I bought every game up to the ruby/sapphire generation and have never beaten any set of Elite Four and Champion. I either spent all my time focusing on completing the Pokedex or lost interest before getting there.

Now having said that, I decided to play the game a bit just for old times sake.  I had made it all the way to Stephen, the Champion, before but I could never beat him.  I decided to try victory road, again just for kicks and made it all the way to the final battle of the 5 and somehow, having not played in over a year now, I BEAT HIM!!! It was so crazy!!! I finally beat a Pokemon game!!! Part of my childhood had ended, IRONY, on the day that the Last Harry Potter film came out!! Just an amazing thing that those two coincided with….the battery died.

I was watching the final cutscene where May comes back and is all surprised that you are the Champion and then Prof. Birch comes in and is all surprised that you are the Champion and then he takes my Pokedex and says, “Here’s some advice…”  CLICK.  My battery dies….right there….. GAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!

It was just hilarious that I had waited so long for that moment and when it comes I was robbed of it 🙂 I did go back and beat it about an hour later after I had gotten over how funny it was.  The ending was awesome just as i had always read in my strategy guide (JK!! Haha. Just…..just kidding…….totally not me………..yeah. I did read it cover to cover….yeah.) I loved the Hall of Fame thing and the credits (didn’t even know they did that!) and then….at the end….it says….”THE END”  😀

YEAH! 😀

So now that the embarrassing, end-of-my-childhood moment story is over, I turn to a more philosophical thought.

Something which I have been trying to nail down for many years is how one appreciates a work such as film or book. Recently I had a breakthrough thought which I’d like to share with you for your thoughts.

Our society seems to stress two conflicting opinions.  First, post-modern culture puts forth that appreciation of art can be had in any form or way and by any medium, but I will focus on the thought that no Understanding is required for Appreciation. The Second worldview, coming from Academia, says that in order to fully Appreciate something, one must have full Understanding of it.

Let me give two examples to clarify.  The former puts forth things such as John Cage’s 4’33” or Jackson Pollock’s abstract art as important because each person experiences it differently and in unique manners. The Latter would take things such as Elgar’s “Enigma Variations” and say that in order to fully appreciate it you must know that it was done as a fun exercise with his wife, and that each variation is based on one of his friends.  Obviously the two are in conflict and thus I turn to film.

My friend Ryan and I have a disagreement. Last year he gave me the French film Amelie as part of the inaugural Summer Film Challenge. When I started the movie and realized it was entirely in French without subtitles, I made the decision to watch it without them.  I had taken French in High School, but the true reason I made that call was because I wanted to see what the film was like unhampered by English text muddling the image.  I wanted to watch it as the French did, and I am not sure whether Ryan has forgiven me yet. 🙂

The reason I bring this film up is that I just ordered it on Amazon and I am not sure I will ever watch it with the subtitles, which brings us back to the original point:

What is the relationship of Understanding to Appreciation?

I propose these thoughts on this issue:

  1. I think that everything is art, and some of it is good, but only a rare bit is Great Art and that is what we must focus on. (More on this in a Ramble to come)
  2. While I can get how Knowledge in tandem or conjunction to a piece of art that helps me understand it’s origins and purpose enhances the experience of it, I wonder if we are losing a part of Appreciation by doing so.
  3. The Appreciation lost by seeking understanding I shall call Wonder or Awe. It might be aptly titled “Magic”.
  4. The Wonder I experienced when watching Amelie in French was that, though I could understand only the occasional word or phrase of the dialogue, I was able to understand the film’s plot and message remarkably well.

As my friend Ryan pointed out to me, I did miss the full meaning of the “Counting Orgasms” scene.  However I was able to appreciate that sex plays a major role in the life of Parisians in Amelie’s world and that she is keenly aware of the sexual world around her while remaining aloof of it. I was able to gleen that without being told it by verbal means. This shows me that their is a level of appreciation which is obtainable and important because you experience something unobtainable otherwise.

If you enter into something without understanding and experience it, you are able to return later with understanding and have a new experience (see – INCEPTION).  However, this path cannot be traversed the other way; if you know going in, you can’t experience that Magic (see – INCEPTION again). You can never watch Fight Club, Memento, even Jaws the same way you did the first time, so I stress the importance of not missing appreciating something as wonderful, magical and worthy of our awe.

Just to point out, I do see the irony that I am discussing “Magic” both in the context of the fanciful film Amelie and on the eve of the finale of Harry Potter franchise. 🙂

Thanks for sticking around.  Please tell me what you think about how we appreciate art, film, etc.  I’d love to hear from you!

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LOST: The End and Review

And so, without further delay, We Present…

LOST: The Review

My Notes

Beautiful.
That was my feeling as the credits rolled.  I felt so content, so emotionally full and overflowing with joy.  It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

For me it is very important to note the extreme reverence I hold for series finales.  It is the end of something which is always incredible.  This is just like when you work in a play or musical or movie – you develop a close bond to the team involved.  You become a family.  In this manner, when a group of people I have come to know and love say goodbye, it is emotionally heart-wrenching. Thus, when I finish a show, I try to devote myself to that experience, without distraction. With Reverence.

Back to my review – It worked. Very simply it provided everything I wanted.  I got my incredible heap of catharsis.  The best moment of the show was when Kim and Jin remembered 🙂  The big three questions were answered:
Who wins? Good guys
What’s up with Desmond? The Failsafe
What’s up with the alternate world? Complicated. (see below)

That last one is a bit tough. For me, the first viewing is the full-catharsis experience. When I was watching the end of “The End”, I was satisfied with the mysterious, life and death thing.  It worked for me on the emotional level. However the more I stop to think about it, the more I realize that it doesn’t make much sense. Two thoughts:

1.  Three words – Stained glass window.  As a piece of advice, if you ever go to a church and in that church you find a traditionally patterned and styled stained glass window that depicts all religions on the same plane like they don’t matter, please BURN IT DOWN.  Don’t think. Do it.  That was total bullbleep, both on the philosophical and the writing level.  Besides the obvious logical fallacy of putting such an object into a place of worship of ONE of those religions, the fallacy of implying that all religions can coexist in Truth though two of them claim that all the other ones are false, the REAL PROBLEM is the horrible laziness of the writers.
While it is obvious what they were going for, there are both better and more subtle ways to show what they are drawing from. For example, have a Quran, a small buddha, and/or a Shiva statue on the desk.  Much better and much less theologically wrong than making some god-aweful (pun intended) stained glass spectacle.  That was stupid.

2.  On the other hand, I really did like the idea that what matters in this life is the people we meet – the idea that the most important time in our lives is the time we spend with total strangers.  It seems radical to think that the destination of Oceanic 815 didn’t matter but the relationships of the people on board.  I am still unpacking exactly what that means but i recognize that something really profound was said here.

Ultimately I loved it.  I felt so happy with the way it went down and was totally content with it’s resolution, even if I do not fully understand it.  My plan right now is to wait a bit, oh say a month or so, and then watch it again sans the emotional need for closure. I will then post another review based more on the philosophical standpoint of the Finale.

I hope you have enjoyed my journey to the end of LOST as much as I have.  I know this show changed my perception of the possibilities of Television.  Thank you for sticking with me through out and I look forward to sharing more with you in the future.  And I’ll leave you with this (spoiler warning):

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LOST thoughts

I am on the eve of the end of Lost.  It has been a three year, slow catch-up process with long delays and rollercoaster love for the show.  The long and tedious journey to finally get off the island is nearly over and I want to capture this moment, so that later versions of me can relive this thought.  So here are my thoughts:

  • I must first say that my desire and love for the show has waxed and waned over the years.  To me the best episode of the entire series thus far was the pilot.  It is the only episode at which I was stunned and awed by the mystery of the island and the characters.
  • The main issue I have with the show right now is that they keep running the same gambit hoping to keep the mystery going.  It is like putting duct-tape on a man’s leg and ripping it off – while this hurts like hell the first time and is really exciting, when you put the tape back on and try to pull more, it doesn’t do much.  They did this for 5 seasons…right.
  • Season 1 was fantastic – I was very engaged and loved getting to know the characters, setting and style of the show.
  • Season 2 to me was where the writers sat down and figured out what the heck was going on.  The quote sticks out to me that they “knew where the show was going, just not how we are going to get there.”  The characters were developed which helps but nothing really happens
  • Season 3-5:  what the poop?  The show goes from an interesting character interaction story to some crazy deep mystery, plot-driven and entirely dependent on me not knowing and wanting to figure out the mystery of what the mystery is. [insert demeaning comparison to The Game]
  • Season 6 part 1 – This was crap. It fell right into the 3-5 pitfalls and was really hard to stay interested.  Nothing happens.
  • Season 6 part 2 – Starting at Episode 9: Ab Aeterno, the show actually got really good.  The writers finally realized the way to excite me is not to keep ripping off non-existent leg hair, but to start to put healing ointment on it.
  • Starting with Richard’s back-story, we, the audience, finally are thrown a bone and get something explained to us!  The island begins to take shape.
  • FINALLY Jack finds a purpose!  I wish they had started the “he has to figure out why he is here” arch for Jack in season 3:  slowly hint at it for a while and then make it huge toward the end.
  • Making Desmond big again works well because finally we have a character who knows what is going on, knows what he is doing and actively pursues it.
  • The backstory of Jacob and “Smokey” was great with two exceptions:
  • They left it a little too vague and the fountain of youth thing? Really!?
  • First Flashback of the show…3 episodes to the end.  I, we, the Audience has wanted this for too long! Why didn’t you start this, like, 3 SEASONS AGO!!!
  • Going into the final episodes, I like the set up of clear objectives on both sides.  The pacing of the succession of Jacob was handled very well and I thought it was fine that they didn’t dally on something we knew already – Jack is taking over the job.  The idea that he has to kill (or subdue) “Smokey” is very clear
  • Locke’s side is much easier to see as Episode 16 ends with him blatantly stating it: “I am going to blow up the island.” Simple enough
  • I like the alternate world thingy because I think it could resolve the end really well.  It could be super cheesy but I think it could really work.

Ultimately I am very excited about “THE END” and I think it could be really cool. It has potential – for better or worse.  I hope it will be awesome, I expect it to be epic, and know I will have been changed by this insanity which is LOST. So my fellows, I’ll see you on the other side of the Island.