Monday, November 29, 2010

I'm Not Wild About Harry (Ostensibly about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I)

There, I've said it. I recently viewed the new Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows movie, and though it might put me in a class reserved for George Bush "evil doers" and supporters of Obama's health care reform, for lack of a jazzier way of saying it, the film is simply not my cup of tea. (I wish more film critics would excuse themselves from harsh judgement of films that simply do not appeal to them because of theme, content or genre). I have an uneasy fear that the wrong person will catch wind of this heresy and I'll somehow end up on some sort of Megan's Law inspired Potter offender list. My address will show up in the registry and a little smudge darker than the villainous Voldemort's black heart will mark the spot on a Google street map where "the one who should remain voiceless" is located. I have no fear of death eaters, it's the fanatical Potterphiles lurking in every nook and cranny I'm concerned with. When it comes to my general disinterest in all things Potter a DADT policy has served me well.  

Incidentally, I'm completely unqualified to give a critical opinion of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" or any of the previous films in the series. I've not seen them all (I have seen parts I, III, VI and now VII) and while I've found some of the films more entertaining than others, the overriding reaction is  "that's it?"  There is nothing wrong with the Potter films. They are visually spectacular and for the most part well acted (Rickman, Smith and Fiennes oh my). The underlying themes of prejudice, inclusion and otherness resonate,  but the Potter films  require an investment of time and a foundation in the mythology and universe of the characters that I've not made.  I've not read the books and won't be reading them any time soon. It's not snobbery, in fact it might be simple laziness.

I have somehow fallen away from these fantasy worlds that used to fuel my childhood. When I was 7 years old my favorite film was "Jack The Giant Killer" and I imagined myself as heroic and brave as Jack or as towering and fearful as the giant. At twelve "Close Encounters of The Third Kind" blew my mind and became number one in my heart and imagination.  In my dreams I scaled Devils Tower countless times and spent other nights sleeplessly anticipating my alien abduction.   But by the time I was fifteen, my favorite film was "Ordinary People".  Somewhere a shift had occurred;  The realization of a world that included joy and tragedy - sometimes in unequal doses - had at some point tipped, and the harsher facts of life were now reflected in the films I was drawn to. The earlier fantastical films transported me. My new affinity with films  grounded in grim authenticity reflected a sense of shared perception.
The "We are not alone" tagline of Close Encounters had become "I am not alone". And there was a comfort and power knowing that others were feeling what I was feeling, perceiving in a way that I understood and related to. My film tastes became less about escape and more about escape route. These more realistically rooted films conveyed a way to navigate the world without space ships, spells and monsters. 


I sometimes wonder if I've lost a sense of wonder and replaced it with adult cynicism.

I see HP&TDH with a friend who is wanting to cheer me up and who is also very excited to see the latest installment. Cheering me up, because my Special Olympics pug/sidekick Finney has passed away and I am ruminating reliving... too much coulda shoulda woulda.  Other than the first Potter film which I saw of my own volition,  parts III, VI and now VII have been at the bequest of others. But, it's a good opportunity to spend time with a friend or loved one, and there's a faint lingering hope that this time I'll get it, this time it'll click.  I'll finally get it and be transported. Ah, well.

Sometimes  films are more than the films themselves, they are the people you see them with, they are the conversations you have afterward, and they are the subsequent late night supper that washes away the bad taste of a film that disappoints by failing to meet or even approach an expectation.  And that is what HP&TDH is for me. It's a friend who wants to cheer me up as I mourn my dog's death.  We talk about our affection for animals, the ones we have loved and lost over a great meal at Lowry's (they have a fast food place in the Century City mall and my 8 ounce end cut was surprisingly tasty. In fact Lowry's seems more suited to a mall, without the kitch of the Beverly Hills locale). This is followed by the real main course: The movie.

What I can say is this: The film looks great in Imax. The sound is terrific. You get extra free parking with a movie validation. Harry Potter takes his clothes off a lot in this film. I guess he's just at that age. A certain character dies and his big soulful eyes remind me of my departed Finney. This makes me a bit weepy. 
My movie amigo is a doctor. Oftentimes he has to leave before the end of a film due to some medical emergency or another. His pager goes off twice tonight. He moves to an empty aisle seat so he can easily get up without disrupting others. This evening he gets to see Potter through to the end credits.

We meet up in the lobby afterward. The satisfied grin on his face tells the story. He rubs his hands together with a maniacal Potterphile delight.  He loved it. His favorite character is Beatrix Lestrange, he identifies with her ways.  I spit out that Lestrange is an evil bitch and hope she dies in the last film. We say our goodbyes and part ways.  I drive home feeling a bit better. I have been cheered a bit. The magic of movies is sometimes not the movies themselves, sometimes they are merely a catalyst.
I haven't given up entirely on films of the Potter ilk. I recently read that Bryan Singer is remaking "Jack The Giant Killer". The original film is not as I remember from childhood. It is in fact terribly acted and the filmmaking is barely a tier above an Ed Wood production. But I have a seed of anticipation in regards to the new adaptation. Maybe I'll feel with this one what I felt as a kid. I could be heroic. I could be a giant.

When I get home I am keenly aware of Finney's absence. There is a divot in the quilt where he had been sleeping.  A Deathly Hollow.  I am missing his coughing spells and sneezes that had only last week been an irritant .  I am missing his stinky breath and the tap tap tap of his toe toe toenails on the hardwood floors. I miss the way he would sit in front of the fridge with blind (both literal and figurative) expectation that food would magically drop from the sky whether I opened the door or not. I would ask him if he was expecting pennies from heaven. Pennies no. Morsels yes. His last meal was leftover turkey from Thanksgiving. And despite everything else, he wolfed it down with childlike exuberance. Finney never lost his youthful enthusiasm for food. Finney believed in the magic of morsels. He was transported by them.  And I am painfully aware that frequently reality is simply crushing.

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