Some thoughts on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part two.

I went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two on Sunday evening. I came out feeling … underwhelmed.

I almost said “disappointed,” but I wasn’t, exactly. Just underwhelmed.

I would like to say that this underwhelm-ment has nothing to do with the fact that the movie was different than the book — and I think I mostly can say that, because the myriad changes to Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince, and Deathly Hallows, Part One didn’t bother me that much. Films are different than books: each can do things the other can’t, and there isn’t much (or maybe any) real overlap.

And yet: it’s hard not to compare the two, especially because the final battle as Rowling wrote it is so cinematic. It’s full of exposition, but not in a boring, didactic way: it’s exciting exposition. But in the movie, there’s not anyone there to exposit to as Harry and Voldemort square off for the last time. That bothered me, a bit; it felt anti-climactic. Also, Voldemort’s death made no sense in the movie: he loses the wand, and then disintegrates? No. Bullshit. He’s not Sauron; he didn’t forge carve the Elder Wand; his power is not bound up with it. Even if we assume that, in the movie, Voldemort has cast a Killing Curse and Harry has cast Expelliarmus — as happens in the book — what happens in the movie is not a rebounding of Voldemort’s Killing Curse onto himself. I’m not sure if that made sense, but it certainly doesn’t make sense in the movie.

That’s a relatively minor quibble, but it’s also a moment in which the movie misses a chance to be really spectacular, and settles instead for … mediocrity is the wrong word; smallness? Yes, that’s closer: this final film feels like the first few — and they’re fine, in their own way, but they have a certain small-screen quality to them that the “epic conclusion” ought not to have. An epic conclusion should have exactly the opposite quality: there ought to have been so much going on — so many curses and countercurses and rubble and swearing and howling flying through the air — that one would have to watch the movie twice or thrice before one felt even close to comfortable with what was going on.

There are other moments like that: Fred’s death (and Remus’s and Tonks’s, also); Molly Weasley’s duel with Bellatrix; Neville’s decapitation of Nagini; basically all of the dueling that doesn’t involve Harry or Voldemort. The break-in at Gringotts and the destruction of the Room of Requirement are, I think, the only moments that really feel big enough, and they could have been better.

I’m sure I will see this movie many, many more times — I have children, after all — and it will probably grow on me, but I think I will always prefer the novel. Unlike Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films — which are not better than the novels, but which can stand on their own — Deathly Hallows Part Two will always remind me of how good it could have been, and wasn’t.

Not that I could have done a better job, of course.


Day 182: Return to childhood.

Let me tell you what I was like as a child: I was a foul-mouthed, bad-tempered, and misanthropic crotchety old man who read too much and played with Legos. That is: exactly the same as I am now.

Done and done: time for a drink.

No, not really. Not really done, I mean — it’s always time for a drink.

One of the other things I did as a child was watch movies: I probably saw the original Star Wars trilogy several hundred times before I was ten (and I’m on the way to seeing it a hundred more times before my son is ten). The difference is that suspension of disbelief used to be par for the course for me when watching a movie. If, as a child, I ever stopped to think how absolutely ridiculous it was for a giant worm — with teeth! — to be living in an asteroid, let alone how absurd it was for there to have been enough of an atmosphere in its intestine for Han and Leia to walk around in street clothes outside the Millennium Falcon —— I say, if such things occurred to me, I ignored them and went back to enjoying the movie. I tried to return to that — that simple, unquestioning, naive engagement with a film — as today’s task.

I went to see Cars 2.

You need to understand that I love Pixar’s movies, all of them — this could be a very long digression, but I’ll just say that I can’t watch the last twenty minutes of Toy Story 3 without someone chopping up onions — also I should say that I have crush on Mrs. Incredible — and Flik’s “I know it’s a rock! I’ve spent a lot of time around rocks!” line is funnier than it should be — you know, if I only had Pixar’s filmography and the films of the Coen brothers to watch, I’d be a happy man ——— anyway, I was saying that I love all of Pixar’s movies, except Cars.

Don’t get me wrong: Cars is better than a lot of other animated films, most of which are nothing more than dog shit run through a projector, but it’s still just okay in terms of the rest of Pixar’s canon. I also cannot — absolutely can not — suspend disbelief while watching it. The reasons why are numerous, but they boil down to cars don’t have opposable thumbs, for fuck’s sake.

And since sequels are usually worse than the films that spawned them — with notable exceptions, of course — I was anticipating having trouble with this task, especially since I’d been informed that Cars 2 was running 34% at Rotten Tomatoes.

I was pleasantly surprised. No, scratch that: I loved it. It’s visually stunning, which we expect — the fly-over shots of London were breathtakingly realistic, though — and Michael Caine was phenomenal, but what sold me was the fact that it’s a spoof of spy movies (just like Burn After Reading, another movie that I love but nobody else does). I’m sure it won’t hold up to repeated viewings, but it might surprise me, and it’ll definitely always be better than the first one — but I had fun, at a movie, which hasn’t happened since…

…well, since last November — since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I.

No, wait, I saw Super 8 last week, and it was fantastic. Fun, even, despite the fact that I wasn’t trying not to think about it.

I’m not sure where that leaves us. I guess movies are just more fun the first time, on a giant screen, and so loud we should all be wearing earplugs?

Probably so, yes. I guess I should go to the movies more often.

Day 98: No swearing day.

The Stranger: Just one thing, Dude. Do you have to use so many cuss words?
The Dude: What the fuck are you talking about?

Yeah. What the fuck are you talking about, Book?

If you haven’t noticed, I tend to use “bad” words with some frequency on this blog, and I use them even more in my actual speech. And today, rather than curtail my usage of them, I’m going to defy the Book’s latent Victorian prudishness and curse like an Elizabethan.

Surely you’ve noticed that most of the “bad” words have to do with the bodily-ness of our bodies? Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cock, ass, bugger, &c — they have to do with excrement or sex. The “religious” curse words — damn and hell — are comparatively mild (so mild, in fact, that my three-year-old saying “dammit” when I ask him to help me pick up his trucks is funny, rather than shocking).

I think a big part of the reason that certain words are “offensive” or taboo is precisely that those words are so connected to our bodies, and we in the West have been embarrassed by and deeply distrustful of our bodies since Plato, at least, and the Church has done a lot to exacerbate that hatred of the body.

Well, fuck that shit.

Look: we all eat, and shitting necessarily follows eating; and a fair number of us have to fuck, if we want the species to continue. Shitting and fucking are the foundations of human society – why can’t we talk about them? Because some people are so fucking uptight that they want to pretend that they don’t shit or fuck. Well, some people might not fuck – and they’re missing out – but everybody shits. Everybody.

Alright, so jellyfish and corals and whatnots defecate by vomiting, but it still counts as shitting in my book. It’s just grosser to think about, that’s all. And they can reproduce asexually, sure, so they aren’t fucking, but my guess is that asexual reproduction is less fun than the alternative. The fact remains that lots of shitting and fucking happens every day, and we shouldn’t have a problem talking about it.

There are, I admit, contexts in which the words “shit” and “fuck” and “cunt” and the rest are inappropriate – but I would also argue that those contexts are far less numerous than most people want to think. Honestly, I find “like” and “y’know” much more offensive; if the undergrads I’m surrounded with on a daily basis replaced all their “likes” with “fuckin’s” I’d be a happy man.

Thus ends my rant, but I’d be remiss not to point out a few things in passing. Geoffrey Chaucer – the father of English letters – used the word “cunt” in the Canterbury Tales, back when it was spelled more like “quaint” – so, whenever you use the word “quaint,” think about cunts. Also, he wasn’t the first to use it in print, though he was close: there were “Gropecunt Lanes” in England as far back as 1230.

Lastly: your mother is a blast-ended skank:

Day 68: Choose one hair on your body…

“…that you will let grow 1 yard long.” According to the Book, this should only take about 8 years.

I don’t know how this is supposed to work. I mean, I can tell you all that I’ve chosen a hair, and call it done – but that seems unsatisfying, somehow.

The issue, I think, is in the choosing of the hair: I have plenty of hairs on my body – even on the knuckles of my toes, like a hobbit – and most of them never get cut, and none of the ones that never get cut are a yard long, and they never will be.

The only hairs that have a chance are those growing from my scalp – maybe those growing in my beard, but I don’t think any of them would make it to a yard. I’m no Dumbledore.

So, really, the only way I’m going to get a yard-long hair is to let one of my scalp hairs go to … town? To seed? Out to pasture? Go nuts? Go wild?

Well, whatever —— to let one of my scalp hairs grow for the next seven or eight years without cutting it. But the only way I’d let one hair get away with that is to let all the hairs on my scalp get away with it. I don’t want to have just one long hair, because that would look stupid.

And I’m not going to let all my hair get long, either – when it gets long enough that I can’t just roll out of bed, run my fingers through it, and call it done, my hair is too long. I like my hair short not (only) because I like how it looks, but because it’s lower maintenance, and I like low maintenance. Part of the reason I have a beard is so I don’t have to shave every day (the other part is that beards are awesome).

I’ll never be able to do this, or this, or this, or sculpt a Mona Lisa out of my single hair – and I don’t really care. I also never have to use a brush, and I think that’s a pretty good trade.

Day 61: Today, find out how symmetrical you are.

Symmetry is over-rated.

Today’s exercise involved measuring various horizontal dimensions of my face, doing a lot of calculations that didn’t appear to make sense, and eventually arriving at my Individual Asymmetry Score (or GRD – not sure how that works), which would tell me where I fall between beautiful people and carnies on the scale of facial attractiveness.

Too much work, sorry. I was still tired from yesterday’s impossible pizza.

Instead of measuring, I just stared at myself in the mirror for awhile. I noticed some asymmetries – as I’ve mentioned before, my mouth slants, and my left ear sticks out a tad further than my right one, and my eyes are slightly different shapes – but these things enhance the handsomeness of my face, rather than detracting from it.

A face needs character; character comes from imperfection. Harrison Ford has to have his chin scar, Dumbledore has to have a crooked nose, this guy has to have a funny hat and a goofy smile. Faces that are “perfect” are also boring and forgettable.

At some point, though, character becomes ugliness, grotesquery – and I’d rather look like a nobody than one of da Vinci’s five heads. That makes me shallow and vain, I know; I’m okay with that. I don’t need to measure my face and do some fuzzy math. I look good (but not too good), and I have an awesome beard. What else is there that’s important?

Exactly. Nothing.

Day 51: Sense-less day.

“Go through today without using your sense of sight.”

This made a lot of things difficult.

I managed to make my morning cup of espresso without too much difficulty (I’ve had a lot of practice, after all), but I also managed to get coffee on my pants in the process – which turned out to be a good thing, since I’d dressed myself blind and looked – according to my wife – “even more ridiculous than usual.”

I ran into a lot of things. And people. I crashed my bike. I stepped on the dogs.

I read Richard II this afternoon, which involved turning the pages periodically and taking nothing in – the book wasn’t in Braille, and I can’t read Braille anyway. I thought about grading papers, but decided against it – I mean, they’re going to end up covered in red ink anyway, but it ought to at least be (somewhat) legible.

I listened to Die Hard – which I’m talking about in class tomorrow – but I could picture most of it in my mind, as I’ve seen it hundreds of times. I grew up with that movie. John McClane (back when he had hair) taught me the word “fuck,” and many of its various uses. Hans Gruber (before he was Professor Snape) taught me never to trust a German. Sergeant Al Powell taught me about Twinkies and comic relief. Good times…

Yeah. Where was I? Oh, right, things that were hard to do without being able to see: pretty much everything. I’m sure this post is riddled with typos and odd links (my wife is going to have a field day) – I’m not a very good typist, and that’s when I can see both the screen and my keyboard. Not being able to see either – well, I’m sure it’s a mess.

About the only thing I managed to do well today was take a nap.