Crimes of Grindelwald: Leta Ballroom and The Mystery of the Missing Baby

As mentioned yesterday in Crimes of Grindelwald: Deleted scenes 2,’ the DVD extras for Crimes of Grindelwald include the Ballroom scene we saw shots from in the film trailers. Leta is told by a murmuring wizard, seemingly in confidence and with admiration, “Congratulations, Leta, your brother lives. We all believe it.” You can watch the fifty second clip on YouTube now:

The Hypable.com list of all the deleted scenes reports that the clip in the DVD Extras begins with the man repeating to Leta the words of the Prophecy, “Return great avenger, with wings from the water.”

How would including this scene have changed our experience of the flashbacks to Hogwarts and Leta’s Defense Against the Dark Arts encounter with the Boggart? With the payoff at the Paris cemetery when she explains about her brother’s seeming demise and we learn at last what the descending-in-water-blanket means to her? What do they tell us about the film as written and the film we see?

In the film as released, the DADA classroom scene is offered as a flashback at the dead center of the movie (scene 69, for you Taoist numerologists). We see Newt’s Boggart transform into Ministry of Magic furniture because what he fears most is a day job indoors behind a desk. Significantly, especially in light of the Lana Whited theory about Grindelwald being a dragon-beast-within and Dumbledore needing a dragon trainer, Newt’s Riddikulus spell transforms the furniture “into a gamboling wooden dragon” (published screenplay, p 152).

Leta’s confrontation with the Boggart and her greatest fear appears immediately after Newt’s. She is something of a bully and bad girl as a student so the Gryffindor students murmur to each other, “I’ve been looking forward to this.” A peek inside the heart of darkness? A weapon to use against the seemingly fearless Slytherin intimidator of others?

In the film these classmates must be disappointed because all they get to see is the floating blanket that the dancer in the ballroom scene recreates as a pointer to Leta’s family history and the “great avenger” returning from the water as prophecied.

In the published screenplay, though, there is no mention of the blanket. [Read more…]

Crimes of Grindelwald: Deleted Scenes 2

A week after Crimes of Grindelwald was released last year, Kelly Loomis created a list of the deleted scenes from the movie, scenes that were mentioned by actors, scenes we saw in the trailers, and even events mentioned in the so-called Original Screenplay (which is really a transcript of the film’s final cut). That Deleted Scenes post — Kelly’s list and my commentary — has been the point of reference for all discussion in fandom since late November.

Yesterday the ‘DVD extra’ with fourteen extra minutes of film was released for those who buy it online via streaming (the DVD proper won’t be available until next month). Andrew Sims at Hypable.com has very kindly provided a list of the scenes that are in the extended-version that were not in the first release and transcripts of much of the deleted dialogue: ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald’ deleted scenes: 14 additional minutes revealed. How do the fourteen minutes of the extended version match up with Kelly’s list — and “So what?” Here are my first three thoughts to start this conversation.

(1) Kelly’s List Holds Up: There are some revelations in the released fourteen minutes that are not in the 23 November HogwartsProfessor post but there are more scenes on Kelly’s list that are not shared in the fourteen minutes; this “extended version” is still not the film that was shot from the agreed to screenplay by Rowling, i.e., the shooting script. We do get the ballroom scene, for example, which helps with Leta’s story but we don’t get the Leta-Theseus conversation at Hogwarts or the Newt-Theseus-Pickett bar scene in which Leta’s relationship with the brothers is filled out. There’s a lot more story out there that Yates and Company are holding on to.

(2) Ring De-Composition: Film makers do not get at least two critical points of Rowling’s artistry, namely, literary alchemy and ring composition, her complementary traditional points of structure and style. The deleted scenes we see in the released extended version bring out Yates’ break-up of Rowling’s Crimes ring in bold fashion; the Rowling screenplay begins it seems with ‘Credence Reborn’ which is the opening part of latch that was supposed to close in the otherwise bizarro finish of Credence learning he is a Dumbledore. That scene is also set-up with a conversation between Newt and Dumbledore about Grindelwald’s vision. What would have been a satisfying “reverse echo” and pay-off moment became an out-of-nowhere twist that left audiences saying, “Huh? Really? No way.” The same is true with the Leta Lestrange scenes, especially the Ballroom, in which we see how well known the story of her missing brother and the Prophecy are.

The disaster that was Crimes of Grindelwald was the break between the director’s idea of how a story must be told and the screenwriter’s — and the screenwriter on this project has a much better idea, frankly, as we see in these cuts. If the story had been told as written, there would have been fewer showings per day in the theaters (adding the necessary half hour will do that…) but the much more satisfied customers would have come back for repeated viewings rather than rushing home to complain online about what a confusing mess Crimes was.

(3) So What? I wrote on the first Deleted Scenes post here at HogwartsProfessor that three storylines were essentially eviscerated in the final cut that made the film feel disconnected and arbitrary. Leta Lestrange got the worst treatment and Nagini-Credence and Queenie didn’t fare much better. What could have been a satisfying while still mysterious and challenging installment in the five film series became a disjointed set of pay-offs without set-ups and big reveals without the necessary hints and back story. That evaluation was confirmed by the fourteen minutes released today of the much longer original screenplay, especially with respect to Leta and Credence.

What Kelly’s list did not include was the Newt-Dumbledore scene in which the Headmaster reveals film one was all about Grindelwald’s vision “many years ago:”

Newt: So why did you send me to New York?

Dumbledore: Because I knew Grindelwald would try to catch Credence. He had a vision, you see, many years ago, in which an Obscurial killed the man he fears above all others.

Newt: You.

Dumbledore: I thought you might deprive Grindelwald of his weapon, not by killing Credence but by saving him.

This scene I think was an attempt by Rowling to save the story from one of the cuts made in the first film. The actor who played GrindelGraves said in an interview that the filmed scene in which he played Grindelwald having a vision in a MACUSA office had been cut (see discussion here). And Yaters cut out her second attempt to get the foundational Grindelwald vision in! Forgive me for thinking that there is a lot more conflict and disagreement behind the congenial teamplayers story we’re being given in the media moments; they are effectively gutiing the woman’s story… Without that Grindelwald’s vision of an Obscurial back story, why Credence is the focus of Grindelwald’s efforts makes little sense. “Oh, well!”

Less obvious, none of the new footage includes Queenie Goldstein, the heroine who seems to defect to the bad guy’s side in Crimes of Grindelwald, but she is in three scenes on Kelly’s list: her walking about the French Ministry, her first meeting with Grindelwald, and her and her new master at Durmstrang Castle. Why don’t we get any of the Queenie cut scenes in the newly released footage? My best guess is that this omission is intentional and meant to keep out of sight that Queenie is the real servant of Dumbledore (or of the American Charms professor at Ilvermorny) contra Grindelwald. The lessa said about her, consequently, the more satisfying that reveal will be in the next film or subsequent movies.

Those are my first thoughts; what are yours? Click on the ‘Leave a Comment’ link up by the post headline to join the conversation!

The ‘Beasts Within’ of Fantastic Beasts: ‘Here Be Dragons (and Phoenixes)’

Happy St Valentine’s Day, ye serious readers! I do not have flowers, chocolates, or even a card with cloying sentiment to mark the day but I offer instead something I suspect you will enjoy much more, namely, a work of scholarship and insight about J. K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts film franchise that will challenge and stretch your understanding of what The Presence is up to in her five part movie series. Lana Whited, editor of Harry Potter and the Ivory Tower, a landmark work in the history of Potter Punditry, as well as Critical Insights: The Harry Potter Series, has written an essay that has been posted in two parts at MuggleNet which explores both the traditional symbols of dragons and phoenixes in myth and folklore as well as how Rowling is using them in Fantastic Beasts on the screen.

It would be hard to overstate the importance of these pieces. I was privileged to read them as drafts and begged Professor Whited to publish them at as large a fandom platform as possible; as I told her then, I think she has solved the mystery of the frequency with which Rowling, Yates, and Heyman have mentioned that the more important beasts in Fantastic Beasts are the “beasts within.” I am confident that her discussion and explanation of how Grindelwald is a dragon and Dumbledore a phoenix, natures “closer than brothers” but in diametric opposition, will be referenced in discussion of the films from this point forward, agree or disagree.

Professor Whited spoke last month with Katy McDaniel, me, Megan Kelly of ‘Speak Beasty, and Elizabeth Baird-Hardy at MuggleNet’s Reading, Writing, Rowling podcast about this theory, a discussion that you’ll enjoy when it is posted, I’m sure, but only after your having already read ‘Here Be Dragons (and Phoenixes), Part 1 and Part 2.’ From Beowulf to literary alchemy to Chinese folklore and western mythology, this is comprehensive, wonderful work I know you’ll enjoy — and a delightful way to spend a spare moment this Valentine’s Day. Enjoy!

J. K. Rowling, Author-Astrologer, Pt 1: How Did We Not Know About This?

J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter novels and Cormoran Strike mysteries and screenwriter for the Fantastic Beasts film franchise, at the time she was writing Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was, in all her free time, casting astrological charts, interpreting them in involved, long, single-spaced typed efforts, and illustrating covers in creative water colors for the package. We know of three of these charts, have seen the covers for two, and one of them is available for close reading online at The RowlingLibrary. If you have a spare $75,000, you can purchase the two available via Paul Fraser Collectibles online here and here.

I will be discussing how this discovery re-fashions our understanding of Rowling as a writer, especially with respect to the alchemical qualities of her Hogwarts Saga and post-Potter efforts, in the next two parts of this three part series. In this piece, I will focus on the natural question to ask when something so outlandish appears without explanation, namely, ‘Why has it taken so long for these astrological charts and interpretations by the world’s best selling author to surface?’ Three thoughts come immediately to mind.

(1) Laziness and Incompetence: As I mentioned in my post about Rowling’s uses of Professor Trelawney as an embedded author figure, it’s not as if Rowling’s interest in astrology was unknown. First, there was Rowling’s admission in 2007 that she “did a lot of research into astrology for [Trelawney]. I found it all highly amusing, but I don’t believe in it.” We knew, though, that she was entertaining friends with these astrological skills in 1994, too. Not enough to inspire research? Her 2012 profile in The New Yorker, Mugglemarch,’ tells us that “Rowling did write a long, illustrated astrological birth chart for the newborn son of a friend.” Bingo. There it is, the very charts available at TheRowlingLibrary. If we had looked, we’d have found them years ago.

(2) Editorial ‘Hiding in Plain Sight’ I found the article with astrological chart and interpretation at TheRowlingLibrary a year ago this week while perusing the site which was new to me. I had been corresponding with an editor there, Patricio Tarantino, and he had published some things I had written in this online journal. Surfing the articles listed, I clicked on one with the curious headline, ‘Exclusive: J.K. Rowling’s text from 1994 (Pre Potter-era).’ And there it was — posted in April, 2015, a story about the horoscopes cast and interpreted by Rowling in 1994 and which became public knowledge in 2010 when they appeared on the ‘Antiques Roadshow’ teevee series in the UK. One reason we missed this information beyond the absence of a determined search to find it after the mention in The New Yorker piece is that the story appeared in a non-major (at least in 2015) Potter fan site, a story that was not picked up by the two heavyweights, MuggleNet and Leaky Cauldron, and the headline the non-native speakers of English gave the piece says nothing about astrology or horoscopes.

(3) Wikipedia’s Decision to Kill the Story As mentioned, the astrological charts and interpretation became news in 2010 after the owner brought them to the collectibles experts on ‘Antique Roadshow’ for an appraisal. Why didn’t this merit a mention on J. K. Rowling’s wikipedia page? Because the know-better editors there decided that just because the author cast a few horoscopes and interpreted them doesn’t amount to a serious argument that she knew a lot about astrology. The writing includes humor, for instance; to the wiki-gatekeepers that had to mean it was a joke. An editor named Terry argues in vain for including some mention of this on Rowling’s page with two self-important know-nothings. Special marks here to ‘Serendipodous’ who offers as his clinching proof that the astrology story can be squashed because he was in a play once but is not an actor; Rowling’s one known set of astrological charts therefore do not ipso facto make her an astrologer…

Here is the whole exchange from the Wikipedia archives, ‘Rowlings (sic) An Astrologer?‘:

[Read more…]

What is Rowling Doing? Post Twitter, She is Starting a New Political Party

Today is the one month mark since J. K. Rowling has tweeted or re-tweeted from her bully pulpit of a Twitter platform, a venue offering her access to the minds of 14.6 million followers, by far the largest of any author or screenwriter. So what has she been up to?

The best guesses we have heard or thought of ourselves in the HogwartsProfessor faculty lounge are that she is vacationing after the tumultuous 2018, that she is hard at work re-writing Fantastic Beasts 3 in light of Crimes of Grindelwald’s disappointing box office and film reviews, that she is taking a break from politics because she has realized the vanity and absurdity of yelling into the gale of principle-free opinions with her own bon mots, and, by far the wish fulfillment option, that she is working day and night on finishing the fifth Cormoran Strike novel.

Yesterday morning The National, a newspaper in Scotland, reported that Rowling is part of a push to start a third political party in the UK, a left of center alternative to the anti-Semitism of Labour and the Brexit convictions of the Conservative party. A meeting was held in London at the offices of Neil Blair, Rowling’s right hand in all things legal and Machiavellian, and the crowd gathered was said to be enthusiastic (surprise!) about the idea of The Presence being the celebrity face of this as-yet-unnamed political faction. Jonathan Powell, an advisor to Tony Blair the former Prime Minister, supposedly was in attendance at this exploratory meeting to offer his guidance.

See other story write-ups at The Daily MailRT.com, and The Daily Express, two of which say Rowling was there, one citing the story that does not say she was present as its source; caveat lector. Rowling still has a degree of deniability but Neil Blair, despite having almost seventy clients in The Blair Partnership in addition to Rowling and Galbraith, is famous only because of his work for The Presence and holding the meeting at his offices inevitably involved her name and the media ‘hook.’ 

A Potter Pundit who will not be named assures me that ‘Dumbledore’s Army’ is a natural tag for this new party. My best guess for a name would be ‘Order of the Phoenix’ to avoid the Children’s Crusade jokes — and can’t you see Rowling in a Carolina (Brussells?) Blue cap with the words ‘Make Britain France Again’ emblazoned on it? Go, Jo, go!

Jo-king aside, I hope the several Blairs and party planners go with the name ‘Fabian Socialists,’ because, as Travis Prinzi and other Potter Pundits have pointed out through the years, this has been the Dumbledore-esque political theme of Rowling’s writings from the start, i.e., slow-but-steady growth of government control of every aspect of human life “for the greater good.” Gradualism, not revolution, is the road to societal utopia…

So what do you think? If a reality show host can be President, why or why not the best selling author of the age as Prime Minister or at least Minister for Culture? Let me know what you think of the Phoenix Party in the comment boxes below.