Signum U. Symposium: Beasts and Rogue One

Last month, I was pleased to take part in a Signum U./Mythgard Institute-sponsored symposium to discuss the two hottest fantasy films of the holiday season, and their various and sundry implications: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Also taking part were friends of this site Katherine Sas and Kelly Orazi (whom you’ll remember from their brilliant essays in Harry Potter For Nerds 2), Curtis Weyant (who is one of my own, personal go-to Star Wars nerds), Brenton Dickieson, Mythgard faculty member and author of the brilliant blog A Pilgrim in Narnia, and of course our moderator, Sørina Higgins. It proved a lively, lengthy and interesting discussion, especially after our host ended the “official” program, and the remaining panelists, having too much fun to hang up, chatted on unreservedly. Please enjoy, and feel free to add your own thoughts on these two films, and our nerdy discussion of same, in the comments.

You can follow Emily Strand on Facebook and Twitter (@ekcstrand).

Oscar Nominations for Fantastic Beasts: Nothing for ‘Best Original Screenplay’?

OscarsWe have this year’s Oscar nominations for the films released in 2016. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them received two nods from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the categories of production design (Stuart Craig) and costume design (Colleen Atwood). Betting odds at the time of this posting have 17/3 for Costume Design, fourth out of five, and 11 to 1 (ouch) for production design, a category the gamblers have all but ceded to La La Land.

f38811174This is exactly in keeping with the performance of the eight Harry Potter franchise films on Oscar night. Those films, still the most lucrative franchise of all time not featuring comic book heroes (or adding the new Disney Star Wars to the Lucas Films haul), received 12 nominations in six categories and won exactly zero Oscars. The nominations never included a ‘Best’ picture, actor, actress, supporting actor or actress, screenplay adaptation, director, cinematography, editing or either sound editing or mixing. Nada.

You’d think, frankly, that the Academy was made up of cranky Potter Pundits who think the films were a disaster that so despoiled the imaginative experience of the Hogwarts Saga that they deserved only a Razzie (Special Achievement). Folks like me! But we know that is not true. So where’s the love? Can ten gazillion Potter film fans be so wrong about the Warner Brothers cash cow? Are the movies just high gloss schlock?

I’m not a movie guy so I’m out of this discussion, that is, any conversation beyond noting that the professionals in Hollywood sure don’t like the Wizarding World movies. 

FB21I bring all this up, despite knowing almost exactly nothing about film making, to note one thing about the Oscars this year, the nominations that Fantastic Beasts scratched out, and the lack of success of the Potter franchise through the years and, it seems, Beasts this year to win anything, even a nomination in a category of note. 

Fantastic Beasts, unlike all the Potter films, was eligible for an Academy Award for Best Writing, Original Screenplay.

This year they snubbed J. K. Rowling, The Presence Herself.

I can hear your objections. “Of course she wasn’t nominated for ‘Best Writing’! It was her first attempt at a screenplay. She and her fans should be thrilled she wasn’t short-listed for 2017’s Worst Writing, Golden Raspberry.”

FB66Fair enough. Having studied the screenplay that was published, however, and read too many of the interviews with screenwriter, producer, director, actors and actresses involved, I feel obliged to note that what we got on the screen wasn’t what Rowling wrote.

We knew of seven scenes that were cut before yesterday’s announcement that the DVD will include eleven deleted scenes. And these aren’t just lost overviews of Gotham in the 20’s. These are story elements as important as, say, the ending of the film, the unnecessary bit (?) in which Rowling showed Credence Barebone alive and boarding an ocean liner. Or the scene of the MACUSA auror Graves having the vision which drives him to pressure Credence for information about his family.

Miranda1Not only do those deletions from the shooting script create a different story than the one Rowling wrote, I think it is fair to say they changed the entire story experience. To the point, they obscure the artistry Rowling the story teller (and, oh yeah, best selling novelist of our time) brought to the table as screen writer, the ring writing that caused Lin-Manuel Miranda to call her “The Master of Reprise.”

FB73Would Rowling have deserved a nomination if the Davids had filmed the shooting script and left it as the film we saw in theaters? We’ll never know. What we do know is that whatever the Academy thought of as “failings” in her work are just as likely the fruit of the determination of her producer and director — who in all their collaborations, to repeat myself, have netted exactly zero Oscars — to make her Fantastic Beasts script into a movie that conforms to conventional formula. Rowling described the process of working with them in her Original Screenplay acknowledgments, along with some nicer modifiers, as both “exasperating” and “infuriating.”

Here’s hoping her next contract includes a clause about ‘final cut approval’ so there might be a chance that the next time a Beasts film is up for an Academy Award we don’t have to re-run this post.

First of Eleven Fantastic Beasts Deleted Scenes Released: DVD Due in March

Here is what we had been told about this magical moment, from Part 3: The Six Scenes You Missed in Fantastic Beasts:

  1. The Ilvermorny School Song as Performed by the Goldstein Sisters

“[And there is a cut scene] where Queenie and Tina sing the Ilvermorny song and Newt and Jacob just look at them adoringly and fall in love, in a way.” David Heyman 

The actors who play Jacob and Queenie talk about this scene in this interview available on YouTube. The actress who sings the first verse of the song on that clip also wrote it. The first verse is:

We stand as one, united

Against the Puritans!

We draw our inspiration

From Good Witch Morgan…

fb65David Yates also took advantage of Alison Sudol’s musical talents during production on Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, asking the singer-songwriter, who portrayed Queenie in the film, to “write an alma mater song” that Queenie and Tina (Katherine Waterston) perform to Jacob and Newt Scamander (Eddie Redymayne). David Yates added that during the course of the song you see “the boys slowly fall in love with them.”

David Heyman also noted that this moment came at a rather inopportune time, too, because it took place when Newt, Queenie, Tina and Jacob all go down into the briefcase. “At that point in the story, there’s a lot of stuff going on outside,” he explained, so it felt a little peculiar that all four of them had sat down to sing a song.

Going back to your music, I believe there’s a scene where you sing the Ilvermorny song. Can you still remember?
Alison Sudol:
 Uh… yeah! It’s a duet, actually, that I do with my sister. But there’s this little part where it was really fun, where it goes: “Why don’t we choo-choo there, Massa-chooo-setts? We choo-choo there! We choo-choo there!”Hear her sing the song here

That was my favorite part; Katherine and I both liked that.

fb55David Yates mentioned there was a deleted scene where the girls wrote a school song.
Dan:
 Yeah, so Alison, obviously, is a fantastic musician. They asked her to write the Ilvermorny school song. So there was a moment when they’re down in the suitcase – in the zoo – and we’re like at a little meeting of the minds. In that little respite, they sing the song because they’re trying to argue what’s better – Hogwarts or Ilvermorny.

And that’s where the improve of, “I want to be a wizard,” came from. So we’re sitting there. They sing the song. Me and Eddie are sitting there clapping. And Dan Fogler – it was me [saying], “I want to be a wizard!” That’s the one from the trailer. It didn’t make it in the movie.

So what that it was cut? Well…

fb44(3) The Ilvermorny school song is the parallel scene to the first meeting of the Fantastic Foursome in Tina and Queenie’s flat, a second dinner scene. That set-up and it’s turn at film’s center in their successful adventures in and escape from MACUSA headquarters are both wasted. Yes, we are committed to learning more about these two couples without the scene. But why disregard Rowling’s ring artistry?

Unlocking Fantastic Beasts: Finding the Text Round Up

Part 5A: So What? The Found Text and Its Meaning

Fantastic Beasts’ Seventh Deleted Scene Grindelgraves’ Vision in MACUSA Office


IR Interview: The Cast & Producer Of "Fantastic… by theinsidereel

Kelly Loomis has discovered a seventh deleted scene in Fantastic Beasts, one we learn about in an interview Colin Farrel, the actor who plays Percival Graves in the movie, did with ‘Inside Reel.’ He says:

[Graves] is probably a lot more tired from the burden of responsibility that he lives with and under than the film was allowed the opportunity to explore.

There was one scene that didn’t make the film that we shot where he was actually having a vision and he was cramped down in the corner of his office with his shirt off, just a vest on, sweating, and seeing something. And there was a vision.

It didn’t make the cut and I get why it did (sic), because it wasn’t about that, it was too distracting I think. But he is somebody who has physically and emotionally taxed himself for the good of wizardkind. He is somebody who has such a personally defined ideology on what he thinks is right and wrong with society. And these people are either great liberators or — and sometimes as well as great liberators — incredibly dangerous

Add this to the Six Deleted Scenes we have discussed already in ‘Unlocking Fantastic Beasts: Finding the Text,’ Part 3. They scene, according to Farrel, so we know it was in the “book” shooting script that was Rowling’s final after responding to at least three series of notes and revisions with Yates, Kloves, and Heyman.

Anyone want to guess where this scene appeared in the sequence of the story? Earlier than later, right? I am writing the “corrected found text” as Part 5B of Unlocking series. And what does what Farrel says about this scene tell us we didn’t know about Grindelgraves? Rowling confirmed by Tweet that Grindelwald was a seer “and a liar” and we’re left to wonder if she answered this question because of some disappointment that the film wasn’t released as written and shot. Stay tuned — or take your best guess in the comment boxes below!

Great find, Kelly Loomis! Thank you for searching and for sharing.

Finding the Fantastic Beasts Text, 5.3 — Jacob Kowalski: Is He Bigger than Newt?

fb435.3: Jacob Kowalski and the Missing Mildred Moment

Two of the six scenes that were cut out of the shooting script written by Rowling discussed in part three of this series (links to all the posts in the series are listed at the bottom of each post), turn on Jacob Kowalski, three if you include the Ilvermorny School Song segment in which his ad lib response is an important part. The No-Maj in the movie took a serious beat-down in the cutting room; we get a lot less Jacob in the film we saw in the theaters than Rowling had her in her final script.

mildredThe first and most important missing piece is his return to his tenement building after being turned down for a loan at the bank. His fiancee, Mildred, meets him there, hears his news, brushes off his story about meeting a wizard (I’ll guess that she thinks he’s drunk?), and returns his engagement ring. Yates and Heyman both say it’s a great scene, that it will be one of the DVD extras, but that it wasn’t necessary. They tell us it was cut because the audience doesn’t need any more reason to love Jacob.

The second scene that is cut was Jacob’s romp with Dougal the Demiguise in the Department store which Dan Fogler described as his re-make of the first Indiana Jones movie’s sequence where Indy is dragged around by a German troop carrier (it happens to be Fowler’s favorite film).

fb18I explained at some length the folly of cutting out the Mildred moment in part three. It neglects a core piece of Rowling’s artistry, what Lin Manuel Miranda calls her “mastery of the reprise” and we call parallelism or “ring scaffolding,” and all but erases the powerful echo reaching across the story from Mildred’s goodbye to Jacob at the start to Queenie’s hello at the finish. The story turn scene of Jacob alone in the MACUSA jail cell is the dead center moment of the film and highlights his transformation, beginning to end, like Dobby’s in Chamber of Secrets, as the point of the story.

Here I only want to add a neglected but more obvious pair of points. After the jump! [Read more…]