Ezra Miller: Life Imitating Art?

Ezra Miller is an interesting character — and I use that ch-word deliberately. His life seems a studied piece of improvisation, a staged and predictable performance in conventional, perpetual non-conformity. His sexual polyamorism and adventurism, his strident identification with and defense of anyone and everyone oppressed (except Christians, of course; “Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world and it’s accelerating,” USCIRF Report, 2019), and his attention-demanding choice of clothing make him something of a historical glyph or cartoon capturing the Zeitgeist. I rather like watching the ‘Ezra Miller Show’ as it plays out, even if the series currently seems caught in a loop of re-run spontaneity; I enjoy his having been cast as the loner Credence Barebone, lost and confused about who he is and the meaning of his life as much as anyone. He plays the part really well.

Lately, though, I have been worried about Boy Wonder Ezra. He may have over-played the ‘bad boy’ hand, the guy who knows-better than the experts, with Warner Brothers, the movie studio responsible for the DC super-hero movies (as well as, y’know, the Wizarding World).

On 17 March, it was reported that Miller was disappointed with the script for The Flash film in which he plays the lead role. DC wanted a relatively light and engaging film like its recent successes with Wonder Woman and Aquaman; Miller thought they needed a more profound and challenging story — and said he would be writing the script?  [Read more…]

Whom Should We Blame for ‘Crimes’?

Another missive in my email inbox:

Mr. Granger,

I know you do not particularly care for the HP movies and frankly I don’t like most of them as adaptations myself. Just a thought, maybe fans have been going about this all wrong when placing blame at the feet of Yates. I was guilty of this also in the past. I now believe the fault lies with Heyman and WB. They are the true “bosses” of the entire film production. They are the “money men” as it were. 

As soft spoken, thoughtful and humble as Heyman seems when interviewed, he is ultimately who approves of the dailies. As much as he professes to adore Rowling’s stories, it is he who allows Yates the freedom to audible out of canon and change the plot (dumb it down) such as he did in HBP with the “setting the burrow on fire” scene. 

It is such a shame, as someone whose company specializes in adapting books to film, that Heyman doesn’t have the guts to let the canon stand on its own. It is such a shame he doesn’t feel audiences are intelligent enough to follow the canon in a film version. Maybe he should finally have the wherewithall to follow Rowling’s FB scripts instead of fiddling with them. 

Best,

Matthew

Three quick thoughts on this, Matthew:

(1) You’re right that, of the two Davids, director David Yates and producer David Heyman, I tend to focus on the director as the bad guy who films the agreed on ‘shooting script’ and then cuts it into the prescribed formula of the studio. This is a mistaken application of Auteur Theory, the convention of laying praise and blame for a film on the director rather than anyone else; this theory is only truly applicable if the director is acting relatively independently. You’re right to note that Yates’ hands are tied and guided by the studio bean counters so, as much as there is blame for the final product of Crimes of Grindelwald, it falls as much on the other David, producer Heyman, as on director Yates.

(2) It’s probably best to think of the two Davids as the right and left hands of Warner Brothers, though, rather than assigning more responsibility to Heyman than to Yates. Each of them is a studio mechanic rather than free-wheeling artist; both answer to the studio chiefs who answer to stock holders looking for the greatest possible return on investment. The money required to put together and to market these extravaganzas means the age of auteur directors who create films largely unsupervised is long gone.

(3) My biggest mistake is not the proportion of blame that I routinely assign here for the train wreck of the Fantastic Beasts films. [Warner Brothers took what Rowling offered when she said she would write the screenplays and that hasn’t worked out as hoped; I doubt she is interested in returning to the franchise winning formula of novel-first-then-film-adaptation but that is the go-with-your-strengths and division-of-labor solution to the problem.] Where I go way wrong here is the absence of charity I exercise in criticizing Yates and Heyman for something over which they really have no control, i.e., studio film length requirements that allow so many screenings per day at the cine-plex, without mentioning all they do very well. Each of their remarkable skills and their team work as a pair with respect to team building, shot selection, budgeting, lighting, actor coaching, musical score inlay, as well as scene and film editing contribute to the final product and magical experience in the theaters.

I almost always neglect to mention the semi-miracle of technical artistry brought to these films, however incoherent the story may be due to inevitable and unfortunate scene deletions, and that is a function of my ignorance with respect to films and what makes them work beyond the screenplays. My apologies both to the two Davids and to you readers for that omission and a tip of my hat to them, non-fan that I remain, for the visually stunning and fun movies they have made.

Warner Bros “Has Confidence” in Fantastic Beasts Film Franchise: Is President Trump to Blame for the Delay?

As noted in yesterday’s post about Rowling’s having forsaken her Twitter platform, the production and release of the third Fantastic Beasts film has been put off for a year. It will not be in theaters until 12 November 2021 if all goes according to plan. That’s a long, long time from now.

Three thoughts about this announcement:

(1) The Kiss of Death: Baseball fans know that the worse possible news a baseball team manager can receive is that management has announced their confidence in his leadership. The only time such pronouncements are made, of course, is when the team is losing and fans and media are clamoring for a change, usually the manager’s head on a platter and a ‘new face’ in the dugout. “We have confidence in our manager” usually means “He has ten days to fix this problem or he’s out of here.” Are we supposed to believe Warner Bros Chairman Toby Emmerich, then we he says he’s totally committed to Fantastic Beasts?

‘We are incredibly excited about and have confidence in the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ series. We all believe this release date will give the filmmakers time and space to allow their artistry to truly flourish and deliver the best possible film to our fans.’

Anyone remember his saying anything like that about the Harry Potter films? Of course not. If Warner Bros were really excited and confident about Fantastic Beasts post Crimes of Grindelwald, they wouldn’t have to reassure us that they are.

(2) Why Not 2020? Of course, the delay might have a much different explanation than the obvious thoughts that there is real friction between screenwriter and producer/director about how the films are being edited or that Rowling’s planned slow narrative release over a five film cycle is just too confusing by Hollywood standards and the decision makers want a change. It could be something related to the slate of films scheduled for release in November 2020 by Warner Bros or other studios, say, a Star Wars film or Marvel Universe or DC superhero flick, with which the film-makers don’t want to compete for attention. If November-December is the optimal release date for the franchise to get butts in seats over the Christmas and New Years holidays, then November 2021 is the next best time if 2020 is already crowded.

And, let’s face it, November 2020 is already taken with respect to media saturation coverage because the biggest game in town, which is to say “in the world,” the American presidential election, will take place the first week of that month. No way Warner Bros wants to release a film in a struggling franchise into that kind of headwind. No one in America will be talking or thinking about anything in the months prior to and just after the election other than who will win the White House and why and how followed by analysis of what actually happened. Sorry, Newt, it’s 2021 for you… President Trump wins that head-to-head battle without breaking a sweat.

(3) True Confessions: I was a little disappointed that they chose Friday 12 November 2021 for the release date. Rowling features the date and time at the dead center of the Hogwarts Saga — Harry’s adventures with Hagrid in the Forbidden Forest and talking with Sirius in the Gryffindor Common Room, ‘The Hungarian Horntail’ — as 22 November between 12 midnight and 1 in the morning. That signaled the story turn or half-way point in as straight forward a fashion as the return of Phineas Fogg in Around the World in Eighty Days on 21 December. 11/22 between 12-1, akin to the Vernian 12/21 chiasmus there-and-back-again date was a great marker.

Fantastic Beasts 3 is the story turn for the five film franchise. Couldn’t they have released it on 22 November, say, between 12 midnight and 1 AM? Just for old times sake? To mark the pivot?

Let me know if you think President Trump and American electoral politics are to blame for the delayed release of the third Beasts film or whatever you think of the announcement that we have two and a half years to figure out if Queenie is Severus Snape’s mother or role model. Just click on the ‘Post a Comment’ link up by the post title and share your thoughts in the comment boxes below!

Investigating ‘Crimes of Grindelwald’: Reading, Writing, Rowling Episode #20

 

Straight from the MuggleNet page announcing the release of the Reading, Writing, Rowling podcast on Crimes of Grindelwald! Read all about it — then tune in for some cutting edge conversation about the second Beasts film.

This month, join us at alchemist Nicolas Flamel’s house, where we’re searching for answers to the profound questions raised by the second film in the Fantastic Beasts series. Spoilers abound!

Crimes of Grindelwald, the second movie in the Fantastic Beasts film series, left a lot of fans and critics scratching their heads. With our guests Elizabeth Baird Hardy (Mayland Community College), Megan Kelly (SpeakBeasty), and Lana Whited (Ferrum College), Katy and John investigate the mythic, literary, and alchemical references in this movie to answer key questions and decipher where the series may be headed next.

Elizabeth points out that Newt’s case – which is bigger on the inside than the outside – is our first clue that this series contains much more than it appears to on the surface. Megan also reminds us that these films give us the opportunity to revisit the “Harry Potter glory days,” when we were waiting for the next installments and weren’t sure what would ultimately happen; we have the excitement of looking for clues to help us predict the series’ trajectory.

We consider the criticisms of the film: in theme, plot, and character. Is this film true to J.K. Rowling’s artistic vision? Fans are frustrated with the way the series retcons certain characters and even undermines the original wizarding world vision from the Harry Potterstories. Despite the flaws (which Elizabeth likens to poisonous fangs) in this beast of a movie, there are important and meaningful ideas that enrich our view of the wizarding universe.

More after the jump!

Lana explains her groundbreaking theory about Grindelwald as a dragon (compared to Dumbledore’s phoenix), the literary and historical tradition of dragons and phoenixes, and what this hidden aspect of Grindelwald may mean for the next episodes in the series. We reflect on the meaning of Dumbledore’s Mirror of Erised scene, specific beasts like the Kelpie and Pickett the Bowtruckle, Dumbledore’s Chocolate Frog card (and the twelve uses of dragon’s blood), Nagini the Maledictus, “Aurelius” Dumbledore, and Rowling’s views of the beastly potential of humanity. We also explore the movie’s alchemical symbolism (water, fire, gold, and Flamel’s role in the film’s climax), ties to King Arthur, humoral theory, and Shakespearean pairings.

Hear what we think about major puzzles: What do we know about the deleted scenes and how they affected both Leta’s and Nagini’s character arcs? What is going on with Queenie? Why is Newt so important to Dumbledore’s mission? Where and when will the next film be set? J.K. Rowling has said that the end of the movie is not all that it seems, and we explore the narrative misdirection at the film’s conclusion. A treasure trove of provocative theories awaits you in this episode!

Please also join the conversation via email (ReadingWritingRowling@gmail.com), Twitter (ReadWriteRowl), or our Facebook page! We’d love to hear from you.

Or share your thoughts here by clicking on the ‘Reply’ button up by the post headline! Join in the conversation and let us know what you think about Crimes of Grindelwald.

Luna Lovegood Interviews Beasts Cast

Note three points especially:

(1) Jacob’s destiny to become a Wizard or Elder Wand master is revealed, almost;

(2) Jude Law agrees with Lana Whited about Dumbledore’s self-understanding being that he is a Fantastic Beast in need of careful training and restriction; and

(3) Theseus and Leta… What a shame that their story was not shared in the film released as it was written and filmed! Double for the Theseus-Newt relationship scenes.

Bravo to Ivanna Lynch for asking the best questions to the players to date.