Fantastic Beasts, Film 1: The Pillar Post

Pillar Posts’ are round-ups and explanations of key ideas and texts that have been and continue to be discussed at HogwartsProfessor. With more than two thousand posts in our archives spread out over twelve years of blogging, we need an easily accessible file where serious readers can find — without hours of hunting — the articles they want to read. These Pillar Posts will find a home on the left sidebar of the HogwartsProfessor homepage and I’ll update them regularly.

The first post to go up was a collection of Literary Alchemy links. Next came the Pillar listing the rapidly growing set of posts on the Crimes of Grindelwald movie. Today I want to pull together what we’ve written here about the first film in the Fantastic Beasts franchise since its release in 2016.

It may seem irrelevant to revisit the first movie now that we have Crimes of Grindelwald but Fantastic Beasts 1: Newt Goes to New York will almost certainly be reflected in the third film and the finale, Beasts 5. As we’ve seen in Harry Potter and the Cormoran Strike mysteries, Rowling writes her series in rings, a structure that features an axis bisecting the story circle that connects first-middle-and-final parts (for a five film package, that means 1-3-5).

I focused most of my attention in 2016 on trying to come to something approximating Rowling’s final “shhoting script,” something that had to be recreated from the Heyman-Yates mish-mash of a movie, the published screenplay, and the many deleted scenes. As Rowling said Steve Kloves told her, the agony of making a movie out of a Rowling novel or script is “fitting the woman to the dress,” i.e., forcing the natural figure into the mechanical formula of blockbuster movies. I’ll let you judge how successful I was in sorting out and pasting in the scenes that we know were not included in the released movie.

Text-discovery was my focus but there was a lot more going on, from the MuggleNet Academia and Reading, Writing, Rowling podcasts to discussion of the movie’s ring structure and Christian content, not to mention the posts by Beatrice Groves, Wayne Stauffer, and HogwartsProfessor faculty Louise Freeman and Elizabeth Baird-Hardy. You can find it — close to forty posts! — all neatly organized just after the jump.

As with all of the Pillar Posts, please let me know if a link is not working or if I have inadvertently left out an article. Enjoy! [Read more…]

Crimes of Grindelwald: The Pillar Post

One of the things I dislike about the Kindle is I don’t know how to organize the novels, plays, and works of non-fiction on the device so I don’t have to scroll through every eBook I ‘own’ to find the one I want. No doubt there is a way to catalog or sort the books into virtual shelves or folders but I don’t know it (and cannot find an illustration of how to do it easily, say, via a John-proof YouTube video). I rarely use the Kindle, consequently, even when I travel and it would be a great convenience.

A WordPress weblog like HogwartsProfessor presents something of a similar challenge. It is a miraculous means of communicating thoughts to a large audience at a cost of close to nothing. But. Once a site has more than a few posts on it, even with a search device readily available to foster hunts for specific topics, it is no small thing for even the most serious reader to find all the relevant posts in a site’s archives, not to mention being able to tell which are the most important, except by sorting and reading for hours.

Which just doesn’t happen. The average first time guest at this site is here only for seconds. Requiring attention for hours for that reader to find the relevant posts he or she wants to find and read means quite simply that they will not be found and may as well, frankly, not have been written and posted. There are nigh on 2,000 posts on HogwartsProfessor. Without an easily accessed file system on the home page, a system cued to essential subjects, only 1 in 10,000 visitors will be able to find the posts they want for academic research into what has already been published or for personal benefit.

Last week I began the process of sorting and filing HogwartsProfessor articles into what Yaro Starak calls ‘Pillar Posts’ with a collection of urls to the things I and other Potter Pundits have written about literary alchemy in the ten years we’ve been online. For starters, these Pillar Posts will only be link lists that have been sorted into categories for easier navigation (let me know if there are subjects you want included in this project; I have twenty Pillars on my to-do list). The goal is to have proper write-ups of take-away points on the relevant subjects, something like a HogPro wiki.

Today’s entry in the Pillar Post Project is Crimes of Grindelwald. Believe it or not, there are already fifty HogwartsProfessor posts on the second Fantastic Beasts film. After the jump, you’ll find them all in one place and sorted into nine categories. There will soon be a sidebar on the left hand side of the page where the twenty Pillars will be prominently displayed.

Thank you in advance for your patience and support during this project! Sharing your ideas would be a simultaneous grace and blessing.

[Read more…]

Deleted Scene Dialogue: Theseus/Leta

MSNBC’s review of Crimes of Grindelwald by Ani Bundel,Harry Potter franchise’s new ‘Fantastic Beasts’ sequel should not have been written by J.K. Rowling,’ has the sub-heading “Nominally about the adventures of Newt Scamander and his American pals in Paris, the film is thwarted by its many subplots and cameos.” Oddly enough, an aside in the review suggests that Bundel saw a different cut than the one released to theaters — and that the version he saw, because it included a deleted scene of Theseus speaking with Leta about Newt and Dumbledore, has an easier to grasp subplot than the one we saw.

Movies don’t have the same luxurious amount of time, at least not giant blockbusters. The first “Fantastic Beasts” movie synopsis promised fans a small-time magical romp with a bumbling magizoologist and a pair of accidentally switched briefcases. What viewers got was a story that barely had time to establish those characters, or check to see if their foundations were solid, before Rowling blew down the wall for the reveal. It could have worked, had the series given the viewers more time to settle in.

“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” has this same problem. Nominally about the adventures of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) and his American pals in Paris, the film again has way too many subplots, asides and backstories. Dumbledore (Jude Law) is plotting his eventual fight with evil genius Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) from the shadows of Hogwarts. Newt’s older brother Theseus (Callum Turner) and his fiancé Leta LeStrange (Zoe Kravtiz) worry about Dumbledore secretly being in the pocket of Grindelwald and leading their beloved Newt towards danger.

I highlight that last sentence because I don’t remember this “worry” in my two viewings of the film or my several readings of the published-not-original screenplay.

We do know, though, that one of the many deleted scenes from the shooting script, the screenplay as written by Rowling and filmed by Yates, includes a conversation between Theseus and Leta at Hogwarts. What they were discussing, of course, we have not been told. 

Did MSNBC’s Bundel see this scene in a preliminary cut of the film? Has he told us they were discussing their concern that Albus’ “closer than brothers” relationship with Gellert might mean he was manipulating Newt to advance Grindelwald’s cause?

If so, that would make two mysteries dissolve.

We haven’t known why Leta was so hostile in her meeting with Dumbledore at Hogwarts, in which she is almost petulant with the DADA teacher everyone seems to admire. That conversation with Theseus, if they shared concerns about a turncoat Dumbledore would make her behavior logical. She loves Newt and Theseus and thinks Albus a threat of sorts to them both.

Albus tells Theseus point blank not to go to the Grindelwald secret meeting if Travers orders him to. He all but begs him, saying, “If you ever trusted me…” Theseus blows him off and goes to the meeting when Travers orders him to, however determined he is not to play into Grindelwald’s trap. Dumbledore knew about the meeting and the plan to have Theseus blow it up as Grindelwald wants via legilimency and seeing Travers’ intent. Albus sees Theseus’ distrust the same way.

We. of course, not being Legilimenses and not having the deleted scene with Leta and Theseus discussing Dumbledore as a possible agent of his best buddy Grindelwald, are clueless about what is going on — and left to lament the “many subplots” we cannot understand.

Why Ani Bundel was upset, when she got to see at least one important scene explaining a subplot that we all missed, I have no idea.

Click on the “leave a response” button up by the post title and let me know what you think. Did Bundel see an extra scene? Does that scene resolve mysteries the film has without it?

Hat tip to Wayne for the link to the MSNBC review!


Fantastic Beasts: ‘Absurd Fan Theories’

The only reason to watch the two videos below? So you can say you did, a marker of your thorough research into all things Fantastic Beasts.

The first one with Miller and Fogler also serves the purpose of reaffirming your conviction that actors must be the last people you ask about anything of importance (see The Apology of Socrates for more — and, yes, I know Socrates didn’t even talk to actors in his search for wisdom or why he was the wisest man in Greece). This performance is an ugly throwback to Cheech and Chong videos in which the audience is supposed to be amused by two stoners who think they are funny.

But the Q&A does have Miller almost answer the question about whether Ariana Dumbledore was an Obscurial. Maybe he did answer it and then realized he’d be in big trouble if he reported what Rowling had told him. Anyway, it’s a non-answer. How does Ariana as Obscurial qualify as an “absurd fan theory”?

This conversation is much more enjoyable, if only because the actresses are relatively modest and take the silly situation in which they find themselves (and for which they are being paid) seriously enough to try and answer the questions posed. Back to the screenplay and real conversation about the story and future possibilities tomorrow!

Crimes of Grindelwald: Queenie’s Quest

Jan Voetberg wrote this originally as a response to my post on ‘Crimes of Grindelwald: Interior Texts‘ but I thought it important enough to give it its own place as a Guest Post. As you’ll see, Queenie’s situation is its own interior text — and one with so many mysteries that we surely have not been told what her mission to Paris is all about. [For more on the absurdity of the Queenie surface story see ‘Crimes of Grindelwald: The Deleted Scenes‘ and the discussion there on ‘Is Queenie Out of Her Mind or Crazy like a Fox?’ and ‘After Scene 51.’]

Crimes of Grindelwald: Queenie’s Quest by Jan Voetberg

Crimes of Grindelwald: Interior Texts’ was a delightful read, as always, John. My thought on reading it, besides being impressed by the number of stories Rowling has embedded in the series, was that you missed one, namely, the Queenie story, what we’re told versus what is actually happening.

I think the embedded text and the mysteries circling around Queenie springs from the torn postcard. There’s something strange about it from the start.

Queenie says to Newt in his London flat that “Tina and I aren’t talking.” Which doesn’t correspond with Tina’s loving words on the postcard, ending with “X,” a kiss. The loving words don’t correspond with the postcard having been torn up, and it being torn up doesn’t correspond with keeping it in her case. The suggestion is for the careful reader that she has artfully dumped it on Newt’s floor for him to discover, reassemble, and decide he needs to head to Paris immediately — just as Dumbledore wants him to do.

I do not remember any sign of Tina opposing a Magic-No Maj relationship between Queenie and Jacob in the first Fantastic Beasts film. Queenie’s reaction when Newt tells her that not he but Theseus is engaged, is not: “Oh, but that’s wonderful! I will inform Tina as soon as possible!” but “Oh! Oh dear….” She tells the disappointed Magizoologist that Tina is now dating an auror by the high-powered name of Achilles Tolliver (scene 36, p 66). That name is a macho push because in the Iliad there is a heavy fight between the river Scamander and Achilles, greatest of the Greek warriors in the Trojan war, and ‘Tolliver’ is the anglicization of the Italian Taliaferro, ‘iron cutter,’ “a nickname for a metal worker or a fierce fighter.”

What is Queenie up to here? She must know that Newt had written harsh words about aurors being thugs in a letter to Tina that had upset Queenie’s sister as much as the mistaken Spellbound announcement about Newt’s engagement to Leta Lestrange. It seems to me that Queenie wants to bring her sister and Newt together — per Dumbledore’s direction? — so she gives him the ‘Achilles Tolliver’ challenge and the card clue, a clue he is that much more ready to believe because he has “discovered” it himself (see Raphael’s alibi trick in Lethal White). Here I think is the reader of an embedded text like the ones you described in your post, a reader-mirror inside the story making a mistake we are being warned not to make ourselves as we read or watch the larger story.

Queenie was counting on Newt’s doing the right thing per Jacob, because, as Dumbledore tells him, that is what Newt does as an unbreakable reflex. She has only brought Jacob to London to be sure these two come to Paris to help her and Tina in their missions to defeat Grindelwald. Newt’s “discovering” that she has bewitched Jacob quite literally and freeing him from that charm gives her the excuse she needs to dump him at Newt’s home and go by herself on her secret mission to Paris.

I think she has a mission because of the events in Paris involving Queenie that are at least as bizarre as her time with Newt and Jacob in London. [Read more…]