Reading, Writing, Rowling: The Movies!

 

Janet Batchler teaches a ‘wow’ course at the University of Southern California on the Harry Potter film adaptations. Prof Batchler is an award winning screenplay writer and certified Potter Pundit (and a friend of this blog from way, way back!). Listen to her discuss the class she teaches, the highs and lows of the Hogwarts movies, and about adaptations of books in general with Reading, Writing, Rowling hostess Katy McDaniel and guests Elizabeth Baird-Hardy, this site’s Deputy Head Mistress, and Kat Sas. 

FYI, I was asked to participate but politely declined as I am not a fan of movies in general or these film-adaptations in particular. I am such a Batchler fan, though, that I can say I suggested the idea of the show and know it is a great one! Enjoy!

The Silver Doe: Life Imitates Art


Did someone say, “Expecto Patronum?” Is this a remake of the Silver Doe in the Forest of Dean scene from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows?  

No, it’s a rare albino deer, photographed during today’s snowstorm in Central Virginia. The magical creature was captured on film by Julia Richie and submitted to Charlottesville TV station NBC29’s Weatherpic feature.

Maybe it turned up expecting to attend one of Virginia’s many wizarding festivals?  Has anyone seen any ruby-hilted silver swords lying at the bottom of any nearby ponds? Has Phineas Nigellus Black been blabbing again?

In any case, I challenge any Harry Potter reader to look at this and not think, “Always….”

 

 

Of All the Places in the Wizarding World, Is the Bank What You Most Want to See?

Crimes of Grindelwald: Box Office Score

Good news and bad news about the performance of Crimes of Grindelwald at the box office in the US and overseas! Forbes magazine reports:

In other arbitrary milestones, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald has now earned $611m worldwide on a $200m budget. This is a decent-enough total, down a reasonable 25% from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’s $814m but 33% below the last film’s $232m domestic cume.

If it wasn’t the second of a five-part franchise, I’d be less concerned about the future. But maybe Fantastic Beasts 3 will be a big improvement and the fans will give it a second chance.

The bad news is fairly obvious. This was the weakest performance by a Warner Brothers ‘Wizarding World’ franchise film ever. The controversies about Johnny Depp, the assertion that ‘Gay Dumbledore’ was undeniably in evidence in Beasts 2 and that the Pensieve of Erised moments reflected a sexual relationship between two men, and the multitude of not quite meshing subplots on top of scene cuts by the director (who thinks he gets story-telling better than this screenwriter?) may have dulled enthusiasm among the Potter faithful in the United States, at least. Or a host of other reasons. Let the speculation and blame-casting begin!

Rowling and Company by their shouting out ‘Impeach Trump!’ at fan conventions and The Presence on her twitter feed, telling those offended by their refusal to dump Depp (because of the accusations of his using violence against his ex-wife) to take a hike, and the huzzahs for gay sex from Ezra Miller in a country where a significant population is not on that bandwagon means they managed somehow to offend right, left, and center. Earnings are down. Folks may not want political correctness or indifference mixed in with their magical movies. Surprise!

That said, the good news in this earnings report is just as obvious. The film turned a profit in the vicinity of 400 million US dollars. They’re not packing up shop because the film ‘bombed’ relative to other Rowling franchise movies. Only the Marvel Universe and Harry Potter films have to break a billion dollars before going to DVD to be considered a success. 611 million dollars pays a lot of bills. We’re going to get five films even if the next two also lose 25% globally and 33% domestic.

As the Forbes reviewer noted with “maybe Fantastic Beasts 3 will be a big improvement,” all Team Wizarding World has to do to return to billion dollar land may be to make a less confusing movie and stop shooting themselves in the foot by making the films a referendum on social justice, the US President, and sexual adventurism. More Tina-Loves-Newt, less Albus-Misses-Gellert-Who-Grooms-Credence? More Eddy, less Ezra?Rowling has already pledged that we will “get answers” in the next film; I’m guessing that means she’s been told to straighten out the mess David Yates made out of Crimes in the cutting room (and give him a more straight film — in the various senses of that word — to shoot).

Why do you think Crimes didn’t do nearly as well as Beasts1? Was it the content, the confusion of plots, the twist at the close, wizard fatigue, Paris, politics, or what? Click on the ‘Leave a Comment’ up by the headline and let me know your best guess.

 

Oskar Eustis: Theater and Democracy

A long time friend of this blog sent me a link to a TED talk by Oskar Eustis called “Why Theater is Essential to Democracy.” He wrote that he thought I might find Eustis’ thoughts “useful or at least interesting.” Right he was!

It’s a short piece, only 13 minutes instead of the 18 allowed by TED, and, as you’d imagine, it celebrates live stage performance and the outreach efforts by the Public Theater in NYC, which Eustis leads as their Artistic Director. He is an unapologetic missionary for Culture. I admire him for his zeal and concern for the Great Unwashed, if at times I admit I had to grit my teeth at the condescension for the Deplorables in Flyover Country he sees as his mission field.

What I found “useful” and “interesting” in the talk was the distinction made between watching a movie and watching a live performance on stage. For years I have said in talks and written here and in my books that movies are not an imaginative experience but sensation, and, as such, they are incapable of transforming audiences in any meaningful, lasting way. All film can do is scare us or move us to a sentimental moment, not just tears and smiles, granted, but the sentiments of rage and pity as well, none of which, however, last very long.

I have found that this assertion about film, the distinction between active imaginative experience versus passive sensation, really annoys people that prefer screened images to reading books or who “just love movies” (which is to say “almost everyone”). One of the more interesting counters to my thesis I’ve heard through the years is the question, “Well, what about the stage? That’s not imaginative, either; you watch the characters rather than imagining them. Are you saying contra-Aristotle and millenia of experience that audiences at live theater are not experiencing catharsis?”

No, I’m not. With Oskar Eustis, though, I am saying that the experiences of staged drama and screened images are fundamentally different — and the effect of this difference is that one is an individual’s sense experience of little effect on the person watching and the other is at least potentially transformative. We imagine, Eustis says, ourselves as the speakers in dialogue on stage, which imagining in conjunction with our being part of an audience witnessing a live event exercises our empathy, the experience to be had in fiction read in books.

Let me know what you think. Does Oskar Eustis have it right about the difference between film and stage? Does that or does it not confirm my disregard for the movie medium relative to book reading or play watching? Let me know what you think!