“Paul is Dead” — Where is J K Rowling?

Those of us of a certain age (“very old”) remember the rumors that shook the US and the UK about the supposed death of Paul McCartney, then of The Beatles, in 1969. ‘Paul is Dead’ became more than a meme, believe me, and I was only slightly surprised that the story survives today as a conspiracy theory. “Only Ringo survives…” (I am increasingly prone, by the way, to believe anything tagged a “conspiracy theory,” the latest Orwellian phrase to enforce a self-inflicted conformity to media orthodoxy.)

I bring this up because J. K. Rowling last tweeted on 12 January 2019. Before her departure, she had been twittering so often that she had become the butt of jokes online. News stories last week about the split in the Labour Party included references to her because one of the meetings of the conspirators (!) was held in the office of Tony, um, Neil Blair, her literary and movie agent cum legal gopher. One article said she was not present, another piece, citing the original as its source, said she was. I have been unable to find any references to her existence or evidence that she is still among the corporeal living dated post that last tweet in January.

I learned today both that the ‘Paul is Dead’ fake-news meme of fifty years ago (1) was started by a college newspaper reporter in Ames, Iowa, and (2) it’s rapid spread into all corners of the globe resulted in LIFE magazine hunting down McCartney at his farm in Scotland and coercing him into some pictures and a brief interview (actually, Sir Paul flew into a rage, dumped a bucket of water over photographer and reporter, and he only agreed to congenial pictures and a comment in exchange for the roll of film with pictures capturing him as an ogre). Hence this post.

We have speculated that Rowling is on vacation, that she is re-writing Fantastic Beasts 3, that she has retired from public life and political commentary, even that she is working on the fifth Cormoran Strike novel (one can only hope). All this is to neglect the obvious possibilities we would suspect if one of our friends or family members disappeared suddenly and for weeks on end — that she is very ill, that she is dead, or that one of her family members is in crisis of some kind and she neglects public comment because her priorities are right-side up (which ordered considerations do not include sharing with us what is no one’s business but her own…).

Let the rumors begin, however, a la the Drake College newspaper report in 1969 that Paul McCartney was no more. Here’s the version I send out for Aeolus and the internet to spread to the global four corners (Tasmania!) in the virtual winds, call it ‘The Three Blairs’: [Read more…]

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….”



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!