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.

Stephen Fry Recordings of Harry Potter?

A letter in my inbox this morning:

Hi John, 

My husband and I listen routinely to Jim Dale’s reading of the HP series. I wanted to also listen to the English version read by Stephen Fry.

I clicked on a website about buying a set and it took me to an obvious dark web site that started downloading something on my computer and flashing multiple popups of porn content. An unpleasant experience and scary to boot. I am now spooked about searching for it.  My local library doesn’t have it.

Do you have a suggestion for a reliable site and a reasonable price?

Thought I would ask the guru of all things Harry Potter! Thank  you!

Kathleen

Great question, Kathleen, and one I really wish I had an easy answer to. The site you refer to is akin to the HPAudioBooks.club website, the first thing to pop up in a google search for ‘Harry Potter Stephen Fry.’ It offers you the audiobooks read by Fry for free — in exchange for access to your computer’s inner workings and all your data. Some deal!

It used to be that you couldn’t buy the Fry recordings in the United States because Bloomsbury did not have publishing rights here, Scholastic did (and does), and Scholastic published the Jim Dale recordings. This agreement held over into the Audible versions available via Pottermore. End of story unless you purchased the Fry books through Amazon.co.uk as CDs and paid the trans-atlantic shipping fee (still an option if you’re willing to sign up for a UK Amazon membership). Which was tough for families that routinely listen to Dale while driving on long trips or fans who work out while tuned in to Harry’s adventures.

It seems, though, that this barrier has been relaxed, albeit at a price. The complete Stephen Fry readings of the seven Harry Potter novels can be had via Amazon for ~$275, more than 100 CDs at more than $350 off the list price. That’s no bargain if you don’t like CDs and if you’ve purchased the Audible audiobooks as read by Jim Dale for $15 each, the whole set instantly downloaded for just over $100 (and plenty of us are doing just that; 7 of the top 11 fiction books this week at Amazon.com are the PotterMore print and audio editions of Harry Potter).

Nota bene: I don’t know if that Fry ‘Complete Set’ will be available for long. It is listed as a ‘paperback’ which seems a dodge on the Amazon system controls to keep the Bloomsbury audiobooks off the American market. If you want a set and don’t live close to the Canadian border (the Fry recordings can be bought anywhere in Canada… Travis Prinzi raves on Fry’s recordings over Dale’s — he lives in Rochester, NY, so getting them did not require even a long drive for him), you may want to make the purchase promptly.

I’m no expert in this sort of thing so I open the floor to the HogPro All-Pros and whatever suggestions they may have for Kathleen and her desire to buy some Stephen Fry audiobooks. Do you know of any deals Kathleen can use to get copies of the Fry audiobooks?

Two quick Stephen Fry notes: (1) The “he pocketed it” story and (2) it was Fry who took Rowling to ‘Pratt’s Club’ in London where Cormoran Strike meets Jasper Chiswell (and Pratt’s is not happy about it?).

Mailbag: Dumbledore a Manipulator?

I have spoken at an Augustana College retreat for students in Pastor Richard Priggie’s ‘Soul of Harry Potter’ class every Spring for the last nine years. Held at the remarkable Stronghold Castle in Oregon, Illinois, this retreat and my part in explaining the artistry and meaning of literary alchemy and ring composition there have been annual highlights for me and my family (especially my youngest sons).

I offer, in the Q&A session I do every year at the dinner after my last talk, help to the students with their end of term papers. The deal is, if they’ll write me their questions via email, I’ll send answers they can use, agree or disagree, in their arguments. I got this one last week:

Hello Mr. Granger, I am not sure if you remember me but I was on the Harry Potter retreat with Pastor Priggie. I am currently finishing up my final paper for the class and I have a topic I thought you might enjoy shedding some light on. The topic I picked for the paper is “Professor Dumbledore is a wise and compassionate mentor who guides Harry even from beyond the grave/ Professor Dumbledore is a flawed character who deceives and manipulates Harry in order to meet his own ends.” I decided to argue the side of Dumbledore being a manipulator as I feel Dumbledore used Harry for personal gain in much of the 5th and 6th books, as well as in Snape’s memory that Harry sees of Dumbledore in the Pensieve. So with that being said, I would love to know any opinions or examples you can give on the topic of Dumbledore being a manipulator. Thank you!

My off the top of my head answer — seven examples — was: [Read more…]

‘An Absolutely Remarkable Thing’

A dear friend – and a Harvard PhD whose works on ‘how literature works’ inform my PhD thesis – wrote me yesterday to say I had to read Hank Green’s An Absolutely Remarkable Thing because it is “right up your alley” and “You are the one to interpret it!” I bought the book online and read it off my computer screen last night and this morning. I am writing a short review here — a break from Crimes of Grindelwald and Lethal White! — to recommend you read it, too, and that you think your way past the hard parts to consider its allegorical message about art (hence the title acronym), about the political and technological landscape in which we live, and about the agony of escaping the errors of our age for communion with transcendent reality.

After the jump I will write a brief synopsis of the wonderfully page-turning story (without spoiling it!), my thoughts about its meaning, and why reading it, when more than a few times in my case I persisted only with gritted teeth and eyeballs rolling, taught me something important about the difficulty the Harry Haters experienced in seeing the Christian content of the Hogwarts Saga.

[Read more…]

A Cratylic Cormoran Strike Fan Theory: Is Robin Doomed? The Dobby Link

From the mailbag!

Dear John,

My name is Joseph A and I have been reading and enjoying your books thoroughly since I found The Hidden Key to Harry Potter way back in 2003. Your books have certainly given me a new set of eyes to scan J.K. Rowling’s text.

In light of J.K. Rowling’s apology for killing Dobby yesterday I want to share a concern that I have.

I was researching Robin’s surname Ellacott and came across this:

Ellacott is prominent in Devon, Cornwall, and Wiltshire, is of Anglo-Saxon and Cornish origin.This placename is composed of the Olde English pre 7th Century personal name “Ella”, a short form of various compound names with the first element “aelf”, elf, and the Olde English “cot, cote”, a cottage, shelter for animals. Read more. 

Is it reasonable to interpret Robin’s name as Elf House or House Elf?

In the Galbraith books Cornwall is referenced in connection to Cormoran (The Cornish Giant) and Robin through her surname. Cornwall is only is used once in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; Shell Cottage is located on the outskirts of Tinworth, Cornwall and is the final resting place of Dobby. What could this be pointing to?

In fear for Robin’s safety,
Joseph A

Great letter, Joseph! Three quick thoughts to jump start the conversation here: [Read more…]