Online continues to improve. Check them out.
Quidditch League 2007 is looking for players.
Harry Potter and the Order of the
Phoenix.: The Movie You know, I'm really tired
of writing about how the movies do justice to neither the books, nor
to the art of filmmaking. Most of the performances don't do
much for the glorious history of British acting either. There
is something they do justice to. Bear with me a minute.
You know Dolores Umbridge? The ultimate Yes-woman who acts as
mouthpiece for the head-in-the-sand Ministry of Magic? Anybody
who's been in an organization with more than a hundred people in it
will recognize the type (Anybody who's worked for a Post Office or a
School District will immediately see their district manager).
Dolores will do anything to enforce her boss's will, with the same
"why bother thinking for myself?" intensity of Condi Rice. The
thing is that she is such an excellent portrait of the urge to dumb
down the populace to keep it docile that I'm sure the screenwriter
had her own spitting image sitting across from him at all the
production meetings with Time-Warner. The huge cash cow that
must be constantly fed and milked for the glory of the media empire
is a harsh dominatrix: it demands the sacrifice of much of the
same independent will that Umbridge seeks to stamp out. Where
you come in is that rather than a fixed character out of someone
else's mind, you can walk away from it -- forget about the DVD, the
videogame, the action figures, and whatever tie-ins the fatburger
franchises are cooking up. Try it for a change -- that
would be the ultimate homage to the spirit of Harry. But based
on the results of the box office polls, most of you are hurrying to
join the Office of the Inquisitor.
The Online Quidditch League is one of those rare things: an
on-line community that's actually burgeoning. Check them out.
Terminus 2008: If you're
looking for a Harry Potter conference this summer check out these
guys at Terminus.
Chicago is a really good town to visit.
Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can't Avoid is out. It's not worth writing about.
Check out the
Whomping Willow and
Knight Bus games from WB.
Phoenix Rising a "five
day exploration of all things Harry Potter" will be held in New
Orleans on May 17-21, 2007 (good time to be in the Big Easy).
The Bayou Quidditch League will be hosting the
Quidditch Classic. Read their website and you will want to
Check out this Flash game based on
Broomsticks. It does require registration and is
multiplayer (so you'll need at least one friend to send a link to)
-- but it's simple and comprehensible (if only all games could claim
Random rambling: It's a minor plot
point but nagging: Why do the Dursleys let Harry stay there at
all? My take on it is that in the final book we're going to
find that Aunt Petunia know so much about the magical world because
she actually WAS magical, but didn't want it and traded Dumbeledore
the protection of Harry for the ability to be "normal."
Arguably this makes her one of the book's hidden heroes, which would
be an appropriate twist for the final installment.
In the American Midwest?
The Great Midwestern
Educational Theatre Company runs a Harry Potter / Wicked
camp (aka Frogwarts).
Not strictly Quidditch or Lemony
Snicket, but Fun Games Plaza
has loads of games all with free trial downloads.
Potter Puppet Pals:
This is one really funny site. Check it out.
Queer Ditch Marsh
http://www.queerditchmarsh.com/ is Fantasy Quidditch Game
looking for players.
is trying to gather and consolidate as many ways of doing Quidditch
Role Playing as possible on one site.
Lumos 2006 is an RPG
starting up and looking for a new Minister of Magic and some Death
There are times we must simply ask:
WWJD? What Would Jethro Do?
Tales of the Truly
Grotesque. Any book with an attitude and a character named Joan of
Arkansas deserves attention on this site. Add the fact that the purported
author is Prof Odysseus Malodorous (Odysseus being Greek for to cause pain
and Malodorous being Latin for smells bad) and it's a no-brainer. Given
the arduous duties webmaster-critic-cultural-interpreter entails (like ignoring
irate email and defending the First Amendment) I've started training a new
generation of webmaster-critic-defenders-of-the-First-Amendment who will start
giving their own reviews (or whatever the heck else grabs them) right here.
Check back soon.
I have been informed
Hogwarts Star-School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has just started
Term One and now is accepting Sortings with a major change in the
way they run classes. Everyone meets in an AOL Chatroom once a week
and all role-play classes.
Hogwart's Recreation of the Entire Wizard World
http://www.freewebs.com/maverick24/ has been relocated and
Goblet of Fire -- The Movie
I never thought I'd be saying this -- but
Goblet of Fire might be be the Harry Potter film that in some
ways is better than the book. Forget that in the
dollar-oriented world of Hollywood-produced entertainment it's
already succeeded by eclipsing the box office of the previous three
films -- let's look at it as its own story (horrors -- when does a
reviewer do that?). While Chris Columbus was busy
deracinating Rent, Mike Newell was getting to the core of the
Potter world and the Goblet of Fire story. I love the
fact that this film is ready to drop entire characters and subplots
in the interest of crafting a tighter story than the book itself
(the film really does not lose anything by dropping Dobby, SPEW, or
Ludo Bagman among other plots and characters). What remains is
the core of the story -- a coming of adolescence story wrapped in
the terror of both mortal peril and "how can we ever get a date for
the dance?" It is as though Lord of the Rings were
channeling Clueless. What is great is how well it all
works. Daniel Radcliffe is finally projecting some of the
courage that characterizes Harry -- though his own acting talents
are not shining through as much as Rupert Grint's as Ron and Emma
Watson's as Hermione (watch for Emma Watson -- she will be a talent
long into the future). As a troika their chemistry is perfect
for the Potter universe. Individually it's an
open question how well each of them will do solo when the series or
their abilities to play their characters end. But no one can
deny they have been part of a lasting work here. While the
earlier films seem to have had a fear of losing anything, this
episode dares to acknowledge that it's forging a different path --
Quidditch is almost an after thought, though there's a
dragon-chasing-Harry sequence that's the best flying sequence of the
series so far. The special effects while crucial
are not the over-powering sledgehammer blows of the earlier films:
the Quidditch World Cup arena is well-though-out, fascinating,
and appropriately short, the dragons are believable and not not
lingered over, Voldemort is horrifying and yet lifelike, Mad-Eye
Moody is both the mentor you'd want to have and the psychotic you
might walk across the street to avoid. In short, it gets so
much to the core of the paradox, perplexity, and paranoia of
adolescence that it also gets under your skin like one of the wizard
tattoos of the Death Eaters. See this film and hope they
figure out how to get Newell on board for the rest of the series.
Check out this article: Harry
Potter and the Half-Crazed Bureaucracy, by Benjamin Barton.
has just added Quidditch. You must be a registered user of the
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Forum to use it (and I never
register for anything anymore so I cannot give you a first hand
review). From the webmaster:
It currently has 3 levels with a
4th level coming soon. People click on which player they want to
throw the Quaffle to while looking for the Snitch. Sometimes the
throw is complete, sometimes the player loses ground, and sometimes
the computer team intercepts. When the computer team has the
Quaffle the user chooses between stealing, or hitting a Bludger to
get the Quaffle back. By gaining experience and buying Quidditch
supplies the user will increase their skill level. Each level gets
a bit harder and there are new features with each level.
A role-playing wizard community, is an
already-functional RPG that needs people to join their Quidditch
league and school. There are positions on the school Quidditch
teams as well. Check it out
Merlin Kabir emails
to remind me of his
Farsi-language Quidditch site. I just love the look of the
typography. Hopefully the Farsi-speaking US community (largely
based in Teherangelas, California) will check it out.
Order is an RPG adding more members daily.
2005 is looking for players -- NB: You must have an AIM account.
has relocated and is looking for members.
JK Rowling's latest Potter hints, I have the
following speculation: Voldemort's and Harry's lives
are entangled by the failed curse that created the boy who
lived. What's this mean? They can kill each
other and end the entanglement, but if someone else kills
one of them the other will die. Think of this as quantum
entanglement for wizards. Hence the care that
Voldemort's henchmen have taken to preserve Harry's life
when it was in their capacity to just off him and make it
look like an accident, and Dumbledore's reticence to attack
Voldemort in the Ministry of Magic. Both Voldemort and
Dumbledore being the wizards they are know this and act
accordingly. As we've seen, Harry is purposely kept in the
dark on a number of issues. One of the consequences of
this: We already know that by the end of the series
either one or both of Harry and Voldemort need to die
(otherwise it doesn't end). The most courageous and
noble end for Harry is to sacrifice himself to rid the world
of Voldemort (though it is more likely he would sacrifice
himself to save his friends and thereby rid the world of
Voldemort). Also, consider that Ron is on track
to have his vision in the Mirror of Erised fulfilled
(remember, way back when?). There is however only one
way for Harry to have his vision fulfilled.
April 29, 2004: I just saw the
trailer to the Lemony Snicket Movie. My quick take: while Jim Carrey
LOOKS like Count Olaf his clown-like actions undercut all of the menace you
associate with the man. I mean, how scared of the guy can you be if he's
doing the same facial contortions as Ace Ventura Pet Detective? And the score
shows subtlety and depth are not to be found.
But I'll withhold final judgment until I catch the whole film.
Director Speaks at this link in SciFi.com. I like his analogy of the
film being between Mary Poppins and
Night of the Hunter (an
incredible movie screenwritten by one of my fave authors,
SALON.COM for the link and encouraging words about this site! You'll
be able to see their review of Tim Curry's audiotape after watching a brief
Your attention please!
Hi ho, my
you're looking for something to wash away the icky, unsatisfying
aftertaste of the Lemony Snicket film, check out Daniel Handler's independent film
Rigoletto by Verdi.
From some info provided by the publicist of the film:
Written by Daniel Handler in a blistering 24 hours
after a bad day at his old job, followed by taking in a
performance of Rigoletto, this movie is as sharp, as black, as
fast and as vicious as a poke in the eye. Only funnier. From the
producer of AMERICAN PSYCHO and WALL STREET this is a series of
unfortunate events for adults. Itıs rated R, and trust me, you
donıt want to bring your kids.
release schedule out for when it's near you -- I always
favor labors of love over dull, soulless corporate mega-events
(and Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events was
all that and less).
Also, one of the theatres is the
Brattle Theatre in
Cambridge, Massachusetts, one of my favorite places ever.
|Order of the Phoenix Review
Order of the Phoenix. OK -- the
Quidditch sequences are the weakest ever, but as any sportswriter will
tell you, play-by-plays all get tedious after a while. Now for
the brief word on the whole book: IT IS BEYOND AWESOME! The only
way I can try to convey this is: what if Boris Pasternak had
been heavily influenced by X-Men comics when he wrote Doctor
Zhivago? This is not as flippant as it might sound.
Rowling has produced a novel of both epic sweep and teen angst.
This is not as easy as it seems since most successful teen angst
books require very few pages to either get their point across or wear
thin -- Catcher in the Rye couldn't take you through much more
of Holden's life or you'd simply hit him with a brick. But here
it works - owing largely to the sweep of the entire Potter
universe. And I do mean ENTIRE -- it is hard to imagine
something from all the previous books that does not make at least a
cameo appearance here (trivia buffs: yes, Moaning Myrtle does not, and
there are others, but to quibble on this is to be wildly ungrateful
for all that DOES appear here).
Here's where Pasternak comes in. The word you
might associate with Zhivago is STORM: the rage of nature, of
social forces beyond individual control, and of individual emotions
beyond social control. The same theme plays out in Phoenix
with an adolescent twist. X-Men, the comic book of
super-gifted teens wrestling with how to fit into a world that does
not want them, is the closest analog here. While the comic book
universe is by nature repetitive and (make of this what you
will) two-dimensional, the Potter universe performs its own
magic act of creation out of imagination.
From the politics of the Ministry of Magic
(Americans will find it hard to recognize some of the British
political undercurrents, but don't let that deter you) to the internal
squabbling of the Order of the Phoenix (which might also be thought of
as the Popular Front for the Liberation of the Wizard World), the
wider world becomes more and more intrusive on the Happy Valley of
Hogwarts, and therefore on Harry.
Where Hogwarts always meant liberation and escape,
it's almost now a point where liberation comes with the price of
entanglement and insecurity in the larger wizard world. To underscore this, we are treated
to scenes of Wizard Career Counseling. In a scene which makes
you yearn for the bored, disinterested guy who's probably running your
high school guidance department, we see Harry start to consider what
he's going to do when he leaves Hogwarts.
The climactic battle sequence in this year is almost
reminiscent of X-Men battles. Here for the first time we don't
see Harry mano a mano but in a team of people he himself has helped
train. If the war is coming, we have seen the skirmishes and
first battles. If the
Opera, it has been said is a song of love and
death. This is true of Order of the Phoenix, the most
operatic of the books so far. (Like opera, one wonders if the
Fat Lady will sing in Book 7?) Yes, death is now omnipresent in
the world of Harry -- from his past to his present, to his
future. But so, tellingly, is love -- from his parents to his
surrogate parents in the world of Hogwarts. Like opera, the
series will continue this struggle, and it is an ending which we now
all know must
include a death. But just as characteristic of human life
is our incompleteness without love.
Harry is directly placed in the way of all kinds of
both love and death, standing in our stead for experiences both too
horrible to contemplate and too necessary to ignore. The arc of
this story, against all expectations any reasonable person would ever
have, gets deeper and more profound. If this is what we are to
be treated to in the next two volumes I will wait a decade, knowing it
will have been worth it.
|Hogwarts a Hidden School
A Hidden School. You know, one of the perks of this job
(using the term in this case to refer to something without pay, direct
supervision, required hours or results) is that I see some wild stuff
sometimes. This site is one of them. First, I like the
"Quidditch by dice roll" method. Nice and
simple. Second, this RPG takes place in 1973 (even the calendar
is accurate). First question you might ask is WHY? But
that's just to be wildly ungrateful for the imagination and commitment
these folks have put together for setting a context and a world
without Harry but peopled by his predecessors. So you get the
feel of the Rowling world without the nagging sense that you've either
seen all this before or that stuff is going on you could never in a
million years imagine happening to Hagrid or Ron. Definitely a
cut above the usual RPG I see. If you're looking to play a role
this is a good place to check out.
Azkaban -- this is a great site to document your Sirius Black
sightings and watch the new trailer (which is the best Potter trailer
I've seen yet). I haven't been able to see any sightings
documented yet -- but I live in hope Warner Brothers will fix it and
provide us with some amusing fan observations.
|Spirited Away vs. Chamber of Secrets DVD
and Chamber of Secrets are coming out on video and DVD at about
the same time. If you have a choice get Spirited Away.
It's no secret I'm a huge fan of anime and Miyazaki in
particular. This move alone is one of the best arguments for
forgoing live actors entirely and making the Harry series
animated. (But then how would Daniel Radcliffe ever get to be
the next James Bond?) The plot of Spirited is that a
young girl's parents are transformed into pigs because of eating
"spirit" food at a night spa for ethereal beings (I am not
making this up). She has to save them. To see this movie
is to realize that there are some things about Japanese culture that
Westerners are never going to get and that at the same time there are
facets that are immediately recognizable: fearing for children in
distress, cheering for the underdog, hoping that good will
triumph. The film bears striking parallels to Coraline by
Neil Gaiman, but let's leave those aside. It is non-stop
ride filled with characters that are inventive, memorable, and totally
unlike anything you are going to see on Nick. From the
spider-legged boiler engineer to the Radish Spirit to the
barrel-shaped witch who runs the place and her huge talking baby Spirited
Away is populated with more characters than are found in a summer
of vapid blockbusters. Even the enchanted ashes from the boiler
become full-fledged characters with their own poignant scenes.
This is not to diminish the awesome achievement of the environments
Miyazaki creates -- which are creative, integrated and unbelievably
beautiful without ever being unbelievable. To summarize more
would be to do it a disservice -- there are some things which stand on
their own better than any description can portray. See this
We do follow some trends here at Quidditch.com. I
got three emails on the same day asking about Quidditch for Muggles.
The best links I know are currently active are here:
this amusing version merits attention
-- I saw the US premier at MIT on April 26, 2003 and was blown
away. Nerve was especially awesome and rockin'!
Check this out -- and download HyperScore
-- which is an amazingly empowering music program!
||Book 5: June 21, 2003. The Scholastic
Press Release with a few paragraphs (including the opening) is here.
Poll! My mail has been running WAY heavier on Lemony
Snicket than on Harry Potter. Is this a general trend?
Has waiting for the next Potter become too tedious (the current three
year hiatus is roughly equal to the prior career of the entire
series)? Or is Events simply fresher and more
challenging? Pick your favorite.
Children's Digital Library is up and running! Over 200 Books,
27 cultures, 15 languages!!!!!! Just go there and browse.
The Arctic Incident is just as good as the original. Check
it out, as well as the Arctic Adventure game on their site.
has an interesting proposal online in "leggere e scrivere" or
reading and writing. For those fans of my essays this is a good
place to check out.
||Check out the Games Room--
they're not Quidditch -- but some of them are darned fun.
Hippogriffs are at it again with a reworked site and a new Quidditch
season. Check these guys out! I like their whole
"Wizards with Electricity" zeitgeist.
|Chamber of Secrets Review
Chamber of Secrets. Well to say that the
second movie is better than the first sounds like praising with faint
damnation. And it is. However, it is improved.
First, because it's not a slavish duplication of the book. It's
accurate, but the filmmakers actually came up with some variations that add to the movie experience (the flying car sequence is really
welcome, as is the Quidditch match ). It's all here: Dobby, the Malfoys, Hermione is just as
smart (and boy I wish they did more with Emma Watson, she is a treasure
who has nailed the part of Hermione).
My main problem with it is that (aside from the
amateurish editing), I get the feeling that I've seen it all
before. Maybe the subtitle should be Home Alone with Harry
Potter. There's the obvious Home Alone gags, involving easy
laughs and bodily harm. Seeing Dobby smack himself on screen is
oddly disconcerting, like you're in the undesirable position of watching
somebody be the victim in a reality TV series. (Odd thought:
You can show a computer-generated character beating himself up but you
can't show two human actors having a physical fight?).
The Quidditch match is a remake of the climactic
attack on the Death
Star in Star Wars (play the two side-by-side when the
DVD comes out). For cineastes, the scene
where Harry fights the basilisk seems to be based on Siegfried's battle
with Fafner (Siegfried, dir. Fritz Lang, 1924). I suspect that the NYU Film School grads working on
this had to see that film a few times in one of their required
courses. The scene with Aragog looks like the bug invasion from Starship
Troopers. These were good scenes in their original movies, and
should have stayed there unless Chris Columbus was good enough to give
them a twist (which he isn't).
The scenes that stick as delightful are far between
Every time I start to think that maybe these guys have
internalized the spirit of the Potter books they undercut
it. The best example of this is the Howler Ron gets.
It's wonderfully imagined and realized though true to
Home Alone's misguided spirit, the scene finally falls apart by having a
paper tongue razz Ron -- honestly, can you see Mrs. Weasley sending a
message that does that? These guys forgot that the reason we care
about their screen legerdemain is because there's a CHARACTER behind
them, and that regrettably is the part of these stories they spend the
least time on.
The closer you get to the real core of this story, the
less you find.
Seeing this flick I can only hope that Alfonso Cuarón
doesn't lose his edge in the production process. Harry has always
deserved better treatment than he's gotten so far.
|Only good hypocrite is a practicing one...
Let me get this straight: A Russian publishes Tanya
Grotter and the Magical Double Bass and those fine fine people
at Warner Brothers who claimed that "Larry Potter" and "Muggles"
from Nancy Stouffer's books bore NO relationship to the Potter series
are bawling like a figure skater in second place?
Slate has this
essay on Harry -- you might not like what it has to say, but it does
make some good points. My one problem with
it is that in portraying Harry as a privileged slacker it ignores the
most obvious fact that Harry chooses to face danger rather than send
proxies or lawyers to take care of it for him.
Thanks! to Barbara Feldman at http://www.surfnetkids.com/
for giving my Lemony Snicket page a
four star mention in her weekly column! Many thanks!
Poll! Now that the court case between Stouffer and Rowling has been
decided -- how do you feel about it? Context: Stouffer claimed
that Rowling "borrowed" parts of her previously published
novels that the average Harry Potter fan would not notice -- like the
word "Muggles" and (most of) the name "Larry Potter."
The court decided that Stouffer wasted the court's time on this
suit. This being the USA there will undoubtedly be an
appeal. How say you -- was justice done? (Conclusion of the
previous poll -- Your love of the WB Quidditch games is underwhelming --
with about a quarter of you saying they're great and the rest being at
|Replace Chris Columbus with Callie Khouri
||Who do I favor to replace Chris Columbus?
Practically anybody, but Callie Khouri is my dream director. I think
the woman who wrote Thelma and Louise has the touch necessary to run
a Potter flick. I still think David Lynch should get a shot.
Repeated viewings of the movie on video have really convinced me that the
only reason to get it is for the flying sequences and the stellar
performances in the minor roles. Check out Essays and Reviews for my
original take on this vapid reel of celluloid.
Why I LIKE the ... Chamber of Secrets trailer.
The whole incident with the flying car coming down on the track in front
of the Hogwart's Express is not in the book -- and I think this is
great!!! It shows that the doctrinaire apparatchiki working on the
script have finally realized it's a MOVIE and needs to stand on its own in
its own medium rather than a film of the book. Let's face it, the
flight in the car would be really boring cinema if you just took it
verbatim. But you start working with it and suddenly you can be true
to the spirit of the original without slavishly copying it. Of
course, we wait and see what happens to the full second
On a GOOD NOTE:
Yes! Lemony Snicket is writing the screenplay for a
film based on A Series of Unfortunate Events. Please please
please let Tim Burton direct it!!!!
Anybody seen any Quidditch-like games for the iPod?
I'm starting to fall in love with the potential of this thing even though
it's supposed to be an MP3 player. And even though I'm waiting for
the Windows version (why is Apple trying to grow its Macintosh market
share with an ad campaign that makes it look like it's the clear choice
for people who just got out of treatment centers and Trekker
conventions? Memo to Steve Jobs: your ego is not a reason to buy
|Jimmy Neutron review
Since Quidditch news has been slow I think I'll share a couple
of thoughts on Jimmy Neutron: it's half the length of Harry and twice as
much fun. First it doesn't have the burden of expectation.
Second, free of this it just has loads of fun with an amusing premise (though
having known a boy genius or two I do not recognize Jimmy -- most real world
boy genii are completely screwed up).
The two best
moments in this flick come close together -- the first as the children
re-engineer amusement park rides as spaceships and then blast into
orbit. After hitting the Jimmy Neutron equivalent of hyperspace there's
this sickening moment when the rockets flame out and everybody starts to drop
towards earth.... with just the right timing the propulsion starts up again
and the film literally takes off. This one "yeah moment" is
refreshingly powerful since you don't often find a single one in most modern
movies. Every opportunity for one in the Harry Potter movie was squashed
by the ham-handed director and the production team from hell.
The second one follows soon thereafter -- while resting
around a campfire (on a deep-space atmosphere-less asteroid! Do not try
to learn science from this flick), one of the characters is telling a ghost
story that recounts the tale of the Blair Witch Project. Now the irony
of this is delicious: adventure characters around a CG-campfire telling a
ghost story that's a derived from a faux-documentary real-world film.
The recursions in this just keep layering and layering. Add to this that
this is the way most early stories WERE told (Homer came to us orally long
before the Greeks were writing it down) and it's the best dialectic on the
nature of story telling since Michelangelo Antonioni was confusing the art
It's weird to think of a cartoon (excuse me: animated film)
having anything like a message you can think about -- but the trends are
really towards that: Shrek is one of the best romance movies you'll see
and Toy Story 2 has the same message of death and obsolescence as
anything you'll see in Ingmar Bergman -- but it's just lots more fun to watch.
Titles are really important. Take the videogame versions Harry
Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. They tell you the story is about
Harry Potter. They are not called Harry Potter's Fantastic Quidditch
Match or Quidditch for the Harry Potter Fan. There is a very
good reason for this. The Quidditch in both the PC version and the
Playstation version is similar in scope to the Quidditch at the WB site --
underwhelming. While some of the screen shots might give you the
impression you're going to be playing Quidditch in a fully-realized 3D
environment, please allow me to disillusion you (in the formal sense of the
word). The Quidditch here has you chasing the Snitch along a trail while
avoiding obstacles (sound like the WB version?). That's it.
The voice-over commentary gets repetitive really quickly and was obviously
written by a Pottermaniac (it consists of cheers for Harry and an apologia of
partisanship). Keeping in mind the name of the site to which you have
paid a visit, and the obvious preoccupations of your humble webmaster, the
fact that that is all there is to the Quidditch treatment in these games would
sound like a good reason for cutting short this review and sending you along
to something else -- like 43 Man Squamish (you know there's something about
"qu" in fictitious games -- might be some English grad student's PhD
thesis in that). Both games are really about learning spells and
following through the actions of the book. If you've read the books
there will be no surprises -- but the essence of videogaming is in the
surprises. In the end I was left with the eye candy of the animated sequences
which are pretty good throughout. But like the movie I was left with an empty
feeling of technical deja voodoo: I could have been reading
No, Toto, this isn't Kansas, but it isn't
One of the most amazing things about film is how you can make a series of
actions appear almost fluid, seamlessly blending multiple characters and
locations into something that makes you feel as though you're there in a
smooth ride from the opening frame to the closing credits. Of course,
this doesn't happen at all in the Harry Potter movie, so I left feeling
While deft technically the impression you get is that the
script was Xacto-knived out of the book and stapled together in the attempt
to make a minimum length. Imagine the first book as a series of short
stories rather than a novel and you start to see what I mean. Now this
CAN be fixed by editing and directing, but the visual style leaves a lot to
be desired as well -- it's a bunch of scenes duct taped
together in an attempt to slavishly media-dupe the book (hint guys: compare
the Wizard of Oz book to the movie -- they're different, but they
each work for their audience). In order to try to hide this lack of
artistry the John Williams score gives us 120 decibel clues of sledgehammer
subtlety when we should be shocked or sad: we're
seeing Harry's parents in the Mirror of Erised, cue the pathos.
Some movies feel bang-on -- take Shrek - one and a half hours and
you KNOW you've been on a ride and enjoyed it and you later start to wonder
how they fit all of that action in.
This one you sit through wondering how they managed to take so much and
do so little with its wealth of material over an additional hour. The
pacing just feels so off that the only thing I can compare it to is sitting
through a video of someone else's vacation.
The real stars of this production are the FX, seen in trolls, spells, and
the awesome flying sequences. The Quidditch sequence alone is worth
the price of admission. Once the players mount their brooms you're in
for the kind of adrenaline rush excitement that you buy your ticket for
in a contemporary American flick. Yet, this sequence too reveals the
disappointing direction, because things seems to hit a molasses wall as the
director has Harry surfing (excuse me?) his Nimbus 2000 to catch the Snitch.
Perhaps there is another star, the lush English architecture and art of
the interiors, but we'll ponder that elsewhere. Actually, it provides
a good counterpoint, since the film feels like a to-do list painted by
While Daniel Radcliffe LOOKS like Harry Potter in the best traditions of typage,
he never radiates that most quintessential Harry quality - courage. I
don't think it's his fault, I think the director Chris Columbus just isn't
comfortable with anything more complicated than a sit-com caricature (think of the Home Alone
flicks where manic energy substitutes for just about every other
emotion). Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, just off center stage get more
latitude to radiate the essentials of their characters, Maggie Smith
reprises an older, sterner Jean Brodie (way past her prime) and
Richard Harris leaves Horse for a hair costume. Both of
them feel like they're phoning in their performances. (Old joke --
what's the leading export of England? - Actors. New Joke, after Potter
books what's the leading export of England? Potter actors).
Robbie Coltrane's tremendous comic talents seem smothered here. He
has the presence of Hagrid, but at exactly the point here you
think the comic gift will come to the fore it's smothered in bad
delivery. I don't think it's his fault, that's probably just the
version they got approved by Time-Warner execs during the daily rushes.
They sought the middle of the road, ignoring the common wisdom that there
isn't anything there but a yellow line and a lot of dead 'possums.
Chalk this piece of cinematic roadkill up to a too-cautious producer.
Among the human talent the best parts in the whole flick are in the
scenes that last the shortest - Zoe Wanamaker as Madame Hooch. The way
she commands her short scenes gives you some idea why they choose
her for the trailer - in that brief a period they didn't have anybody
else radiating the gravitas you demand. John Cleese as Nearly
Headless Nick is a comic delight, and John Hurt comes close to the magic
mixture of ancient knowledge and a world yet-to-be-discovered that form the
backbone of suspense in the Potter world.
Undoubtedly the suits at AOL-Time-Warner (how many more hyphens are they
planning on adding to that?) are going to rake in dough. But years from
now we're not going to be huddled around the DVD player watching this with
the delight we still feel for the Wizard of Oz. This may not be
Kansas, but it surely isn't the magic of Hogwarts either.
Your feedback on the movie
is always welcome.
|George Harrison and Help!
After I got done taking my chupacabra for a walk today
(a trophy from my days as a paranormal investigator, before I hit it big as a
popular culture critic), reflecting on the New Year, and lamenting the passing
of George Harrison it occurred to me that the Beatles movie Help! was
amazingly prescient. Consider this: we see Asian religious
extremists (we would use that word today but they did not then) pursuing an
unwitting artist (Ringo in this case) with the intent of murdering him as part
of their particular rites. In some ways it sounds like Salman Rushdie's
story, or viewed through a twisted lens a weird re-enactment of 9/11.
Add to that the zany non-sequiturs (the movie was dedicated to Elias Howe, the
inventor of the sewing machine), and you also have the prototype for the kind
of humor Monty Python would make synonymous with the UK. I never thought
that this movie could be viewed as a forerunner for world events or comedic
tectonic shifts, but there we are.
|Really Creative Toys
||Forget the cheap trinkets that are for saps and suckers.
Check out these creative
toys catalogued by the Lion and Lamb project. Downside: No Harry
stuff. Upside: Your siblings will learn something. I applaud this
group for taking a stand against senseless violence in toys. Question:
Is there such a thing as sensible violence in toys?
||Robbie Coltrane - aka Hagrid in the lamentable Harry Potter
flick. I KNEW I'd seen him before in something where he was really
acting. Like some twisted sugar-shock-induced vision it finally came to me: Black
Adder's Christmas Carol. He plays a Christmas Ghost with all the
comedy, presence, and sheer mass you want to see of Hagrid. Only he's
doing it about 13 years earlier and long before anybody except Nancy Stouffer
mentioned Muggles or Potter in the same breath. This must have been what
landed him the role, since if you cut scenes from here randomly into Chris Columbus's
it would make it better. Check it out. It's
worth pulling out of a library or video store. The whole video is under an
||You asked for it, you got it: Keep your eyes on this space
for my review of Quidditch toys and games.
There are a few surprises in the list (and a few obvious
||Check out Artemis
Fowl by Eoin Colfer. This is one really amusing book ( no
Quidditch though) with an imaginatively re-inventive sense of humor.
Who would have thought leprechaun was just a human misinterpretation of
LEPrecon? To read it is to laugh and to get excited (in the places you
should) and to hope there are more books in the works by Colfer (as the text
itself makes plain there are).
Seeker Practise is up at Warner Brothers. Don't you just HATE it when
somebody saves the best they've got for last? Given the lack of
playability on the other games at the Warner Brothers site that may sound like
damning with faint praise. Nonetheless, Seeker Practise is the best of
the lot. Basically it's a top-down scroller where you try to catch balls
(eventually getting a shot at the Snitch) and avoid owls. While the
graphics are lame to say the least (nowhere near the standard set with Beater
Practise) and the sound is at best average, the playability is far above any
of the other games since Beater Practise. It's worth taking for a spin
I sense a great disturbance in the Force... as if.... wait a
minute -- wrong PopCult2: popular culture cult (please note that I
have originated that term in November, 2001). Sorry, sometimes it just overwhelms
me. Keep an eye on Quidditch3D.
unofficial game is created by DiagonSoft.com International
Studios, Questcom Entertainment and XSquare Software. Quidditch3D.com launched
on Saturday, December 1, 2001, and we have EXCLUSIVE screenshots, concept art and
images of the game.
|The Birmingham Bullets
The Birmingham Bullets.
The great thing about this site is how "normal" it looks as it
chronicles the season of this Quidditch team, down to team photos and a logo
reminiscent of Buckaroo Banzai's. Good site, with my main wish being
that it continues to evolve and give us an insight into the team's quirks --
that is, we see the team, and we know where they play and how they've done --
but some additional reporting or sections that make them come alive would make
the experience more immersive
Vanity Fair's October issue has Daniel Radcliffe as Harry flying a
broom. Photographer Annie Leibovitz (whose work is awesome) was on the
set of the movie. The issue is available on newsstands in New York on
September 5, 2001 and nationwide September 11. The cover photo from
Vanity Fair/Reuters is here.
|History Repeats Itself
I was once at the National Archives and Records Administration doing some
research when I saw an older man with a cap that read "Pearl Harbor
Survivor." I excused myself and asked if he'd been at Pearl.
He said he had, and I asked if I could shake his hand. I was without
words at meeting someone who was there. He said simply, "It was a
long time ago." History is a strange thing -- that we can suddenly
be put in a world where madmen can do more destruction with some flight
training and knives than entire navies could hope to in the past.
Please pray to whatever you hold sacred for the families and the loved ones
and the lost of this horror, and for the justice this great nation shall
deliver. My town of Belmont, Massachusetts lost three people on the
hijacked airliners, one of whom was another dad at my daughter's school. Please
visit the Red Cross to see how you can
contribute to the on-going efforts.
|Quidditch: A Board Game
This was just such a great week for stuff (July 9,2001)! To top it off
comes Pepe Valdes from Mexico with a site you HAVE TO HAVE TO HAVE TO HAVE TO
visit: Quidditch: A Board Game.
Imagine taking Harry Potter, Risk, and Dungeons and Dragons and smashing them
together in the Super Conducting Super Collider and you will see what this is.
The site loads slowly, but it is well worth it to see Pepe's board game in
action. I only hope some of the bazillion-dollar corporations that have
licensed Potter can come up something as creatively and reverently
instantiated. This is a true labor of love that is not a
"me-too" knock off of what someone else has done (I mean -- how many
Sorting Hats do you see out there? Someone should just do a Sorting
Central and be done with it NB: as of 7/14/01 sortingcentral.com and
sortinghatcentral.com are available domain names). And the fact that it
looks mentally engaging blows the Quidditch card game away. Kudos to Pepe!!!!! Please send
him your support!
|Keeper Practise at WB
Keeper Practise is up at Warner Brothers. You know, there's been a bad
trend in the Quidditch games at the Warner Brothers site -- they started out
with some good features and have been gradually shedding them like pet hair in
the current heat wave. I speak of course of Keeper
Practise. (If you haven't been sorted at the WB site go to http://www.harrypotter.com
and follow the menus.) Where Beater Practise has some really strong graphics,
Keeper Practise has none. While its predecessors had some amusing (if
inconsistent) game play, Keeper Practise is flawed in at least two major
areas: 1.) The indicator for location of the Quaffle is really
misplaced. The gem indicating the Quaffle is in your range is in the upper
right corner of the screen, exactly away from the area where you're attention is
focused if you're doing your job (i.e., lower screen, center to sides).
2.) The rendering of depth is really off. You CAN play this, but the
question is why would you WANT to? The feeling you get looking at the
evolution of these is that they started out trying to make something really good
and started hitting deadlines just as they realized how HARD it all was. His concept of a scavenger hunt
game has more allure than this slap-dash piece of code. Quidditch: A Board Game
is still the coolest thing I think you could spend part of you summer making.
Let me get this straight: We know about the ultra-atavists &
bluestockings who think that Harry Potter promotes witchcraft. Now as I
read in Zap2it.com,
there are witches accusing it of not promoting ENOUGH witchcraft.
People: it's fiction!!!! If you can't keep reality and fiction
separate, it's time to up your Prozac dosage and surrender your driver's
license. Consider not having children. Plan for a career in fast
food preparation. This should be taken as a hallmark of great literature.
I am not joking. Harry joins the likes of Huck Finn, which is
another classic case of people reading words and ignoring the story:
either side of the political spectrum (which now consists only of
politically-correct and politically-incorrect) can claim it as their best
exemplar or their worst nightmare. It's fascinating, though -- that words
on paper can have such repercussions, and that a story so clearly set in an
unreal universe can resonate so profoundly with the ultra-material world of the
|T-shirt Shortages & Email
To everybody who has written me for email accounts: I have checked with
my hosting company and they can provide me with an infinite number of email
accounts on the quidditch.com domain name, but they will be charging me $12.00
per year for each of them. You're a great bunch of people, but I can't
finance vanity email at that rate. Unless I hear a grassroots swell of
interest in email and a desire to pick up the cost of your email accounts (and
for the record I would not be making any profit on these) I'm going to lay the
matter to rest.
Has anyone else noticed an acute shortage of Quidditch T-shirts? I've
gotten four or five emails from people asking me if I have any (sorry to say
folks, if you haven't picked up on my zeitgeist against merchandising
you haven't been paying attention). I've seen people offering the darned
things for $30 on some of the auction sites. Folks: Give it a few weeks
or months. No licensee is going to sit by and let normal people pick up
profits when all they need to do is hire a few more workers for their Asian
sweatshops. The supply is fated to rebound in time for the movie.
Don't waste your money paying a premium that can't sustain itself.
|Pokemon and Harry
What's the link between Pokemon and Harry Potter? Simple: Magic The Gathering.
I remember seeing this collectible card game take off about seven or eight years
ago. Given the fervor it inspired and the kinds of loyalty it inspired and
its theme of wizardry and witchcraft, I'd
have to count it as the progenitor (or at least harbinger) of both the Harry
Potter and Pokemon crazes. Fun to play, and decidedly retro in its
emphasis on little pieces of cardboard and an active imagination, it laid the
intellectual groundwork for an epic-length saga of a becoming wizard. The only thing it lacked as a Wizards
recreational game (though of course in the meta system that was provided by the
card game itself). Think about it. BTW -- this was one COOL game to play,
it was portable, and it forced you to actually be in the same room with the
people you were playing with -- and to talk with them even.
July 19, 2001: Quidditch employment
opportunity (I never thought I'd be writing that). Hogwarts
3D Questcom Entertainment, and XSquare Software are looking for 3D Modelers
experienced in Poser 4, Maya, or Dark Basic to work on the full Quidditch 3D
game at Hogwarts 3D.com. Must be advanced in the program that they use and
either US or UK residents. Degrees less important than ability.
Please e-mail them at email@example.com
Notes on the second trailer
||If you ever want to impress your art teacher
or a cineaste (i.e., film freak) date, mention Sergi Eisenstein's notion
of typage -- that you want an actor or actress who just by virtue of their
looks identifies them with the character they portray (the Studio
System in Hollywood took to this with a vengeance and has left people like Brad
Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio in its wake). However, the really great thing
about this is when it works it works great -- viewing the latest Harry Potter
trailer and the persons of Madame Hooch and Hagrid you get an idea what this is
all about. They're each onscreen for only seconds -- but you know instantly the
casting was dead-on (let me be silent as to the matter of Richard Harris as
Dumbledore -- every time I see him I hear MacArthur Park on the MP3
player inside my head). Also, the Snitch looks FABULOUS (look up the
original meaning of that word) and the flying sequence with Malfoy and Harry
takes place in a landscape (skyscape? background?) with the surreal quality you
know your imagination cast when you read it in the book. I don't know
about you folks, but I find myself salivating for the release of the motion
Practise is up at WB. You can think of Chaser Practise as the exact
opposite of Beater Practise (surprise, surprise). I don't find it as
enjoyable as Beater Practise but I think that's my inclination as opposed to the
game's. Perhaps this general feeling stems from the feel that I'm trying
to outwit something that already knows my trajectory. It's very
possible to outwit the Keeper and score goals -- which is the whole point of the
game of Quidditch, after all. But the visceral feeling of actually hitting
something is missing here. The sound track consists
almost exclusively of grunts as the Quaffle is passed from player to player
rather than the wonderful "whack" you get in Beater. The
backgrounds aren't as lush as Beater Practise, but the playability is more
strategic than tactical. One can only hope WB will integrate all of these
various Practises into a complete on-line, multiplayer game.
||OK -- if you've grown used to 3D worlds, and let's face it who
hasn't? -- then Patrick Algermissen
has a game for you Windows users to download & try out. It's an EARLY
version, and it's far from perfect, and he's put it up and is openly looking for
feedback. Try it out. Even in its present shape it's more
interesting than the game WB's put on its site.
Two words: Lemony
If, like me, you have read and re-read the wonderful, awesome,
life-affirming Harry Potter books again and again and eagerly await the next,
yet are looking at the same time for a pleasant diversion, a little detour, a
different sort of taste, then look no further than Lemony Snicket's A
Series of Unfortunate Events. These books are wonderful.
VERY DIFFERENT -- but since there is nothing in the immediate horizon for
Potter fans -- this will do. I will not go into the plots or the cast of
characters (much). The Baudelaire children start orphaned and have to face a
world populated with adults who make the Dursleys seem like St. Francis of
Assisi and Mother Theresa. The wonderful attitude of the author (note to
those with chronic reality-avoidance syndrome: Lemony Snicket is a pen
name!!!!!) pervades these books -- think of a Horatio Alger story as scripted by
David Lynch with storyboard by Charles Addams and Gahan Wilson and directed by
the offspring Wes Craven and Woody Allen and you'll have the beginnings of an
INKLING of what these books are about. Ignore the comparisons of Klaus
Baudelaire to Harry Potter -- just give one of them a try and see how you like
|Quidditch without Broomsticks
Coolest Idea I've seen in a while: Quidditch
without Broomsticks. The creators also call it "Muggle Quidditch."
I love the idea! It's about turning off our computers and doing
something in the physical world (what a concept!). I hope these guys have
an idea that catches on like wildfire. And I think they should put their
names on their site so anybody doing this gives them credit. They've got
something that can be bigger than Pog -- and nobody needs to buy cheap plastic
models or action figures to have fun with it.
One of the co-creators also has a site.
||Some guys who have been making marked improvements of late are
Hippogriffs. Check out their site -- they also have a wonderful
attitude -- who else could create an idea like WWE: Wizards with Electricity?.
Beater Practise -
thoughts. Butrpopcorn7 asked me to post my opinions of the Beater Practise
game at WB's harrypotter.com so here goes.
The strong point of the game is the beautifully drawn
background and the soundtrack (most of the fan stuff really ignores a good sound
track). Playability is not something it offers up. For the generation
groomed on joysticks and power-ups, things don't get interesting until two
bludgers make their appearance in level 6. Your best strategy then is to
hug the bottom of the frame and alternate beating them away before they make a
dash for the players you're charged with protecting. In general, to get
your points higher, stay away from the players (heck, blot them out of your
mind) and watch where the bludgers enter the game space. Not a bad game,
it'll do until something more robust comes out, but if you've spent any time at
all on an N64, it'll get tiring. It's a good introduction for your younger
||Quidditch through the Ages
||Quidditch Through the Ages You know, given the
title of this book from Scholastic and the domain name you're currently visiting
you're probably expecting me to rave about this book. Such is not the
case. Save your money! (Even though I've got an Amazon link, I feel this
strongly about it.) Don't go nuts. It's an amusing book for a
few minutes, and if you keep it as bathroom or bedtime reading it's fine
enough. But all of the things that make the Harry Potter series so great:
the characterization, the integrated plots, the modern morality tale and the
social satire of modern Britain as a recently multi-racial society, are
completely missing from these knockoffs (there's another one about Magical
Creatures that I couldn't stomach buying). Hold out for the next
book. I'll happily give someone space for a rebuttal.
Has anyone created a team called the Haileybury Hammers?
James Franks the town's Recreation
& Tourism Coordinator would like you to contact him. This has been a
Public Service Announcement.
The MOVIE TRAILER is here!
(No Quidditch scenes directly, but there are some broom shots, a brief image of
the Bludgers leaving their box, and a point of view shot of
Harry ascending over flying lessons!). Did anybody else have trouble
saving the movie file? I loaded the full QuickTime version and then copied
it from "Temporary Internet Files" under the Windows directory.
Now I don't need to keep going to the Warner Brothers site to watch it.
Today's prediction: Ever notice how Hogwart's: A
History is constantly referred to by Hermione and no one else has ever read
it? I think one of the ultimate mysteries in the seventh book is going to
hinge on Harry finally reading it.
The other thing that eats at me is what's the deal between
Dumbledore and the Dursleys? It makes no sense they keep taking him back
and Dumbledore WANTS them to take Harry for at least part of the summer.
Something is weird here. Yes, as some of you have pointed out Dumbledore
has put a charm on Harry protecting him while he's with his blood
relatives. The bigger question is: What's the blood link
specifically? Voldemort used Harry's blood to regenerate himself in
"Goblet" removing the most effective first weapon Harry had.
BUT, Wise D. seems to be RELIEVED in "Goblet" when Harry tells him
that Voldemort took some of his blood and can now touch him painlessly.
Blood will tell, but what it's telling we don't yet know.
||Quick word to Lego (and my server logs tell me amazing things
about who stops in for a visit): We'd love to get our hands on an early
version of the Lego Quidditch toys you're working on. If you want our
crack editorial team to review them or just give impressions of how they play
just drop an email.