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Harry Potter: Page to ScreenHarry Potter: Page to Screen, the Complete Filmmaking Journey by Bob McCabe.

Hi, my name is Katy, and I am a Harry Potter fan. I have friends who are bigger fans – I checked this book out of the library rather than buying it myself. But still. I got on the hold list so that I was the very first person to check this book out, and I read it. It is a gigantic heavy tome of a book, with big pictures and tiny print and I read a potentially embarrassing amount of the print. This is truly a book for the fan. There is no criticism here – you will find no hint, for example, that Chris Columbus might not have been as good a Harry Potter director as Alfonso Cuaron. Instead, there are lots of pictures, photographs, sketches, mock-ups, things that were made but never used. It goes through film by film before covering individual characters, locations, creatures and artifacts. Curiously missing in this otherwise comprehensive coverage is any mention of the composers who wrote the beautiful music and any talk of the real animals, especially the owls, which featured in the films. I enjoyed it. I got to tell all my fellow Harry Potter fans how, for example, Cuaron assigned the three leads to write autobiographical essays in character – Emma Watson writing a bio of Hermione as Hermione, for example. Watson’s essay got longer with every draft; Radcliffe said it was a useful exercise. Grint, who played Ron, didn’t do one at all because Ron never would. As a bonus, flipping through the pictures made the Boy excited enough to listen to the first book at home – still long for his out-of-the-car listening.

As a slight follow-up to my earlier knitting and Harry Potter fan post, I have not knit any of the larger projects from the book, though I still think my son would look fabulous in a Weasley sweater. I have knit two of the baby/elf hats, and several teeny-tiny Harry Potter sweater ornaments, though I knit them in the round instead of following their pattern.
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book coverBride and Prejudice.

Like many people I know, I have a special place in my heart for Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. During the years that my sister was studying South Asian culture, she also introduced me to the joyous synthesis of squeaky-clean romance, music, dance and colorful costume changes that are Bollywood movies. Bride and Prejudice is the initially unlikely but quite successful synthesis of these two – Pride and Prejudice set in modern-day India, with lots of globe hopping. This setting translates the concerns of the original novel quite brilliantly. In modern-day India, marriage is still much more socially important than it is in the UK or America. I confess I don’t know anything about the Indian province of Amritsar, where Jaya, Lalita and their two younger sisters live, but it’s described in the film as a beautiful backwater. It has lovely cultural artifacts like the Golden Temple, but not much in the way of modernity. Lalita loves it passionately, and defends it fiercely both to American businessman Will Darcy, in town for a wedding with his best friend, and the Indian ex-pat distant cousin. The cousin is crass and wealthy and, even though he thinks America is better in so many ways, wants a nice traditional Indian girl for his wife. Very helpfully to fans of the book, while the girls’ names are changed to traditional Indian names, the men mostly have the same names as in the book. The plot is simplified and Austen's marvelous dialogue doesn't come over at all. But there’s music and dancing in plenty, both as part of regular life and when the characters sing and dance out their feelings. This isn’t true Bollywood, as it’s done by the UK team that did Bend it Like Beckham, so hard-core fans may find it lacking. However, for people like me who need to be able to fold laundry while watching a movie, having it in English was a big help. Bride and Prejudice is a delightfully fluffy movie, good for the liberal Austen fan and as an introduction to Bollywood.
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dvd coverSlings & Arrows
What’s not to love about a show whose opening song is titled “Cheer up, Hamlet!”? This a darkly comedic Canadian TV miniseries is about the New Burbage Theatre, smaller but very similar to Stratford, Ontario. At the heart of the show are three characters: Oliver (Stephen Ouimette), the jaded artistic director; Ellen (Martha Burns), the company’s lead actress, currently maintaining her youth with a string of much younger lovers; and Geoffrey Tenant (Paul Gross), director of a tiny and failing theater in Toronto. Seven years previously, these three were in an acclaimed production of Hamlet, Oliver directing and Ellen and Geoffrey playing the leads. In the middle of the third performance, Geoffrey went mad, jumping into Ophelia’s grave and then running away. At the end of the first episode, a very drunk Oliver calls Geoffrey to talk about the past. When Geoffrey refuses to talk to him, he falls down in the street and is run over by a truck labeled “Canada’s Best Hams.” Now, Geoffrey has been asked to be the interim artistic director and Oliver is haunting him. The current lead production is again Hamlet, and a young American action star has been asked to play the lead. We also follow a young apprentice actor, Kate, as perfectly winning an ingénue as you could ask for. Meanwhile, American executive Holly Day is convincing the already business-oriented financial director, Richard, that New Burbage would make a lot more money if it were transformed into a peppy and commercialized Shakespeareville. [ profile] amnachaidh and I were flabbergasted by it all: the dark humor and snappy dialogue, the depth of the musings on theater and humanity, the sheer number of pots kept merrily bubbling at the same time. For those with theater backgrounds, this is absolute perfection. It’s also excellent TV.
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Once Upon a Mattress If you like old-fashioned campy musicals and revisionist fairy tales, take a look at this one. Carol Burnett and Tracey Ullman star in this Disney version of the Broadway classic. Burnett (who played Princess Winifred in the original Broadway production) stars as Queen Agravain, the queen of a fairy-tale land who won’t let her 40-something son, Prince Dauntless, get married. What she tells Dauntless is that a real princess would pass her test, which is different every time. But Lady Larken and Sir Harry need Dauntless to get married. No one else is allowed to get married until Dauntless is, and Larken is pregnant. Sir Harry goes on a quest to find a princess who can pass the tests and comes back with Princess Fred (Tracey Ullman) a moat-swimming princess from the swamp. Since the story is based on The Princess and the Pea, we all know how the story will end, but Dauntless and Fred are racking their brains to figure out what the test will be and how to pass it. Burnett wears fabulous sequined outfits with elaborate headdresses that look like an unholy cross between 1450 and Las Vegas, and of course, still commands the screen. Ullman’s Winifred is charming and stubborn, especially as she’s complaining about how Snow White had a seven men (practically a regiment, even if they were short) helping her get to happily ever after, while she’s on her own. There’s enough sexual innuendo here to keep the adults chuckling, between Fred wanting to be "satisfied" and Dauntless asking his literally dumb father to explain the wedding night to him, even as it’s quite sanitized enough for the kids not to notice. All of us enjoyed multiple viewings of this romp of a movie.


Jan. 26th, 2008 03:59 pm
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Hardcore fans probably saw this in the theater. We watched it New Year’s Eve. Am I catching up yet?

Stardust Movie adaptations of books… particularly books by favorite authors like Neil Gaiman. It has the potential for either extreme greatness or extreme badness. In this case, [ profile] amnachaidh and I were charmed. It might have helped that it had been a few years since we’d read the book. Here’s the basic plot: Tristan, our hero is a social outcast bent on winning the heart of the town beauty, Victoria. They live in the little village of Wall, so called because it is bordered by a wall. Faery is supposed to lie on the other side of the wall, although no one has been to check, except, unbeknownst to Tristan, Tristan’s father. When Tristan and Victoria see a falling star together, Tristan vows to bring it back to her by her birthday. Meanwhile, in Faery, the dying king has thrown his ruby necklace and knocked a star out of the sky. His six sons (named Secundus through Septimus, some reduced to watching ghosts) are willing to kill to be the first to find it. And three witches send one to find the falling star, whose living heart will keep them young for centuries. For a star in Faery is a living woman. The story had the perfect blend of adventure, romance and humor to make it feel like a slightly wilder version of The Princess Bride. The actors – Claire Danes as the star, Michelle Pfeiffer as the witch, Robert DeNiro as the sky captain and newcomer Charlie Cox as Tristan (transforming beautifully from nerd to hero) were all phenomenal. This is one we’ll want to watch again.
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I admit, I haven’t read the book. I should do that. It was really weird watching the extras, where they talked about the book without mentioning Alan Moore at all. Also, I’m feeling pretty certain that everyone here has already seen this movie. But here goes, anyway.

V for Vendetta In a dark near-future world, Britain has been taken over by a fascist government, while the United States has dissolved into chaos. Evey (Natalie Portman) is a young news employee, out past curfew and rescued from thugs by a mysterious man in a black cloak and a Guy Fawkes mask (Hugo Weaving). He introduces himself as V and invites her to come with him to see a show. She watches in shock as he blows up a national monument to the accompaniment of the 1812 Overture on the emergency broadcast system. Evey has only been trying to blend in since her parents were killed in the brutal early years of the regime, but somehow she keeps tangling with V and risking capture by the government. The action is tense and the characters compelling. V is both extremely likable and very icky, a terrorist with an easy-to-support goal. The government is both a reflection of the Third Reich and a not-implausible result of a government which uses fear of outside attack to suppress dissent. The performances by Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving – whose face we never see – were impressive. If you want a side of thinking with your dose of action, this is a great movie.


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