I'm back from a fantastic time at the seminar. A highlight for me was getting to talk with Tim Minear one-on-one about his script adaptation of Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, before watching the Firefly episode "Out of Gas" and hearing his fascinating talk about the process of writing it.
Now, I have many links to share!
* I have lots of new pictures of our new house (inside and outside, as we're finally getting settled) and Virginia (my favorite model) here.
* Here's a new imprint to watch: Planet Stories aims to bring classic fantasy and science fiction adventure stories to a new generation of readers. Every book in the Planet Stories line is currently out of print. The imprint launches next month and will publish one new volume per month of classic science fiction and fantasy pulp stories.
* An interesting article comparing J.R.R. Tolkien and Ayn Rand: "Tales of Titans and Hobbits" by Juliusz Jablecki.
* ailing_prophecy is holding a new contest at her wonderful Etsy shop Mirror Box, Inc. No purchase is necessary. Entries for the drawing must be in by noon (EST) on August 25. Learn more here.
I saw Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. My initial impressions are below.
On the whole, I think it's a very good and enjoyable movie, though I still prefer Alfonso Cuarón's direction, and The Prisoner of Azkaban remains my favorite of the film series thus far. I do recommend it, and I plan to see it again.
* Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge. I had my doubts when I first saw the casting choice, but she fully inhabited the role, and made Umbridge every bit as chilling as I imagined her to be.
* The "Big Brother" Orwellian imagery, including the massive banner of Cornelius Fudge in the Ministry of Magic, and the wall of educational decrees in Hogwarts. Someone was paying close attention to Rowling's message, I think. The entire film carried off the darker and more serious tone well.
* Dumbledore's Army. All of the students, from Luna Lovegood (played nicely by the book) to Neville Longbottom, were portrayed with wonderful heart, and the scenes of practice in the Room of Requirement were very effective. Ginny Weasley's brief but powerful moments were some of my particular favorites.
* The attack on Arthur Weasley. This was appropriately harrowing, and Arthur's later toast to Harry in thanks for his rescue struck just the right note.
* Harry's angst. His frustration came across effectively, and his final struggle with Voldemort (though nearly undone by unnecessarily cheesy lines) was wrenchingly depicted.
* Lucius Malfoy had great moments. So did Snape, and though they were few, they were fabulous. Sirius's error in calling Harry by his father's name during the fight with the Death Eaters worked beautifully. Lupin, when we did get to see him, appeared and sounded amazingly bedraggled and weary, a poster child for how things were not going well for the Order. And Rupert Grint has abandoned childlike mugging and perfected his understated characterization of Ron.
* One word: Centaurs.
* Has Michael Gambon ever read the books? Or any lines of the script but his own? I'm amazed at how consistently his lines seem to misfire. I can't fathom his take on Dumbledore's character. I cringe each time he opens his mouth - which is odd, because I've thought he was fine in other roles - and dread the mess he will inevitably make of the death scene in the next movie. The manner in which he played the confrontation with Voldemort in the Ministry of Magic directly contradicted the book's description and completely robbed the character of its greatest power.
* I felt that the film was overflowing with missed opportunities. In Prisoner of Azkaban, for example, the scenes were packed densely, fully three-dimensional; in the background, behind the main action, characters were doing things, and details were unfolding. There's more to see and learn about Harry's world with each viewing. In this film, some scenes had such texture, but others had gaping empty spaces, silences, that could have been filled with more - more interaction between the members of the Order of the Phoenix (we hardly see Lupin and Black together at all, for example, and that lack of interaction detracts from Lupin's reaction to Black's death), the professors at Hogwarts, the Weasley family, the students in their rooms, etc. Tonks seemed given very short shrift, considering her importance later. Lupin was nearly ignored. If only Cuarón's ability to triple-pack each frame could've been brought to bear on the script, I would have felt more immersed in the story and its world, and the film might've seemed less rushed and more thoroughly inhabited by the characters I love.
* I was surprised that three potentially important events did not happen: Harry didn't have that moment of realization after viewing Snape's memory that James Potter wasn't perfect by a long shot; we did not learn that the prophecy might have applied to Neville instead of Harry; and the statue of magical brethren was not destroyed in the rather dumbed-down duel between Dumbledore and Voldemort (which seems a potent metaphor for we know will come). Ah well.
* Mark Williams did not need a wig. Especially that one. I'm just saying.
All in all, though, the good aspects of the film outweigh the more problematic parts.
Several students have contacted me to say that I look "just like the actress who plays Bellatrix Lestrange." I've wondered if this is because we're both petite and brown-eyed with long brunette hair, or if I somehow project crazed and deranged Death Eater evil. After watching Helena Bonham-Carter, though, I decided I'm okay with it either way. :)
"Well -- it's just that you seem to be laboring under the delusion that I am going to -- what is the phrase? -- come quietly. I am afraid I am not going to come quietly at all, Cornelius. I have absolutely no intention of being sent to Azkaban. I could break out, of course -- but what a waste of time, and frankly, I can think of a whole host of things I would rather be doing."
- Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix