Why I love Harry Potter

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I was one of those people who thought ‘why on earth are adults reading Harry Potter? It’s for children isn’t it!’.  Then, when The Philosopher’s Stone was released at cinemas in 2001, two of my friends dragged me along…..I got hooked.

Ron, Harry and Hermione (so cute!)

Let’s face it, if Harry Potter wasn’t any good there would not have been so many of Britain’s finest actors clamouring for a part.  Like the Star Wars saga/franchise, you would have to live on another world to have not heard of Harry Potter.

For anybody who knows nothing about Harry Potter (all five of you), Harry is an orphan being brought up by his nasty Aunt and Uncle Dursley who treat him like a slave.  On Harry’s eleventh birthday he discovers his parents were part of a wizard world he was not aware of and he is invited to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry.  Harry finds out his parents were murdered by an evil wizard named Voldemort, who tried to kill Harry and failed.  Harry was left with a lightening-shaped scar on his forehead.  The boy who lived.  Voldemort disappeared.  Harry befriends Ron Weasly and Hermione Granger at Hogwarts.  He settles in to the wizarding world, but all is not as it seems, Voldemort has returned……

Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore

In my opinion, the first two films are aimed at a younger audience and don’t fully reflect J.K. Rowling’s books, although they are a good start.  My favourite film is The Prisoner of Azkaban where director, Alfonso Cuaron, took over the reins from Chris Columbus.  Mike Newell directed The Goblet of Fire and subsequently David Yates the final four films.  The film is more muted in colour with greys, blues and greens (the ensuing films retain this winning look).  This reflects the change of direction in story and characters from jolly wizarding japes to serious, people are getting killed, storylines.  I also prefer Michael Gambon’s Dumbledore.  I loved Richard Harris, but Gambon’s Dumbledore is more steely and less twinkly-eyed/cuddly, if that’s the word I am looking for, truer to Rowling’s character.

For children, the appeal of Harry Potter is the magic and fantasy.  For everybody else, the eternal themes of friendship, good against evil, choices, bravery (I adore Neville Longbottom in Deathly Hallows, part 2), right and wrong, along with fun escapism, appeals to their inner child.  It is also the attention to detail and richly drawn characters in Rowling’s world that is wonderful.

In terms of casting, these films could not fared any better.  The actors are all perfect for their characters, Snape, Bellatrix, Lucius Malfoy and Sirius, in particular.  The child/teen cast are likeable and each bring their character to life from the pages of Rowling’s books.  Dan Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint grew up whilst making these films and it is noticeable in their acting, it improves with each film.  Unusually, for child stars, as young adults they all appear to be thoroughly likeable and unspoilt.  Great role models for youngsters.

My (now) 6 year old started watching Harry Potter last Christmas and loved it.  I was apprehensive over him finding it scary, but he was fine.  His friends with older siblings have seen the films too.  I think if you know your child, you will know what is acceptable for them.  We intend to watch the films, one each Sunday afternoon, on the build-up to Christmas.  A new, yearly, film tradition.

I see nothing wrong with being a ‘grown-up’ and watching these films.  The world can be a little dreary sometimes and a bit of Hogwarts magic is just what is needed.  Expecto patronum!

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” Albus Dumbledore

 

 

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Movies, Memories and Childhood: Part I

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My first blog post referred to my first ‘serious’ movie as a child, the Raiders of the Lost Ark, and its impact on me.  This post is about an entirely different sort of movie and why it is special to me.

Disney’s The Sleeping Beauty

I was just over 4 years of age and my brother was 2 when my Grandma (my Father’s Mother) took us to a local independent cinema that was screening The Sleeping Beauty.  We had never been to the cinema before, but our little baby brother was fighting for his life in the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital and our Grandma wanted to treat us whilst we were staying with her.

For two hours (the cinema had a proper break in the middle with an usherette selling ice-creams – superb!), we were immersed in this beautifully animated, magical story.  The film made me forget how much I was missing my Mummy (our parents were staying with our brother in the hospital) and when I would see her again.

Disney’s Maleficent

I had forgotten this memory, as if it had been locked away, but I recently bought my eldest son a Disney film and when we sat to watch it, there was a trailer for the restored version of The Sleeping Beauty. I started crying because it triggered my memory of that time that was tinged with uncertainty, even down to remembering my Grandma bringing chocolate for us in her beige leather handbag and the scent of her L’Air du Temps perfume.

I am now looking for The Sleeping Beauty on dvd.  For someone who is a self-confessed tomboy, it will be a little at odds with my film collection.  However, I don’t care because the four year old me will now always be grateful to Disney for my moment of much-needed escapism and a film that will always remind me of my beloved Grandma, who died in 1994.  If Disney does this for all sad, worried or frightened children, then they’re okay in my book.

“This is a time when we need to smile more and Hollywood movies are supposed to do that for people in difficult times.” Spielberg

images: Disney

So, why start a blog on films?

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For myself.  I have always loved films.  

For other women.  Women are often patronised when it comes to films.  We are often told we are only meant to like chick flicks when many of us actually love a variety, if not all genres of film.  

For anybody that loves films.  

Lastly, for my eldest son.  He is only 5, but already I see so much of myself in him.  He already has a love for films.  He is a sensitive, imaginative little dreamer.  Dreamers are often told to wake up, but I want to nourish that side of him.  Without dreamers, we would have no movie industry, or indeed other art forms.  I love the following quote from one of my favourite directors, Tim Burton:

“Certain things leave you in your life and certain things stay with you.  And that’s why we’re all interested in movies – those ones that make you feel, you still think about.  Because it gave you such an emotional response, it’s actually part of your emotional make-up, in a way.”

I have never forgotten the first film I saw that got me thinking, I love this, I would love to be a part of this, I love films.

I was 6 years old.  It was the early 80’s.  My family were visiting our relatives just outside Berlin and my older cousins had to entertain me (my brothers were 4 and 2, so with my parents) one afternoon.  They took me to the cinema.

Their local cinema was a beautiful art-deco building, which was wonderfully old-fashioned in every respect, complete with ushers.  The event started with a couple of old black and white serials, Flash Gordon and the Lone Ranger.  After a rest break (love that) it was time for the main feature.  The lights dimmed and a respectful silence fell (no mobile phones then) with a hushed sense of excitement filling the room.

From the start, with that opening scene, where we don’t see our hero’s face until several minutes into the movie, I was hooked.  The film?  Raiders of the Lost Ark.

indy

The music, courtesy of the legendary John Williams, the cinematography, the pace, the banter between Indy and Marion….perfect popcorn pitch and tone.  Yes, at 6, I was probably too young for such a film.  Clearly, back then people didn’t worry quite so much about stuff.  However, I didn’t understand bits of it and it wasn’t until I watched it again when I was 9 or so that I thought, oh, that’s a bit scary.  The bit I took away with me was the opening scene.

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I can almost (hmm, almost) forgive George Lucas for those three films because he created Indiana Jones.  He wrote it because of those old black and white adventure serials he watched as a boy that used to be standard in all cinemas before the main film.  Therefore, it was fitting that my first viewing of Indiana Jones was in the same setting.

Film Facts:

Indiana Jones was actually Indiana Smith when Lucas first wrote the script

The film was made with an $18 million budget and grossed $384 million, worldwide

Tom Selleck was wanted for the role of Indy, but could not commit because of his contract playing Magnum PI

In Empire magazine’s list of the best 500 movies of all time, Raiders came 2nd after The Godfather (another favourite of mine)