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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The 90’s: The Shawshank Redemption

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The Shawshank Redemption regularly tops favourite and greatest film movie polls.  The film was only released in 1994, but it feels like it’s been around forever.  It didn’t perform well initially, although it only opened as a limited release.  When it was rereleased in 1995 because the film was nominated for seven Oscars (which, the film should have won IMO) the film performed much better at the box office.  Like many other brilliant films though (The Bourne Identity being a good example), The Shawshank Redemption came into it’s own when it was released on vhs, fast becoming a much loved movie.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

A story by Stephen King, adapted into a screenplay and directed by Frank Darabont, The Shawshank Redemption is a modern classic.  Set in 1947, it tells the story of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), who is imprisoned in the notorious Shawshank Prison for the murder of his wife and her lover.  Andy maintains he is innocent, much to the bemusement of other inmates. The story is about this, but mainly about the improbable friendship that develops between Andy and Red, a ‘lifer’, played delightfully by Morgan Freeman.  Shawshank also focuses on the rather grim side of prison life and how Andy copes with it.

There are so many memorable moments in this movie, like when gentle prison librarian, Brooks, gets parole, but on returning to the outside world, he cannot cope with it.  Memorable moments in films are not always happy.  We need to remember that prisoners are human beings too.

Brooks

Then there is the quote below from my favourite scene in the movie, where Andy plays the Marriage of Figaro through the PA so the whole prison hears it.

Red: [narrating] I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I’d like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can’t be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a grey place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.

Red and the other inmates

Why do fans (including myself) love this film so much?  Shawshank makes you feel sad, happy, angry, uplifted…..so many emotions throughout.  It’s an old-fashioned story about finding hope in a hopeless place.  The cast are fabulous and, for those who have seen it, you’ll know what I mean when I say, what an ending! To describe the ending in any way for anybody who has not watched Shawshank, would ruin it.  You need to watch this film with an open mind and enjoy it……

Andy: Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.

Andy and Red

Trivia:

Of all the brilliant work he has done, this is Morgan Freeman’s favourite film

Rob Reiner wanted to direct, with Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise as Red and Andy.  Thankfully Frank Darabont decided he would direct.  I don’t feel the movie would have been the same without Tim and Morgan in those roles.  You believe this friendship is real and that is the heart of this film.

Images: IMDb

Lost in Translation

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I love Sofia Coppola.  She is one of my favourite directors.  In a sea of male directors, Sofia has become well respected in her profession.  Sofia has, like many brilliant directors, her own style that is instantly recognisable.  You know you are watching one of her films.

Lost in Translation

As visually beautiful as Ms Coppola’s films are, I love her focus on her characters too.  Of all her work, I think, personally, this is truest in the exemplary Lost in Translation.

Charlotte, Lost in Translation

Starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johanssen, and set in Tokyo, this has a winning formula from the start.

Two bored and lonely individuals, Charlotte, newly married and pottering about in the hotel she is staying in whilst her husband (a photographer, played by Giovanni Ribisi) goes off to work, and Bob, an ageing action movie star staying in Tokyo to film a commercial, form an unlikely friendship.  They set about exploring Tokyo and turning their time there into an adventure, whilst getting to know one another.

Bob:  It gets a whole lot more complicated when you have kids.

Charlotte:  It’s scary.

Bob: The most terrifying day of your life is the day the first one is born.

Charlotte:  Nobody ever tells you that.

Bob:  Your life, as you know it…is gone.  Never to return.  But they learn how to walk, and they learn how to talk…and you want to be with them.  And they turn out to be the most delightful people you will ever meet in your life.

Charlotte:  That’s nice.

I love seeing Scarlett in a non-sexpot role for a change.  She is a great actress and gets to show this through Charlotte.  I love Bill Murray as a comic actor, but he is wonderful as Bob, bringing a vulnerability and sensitivity to him, proving what a great serious actor Bill is too.

There are some truly touching moments in the film, none more so than the ending, which is not clichéd either.

Lost in Translation is essentially a non-traditional love story. A non-chick flick, chick flick for the more discerning film lover.

lostintrans

Lost in Translation: 2003

Images: IMDb