The Goblet of Fire

I found this movie pretty boring, but again, there’s so much going on in the book that there’s barely time to hit the essential points. Nuance and color isn’t going to survive even a two and a half hour adaptation.

I will say this though: there is joy in the source novel stemming from Harry’s struggles and successes in the early stages of the tournament which make its tragic conclusion—Cedrick’s death—that much more devastating. Worse, learning that the Death Eater impersonating Mad-Eye Moody has been cheating for Harry, which suggests the early joy was a cheat as well, feels like betrayal. It’s a bitter discovery to add to the already devastating finale.

In the movie however, the tournament struggles to make any sense at all, and so, to hope that subtleties of character and situation will survive is foolishness through and through. But with these subtleties gone and the tournament reduced to three action set-pieces—they’re all race-or-chases— the early joy goes out the window too. The thing is that I see that joy as the last truly pure, truly childlike happiness Harry experiences in the books, and I missed it not being there.

All that said, I have two principal take-aways from the movie:

  1. Robert Pattinson is a Hufflepuff. This explains everything.
  2. The scene in book in which Harry deciphers the second clue by bringing the golden egg to the pool in the prefects’ bathroom seemed to me when I read it to be very much—and very awkwardly—about Harry’s nakedness. Watching the movie, I now know that I am not the only one to have understood this to be the case, and for the record, I’m relieved to know that I am not the only one. Because who wants to be a perv?

The Prisoner of Azkaban

Columbus’s first two films offer a realist portrait of a magical school. Cuarón’s film offers a magical portrait, both gothic and expressionistic, and that makes all the difference.

The cost of the elevation in style is paid in plot, which is here reduced to something like a sketch that’s so vague I wonder what someone who didn’t have the original novel in their head would make of the thing. But ultimately, the source novels are so densely plotted cuts were inevitable. At least here they are made in the service of something other than distribution constraints.

However beautiful this film, it marks the point in the series where my experience of the novels and their adaptations diverge. The choices this movie makes don’t coincide with my narrative interests. So I wound up slightly annoyed with what was and wasn’t shown and deeply annoyed with how this affects our sense of the characters and their relationships. (Lupin is better than this!)

This annoyance is a problem I’m certain is only going to get worse as I work through the remaining films.

Harry Potter: Stone & Secrets

So after finishing the books, I decided to watch the Harry Potter movies. They’re fine but not interesting enough for me to log one by one. If I tried, I’d just run out of things to say.

As far as the first two movies go, they do a great job of showing the stories and characters in live action, and the choices they make address limitations of space and the absence of discursive narration. They are also very much movies for children and are satisfied with capturing the most basic sense of the excitement of going to school to learn magic. (School would be awesome if we were learning magic!) All of this is fine, but I’ll never need to see either of them again.

One thing has been settled though: as I was reading the series I kept wondering how many of the movies I’d seen, and now I know I had only ever seen the first. All the images I had in my head of the others came from the trailers.

Grace à dieux

Ozon is a filmmaker I’ve followed consistently if not carefully for twenty years. So I was surprised to see him making a film about the sexual abuses of catholic priests. There’s so much opportunity for audiences to confuse homosexuality and pedophilia that I was surprised to see him wandering into the morass. And yet, he’s made his film, and I’ve seen it, and despite myself, I think it’s quite extraordinary.

Why does it work? Because he’s brought to bear every single aspect of his previous filmmaking in order to make it work. This is a film made by a melodramatist, who uses his sensitivity to form and to the moral implications of form to construct a non-melodramatic account of a group of victims’ discovery of the possibility of and their decision to pursue political-legal action. It is a film made by a sexually playful and campy gay man, who shows the temptation and the fall of a priest who could have loomed as a queer monster but who instead appears in his final scenes to be a disturbed man, an ill man who has a same-sex (rather than heterosex) object of desire. It is a film made by an actors’ director who is working with artists cast exactly into the correct roles.

The film is long. It is troubling. It is even difficult. But most of all, it is moving.

Crazy Rich Asians

A pure romantic comedy and gloriously, wonderfully done. Pure pleasure and without guilt.

Michelle Yeoh is, as per convention, rock solid and compelling. And Henry Golding is like ice cream. Double-scoop please.

Which means that Ms. Rachel Cho can get out of my way, or she can get cut. (And no, you do not want to test me Miss Ms. … )

Aquaman

Unexpectedly, incredibly, this film has jumped to the top rungs of my informal list of favorite superhero movies. Visually and narratively, there’s no predicting what comes next. It’s insane. Also everyone is swimming all the time. And Aquaman talks to the fish. Patrick Wilson is present.

In short, this film is hitting a lot of buttons I didn’t realize I had but that, now that they’re activated and flashing green, I cannot deny.

I’ll be watching this one again.

At Eternity’s Gate

A discursive film communicating expressionistically through image, script, montage and performance. What emerges is a portrait of the artist as heroic seer, as champion of the beautiful ordinary. Obviously this makes him appear—and perhaps become—mad and a saint.

None of this is wrong.

Ruben Brandt, Collector

The Beav brought me to see this film as part of a birthday outing. I’d not heard of it and his only context for the choice was “I think we’ll each have something to like.” He was right.

This is an animated action heist movie about someone building a collection of paintings done in a style that is both reverential, referential and grotesque.

In the end, we both liked it and were both put off by it. So it made for a great movie to watch together.

Captain Marvel

This movie has me thinking about some of the danger points in Marvel’s multi-textual narrative strategy. The first is that the component movies must absolutely work individually until there are enough of them to make the over-narrative visible. Marvel surmounted this challenge with seeming ease. The early Iron Man, Thor and Captain America movies were individual successes that elicited and encouraged attention to the narrative that wasn’t yet visible.

However, now that over-narrative has become primary. Individual movies are no longer viewed primarily as individual movies even if they are (and to Marvel’s credit they clearly are) made to be individual success. Instead, they are viewed—consumed actually—as steps on the way to the next episode of the over-narrative. And so in this later stage of the multi-textual enterprise, the second danger that emerges, is that these movies will be products of negative space, simply blocks filling in pieces, trifles.

Captain Marvel is a good movie. Brie Larson is great. I liked it a lot. I don’t really care about anything in it though, and very much feel like it exists to introduce me to and convince me to buy into the human god-figure who will fix the Infinity War problem. What I wonder is this: will I think differently and better of it after Endgame has come and gone and let it off the hook?

Two final thoughts. This movie reminds me of Green Lantern so much I looked up whether they shared cast or crew. (Despite the cultural consensus around that movie, this is, for me, a very good thing.) Also, the family here is lesbian. I take this as obvious, and yet, it is never stated or even really hinted in any direct way. This left me feeling a bit gay-baited by yet another not-gay gay film of the sort that seems to be very much the rage these days.