Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Movie Review: Harry Potter 3

-- spoilers --

I went into this movie with mild expectations. I'd gleaned from google news headlines that the reviews were generally positive, and indicated the movies took a turn towards the darker side.

I was pleasantly surprised to find my expectations exceeded. I'd found the first two movies to be disappointments, they'd visualized the world well, and captured the story well enough, but somehow failed to make the story its own. Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings, as an example, remade the story to fit the screen.

While Harry Potter 3 doesn't quite go that far, the director succeeded in creating an amazing dark and somewhat creepy visual style and atmosphere, quite different from the books, that the story solidly sits astride. The whimsy that is never far away in the books is gone in this movie. Instead, we find an overall tinny metallic look; dark foreboding clouds; rainy scottish hills; standing stones; the whomping willow passing through the seasons squashing birds;crows and magpies flapping about; the magical machinery of hogwarts - clicking, clasping, clacking and turning gears, buckles and clocks; the dementors hovering never far - ready to suck the marrow from the bones of the living; fades and cuts that close in around the characters covering them in darkness. As Ron might say, "it's brilliant!"

The characters are still into things like candies that give voice to wild animals, singing toads, etc. but they are just passing amusements; the characters are concerned with darkers things, or at least things that would be familiar to any teen. Not that these aren't in the books, but they don't really come out in force until the 4th and 5th books.

The effects are great too. Buckbeak, the dementors, and other magical animals are all really great (funnily enough, only Scabbers the rat seems a fraud). Harry's ride on Buckbeak's back is particularly grand, and dare I say it, quite exciting.

My only complaints are a few scenes between Harry and various mentors. My friends will be familiar with the complaint -- don't use melodic emotional music over conversation! Ruins it for every time. One other scene where Harry is crying and then bursts into rage fails horribly, but the actors are young afterall.

Monday, June 14, 2004


last week was a very intellectual one. starting with a somewhat heated debate over SUVs and messaging. whether ant-suv messaging is right and appropriate. i argued that any negative message was likely to not work in the face of massive pro car messaging that is engrained in our culture.

which has had me musing at odd times about how we form our thoughts and opinions and how they do or don't change over time. it was depressing that no one's position seemed to have changed by the time the debate petered out (what's the root of that word by the way?). it was also depressing that nearly everyone laid into "the left" as doing the wrong thing.

'deep labeled them namby-pamby. but i wonder if that doesn't come out of the fact that everytime "the left" had used negative, anti-thing messaging the opponents didn't just turn that around on its head and use as a weapon against us. so now our messaging has swung perhaps to far to the other extreme. but it makes me want to study it further, it seems from cursory thought that the right is good at using "we want this policy because it serves you as an individual" and "they want to take X away from you as an individual," which is hard. Heck, I would like to take cars away from people.

thoughts on this were further piqued by a lecture by designer extraordinaire james victore, who principled as he seemed to be, seemed to be a total asshole and completely unquestioning of his high opinion of himself. it was curious that he also really hated when people copied him, which seems part and parcel to being a designer, it's not as if he is working in a vaccuum afterall. anyway, he has some great, amazing, hard hitting posters, but I have to wonder -- do they change minds, or only change minds of people who are ready to be changed ( and what is that ). one interesting tidbit was a retiring justice (blackman?) ordered several copies of his hangman poster after he changed his mind on the death penalty.

the final peice, unrelated, was a lecture by Bruce Sterling on Singularities, displaying his usual humor. the talk was a little disjuncted and not terribly interesting at some points, but was brought back round when he began to talk about the dilemmas of scientific progress, and our place in the universe: "we have to consider that we might be at the edge of nothing particularly significant." a lesson from boom cycles. I also liked the notion that we have to get used to the "glut of technical innovations that we are unable to absorb". which might have been a better way to frame the talk maybe.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

constructive ahead - sort of

I've been taking photos of the new Central Freeway ramp as it is being built. This sign was like this only for a day or so.