I don’t want to write a review of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Too many others are going to weigh in—calling it a masterpiece or calling it a travesty because they got the color of Professor McGonagall’s undergarments wrong (super fans can be nit pickers, I mean I threw away my Gandalf pajamas after the second Lord of the Rings movie). My reaction to the movie interests me more than a specific review; I found myself disappointed when the movie ended and it wasn’t because the film wasn’t good.
It was because I am sad these films are done. I had a similar feeling when I put down the last book. There are not going to be any more of them.
The films were not all brilliant perhaps and Order of the Phoenix (the book) was drudgery. And yes, I have read those braying about how J.K. Rowling would NEVER been allowed to sit at the Algonquin Round Table and how she is CERTAINLY not (fill in your favorite writer pompous people name drop and often haven’t actually read-- Proust for instance). But snotty assessments and recommendations led me to read Philip Pullman. It was a good atheist screed. But the story fell apart like the Dune series.
I find J.K. Rowling’s series, as a whole, to be as fine a series of books written for young adults that I can think of. I would add that they stand quite high in the world of fantasy writing as well.
Admittedly, one of the reasons people latch on to even mediocre fantasy as brilliant is that so much of it is dismal. It is always about a magic sword, or ring or douche. The magic douche must be wielded by a special person and have just the right amount of vinegar.
Yawn. Tolkien did it. He did it better. Please stop.
Occasionally, however, someone comes along post-Tolkien, who captures the imagination and creates a new world, one that transports us. Frank Herbert maybe did it for a bit. Philip Pullman did to I confess, until his ideology overcame his story. But neither of them was really writing for kids and the movies for Herbert and Pullman’s books are also dismal. I hold the unpopular opinion that only the first of the three Lord of the Rings movies is actually good (the other two being moderately entertaining masterpieces of CGI).
So when it comes to fantasy-for young adults or for general audiences-really only the Harry Potter films manage to capture the magic of the books. Sure the first two are pedestrian but they improve they move on and become darker, as the characters grow up and as the stories grow up. The movie for the book Order of the Phoenix is significantly better than the book. And the books and movies differ in many ways but the filmmakers usually capture the essence.
These films often do something other adaptations do not—at least when they are at their best. They subtract more than they add. If you tried to make a film including extensive screen time for all the peripheral characters in these books the movies would be an unwatchable mess. Some of the side plots have to go, or at least be severely curtained. Sure there are mistakes and additions and subtractions that may cause fans of the books to scratch their heads a little. But overall?
All I have to say is go try to watch the original Dune.
In Potters world they subtract but they leave it open to the viewers imagination that, somewhere in the world of the movie, these acts and characters are living and acting and breathing off the screen somewhere. So goodbye to this fine series and I am not sure I want Rowling to write anymore. They can stand on their own. Start something new.
Now, let’s just hope The Hunger Games films surpass these.
The movie Buck
is a small movie. That term can imply a lot of things but usually it is a movie about something specific, something not grand; there are no cavalry charges, there are no alien space ships or giant earthquakes. Some small movies are good and some are bad. Buck
is good. It is a simple movie about a man who is probably more complicated than he comes off in the film. He is a man who, despite personal physical and mental abuse, repudiated violence in his own life. And what he does with his own life is “train” horses. He doesn’t whisper to them (although he was a consultant on Robert Redford
I went to see this movie because I was not paying $32 (for 2 people) to see Transformers, Dark of The Moon
. I knew I was going to see it but there is a limit to how much I will allow myself to suffer. And the day after seeing Buck, boy, did I suffer. I was one of the only people over the age of 12 who was tolerant of the second Transformers movie. I apparently liked it better than the cast or the director--although I use the word “like” in the loosest possible way. I use the word in the “I only wanted to sort of poke out my eyes while watching this film” way.
The new Transformers made me want to poke out my eyes. Really. That is not hyperbole. I got up and went to the bathroom even though I didn’t have to go. Anytime any character talked for more than 20 seconds all I could think was “God I hope a robot comes in and freaking blows something up.”
If you enjoyed this film and are over the age of 13 you should go to your medical professional for a CAT scan.
But let’s get back to Buck. The point of this movie, in addition to loosely sketching the story of a man’s life, is that violence is not the answer. You do not need to beat hell out of a horse to get it on your side. And even more important that the victims of violence are not doomed to, themselves, be violent.
It is also a movie for people who like horses and old fashioned documentaries. There is a curious glossing over of some details. Buck talks, his friends talk, one of his daughters and his wife talk. But other, presumably important, people in his life do not. He talks but there is a reticence there. In some ways this is a little frustrating.
But it is also sort of refreshing. After all in today’s world “celebrities” have reality shows where they talk about their bowel movements on national television isn’t it nice to have a retiring, private man who shares enough, just enough, to let us into his world and life and to teach us something? And this isn’t just a subtle lesson about how violence is unnecessary but how patience is. He scoffs, at one point in the film about how people who are 40 and say they are “too old.” He then notes how one of his mentors was “breaking” horses when he was 94.
Buck is a small film but there are big lessons there if we choose to take them to heart. You can also just eschew that and watch a movie about a man with a different way of “breaking” (the term is not really apropos) horses. It isn’t all happy and cheery. But ultimately the film is low key, hopeful and if it doesn’t give you a laundry list of important life changing issues to think on, it gives you a handful and some very clear and specific reasons why you should think on those issues it does touch upon.