Thursday, July 12, 2007

Harry Potter and other geekolators


Major media sources report that theaters took in about $12 million for their 12.01 AM screenings of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” on Wednesday, July 11, 2007. As I write this, I note that imdb has just added “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” for 2008 release.

The local Regal Cinemas multiplex offered such a show, which I skipped, but then offered multiple showings starting at 9 AM Wednesday, too. I went when it opened, and found that the first showing in a large auditorium (I think with DLP projection) would not be until 10 AM. This is a huge, curved screen. Now I think theaters should identify on their websites which performances are on larger screens. So I saw it at 10 AM. The 1000 seat auditorium was about 40% full (in Arlington VA), mostly with kids out of school. Plenty of parents, too.

Daniel Radcliffe is listed as 5 ft 6 in in imdb, and I noticed in the film that he was shorter than most of his (male, at least) friends, especially when compared to best friend Rupert Grint. This may have created some lighting and technical issues for the director (David Yates). The World Book Encyclopedia in 1950 writes “The English people vary greatly in their physical makeup” and the variations are totally random, because of the historical mixing (well before today’s immigration). The same is true of Spain. It’s really noticeable in the Potter films.

Radcliffe gave an interview on Larry King Live July 11. He would have needed to become Clark Kent to make all of the appearance (New York in the morning, L.A. at night). He said, that, unlike many other Brits in the movie business, he thinks London will always be his home. (British horror writer and philosopher-filmmaker Clive Barker moved to LA after finishing the novel “Imajica” in 1991.) Any place else is unthinkable. He said that the first two Potter films were almost made in LA, and that would have been unthinkable. This series is a British phenomenon, and will eventually find its way into 12th grade English literature courses.

Radcliffe sounded a little nervous on LKL, and spoke with a heavy working class accent, rather like Michael Caine (or perhaps Kevin Bishop or James McAvoy, who sound almost unintelligible when interviewed, although they can act American roles with no accent). They talked a bit about his stage career on Equus (link) which has attracted some curious controversy. Radcliffe also mentioned Brokeback Mountain, and the fact that Heath Ledger had to play a character both younger and then much older. (No, he didn’t mention Cold Mountain – “I can embroider but I can’t darn!”) Radcliffe's best line in the latest HP movies is simply "I'm not weak!" That ends a confrontation with Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) where Potter questions his own character and darker side and wonders if he could turn "bad." In a subsequent interview on Today, Radcliffe insisted that this is a very important theme from all of the books and movies.

Radcliffe has become known as Britain’s wealthiest teen. Not sure how his wealth compares with the Two Princes, but it seems like he could have co-hosted the Live Earth concert, or shared the stage with the Two Princes in the “young people’s” Princess Di concert. The latest Potter movie was not, for me, quite as visually compelling as the previous one. There was a first screen kiss, but no flame colored blue with vanadium ions, no underwater swimming or bathtub scene, and no Quidditch stadium, which Wembley so much resembles. In fact, no Wimbledon upsets. The "leather" shot of Radcliffe on p 135 of the August 2007 "Details" is bound to be noticed.

I suspect that Grint isn’t doing too badly (People Mag. also included Grint among the richest teens), either, and he may, as a young adult, look more (than Radcliffe) the part of the super-geek for future techno-thriller movies. (Although one can also imagine snowsurfer Shaun White.) It’s interesting that skinny Justin Long, as the “good guy hacker” Matt makes the whole movie “Live Free and Die Hard” (20th Century Fox) work, as he really becomes a new kind of hero. Even everyman Hi-ya Shia La Beouf, so effective as “civilian boy carrying a cube” in “Transformers” (Dreamworks/Paramount) could have rescued the latest Bruce Willis movie, but Long was perfect for the part, and pulls the whole experience off. The other geek to watch in the movies is probably going to be “Days of our Lives” Gatsby-Nick-likeness Blake Berris.

One other thing—Warner Brothers left off its wonderful Casablanca “piano concerto” musical trademark (with the picture of its lot) in the Potter movies, as did Dreamworks in Transformers. The presentation seems much more professional to me if the studio uses its full trademark, always, without exception. (I’m surprised the studio lawyers don’t insist on this.) The best trademark in the business now belongs to Lions Gate, with its picture of the real Lions Gate in Greece and the musical climax.

As for the UK, I was last there in May 2001; I'd love it there, and I hope to visit again relatively soon.

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