Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

To make magic on film you have to have a need for danger, poetry in your soul, and a touch of madness in your heart. Orson Welles had it. Citizen Kane is still an amazing film to watch, even though it was made 73 years ago. Fellini had it. can still tear you up with its beauty and pain. Kurosawa had it. Seven Samurai will knock any modern film out of the park with its intensity mixed with heartbreaking beauty.  Jean Renoir had it. The Rule of the Game is as modern now as it was in 1939. Hitchcock had it. Notorious is stunning in how perfectly suspense, romance, psychological dynamics and cruelty mix so smoothly together. John Ford had it. The Searchers is as vicious and cruel as it is loving.

Modern filmmakers -- I can't think of any who have those qualities or aspects. Steven Spielberg almost gets it, but then it scares him and he does something goofy to mess it up. The closest he came to achieving it was Empire of the Sun, but he still had a couple of dumb moments in it to make sure the audience knew he didn't really mean it. Same thing happened in Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan, albeit more blatantly. Martin Scorsese is too busy proving he knows how to play with a camera. The Coen Brothers are too busy being quirky and esoteric. Alfonso CuarĂ³n was doing it with Gravity, till the end. Ang Lee is too level-headed an artist to let himself succumb. I can't think of anyone else who would even begin to count.

Which brings me to Chris Columbus. I just watched the movie version of the first Harry Potter book and I can say, without doubt, he has none of it. Not a drop. If I had seen the movie before reading the book, I'd never have touched a page. For a film that's about magic, it was very leaden and limp and amazingly lumpy. The book's not great literature, not in the least, but it made sense and it rocked along. This movie lurched, and I lay that at the feet of its director.

I've seen other directors ruin films -- The Last Time I Committed Suicide was the worst example -- but Columbus doesn't even ruin it. He just...shoots it. From a dozen different angles. And makes his movie out of that. Like a music video director. No sense of story. No build. Nothing but scene after scene. And his way with child actors is nonexistent. To be honest, Daniel Radcliffe was bad. He got a lot better as he grew, but in this first movie, he's no more real than a comic book sketch...and the same goes for Emma Watson and Rupert Gint.

Not that it matters; the thing's made a billion dollars...but talk about a disappointment.


MAC said...

We recently started watching the Harry Potter movies as well. It was just Hubby and I when the movies first came out. Jr. Is reading the first book, so we decided to check out movies. We've seen 3 so far. I would keep going... after the second one, Columbus passes the director's torch. The 3rd has a darker tone. We're going to finish the series over the summer.

JamTheCat said...

I will. I have the 8-pack...and have no idea how I got it. Maybe as a gift? Or some special deal? I've had it for a couple years, now, I think.

I noticed Alfonso Cuaron directed one, so I'll look forward to that.

MAC said...

Yeah, Cuaron directed the 3rd one. You can definitely see his influence... much darker and haunting.

JamTheCat said...

I'm debating whether I should read the books first...