I used to have reservations about Ute Lemper as a singer, but on Radio 3 this afternoon, performing with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, she was stunning. I’m sad that I missed the Hebrew and Arabic songs she began her show with.
Apart from an abortive attempt to read Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone—I gave up, bored—the whole HP phenomenon has passed me by. On Christmas day, therefore, I resolved to watched the movie. I’ve not found it so difficult sitting to the end of a film since Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Some of the child actors were excellent (including Daniel Radcliffe who played Potter) and the sport of Quidditch was a fine invention, but, despite the lush production, a lot else was just not very good. As with so many British classics—including the book that inspired the name of this ‘Blog—Potter sneers at length at the lower-middle classes. Harry’s evil step-family live on a new-build estate on a street with “Privet” in its name (all posh English gardeners are supposed to look down their noses at said bush—it’s terribly non-U). Potter’s real, loving parents, on the other hand, lived in a nice period cottage in the country. Like all true aristos, Potter has greatness in his blood and he doesn’t do anything as vulgar as trying too hard when he is finally spirited off to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry—which is clearly modelled on one of Britain’s great public (meaning private) schools. The magic bank where Harry Potter’s inheritance is kept is run by hook-nosed beasties; they are described by one of the characters as “clever as you like, but not the friendliest of creatures”.
The real problem with Harry Potter is what ultimately did for the Star Trek franchise. There is no sense of genuine danger or threat because, instead of using pre-existing elements of the story to resolve tension, Rowling just pulls an answer from nothingness, adopting Trek‘s subatomic-particle-of-the-week approach to all cliffhangers.
“Captain, the ship will be destroyed within seconds if we can’t stabilize the hull!”
“Perhaps we can re-route the phasers to produce a stream of deus-ex-machinons!”
How can you give a toss about a story in which at any minute you know Rowling is going to do everything but tell you “it was all a dream”? A few of you might remember the terrible Children’s Film Foundation productions they used to fob British schoolkids off with at cinema matinees in the 70s. In them, annoying child actors would battle sub-Dr Who special effects and the world’s wussiest criminals. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was like one of those with a NASA-sized budget. It’s lucky Potter was played by such a sympathetic performer, rather than some stagey squirt, because the sheer laziness of the plotting made me resent almost everyone involved, including the ever-reliable Robbie Coltrane and thinking man’s MILF Zoe Wanamaker.
Now the mixed. My brother-in-law bought my sister an iPod Mini for Christmas. The iPod itself is a pleasing object with a smart, if not immediately intuitive, interface. The supplied headphones are not just fashion accessories but deliver the music well. Apple’s proprietary compression system is excellent. (Perhaps I could detect just a hint of wispiness through my own expensive, over-ear Sennheisers.) Of course the whole package is overpriced. Worse, however, if you are a PC owner, I have to warn you that the bundled iTunes software is a roadcrash of twisted unusability. Installing and configuring the programs for our dear Clare and transferring just a couple of music CDs to her PC was a frustrating experience that I have no desire to repeat in a hurry. Now that is also how I feel about seeing Harry Potter films.
[…] ther of a ‘Blogger who links here thinks I’m “cute”. Anyway, further to this discussion, sex mag Nerve declares 2004 to have been “the year of the MILF̶ […]
Wow, I thought I was the only one in their 20s who found Zoe Wannamaker strangely sexually attractive. It got the point that I was quite uncomfortable watching My Family.
Uh…MILF? Middle-income lightweight female? Moderately interesting laudable female? Majestically intelligent lovely female? A little help here…
You’re confusing your franchises. The sub-atomic particle savior, deus-ex-machinons, are the actual generic name of Midichloreans… which all true Jedi seem to possess because Lucas is a horrid writer. (George, please, stick to the techie stuff).
Star Trek doesn’t generally use pre-established story elements to save the day because there have been 5 series (and counting), which run for an average of 7 seasons. Our favourite deus-ex is adjusting the phase coils…
I can’t believe I just admitted that.
Judith, I just knew someone was going to ask that.
Harry Potter, in fact, is nearly as boring and awful as the Star Wars flms, the “first” of which (called the fourth, I think) I watched last night for the first time ever, and to be blunt I thought it was rubbish.
The crappy “effects” one can forgive, given the age of the film; but what about the dreary and predictable plot, poorly acted, with next to no suspense and a totally obvious so-called denouement.
Why do geeks find this stuff appealing? I’m supposed to be one, for fark’s sake, and I thought it was dreadful.
Wasn’t Rowling a peniless, single Mum who wrote the first book at her kitchen table? If I’m right, perhaps the things you find are aspirational 🙂 I dislike Potter (Harry, not Dennis) because you’ve heard all the riffs before and so the books risk nothing. It’s comfort story-telling. Jim Henson’s muppets, on the other hand, are genius. Linda Smith (of The News Quiz) once said that the British could be taken over by a fascist coup and no one would care as long as they could get the Mail on Sunday and Harry Potter. Which says it all, really.
Perhaps, morgan, you mean inspirational and not aspirational. If one is suitably inspired, one aspires to greatness.
The originality of ideas is a bit overrated. Ideas are like musical notes or letters in the alphabet. Star Wars is a complete rip off of “Yojimbo” and “Hidden Fortress” (Kurosawa), which may in turn might have been inspired by Japanese folklore. If indeed there is nothing new under the sun and everything is pastiche, it should at least be good pastiche. Star Wars is not. This article written in May 2004, has some amusing suggestions on how to save Star Wars from Lucas.
I’m pretty sure he meant “aspirational“. While we’re dissing Lucas, Hak’ll like this one.
Ah, I see. It’s a Britishism. Alright then, but you’ll never convince me that “orientate” is proper English.
As for Lucas, “batshit fucking loco” is a polite way of putting it. One suspects that in an eon or so, stupid rocks may evolve from his carcass.
[…] Wikipedia to find out how it all ends and, sure enough, Rowling resolves her plot difficulties by pulling something out of her bottom again. I am, therefore, not even thinking about buying a copy and instead am crouched down next to one of […]
[…] but has been subject to a complete cop-out by Larsson. To describe this, I’ll refer to this post by Pootergeek who is writing about one of the Harry Potter books: The real problem with Harry […]