Nothing But Memory
Archive for December, 2010

Harry Potter and the Ultimate Reread: Update

It seems quite a few people are planning to join in the Harry Potter reread I proposed on this blog a couple of weeks ago. I had 226 new emails informing me of new followers on the @HPreread Twitter account today. (And since I’ve been typing this post, I’ve received five more. Wow!) I’m not completely sure how word is getting around, but I think it’s mostly through Tumblr. One rereader and Tumblr-er, Alijandra, even created a fantastic poster featuring the reread schedule.

This amount of participation is awesome! I hope everyone will have fun doing the reread, and I hope we’ll generate lots of discussion and Potter-related activity. I’ve had a couple of people ask me if I intend to set up any kind of HP reread forum or chat. The answer to that is: no, not really! I view this entire project as something readers can participate in however they choose. My role will be mostly to share information, which means tweeting the chapter title for each day and also providing links to any other content that shows up — that would include message board threads, open chats, blog and Tumblr posts, tweets … anything you want to do and share with others. I also encourage anyone with something to share to post to Twitter with the hashtag #hpreread so we can all follow along with the whole group.

I hope that all sounds good! Less than a week to go before we start reading. Personally, I can’t wait to get back to Hogwarts. 🙂

127 Hours & The Bog People Moment

Movie Review: 127 Hours
Directed by Danny Boyle. Starring James Franco.

WARNING: This review contains spoilers!

If you’ve heard anything about 127 Hours, then you know it’s not like most other movies. Based on the true story of Aron Ralston, who went for a hike one day in the canyons of Utah and came back minus his right arm, 127 Hours is basically a one-man show: there are other actors in the film (including Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara, and Clémence Poésy), but it’s James Franco as Ralston who fills most of the screentime. Franco does a great job of keeping the movie interesting with no one but his character’s video camera to play off of for large chunks of time.

The most talked-about part of the movie is no doubt the scene in which Ralston finally decides to amputate his own arm in order to escape. I heard those Exorcist-type rumours about people fainting because the scene was so graphic; however, I didn’t have a problem with it. Oh, it was definitely graphic, but unless you have a very low tolerance for gore it shouldn’t scar you for life. By the time he started to cut, I was almost too impressed by the determination he showed to overcome the many difficulties of his situation to be grossed out.  To me, the most difficult scene to watch was one in which Ralston becomes overwhelmed by the sound of his own rapidly beating heart, which the audience also hears. The sound really helped to create the sense of claustrophobia and panic Ralston must have felt at that moment.

Although I didn’t care for Slumdog Millionaire, I have liked just about every other Danny Boyle movie I’ve seen. Slumdog was described by a lot of reviewers as “kinetic,” and the bulk of 127 Hours is definitely not that. It is largely stationary, as of course the main character spends almost the entire movie completely immobilized. But we also see glimpses of Ralston’s inner life — the hallucinations and memories that keep him going while he’s trapped — so it doesn’t end up being just an hour and a half of a guy stuck in a cave. Having said that, Franco is engaging enough that an hour and a half of a guy stuck in a cave would probably have been quite entertaining in this case.

Of the other Danny Boyle films I’ve seen, 127 Hours shares the most in common with The Beach, which was in my opinion a very underrated movie. It’s also about a young man who goes into nature expecting something idyllic and finds something very frightening instead. One other movie that seems like an obvious point of comparison is 2007’s Into the Wild, directed by Sean Penn. Into the Wild was also based on a true story: that of Chris McCandless (played in the movie by Emile Hirsch), who gave up on civilization to go live in the wilds of Alaska, took almost no food or supplies with him, and — unsurprisingly — ended up dying of starvation. I was not a fan of Into the Wild. I felt the movie portrayed McCandless’ foolishness as admirable, turning someone who was essentially kind of an idiot into a hero. 127 Hours takes the opposite approach, making a big deal out of the fact that Ralston could have avoided his entire situation had he simply told someone where he was going. The movie even includes a funny scene in which Ralston conducts a fake interview with himself and mocks the series of idiotic decisions that led him to his predicament. To me, this made Ralston a much more sympathetic figure than McCandless could have been.

The Bog People Moment

You know how sometimes you’re watching a movie or a TV show, and something happens that makes you think of something else completely unrelated? Then the connection makes you laugh, and the thing  you’re watching suddenly becomes hilarious, even if it’s in fact very, very serious. I call this the “Bog People Moment,” after an incident that occurred when I went to see The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. There’s a scene early in that movie where Frodo and Sam pass through the Dead Marshes, and Frodo sees the bodies of dead warriors just under the surface of the marsh. When I saw the movie, the Museum of Civilization was heavily advertising and exhibit called “The Mysterious Bog People,” which featured, among other things, the bodies of ancient people which had been preserved in bogs. When Frodo saw the bodies, I turned to my friend and said “Bog people!” And from that moment on I could not take the movie seriously.

127 Hours also featured such a moment at the very end, when text on screen presented an epilogue telling us how Aron Ralston’s life changed after his accident. One change: now when he goes out climbing, he always leaves a note. I could not help thinking of Arrested Development and J. Walter Weatherman, the one-armed man George Bluth liked to use to scare various lessons into his children by suggesting that their failure to do certain things had caused this man to lose his arm. One such lesson? “And that‘s why you always leave a note!” I always thought George Sr. was exaggerating with this stuff. Now I know better.

While I do feel like a horrible, insensitive person for thinking this way about a very serious thing that actually happened to someone, I’m fairly sure any Arrested Development fan would have had the same thought — completely involuntarily, too. That’s the insidious nature of the Bog People Moment: you can’t help thinking it and once you’ve thought it, it can’t be unthought.

Harry Potter and the Ultimate Reread

I started this blog up months ago and never posted anything. Maybe I’ve been busy; maybe I’ve had nothing to say. Maybe it’s a combination of those two things. Whatever the reason, it’s about to change.

A week and a half or so ago I went with my sister to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1. I thought the movie was very well-done, and it reminded me of an important fact: I love Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling and her incredible series of books have given me more hours of enjoyment than I can count as I’ve read and reread the books, watched the movies, and discussed the series with friends, family members, and colleagues. The books have inspired me with lots of ideas over the years. I presented a paper on the series at a conference once, and when I did my Master’s degree in English my final research paper was a comparison of Harry Potter and my other favourite series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Before the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (book version) in 2007, I felt I needed to reread the entire series to prepare myself for what was certain to be an epic final chapter (and luckily it did turn out to be that). In order to keep myself on track, I decided to read one chapter per day. I counted the number of chapters in each book and figured out what date I would need to start reading in order to finish Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince the day before Deathly Hallows’ release. This worked really well for me: I stuck to the schedule and finished on time.

When Deathly Hallows the book came out, it was the end of the Harry Potter series — but it wasn’t technically the end; after all, there were still a few movies to go at that point and those would keep us Potter-fiends Potter-satisfied to a certain extent for a while (although obviously nothing tops a completely new book). Well, when part 2 of Deathly Hallows the movie comes out on July 15, 2011 … that’s it. No more new Harry Potter.

In honour of The Actual End, I’ve decided to redo my reread, one chapter per day again. All seven books, plus The Tales of Beedle the Bard. This time, I’ll also try to re-watch all the movies, probably viewing each one as I finish the related book. I mentioned this to some friends a little while ago, and enough people expressed interest in reading along with me that it seemed like a good idea to share my reading schedule with everyone and try to make a sort of Virtual Harry Potter Book Club. Interested in participating? Here are the start and end dates for each book:

December 24, 2010 – January 9, 2011: Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone
January 10 – January 27, 2011: Chamber of Secrets
January 28 – February 18, 2011: Prisoner of Azkaban
February 19 – March 27, 2011: Goblet of Fire
March 28 – May 4, 2011: Order of the Phoenix
May 5 – June 3, 2011: Half-Blood Prince
June 4 – July 9, 2011: Deathly Hallows (not including the epilogue — we’re saving that for last!)
July 10 – July 14, 2011: Beedle the Bard
July 15, 2011: Deathly Hallows, Part 2 in theatres. Reread the Deathly Hallows epilogue today.

I intend to blog about the reread occasionally as I think of things to say, and I hope others will do the same if they feel like it. You can follow my posts here, if you’re interested. I’ve also started a Twitter account (HPreread) where I’ll tweet the title of each day’s chapter. I hope we’ll be able to use hashtags to share our reading experience, similarly to the way One Book, One Twitter participants did as they read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods (another excellent book by an author I highly recommend).

I’m really looking forward to sharing the Harry Potter reading experience with this virtual community of friends and readers. If this sounds like something you’d enjoy too, I hope you’ll join in. The more the merrier!