twelve.

14 Jul

When I was nine years old I received three books for Christmas.

An era began.

Today, eleven years later, that era came to an end.

I was that Potter geek who kept an eye on JK Rowling’s website, finding the clues that led to the new book title or release date. I still have the receipts from the last four books that show I bought them within half an hour of the worldwide release date (it should have been earlier but those queues were looooong!). I devoured each book within 24 hours, yes, even Order of the Phoenix (which is my personal favourite).

In short, I loved the books. I was a Potter nerd.

When it comes to the films…I respect them. I appreciate the effort that went into such a mammoth undertaking and I did enjoy them. For me though, they didn’t quite live up to my ginormous fannish expectations.

Until Deathly Hallows Part 1.

Those three little kids weren’t little kids any more and they’d had six other films to hone their craft. For the first time, they’d met the material and more than matched it.

In this instance the material also better reflected the book due to the fact that they finally split the book into two (something, in retrospect, I wish they’d done from the very beginning). Every single time the films have successfully given the audience the plot and the setting and the scope of each book. Harry goes to Hogwarts, goes to classes with Ron and Hermione then battles against some version of Voldermort at the end. It was all done very well. But Rowling’s books were all about those little character moments, that pause when the characters could simply be. With the split into two films we finally got to see that on the screen and the end result was so much better for it.

To me, Deathly Hallows Part 1 was the first faithful Harry Potter adaptation because of those great moments of pause.

Here we are though, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.

I have two qualms but by and large it was fantastic, a perfect close and again, full of that great character.

From here there be spoilers, both book and film.

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I haven’t read the book in a good six months but I’m fairly sure the Battle of Hogwarts took up about 20% of the second half of the book. Here, we have one action sequence elsewhere before we arrive back at school which was a good thing I think as Hogwarts will always be home to this series. And boy, what a battle was had there, poor Hogwarts was left in ruin. Everybody was there too, sometimes only with one line or a facial expression but it was very much worth it – even Filch turned up to bring a lovely comic moment and I also spotted Professor Trelawney doing her thing in the background. I don’t know how they managed to organise all these great British actors in the one place at the one time but the end result just makes you smile.

I loved the battle but had problems with the last few minutes of that final showdown. In the book Harry and Voldy are circling each other in the Great Hall, everything laid bare, cards on the table as the students, teachers, Order members and Death Eaters alike watch from the sides. The dialogue between the two, their audience, the tension as they slow circle around each other, the sun about to rise over the damaged Hall, with all of it combined Rowling created a perfect, frozen Moment of Time. That wasn’t in the film. It was a good enough confrontation in the film if you haven’t read the book but in comparison it was quite a big let down.

Finally I have issue with the epilogue but then that has nothing to do with the film adaptation, I’ve always had issue with the epilogue. So naff. The chapter previous gave a perfect conclusion to the series but then we were shoved into the future where everybody had greying hair and a poor young lad was graced with the unfortunate name Albus Severus Potter. Could you get more ridiculous and corny?

This series has been such a big part of my life and I did get a bit emotional watching this last one. Not during the final scenes (which were indeed emotional) but when my favourite line in the whole series was translated to screen.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

To me, that is what stories are about and stories are everything to me. This story was everything to me.

Goodbye Hogwarts.

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eleven.

3 Jul

How to define my relationship with USA Network and its shows?

It wouldn’t be a love affair precisely. Well, maybe in the sense that USA is that really great guy who is everything you ever hoped for and cares for you in all the right ways and is basically perfect…but is kinda a little boring. Unfortunately.

USA is primarily the number one summer cable channel in America, a younger sibling to NBC, one of the big 4 network channels. USA does light, simple buddy cop/lawyer/etc shows well. Generic yet entertaining.

The network is consistent and reliable in this which is something I put down to one thing.

CHARACTERS WELCOME.

That slogan sums up every single thing USA aims to produce.

First and foremost, before I go into detail about the cable channel itself it is worth mentioning the USA Character Project, a series of short films about, well, character of course. Once again USA gets the wording so damn right, just plain simple and effective, ‘7 Directors. 7 Short Films. Every character has a story.’ ‘Nuff said, I immediately want to watch. There is a mix of both documentary and drama here but all seven are unique, entertaining and are finished to such a high standard. Watch them.

In comparison USA‘s actual cable channel itself doesn’t produce anything near the quality of the Character Project but that is okay because that is not its intent. I suppose it all starts with Monk.

Monk ran for eight seasons on USA and holds the record for the most watched scripted drama episode in cable history with its series finale scoring 9.4 million viewers in ratings (remember this is cable, those are huge numbers). This was one of the first shows out there that used the now tried and true formula of genius-lead-with-personal-issues-figures-stuff-out. Then followed the likes of House on FOX and basically every single USA show out there today.

USA found a formula that worked. It worked brilliantly. So they repeated it.

Monk (2002-2009): Quirky lead (OCD widower detective) and his partner (female aid/assistant) solve crimes with the San Francisco Police Department.

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Psych (2006-present): Quirky lead (slacker with eidetic memory who pretends he’s psychic) and his partner (his best friend) solve crimes with the Santa Barbara Police Department.

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Burn Notice (2008-present): Quirk lead (former spy and hardened cynic who was burnt by the government) and his partner(s) (a ruthless female explosives expert and a former navy seal) solve crime on the behalf of targeted civilians in Miami.

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In Plain Sight (2008-present): Quirky lead (tomboy US Marshal with abandonment issues) and her partner (best friend and FBI agent) solve crimes as part of the Witness Protection Unit in Albuquerque.

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White Collar (2009-present): Quirky lead (charming do-everything con man) and his partner (FBI agent) solve crimes for the FBI White Collar division in New York.

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Lately they’ve spiced things up a little, why solve crimes when you can…

Royal Pains (2009-present): Quirky lead (reluctant doctor for hire) and his partner (younger brother) treat patients in The Hamptons.

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and the show that brought me to write this….

Suits (2011-present): Quirky lead (pothead slacker with a photographic memory) and his partner (New York’s best closer) secure clients and fight courtroom battles for their law firm in New York.

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We’re only two episodes in to Suits but I’m really loving this, especially because of all the conflict and trust issues between the two leads. Hey, gimme pretty boys and some angst any day….and that fundamentally is what makes USA great. The channel knows what its audience wants, it pushes all the right buttons and produces every single time a package that meets the audience’s summer watching requirements, if not entirely the critics (Suits got a very lukewarm reception, as did USA‘s other new show Necessary Roughness).

True, they are all pretty generic. Each show will face the challenge in later seasons when it comes to keeping it fresh but also at the same time reliable and familiar. Now in its sixth season, Psych has this problem. It had a brilliant first few seasons but now is so bogged down in keeping to its original structure that the odd episodes that go darker and give its characters some actual development are so few and far between that every other episode now leaves me frustrated.

I’ve given up on Burn Notice too. After five seasons ex-spy Michael (Jeffrey Donovan) is still trying to find out who burnt him. Bored now.

CHARACTERS WELCOME.

It does what it says on the tin I suppose and character will always be the most important thing to me therefore I really enjoy everything that USA does…to a point.

For the moment I suppose USA has a formula that works, works well.

Good on them.

ten.

22 Jun

hey everybody. I like music too.

Yes, pop has its place in the world people, don’t try and deny it. Sitting in my itunes library right after my ACDC but before the Blue Oyster Cult is Alexz Johnson. This chicky is kinda my idol at the mo. A gorgeous voice yes but her stage presence is just so divine.

I’d call her 90’s pop, catchy and easy listening but so far from mainstream she’s almost vaguely humanoid which is something unusual in the music industry nowadays.

Nothing against Gaga and Ke$ha but…well…

nine.

12 Jun

somewhere in the middle of nowhere, the southern alps, new zealand, the world.

eight.

31 May

So, I’m doing this course, right…

At the start of the year I was assigned as director for an eight minute short drama which is totally my thing and I was so excited to write it, to come up with a shot list, to make it my signature piece. Something people can remember me by long after I graduate. I had what I consider the best people in the class on my crew and it was just a really exciting prospect.

Then the quake happened.

It was completely 100% understandable if that particular project had to be cancelled, a natural disaster is a pretty good reason. But no, we were told it would go ahead, just later on in the year, Julyish. After that there was never any doubt that this wouldn’t happen.

Now, the start of June, our tutor casually drops the bombshell that it might not be happening anymore due to time constraints and clashes with other projects.

When I signed up here over nearly 2 years ago now this drama project was THE thing I was most looking forward to. A two and a half year course and that one month(ish) long project was mine. The main (but not only) reason I was here.

And now, without some major miracle, it won’t be happening.

Shock. Anger. Denial. Anger again.

No acceptance yet.

Cry.

In other news our doco is finished but I’d much rather have done my drama than the doco. Which makes looking back at the doco kinda bitter.

Sigh.

seven.

26 May

Main titles are important.

The fact that one got me so damn moved enough to write about them in general just speaks for itself.

Doesn’t matter if you love the show and watch every episode religiously, doesn’t matter if its something you watch because you’re bored, a good main title sequence can really get you in the mood, regardless of the quality of the following episode.

In fact, the main title sequence for ‘The Chicago Code’, in my opinion, takes it from a just above average procedral to something that has my fingers dancing and a grin on my face in anticipation as the title music begins.

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And then there’s ‘Friday Night Lights’ a show I would admittedly love regardless of the title sequence. But that music, the memory of Connie ‘Tami Taylor’ Britton swaying her hips to the music, arms in the air, then the empty football field at the end of a game. Well, as they say, “Texas forever” and I’m not even from Texas, I’m not even from America, I don’t know the first thing about football.

(to be honest, this isn’t the sequence I was referring to. They kept it pretty much the same(ish) for s1-4 then changed it for this, s5, which was the only one I could find on the mighty ‘tube)

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Of course, for the purpose of this blog entry and my own personal preference in general, when I say titles I, more often than not, mean a main title theme, music, lyrics and all.

Title ‘cards’, which I classify as primarily text driven/computer generated sequences, are fine in a ‘fine’ kind of way. Short but sweet, getting it over with so they can devote more time to story (or lack thereof in some cases). Fringe’s is a particular delight, changing text and/or hue in correlation to where that particular episode takes place, often with clues within as to what is ahead in the season. Supernatural’s changes every season to match the current plot (although the original card always wins for me, purely on a nostalgia basis).

But I do believe very strongly that a well chosen, well written theme song beats a title card sequence any day. It can set the tone of a show, give a feel for the environment of what is to follow.

Here are a few of my other favourites, each really bringing forth the essence of the show in its opening moments. The quality of these shows is debatable in some cases (and feel free to debate) but the PTB for these shows really understand that it isn’t about getting the titles out of the way so they can get their content out there faster but about spending the time to give their show an identity.

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These next two are legendary and brilliant but honestly are a tad too long. No matter how brilliant they are I always fast forward through them if poss.

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fin.

six.

20 May

I don’t have a car so very rarely go out into the suburbs.

I’m use to the rubble in the city. There’s the furniture shop across the road (see photo), the cordon fences with the words KIA KAHA strung in black and red crepe paper, the red stickered offices, signs faded over time. It’s not a new normal (contrary to what it is commonly known as) but simply the way it is for the moment.

But what really struck me yesterday was driving through high income suburbs like Merivale and seeing those grand old houses. Large houses of immaculate beauty, regal and well kept. Those are the houses I dream about living in when I ‘grow up’. Yellow painted wood with white window sills and white fences. Grand brick manors with several chimneys and wood paneled hallways.

It isn’t about the money spent on them, not at all. Its about the effort and love that has gone into them. The history of those buildings, the pride of the people who own them, who live in them.

Most of them now lie empty, windows boarded, gardens overgrown, ‘DANGER KEEP OUT’ tape circling broken fences, facades crumbling.

The earthquake has done many things to many people but one thing I know I won’t be doing in the future is living in a house like that, whether it be in Canterbury or elsewhere. Not because I’ll never get there to that point, I know I will, but because I am now aware.

I will never look at a chimney the same way again, I will ALWAYS look to the foundations of a property, will ask if it has been earthquake proofed.

The grand adventure that is life has been dimmed somewhat. I won’t be choosing a house because I love it, I will be choosing it because it is practical and safe.

Head over heart.

Because of the earthquake.

That loss of innocence, of freedom, it makes said heart bleed.