I Open at the Close: A Review of Deathly Hallows, Part 2

“I wouldn’t be surprised if today was known as Harry Potter day in the future – there will be books written about Harry – every child in our world will know his name.” – Professor McGonagall

If given all the space and time in the world, I’m not sure I could accurately convey what it’s like to be a die-hard Potter fan. Perhaps I’d begin with a line, a long queue wrapping around street blocks for long-awaited books or movies. This time, it’s a movie line, filled to the brim with Potter fans anxiously awaiting The End of it all. Sad, overwhelmed, fearful, excited, proud.

Perhaps your friends managed to get in line 3 hours early, happily braving the heat for the chance at great seats in a sold out showing. There were people in handmade T-shirts reading “Sirius Lives”, “All was Well”, and “My Other Car is a Firebolt”. There were people wearing House scarves in the 85 degree weather; Slytherin, to be precise (ahem). A group of 30 year olds took turns passing around a pair of round-rimmed glasses, trying them on only to find that yes, your eyesight does suck, Harry.  Perhaps a friend in a Quidditch hat had the genius notion to bring a box of Bertie Bott’s All Flavor Flavor beans. Maybe you chose the EarWax bean just for the opportunity to repeat Albus’ line regarding that particular flavor.

Maybe everyone started cheering when the line moved and like 10-year-old barbarians, you elbowed your way to the best seats in the house. Along the way, you were passed by whole families, little girls walking in with their fathers in full robes and regalia, twirling their wands and casting silent spells on the theatre. The greatest spell, however, was yet to come. Continue reading

Love Never Dies (or is Only Mostly Dead): A Eulogy

“I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him…”

Last Friday I received some stunning news; on June 17th, it was announced to the world that Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ill-conceived sequel to his masterpiece The Phantom of the Opera was closing its doors for good in August of this year. This gave me a joy one can only describe as Schadenfreude, a delightful Germanic concept that means “deriving pleasure from the misfortunes of others”. This would be the second time in a week I would experience such sadistic enjoyment, the first being when my Dallas Mavericks demonstrated what they thought of LeBron James’ taking of his talents to South Beach. But I digress.*

You might gather from my language that I have a deep fondness for the Phantom in its original theatrical form. That would be the understatement of the century. In no uncertain terms, the Phantom of the Opera, in all of its myriad forms, has been an obsession of mine since I was a young girl and old enough to understand the complexity of its emotional landscape. From the moment I first heard the opening chords of the overture, I was lost. Hours later, I was both lost and found; lost in its spell and overwhelming emotion, and found in the sense that a lush world of supernatural, romantic, even baroque artistry had been revealed. As melodramatic as it seems, I was never quite the same again.

Like Christine, I reveled in the contrast of darkness and light, and discovered myself somewhere in between. After falling in love with the musical, I devoured the original text in both English and French, and opened my mind to other musical and dramatic interpretations of the narrative. Some were excellent (Lon Chaney’s 1925 silent movie), some were not (Freddy Krueger as the Phantom?), and some were downright absurd (Phantom of the Megaplex, I’m looking at you!). Somehow, I didn’t mind these varying interpretations of the original, no matter how much they strayed from the canon. They each had their merit and were easily compartmentalized as a unique part of the Phantom universe. All well and good. Until 1999. Continue reading

On Being a Purist (and How I Saw the Light)

Yes, Gentle Reader. I’m the obnoxious nerd harshing on your favorite reboot.  I’m the purist who gets off on leeching every last bit of enjoyment out of your viewing experience by pointing out all the ways the new version got the canonical version wrong. I’m the geek with the exhaustive knowledge of this particular fandom and will in fact, ask William Shatner for the combination to Kirk’s safe in Episode 25*.  That this is unfortunate makes it no less true for me and for others out there. I have, however, come to a point in my life where I have seen The Light, as it were, and feel compelled to both defend and attack my own outdated position.

To begin, let me say I believe there is a place for purism in fandom.  I believe that the deep love and respect for a particular work of media or literature invites a desire to maintain the integrity of said work. Too often we’ve seen good creations butchered in countless sequels, prequels, reboots, and remakes that indicate to anyone watching that Hollywood ran out of ideas ages ago. Apparently, they prefer to send a fandom’s loyal fans running for their Xanax as their favorite show or movie gets appropriated for summer blockbuster bucks. If the people did it correctly the first time decades ago, you’d better believe that some suit somewhere believes it can be redone for a new audience.  They want to make it hip.  They want to make it cool, edgy, nu!Wave, dare I say “modern”.  Spare me.

Oftentimes, in the attempt to modernize and repackage, they completely overlook the essence of the show in favor of more cosmetic updates.  Let’s give Superman a mohawk and some “S” tattoos! That’ll work!

My “nerdrage” hackles have been raised on numerous occasions.  As a fan of comic books, disappointment comes with the territory; superheroes will always be a hot property for TV and movie studios, now especially so, and there will always be some studios who get it right (Warner Brothers/ Christopher Nolan’s Batman, Marvel Studios/Iron Man) and some studios who fail miserably (X3, Joel Schumacher’s BatmanGreen Lantern (yes, I’m predicting already that it will suck. Ryan Reynolds is NOT my Hal Jordan.  Less abs, more personality, please.)**.

See what I mean? I can’t stop myself, even now! The movie’s not even out yet and already I’ve passed judgment! To me, Ryan Reynolds lacks the depth of character and range of emotion to play Hal, a complex character who has depth far beyond the surface flyboy persona.  If some amount of purism and respect for the original subject matter does not exist, all portrayals will remain just that: a superficial simulacra, soulless and meaningless. Continue reading

On the Sublime

“But his voice filled my spirit with a strange, sweet sound. In that night there was music in my mind. And through music my soul began to soar! And I heard like I’ve never heard before…”

Last night, I had a rare opportunity to witness what people may call the sublime.  Per Wikipedia, “[i]n aesthetics, the sublime (from the Latin sublīmis) is the quality of greatness, whether physical, moral, intellectual, metaphysical, aesthetic, spiritual or artistic. The term especially refers to a greatness beyond all possibility of calculation, measurement or imitation.” While I’m prone to hyperbole on occasion (in fact, I rather enjoy it most of the time), I do believe that I did, in fact, serve witness to true operatic greatness last night at the Kennedy Center, where I saw Plácido Domingo perform Oreste in Iphigenie en Tauride.

I know, Dear Reader, that I needn’t waste your time telling you that a man who’s had such a famously vast and storied career (134 roles, 3,500+ performances, 12 Grammy’s, 2 Emmy’s, and a partridge in a pear tree) is “great”.  Yet I believe there is a true disconnect between accepting that a person is great at face-value, and truly understanding it beyond the celebrity hype machine and reviews of trusted critics and scholars. I’ve known for more than 20 years that this man has a gift, a talent far beyond those of his peers. There’s a reason why he was part of The Three Tenors, a group famous for being the best of the best. Even so, I didn’t expect to come away from this performance with the insight into the man and his gift that I feel I now have.

Continue reading