Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Harry Potter and the Oscar, I mean Half-Blood Prince

Die-hard HP fans are steamed that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth of J.K. Rowling's books to be filmed, made many drastic cuts in translation. The fight scene between members of the Order and Lord Voldemort's Death Eaters at the top of the tower at Hogwarts? Poof. The sessions between Dumbledore and Potter diving into select memories to learn about the boy who would become Voldemort? Boiled down to two and a half memories. Let them bitch and moan. This new installment is quite simply, a triumph. The line between family entertainment and brooding fantasy drama is blurred. You're not sure if the young ones, or you, can sit through this delicious, dialogue driven plot and storyline without going to sleep.

Stick with it. The reward is an emotionally satisfying, occasionally hilarious, and hypnotic, haunting drama that earns the Oscar buzz its been receiving. This year, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is ordered by Dumbleore (Michael Gambon) to cozy up to an old colleague, Horace Slughorn (the brilliant Jim Broadbent) in order to coax an important memory of him and young Tom Riddle. The love bug has bitten Ron Weasly (Rupert Grint) and its Lavender Brown (a hilarious Jessie Cave) who makes Won-Won his personal sex slave, much to the jealousy and heartbreak of Hermione (Emma Watson). Kidding about the sex part, though there is innuendo in one scene that's sure to cover a few youngling's eyes from the 'rents. And Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) is given a mission by the Dark Lord that could destroy his soul. Why does he continue to return to some old wardrobe every night, what his actual mission is, and why Severus Snape (Alan Rickman is amazing) continues to watch over Malfoy, i'll never tell.

Yes, I said Oscar buzz earlier on...hell, the title of my post suggests that Mr. Potter could make some serious noise in the awards season. Watch cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel work with a poet's eye for capturing the breaching darkness. Listen to composer Nicholas Hooper's beautiful, and haunting score that's sure to put a chill down your spine. Look at how visual effects supervisors Tim Burke and Tim Alexander blend in eye-poping effects (the scene in the cave with Harry and Dumbledore is frighting and spectacular) to move the story along and not merely use it as a crutch. Listen to Steve Kloves' potent screenplay, who remains faithful to Rowling's vision and brings all of the author's themes - life, love, friendship, heartbreak, and death - onto the screen and does it so seamlessly, that nothing is lost in translation from page to screen. And witness all the actors excell, particularly Broadbent and Rickman who practically steal every scene they're in. Watch all that and then tell me that Half-Blood Prince doesn't deserve a piece of the Oscar pie.

At this point, I can honestly say, with no ego, that no other movie this summer will match the magical spell that director David Yates has cast upon the multiplexes. For the longest time, I've waited for the Potter film to transcend from merely solid adaptations into artistic and soul-reaching films. With the Half-Blood Prince, after six films, the wait is over. If this is any indication of what Yates has up his sleeve, the watching the film's two part-finale, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (film one due out November 2010, and film two July 2011) then by the end, Harry Potter will be seeing gold statuettes by the handfuls for the next two to three years.

**** stars out of ****

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