Monday, July 23, 2007

The Cusp of Harry Potter

*May contain Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows & Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (film) spoilers. You've been warned.*

Welcome to Harry Potter Central (also known as Barnes and Noble at Union Square).

"And now, Harry, let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure."
—Dumbledore in The Half-Blood Prince

It's difficult ending a series whether it be films, TV shows or in this case, books. Think of all the disappointing series finales. Take Sex and the City: big fuckin' deal, his name is John, wow. Compare that to Six Feet Under's beautiful series finale, which is hands-down the best finale I've ever seen. It is expected and unexpected at the same time, answers all of my questions from the entire series, doesn't get old and made me cry. Alan Ball knew what he was doing.

And in the same way, J.K. Rowling knew what she was doing with Harry Potter. From the amazing tale of a baby surviving the most notorious evil wizard's failed spell within a magical world where wizards and witches live along with Muggles (or, you know, non-magical people) and there is the fight between good (Dumbledore, Aurors, the Order of the Phoenix, Gryffindor and most of Hogwarts) and evil (Voldemort/You-Know-Who/Tom Riddle, Death Eaters), Rowling's story grew into a fully developed and wonderfully explored story and an enormous phenomenon, both for children and adults alike.

Because it was the last book, Josh, my sister and I decided to go all out and join the festivities at the Union Square Barnes and Noble after making a quick stop at Scholastic's blowout at Mercer and Prince Street where the mechanical Whomping Willow almost broke and a hand popped through one of its wailing branches.

Making wands at the wandshop.

There, as we were surrounded by people dressed up like Harry Potter, parents, a dog dressed up as a bat and random Harry Potter characters (my sister was terrified of the thestral), we drank potions at The Apothecary, made wands (where we waited near the travel section, thank god, and an adorable boy kept biting Josh), listened to Jim Dale read bits of Order of the Phoenix out loud, randomly ran into people that either of us knew (friends from college and my sister's elementary school friend), watching the press run around and get their interviews, videos and pictures, and just waiting, lots and lots of waiting. Because we didn't reserve the books ahead of time for gold wristbands (they didn't exactly advertise that, did they?), Josh waited in line that Friday morning and received a red wristband, which meant we would receive our books after all the lucky gold wristbanded people got theirs. And that meant we wandered around Barnes and Noble a lot.

Adorable little Remus Lupin.

After leaving the store at 2 a.m. and getting home at 3 a.m. I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at 12 p.m. Saturday. After all the hype, it didn't even come close to being disappointing.

I don't want to spoil the book too much. The sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, was completely spoiled for me and to this day, I hate that person. But like I said earlier, with the exception of one chapter, this book was amazing. Rowling dished out the expected but it didn't seem too cheesy or predictable. There were flashbacks to earlier books and she even brought up minuscule details that didn't seem important at the time but here in the world of Deathly Hallows, everything depended on them. She explained all without letting the readers down. And while Harry Potter is ideally for kids, she threw in more mature developments, such as the eagerness at which Harry kisses. The battles are epic, especially the final showdown and Rowling shows no mercy with who ventures to the other side, whether they be a Death Eater or member of the Order of Phoenix. She also has a wonderful way of creating scenes. My favorite in this book, besides the battles, was the house on the cliff overlooking the ocean.

Counting down to midnight for the official book release.

Now, taking a step back, the week before, on July 10th, the three of us watched the midnight showing of Order of the Phoenix. Director David Yates (previously of mostly British television shows) took the reins from Alfonso Cuarón (HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Y tu mamá también) and created a brilliant film. Yates focuses completely on the larger picture—the question of what is behind the door that Harry (Daniel Radcliffe, who is incredibly attractive and looks older than he actually is and is legal as of today so it's okay for me to say that) dreams of as he enters Voldemort's mind and everything that leads up to it: Dumbledore's Army, the Order of the Phoenix, being reunited with his godfather, Sirius Black (the wonderful Gary Oldman). Though I did wonder how Cuarón would have approached the dark halls of the Ministry of Magic's Department of Mysteries.

The Whomping Willow at SoHo.

I could have done without Harry's and Cho's awkward and near-romance. Yates also created more implications within the film than they were in the movie, which isn't a good thing. As Sirius and Harry duel Death Eaters, Sirius outrightly calls Harry James, the name of Harry's dead father and Sirius' best friend, thus not subtly showing that that Sirius viewed Harry as a James-substitute. And there were far more longing-/loving-glances at hopeful-significant others. Other than that, Order of the Phoenix ties with Mike Newell's Goblet of Fire (which happens to be one of my favorite Harry Potter books, along with Deathly Hallows now). Whoever directs the final movie must do an excellent job, especially with the epic battle.

The line outside of the Union Square Barnes and Noble. Sadly, those people couldn't buy the book because they closed the store after all the red-wrist-banded people got theirs. My friend, who was waiting on that line at first, walked over to the 22nd and 6th Avenue Barnes and Noble and got his book at 1 pm. Yeah.

And now that the tales of Harry Potter are over, there's nothing left to do but go back and reread the books, starting from The Sorcerer's Stone (or, if you prefer, The Philosopher's Stone) and look for all the details I previously missed and just wonder if Equus is really coming to Broadway.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Dreaming of the Surface of the Sun

**contains spoilers for Sunshine, so, if you don't wanna ruin the movie, then, don't read.**

Clliff Curtis as Searle in the viewing room of the Icarus. Photo from Fox Searchlight Pictures.

With hints of Space Odessey: 2001, director Danny Boyle masterfully tells and shows the story in Sunshine of the mission of Icarus II, the space crew sent to save the dying Sun by creating another star within it. Seven years prior, the first crew of Icarus I failed to do so.

He reluctantly uses to create effects that he himself cannot, but as he tells the New York Times, he tries his best to stick to real images as possible. He didn't want to create a fantastically world—he is simply depicting space. And he does, wonderfully. What stands out about Sunshine isn't really the plot, it is how the story is told,

Icarus II finds the lost Icarus I on Mercury. The crew decides to see what is left and what could be saved. On board, they find the captain's, Pinbacker (Mark Strong) last recording. With no more hope, Pinbacker rants about death, control of death and God through jumpy, digitized views where we are shown glimpses of his horridly disfigured face. Then Harvey (Troy Garity), second-in-command of Icarus II, stumbles upon their bodies, slumped over one another in front of the filter.

They died basking in the Sun.

Boyle depicts this beautifully and quickly—their bodies are gray silhouettes against swirling gray dust. Their deaths are explained by a quick glimpse at the darkly framed filter, its center pure white.

Before this, Icarus II's captain, Kaneda (Hiroyuki Sanada), clad in a glittery gold spacesuit, is engulfed by the sheer strength of the Sun's rays while trying to fix damaged Searle (Cliff Curtis) begs him to describe what it is like, staring and being in the sun, but he does not answer. He just allows himself to be consumed by its heat and then it is over. The music emphasizes this moment even further, the steady loud thudding beats of drums race both hearts and minds.

In fact, Boyle and Underworld create a beautifully epic soundtrack, complete with reverberated sounds and sweeping strings mixed with the delicate yet strong stepping notes of piano.

Searle tells Capa (Cillian Murphy) "We're only stardust," and with Sunshine, Boyle and screenwriter Alex Garland, offers a gorgeous new insight into a possible future.

Cillian Murphy, as Capa, worked well as the hopeful and ideal-in-a-twisted-way physicist on the Icarus with his brilliant eyes, scraggly long hair, hints of his Irish accent and of course, his acting. Photo from Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Working at The Brooklyn Rail

Inside the Brooklyn Rail office.

Officially, I am now a (working) member of The Brooklyn Rail, complete with press pass and title (Layout Editor soon to be Art Director). Prompted by my graduation anxiety in May, I sent out my resume in a flurry to a list of contacts provided to me by a wonderful adviser at Lang. The editor of the Rail responded and I met up with him. We got along well and that's how I came to assist at the Brooklyn Rail. This was without pay because no one really gets paid but I wanted to stay involved with a publication. The environment is fun and lax, everyone is chill and interesting and it was perfect. My first day there (I proofread printouts), one of the designers mentioned how they needed to find more designers, since they were going to leave soon. Being in the right place at the right time, I mentioned I designed for my college newspaper and I knew InDesign pretty well. And from that, I became a layout editor. You can see my handy work in this month's issue of the Brooklyn Rail, adorned with either a Jesus toy figure on a fighter jet or a photograph of a Richard Serra piece on the covers, within the Local, Express and Streets sections.

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Hudson River

The Hudson River from Hook Mountain.

"To those who know it, the Hudson River is the most beautiful, messed up, productive, ignored, and surprising piece of water on the face of the earth. There is no other river quite like it, and for some persons, myself included, no other river will do. The Hudson is the river...Yet the river has grandeur, and is of just such a size and such a length as to compel strong sentiments. You feel as though you can come to grips with the Hudson. But then, just when you think you understand the river, perceive its rhythms, and maybe even explain it all to someone else, you discover something new."
— Robert H. Boyle, The Hudson River: A Natural & Unnatural History