Entry 0053: Live Magic


LP: It’s Beginning To and Back Again by Wire

1989 Enigma Records 7 73516-1, Mute STUMM 66

Favorite Track: Eardrum Buzz

A couple of nights ago, I finished re-watching the Harry Potter movies for the third time. I used to fall asleep to Futurama episodes, then Arrested Development, but now I’ve seen them so many times, I find myself laughing only on the occasion that I forgot a joke or discovered a new one. So sometime in my adulthood, I switched the Harry Potter movies because I am still envious my years in school didn’t include Defense Against the Dark Arts and Transfiguration. I would still have hated Potions class.

I have made a handful of lists before on this blog and today’s post will be no different. Since I made a wine pairing list to go alongside Wire’s catalog, I felt like using the new live Wire album I purchased a couple of days ago. Today’s list will be the order in which I prefer the Harry Potter movies (not the books, I’ll do that later) and why.

This list is completely biased by my subjective Slytherin perspective so take it with a grain of butterbeer.

8th place: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Why so low: The trouble with the penultimate movie is that there is no strong central mystery to it. Half the movie is Voldemort’s backstory treated as periodic infodumps when the viewer needs that crucial bit of information. The other half is what is Draco doing that is so mysterious. The Half-Blood Prince mystery is nearly forgotten in the movie. Then there is the romance. I’ve always found romances in movies to be largely annoying and forgettable. The Hermione/Ron split feels largely forced to separate those two until the next movie. I would rather have seen Hermione and Ron get together in, say book three, and watch how their relationship changed throughout the ever perilous years at Hogwarts. That is not to say this whole movie is bad. There are some great parts: Snape is as perfect as ever, Slughorn finally giving in to sharing his embarrassing memory, the cave filled in Inferi.

7th place: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Why so low: Starting with the third one (which commits the gravest of excluding important background info about the creators of the Marauder’s Map), all the Harry Potter movies had to cut side plots and shorten events to fit into a two hourish movie. Goblet of Fire has a lot taken out of in and sometime feels like a skeleton of the book. The Triwizard Cup is blown through in the first ten minutes although the Dark Mark is eerie without the movie feeling completely abominable. Time spent in the classroom is cut to bare minimum although “Mad Eye” Mooney’s teaching of the Unforgivable Curses still remains one of the best parts of the whole entire series. Instead, we get long drawn out Triwizard Challenges with nifty special effects, but more action-scene orientated than the suspense, humor, and mystery of the novels. The other problem is the Triwizard cup being a Portkey. How exactly did *SPOILER* know when Harry and  Cedric would touch the cup? Why didn’t *SPOILER* just make Harry’s bed a Portkey the night after the tournament when no one was around to notice he had disappeared?

6th place: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Why so average: This movie had the most extraneous information cut from it, but benefits because of the editing. Where it falters is the ending with a shortened daring adventure throughout the Ministry–the one time so many of its secrets are revealed in the book. But the atmosphere, the tone, the secret DADA club, and, of course, the wizard’s duel between Voldemort and Dumbledore make this an enjoyable movie. If you’ve read the book a dozen times before.

5th place: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two

Why so average: I do not envy the scriptwriter who had to take the 7th book and split it into two movies. It probably could have been one and been more effective (though long) but I think some of the emotional aspects would have been lost, especially in the beginning (in the Part One where they are traveling around lost and clueless for horcruxes). One problem with Part Two, the movie feels like it is the middle of a movie so if you didn’t just watch Part One, you are disorientated from the get-go. One thing I noticed this time around, despite so many messages to Harry saying you need your friends, the later movies increasing focus just on his battle. Fred, Tonks, Lupin, McGonagall, and others show up for the tiniest screen time ever. But their lives mattered. I do like, however, that the true heroes of the whole tale end up being Draco Malfoy and his mother who both could have turned Harry Potter in to the Dark Lord but do not.

4th place: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

This was the movie that convinced me to finally read the books. The minute Harry heard a serpentine voice whispering throughout the castle, I was sold. The story may feel like a slower, more drawn out copy of the first movie, but a lot of secret set-up is happening for the last movies. Plus, Gilderoy Lockhart may be one of the under-appreciated comedic moments in the whole series, books or movies. I love the reveal that the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets is in the girl’s restroom where Moanin’ Myrtle died. (Oops *SPOILER*) The early Potter books and movies were great that everything somehow connected to the end.

3rd place: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One

Why so above-average: This one gets bonus points because of the animated sequence about the Deathly Hallows. What a perfect way to convey that information and what beautiful graphics! This movie nails the tone down immediately. Hermione wiping her existence from her parent’s minds is heartbreaking. The trio face the hardest challenge: staying together. Whereas, a longer Deathly Hallows movie would have completed the storytelling arc more successfully (after all, who wants to watch a movie only to see to be continued at the end?), most of this movie probably would have been cut to make that happen. And we would have lost so much time we needed to watch Harry finally go the his hometown, for Ron to sit staring at the radio in a daze, and for Dobby to become a hero in his own right. The music is a bit bombastic, but I love it.

2nd place: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Why so great: I am a fierce lover of the first book/movie. Christopher Columbus would not have been the director I would have chosen. I wish Alfonso Cuaron directed them all. But this one is faithful to the book the most. And what kind of children’s movie ends with the 11-year hero inside a secret room underneath a magical castle that he and his friends had to solve mysteries to get into, only for the hero to find one of his professors with AN EVIL WIZARD’S FACE growing out of the back of his head searching for Nicolas Flamel’s Sorcerer’s Stone and the 11-year hero kills his professor. That is dark.

1st place: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Why so great: When I first saw this in the theaters, I hated it. All the next day, I kept spitting and swearing to myself. It was cold in Athens, autumnal. I had no homework to do so in the middle of the afternoon, I went and saw it again. And it completely became my favorite immediately. The minute I put aside my perfectionist fanboy attitude of they didn’t explain about who created the map and why aren’t they wearing their wizard robes, I saw the genius direction Cuaron took the series in. Daniel, Rupert, and Emma do their first great acting jobs. The sets look more magical. The tone is impressively chilly. Lupin is so much better than Sirius. The music wonderful. And no one dies.

About live concert albums: typically, I am not a fan of live albums. Their sound quality is often poor, you hear them making mistakes as they jump around on stage, vocals can sometimes be unintelligible. Then, sometimes they are more raw and exciting. IBTABA captures Wire in their second incarnation. Here they mesmerize not with ferocious punk energy or strange post-punk experimentation. They cut songs like David Lynch films: normalcy with an underbelly of everything bizarre and possibly unholy.

Which is why Wire is one of my favorite bands.


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