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ranking Harry Potter. because it is done, and must be placed into list form.

with 8 comments

Friend of the blog, LBJ, sent me a mad-scrabble series of messages yesterday. He had finally seen the final Harry Potter film, and was attempting to rank the series, film by film, best to worst. Since lists are fun, and Harry Potter is by far of more lasting importance and of cosmically greater interest than Rick Santorum, TRC is doubling up the morning blog post with a challenge: How do you rank the films of Harry Potter?

Making lists is hard work, if you take them even mildly seriously. Are we talking the best? Your favorite? The one you just can’t stand to the one you dislike the least? It all flies. Don’t want to put in all the work? Then simplify: What is the Best and what is the worst?

Here’s some lists for comparison or get you thinking about your own rankings.

Washington Post. LA Times. StLTodayNY Mag. There are plenty of these out there.

So without further ado, TRC’s list of the Harry Potter films, from Worst, to Best:
(I suppose I must give the warning to those who have not seen HP, there are plot details below).

8. Chamber of Secrets. Too long, too cumbersome. The winsome nature of the kids carries the film through the tedious direction of Christopher Columbus.

7. The Half Blood Prince. The funniest of the series when the film is funny, and the saddest of the films in regard to the heartbreak of adolescence. But it never pulls it all together to make sense of it’s story. The revelation of the Half Blood Prince always struck me as the least important final reveal in history. But Emma Watson and Rupert Grint shine, as does the final action sequence.

6. Sorcerer’s Stone. It is difficult to rank the first film so low. It really is a wonderful, magical movie that set the stage for everything that was to come. But who could have known the films would just keep getting better. The kids are adorable, Maggie Smith sets the bar for the wide range of classical Brits who would steal the show, and Snape, oh Snape, lays the foundation for a career defining role for Alan Rickman.

5. The Goblet of Fire. The kids grow up, and become teens, which is the best part of Goblet. It’s the first time things get real, with Cedric’s death and Voldie’s return, but Hermione scolding Ron and Harry for Ron’s behavior at the Ball is just as strong of an indicator for viewers that we are starting a new era in the series. Some of the best action in the series and also one of the most interesting plots when it comes down to it: Every action Harry takes is manipulated by the false-Moody.

4. Deathly Hallows, Part 2. The finale had to look great, and carry the emotional weight of 15 years of devoted fandom. It did, and more. The film depends on Harry and Voldie, and they live up to it. Radcliffe is surprisingly capable carrying the emotional resonance of the Forbidden Forest, and Ralph Fiennes performance as Voldemort was terrifically, delightfully evil (his Draco hug? awful and awesome). The dragon at Gringott’s was a remarkable CG creation, and the battle for Hogwarts didn’t disappoint. Not much to complain about, except maybe the Epilogue, but what are you going to do about that?

3. Order of the Phoenix. The trio of kids become Actors, and are aided along by the best performances of the ensemble adult cast that always shone throughout the series. Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge might be the best performance of all 8 films. Her evil is so well worn in her teeny little giggle, and her office of cat-plates might be the creepiest set of the series. She is so much fun to hate.

2. Prisoner of Azkaban. The most beautiful and unique of the films. Director Alfonso Cuaron brought a magic that rivals the magic of Hogwarts, and the film still stands out as something special. Watching it is a different experience than any of the others, and reminds the audience that, despite how good the series as a whole is, Alfonso Cuaron is on an entirely different level.

1. Deathly Hallows, Part 1. My favorite of the bunch. The most lovely, dramatic, and heartbreaking of the films. From the moment Hermione erases herself from her parent’s memories, to the animated sequence of Beadle the Bard, to the darkest scene in the entire series, Bellatrix torturing Hermione in the Malfoy Mansion, Deathly Hallows, Part 1 was the best movie of the bunch.  But not by much.

Ask again tomorrow, and who knows how it would look.

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Written by Christopher ZF

August 19, 2011 at 11:39

Posted in harry potter, media

Earnestness is more fun than cynicism

with 8 comments

Here’s a way to make life more enjoyable: Experience things earnestly and with seriousness, even the silly things, rather than being cynical and filled with negativity.

This post is not about politics, and the potential impending doom of our economy and its credit rating. It’s not about NASA or physics or evolution and the dismal state of Science in the United States, nor any of the things TRC makes a habit ranting about. It is about Harry Potter.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 was released last week. You probably heard. And for me and mine, the release of HP 7.2 was a big deal. It was the culmination of 10 years of fandom and enjoyment and wonder. 10 years of overly intricate discussions about how the world of Harry Potter works, what it means to acknowledge the gravity of a child carrying the fate of the world, what character one would be and why (Neville, obviously), what spell one would use at work or in school if one could (muffliato, of course), and what it means to have evil battle good. To ask ourselves to sacrifice for the greater cause, and what it means to be put in (hypothetical) situations that ask us to give it all up for the friends we love.  This has been my earnest experience of Harry Potter for the past decade.

And I’m grateful for J.K. Rowling and the makers of the Harry Potter films for providing those ten years of absolute joy. (I say 10 knowing Potter actually arrived in the world 14 years ago, but it was not until the first film that I came aboard) . It comes up because now the films are over, the books are written, and no new Potter material will (maybe) be produced and I feel like expressing my appreciation. The cynics have had their say for all these years, but the Potter machine rolled on, and the experience for those of us who chose it was riveting.

There were the literary critics who have spent their hours mocking the books, berating a literary culture where Rowling could have the success she has with such minimal talent. Those of this ilk are always ready to throw cold water over those unwashed readers who love to escape with the ease and fascination of young adult fiction. It seems for many critical literary individuals, Harry Potter reached such heights of popularity that it actually posed a threat to great fiction.

There were those in the Christian Church have worked tirelessly to warn the world of the dangers of witchcraft and the temptations of Satan that are present in the texts, as though children (and adults) lack the imagination to separate the wizarding world of the Durselys and Hogwarts from their world of school and parents.

And there are the hipsters and the keepers of the cool who have always turned their nose up at the pulp and baseness of Rowling’s talents and the eagerness and earnestness with which some of us embraced it.

Cynically, people mocked those who love to escape into the make-believe and spend their lives talking about it. Instead some of these individuals spend their time belittling those who get wrapped up in the silliness, putting down those of us who loved to pick up Potter.

Of course, these are not all people. Millions (and millions and millions) of people around the world-literary critics, conservative Christians and hipster elitists among us-loved and adored the Potter world, and Harry and Ron and Hermione and their journey to defeated He Who Shall Not Be Named.  We ate it up for 10 years or more because taking things up with love is more exciting than putting things down.  This is a change for me. The naysayer of Potter and other pop-culture swill was the role I played for many years. And, at least in part, Harry Potter is among the reasons this started to change.

So for that, I want to say thanks to Harry and his friends. Because it truly is more fun to love something silly, than to be a cynic in the face of something that actually worth the effort.

That’s all. Back to politics, science, and seriousness of the real world.

Written by Christopher ZF

July 24, 2011 at 23:25