Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The 306 Greatest Books #148 - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

The next up on my reading of the 306 greatest books is Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling (also known as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone). This book can be found on the BBC Book List

Harry Potter has been a series that has been sitting in my "to read" pile for over a decade. I waited for all of the movies to come out and then I just didn't have the ambition to tackle a series of that size. Along comes my daughter, who has started reading the series with my wife and so I have been prompted to start it myself. After each book they read, we all watch that movie together. So, before starting this book I have recently watched the first three movies. I don't know if having them fresh in my mind was a good thing but I'm feeling not because for much of this first book I was comparing it to the movie and getting the "well, this isn't that different from the movie, I was hoping for more" type of feeling.

I think my biggest qualm with the book has to be the same qualm I have with the movies, and that is the Dursleys. I don't personally care for that plot, I don't like them as characters, and I feel that part of the story is poorly written. The first two chapters felt like something out of a Roald Dahl playbook, and I'm not a personal fan of his writing style. So after the first two chapters I was not looking forward to much more of this. But I must say, it got much, much better. The pacing throughout the novel seemed very off. The first half of the book was up through Harry getting settled into his first few days of school and then the book takes off, skipping months at a time. I can see how in future books, Rowling would want to expand upon their time in school a bit more, resulting in the books becoming much, much longer. A lot of the scenes within this book also felt rather random, or randomly placed at least. It was like Rowling had all of these plot ideas she wanted to seed into the book but had no really smooth way of introducing them.

Comparing the book to the movie though was a detriment for me. The movie follows the book surprisingly well for about 3/4's of it, and so I was not all that surprised at anything that was happening. I had kept hearing how so many things were different in the books, that it ended up being a bit disappointing for me. But then the differences started shining through. Once the movie takes the slimmed down approach to the book, the book started to come into its own, and I really got a kick out of it. The pacing really picked up in the latter half of the story too. I imagine the latter stories get even better as Rowling figures out her flow through the series and I'm looking forward to seeing how things start to progress. Especially as I get past the movies I have recently seen.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

The 100 Greatest Movies - #6: The Wizard of Oz

I am in the process of watching all of the Top 10 Fantasy movies according to AFI and reviewing them for my list (

The current film I just watched is The Wizard of Oz, which is #1

This movie is also on the 100 Greatest Movies list (#6), the 10th Anniversary List (#10), the 100 Greatest Thrillers list (#43), the 100 Most Inspirational Movies (#26), and the 25 Greatest Musicals (#3).

It has been a very long time since I have seen The Wizard of Oz, so we ended up watching it in preparation for my daughter to go see Wicked for the first time. And as a child I did not get the overt symbolism used throughout the movie. How the characters at the beginning of the movie were reincarnated as the Scarecrow, the Tinman, and the Cowardly Lion, not to mention the Wizard and the Wicked Witch of the West. The acting was also just so over the top. Nobody seemed to be holding anything back and just letting it all out there. However, that is what makes this movie so charming. It could have faded into the dustbins of history but the overacting by the four main leads are what draws us into the movie and keeps us there. I couldn't keep my eyes off the Scarecrow's walking behavior throughout the movie and the Cowardly Lion's eating up of the scenery. It was absolutely hilarious. I think what really got me was when the Wizard, playing the doorman, starts crying and it obvious he is just having water pour over his face. It's terrific. Judy Garland's Dorothy is equally over the top and without her acting so dramatic it wouldn't have worked with the other three. She was the glue to hold it all together. On top of all that, the colorization design of the movie was spot on, especially given the early days of color in which the movie was made. The color work was loud and glaring in many spots making the colors really pop out at you. It was beautiful. This movie earned it's place in history as one of the greatest ever made and will likely remain there for decades to come.