The Dig List - 7/15/07

Yotsuba&! Vol. 1 - Not as versed in manga as I think I should be sometimes, and lots of folks like this one, so I thought I'd give it a try via the library. And it was cute. In the good way, too, not the cloyingly sweet way I was half-expecting. Nothing I'd buy, but a fun, breezy read, and I'll probably get the later volumes from the library somewhere down the line. It's funny, though... I gather that Yotsuba's unfamiliarity with (and sheer amazement at) everything in the world around her is seen as weird, and probably supposed to raise questions about her true origins, but I didn't really see it that way. She just reminded me of my two-year-old. I see that sort of thing every day. Guess it all depends on your perspective.

Harry Potter and Order of the Phoenix - Or, as I feel it should have been titled, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: The Good Parts Version. I'm impressed that they took the book I probably liked the second least of the entire series (after Chamber of Secrets) and made a movie easily as good as the two sans-Columbus Potter films before it. It helped that they slimmed it down for the better... extraneous bits cut (bye, Quidditch, you're not missed this time around), exposition dumps handled via Ye Olde Spinning Newspaper Trick, lots of subplot handled through subtle looks and gestures from the actors (watch Ginny Weasley closely whenever Cho Chang is seen or mentioned... brilliant!). Definitely reduced fat filmmaking, mostly for the better (they could've added an extra line or two to explain a few things better, but it's a minor quibble). Even Harry's emo tendencies from the novel are toned down to nearly-tolerable levels here. No small feat.

And as always, wonderfully cast. Helena Bonham Carter is so perfect as Bellatrix Lestrange that I'm sort of convinced she wore her own clothes to the shoot.* The punk girl from About a Boy (whose name I can never remember) was great as Tonks, if severely underused, and the girl who played Luna (whose name I just don't know) was just pitch perfect. In the end, she may be my favorite character from the entire series, but I was afraid they'd write her far too broadly here, but script and actress combined perfectly here. She was just... someplace else... until she was needed, or it was time for pudding. All the rest of her quirks were either shown through gesture or costuming. And again, that's perfect. I wish more Hollywood movies would subscribe to the "show, don't tell" policy. I'm a smart audience member, thanks; I don't need to be spoonfed.

So anyway, I was afraid I wasn't going to like this, and I did a whole damn lot. When you only go to the movies once all summer, this is the sort of thing you hope you get to see.

*HBC: "What's my motivation?"
Director: "You haven't broken up an actor or director's prior marriage in months, and you're pissed."

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