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Month: December, 2014

Lists the Season: The Almost But Not Quite of 2014

63e585fdbec5de61c1ec3b78d954db5fIt’s that time of the year again: lists, lists and more lists. Everyone’s counting down the best and worst 2014 had to offer in movies, TV, music, art and media and I’m no exception. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, who doesn’t like making lists? There were some great offerings this past year and as far as movies go; Boyhood, Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel were all brilliant. Television brought us great new shows like Fargo, True Detective and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. But for every delight like Louie’s violin duet we were also subjected to dreck like Oh Shenandoah. It was an unfortunate year for some really good shows that kind of lost their way, as well as some really dreadful things that got way too much traction. I’m going to focus this list on the Almost But Not Quites: things that didn’t quite gel, sometimes because their execution was a little off and others because they were just plain awful.

8. U2’s free album. I do feel the state of music is at an all time low right at the moment, but I was surprised by the vitriol unleashed by the internet when the biggest band on the planet tried to give them something for free. People were truly offended by this act. They felt violated; like someone had come into their homes uninvited, stayed too long and told a bunch of really boring stories. U2’s album suffered more from being hum-drum than being outright bad, and that I guess is the most unforgivable act of all.

97305c2b320d4709c79c2cdfa6e1eab87. American Horror Story: Freakshow. It pains me to write this, but our little horror soap-opera has gone off the rails. This season has no real cohesion, emotional center or satisfying endgame in sight. It feels like they’re making it up as they go. Unfortunately, AHS suffers from the same problem U2 does; their past accomplishments make their new ones feel sloppy and substandard. What happened to Twisty or Life on Mars? It started with promise and then just faltered. The only thing that could possibly redeem this season for me is if the final scene was literally the fat lady singing and then we would all know that it was mercifully over.

6.  Gone Girl. This movie made it onto a number of best-of lists and I’m a little confused as to why.This is probably the best example of Almost But Not Quite on this list. I reviewed the audio-book  a little earlier and came away with a lot of problems, none of which the movie solved.  The film did have some great ingredients like Rosamund Pike and David Fincher but didn’t wring out any real coherent insight. In the end, the premise is silly and the results too unbelievable.

5. House of Cards Season 2. Speaking of silly and unbelievable, enough said.

1D274907462463-fallon-seinfeld4. The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Jimmy Fallon is supposedly killing it right now as the new king of late night. I’ll hand it to him, he knows how to create social media buzz with short celebrity filled memes that have a life after 11:35, but I realized the other day; the reason he does so much game playing with his guests is because he’s a terrible interviewer. The games are there to fill the gaping hole that has been created. He talks as much about himself as he tries to create conversation. He seems nice enough, but when Colbert shows up next year, Jimmy’s in trouble.

3. The Strain. What started out compelling soon turned into well… a strain.

download2. The Newsroom. I am going to miss this show. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any more pretentious and condescending, they really outdid themselves on their final kick at the cat, and when I say cat – I mean social media and when I say kick -I mean whine incessantly at. Throw in a whole lot of sexism and romantic subplots that had the fizzling tension of a Who’s the Boss? episode and you have the show you love to hate.

1. The art of James Franco. I think the most obnoxious thing of 2014 was the ill conceived re-imagining of Cindy Sherman’s untitled film stills (see top of  postby Mr. James Franco. There are no words. In 2015, please leave the art making to the real artists.   

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Harry Potter and the Crimson Cloak

latest“It’s bigger on the inside!” Ron exclaimed as he and Harry crossed the threshold of the most ordinary cabin you ever laid eyes on. Ordinary in the sense that it was 200 miles from nowhere, in the middle of the Arctic tundra and painted a bright Cobalt blue.

Up until a very short while ago Ron and Harry had been hot on the trail of an unknown object of extraordinary magical power. Their job as Aurors had taken on a new role: to track down and investigate objects of exceptional magic. (Normally this kind of task would have been handled by a different department of the Ministry of Magic, but still five years after the vanquish of Voldemort, many dark wizards had rightly decided to return to the path of the straight and narrow and Aurors were being  utilized for other things.) Their job of finding extraordinary magical objects was made that much easier with the help of the enchantoscope. The enchantoscope was an invention of Ron’s father Arthur Weasley who had made some alterations to a regular sneakoscope so it could now detect all types of magic, rather than just the dark ones. The enchantoscope had led them to a curious looking jingle bell in an antique shop in the town of Cokeworth.

Harry and Ron’s over anxiousness and slight competitiveness had them reaching for the bell at the same time. Turns out that it was no ordinary bell, but rather a portkey. The shock of being transported from the cozy warmth of a quaint antique shop to the frigid temperatures of an Arctic wasteland tends to knock the wind out of a person. Harry smiled as he cast a warming spell to help unfreeze the look of surprise on Ron’s face. They certainly weren’t dressed for the elements and needed to get out of the cold as quickly as possible. The enchantosope was going wild in Harry’s pocket urging them towards the blue building in the distance.

The door was unlocked when they tried the latch. It opened up to a long corridor leading to another door. The walls of the hallway were lined with hundreds of hooks over top of low sitting benches. The hooks were all waist high. It appeared to be a coatroom for house elves or maybe worse – goblins.  The room smelled of gingerbread. Ron and Harry exchanged glances and then took out their wands to be on the safe side and shed some light on the far away door.

The second door too was unlocked and opened up to an enormous hall filled with workbenches and machinery. Tools covered every surface. Everything was scaled for tiny hands except for a massive desk and wardrobe off to the left of the hall situated under a massive stain glassed mural of a map of the earth. Light filtered through the coloured panes, casting the map onto the floor. Harry noticed a difference between the window and the image it cast. The cast image not only showed the continents and countries of the muggle world but also the concealed and secret places of the wizarding world. Hogwarts and Diagon Alley were clearly marked as well as countless places all over the globe. There were far more of these than even Ron realized. You could also touch the light and enlarge any aspect of the map you liked. The enchantoscope was going mental.

“Blimey!” Ron exclaimed as his gaze found an enormous shelf at the end of the hall that looked like it contained every toy he had ever wished for as a child. Harry watched him as he bee-lined for a wizarding chess board that appeared to be carved from dragon’s teeth. Harry meanwhile made his way over to the desk. It was littered with parchments written in every language imaginable. The enchantoscope motioned towards the wardrobe. Harry proceeded with caution and gingerly opened the door. Inside he found an enormous crimson cloak trimmed with white fur and jingle bells for buttons. This was the object that had led them here. The cloak gave off a warm intoxicating feeling not unlike when Harry had taken Felix Felicius or when you’ve had too many butterbeers.  Harry was about to call Ron over when he caught the reflection of a figure on the surface of the brass bells. Standing behind him was a wizard with a great flowing white beard.

“Great Dumbledore’s ghost!” Harry thought to himself.

“Hello Harry.” came a familiar voice.

 

HagridtreeThere’s two things that I’m a total sucker for: Harry Potter and Christmas. I came late to the world of J.K. Rowling but was soon smitten. I started with the third film: The Prisoner of Azkaban (in my opinion the best film in the series) and was intrigued to see how the story played out. The first book I read was the next in the series: The Goblet of Fire and after that I was thoroughly hooked. I loved how each book matured in its writing style corresponding with the age of Harry. I caught up right in time for the release of The Half-Blood Prince (in my opinion the best book in the series) and experienced the crazy anticipation for the final chapter of the tale of Harry Potter. That same anticipation I would equate to waiting for Christmas morning as a kid.

In my mind Harry Potter and Christmas are linked. Every book touches on the holiday in some form or fashion. Even the darkest book in the series The Deathly Hallows has Harry and Hermione in Godric’s Hollow on Christmas Eve. There’s a quiet moment of beauty and hope that follows that fact; even though it takes place in a graveyard.

latestChristmas has come early this year for Harry Potter fans in the form of a series of new stories from J.K. Rowling published on the website PottermoreYou have to sign-up to access the new content but it’s free. The site will also sort you into one of the four houses if you like. Apparently I’m Ravenclaw – who knew?

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Related: 6 Degrees of Harry Potter

                6 Degrees of Harry Potter II

                6 Degrees of Harry Potter III

Stubborn Jar of Pickles

High Wire Expectations

High Wire Expectations Digital image 2014

High Wire Expectations        Digital image 2014