Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Top 10 best moments in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I'm gonna be spoiling the book here, so if you haven't read it yet but plan to, you should turn back now.

10. The locket tortures Ron
When the time finally came for Ron to destroy the locket-horcrux, it taunted and tortured him as it's final desperate act, exploiting all his insecurities and forcing him to overcome them. Also thanks to the locket, Emma Watson will get kissing scenes with both of her co-stars for the final movie. Hurrah!

9. King's Cross or whatever
This chapter reminds me a lot of the scene where Neo meets the Architect in The Matrix Reloaded. I don't completely comprehend it, but I understand that it is a pivotal chapter, and I can conclude that it was very cool. Plus, it closes with such a classic Dumbledore line: "Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?"

8. Escape from Gringotts
After breaking into one of the most secure vaults of the wizarding bank Gringotts, how do you escape with all the alarms set off and all the angry goblin security forces in your way? By launching gloriously into the sky on the back of an uncontrollable dragon.

7. The death of Dobby
In a book with more than a dozen deaths, it's weird how the best death and the only proper burial goes to the house elf. It feels like a scene that's written with the movie in mind, and it plays out just as well as it should. An epic death, in a nerdy sort of way.

6. Harry visits the graveyard
For Harry to finally get to stand there and see his parents graves was a relief, even though nothing particularly important plotwise happened. Simply seeing the names and dates of birth and death on the white marble tombstone made the reality of the death of Harry's parents much more potent.

5. Mrs. Weasley and Bellatrix
During the ultimate climactic chapter of the series, of all the people to face off against Bellatrix Lestrange, nobody expects Molly Weasley. She calls her a bitch, shows what's she's made of, and then kills her. It was icing on the cake having Bellatrix' death echo Sirius' death.

4. Harry calls Voldemort "Riddle"
In Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore refused to call Voldemort by his chosen name, and it was painted as an act of defiance. In the climactic battle of Deathly Hallows, Harry bluntly calls Voldemort "Riddle" to his face, repeatedly, giving him a verbal thrashing and subtly reminding him of his own humanity.

3. Neville and the snake
The image of that forgetful and clumsy boy from the first book are all but a distant memory by now. Now Neville is the leader of Dumbledore's Army at Hogwarts, keeping the resistance alive and rallying the students. He finally gets the chance to prove his worth and stand up to Voldemort himself, then heroically charges forward to behead Nagini with the sword of Gryffindor.

2. Harry accepts his fate
That whole chapter, "The Forest Again"... Harry just came to the realization that he was never meant to ultimately survive in the fight against Voldemort, but he was to walk calmly into the arms of death. He isn't even angry or confused about it, but totally accepting that he has to do what he has to do. The way it was handled was very subdued and emotional and well done.

1. Snape's memories in the pensieve
In a book filled with revelations, this was the revelation chapter to top off the entire series. We learn that Snape loved Lily Potter, that he tried to stop Voldemort from killing the Potters, that Dumbledore's death was part of a greater plan, and that Snape had been helping Harry all along. Then you look back at Snape's death in the previous chapter and realize that Snape was looking into Lily's eyes as he died. So much of what we've already known is cast into a new light that it brings a huge wave of appreciation for how much thought and planning went into the entire epic tale.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Learn Filipino, by Victor Romero

This blog entry is long overdue, but I have to give my big thanks to Mr. Vic Romero, author of the Learn Filipino books.

Being the dork that I am, sometimes during vacations I take digital camera pictures with the express intent of uploading them for use in Wikipedia articles. Earlier this year Vic emailed me asking my permission to use some of my Wikipedia photographs for a book that he was writing. The pictures are actually published under the GNU Free Documentation License, a free license, meaning he could have used them even without asking, but he was considerate enough to contact me and ask for permission anyway (which, as always, I am more than happy to give).

Anyway, last month, Vic sent over to me one copy each of the fruits of his labor: Learn Filipino, Book One and Book Two (plus another copy of Book One to donate to the local library). Amazon.com lists the value of each of the books at $29.95, and getting anything at all of that much value is a treat in itself. Plus, peppered throughout the pages of Book Two are nearly a dozen of the maps and photos that I contributed to Wikipedia-- all with clear and well-placed attribution. I've sort of grown used to big companies (The Inquirer, Cebu Daily News, ABS-CBN News, Cebu Pacific, among others..) using the photos without bothering to credit me, so getting to see my work and my name appear in a real-life published book is quite a delight.

The books themselves are quite nice (and, for myself, so coincidentally appropriate!). It's got lessons and exercises and happy illustrations that make the gargantuan challenge of actually learning Filipino a bit less intimidating. I haven't seen many books like this that do their best to hold your hand and walk with you into discovering the Filipino language, without assuming that another person is available to guide you through the book.

Vic tells me he has several more books in progress, including a Learn Filipino Book 3 and a book on Philippine history. Keep it up, good sir!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Too much drama

Here's something that happened months ago and it isn't related to anything, but I'll tell the story anyway.

Late one night I was walking down the path back to my apartment, and since I walk pretty fast when I'm alone I caught up with my housemate and his girlfriend who were walking in the same direction. Actually I didn't realize it was them until I was pretty close, as in, right beside them. And they were having an argument. The guy was all agitated and crying, and he shouted at the girl (in Cebuano) "Don't you see Mike over there?!", and he stormed off to the apartment. I had no idea what that was about, and I was too nervous to even face the girl, so I just kept walking on my own pace. That was awkard enough, but when I actually got to the apartment he was waiting in tears outside the gate, because he didn't have the key. I unlock and open the door and say "Umm.. here you go" and he says "Naw that's alright" and I say "Ok I'll just leave it open", so I do, then go on inside.

About an hour later he knocks on the door to my room and apologizes, and I'm like "Yeah whatever man, it happens, I understand". But really I don't understand, and we never mentioned the incident again. Haha...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

My original intention was to make a blog entry with just my impressions of the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix movie, but as I went along constructing my thoughts I realized that almost everything that I wanted to say could be applied in a more general sense to any of the other movies in the series. It's nice how the series has been molded by the hands of two screenwriters and four directors (and counting) but still forms a pretty cohesive whole, at least so far.

I don't even really remember much of the first four Harry Potter movies actually, except that they were generally faithful adaptations of the books. Naturally a whole lot of the source material has to be left behind in the translation to a 2-3 hour movie, that is necessary and forgivable-- and in the case of the fifth movie, preferred. That book had a lot of not-quite-necessary subplots that happily prolong the reading experience, but would just bog down the story in movie form (I'm thinking of Hermione's house elf crusades, Neville's parents at St. Mungo's, Percy's estrangement, etc). The longest Potter book at 896 pages translates into the shortest Potter movie at 138 minutes.

What I do clearly remember from previous movies are the things that were different from my memories of the books. Like the basilisk being Godzilla-sized, Ron's dance lessons from McGonagall, and Dumbledore being batshit pissed at Harry for his name coming out of the Goblet of Fire. I don't know if these are necessarily improvements or whatever, but they stand out in my mind because the books are already so deeply imprinted in my memory.

Sometimes I wish I could just forget everything that I've read so I can judge the movies on their own merits instead of constantly comparing them to my preinstalled mental image. All the while that I'm watching a Harry Potter movie I'm thinking to myself that certain things should be more emphasized, or they should have given more context. I keep worrying that people that haven't read the books are going to be so hopelessly confused. I maintain that the movies work better as visualizations for people who have experienced Harry Potter properly as books, rather than stand-alone experiences for people that haven't read them.

Other observations on Order of the Phoenix: Poor Cho didn't get another word from Harry after the hyped up kissing scene. Umbridge was perfectly cast with her scene stealing mixture of sweetness and cruelty. Luna was weird as she should be but creepier than expected. Overall it is perfectly decent but my least favorite in the series, and I could say the exact same thing for the book.

The day after watching Order of the Phoenix, I watched another movie, Die Hard 4.0 (see my impressions). Now that's a movie made for the movies, and the difference shows. It doesn't have to worry about being faithful to its source material, or setting up essential clues and plot points that'll be used in future sequels. I wonder if it would have turned out as enjoyable if it was based on a hit book with a pre-installed fanbase of millions.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Die Hard 4.0

Just like the rest of them, Die Hard 4.0 (Live Free or Die Hard in the US) is about the right guy at the right place at the right time (or was it wrong place at the wrong time...), stumbling across the plot of an evil genius and doing what it takes to save the day. Bruce Willis kicking ass and taking a beating at the same time. That guy is so cool.

I loved how only minimal computer generated effects were used for this movie. Either that or the CG people have just gotten so good at what they do that I can't tell the difference anymore. Well there actually are digital effects especially towards the end but overall there's a gritty old-school feel to it so it feels right at home with the rest of the series. Spielberg could learn a lesson from this and apply it on Indiana Jones 4.

The movie is aware of how crazy ridiculous action movies can be, knows that the audience expects nothing less than that sort of outlandishness from a Die Hard movie, and then takes advantage of this liberty to push the envelope and give us some of the most awesomely preposterous action sequences imaginable. So when John McClane, faced with a massive collapsing highway interchange, jumps off of an exploding truck and onto the wing of an airborne fighter jet-- just moments before the pilot pushes the eject button! -- it doesn't draw a dismissive reaction of incredulity, but is welcomed into open arms with a big stupid smile on my face

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Anti-Aries

I have this bookmark which I have been seeing a lot of lately (since I am rereading the sixth Harry Potter book). My birthday is April 9, and the text on the bookmark is as follows!

March 21 - April 20

You're a leader,
an initiator,
and a risk taker.
You see the big
picture and make
quick decisions.

Energetic · Warmhearted
Adventurous · Assertive
Enterprising · Generous

Usually these horoscope things are vague enough so that just about anyone can apply it to themselves, but this one is totally off the mark. It is as though they extracted the essence of my personality and enumerated the characteristics that it is not.

The few times that I do go out on a limb to assert or initiate are those times that I am confident that there is minimal risk involved. Because of this low risk tolerance, I wouldn't consider myself very enterprising at all. I only make significant decisions after careful and drawn-out deliberation. I tend to micromanage and take charge of projects on my own, but I do not put myself in a position of leadership (though others sometimes would make a leader out of me).

While I'm no coldblooded moster, "warmhearted" and "generous" are not among my more prominent traits.

The "you see the big picture" part is accurate though. I like to think that I see the big picture. :->

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

4 AM rant

You know what's a stupid word? Isthmus. Who comes up with these abominations? How the heck are you supposed to make the sthm sound? I guess you should just pretend the th isn't there when you're saying it out loud, but in that case they shouldn't even have put it into the spelling in the first place. Whenever I encounter this word I'm mentally pronouncing it in my head and feeling retarded, or like I have some kind of mental lisp.