The Shop Around the Corner

MJG Book / Movie Reviews Leave a Comment

What a great movie.

James Stewart is just so darn likable. Affable. Put-upon but bearing up. Gets riled if he has to. Talks straight, shoots from the hip, sticks up for himself. Gives the bad guy a bloody nose. But also sensitive. He’s a willowy guy- not so strong to look at, but he works hard, and he sticks to it, and he makes it come out right.

I’m trying to think of our modern day equivalent. I suppose Tom Hanks has pulled it off in the past. In You’ve Got Mail, the remake, he was perhaps a bit show-offish. But a movie like Forrest Gump, which I loved- he came through a lot like I described above- just slow-witted. Basically, a decent person.

Hugh Grant would be another.

But neither of them has quite what Stewart did. That basic decentness seems to have grown out of the times- difficult times, where you had to work hard, and no-one would help, and if your dreams got crushed- well, you had to just cowboy up and take it. I’m thinking of both Shop Around the Corner, and It’s a Wonderful Life here. Hugh Grant often plays loafers with trust funds, not hard-workers. Tom Hanks- well, hmm. Has he taken on comedies with such sad depths like Stewart did?

But it’s not only in character that the film excels. There are also some fantastic lines. Klara Novak (Margaret Sullavan) dogs Stewart throughout, wittily, and his comebacks are delightful. For example-

Klara Novak (Miss Novak): Well I really wouldn’t care to scratch your surface, Mr. Kralik, because I know exactly what I’d find. Instead of a heart, a hand-bag. Instead of a soul, a suitcase. And instead of an intellect, a cigarette lighter… which doesn’t work.

Alfred Kralik (thoughtfully): Well that’s very nicely put. Yes, comparing my intellect with a cigarette lighter that doesn’t work. Yes, that’s a very (thinking of the right word) interesting mixture of poetry, and meanness.

And one more, after him saying her illness was ‘only’ psychological-

Klara Novak: Mr. Kralik. It’s true we are in the same room, but we’re not on the same planet.

Alfred Kralik (again, thoughtfully): Uh Miss Novak, although I’m the victim of your remark, I can’t help admiring the exquisite way you have of expressing yourself. You certainly know how to put a man back on his planet.

How could you not like a guy like that? Takes an insult and just keeps on coming. Speaks of huge inner confidence.

And what an expressive face James Stewart has.

And what an ending to a movie. Sock suspenders!

Harry Potter- The Deathly Hallows

MJG Book / Movie Reviews Leave a Comment

I’m definitely feeling mixed about the end of Harry Potter.

It didn’t go the way I wanted it to, and hoped it would. But is it still something I can love? Can I forgive it, or explain it away, or just learn to see things a different way?

I wanted Voldemort to have redemption. I felt pity for him. I suppose I believe- though Rowling says it’s Harry’s choices that differentiate him from Voldemort- that Voldemort never really had a choice. Or if he did, it was rather a choice between:

a- Stop expecting any kind of attention, love, or respect, and just accept that you were born into a world that doesn’t care and doesn’t want you, and won’t give a crap when you die, and perhaps will cause that death itself.

or b- Get out there and DEMAND something, if not love, then at least FEAR and RESPECT.

I was feeling that Rowling’s series was set up to teach us the value of love, and how to raise children. The bad people and kids in HP were ALL victims of some messed up childhood. Dudley was spoiled and shown no guidance. Malfoy was shown guidance in the wrong direction. Snape was abused and disparaged. Voldemort was ignored.

Of all of them, Harry had it the best. Yes he was alone, and lived with a family that didn’t ‘love’ him. But at least they didn’t abandon him. Whatever they did to him, it wasn’t enough to ‘break’ him- after he’d been imbued with the SERIOUS love that his mother and father gave him right from his birth. Whether he could consciously remember that love or not- his subconscious would remember what it was like- and I feel- give him strength.

And then his mother died for him. That would not only give him mental strength he didn’t know about, it also saved his life numerous times.

So he had it pretty good. Then when he came of age, he plunged into the biggest most accepting family ever, Hogwarts, with the steady hand of Dumbledore watching over him, with Quidditch on the side, with best friends and a following of fans- that was pretty sweet for him.

Sure he had had some bad luck in his life. The Dursely’s. His parents died. But compare that to Voldemort.

Nobody cared about Voldemort from the start. Nobody loved him. Nobody would have died to save him. Nobody could raise him, because there was nobody who could give him guidance, because nobody around when he was a boy understood his gifts. Nobody was stronger or smarter than him. No punishment on him would ever stick. He would never come to understand that hurting another was bad, because until Harry came along, no-one could ever physically hurt him due to his magic.

Of course they could hurt him mentally though. By ignoring him. Isn’t that about the worst thing we can do to someone? In tribal societies, even worse than death or some other punishment would be exile. You fall off the edge of the world. What kind of life would it be with NO connection to everything that had ever mattered?

Voldemort came into a world where he was already an exile, with no roots, and that didn’t understand him and couldn’t give him any guidance. Presumably he was moved from place to place, a problem child no-one had the means to deal with.

So is it any wonder, when Dumbledore happened upon him and tried to take responsibility, that he wasn’t interested? Why should he trust Dumbledore, when no-one had ever stuck by him before?

I have complete sympathy with Voldemort through every stage of his life. And I do not think he deserves to spend the rest of eternity agonized with a fraction of a soul, suffering for mistakes he never knew any better about.

Even Harry himself looks at the despicable baby Voldemort in the white space after he’s been Kedavra’d, and feels like a coward for doing nothing. And so he should. If it’s anyone’s responsibility to step up to the plate and make things right for Voldemort, it was him. He who had so much more than Voldemort had ever had. And by more- I mean of genuine love, and friendship. Voldemort never had that.

Harry should have died to save Voldemort’s soul. Because Voldemort’s soul was not evil, and did not deserve to be punished forever. Of course Voldemort’s body had to die, as we would kill a cancer in our body, but not his soul.

Because is a cancer a root cause, or a symptom? Surely it’s a symptom of something else. Something at large in the world, or in the body, or in our genes. Is it Voldemort’s fault then that HE was the one that was turned, by the world, by the body, by his environment, into a cancer? How could it be?

So how does punishing for eternity the cancer help the body at large? It doesn’t. It’s like blaming all the ills of the world on one person, and making him pay, when he was only ever just a focus point for the disease. Was everyone sweetness and light before he came along? Were there no anti-muggle feelings before he came along?

Of course there were. He just corralled them into one unit. One family.

Harry should have died trying to delve into Voldemort’s past, into his soul, trying to find one spark that was still salvageable- and asking that spark- ‘are you happy with what you’ve done?’

Then the spark- in the image of a child Voldemort, perhaps before he goes into the cave to permanently damage those children for the first time- would look at the spread of his life, and say- no. I’m sorry for all of that.

Then Harry would hug the spark, the first human warmth Voldemort ever receives, and the remorse would begin, and all the soul fragments would come rushing back into him, and the pain would be enormous and cleansing and the world would feel it, and after, he’d be gone.

And Harry’s work would be done.

I wanted to see that so bad.

Instead we get Harry’s happy life in the epilogue. Seems selfish. Is he out there- trying to prevent another Voldemort from being ignored and abused as a child? Perhaps, but we get no image of that. We should have. Where is the effort to make sure this kind of thing never happens again? Not just for the sake of the people the next Voldemort would kill/hurt, but also for the sake of the next Voldemort itself.

Find the root cause in society and stub it out, rather than wait for the cancers to come roaring out. Or at least try.

I could talk about this at length.

Other small points-

Harry beat Voldemort on a technicality. He had completely by chance happened to disarm Malfoy earlier. And this meant- through weird and new wand mechanics- that he was the true owner of the Elder wand. So that’s how he beat Voldemort? That random chance? Makes me pity Voldemort even more- he tries and tries and does everything he can think of, and Harry just lucks out again and manages to win through sheer chance. Again. One reason I never liked the first book too- Harry beats Voldemort by doing nothing more than just exisiting, and having once been loved. Makes it seem like there is NOTHING Voldemort can do to beat him.

The sword of Gryffyndor- why was it in the sorting hat? Didn’t that goblin make off with it? Did he return it? I doubt that. Was it the ‘ghost’ of the Gryffyndor sword? I’m not a fan of that either.

I did enjoy this book though. I’ve tried to talk myself round to think- well- if Voldemort was utterly destroyed by the final duel- then maybe it’s OK. After all, every one of his 7 parts of soul were destroyed- doesn’t that mean that his soul also was dead? So there would be no snivelly disgusting baby in the white space- there would just be nothing. No Voldemort soul left.

That would be OK. I can understand that. He was so far gone there was nothing for it but total annihilation. We’d like to redeem him but it’s not possible- that kind of vibe. But seems to be precluded by Dumbledore suggesting Voldemort will return to the white space, and that it will go badly for him there. I’d like to have seen even Dumbledore stepping up then, saying- ‘I’ll take care of it, Harry’. Or someone, someone!, at least TRYING to heal the sickness that was Voldemort, rather than just coming together to wipe him out.

I think I’ll just have to believe that Voldemort was completely destroyed for me to feel like I really like the books.

Life on Mars

MJG Book / Movie Reviews Leave a Comment

Just finished the season 2 finale of the UK TV show- Life on Mars. Completely took me by surprise by being totally kick-ass. I did not expect any of that. From the way it was, and had been, I hadn’t expected anything as ballsy, powerful, or moving as that to round it off.

At the end, and he’s standing there, and the camera’s revovling around him, I was on the edge of my seat going – “Come on! Do it! Go Sam!”

Suffice it to say, it rocked, and did not disappoint. Also, what excellent music.

I read on Wikipedia they’re making a spin-off of it too, with the same ‘guv’- Hunt (Glenister something or other), and the same basic idea of someone in a coma/mad/whatever as his DI. I hope it turns out better than Torchwood was reputed to.

Also they’re making an American version. Like the Office. Doubtless they’ll find a way to stretch it out beyond 2 seasons, as they have done with the Office- which is still going strong in the US at season 4 now. I watch it, and it’s still really funny.

In fact, I think I prefer the American Office to the British one. Partly because I’m sick of Ricky ‘smug annoying git’ Gervais, thinking he’s all that, and doing that as David Brent.

Steve Carroll in the American version is so much more vulnerable, and less consciously nasty. Makes him more sympathetic, a tragi-comic figure. It’s nice and often leaves you with a fuzzy feeling, where the UK version never did. The UK version was just kind of bleak and depressing.

Shogun Boardgame

MJG Uncategorized Leave a Comment

Shogun arrived!!

I ordered it from a guy in the US, through Am totally psyched to play it. It’s in great condition with all the pieces intact. It cost $65, which is not bad seeing as it’s been out of production for like 15 years. Shipping cost $45.

Here’s a photo of the board-

We used to while away long hours when I was a kid playing this. Damn I’m psyched.

Raises the question- what games did you play as a kid?

For me:

-Shogun (all-day marathon sessions with Joe and some kid called Martin, maybe the Asif kids from next door, and perhaps my dad too?)

-Talisman + expansion sets (I was ALWAYS Warrior of Chaos cos he got to invoke the Gods after every kill, and often get an extra strength. At least, I played him until friends/family said it was unfair and I couldn’t be him anymore. I was pretty pissed, as you can imagine.)

-RPG’s led by my Dad. Most memorable moments- Vampire rats. And the time the bad guys were torturing the good guys, but we didn’t realize they were so bad, and did nothing, so Dad had to keep on upping the torture ante to make us realize who the bad guys were. Around the time they were torturing kids- we twigged.

-Muscles and marbles! Me and Joe invented this game, based on these little 1.5″ figures that came in a wide variety of muscled shapes and sizes. We went at either end of the ceramic tile hall at my Dad’s house, set the guys up like ten-pins, and bowled marbles down to knock them over. We played that game A LOT. Most of the ‘muscles’ had names. I wonder what became of them all. Dad?

OK, how about you guys?


You can see my other Toys / Games articles in the Toys / Games gallery.

If you like this post, why not link to it, or leave a comment? Thanks.