Sunday, October 22, 2017

Harry Potter Festival 2017

The Harry Potter Festival here in Odense, Denmark, celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. Readers of my blog will already be familiar with the festival and my views on it, so this year I thought, I’d do something new. Instead of reviewing the festival, I’ll give you a complete list of its HP activities, which boasts seventy-two things to do and see this year. Maybe that will whet your appetite a bit. Here goes:

1.      Harry Potter film marathon
2.      International Quidditch tournament
3.      The Leaky Cauldron (play board games while Tom serves drinks in the old inn, but beware, the place is haunted!)
4.      Honeydukes (where you can buy magical candy like Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans)
5.      Madam Malkin’s robe workshop (make your own robe)
6.      Zoo-magical sail in the dark (age 8-15. A sailing trip on Odense river to the zoo)
7.      The Ministry of Magic (Odense Film Workshop showing HP fan films)
8.      Borgin and Burkes (only kids are allowed try the vanishing cabinet, though)
 9.      The woodturner’s workshop where you can make your own wand
10.  Professor Snape’s potion workshop and magical creatures (live tarantulas, stick insects etc.)
11.  Find the seven horcruxes (this hunt is organised by the Danish Scouts)
12.  Magical Candy Ballet (The Royal Theatre’s Ballet School performs a ballet about Honeydukes’ candy)
13.  School of Ghosts (Children only. Cuthbert Binns lectures on ghost and you meet ghosts in the streets after dark)
14.  Hagrid tells stories about magic in the Monastery Church
15.  Visit the Gryffindor house (age 8-14, visit the common room, a class room and Dumbledore’s office and get O.W.L.s in reading and writing)
 16.  Hogwarts Banquet (at Odense Townhall, Dumbledore and the other professors are hosts at this banquet, where you are to compete to win the house cup. All ages.)
17.  Hogwarts Autumn Ball (HP themed party with dinner and dance as well as a best costume competition. Age 18+ as alcohol is being served)
18.  Harry Pottcast (podcast about the HP books)
19.  Meet characters from the books such as Dumbledore, McGonagall, Hagrid, Voldemort etc. around town
20.  Harry Potter Concert performed by Odense Symphony Orchestra (including performances by “The Academy for Magic Dance” as well as Harry, Ron, Hermione, and others
21.  The Big Battle (the final battle between good and evil on the town hall square)
22.  “Diagon Alley”, includes: a. Merlin’s Workshop (where you can make wands)
23.  b. Gringotts Wizarding Bank (goblins exchange DDK to Galleons: DDK 50 = Galleons 1.000)
24.  c. Care of Magical Creatures (where you can see live snakes, spiders, toads etc.)
25.  d. Pumpkin workshop
26.  e. Madam Malkin’s Robes and Books for All Occasions (where you can make notebooks and diaries and buy robes and other HP memorabilia)
27.  f. The Mirror of Erised (face paint for kids)
28.  g. Weasley’s Wizard Weezes (magician, games, and surprises)
29.  h. The Clockmaker (display of strange and magical clocks)
30.  “The Magical Market”, includes: a. Another Gringotts Wizarding Bank
31.  b. St Mungo’s Hospital
32.  c. Ollivanders
33.  d. Eeylps Owl Emporium
34.  e. The Daily Prophet
35.  f. Festival photographer
36.  g. Professor Flitwick teaches charms
37.  h. Professor Sprout teaches how to re-pot mandrakes
38.  i. Drawing workshop
39.  j. The enchanted forest for kids aged 2-5
40.  k. Floridor’s Ice Cream Shop
41.  l. Café Hogwarts
42.  “The Forbidden Library”, includes: a. Flying books
43.  b. Poisonous books
44.  c. Mythological animals
45.  d. Toilets haunted by Moaning Myrtle
46.  e. Flourish and Blotts (where Gilderoy Lockhart signs books)
47.  f. Dragon handlers (you can make dragon eggs and get dragon “tattoos”)
48.  g. In the court yard you can see the Whomping Willow and Arthur Weasley’s Ford Anglia.
49.  “Brandts 13”, includes: a. The Fat Lady (you have to guess the password to enter)
50.  b. Hagrid’s Hut
51.  c. The full-grown dragon Norbert/Norberta and her eggs
52.  d. Madam Puddifoot’s Tea Salon
53.  f. HP quiz (where you’ll be rewarded a diploma by Professor McGonagall)
54.  “Magical Brandts”, includes: a. Writing workshop with Rita Skeeter (age 10-14)
55.  b. Visit the Dursleys in Privet Drive
56.  c. Arthur Weasley’s chamber of wonders (exhibition of old cameras, record players etc.)
57.  d. Different photo options (greenhouse 3, fighting dementors, making a feather fly etc.)
58.  e. Make Harry Potter cup cakes
59.  f. Magical jewellery maker
60.  g. Meet a female dragon handler and her Norwegian ridgeback Ronja
61.  h. Learn Defence against the Dark Arts
62.  i. Buy hot potions at Fredo’s Coffee Right
63.  j. Buy butter beer at Café Biografen
64.  k, Yet another Gringotts Wizarding Bank
65.  “The Fairy Tale Garden”, includes: a. Try your hand at quidditch
66.  b. Broomstick workshop
67.  c. Meet real, live owls
68.  d. Cableway across the river
69.  e. Professor Sprout teaches Herbology
70.   “Fantanima Sculptura” includes: a. Divination (have your tealeaves read)
71.  b. Prophesies by Professor Trelawny
72.  c. Workshop where you can paint and make sculptures

As this year’s festival only lasted three days from October 19th to the 21st, I didn’t have time to visit all the places, but even if I’d had more time, age restrictions and my economy prohibited me from covering the whole festival. Had I wanted to try it all, it would have cost me about DKK 2.000 + 270 Galleons, which combined equals about €300 / £260 / $340, meals not included. That is way too EXPENSIVE!!!!

This year I limited myself to only a few things. I watching Slovenia beat Denmark in Quidditch 120 to 60 (other countries playing were Sweden, Iceland, Ireland, Holland, Poland, and the Czech Republic). I visited Brandts 13, Fantanima Sculptura, The Magical Market, Borgin and Burkes, Diagon Alley and Magical Brandts. And I saw the Whomping Willow and Weasley’s car as well as Professor Dumbledore, Professor McGonagall, Hagrid, Professor Sprout, Professor Trelawney, Madam Pomfrey, the Fat Lady, Madam Puddifoot, innkeeper Tom, Bellatrix Lestrange and Lord Voldemort. But no Malfoys this year, no Professor Snape, and no George Weasley. I think that’s the first time! I saw Newt Scamander, though, but didn’t get to take his picture.

Most of the festival was a bit “meh” like usual, but Borgin and Burkes as well as Privet Drive were new, so they were quite interesting. Not as fascinating as the new display of Norbert and Hagrid at Brandts 13, of course, but then again, Brandts 13 is always the best and most magical place to visit during the festival. And I’m not just saying that because I know Professor McGonagall at Brandt 13!Anyway, see you next year, HP Festival. See you, McGonagall. And see you, reader? I hope so.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Blade Runner 2049

When Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” came out in 1982, it was not an immediate hit, but to us who saw it in the cinemas back then, it was evident that this was going to be significant within science fiction film history. The film was very loosely based on Philip K. Dick’s novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” and set in a dystopian 2019 Los Angeles where former police officer Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) worked as a blade runner, i.e. he tracked down and eliminated bioengineered beings known as replicants.
Since 1982, “Blade Runner” has been released in several versions, where the Directors Cut (1992) and the Final Cut (2007) were remarkable as they omitted both the happy ending and Harrison Ford’s voice over and instead included Deckard’s unicorn dream that is seen as proof of Deckard himself being a replicant.

“Blade Runner 2049” directed by Denis Villeneuve takes place thirty years later where Los Angeles is even more dystopian due to a global blackout and a following famine. A new company, Wallace Corp. headed by Niander Wallace (Jared Leto), has solved the global food shortage and become a massive super power, reviving technology, replicants included.
Among the replicants is K (Ryan Gosling), a blade runner, who tracks down and kills old rogue model replicants. On one of his missions, he finds something that could alter the future of humanity, and K now tries to uncover the truth behind his finding.

So far so good, except… it isn’t good at all! Although “Blade Runner 2049” is quite spectacular visually, the narrow plot doesn’t justify a runtime of two hours and forty-four minutes and when in the end, it turns out that everything you thought you saw is a lie, you can’t help but feel a bit cheated. Besides, where the original “Blade Runner” was an American neo noir science fiction film, or rather a future noir that leaned heavily on classical film noir elements such as a hardboiled, emotionally distant detective with questionable moral outlook and a shady but strong woman who upended his life, “Blade Runner 2049” has nothing of the wit and whims of its predecessor.
K is boring and as dry as a cracker and it is very hard to sympathise with him, especially as he has the same warped outlook on women as the rest of the “Blade Runner 2049” universe. I know, this has been mentioned before in other reviews, but I am going to mention it again: “Blade Runner 2049” has a huge problem with the depiction of women.

It seems that in 2049 women have been reduced to artificial beings who are to do whatever men want them to. The only “strong” female character in the film is Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright), so of course she doesn’t last long. The two main female characters are K’s pleasure hologram Joi (Ana de Armas) who submits to his every demand and Niander Wallace’s right hand replicant Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) who only does what he tells her to do.
“Blade Runner 2049” totally fails the Bechdel test, which requires a film to feature two named female characters talking to each other about something other than a man, but of course, so did the original “Blade Runner”. The difference is, however, that there was no lack of strong women acting on their own behalf in “Blade Runner”, where there are none in “Blade Runner 2049”. Furthermore, sexualised images of women dominate the cityscapes of “Blade Runner 2049”, emphasising that women are merely sex objects in this world. It’s a man’s world, for sure and the storyline of the film is driven entirely by men. No wonder, that so many women are boycotting the film, making it flop at the box office.

Harrison Ford repeats his role as Rick Deckard in “Blade Runner 2049”, but just like the futuristic world is no place for women, it is no place for old men, either. Deckard is now an old, almost helpless man who has to be rescued by K – just like a woman!
Edward James Olmos cameos in his old role as former police officer Gaff and a CGI version of Deckard’s love-interest Racheal (Sean Young) can be seen as well. Olmos is by far the most interesting and funny, as where in the original “Blade Runner”, he made an origami unicorn to imply that Deckard was a replicant and that Gaff himself had access to his dreams, in “Blade Runner 2049” Gaff makes an origami sheep while talking to K, thereby answering author Philip K. Dick’s original question, “Do androids dream of electric sheep?”

All in all, “Blade Runner 2049” is way too long (both my cinema companion and I struggled to stay awake), too misogynistic and with too many plot holes to be a decent sequel to its masterpiece predecessor. So, unfortunately, I’m only able to give it two out of five stars, one for Gaff and one for Jared Leto, who is scary but hypnotising as the blind but seeing Niander Wallace.
Two out of five stars: **


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