Monthly Archives: September 2005

Harry Potter Is Good For You

My latest SFX column mentions that I’m sure Severus Snape is really a good guy and, if anyone wants to know why, they should email me. Well, I guess I should be careful what I wish for, because I’ve been inundated! It’s gratifying to know that (a) so many people do love Harry Potter and (b) they read my column. Thank you!

Anyway, I figured I should write my theory here, to save having to email everybody individually. It kind of makes sense. Though I still have to send them all the link to this website, so perhaps I’m not as brainy as I thought I was. Anyway:

SPOILERS FOR HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE AHEAD!

Please bear in mind that if I’m right about any of this, your enjoyment of the next book could be ruined.
If I’m not, please email me when it’s released and go, “Nyah nyah nyah nyah nah!”

This is what my best mate Biddy and I concluded after we finished reading the last book. The more you think about it, the more likely it looks… but we still reserve the right to be mistaken!

Okay. Here goes:

Snape. Is. Not. Evil. He is, in fact, still working for the Order Of The Phoenix, and now that he’s killed Dumbledore his cover is so strong that there’s no way Voldemort could ever doubt his motives again.

Of course, there’s no escaping the fact that Snape murdered lovely old Albus, which doesn’t really help the “Snape’s a good guy!” cause. But look at it like this: what if Dumbledore was already dying? He certainly wasn’t well – what with his mysterious withered hand ‘n’ all – and there’s a strong chance that he and Snape came to an arrangement that, if it came to the crunch, Snape should sacrifice his Headmaster in order to prove himself to Voldemort once and for all. Who could doubt his intentions after he’d offed Voldemort’s greatest foe? And if the old man was dying anyway, doesn’t it make sense that he should go in such a useful way?

If you read the scene in question, it really does sound as though Dumbledore is begging Snape to carry out their plan: “For the first time, Dumbledore was pleading… ‘Severus… please!'” And, in killing him there and then, Snape also prevented Draco from taking a life, possibly saving him from turning bad for ever. Later, Snape seems to be protecting Harry when he could easily have killed him (not for the first time). All very clever!

Anyway, if that’s true, then the final book may very well contain a scene in which Harry (possibly teamed with Draco – who knows?) confronts Voldemort and Snape, and Snape switches sides at just the right moment, betraying his Master and saving Harry. Think Darth Vader and the Emperor. Except without shots of Ewoks jammed inbetween.

There’s also a chance that Dumbledore left a Pensieve somewhere showing just why he trusts Snape so much (we never did find that out, did we?) and also detailing their agreement. Pensieves are a handy way of providing exposition after a character has died – not only Dumbledore, but possibly Snape as well. If he dies in the big finale then Harry’s going to need an explanation, isn’t he?

So there you go.

EXTRA, NON-SNAPE-RELATED SPOILER ALERT!

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Biddy and I reckon that the initials RAB that Harry found in the locket belong to Regulus Black.
Remember how Harry, Ron and Hermione were clearing out Sirius’s house in Order Of The Phoenix? They found some interesting things back then… Regulus had been busy!

Okay, that’s enough of that. Feedback would be welcome, or you can just tell your friends the theory and pretend you thought of it all first; I don’t mind. I kind of hope we’re wrong because then the next book will be a surprise. If we’re right we’ll be unbearably smug… and rather sad we spoiled the fun.

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Darth Vader Feels Nice

Picture this: Monday morning. Half asleep. Arrive in Soho. Walk into venue and head down stairs. Hear decidedly menacing heavy breathing. Jump out of skin as 7ft tall Darth Vader looms out of nowhere, closely followed by two gun-toting Stormtroopers…

DVD press junkets. Gotta love ’em!

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge Of The Sith is out on 31 October and, as Fox are cripplingly afraid of DVD piracy, they won’t send check discs out to us humble reviewers for fear we’ll copy them, whip them onto eBay and retire to the Bahamas with the proceeds. Which means that we have to go to these screenings instead, watching the DVD extras (or “value added material”, as they’re boringly called in the industry) in the space of a few hours – often when we should be chained to our desks, so I certainly never complain about it.

Film companies often roll out guest stars, too. This time we got Star Wars producer Rick McCallum, always a good laugh and ever-willing to swear and make you wonder if his best mate George Lucas uses the “F”-word, too. Then there was Rob Coleman, animation supervisor on the prequels, who admitted, rather endearingly, that he had insomnia for three months after he got the job because he was so terrified of letting down Star Wars fans around the world. Poor chap!

Next up was Ian McDiarmid, who was friendly and professional and not at all Emperor-like, though my stomach did a little roll when he sat in front of me because, hell, I was scared of Palpatine when I was 12 and there he was, two feet away! And finally Hayden Christensen appeared, his clothes in dire need of an iron but with a grin firmly plastered on his face as though he wanted to prove to us that he’s not as miserable as Anakin Skywalker.

I asked him if he’d found himself going: “Wommmmm! Mmmmmm! Wommmmm!” the first time he’d picked up a lightsaber. And apparently he did. He even did an impression. He’s pretty good, actually. (“I’ve been practising,” he admitted, guiltily.)

Sadly, I can’t discuss the DVD extras themselves because Fox made me sign an embargo form – if I tell anyone what I saw before the DVD release date, they’ll come round to my place, encase me in carbonite and sell my pets into slavery on Tatooine. Bugger. I am reviewing them in the next SFX, however – though fitting them all into such a small space was a bit of a tall order…

Speaking of tall, did I mention that I had my picture taken with Darth Vader? Only on my cameraphone, but it was a hilarious fangirl moment. I have no idea what he looked like under the costume – possibly Ann Widdecombe, for all I knew – but he had a lovely firm waist. Not bad, Mr Sith Lord.

Oh, and as one of the DVD documentaries was screening I decided I needed to visit the bathroom. As I walked into the ladies, Darth Vader and his two Stormtroopers watched me intently… and then watched me walk out again, as though they thought I was smuggling Death Star plans in my handbag or something.

It was quite off-putting, I have to admit.

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Work, Work, Work

We made it through our latest deadline! Hurrah!

Never work in the magazine industry if you don’t like long hours. And by ‘long hours’ I mean 15-hour days and 5.30am starts. It’s not nice. However, the hours may be long but at least the laughs are loud: our office is never dull. So many daft things happen that you start getting used to the craziness after a while.

For instance, last Wednesday our News Editor threw his bag on his shoulder and waved everyone goodbye with a cheery, “See you on Monday!”

I was puzzled – I had no idea he had time off. “Monday?” I said. “Are you going somewhere?”

“Yeah. The World Stunt Awards. In Los Angeles.”

“Really?” [Pause] “Er, have fun.”

As I type this we have three – yes, three – members of staff in LA, one on holiday in Cyprus and two just returned from, respectively, Florence and Greece.

I went to Torquay the other day. Not quite as glamorous, but hey-ho.

Anyway, one of the perks you do get working on a film magazine is seeing movies long before they hit the cinemas. Yesterday I went to a preview of Elijah Wood’s new film, Everything Is Illuminated, which features him as a young Jew visiting the Ukraine to find the woman who helped his grandfather escape the Nazis. It was, by turns, hilarious and deeply moving. I’m a bit miffed, though, because we saw it at Warner Bros HQ in their remarkably swish cinema – giant, electronically operated leather seats worthy of Joey and Chandler in Friends. And my bloody chair wouldn’t recline! I kept pressing the button and nothing happened! Rotten swizz. I still feel cheated a full 24 hours later.

Another perk of working on a film mag is that, very, very, very occasionally someone comes up to you and says they enjoy your writing. We had a nice chap in our office this week doing work experience and he informed me that his girlfriend really enjoys the column I write for SFX. And he asked me to sign a copy for her! What a sweetie! I don’t think anyone on Total Film who witnessed it will ever let me live it down, though. Our Features Editor asked me to sign his arse and I had to politely decline.

It was also London Fashion Week this week and there were models everywhere. I don’t know what was more amusing: the sight of these elegant, gorgeous, shining beauties riding the Underground and trying not to touch anything grubby (bit difficult, that) or the sight of every man on the train gazing at them with a faraway glint in their eyes. Meanwhile all the women in the carriage – including yours truly – wondered when these gamine creatures had last eaten and how on Earth they’d managed to find such tiny thigh-length boots. These girls’ legs were so skinny that the boots must have been moulded on skeletons.

Half the rumbles on the Tube last week were probably stomachs begging for food rather than trains.

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Dead Funny

I was sitting on the train to work yesterday morning and the driver made the following announcement:

“I’m afraid to say that the Piccadilly Line is currently suspended, due to what we euphemistically call ‘passenger action’. Which means some poor soul has thrown themselves under a train. Oh dear. It’s not going to be a very good day.”

Now, for anyone who doesn’t use the Underground, let it be known that for a driver to announce anything and put his own personal spin on it is pretty unheard of. Which is why, as he said “It’s not going to be a very good day”, half the people in my carriage chuckled to themselves – the ones not lost in iPod-land, of course.

And then they all, en masse, looked really, really, really guilty, because someone had died and they were laughing about it…

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Moondance

It’s deadline week and that means late nights at the office. It wasn’t too bad today – 8pm – but when you factor in my commute, I don’t get home until after 9pm. Sigh…

On the plus side, this evening there was the most astonishing blood-red moon. Dark, gorgeous scarlet, it made our humble moon looked like some Satanic symbol hanging in the sky. I kept staring at it as I tried to work – luckily my desk faces the window – and in the end I pointed it out to my boss.

“It’s like something out of An American Werewolf In London,” I suggested.

“Yeah, it is,” he replied. “Hope you’re not taking the Tube home tonight.”

Shit.

That scene with the businessman being stalked through the Underground by a hungry, snarling werewolf was one of the scariest things I ever saw as a child. Talk about saying the wrong thing! I got completely freaked as I climbed on the escalator at Baker Street station…

Luckily, An American Werewolf In London was filmed in some mythical time when the Underground could actually be empty. The Bakerloo line was as crammed as ever. I guess you should never believe what you see in the movies.

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Ong-Bak To The Future

I love The Philadelphia Story. It’s the perfect Sunday afternoon movie: Katharine Hepburn at her most glorious, Cary Grant suave and sassy, James Stewart sarcastic yet adorable. It’s the kind of film that takes your breath away with its dialogue; sharp and always funny, no matter how many times you’ve heard it. I think today counts as my ninth viewing, although I watched the DVD commentary too – does that count, d’ya reckon?

There are two scenes that slay me every time I watch it. Stewart turning up drunk at Grant’s home and battling with hiccups (adlibbed, apparently, according to the knowledgable woman on the commentary track) – and Stewart, even more drunk, telling Hepburn that she has a fire burning deep down inside her, something beautiful and bright. “Like… hearth fires and holocausts!” he exclaims, and you can see the madness of love in his eyes. Much as I adore It’s A Wonderful Life, Stewart was never finer than in this one scene. He’s everything cinema stands for.

I was lost in Philadelphia when the phone rang. It was one of the DJs from Spin 1038 in Dublin: “Jayne, Jayne, Jayne. Can you talk to us in ten minutes?” I love doing their radio show, wittering on about movies and answering their nutty questions (“What’s your favourite thing that goes ‘beep’ in Star Wars?”). Today’s interview was a look back over the films of the summer. I slagged off Be Cool, though I have to admit the scene with The Rock trying on trousers is rather funny (or even fanny, cos he keeps slapping his arse in it), gave Batman Begins the seal of approval and sang the praises of Ong-Bak, because it’s mighty fine. A martial arts movie with no wires or trickery, it’s the real deal – and kicks the stuffing out of Unleashed, Jet Li’s latest, which I watched last night. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to watch any fight scenes ever again without thinking, “Yeah, okay, but Tony Jaa would do that for REAL!”

I only talked about Ong-Bak just then because I wanted to use the headline “Ong-Bak To The Future” for this blog entry. Yeah, I know, it don’t mean nothin’, but it makes me laugh.

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Ride ‘Em, Cowboy!

I was so tired getting ready for work this morning that I accidentally poured contact lens solution on my toothbrush instead of toothpaste. Could’ve been nasty, seeing as the solution I used contained bleach. Man, my teeth would’ve gleamed.

The tiredness came from me getting home late last night after attending an advance press screening of Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee’s latest flick and recent overall winner at the Venice Film Festival. I was really looking forward to seeing it: Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger as two nekkid gay cowboys – what’s not to love? But I feel quite ashamed now because I was totally wrong about the tone of the film. Rather than being the rampant, homoerotic shag-fest the press will no doubt lead us to believe when it opens in the UK, Brokeback is a beautiful, haunting, tender love story that’s a real heartbreaker. I’m chuffed to bits that it won at Venice; it deserved it. Heath Ledger has got to be nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars (though I’ll be buggered if he wins, mainly because he does some buggering himself in the film and the Academy ain’t gonna look kindly on that kind of behaviour). Jake Gyllenhaal should get a Best Supporting Actor nod and Ang Lee deserves a nomination for Director, too. It’s a truly lovely movie.

I want to move to somewhere mountainous and misty now. Half-naked, sheep-herding cowboys optional.

In other news, I was on the phone to my friend Paul tonight and he suddenly started laughing halfway through our conversation. Turns out that I’d been yakking away about Brokeback Mountain and, mid-sentence, exclaimed: “Hey! Tumble! Stop eating the carpet.” Then I carried on as though nothing had happened.
Oh, the joy of having pet rats. They’re like children. Except cheaper.

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