Friday, June 24, 2011

Magical Moments: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

With the finale of the Harry Potter franchise fast approaching, I thought I'd take some time to look back at the past 7 movies. Sure, as a book-purist there are many things about these films that make me unhappy, but the things that do make me happy out-weigh them a hundred-fold. So, over the next few days I'm going to choose my favorite moments from each film. First up, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone:

The Prologue: This scene sets the magical tone for the film. Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall both have fantastic entrances. Dumbledore appears out of nowhere in the fog on Privet Drive and McGonagall transforms from her tabby cat animagus. The scene between Richard Harris and Maggie Smith is merely a tease for the embarrassment of riches that is the cast of this film. Oh, how I miss Richard Harris. He will always be the Dumbledore I picture when I read the books.


The Title Card: Baby Harry's scar transforms into the title card and we get the first real display of Hedwig's Theme. I'd say that Hedwig's Theme has taken its place in the Movie Score Hall of Fame, right next to Star Wars, Lawrence of Arabia, and Titanic.


Dudley Trapped Behind The Glass: On a trip to the zoo for Dudley's birthday, Harry accidentally makes the glass of the boa constrictor's exhibit vanish and sets the snake free. Director Chris Columbus added the little part where Dudley falls into the cage and then gets trapped because the glass reappears. I love this moment because it's my favorite Dursley family moment. Dudley cries for his mother, Aunt Petunia shrieks her head off, and Uncle Vernon catches Harry laughing. The best shot is a shot of Dudley with his hands pressed up against the glass on one side and Petunia screaming and mirroring him on the other side.


Owl Post: I love the scene where hundreds of Harry's Hogwarts acceptance letters flood the Dursley's living room because it's my first memory of the Potter films. The very first thing I can remember about these movies is seeing a promotional picture of this scene in National Geographic For Kids.


Harry's Wide-Eyed Wonderments: After Harry learns he's a wizard there's a series of scenes that I like to call Harry's Wide-Eyed Wonderments. It's basically one scene after another where Harry learns something new about the wizarding world and smiles and stares with enormous eyes. Diagon Alley, Gringotts, the Nimbus 2000, getting his wand, seeing Hedwig for the first time, watching Percy Weasley go through Platform 9 and 3/4. Dan Radcliffe has quite large eyes which makes it all the better.


Flashback to Godric's Hollow: As Hagrid tells Harry how his parents died there's a flashback that shows Voldemort murdering Lily and James. This isn't the scene that scared me the most (we'll get to that in a bit), but I did find it very scary. Voldemort is just a faceless, cloaked being. You see Lily holding baby Harry and yelling "James!" Voldemort blows down the nursery door and kills Lily. A fun fact about this scene is that J.K. Rowling wrote this part of the screenplay because she was the only one who knew exactly how it happened.


Meeting Ron and Hermione: Parts 2 & 3 of the trio are introduced just the same as in the books. Ron is lovable and easy-going and Hermione is a charming know-it-all. Of the three main actors, I think Emma Watson is the stand-out in this first film.


Harry's First Night in Gryffindor Tower: After the Sorting and the Welcoming Feast there's a short, wordless scene of Harry in Gryffindor tower. He's in his pajamas and he's sitting in the windowsill looking out at the Hogwarts grounds. At this point in the book there's some narration about how Harry feels like he's found a home. As the camera pans past him, Dan gives the tiniest of smiles. It's a heart-warming moment.

Troll Aftermath: There's a little deleted scene that takes place after they've fought the troll that I really like. It's the moment where they really become friends. It's quite cute. Check it out:


Christmas in Gryffindor Tower: I love the two Christmas scenes in this movie, but there's one particular shot that's my favorite. Harry wakes up to find that he has presents for the first time ever and he runs down the stone steps and into the Common Room. I don't know why, but I love the shot of him running down the stairs. It's just very little boyish and cute. Some of Dan's acting in this film seems a little forced at times, but this happy moment just feels very real.

The Yelling Book: And now we come to the scene that scared the begeezers out of me the first time I saw it. Harry sneaks into the restricted section of the library and opens a book. A face bursts out of the book and starts yelling loudly. Now that I'm more secure in my life it doesn't scare me at all, but I think I found it so scary because it was so tangible. I was smart enough to know that a dark wizard wasn't going to kill me in my sleep, but there were hundreds of books in my house.....


Harry's Sweaters: This is another one of those random things that I find charming. Harry has an impressive collection of cable-knit sweaters. He wears a blue one when Oliver Wood teaches him about Quidditch. He wears a red one when he sneaks into the restricted section of the library. He wears a green one when they visit Hagrid and meet Norbert. And finally, he wears another red one when the trio goes through the trap door. This sweater gets torn up by the flying keys and the chess game, but it makes a reappearance in Chamber of Secrets and it is somehow perfect again. Hmmmm..... It's almost like magic...


The Chess Game: The chess game is my favorite scene in this movie for many reasons. First, I like how little it makes them all look. This never occurred to me when I watched Sorcerer's Stone when I was younger because they were the same age as me, but know that I'm older and I've watched Dan, Rupert and Emma grow up, it's fun to see how little they look next to the ginormous chess pieces. Secondly, I love how Ron is given his shining moment. Of the four Potter directors, Chris Columbus treated Ron with the most respect. Yes, Ron is often comic relief in the books, so it's okay for him to be comic relief in the movies. But Ron is also very smart and brave and intensely loyal to his friends. (There's a reason his patronus is a terrier.) What's NOT okay is the way he was made to be nothing but dumb and goofy in movies 3, 4, 5, and 6. Without Ron, Hermione and Harry would never have won the chess game. Ron sacrifices himself in order to win the game. The end of the scene is the best because it's a real moment of unity for the three of them. It's the moment where they each seem to understand what their role is in this friendship. Ron understands how high the stakes are and he will do anything for his friends, including being knocked unconscious by a chess queen twice his size. Hermione is very much the care-taker of the group. She stays with Ron and alerts Dumbledore to what is happening. Harry is the leader of the pack and goes on to fight Quirrell and Voldemort, but he knows that he would not have made it through the many protective enchantments without Ron and Hermione.


The Hospital Wing: This scene is my favorite Richard Harris moment. When Harry wakes up in the hospital wing after the fight with Voldemort, Dumbledore has all the answers. He is so loving and whimsical. ("Alas, earwax.") However, there is a moment I wish they had kept in. In the book, when Dumbledore talks about how Harry's mother died to save him, Harry starts to cry. Dumbledore purposefully becomes interested in something else to give Harry time to dry his eyes. It's an emotional moment, but J.K. Rowling adds in a bit of humor in a way that only she can. 


Ten Points To Neville: At the closing feast Dumbledore gives out a few last minute House Points to Harry, Hermione, and Ron, but he also gives 10 points to Neville. Matt Lewis' look of astonishment is one of the great comedic moments from all 7 movies.



Hogsmeade Station: Harry says goodbye to Hagrid who gives him a photo album of pictures of his parents. I mostly love this scene because of the music. The track is called "Leaving Hogwarts." It's a sweeping, joyful melody that makes the film go out on a high note. The last line of the movie basically sums up Harry's feelings about Hogwarts: "I'm not going home. Not really."


And there you have it. My favorite moments from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. 
What are some of your favorites?

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