‘Half-Blood’s’ abstract wizardry makes for a gorgeous mess
As a rule, the Harry Potter movies have become darker and darker (morally and in terms of lighting), but the level of foreboding in "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" rivals German expressionism. But it’s a gorgeous mess.
Director David Yates has turned the film into an abstract meditation on the relationship between Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon), the powerful (and gay, although that’s not expressly discussed) wizard who runs Hogwarts. For the first time in the series, their interaction seems genuine, not some vague idol-worship. The special effects and action sequences — including the opening scene, which leads to the destruction of a bridge, and a scene on a wave-swathed crag — are eye-popping.
Still, "Half-Blood Prince" suffers from the "Empire Strikes Back" Syndrome: It’s aware of its position as a transitional film — the last installment before the two-film "Deathly Hallows" finale — so it both rushes to wrap up some loose ends while simultaneously being burdened by the cumbersome backstory and spiraling number of characters that populate the Potterverse.
The storytelling is flabby, too, with many shots, even entire scenes, that do nothing to advance the plot, and the usual, liberal use of magic that can do marvels one moment but proves useless in the next.
Not that fans will care. Like witchcraft itself, "Potter" has cast a spell that most fans willingly succumb to. Silly muggles.
MY WEEK IN TRANNIELAND
Wanted: One free bedroom accommodation for a California drag queen to live in.
That’s the message Dallas-based filmmaker Israel Luna sent out a few weeks ago.
Luna was about to start filming his new picture, "Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives!," a send-up of blaxploitation revenge movies of the 1970s, only with a cast of cross-dressing ladies. (Despite a controversy over one politically incorrect word, Luna says he’s already been contacted by several gay film fests based on the title alone.) I had a spare room, so I volunteered.
My houseguest, Willam Belli, has appeared in tons of TV shows, including the "My Name Is Earl" pilot and "Nip/Tuck" as Cherry Peck. "If you’ve seen a white drag queen under 40 on TV in the last five years, it’s been me," Willam said by way of introduction.
Willam ended up being an easy roommate. He got along famously with my overly-affectionate dogs, even the pit bull mutt obsessed with licking his legs. He taught me a new word: "Dragbomb," the explosion of clothes and makeup and fake boobs that festooned the floor of the guest room within hours of him moving in and which never really dissipated.
Willam was gone a lot, with frequent night shoots, many times far off in Arlington. When he wasn’t shooting, he was happy to go clubbing at the Tin Room. "See you after last call!" he waved to me one night.
I showed up the last day of principal photography this week, which took place at Station 4, to see Willam and company — including Alamo City drag goddess Erica Andrews and Houston hottie Kenny Ochoa in key roles — doing their last pickup shots of the film. They had stories, let me tell ya.
But now do so I. I’d never lived with a drag queen before, or a woman excluding my mom and sister, so it’s been decades since I saw stockings on the shower rod and wigs on a Styrofoam head. But Sis didn’t wear Old Spice. Everyone should try it once.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 17, 2009.