PART TWO SCENES AND CHARACTERS

To follow our list of Harry Potter movie rankings, we offer this, a list of our favorite scenes and character moments, as well as our discussion on both actors who portrayed Dumbledore in the series.  It's all just geeky, good fun, but need we add - WARNING: SPOILERS! - John Larrabee, John V. Brennan

JOHN L'S TOP 3 FAVORITE SCENES

 -Voldemort's resurrection in GOBLET OF FIRE
 -The Sorting Hat scene in SORCERER'S STONE
 -The quiddich World Cup in GOBLET OF FIRE

JOHN B'S TOP 3 FAVORITE SCENES

 - Harry meets Ron and Hermione on the Hogwarts Express in SORCERER'S STONE.  It could not be more perfect in establishing the relationship amongst the three characters, and damn, were those kids cute or what?
 - The Tale of the Three Brothers in DEATHLY HALLOWS PT 1
 - Snape's class ("Turn to page 394") in PRISONER OF AZKABAN

"Moe, Larry... the cheese!"


"Now, let me tell you a funny story about this wand and my eye!"

FAVORITE DEFENSE AGAINST THE DARK ARTS PROFESSOR

JOHN L: Mad Eye Moody, hands down. Second place: Gilderoy Lockhart (nothing like watching a ham like Kenneth Branagh given free reign to be a ham).

JOHN B: Remus Lupin, possibly the only one who wasn't a quasi-cartoon character.  Second place: Mad Eye Moody.  Brendon Gleeson plays the part as if "subtlety" and "nuance" are just filler words in the dictionary.  Honorable mention: Dolores Umbridge. Oh, and Gilderoy Lockhart.   

BEST SNAPE SCENE

JOHN L: The death scene from DEATHLY HALLOWS 2, if only because it's the most emotionally powerful. Other than that, any scene with Snape is the best Snape scene.

JOHN B: Since I already named the "Page 394" scene, I'll choose another favorite - Harry meets Snape, SORCERER'S STONE.  "Harry Potter, our neeew cel-e--brity...".   Viciously picking on an 11-year-old on his first day of class.  So lovably evil! 

"This is not going to end well
for me, is it, Dark Lord?


Who knew the Apex Technical School was so beautiful?

BEST HARRY SCENE

JOHN L: Although the Potter series would demand more of Daniel Radcliffe's acting chops than looking at a green screen in wide-eyed awe, Harry's first moments at Hogwarts in SORCERER'S STONE is nonetheless a scene Walt Disney himself would have applauded.

JOHN B:
Any time I see Harry trying to get that dragon egg in GOBLET OF FIRE, I forget about any reservations and criticisms I have about the rest of the film. 

Once again, a well-thought out, meticulously planned Hogwarts activity goes horribly wrong.


Lesson: Never buy tuxedos at Herman's Hermits Tuxedo Hut

BEST RON SCENE

JOHN L: A very tough call. Much as I think the series was (nearly) perfectly cast all around, Rupert Grint might have been just a little extra perfect. And although Daniel Radcliffe will forever be Harry in my mind, I have to reluctantly admit that there might be other young actors who could have made fine Boys Who Lived as well. But nobody, nodamnbody, dare touch the role of Ron Weasley but Rupert Grint. He's brilliant in every film, growing as both character and actor in the process. I'll just choose the first scene that comes to mind: the first sight of Ron in the '70s lounge-lizard tux in GOBLET, if only because it was a slight improvement over my own prom tux back in the day.

JOHN B: Agreed about Rupert Grint.  My constant complaint about Grint has nothing to do with him, but with the scripts, which often downplayed Ron's importance compared to Harry and Hermione, and used him almost exclusively for comic relief.  Of course, as comic relief, he was excellent, because the kid was a natural comedian.  Still, Rupert as Ron had so many great moments, but my favorite probably comes from SORCERER'S STONE, when he gives his speech to Harry about how he (Ron) and Hermione don't matter - it's Harry who needs to survive.   Gotta love a kid who's willing to die - and calmly accept the possible death of his other best friend - so that his true best friend will go on.  

Honorable mentions - his extremely awkward dance lesson with Professor McGonagall in GOBLET OF FIRE, and his falling under a love potion spell in HALF-BLOOD PRINCE.  I really hope Rupert Grint gets a long-running British sitcom one of these days.  He's just flat out funny.

No caption, just Ron.


Love is Never Having To Say
"Accio Shotgun!"

BEST HERMIONE SCENE

JOHN L:  Still the all-time classic: Ron and Hermione's first fight: Leviosa! (SORCERER'S STONE)

JOHN B:  PRISONER OF AZKABAN when she corners Draco Malfoy ("You foul, loathsome, evil little cockroach!") and punches him in the nose, a great, long-awaited payoff to the previous film CHAMBER OF SECRETS where he called her a filthy mudblood, wished her dead and other stuff like that there.  

Honorable mention: Her heartbreak over Ron being with another girl in HALF-BLOOD PRINCE.  

Top 3 Favorite Major Characters Not Named
Harry, Ron or Hermione

JOHN L:
Bellatrix Lestrange
Hagrid
Snape, Snape, and more Snape

JOHN B:
Snape
Hagrid
Bellatrix Lestrange

"I'm hairy, Potter!"


Widdle Duddykins

Top 3 Favorite Minor Characters 

JOHN L:
Neville Longbottom
Luna Lovegood
Dudley "Dudders" Dursley

JOHN B:
Arthur Weasley
Neville Longbottom
Vernon Dursley

BEST  DUMBLEDORE - Richard Harris or Michael Gambon


JOHN L for Ricard Harris:  Ah, the Kirk vs. Picard debate of the Potter series. I'm among those who prefers Richard Harris' portrayal in the first two films, but I have to admit that Michael Gambon has, film-by-film, risen to level of acceptability. I'll even grant that he projected just the right amount of calm wisdom in his last few appearances (such as his cameo in DH2, where he is especially moving). But I still prefer Harris.

     Harris had the advantage of immediate credibility in the role: his voice, features, and demeanor fit the "wizened old wizard" stereotype, yet his portrayal seemed so effortless and natural, he came off as more archetype than stereotype. Plus, and perhaps most importantly, he conveyed the grandfatherly kindness of Rowling's Dumbledore, all the while never letting us forget that he was capable of grandfatherly sternness as well. Harris' Dumbledore was a delight, a term seldom applied to Gambon's portrayal.

    Some have wondered if Harris would have been up to the increasing physical demands of the role as the series progressed. It might have taken some effort for his version of Dumbledore to muster the necessary strength and stamina for the trial scene in GOBLET, but Harris would have been fine with it. Many will recall Harris' memorable appearance with Conan O'Brien after the release of SORCERER'S STONE, during which he floored the studio audience with tales of his juvenile delinquency with fellow inebriates Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole. Strong-voiced, robust, and quick-witted, Harris was the very image of septuagenarian vitality. His portrayal of Dumbledore is whatcha call acting, folks.

     "Who's this old grump?" was my reaction to Gambon upon his debut in PRISONER OF AZKABAN. Actually, I was familiar with Gambon in pre-Potter roles -- mostly heavies and scary psychopaths -- and thought an actor who specialized in cold-blooded misfits was an odd choice for wise old Albus D. And I'm far from the first to grouse that Gambon lacks the innate kindly-old-mentor quality that Harris projected without trying. Would that Harris' presence and aged-honey voice could have enhanced some of the later Dumbledore-Harry scenes.

    But I've come to appreciate Gambon's strengths, not the least of which is the sense of dread he brings to the role. His is a Dumbledore deeply aware of the magnitude of the festering evil, and we'll never know if Harris would have conveyed the same with such weight. I'll give Gambon great credit for intensifying the darker tone of the later films -- no small task given the competition from all things living and green-screened. In addition, though one may have to dig beneath the layers of sternness to find his love and concern for Harry, it's there and all the deeper for it.

     Gambon's earned my respect, so it's not as if he's Roger Moore to Harris' Sean Connery or anything. But, owing to his effortless embodiment of the role, and a bit to his star-quality credibility, Richard Harris will always represent the "classic model" Dumbledore for me.



JOHN B for Michael Gambon:  Richard Harris was wonderful as Dumbledore in the first two films, even if most of what he did was stand (or sit) there and speak profundities.  It was truly a shame that the man passed away, making Warner Brothers scramble for a replacement actor for a major part for the first and only time in the series.   According to IMDB, Christopher Lee and Ian McKellen (Gandolph in the LORD OF THE RING series) were in the running, while Peter O'Toole and Sir Richard Attenborough were also possibilities.  They settled on Michael Gambon, and I believe in the end it was an excellent decision.

    His first two turns at Dumbledore were a mixed bag.  While I enjoy some of what he did in THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN, adding a bit of an off-kilter comic touch to the role, (the Time-Turner scene contains some of my favorite Gambon as Dumbledore moments), I have problems with much of his performance in THE GOBLET OF FIRE.  He's too aggressive for me, with his grabbing and pushing Harry at one point, booming "SILENCE!!!!" in two different scenes, and other such moments.  One can imagine Richard Harris's Dumbledore just lifting his hand or calmly shooting stars from his wand to get people to shut up and pay attention.  Gambon didn't seem to have any grasp of what the character was about in some scenes, which may not be surprising when you consider he admitted to not reading the books.  (You can imagine how much hardcore fans hated him for that too!)

    But in ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, Gambon was suddenly more than fine in the part.  As I have said elsewhere in this section, I believe director David Yates was the key.  I think it is too coincidental that when Yates came on board to direct what turned out to be the rest of the series, both Michael Gambon as Dumbledore and Emma Watson as Hermione both suddenly began giving much quieter, fuller performances as their respective characters and by the next film, HALF-BLOOD PRINCE, were giving their best performances of the series.  (ORDER OF THE PHOENIX also contains my favorite performance by Daniel Radcliffe as Harry, and HALF-BLOOD PRINCE my favorite performances by Rupert Grint as Ron and Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy, so there's more anecdotal evidence for the influence of Yates).  When Gambon was yelling and pushing in GOBLET OF FIRE, he never captivated me.  Yet, the moment when he enters the courtroom in ORDER OF THE PHOENIX and announces his name as a witness for Harry's defense - "Albus Percival Wulfric --- Brian --- Dumbledore" - he owns the room.  It's notable that in the trailer for PHOENIX, Dumbledore's line "The evidence that the Dark Lord has returned" is shouted by Gambon, while the more effective take, with Gambon softly speaking the line with sadness and compassion, is in the finished film.  Perhaps Yates let Gambon get all his loud takes out of the way, and then chose the softer ones.

    Gambon's Dumbledore is much more flawed and human than Harris's, making some wrongheaded decisions out of emotion rather than logic.  While this is only natural, as the filmmakers were merely following the storylines of the books, Gambon should be given much credit for pulling it off splendidly. His emotional range is astonishing, as can be seen all during HALF-BLOOD PRINCE.  Think of the scene where he is just lightly shooting the breeze with Harry in his office near the beginning of the film and compare it to the much later scene where he is begging Harry to kill him while they are attempting to retrieve another horcrux.  He was no longer the comic book character of AZKABAN or GOBLET; he was every bit as good a Dumbledore as Richard Harris.  

    Both men had their strengths - Harris's was a reserved, lovable Dumbledore while Gambon's was a man of action and movement.  Although it would only amount to waving a wand in front of a green screen, I can't imagine Harris conjuring the massive swirling flames in HALF-BLOOD PRINCE or battling Voldemort wand to wand at the end of PHOENIX with the same energy and panache as Gambon.  And also in HALF-BLOOD PRINCE, when he mentions that the waitress Harry was flirting with (and could have gone out with had Dumbledore not interfered) was very pretty, or basically asking him "What's up with you and Hermione?" in that little bull session in his office, Gambon completely captured the love and affection Dumbledore had for Harry.  I can't say Gambon was better than Harris, but I won't say Harris was better than Gambon.  They each approached the role differently, and I enjoy each actor's interpretation.

    Michael Gambon took a lot of heat for his portrayal of Dumbledore from fans (and I have a feeling he didn't give a hoot one way or the other), but I think many fans - my friend John L excepted, from what he wrote above - never forgave him for the missteps of his first two films.  I more strongly suspect they could never forgive him for not being Richard Harris.

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