December 12

5 reasons to like ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ (film)

I’m assuming you know what the film is about. If not, go read a synopsis and come back to this listicle.

It also helps if you know some things about the Potterverse and don’t mind spoilers.

Jacob Kowalski Newt Scamander bowtruckle
No-maj Jacob Kowalski and magizoologist Newt Scamander with a bowtruckle © 2016 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc

1. Eddie Redmayne

Eddie is a great actor in the right role. Let’s pause a moment and consider that he won an Oscar for portraying Stephen Hawking, a real person, in The Theory of Everything, and also that he can belt out a tune as he did as Marius in Les Misérables although Marius is a ponce for running off with Cosette (yes, I’m Team Eponine). Also consider his catastrophic turn as the elder Abrasax sibling in the glorious mess that was Jupiter Ascending (“I. Give. Life!” is unforgettably bad but so utterly quotable, bless).

The Edster is perfect as Newt Scamander, a wizard who we discover was very close to being kicked out of Hogwarts (it’s complicated) but who seems to have an affinity with magical animals. The role calls for a certain level of diffidence when it comes to dealing with other people that never strays into meekness and Eddie traverses this fine line very skilfully.

The filmic Potterverse hasn’t cast so perfectly since sending Kenneth Branagh in as Gilderoy Lockhart.

2. Effects of repression

We get to find out what happens to a witch/wizard when they don’t get their [insert magical school] letter and are left to a world that doesn’t want them to be magic because magic is scary to those who don’t understand it and also sometimes no-majs (muggles) are jealous they don’t have any powers.

Turns out if your powers are repressed it forms a deadly force called an obscurus, which the witch/wizard cannot control and may kill its host. A powerful metaphor for so many other things the world tries to repress.

3. More than what it seems

Those of us who were impressed by Hermione’s handbag with the Undetectable Extension Charm in HP7, love the way Newt’s suitcase becomes different temperature controlled environments for his various beasts. (By the by, the production values for the animals were top notch, from the cheeky shiny-thing-seeking, havoc-causing niffler to Newt’s pocket bowtruckle.)

And just like Newt’s suitcase, the movie is about more than what you think it is. On the surface it’s a sort of fish-out-of-water chase escapade designed so children can understand it but actually it touches more mature issues.

As I mentioned before, the effects of repression is a key one, but there’s also politics, as evidenced by the tension around magical folk having to go underground because no-majs want to lock them up (the most obvious antagonists are the Salemists in this regard) and a throwaway line you might not have caught in relation to maj/no-maj pairings with Newt mentioning the US has “rather backwards laws about relations with non-magic people” as they are not allowed to befriend, let alone marry them.

Newt’s mission, in essence, is to encourage understanding between species—whether wizard/beast or maj/no-maj—to reduce hostility and perhaps even foster bonds.

4. Love is complicated

Too often we get the story of high school sweethearts marrying and having children who then go on to the same school (er herm, all of HP). I’m not a huge fan of romance and romance tokenism but I like the two love stories in the film, the first between legilimen Queenie and no-maj Jacob, an unlikely pairing but very sweet. Through his interactions with various no-majs we get to see that Jacob is rarely understood and Queenie, who can read his mind, understands him perfectly and likes what she reads.

Then there’s the awkwardness of Newt and former auror Tina whose relationship from the outset is built on conflict, Newt being a lawbreaker and Tina resolved to regain her position, before realising they are after the same thing—keeping New York safe—albeit for different reasons.

After noticing a picture of a girl in his suitcase, Queenie talks to Newt about his past love Leta LeStrange. We discover they used to be close at school but there was hurt there. Queenie reads Newt and then says “she was a taker, you need a giver”. When Newt is about to depart New York Tina asks, obliquely, after Leta. Newt mentions that he doesn’t know what Leta does these days, suggesting he hasn’t seen her for some time. Both of them make it very clear they want to see each other again. They do not kiss. Perfectly in character for both.

5. Don’t worry

As Newt and his no-maj offsider Jacob set off on a madcap midnight adventure to recover all the escaped beasts, the magizoologist adopts a rather casual tone about the increasingly high stakes affair. Don’t worry, he urges Jacob: “My philosophy is that if you worry, you suffer twice.” Best.

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December 15

Mad, bad, sad

renaissance-baby-swing
“None of these babies are even close to handling this other dickhead baby on a swing.” From 39 Renaissance babies who can’t even

This week has been… I’m a professional wordsmith and I can’t even—I cannot find or create a word that can actually describe what this week has been like. It’s been mad, bad and sad in immeasurable ways and as I’m trying to process things, other things keep coming up that are important, true, significant, relevant. So I’m sorry that this post is going to be a collage of musings rather than anything analytical.

Mad

Tony Abbott and Richard Flanagan Photo: Josh RobenstoneThe craziest things that have happened have happened to the Abbott government, mostly because they deserve it. First there’s Richard Flanagan and Bob Graham who, at the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards—usually a safe space for the PM of the day to do something positive and get in a few photo ops—pledge prize money to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and the Asylum Seekers Refuge Centre respectively. It was one way to fire a shot at the foundations of this lunatic government: see all those things you’re not funding any more? We’ll fund them because you’re an arsehole for not valuing those things, and we’ll do it publicly too.

Then at the Human Rights Awards, once-upon-a-time Gitmo detainee David Hicks heckles Attorney-General George Brandis, possibly the strangest person to invite to speak at anything related to human rights. Apparently Hicks was there to support his lawyer, who was up for an award, and had no idea Brandis was going to be there to speak. When opportunity knocks…

Bad

I could keep you here for hours with a rant. instead, I’ll just give you a short list:

  • Not just the evidence of the CIA torturing people but the fact medical professionals assisted them (also, don’t read below the line).
  • Scott Morrison using detained children as a bargaining chip with crossbenchers to extract more immigration (read: refugee control) powers.
  • Malcolm Turnbull, that lying bastard, trying to filter the internet (to ‘protect copyright’) but not calling an internet filter an internet filter.
  • Tony Abbott playing the gender card for Peta Credlin. Not pretty.
  • Greenpeace setting back the plight of climate activists by trampling all over the Nasca lines. Idiots.

Sad

Stella Young, writer, comedian and disability advocate, died. The tributes to her last week were mostly heartbreaking with room for a laugh. The one thing that really hit me was this letter to herself, which appeared in Between Us: Words and wisdom from Women of Letters, curated by Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire.

#writingwhilefemale, a hashtag Maxine Beneba-Clarke started, that shares the everyday struggles of writing while female. I’ve been fortunate in my career in comparison to a lot of the contributors and for that I am grateful.

Having to rearrange my dentist appointment (my third in two weeks) because the $1,417 I’ve paid to him so far, including an $800 splint that gave me a headache all Saturday, was pretty much my cash reserve for the rest of the month and I have no money until my clients pay my invoices. Yeow.

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November 25

Has Australian immigration law gone mental?

mental illness

“People could be denied Australian citizenship or have their citizenship revoked, under certain conditions, if they are ordered to undertake drug rehabilitation or a residential program for the mentally ill, under legislation that passed the House of Representatives on Monday.”

The Guardian (Tuesday 25th November 2014)

While we were all up in arms about ABC cuts (well, I was) a reminder came through about the Australian Citizenship and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2014, which entered Parliament yesterday. The expansion of powers not only allows mental illness to be stigmatised by defining it as an undesirable trait, it also basically gives the Minister of Immigration extra power to decide whether someone can become a citizen or remain a citizen according to an arbitrary set of attributes under the vague umbrella term ‘good character’. Hmm! I wholly trust that someone like Scott Morrison will be a compassionate judge! *sarcasm*

In reality, these laws will have an adverse effect on refugees. You try a terrifying escape from a wartorn country and see how your mental health holds up. Then try a three-year stint in an offshore detention set up by the very country you hope will give you a fair go and see where your mind goes.

I bet there’s no caveat for mental illness caused or exacerbated by the state, making this a vicious, wholly unfair amendment. Boo! Hiss!

 

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