Harry Potter author revealed in doc
In a past life, Steven Spielberg said he was opposed on principle to “making-of” documentaries, because they spoil the magic of the film-making process.
The emergence of director’s cut DVDs, with their extras, has caused Spielberg to reconsider his position, of course. With so many people choosing to watch movies at home on their big-screen TVs, the magic of the movies is not quite what it used to be.
Even so, on the weekend of the first-of-two-parts final Harry Potter movie, some Harry Potter fans may feel the same way about the elegant, peer-behind-the-curtain documentary A Year in the Life of
J.K. Rowling. Could it be that, the less one knows about the creative process behind Harry Potter, the more one is apt to enjoy its gentle fantasy world?
Refreshingly restrained and quietly understated, A Year in the Life shows the author at work as she puts the finishing touches on her beloved, universally admired tale of adolescent longing, poetic illusion and the eternal battle between good and evil.
Rowling agreed to be shadowed, on and off, for a full year, as she reached deep inside and put pen to paper.
The film shows the final stages of how a novel goes from imagination to print. In the case of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, that meant a constant vigil of secrecy, from the manuscript being locked away in a suitcase to the eventual first book-signing, at midnight on the day of Deathly Hallows’ release last summer.
A Year in the Life is intimate and sensitive, a portrait of the artist as a middle-aged woman, dealing with the pressure of knowing an entire world will be hanging on every word she writes.
The program was shown earlier in the week, against cutthroat competition — ensuring that hardly anyone saw it. Tonight, on a typically tepid TV Saturday, it stands out, and is well worth a look. Provided, that is, you don’t worry that it will spoil the illusion. (10 p.m., Newsworld)
• Theo Fleury may not win Battle of the Blades this sea- son — barring another lastminute rules change, that is — but tonight he joins the long and growing list of luminaries to get the Star Portraits treatment.
Fleury makes an unusual subject, and the results are both unusual and telling. (8 p.m., BravoT)
• Anne Hathaway slayed ‘em during her hosting debut on
Saturday Night Live, two years ago almost to the day, thanks to her Lawrence Welk sister act with resident SNL scene-stealer Kristen Wiig and her parody of a wigged-out, post-modern Mary Poppins. Hathaway returns for her second hosting gig tonight, with musical guest Florence + Machine. (11:30 p.m., NBC and Global)
• Hockey Night in Canada’s marquee match-up tonight features a Canadian classic — or make that a Canadiens classic, as the Habs host the Leafs. (7 p.m., CBC)
Sunday Battle of the Blades isn’t exactly the Kirov Ballet, but there can be no denying that the Russian pair has added an element of elan, elegance and genuine excitement to the homegrown skating exhibition this season.
Remember one thing as the three finalist pairs take to the ice in the final performance program: Next week, U.S. TV will get in on the skating game with its own Skating with the Stars, ABC’s followup to Dancing with the Stars featuring D-list celebrities skating with former Olympians, and there is every chance that Battle of the Blades will be the better show.
Skating, like hockey, is in the blood here, and Battle of the Blades has the benefit of being in its second season: Lessons have been learned, skills honed and timing perfected.
And the audience deserves credit, too — not just because 1.8 million Canadians tuned in last week, making Battle of the Blades one of CBC-TV’s few bids for relevance. The audience deserves credit because, as Dancing with the Stars has shown us (and American Idol before that), any talent competition that relies on an audience vote can produce some really screwy results. It would have been all too easy for Canadian voters to ignore, or even vote against, Russian skaters Ekaterina Gordeeva and Valeri Bure, and yet here they are in the final. The inclusion of Russians this season has added, if not suspense, exactly, certainly interest.
Battle of the Blades is a success story. And, this season, a lot of the credit belongs to the Russian pair — and the Canadian voters who were big enough to vault them through to the final. (8 p.m., CBC
• The amazing Amazing Race is enjoying a ferociously good season this year, with less bickering and quarrelling than usual and hardly any Ugly Americans among the remaining teams. The host countries have also featured unusual and unique parts of the world, no more so than in Sunday’s race leg, as the remaining teams race from Oman, on the Arabian Peninsula, to Dhaka, Bangladesh. (8 p.m., CBS and CTV)
• Boardwalk Empire, the 1920s gangster drama set in Prohibition-era Atlantic City, has evolved into a compelling, adult drama, while paying exquisite attention to period detail.
At the end of last week’s episode, two major characters — arguably, two of the three most important characters in the entire series — appeared to be fatally shot. Now we learn whether that was for real, or whether the Hollywood imagineers are up to their old tricks. Again. (9 p.m., HBO)
• Could there be anything more potentially lame and witless in this day and age than a zombie TV drama? And yet, once again, AMC has taken an old trope — Night of the Living Dead meets Stephen King’s The Stand — and crafted one of television’s most riveting and, yes, classy dramas. The Walking Dead is not just good; it could be one of TV’s best dramas at the moment. And in the era of Boardwalk Empire, Dexter and The Good Wife, that’s saying a lot. (10 p.m., AMC)