Welcome to this week's edition of MaW's Musings. In the column today, I branch out into film reviews, and I also have one or two things to say about Microsoft. Again.
This week's edition is written in GuidePost 0.6a to celebrate the provision of unmetered internet access on my house network. More on the trials that led to that later.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Yesterday (that would be Wimpy the 20th of November 2001), I went to see the much-hyped Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. As a great fan of the books, I was hoping that the conversion to a film hadn't spoiled too much of the atmosphere and plotline which so captivates readers. We are lucky - the film is excellent.
A warning at this stage - I am assuming familiarity with the plot of the book, and therefore discuss it freely. Those who don't know the plot and who don't want to know the plot should skip forward to the end of the article where I rant about Microsoft.
Yes, there are a few minor plot alterations (especially at the end). The obstacles required to be overcome to reach the Philosopher's Stone are mildly different - Hermione's task is casting an artifical sunrise to defeat the devil's snare at the bottom of the trapdoor rather than working out which potions to take - the potions are gone entirely. This is no doubt due to the baffling alteration of the plot whereby the children don't discover that Snape isn't the one after the Stone until Harry reaches the Mirror of Erised and finds Quirrel there instead of Snape as he expected. I have not read the first book for a while, so I cannot remember the precise details of the plot, but I am sure that they discover this earlier when they find out about all the teachers providing something to protect the Stone, and that Snape is one of them (the potions again). Thankfully, the giant chess game was kept in, and is a truly fantastic scene which is well worth seeing.
I can only assume these alterations were made for the mass audience, which is a shame because it removed a bit of the climatic feel. However, the Stone is not the most important element of the film. It is, after all, about Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, an orphan raised by Muggles who hate anything to do with the wizarding world. Dudley comes across as even more unpleasant than he is in the books, and although time constraints (even with abridgement the film is still two and a half hours long) prevent him having his full scenes at the beginning of the book, he still gets plenty of time to prove himself about the worst cousin that anyone could possibly have. The setting for the Dursleys' house is also excellent - an entirely normal street in suburbia, and quite startling at times. There is something deeply shocking to me in seeing a normal English street with British-registered cars parked along it in the cinema. It must be too many American and Science Fiction films I think.
As for the rest of the film... if only there was some way the entire book could be kept in! Admittedly, the film would then run to about four hours or more, but judging by the overall quality of acting and direction throughout, getting to see an entire Potions lesson would be a treat indeed, as would Transfiguration. Some more of Alan Rickman's superb Professor Snape would also be most welcome.
I shall say little more beside praising the Quidditch match, although as the review of this film on Slashdot mentioned, there are times when you can see that the broomstick riders aren't real people, and that is a shame, because the rendering quality of the troll equals or exceeds that of the recent CG film Shrek. However, the rest of the Quidditch is fantastic, although prepare to be a little startled by the grass below the playing area... which is mowed in almost perfect imitation of a slightly oval football pitch.
Microsoft and AOL
Two of the largest and most hated names in the computer industry have finally decided to cooperate with our network to let us share the internet connection over it. Graham came up with the solution, one I am angry with myself for not seeing. It seems that uninstalling and reinstalling Internet Connection Sharing solves the problems we were having with it simply not working, and I worked out a theory why. It is all to do with the utter inadequacy of the Windows 9x kernel.
Essentially, to keep the technical explanations brief and not too scary, Internet Connection Sharing requires a binding to TCP/IP in order to work. However, Windows 98 can only bind a maximum of four protocols to TCP/IP at any one time. Our AOL setup brought that total to six, and because Windows doesn't deign to notify you of such a problem, the bindings for Connection Sharing were in those two which Windows was ignoring. Reinstalling shifted the priorities around, and so it began to work.
Another reason to get Windows XP if ever I heard one. Or better yet, Linux.
Back to Harry Potter again (but no spoilers this time) as I mention that the film's soundtrack is spectacular, as one might expect from John Williams1. Therefore although I've not yet heard it, I can't hesitate in recommending the official soundtrack album for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. It should be on everyone's Christmas list. It's on mine!