Secret Chambers and Home Cookin'
The promised rain never came; both Christmas and its Eve were cool and dry, overcast with the (very) occasional ray of sun. Which was fine by me.
I worked a half-day yesterday, and then met Debbi for a matinee of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, which, like its predecessor is a film adaptation of the American translation of J.K. Rowling's original novel.
I thought the book was the weakest installment of the four (so far) in the series, largely because of some of the gross jokes (one character coughing up slugs), elements I didn't buy (Snape is played too much as a heavy, which feels wrong after his actions in the first book) or hated (the polyjuice potion), and the weak payoff of the mystery. That said, it translated reasonably well to film, which I think is largely a credit to the actors.
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry and Emma Watson as Hermione both do excellent jobs, particularly considering their ages. Watson is going to be quite a heartbreaker in a few years! Kenneth Branagh's performance as the fatuous Gilderoy Lockhart is just about perfect, though it's naturally played very comedically broad. branaugh is starting to convince me that he could play pretty much any role. Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy, Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy, and of course Alan Rickman as Snape are the best of the supporting cast. Christian Coulson as Tom Riddle is also quite good.
On the other hand, Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley gets a lot more screen time in this film, and I wasn't very impressed; he seems like a Doctor Who companion whose main quality is his ability to scream and whimper a lot. I rather wished he'd go away in short order. And I just haven't been able to warm to the late Richard Harris as Dumbledore, who seems to play the role all wrong, to my eye; he has no stage presence, his faint voice carries little weight, and I'd always pictured Dumbledore as a much younger man - maybe only starting to turn gray.
Chris Columbus and his crew do their best to scrupulously - perhaps slavishly - bring Rowling's story to life. This is good in that many visual elements are made manifest and are fun to see. But Columbus never really goes beyond simply parroting the story; he never takes advantage of the qualities a visual medium can provide, and so little is ever suggested beyond what the basic story provides. The look of the movie often seems too generic and too much like a trite fairy tale, and Columbus doesn't put any weight behind the story, telling it in the most straightforward manner possible.
As with the first film, it's a fun romp, but it doesn't thrill quite as well, and it still has the same problems. It's not bad, but it feels slight.
Debbi suggested we go out to dinner after the movie (hey, a real "date" type thing!), and said she was thinking something like Chili's or Chevy's. I said, "Hmm, I was thinking something like the Peninsula Creamery." It wasn't much of an argument after that.
A hamburger, tuna melt, fries and milkshakes later we came back to my place and went for a walk around the neighborhood to enjoy peoples' Christmas lights. By the time we got home I was crashing hard - I hadn't slept very well the night before, though I hadn't thought it was so bad that I'd be wiped out by 9:30. But apparently it was.
I'd had a strange dream which I barely remembered, too; something about becoming friends with the San Francisco 49ers' wide receiver Terrell Owens, and him wanting me to try out for the team. (Yeah, right!) This on the heels of another bird-oriented dream last weekend, where I apparently woke up and told Debbi that I'd dreamt I'd owned 10,000 parakeets (hi, Monique!), and that Jefferson would look them in the eye and put his paw on their nose. And us having a brief exchange about the amount of bird crap I'd have around my house with that many parakeets. But I don't really remember the dream at all. Sometimes I say very strange things when I'm half-asleep.
We had a very pleasant Christmas, kicked off by getting up around 8:00 to open presents. I gave Debbi several nice gifts, including a collection of Solitaire card games for her Mac (225+ games, plus a game building engine!), and a couple of early Genesis albums, since she'd told me she'd been a fan of their in high school or college.
I won't belabor my own gifts, save that a few months ago we were in Target and I ended up browsing the toy aisles looking at Hot Wheels cars. I have fond memories of my childhood friend Josh Krasnow, who had a garbage can full of Hot Wheels track, and we enjoyed making extremely long tracks running from their attic to their first floor. Man, how I coveted his track. Anyway, I'd bought a car back then in Target, and Debbi bought me a starter track set with a "launcher" engine for the cars and some extra straight track, as well as a few cars. I happily set it up and played with some configurations. The cats were unimpressed. Clearly I'm going to have to go buy some more track, though.
Debbi had mentioned earlier this month that she might cook a turkey for Christmas, and I ended up holding her to this. We bought a 10-pound turkey, fixings for side dishes, and invited Subrata and Susan over for dinner. They are fighting off a nasty cold (but hopefully they're past the contagious stage), so they didn't stay long after the meal, but it was a nice visit nonetheless. All the food turned out splendidly, and we didn't end up with too many leftovers. Debbi was determined to make the gravy right this year (it had been rather watery last year), and I joked that we'd keep inviting them back until she got it right. She got it right on her second try, though. So I guess they'll have to invite us over next year!
It was a fairly lazy Christmas otherwise. The cats were very excited to have us home, to have the wrapping paper to play with, and warm stairs to sit on (one of the heating coils is under the stairs). They also got some turkey giblets mixed in with their dinner, so it was a bonus day all the way around for them.
Won't they be surprised when I'm home every day for the next week?
Spending Christmas at home is nice when you've got someone to spend it with.