When Your Hero is a Villain

Like many people born between the late-70s and the mid-90s, when I was a teenager I was in love with Johnny Depp. I had seen a few of his movies over the years, but it was when I watched the first Pirates of the Caribbean film at a sleepover that I was struck by Cupid’s arrow. In time-worn fangirl tradition, I plastered my walls with posters of Captain Jack Sparrow. I worked my way through the back catalogue of his filmography, from the famous films like Edward Scissorhands, to the strange and obscure movies such as Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man, to the entire series of his breakout television role, 21 Jumpstreet, binge-watched in those pre-Netflix days on DVDs in my friend’s basement.

Years passed, and my obsession waned. After a while, I didn’t even find his presence in a film to be a draw; the last starring role of his I saw in the cinema was the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film, a disappointment made even greater by the love I had (and still have) for the original. But still, if you had asked, I would probably—until recently—have called Depp one of my favourite actors.

Then he assaulted his wife.

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Vhy Ve Love Viktor Krum

I just finished rereading the Harry Potter series for the first time in a few years. The earlier books I’ve read and reread at least a dozen times; the later books, fewer, but still three or four times apiece. Usually when I reread a book (which is frequent, with my favourites) I notice something new each time through—some small detail I missed the first time around (or the second, or the third). However, I think I may have finally reached the point where I’ve caught everything there is to catch in the Harry Potter series. For the first time rereading it, there were no moments where I thought “Oh! I hadn’t noticed this before.” I suppose I’m not surprised given that there are a good few passages throughout the series that I know by heart.

In place of lines I feel as though I’d never read before or events that I feel that I am eagerly turning the pages to read for the first time, however, I find myself interested in different characters than I had been on previous read-throughs. I still love the main characters, of course, and I still have my favourite secondary characters, but I notice the awesomeness of various minor characters as if meeting them for the first time. I’ll talk about the three I loved a lot in this most recent reread in this and upcoming posts, beginning with a character I find very underrated (by us, not by the wizarding athletic world): Viktor Krum.

We first meet Krum at the Quidditch World Cup, where he is the star seeker of the Bulgarian NT. Famously, just as Fred and George Weasley predict, he catches the snitch although it is not enough for them to beat Ireland. And as we, and Harry and friends, soon find out, he is not only an incredible Quidditch player but an accomplished wizard at a young age when he arrives at Hogwarts from Durmstrang and is, of course, chosen to compete in the Triwizard Tournament.

Now, at this point we know he’s a good wizard and a great sportsman, but he seems pretty unremarkable as a character apart from being fairly dour. But the more I learned about him reading the books time and again, the more I like him.

The chapter of the books that most exemplifies the reasons I think Krum is an underrated character is not from Goblet of Fire, where he preforms acts of skill, magic, and athletic ability, but his cameo-sized role in Deathly Hallows, at Bill and Fleur’s wedding.

First, there’s the fact that he chooses to attend the wedding to begin with. Sure, Harry’s there, but it’s clearly more for the groom than the bride. Although they were Triwizard Champions together, it seems unlikely that he would’ve showed up to Fleur’s wedding had she been marrying, say, Roger Davies. And while Cedric would likely have gone had it not been for his untimely death, he was known to be friendly and sociable, unlike the surly Krum. And yet Krum makes the trek, showing respect for Fleur by doing something that is important to her.

In a similar way in the fourth book, he showed respect for Harry by noticing and mentioning something important to him (to both of them), his flying skills. Also in the fourth book is, of course, when he dates Hermione, but since that is probably the most well-known aspect of his character I won’t touch much on it since we fans have surely poured enough over their connection and Ron’s ensuing jealousy. The one thing I do want to mention is that when Krum sees Ron and Hermione, he does not seem to be annoyed or feel any anger toward Ron, unlike Ron who still (fairly or not) holds a grudge against Krum. He is understanding of Hermione’s choice.

Instead I want to point out one more important thing that happens at Fleur’s wedding: Krum is angry at seeing the symbol of what we later find out is the Hallows but what Krum describes as the symbol of Grindewald, who passed through school at Durmstrang and became a dark wizard much like Voldemort did at Hogwarts. Despite going to a school known for connections to the Dark Arts and, indeed, having a headmaster during Krum’s time who was a Death Eater, Krum is against Dark wizards such as Grindewald.

What’s interesting about this is that a main criticism levied against J.K. Rowling is that the Slytherins are seen to be almost universally bad. No Slytherin, unsurprisingly, joins the DA, and no Slytherin stays behind to fight to protect Hogwarts in the final battle. The only Slytherins we see do anything good are the ones who are essential to the plot like Snape, Malfoy, Slughorn, and Regulus Black. The others are either outright evil or, in the background, negatively indifferent.

In contrast, while Krum does nothing plot-relevant to fight against the Dark Arts, he is mentioned to be against it, despite having attended what is basically the school version of Slytherin. Whereas Rowling defaults all except a select few plot-critical Slytherin’s to “generally bad,” Krum is specifically good, which makes him an even more interesting and compelling character given his educational background.

Actors and their Surprising Career Choices that Actually Worked

I haven’t been keeping up with the award show season too much this year, mainly because I’ve only seen eight Oscar-nominated films, three of which were in the Visual Effects category. But I have been paying enough attention to see that there was a lot of hype around Dallas Buyers Club, particularly for star Matthew McConaughey. I read that he lost 30 pounds for his role, a level of dedication usually seen by method actors like Christian Bale and Daniel Day-Lewis. And his work is getting rave reviews, including nominations or wins from the SAG awards, the Golden Globes, and of course the Academy, where he is the frontrunner to win Best Actor at the Oscars tonight.

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To an extent, this surprised me. While I know he’s taken serious roles in the past (and is currently getting equally positive attention for True Detective), when I think of Matthew McConaughey, I think of a shirtless, bongo-playing, “I get older and they stay the same age,” How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, stoner-surfer-sort-of-actor, and I’d guess a lot of audiences thought the same. After the reviews I read prior to seeing Dallas Buyers Club, I wasn’t shocked by how good he was, but I still find it a bit hard to reconcile McConaughey’s portrayal of Woodruf with, say, his similarly-named character Wooderson.

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Then again, this certainly isn’t the first time an actor has broken out of their trademark style of role and done a remarkable job. Here are nine other actors who managed to surprise me with their roles:

Jim Carrey, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

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Like McConaughey, Jim Carrey had done some serious roles before Eternal SunshineThe Truman Show is hardly slapstick, after all. But he was certainly more well known for movies like Ace Ventura and Bruce Almighty. Then he played Joel to Kate Winslet’s Clementine in a film that never fails to make me feel joyful and depressed at the same time.

Steve Carell, Little Miss Sunshine

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As far as I know, Steve Carell was solely a comedic actor for the better part of his career. AnchormanThe 40-Year-Old VirginThe Daily Show, and of course The Office: he’s brilliant at all of them, but although he has some touching moments as Michael Scott, and although Little Miss Sunshine is probably, technically a comedy, his role as Olive’s gay, suicidal uncle still came out of left field and blew me away.

Maya Rudolph, Away We Go

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I don’t know if actresses are less typecast than actors or if it’s the opposite—that they are typecast but find it harder to break out of their original genre than male actors—but actresses who reinvent themselves are more of the child-star-who-didn’t-become-Lohan-esque variety. But Maya Rudolph (and John Krasinski) in Away We Go proved to be an example of a funny woman who can do serious—and wonderfully bittersweet.

Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad

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For a lot of actors, the role they played in a late-90s/early-00s television show is the role they’ll be known as for good. Sarah Michelle Gellar will always be Buffy, Zach Braff and Donald Faison will always be JD and Turk, and James Van Der Beek will always be crying Dawson Leery. So who would’ve thought that Malcolm (the role Frankie Muniz will always be known for)’s silly dad Hal would end up being known as one of the most intense, terrifying television characters ever.

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The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling (2012): 4/5 stars

Before I begin this review, I’d like to take a moment and say that I’m sick of reviews referring to The Casual Vacancy as J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults. While the Harry Potter books certainly originated as a series for children, the themes, particularly in the last three books, are appropriate for those who grew up with the series (I was in elementary school when the first book was released, and high school when Deathly Hallows came out), as well as younger readers and, yes, adults. However, I am alright with reviewers describing The Casual Vacancy as Rowling’s first book marketed toward adults because I do think that’s true—and I don’t think I would advise it be read by anyone under the age of twelve or so, due to the amount of profanity and sexual content (and violence, but then again, Deathly Hallows).

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