TV

Magic Beyond Words: The JK Rowling Story

Renée Scolaro Mora

Though JK Rowling's success is a foregone conclusion, the movie includes a second, less overt storyline about good mothers and bad fathers.

Airtime: Monday, 8pm ET
Cast: Poppy Montgomery, Antonio Kupo, Janet Kidder, Andy Maton, Patti Allan
Director: Paul A. Kaufman
Network: Lifetime
Title: Magic Beyond Words: The JK Rowling Story
Air date: 2011-07-18
Website
Trailer

At the 2001 premiere of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Joanne Rowling (Poppy Montgomery) is overwhelmed and refuses, for a moment, to get out of her limousine. Looking fearfully at the crowds lined up to see her, she worries too that she doesn't know how to talk to famous people "Like it or not," says her fiancé (Greigh Laschuk), "you're one of them now." Spotting a mother and daughter dressed as witches and waving wands excitedly, she's moved to remember her own childhood. And so Magic Beyond Words: The JK Rowling Story sets about answering the question of how Rowling got here.

According to Magic Beyond Words: The JK Rowling Story -- which premieres on Lifetime on 18 July -- this journey is a string of moments, all leading to Harry Potter. Typically, these refer to ideas or scenes in the books. Some are clever: when a stern, bespectacled teacher gives students a quiz to "sort out" where they belong in class, we recognize a source for the Hogwarts Sorting Hat ritual. But other times they are heavy-handed and silly, as when a teenaged Rowling (Madison Desjarlais) laughs off her red-headed friend Sean (Wesley McInnes), calling him "weaselly."

This sort of recognition game occupies most of the first half of the film. If it's fun for viewers familiar with the Harry Potter books or movies, it also makes clear that this film is as much about "the boy who lived" as it is about the life of his creator.

Based on Sean Smith's 2003 book, JK Rowling: A Biography, the movie shows that as a child, she has a doting mother (Janet Kidder) and a practical father (Paul McGillion). The former encourages her to "follow her heart" and write, while the latter pushes her to pursue a course of study in college that will ensure her a job. She takes her father's advice and, after earning a degree in Languages from Exeter, drifts from one unsatisfying job to another.

She's also married, for a time, to the sometimes abusive Jorges Arantes (Antonio Kupo), with whom she moves to Portugal. After their divorce, Rowling winds up back in England with her infant daughter. Though she has worked on her writing in fits and starts over the years, it's while she is technically homeless and living on welfare that she finally begins writing in earnest.

Here the film offers some rudimentary social commentary. Though Rowling is educated, she can't find a job that pays enough to support herself and her daughter. Forced to go on welfare, she is appalled at her treatment by the social worker Mrs. Morgan (Patti Allan), who insists on labeling her "homeless," though she is staying with her sister, and criticizes Rowling for putting herself in the situation in the first place by leaving her husband, however unworthy he was. Further, it illustrates that "the system" is designed to keep people within it: when Rowling finds a low-paying teaching position, Mrs. Morgan tells her she will have to turn it down or else she will lose her assistance and that she should look for something that pays less.

Such hardships inspire her to return to her first love, writing (in a dream, she meets Harry Potter, on his way to wizarding school). The movie includes as well as her well-known struggles to get the book published. Turned down by several agents, she is finally taken on by Christopher Little (Andy Maton) who is hugely skeptical not only of Rowling's book, but children's literature in general. Much like her father, he urges her to be practical and "keep her day job." As he reminds her constantly, "There is no money in children's books," a laughable point in retrospect.

Though Rowling's success is a foregone conclusion, the movie includes a second, less overt storyline about good mothers and bad fathers. This starts with her own, and their contrast apparently informs Rowling's life choices as well as her writing. These types play out repeatedly in the film: her mother, her sister, the young editor who discovers her, her girlfriends, and eventually even Mrs. Morgan, are all positive and supportive and sure of her potential.

But it is her bad dad who holds the most sway in this Lifetime movie. When she meets Jorges, she instantly falls for him (despite early indications of his noxiousness), because he too obviously gives her the male approval she's been missing. As her professional relationship with Little develops, he clearly becomes the kind father she's been missing. And then there's that fiancé at the premiere, never mentioned by name or appearing at any other point in the film, as if to suggest that with a proper male partner, Rowling's success is really complete.

5

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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