“Diana’s Magic”: an imagined fantasy movie inside a children’s novel

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Author: David A. Hicks
Title, Subtitle: Diana’s Magic
publication date 2016
ISBN 978-1-4787-6222-5
Publication: Outskirts, 457 pages, paper, 23 chapters (no TOC, no chapter titles)
Link: goodreads   Amazon link (for some reason icon below isn’t working yet)


Diana’s Magic”, by David A. Hicks, is an older children’s book authored by an owner of the Westover Market and Beer Garden in Arlington VA. It’s a bit long for the audience, but is written at an intermediate grade level without a lot of long sentences or big words.  The book was discussed in the Beer Garden Book Club in March 2016.

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The story is also a “meta-movie”: that is, the book title is the same as the envisioned movie made by upper grade school children in a suburban (Virginia) public school, as an art project.

The heroine is a new teacher, Sarah Carter.  The story is set up when her fiancé, a “blue collar” person named Eric, is put into a coma by a horrific auto accident in Chapter 1.  That beginning sets up a moral test of her character:  could she remain in love with someone “until death do us part” who has been rendered helpless by someone else’s misdeed?

Sarah’s original charge is to do a spring art show.  But she comes up with the idea of a movie, about “dragons and wizards”, which reminds me of the dichotomy “brownies and elves” in kindergarten in the 1940s.  She organizes a production team, including “writers”, who will negotiate what the story will be.  It’s interesting to see, in a self-published novel, the author setting up a real world (a copy of Tinseltowm, ironically) where “real” writers have to write for a “real living” and ultimately negotiate the world of unions.

She’s also counseled that teachers need to learn the world of school district politics and make friends.  A parent complains about her replacing the art show with a movie project, and the school district has a hissy fit.  Temporarily, the school cancels it, forcing the kids to do car washes to raise money for it.  (No Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or “GoFundMe”.) Later, her “enemies” try to use local government zoning regulations (a typical libertarian issue) to stop the movie (to be shown in the barn where it was filmed) to protect the audience for the art show.

Then there is the fantasy world of wizards, ranging from Harry Potter to Clark Kent people.  Eventually there is a crossover into the real world and a miracle for Eric,

I saw some of this political infighting when I worked as a substitute teacher in Arlington and Fairfax County from 2004-2007.

The Career Center in Arlington actually made two films with a franchise title “Slices of Life”.  The first film is “The House Party” and  “The 50-50 Club”.  I subbed in the class making the second film.

In 2005, an AP chemistry class at West Potomac High School near Alexandria, VA made a short film “Reltonium”, imagining the discovery of a new element in the Periodic Table,  The school even then had an advanced media center with professional video editing tools.

(Posted: Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016 at 2:45 PM EST)

“Now You See Me 2” is another grand romp

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Name: Now You See Me 2
Director, writer:  Jon M. Chu
Released:  2016/6
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Common, large auditorium, late, 2016/6/15, very small audiene
Length 129
Rating PG-13:
Companies: Summit
Link: official site

Now You See Me: The Second Act”, directed by Jon M. Chu, continues the party, go-go atmosphere of its 2013 predecessor, with the “Four Horsemen” taking control of large, adoring crowds with their extroversion and magic tricks.  Let’s enumerate them: Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), J, Daniel Atlas (a most extroverted version of Jesse Eisenberg), and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), presented as clean-cut and the best looking with a not so subtle implication that he’s a “masculine gay”. Thaddeus Bradley Morgan Freeman), double crossed and out of jail (seems to play moderator.

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The plot this time concerns the “Robin Hood” gang’s outwitting super hacker Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe, very much a grown man now but with still a trace of Harry Potter’s gentleness), who wants to use a super-computer and special circuit (fit onto a playing card, like a Joker) in Macau, China (near Hong Kong) to reverse-engineer all the encryption in the world and spy on everyone himself.

It gets hard to tell what’s magic and what’s supernatural, especially when the Four wind up in Macau (China’s Las Vegas) .  One of the most interesting sequences in the film occurs where the Four (and a couple of accomplices) outwit security in the computer room in Macau by sleight of hand, passing the card around among one another while undergoing groping and “pat-downs” by security that borders on homoerotic.

The other great sequence occurs on New Year’s Eve in London (no snow), where Atlas manipulates the weather (making it rain upside down).  The spirit of the scene reminds me of the conclusion of Kathryn Bigelow’s “Strange Days” (1995), where the conclusion is set in LA on Y2K as 2000 enters.  In that movie, remember, there had been presented the idea of “prescient goggles” with their own magic.

The orchestral music score by Brian Tyler is often opulent, starting a concert overture just before the closing credits, then introducing some hip-hop, before going back to a full Sonata-allegro, with Straussian opulence, ending triumphantly (A major).

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Macau by Diego Delso, under CCSA 3.0

Other films for comparison: “The Illusionist” (2006, Neil Burger), and “The Prestige” (2006, Christopher Nolan)

(Published: Thursday, June 16, 2016 at 3:15 PM EDT)