A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Sunday, July 29, 2018

The Lord of the Rings (Peter Jackson, 2001, 2002, 2003)

The Fellowship of the Ring, 2001
The Two Towers, 2002
Sean Astin and Elijah Wood in The Two Towers
The Return of the King, 2003
Orlando Bloom, Viggo Mortensen, and Ian McKellen in The Return of the King
Frodo: Elijah Wood
Gandalf: Ian McKellen
Aragorn: Viggo Mortensen
Sam: Sean Astin
Pippin: Billy Boyd
Merry: Dominic Monaghan
Legolas: Orlando Bloom
Gimli/Treebeard (voice): John Rhys-Davies
Arwyn: Liv Tyler
Elrond: Hugo Weaving
Gollum (voice and motion capture)/Smeagol: Andy Serkis
Bilbo: Ian Holm
Saruman: Christopher Lee
Galadriel: Cate Blanchett
Boromir: Sean Bean
Eowyn: Miranda Otto
Theoden: Bernard Hill
Denethor: John Noble
Eomer: Karl Urban
Faramir: David Wenham
Haldir: Craig Parker
Wormtongue: Brad Dourif

Director: Peter Jackson
Screenplay: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Stephen Sinclair
Based on a novel by J.R.R. Tolkien
Cinematography: Andrew Lesnie
Production design: Grant Major
Film editing: John Gilbert (The Fellowship of the Ring), Michael Horton (The Two Towers), Jamie Selkirk (The Return of the King)
Music: Howard Shore

There is a clarity of narrative and action in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings that seems to me to be lacking in the blockbusters that have followed in its sizable wake, even those that have been scaled down for serialization on television, like Game of Thrones. (And even, I might add, in Jackson's own attempt to expand J.R.R. Tolkien's much more modest novel The Hobbit into a similarly epic film trilogy.) Some of this clarity lies in the source, in Tolkien's vividly characterized and shrewdly plotted novel. But Jackson and his team also display an ability to stage action sequences like the Helm's Deep scenes in The Two Towers and the assault on Minas Tirith in The Return of the King while both keeping things exciting and making sure we know where the characters we most care about are in the thick of things. Too often, especially in recent superhero films, the big battles of action movies seem to be either taking place in the dark or are simply a blur of quick cuts, with the revelation of who's up and who's down taking place after the dust clears. In The Lord of the Rings, there's a logic to what's taking place, and an awareness of peril and triumph that threads through the action. This is the more to the good because Jackson makes us care about Tolkien's characters, even the ones who seem less vulnerable or lovable than the small beings who bear the burden of the Ring. I think the special effects have begun to show their age: The group shot of the fellowship, for example, in the first film in the trilogy, feels awkwardly tricksy, with the hobbits and the dwarf obviously "pasted in" along with the human-sized characters. But the great vast project of bringing Tolkien's book to the screen remains a landmark and a stunning success.

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