Sunday, December 21, 2003

Finally, Return of the King

We went to see Trilogy Tuesday last week, seeing two extended edition LOTR movies followed by the premiere of ROTK.

Line for Trilogy Tuesday in Pittsburgh, About 10:15 am

Line for Trilogy Tuesday in Pittsburgh

There were already about 200 people in line before we got there, so we wound up on the floor but in the center. While, at first we hated the seats, they turned out to be fortuitous. Before the movie started, we realized the folks sitting in front of us were people we'd known back in college, from the old Western Pennsylvania Science Fiction Association (WPSFA)

Lori and Tom Lane

Lori and Tom Lane

It was neat to catch up with them after all this time.

Back to the movies, the extended editions both looked phenomenal on the big screen.

The Audience Just Before The Return of the King

The Audience Just Before The Return of the King (remember, just about everyone in there had been in the theater for over 10 hours...)

But, after a long day of movie watching, my brain was completely fried by the time ROTK finally started at just after 10. While the movie looked absolutely phenomenal, I was having a terrible time related to the characters. And the movie seemed structurally very off. So I got a little snarky in my online comments on the movie.


I did go see the movie again at a time when I'd had a little more sleep and hadn't been watching movies all day. That made an enormous difference. Instead of focusing on the problems (which exist but are fairly small by comparison), I got even more caught up by the sheer audaciousness of the undertaking. Minis Tirith is one of the most remarkable combinations of set/bigature/special effect that I have ever seen. The Nazgul attacking Minis Tirith have a huge "gosh wow" factor, reminiscent of the asteroid sequence from The Empire Strikes Back or the scene of the Mother Ship flying over Devil's Tower in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We have been watching a classic unfold over the last two years.

Despite the spectacle, the human story is rarely overshadowed. The whole cast (except for John Noble as Denethor, but the problems with Denethor weren't all his fault) give one of the finest ensemble performances ever. Ian McKellan, Billy Boyd, Viggo Mortenson, Sean Astin and Elijah Wood deserve special commendation as "first among equals," but no one really steals the show. The movies would not have worked had the casting not been as perfect as the special effects.
It's instructive to go back into the casting archives in TheOneRing.Net and the casting discussions in AintItCoolNews to read some of the jaw-dropping rumors that went around. Keanu Reeves as Aragorn? Uma Thurman as Eowyn? The mind boggles.

There are a few continuity and editing problems in the movie. The whole Pyre of Denethor sequence is just badly handled, and the cuts between Eowyn and the Witch King confrontation and the arrival of Aragorn and company are very distracting. And the endings could have been shortened slightly. Still, the movies are just a phenomenal achievement, and I'm delighted that Peter Jackson et. al. have pulled it off.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Political Compass

This is all Neil Gaiman's fault. He said he found the politics self-test at the Political Compass site fascinating. I must say, he was right. Here are the results of my test:

Laurie Mann's Political Compas Ranking

It's fairly close; while I do distrust government (particularly my own these days), I distrust business and other institutions more. I do seem to lean more to the left every time I take one of these tests..

I'm Going to the Oscars!....Well, Almost...

Before I became a Hugo or Nebula fan, I was (and am) an Oscar fan. Despite the fact I have wildly mixed feelings about popular awards (don't get me started on Oscar failures, like Titanic or The Last Emporer), I have been a devoted follower of Oscar politics and the awards for many years. I can't completely blame my Dad on this, but he bought a copy of a book that had photos from Oscar winners when it was first published in the mid-'60s. I almost memorized that book; whenever I saw that an Oscar-winner was to be on TV, I made a point of watching it.

I thought going to Hollywood at Oscar time would be a way cool thing. But I'm just a movie fan - would it be worth it?

About two years ago, I heard that Lord of the Rings fans threw themselves an Oscar party. In Hollywood. What a way cool idea. So, being an ardent Tolkein and Jackson fan, I started hanging out more frequently on The One Ring.Net, where I adopted the pseudo-Tolkeinish name of "JRandomRohirrim." Due to being both early and persistent, I got tickets to Trilogy Tuesday (just two days away now!) and to the TORN Oscar Party! The TORN Oscar Party sold out about 15 minutes after the tickets went on sale, so I know how lucky I was to buy tickets for my co-worker Laura and me.

So over the next ten weeks, I'll get to do two very movie fannish and geeky things with Lord of the Rings fans. I already have a fabulous dress for the Oscar party (I wore it last year to the Nebulas and will probably bring it to Worldcon next year) and plan to take loads of photos while I'm there. Even if Return of the King doesn't win every Oscar it deserves (it already has a clear lock on Best Special Effects), it'll be really neat to share Oscar night with 700 psyched LOTR fen. And the site of this Oscar party is about two blocks from the Kodak Theater, where the Oscars will be held - close enough for an early Sunday morning stroll and some more pictures.

Who knows, maybe I'll even meet Sean Astin and Sala Baker again!

ConJose Hugo Acceptors:  Sala Baker, Jeff Walker and Sean Asint