Saturday, February 07, 2004

I spent a lot of time reading and relaxing today. No good reason. I didn't have anything better to do and I figure now is the time to take as my relaxing where I can get it. I don't know what the next week or so will bring.
We have a trailer to haul my inventory. Huzzah!
I spent the afternoon with my mother. We went to Trader Joe's and got me a bunch of tea and trail mix and things like that to take up with me. We also went for a walk. We also tried out her donut making kit (remember, kids, Tuesday is Faschnach day.) I ate four donuts and felt really sluggish. Like that old Jimmy Buffett song:

Coffee is strong at the Cafe Du Monde
Donuts they're too hot to touch
Just like a fool
when those sweet goodies cool
I eat till I eat way too much
Cause I'm living on things that excite me
Be they pastry or lobster or love
I'm just trying to get by
Being quiet and shy
In a world full of pushin and shove.

So we went for a long walk. Tonight Mom hugged me and said, "Next Saturday I wont be able to hug you."
I'm expecting a week full of moments of realization like that. Scattered in with the hurry.
Who knows though. Maybe it'll all go smoothly with little stress.
Tonight I packed all of my personal library that I'm taking with me. I already know it's way too much, but everything is essential.

Friday, February 06, 2004

That is to say you become "aware" that you're in a car, not "away." I don't have a grammar check program. And does anyone know why it's "a euphemism" and not "an euphemism?" Strange language this.
Remember how my father volunteered to go out and get his buddy's trailer for me to use on my move? Well, turns out that fell through at the last minute. Reliable was never one of the words I'd use to describe my father. But he's said that he'll take care of it and I shouldn't worry. He promised me a trailer to use to move and he'll get me one if he has to rent one (which costs about six hundred dollars if I'm not mistaken.) So there's not much for me to do but sit back and see what happens. Which is very much like the rest of my life.
Actually, lest I send the wrong message, I understand that it's very nice for my father to be helping me with this move at all and the fact that he wants to make ammends for the promised trailer shows a good spirit. Shows that he cares. While he's not a reliable man, he is a good man at heart.

Tomorrow is Love Your Robot Day. I have no idea what that means or where it comes from. Sounds like a euphemism to me.
My first thought is that I don't even have a robot. Then I think "Maybe I do and don't realize it." Which makes me remember when I was having anxiety attacks and I'd sometimes think that I might not be human and simply programmed to believe that I was and I'd freak out, like when you're driving and you suddenly become away that you're in tons of metal going insanely fast and you start to drive all self consciously. I'd also get the moments where I'd think that every memory up until that moment had been planted in my head. Or I'd get the ones where I'd think that I was some being elsewhere having all of this as a dream and wondering what would happen when I woke up. And then I'd also spend a lot of time worrying that my loved ones were trying to poison me.

Yeah. Don't do alcohol and benedryl, kids. Take it from the Rev. They do a brain bad.
LORD OF THE RINGS

Aha. Now it makes sense why it's been so long since I've posted a movie review. Not that anybody's mentioned it.
I decided that I'd read the whole series, Hobbit to ROTK, and watch the extended editions of the first two movies and the one in the theater. And then I'd review the whole darned thing comparing the two in a very long review.

If you want a short review, here it is: The books are much better than the films. Sort of.

THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RINGS

It set the tone of the experience to find that the first fifteen minutes of the film equals the first one hundred and fifty pages of the book. I knew that the books would take me much longer than the films.

And by the way, if you want to get through the books, I have one piece of advice for you: Geek out. If you're not able to geek out on something, you should probably go find out if Dr Phil has some books out (I'm sure he probably does.)

I thought the Shire was captured really well, but I knew I was in trouble early. One of the biggest problems I have in getting through the trilogy of books is that my favorite character appears and the beginning of the first book and is only mentioned once more at the end of the third book. My favorite character is Tom Bombadil. And when I'm halfway through the umpteenth preparing for battle scene and Geroror the son of Appleby comes in to deliver a message from Elililen I don't even have the luxury of thinking "when's that Bombadil fellow going to show up again?"
That will be my last joke about the long names and battle scenes. We all know they're there and we've all heard the jokes before.
I like Tom Bombadil because he's the one character in the whole series who is a question mark. He talks to trees and they listen, he gathers flowers, he's got lots of power but he only uses it to live in his little piece of land, he jumps around on mountaintops and sings, and the ring has no power over him nor is it of any interest to him. It's never explained who he is or where he comes from. Everything else in the series is explained more than you could ever thought to have asked. There are academic essays published on "Who or What is Tom Bombadil?"
Bombadil doesn't appear nor is he even mentioned in the films. Probably a decision because he doesn't push the story forward in any way, but there seems to be two reactions to Tom Bombadil. One is frustration because he doesn't push the story forward in any way. The other is delight because he doesn't push the story forward in any way. I'm in the latter bunch. I suspect Peter Jackson was in the former group.
Having said all that, I'll get out of the way right here that I think that these are amazing films for what they are. They're an epic in the grand sweeping opera tradition. If you’re not too jaded and cosmopolitan to appreciate such things, they’re bound to be among the greatest films ever. I think that other film makers could have made much worse films and few if any could have done better. I don't begrudge the differences from the books because first of all I don't really care that much and second of all the books are not the films. They're a separate work of art by different artists based on a story by one artist. People who say otherwise should, in my opinion, probably relax.
One of the coolest things about the films is that they cast some of the greatest living actors none of which were superstars. Elijah Wood was the closest and Orlando Bloom has become a caricature of himself since, but that's not the point and not who I'm talking about. In the first half hour we get scenes between Ian Holm and Ian McKellen, two actors I could watch by themselves for nine hours. There's also John Rys-Davies, one of my favorite character actors. And who knew Sean Astin could act! Good lord. He impressed the crap out of me. I guess he just needed the right vehicle. Christopher Lee bellows out one of his finest performances ever. And I was exposed to great actors I'd never seen before like Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan. And I got to look at Cate Blanchett who I think is possibly our most beautiful living actress and who makes great career decisions almost like a female, Australian, less flashy, less bombastic version of Johnny Depp.
There were some stumbles. I personally thought that Viggo Mortensen fell into a trap that many American actors tend to fall into. American actors often see things like Shakespeare or epics and think, "This is such a giant and great piece of work that I need to have a giant performance that bestrides the earth like a titan." And then he gets on screen next to Ian McKellen who is a naturalistic and terribly low key actor and Mortensen looks pompous to me. Rather he looks so over the top that you'd much rather look at McKellen. Actually, the best way of describing it might be that he's got a contrived and dishonest emotional life that he assigns to the character and seems to feel he needs to hide behind rather than just being himself and reacting naturally. And I won't even get into talking about Liv Tyler. Needless to say the overemphasized love story fell flat for me.
I won't go into too much more detail because there was so much material. I thought they handled the ring very well in the film, the sound design, the voices, the shadow world that shows up when one puts on the ring. Oh, but there's one more gripe I want to get out here. I thought that they missed an important element of the elves as a race. In the books the elves are laughing at the hobbits often and singing all the livelong day. In the film they are the most stoic of all the races. What's up with that? I hate to say it, but I think it's a sad commentary on out culture that the filmmakers assumed that we, as an audience, wouldn't be able to handle elves dancing about and singing. Perhaps too unmanly? I was disappointed. Where's the fun?


THE TWO TOWERS

One of the most heartening things about these films for me was that they were the first films I've seen where they really used CGI to move the films forwards rather than using it to wave their arms and yell "Hey Look At Us! We Can Do CGI!" The best example, and the best performance in all of these films, is Gollum. I knew of Andy Serkis from a silly part in the Gilbert and Sullivan bio pic Topsy Turvy which if you haven’t seen you’re totally missing out and I feel sorry for you. Serkis and the people who pasted a CGI character over him produced not only one of the best performances in the films, but possibly one of the best on screen performances I've ever seen. The schizophrenic scene blew me through the wall.
There was also Treebeard in this film. Another favorite of mine from the books. I liked the look of the Ents in the films, but I was a little offended by how they treated them. It came off like they were poking fun at them. They put in a lot of eye rolling and impatience at their speeches when in the books they're a venerable race that moves very slowly. In the books the hobbits have great respect for the ents. It's a beautiful thing in the books that the ents shun haste and move like the trees. In the films it's kind of a butt of a joke. And then they don't decide to fight until their lives and their trees are threatened (or destroyed) which makes them look bad too. Like they can’t make a decision on their own and need a fire lit under them before they’ll move. Phooey.
The other person I'll comment on in this film (which, by the way, was my favorite of the three movies. I thought they really nailed the dark, exhausting tone of the books in this one and they didn't happy it up much) is Theoden. He was my favorite human in the book and the only character in all of this that I liked more after the performance. Bernard Hill is a master thespian. He brought such an honesty to the part. It's a part that could have been one of the more boring parts of the films if they'd cast the wrong person. Bernard Hill let you in on all of the frailty and more human aspects of Theoden. God bless him. Long may he wave.

RETURN OF THE KING

I know I'm pretty much alone on this, but I thought this was the weakest of the three films. The theatrical releases seemed to degenerate as far as the editing went. That is to say it became very obvious that they were cutting them for time and that the "real film" would be on the extended DVD release. It wasn't so bad in Two Towers, but I really felt like ROTK was only about half the film it's going to be on DVD. And I felt cheated. So bear in mind that this review is a reaction to the theatrical release. I won't get to see the extended for another nine months. Ten if I get it for Christmas.
Also, I thought this film contained the weakest link of all three films. I thought the dude what played Denethor really dropped the ball. First of all, Denethor was crazy and mean from the beginning. There was no character arch. In the book he's a strong man with too much power, but we can sympathize because it could happen to any of us if we got too powerful. So there's a lesson there. But in the film he's just a cruel man who instantly feels that any kind of fighting is futile and that mad despair is his only refuge. No lesson there.
My friend Rob agreed with me on this, but he kept talking about it in terms of Peter Jackson making Denethor into this one dimensional figure. I thought it was totally, blindingly obviously an actor's decision. A quick Google reveals that the actor is John Noble and proves again that somebody with an English or Australian accent does not presuppose quality. Which is another common mistake that Americans make.
Now, just for kicks let's try and discuss the end without spoiling it for anybody. First of all, Gollum’s last scene is one of the most breathtaking things I’ve ever seen projected on a screen.
Christopher Lee doesn't appear in this film which is really strange because it seemed to me that Saruman was hardly in the narrative of the first two books. He's mentioned a lot, but he doesn't really appear until the end of the second book. In the third book he's got some really big and important scenes.
I've heard people say that they put a bunch of happy into the ending. I'm not sure I agree. I thought on the return home they cut the unpleasant bits for time. They do cut the great Shire scene that establishes what the hobbits have learned from their adventure. I don't know. It's one of the reasons people should strap themselves down and read the book, but it's also another example of the film being a separate work of art from the book.
I've also heard people say that there are many false endings in the film. People who say this seem to be the people who haven't read the books. Look, after the climax there's over a hundred more pages. Tolkien’s endings are beyond tidy, they’re waterproof. If anything Peter Jackson sped the endings along briskly.

So there you go. There's my reaction to the last month of reading and film watching. The extras on the DVD are often more fun than the actual films. I learned a lot about high high high budget film making. I learned that John Howe is one of the coolest nerds walking the earth. And there's a lot more laughs on the extra bits than in the actual films.

So now as far as really dense works I've read Lord of the Rings, Goethe's Faust, Beowulf, Les Miserables (the complete 1300 page novel), 75% of Shakespeare's works, the minor prophets of the Bible, and Naked Lunch among others. Some of the more difficult works in the western canon. It gives me hope that someday, if the time is right, I might eventually get through Ulysses. And maybe Ezra Pound’s Cantos.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Once again I apologize for the scanty postings this week. As stated before, things might get a little spotty until I get settled in up north. But stay tuned because tomorrow I'll post a monster review.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Ragged, tired and sweaty am I. Today my mother, who works in a retirement home, had me come over to do a job that happens once a year. All of the files of the deceased residents from all of the different departments of the home come together and have to be sorted, alphabetized, and shelved. They pay me ten bucks an hour on the day I do this job and, besides, I really had nothing better to do. So it was a day of moving heavy heavy boxes up high and down low.

That's about all that's going on. The next two days I plan on taking it easy because this Sunday night the trailer that I'm using to move is coming. Once that comes I expect things to kick into high. I do my taxes on Monday. I have until Thursday night to load up the trailer. Moving out a week from this Friday.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Sorry for the delays in email responses and no postings. I'm kinda swamped right now. More soon.