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Friday 21 December 2001
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring fared well in nominations for the Golden Globe Awards, given by the 90-or-so members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. LOTR picked up nominations for best picture (drama), director Peter Jackson, original score by Howard Shore, and original song by Enya -- the same categories as its nominations by the Broadcast Film Critics Association (see below).
A.I. Artificial Intelligence is nominated for best supporting actor Jude Law, director Steven Spielberg, and original score by John Williams.
Mulholland Drive is eligible for best picture, director David Lynch, screenplay by David Lynch, and original score by Angelo Badalamenti.
The Others is cited for Nicole Kidman as best actress in a drama, while Shrek has one nomination for best picture (musical or comedy)
Reviews for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring are remarkably positive, except for perhaps significantly that by Roger Ebert, usually a partisan of SF and fantasy. (Ebert named Dark City his favorite film of the 1998, and
Being John Malkovich his favorite of 1999.)
He gave Harry Potter four stars; he gives LOTR only three.
...the Hobbits themselves have been pushed off center stage. If the books are about brave little creatures who enlist powerful men and wizards to help them in a dangerous crusade, the movie is about powerful men and wizards who embark on a dangerous crusade, and take along the Hobbits. That is not true of every scene or episode, but by the end "Fellowship" adds up to more of a sword and sorcery epic than a realization of the more naive and guileless vision of J. R. R. Tolkien.
That "Fellowship of the Ring" doesn't match my imaginary vision of Middle-earth is my problem, not yours.
Tuesday 18 December 2001
Best of 2001
Not only are advance notices for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring good, the film is already being cited among the best of the year.
- Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum names it the best film of the year, ranked first on her annual Top Ten list. (Further down her list are A.I. Artificial Intelligence at #5, and Shrek at #9.)
- LOTR also leads Peter Travers's Hollywood Top 10 list in Rolling Stone magazine. (Further down: Shrek at #4, Vanilla Sky #5, and A.I. #9.) Memento and Mulholland Drive lead his Indie Top 10 list.
- LOTR is one of 10 best picture nominees for the Broadcast Film Critics Association awards, along with Shrek and Mulholland Drive, and it's also nominated for director Peter Jackson (one of three nominees), composer Howard Shore, and song (by Enya). A.I. has three nominations for these awards.
- The first annual American Film Institute awards, chosen by jury, include LOTR, Memento, Mulholland Drive, and Shrek among the 10 best movie nominees. LOTR is also nominated for production designer Grant Major, digital effects artist Jim Rygiel, and composer Howard Shore. A.I. and Mulholland Drive also have a total of four nominations each.
- Howard Shore's music for LOTR won the Los Angeles Film Critics award for best score.
- The Internet Movie Database's Lord of the Rings page shows a weighted average of 9.7 out of 10, with almost 1500 votes entered, enough to rank it at #53 on the list of Top 250 movies.
- In other results, Owen Gleiberman's Top Ten list in EW puts Memento first, From Hell at #6, and Shrek at #7. And he puts Laura Croft: Tomb Raider fifth on his Worst Movies list.
- Mulholland Drive was named Best Picture of the year by the Boston Film Critics.
- Richard Schickel's Best of 2001 list in Time Magazine puts Shrek at #1, while Richard Corliss [scroll down] puts Mulholland Drive at #5, Monsters, Inc. #6, and LOTR #8.
Of the many articles about Lord of the Rings, two of note are this article by director Peter Jackson about the challenges of filming, and this article about the challanges faced by Howard Shore to score the film. Jackson:
There were 1,300 people employed on the crew. At the height of this insanity we had seven units shooting multiple elements simultaneously for the three different movies that make up "Lord of the Rings": "The Fellowship of the Ring," "The Two Towers" and "The Return of the King." The "video village" was my constant companion on the set. This consisted of a bank of monitors relaying flickering images of indifferent quality, from second units scattered all around the country. Most of our shoot was spent on location in wildly isolated places, and we were completely at the mercy of New Zealand's temperamental weather. There were days when we could not get to a location because of unseasonal snow. There were other days when roads were washed away and sets simply disappeared in overnight floods.
[As] director Jackson pointed out, within the Tolkien books are "many songs, many poems," and that the score might be a way to utilize them. Co-writer and Tolkien scholar Philippa Boyens adapted some original Tolkien material and drew on her knowledge of Middle-earth lore to create new texts that Shore could then set to music.
The result is something for Tolkien buffs to study for years to come. Most of the choral material in "The Lord of the Rings" is in languages that Tolkien made up: two forms of Elvish (the "ancient" Quenya and the "newer" Sindarin, heard in Lothlorien), Dwarvish (the chanting heard in the Moria sequence), Black Speech (an evil tongue associated with the Ring) and Adunaic (the "ancient speech of men," associated with the ringwraiths).
This article examines Hollywood's tendency to assume that people who are geniuses must be miserable; it makes the rest of us feel better about ourselves. At least it's replaced the cliche of the mad scientist.
There has been a frenzy of projects featuring such characters recently, and there's more to come. There were the films "Shine" (tormented pianist), "The Luzhin Defence" (tormented chess master), "Pollock" (tormented painter), and "Good Will Hunting" (tormented working-class kid); the biographies "The Professor and the Madman" (tormented wordsmith) and "A Beautiful Mind" (tormented mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr.); and the Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning play "Proof" (tormented mathematician's daughter). Upcoming are "Enigma" (tormented code-breaker) and an adaptation of "A Beautiful Mind," starring Oscar winner Russell Crowe as Nash.
There is also something inherently undemocratic, or at least unearned, about geniuses—all men are supposed to be created equal, which may explain why they are often knocked down a peg on-screen. Of course, there's nothing democratic about good looks or inherited wealth, but it seems more socially acceptable to find these attributes attractive, not offensive, at least in
this culture. New York magazine critic Peter Rainer attributes this propensity to American anti-intellectualism. He cites as Hollywood examples "Searching for Bobby Fischer," "Little Man Tate," and Matt Damon's gifted character in "Good Will Hunting." Damon might be smart, but it doesn't do him any good.
Tuesday 11 December 2001
Advance buzz for The Lord of the Rings is very positive. Lisa Schwarzbaum in Entertainment Weekly (Dec. 14, 2001) gives it an A:
...I open by saying that I have never read the fantasy series by the tweedy British scholar J.R.R. Tolkien, the modern lit classic known as The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
And I follow quickly by saying that The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is thrillinga great picture, a triumphant picture, a joyfully conceived work of cinema that (based on this first installment, with two more ready for release in the next two years) would appear to embrace Tolkien's classic with love and delight, and reward both adepts and novices with the highest compliment of all: an intelligence and artistry as a movie independent of blind fidelity to the page.
David Ansen of Newsweek also comes from a "Tolkien-free zone". From his review:
The movie works. It has real passion, real emotion, real terror, and a tactile sense of evil that is missing in that other current movie dealing with wizards, wonders and wickedness. Jackson’s fierce, headlong movie takes high-flying risks: it wears its earnestness, and its heart, on its muddy, blood-streaked sleeve. The actors look deep into each other’s eyes and swear oaths in quasi-Shakespearean language that could, were it not for the utter conviction with which it is played, topple over into the ludicrous.
Meanwhile, there's much occasion to look back at Tolkien's books (see Field Inspections), such as this analysis by Sam Hood in New Statesman comparing Tolkien to the "Star Wars" saga...
The story is the same. The disparate, hugely outgunned forces of good fight a hopeless battle against the gigantic evil empire. The unlikely young hero, Frodo Baggins or Luke Skywalker, is tutored by the old bearded magician, Gandalf or Obi Wan Kenobi, both of whom die and return. The hero invades the inner sanctum of the dark forces, Mordor or the Death Star, and destroys it. In both, a mystical power - the Ring or the Force - is capable of good or evil.
But Hood finds many parallels between Middle-Earth and the decline of the British empire
Beyond the echoes of the Second World War, The Lord of the Rings is permeated by another strikingly British element - an insidious pessimism about the future. There is a continual sense of Middle-earth as a place in decline. The elves, the incarnation of a better, older time, are having less and less to do with us. Soon they will leave Middle-earth altogether. The ents, the spirits of the trees and nature, are growing older and will soon vanish, too.
Peter Jackson has talked about his desire that his cinematic version of the books should incorporate their sadness and sense of loss. He suggests that a Hollywood director might not have been able to cope with such nuances.
Best of 2001
The first critics' film awards for 2001, by the National Board of Review, include Steve Spielberg's A.I. Artificial Intelligence among its Top 10, which is led by Moulin Rouge. The Lord of the Rings had three awards, a special achievement honor for director Peter Jackson, a production design award, and one for supporting actress Cate Blanchett (for roles as well in The Shipping News and The Man Who Cried). The award for Best animated feature went to Shrek.
November Media Refractions