Another pic from my journeys through England: Khazad-dûm! This is a door of a church in the Cotswolds village of Stow-on-the-Wold, which some folks think may have inspired Tolkien — who was based in nearby Oxford — when he was writing The Lord of the Rings.
The first person who uses any aspect of this flick to justify the American debacle in Iraq is getting a swat across the nose with a copy of *My Pet Goat.* Which King Leonides of Sparta does not sit reading while his country is threatened and attacked.
Words like ‘meditation’ and ‘contemplation’ may seem inappropriate, at first glance, because the standard hack-movie-critic phrases like ‘roller-coaster ride’ followed by multiple exclamation points don’t even come close to doing justice to the heart-revving adrenaline rush Jackson has crafted. Two words: dino stampede. I probably should have put my head down between my knees and taken a series of long, deep breaths to recover from that early Skull Island setpiece, except it would have meant taking my eyes from the screen, and there was no way in hell I could have done that.
The words I keep coming back to, the ones that seem to fit this most astonishing of films best, are ‘terrible’ and ‘awful.’ The old-fashioned senses of the words are what I’m talking about: Peter Jackson has given us a grandly eloquent film that inspires more terror and more awe than anything I’ve seen in a long time. I can compare my reaction to it only with the moviegoing experiences of my childhood, when the hugeness, the all-encompassing-ness of movies in all ways — emotionally, viscerally, visually, aurally — first astounded me, when ‘Night on Bald Mountain’ and Darth Vader’s stormtroopers horrified me to such a degree that I can still feel it.
Another year of really, really crappy movies was saved, in the end, by a Bohemian storm, a magical ring, a robot boy, and a lonely mademoiselle. A feeling of the otherworldly permeates every movie on my best-of list this year, even the one documentary. And the weird thing is that most of these films were … more…
Other critics have already dragged out the $10 words to describe this film — some of the ones I’d chose myself are ‘seductive,’ ‘masterful,’ ‘majestic,’ and ‘elegant’ — and you must believe what they say because they say True Things. But the one thing that strikes me most about LOTR: FOTR, besides its seductively masterful and majestic elegance, is simply how utterly right it is.
And they don’t come much geekier or more touchstony than 1975’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail, not only damn near one of the funniest movies ever made but certainly one of the most quotable… at least for us endlessly self-referential types for whom all of life is but a never ceasing trail of opportunities to show off the ridiculous capability we have for retaining movie, computer, and science fiction trivia.
Can it be a coincidence that both of the big new flicks this Memorial Day weekend — the kickoff for Hollywood’s first summer movie season of the twenty-first century — are basically Hong Kong action movies? The people who think about these kinds of things — current-events journalists, mainly — have already predicted that if the 1900s were the American century, the 2000s may well be the Asian century… but they were speaking economically and politically. I guess it’s probably inevitable that Asia would start to hold some cultural sway in the West, too.
Honestly, I’d pay cash money to see either Neeson or Ewan McGregor on his own read from the phone book, and the two of them together is almost too delicious to bear. His Obi-Wan unfortunately doesn’t have an awful lot to do, but McGregor wastes no opportunity to be brilliant, reigning in a young man’s impetuousness with a Jedi-in-training’s emotional control — that these two opposing forces are at war within him is clear throughout the film.