December 31, 2003

2003 Year-End Wrap-Up

My Top Five for 2003: Finding Nemo, Seabiscuit, The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Big Fish, and Master & Commander: Far Side of the World.

December 17, 2003

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

While The Divine Miss Em is going to the Lord of the Rings Marathon with Josh, Peter, and Angus in Worcester tomorrow night, I will be simultaneously attending The Return of the King at a 12:10am show in Randolph. I can't go Wednesday night as I have another obligation (all the evening shows are sold out already anyway). I almost cry with awe/joy at the Return of the King commercials, so I am sure the drama will make me weepy. Best wishes to Em and her Mini-Fellowship: May their 11 hour mission be memorable, in all the right ways. LOTR3

Tuesday Morning, December 16, 2003: The King Is Returning Tonight! The reviews are beginning to come in. By this time tomorrow, I will let you know if the movie met my impossibly high expectations. The fact that I got shivers from the TV spot, and almost cried during the theatrical trailer, means the whole shebang has a lot to live up to.

As I mentioned yesterday, I have a ticket to a 12:10am show at Randolph tonight, so after work, I'm headed home to feed and dress myself. I am considering taking what Em calls a "disco nap" (an afternoon nap in preparation for a long night). My receipt for my ticket says the movie is "The evening of Tuesday December 13th, 12:10am". I guess this is their odd way of clearing up any confusion over the date of the showing: Technically I am going to the movie on Wednesday...10 minutes into Wednesday, anyway. The theaters were also smart to start the shows at 12:05am, 12:10am, et cetera, instead of 12:00 midnight, because no one knows whether midnight is 12am or 12pm.

Return Of The King Now Playing; All Other Cinema Ceases To Matter I guess I'll go join the seminary now", a tearful Martin Scorsese reports

Tuesday Evening, December 16, 2003: Showcase Cinemas Randolph.
I never thought I'd say this, but whoever handled the crowds at the theater did a fantastic job. They seemed to reserve at least one more theater than they technically needed to hold everyone who bought a ticket (I think there were six theaters showing The Return of the King). They herded everyone into TensaBarrier pens (you could almost hear the mooing and bleating). Then, they filled a theater to mostly-full (the front two rows were vacant) and then started directing the next pen to the next vacant theater. It didn't matter which showtime or theater number was printed on your ticket. Long-story-short: I sat exactly where I wanted to, and I had an empty seat next to me.

The best movie of the year by a long trebuchet shot, and the finest battle sequences ever filmed. The movie was as good as a non-mind-reading movie director could make. What I mean is, one key sequence was not shot the way I imagined it, and he made several choices that I would not have, but Peter Jackson is a magician and a hobbit, not a clairvoyant. However, the second-most critical scene was shot exactly the way I imagined: possibly the scariest monster sequence I have ever seen. My right thumb is beyond the nail, down to the bone thanks to Shelob.

Some critics have complained that the dénouement is waayyy to long. I disagree: when you're dealing with an epic story, it takes more than 30 seconds to wrap things up. I am a firm believer in not telling audiences too much, and I love ambiguity, but there is no place for ambiguity in the end of The Lord Of The Rings.

SIDE NOTE: I still haven't figured out one possible gaffe-- How does Shelob stab/poison Frodo through his special Elven mithril vest? We see the orcs examine his possessions, including the vest, while he's comatose. I guess it's possible that the end of the stinger is so sharp, that it would pass between the links of the vest?

My Father Reviews The Return Of The King

I'm sorry to say we were disappointed. The special effects are wonderful, but the acting was wooden, and a lot of the details were strange (e.g. -- in the days of swords and castles, you couldn't make large holes in the wall with a ballista or catapult, or even, in 1812, with big cannon, and, if you could, why bother to break down the gates?

You wouldn't even think about charging the elephant beasts with light cavalry. Cavalry is effective against infantry because of its shock value, as the first charge proved -- you can ride through and over an infantry line that an opposing infantry couldn't touch. You wouldn't, however, charge the elephants -- you'd use the speed and mobility of the light cavalry to harass them from the rear. As Legolas showed, subtlety wins over them, not brute force. This is not just Dad having his usual suspension of disbelief issues -- I'm happy to suspend disbelief and have the dead walking, Mordor drowning in lava, and everything else -- but I don't see a dramatic necessity for being stupid with real technology -- you simply wouldn't build castle walls that could be knocked down by the first shot from an existing weapon.

I also missed the whole scouring of the Shire at the end -- the movie seems to believe that the Shire managed to go through these difficult times with absolutely no changes - the book did it much better. Also disappointing was the Merry/Pippin comedy team. While the book shows them as a little impulsive, they were never the low comedy they become in the movie.

So, I will be surprised if it does much at the Oscars, except for the ancillary awards. Certainly none of the acting awards; while Elijah Wood did a creditable job, I can't see the Academy giving Best Actor to a Hobbit, and none of the other people deserve it.

All I'll say in response to Dad's points on the technology of warfare is: Drama is more important than accuracy. I will agree that the scouring of the Shire would have been good to include, but once you add that, you're increasing the length of the film to four hours, and that's too long. Plus, people who haven't read the books are expecting the movie to end promptly after the ring is destroyed. All the complaints about the multiple endings are proof it's already too long for restless viewers who haven't read the books. Remember, the films have to be entertaining movies first, and faithful adaptations second.

On the Merry/Pippin issue, I thought the scene on the toppled wall of Isengard, with the silly welcomes, and Gimli's ire, was right on target. I remember laughing out loud at that passage in the book- all that running in Two Towers, all for nothing!

December 12, 2003

Scrooged

I have always loved this movie, and when I get a chance to see it on TV, it's always so...segmented. When I saw it on AMC in 2015 it was chopped up with commercials and cut to ribbons to make it shorter too! My love for Scrooged deserves a theatrical exhibition. When Emily and I went to see Love Actually at the AMC Fenway, I noticed that the theater was showing Scrooged at midnight that night, so I stuck around afterwards and caught the midnight show.
2015 Update: Watching it again on AMC, I finally noticed that Frank gives Claire Ginsu steak knives for Christmas not only because he's a guy, but also because Ginsu knives are advertised on TV and all Frank does is watch TV.
2016 Update: I finally bought Scrooged (on Amazon) because the TV version cuts out stuff, and it seems silly to rent it once for $4 when I could buy it for $7. This time I noticed:
When the Ghost of Christmas Past takes Frank back to The Frisbee Show on the night Claire breaks up with him, there are several shots of Murray silently realizing where he is and a sinking, sad, regretful look crosses his face. The first-time viewer does not know yet that 1970s Frank is about to let the love of his life slip away, but these moments show off Murray's quiet, subtle performance in a movie where he mostly plays big for laughs.

Love Actually

loveactuallyRomantic and emotional. All of my favorite English actors in one movie. Rewatching the movie in 2015, I really appreciated what an amazing job Emma Thompson does in her role, especially when she has a mini-meltdown in the bedroom (set to Joni Mitchell's "Two Sides Now") and again when she confronts her husband (Alan Rickman) - when she asks him "should I stay or should I go?" the look on her face as she waits for his response is a powerful mix of anger and sadness.
(November 29, 2003: Loews Church St, Cambridge, and again on December 12, 2003: AMC Fenway)

December 11, 2003

93 and 94: Whitfield Roommates


I composed, burned, and packaged these two mixes at the same time.
The Cover: I used a photo of my girlfriend and her two roommates for the cover, because they looked vaguely like a lo-fi indie rock trio. I gave the two mixes titles from random quotes of the week which I have totally forgotten.
Mix 93: Critical Darlings of Your Choice
  1. Supercollider | Fountains of Wayne
  2. Planet Telex | Radiohead
  3. Sweet Emotion | Aerosmith
  4. School Of Rock | From the School of Rock movie soundtrack.
  5. Sink The Pink | This AC/DC song is here because the guitar riff on the SoR song sounds so similar.
  6. In The Street | Big Star
  7. The Banana Splits Song | From a CD collection of covers of Saturday morning children's cartoons.
  8. Set You Free | The first Black Keys song I ever heard, from the School Of Rock soundtrack; I loved them from the very beginning. "Who is this band that sounds like Jimi Hendrix?"
  9. So Whatcha Want | Beastie Boys
  10. I'm An Adult Now | An old college buddy of mine claims to have been childhood penpals with Moe Berg, the lead singer of The Pursuit of Happiness.
  11. Gentlemen | When I was interning at WFNX in 1993-94, I met Afghan Whigs lead singer Greg Dulli.
  12. Love Comes And Goes | My special edition DVD of Almost Famous came with a four-track CD of Sweetwater songs.
  13. I'll Wait | Van Halen
  14. God Put a Smile Upon Your Face | Coldplay
  15. Guns Of Brixton | The Clash
  16. Burning Down The House | The Talking Heads Live at the Pantages Theatre, Hollywood December 1983
  17. Thorns | The Thorns
  18. Photograph | Def Leppard
Mix 94: Wild, Unexpected, and Altogether Memorable
The same cover photo, just cropped slightly differently.
  1. Good Vibrations | The Beach Boys
  2. Running Out Of Time | Joan Osbourne
  3. Mississippi | Sheryl Crow
  4. Gotta Serve Somebody | This Bob Dylan song, from his "re-born Christian" phase, had been recently featured on the closing credits of The Sopranos.
  5. Go West | Liz Phair
  6. Two of Us | The Beatles
  7. Red-Eyed and Blue | Wilco
  8. Maria's Beautiful Mess | Ellis Paul
  9. Angeles | Elliot Smith
  10. Please Forgive Me | David Gray
  11. A Sort of Homecoming | U2
  12. Clocks | Coldplay
  13. Still Be Around | Uncle Tupelo
  14. I Started A Joke | The Wallflowers covering the Bee Gees on the Zoolander soundtrack.
  15. I Can't Go For That (No Can Do) | Hall & Oates
  16. Valley Winter Song | Fountains of Wayne
  17. Sara | Fleetwood Mac
  18. Tangerine | Led Zeppelin