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Jackson movies as film art

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  • David Lenander
    I think you re [David B?] offering your judgement here, which is all very well. But I think you re also offering it as a largely accepted or established
    Message 1 of 6 , Sep 4, 2007
      I think you're [David B?] offering your judgement here, which is all
      very well. But I think you're also offering it as a largely accepted
      or established critical opinion. I don't think that's true, maybe
      apart from Tolkien scholars or some such group. The films have been
      written about and reviewed and honored by the Motion Picture Academy
      as superb works of film art on a much broader basis than just their
      "technical and administrative achievement."

      I think it's only fair to recognize that many critics and reviewers
      seem to honestly think that, just as there are (??!!) apparently many
      serious, critical readers who are either blind to flaws I see in _The
      Amber Spyglass_ (for instance) or see these as minor flaws in a great
      work of literary art.


      On Sep 4, 2007, at 5:15 AM, mythsoc@yahoogroups.com wrote:

      > They're not even great films on their own merits, divorced from
      > judging them as Tolkien adaptations. In that capacity they're merely
      > pretty good, but nowhere in the category of "superb works of art"
      > as films
      > go. What is superb is Jackson's technical and administrative
      > achievement
      > in large-scale film-making, which is unprecedented on its scale,
      > but that's
      > not the same thing.

      David Lenander
      d-lena@...
      2095 Hamline Ave. N.
      Roseville, MN 55113

      651-292-8887
      http://www.umn.edu/~d-lena/RIVENDELL.html




      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • David Bratman
      ... Tolkien scholars are the ones best capable of judging the films in their capacity as adaptations of Tolkien, which is the capacity I was discussing. And
      Message 2 of 6 , Sep 5, 2007
        At 12:09 AM 9/5/2007 -0500, David Lenander wrote:

        >I think you're [David B?] offering your judgement here, which is all
        >very well. But I think you're also offering it as a largely accepted
        >or established critical opinion. I don't think that's true, maybe
        >apart from Tolkien scholars or some such group.

        Tolkien scholars are the ones best capable of judging the films in their
        capacity as adaptations of Tolkien, which is the capacity I was discussing.
        And despite John Rateliff, the consensus of opinion is very clear.

        >The films have been
        >written about and reviewed and honored by the Motion Picture Academy
        >as superb works of film art on a much broader basis than just their
        >"technical and administrative achievement."

        In other words, they won a bunch of Oscars. David, there is not a serious
        film critic on this planet who accepts Oscars as a measure of superb
        achievement in the cinematic art. Most films that win several or more
        Oscars are generally considered pretty good films, and some are even
        considered great, but the Oscar itself as proof of artistic greatness?
        That's ridiculous. And the claims in print that they're the greatest films
        ever has only appeared in hyperthyroid film reviews. More sober appraisals
        of Jackson by film critics have accepted them as good movies, but "superb"
        would not be an accurate adjective for their description.

        I've seen the argument that you make before, but previously only from
        frantic people jumping up and down in outrage that anyone would dare to
        criticize their favorite moooovie. You shouldn't put yourself in such company.

        >I think you're over-emphasizing Jackson's impact. While the movie
        >might not lead you to read LOTR, isn't it possible that someone else
        >might have persuaded you that these films were not representative and
        >you should really read the books? Has the Earthsea television series
        >had a similar impact on Le Guin's reception? (You've had a lot less
        >to say about that dramatization, at least here--is it less bad? Or
        >merely less influential?)

        The Earthsea comparison is easily answered. The Earthsea film did not make
        a big splash. It did not receive mountains of unsolicited as well as
        engineered publicity. It did not sell trinkets at Burger King. It did not
        win Oscars, your designated proof of film achievement. Like Bakshi and
        Rankin-Bass's LOTRs, it can be ignored.

        As for the "someone else" who might persuade viewers that Jackson is "not
        representative" of Tolkien: who is that "someone else" going to be, if not
        me, or people who think as I do? Which makes it even more ironic that you
        then go on to say:

        >The other thing about your comment that you have this responsibiliity
        >to the younger generation to keep them from being driven from Tolkien
        >by Jackson seems a little overwrought. IF you have some
        >responsibility, it might be more along the lines of communicating
        >your enjoyment and love of the books, don't take on a burden of
        >combating these films. That may incidentally come up, I suppose, in
        >the service of the former, but isn't it possible that some people
        >just like both Tolkien & Jackson, even if you don't, just as some may
        >like both Tolkien and Marion Zimmer Bradley or JRRT and CS Lewis or
        >JRRT and Eric Rohmer films?

        I have absolutely no objection to people enjoying Jackson's films, and I
        have repeatedly said so. Heck, I enjoyed Jackson's films myself, and have
        repeatedly said so. That's not the issue. The issue is what "may
        incidentally come up" in the course of explaining Tolkien. It has
        incidentally come up in the course of this discussion, so I'm discussing it.

        >Only vehement and continual warnings against Jackson seems a bit
        >much--I think that the books will survive and continue to be read
        >whether the films are mostly forgotten or still celebrated in 50
        >years as great cinema art.

        And when the films are forgotten, or when everyone treats them as
        independent works of art quite distinct from Tolkien, then I will stop
        criticizing them. Not before.

        >I can't recall what Stimpson had to say, but I do retain some
        >memories of Wilson's famous essay/review, from reading it 30 years
        >ago or so. It was not ignorant, and though of course I disagree with
        >it on many points, I've always admired his insights about book 4,
        >Frodo & Sam's journey in Mordor, and I also admire his snarky but
        >skilled attack on the books. It's funny and clever. It's not
        >ignorant, even if it's unfair or careless in part.

        I've read it a lot more recently than that, and it is profoundly ignorant
        of Tolkien, "willfully blind" as Merlin puts it. Wilson claims to have
        read the entire LOTR aloud to his children, but his descriptions of it are
        so inaccurate and unperceptive that some have concluded that he was lying.
        I give Wilson more credit than that: I think that he was so allergic to the
        whole idea of a secondary world fantasy (in the Tolkien essay he mentions
        Cabell favorably, but read his essay on Cabell and you'll see the pattern
        of his allergy) that he was unable to retain any of the book in mind by the
        time he sat down to write about it.
      • dbltall42
        So, if we are discussing whether the Jackson movies are good movies , well-made film art, without consideration of the source material at all, what is it that
        Message 3 of 6 , Sep 6, 2007
          So, if we are discussing whether the Jackson movies are "good movies",
          well-made film art, without consideration of the source material at
          all, what is it that makes them good as movies?

          There are many good elements in them, gorgeous scenery, great visuals,
          talented actors, but what keeps them from being great movies for me is
          the heavy-handed attempts to manipulate the audience emotionally.

          This may be idiosyncratic to me, but I kept being jarred out the movie
          by consciously thinking "Oh, the director is trying to make me feel
          scared" or "I'm supposed to feel sad here." Rather than actually
          feeling the emotion that was meant to be evoked, I was consciously
          aware of the crude way that I felt I was being manipulated. This was
          noticeable to me in all those scenes of whimpering women and children
          intercut with advancing orcs, the scene with Denethor's poor table
          manners intercut with Faramir falling swoopily, the Theoden and
          Wormtongue scenes, the scenes involving the Eye and Frodo swooning,
          and many other scenes throughout all three films.

          For my tastes, the films lack subtlety. I felt like I was being hit
          over the head with whatever concept Jackson was presenting. They were
          certainly visually stunning, but they were not, by my standards, great
          movies, even standing alone without the source material.

          It is probably the case that different people appreciate different
          things in movies, just as we do in books.

          Mariette
        • Croft, Janet B.
          Mariette said: This may be idiosyncratic to me, but I kept being jarred out the movie by consciously thinking Oh, the director is trying to make me feel
          Message 4 of 6 , Sep 6, 2007
            Mariette said:

            This may be idiosyncratic to me, but I kept being jarred out the movie
            by consciously thinking "Oh, the director is trying to make me feel
            scared" or "I'm supposed to feel sad here." Rather than actually
            feeling the emotion that was meant to be evoked, I was consciously
            aware of the crude way that I felt I was being manipulated. ... For my
            tastes, the films lack subtlety. I felt like I was being hit
            over the head with whatever concept Jackson was presenting.



            **

            Exactly! That's what I was trying to get at, in part, in my paper on
            "anticipating" and "flattening" in _Tolkien on Film_. Tolkien's writing
            is understated; he doesn't hit you over the head with piles of dead
            bodies in Moria, as it were, but builds up slow subtle tension, so you
            almost don't notice you're on the edge of your seat. Think Hitchcock,
            not Romero. Jackson makes it all so obvious exactly how he wants the
            audience to see the scene, rather than letting their own imagination
            people the shadows with unknown terrors. Someone once commented that
            Jackson doesn't seem to trust words (speaking about his way of dumbing
            down dialogue); it seems obvious he doesn't trust the audience's
            imagination either. Tolkien left room for "other hands and eyes" in the
            very reading of his work; film of course by its nature leaves less to
            the imagination, but a good director can leave in the necessary
            ambiguity.



            Sometimes a movie that telegraphs everything can be enjoyable, if you're
            not in the mood to do some work to meet the director halfway (okay, I
            LIKE _Austin Powers_ when I'm in a certain mood), but it ain't the way
            Tolkien wrote and it ain't the way Tolkien should be done, in my
            opinion.



            Janet Croft



            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • David Emerson
            ... I agree, even though I enjoyed seeing them and own copies of the extended-edition DVDs (with souvenir WETA miniatures! oboyboy). But even the first time
            Message 5 of 6 , Sep 6, 2007
              >There are many good elements in them, gorgeous scenery, great visuals,
              >talented actors, but what keeps them from being great movies for me is
              >the heavy-handed attempts to manipulate the audience emotionally.
              >...
              >For my tastes, the films lack subtlety. I felt like I was being hit
              >over the head with whatever concept Jackson was presenting. They were
              >certainly visually stunning, but they were not, by my standards, great
              >movies, even standing alone without the source material.

              I agree, even though I enjoyed seeing them and own copies of the extended-edition DVDs (with souvenir WETA miniatures! oboyboy). But even the first time watching FELLOWSHIP, I was extremely annoyed with PJ's tendency to go into slo-mo for every near-death scene. Once would've been okay, but over and over again? That's rookie filmmaking.



              emerdavid

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            • Lynn Maudlin
              ... This is one of the few scenes that I found incredibly powerful. Yes, I knew I was being manipulated but it seemed appropriate to me, somehow, a kind of
              Message 6 of 6 , Sep 7, 2007
                --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "dbltall42" <dbltall@...> wrote:
                >
                > ...the scene with Denethor's poor table manners intercut with
                > Faramir falling swoopily...

                This is one of the few scenes that I found incredibly powerful. Yes, I
                knew I was being manipulated but it seemed "appropriate" to me,
                somehow, a kind of shorthand to show us Faramir's nobility and how far
                Denethor had fallen, while Pippin (of all people) sings this
                beautiful, stark *a capella* song...

                > It is probably the case that different people appreciate different
                > things in movies, just as we do in books.

                Yup. And that's a good thing, imho.

                -- Lynn --
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