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Re: [mythsoc] Jackson movies as film art, etc.

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  • 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 1 of 6 , Sep 5, 2007
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      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 2 of 6 , Sep 6, 2007
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        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 3 of 6 , Sep 6, 2007
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          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 4 of 6 , Sep 6, 2007
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            >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 5 of 6 , Sep 7, 2007
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              --- 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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