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Tolkien dramatizations redux

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  • Janet Croft
    I ran across an interesting article reviewing Bakshi s _Lord of the Rings_ with some apt criticisms that might equally be applied to Jackson s film. As to why
    Message 1 of 7 , Jan 24, 2003
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      I ran across an interesting article reviewing Bakshi's _Lord of the
      Rings_ with some apt criticisms that might equally be applied to
      Jackson's film.

      As to why we care so much: "the point is that we have been there: we can
      say 'Yes, that's just how it was,' or "No, no, no, that's all wrong.' "

      As to why it's heartbreaking: there are "gems scattered among dross, set
      inappropriately, scarred and miscut." (very nice turn of phrase!)

      About tone: "Sam is not Lou Costello, Aragorn is not a crude Conan. The
      grotesque, the homely, and the comic are in easy reach of Bakshi's
      grasp, but he fails utterly even to approach the noble."

      As applicable to computer-generated SFX as it was to rotoscoping: "this
      constant intrusion of technique draws the attention away from what is
      being presented to how it is being presented."

      The article is "Ring-Wrath: or Therein Bakshi Again" by Dale Ziegler,
      Mythlore 6:1 (Winter 1979), 37-38. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme
      chose.

      Janet

      Janet Brennan Croft
      Dictator-for-Life, Normans Sällskap för Kaffedrickande Tolkienlärde
      jbcroft@...
      http://faculty-staff.ou.edu/C/Janet.B.Croft-1/




      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • David S. Bratman
      Yes, and the author of this article was at a MythSoc discussion group meeting I attended in L.A. last weekend that discussed Jackson II. We said much the same
      Message 2 of 7 , Jan 24, 2003
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        Yes, and the author of this article was at a MythSoc discussion group
        meeting I attended in L.A. last weekend that discussed Jackson II. We said
        much the same as we were saying last year, and 25 years ago.

        And, have you noticed how Tolkien's letter to Forrest Ackerman, criticizing
        the Zimmerman scenario, also uncannily foresees Jackson in many ways? This
        is far less excusable, for here we have Tolkien's own views, and ample
        opportunity for Jackson to have avoided these pitfalls.

        David Bratman



        At 01:34 PM 1/24/2003 , Janet wrote:
        >I ran across an interesting article reviewing Bakshi's _Lord of the
        >Rings_ with some apt criticisms that might equally be applied to
        >Jackson's film.
        >
        >As to why we care so much: "the point is that we have been there: we can
        >say 'Yes, that's just how it was,' or "No, no, no, that's all wrong.' "
        >
        >As to why it's heartbreaking: there are "gems scattered among dross, set
        >inappropriately, scarred and miscut." (very nice turn of phrase!)
        >
        >About tone: "Sam is not Lou Costello, Aragorn is not a crude Conan. The
        >grotesque, the homely, and the comic are in easy reach of Bakshi's
        >grasp, but he fails utterly even to approach the noble."
        >
        >As applicable to computer-generated SFX as it was to rotoscoping: "this
        >constant intrusion of technique draws the attention away from what is
        >being presented to how it is being presented."
        >
        >The article is "Ring-Wrath: or Therein Bakshi Again" by Dale Ziegler,
        >Mythlore 6:1 (Winter 1979), 37-38. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme
        >chose.
        >
        >Janet
      • Croft, Janet B
        I m writing a paper right now making use of this fact, and that s why I looked for a few articles on the Bakshi film to round it out. I was sitting right
        Message 3 of 7 , Jan 24, 2003
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          I'm writing a paper right now making use of this fact, and that's why I
          looked for a few articles on the Bakshi film to round it out. I was sitting
          right behind Philippa Boyens at Mythcon32, and saw her riffling through her
          own copy of the _Letters_ in response to a question -- she at least must
          have been familiar with the Ackerman letter. (She was looking up the "other
          hands" quote to defend interpolated scenes and other changes.) It would be
          fascinating to know if the writers of the Jackson films worked on scenes
          individually, and if so who was responsible for which ones. Boyens seems to
          show a slightly more respectful attitude to the original in her interviews
          than Jackson does.

          Janet Croft

          -----Original Message-----
          From: David S. Bratman [mailto:dbratman@...]
          Sent: Friday, January 24, 2003 3:49 PM
          To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
          Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Tolkien dramatizations redux


          Yes, and the author of this article was at a MythSoc discussion group
          meeting I attended in L.A. last weekend that discussed Jackson II. We said
          much the same as we were saying last year, and 25 years ago.

          And, have you noticed how Tolkien's letter to Forrest Ackerman, criticizing
          the Zimmerman scenario, also uncannily foresees Jackson in many ways? This
          is far less excusable, for here we have Tolkien's own views, and ample
          opportunity for Jackson to have avoided these pitfalls.

          David Bratman



          At 01:34 PM 1/24/2003 , Janet wrote:
          >I ran across an interesting article reviewing Bakshi's _Lord of the
          >Rings_ with some apt criticisms that might equally be applied to
          >Jackson's film.
          >
          >As to why we care so much: "the point is that we have been there: we can
          >say 'Yes, that's just how it was,' or "No, no, no, that's all wrong.' "
          >
          >As to why it's heartbreaking: there are "gems scattered among dross, set
          >inappropriately, scarred and miscut." (very nice turn of phrase!)
          >
          >About tone: "Sam is not Lou Costello, Aragorn is not a crude Conan. The
          >grotesque, the homely, and the comic are in easy reach of Bakshi's
          >grasp, but he fails utterly even to approach the noble."
          >
          >As applicable to computer-generated SFX as it was to rotoscoping: "this
          >constant intrusion of technique draws the attention away from what is
          >being presented to how it is being presented."
          >
          >The article is "Ring-Wrath: or Therein Bakshi Again" by Dale Ziegler,
          >Mythlore 6:1 (Winter 1979), 37-38. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme
          >chose.
          >
          >Janet



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        • David S. Bratman
          ... Did you notice that she mischaracterized what Tolkien said? I don t remember her citing the other hands statement from the Waldman letter, but she did
          Message 4 of 7 , Jan 24, 2003
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            At 01:54 PM 1/24/2003 , Janet Croft wrote:
            >I'm writing a paper right now making use of this fact, and that's why I
            >looked for a few articles on the Bakshi film to round it out. I was sitting
            >right behind Philippa Boyens at Mythcon32, and saw her riffling through her
            >own copy of the _Letters_ in response to a question -- she at least must
            >have been familiar with the Ackerman letter. (She was looking up the "other
            >hands" quote to defend interpolated scenes and other changes.)

            Did you notice that she mischaracterized what Tolkien said? I don't
            remember her citing the "other hands" statement from the Waldman letter,
            but she did cite a remark by Tolkien from a letter to the BBC radio
            producer, to the effect that adapters should be allowed freedom to follow
            their own inclinations. She said that this quote gave her the heart to
            continue.

            What she didn't say was that Tolkien wasn't making a statement of his own
            opinion, but raising a question - and raising it unhappily, as other
            evidence made it clear he was quite dissatisfied with the tone of the 1950s
            BBC radio adaptation in question.

            As for the original "other hands" quote - to the effect that Tolkien wanted
            to see dramatic, musical, and visual artistic renditions of his work - one
            can say that he was referring to his original intention with the
            Silmarillion, which was a mythology with some tales only sketched, and not
            to his final intent with LOTR, which is a fully-fledged novel, over 30
            years later. Remember his final word on his original intent: "absurd."

            I think it also interesting that he had no objection to music inspired by
            his work, even if he didn't happen to like the music (see his letter to
            Carey Blyton), but then music was not his art. Visual art and narrative
            story (as in drama) were his arts, and those kinds of retellings he
            expected to show faithfulness to his spirit. About illustrations he could
            be very grumpy, but he could also be very pleased (he was utterly delighted
            with Pauline Baynes's work for _Farmer Giles_, for instance).


            >It would be
            >fascinating to know if the writers of the Jackson films worked on scenes
            >individually, and if so who was responsible for which ones. Boyens seems to
            >show a slightly more respectful attitude to the original in her interviews
            >than Jackson does.

            I gathered from the commentaries that Boyens was basically responsible for
            the Merry-and-Pippin-and-the-fireworks scene. She said that the characters
            needed more background. If she felt that was important enough to require
            squeezing into the short running time of a film, I wonder if she felt that
            the book was deficient in lacking it. She said that this was the sort of
            thing they would probably have done at that time in their lives. Leaving
            aside the removal of 17 years of maturation from the film's timeline, she's
            probably right about that, but the scene still felt wrong. And what felt
            wrong about it was that it came across like a bad amateur fan-fiction story
            of the young Merry and Pippin, the kind one would have read in some cheap
            '60s fanzine and winced over.


            - David Bratman
          • Ernest Tomlinson
            ... From: Janet Croft To: Mythsoc Sent: Friday, January 24, 2003 1:34 PM Subject: [mythsoc] Tolkien
            Message 5 of 7 , Jan 25, 2003
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              ----- Original Message -----
              From: "Janet Croft" <jbcroft@...>
              To: "Mythsoc" <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
              Sent: Friday, January 24, 2003 1:34 PM
              Subject: [mythsoc] Tolkien dramatizations redux

              (Quoting Ziegler:)
              As applicable to computer-generated SFX as it was to rotoscoping: "this
              constant intrusion of technique draws the attention away from what is
              being presented to how it is being presented."

              This statement is especially apt to Jackson's LotR films. I have heard and
              seen defenders of the films argue that, aside from the matter of fidelity to
              the text, Jackson's films are superlatively made and directed, but I dispute
              this. Jackson (and many other film directors) have forgotten that merely
              because it is now possible to generate computer images which appear to have
              all the detail and shading of live action footage, and to blend these images
              without apparent seam into the live action, does not mean that the compugen
              scenes look convincing. Remember Jar Jar Binks? He was beautifully
              animated and detailed, but the animators, presumably drunk with their power
              to do _anything_ with their factitious creation, did _everything_ with him.
              He never stopped moving, twitching, flopping his ears, sticking out his
              tongue, burbling while asleep, dancing while awake; he drew attention to
              himself constantly, and therefore never let us forget that he was not a real
              character but a SGI programmer's nightmare.

              Similarly, Jackson's films are characterized by meretricious overuse of
              special effects, especially of the computer animator's ability to create
              "camera angles" unavailable to any real cinematographer. One of the worst
              shots in _The Fellowship of the Ring_ is an "ArrowCam" shot, following one
              of Legolas' arrows as it speeds (in, by the way, what does not seem to be a
              straight line or parabola) from his bow into an Orc. The shot jolts us out
              of the realism (such as it is) of the drama, and recalls something out of a
              Sam Raimi film, or the infamous ArrowCam shot from Mel Brooks's _Men in
              Tights_ where the Arrow rounds corners and backs up at crucial moments.
              Moreover, the shot is completely unnecessary except for meretricious effect:
              does it do anything that a quick shot-reverse-shot sequence of Legolas's
              shooting the arrow and the Orc's falling would _not_ do, other than show off
              the scenery?

              Shots of Isengard invariably are heralded by swooping overhead "shots",
              often diving from high up deep into the bowels of earth. A _tour de force_
              of computer animation, but does it not draw far too much attention to the
              artificial nature of the Isengard "set", and does the device need to be
              employed more than once?

              Ernest.
            • Bill
              Maybe I ve been exposed to CGI FX enough now to not be bothered by the arrow shot , which has been used in enough tv shows and movies (and with other weapons)
              Message 6 of 7 , Jan 25, 2003
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                Maybe I've been exposed to CGI FX enough now to not be
                bothered by the "arrow shot", which has been used in enough
                tv shows and movies (and with other weapons) so that I don't
                even recall that shot as standing out in my memory from seeing

                the film.
                I do think the Isenguard "approach shot" was used too many

                times in both films, but it didn't seem articial until the
                attack of
                the Ents sequence, the one area so far in which the effects
                didn't work for me.



                Ernest Tomlinson wrote:

                >>
                >> This statement is especially apt to Jackson's LotR films. I have
                >> heard and
                >> seen defenders of the films argue that, aside from the matter of
                >> fidelity to
                >> the text, Jackson's films are superlatively made and directed, but I
                >> dispute
                >> this. Jackson (and many other film directors) have forgotten that
                >> merely
                >> because it is now possible to generate computer images which appear
                >> to have
                >> all the detail and shading of live action footage, and to blend
                >> these images
                >> without apparent seam into the live action, does not mean that the
                >> compugen
                >> scenes look convincing. Remember Jar Jar Binks? He was beautifully
                >>
                >> animated and detailed, but the animators, presumably drunk with
                >> their power
                >> to do _anything_ with their factitious creation, did _everything_
                >> with him.
                >> He never stopped moving, twitching, flopping his ears, sticking out
                >> his
                >> tongue, burbling while asleep, dancing while awake; he drew
                >> attention to
                >> himself constantly, and therefore never let us forget that he was
                >> not a real
                >> character but a SGI programmer's nightmare.
                >>
                >> Similarly, Jackson's films are characterized by meretricious overuse
                >> of
                >> special effects, especially of the computer animator's ability to
                >> create
                >> "camera angles" unavailable to any real cinematographer. One of the
                >> worst
                >> shots in _The Fellowship of the Ring_ is an "ArrowCam" shot,
                >> following one
                >> of Legolas' arrows as it speeds (in, by the way, what does not seem
                >> to be a
                >> straight line or parabola) from his bow into an Orc. The shot jolts
                >> us out
                >> of the realism (such as it is) of the drama, and recalls something
                >> out of a
                >> Sam Raimi film, or the infamous ArrowCam shot from Mel Brooks's _Men
                >> in
                >> Tights_ where the Arrow rounds corners and backs up at crucial
                >> moments.
                >> Moreover, the shot is completely unnecessary except for meretricious
                >> effect:
                >> does it do anything that a quick shot-reverse-shot sequence of
                >> Legolas's
                >> shooting the arrow and the Orc's falling would _not_ do, other than
                >> show off
                >> the scenery?
                >>
                >> Shots of Isengard invariably are heralded by swooping overhead
                >> "shots",
                >> often diving from high up deep into the bowels of earth. A _tour de
                >> force_
                >> of computer animation, but does it not draw far too much attention
                >> to the
                >> artificial nature of the Isengard "set", and does the device need to
                >> be
                >> employed more than once?
                >>
                >> Ernest.
                >
                >
                >
                >
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                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • Ernest Tomlinson
                ... From: Bill To: Sent: Saturday, January 25, 2003 10:19 AM Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Tolkien dramatizations
                Message 7 of 7 , Jan 25, 2003
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                  ----- Original Message -----
                  From: "Bill" <lunacy2@...>
                  To: <mythsoc@yahoogroups.com>
                  Sent: Saturday, January 25, 2003 10:19 AM
                  Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Tolkien dramatizations redux


                  > Maybe I've been exposed to CGI FX enough now--

                  --I think the word is "desensitized"--

                  > to not be
                  > bothered by the "arrow shot", which has been used in enough
                  > tv shows and movies (and with other weapons) so that I don't
                  > even recall that shot as standing out in my memory from seeing
                  > the film.

                  I think it looks silly wherever it's done, partly because I think it really
                  was Sam Raimi, a sort of American Peter Jackson (i.e. director of film
                  soaked with gore which are supposed to be amusing, like _Evil Dead II_), who
                  introduced such shots, or at least popularized them. His "flying eyeball"
                  shot is legendary.

                  Unfortunately the post-modern era is upon us, and film directors have
                  learned that one can easily conceal a weak story (_Matrix_, anyone?) with
                  heavily choreographed fight scenes and shots of floating bullets.

                  Ernest.
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