My relationship with Stephen King’s writing is a complicated one. On the one hand, his body of work demands respect and his gift for plot and pacing is legendary. Those books of his I’ve read (which are rather few–Carrie, a variety of his novellas, a few short stories, and about half the Dark Tower Series), I have enjoyed. None of them, though, have managed to grab me. None, except perhaps The Gunslinger.
Say what you will about the Dark Tower series, but it is different. King creates a world that’s full of pointy edges and odd curves – you can’t quite get a handle on it. Roland journeys through a sort of dark, decaying Wonderland, with a new crumbling edifice around each corner. It is a world steeped in a kind of melancholy mystery which is enchanting. The Gunslinger encapsulates that beautiful doom perfectly, in a short little book stuffed full of strange. This is no wonder, though, as the Robert Browning poem that inspired King’s work is, itself, a work of incredible imagination (greater, I would argue, than King’s work itself).
It has been years since I stopped reading the Dark Tower series. I made it as far as The Waste Lands and left it behind me. I tell myself I really ought to go and finish the thing, but I don’t and probably never will. I think the problem (insofar as it is a problem at all) is that the Dark Tower, for me, is something that need not be reached. I am not left with any wish to see Roland’s quest completed, nor am I engaged in the character arcs of any of the characters. For me, the Dark Tower series is more poem than novel, anyway. Beautiful imagery, wonderful ideas, peculiar mood…but narratively compelling? I don’t really think so.
See, Roland and the Man in Black and the strange parallel world they inhabit aren’t really people to me. The Dark Tower doesn’t really seem to be a place. The whole thing echoes with metaphor, striking thematic parallels with every hero’s journey from Sir Gawain to the Torturer Severian. The picture is complete for me, without the need for plot or narrative motion. Honestly, I feel like the kid and the addict and the crazy lady interfere with what I like about the first book. They inject ‘real’ into the cloudy ephemera of Roland’s world, and I resent it.
The Dark Tower - hell, all Dark Towers – are places to dream about. They are points of inspiration, ideas fashioned from unknowable black stone. To get there, to achieve the Dark Tower is to touch your own dreams; to find out, in a supreme moment of catharsis, if your hand will pass through and you realize your delusion, or if your hand will land firm and your dream will be pulled back down into filthy, complicated reality. It’s lose-lose. I, myself, prefer to leave it there, atop its field of blood-red roses, it’s riddle unanswered. I feel, ultimately, that the answer is inherent in the question, anyway.
As it happens, that quarterfinalist is me. From what I can gather from the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest rules (and they do their best in avoiding lucidity there, let me tell you), the internet, by which I mean all of you people, may visit Amazon and download excerpts of the novels (for free, of course) and review them. If I get lots of good reviews, the likelihood of me making the next round increases.
Here is the link. Go there. LIKE it, damn you all. LIE if you must (well, no–don’t do that), but review. REVIEW AS YOU HAVE NEVER REVIEWED BEFORE!
In the meantime, I will keep writing like a good glacier and spending the rest of my time cooing over my brand new baby daughter, born this past Sunday.
And maybe, just maybe I’ll grade a student paper or two.
There’s that moment when you’re watching Empire Strikes Back, right near the beginning, when you hear the hum and roar of the Echo Base hangar and watch Han cuss out Chewie for taking something apart he just tried to fix, when you realize: I love these guys. And you do. You want to live with them; you want to sling up a hammock in the Falcon and ride along for their adventures, no matter where they lead, because Han is awesome and Chewie is like the best friend you never had and you want to know what the inside of that ship smells like or how the air on Hoth feels against your cheeks. It is at that moment that, against all reason, the world of Star Wars has you. Your heart is in your throat for the rest of it, come what may, because Han and Chewie and Luke and Leia are your friends.
It happens again, at least for me, in Willow. There is Mad Martigan, still partially in drag, still loopy from the brownie’s true-love dust, getting screamed at by Willow (again), being charged by Nokmar soldiers…
…and then he gets a sword. Magic happens.
It happens with Indiana Jones running through the South American jungles in Raiders, it happens with Tyrion when he walks out of the Eyrie with a smile on his face, it happens with Jack Sparrow and Long John Silver, with Mal Reynolds and Buffy, with Kirk and McCoy – that single, almost unquantifiable thing that happens when you discover that you really do love these people. You could read stories about them forever, or so you think.
Yet, it isn’t really true.
How we fall in love and out of love with characters (or how we never manage to) is the sort of bottled lightning that probably every author seeks to capture. You try to make your characters relatable, flawed, but also idealized and perfect (somehow). You give them senses of humor, you have them complain about stuff just like a regular person, and then, once you’ve tied the audience to them as tightly as a ship to its anchor, you heave those characters overboard and watch the people squirm. When you watch Han let Lando borrow the Falcon to fly in the Battle of Endor, your heart is in your throat. You can scarcely look as the flames burn up around the cockpit as the ship is trying to make it out of the Death Star and then, for that brief fleeting moment that you think Lando is gone, your breathing stops. You’re frozen, almost as in grief for a real person, but before you can figure it out the ship shoots out into space, the music rises, and you’re there cheering.
Then, wierdly, you can find yourself down the road a bit and looking over the latest atrocious Pirates of the Caribbean sequel and find you no longer care. They lost you. You couldn’t care less if (Captain) Jack Sparrow is tossed over the side with cannonballs around his ankles ten minutes into the movie. Whatever. He’s just some fictional character now; you don’t know him from Adam.
What is the magic formula, then? How can you whip yourself up a batch of loveable characters and keep them that way? The fact is that the answer isn’t an easily quantifiable one. If it were, movies like GI Joe: Rise of Cobra or Cutthroat Island, which try so very hard, wouldn’t fail so miserably. If once you made it you kept it by default, I wouldn’t find myself reading A Dance with Dragons and deciding I don’t really care what happens to Tyrion anymore. There’s a kind of storytelling alchemy at work here, a theoretical paradigm we are all trying to achieve, and there seems to be no sure way to pull it off. Like the perfect game or the hole in one, it only happens once a career if you’re lucky.
But we all keep trying, don’t we? We want that moment where the audience cares for our characters as much as we do, but, like any loving parent, it is sometimes so very hard to see the flaws in those you love with all your heart.
First of all, if you’ve got some time on your hands, listen to this interview with David Brin (and thanks to my friend, David, who drew my attention to it). There is more stuff to talk about in that interview that I could possibly stuff into a single blog post (or, at least, not if I wanted anybody to ever read it all), but I want to explore and correlate a couple things he talks about there which I find both fascinating and very true.
Speaking broadly, Brin differentiates between our ‘romantic’ selves and our ‘rational’ selves. The first is the thing that makes you cry at the end of Old Yeller and the second is the thing that makes you understand that the end of Old Yeller makes perfect sense and was the right thing to do. Brin associates our romantic selves with a lot of what has happened in human history, much of it bad, ranging from the Dark Ages to our love affair with Star Wars. The rational part of us he attributes to the proliferation and success of modern democracy, the creation of our current civilization, and the scientific Enlightenment.
Interestingly enough, I bet you find Dark Age barbarians and Star Wars much more fun than democratic reforms and scientific studies and that, right there, is exactly what Brin is getting at: our default state, the state we prefer, is the romantic one. It makes for better stories, higher adventure, and the glorious conservative myth of a golden age long past. There are a lot of different places I can dig in here, but let’s start with this one: This theory of the ’romantic self’ is the underpinning of a vast majority of fantasy literature and religious and cultural mythology.
Take kings or the idea of monarchy, for example. Every fantasy has ‘em, pretty much, and if they don’t, they often have wizards, demigods, noble houses, emperors, or ruling demi-human species as a fill-in. These kings are also often heroic figures or, if they aren’t, they are waiting to be deposed so the ‘true’ king can be installed. Aragorn needs to take command of the Armies of Men to defeat Sauron; Daenerys is rightfully the heir to the Iron Throne; Rand al’Thor is the Dragon Reborn and would everyone please stop getting in his way and listen to him for once! History, likewise, is awash in kings, both heroic and villainous, and, indeed, the majority of history has been under the thumb of some kind of absolute ruler.
Our enchantment with them, however, supposes that there is such a thing as a ‘good king’ or that monarchy itself is a wise or workable system. This is our Romantic selves talking, not our rational ones. As Brin points out, it took the weakening of top-down authoritarian systems to bring about the technological and social advances that have created our current civilization. A top-down system discourages competition, while a more egalitarian system encourages the kind of competition and innovation needed to improve and advance, since the genesis of those things comes from dissent from popular opinion, something that doesn’t happen under the rule of a Robert Baretheon or even an Aragorn.
Fantasy, though, is primarily under the influence of this romantic notion that there is some single golden-child who is the right person to tell everyone what to do. Everyone from Star Wars’ Jedi Knights to the Mistborn of Sanderson to Harry Potter perpetuate the idea of ‘specialness as societal cure,’ even when mitigated by apparently liberal ideals that the heroes happen to support (because, after all, no good king would forbid free speech, obviously). Such stories and their appeal is, on some level, powered by a direct connection to that basic human romantic notion that there is a person out there who can tell you what to do and be right all the time, absolving you from your own troublesome duties of thinking for yourself, making your own decisions, and taking ownership of your failures and successes. If you don’t think that’s a thing, you need only read a history book – everyone has been doing that since forever.
Fantasy, then, is ultimately a conservative genre in its most literal sense – the conservation of old modes of order and old modes of doing things (based often off the fuzzy logic of metaphysical powers and spiritual manifestations) for the purpose of retaining what our romantic brains tells us is more fun and interesting. There is no law that says it must be so, however; I like to flatter myself that my own work in the fantasy genre breaks this mold, if only a little bit. After listening to David Brin, I may just up that from ’a little bit’ to ‘a lot’. Magic in Alandar is already egalitarian (you needn’t be born with power to use it – anybody with discipline and a good teacher can do it) and Tyvian Reldamar is already an iconoclast, but I can go further. I should go further.
Fantasy should join the best work of its speculative cousin, Science Fiction, and show us where we ought to go rather than making us miss where we’ve been.
I’m currently reading Wise Man’s Fear, second book in Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicles, and the ups and downs of Kvothe’s meager finances has gotten me thinking about the presence (or absence) of financial concerns in scifi/fantasy stories. More often than not, it is left out – characters are poor, but we don’t spend a lot of time counting the contents of their purses, or they’re rich, but we don’t spend a lot of time considering the state of their investments or where, precisely, they keep all that money, anyway. Readers of scifi/fantasy aren’t really in it for the in-depth analysis of microeconomics in some made up non-realm, anyway – they want adventure. So, sure, there might be a treasure at the end of the quest and there might be some social or societal pressures making this or that object more valuable, but how much time do we really want to spend counting coins and handling living expenses?
Maybe, though, we’re missing something.
Now, Rothfuss goes into exhaustive detail involving how much money Kvothe has and what he spends it on. His work serves as a pretty good example of what is both good and bad about involving money in a fantasy story on an intimate level. On the one hand, money (or the lack thereof) is a fantastic motivator for characters to do things – often desperate things – and the prospect of Kvothe being kicked out of the University for failure to pay tuition creates some real tension in the story. This makes for good storytelling. Furthermore, the details of expenses makes the world more immersive, more real – also a bonus for our fantasy world.
But then there are the drawbacks: it gets old, all this money grubbing. As I am now in the second book of Kvothe having no money and facing the same tuition problems, I’m getting less interested in them. From a meta-plot standpoint, Kvothe has weaseled his way out of poverty enough times now for me to be less invested in his continued struggles. I figure he’ll find a way or, if he doesn’t, I’m growing less invested in the constant updates on the contents of Kvothe’s purse. So he gets an extra talent here and an extra bob there – so? I’m not really keeping a logbook, so I gather it would suffice for Rothfuss to simply have Kvothe say “I didn’t have enough money for x and still be able to eat, so I didn’t buy it” or “I earned a little cash from playing corners that night, but was still far short of tuition.” The numbers are getting stripped of their meaning; they’re boring. Additionally, the ‘does Kvothe have enough money’ conflict has faded from a primary concern to a secondary one. He’s poor – we get it.
One of the best examples of taking bean-counting too far in literature is Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders, in which Flanders gives us an exhaustively detailed account of exactly how much money she has and when, what she spends it on, how much it costs, and the profits she expects from the exchanges. It’s as dry as reading expense reports, except with a madam involved. Of course, Defoe was trying to pass off his novel as non-fiction, ostensibly, and the details served as a sort of con-job for the reader – why would somebody making up a story spend so much time quibbling over shillings?
I think, on the whole, I prefer how JK Rowling handled it best. Despite the wildly improbable economic model of the wizarding world (another post for another time), the fact that Ron was poor and Harry wasn’t played as important character traits without us having to spend time worrying about where, exactly, the money was coming from and/or going. Then again, Rothfuss and Defoe are telling different kinds of stories, I guess – stories that hold realism up as a guidepost, and play it accordingly. One has to ask, though, are we reading fantasy for utter realism? Shouldn’t there be a middle ground?
Now, I’m not here to bash Rothfuss, precisely (I’m enjoying the books very much so far), but I’m worried we’re about to take a turn from ‘high adventure and melodrama’ into ‘Upton Sinclair would be proud of this book’, which I really don’t want to happen. I’ve read The Jungle and Sister Carrie and Moll Flanders already; I don’t need to do it again, particularly not in a fanciful world.
It is fashionable to complain about snow. We don’t like shoveling it, we don’t like driving in it, we don’t like how much we get (no matter how much or how little that is), we don’t like where it falls, or the things we’re asked to do in it, or how long it makes everything take. We adults seem to spend a lot of time hating it.
What fools we are.
Snow is something enchanted. It changes the whole world, flake by flake, degree by degree, until we emerge from our hiding places and find ourselves somewhere new and clean and fresh. The drab ordinariness of our daily world is now blanketed in silence and light, glowing beneath an invisible sun. You breathe deep, and the air sears your lungs with its chilly clarity. It’s like waking up from a bad dream and letting all the heavy, sticky violence of your nightmare fall away. There ‘s just you, alone, calm and surrounded by the quiet beauty of a new world.
It is no accident to my mind that CS Lewis had Lucy stumble through the wardrobe and into a Narnia locked in eternal winter. There seems nothing else in nature that captures the mystery and enchantment of life than a wood cloaked in shimmering ice. When I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for the first time, I was standing there with Lucy, my breath catching at the sight of the lamppost. I could feel the cold, clean air across my knuckles; I felt the encroaching chill as it ate its way through my sneakers. I could smell the stillness of the place. I wanted to know where that forest led. I wanted to hear the crunch of it beneath my feet. For a child, snow is adventure and wonder and magic.
As we grow older, our practical selves wage a slow, steady war against that part of us that glories in the simple pleasures of a snow-covered field. Just as the Pevensies eventually grew too old to come to Narnia, we also lose some part of ourselves. We see snow as the obstacle, the inconvenience. We spend all our time moving it and cursing it and wishing it would melt, but we spend almost no time looking at it. Tasting it. Standing stone-still on our front steps, breathing deeply, and listening to how the snow has made our noisy, bustling, stressful adult world quiet and slow. This is a gift, friends. It is an opportunity to dream of far-off places and worlds reborn. It is the very stuff of fantasy.
Take heed, friends. Stop. Listen. Breathe.
Do you ever wonder why the ancients always seem to have crazy secret stuff hidden away in holes? I do. I mean, don’t get me wrong – I think ancient ruins and the history of ancient peoples is really cool, and am often impressed with the innovations they developed – but there’s a notable trend in scifi and fantasy to show the ancient world as superior, more advanced, wiser, and better than the society shown as contemporary. If you think about it, it’s almost hard to think of a fantasy book that doesn’t do this. Everybody from Tolkien to Howard to Martin to Jordan to, gosh, everybody seems to get a piece of this. Science Fiction has its fair share, too – from Star Wars’ Old Republic to Asimov’s Galactic Empire and even Mass Effect has a lot of that ‘faded glory of ages past’ thing going on. What the hell?
To some extent this is all because of the Romans or, maybe more accurately, the Dark Ages. Humanity hit a peak with the Pax Romana and then, after a lot of bad decisions and slow erosion, it slumped into the Dark Ages, which is definitely a low. Oh, and let’s not give Europe all the blame, either. Similar stuff happened to the Islamic world after the fall of the Abbasid Caliphate and to the Chinese after the fall of the Ming Dynasty. No doubt there are descendants of the Aztecs in Mexico who pine for the glory days of Tenochtitlan and Egyptians who look with wonder back on the works of the Pharaohs. History is littered with the corpses of great civilizations that preceded long periods of unimpressive or downright barbaric culture, so tendencies to look at the ancients (who got it ‘right’) for guidance are, to some extent, culturally ingrained in us.
Let’s not get carried away, though. Ancient Rome might have been neat, but to suggest that their civilization was ‘better’ or ‘more advanced’ than our own is a clear exaggeration. We do lots and lots and lots of things better than the Romans ever did. Did they achieve some things we haven’t? Well, maybe, but it wasn’t ‘ancient laser beams’ or ‘the secret to immortality.’ They probably had a slightly better way to, I don’t know, make a canoe paddle or organize a mail system without vehicles. Fascinating, but not the kind of thing you dig up out of an ancient ruin and then proceed to use in the conquest of the Earth. Our civilization is at its own little peak, and it is currently producing the kind of tricks that the next Dark Age might marvel at, but the civilized peak after that one will look at and say ‘my, weren’t they so clever without the use of moldable nanotechnology and germline genetic engineering!’ Nobody’s going to dig up a Harrier jet and fight off an alien invasion. That would be silly.
I am the first person to say that technological progress isn’t strictly linear (if you want a real-world example, take a look at this article), but I also don’t think humanity is prone to being total boneheads. We are more advanced today because, in large part, we have learned from those who have come before us. The cleverness of ages past is not evidence that they were somehow smarter than us, but rather that they were just as smart. They figured some stuff out we didn’t, wound up not using it so much, and the rest of the world sort of forgot. Later on, some other guy figured the same thing out and did it again, but then an archaeologist says ‘the Romans could do this, you know’ and then a bunch of people run around saying the Romans were the most brilliant folks who ever lived because they thought of ‘x’ thousands of years before anyone else. Then somebody points out the Chinese/Egyptians/Persians/whoever actually thought of it before them, and tout this as some kind of evidence of humanity’s escalating intelligence the further back we go. This simply isn’t true; what it is evidence for is that humanity has always been pretty smart and periodically hits upon the same ideas and accomplishes them in whatever way necessity dictates they must.
To bring this back to the specfic genres, I feel it would be refreshing to find more fantasy novels that weren’t so obsessed with the whole sic transit et gloria mundi theme. I’d like to see cultures on the rise, surpassing their forebears, blazing new ground, showing how silly the old conservatives are to stick to their old ways. We get plenty of this in science fiction, to be fair, but fantasy could use that same spirit. Maybe I’m expecting something out of the genre that isn’t under it’s purview–maybe fantasy is a genre designed for those who long for the past and see nothing but peril in the present. I don’t think so, though. I’d like to think our wildest dreams can lead us forward, not just backward.
I saw the end of Hidalgo the other day. I have to say that, even though it isn’t the greatest movie ever, I really do like it. Mortensen’s character’s relationship with his horse is a thing I instinctually identify with; indeed, its something that a lot of people identify with. Domesticated animals and our relationships with them play a large role in many of our lives. They are as important, often, as our relationships with other people and, indeed, often our animals’ welfare can be seen as more important than the welfare of those humans we dislike or have no relationship with (cue Mortensen’s throaty growl: “Nobody hurts my horse.”). We think of them as our family, as our friends, and relentlessly anthropomorphize them. They are characters in our lives, and important ones, too.
It’s just a little bit odd, then, that fantasy novels so rarely depict animals as the real, well-rounded characters we know them to be. Granted, the story is often not about the hero’s horse, but rather the hero’s attempts to destroy the Evil One/rescue his lover/attain revenge, and it may seem as though incorporating their steeds as characters is a waste of valuable time. Truthfully enough, this might be the case in many situations. I’m not that certain, though, that this situation comes up as often as one might think. Perhaps you needn’t personify the horse or dog or what-have-you, but that certainly doesn’t mean you need to objectify it. It’s a living creature; it should get the same consideration any other random minor human character gets, from a shopkeeper to a barmaid to a nameless soldier.
Part of me feels like some of this objectification is a side-effect of our own modern society. Animals aren’t part of our lives on a daily basis, so we don’t always consider them as ‘alive.’ I have encountered a disturbing number of people who purchase dogs and treat them like fashion accessories, then can’t understand why the dogs are out of their minds with frustration and boredom. It’s because they’re alive! Our mechanical world is accustomed to conveyances that do whatever we say, whenever we say it and toys that turn on and off at a whim – no wonder we don’t always think that animals can be characterized. In pre-industrial societies (which includes most fantasy settings), animals and interacting with animals was a daily occurrence. They were required for a lot of the work that needed to be done in both farms and cities. Granted, these people didn’t have the overly-sentimentalized visions of pets and animals that we often do – they were as much tools as companions – but they were probably more aware that animals had attitudes and characteristics that separated them from mere objects.
Some of my favorite moments in some fantasy novels involve a character or characters’ interactions with animals. I love how hard Sam finds it to send the pony, Bill, away outside the gates of Moria in The Fellowship of the Ring. I love how Kvothe introduces himself to his horse in The Name of the Wind – with a mix of kindness and caution – even though he turns around and sells it shortly afterwards. One of the best is Haplo’s relationship with his dog in Weiss and Hickman’s Death Gate Cycle, which is very nuanced. It is not by accident that the dog winds up being a part of Haplo’s own soul.
Anyway, what I’m getting at here is that animals can – and should – be used as important and interesting characters in fantasy settings, and not just in the ‘my horse talks and isn’t that awesome’ sense that permeates all that young adult fantasy stuffed aimed at girls. They are living creatures that can share in the story and enhance the main character, just like anybody else. Just like our animals do in real life.
Saw the Hobbit on New Year’s Eve; I very much enjoyed it. I didn’t think it was the Greatest Movie Ever, really, but I fundamentally don’t understand the folks who are tearing their hair out with rage over the film being split into three movies. Seeing as Peter Jackson is doing every single thing in the book plus some stuff that can only be found in some ancillary Tolkien sources, filling 9 hours shouldn’t be a problem. What I’m mostly curious about is to see how the whole thing with Dol Guldur can be lumped in with the rest of the Hobbit once Gandalf takes off – the stories don’t really intersect again. Well, whatever.
My main reason for posting this is not to give a full review (which has been done plenty of times elsewhere and strikes me as rather tedious; it’s enough for me to say “As a great fan of the book, I liked it, and so probably will you if you are the same.”), but to point out the specific parts of the film I found most amusing, either positively or negatively. Here we go:
Thror Memorial Prize for the Advancement of Dwarfkind
Recipient: Thorin Oakenshield
You know what always frustrates me? Dwarves being depicted as filthy, stupid, ridiculous comic relief. That dwarf in the atrocious Dungeons and Dragons movie was just awful. Like, ‘If Dwarves Were Real This Would Spur a March on Washington’ awful.
Then, in this movie we get Thorin Oakenshield (played by Richard Armitage). He’s tough, he’s good-looking, he’s reasonably intelligent, he’s a leader. Yeah, he’s got a massive chip on his shoulder, but he, along with Kili and Fili, at last give us some dwarves who seem like actual people rather than ridiculous cartoons. Do you remember how silly the dwarves were in the Rankin/Bass animated Hobbit (shudder)? I’m glad that didn’t happen here.
On a side note, anybody else notice that when the White Orc smacks Thorin in the cheek with his gigantic mace, Thorin winds up with a small cut? That is one hard head Thorin’s got. He should have wound up looking more like Quasimodo after that hit.
Honorable Mention: Kili and Fili
Carrottop Foundation’s Award For Outstanding Use of Prop Comedy
So, for the whole movie we noted that one dwarf who needed the horn to hear properly. As ear-horns are inherently amusing, we chortled lightly at the ridiculous dude with the antique hearing aide. Then they go to Goblintown, and poor Dori loses his horn and has it smashed beneath the heavy tread of a goblin. At that point, I desperately wanted someone to say something to him and have him say “What?” Stupid joke, yeah, but still. The movie, though, goes one better:
In the last scene, as Bilbo is talking to them, Dori lifts the flattened horn to his ear. I thought this was hilarious, in that it would be fundamentally true to an old dwarf’s character to not only retrieve his busted horn in the midst of a battle, but still insist on using it even though it clearly won’t work now. Comedy gold.
Runner Up: Radagast the Brown’s Bird-Poop Hat
I imagine a casting director sitting down with Cate Blanchett and having the following conversation:
CASTING: “Cate, we’d like you to play Galadriel.”
BLANCHETT: “Who is she?”
CASTING: “She is one of the eldest elves in the world and the most heartbreakingly beautiful, inhumanly graceful, wise, warm, and wonderful person on the planet. She’s the kind of woman who smites men with a glance and, with a simple touch, can hold the hearts of kings and princes on a leash as strong as steel. She is, basically, a goddess.”
I’m a big fan of Cate Blanchett – always have been. She’s a phenomenal actress, but I think we need to take a good look at her Galadriel performance to really grasp how good she is. I mean, seriously – how do you encapsulate the character of Galadriel in a human body? Well, I don’t know, but somehow Blanchett pulls it off. It is simply amazing – she manages every movement to be perfectly graceful, every word to be somehow beautiful, and her smile is simultaneously warm and unattainable. I have no goddamned idea how an actress does that. Simply amazing.
The Terrence Malick Award for Pointless Cinematography
Recipient: Peter Jackson
You know what Peter Jackson likes? The long, slow close-up of a character while they go through a dramatic character shift. Do you know how I know this? The three thousand times it happens in every LoTR movie! Seriously, those things really drag; they last a full five seconds longer than they need to, sometimes more. How long did we really need to stare at Gollum’s pores while Bilbo considers killing him? How long did Thorin and the White Orc need to stare at each other longingly before finally fighting? Jesus! I felt like I was watching an episode of Dragonball Z at some points. Still, it was better than having to watch the dumb ship sail out of the Grey Havens for something like twenty minutes at the end of The Return of the King, or, as I like to call it, “The Movie that Never Ended.”
The Passive Aggressiveness Medal (warning, Medal may be radioactive. Maybe. Your call.)
Recipient: The Giant Eagles
The dwarves are half-dead, exhausted, injured, and carried to safety and spared from death by the Eagles thanks to Gandalf pulling in a few favors. If you thought the Eagles were okay with this, think again. Consider where the Eagles dropped the dwarves off: at the top of a hundred-foot high, narrow stone outcropping. Sure, the view is great, but how the hell are they supposed to get down? Thanks a lot, eagles. Yeah, maybe I won’t be eaten by wargs, but now I’ll get to break my neck as I negotiate an eight-story vertical climb. The eagles, of course, just fly away. They have plausible deniability, you know. “What? Oh, that’s right, you can’t fly! Our bad – everything on the ground looks pretty much the same height from up here. Oh well. Catch ya later, shorty!”
What a bunch of jackasses. Seriously.