Some Thoughts on The Lord of the Rings (2001 – 2003)

I don’t think I need to do a proper review of the The Lord of the Rings. Too much has been written about it already and I assume the story is well-known but I’m still in the mood to write about a few of the aspects.

The Blu-Ray version

Never has Blu-Ray made more sense than with this movie. I’ve seen it before but watching it on Blu-Ray is really something. It has an amazing 3D effect that stunned me. The colors are amazingly intensive and all the creatures come to life much better. It’s like another movie almost. I’m not sure that if I ever watch it again I will always watch it in Blu-Ray as it’s occasionally almost too impressive and very surreal. The Blu-Ray I watched was the extended version.

The three parts

The way this movie is constructed is pure genius. While all the main characters get together in part I The Fellowship of the Ring, they are going different ways in part II The Return of the King and three The Two Towers and we have up to 4 parallel story lines. If you are like me, and have your favourite bits, then every time the story moves away from them, you eagerly await until it returns to you favourite characters.

The characters

The Lord of the Rings is action-driven but without those great characters and the “Band of Brothers” feel, it would never have been the success it is. I always liked the idea that the fellowship included not only humans but also Hobbits, Dwarves, Elves and a magician. It’s typical that of the initial group only the second human dies.

While Orcs and Uruk Hai are creatures of the dark forces, hobbits, elves and dwarves are good, only humans can choose and their decisions can be fatal for the world or – as can be seen in Gollum’s case – for themselves.

I’m not sure which was my favourite character the first time I watched it but I think – the elves in general. This time the four characters I liked best were Aragorn, Boromir, Haldir and Legolas. I’m not saying they are the most important, they are the ones I like best.

Pairing Legolas, the elf, with Gimli, the dwarf was another strike of genius and adds humour to the movie, just like the pair of silly hobbits Pippin and Merry. Pippin is particularly important as his foolish actions are the motor behind many important scenes. He triggers more than one major fight or battle.

The actors

I can’t think of any movie like The Lord of the Rings in which the actors are so well-chosen. I wouldn’t change one of them. Readers of this blog know that I’m no Orlando Bloom fan but that wasn’t always the case. The first time I saw him was as Legolas and he is amazing in this role, he is cut out for it.

My two favourite actors in the movie are Viggo Mortensen and Sean Bean. I like many of their other movies as well. Sean Bean is an actor who is famous for his dying scenes. There aren’t many movies with him in which he doesn’t die. I can’t remember that any of the scenes is as dramatic as this one here.

Another incredibly great choice was Liv Tyler as Arwen.

The special effects

I’m not too fond of special effects and CGI in war movies in general but there wouldn’t be any believable fantasy or sci-fi movies without them. The Lord of the Rings raises the bar extremely high. I didn’t even notice how high in my previous viewings. What the Blu-Ray disc manages to convey particularly well are the buildings and cities. They are stunning. The two abodes of the elves as well as Minas Tirith make you sit in front of the TV like children in front of their christmas presents.

War

I have included Lord of the Rings on this blog for a few reasons. Without the topic of “war” there would be no Lord of the Rings. The movie offers so many incredible fight and battle scenes which justify including it. The most famous and longest one The Battle of Helms Deep is usually mentioned in Top 10 battle scenes, right along battles in real wars. It is an amzing scene and I found it quite scary when I saw it for the first time. And particularly one of the deaths got to me a lot (if you’ve seen it you know who).

The message of course is clear as well. War isn’t good. The dark forces bring war and it is a battle of good versus evil. I think this also is part of the appeal. In real life, in history, it’s so rare, especially in the last decades, that good and bad can been named so easily, that a war is nothing else than the good forces fighting the bad.

What I like as well is that it is a fight for the good, mankind and other positive forces but most of all also a fight for the survival of nature. This reminds me that whenever people fight for trees in our world, they are made fun of.

Book versus Movie

It’s been a long time since I’ve read the book and I loved it at the time. I even remember that I was disappointed when I saw the movie for the first time because two scenes were more impressive in my mind but by now the movie has completely eradicated the book and I’m not even sure I could read and enjoy it again without seeing the people from the movie.

I could write much more but I’m going to leave it at that as anything else would contain too many spoilers. If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t waste anymore time. You could alos re-watch it as a warm-up for the upcoming The Hobbit.

On the Tolkien Gateway  you can find more info, on the upcoming Hobbit movies as well.

How about you? Is it one of your favourites as well? Do you prefer the book?

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Ridley Scott’s G. I. Jane (1997) Navy SEALS, Military Life, Sexism and a Whole Bunch of Unanswered Questions

Ridley Scott’s G. I. Jane is an extremely entertaining movie. I just need to enumerate who’s in it and you might be tempted to watch it if you haven’t done so yet. Demi Moore, Viggo Mortensen, James Caviezel, Anne Bancroft. The story is interesting if somewhat implausible but certainly providing us with some food for thought about different things.

Lt Jordan O’Neil (Demi Morre) is an ambitious young woman. She would like to climb the career ladder no matter what it takes. Being pretty sure this will need some combat experience she is willing to go the whole way. Only women aren’t really allowed to undergo combat training. Senator DeHaven (Anne Bancroft) is equally ambitious. Sensing that supporting the admission of women to the Army might boost her career she does everything to get permission to let a test candidate, G.I. Jane, undergo training. To make matters worse the people against her and this undertaking decide to choose the hardest possible training, namely the Navy SEAL training.

The selection of the right candidate takes some time. Senator DeHaven doesn’t want a masculine looking woman, she doesn’t want a homosexual woman either as this could undermine the exercise. When she sees as picture of beautiful Jordan O’Neil, she knows, it is her and no other that she wants for this test run.

What follows is one of those stories that show us how a resilient human being can fight even the most adverse circumstances, overcome weakness and prove her strength.

Jordan undergoes the SEAL training and where many men fail, she excels. She makes it through the initial week and the following weeks. During this time she is closely supervised, challenged and in the end also brutalized by the Master Chief (Viggo Mortensen). Of all the boot camp bastards that we get to see in this type of training focused movies he is by far one of the most complex and interesting. Not just because he quotes poetry but also because he changes considerably and ultimately because he isn’t a bad sort at all. He has to be mean. Sure, there is this one scene in which he overdoes it but doesn’t he have his reasons?

The movie shows 2/3 boot camp and 1/3 actual combat. This las part is highly fictionalized and serves mainly the purpose to show how worthy a soldier Jordan has become.

The movie is a bit on the sentimental side and – yes – it is stretching quite a few things but I like it and have watched it before. I think Demi Moore was a terrific choice and it is one of Viggo Mortensen’s best roles. Also Anne Bancroft as a real b**** is great.

Does it say much about women in the military? It certainly does look at the adversity a woman would have and does face, it looks at the prejudices and preconceptions. Jordan has to start to do it exactly like the men before she is only half accepted. It shows also that it isn’t only that men think women can’t do it but that men are constantly tested by the presence of women. Temptation as well as compassion play into it. Seeing a wounded female soldier might be harder to take than seeing a wounded man. And what If she has to rescue you and she is a slender woman while you are a big, bulky man, weighing twice as much?

My top favourite scene is when a bunch of soldiers, one of them of African-American origin, discuss if a woman should be admitted to this type of training and the African-American soldier points out that his grandfather was only allowed a s a cook during WWII. It is obvious that the prejudices African.Americans had to face were similar to those women had and have to endure.

Don’t watch it, if you are looking for answers, watch it when you want great entertainment and a probably very realistic look at the Navy SEALS training.

I am left with quite a lot of questions. Are there women today in the Navy SEALS? Is it in any way a realistic movie or not at all? Why exactly did the Master Chief mistreat her like this?

Answers anyone?

Movies on American Indian Wars: A List Part II

A few days ago I posted a list on movies on the American Indian Wars knowing very well that I was on slippery terrain since I am not an expert. The War Movie Buff has been kind enough to add and comment on the list and I would say it needed serious amending. Seemingly very good movies had been left out. I am glad that, thanks to his input, I can present you with a very good new list. Not in alphabetical order this time but in rated order. Thanks, Kevin.

Not yet rated (probaly good)
Custer’s Last Stand (1936, USA) by Elmer Clifton, starring Rex Lease, Lona Andre, William Farnum
Geronimo (1939, USA) by Paul Sloane,  starring Preston Foster, Gene Lockhart
Custer of the West (1967, USA) by Robert Siodmak, starring Robert Shaw, Mary Ure, Ty Hardin
Soldier Blue (1970, USA) by Ralph Nelson, starring Candice Bergen, Peter Strauss, Donald Pleasence, Dana Elcar
Good Movies
Geronimo: An American Legend (1993, USA) by Walter Hill, starring Jason Patric, Wes Studi, Gene Hackman, Matt Damon
Crazy Horse (1996, USA, TV) , by John Irvin, starring mit Michael Greyeyes, Ned Beatty, August Schellenberg
Buffalo Soldiers (1997, USA, TV) by Charles Haid, staring Lamont Bentley, Tom Bower, Danny Glover
Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee (2007, USA, TV), by Yves Simoneau, starring Anna Paquin, Aidan Quinn, August Schellenberg, Adam Beach
Very Good Movies
Fort Apache (1948, USA) by John Ford, starring John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Shirley Temple
Rio Grande (1950, USA), by John Ford, starring John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Ben Johnson, Victor McLaglen
Major Dundee (1965, USA) by Sam Peckinpah, starring Charlton Heston, Richard Harris, James Coburn, Senta Berger
Duel at Diablo (1966, USA) by Ralph Nelson, starring James Garner, Sidney Poitier, Bibi Andersson, Dennis Weaver
Cheyenne Autumn (1964, USA) by John Ford, starring Richard Widmark, Carol Baker, Karl Malden, Sal Mineo
I Will Fight No More Forever (1975, USA TV), by Richard T. Heffron, starring James Whitmore, Sam Elliott, Ned Romero
Great Movies
Little Big Man (1970, USA) by Arthur Penn, starring Dustin Hoffman, Martin Balsam, Faye Dunaway
Dances with Wolves (1990, USA) , by Kevin Costner, starring Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene
Son of the Morning Star (1991, USA, TV ) starring Gary Cole, Rosanna Arquette
Top 100 according to Military History Magazine
They Died with Their Boots On (1941, USA) by Raoul Walsh, starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Arthur Kennedy, Anthony Quinn, Gene Lockhart
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949, USA) by John Ford, starring John Wayne, Joanne Dru, John Agar
The Searchers (1956, USA) by John Ford, starring John Wayne, Jeffery Hunter, Vera Miles, Natalie Wood
Ulzana’s Raid (1972, USA), by Robert Aldrich, staring Burt Lancaster, Bruce Davison, Joaquin Martine

Maybe this is still not a definite list but we are getting closer.

The first part of Son of the Morning Star is the only thing I found in lieu of a trailer. Enjoy.

Movies on American Indian Wars: A List

I recently came across a German website that went through every possible conflict, since the days of the Roman Empire and listed some of the movies depicting these wars. I can tell you, that was a huge list. There were conflicts I had never heard of and loads of movies I had never heard of either. One chapter struck me as being of interest, namely the American Indian wars. I studied cultural anthropology with one of my  specializations being American Indians. Logically I am interested in those movies. I have seen some but not many. I remember Geronimo very well and found it very good. I also remember Dances with Wolves but I think it is by far too long. Rio Grande and Little Big Man are classics, of course. Hidalgo is the one I would like to watch and Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee is one I will watch very soon. You will find a list below. Feel free to comment and add others. I did amend and add as well. Many of those movies are probably labelled western normally.

1. Custer’s Last Stand (1936, USA) by Elmer Clifton, starring Rex Lease, Lona Andre, William Farnum
2. Geronimo (1939, USA) by Paul Sloane,  starring Preston Foster, Gene Lockhart
3. They Died with Their Boots On (1941, USA) by Raoul Walsh, starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Arthur Kennedy, Anthony Quinn, Gene Lockhart
4. Fort Apache (1948, USA) by John Ford, starring John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Shirley Temple
5. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949, USA) by John Ford, starring John Wayne, Joanne Dru, John Agar
6. Rio Grande (1950, USA), by John Ford, starring John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Ben Johnson, Victor McLaglen
7. Major Dundee (1965, USA) by Sam Peckinpah, starring Charlton Heston, Richard Harris, James Coburn, Senta Berger
8. Custer of the West (1967, USA) by Robert Siodmak, starring Robert Shaw, Mary Ure, Ty Hardin
9. Little Big Man (1970, USA) by Arthur Penn, starring Dustin Hoffman, Martin Balsam, Faye Dunaway
10. Soldier Blue (1970, USA) by Ralph Nelson, starring Candice Bergen, Peter Strauss, Donald Pleasence, Dana Elcar
11. Ulzana’s Raid (1972, USA), by Robert Aldrich, staring Burt Lancaster, Bruce Davison, Joaquin Martine
12. Dances with Wolves (1990, USA) , by Kevin Costner, starring Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene
13. Son of the Morning Star (1991, USA, TV ) starring Gary Cole, Rosanna Arquette
14. Geronimo: An American Legend (1993, USA) by Walter Hill, starring Jason Patric, Wes Studi, Gene Hackman, Matt Damon
15. Crazy Horse (1996, USA, TV) , by John Irvin, starring mit Michael Greyeyes, Ned Beatty, August Schellenberg
16. Buffalo Soldiers (1997, USA, TV) by Charles Haid, staring Lamont Bentley, Tom Bower, Danny Glover
17. Hidalgo (2004, USA) by Joe Johnston  starring Viggo Mortensen, Zuleikha Robinson, Omar Sharif
18. Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee (2007, USA, TV), by Yves Simoneau, starring Anna Paquin, Aidan Quinn, August Schellenberg, Adam Beach

Is there any movie anyone can recommend? How are they to be rated?

Added on November 27: see amended list