Thoughts on the Lord of the Rings Adaptation

I’ve been thinking about writing this for a couple of months, and finally finished it today.

I posted a link to this essay on TheOneRing’s movie board, and it launched quite a vigorous discussion.

Speaking of flicks, we saw X2 today. It was pretty good, though the editing was a little loose and the screenplay could probably have benefitted from having fewer characters and a little more focus. The opening sequence in the White House is quite phenomenal.

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics.

A Letter to the Editor that Wasn’t Published

Back in early March, Jim wrote a very good letter to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette on the history of US-France relations. Unfortunately, at about the same time, the PG wound up printing a very similar letter with even more historical tidbits. However, since Jim’s was still a good letter, here it is:


Our Congress has done a number of silly things over the years, but some of their actions in the last week have been so childish that they make many of us feel ashamed of them. Changing the name of French Fries and French Toast in the cafeteria to Freedom Fries/Toast was a childish waste of time (especially given all the important things they should be addressing).

And the latest move by one representative to pay to bring home the remains of WWII soldiers is both silly and insulting. The claim that, by not agreeing with us on this issue, the French somehow don’t appreciate the sacrifices of our soldiers in WWII makes no sense. It also seems to imply that those of us in this country who don’t agree with President’s Iraq policy somehow don’t appreciate the actions of our soldiers in WWII. This is absolute nonsense. This is a different war, with different circumstances, and supporting one doesn’t mean that you have to somehow support the other. Nor do other countries — including allies — have to agree with us on every issue. Despite Mr. Bush’s statements, those who aren’t for us in every issue aren’t somehow enemies (and can in fact still be friends)

Also, all those folks who are jumping on France over this issue need be reminded that, while France owes us a debt of gratitude for what we did for them in WWI and WWII, we owe them a debt of gratitude for our very independence. Without France’s backing, we’d have never broken free from Britain in the Revolutionary War. (Yet of course 10 years later, when a new French government was involved in a very different war, we (wisely and rightly) did not back them and did not go to war at their side.)

(Jim Mann, early March 2003)

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics.

Santorum Says…

The folk(s) over at uggabugga (thanks to Leslie Turek for linking to that one!) found even more unbelievable quotes from my (gulp) senator Rick Santorum

I wish I had the time to track Rick’s gaffes. Unfortunately, I don’t. But if anyone else has seen anything particularly vile (which should be pretty easy given his 10+ years of making public statements) that Rick has said in public, send it along and I’ll link to it here.

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics.

A Letter to the Log Cabin Republicans

[[When I get on a roll…]]

Dear folks,

I cannot comprehend a greater oxymoron in this day than “gay” and “Republican.” I’m naturally something of a contrarian, but this is too much, even for me!

I used to vote more often for Republican candidates than Democratic candidates, but cannot bring myself to vote Republican anymore.

Why, just this week, one of the leading Republican senators equated incest and homosexuality (something I wrote both to him and to our local paper ( to disagree with vehemently).

And, apparently today, our government’s representative at the UN will abstain from voting in favor of not discriminating on basis of sexual orientation.

Gay rights issues, on a federal level, will continue to fail so long as Bush and friends are in power.

I have a lot of respect for Log Cabin Republicans, but you’re fighting a loosing battle for the forseeable future. Help the rest of us “out” the Republicans next year so we can all have a saner federal government!

Laurie D. T. Mann

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics.

A Letter to the Post-Gazette

I adapted the letter I wrote to Santorum, and it was
published in today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics.

A Letter to Rick Santorum

Yes, he’s (gulp) my senator. In fact, he grew up about three miles from where I live now, a fact that does not surprise me at all, given the regressive politics of many people in Mount Lebanon.

Here’s a letter I wrote to him today:

If you can’t comprehend the difference between consensual sex between adults and incest, many other Americans can. Hopefully, they will remember that the next time you are up for re-election. I know I will, and deeply resent your intrusion into American’s bedrooms. I continue to be deeply ashamed of your “representation” of Pennsylvania. Your attitudes epitomize the old slogan “Pennsylvania has Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with Alabama in the middle.”

Your views are much more in touch with the religious leadership of progressive countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran. Have you considered moving?

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics.

Oops, They Got Me!

Ohhhh, the indignity of it all!

Just today at work, I complained to co-workers that no one has any good April Fools Day jokes anymore. The Pitt News had a so-so April Fools Day issue. There was nothing particularly funny on the Web. Mebbe it was the war – no one seemed to think anything was funny.

At the end of a long day, I popped over to The One Ring, the LOTR Movie fan Web, and my jaw just dropped when I read this.

I dashed into my friend Laura’s office. “We have to postpone our trip out to California next year – Return of the King is being delayed until next May!”

We commiserated for a few minutes – we’re both dying to see ROTK, and had decided to go to the annual Oscar party throws. But not now – not if ROTK can’t even be up for any Oscars.

“This movie’s not out yet, and I’m already tired of hearing about it,” grumbled my boss, as she passed by Laura’s office. She’s a very dear person in most respects, with this one little blind spot.

I forwarded this lamentable news to my husband and daughter, then looked at the press release again. Something about the date caught my eye…

I clicked on a link in the story and found that, yes, I’d been had!

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics.

Oscar 2003 Predictions and Commentary

OK, for the second time in 34 years, I’m missing part of the Oscars on Sunday. Thank goodness for recorders! But, it will be weird to walk in late (for the second year in a row).

I’ve seen most of the major movies, will note what I haven’t seen and will go ahead with my predictions anyway. For the last few years, I’ve been hedging my bets with a “will win (WW)” and “should win (SW).”

I’m an avid LOTR fan, though I liked Fellowship a little more than Two Towers, TTT is still a wonderful flick. And it did get somewhat robbed already – it did have the best score, costuming, cinemetography, and make-up of last year. However, in their “infinite wisdom,” Oscar people who apparently didn’t see both movies decided that these categories were “too similar” to LOTR. I’m not convinced that Peter Jackson himself was robbed, however, at least not for this year.

The acting categories have been quite strong over the last few years. There’s only one mild embarassment in the bunch.

Performance by an actor in a leading role
Adrien Brody in THE PIANIST (Focus Features)
Nicolas Cage in ADAPTATION (Sony Pictures Releasing)
(SW) Michael Caine in THE QUIET AMERICAN (Miramax and Intermedia)
(WW) Daniel Day-Lewis in GANGS OF NEW YORK (Miramax)
Jack Nicholson in ABOUT SCHMIDT (New Line)

I haven’t seen The Pianist, but I suspect I might be giving Adrien Brody a “may win” if I had. Cage’s performance was the one “mild embarassment” – Adaptation is a wildly erratic flick and Cage’s performance is part of the problem. Nicholson’s performance in About Schmidt was certainly different but it bordered on posturing rather than performing. Michael Caine’s performance in The Quiet American was quite extraordinary and very moving. Few people have seen this movie, which was supposed to have been released in the fall of ’01 but was held back as it was perceived as being “anti-patriotic.” The Americans, then as, unfortunately, right now, were not “the good guys.” I would like to see Caine win, but it will probably be Daniel Day-Lewis for his bravura performance in the flawed Gangs of New York.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
(WON,WW) Chris Cooper in ADAPTATION (Sony Pictures Releasing)
(SW)Ed Harris in THE HOURS (Paramount and Miramax)
Paul Newman in ROAD TO PERDITION (DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox)
John C. Reilly in CHICAGO (Miramax)
Christopher Walken in CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (DreamWorks)

I avoid ties, but, gee, this is a really tough category. Anyone could win here and I’d be happy (kind of like last year when Broadbent won). Reilly was the Broadbent of this year, giving very good performances in several different movies. Newman and Walken were also wonderful. But Cooper and Harris both went well beyond wonderful. Harris’s performance was heartbreaking and Cooper’s was just plain hysterical. (As much as I would like to have seen Viggo Mortensen in this category, he was probably not quite up to the rest of the supporting actors.)

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Salma Hayek in FRIDA (Miramax)
Nicole Kidman in THE HOURS (Paramount and Miramax)
Diane Lane in UNFAITHFUL (20th Century Fox)
Julianne Moore in FAR FROM HEAVEN (Focus Features)
(SW, WW) Renée Zellweger in CHICAGO (Miramax)

Another tough, tough category. I’ve gone back and forth on the
issue “should Nicole win best actress for a supporting role?”
because she absolutely should have walked away with that Oscar.
Her Virginia Woolf was magnificent. I didn’t see Diane Lane,
but have the impression she was good. Julianne Moore was subtly
different in her two ’50s housewife roles. Salma Hayek was quite
good in Frida. But I have to go with Renee because she’s grown
so much as an actress over the last few years and was perfect
in Chicago.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
(SW,WW) Kathy Bates in ABOUT SCHMIDT (New Line)
Julianne Moore in THE HOURS (Paramount and Miramax)
Queen Latifah in CHICAGO (Miramax)
Meryl Streep in ADAPTATION (Sony Pictures Releasing)
Catherine Zeta-Jones in CHICAGO (Miramax)

Another tough category, but I’d give the edge to Bates
(and not just because of the hot tub scene).

Best animated feature film of the year
ICE AGE (20th Century Fox) Chris Wedge
(WW) LILO & STITCH (Buena Vista) Chris Sanders
SPIRIT: STALLION OF THE CIMARRON (DreamWorks) Jeffrey Katzenberg
(SW) SPIRITED AWAY (Buena Vista) Hayao Miyazaki
TREASURE PLANET (Buena Vista) Ron Clements

Sprited Away is the best animated feature I’ve ever seen. If there
was any justice, it would win. But Disney has gone out of its way
to not distribute this flick, and probably isn’t promoting for an
Osacar, either. Lilo & Stitch, while fun, wasn’t special.
Ditto Ice Age. Treasure Planet stole ruthlessly from the
artist Dean Morrissey without giving him any credit (yes, even
worse than Lucas stole from Jim Gurney for some of the
Alderan city scenes). And Spirit looked dumb. So while
Spirited Away deserves to win, it probably won’t.
(on the other hand, I said the same about Halle Berry
and Denzel Washington last year and I was wrong, so maybe…)

Achievement in costume design
CHICAGO (Miramax) Colleen Atwood
FRIDA (Miramax) Julie Weiss
(SW,WW) GANGS OF NEW YORK (Miramax) Sandy Powell
THE HOURS (Paramount and Miramax) Ann Roth
THE PIANIST (Focus Features) Anna Sheppard

Achievement in art direction
CHICAGO (Miramax) Art Direction: John Myhre
Set Decoration: Gordon Sim
FRIDA (Miramax) Art Direction: Felipe Fernandez del Paso
Set Decoration: Hania Robledo
(WW)GANGS OF NEW YORK (Miramax) Art Direction: Dante Ferretti
Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo
(SW)THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS (New Line) Art Direction: Grant Major
Set Decoration: Dan Hennah and Alan Lee
ROAD TO PERDITION (DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox) Art Direction: Dennis Gassner
Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh

These are the two Oscars that Gangs could legitimately win, and
it probably will. Frida has a slight chance because it becomes
very operatic in design in places. But TTT continues with its
fascinating world building, and ought to win the art direction award.

Achievement in cinematography
(WW) CHICAGO (Miramax) Dion Beebe
(SW)FAR FROM HEAVEN (Focus Features) Edward Lachman
GANGS OF NEW YORK (Miramax) Michael Ballhaus
THE PIANIST (Focus Features) Pawel Edelman
ROAD TO PERDITION (DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox) Conrad L. Hall

The photography in Far From Heaven was an amazing tribute to the
Technicolor domestic flicks of the ’50s and early ’60s. However,
I suspect Chicago will sweep a bunch of tech and major awards,
and this may be one of them.

Achievement in directing
(SW, WW) CHICAGO (Miramax) Rob Marshall
GANGS OF NEW YORK (Miramax) Martin Scorsese
THE HOURS (Paramount and Miramax) Stephen Daldry
THE PIANIST (Focus Features) Roman Polanski
TALK TO HER (Sony Pictures Classics) Pedro Almodóvar

Yes, Scorsese is owed. But he keeps getting overwhelmed by
a lucky first-timer. Rob Marshall probably can’t loose. Gangs
is too flawed, the Hours and the Pianist too dark and Almodovar
too non-English. Marshall may be the only lock, though I sometimes
wonder if Polanski might win for the career he almost had.

Best documentary feature
(SW, WW) BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE (United Artists and Alliance Atlantis)
A Salter Street Films/VIF 2/Dog Eat Dog Films Production
Michael Moore and Michael Donovan
DAUGHTER FROM DANANG (Balcony Releasing in association with Cowboy Pictures)
An Interfaze Educational Production
Gail Dolgin and Vincente Franco
PRISONER OF PARADISE (Alliance Atlantis)
A Média Vérité/Café Production
Malcolm Clarke and Stuart Sender
A Blitz/Welch Production
Jeffrey Blitz and Sean Welch
WINGED MIGRATION (Sony Pictures Classics)
A Galatée Films/France 2 Cinéma/France 3 Cinéma/Les Productions de la Guéville/Bac Films/Pandora Film/Les Productions JMH/Wanda Vision/Eyescreen Production
Jacques Perrin

Michael Moore will probably win…

Achievement in film editing
(WW) CHICAGO (Miramax) Martin Walsh
GANGS OF NEW YORK (Miramax) Thelma Schoonmaker
THE HOURS (Paramount and Miramax) Peter Boyle
THE PIANIST (Focus Features) Hervé de Luze

The extraordinary thing about TTT is how well-constructed it is.
I hate war movies, and nearly 1/3rd of the movie is one long battle
scene that I can’t take my eyes off of. But Chicago will probably win.

Achievement in makeup
FRIDA (Miramax) John Jackson and Beatrice De Alba
THE TIME MACHINE (DreamWorks and Warner Bros.) John M. Elliott, Jr. and Barbara Lorenz

No Award. The make-up in Time Machine sucked and while it was
certainly good in Frida, it was too subtle to be particularly

Oh, right, these are the Oscars. Give something to Frida!

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (DreamWorks) John Williams
FAR FROM HEAVEN (Focus Features) Elmer Bernstein
FRIDA (Miramax) Elliot Goldenthal
(SW, WW) THE HOURS (Paramount and Miramax) Philip Glass
ROAD TO PERDITION (DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox) Thomas Newman

The nominated music was pretty unmemorable last year, but since Howard
Shore wasn’t nominated, probably Philip Glass should win for
his interesting score.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
Burn It Blue from FRIDA (Miramax)
Music by Elliot Goldenthal
Lyric by Julie Taymor
Father and Daughter from THE WILD THORNBERRYS MOVIE (Paramount and Nickelodeon Movies)
Music and Lyric by Paul Simon
The Hands That Built America from GANGS OF NEW YORK (Miramax)
Music and Lyric by Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen
(SW, WW) I Move On from CHICAGO (Miramax)
Music by John Kander
Lyric by Fred Ebb
Lose Yourself from 8 MILE (Universal)
Music by Eminem, Jeff Bass and Luis Resto
Lyric by Eminem

This one is pretty much of a no-brainer.

Best motion picture of the year
(WW)CHICAGO (Miramax)
A Producer Circle Co., Zadan/Meron Production
Martin Richards, Producer
An Alberto Grimaldi Production
Alberto Grimaldi and Harvey Weinstein, Producers
(SW)THE HOURS (Paramount and Miramax)
A Scott Rudin/Robert Fox Production
Scott Rudin and Robert Fox, Producers
A New Line Cinema and Wingnut Films Production
Barrie M. Osborne, Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson, Producers
THE PIANIST (Focus Features)
An R.P. Productions, Heritage Films, Studio Babelsberg, Runtime LTD. Production
Roman Polanski, Robert Benmussa and Alain Sarde, Producers

I’m nothing if not a realist. I liked Chicago, it was fun,
well-cast and it was great to see a real musical on the big screen
again (I don’t think Moulin Rouge quite counted). But The Hours
was a very well-cast, well directed and it would be nice if it
got some notice.

Achievement in sound
CHICAGO (Miramax) Michael Minkler, Dominick Tavella and David Lee
GANGS OF NEW YORK (Miramax) Tom Fleischman, Eugene Gearty and Ivan Sharrock
(SW,WW) THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS (New Line) Christopher Boyes, Michael Semanick, Michael Hedges and Hammond Peek
ROAD TO PERDITION (DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox) Scott Millan, Bob Beemer and John Patrick Pritchett
SPIDER-MAN (Sony Pictures Releasing) Kevin O’Connell, Greg P. Russell and Ed Novick

Achievement in sound editing
(SW, WW) THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS (New Line) Ethan Van der Ryn and Michael Hopkins
MINORITY REPORT (20th Century Fox and DreamWorks) Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom
ROAD TO PERDITION (DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox) Scott A. Hecker

Achievement in visual effects
(SW,WW) THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS (New Line) Jim Rygiel, Joe Letteri, Randall William Cook and Alex Funke
SPIDER-MAN (Sony Pictures Releasing) John Dykstra, Scott Stokdyk, Anthony LaMolinara and John Frazier
STAR WARS EPISODE II ATTACK OF THE CLONES (20th Century Fox) Rob Coleman, Pablo Helman, John Knoll and Ben Snow

If Gollum was the only effect in the movie, it still should win.

Adapted screenplay
ABOUT A BOY (Universal) Screenplay by Peter Hedges and Chris Weitz & Paul Weitz
ADAPTATION (Sony Pictures Releasing) Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman
CHICAGO (Miramax) Screenplay by Bill Condon
(SW,WW) THE HOURS (Paramount and Miramax) Screenplay by David Hare
THE PIANIST (Focus Features) Screenplay by Ronald Harwood

This may go to Chicago, but…
Adaptation was certainly interesting, but it was just such a departure
from The Orchid Thief that it really isn’t much of a adaptation.

Original screenplay
(SW,WW) FAR FROM HEAVEN (Focus Features) Written by Todd Haynes
GANGS OF NEW YORK (Miramax) Screenplay by Jay Cocks and Steve Zaillian and Kenneth Lonergan
Story by Jay Cocks
MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING (IFC/Gold Circle Films) Written by Nia Vardalos
TALK TO HER (Sony Pictures Classics) Written by Pedro Almodóvar
Y TU MAMÁ TAMBIÉN (IFC Films) Written by Carlos Cuar&oacuten and Alfonso Cuar&oacuten

I enjoyed My Big Fat Greek Wedding, it was a fun movie, but seeing it
nominated just because it made a pile of money unexpectedly was silly.
But Far from Heaven was an interesting, adult movie, and I hope it wins.

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics.

Dune, Dune and Dune

I read the books back in ’75, saw the first movie in ’84, but didn’t see the Sci Fi Channel miniseries remake until just now.

The books have the strength of being quite original (for their time), the Lynch version has the strength of a generally better cast and better overall design, but the miniseries has a better sense of scope. The main weakness in the miniseries is that Jessica and Paul look too close in age; there is this awkward chemistry between them you didn’t get from Kyle McLaughlin and Francesca Annis 20 years ago. Oh, and those funny hats so many of the characters (especially the Bene Gesseret) wear.

While 2 1/2 hours was probably too short for the Dune movie in 1984, 6 hours seems too long for the miniseries. Irulan, for example, was better as a background character in the book and the Lynch version than almost a lead character in the miniseries.

I look forward to seeing the Children of Dune miniseries though. I rather like Dune Messiah (a book generally disliked), a book that will be part of the next miniseries. I’m intrigued that Alice Krige (aka the Borg Queen) will play the Lady Jessica, along with Susan Sarandon as Wensicia.

Thank goodness for PVR as both Six Feet Under (my favorite show) will be on against Children of Dune on Sunday, along with the very interesting-looking Normal on HBO. [sigh]

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics.

Greetings from Snowkone!

Yes, Boskone happened in Boston for the first time since 1987. There were either one or two fire alarms, but the hotel didn’t take them personally… ;-> The con went pretty well, and Sharon Sbarsky now holds the record of running the world’s longest Boskone.

This morning, to the surprise of absolutely no one, flights out of Boston were cancelled due to the closure of airports due to the Presidents Day Blizzard. At about 9am, it finally started to snow here. Then, after more than 12 hours, we had more than a foot of snow in downtown Boston.

This has turned Boskone into Snowkone, since there are about 50 of us at the Sheraton who couldn’t leave Boston today. We have a con suite (Sharon’s room), a flyer (in progress), possible badges, a day-long program in the bar, et.c. We might have some photos as Del Cotter, John Lorenz and Bill Jensen all had cameras.

No Longer the World’s Slowest Blog is a periodic blog with comments on a variety of topics.