Beautiful Bag End

Bag End.jpg

In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a Hobbit-hole, and that means comfort. ~ JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit

It’s been a year this week since I went to New Zealand and I’ve been going back through some of the photos I took during the trip recently. I found this one today from Hobbiton which I’d always liked but had never really done much with. 

It’s of Bag End, the set of the Hobbit-hole home of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings films. 

Hobbiton is an incredible location and Bag End is definitely one of the highlights. It really is as beautiful as it looks in the films; even more so actually as you can see all of the details that just pass too quickly on screen to take in.

If you ever get the chance to go I’d highly recommend it. It was a wonderful afternoon.

Photo © CJ Levinson 2015

Oscar Haiku

I love the Oscars. I’m a big movie buff so watching the Oscars is one of my favourite things each year. It always brings back a lot of memories, particularly of certain films and where I was at that time in my life. I can still remember when Roberto Benigni won; he was so happy and infectious, it made me look for Life is Beautiful, which is now one of my favourite films.

I’ve been looking forward to the Oscars this year. One reason is because I like Steve Martin but it’s also because we’re getting the telecast live this year, which is a bonus. In the past it hasn’t been shown live in Australia, so I’ve usually had to dodge the news and phone calls all day until finally watching a delayed telecast in the evening. This time I’ll be able to watch the whole thing live.

I tend to see most of the nominated films on DVD, so the only one I’ve seen so far is Avatar, and I’ve read the book of Precious (Push). I liked Avatar but to be honest I’m hoping (on reputation) that The Hurt Locker or Up in the Air win. Avatar was fun and it’s a brilliant technical achievement but the script was clichéd and some of the dialogue was terrible. It deserves to win most of the technical awards but I’d rather see The Hurt Locker win Best Picture. And Kathryn Bigelow Best Director. It’s about time a woman won. Finally.

I’d like to see Jeff Bridges win an Oscar at last but apart from that, I’m not really bothered about the other main awards. The one category I’d like to see an upset in is the musical score. I just don’t get Giacchino’s work; it all sounds like blaring horns to me. I think Alexandre Desplat deserves to win but it won’t happen.

Anyway, to get into the Oscar spirit I’ve written several haiku of my favourite films. I’ve tried to capture the spirit of each film and it was a lot of fun – although reducing Gone with the Wind to 17 syllables was very difficult!

There are fifteen haiku and each film was nominated for Best Picture. Only 10 of them actually won the Oscar, though. Can you tell me which ones didn’t win? 😉

Hope you enjoy them. Have you seen many of the Oscar nominated films this year?

The Ring of Power:
A burden none can carry
Except one so small

(The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King)

Torn between
Love and virtue
Rick sends his love away
While Sam plays on

(Casablanca)

Dorothy dreams
Of witches and Oz
Of the Yellow Brick Road
And home

(The Wizard of Oz)

Mrs. Robinson
Seduces a younger man:
He loves her daughter

(The Graduate)

A love unrequited
Burns like the
Southern sun
And Scarlett’s spirit

(Gone with the Wind)

If life’s like
A box of chocolates
Why does love have
A bitter taste?

(Forrest Gump)

Young woman
Teaches children to sing
And finds love
As Nazis descend

(The Sound of Music)

Boy who walks the sky
Meets pirates and a princess:
The Force is with him

(Star Wars)

The underdog
Finally given his chance
To fly
Finds love instead

(Rocky)

A broken soldier
Finds solace among the Sioux
Before war returns

(Dances With Wolves)

The life of one
Reclusive man
Described in a single word:
Rosebud

(Citizen Kane)

Normandy
Blood on the water
Death in the air:
He still remembers

(Saving Private Ryan)

The life of a Don
Brutal and vicious:
Your son becomes you

(The Godfather)

Former boxer
Finds his voice against
The mob
To become a hero

(On the Waterfront)

Doomed voyage
Ends in icy waters
But their love will last
Forever

(Titanic)

Image Credit: Past Projections ~ Dan Duggan

Update: The Oscars finished about an hour ago. I found it disappointing after all that. Steve Martin & Alec Baldwin did quite well but it was too old-fashioned at times. The main problem was it had no momentum. By getting rid of the performances, it just dragged on and on.

Also, did I miss it or was Farrah Fawcett left off the In Memoriam tribute? Very strange. Quite underwhelming overall. But at least Jeff Bridges and Kathryn Bigelow won. About time too.

Gone Too Soon

I’m still stunned by the last couple of days. It’s hard to believe we’ve lost two of the most iconic stars of the twentieth century in one day.

I’ve been reading the tributes from around the world for both Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett but I think this one by Cathy Babao Guballa captures the feeling beautifully; that their lives, having achieved so much and touched so many people, should remind us of how fragile life really is, and to enjoy what’s important in our lives every day.

Jackson’s death in particular has affected me. These last two days it’s seemed like he has been everywhere; every shop is playing his music and every now and then you see a small crowd gathered in front of a TV, watching a concert or one of his music videos on DVD before moving on. It’s like everyone wants to be a part of it, to share their memories. The last time I can remember that was with Princess Diana’s death.

I was always more of a casual fan but had great respect for what he achieved, particularly in his early career; breaking down racial barriers long before Oprah, Tiger Woods or Obama, and advancing modern dance to another level. At times watching Jackson dance was like watching a ballerino, he was so graceful; other times he was so raw, primal. He always dominated the stage. I doubt we’ll see someone as multidimensional as he was again.

He was also an underrated songwriter, writing many of his best known songs, and I don’t think anyone (except perhaps The Beatles) could have rivalled the quality of his output during his most successful period, with Off the Wall, Thriller and Bad, and Destiny, Triumph and Victory with The Jacksons.

If I had to choose a favourite song it would probably be Man in the Mirror. It’s a beautiful song about how making a change in the world has to begin with making a change in your own life first. It’s a different side of Jackson where you’re carried into the song by his voice alone; with the events in Iran at the moment, the message seems just as relevant.

As we all know his later life was plagued by bizarre behaviour, and while I’m not excusing it I always felt most of it was due to his childhood. It inspired his creativity but he always seemed desperate for the childhood he had never had… even trying to recapture the appearance of youth through plastic surgery, until it ended up becoming a form of self-mutilation.

But regardless of that, his music endures and will always be with us. He gave millions of people great joy for so many years and that’s the way I want to remember him: so young and vibrant, like a burning star dancing in the sky.

I think it’s Fawcett’s smile I’ll remember best. The majority of her career was before my time but I remember first seeing her in a small role in Logan’s Run, and then in reruns of Charlie’s Angels in the 90s. The thing which struck me about her then and still does now wasn’t so much her beauty but her charm; some people can be physically beautiful but ugly in other ways, but there was just something genuine about her that seemed to shine through.

I always thought she was a better actress than people gave her credit for as well; she was excellent in The Apostle, opposite Robert Duvall, but of course she was more important as a cultural icon in the 70s and how that affected the roles of women. Charlie’s Angels showed that women could be powerful and successful in traditionally male-oriented roles, something few shows had shown before. She also represented something for America at the time; following a bloody war and the Watergate scandal, for everyday Americans she and Charlie’s Angels presented an empowering image and a distraction from the chaos surrounding them. I think that’s why she was so popular with both men and women, particularly with the poster and her fashion.

My enduring memory of Fawcett, though, is of how she continued to handle herself with grace and dignity right up until the end. Even while the media hounded her, and even when the cancer returned, she never gave up and still had that same beautiful smile on her face.

I feel very sorry for her family; her son is my age. Hopefully through her struggle she’ll help to save many more lives.

I guess there are certain days which will always stand out in my memory; like when Kurt Cobain or Michael Hutchence died, or when Heath Ledger or JFK Jr passed away, or Princess Diana. Now I’ll be adding two more names to the list. They’ve left us too soon. But with memories to last a lifetime.