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.

These Are the Voyages…

spock

Click here to take the “Which Star Trek character am I?” quiz

This is just a quick update as it’s been a while since my last post. To be honest I didn’t realise it had been so long; I’ve had a lot on my mind these last few months and haven’t felt up to blogging until now.

I haven’t been feeling well for several months; my health has been very poor and I haven’t been sleeping well again. While I am coping, this last year has been exhausting as it’s just been one thing after another… I’ve had to cut back on the amount of time I spend online to adjust.

We also recently learnt of the death of an old friend. Belinda was like an aunt to me when I was younger and was a dear friend of my mother; it’s brought back a lot of memories and we’re all feeling her loss.

But I’m trying not to dwell too much. I’m feeling a little better now and tomorrow I’m seeing the new Star Trek film with MQ, which is something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. I grew up with the more recent Star Trek series but it’s always been the relationships between the original characters that made me a fan and have defined Star Trek; to see Kirk, Spock and McCoy again after all these years should be a lot of fun.

Star Trek has needed refreshing for a while now and it looks like they’ve found the right dynamic with a young cast and a new approach. This Trek can have a wide appeal and it reminds me a little of Batman Begins; build word of mouth for a sequel and hopefully that will do even better once people realise that this isn’t the same kind of Trek.

The thing about Star Trek, which a lot of people don’t get if they think it’s geeky and boring, is that what it’s actually about isn’t science but humanity. Star Trek at its best gives us an optimistic view of humanity; it was born out of the 1960s as a counterpoint to issues like racism, sexism, communism, and war, showing us that whatever our differences, we can overcome them and unite in peace, a view that was well ahead of its time.

That’s the message which has always made me a fan; that the future can be better, if we want it to be. It looks different but as long as the new film keeps that message in some way, then I’ll be happy. And I think it will. That message of hope is just as relevant now, in a post-September 11 world, as it was in 1966.

This is one of the few films I’ll probably be able to see this year, but hopefully it will be the beginning of a new era for Trek. So I thought I’d post a fun quiz as well to celebrate the release of the film.

I wonder which character you are? Apparently I’m most like Spock. I guess that makes sense; I do tend to be quite logical. Not sure about the ears, though. I don’t think they’d suit me. 😉

Update: Just found a fun website that can change your photo into a Star Trek character. Mine is here. As I said, the Vulcan ears definitely don’t suit me!

Update #2: Just got back from seeing it a few hours ago. It was excellent. Even better than the hype, actually, which was a surprise. I’ll post a review on my other blog tomorrow but it’s very different and probably the best Star Trek film so far. Highly recommended.

Indy Rides Again

I love Harrison Ford. He’s one of those actors that always feels familiar no matter what he’s in. It’s the same whenever I watch Clint Eastwood or Tom Hanks; they just become their parts and bring their experience to any film. At one time Ford had starred in the top five box office hits of all time but I think his dramatic roles are underrated as well, like Witness and The Mosquito Coast. But of course he’ll always be remembered for Han Solo and Indiana Jones.

The Indy films are some of my favourites. They’re such fun films and I still think Raiders of the Lost Ark is the best adventure film that’s been made, mainly because of the balance between action, character and humour. I saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull yesterday and enjoyed it. It brought back a lot of memories of the previous films and of my childhood as well. It’s funny how you associate movies with a time in your life, isn’t it?

I saw Raiders when I was eight and loved it. At that time it was like nothing I’d seen before, particularly when the guy’s head exploded! I remember one of the things that really struck me about it was the music. At the time I had no idea it was John Williams who’d scored Star Wars as well but it seemed so light and playful, I loved it. I still get a chill when I hear The Raiders March even now.

I came across this video earlier and thought I’d post it to celebrate the release of the new film. It’s The Raiders March in all its glory, set to the artwork of Drew Struzan. Struzan’s poster artwork for the Indy films is stunning and really helped to define Indy’s style. I love his artwork for Pan’s Labyrinth as well.

So what did I think of the new film? Avoiding spoilers, I enjoyed it. It’s a fun adventure and Ford definitely doesn’t look too old for the role, which was ridiculous anyway; Indy uses his wits and knowledge to defeat his opponents, not brute strength. Karen Allen returns after 27 years and Cate Blanchett is great as a Soviet femme fatale. Shia LaBeouf offers support and some smouldering looks for the camera. The storyline has a few twists and there’s a superb jungle chase sequence that rivals anything from the earlier films.

It’s not Raiders of the Lost Ark or The Last Crusade but it has the humour that Temple of Doom lacked; I liked it more than that and the last half flies by. The main problem is that it doesn’t follow the same Indy formula as the previous films. It feels much more like a 50s B-movie than a 30s serial and some people will think it’s not an “Indiana Jones” movie because of that. But I quite liked that; you can’t make the same film 19 years later, so if you change the setting to the 50s, why not change the formula too?

The biggest surprise for me was John Williams’ score. His scores have become a little repetitive in recent years but this is one of his most enjoyable scores in a long time. It’s a thrill hearing The Raiders Theme again and the Crystal Skull motif is particularly good, an eerie, three note string piece that builds to a crescendo later in the film. It brings back all those memories of listening to the Raiders score for the first time and I wasn’t expecting that at all!

Overall I thought Crystal Skull was good. It matched my expectations and if you’re a fan of Indy or Harrison Ford I’d definitely say go and see it; it’s fun and that’s what matters. Just don’t expect it to be the same kind of film as the others; it’s different, as it had to be after 19 years. I’d say it’s worth seeing just for Cate Blanchett. She steals the show! But then I might be biased. 😉