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Thoughts on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

(NOTE: This is not technically a critique, just a series of impressions. Also, SPOILER ALERT. No, seriously, don’t read this if you haven’t seen it yet and want to be surprised.)

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So last night I finally got to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first part of Peter Jackson’s trilogy prequel to The Lord of the Rings. This morning, when I woke up, these were some of the thoughts running through my head:

  • First of all, how amazing was it in 3D? I’m not talking about the new 48 fps format, because it wasn’t available in the Philippines, but the 24 fps 3D blew me away. 3D is so easy to get wrong, and terrible when it happens (The Last Airbender, anyone?), but this view of Middle Earth was breathtaking, and yes, I ducked reflexively several times when stuff flew at my face.
  • Speaking of gorgeous views: every single scene was a visual treat. I’m not just talking about the idyllic, pastoral Shire or even the too-beautiful-for-words Rivendell. I’m talking about the utter believability of the Goblin Kingdom, the sheer realism of Gollum’s cave, and the majestic giant eagles whose feathers you could almost touch. Middle Earth lives and breathes in The Hobbit. Peter Jackson has done Tolkien’s world justice once again.
  • I’m happy to be able to say that without reservation this morning, because last night I was freaking out about the stone giants. (I kept myself from watching the trailers except one, so they were a surprise.) The purist in me was just about pulling my hair out thinking they were just invented for cinematic effect, but it turns out THEY DO EXIST. (Well, in Tolkien’s world, at least.) I had completely forgotten about them, because in the book, they didn’t interact directly with Bilbo and the rest. That doesn’t make for good action, so I understand why Peter Jackson took artistic license. I can deal with that. I mean, I’m already dealing with Kili, the dwarf dreamboat who probably has Tolkien blowing furious smoke rings in the afterlife.  I get that they need a Legolas-type to sell more tickets so that Peter Jackson can keep making movies, which means I would be happier just dealing with it than being insisting on accuracy. So okay, fine, bring on the hot dwarf. (Let me just get this out: Even dwarf women are supposed to have beards. How is that civilized scruff of Kili’s considered satisfactory?)
  • However, there is one bit of artistic license I have absolutely no problem with. I’m talking about the Elf on a moose. That image is forever tattooed on my mind. Elf king on a GIANT moose. I find it equal parts hilarious and awesome. I want to high five whoever thought of that.
  • Speaking of Elves, hail Cate Blanchett, the most Elvish Elf ever. She is phenomenal. Gandalf, Elrond, and Saruman are played by brilliant actors with powerful presences, but whenever she was onscreen, I couldn’t tear my eyes off her. She is every bit as enchanting as Galadriel is supposed to be, and I could probably listen to her narrate the end of the world in that calm, regal voice of hers and not feel an ounce of panic.
  • While we’re on the subject of voices, I would follow Thorin Oakenshield to the Lonely Mountain and beyond if he would just keep singing to me. I loved Richard Armitage in that role. He is a somewhat less humorous character than he was in the book, but Tolkien wrote a children’s novel, and Peter Jackson’s movie is much more adult.
  • However darker they made the movie, they still put in a lot of fun. A key aspect of humor is the element of surprise, which is why I loved that this movie still made me laugh even when I already knew what was going to happen. (Whoever thought Gollum could be adorable?) Martin Freeman is a great choice as the hapless Bilbo, and his body language and physical comedy is pitch perfect. Same goes for the dwarves (yes, fine, even Kili).

Obviously, I loved this movie. Even more obviously, I am not the most unbiased audience there is, and I probably never will be. Still, for a while there I was honestly worried that the countless problems that plagued the pre-production period would ruin the movie, and I am so relieved that it didn’t happen. It was great fun to  be reunited with beloved characters, settings, and music, and even more awesome to see new wonders and be tantalized with the promise of more. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is amazing, and now fans like me have to gird ourselves for the year-long wait until the next one is released. God help us.

The most romantic movie I have ever seen: Before Sunrise

I love, love, love this movie. I watched it again last night, and there is nothing I would change about it, not one thing. A few years ago, some girl friends of mine decided to rent it to see what I was raving about, and their reactions were bored and quizzical at best. Nothing happens, they complained.   Oh, but so much does. Two people discover each other slowly, tentatively, with growing joy. It is a marvelous thing to watch.

“I like to feel his eyes on me when I look away.”

On the surface, my friends were right. This isn’t your typical Hollywood fare where you are made to sympathize with lovers as they struggle against the world or even against themselves, until love finally triumphs and they fall into each other’s arms to the accompaniment of a sweeping score. In Before Sunrise, the story is something that can happen to you and me, and might even be happening now, somewhere in the world. Two young people, Jesse and Celine (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) meet on a train and start talking. They spend several hours getting to know each other. Knowing that their time together is fleeting, they decide to be “rational adults” about it and just enjoy each other’s company without unrealistic expectations. No declarations of undying love are spoken. It is unnecessary — we can see how they look at each other anyway.

I’m not going to do another review. I already reviewed it here, Before Sunrise, as well as its sequel, Before Sunset (SPOILER ALERT for both). This post is just a way of relishing the delight that always lingers after I watch that film. In a way, I feel almost like a voyeur. Their interaction is so genuine that it feels like there is no camera, no movie, just a real conversation between two very interesting, likable people. There’s this scene in a music store where he looks at her and she looks at him, then they both glance away, not wanting to be caught — and it’s such a sweet, private moment that I feel both giddy for them and a little embarrassed to have witnessed it. I wish there could be more films like this one.

Top Ten Hottest Male Fictional Characters

This list of daydream-worthy characters actually started with an idea that has the potential to land me on failbook.com if I ever carry it out:


But since I haven’t found the perfect picture to represent a composite of all my fictional lovers yet, this will have do for now:

Top Ten Fictional Characters Who Melt Me

10. Buzz Lightyear of Star Command – You might say a cartoon character is out of place on this list, but I’ve loved him forever (this is Buzz Lightyear from the Disney Channel series, not from Toy Story), so I can’t leave him out. And why should I? He’s brave, heroic, and he saves the universe on a daily basis. Plus, he has the best catchphrase ever: To infinity and beyond!!! Beats Superman’s “Up, up, and away,” if you ask me.

9. Westley – He’s a pirate. In a black ninja mask.  That right there is ten different kinds of awesome already, but there’s more. He also has kickass sword fighting skills, a sharp wit, and a superb intellect. Plus he responds to Buttercup’s every whim with “As you wish.” Learn, gentlemen, learn. (The Princess Bride movie adaptation is hilarious, but it’s got nothing on the book. If you haven’t read it yet, you’re missing out on one of the best comedic experiences in fantasy literature.)

8. Hector – He’s just the most all-around decent guy in The Iliad. No womanizing, arrogance, or war-thirst here — he’s just a guy forced to fight a war he didn’t want to defend the country his irresponsible younger brother jeopardized.  But as mighty as he was on the battlefield, he was also incredibly loving to his wife and child. Both strength and tenderness in a man — who could resist that? It also doesn’t hurt that the gorgeous Eric Bana played him in Troy (a.k.a The Beautiful People Go to War, which is less an adaptation of The Iliad and more of an excuse to show as many bare, oiled muscles as possible outside of a wrestling match). I have a weakness for guys with deep, rough voices, and that man has a voice so manly he could probably make a drag queen grow ovaries.

7. Noah Calhoun – He loves nature, reads poetry, writes love letters, plays the guitar, and loves faithfully and forever. The Notebook should probably come with a warning: High Risk of Causing Female Frustration. I hate you, Nicholas Sparks, for making me fall in love with someone who doesn’t exist!

6. King Mongkut – I know he’s not exactly fictional, but I just loved how Chow Yun Fat portrayed him in the film Anna and the King. All that restrained passion and sexual tension between him and Anna was absolutely delicious to watch. Sometimes a glance is more potent than the most poetic avowals of love. And sometimes glances are all that can be shared. King Mongkut kept himself from promising Anna a future that he knew was impossible, no matter how much they both longed for it. That’s integrity even when it’s most difficult, and it separates the men from the boys.

5. Barney Snaith – The town outcast who turns out to be the best friend a girl can have, Barney is my favorite L.M. Montgomery hero. (You can keep your Gilbert Blythe, Anne.) In The Blue Castle, he introduces Valancy to the magic of woods and hills and fields, and she blooms under his care. They go wandering around the gorgeous Canadian outdoors, or they read together in front of the fire with their two cats, or they just sit on the porch watching the twilight in contented silence. This is the kind of life I want to have, and a man like Barney Snaith is the perfect someone to share it with. A girl can dream, right?

4. Captain Von Trapp* – Again, not quite fictional, but there’s something about stern, masterful men that women find fascinating. Still waters run deep, they say, and we just can’t resist wanting to see the warmth and passion beneath that cool, controlled exterior.  So when the proud captain turns to Maria in that moonlit garden and tells her that he loves her “whether or not [he] should,” you just know that he would turn the full force of his nature into loving her. And  that, ladies and gentlemen, marked my entrance to puberty — when I started watching The Sound of Music not only for the songs but for the drama between the rigid Captain Von Trapp and the impetuous Maria.

3. Alessan di Tigana bar Valentin – An exiled prince, a desperate revolutionary, a brilliant strategist, a gifted musician — the central character of G.G. Kay’s fantasy novel Tigana commands attention from both comrades and enemies alike. And can you blame them? He is both poignantly human and larger than life. And no woman, fictional or otherwise, can possibly resist being told that, “You are the harbor of my soul’s journeying.” Excuse me, I have to swoon.

2. Jesse – I have never seen so much chemistry between two leads in a modern love story as there is between Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy in Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. The way that Jesse looks at Celine — it’s as if he’s trying to figure out how in the world he happened to come across someone so beautiful. Jesse himself is beautiful: witty, articulate, intelligent, spontaneous, sensual. They captivate each other in the most bittersweet, poignant love story I have ever seen on the screen, and they convince us that it’s possible: On the most ordinary day, something unusual might happen and you might end up meeting the love of your life. And when that happens, don’t let go. (Or *spoiler alert* at least get a freaking phone number, for heaven’s sake. Jesse, I would totally have given you mine.)

1. Aragorn – There are so many sides to this Man of the West in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: a scholar, a poet, a healer, a vagabond, a warrior, a king. Also, a lover to Arwen Evenstar, for whom he must win his kingdom back so that he could gain her father’s approval. Elrond played the part of demanding, reluctant potential father-in-law with uncommon relish. Basically, he said to Aragorn, “Sure, you can marry my daughter, but only after you go on a suicidal mission almost forty years from the time you met.” To which Aragorn replied, “Whatever you say, Dad.” So, yeah. I’ll take this scruffy, grimy Ranger over those debonair Prince Charmings any day.

There you have it. A fabulous female friend of mine once quipped, “Honey, if he’s too good to be true, then he probably isn’t.” Well, happy daydreaming anyway. 🙂

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* Mr. Darcy has the same appeal, but Captain Von Trapp can actually play the guitar and sing, so more sexy points for him.

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Best Movie Moments

Just so you know how cheesy I really am, I made a list of those special screen moments that remain in my mind long after the credits roll. I may have gone a little overboard in the “goodbye” category, though. For some reason, I remember more tearful scenes than happy ones. For example, I could find only two winners for the “kiss” and “almost-kiss” (you know, those times when there’s this tension in the air but they never quite get there) categories. Anyway, I expect to keep updating this list in the future.

FAVORITE DANCE

#3. The Lindler by Capt. Von Trapp and Maria in The Sound of Music

#2. Sixteen Going on Seventeen by Rolfe and Leizl in The Sound of Music

#1. King Mongkut and Anna’s last waltz in Anna and the King (absolutely unforgettable)

FAVORITE “I LOVE YOU”

#3. “Can’t you see? Every step I have taken, since I was a child on that bridge, has been to bring me closer to you.” – Sayuki to the Chairman in Memoirs of a Geisha

#2. You gave me peace in a lifetime of war.” – Achilles to Briseis in Troy

#1. “I choose a mortal life.” – Arwen to Aragorn in The Fellowship of the Ring

FAVORITE KISS

#2. Peter and Wendy in Capt. Hook’s ship in Peter Pan (2003 version)

#1. Arwen and Aragorn at Aragorn’s coronation in The Return of the King

FAVORITE ALMOST-KISS

#2. Jesse and Celine in the listening booth in Before Sunrise

#1. Anna and King Mongkut at the beach in Anna and the King

FAVORITE GOODBYE

#7. “We’ll always have Paris.” – Rick to Ilsa in Casablanca

#6. “It was a dream, Arwen. Nothing more.” – Aragorn to Arwen in The Return of the King

#5. “If I die..” “No!” “If I die, I don’t know how much longer Troy will stand.”- Hector and Andromache in Troy

#4. “Yeah…okay…. I’ll see you at home…. Please, Jimmy? I’ll see you at home?” – Mae to Jim in Cinderella Man

#3. “You will never age for me, nor fade, nor die…” – Will Shakespeare to Viola in Shakespeare in Love

#2. “Your majesty, promise me! Promise me that I will see you again.” – Anna to King Mongkut in Anna and the King

#1.”We set out to save the Shire, Sam. And it has been saved. But not for me.” – Frodo to Sam in The Return of the King

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You know you’re addicted to the Lord of the Rings when…

  • You’ve read The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Books of Lost Tales, The Silmarillion and everything else Tolkien has written – heck, everything he’s even touched – more than ten times.
  • No one in your family is allowed to speak, breathe, or otherwise suggest their existence while you’re watching the trilogy for the 57th time.
  • You know exactly what the characters in the movies are going to say next because a) you’ve watched them 57 times, b) you actually have the script and have read it over and over again, and c) you recorded the sounds with your mp3 player and keep listening to it all day.
  • You’ve been caught talking to trees and sympathizing that “nobody cares for the woods anymore”.
  • You want to petition your school to add Elvish 101 and The History of Middle Earth to your curriculum.
  • Anyone who dares to criticize, or heaven forbid, compare The Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter gets treated to a passionate two-hour rebuttal from you.
  • You’ve memorized quotes from the books.
  • You’ve memorized quotes from the movies.
  • You’ve memorized Elvish phrases.
  • You’ve memorized EVERYTHING connected to Tolkien!
  • You use “mellon” as your password.
  • You take more notes and pay more rapt attention when reading The Books of Lost Tales than when studying for your final History of Civilization exam.
  • Your mom warns visitors who have limited time to never mention “Tolkien”, “The Lord of the Rings”, and other similar words to you.
  • You start saying “eleventy-one” instead of “one hundred eleven” and refer to potatoes as “taters”.
  • There are more Lord of the Rings posters in your room than pictures of your family and friends.
  • You try to convince your married friends to throw their wedding rings into the fire.
  • All your favorite things are your “preciousssss”.
  • You decide whether the people you meet have good taste or not by asking them what they think of The Lord of the Rings.
  • You refer to your friends as your “Fellowship”.
  • You feel proud that you’re only five feet tall, because even the smallest person can change the course of the future.
  • You refer to meetings as “councils” and “Entmoots”.
  • You are seriously considering plastic surgery on your ears.
  • You think the world has changed. You feel it in the water. You feel it in the earth. You smell it in the air.
  • You know who Glorfindel is.
  • You seriously consider wearing green on your wedding day and walking down the aisle holding a banner.
  • You try to buy lembas bread at the bakery.
  • You know what LOTR, FOTR, TTT, ROTK, BOLT and Sil stand for and use them often.
  • You know exactly where and how the movies deviate from the books.
  • When you have no load or you’re in a place where there’s no network coverage, you try use beacons to communicate long distance.
  • You’ve memorized Middle Earth geography while you can’t quite remember whether Samar is in Visayas or
    Mindanao.
  • You’ve spent hours looking for “There and Back Again – A Hobbit’s Tale” in the library.
  • Fifty percent of the sites on your bookmarks are about The Lord of the Rings.
  • You know what happened in the Second Age of Middle Earth but don’t know the year that the Japanese landed on Philippine shores.
  • When you’re worried, you say that “a shadow and a threat is growing in your mind”.
  • When you’re sick, you ask for athelas, or kingsfoil. You’re also convinced that the doctor is a king in disguise, because “the hands of the king are the hands of a healer”.
  • You can relate to this list and…
  • You make lists like this.

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On magic

If there’s any kind of magic in this world, it must be in the attempt of understanding someone, sharing something…. I know, it’s almost impossible to succeed, but who cares, really? The answer must be in the attempt.

– Celine in Before Sunrise


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