I love the Academy Awards and last year I realized how few of the “Best Picture” winners I’d actually seen. So I made it a goal to see all 83 winners and blog my thoughts about them along the way.

Why did it win? Should another movie have won instead? Has it become a beloved classic or do many of you not even recognize the title? I invite you, my friends and guests, to comment along with me. Do you agree/disagree? I should be fair and place a SPOLIER ALERT on this blog since I’ll be writing about various parts of the movie. So read at your own risk…

I have often told people that I have movie amnesia… I can see a movie and forget all about it years later. So for that reason, I am re-watching the 27 I’ve seen before. That said, if no one visits or reads my blog and I basically perform the online equivalent of talking to a brick wall, that’s fine; if for nothing else, it’ll be my own reminder. Enjoy!

And the Oscar goes to…


Monday, July 18, 2011

The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, 2003










Rated PG-13

The three “Lord of the Rings” films are tied with “Back to the Future” as my most favorite trilogy. I LOVE these movies even though fantasy is not my favorite film genre. (Although I also LOVE LOVE the Harry Potter series (but mostly because I ADORE the books)). I digress… For those of you who don’t know, this is the third installment of the series (the previous two were nominated but didn’t win). “LOTR: Return of the King” was the first fantasy film to win this top honor in Oscar history and it won 11/11 nominations which is an incredible achievement. It grossed a billion dollars in just under 10 weeks, which was a new record, and it earned 3 times more than the second highest grossing film that year in box office sales, making it one of the greatest film franchises of all time.

[Oscar trivia: Two other films have also won an impressive 11 awards (“Ben-Hur” (’59) and “Titanic” (’97)) and two other films have also experienced clean sweeps (“Gigi” (’58) won 9/9 and “The Last Emperor” (’87) also won 9/9).]

If you haven’t seen this movie or its predecessors, I strongly recommend renting/borrowing them. I shouldn’t have to say that it’s necessary to see the first two films before “LOTR: Return of the King” in order to understand the complicated plot and character webs. If I must wrote a synopsis here, I will say that this movie is the continuation of the journey of Frodo and Sam (hobbits from the Shire) who are trying to destroy the one ring (“that will rule them all”) in the fires of Mount Doom. It is a dangerously powerful ring that must be destroyed and Frodo has become the chosen bearer. The rest of the Fellowship (the incredibly handsome Aragorn, the bad-ass elf Legolas, Gimli the dwarf, and two other hobbits) are left to defend other communities of Middle Earth in what seems like battle after battle against evil Sauron’s armies.

It is fairly well-known that the late J.R.R. Tolkien (author of this series of books) was a Catholic and there are many parallels to Christ and the Christian life in these books about good versus evil and overcoming temptation. Specifically, Frodo, like Jesus, carries a heavy burden that no one else can carry. He has a small and devoted following to help him in his mission. Near the end, as Frodo climbs Mount Doom to complete his task, he crumbles from exhaustion under the pressure of his burden. Frodo’s closest friend, Sam (like Simon of Cyrene), helps him finish his journey by shouldering the weight. Aragorn can also be perceived as a Christ-figure. In this third film specifically, he returns to his throne as King after years of cover disguised as a ranger. Gandalf the wizard is another one; he must perish in order to save his friends. He rises three days later as a greater, more powerful wizard. The lembas bread, a gift from the elves, is the sole food the hobbits depend on as they continue their arduous undertaking. Tolkien once commented that the bread was a “derivation of the Eucharist” and it “gave strength to endure”. I could go on and on, but my point is that these books/films are rich in symbolism worth discovering. They are full of lessons in mercy, redemption, salvation, self-sacrifice, and loyalty, and the struggles of pride, temptation, and suffering.

Even though they filmed the three movies consecutively, they had an extra two years to edit this final one and put to use the special effects improvements. To blog about this Oscar winner, I knew I couldn’t just see the final movie; I had to re-watch the first two (and introduce my sister to the trilogy). I immediately noticed how Gollum looked more realistic, not to mention Shelob (the spider), the oliphaunts, the dead men of the mountains, etc.

I think I am the only person who wasn’t creeped out by or hated Gollum/Smeagol. I don’t know… I just felt bad for him. Maybe part of my heart bled for a misunderstood and self-tortured little guy with split-personality disorder. I kept defending his behavior like Frodo did. I was holding out for a scene in which he redeemed himself in the final film, but alas, he fell short (well, actually he fell a long way).

My main critique of this movie is the ending(s). People actually lifted themselves off their seats in the theatre when it looked like it was over. And then it happened again. And again. I understand there were a lot of storylines to wrap up; I just wish they each weren’t done in such sweeping panoramic way accompanied by soft music and a blackout.

This was the first time that a film was nominated for this many awards with none of them in the acting categories. (I think Sean Astin was snubbed for a Best Supporting Actor award though… c’mon- how many times did that guy make me cry in this film!?) Aside from Best Director, the awards were mostly in technical categories. Since the movies are obviously using the same make-up, costuming, music, etc., it’s thought that this Best Picture award is in recognition of the entire trilogy. I’m now wondering if the second part of the seventh Harry Potter film will win Best Picture at next year’s award ceremony…

This was the predictable favorite. “LOTR: Return of the King” was up against “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”, “Lost in Translation”, “Mystic River”, and “Seabiscuit”. I’ve seen those last two films and heard iffy reviews about the first. I personally think the movie “Cold Mountain” got a nomination snub for Best Picture though. Renee Zellwegger won for Best Supporting Actress and Jude Law was nominated. Although, there were difficult scenes to watch when I saw it in the theatre, I’ve since bought the DVD and watched it a few more times. (I LOVE the music in it too.)

A GREAT SCENE:

I liked too many scenes to pick a favorite but one that I thought was well performed/filmed/edited was the one in which Pippen sings a song to Denethor while Faramir and his horsemen are bravely riding to their deaths. And props to the actor, Billy Boyd, for singing it himself! I’ve attached a link to YouTube of this scene:


LESSON LEARNED:

As long as there’s something to hope for, all is not lost. Although it seemed like an impossible task, Frodo (and his fellowship) soldiered on. Isaiah 40:31 says, But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles”. Interestingly, Frodo and Sam fly away from Mount Doom on eagles’ wings... ;)

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