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'Lord' films run rings around the rest because of words
St Paul Pioneer Press / Chicago Tribune ^ | 12/12/02 | MICHAEL WILMINGTON

Posted on 12/14/2002 6:35:39 AM PST by Valin

Movies have their own special magic, of course, but it helps a lot to have a great book and great words behind them.

A supreme recent case in point: the visually spectacular and absolutely mesmerizing "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," a state-of-the art epic opening Wednesday that surpasses its predecessor (last year's "The Fellowship of the Ring") for sheer thrills and visual splendor. Yet, packed with technological marvels and rousing scenes and characters as it is, "Two Towers" could not have spirited us away to all those lands of wonder if it weren't for the shy Oxford professor of Old and Middle English who dreamed it all up: John Ronald Reuel Tolkien.

No recent movie exploits all the various modern resources of cinema - from computerized effects, animation, sound recording and crystalline location shooting - with more flair than Peter Jackson's film of the adventures of Frodo Baggins and the Fellowship of the Ring. Few movies this year have been more faithful to their source - in this case, one so universally familiar. Yet few have a source more consciously literary, more drenched in academia and learning, than Tolkien's fantasy novel cycle.

Tolkien hardly seems a likely candidate for cinema canonization. He was a lifelong academic; student of literary texts and comparative linguistics; and devotee of Norse, English and Icelandic epics who put his vast knowledge to use creating his own world and inventing the history, languages and people - and wizards, orcs and hobbits - who flourished there. Though Tolkien may have lived in a kind of sequestered academic paradise, the three linked novels of "The Lord of the Rings" ("The Fellowship of the Ring," "The Two Towers" and "The Return of the King") are a sustained feat of imagination that has entranced millions since their British publication in 1954 and '55 - especially since their explosion of American popularity in the mid-1960s. Tolkien conceived and wrote the books seemingly as much for his own pleasure as for the financial success that was at first slow in coming: planning and writing them over a 15-year period beginning in 1937, composing much of the work during the Second World War in segments he sent to his soldier son Christopher. The novel's huge battle between good and evil probably reflected his and his son's WWII experience (and the elder Tolkien's service in the Boer War.)

But they were also part of an even longer sustained effort of imagination. The author, born in 1892, spent most of his life (to his death in 1973) creating and describing the imaginary fairytale world and history of which the "Rings" cycle is only a part, inventing at least four languages, hundreds of characters and a voluminous history and archeology stretching over many centuries. That's what lies behind the onscreen richness of the movie "Rings."

Can you imagine the pipe-puffing, hugely well-read, devoutly Catholic Tolkien, who liked to compare himself to his home-loving hobbits, hobnobbing with the big-movie sophisticates who put his novel so smashingly on film: the wild-man New Zealand writer-director Jackson (whose first features were the gorefests "Bad Taste" and "Dead Alive") and high-flying New Line executives Robert Shaye and Mark Ordesky? Or trading quips with the studio people to whom Jackson went first: Miramax's Weinstein brothers? ("J.R.R., baby, here's how I see Bilbo: Robin Williams crossed with Herve Villechaize. By the way, I'll tell you upfront: We've got to cut it.")

Incongruously or not, "Lord of the Rings," which survived an earlier failed attempt at filming by animator Ralph Bakshi, has proven ideal movie material - and more than that, ideal material for the technologies and special strengths of movies today. A "Lord of the Rings" made in the '50s, '60s or even the early '90s, probably couldn't have had this opulence and fantastic spectacle. It couldn't have given us so intensely the huge bloody battle of Helm's Deep, couldn't have visualized so perfectly the hobbits' loathsome guide Gollum or transported us so convincingly to the ancient land of good and bad wizards Gandalf and Sauron, with its cathedral-like caves and talking trees, its vaulting towers and horrific, mysterious dark riders.

There are silent epics that have something like the special majesty and magic of "Towers," including the Babylonian sequences of D.W. Griffith's "Intolerance," the quest scenes of Raoul Walsh and Doug Fairbanks' "Thief of Baghdad" and the forest scenes of Fritz Lang's "Die Niebelungen": three movies that might have influenced Tolkien. But we're lucky that it took all these years to realize "The Rings" - and that Jackson and his New Line bosses eventually committed to making three movies instead of two, that he made them altogether in one shoot - and that, despite some liberties, he committed himself so fully to Tolkien's original vision.

Like all moviemakers, Jackson makes changes - even major ones. (Liv Tyler's character Arwen comes not from the story but a footnote, obviously a ravishing one.) But if you see the movies right after rereading the novels - which I did - you may be shocked at how close they are. That's only Tolkien's due, I think. After all, he spent a lifetime imagining Middle Earth, Bilbo, Frodo, Gandalf, Gimli, Aragorn, the Gollum and all their voluminous back story - which is exactly why "The Lord of the Rings," despite a notable lack of enthusiasm from Tolkien's colleagues in university literature departments, long has topped reader polls for the 20th Century's best novel.

Jackson deserves his success partly because he did what most cinematic adapters should: stick to the text. Certain authors - Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Tennessee Williams and John Steinbeck, for example - translate to the screen very well because their works were imagined with cinematic richness and because their adapters usually film them faithfully. (Robbing Henry James' novels of their convoluted interior narration, which usually happens in the movies, may seem justified, but it reduces their impact and shrivels their meaning.)

Consider David O. Selznick, a producer notorious for his endless memos and high standards of quality - and a man who firmly believed that any movie adapted from a popular novel should retain as much as possible the original story and characters or risk alienating devoted fans. Selznick should know. In his heyday, he produced scores of successful films, from classics such as "David Copperfield" or best sellers such as "Duel in the Sun" - and he always stuck to the book. Two towering cases in point: his Oscar-winning films of "Gone With the Wind" and "Rebecca," two films that pleased (and continue to please) audiences who knew the novels well and audiences who didn't know them at all.

I think Selznick is right - and that those modern-day producers who ignore his advice and trash or radically change their novels-into-film often do so at peril. Sometimes it works. Often it doesn't. But with "Hamlet" or "David Copperfield" or "Don Quixote" - or with Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" - you want the words to inspire the image, because it was those words that first inspired us.


TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: jrrtolkien; lotr
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1 posted on 12/14/2002 6:35:39 AM PST by Valin
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To: Valin
Tolkien's service in the Boer War

Sigh. This writer states (correctly) that Tolkien was born in 1892, but also sees him as a Boer War veteran. Not bloody likely! In fact, Tolkien served in WWI and was present at the Somme. Much of the horror of Mordor can probably be traced to Trench Warfare and the devastation caused by modern war. Why bring in the Boer War? Note: Tolkien was born in South Africa, but left when he was 6.

2 posted on 12/14/2002 8:35:52 AM PST by ClearCase_guy
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To: ClearCase_guy
Thanks for clarifying that, re: Tolkien and the Boer War...I'm still sleepy, but even so, I knew something was askew with the article at that point.

Sure looking forward to the Two Towers.

3 posted on 12/14/2002 9:26:40 AM PST by jwfiv
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To: Valin; ecurbh; HairOfTheDog
(Liv Tyler's character Arwen comes not from the story but a footnote, obviously a ravishing one.)

Not entirely accurate, she was in the books. It was the extended romance bits that were based on the appendices.

Ring ping!

4 posted on 12/14/2002 9:31:25 AM PST by JenB
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To: 2Jedismom; Alkhin; Anitius Severinus Boethius; AUsome Joy; austinTparty; Bear_in_RoseBear; ...

Ring Ping!!

5 posted on 12/14/2002 10:06:36 AM PST by ecurbh
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To: Valin
I'm going to see this movie when it comes out, and I have no doubt that I'll love it, but I've been seriously thinking about NOT seeing anything, including these movies) that have Vigo Mortenson (sp?) in it...

One night, a few weeks ago, I couldn't sleep, and I was channel surfing, and I came upon an interview with Peter Jackson. It turns out that it was the Charlie Rose show on PBS, and I decided to watch it. Elija Wood, Jackson, and Vigo Mortenson were on, and Vigo was wearing a tee shirt under a sport coat that he had written "No More Blood For Oil." That's something that I could tolerate, but when Rose asked Vigo about the shirt, he started going off on how evil the US foreign policies are, and how if any comparison of "The War on Terror" is made to Lord of the Rings, it's that the US is actaully the evil ones, comparing the US to Sauraman.

I will never see him in another film. Except the Two Towers and Return of the King ... Darn it!

Mark
6 posted on 12/14/2002 10:20:05 AM PST by MarkL
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To: ecurbh; 2Jedismom; HairOfTheDog
"The Lord of the Rings," despite a notable lack of enthusiasm from Tolkien's colleagues in university literature departments, long has topped reader polls for the 20th Century's best novel.

This has always amazed me. I would suggest that Tolkien's moral absolutes turn off ,orally relativistic English Departments.

7 posted on 12/14/2002 10:23:37 AM PST by Z in Oregon
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To: MarkL
Yeah, that was pretty awful. But you have to remember that all actors are essentially brain-dead. They are people who have good memories and a lot of emotional sensibility. Political thought is, in general, beyond them. In fact, prior to the left-wing media elevation of flaky actors in the 1970s (think Hanoi Jane), people would have burst out laughing if you put "actor" and "thought" together in the same sentence.
8 posted on 12/14/2002 10:28:12 AM PST by livius
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To: Z in Oregon
I think the relative snub from high brow literature circles has less to do with good and evil and more to do with an unwillingness to put Fantasy on the same par with "real human drama". As very real as the human drama in LoTR is, there are people who cannot consider it to be "real" literature because it is a make-believe world.

Most stories are good versus evil at some level. Even morally relativistic people don't look at a story and say "this story has too much of a moral goodness in it". I don't think people don't think that way, do you?
9 posted on 12/14/2002 10:32:02 AM PST by HairOfTheDog
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To: ecurbh
The title is wrong/misleading, it's not because of the words. The richness of the film is in the story, the wealth of characters, the conflict, the heroic epic-ness of it all. Really, what makes it particularly compelling to us today is that the theme is (sadly) timeless: the struggle of good over evil, and the sacrifices that are required and the hardship that must be endured for victory.
10 posted on 12/14/2002 12:27:47 PM PST by austinTparty
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To: livius
In fact, prior to the left-wing media elevation of flaky actors in the 1970s (think Hanoi Jane),

Actually you could go back even farther think HUAC in the 50s.
11 posted on 12/14/2002 1:54:53 PM PST by Valin
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To: Valin
My husband and I thought the first "Lord of the Rings" should have won the Oscar. We are looking forward to seeing the second. Just wondering how the second compares to the first one which we thought was one of the best films ever made.
12 posted on 12/14/2002 2:12:00 PM PST by Dante3
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To: MarkL
What nationality is Vigo? Is he living in the US?
13 posted on 12/14/2002 2:14:36 PM PST by Dante3
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To: Valin; jwfiv; shaggy eel
'Lord' films run rings around the rest because of words

And the images and scenery.

This very morning, Peter Greenberg (aka, The Travel Detective on The Today Show)
had the Prime Minister of New Zealand on his radio show here in Los Angeles.

Of course the P.M. talked up tourism to New Zealand mostly, but Greenberg said he had
already seen the next film...and that the images/special effects in the
last hour of the film simply blew him away.

Oh, and Greenburg has a special on New Zealand tourism on The Travel Channel tomorrow
(Sunday) night.
14 posted on 12/14/2002 2:36:43 PM PST by VOA
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To: Z in Oregon
I would suggest that Tolkien's moral absolutes turn off ,orally relativistic English Departments.

No kidding.
I suspect their praise for Tolkien and his work could be turned off by mentioning that
(IIRC) Tolkien was reticent to publish his work.
Until a colleague by the name of C.S. Lewis told him to basically "get on with it".
15 posted on 12/14/2002 2:38:35 PM PST by VOA
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To: Dante3
Here you go.

Since his debut as a young Amish Farmer in Peter Weir's Witness, Viggo Mortensen's career has been marked by a steady string of well-rounded performances. Critics have continually recognized his work in over thirty movies, including such diverse projects as Jane Campion's Portrait of a Lady, Sean Penn's Indian Runner, Brian DePalma's Carlito's Way, Ridley Scott's G.I. Jane and Tony Goldwyn's A Walk on the Moon. Mortensen's latest work is playing Strider/Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The first film in the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, has generated not only box office receipts, but critical acclaim as well.

Born in New York to a Danish father and an American mother, Mortensen spent the early part of his childhood in Manhattan. His family traveled a great deal and he spent several years living in Venezuela, Argentina, and Denmark. He began acting in New York, studying with Warren Robertson. He appeared in several plays and movies, and eventually moved to Los Angeles, where his performance in "Bent" at the Coast Playhouse earned him a Drama-logue Critic's Award. Mortensen is also an accomplished poet, photographer, and painter. He is currently working on his third book of poetry, and his latest showing of new photographs and paintings was during March 2002 at Track 16 Gallery in Los Angeles, as well as at the Deste Foundation for Contemporary Art in Athens. His most recent showing opened on July 11, 2002, at the Robert Mann Gallery in New York.

Mortensen is currently starring in Hidalgo for Disney, which is due for release July, 2003.




16 posted on 12/14/2002 4:00:18 PM PST by Valin
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To: Valin
Thanks!
17 posted on 12/15/2002 8:03:12 AM PST by Dante3
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To: VOA

,,, thanx for that VOA. Klark returns to Wellington this morning after checking in with Kofi Annan at the UN in New York. She's a faithful UN servant.

She spends a significant amount of time outside New Zealand. Here's a picture of where she should be now she's got the job she wants so desperately.

18 posted on 12/15/2002 12:16:00 PM PST by shaggy eel
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To: VOA; 2sheep
,,, here ya go.
19 posted on 12/15/2002 1:03:41 PM PST by shaggy eel
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To: Valin
Boer War? Only if he fought as a child of 10 (max) . . . it was over in 1902.

It's howlers like this that make me mistrust an entire article.

20 posted on 12/15/2002 1:08:26 PM PST by AnAmericanMother
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To: shaggy eel
Klark returns to Wellington this morning after checking in with Kofi Annan at the UN
in New York. She's a faithful UN servant.

She spends a significant amount of time outside New Zealand.


shaggy eel,
I know your lady P.M. is a socialist...at the same time I must admit that she did
a great job of promoting tourism to New Zealand on the radio interview.
Phone calls from listeners were taken and there was even one fellow who
said he flew (from the USA) to visit New Zealand (and friends there) twice a year
for the past thirty years.
Another caller inquired about the rules for foreign citizens moving to NZ and
setting up a business.

Just my naive observation as an outsider...NZ needs someone with Klark's "gift of gab"...
but a bit more towards "the center" for P.M.

Fortunately, Klark can't significantly mess up what seems to be a wonderful
tourist destination with lots of nice people...

Oh, another tidbit...
Ebert and Roeper (our big-time movie reviews) have declared the second film
of the "Rings" triology to be one of the best good versus evil action films.
I know it's a stretch, but wonder if directer Jackson was influenced in any way by the
events of 9-11 (and afterwards) when he was editing the film.
If nothing else, Mr. Jackson must be helping the NZ budget when all the
"Rings" revenue starts flowing in!
21 posted on 12/15/2002 1:39:44 PM PST by VOA
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To: VOA
,,, Peter Jackson made his first film "Bad Taste" in the mid 1980s on a very low budget. A lot of the scenery in that film was shot in Makara, a hilly wind swept area behind New Zealand's largest suburb, Karori (Wellington). From the outset Jackson's attention to detail when it came to blood and guts massacre scenes was obvious.

His 1990s film "Heavenly Creatures" was first class and a quantum jump in ability. I haven't seen the Lord of the rings movies yet but went on site during construction at one of the location shoots at Kaitoke, north of Upper Hutt. He's spent a lot of time working out the right areas to shoot in.

22 posted on 12/15/2002 2:05:03 PM PST by shaggy eel
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To: Valin

23 posted on 12/15/2002 2:09:19 PM PST by Luis Gonzalez
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To: Valin
...despite a notable lack of enthusiasm from Tolkien's colleagues in university literature departments...

There's a reason for that. There is no moral relativism in Tolkien's works.

24 posted on 12/15/2002 2:20:08 PM PST by Rightwing Conspiratr1
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To: Z in Oregon
Haha. I hadn't read your post, but it's odd how we thought the same thing.. maybe not.
25 posted on 12/15/2002 2:22:02 PM PST by Rightwing Conspiratr1
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To: MarkL
Vigo pissed me off with his liberal t shirt also - but I have to see the movie anyway....
26 posted on 12/15/2002 2:32:49 PM PST by artios
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To: shaggy eel; Prodigal Daughter; Thinkin' Gal; babylonian; Jeremiah Jr; Crazymonarch; happygrl; ...
Is anyone in that picture straight?

The young kid looks like a homosexual elf with the mesmerizing look of a heading eye dog.  Just right for a movie promoting the occult.  The Bible says Elijah would come and restore all things.  This is a homosexual, OCCULT version.

27 posted on 12/15/2002 3:08:55 PM PST by 2sheep
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To: HairOfTheDog
Hello, H.O.T.Dog,

I agree with you about the fantasy-fiction thing. It's sad; fantasy-fiction is a very bypassed genre in English Literature departments.

As to the moral relativity thing, I do believe it's true: English Literature departments are incredibly politicized, and they don't mostly look at material in terms of how well it tells a story, but how pointedly it makes a political point that they want made. Such points tend to be far-left and morally relativistic.

Sad. I'd put LOTR and The Chronicles of Narnia on every reading list I could.

28 posted on 12/15/2002 4:13:50 PM PST by Z in Oregon
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To: 2sheep
Is anyone in that picture straight?

The young kid looks like a homosexual elf with the mesmerizing look of a heading eye dog. Just right for a movie promoting the occult. The Bible says Elijah would come and restore all things. This is a homosexual, OCCULT version.

Elijah Wood is straight... and a nice young kid. -And looks like a nice young kid in the photo. Shame on you for seeing homosexual and occult when looking at a pretty normal looking teenager. He's a cutie pie.


29 posted on 12/15/2002 4:23:44 PM PST by HairOfTheDog
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To: HairOfTheDog; 2sheep
All but a few of the Hollywood crowd are either homosexuals or straight homosexualists (promoting the homosexual agenda), anyway: March 28, 2002 - Star magazine reports Elijah Wood hunted down a guy who snapped a photo of Elijah Wood and a male pal at a gay West Hollywood bar called 'Here'. A source said, "Elijah ran after the guy. He was screaming. When he finally caught him, Elijah insisted that the picture be destroyed." A witness said, "The fan looked scared. He didn't realize it would be such a big deal to snap Elijah Wood in a gay bar." (I know, consider the source, "Star Magazine", but sometimes they are more reliable than the lamestream media).

And here he is portraying a "kid" involved in a homosexual (menage a trois) affair:

Entertainment News: Much Moore of Mandy: Squeaky-clean pop princess Mandy Moore (pictured) is joining Britney Spears on the "not-that-innocent" road. In the upcoming flick "Try Seventeen," Moore, the songbird star of "A Walk to Remember," will play a girl who gets involved in an anything-goes threesome with her neighbors, played by "Run Lola Run's" Franka Potente and "Lord of the Rings" star Elijah Wood. The film centers on Wood's character, Jones Dillon, a 17-year-old college freshman who discovers there's more to be learned in his own apartment building than in the lecture hall. In classic Tinseltown fashion, Moore was Wood's real-life paramour prior to the film, but his affections have reportedly switched to Potente, and the two have been an item ever since.

30 posted on 12/15/2002 5:01:42 PM PST by Prodigal Daughter
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To: Prodigal Daughter
He is not gay. A picture of him in a gay bar is not any kind of evidence except that he is willing to go to a gay bar, for any number of reasons. I know a lot of heterosexuals who have done that.
31 posted on 12/15/2002 5:15:58 PM PST by My back yard
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To: Prodigal Daughter
My word! it must be hard for you guys to follow all the evil that is in the world. Especially when there are so many on your list!

I like the kid in every interview I have ever seen him do. Someone who met him in person agreed. He is a nice, wise for his years, "old soul". He was superb in Lord the the Rings. He seems like a pretty together kid for growing up a child actor.

I don't obsess on people's differences in politics. I refuse to say someone who fails to badmouth homosexuals or [gasp] knows some, is a "straight homosexual". Life is too short, and my own soul is the only one I worry about.

Have you or 2sheep seen any movies lately? I can't imagine any that are pure enough to be seen. So why follow it?
32 posted on 12/15/2002 5:17:02 PM PST by HairOfTheDog
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To: HairOfTheDog
Less than 72 hours and I will be there, in line anyway.
33 posted on 12/15/2002 5:17:20 PM PST by My back yard
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To: My back yard
Around 54 hours, 41 minutes for me ;~D
34 posted on 12/15/2002 5:19:29 PM PST by HairOfTheDog
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To: 2sheep
Promoting the occult? Care to explain to me how LotR promotes the occult? Have you read the books or even seen the movie?
35 posted on 12/15/2002 5:33:19 PM PST by JenB
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To: MarkL
Just remember he makes a living pretending to be someone he's not. So when he's acting, he's pretending he's not himself.

Maybe that will help you get through the movie without puking up your popcorn.

36 posted on 12/15/2002 5:36:13 PM PST by P-Marlowe
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To: HairOfTheDog
So why follow it?

Follow what? Bored with the Rings?

37 posted on 12/15/2002 7:05:39 PM PST by Prodigal Daughter
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To: Prodigal Daughter
Bored with the Rings, yes... and Elijah Wood... and the purity of actors in Hollywood... Why do you follow all this trivial news if you don't like it?
38 posted on 12/15/2002 7:17:32 PM PST by HairOfTheDog
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To: HairOfTheDog; ecurbh; Valin
Say, is there anywhere online that the screenplay of Fellowship and Two Towers can be downloaded or bought? Preferably the extended version with TFOTR, but either way.
39 posted on 12/15/2002 9:12:44 PM PST by Z in Oregon
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To: Z in Oregon
Screenplay? This site has a really nicely formatted version of the script, and she says that the Extended Edition script is coming soon...

The Seat of Kings - Home to the first LotR FotR Movie Script on the Web

I have it in a word document that I downloaded from somewhere, but I can't now remember where.

40 posted on 12/15/2002 9:29:36 PM PST by HairOfTheDog
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To: Z in Oregon
Well, they have FotR here at the Script-o-rama. However, it is the theatrical version. I have not seen the extended version anywhere yet.
41 posted on 12/15/2002 9:35:13 PM PST by ecurbh
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To: HairOfTheDog
Very well put.
42 posted on 12/16/2002 4:41:10 AM PST by Valin
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To: HairOfTheDog
Shhh! How can we expect these entertainment types to save the world from destruction if you go around calling them trivial?
43 posted on 12/16/2002 6:23:14 AM PST by Prodigal Daughter
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To: Luis Gonzalez
Hah! A picture immediately recognisable to Tolkien fans of a certain age.
44 posted on 12/16/2002 6:33:20 AM PST by ArrogantBustard
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To: My back yard
A picture of him in a gay bar is not any kind of evidence except that he is willing to go to a gay bar, for any number of reasons. I know a lot of heterosexuals who have done that.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! The only time heterosexuals will enter a gay bar is maybe the buy who drives the beer delivery truck and similar service people. Other than that why would a straight person even want to go to such a bar? To listen to the music?

45 posted on 12/16/2002 6:35:42 AM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: ArrogantBustard
Be careful...your age is showing. :-)
46 posted on 12/16/2002 6:46:46 AM PST by Valin
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To: Valin
Hmmm. You knew what I was talking about. Says something, don't it?
47 posted on 12/16/2002 6:53:24 AM PST by ArrogantBustard
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To: PJ-Comix
They go with their gay friends for the show-like entertainment. I know some young people in Austin -- University crowd -- who go to these places with gay friends, but they themselves are not gay.
48 posted on 12/16/2002 6:56:15 AM PST by My back yard
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To: My back yard
They go with their gay friends for the show-like entertainment. I know some young people in Austin -- University crowd -- who go to these places with gay friends, but they themselves are not gay.

What entertainment? I just don't see non-gay folks hanging out with gays at gay bars for the "entertainment." (And I'm frightened to ask what that "entertainment" might be.)

49 posted on 12/16/2002 7:01:35 AM PST by PJ-Comix
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To: PJ-Comix
I don't know. What I'm talking about could be totally wrong. I could be calling it 'gay bar' when it is not. The places I'm talking about are like the bar in the movie 'The Birdcage' or what ever it was. Shows like men dressed up as Barbra Striesand singing 'People'.
50 posted on 12/16/2002 7:15:50 AM PST by My back yard
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