Friday, August 1, 2014

Third Time Pays For All?

The first teaser trailer for the third Hobbit movie by Peter Jackson, The Battle of the Five Armies, has been released, and we have been given our first glimpses of what to expect come December. To me, the portents are not good.

The title alone is off-putting. The Battle of the Five Armies? Where did that clunky second the come from? In Tolkien's work, it has always been The Battle of Five Armies. It seems that, as in the film content, Jackson has to add his unnecessary bit of festooning to make the work more his own, to mark his territory.

Next, the trailer seems to be all snippets of action sequences. Totally understandable, as it has to grab the attention of movie-goers, but where are the dramatic emotional accents that (surely, hopefully) must be there? Is it all sound and fury? This is, however, only a short teaser trailer; perhaps there was no room, just yet, for these.

All of this action is set to Pippin's song from The Return of the King. I get that it sets the mood for the desperate, poignant feel of an almost hopeless final battle. It is a call back to everyone who remembers the success of Jackson's previous journey in Middle Earth. One can almost hear his plaintive voice: "We've had some good times, haven't we? Will you follow me, one last time?"

The poster touts this as "The Defining Chapter" of the Hobbit movie trilogy. I'm sure they mean that not only is it the last bit that pulls the story together, but that also it is the hinge that leads into "The Lord of the Rings" movies. But in that line I hear some special pleading. The first two films have not been as bull-dozingly popular as might have been hoped. We have endured wizard-sledding and giant-gold-dwarf-statue-smelting. But this chapter will make it all worthwhile, fellas! You'll see!

I certainly hope that Jackson can pull out this cellphone he's dropped among the turds, wipe it off, and salvage some of the quality of the sterling work he's done before with Tolkien. If not: "Give me your third terrible gift and be on your way!"

Thursday, July 31, 2014

"A Child in the 80's"

A Child in the 80s

"Daddy, how old is Groucho Marx?"
"Sorry, dear boy, he's dead."
"Gosh! And Chico? Oh yes, and Harpo?"
"Dead. All of them dead."
"Daddy, is Lassie very old?"
"Dogs die young, you know."
"Will Hay's good! Is he dead too?"
"Thirty years ago."

"Daddy, if Elvis comes this way
Can we go and hear him?"
"Elvis stays in Memphis now,
Blue carnations near him."
"Sossidge is on again tonight."
"That was Joyce Grenfell, eh?"
"Was? Oh, Daddy, did she die?"
"Just the other day."

This is immortality
Never dreamed of yet:
Life because a child sits by
A television set.
"Gary Cooper's good on horses."
"That was his last ride."
"Disney must be very rich."
"Was, before he died."

But the child who's sitting there
Starts to love each day
People who at natural breaks
Death will take away.
"John Wayne--Bogey--Errol Flynn--
Are they full of lead?"
"Darling, it wasn't quite like that--
But all of them are dead."

--Derwent May

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

"Hidden...By An Irrelevant Personal Argument"

Lacking belief in the promises and commandments of God, one must fall back on a "man-centred" philosophy--something called humanism or materialism, which accepts this life and its immediate desires as the basis of all conduct. But you can't get a moral law out of materialism. There is no logical reason why a materialist shouldn't poison his nagging wife, if he can get away with it.

The essential amorality of all atheist doctrines is often hidden from us by an irrelevant personal argument. We see that many articulate secularists are well-meaning and law-abiding men; we see them go into righteous indignation over injustice and often devote their lives to good works. So we conclude that "he can't be wrong whose life is in the right"--that their philosophies are just as good guides to action as Christianity. What we don't see is that they are not acting on their philosophies. They are acting, out of habit or sentiment, on an inherited Christian ethic which they still take for granted though they have rejected the creed from which it sprang. Their children will inherit somewhat less of it.

--Joy Davidman, Smoke on the Mountain.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Haiku on the Cicada's Song

Though it will die soon

The voice of the cicada

Shows no sign of this.

Bashō (1644-1694)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Professor Leopold Explains It All

Leopold: Ghosts? Little spirits or pixies? I don't believe in them. Do you, Mr. Foxx?

Student #1: No, sir.

Leopold: You sound it, with all your metaphysical gibberish.

Student #1: I didn't mean ghosts as spirits, Professor.

Leopold: Nothing is real but experience --that which can be touched, tasted, felt, or, in some scientific fashion, proved. We must never substitute qualitative events that are marked by similar properties and recurrences for fixed substances.

Student #2: I take it you rule out metaphysics as unworthy of serious consideration.

Leopold: As I stated quite clearly in my latest paper, metaphysical philosophers are men who are too weak to accept the world as it is. Their theories of the so-called "mysteries of life" are nothing more than projections of their own inner uneasiness. Apart from this world, there are no realities.

Student #3: But that leaves many basic human needs unanswered.

Leopold: I'm sorry. I did not create the cosmos. I merely explain it.

--from Woody Allen's "A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy."

Thursday, July 10, 2014

"Places Are Really Magical"

"I don't know if it was a conscious decision with the title so much as a conscious decision on my part to try to mythologize northern California. Having seen most of the United States in my life, I have to say that there is no more beautiful place in the world than northern California. It's simply a startling, strange place, and I'm so affected by places, by settings...that, in a number of the pieces I've written, and especially in Land of Dreams, I've made an effort to mythologize places. Once again to try to force the reader to see that place through my eyes. I'm a real big fan of the notion that places are really magical, and I don't mean "rabbit out of the hat" or "witches and cauldrons" or any of that kind of crap--I mean that they have an absolute irrational effect on the way we feel, on how we view the world and, artistically, I always thought it would be nice to picture northern California. I tried to do it in "Paper Dragons," too. In such a way to make the reader feel about the place as I felt about the place." --James P. Blaylock.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

"The Smiler With A Knife"


Humour is for them the all-consoling and (mark this) the all-excusing, grace of life. Hence it is invaluable as a means of destroying shame. If a man simply lets others pay for him, he is “mean”; if he boasts of it in a jocular manner and twits his fellows with having been scored off, he is no longer “mean” but a comical fellow. Mere cowardice is shameful; cowardice boasted of with humorous exaggerations and grotesque gestures can be passed off as funny. Cruelty is shameful – unless the cruel man can represent it as a practical joke. A thousand bawdy, or even blasphemous, jokes do not help towards a man’s damnation so much as his discovery that almost anything he wants to do can be done, not only without the disapproval but with the admiration of his fellows, if only it can get itself treated as a Joke. And this temptation can almost be hidden from your patient by that … seriousness about Humour. Any suggestion that there might be too much of it can be represented to him as “Puritanical” or as betraying a “lack of humour.”

But flippancy is the best of all. In the first place it is very economical. Only a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue, or indeed about anything else; any of them can be trained to talk as if virtue were funny. Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made.

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters.