Best films of '01? : LUSENET : Aeon Flux : One Thread

Hi, fellowship of the flux! I haven't seen a lot of films this past year. I'm just curious as to what you all thought were the "must sees," since you all have pretty good taste with these sorts of things. I thought Memento, Ghost World and Mulholland Drive were interesting.


-- eskimonkey (, January 02, 2002


My insight into the rings might reveal more of the plot than anyone here would like to know, and so for those who don't want the movie ruined please don't read further. To me the meaning behind the rings is as follows: It is about the loss of childhood fantasy/innocence. Tolkien lived through a peaceful time in England and then a terrible war came and it seemed the people had to leave the peaceful times behind, and this also is emotional. Fairy and goblin stories are children's dreams of power. The child within progressed from fantasy battles won to the position of power as an adult (king). The orc's were symbolic of the evil Nazi's. They spoke in harsh gutteral language, as overheard by Pip and Merry in the next book The Twin Towers. The king to return is not a messianic one but a human one. He is already in the first movie, his name is Aragorn, or Strider. He is no Jesus but just a good man. The ending of the trilogy reveals the days of the magical times on earth are over, (war places a terrible vision of undreaming reality on us) and the rule of man begins. Into the grey havens, (the subconscious) the people of magic retreat as the king takes hold of the world, (the times dictate a non- fantasy lifestyle of responsibilty) from the evil grip of a would be power mad ruler, namely Sauron (Hitler). Not read anywhere else, just my own theory.

-- Barb e (, January 05, 2002.

Peter I was a former devout Jehovah's Witness, although raised a Catholic. The biblical parallels between the events of the day and the Trilogy are too great to be ignored and I think Tolkien probably was a Christian. The Nazi's were on everyone's mind and Hitler was compared to the antichrist by many. He was even said to have been predicted by Nostradamus, (Hister). In the movie the creature known as a Balrog came from the depths of the earth and was obviously supernatural. Sauron himself was in command of evil of a supernatural sort. The entire plot revolved around defeating evil and establishing the new reign of the good king Aragorn, who was predicated by special birthright, and so the trilogy reflects Christianity's messianic kingdom in an unconscious sort of way after all. Fascinating. I focused more on the beauty of the time period it reflected, which was the middle ages which in England was totally concerned with the messianic kingdom. Camelot was represetational of it with the standards of virtue demanded of the Knights. I find it interesting that at this time the entire world is cast again into the same joust with different players. The good king again challenged by an evil king and with the belief that the good king, (U.S. England, allies ) is rightly predicated to rule by divine right, (they are largely Christian nations). I have wondered if this is reflected unconsciously in the audiences viewing this movie.

-- Barb e (, January 05, 2002.

Peter, I find your amusement at Tolkien claiming his LOTR is not allegorical kinda pretty funny considering you are the creator of Aeon Flux, the embodiement of a smoke and mirrors world of other meanings. I wish Tolkien were alive to read your comment, I think he'd find it amusing too.

-- Barb e. (, January 06, 2002.

Of course you never denied it, and answered all our millions of questions but I guess when you're a professor at Oxford you're just toooo busy...

-- Barb e. (, January 06, 2002.

I didn't see Lord of the rings as being racist. I thought of the characters as representing social classes. The dwarves were the blue collar workers, they worked with their hands, common labor,eg the mines of Moria. The elves were the white collar workers, they used magic to get things done. They didn't use their hands, but used their power. They lived high up in a tree, lofty. Lothlorian. The hobbits were landowners. Country gentlemen. Orcs seemed slaves to evil. The dark skinned factor wasn't mentioned in the book as far as I remember. The whole idea seemed just an Englishman's pipedream.

-- Barb e. (, January 09, 2002.

I should have seen this coming. The two most complicated characters ever on tv...hahaha hobbits and elves compared to THAT. I'm like really getting a kick out of the visual of you sitting there with some sort of 'miffed' look on your face. Chung vs Tolkien. BTW, nice impression of 'dangerboy'.

-- Barb e. (, January 11, 2002.

People left England en masse on ships because of the lack of freedom to rise above their station in life which was not possible in merry olde England...(and something about tons of taxes. They even had a tax on windows). Course that was way long ago, but so is the Hobbit lore. I went to Border's books today and the amount of Trilogy stuff was enough to make me run screaming as if I saw an orc. I see your point Peter, it's the dumbing down of the public. We need some serious character development out here. It isn't a good step to return to stereotyping. I wouldn't like to see a return to dumb blonde movies again. BTW: don't even try to tell me Legally Blonde was one 'cause SHE went to Harvard!

-- Barb e. (, January 11, 2002.


-- Barb e. (, January 17, 2002., January 17, 2002.

-- Barb e. (, January 17, 2002.


-- Barb e. (, January 17, 2002.

(sigh, back to bows and arrows) Less than impressed with Lord of the Rings? Presenting an even more tedious reworked excerpt from a much larger work that probably made millions basking in the short shadows of those furry feats.

-- Barb e. (, January 17, 2002.

This is gonna be a long post... 2001 was a great year for movies! Well, apart from the ones you mention (Ghost World, Memento and Mulholland Dr. RULE), my picks would be:

Session 9 - Intense, creepy and psychologically acute with the most human characters since Exorcist. Plot has a few loose ends, but this is still one great scare film. Fear the asbestos!

Royal Tennenbaums - Basically a character study of the most f*cked up, dysfunctional family ever. Wickedly inventive visuals. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll cringe.

Vanilla Sky/The Others - One for the American take on Alejandro Amenabar's brilliance, the "other" for the real Amenabar deal.

Utena The Movie - Alright, so it wasn't released theatrically ;-) It's still a must.

LoTR - Source material aside, I just thought it was a great adventure flick! Beats watching Indiana Jones again, or one of those crappy new Mummy films. Plus the acting and fight choreography were excellent.

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust - Pure eye and mind candy.

Honorable mentions: Jin-Roh, Waking Life, The Man Who Wasn't There, Happy Accidents, maybe The Deep End (haven't seen it yet!) Your mileage may vary...

-- Inukko (, January 02, 2002.

Definitely Mulholland Drive and the Utena movie, Memento is interesting as well. I liked Lord of the Rings for a "conventional" movie. AI was definitely thought provoking as well, if you see it in a certain light.

Oh, and there's a parallel forum to this one for discussing film, if you're interested...Here's the link.

-- Mat Rebholz (, January 02, 2002.

Oh, and I'm dying to see the Royal Tennenbaums, and I'm sure it'll be added to my list.

-- Mat Rebholz (, January 02, 2002.

Lord of the Rings. No hype, this is a fabulous illustration of Tolkien's brilliant books. I was amazed to see what I had envisioned when I read the books now beautifully and sensationally recreated on film. I was prepared to think it wasn't that good. Turned out it it was a masterpiece. I bet it wins Oscars. The actor who played Gandolf, Sir Ian McKellen brought depth to Gandolf through McKellen's genius acting. I was surprised to see him, because he was in another film I recently found to be terrific, (Gods and Monsters) playing James Whale (director of Frankenstein). This guy is an unusual talent. Another choice I have is Breathing Hard, John Lee and Eric Neal Young's film, which is not in syndication yet. That movie is real quality and damn it if someone shouldn't recognize and pick it up for syndication because the public would love it. It's so gentle a humor and really is a warm beautiful movie. Vampire Hunter D for its great animation and smart move on picking John Lee to do a honey tongued vampire. I saw it twice and could go again easily. And then there's Mullholland Drive. I will always remember it for its class. The intriguing relationship between those two girls was spellbinding.

-- Barb e. (, January 02, 2002.

I didn't get out much to the movies this year, and the movies I did see, I either loved or hated. There was very little in between.

Liked: Mulholland Drive, A.I., Metropolis, Vampire Hunter D, Memento (The Utena Movie, I saw last year)

Disliked: Moulin Rouge, Waking Life, Lord of the Rings (with apologies to Paul and Barb)

I had some unbeatable film viewing experiences that I will cherish forever:

Immediately upon arriving in Tokyo with friends, being driven (we were in an accident en route and barely made it) to a screening of Metropolis where Mr. Maruyama of Madhouse greeted us and proudly treated us to Rin Taro's new masterpiece shown with optimal projection and sound.

Viewing Vampire Hunter D in a mixing theater with an audience of about ten, including the director Mr. Kawajiri, who was checking the quality of the Japanese dub. During reel changes, I asked him questions and made comments while he asked me what I thought of the English version.

Also, Jacques Tati's Playtime at the L.A. County Museum and El Cid at the American Cinematheque with Charlton Heston in attendance.

Regarding Lord of the Rings, it's strange, but I found the experience uttery alienating. I like to think that I'm well assimilated in Western culture, but the whole thing just feels too... racist. And I don't just mean that all the heroes were fair-skinned while all the villains were dark, primitive and subhuman (of course their master had to be intelligent, and therefore white). Mostly I mean that the view of the world is one which defines character primarily by the race to which one belongs. Elves are defined by their Elfishsness, Dwarves by their Dwarfishness, Hobbits by their being Hobbits, etc. (It's another example of the substitution of fictional races that I discussed in the Star Trek universe.)

I also find the moral polarizing to be retrograde and reactionary. That is, the casting of conflict as being Good vs. Evil. Hobbits are by nature and by definition "good", while Orcs are irredeemably "evil". I couldn't help but think it was feeding into very simplistic notions of war and an "us vs. them" mentality. All the more effective for being cloaked in the guise of escapist fantasy.

-- Peter Chung (, January 03, 2002.

Aragorn's "Let's go hunt some Orc", sounded to me like "We gotta go and kill some Moslems" (which I've actually heard spoken by people around me). Am I being overly P.C.? The story only has value as myth if we can draw metaphorical readings from it. So what am I missing?

-- Peter Chung (, January 03, 2002.

Anyone have a broom for all these names that were just dropped...ahem. I kid, I kid.

Anyway, I would only sort of agree with you on your LOFTR critique. While there does seem to be that color barrier, and the conflict is very clearly defined as being between orcs and all the other races of Middle Earth, you can't ignore the fact that the most important message of the Trilogy is that power corrupts. There is also a great deal of conflict among the members of the fellowship, although again, it exists mostly on racial lines. However, each person does wage a war within himself in order not to succumb to the temptation of wielding absolute power. I'd say the one glaring issue is the fact that women play such a minimal role in the battle for the fate of the world, although since was a linguist and a historian, I guess that would be more of a reflection on our own society.

-- Logo (, January 03, 2002.

Speaking of "Memento", I was just watching "Reraizure" the other day when it struck me how similar the end scene where Aeon burns the pictures is to Memento's opening. Actually, I don't think I had ever made the connection between Aeon burning the pictures and Rorty erasing his memory until that moment.

-- Logo (, January 03, 2002.

Hmm. That's a really interesting analysis, Peter.

To play devil's advocate, Orcs were just "tortured and mutilated elves" (whatever that means) as opposed to a seperate race. The part about all the heroes being fair-skinned, though, slipped right by me. To me, LoTR was always a story about power; I never read anything deeper into it, not yet, anyway...

-- Inukko (, January 03, 2002.

Heh, sorry if I was name-dropping. Mostly, I wanted to give due credit to the great folks at Madhouse, whose names are hardly familiar enough.

Well, there are many ways to tell a story about the corrupting effects of power. And just because a story contains that as its central theme does not in itself make it noteworthy or immune from other criticism. There are plenty of movies dealing with that theme, from Citizen Kane to Sweet Smell of Success. Come to think about it, Alexander the Great was also about power corrupting, not to mention, say, half of Shakespeare's plays (and hey, what about Aeon Flux, as embodied in the character of Trevor Goodchild?).

Ignoring the racial issue, I still fail to see what the story has to say that's interesting about the danger of absolute power. The ring would seem to represent forbidden knowledge (akin to the apple in the Garden of Eden). Wearing it expands consciousness, yet this is supposed to be a form of corruption. The mission to destroy the ring is driven by the desire to return the world to Eden, to a state of primordial innocence. (Sauron=Satan? Middle Earth= The Mortal World between Heaven and Hell?) There's an undeniable current of Judeo-Christian myth at work here, as far as I can tell-- I'm only judging from the movie, since I have'nt read the books.

-- Peter Chung (, January 03, 2002.

I never caught the comparison between Reraizure and Memento... interesting.

I did catch the racial aspect of Middle Earth, and that aspect turns me off. The thing about the movie that got my attention was the ability of the ring to bring out the worst in people. Nothing spectacular, but in the realm of "conventional" movies, it got my vote.

As for the racial focus of both LOTR and Star Trek... I have to admit I like Star Trek, but I think it's more of a turn-off-the- brain thing than anything else, so I can let that sort of thing pass. Bah, I'm going off on a tangent...

-- Mat Rebholz (, January 03, 2002.

P.S. My cluttered Utena review is in the film forum (see above).

-- Mat Rebholz (, January 03, 2002.

I loved Moulin Rouge, but in a guilty pleasure sort of way. (It being a modern day opera and all.) Actually, the day I saw Moulin Rouge I actually meant to go see Evolution. I could only tolerate about 30 minutes of THAT searing torture before stumbling blindly out of the theater to go see something else. I never did get around to seeing Memento. I'll have to check and see if it's out on video yet.

My reaction to LOTR can be summed up thusly: Elijah Wood is soooooo kee-oot! I wanna bring him home with me. Be my new son. I'd buy him a little plastic lunchbox and a matching backpack. It'd be DARLING! So yeah, it didn't provoke a whole lot of deep thought in me. But I did manage to hear that Tolkien once said the books are not about power but about death.

-- Frostbite (, January 03, 2002.

Actually, didn't Tolkien once say it wasn't about anything (in response to critics looking for allegorical content)?

I can see walking out on Evolution for Moulin Rouge. A little like, say, picking "Star Trek 10" over "Corky Romano" ;)

-- Inukko (, January 03, 2002.

If you all seem to like momento so much (which I am not sure I can say I did....)

have you seen Following?

think of Following as the experiment in filmmaking that led to Momento and go out and rent it now. It was a film from 1998, by the same director, being re-released in light of Momento's success.

And I hate to spoil anything, but the director is *gasp* british! So that's where Following takes place. It is also in black and white, and has a very experimental-indie-film feel to it (as well as feeling very British... duh).

However, 5 minutes in and you'll see that momento is not a big step from it, so if you liked one you'll most likely like the other.

As for those who have seen Momento, and will see Following now I am sure... chronological order be damned... Following will make your head hurt ;)

I do want to warn you though... it was the longest 69 minutes of my life (yes only 69 minutes)

-- Attrox (, January 03, 2002.

Frostbite, I think you've hit the right note, re: LOTR. I will say that the visuals were occasionally quite spectacular, though.

I forgot to mention Apocalypse Now: Reductio Ad Absurdum in my list of "Disliked". Coppola swept up 50 minutes worth of scrap off the cutting room floor and shuffled them back into what used to be one of my favorite war movies. Shots of the French Colonist widow ogling Willard while gently sucking on a large cigar had me howling.

-- Peter Chung (, January 03, 2002.

Peter- Probably. That boy WAS awfully cute, though. You know how they used special camera angles to make the hobbits look short? I think they also used angles to make Elijah's eyes look extra wide and his cheeks extra pinchable.

-- Frostbite (, January 03, 2002.

Bilbo left the Shire because he found his fellow countrymen to be too provincial. He felt some of the inhabitants of the Shire to be greedy petty and false. I think it is about the love of the beauty of the earht and the desire to love the other races. The elves are known to be clannish. Yet they reach out to the Hobbit and the dwarves against their nature, in a communal effort for survival. Dwarves fear elves, yet they overcome this and look with heart and not fear for once. The world does inhabit evil men; we must reach out to one another to survive their evil onslaughts, spiritually and physically. Remember too, this was originally written after Hitler's debut. Also it is somewhat about the natural desire to use power to our own selfish gain. The men forming a fellowship showed what good can come when we work together. I don't think the sentence; "lets go kill some orc" was in the book. The dark hooded riders played on our fears of death It was a 'middle ages' natural beauty of the earth. Braids, works of silver and gold, stone columns, horses, forests, stars. Valour, courage, love and virtue. The Xena audience, haha. I'm there a little. It's work to be selfless. Seeing another human working at it inspires me. Drop names anytime Peter. They are the glimpses into a world of artists fascinating to me, and I'm sure yourself besides.

-- Barb e. (, January 04, 2002.

Thanks folks. I am excited to check out your recommendations.

My "to see" list: Royal Tennenbaums, Vampire Hunter, AI, The Others, perhaps Session 9 and Metropolis.

My "to avoid" list: Apocalypse Now! Redux (poor idea in the first place), Waking Life.

Just got back from Lord Of The Rings, by the by.

For what it was, I think they nailed it. Wonderful casting, clever pacing and direction especially over the first half. And visually, yeah, WOW. I felt that undeniable sense of fun and adventure in spades where other (equally) allegorically shallow big-budget films of recent years have fallen miserably short. Were it realeased concurrent to other films of the same aim and the same calibre (of which there have been quite a handful over the years), it wouldn't be quite the same sensation, but I think having weathered a major drought in that good ol' Hollywood Magic©® it was a welcome change. It appeals on the same level as, say, Star Wars or Jurassic Park. But I'm a sucker for stuff like that.

So I enjoyed seeing it. I will call it a tentative favorite. I will give the dualistic-propaganda-disguised-as-escapism assertions a little thought, but I doubt it will put me off seeing it a second time (in the cheaps, mind you).

Major complaint: length. Any film that evokes the phrase "God, HOW LONG have I been sitting in this theatre?" at any time before the closing credits needs to be edited down.

-- eskimonkey (, January 04, 2002.

Barb, thanks for enlightening me on the finer aspects of Tolkien's work. But you might agree that all the subtext regarding race relations in Middle Earth you describe so succinctly is missing from the film. I viewed the decision the fellowship makes in undertaking their mission as a duty rather than a choice. Their gathering at Rivendell is abrupt and perfunctory. After a bit of petty squabbling, it's "You have my bow", "You have my axe", and off they go. Maybe I'll have to watch it again with your comments in mind.

While our heroes are shown slaughtering Orcs for the nth time, I got the sense that we are meant to cheer them on. So the Orcs are evil. But what makes them evil? While I do believe that evil people exist, can an entire race (or color, or creed, or whatever Orcs are) be judged as one? Isn't this the basis for genocide?

And to continue with my earlier train of thought: The Return of the King= Christ's Second Coming? The Exiled King= the Messiah?

-- Peter Chung (, January 04, 2002.

Eskimonkey, In case you weren't aware, the new movie "Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust" is not out on video yet. It's due in February, I think. There's another Japanese animated title called "Vampire Hunter D", which is from the mid-80's which IS currently in release. Just make sure you pick up "Vampire Hunter D: BLOODLUST", and not the older film, which is vastly inferior. (Although you may want to look at it just to compare). There's been a lot of confusion about this.

(I guess I may have added to the confusion because I called it "Vampire Hunter D" in my post above-- but that's what it's called in Japan, where I first saw it.)

-- Peter Chung (, January 04, 2002.

Anyone who hasn't already done so should check out the "The Hobbit." It's a very old Rankin/Bass animated film that's just been re- released on DVD due to the recent Tolkien furvor being kicked up. It's a classic animated movie both for it's faithfullness to the book and for its ability to go beyond the book and use it's stengths as a visual medium. It also has some great voice acting from Orsen Bean as Bilbo.

-- Logo (, January 04, 2002.

I agree with Frostbite. Elijah Woods would have made a wonderful David in "AI" were he younger. His face has an almost artificial look of innocence... but maybe it's just the acting and the makeup.

-- Mat Rebholz (, January 04, 2002.

Barb, I find these insights very interesting in light of what you say about the time and circumstance in which Tolkien wrote his trilogy. I certainly would defer my own speculative views to those of one who has actually read the books.

For the sake of keeping the ball rolling, though, I wouldn't rule out the possibility that Tolkien's mythology wasn't conceived to draw parallels between the cataclysmic events of his day with the archetypal struggle between the Kingdom of God and the Rule of Satan. After all, what greater condemnation of Hitler and the Nazis could one conceive than that they are the equivalent of the Devil and his minions? I have no idea of Tolkien's religious convictions nor of his conscious intent, if there was any (and I understand he claims there aren't).

For myself, being a former devout Calvinist, the parallels between the Ring trilogy and Biblical mythology just seem too clear to be purely coincidental. This may well have been an unconscious process on Tolkien's part, but being an erudite Englishman of his time, he was certainly familiar with these themes.

The loss of innocence you describe is also known as the Fall, or the eviction from Eden. Satan is the Tempter, parallelled by the temptation toward evil which beckons all those who possess Sauron's ring. The period between the Fall and the Kingdom (the theological term used to describe the reign of Christ after his return; Christ is called the King of Kings) is the mortal world in which we exist today. This period (Middle Earth) is the testing ground for men's souls-- when Satan has the opportunity to lure men away from God. As for the Messiah, in Biblical terms, he is at once divine, yet also the Son of Man. And so his reign is also the time when man is given his true form, to live in peaceful and eternal paradise under the rule of his King/Savior/God. I did guess that the Return of the King was referring to Aragorn (who is established as a King in exile in the movie). But the right of Kingly rule is predicated on the precept of special birthright, and usually (esp. in England) by divine right. So in this instance, I think that a theological interpretation works in Tolkien's favor. In other words, I think he was probably not advocating for Earthly monarchy. Just my guess, though.

-- Peter Chung (, January 05, 2002.

The parallels are almost overwhelmingly apparent but Tolkien always maintained that his story took nothing from the events of his time.

-- William (, January 05, 2002.

Yes, but this is where I think the cross-over into real life is flawed. It is so easy to condemn characters and events in film as purely evil but in real life there is so many contributing factors and so many points of view. What is good to some people is acceptable to others. The Orcs were created to be evil but that just does'nt happen in our world. Whatever people do, it is, in the end, for happiness of themselves or their people.

-- William (, January 05, 2002.

Tolkien was a devout Christian. And while I still don't think LOTR is a religious allegory, it definitely reflects a religious view of morality, where good and evil are very palpable and easily defined. As a lifelong agnost, I've never thought in terms of good and evil. I prefer to think of things as helpful or harmful, and wise or unwise (Hitler thought of himself as a good person, didn't he?). But one thing I do like about the movie is that there doesn't seem to be any 100-percent evil characters. The orcs are "twisted" elves, the ringwraiths are human kings corrupted by the ring, Saruman was once a good guy. The only real evil character is Sauron, but he's not much of a character beyond a few appearances as a ghostly flaming vagina. Evil seems to be an action rather than, say, a group of people. And the orcs, ringwraiths, and Sauron are its victims. I think it represents a rather modern outlook, that evil is something to be pitied as much as hated.

-- Frostbite (, January 05, 2002.

At the risk of making a potentially racist remark (or not), I will say that LOTR wouldn't be worth reading/watching if it wasn't for those cool-ass hobbits.

I read the books about half a year ago. I remember the prose was so dry that after 50 pages or so my eyes would roll back into my head to try to escape. It's not bad, mind you, just very very dry. It's wierd, though, because I sailed right through The Belgariad/Mallorean, one of LOTR's most direct descendants. I also remember that the first 70 pages are an introduction to hobbits and Middle Earth (with a big section on SMOKING WEED) and the last hundred pages are appendices. I think Tolkien was more interested in creating an entirely new world than he was in commenting on our world. He invented the language of Elvish. That stuff Liv Tyler and whats-his-name were speaking in the movie is a REAL LANGUAGE.

Kiru B. had some funny stuff to say about the movie, like how ugly=evil and short=comedy relief. "The next movie will surely introduce the uproarious pixies, who fly entirely powered by their own gaseous emissions."

-- Frostbite (, January 05, 2002.

Mat- I saw Elijah on the Daily Show. He's almost as cute in real life! He's got a soft, airy voice and a darling way of laughing. At one point he was going to show the tattoo that he and all the other actors who played the fellowship got during filming, but Jon Stewart stopped him because "this is a basic cable show." I would express dismay at this point, but in light of the other stuff I've said about the boy, I'd probably come off as a pedophile.

-- Frostbite (, January 05, 2002.

At the risk of beating this subject to death, I have to say that I'm beginning to find highly amusing this assertion by Tolkien that his story possesses no allegorical implications. He was either being very disingenuous or just didn't want to bother answering to critical analysis of his work (I suspect the latter).

Let's see... we have good wizards battling evil wizards for the fate of humanity; a ring which possesses the power to corrupt men's souls and which must be carried by one who is humble and pure in heart enough to carry it to its destruction, thereby returning the world to a state of innocence; various races of Hobbits, Elves, Dwarves, etc. (all of whose physical traits reflect outwardly their inner qualities) who must set aside their differences to work together for the common good; a deadly race of warriors who shun daylight and serve the embodiment of Evil itself, the tyrannical Sauron; these Orcs were in fact once members of the elevated race of Elves who have been corrupted by their contact with Evil; an exiled king whose perfect moral goodness happens to coincide with the fact that he is preordained to reign once Evil has been vanquished...

None of this even remotely approaches a qualification for the definition of "allegory"? Riiiiii.....ght. Come ON, really now, if this isn't allegorical, I'd like to know what is. This is about as allegorical a story as one can conceive. Right next to, say, Pilgrim's Progress. AT LEAST! Jeeeeez...... And I suppose "Animal Farm" is a just a study of what would happen if barnyard animals could speak. And "Gulliver's Travels" contains no symbolism either, of course.

-- Peter Chung (, January 06, 2002.


n. pl. al·le·go·ries

1. The representation of abstract ideas or principles by characters, figures, or events in narrative, dramatic, or pictorial form.

-- Peter Chung (, January 06, 2002.

Here's the punchline:

-- Frostbite (, January 06, 2002.

I agree with Peter... consciously or not, Tolkien made this story into an allegory.

Frostbite, you don't have to worry about feeling like a pedophile -- Elijah is older than you are. Your "flaming vagina" comment made me laugh out loud, by the way... I hadn't noticed the resemblance (which is strange, for me).

-- Mat Rebholz (, January 06, 2002.

Yeah well, I've been on a steady diet of The Simpsons and The Daily Show lately. Does it show?

-- Frostbite (, January 06, 2002.

After watching the Lord of the Rings I came out of theater with a pleasant feeling. The modern world has no trace of genuine aristocracy, and seeing men and women who possess certain wisdom and nobility was very enjoyable. (This took away the aftertaste of the despicable and trivial plot-wise "Heist". What motivated Hollywood to make a movie that glorifies thieves, liars and traitors?)

Gandalf was all wizard; the hobbits were perfectly hobbit-like; the elves were beautiful (the male elves, too, I must say -- during the encounter in the forest I was going "Those are handsome fellas!", and speaking of physical appearance, does anyone know how actors manage to look so clean-shaven during close-ups?); Saruman looked like an "evil Jesus", according to the review. The spectacular scenery, cool battles, and the epic story made this movie a lot of fun.

Is it more than a good-guys-vs-bad-guys adventure? It may be about power, but the dangers of power is a theme that I have seen so many times in forms more sophisticated than Tolkien's, that it stands to reason that he would not make something so shallow. E.g., a whole lot of Robert Howard's stories has Conan fighting evil sorcerers out to enslave the world, and no one claims that those were the best books of the 20th century. Peter Chung's interpretation in terms of Christian themes sounds quite plausible and more interesting. Maybe a good way to look at the Lord of the Rings is as a battle between light and darkness rather then good and evil.

On the question of race in the movie: Yes, an entire nation or race can be the enemy if they are under the influence of bad doctrines. It is possible that the Orcs could be persuaded to abandon their evil ways, but in the movie they don't seem too eager to do so. Further, suppose, for example, there existed a race of vampires. No matter how intelligent they were, if they could not help drinking human blood, they would have to be destroyed. Or the Orcs could simply be amoral, like wolves.

-- Eternal Triangle (, January 07, 2002.

"What motivated Hollywood to make a movie that glorifies thieves, liars and traitors?"

Movie thieves are known for their creativity, intelligence, & resourcefulness. They are outlaws in a romantic sense, existing outside as well as defying the mainstream. Risk-takers, honorable, human beings in an inhuman world. I've always liked caper movies for this; it's not anything to base your life around, no, but it's a good dose of heroic fantasy.

-- Inukko (, January 07, 2002.

Eternal, I appreciate your perspective regarding Hollywood "hip cynicism". I haven't seen "Heist", but your reaction to it reminded me of my own problems with "Heat" and "True Romance" a number of years back.

But I'm here to talk about Orcs (again).

Hmmm, so in other words, the Conquistadors would be justified in exterminating all Indians because they refuse to abandon their native religions and the Spanish thus judge them as "under the influence of bad doctrines"? And I suppose the pope or the king will be the arbiter of what defines "bad doctrines"

("If a race of vampires existed"-- but they don't. That's like saying there could be a race of murderers. Closer to reality, let's say that a community of carriers of a communicable and deadly disease, say plague, AIDS, or Ebola existed who posed some threat to everyone else. Would you then advocate that they cease to have a right to live and should be eliminated? Actually, there ARE parties who say yes.)

It's true that the Orcs are seeking to convert the rest of the world to their evil ways. The heroes are simply trying to preserve their cultures and wage battle as a way of defending themselves. So following my above analogy, the Orcs are actually the Spanish and the Hobbits, etc. are the Indians. So now, should the Spanish as a race be exterminated? So now Tolkien is an apologist for Bin- Ladenism? (All Americans are imperialist oppressors and equally guilty, blah blah )

I'd agree that we have the right to kill those who are first trying to kill us. But it's the portrayal of this enemy as a subhuman "race"-- ugly, dark, and beast-like-- that I find reactionary. The Orcs may be Nazis; but we are then in effect employing their own evil propaganda language (their dehumanizing, racist portrayal of THEIR enemy, the Jews). The METHOD is itself a Nazi method.

Either way, I find the fictional conceit of "evil race" is problematic.

Egads. Now I've spent several more times in total hours commenting on this movie than I spent watching it (which was long enough).

-- Peter Chung (, January 07, 2002.

In a sense, there are moral teachings to be found in movies like Heist, and Bandits (another great film this year)... they show what it's like to break out of prison, to make the big score, to elude the authorities and survive harsh conditions. Whereas movies like The Fugitive work on a similar premise, but miss the point; why is it important that the main character be innocent? In these crime movies, you are made to feel exhiliration for a character whose experiences are utterly unlike your own; & with all the real-life disenfranchised, increased empathy can only be a good thing.

-- Inukko (, January 07, 2002.

Whoops! Sorry for the confusing double-post; I stalled writing that second one, so that's why mine and Peter's overlap. Didn't mean to interrupt, carry on...

-- Inukko (, January 07, 2002.

I know I link to stuff way too much, but here we go again:

-- Frostbite (, January 07, 2002.

Just to be a little pedantic ;p technically these are different species you are talking about, not different races. Only elves and orcs are related genetically; so the relations between Hobbits and Men are more like alien contact than racial interaction. But Im being pretty picky; even Tolkien referred to them as races.

But yeah, there are racist overtones in LOTR. Its almost inevitable... where you have different races you have racism - just look around you. Did you want Tolkein to lie?

Having said that, I think Tolkein established (some) of these 'rules' just so he could break them. Elves and Dwarves hate each other... which makes more poignant the deep friendship that develops between Legolas and Gimli (an anit-racist friendship if you like... "my best friend is an Elf" =p). Indeed, the overcoming of racial preconceptions happens several times to noble characters in the books and is treated like a very high goal (eg. the riders of rohan overcome their mistrust of the elves). Also a lot of the wisest characters seem beyond racism (gandalf, the ents, aragorn).

As for the orcs... well, its hard to defend Tolkeins treatment of them. But are they evil _because_ they are orcs, or because they were raised like orcs? The old nature vs nuture. I remember a scene from the books where Sam is spying on two orc chiefs... theyre doing some pretty horrible things, mostly because if they dont, a ring wraith will kill them (to stab myself in the foot, they also took some pleasure in it). One of the chiefs mentions something about a plan to get a way to a nice place and live happily ever after when all this was over, with just a couple of his band that he trusted and the other orc chief... I remember kinda identifying with the orcs then, they were just doing what they had to to survive, displaying many traits we find admirable - friendship, trust, even a kind of loyalty and honour.

Of course, whether this will make it into the hollywoodisation is another matter =p Am I going off topic here discussing the books and not the first movie?

As for Christian allegory in lotr, well, Ive always thought so =) For example, Gandalf is a very Jesus-like character... ever wise, ever helpful, often suffering for others... he even dies to save the Fellowship in Moria and then returns to life.

Another thing Ive always found interesting is that Men are the only race that seem to have Free Will... only Men seem to walk the path of evil as well as the path of good, or swing between like Boromir when he was tempted by the Ring. Dwarves, Elves and Hobbits are almost always good, and Orcs are always evil. But Men are capable of making the choice... a very Christian concept. Perhaps the other races represent the immutables of Christian theology, ie. elves are very angelic.

-- Asym (, January 08, 2002.

woah, theres kinda a few spoilers in that last post, so if you havent read LOTR and you're reading this thread backwards, dont read the above post =) sorry, shoulda said that at the top of the post

-- Asym (, January 08, 2002.

The thieves in Heist are not some rebels in a dystopian society where everything is against the law. Heist is almost like a documentary that shows how they work, with some obligatory double-crosses thrown in. To them robbing people is just another day at the office, and thievery is a just another profession. None of its cool and intelligent characters seem to have any awareness that stealing is wrong.

(As Joe Sobran points out, "the defense of virtue can't be left to the virtuous. All of us owe it to God, and to each other, to honor standards that we may not always observe with perfect scruples. If you lie or steal, you are still bound to uphold honesty in principle. Lying and stealing don't give you the right to defend such practices.")

No one in Heist even appears to enjoy their "work". You may have heard the phrase "That which is done out of love always takes place beyond good and evil." It's not true, but this movie lacks even that flimsy defense.

-- Eternal Triangle (, January 09, 2002.

Yes, the doctrine of racism is a good example. The word "racism" has been stripped of all meaning due to constant redefinition, but it originally meant a belief in the irreconcilable conflict of races that must end in an enslavement or destruction of the inferior race.

There is, of course, a fundamental difference between the government and the people. If you see a country doing X, it doesn't mean that all or even the majority of its subjects necessarily approve or even aware of X. We should always keep separate the individual and a collective entity that acts in his name.

Could the Orcs simply be an army of the Devil and thus beyond any persuasion or even free will? Some sort of zombie slaves?


I think the usual response to people with contagious diseases is quarantine. But I would hope that a person who is so ill is himself responsible enough to not risk the health of others. Didn't lepers used to wear bells to warn passers-by?

Off the subject, it seems to me that the vampire problem could be solved quite easily if that the vampires were willing to abstain from committing violent crimes. Books and movies require drama and conflict, but law-abiding vampires could easily buy the right to suck blood from people. There would be plenty of those willing to part with a bit of their blood if the price was right.

-- Eternal Triangle (, January 09, 2002.

I like Barb's take on the races in LoTR as representing the division of labor. But I still think you can't ignore the religious references.

-- Logo (, January 10, 2002.

The story was based on Arthurian tales and Ye Auld Englishe Mythe, so there's bound to be some of that.

-- Frostbite (, January 10, 2002.

Yes, I also saw the Elves as the aristocracy (their pursuit of aesthetics and higher culture is reflected in their architecture and dress) and the Dwarves as working- class (like the miners of Northern Ireland). But this view simply replaces race- based barriers with ones based on class--not much of an improvement, really.

In traditional British culture, one doesn't have the capacity to rise above the class of one's birth. (Why, for example, can't a Hobbit earn the right to be the ruler of Middle Earth?) It's not a progressive view, but one that waxes nostalgically for "the good ol' days of yore". Barb, I agree, it's just the pipe dream of a quaint old Englishman.

-- Peter Chung (, January 10, 2002.

Well, the one difference is that in Tolkein's universe, everyone seems pretty happy in their social class, race, whatever. Hobbits like to farm, and dwarves like building stuff. In the books I remember Legolas and Gimly being impressed with each other's homes, but they are always happy being what they are and are never tempted to learn skills of a different class. And a key point is that nobody in Tolkein's universe really seems to exploit anybody else (although my memory is a little shaky). With the exception of Sauron, who seems to have enslaved the Orcs, although it's hard to tell, there is no exploitation of workers.

-- Logo (, January 10, 2002.

"Progressive"? I don't know why you keep using that one, Peter :) One definition of this word is a believer in the "inexorable march of History", some mythical force that leads mankind through ever improving stages of development. Or do you mean that the modern world makes possible greater economic progress, i.e. faster improvement in our standards of living?

Every moment of every day we can choose to set up a wide variety of political regimes. Without a divine revelation calling one system "progressive", and all others "reactionary" seems somewhat arbitrary to me.

Now what would be the purpose of having the LOTR races designate classes? I doubt that Tolkien was an advocate of a caste-based society. He may not have endorsed mass democracy in which the right to steal is extended to everyone, but that's different. Great Britain is actually the birthplace of the Western liberties. The British common law secured the "rights of Englishmen" and is still in use in the United States. The ideological shift that preceded the Industrial Revolution and swept away the political and cultural restrictions on business also originated there.

-- Eternal Triangle (, January 10, 2002.

Hobbits are happy just farming. Hey, they're not INTERESTED in ruling Well that's exactly what the ruling classes have often argued while guarding for themselves the exclusive privileges of their station.

Wow, no, I'm not even going to pretend that I have anything to say about a "progressive" economic policy. I'm sorry to be using the labels "progressive" and "reactionary". But no, you don't need divine revelation to label a regime OR the worldview in LOTR-- progressive, reactionary, or whatever word suits you-- since words are a human invention and only signify whatever meaning we endow them with. The British empire may be the birthplace of the "Western Liberties", but it has also exploited the resources and non-Anglo populations of its colonies-- in Asia, Africa and the Americas for the glory to its crown. Personally, I love the British. But I'm not sure I get your point in bringing up the "rights of Englishmen".

Actually, I'm not posting here to talk about politics anyway (I'm not going to persuade anyone either way, I think), but about the methods used in fiction (film and literature) to affect social consciousness. And I believe they do.

B???UT PETE, DUDE-- WE'RE TALKIN' BOUT THIS HERE FK'N WAR BETWEEN GOOD AND EVILLLL!!! THASS SUM SERIOUS SHIT! So let's like, get BEHIND the MAN and listen to his WISDOM! J.R.R., BABY, YOU BE TELLIN' IT LIKE IT IS!!! (channeling Dangerboy for a second there, sorry)

All right, I'll confess I'm a bit disappointed in the raving reception being given to LOTR (AFI's best film of the year?!) because it's exactly the kind of reductionist, formulaic, morally didactic "entertainment" that I've devoted my career to opposing. Yeah, I'm bashing the LOTR movie because it's MY JOB. (And I used to think I had such a hard time explaining the concept of "moral ambiguity" to the executives at MTV "wait, you mean Trevor isn't always going to be the bad guy?" I kid you not.)

To the Tolkien fans here-- I might mention that there's a definite cultural gap involved in my inability to embrace the imagery of LOTR. Both of my brothers and my sister-in-law (also Korean) saw the movie on the same day I did. We all reacted similarly. My 9 year old niece was bored. However my nephew thought it was the best movie he'd ever seen. He's twelve.

-- Peter Chung (, January 11, 2002.

But Barb, Barb, don't you see? Peter Chung IS Dangerboy? There never was a Mark Mars. Ever notice how they're never seen in the same place, at the same time? How every credit that "Mark Mars" has on the show, is shared with Peter Chung? Coincidence? And who would call a conservatively dressed Asian man in Los Angeles a "walking race riot?" Who indeed, but the artist's own insane alter ego? Besides, who would name their kid Mark?

I think it's safe to say we have a gap.

A credibility gap.

-- Inukko (, January 11, 2002.

I'm being serious here. Does anyone else get the feeling that this is not really Peter Chung? All his posts in this thread have a different tone from his posts in other threads. It doesn't really sound like the same person. He sounds a little more juvenile to me (no offence if it really is you Peter).

-- Logo (, January 11, 2002.

Getting back to the original subject of the thread, I suddenly remember that I rented Spike Lee's "Bamboozled" a month ago and loved it.

-- Frostbite (, January 11, 2002.

There's no need to do that, Logo.

-- Mat Rebholz (, January 11, 2002.

While I do not believe that Peter's objections are the last word, I agree that we should not talk about politics.

The LOTR is not a complicated movie. Nobody does anything unexpected or particularly interesting. But the special effects are great; the characters and locales are exotic, and the story has the sort of religious overtones that appeal to the Western audience.

I'd like to understand why the very fact that the good guys and the bad guys are so well-defined makes the story so attractive to the average viewer. I think that it's precisely because it lets the filmmaker use the winning formula of "set up an end that the audience approves of and have the characters find the means to attain it, overcome obstacles and adjust their plans as they go along." People enjoy seeing complex and hard-to-achieve plans for a good cause come into fruition.

Notice that no episode of Aeon Flux is built on this formula. It has other virtues:

Western civilization is descended equally from Athens and Jerusalem, and we routinely speak of both kinds of tragedy. The midair incineration of the space shuttle Challenger, the horrifying result of a faulty O-ring, was a tragedy in the Greek manner. The torment of a man who is determined to be both a tender father to his children and a careerist athlete of the larger world is a Jewish tragedy. The first tragedy arises from without; the second arises from within. The first is swept forward to an inevitable resolution and for that reason may always be muddled (at worst) or be trumped (at best) by some comedic intrusion...

Both kinds of tragedy are Western, but it is surely the second kind that touches us more deeply.

-- "God: A Biography"

They say that one has to be smart in order to appreciate classical music. It does not follow from this that smart people do not enjoy popular music. It takes all kinds.

-- Eternal Triangle (, January 11, 2002.

I'm sorry, it should be

The first is swept forward to an inevitable resolution; the second can have no resolution and for that reason may always be muddled (at worst) or be trumped (at best) by some comedic intrusion...

-- Eternal Triangle (, January 11, 2002.

The following is my favorite LOTR review: "Bounteously bold, gorgeous, video-game-esque battle sequences are placed like decadently rich chocolate chips in this huge sugarless cookie of a film that over bakes the pan." To quote Thoughtviper, "That's zen master level inscrutable."

-- Frostbite (, January 12, 2002.

Has anyone here seen Brotherhood of the Wolf yet? It just came out on January 11th, but it is technicall pre-2002 because it has been out in France for a while. Anyway, the action scenes totally kick ass and the director, Christophe Gans, really nailed the atmosphere of the whole thing. I'm interested to know if anyone has scene any of his other works and if so, what you think of them.

-- Logo (, January 14, 2002.

-- Frostbite (, January 23, 2002.

In short, I think Lord of the Rings was pretty impressive. Didn't like their portrayal of Bilbo though...

-- Ron (, January 28, 2002.

Wha.. I always thought Ian Holmes was like, A given for that part.

-- Sam (, October 08, 2002.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ