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January 11, 2003 - January 18, 2003

1-18-03 Latest News

RoTK Calendar Pics to Knock your Socks Off!
Demosthenes @ 11:34 pm EST

Ringer Super Spy Lisa sent us the most amazing hi-res scans of the RoTK calendar that has been doing the rounds lately. And if you really want to check out the incredible detail in this calendar, these images are an absolute must!

1-17-03 Latest News

TTT: EE & ROTK Release Dates Galore!
Xoanon @ 2:34 pm EST

Ringer Spy writes:

I work in the media biz and today I received a package from New Line Cinema. The contents included the LOTR:ROTK calender (which is one of the coolest things I have ever seen) and a note. It had some basic info and then included some release dates.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

-Theatrical Cut DVD/Video: Late August 2003
-Extended Cut DVD/Video: November 2003

The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

-Theatrical Release: Dec. 17, 2003
-Theatrical Cut DVD/Video: August 2004
-Extended Cut DVD/Video: November 2004

Bjork Talks TTT's 'Gollum Song'
Xoanon @ 12:26 pm EST

Lady Druadan writes: Bjork posted this on January 16th concerning the Gollum song played at the end of The Two Towers.

From the message board (4UM) at www.bjork.com:

"i was asked to write the song a month before thew birth of my daughter , when i turned it down because i was too pregnant they said fair enough and got another writer then approached me again said they had a song and lyric in my style , they understood i didn´t have time to write it but if i could sing it , i thought it was a little noughty but asked them to send me the notes and the lyrics since i was curious what is "my style" then had to tell them it was 3 days until my baby was due and i couldn´t focus on anything else they then said they were going to ask "björk-kinda singers" and told me they got 3 singers, they didn´t tell me the names but say A,B and C .

then after the birth they said they weren´t happy with the results and asked me please if i could save them , they could put the deadline back to october 30th (my baby was born on the 3rd) i told them my baby was priority and i was told they went back and chose one of the A or B or C . i then later found out it was emiliana. björk."

VARIETY: Big pix click with PGA
Xoanon @ 11:52 am EST


Taking an unpredictable turn in the season's wide-open race for feature honors, the Producers Guild of America has opted mostly for large-scale and high-grossing releases as nominees for its best picture award.

The PGA finalists for its Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year kudos are Sony's "Adaptation," Miramax's "Chicago" and "Gangs of New York," IFC's "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," DreamWorks' "Road to Perdition" and New Line's "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers."

In voting by the org's 1,800 members, two of the pics tied for fifth, leading to the first time that six features have been nominated.

The PGA noms are a closely watched indicator of Oscar sentiment, since the org includes a significant number of voters who are also members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Three of the five PGA nominations in 2002 also received Oscar noms, and the PGA winner has gone on to win the best picture Oscar in nine of the PGA award's 13 years.

Those double winners are "Driving Miss Daisy," "Dances With Wolves," "The Silence of the Lambs," "Schindler's List," "Forrest Gump," "The English Patient," "Titanic," "American Beauty" and "Gladiator."

But the PGA opted last year for "Moulin Rouge" while "A Beautiful Mind" took home the Oscar. Other splits came when the PGA tapped "Saving Private Ryan," "Apollo 13" and "The Crying Game," while the Oscar went to, respectively, "Shakespeare in Love," "Braveheart" and "Unforgiven."

The 2003 nominees include a pair of pics, "Two Towers" and "Greek Wedding," that have grossed well over $200 million each domestically, while "Road to Perdition" hit $104 million and "Gangs of New York" is nearing $60 million. "Chicago" has grossed more than $17 million in limited release with exceptional per-engagemement averages, portending strong BO in coming weeks.

By contrast, "Adaptation" has remained mostly below the public radar. In its first major expansion last weekend, "Adaptation" took in $2.6 million at 560 playdates to push its cume to $9.2 million.

"We're very glad the PGA members did not let the lack of grosses affect their voting," said "Adaptation" producers Ed Saxon and Vincent Landay. "There are so many great films out there this year, so this is really the little movie that could."

Critical faves ignored

PGA voters snubbed a long list of critical favorites -- mostly smaller-scale releases -- including Paramount's "The Hours," New Line's "About Schmidt," Focus' "Far From Heaven" and "The Pianist," Miramax's "The Quiet American," Fox Searchlight's "Antwone Fisher," UA's "Nicholas Nickleby," DreamWorks' "Catch Me if You Can," Universal's "About a Boy" and Fox's "Minority Report."

Thursday's announcement at the Century Plaza represented the first time the PGA unveiled its noms in a live news conference. "Greek Wedding" producer Rita Wilson and "The West Wing" star Bradley Whitford emceed.

1-16-03 Latest News

Lao_of_Gondor @ 9:54 pm EST


The official North American street release date for the Battle of Helm's Deep LOTR TCG expansion is MARCH 5TH!

Starter Decks and Booster Packs will be released at the same time, unlike previous expansions (which released the two products at different intervals). The release date for Europe and other international locations is not confirmed yet. But it will probably be a week or two after the North American release.

Decipher has CHANGED the configuration of the Starter Decks - for the better (in my humble opinion). They will no longer contain the three 'random' rares - which at many times did not coincide with the starter deck's "pre-built" strategy. Starter decks will now contain three 'fixed' rares that are ALTERNATE IMAGE versions of rares in the booster packs. These rares will now work with the deck design and greatly enhance the deck they are in. This also means that the set size is six cards larger! These six AI fixed rares are cards (5 R 123 through 5 R 128).

NOTE: For those of you who are unfamiliar with the LOTR TCG coding system as seen above, here's what it means:
The number 5 means that the card is of the 'fifth' set of released cards (Fellowship of the Ring: Set 1, Mines of Moria: Set 2 and so on. The R signifies rarity; in this case RARE (as opposed to C for Common and U for Uncommon). The last number is the order of the card as it appears in the set.

Most notably, Decipher is going to LOWER the cost of these new starter decks. Starting with Battle of Helm's Deep, starter decks will now have a MSRP of $9.99 USD. That is ONE DOLLAR LESS than previous starter decks! There is no information as of yet on if they are going to lower the price of booster packs.

All starter decks will still have two premium cards in them as well and will feature LEGOLAS and EOWYN as your choices of two different Starter Deck types.

And remember, The Battle of Helm's Deep PRE-RELEASE TOURNAMENT will be held at a participating retail store near you on the weekend of February 22-23. Please visit here for details on when and where this event will take place and how you can pre-register for your chance to get your hands on this newest expansion two weeks before the Official Release!

This pre-release event will be the ONLY chance you will have to collect the ALTERNATE IMAGE Trading Card of THEODEN, King of the Golden Hall, which you can view here

More to come...

Lao of Gondor

1st 'Ring' rules at DVD Premiere Awards
Xoanon @ 6:55 pm EST


"The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" had a epic night at the DVD Premiere Awards, taking home five trophies Tuesday, including the award for overall new extra features (new release).

Other winners at the Wiltern event included Disney's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame II" (animated DVD premiere movie); "Disney's Beauty and the Beast" (overall new extra features, library title); and First Look's "A Gentleman's Game" (live-action DVD premiere movie).

Gary Sinise was on hand to accept the actor award for "A Gentleman's Game," which was also recognized for best cinematography. The latter award went to first-time d.p. Conrad W. Hall, son of the late Oscar-winning cinematographer Conrad L. Hall.

"Rings" producer Mark Ordesky accepted many of the awards for that title in person, with director Peter Jackson thanking the DVD Premieres Academy via videotape from New Zealand for a special DVD Premiere Director Focus Award.

Harvey and Bob Weinstein accepted a special DVD Premiere Producer Award presented by Kevin Smith. Vivica A. Fox presented the second annual DVD Premiere Pioneer Award to Quentin Tarantino. And Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen accepted the special DVD Premiere Franchise Performers Award from newly installed Warner Home Video president Jim Cardwell.

Warner's groundbreaking DVD of "The Matrix" became the second title installed in the DVD Premiere Academy of Artistic Achievement.

Jackson's Special Extended Edition of "Fellowship of the Ring," released by New Line Home Entertainment, also won for New Enhanced or Reconstructed Movie Scenes, Original Retrospective Documentary (New Release) and Audio Commentary (New Release).

The movie was also named the Best Special Edition of the Year (new release) for the first AOL Movies DVD Premiere Award determined by consumers in an online poll during December and early January. The AOL Movies DVD Premiere Award for Best Special Edition of the Year (Classic Movie) went to the "Back to the Future" trilogy from Universal Studios Home Video.

There were two ties at the awards, with Cynthia Stevenson ("Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch") and Lindy Booth ("Skulls 2") tying for supporting actress, and John Woo ("Hostage") and Mark Bollinger ("Save My Last Dance") tying for Internet Video.

Other celebrity presenters and/or winners on hand at the third annual awards program hosted by Ben Stein included Maria Conchita Alonso, Lindy Booth, Bruce Boxleitner, Gary Busey, Coolio, Dean Cain, David Carradine, Nicole Eggert, John Landis, Nick Mancuso, Pras, Eric Roberts, Robbie Robertson, John Savage, Bo Svenson, Leah Thompson, Ike Turner, Caitlin Wachs, Henry Winkler and the Hanson Brothers, the latter of whom were named best supporting actor for their reprisal of goon hockey players in Universal's "Slap Shot 2: Breaking the Ice."

Buena Vista Home Entertainment was the top studio with seven wins, including one for the menu design of the DVD for "Monster's, Inc."

The DVD producing company of Kurtti-Pellerin dominated with two personal wins for Michael Pellerin and Jeff Kurtti as the winners of the top two overall extra features awards ("Lord of the Rings" and "Beauty and the Beast," respectively).

The DVD Premiere Awards (formerly the Video Premiere Awards), are presented by DVD Premieres magazine, a sister publication of Variety. The awards honor movies that debut on DVD or the Internet and are voted on by members of the DVD Premiere Awards Academy.

'Rings' Composer: A Quest for the Right Sound
Xoanon @ 6:50 pm EST

By Matt Wolf
Associated Press
Wednesday, January 15, 2003; Page C09

LONDON -- On a recent autumn day at London's Abbey Road studios, director Peter Jackson was conferring with Howard Shore, his composer on "The Lord of the Rings."

Playing silently overhead was footage from "The Two Towers," the second part of the huge cinematic triptych that began with the Christmas 2001 release of "The Fellowship of the Ring." The scene was of Hobbit heroes Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) nearing a waterfall in their journey toward the Black Gates of Mordor.

Shore, putting the finishing touches on some musical passages with the 96-piece London Philharmonic Orchestra, wanted to make sure his music would hold its own against the roar of the fall.

"You should never worry about competing against water," Jackson assured him. "We'll just pull the water down."

As before, it is Shore's job to strike the right balance -- as in J.R.R. Tolkien's books -- between gracefulness and grandeur. He won an Academy Award last spring for "Fellowship."

The Canadian composer, who wrote the music for another long-awaited epic that also opened last month, Martin Scorsese's "Gangs of New York," reflected in a later interview on one of the heftiest assignments any film composer has taken on.

"Tolkien spent 12 years writing the books, [so] to spend three years on the music doesn't seem that long," said Shore, 56. In any case, "I look at the three 'Lord of the Rings' films as one, and 'The Two Towers' was Act 2."

Late this year will see the project's culmination, "The Return of the King."

Shore was speaking by telephone on a December weekend in Los Angeles, where the Los Angeles County Museum was holding a retrospective of his film music.

"The Lord of the Rings" score could have been bombastic. But Shore says narrative, not musical heroics, came first.

"You're composing not in relation to the spectacle" -- of which "The Two Towers" has plenty -- "but in relation to the drama on the screen. Keeping that in mind allows you to write in a more intimate and human way," from the Norwegian fiddles of the Viking-like culture of Rohan to the wooden instruments associated with the ancient Treebeard.

Then there's the sinister, scampering Gollum, who comes with his own sound -- a hammered dulcimer theme from the first movie that, says Shore, "has been mutilated a little bit," as Gollum has.

In the waterfall scene, Jackson suggested, "The delicate feel is nicer."

"The music doesn't have to impress the audience. It shouldn't be overly dramatic -- more of a question mark," the director said.

Even in the climactic battle scene at Helm's Deep, says Mark Ordesky, an executive producer, Shore's music is there to make a point.

"The theme is how the battle is fought," says Ordesky, "and how will you conduct yourself, and I think Howard's music reflects that, as well."

The very title "The Lord of the Rings" in musical terms conjures up Wagner's 19th-century "Ring" cycle, a four-opera sequence -- itself rooted in mythology -- that makes up one mammoth and imposing whole. Shore acknowledges the influence.

"Of course you had to look into Wagner's great and amazing work and into the opera form. In writing a 10-hour piece, the only thing you could look to is opera."

To that end, the score of "The Two Towers" boasts not only a full symphony orchestra but also 100 singers, including a 30-strong children's choir and 10 soloists.

By contrast, says Shore, "Gangs of New York" required a "real mosaic of American sound" to animate Scorsese's operatic portrait of New York blood lust in the 1860s.

Much of Shore's music for "Gangs" derives from an extant composition, "Brooklyn Heights," that was expanded and re-recorded for the film.

Says Shore, "I would have loved to have been able to have worked with Martin directly" -- the two collaborated on Scorsese's 1985 "After Hours" -- "but because of 'Two Towers,' there just wasn't time."

Although Shore has been living "The Lord of the Rings" of late, his work also has traveled beyond the land of Legolas and Gimli. Last year, his music punctuated the fears of Manhattanite Jodie Foster in the David Fincher thriller "Panic Room," and in David Cronenberg's 2002 film "Spider," Shore's Alban Berg-like musical jags echo the disturbed mind of the hero, played by Ralph Fiennes.

With one more Tolkien movie to go, is Shore worried he might go into withdrawal once the endeavor is complete?

He laughs. "The trilogy is a sort of legacy, I guess, and I don't feel I want it to end. We have all worked to make something much bigger than any of us; that's the blessed part of it."

TTT Nabs Producer Guild Nominations!
Xoanon @ 5:21 pm EST

Sasha from oscarwatch.com writes: This morning, the Producers Guild threw their hat into the mix, nominating six in a tie vote, rather than five:


The PGA's winner has gone on to win Best Picture at the Oscar nine out of the past 13 years, since they started giving out awards. You can see the charts of how the nominations and wins have matched up over the years by visiting: http://www.oscarwatch.com/Awards/pga.html

This is great news, albeit somewhat expected, for IFC's My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and gives it a healthy boost toward an Oscar nomination. Road to Perdition sees its first real pre-award inclusion as well, and of course, this proves Chicago, Gangs of New York and Two Towers are still heavy hitters in the race.

Adaptation was the surprise pic, unless you've noticed the buzz lately -- it's a popular film that will have across the board guild support -- it will get and win the WGA; Spike Jonze will likely be nominated for the DGA and the ensemble may be nommed at the SAG -- so a BP nomination seems inevitable. Well deserved it would be.

Missing from the list are the two critically acclaimed films from Focus Features - Far From Heaven and The Pianist -- both are too good to ignore, but how will the Academy respond?

Meanwhile, the USC Scripter put out their noms (you can see the past winners by going here) - the Scripter, headed up this year by famed scribe Robert Towne, honors both book author and film writer.

As follows:

About Schmidt Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor, screenwriters; Louis Begley,
author (New Line Cinema; Ballantine)

Adaptation Charlie Kaufman, screenwriter; Susan Orlean, author, The Orchid Thief (Columbia Pictures; Ballantine)

The Hours David Hare, screenwriter; Michael Cunningham, author (Paramount Pictures; Picador USA)

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Frances Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Stephen Sinclair & Peter Jackson, screenwriters; J.R.R. Tolkien, author (New Line Cinema; Houghton Mifflin)

The Pianist Ronald Harwood, screenwriter; Wladyslaw Szpilman, author, Death of a City (Focus Features; Picador USA)

Pre-Awards are coming fast and furiously -- next up are the AFI awards (which are just doing best film), the Broadcast Film Critics, tomorrow, and the Golden Globe awards on Sunday.

Predictions for the Globes are everywhere -- starting with http://www.moviecitynews.com and http://www.nypost.com/entertainment/66724.htm

We also have a predict the Globes contest running, which you can enter by clicking on http://www.oscarwatch.com/Contests/ggcontest_2002.html

A bad awakening
Xoanon @ 4:54 pm EST

The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers is enrapturing millions. But we like to ask director Peter Jackson some questions:

What happened to the trees of Fangorn?
And why is an Orc using his cell-phone right in the midde of the battlefield?

“The big doors closed. BANG! Inside, iron bars were locking it. SNAP! The door was closed. Sam threw himself against the metal doors and fell to the floor unconscious. He lay outside in the dark. Frodo was alive, but captured by the enemy.”

This is the last paragraph of J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Two Towers”, the second book of the “Rings” trilogy. In Peter Jackson’s movie version however this scene, when Frodo gets captured by the Orcs, is not included. Instead, the movie ends about 50 pages before the end of the book: Frodo and Sam, who are at a crossroad, are being led into the ambush of the giant spider Shelob (in German: Kankra - don’t ask me why…) by their companion Gollum. So Shelob’s appearance is being postponed until the beginning of the third installmant, “The Return of the King”. Jackson’s cliffhanger is working without Shelob, but still the question remains, why the “Ring” filmer is dealing much more freely with the second installment - after he stuck so true to the first book “The Fellowship”.

Insiders already expected that Jackson wouldn’t leave the book unimpeached: Out of all three books the second one balks itself the most against transferring the dramatic demandings to the medium film. Neither the decreasing suspense nor the story being split into three different storylines suits to the conventions of a Hollywood-script.

So Jackson moved the Battle of Helm’s Deep and the destruction of Saruman’s weapon forge Isengard from the middle of the book to the end of the movie and created - in benefit of a stunning showdown - a Nazgul attack at the human outpost Osgiliath. Yet not all of Jackson’s interventions can be explained with cinematographic formalities. In some parts, the New Zealander’s film differs from the book in a considerable way - sometimes even in a distorting way.

The first of these arbitrary acts concerns the creature Treebeard, who in Tolkien’s book is an symbol for nature’s powers, against which humans better shouldn’t oppose. Jackson doesn’t let the tree-keepter go to war out of his own decision - the Hobbits Merry and Pippin play a trick on him to get him there. Treebeards “without-me” position undermines the criticism on industrialisation from the first movie, which is one of the most important aspects of Tolkien’s fantasy epos. “An important aspect of “The Two Towers” is the nature’s fight against the machines.”, Jackson says. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t show this.

Another, no less arbitrary change concerns the character of Boromir’s brother Faramir. In the book, he’s being described as honorable, faithful, noble and and non-corruptible - the film is turning him into exactly the opposite. Just like his fickle brother Boromir, Faramir gets lured by the ring and captures Frodo to take the it. This turning of Faramir’s character doesn’t make any sense to the context of the book and can only be explained as a “crook” to increase the amount of action in the (this time less exciting) Frodo-storyline.

The attack of the Warg riders has a similar function. The scene where Aragorn together with one of the hyena-like monsters falls over the cliff is a downright creation of Jackon’s, that doesn’t give any fresh impetus to the story, but prepares the way for the bewitching dream sequence, where the beautiful Elven princess Arwen appears to her tormented lover Aragorn.

Not every of these changes to the book seem to make sense, but in view of the incredible dimensions of the projects, even strong Tolkien-purists will be forbearing: The Two Towers is a cinematographic event of really biblical dimensions. After the christian allegory of the first installment, Peter Jackson now goes for a dark, huge and firing metaphor to World War 2, where the armies of darkness march as if Hitler’s favourite director, Leni Riefenstahl, had directed the parade. And the usually peaceful Sam does a Churchill-like speech on resistance.

Not all of the dialogues are done well In between the frontlines there are some bad warrior lines (“A red sun is rising. Tonight blood has been shed.”) but the outstanding effects and the biblical dimensions of the battle scenes make more than up for this. And not to forget Gollum, this computer-generated creature who looks like Steve Buscemi in a loincloth.

BANG! The door closes. SNAP! The iron bars are locking it. And this is the real annoyance about Peter Jackson’s “The Two Towers”. Three hours can be over so damn quickly. And now the terrible waiting starts again.

More Info On Liv Tyler's Song
Xoanon @ 12:12 pm EST

From: Aradan

I picked up a copy of the complementary magazine published by the 'Cineworld' cinema chain here in the UK because it contained an interview with Liv Tyler about 'The Two Towers'. Amongst all the usual stuff about costumes and elf ears there was one answer that caught my eye:

Q. You shot the trilogy a few years ago. What have you carried forward with you since that experience ended?

Liv: "The thing that I don't think everybody understands is that we're still working on it. I can't tell you much work I've done on it in this year [2002] alone! We went to New Zealand for a month this summer and did pickups. We shot all sorts of new scenes - it was like shooting another movie all over again, and that was just for film two. And I just came back from London, where I spent two weeks recording a song for the soundtrack. I'd been working for a voice teacher for five months on that. Plus, we just completed all the post-production looping and voice overs."

1-15-03 Latest News

Tolkien 101
Xoanon @ 10:44 am EST

Dusty writes: Just wanted to inform you of an interesting class being offered at Fordham University, Lincoln Center Campus in NYC this Spring semester. Lincoln Center Courses:

Fantasy and Philosophy (PHLV 3942)
John Davenport

This Senior Values Seminar addresses the moral and religious themes of classic works of epic fantasy: in the spring of 2003, we'll focus on J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. With the aid of recent scholarly criticism, we will discuss ways in which Tolkien's work sheds light on our moral experiences and encounters with evil in the real world. We will also focus on the author's portrayal of religious hope; human freedom and moral character; the relationship between human creativity, technology, and nature; and questions about power over others.

Students are encouraged to read Tolkien's entire trilogy in before the class begins in the spring. My preferred edition, to be used for this class, is the red hardback Collectors Edition by Houghton Mifflin. Please get this edition!

1-14-03 Latest News

Brad Dourif At 'Collectors & Celebrities' Show
Xoanon @ 3:43 pm EST

Luineannuniel writes: Brad Dourif will be at a convention in North Hollywood this weekend, if anyone wants to meet the man behind Grima Wormtongue.

Here's the info:

Hollywood Collectors & Celebrities Show

Beverly Garland's Holiday Inn
4222 Vineland Avenue
North Hollywood, California 91602

SATURDAY January 18th, 2003 10AM-5PM
SUNDAY_ -_ January 19th, 2003 10AM-4PM

General Admission is $10.00 Daily


1-13-03 Latest News

Allan Turner Lecture In Switzerland
Xoanon @ 8:09 pm EST

LaWiseWoman writes:

I wanted to let you know that the Swiss-British Society in Basel, Switzerland, is having a lecture by Allan Turner, University of Newcastle, on "The Lord of the Rings - translating into film" on Thursday, 16th January 2003 at 6.15 pm, room 3, Nadelberg 6, Basel, Switzerland (for those view of you who actually live near there... ;) ).

Here's the text of the flyer:

"By now the second part of Peter Jackson's film trilogy will have hit the screen and no doubt broken a few more records. Meanwhile it continues to meet with a mixed reception from Tolkien fans, as some love the special effects, while others feel that, in spite of Jackson's evident commitment to the book, he has sacrificed too much of its essence for the sake of Hollywood clichés. This talk clears away the razzmatazz to see how a highly complex work of literature has been transformed into a different medium, and compares it with the translation of the literary text into another language, bearing in mind that both of these processes need to be seen as commercial enterprises.

Allan Turner decided that he wanted to be a philologist after reading Tolkien in his early teens, and has since fallen into all the cracks between diachronic linguistics, synchronic linguistics and literature. For ten years he was Lektor at the English Seminar in Basel. At present he works in Newcastle and is completing a Ph.D. dissertation on the problems of translating the philological element in Tolkien.

Members of the Swiss-British Society: free entry; Members of the British Circle and Anglo-Swiss Club&Students: CHF 5.--; non-members: CHF 7.

`Lord' of racism? Critics view trilogy as discriminatory
Xoanon @ 11:32 am EST

`Two Towers' film reflects tone of book

By David Ibata
Tribune staff reporter

January 12, 2003

Happily for fans of J.R.R. Tolkien, director Peter Jackson stayed true to the fantasy author's artistic vision in "Fellowship of the Ring," the first film in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

Unhappily, in "The Two Towers," Jackson may reflect the "Rings'" racial view of the world as well.

As the United States wages war against an ominous "other" -- currently Al Qaeda terrorists, soon perhaps Iraqis and eventually, North Koreans? -- it's worth keeping in mind Tolkien's stern admonition against viewing his work as allegory.

For years, Tolkien scholars have waged a fight on two fronts: against an academic establishment that for the most part refused to take the author's work seriously, and against white supremacists who have tried to claim the professor as one of their own.

The first controversy may be decided in Tolkien's favor once the present generation of literary critics passes from the scene (I admit some bias in this regard), but the second probably always will flare up whenever some skinheads read more into the "Rings" than really is there.

And with the enormous popularity of Jackson's film interpretation of Tolkien's work coinciding with the current international crises, it's possible some will start confusing villains on the screen with real-life adversaries on the battlefield.

In "Fellowship," we saw non-human foes: Orcs, trolls, Uruk-hai, Ringwraiths and the like.

No connection can be made between ordinary people and these malformed uglies. No problem here.

Human adversaries

In "Towers," though, which continues to do big at the box office as the second film of the Rings trilogy (the third, "Return of the King," is to come out at the end of the year), the series' heroes -- hobbits, elves, dwarves and people -- for the first time encounter races of human adversaries. They include the Easterlings and Haradrim, denizens of lands in the east and south of Middle Earth who have joined with the forces of evil.

The Easterlings can barely be made out under their armor; their faces are covered except for a narrow slit through which glare pairs of coal-black eyes. But their headgear looks like a cross between a Samurai warrior's helmet and a cone-shaped "Coolie" hat. An Asian influence is obvious.

The Haradrim are more recognizable. They are garbed in turbans and flowing crimson robes. They ride giant elephants. They resemble nothing other than North African or Middle Eastern tribesmen. A recently released "Towers" companion book, "The Lord of the Rings: Creatures," calls the Haradrim "exotic outlanders" whose costumes "were inspired by the twelfth-century Saracen warriors of the Middle East." The Saracens were Islamic soldiers who battled Christian invaders during the Crusades.

The "good guys" include the human Dunedain, Rohirrim and Gondorians. All fair-skinned, mostly blond and mostly blue-eyed. ( A third group of human foes in the film is white: the Wild Men. The fallen wizard Saruman incites them by reminding them the horsemen of Rohan oppress them and have driven them from their lands. Cavalry against native tribes; does this picture seem familiar?)

In the nearly five decades since "Lord of the Rings" was first published, Tolkien fans were willing to overlook parts of the text some condemned as racially insensitive. In "Rings," it was argued, race was never directly addressed in the book, and physical descriptions of enemy humans were rare. Things that might strike today's reader as discomfiting were attributed to the intellectual, cultural and social milieu within which Tolkien (1892-1973), an Oxford don, moved.

Can anyone recall one white male author before the present literary era -- other than perhaps the far-seeing Mark Twain in "Huckleberry Finn" -- who, when the two sides came into conflict, depicted men of color sympathetically and Caucasian men as evil? Better to focus on the "Rings'" main themes: of courage, hope and love, of friendship, loyalty and spiritual strength, in the face of a fearsome threat.

But like the ghostly faces in the Dead Marshes, that irritating issue of race always lingered just beneath the surface.

Amid the pre-release hype of the "Two Towers" premiere, commentators such as John Yatt of the Manchester Guardian newspaper couldn't resist stirring the water: "`The Lord of the Rings' is racist. It is soaked in the logic that race determines behaviour," Yatt wrote in a Dec. 2 essay. The book describes evil humans as "dark, slant-eyed, swarthy, broad-faced a rag-bag of non-white characteristics that could have been copied straight from a [British National Party] leaflet."

The screenwriters who adapted Tolkien's book to film sometimes muddied things further. For instance, they wanted to convey the idea that the threat facing humankind in "Towers" was not merely defeat in war, but extinction. In film dialogue not found in Tolkien's original text, Aragorn warns King Theoden of Rohan that Saruman has bred an army "with a single purpose: to destroy the world of men."

It is not explained how Saruman can threaten the demise of humankind when some of his own minions are human. (The human presence will be even more pronounced in the third film, when Sauron unleashes the Easterling and Haradrim upon the West.) Perhaps a more accurate statement would have been that the forces of evil have assembled an army "to destroy the world of civilized white men." Of course, Aragorn -- and the director Jackson -- cannot say this.

Parallels with current events

With "Lord of the Rings" seizing the popular imagination, could some see parallels between the film and the current political climate: the fear of and anger against non-white immigration in Western Europe, as evident in the recent election successes of far-right candidates? Or, in the United States, the wholesale arrests and prosecutions of people of Islamic and Middle Eastern origin in the post-9/11 environment?

As a Japanese American, I cannot help imagining how the movie "Rings" would have been received had it appeared in 1942 instead of 2002. It would quickly have been seized upon as allegory, and there would have been no doubt whom the Orcs and Urak-hai represented: The "Japs." Consider how closely the non-human adversaries in "Rings" resemble some of the worst depictions of the Japanese drawn by American and British illustrators during World War II.

Japanese propagandists likewise pictured the Allies as goblins and demons from that country's folklore. This is how all cultures have portrayed a wartime enemy: as less than human.

You might ask if I'm looking for offense where none is intended. I believe the issue is not whether Tolkien or Jackson intended to offend -- they did not, I am sure -- but the author's or filmmaker's ability to create images that shape one's view of the world.

Pernicious images

And certain scenes in "Towers" remind me of some of the most pernicious images of the cinematic past, from "Beau Geste" to western serials to John Wayne war flicks: that of faceless brown hordes hurling themselves against a band of white heroes.

I'll admit that I joined everyone else, cheering as thousands of Orcs and Urak-hai were slaughtered at the climactic battle of Helm's Deep. They are vicious, violent, ugly as sin, loathsome eaters of "man flesh." As Aragorn tells the besieged defenders, we should feel no mercy for them.

Would we have felt the same thrill of victory if the massacred enemy were humans?

And by the way, where were they? In the book, but not in the movie, the Wild Men also fight at Helm's Deep. We do see men killing men earlier in the movie, when Gondorian scouts ambush a band of Haradrim. Yet the latter mainly fall under hails of arrows. There's no sword-on-sword, one-on-one combat. It all seems antiseptic, like a smart bomb on TV blasting a bunker without the splatter of blood and flesh.

In a passage from the book often cited in defense of the author, Tolkien described the Gondorian attack on the Haradrim. Hobbit Sam watches from cover as an enemy soldier falls dead close by, his neck pierced by arrows: "His brown hand still clutched the hilt of a broken sword." (This scene is in the film, but it goes by so fast it barely registers.)

"It was Sam's first view of a battle of Men against Men, and he did not like it much," Tolkien wrote. "He was glad that he could not see the dead face. He wondered what the man's name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home; and if he would not really rather have stayed there in peace. . . ."

In "Return of the King," will Jackson again reserve the bloodiest fight scenes only for those species too depraved to feel any sympathy for? Or will he follow Tolkien's lead and acknowledge the humanity of at least some of the enemy?


A defense of J.R.R. Tolkien against allegations of racism can be found at "The One Ring" Web site: http://greenbooks.theonering.net/quickbeam/files/040101.html

Copyright (c) 2003, Chicago Tribune

1-11-03 Latest News

INTERVIEW: Russell Barton bowyer behind the Mirkwood Bow Replica
Flinch @ 5:49 pm EST

Russell Barton loves making Bows. Recently Russell expanded that love of making bows, along side his love of Tolkien's Middle-earth, and began crafting the Mirkwood Bow through StickStone.com, replicating the design and shape of the bow Legolas carried in the first portion of the Fellowship of the Ring. Fans across the globe have ordered and are enjoying this beautifuly crafted piece, and now Russell was kind enough to take the time to talk with us a bit about just what goes into making the Mirkwood Bow.

Flinch: Tell us a bit about StickStone.com.

Russell: Well...  Sticks & Stones is the result of my love for archery, and the making of primitive and traditional archery tackle. I started making bows about 7 years ago out of a desire to shoot a primitive style, and first focused on Native American replicas. My first goal was to make something that worked!  Later, after becoming more accomplished at it, I began focusing on why the Native Americans had such diverse styles of bows and arrows, and what made them the best suited for the region. After making many historically accurate, and museum quality replicas of Native American Bows, I decided to go a little deeper into other regions of the world, and do some experimenting with design and performance. I have found many of the things that work, as well as the things that don't, and as a result I try to offer my customers the best bow I can make regardless of the style or demmands that will be put on it.

F: How did it come about that you began crafting and selling replica's of Legolas' Mirkwood Bow?
Russell: At first... I really didn't want to even mess around with it... I was already busy with making other hunting and Native American designs, plus selling bow making supplies to others that were in the same field of interest. After a good deal of pestering, and because of my own interests in Tolien's works, I finally agreed to make a few for some of the folks that wanted a "working" replica of the bow. The response to what they had in their hands was positive enough, that I guess they started posting my name on several of the LOTR related message boards around the world... Then the bomb dropped so to speak, and I have been scrambling ever since to keep the orders flowing.

F: You make bows that are built to fire an arrow, not just for display, have you considered a display line or will you continue to craft fully functional bows for your customers?
Russell: The neat thing about it is... I know how to make a functional bow, and it takes probably just as long to make a "wall hanger" as it does to make a fully functional bow. Besides, a Mirkwood replica that works is what people want, and that is what makes me different from a company that punches out merchandise by the thousands in third world countries where they are accustomed to exploiting cheap labor.

No... I don't think I will ever want to compromise my trade and my reputation with something less than my best.

F: Have you found it difficult to craft the Mirkwood Bow, knowing the expectations of Legolas fans who have a vision in their head of what this bow should be?
Russell: Yes... to say the least. I make these bow to the customers specific draw weight and draw length, and I have gone through several designs and experimentations on making a functional, safe, and good performing bow, while still trying to keep it as accurate as possible to the "look" of the original in the movie.
I will possibly still work on some modifications to the bow, but as for now, I have made them to function the best that they possibly can, considering that they are of a cross section that is not really suppose to work well.
I have not gone to the full lengths of making the gold work completely identical for a couple of reasons... the first is that I don't want to infringe too much on trademark rights. If I were to do this, the cost of licensing and back end royalties would be astronomical, and thus... the cost of the bow would be out of reach for most that want it. The second reason is that I am an individual and an artist... so, the interpretations are as unique as the Tolkien novels themselves. 

F: How have those who now own the Mirkwood Bow reacted to it's detail compared to the real thing?
Russell: I do recieve a few emails that have demmands without understanding the function... By this I mean things like "could you make the tips more curved?" or, "The gold work is not "exactly" the same..."  But for the most part, if someone places an order, and then recieves the bow, they seem to forget all about the fact that it is not exactly the same in art work. Usually they respond with comments like... "WOW! I love it! This thing is much better than I even imagined.... and it shoots so fast too! " and, "Your artwork is so beautiful... I bet it really takes a lot of time to do all of that by hand..."
Yes, it does take time... Thus, an explaination of the cost.

F: What materials have you utilized in production on the Mirkwood Bow? Anything that wouldn't normally be used in bow making?
Russell: The Mirlwood bow is made of hickory, and backed with bamboo...
Both are common to bow making for thousands of years... so the combination is relevant to the historical fantasy of "Middle Earth".
The reason for hickory and bamboo is that it is best suited for the "almost round" design of the Mirkwood bow, and will make a durable bow that takes the extreme demmands of stress on that particular design.
The Ranger bow is made of laminated baboo and bamboo backing... a process that has also been around for thousands of years, especially in the Orient. The benefits to this is a light weight bow that is easy to shoot and handle, which I am sure would be of great benefit to a warrior that had to move quickly and tirelessly through a long hard battle. 

F: What is the process behind crafting the details and shape of the Mirkwood Bow?
Russell: Well first... the wood has to be selected, which can be an obstacle in itself. A good piece of wood that is suitable for making a bow is not always readily avalable, and when you do find a decent source, you still have to sort through it making tedious selctions of the appropriate grain structure so that when the bow is finished, it will last and function well without the danger of exploding on you at full draw.
The next steps are appropriate combinations of steam bending, glue forming and reflexing of the bow, and application of the bamboo backing, which protects the back from too much stress, and adds speed and performance to the bow. 
After the glues have cured... it is taken out of the forms where it has been held to exacting shape by clamps until the glues have cured, and is shaped by hand rasps, scrapers, and files to get the general shape.
The next step is the tillering... By tillering, I mean the process of making the bow bend evenly. The funny thing about wood is that it really does not want to bend, so you have to take it to the point of almost breaking, and in studying the shape of the bows limbs, you can see where the stress may be too much in one area, and you relieve it.
It is truly an eye and hand coordination that shapes a bow to the place where it is reliable for the shooter.
Then on to the final sanding, smoothing, and finishing of the bow...  after the bow is smooth enough for a finsh, the color is applied and allowed curing time. Then the artwork, and finally the finish that protects it all.

F: How does your Mirkwood Bow measure up as a fully functioning primitive bow?
Russell: That's the amazing part.... Usually there is some kind of sacrifice that is made in creating a replica of sorts. But, the Mirkwood bow seems to perform with the best expectations of a primitive or traditional all wood bow. Just as an example... the average that most bowyers expect from their hand made bows is 100 + draw weight... By this I mean that the average all wood bow should shoot a total of feet per second that is equal to 100 + the draw weight of the bow. To figure this out for example... a 45 pound bow +100 as a denominator, should produce a bow that shoots 145 feet per second with a moderately heavy hunting or war arrow. In my own chronograph testing of a 45 pound Mirkwood bow, it produced 167 feet per second with a moderately heavy arrow.... So, I guess it is really above average for the expectations of an all wood bow.

F: How have the fans reacted to the opportunity to own such a delicate and elegant piece of Middle-earth?
Russell: Very excited to say the least! Yes, I do get some letters that are of a critical nature, but not from those that have actually accquired one of the Mirkwood bows.... For the most part though, the LOTR fans are very appreciative of the fact that there is actually someone that is making a functioning replica that won't just serve the purpose of taking up wall space. Plus... I get to see many new and wonderful young people take a great interest in primitive archery by way of their interest in LOTR that otherwise would probably never have the opportunity to be introduced to archery at it's best! 

F: Have you put any thought into developing the Galadhrim bow given to Legolas in Loth Lorien?
Russell: Yes...  I have had so many requests for this bow that I can no longer ignore the plea... I really had no desire to get into such an intricate design at first, but I feel that if it can be done, I can certainly accomplish it. It may not be for some time though, as I will be holding to the same standards of not releasing anything but the best bow I can produce, and make it safe and durable. As, I said before to many others... I not only want a bow to bend and look good, I want it to be the exception in performance! I am currently working on the design in physical theory... then it will be several experiments with form and function before I actually get to the beautiful designs that it displays. I am sure that this will be a challenge in itself, because this bow design by all rights should not work!  When it is ready... the Lothlorien bow will be available at: www.armsofvalor.com who also at this time have the exclusive for the Mirkwood and Ranger bows as well. I have in the past taken orders personally as well, but due to the time constraints of handling orders, I have made the decision that it would allow me more time to get orders accomplished more quickly if there was someone that could handle the ordering and inquiries about the bow.

F: Does StickStone.com intend to produce other Lord of the Rings replica bows?
Russelll: Yes... but for now, the popularity seems to be with what the main characters have used. It is hard to justify a bow that the "now dead" villians used wouldn't you say? If his bow was so great... and he was very proficient at using it, he probably would not be dead eh? One bow design that I think would be very nice to do in time would be that of the wood Elves, which was also portrayed by the warrior Elves at the battle of Helm's Deep. This will depend on the feedback I recieve from the fans...

F: What has been the most rewarding element in producing the Mirkwood Bow?
Russell: I would say that it has to be the reactions of the fans who have ordered the bow... The response to opening the box when they receive it, and shooting it for the first time... I know that this has to be an exciting experience, to feel and be a part of what they admire so much about the story. Also.... I would say that it is very fulfilling to me to have people all around the world that are enjoying my works of art! My hopes are that one day there could be a big LOTR fair, where all of the Mirkwood bow owners can get together and have a blast doing some re-enactments!  Only problem is.... everyone will want to be Legolas! :) 

F: LOL! I'm sure our readers are rushing to their check books to own such a pivotal piece of Legolas' arsenal. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us Russell, good luck with your future designs at StickStone.com
Russell: Thank you!

Chinese Subtitles Not Up To Par Either
Xoanon @ 3:17 pm EST

Joey writes:

I noticed that recently there were complaints from the Japanese worrying about the quality of the subtitles. Well, i can understand their worries as the quality of the subtitles in Hong Kong is not very good either. Not to mention their mistakes made in FOTR and other foreign movies, as far as I can remember, here are some mistakes they made in TTT:

When Aragon found the elven brooch on the way of their persuit, the subtitle says, "Lothlorien people will not leave this behind"; in Edoras, when Gandalf says to Saruman 'you will not kill me, you will not kill him', the subtitle says, 'you will not kill me, but you will kill him'; when Grima was begging king Theoden not to send him away, it was translated to 'kill you!'; when Faramir told Frodo that the ring is within his grasp, it became 'I have controlled the ring'; and, the translator has confused Gondor with Mordor! Boromir became the man of Mordor. Luckily he didn't confuse Sauron with Saruman...

I didn't read the subtitles often, I only took a glance a few times, but each time I would find a mistake. If I had read the sutitles throughout the whole movie, I think there would be more mistakes. No matter how great LOTR is, the audience would not understand its greatness with the bad-quality subtitles. I need to explain the whole FOTR movie to my friends because the subtitles just kept mixing things up.

Forgive me for my bad English, I hope you understand what I meant.

Yours Faithfully,


Media Watch: University of Waterloo Magazine
Xoanon @ 2:49 pm EST

Peregrine writes: The article is from "The University of Waterloo Magazine", Winter 2003. The university is in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

Hall of Fire Chats - Jan 11&12
Demosthenes @ 3:18 am EST

No single character from Two Towers has caused more controversy than the writing of Faramir. Some people have been outraged enough to brand it "character assassination". Keeping in mind that there's much more of Faramir to come in RoTK, what do we think so far?

The Movie Characterisation of Faramir. Success or Failure?

Is Faramir off-base and miscast, as some have suggested, or have Jackson and Boyens brought onto the spotlight the darkness within and desperate desire for his father's approval? What can we expect to see in Return of the King? And regardless, does Jackson's interpretation enhance or detract from Two Towers?

Join us this weekend at Hall of Fire for what is sure to be a very lively debate!

Upcoming Discussions:

January 18-19
Frodo, the Ring and controlling Gollum

January 25-26
Arwen's Choice as handled within the Two Towers

February 2-3
RoTK Book 5 Chapter One - Minas Tirith

#thehalloffire on theonering.net server; come to theonering.net’s chat room Barliman's and then type /join #thehalloffire .

Saturday Chat: 5:30 pm ET (17:30) [also 11:30 pm (23:30) CET and 7:30 am Sunday (07:30) AET]

Sunday Chat: 7:00 pm (19:00) CET [also 1:00 pm (13:00) ET and 4:00 am (04:00) Monday morning AET]

ET = Eastern Time, USA’s East Coast
CET = Central European Time, Central Europe

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