The Hobbit: A (Not-Entirely) Unexpected Journey

Watson and I Hobbited today.  This is not a euphemism.

It was my day off (working tomorrow—come on in and ask me where the Tolkien books are) so we’d made plans to see Peter Jackson’s latest third of a story at the 2D matinée showing  for all kinds of reasons having to do with children, money, crowds, lack of stereoptic vision, and so on.

There’s a lot that has already been said, but that’s certainly never stopped me before.   Spoilers might, but seriously, if I can spoil this movie for you, then you really do need to ask the nearest librarian for a copy of the book before the second installment.  If you’re really worried, bookmark this for later, though I’ll try not to be too specific.

I can be specific in this:  I enjoyed it.  A lot.

Here are some random opinions I have about An Unexpected Journey:

The Hobbit movie as a whole is staged as a LOTR prequel—Bilbo is writing his memoirs (by hand with a quill) between the time Frodo takes off to meet Gandalf in the beginning of  Lord of the Rings and the time they arrive at Bag End*—which isn’t how the book is written.  The book was originally a story for Tolkien’s kids, and when it was done, he blinked a couple times and said, “Huh.  What if  . . .?”  and started in on Bilbo’s birthday party.   This isn’t a problem for me at all, but it is a difference.

The Dwarf Dinner Party is amazing. The by-play, the dwarves, Bilbo reactions, the songs, the washing-up, Bilbo’s conflicting emotions, the bloody-minded arguments, Gandalf being manipulative as unapologetic hell . . . it’s perfect.

Whoever designed the eyes of the Orcs and Goblins was a genius—they all have an unearthly beauty that remove them from the less magical characters (I include Gollum in this—his eyes, to me,  are the exaggerated CGI version of Elijah Woods’, because he has been touched by magic).  They’re closer to the Elf end of the spectrum in shape and color, which is as it should be—I also noticed that the Pale Orc looks like Lady Galadriel’s twin brother,** if Sauron had stared at him a bit with that Eye of his like a malevolent child with a white crayon and a magnifying glass on a sunny afternoon.

There are a lot of pony problems in the Hobbit, book and movieit appears to be the fantasy plot-helper equivalent of flat tires and/or wonky cell-phone service in more modern settings.

Bofur

DwalinWatson’s go-to dwarf is Thorin, because he’s the Character-Arc Dwarf, and I can’t say Richard Armitage doesn’t work it hard—and gorgeously so—but of those few who were allowed to have personalities rather than single defining qualities, I preferred Bofur and Dwalin—though I admit this could be cheating, as I might have already developed small crushes on James Nesbitt and Graham McTavish*** before they were even cast in these movies.

KiliFiliNot to say that Fili and Kili aren’t gorgeous Pin-Up Dwarves, because they are.^  Particularly Kili, who is played by Aidan Turner—he’s not my type in Real Life™, but I can’t deny that the craftsmanship is exquisite and the camera clearly wants to have his babies.  I kept thinking that Fili looked familiar, especially the way he strode around—I was relieved to find out that I did know him: Dean O’Gorman played the Young Aeolus in the Adventures of Hercules/Young Hercules franchises.  Anyone?  Are those crickets?  Fine.  Moving on.

Radagast the Brown is far better here than Tom Bombadil would ever have been in LOTR, but that’s not saying a lot.  His scenes were terrific, and I loved the rabbits so, so much, and the hedgehog and the hinky mushroom references, but this is a place where Mr. Jackson was explaining LOTR instead of filming the Hobbit and while again, I do understand, I wanted to get back to Bilbo a bit sooner, please.

On the other hand, watching Saruman try to pooh-pooh the danger signs that both Radagast and Gandalf are reporting is fun.  But the byplay between Galadriel and Gandalf is odd—can someone tell me if this is Silmarillion compliant?  Because if it is, I might give it another go.

ThorinThe Rock Monsters were entirely gratuitous.  Characters have slipped off narrow ledges and dodged rockfalls in full-out rainstorms without any of that Made-for-3D nonsense.  I don’t care if there are two sentences about it somewhere in the source material(s)—and don’t tell me that Thorin needed another reason to be irritated with Bilbo, because it was already established that he’s handsome, noble, uberstressed, and a bit of an arrogant jerk.

Similarly (not Silmarillionly, which would be. . . meh, never mind), the escape from the goblins went on about five minutes too long in my subjective opinion.  I don’t know if it seemed shorter in the other theater, where all the rocks and timbers and goblin-pieces were bouncing into the audience, and I fully admit that car chases also bore me.

But I adored the Goblin King.  He was erudite, clever, ruled a sort of Bronzepunk kingdom, and had a lovely voice, pretty eyes, and a completely disgusting wattle that was difficult to ignore.

The Riddle Scene.  I won’t spoil it, but this is the Hobbit I know and love.

BilboAnd I adored Bilbo.  Martin Freeman has great talent both as an actor and in choosing roles that allow him to use his essential Martin Freemanness to best advantage.  Bilbo’s arc isn’t quite the same as in the book—his experiences are slightly different from the get-go and so are his motivations—but it works.

And, finally, Smaug is going to rock.

Anyone else want to chime in?

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*As if some of us don’t feel inadequate enough about our daily word count.  Sheesh.

**I’m not saying she did, though I only made it through the Silmarillion once, a few decades ago, so anything’s possible.

***Who should always play roles that require him to wear Braveheart-type clothing and loft double-bladed weaponry and/or claymores, because hmmm.

^Louis Peitzman of BuzzFeed went so far as to arrange the dwarves from least to most attractive.  It’s all very subjective—there’s someone for everyone in this weird world and I personally think Balin deserves better—but fun.

Random Thursday: Random Surprises

From the “Rendered Sarah Speechless For More Than The Record .025 Seconds” collection:

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What’s in a Name?

This is a Bramble Boot, and I can’t think of a better name for it.

According to the Bata Shoe Museum, which I’m planning on storming if I ever get within fifty miles of Toronto, this beautiful work of art isn’t actually made of wood—Garry Greenwood of Tasmania* wet-formed and laminated and burnished leather—and quite possibly used elf magic as well—to make something that I’m longing to wear just once for five minutes, even though I wouldn’t be able to walk for  two weeks afterward.

Thanks to Cha-Cha for the squee and the new Time Suck.

oooooOOOOOooooo

Trust Me

I’m going to ask you to follow these directions—read them all first, or you won’t be able to see the second one.

1. Without looking too closely at the screen, position your mouse on the play button, close your eyes and click.
2. Listen to one full chorus, then open your eyes.
3. Record your reaction in the comments.

Okay?

Go.

Yeah. Me, too.

This is Mr. David McIntosh, who vocally reminds me a lot of Howard Keel and visually reminds me of both Rick Astley and Puck from the second season of MTV’s Real World, but with better taste in clothes.

And he’s singing for Yale, which makes him a Whiffenpoof,** and means that this young man not only has some pipes on him, but also a brain.  I refuse to Googlestalk him, but I’m sure wherever he is, he’s doing really, really well.

While you’re listening to it again—and you know you will—don’t forget the third instruction!

oooooOOOOOooooo

Nerdgasm

Not only was the talented, versatile, and very not bad-looking Benedict Cumberbatch, whose name is not unknown here,  given two uncredited cameos in two different clips during the Oscars*** Sunday, but in my inbox today was the new Tor.com newsletter, which features photos of him on the set of the new Star Trek movie, in which he plays a yet-unidentified villain.

There was a video, too, but it was removed before I could watch it, much less post it.  C’est la Dangit.

Click for Tor’s discussion of who Mr. Cumberbatch might be playing, if you care.  I do.

I was also sent a link (thanks, Kev!) to the new, extended trailer for the first part of The Hobbit, starring the talented, versatile, and slightly more huggable Martin Freeman and—speaking of lovely voices–a couple of pin-up dwarves:

It doesn’t get much geekier than this, my friends.  And even though these jobs are keeping Mr. Cumberbatch and Mr. Freeman from working on the third season of Sherlock—which is an almost unpardonable offense, even though Stephen Moffat isn’t quite done with the script for the first ep, yet—I’m so there for these two flicks that I’d like to camp out in front of the theaters right now.

‘Sides, I could catch the Avengers movie while I’m waiting . . .

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*Who has the perfect name for someone who creates footwear for Tatania.

**Not—I repeat, not—a Spizzwink. Good mercy.

***Brownie points will be awarded if you can tell me which movies and double for which awards the clips were shown.

Random Thursday: A Hairy Week

Sunny, who sports a gorgeous head of riotous, dark blonde curls that had my MIL looking at me askance for a short time before she remembered her own uncle’s unruly locks, begged me to straighten her hair yesterday with my wand-thing.***

She asked so nicely, my four-year old grifter-child, that I caved just this once.

I used the lowest setting and sprayed some stuff on her that supposedly keeps hair from being fried by the heat, and slowly, reluctantly, removed all the bounce and boingy-ness.

She loved it, which I suppose is what’s important. But she just didn’t look like my kid.

Usually, no matter how much she brushes or how much detangler she sprays (the bottle has been placed on the highest shelf), her curls reassert themselves the moment she leaves the house. This time, because of the stuff I used on it, her hair was no more than slightly wavy when she came home.

“Will you make my hair smooth tomorrow, Mommy?” she asked at dinner.

“No. Not for a long time,” I said.

“Why?”

“Because it’s not good for your hair—and I miss my Curly-Q.”

“You can call me Straight-Q,” she said, without missing a beat or a bite.

We all cracked up . . . but the kid was serious.

Oh, boy.

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Required Weekly Geek Bit:

Peter Jackson is doing a vblog of the filming of The Hobbit!

It’s fascinating to see the prep work involved by costumers and carpenters and writers and stunt coordinators and location scouts.

And it’s so much fun to watch the initial uncostumed blocking of the opening scene at Bag End and see all these six-foot “dwarves”** parade into Bilbo’s kitchen (about 5:26—duck!) as Martin Freeman scurries behind with an unexpected armload of weaponry, baffled as only he can baffle.***

There are three of these so far!  I can’t wait for the next one.^

oooooOOOOOooooo

Have you seen Despair.com’s collection of demotivational posters?

They’ll lift your spirits, or at least satisfy your cynicism.

oooooOOOOOooooo

Remember the windfall promised to me by that fortune cookie this past Sunday?

Tuesday morning, I discovered my bank card was missing.

I knew the last time I’d used it was at the gas station near the branch library Monday morning, so when the very nice man at the bank asked me if that was my last purchase, I said, “Oh, thank heavens, yes!”

There was a pause, and he said . . . “Did you buy two tanks of gas there? About twenty minutes apart?”

Oh, $#!%.

Luckily that’s all the person bought—at least, that showed up at that point—and because s/he had to use it as a credit card, I’m not responsible for the purchase.

You know, I thought Janie’s take on “windfall” was funny. But having a bank card fall out of your pocket? C’mon, now.

Then again, my horoscope has been telling me all this week not to go on any spending sprees, so at least one oracular system has my back . . .

oooooOOOOOooooo

Leftover Night at the Wessons:

Me:  What do you want for dinner tonight?

Jane: That pasta from last night, but without all the cheese.

Me:  Yeah.  I’ll get right on that.

My husband:  What does Janie want?

Me:  She wants me to squeeze the filling out of the tortellini.

oooooOOOOOooooo

Speaking of hair, here’s a new favorite commercial:

Now there’s a role-model.

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* I have mentioned that my hair is all cowlicks, right? My goal is to get them all going in approximately the same direction before I leave the house. After that, meh . . .

** Who include Richard Armitage as Thorin, which makes this movie an official requirement, even if my love of the source material, Martin Freeman, and Benedict Cumberbatch hadn’t already made it so.

*** Actually, that pale blue jacket and tie ensemble he’s sporting a little further on is also baffling.

^ Yes, I am waiting for Benedict Cumberbatch to show up in one (or more) of these vids—however did you guess? I figure it’s a good bet, since he’s the voice of Smaug and is also playing “the necromancer,” whom I suspect may end up being Sauron . . . But even if he doesn’t, necromancy isn’t exactly cuddles and fluff, so he must be having a blast being two kinds of evil in one picture—and when Mr. Cumberbatch is having a blast, he shares. Thus endeth the weekly meeting of the Society of Defiantly Post-Pubescent Admirers of Benedict Cumberbatch (SDPPABC)

Random Thursday: Scattershorts

Janie recorded the Hannah Montana Movie a week or two ago and has been replaying the “Hoedown Throwdown” segment until I found myself chanting the lyrics, or a version of the lyrics, this morning at work.  All morning.

I’m still doing it—not even R.E.M.’s  “Stand”—the universal earworm eradicator—is shifting this one:

Pop it, lock it, polka dot it
Countrify it, then hip hop it
Put your hawk in the sky, move side to side
Jump to the left, stick it, slide.

I know it’s a wholesome, fun song with no profanity or suggestive imagery, but won’t someone please think of the parents?

oooOOOooo

My copies of R.E.D. and the first season of the BBC’s Sherlock arrived yesterday, but I remained strong and stuck to my writing schedule instead of opening them—which, considering standard DVD packaging, would have taken most of my evening, anyway.

I did position the latter so that I could gaze at Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman every so often, as a reward.*  Neither are actually my usual physical type—as my husband pointed out—but this does not appear to pose a problem.

oooOOOooo

Yet another newly-discovered time suck!**

Daily Routines explores  the ways well-known writers, architects, painters, politicians, and other individuals of note get, or got, through the day.

These examples can be either comforting or a little frightening, depending on the quirks you share and with whom you share them.

Just remember:  famous people are eccentric.  The rest of us are still plain weird.

oooOOOooo

Genevieve Valentine’s take on Oscar Red Carpet fashions was marvelous, as always.

Can’t say I agree with her assessment of Cate Blanchett, who appeared to be wearing an embroidered peekaboo tabard, but I always enjoy Ms. Valentine’s posts. And her short stories, too!

oooOOOooo

Gary Corby has a fascinating post about ancient Greek tax laws over on his blog.

No, seriously.

We have to try this system over here in the States—Televised.

Heck, if the IRS  made it pay-per-view, we could settle the National Debt.

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*My adoration of John Malkovich is slightly more cerebral, though not by much.

**I’m going to have to start a new link list for these.