A Very Special Birthday

If you’re a Tolkien fan, you probably already know what today is. For those who don’t, September 22nd is Frodo and Bilbo Baggin’s birthday. And what a lot we have to celebrate this year!

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you’ve heard that Peter Jackson is turning The Hobbit into a movie trilogy (still on the fence about that decision). And just a few days ago, the second official trailer was released!

It’s a bit more revealing of the story than the first trailer and we get to see a bit more of Martin Freeman as Bilbo, who still looks like he’s going to own this movie. Less than 3 months until the first part is released!

In preparation for the movie (and also just because it is a good book), I’m participating in a read-along for The Hobbit. Organized by David at The Warden’s Walk, there are enough people involved for everybody to get two chapters. I’m creating a separate page where I will post my thoughts on my chapters as well as links to the other participant’s chapters. You can see the whole schedule here. The first post goes up this Tuesday the 25th. It should be a lot of fun!

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The Dark Knight Trilogy

This past weekend I finally went to go see The Dark Knight Rises. I held off going to see it for such a long time because I was never that impressed with The Dark Knight. And if TDKR was going to be more of the same, well, there was really no rush to see it.

But I had some free time and I felt like a treat so I decided to go. And what a good decision that turned out to be.

I loved Batman Begins. I still do. I love the look of it. I love Christian Bale as Batman and Liam Neeson as Ducard/Ra’s Al Ghul. But mainly I love the story. Origin stories are always my favorite because we get to see the man (or woman) become something greater than themselves. To struggle and overcome. To become good. Not perfect certainly, but good nonetheless. And that is what we get in Batman Begins. Bruce Wayne stops being the spoiled angry boy he was and takes his desire for vengeance and turns it into a lifelong need for justice.

The Dark Knight does not really have that struggle in it. Too often it falls into a stereotypical superhero movie where the villain is introduced, causes chaos and mayhem and is eventually defeated by the hero. We already know Batman here. And while nobody can deny the excellence of Heath Ledger’s Joker, there is no real character growth. I’m not trying to say that The Dark Knight isn’t a good movie but I’ve never felt that it deserved the praise it received.

So after the mild disappointment of The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises wasn’t high on my priorities. But I thought it was amazing, probably because it has more in common as a movie with Batman Begins than it does with The Dark Knight. The story here deals with the consequences of The Dark Knight but more so from Batman Begins. We get to see Batman become even stronger and push himself, physically and emotionally, more than he ever has before.

One thing that they finally get right in TDKR is the women. Katie Holmes was terrible, Maggie Gyllenhaal was alright, but Marion Cotillard is perfect. Even Anne Hathaway, who I usually don’t like more than I do, is great as Selina Kyle.

The only problem I had with the movie was the speaking. For the most part Christian Bale hit the happy medium of growling that was understandable, yet was appropriately indistinguishable as Bruce Wayne’s. Bane, however, played by the wonderful Tom Hardy, sounded a bit like a jolly English professor. That is, when I could understand him. Because most of the time I couldn’t and I’m afraid I missed a lot of the story because there were no subtitles to help me decipher his noises. He looked great though.

So those are just some thoughts about the movies. The end of TDKR was pretty exciting; it’s a shame Nolan has said that this will be the last movie. It would be especially cool to see where Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character would go.

Stained Glass

Stained glass has a very beautiful history. Originally used in churches to help the illiterate masses understand what their priests were telling them in Latin, churches continue to have the best examples of what can be done in the medium (my church has some gorgeous stained glass windows which I am as proud of as if I had made them myself). The rise of the Art Deco movement pushed stained glass into the mainstream and there are some beautiful old homes in my city that have fine examples of stained glass from that time period. I love to look at stained glass, whether it is just pieces of colored glass in a window or an actual picture.

So imagine my delight in discovering a series of artwork by Jian Guo that depicts scenes from The Lord of the Rings as stained glass windows. Like the original article says, I’m not entirely sure these could be made into real windows, but they are still absolutely lovely.

Birthday Party of Baggins

Rest in Gildor’s Forest

 

Be sure to visit the artist’s website to see more scenes, including Moria and Lothlorien.

Looking at these illustrations also made me think of the opening to the best Disney movie ever. I refer, of course, to Beauty and the Beast.

The Future of Dreams

Whilst perusing the Internet the other day, I stumbled upon this article: Neuroscientists successfully control the dreams of rats. Could humans be next? Seems pretty terrifying to me. But it did get me thinking about two movies that I absolutely love.

Paprika

I remember when this movie came out in theaters and, reading the reviews, thought it was something that I would really want to see. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to watch it until several years later when I happened to catch it at a local anime convention. It was just as good as I was hoping.

Directed by Satoshi Kon, Paprika tells the story of a psychotherapist who uses her alter-ego (named Paprika) to help patients with their problems through dream therapy. One of her colleagues invents a device that could revolutionize the process, but when one of the prototypes gets stolen, it becomes clear very quickly how dangerous the devices are in the wrong hands. Beautifully made with an excellent soundtrack, Paprika is definitely worth watching. Be warned though, some of the movie is unsettling and this is not a movie for children. To whet your appetite, here are the opening credits:

 

Inception

I’ve heard a lot that Inception is a copy of Paprika. I disagree. I’d be willing to bet that Chirstopher Nolan is a fan of Paprika, but beyond the fact that both movies deal with the manipulation of dreams, I personally don’t see much similarity between the movies (Disclaimer: it has been a year or two since I last saw Paprika. I would welcome examples proving me wrong on this).

Most likely, you’ve seen the movie. But in case you haven’t, Dom Cobb used to be incredibly skilled in dream espionage. After a personal tragedy, Cobb has been on the run until he is offered the chance of a lifetime: Inception. If Cobb can successfully implant an idea into his employer’s business rival, his employer will see that Cobb is given the only thing he wants: to go home. Possibly featuring the most handsome ensemble cast EVER, Inception also lays claim to one of the most amazing fight scenes I’ve ever seen.

 

So. Paprika and Inception may just be sci-fi/fantasy movies, but considering the original article, they certainly seem a lot more disturbing don’t they?