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Steve Likes to Curse
Writing, comics and random thoughts from really a rather vulgar man
It's not a cheat — it's Lazy Bastard Friday! 
Friday, August 1st, 2008 | 11:42 am [humor, mst3k, video]
Yesterday I tore into the Lord of the Rings movies, as I sometimes do on account of what pretentious piles of stupid bullshit they are. Today, instead of continuing to rant and rave about the injustice that was done when Return of the King won the Oscar for Best Picture a few years ago, I will turn the proceedings over to better, funnier men.

Here's a sample clip of the RiffTrax commentary for The Two Towers. It, like the last few seasons of Mystery Science Theater 3000, features Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett. I have a sneaking suspicion that Mike, Kevin, and Bill (or at least Kevin) are fans of the tedious adventures of Frodo and company, but at least they don't take it nearly so seriously as the people who made the films, who were evidently under the impression they were making a profound artistic statement.

On with the riffs:

Friday, August 1st, 2008 | 04:48 pm (UTC)
A pretentious pile of stupid bullshit? I guess I just don't get your hate for this movie. It was loved by the critics. It was popular with movie goers. It made a shitload of money. It won 11 Oscars. I'd be hard pressed to come up with another movie that was as totally successful in every regard as Return of the King.

It was as successful as a movie can be.
Saturday, August 2nd, 2008 | 02:02 am (UTC)
I can't dispute the commercial and critical successes of the Lord of the Rings films. But the fact that everyone else loved it has no bearing on my feelings about it. I found it silly, self-important, dreary, and boring as hell. To quote a certain local humorist whose newspaper columns I believe we both enjoy, who gave up on the trilogy after the first movie, "They had three hours to move a piece of jewelry from point A to point B, and they couldn't get it done."

Some of it is just my personal prejudice against this type of elves and wizards fantasy, too, I admit. I know some people can't get enough of orks and paladins and people who use phrases like "harken unto me," but to me it's all a very powerful, very irritating sedative.
Saturday, August 2nd, 2008 | 04:22 pm (UTC)
I'm not saying you have to love it because everyone else does. It's just that if I thought something was dog poo while the rest of the world thought it was one of the greatest movies ever made, I would have to wonder if perhaps I was wrong with my assessment.

It's not like this movie was only popular with geeks and nerds or with people that play World of Warcraft. It has broad base appeal.

Being that you admit you are prejudiced against elves and wizards fantasy, maybe you aren't the best person to judge the quality of this movie. I would say the same thing about a person that hates sleds when it comes to judging Citizen Cane. :)
Saturday, August 2nd, 2008 | 05:16 pm (UTC)
You'd be prejudiced, too . . . if elves and wizards had murdered your parents.
Friday, August 1st, 2008 | 10:13 pm (UTC)
It's hard to watch these movies without thinking of how Ian McKellen liad out his acting process on Extras.


I'm not going to write a long essay defending the films in some regard since I'm sure it will fall on deaf ears. However, I hardly think it's fair to criticize the people involved for taking the film 'too seriously'. Has there ever been a worthwhile director who didn't take their film seriously? To use a current example, Christopher Nolan treated a story from what's considered to be a child's medium and treated it with the utmost seriousness. Joel Schumacher clearly didn't.

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008 | 01:58 am (UTC)
Man, you are just bringing the cool YouTube links this week, aren't you? You're right, that episode of Extras ruined Ian McKellan for me, forever. That's just hysterical stuff. That episode, and the one with Les Dennis from series one are my two favorites. Whenever Ashley and I put in an Extras DVD, chances are it's to watch one of those two episodes.

My beef with the Lord of the Rings movies isn't so much that they take the material too seriously; it's that they're so totally full of themselves, telling what is essentially a goofy fairy tale with all the pomposity of . . . well, of Das Rheingold, the pompous, hideously over-long Wagner opera that Tolkien ripped the whole thing off from in the first place. It's nine hours of deeply, deeply reverent cinema to tell a story that really could have been told in less than a third of the time.

Imagine if The Dark Knight had been three times as long, had ten times as many characters, and they all spoke in phony elevated tones, saying things like "keep your tongue behind your teeth." Give me a break.
Sunday, August 3rd, 2008 | 11:33 am (UTC)
Did you watch the movies? If so, why?

You admit that you have a personal prejudice against elf and wizard fantasy. I would think that you would avoid watching any of the movies. The problem is that you seem to know quite a bit about the movies. You are even quoting lines from the movies! Movies of a certain genre that you admit you hate.

I see comic book bloggers do this all the time. They "review" a comic that they should know that they are going to hate because it is of a certain genre that they hate. It's as though they read the comic because they just want to hate on it.
Sunday, August 3rd, 2008 | 03:15 pm (UTC)
There are two things going on here, I think. First is my disbelief at how bad the movies really were. Like you said before, they were almost universally acclaimed. How could I not like them? It's the same thing that made me go see Batman Begins a second time after disliking it the first time. I give movies I'm supposed to like but don't more chances than I probably should.

The second thing is my well established masochism. I listen to talk radio almost every day. Sure, when Sean Hannity or Mark Levin comes on, I usually have to switch to NPR for the sake of my own sanity, and I'm not so self-hating that I'd ever listen to Glenn Beck, but I intentionally listen to people who I know will piss me off. It's a personality quirk of mine.

And don't get the impression that I've been watching the LotR movies over and over and hating them all these years. I haven't been. I just have a good memory, and seriously begrudge them their popularity.
Sunday, August 3rd, 2008 | 05:26 pm (UTC) - Over-long post
Hi. Varjak here. This is looking like it's going to be a long one so I'm identifying myself up front.

Something about Steve which is certainly suggested at here, though not to the true extent of the matter, is that Steve is very much a student of cinema. He is the only person I have ever known who has legitimately answered the question "What's your favorite movie?" by answering "Silent or talkie?" In that context, watching movies is not just a matter of finding films that are personally enjoyable, it's a matter of understanding what works about them and what doesn't.

The Lord Of The Rings trilogy was pretty much without precedent. A three hour movie is generally considered an epic. This trilogy promised to be three epics to tell one story. Whatever one's opinions on the story itself, this was something that demanded to be seen.

Now, I will admit to not having the deep seething animosity toward this trilogy in particular, or fantasy in general, that Steve does. I still play D&D (though I draw the line way before LARPing), and I thought the movies were entertaining enough. Not typical mindless action, but fairly close, only instead of killing an afternoon it kills an entire weekend. I didn't hate the trilogy, and it is a great cinematic achievement, but the story itself, the content of the three movies, does not leave me feeling especially impressed. I myself have seen each movie once and feel no particular need to see any of them again anytime soon. Part of the reason why is something that is usually a major problem with any movie in this genre. One of the primary problems with cinematic fantasy is that it tends to cheat.

Say you're doing a mob movie. You have pretty clear rules in advance and you know what you can do within those rules, and from there you tell your story, for better or for worse. You introduce problems that people can understand, not by having some character intone, "A balrog." Another thing you do NOT do is have some random character wander into a cave and have the sacred firearm reforged so the ghosts of the dead will come back and assist in the drive-by shootings. Fantasy throws all the rules out the window, pulling drama out of the ether, so to make the audience care, you have to make the characters themselves believable and interesting and engaging.

I don't feel that the LOTR trilogy did that, not to the extent that it was necessary. Hell, Frodo barely even appears in the second movie so they could devote an hour to an enormous CGI battle that the good guys won, because in the time-honored tradition of poor storytelling, the good guys won every single major confrontation in the entirety of the three movies. This is the sort of thing that I think would compel Steve to watch the movies, and to watch them more than once. How do you tell a story over nine hours? Does the story warrant it, or are huge sections devoted to padding the running time? What parts did they do well, and what parts failed utterly? From the perspective of a filmmaker rather than a critic, these are fascinating questions regardless of the quality of the finished product. You don't have to like something to be able to learn from it.

Of course, Steve goes a step or three farther than this. He watches neo-cons on tv, he watches Trinity Broadcast Network, he ranted about how appalling the original World's Finest movie in the animated series was and then he went out and bought it on DVD. He also still claims to like the movie Eyes Wide Shut, though I think he's just pretending because we have so much fun giving each other grief over the moronic idea that the movie was even worth watching, much less making. I'm not sure what to make over this extra mile Steve goes, but I've come to accept it and sometimes twist it to comedic purposes.

As far as a few other minor points here go, some of the lines Steve quoted from the movies are included in the YouTube clip in this post, and while many people love this movie, there's always the counterpoint of Opus's "If a million penguins do a stupid thing, it is still a stupid thing" (to which it was replied "Opus is a yogurt-head"), or Steve's blunter "The court of public opinion is presided over by idiots." I've never been able to argue with that.
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