K-D's Sandcastles let me stay at her house on Thursday night, so that I could see FotR. On Friday and Saturday nights, I split a hotel room with K'D's Ariel. TTT was shown Friday night, and RotK was on Saturday. This would be the first time that I would see the theatrical version of "Fellowship." I had seen the EE just before RotK was released, but people told me that some snippets from the theatrical were not included in the EE. They were right. And if I had thought 18 year-old Elijah Wood as "fireside Frodo" was beautiful before, I found him uncannily so on the giant screen, with every eyelash on view.
More than getting to see any snippets that were excised from the subsequent EE's, it was lovely simply to see them on a big screen again. It would have been great to them again on a big screen of any kind. On the IMAX screen (which was even wider than any of the "super" screens I had seen the LotR films on in various good theatres in Minneapolis and the D.C. area), seeing them was more powerful than any of my previous experiences. The level of detail that I was able to see in all three films was literally and figuratively eye-opening. I might as well have been on hallucinogens! I felt as though someone had come along and washed the windows of my eyes. The sound, too, was unparalleled. I heard sounds and understood bits of dialogue I had never understood before. Other K-D'ers echoed these sentiments.
Even if there had been no museum exhibit, I would have felt it was worthwhile to have taken this trip. Seeing the films at an IMAX affected me that much.
I thought again how absolutely great these films were, even when script decisions I thought were off the wall made my jaw-drop all over again. On the last night, watching RotK I gasped aloud at the folly of Elrond being made to say, "Arwen is dying .... her fate is now tied to the Ring's." How could Hugo Weaving bear to say it? (But he did and he said it well.) Then, the very next moment, he and Aragorn went from that bit of ridiculousness to the superb moment of the unsheathing of Anduril and the deeply moving "Estel" exchange. That three minutes of film seemed to show in miniature how wrong-headed a script decision could be, yet, how the overall scene could be powerfully effective in spite of it.
Another film experience showed me the greatness of the films by way of contrast. Friday afternoon a group of us drove to a little hole-in-the-wall theatre that showed small films, down near one of the colleges. They were showing Everything is Illuminated.
I, for one, would have no other chance to see it, theatrically, so I leapt at the opportunity.
Because I had really liked the book and very much had been looking forward to seeing the film. Further, I have a fondness for "weird" films; visionary films. I don't mind if they take their time or are not perfectly logical, either. What I mean is, I was prepared to like this film, whether Elijah Wood was in it or not.
Surprisingly (to me), I thought the film was only so-so. It wasn't terrible, but it's wasn't very good, either. I don't know why it didn't "work" for me. I didn't like it enough to see it again, so I don't expect I'll be able to really discuss it in depth.
But, as I watched The Two Towers that same night, and The Return of the King the following night, the contrast showed me all the more how stupendous the LotR films are. Their makers made some glaring mistakes, yes. But the larger achievement of these films is so awesome, in my opinion, mistakes that would have destroyed another film merely mar the surface of these.
WARNING: SPOILERS, AND CRITICAL REMARKS ABOUT THE CHARACTER OF JONATHAN:
Sadly for an EW supporter, I thought, too, of what a massively more impressive showing Elijah Wood made as Frodo, than as Jonathan in Everything is Illuminated. What a waste of his talent to have him play Liv Schreiber's conception of that character.
Throughout the film I kept thinking, "Why did they choose to portray Jonathan in this way?" No film ever does what a book does, and the part of Jonathan in the book is notably sketchy. Still, there is enough in the pages to give a distinct impression of the sort of person Jonathan might be, to have written those letters and to have elicited the response he did from Alex, who sought him for a friend.
Jonathan was an unconventional character in the book: withdrawn, wry and observant. Except for Jonathan's wry sense of humour, I almost could think of him as a 'Mikey Carver' sort of character (in The Ice Storm), or a less flamboyant Ricky Fittes sort of young man (from American Beauty). Both of those characters socialized awkwardly, but not because they really were such dorks. It was more because of their own inner visions, which were so strong, their powers of observation so honest, their feelings so vivid, and their ability (or desire) to hide all this from public view so thin, they just naturally were "different". It made them out of step with their shallower, far more conventionalized peers. They were a puzzle to others. and exasperating to others, but they were not simply "weirdos".
Why should film-Jonathan be portrayed so freakishly -- comically so -- even when he was little? With that suit he wore in his flashbacks the only clothes he owned? With his mime-like stiff deportment, his plastered-down black hair, and his pasty face and almost pencil-sharp features, the comedy glasses and the frequently puzzled or mournful expression, Jonathan looked to me like a ventriloquist dummy of Cary Grant (from Bringing Up Baby), behaving like Buster Keaton.
No, the 'Frodo' that Walsh/Boyens/Jackson wrote for Wood was not as good as the 'Frodo' Tolkien wrote. But Foer's 'Jonathan' was MASSIVELY better than the 'Jonathan' Schreiber wrote.
Ah, Elijah! May someone, anyone, write you a really good part one of these days.
Just my opinion, of course.
* * *
One of my keenest mental images from the trip was the time Ariel and her daughter were cuddling, watching TV together while they lolled on the other hotel bed. Ariel's daughter is an utterly charming, warm, and engaging 7 year-old who, unlike my 17 year-old, still loves to snuggle with her mom. As I watched them, I thought, "Hmmmm ... Ariel's daughter is just a little taller than Frodo would be...."
It didn't take more than this to set my mind wandering down R-rated paths. As Ariel's daughter draped herself over her mother's torso, I thought of how "Harem Frodo" would enjoy being in a similar situation. (Ariel, if you have not met her, is a strikingly attractive woman, tall and buxom.)
Yes, I am sure our Frodo would have enjoyed trading places with Ariel's daughter verrry much. (He's a hobbit who can never get too much of a good thing.) I imagine they could watch re-runs of LotR on the late show.
Maybe they'd get as far as the opening credits. *grin*