Filming begins on “The Hobbit”

After one problem after another, including labor troubles in New Zealand, the movie version of J. R. R. Tolkien’s novel The Hobbit has gotten underway. The film will be shown in two parts, beginning in late 2012.

The prequel to The Lord of the Rings features lots of the people who made the earlier trilogy, including director Peter Jackson.  Also reprising their roles will be the actors who played Gandalf, Frodo, Gollum, and Galadriel.  Martin Freeman will play Bilbo Baggins:

 

Martin Freeman

 

 

BBC News – Hobbit filming finally under way.

Preaching “the King’s speech”

I was glad that The King’s Speech took all of the top prizes at the Academy Awards:  Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, and (the critical but much neglected category) Best Original Screenplay.

The Lutheran Church of Canada has a nice reflection on how that movie about Prince Albert and his stuttering problem has parallels to what pastors have to do when they, in their stammering way, preach God’s Word, the true “King’s speech.”

Read it here:  Canadian Lutheran Online » Blog Archive » Stuttering kings and imperfect pastors.

The Academy Awards

Sunday is Oscar night, and for the first time in ever-so-long, I am up with quite a few of the movies that are up for awards.  My recommendation and prediction:  Give all of the major awards to The King’s Speech. If there are any statues left over, give them to True Grit.

What films are you pulling for?    Give your predictions of the winners.

Oscar – The official 2011 site for the 83rd Academy Awards.

The Gospel according to Sling Blade

I am happy to report that Anthony Sacramone, once of  Luther at the Movies, is back from his blogging hiatus and is posting  again at Strange Herring.  Amidst his wry observations, humorous rants, and theological zingers, he will post thoughtful meditations and perceptive film criticism.  For example, here he discusses What Is a Christian Film? and puts forward an unlikely-seeming candidate:

To me, the most explicitly Christian film ever made is Billy Bob Thornton’s Sling Blade. Consider: the central figure is Karl, who in today’s parlance who be described as mentally challenged or autistic, played by an unrecognizable Thornton himself. We meet Karl as he sits in an institution to which he has been consigned for murdering his own mother. Yet this strange, dangerous man with this creepy affect is about to be let loose on an unsuspecting society. Unsuspecting because Karl is by far the most enlightened person in any room he walks into. And that is for one good reason: he has a keen appreciation for his own capacity for evil. He is not self-deluded. He has a grasp of reality such as would drive most other people to drink.

But this self-knowledge is not born of hubris but of humility. When Karl realizes that he must commit another crime, and thus forsake his hard-won freedom for the sake of another — a little boy who is being tormented by his mother’s boyfriend and their self-destructive lifestyle — the first thing he does is ask to be baptized. He is identifying himself with the crucified Christ because he is about to sacrifice his own “righteousness” (i.e., that fragile social acceptance that permits him to live in civil society) for the sake of another, to save another. Karl knows he is a sinner. He knows he must die for his sin. But he also knows that he has a redeemer, who can save him even as he is about to descend into hell.

And so we leave Karl just as we found him. Incarcerated, but strangely free.

Partly on Mr. Sacramone’s earlier recommendation–he listed Sling Blade among his “Lutheran movies”–I watched it, and he’s right.

Could we agree to this?:  A  movie that is  uplifting or moral or positive is not necessarily a Christian movie.  Rather, for a movie to be Christian, it must have something to do with sin, redemption, and Christ.

Can you think of other examples?

The King’s Speech

We finally saw the multiple-Oscar nominee The King’s Speech.  What a great movie!  I had expected in this account of King George VI and his speech therapist a light-hearted and humorous ‘enry ‘iggens My Fair Lady story in reverse.  But it was so much more than that, an in-depth character study of the king’s second son, so dominated by his royal father and tormented by his shallow elder brother that he suffers from a major speech impediment, a problem with stuttering that is deadly when, as a royal, you have to make speeches all the time.

But then his brother , now King Edward, abdicates the throne so that he can marry his floozy American girlfriend (something not allowed for the head of the Church of England since she had been divorced, and more than once).  Now Bertie is King George VI, just as World War II is breaking out.  (His eldest daughter is Princess and later-to-be Queen Elizabeth.)In a time of radio demagogues such as Hitler, the King of England must hold the nation and the Empire together, largely by means of radio broadcasts.  But he freezes and stammers when he has to speak in public.  His Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue, has to not only teach him to speak fluently, but, in doing so, he must help him get to the root of his royal neuroses.

The movie is absolutely compelling.  Not just for its speech therapy but as a political tale and a glimpse into the unique pressures and miseries of royalty.  No explosions, nobody got killed, no sex scenes, some therapeutic bad language, and lots of brilliant performances.  I saw a whole slew of Masterpiece Theater veterans, including an elderly and barely-recognizable Anthony Andrews (remember when he was the young rake on the good production of Brideshead Revisited?) and a Derek Jacobi, who, now that he is actually old, looks just like the cosmetically-produced old Emperor that he played in the final episodes of I, Claudius. But the performances of Colin Firth as King George VI and Geoffrey Rush as Logue just killed.

Ronald Reagan as actor

Yesterday would have been the 100th birthday of Ronald Reagan.  In the articles commemorating the day, it is evident that even liberal scholars have come to appreciate the man and his presidency.

The Washington Post published a feature on “Five Myths about Ronald Reagan” by his biographer Edmund Morris.  I got a kick out of this one:

1. He was a bad actor.

Well, yes and no. Most of the movies he made as a Warner Bros. contract player are unwatchable by persons of sound mind. When he was president, it was easy to laugh at them. The spectacle of the leader of the free world, a.k.a. Secret Service agent Brass Bancroft, deploying an enormous ray gun against an airborne armada was especially hilarious in 1983, the year he announced the Strategic Defense Initiative, that vaporizer of foreign nuclear missiles. “All right, Hayden – focus that inertia projector on ‘em and let ‘em have it!”

Even when Reagan believed he was acting well, as in “Kings Row,” he betrayed infallible signs of thespian mediocrity: an unwillingness to listen to other performers and an inability to communicate thoughts. Now that he is dead, however, one feels an odd tenderness for the effort he put into every role – particularly in early movies, when he struggled to control a tendency of his lips to writhe around his too-rapid speech.

Ironically, he was transformed into a superb actor when he took on the roles of governor of California, presidential candidate and president of the United States. Then, as never in his movies, he became authoritative, authentic, irresistible to eye and ear. His two greatest performances, in my opinion, were at the Republican National Convention in 1976, when he effortlessly stole Gerald Ford’s thunder as nominee and made the delegates regret their choice, and at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1985, when he delivered the supreme speech of his presidency.

I asked him once if he had any nostalgia for the years he was nuzzling up to Ann Sheridan and Doris Day on camera. He gestured around the Oval Office. “Why should I? I have the biggest stage in the world, right here!”

via Five myths about Ronald Reagan.

Post your Reagan tributes, critiques, and nuanced evaluations here.


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