Tolkien vs. the Beatles

Imagine:

Once upon a time, the Fab Four—having slain the pop charts—decided to set their sights on the Dark Lord Sauron by making a Lord of the Rings feature, starring themselves. One man dared stand in their way: J.R.R. Tolkien.

According to Peter Jackson, who knows a little something about making Lord of the Rings movies, John Lennon was the Beatle most keen on LOTR back in the ’60s—and he wanted to play Gollum, while Paul McCartney would play Frodo, Ringo Starr would take on Sam and George Harrison would beard it up for Gandalf. And he approached a pre-2001 Stanley Kubrick to direct.”It was something John was driving, and J.R.R. Tolkien still had the film rights at that stage, but he didn’t like the idea of the Beatles doing it. So he killed it,” Jackson said.

via Little-known sci-fi facts: Tolkien killed a Beatles LOTR movie | Blastr.

HT: Joe Carter

Freedom and Government

To the list of great political theorists, I would like to add director John Ford. I’d like to raise for your consideration a comment I made on the “Who holds the deed to your house” post:

We watched “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence” last night in my film class. The lawless “state of nature” does NOT promote private property or free enterprise. Rather, in that movie, the lawless cattle ranchers, with their power and gunslingers, were taking the property of the small farmers so they could have an “open range.” Only until law came to Shinbone and the people voted for statehood was private property protected.

(What a great movie, by the way! Jimmy Stewart AND John Wayne AND Lee Marvin AND Lee Van Cleef, not to mention great supporting actors such as Andy Devine. And the incomparable direction of John Ford.)

To expand the point: Many conservatives and libertarians believe that government, by its nature, limits human freedom. In a state of minimal government, free enterprise economics would thrive, and human beings would form in other dimensions of life an analogous self-regulating order.

In the thought experiment that is John Ford’s movie, “Liberty” Valence may have liberty, but he is about the only one. There is no private property. When he wants to take someone’s steak, he just takes it. When the cattlemen want their cattle to graze on farms, they just cut the fences. Because the advocates of the “wild west” do not respect anyone’s private property, there is no free enterprise economics. “Shopkeepers” stand with the small farmers to work for a rule of law and statehood for the territory. The community has to stand up against Liberty Valence. Violence (cf. “valence”?) is indeed necessary to create social order. Liberty Valence has to be shot. And those who can stand up against him, like Tom Donophan (John Wayne), ironically, also have no place in the new civilized order.

But, according to Ford, government is necessary for freedom. Not that government cannot also squelch freedom, as in the totalitarian systems of Fascism and Communism, both of which Ford fought. But a democratic government and the rule of law, in his mind, was a prerequisite for both personal freedom and a free economy. Isn’t he right?

The legacy of Bonnie & Clyde

Arthur Penn died, the director of Bonnie & Clyde (1967).  Who besides me remembers when that came out?  It was a good movie, but it set some things in motion that resonate in Hollywood to this day.  For one thing, since it flagrantly flouted the Production Code (Hollywood’s self-policing limits on sex, violence, bad language, and immoral themes), that code was replaced the very next year with today’s permissive rating system.

Ed Driscoll resurrects an interview that leftwing journalist Rick Perlstein did for Reason magazine in 2008.  Perstein hails Bonnie & Clyde as a key “text” of the New Left.

Reason: You like to mix cultural history with political history. Bonnie and Clyde is one of the central texts in the book.

Perlstein: My theory is that Bonnie and Clyde was the most important text of the New Left, much more important than anything written by Paul Goodman or C. Wright Mills or Regis Debray. It made an argument about vitality and virtue vs. staidness and morality that was completely new, that resonated with young people in a way that made no sense to old people. Just the idea that the outlaws were the good guys and the bourgeois householders were the bad guys—you cannot underestimate [sic] how strange and fresh that was.

via Ed Driscoll » Easy Riders, Raging Boomers.

Notice that, to this advocate of the movement, the agenda of the New Left was not economic (like the old left) or even political (like the New Deal liberals).  Rather, it is precisely moral and cultural.

Hobbits are non-union

There is trouble with Peter Jackson’s production of The Hobbit.  Efforts to unionize the project in  the New Zealand have failed, so Hollywood union members, including the Screen Actor’s Guild, are urging their members to boycott the production:

An international group of actors’ unions, including SAG, has warned members not to work on “The Hobbit” because of failed efforts to organize the film’s New Zealand production — a move Peter Jackson disparages as a “power grab.”

Members were advised [1] in an alert sent over the weekend “not to accept work on this non-union production” of the MGM blockbuster-to-be, which is still awaiting the official greenlight from financially troubled MGM before shooting — tentatively scheduled for next year — can begin.

Guilds involved include SAG, AFTRA and several international unions. The New Zealand unit of an Australian union had made attempts to organize the film, according to the alert.

But Jackson fired back in a statement Sunday, saying the Kiwi organization represents a very tiny percentage of actors there, and is leveraging his production to gain membership.

Actors guilds are known to issue member alerts of this sort from time to time, but it is extremely rare for a major studio franchise film to be involved.

Here’s the full text of the alert:

The makers of feature film The Hobbit – to be shot in New Zealand next year – have refused to engage performers on union-negotiated agreements.

Members of Canadian Actors Equity, US Actors Equity, the Screen Actors Guild, UK Actors Equity, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (Australia) and the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists are advised not to accept work on this non-union production.

If you are contacted to be engaged on The Hobbit please notify your union immediately.

via Big Hollywood » Blog Archive » Unions Threaten to Destroy ‘Hobbit’ Films; Peter Jackson Fights Back.

Route 66

Last weekend, I finally saw Cars (2006).  What a good movie!  I didn’t expect from the big-eyed automobiles that I saw in the toystores that this computer animated flick from Pixar/Disney would have such lively characters, such a witty script, and such an evocative story.  One of its themes is the difference between the Interstate sensibility and the Route 66 sensibility.  (“Well, the road didn’t cut through the land like that interstate. It moved with the land, it rose, it fell, it curved. Cars didn’t drive on it to make great time. They drove on it to have a great time.”)

I grew up in a little Oklahoma town right on Route 66.  And our relatives lived way down that same road, so we did a lot of driving on that mother road.  In fact, the town where I lived looked a lot like Radiator Springs in the movie.  The “EAT” cafes, the motels shaped like teepees, the tourist traps, all of those glamorous neon signs, and other imagery from the movie gave me a nostalgia rush.  (Also the “Ghost Light” referenced in the movie would have been the mysterious apparition that occasionally appeared to freaked out motorists known as the “Spook Light,” just 20 miles or so from where we lived.  (No, I never saw it.  But we tried, venturing out on some scary drives.)  Then there was the teenager car culture that went with all of that, trying to turn our junkers into hot rods and dragging main.  And the road food. (We would never stop at a drive-in on Route 66, though such things had been invented.  We always stopped at a local restaurant for hour-long-lunches, finishing off with amazing pies.) In the words of the song, I got my kicks at Route Six Six.

It’s a good movie that can bring all of that back.

Julia Roberts converts to Hinduism

Movie star Julia Roberts–the ex-wife of Missouri Synod Lutheran Lyle Lovett–has converted to Hinduism, along with her entire family.  She is starring in the movie version of the bestselling book Eat, Pray, Love about a woman who does the same thing.  Maybe Hinduism will become the next religious fad in this country.  It ties into postmodernism in an interesting way, positing that the objective universe is an illusion (cf. “there is no objective truth”) and that god is to be found within the self.  Also, the issue for Hinduism is not so much sin–the body and what we do with it being part of the illusion–as escaping the physical realm by delving inside the self.  It’s a good way to be spiritual without being religious.

See Under God: Julia Roberts is Hindu: Is America ready for a Hindu sweetheart? – Elizabeth Tenety.


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