Thursday, February 28, 2008


Absolve me

Confessions time.  I have risen to a new height of nerd-dom.  I never really saw it coming, and I can say with assurance that the ascension brings with it a sense of pride.  I've finished the Silmarillion and I loved every minute of it.

I tried to read it years ago when I was still in high school and just couldn't do it.  I had just finished The Lord of the Rings and was looking for some more Middle Earth action.  I told my dad that I was going to give it a shot, and I remember him making this strange face.  A kind of "why would you do that to yourself?" look.  He had tried to read it when he was younger and just couldn't get into it.  I was soon to understand why.

It was wordy to be nigh incomprehensible.  Places and names constantly being fired at the reader.  It felt like Tolkien was using a sort of sink or swim methodology in his writing.  I didn't get far.  I was expecting a more coherent experience like from LotR or The Hobbit.  The timing just wasn't right.

About a year ago the Tolkien empire released the latest story entitled The Children of Hurin.  Erin and I picked it up, being huge fans of LotR (book and film series).  I was the one to read it first.  I found it a bit hard to follow, the writing being much like what I remember from The Silmarillion, but there was something engaging enough to keep me going.  Most importantly though, it proved to me that I could get over the hump of Tolkien's writing.

Last month I suddenly became very interested in reading/learning about the origins of Middle Earth and what is referred to as "The First Age."  I realized that one of the reasons Children of Hurin may have been so difficult to read was because I had no context about the world in which the tale took place.  What if I gave acquiring that context a shot?

So I did.

I was enthralled.  Yes it's difficult to follow.  Yes Tolkien throws out landmarks, cities and names like used Kleenex, but if you can just get past all that you ascend into a rich world filled with detail.  A truly epic completely fleshed out history of the world from it's inception to creation to rise to fall to rise again and so on.  I never imagined I would like it as much as I did.  I'm considering re-reading Children of Hurin to see what else I can get from that tale.

Yes, I am a huge nerd.  I guess I'm ok with that.

On a completely different note, I stumbled upon a series of youtube videos by a group called Lasagna Cat.  I'm not going to explain it, because the revelation is part of the joy, so just watch the video below and if you want more then all I can say is "Google is your friend."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Final moments

I've been thinking about endings lately.  Actually, this gem of a thread over at NeoGaf got me thinking about them.  To sum up, the poster lambasts the Cohen Brothers for an abrupt ending to their film.  If you haven't seen the film (which, if this is the case you should run to the theater immediately) the situation is comporable to the Director's Cut of Blade Runner.  Ambiguity left up to the interpretation of the audience.  Use this as a refrence if needed.

Now I, along with many other film snobs, prefer Blade Runner's Director's Cut as the film allows us to draw our own conclusions about the story and themes of the film.  At it's base it forces us to think analytically about the film and even encourages us to view the film again to flesh out whatever thoughts we have.  

Before I get too far, I suppose that I must say that there is something to be said for the original cut of Blade Runner along with every other film which spells out it's themes and narriative as bluntly as possible.  This is the form of cinema which allows us to just sit back and enjoy a good distraction.  Sometimes we just want to shut off the brain and be entertained.  The problem with films like this is that they don't have much persistance.  They don't generally have any kind of lasting impact on our thoughts.  Sure I loved watching John McClain blow the shit out of the bad guys in Die Hard, but I didn't find myself thinking differently about the world or any statements the film may have had embedded within it.  

One of my favorite endings of all time is in the film Children of Men.  Not only was it a fantastic "what if" look at a society without children, but the ending said everything it needed to say with 3 words and some sound effects.  The movie follows Theo as he attempts to get the only pregnant woman in the world to safety.  In the end he dies having sucessfully protected the woman and delivering her to an organization which will protect her.  Upon his death the screen goes dark, the film title is displayed across the screen and we hear a child laughing.  The sound grows as more and more children begin to laugh until it becomes a cacophany of sound which ends abruptly.  Roll credits.  

What's so awesome about that ending is that it takes some thought to decipher.  I recall hearing groans of disappointment when I saw the film in the theaters.  Even my wife didn't really understand it until I shared my thoughts with her.  The story which ended when Theo died.  We are then given the happiest ending we can get from the wholly dystopian world in the film.  One child laughing happily joined by other children and then more children signifying the repopulation of the human race.  That was it.  That was all we as an audience needed to know.

No Country for Old Men is very similar, though I believe it may be more pregnant with meaning than Children of Men.  Most importantly it made me think.  It made me think of how the world of the film would continue after the credits had ended.  It made me think of why the Cohen Brothers and, initially, Cormac McCarthy chose to end their story in such a way and what I as an audience member should glean from that choice.  

The best forms of art are the forms that make us think and question.  Endings are so important because its the final experience of that art.  It's the most prominant and lasting thing we experience in art.  It's why I prefer endings presented in the forms of questions.  Ending that make me wonder at its own purpose, and in that wonder bring me back into the world of film and remember and question things from it's main body.

Now go watch No Country for Old Men.  And go read Cormac McCarthy.