What a night it has been

I have so many stories to tell, from this past weekend, tonight. And I can't tell any of them. As much as a blog is public, so I am such a private person. What an odd hobby for me. Someone told me once that she always felt that there was this part of me that was alone and hidden away, and she was probably right. Some people have this fascination with trying to peel away all the layers of this cocoon I live in, to see what's hidden in there. Others probably just think I'm dull.
Tonight I attended a charity screening of The Two Towers. How I got a ticket is one of those stories maybe I'll tell someday. Anyway, I won't give away any plot spoilers about the movie because I want everyone to see it fresh. Robbing someone of seeing this movie for the first time would be a first-degree crime. But I just want to say that it was so much fun I nearly soiled my pants.
Peter Jackson has figured out how to tap the majesty of the heroism at the heart of the books and channel it on screen with grandeur that pulls LOTR geeks and the average Joe and even film snobs' hearts out of their chests. The animation of Gollum/Smeagol is brilliant--what Jar Jar Binks wishes he could be as a fully-realized digital character.
Two flaws. One, this movie is clearly part of a trilogy. As a stand-alone movie it is exciting but would lose some dramatic tension. Second, as a rip-roaring action movie it lacks some depth and complexity of character. When Gollum is perhaps your most sharply conflicted character, you know it's a plot-driven tale. The rest of the cast have become almost character actors.
Still, every character's face is perfect for the role, and if the adventure and action tale are the heart of this movie, what a rousing payoff it is. A couple times the audience burst out in applause or gasped with pleasure, and the sheer love of movies and joy in the theater was palpable. I'm taking 39 of my Seattle friends and favorite coworkers to see it as a Xmas gift this Wednesday morning and I can't wait to see it in their company. Watching a movie with friends and seeing them thrilled is more fun than enjoying it myself, and I'm sure others know what I mean. It's the only time I can say that the happiness of others is better than my own happiness and not sound like a phony.
(I'm finding it hard to sleep recently, as you can tell from the time of my posts. Before I leave for holiday vacations, I always find it hard to sleep. The excitement of seeing family again, going home and hanging out with my brothers and sisters, it's a natural shot of adrenaline. And then there's the added emotional confusion of taking this leave of absence, and the realization that the movie screening might be the last time I see some of them for a long time. Forever? I try not to think that way, and yes, I haven't decided for sure one way or the other, but the possibility, small or large as it may be, is hard to dismiss. There's a scene in The Two Towers which discusses whether or not someone will see someone ever again, and the words weighed on me (read too much Tolkien and I'll start writing lines like that. "His words weighed on me like a dark portent. My face turned ashen." Melodramatic, but ah, such gravitas when read by a sullen Viggo Mortensen. Okay, no more nested parentheticals.) If it is a last dance, though, what better way than to spend it at an opening day showing of a huge blockbuster movie at a state-of-the-art audio/visual arena like Cinerama in the company of comrades? Those who know me know how many of my buttons that presses.)
I have the soundtrack to The Two Towers (another winner from Howard Shore) and have been listening to it non-stop in my car, and there's one track which I latched onto today. Track 16, "Forth Eorlingas". There's a stretch of it that's just magical, from 2:14 to 2:42, and I listened to it probably 10 to 15 times today before seeing the movie. I had no idea when it would be used. Then, suddenly, I heard it in the background, and wouldn't you know it, the scene just happened to be perhaps the climax of the movie, a point when your spirit just goes soaring, and when the music reached its stride my throat was somewhere on the ceiling. Sometimes in life we experience these small emotional coincidences and the human mind can't help but see them as epiphanies. I'll always remember it as one of my favorite moviegoing moments.
I was sitting in the fifth row, and at the immense Cinerama theater that's overwhelming, especially for an action flick. The battle scenes with handheld shots left me dizzy, but the overall experience was one of being swallowed by the screen, overwhelmed by the pageantry. John Rhys Davies, Gimli the dwarf, voice of Treebeard, made an appearance and welcomed us to enjoy this masterpiece.
After the movie, we all got goodie bags. I felt like I was at the Oscars. I haven't flipped through my bag yet, but I saw a copy of the DVD of the first movie, a copy of the Two Towers novel, and some other stuff. It's a bonus awaiting me in the morning, like Prince Charming waking up to find a glass slipper in his hand to let him know it wasn't all some dream.
And then, after the movie....well, there's another story for another night. I'm exhausted. Time to sleep. Suffice it to say, what a night it has been.

About About Schmidt

I took Peter to a special screening of About Schmidt on Sunday night. Jim Taylor, the co-writer, was in attendance with his family. A few thoughts (minor spoilers ahead for those who want to see it fresh):

  • Jack Nicholson gives a first-rate performance. No doubt. As Jim Taylor noted in Q&A afterwards, Jack was told by Alexander Payne (co-writer with Jim Taylor and director on this and Citizen Ruth and Election and Jurassic Park III) to "play a small man" and he does. In doing so, he proves that he still earns his keep, unlike others from his generation. He does so much in this movie, from the pacing of his line readings to actual physical comedy, and it's all superb.

  • Still, I didn't believe that he was anyone other than Jack. Not because of his performance, but because he's Jack. I'm not sure there's anyway around that other than to cast someone else. In fact, it was funny because when Jack's wife first comes on screen I thought it was his mother, perhaps, because I'm so used to seeing Jack with the Lara Flynn Boyle's of the world. Nothing in his actual acting screamed "Jack" but someone with his career and pedigree and fame just can't be an ordinary person. He's larger than life.

  • Taylor and Payne have smart, razor sharp knives in their arsenal, and they use them all to slice their subjects to pieces. There's this line from the movie, "Dear Ndugu," and I laughed like a madman every time I heard it, and it appears many times. The small-town folk from Omaha Nebraska are hilarious in their provinciality.
  • I felt a bit uncomfortable by the end of the movie because watching obviously smart and clever city guys like Taylor and Payne pick apart small-town folk like the ones played by Kathy Bates and Dermot Mulroney (unrecognizable!!) would be like watching Alan Dershowitz cross-examine George Bush or something like that. It's a heavyweight bullying the village idiot. I've read reviews that claim this is a humanistics movie, and someone even thanked Taylor for making these characters sympathetic. Huh?! Please watch the movie (it's quite entertaining) and see if you agree with me. I though those characters were set up for merciless ridicule.