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Entries in Lord of the Rings (24)


RIP: Ron Moody & Christopher Lee

Though their careers were dissimilar, their images were not. The cinema lost two of its most deeply enjoyable sharp eyed bearded villains this week: Oscar nominee Ron Moody (Oliver!), died yesterday at 91 years of age; screen legend Christopher Lee's passing was also just announced though he died last week at 93. Both of these British actors, born in the 1920s, were best known for indelible villains and sorcerers and  both were singers, too. From there, of course, the careers significantly diverge.

Ron Moody was always best known as "Fagin," the petty thief with a whole gang of young pickpockets at his disposal in the Best Picture winner Oliver! (1968) for which he received a Best Actor nomination and won the Golden Globe. The role stuck to him as forcefully as the Emcee clung to Joel Grey defining him for decades and decades and audiences of multiple generations. His movie career, though it spanned 33 films, didn't contain many other highlights but he did play the sorcerer Merlin in two Disney films Unidentified Flying Oddball and A Kid in King Arthurs Court. He returned to the stage often including revivals of Oliver! (He didn't seem to resent how much Fagin defined him, calling the musical "magic".)

If you ask people to name Sir Christopher Lee's most famous role, on the other hand, they might well hesitate. There is nothing definitive or, rather, there is too much that is definitive. He was a genuine screen legend and worked what seemed like non-stop from 1948 through 2015 appearing in nearly 200 films before his death. Today it's nothing new for actors to be defined by franchise stardom but Christopher Lee was doing forever. He was best known for decades as the face of "Dracula" for Hammer Horror in several films, "Fu Manchu" in multiple films and "Rochefort" in two Three Musketeer films. The actor's fame rose again late in life through prominent popular roles such as "Count Dooku" in the Star Wars franchise and the wicked sorceror "Saruman" multiple times in Peter Jackson's Tolkien adaptations. 

Please share your favorite screen memories of these two acclaimed Brits. 


Goodbye, Master of the Light, Andrew Lesnie

Glenn here with some sad news that broke late as America was tucking itself away in bed. Academy Award-winning cinematographer Andrew Lesnie has died of a heart attack at the age of 59. Most will know Lesnie as the man who photographed all of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies, but he will also be well-remembered by the local Australian industry for a 35-year-long career that covered the broad spectrum of scope and genre.

Lesnie got his start in the Australian film industry just after the new wave of the 1970s. Unlike fellow countrymen and Oscar-winners John Seale, Dean Semler and Russell Boyd, Lesnie more or less remained in Australia and New Zealand. He only ventured over to work in America once his work on Middle Earth gained him a level of industry respect that would bring him to I Am Legend and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

His early career was made up of low-budget indie works and 'ozploitation' films like Fair Game. He lensed Kylie Minogue’s big screen debut in the delicately shot The Delinquents, and eventually found international acclaim working on Babe. He won an “Australian Oscar” for his superb sun-drenched work on Doing Time for Patsy Cline and would bring the visual extravaganza of Babe: Pig in the City to life before shuffling over to New Zealand to work on no less than eight Peter Jackson movies. Despite his newfound global success, he kept working locally on the indigenous pop-musical Bran Nue Dae, anthology film The Turning with Cate Blanchett, and last year’s ex-con drama Healing.

Devastating news from home. The master of the light, genius Andrew Lesnie has passed on.
Russell Crowe

Andrew Lesnie was a treat to work with. I am blown away by all he achieved. He'll be missed greatly. RIP.
Jamie Bell 

Lesnie died on Monday (Australian time). His final work was for Russell Crowe’s directorial debut, The Water Diviner, which was a giant success at the start of the year in Australia and has just opened in America. Perhaps it was his stubbornness to remain at home in his corner of the world that saw him never receive another nomination after winning in 2002 for The Fellowship of the Ring, but he won more than enough awards for the trilogy to make up for it. At only 59 he's far too young, but he leaves behind an admirable dedication to his home country's industry and an enviable roster of work.


Blog it: The Beauty of the Five Armies

You know you're in trouble when you have to buy three movie tickets to get to anything dubbed "the defining chapter"No, no. Not The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Just Five Armies. Those Middle Earth movies have long since passed their expiration date for TFE's interest, though, if you're curious for a review Timothy wrote an excellent one (as is his enviable habit). Peter Jackson, once an exciting, rowdy, and passionate human filmmaker is now a factory mogul. Contrary to popular belief, we love television here at The Film Experience but each medium has its place. Serialized storytelling is TV's most beloved strength. The movies aren't very good at it. And that's what annual franchises are, one season of an expensive show per year that's only two or three episodes long in which something may or may not happen depending on how much material the show-runner and writers room have come up with and how much money the production company is hoping to wring out of you for the next few seasons. 

Since this is technically the final Middle Earth movie (naturally, Peter Jackson is already threatening to continue. Won't any of his close friends stage an intervention?) let's celebrate with five armies -- extremely randomly chosen --  that are exceedingly nice to look at for a special military edition of Beauty Break.

We'll start with one of Jackson's own to be as nice as we can muster at this point...

Aragorn and the Army of the Dead

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
OH VIGGO MY VIGGO. Few romantic heroes have ever read so romantic and heroic simultaneously as Aragorn, the only regular non-superpowered human in the fellowship. And of all the charges he led into battle, none ever provided such deliciously flattering backlighting as that ghost army he gathered for the final film.


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Top Ten: "They Are Groot" - Best Cinematic Trees

"Groot" a walking fighting talking (well, sort of) tree is easily the best character within the #1 movie in the world right now. I didn't like Guardians of the Galaxy but I loved Groot. So here's a top ten devoted to his fellow upright leafy green characters. Trees have often played key roles in dramas, fairytales, and horror alike whether as fantastical homes, formidable characters or mysterious passageways to adventure.

So herewith...


Honorable Mention: That tree Mowgli was hypnotized in in The Jungle Book, spooky 'Tree of the Dead' in Sleepy Hollow, the Christmas tree Gremlins wield like a weapon, the Swiss Family Robinson's main address, any tree that nimbly supports the weight of Crouching Tigers and Hidden Dragons on its delicate green branches, any tree that gives us opportunities to ogle various Tarzans or George of the Jungles from, uh, below (shush. You're no innocent of ogling!), or virtually any colorful tree in Disney's Alice In Wonderland but particularly the one she reads by and dozes on that dumps her into that trippy world of invisible cats, size-altering portions, and rodents having tea parties.

10  Holiday Trees in Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Located in The Hinterlands these seven trees lead you into your various Holiday towns. We only get to see Halloween Town and "what's this?" Christmas town. If only Jack Skellington could have tried them all out. Imagine him delivering Easter eggs or cupid's arrow. Imagine the production design and merchandising opportunities! For all I know these other worlds have already been exploited in bad straight to DVD follow ups but if so I am blissfully ignorant.

Nine more barking great characters / symbols after the jump...

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Live from Comic Con: Batman, Wonder Woman, Galadriel

Anne Marie here, sleep deprived and dazed after a night camping out to cover the big studio announcements for you. Folks, my group camped in line for fifteen hours to get into Hall H, and we still barely got into the back of the hall. Over 6,000 geeks camped out to see what Warner Bros, Legendary Pictures, and Marvel have to offer, so the studios are going to have to work hard to meet or exceed expectations. Here's what happened.

Cate Blanchett, Channing Tatum and more after the jump...

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Controversy, My Preciousssss 

I've long had a deep respect for the work Andy Serkis has done in elevating the acting in visual effects. Serkis is, in many ways, the figure head of the fusion form or acting and animation known as performance capture, Hes already given us King Kong, Gollum, and Caesar. But in interviews he's beendownplaying the efforts of animation teams in bringing these highly memorable characters to life.  It's really pissing animators off. That's kind of a shame since film is such a collaborative medium. It's also a shame that he himself doesn't get as much credit as he should with his acting peers for how good his work is in these movies. So there's enough lack of credit to go around... deficent credit for everyone. Um... hoorah?

Here's an interview he did in March with i09 about his work on the forthcoming Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) and two responses, one angry from Cartoon Brew and one measured but annoyed from the Lord of the Rings animation director Randal William Cook. Cook makes an interesting comparison with Marni Nixon's voice work on 1960s musicals in his rebuttal...

Let me state that Andy really should be considered the principal author of Gollum’s performance, but there’s a hell of a difference between principal author and sole author. The Animators who helped shape Gollum’s performance are actors of a very special type, working at a high level of achievement. They’re not like Marni Nixon singing for Natalie Wood in WEST SIDE STORY, doing only the things that Andy couldn’t do: they were doing the same things Andy did, in concert with him...

Next up for Serkis is his debut in the director's chair, helming Warner Bros live action version of The Jungle Book in which all the animals will be performance captured. This is not, to be clear, the same Jungle Book movie that has been in the news recently with celebrity castings (the one that Lupita Nyong'o signed on for recently) which is an animated film. But with these types of feelings brewing among animators directing his first feature employing tons of them might be a tougher task than first features already always are.