The other day while driving to a former job site, I ran into this guy.
Yes, that is an honest-to-God American bald eagle. I got within twenty feet, but my iPhone camera just doesn’t do it justice. I told a friend and former co-worker. He shrugged. “There’s a deer carcass near the woods. He must’ve wanted some.”
It’s easy to forget that as much as we venerate these beautiful animals, they’re kind of dirtbags. I suppose I shouldn’t judge. After all, would you want to subsist on whatever nasty bits hunters leave behind?
We had a huge list of must-see movies this month. Predictably, we were lucky to catch one of them. We didn’t get around to seeing Lincoln. We didn’t get around to seeing Skyfall. We didn’t get around to seeing Flight. But we wouldn’t have dared starting of 2013 without the Hobbit. I went in with neutral expectations and have to say I really liked it.
A little background. It’s not so much that I like Tolkien as it is I frickin’ love Tolkien. Leading up to seeing this film, we bought a copy of the original Rankin/Bass Hobbit from a going-out-of-business rental store for less than $3 (Fear no more the heat o’ the sun, Blockbuster). What sentimental value! By eighth grade I’d read all of his completed works concerning Middle Earth. I liked the Lord of the Rings films well enough, but I don’t love Peter Jackson. I’m of the school of thought that good direction doesn’t make itself obvious. For as much pretty filmmaking went into Jackson’s King Kong, the part that sticks out above all else to me is Jack Black typing “Skull Island” in low frame-rate slow motion.
It helps I went into the film with low expectations. The Hobbit as a trilogy concerned me. All in all, I thought the film hit most of the right notes. I had predicted beforehand Jackson would increase the epic about 50% while decreasing Tolkien’s humor and charm by about 70. I was a little off on the percentages. Ian McKellan’s sentimental Gandolph was a delight, as always. Andy Sirkis’ Gollum was, as before, just the right mix of charming and creepy-as-fuck. Martin Freeman blew the part of our nuanced hero out of the water. Smart casting counts for a lot IMHO. Was the film bloated? Yes, but Jackson at least scaled back on the slow-mo. Was it too long and too special-effecty? Yes. In the Misty Mountains, they probably could have gotten away with killing about 243 fewer goblins. They could have done without both a flashback and a flash-forward prologue. I mean, don’t they explain all of this through dialogue a couple of times over anyway? I don’t fault Jackson for this too much though. I think this is a problem endemic to Hollywood, where economical storytelling is an endanger species. No one really seems to believe in the importance of editors anymore.
I had a few other quibbles, but frankly, for as much as I love Tolkien, they ended up directed at him.
Why didn’t the eagles just drop them off at Lonely Mountain? If I’m not mistaken, in Lord of the Rings, they take Frodo all the way from Mt. Doom to Rivendell. Of course, without the wood elves and spiders, the book would have been a lot less awesome.
Maybe about 30%?
In the end, I suppose we all need a little deus ex machina in our lives from time to time. But thirty-foot eagles? All I can say is I’m glad I haven’t seen that deer carcass. I’m even more glad I never saw the hunter.