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February 23, 2015

My Oscars Ceremony

Another Academy Awards has come and gone. Some will say Neil Patrick Harris did well, others will say he did poorly. Someone will complain about the In Memoriam forgetting people. Someone will complain about the length. I don't care anymore. I watch the opening and the first couple of awards, and then I flip away and watch something else, or simply go to sleep.

To keep me occupied, here's how I'd change the Oscars:
  • The host of the show presents all Oscars. No more need for awkward, unfunny jokes and presentations by celebrities. No more "Adele Dazeem" issues (hopefully). Too often while we're watching the host suddenly disappears for long periods of time and you get bad celebrity after bad celebrity presentation. The switching to these also slows things down. The host is there for a reason, use him/her.
    • If the host is a song and dance person, then have multiple short areas where he/she can perform. If he/she is a comedian, then provide time for him/her to tell jokes and keep the audience "warm."
  • Build up to best picture. I know, I know, the argument is that no one will watch the first hour or so of the ceremony of the show if there aren't any of the "big" categories in it. I counter argue that if you make it entertaining, they will watch. Also, by cutting out the celebrity presenters, the show will move more quickly and people will have to watch more of the program to keep up.
  • Have the host tell the audience to save their applause for after the list of nominees has finished. This includes the In Memoriam section.
  • Limit ALL acceptance speeches to 20 seconds. Saying thank you is enough, people. We don't need a political statement, we don't need to hear a list of people read out loud on camera; the people who helped you get there should know who they are and your saying thank you should be inclusive enough.
  • Seat people by category, so whenever a particular award is presented, those people up for it are seated relatively together. If a person is in more than one category, then they are seated with the "most prestigious" award group (say, a writer/director would be seated with the directors, etc.). Alternately, have a section with twenty chairs in it at the very front of the auditorium. As each category comes up, the people nominated and their guest are moved to that section so that, again, they are seated together and so that their trip to get their award is as brief as possible.
  • Decide if you are presenting a somber, serious show or a lighter, funnier show and go with that throughout. Too often the shows get bogged down because they open light and funny, and then turn somber for section on certain movies or the In Memoriam, and then try to go back to light and funny. Pick one. Stick with it.
I'm sure there are more things and I may add to this as I think of them. But these, as a start, would allow me to pay more attention and watch the Oscars.

February 21, 2015

The Hobbit: The Tolkien Edit

I have not been shy about how much I dislike Peter Jackson's overly bloated The Hobbit movies (here and here). Now that all three movies are available, I thought that maybe some enterprising fan would take the movies and re-edit them down to the actual story presented in the book The Hobbit. I quickly found this page with a link to a 6 GB version of the story in film format. I watched it this week and I was blown away.

As suspected, the parts of the film that Jackson made that were on point with the book were quite well done. When re-edited, each movie was chopped down to about 90 minutes and, together, make an approximately 4.5 hour film that follows the book pretty closely. I have some small quibbles with the fan edit but, for the most part, I think it is solid and it is definitely far superior to what Jackson released.

Some points, both pro and con, about this edit (likely Spoilers if you haven't watched the movies):
  • Getting rid of the love triangle took large swaths of the movie out and kept the focus more tightly on the dwarves (and Bilbo), who should be the main protagonists. I'm not sure why Jackson felt the need to force this in, other than he, like most of Hollywood, is under the misimpression that women won't watch a movie without a love triangle in it. Hogwash. Women will watch any movie if it is a good movie. Period.
  • As noted in my other reviews, whenever Legolas was on screen, the movies seemed to grind to a halt. Cutting 99% of him out of the movie helped the flow of the story much more.
  • Cutting back on the "humorous happenstance" and overly bloated fight sequences from most of the movies helps the dwarves be actual agents of their own adventure, rather than humorous victims of circumstance. In the books, they are serious about their mission and they are feared warriors. When they are captured or overwhelmed, they need saving, and Bilbo steps up by "finding his courage" and proving his worth to the dwarves. Too often in Jackson's movies, those scenes were played for humor and he took the scenes to absurd lengths (like the wooden bridge falling with the dwarves on it as they fight the goblins in the first movie). With this edit, they appear to be capable fighters who occasionally get in over their heads and need assistance from Bilbo or Gandalf to escape. It makes it more believable for the end Battle of Five Armies sequence that they are capable fighters earlier.
  • Bilbo comes across as much more of the unlikely hero he was in the book than he did in Jackson's edit. With the humor mostly removed, Bilbo is actively helping the dwarves, actively showing his value, and actively becoming friends with and learning respect for the dwarves he is teamed with. The bonds seem deeper and there seems to be more focus on the company and their relationships.
  • Cutting out a bunch of the 'madness of Thorin' scenes moves the story along more quickly. Jackson beat us over the head with it by having way too many scenes showing Thorin's dragon sickness; the actor is good enough to convey this in a couple of scenes, so that's all the audience needs.
  • Cutting way back on the Battle of Five Armies fight sequences helps this to move along more quickly. Originally, as I commented, it just took so long what with Jackson focusing on every single named person having a shining moment to himself during the combat. Now, I would have kept a little more in than this edit; for example, Kili and Fili's death, if possible, so you know why they are missing at the end. And I would have re-edited the Thorin versus Azog slightly so that there wasn't the (trying to be a) jump scare 'Azog is presumed dead but comes back up through the ice and they kill each other' moment. I would have just had them fight to the end like men.
  • I would have left in, if I could make it work, the dwarves being chased to the tree and the Eagles rescuing them. If no other reason than to bring it full circle when the Eagles come to their aid at the last battle. Also, if I could have managed to keep the Bilbo rescues Thorin sequence that happens during this sequence, I would have. It shows how Bilbo has grown and the respect that Thorin has growing inside for Bilbo.
All in all, though, this edit is vastly superior to the movies that Jackson released. I think that if Jackson had done this (sticking close to the original story) and released it as one longer (3-3.5 hour) or two shorter (2-2.5 hrs each) film(s), he likely would have had numbers more similar to those he achieved with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Unfortunately, each Hobbit movie made less at the box office and, I think, it is because he shed viewers along the way with how bloated and overdone they were.

I have saved the copy of this fan's edit and will, in the future, watch this movie instead of Jackson's when I want to see The Hobbit.

Grade: B+