Throw-Back Movie Review: Oscar Edition by Nathan Hinds

With the Oscars coming up this weekend we decided a couple of weeks ago that leading up to the big night, we would each do a review for our favorite Best Picture winner. That was an easy choice for me, since my favorite film of all-time is The Lord of the Rings. Now I know that technically Return of the King won Best Picture, but everyone knows that all of the awards were given because of the achievement of the entire series. Also I consider them all one giant film, and I'm not changing that just for this review. Tolkien himself said the story is not a trilogy, but one story.

One more thing before I dive into this: I know as a writer on a blog that I am supposed to be subjective, but you will find none of that for this review. So with that in mind, click the jump to read my thoughts on The Lord of the Rings!
Let me put it bluntly how I feel about The Lord of the Rings: They are the greatest achievements in the history of film.

Now that we got that out of the way, since I don't have time to go over every little thought on the entire series, and I know you have no desire to read everyone of my thoughts, I will mainly focus on Return of the King.

Peter Jackson took on the task of adapting J.R.R. Tolkiens epic fantasy, and one of the greatest works of literature in the 20th century, into a masterpiece of cinema - a task that most directors and studios would never have had the cojones to attempt. All three of the films were filmed in his native New Zealand, and along with these being my all-time favorite films, New Zealand also sits atop the list of places that I most want to visit someday. The country provided a magnificent setting to bring Tolkien's Middle Earth to life. The number of locations they had to bring to life was incredible - from The Shire, to the elf haven Rivendell, to the realms of Rohan and Gondor. They literally  built a city on a mountain for these films. So many of the beautiful places described in the books were actually brought to life, not just a computer animated image. For me that was one of the main things that drew me into the magic of these films. You could get a sense that these places actually existed, in a way it felt like I was actually watching a piece of ancient history. And what really tied everything together and made it all flow was the magnificent score composed by Howard Shore. This, in my opinion, is the greatest of all time. Notice a theme I have going here...

I am going to hope that most people reading this have already seen these films, therefore I will skip recapping the first two films and hope that you know the names of the characters I'm talking about. The film picks up with the story of how Smeagol became the creature Gollum. This gives us a rare look at one of Hollywood's most unrecognized and probably unappreciated talents, the master of motion capture: Andy Serkis. Most people probably don't know who Serkis is, but you have no doubt seen his work, just probably never recognizing it. He plays such roles as, like mentioned here, Gollum, as well as King Kong and Ceasar from "Rise of the Planet of the Apes". And if you didn't know there was actually an actor behind all those characters doing the movements, now you do. The special effects of the entire series still remain some of the greatest of all time, and Gollum's character is the best example of that.

I can't talk about Return of the King without touching on the character this film is named for, Aragorn, played by Viggo Mortensen, also my personal favorite character of the series. 
We see the journey Aragorn has taken throughout the series come to a head. He has made the journey from exiled Ranger to finally taking the reigns of his destiny to become the King of Men and lead the attack against Sauron. To me this right here is the epitome of a journey of a hero. It is a character that is so complex - the fate of the world resting heavily on his shoulders, knowing that his entire lineage has failed at the same task that he must now take on. Viggo nails it, finally unleashing the power that was hidden deep down in his character in the previous movies. When his character finally hits his full stride, it sure is awesome to watch. He also gets to give one of my all time favorite "rally the troop" speeches, watch it here.

The last individual character I want to touch on is Samwise Gamgee, played by Sean Astin. This is a sore spot for me to talk about. The whole time you watch the series you can feel that there is a powerhouse performance in him just waiting to bust out. And oh man does it ever. Throughout the entire movie, he is just nailing every bit of his role - a blend of so many emotions swelling inside him just waiting to explode. And on the slopes of Mount Doom, it finally happens. While Sam and Frodo lay on the mountain side, all hope seemingly lost, the weight of The Ring has all but defeating Frodo, Sam is able to muster up all of his remaining strength, put Frodo on his shoulders and yell "Come on mister Frodo. I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you!". That is, for me personally, the greatest scene in movie history. I get goosebumps and tear up every time I watch it. Heck, I'm getting goosebumps just typing about it! After this scene, I thought he had solidified the greatest supporting performance of all-time. That role epitomized the meaning of the term "supporting role". This is a sore spot for me because, not only did the Academy not give him the award for Best Supporting Actor, he wasn't even nominated! How did that happen? There is no proper explanation for this blunder. It is the biggest acting snub in the history of the Oscars.

All in all though, snub aside, it still doesn't diminish the love I have for these films. I find something new everytime I watch these. The depth of the material from which the films were derived, the beauty of the sets and the characters that feel so real all combine to make the greatest movie experience ever. For me anyway. They are the king of the mountain, and I don't think there is anything that could ever knock them down. If you can't grasp the magic of these films, well, the loss is yours. There is so much more I could say, so much more I want to say, but I know this review can't do any of it full justice. So I'll end with this: if you haven't seen them yet, don't watch another movie until you have. If you have seen them, watch it again, and enjoy the magic of Middle Earth.