Tolkien, Prime Suspect, Green Mile, Hanging Rock

Last summer, having barely watched TV for months, Cindy and I finally cancelled cable. The Internet and books have taken over. Now we subscribe to (a DVD-by-mail service), so we see quite a few movies. Here are some brief reviews.

Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

I skipped this in the cinema, partly because I couldn’t bear to give money to thugs in Hollywood who are tearing down our culture (the thought tends to hurt the movie-going experience). Apparently I didn’t miss much.

When I was little, I was both fascinated and bored by the books. Twice I failed to complete The Two Towers. When I finally did finish the series, I was underwhelmed by the one-dimensional characters. The women were actually zero dimensional – i.e. single points! The movies were excellent adaptations of the books: beautiful but empty. I am sick and tired of action and special effects.

Prime Suspect 5

Soon after Return of the King, Cindy and I found Prime Suspect 5 at the library. It was night and day. The British produce their dreck, but they also make the best television in the world (I think TV is capable of being superior to film, so that’s saying something). This had a taut story, excellent pacing, a sense of place, brilliant characters and acting. I’ve seen it before in Cracker, but I was still amazed at how they took a two-bit gangster and made him fascinating, despicable, and scary. Wow.

The Green Mile (spoilers)

This one came highly recommended; having seen the decent but over-rated Shawshank Redemption I was suspicious. I’ve also noticed Stephen King’s affection for some kind of bizarre syncretic Christian mysticism which entirely escapes my understanding. What I know of assorted pagan mythologies (from the Greeks to the Aztecs) makes a whole lot more sense than this stuff.

Worse, at its core the film was (in our view) inherently immoral. It held up a patriarchal society of sissies and real men. The honor of these guys is the honor of gangsters: what happens on the mile stays on the mile. Morality is not justified by right and wrong, but by the fear of hell and the instrumental justification of ends by means. Coffey was not a real human being. Using him to cure the wife’s illness proceeded without his understanding or consent (the fact that he gave these later does not justify failing to ask him). His death was wrong not because he was innocent, but because he was a miracle of God. The film was a distillation of the worst stereotypes of American society.

Picnic at Hanging Rock

How very odd. A mystery that is no more resolved from its revelation in the first frames to the epilog before the credits. A story in which very little happens, but at times is enthralling and terrifying; at others it seems aimless and contradictory. Is it about the shock of modernity? Sexual repression? Madness? Our unwillingness to face the terrors and realities of life? Did we see the truth, or was it hidden from us by the participants in the tragedy? Cindy and I spent half an hour dredging the Web for understanding. It seems we will have to watch this again. I guess that means this is a good movie; I have no better judgment for now.