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Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

Our trip through the Oscar winners brings us into this century with Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003). Now, normally I would kick things off with a full plot synopsis, but letís face it, with this movie we would be here all week if I did that. So if youíve seen it, good, if not, go read the book or something.

Return of the King is the third movie in Peter Jacksonís trilogy based on the books of J. R. R. Tolkien. I had seen the first movie in the series in theaters, though I think I must have fallen asleep near the end. I think I seem to remember catching part of this one on cable or something at some point, but I had never seen the second part so in order to get a true picture of what the series was about I decided to see all three of them back-to-back-to-back, and my legs fell asleep near the end of The Two Towers. I highly suggest you never ever try this.

Some of the criticism offered, especially in Clerks II is accurate. It is mostly three movies of walking. And yes, the hobbits are kind of gay, especially when you have one named Merry and he and Pippen bounce around joyously in Frodoís bed.

Frodo meanwhile serves as an analogy to the typical woman. Frodo is torn between the one who is clearly insane (Gollum) and tried to kill him, and the platonic friend who has his back all the way to the end, even after being sent away. And who does Frodo side with? Gollum. Analogous to the fact that all women are whores.

Gollum meanwhile is an interesting fellow. In the beginning of this final part of the trilogy we see the origins of Gollum, as he finds the ring and slowly descends with the beautifully written "We even forgot our name" monologue. Gollum is a being in indeterminate species who happens to be suffering from the twin maladies of anorexia and multiple personality disorder.

For those paying attention, there is even a plot device taken from Shakespeare. The Witch King, it is said, cannot be killed by any man, in much the same way that Macbeth cannot be killed by any man born of woman. It is a bit of dialogue meant to make us believe the villain is entirely unbeatable. Macbeth is killed by an Englishman whose mother had a C-section. The Witch King is killed by a woman. The prophesy held, and the villain fell anyway.

All in all, this movie is something of a mixed bag. The major characters are spread out in such a way that while we follow one group we may go a half hour or more without any idea what some other group is up to. At the time the Oscar was awarded, word on the street was that the academy was rewarding the entire series, not just this movie, and Iím not entirely sure this movie works as a stand alone film. It made sense to me since I had just seen the other two, but they werenít nominated as a trilogy, they were nominated as individual films, and this one simply is not a self-contained unit.

Now there were plenty of things I like about it. It was quite fast paced, the dynamic between Gimli and Legolas was well played out, and the special effects were excellent. We must also credit this movie for giving rise to a wonderful episode of South Park as well as the top notch film Lord of the G-String, which is right up there with Busty Cops in my book, even without anything that quite rivals the llama scene.

The other best picture nominees that year were Master and Commander: Far Side of the World, Seabiscuit, Lost in Translation, and Mystic River. Master and Commander is the clear fifth choice in this group. I thought Cold Mountain and Girl with a Pearl Earring were much more deserving of a nomination and one might even toss a nod to A Mighty Wind. Mystic River was a good movie, but nothing we hadnít seen before. That leaves us a three horse race between Tolkien, the best sports movie since Hoosiers, and Sophia Coppolaís masterpiece. If you want to give the nod to cinematic achievement, and honor the production that churned out the special effects, costumes, and miniature cities for three movies, the choice was clear. But if you are only choosing based on the end product, I would have to say the best movie of 2003 was Seabiscuit, narrowly edging out Lost in Translation, despite Scarlett Johanssonís ass adorning the opening credits.

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