Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ep. 12 - THE LORD OF THE RINGS - May 2011

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Episode 12 features former CTS Podcast host, Bill Barnes, and film critic Luke Hickman of the The Reel Place.com and High-Def Digest.com

Considering the Sequels is a bi-monthly film podcast that examines the merits and weaknesses of specific movie franchises. In Episode 12 we consider “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and answer some voice mails from our new, Listener Feedback Hotline: 801.382.8789.

Your hosts are Andy Howell, Karl Huddleston and Jason Pyles. Download this episode to hear lots of reasons why you’ll want to send Jason hate mail. Bring it on: SequelsPodcast@Gmail.com.


I. Introduction

II. Considering the Sequels: The Lord of the Rings

- The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (03:16)

- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (31:32)

- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (58:06)

- Franchise Overview (1:30:05)

— A Brief Message About Our Sponsor, Heftel Studios (1:39:22)

- Tune in to our next LIVE broadcast on Ustream (1:40:38)

II. Answering Listener Voice Mails and E-mails (1:41:06)

(1:42:09) Question from Jase from Utah about Tolkien the linguist

(1:44:02) Question from Rick Wilson from Illinois about the racist nature of LOTR

(1:49:06) Question from Neil from Nevada about filming sequels simultaneously

(1:54:56) Question from Scott about how the LOTR trilogy “got made”

(1:59:51) E-mail question from Barrett in California about the best comedies of all time

(2:04:50) E-mail question from Tiffany from New Mexico about citing movie recommendations

Wrap-Up / Credits (2:10:28)

Special shout-out thank you to our most supportive listeners (2:11:11):

Barrett H.

Cody C.

Geo R.

Jase L.

Rachel B.

Grant A.

Matt C.

Steve H.

Dave B.

Brian C.

Scott T.

Terrance M.

End Time (2:14:15)

Bill Barnes, Luke Hickman, Andy, Karl and Jason give their collective verdict on this franchise, from 0 to 100 (Jason’s scores are not reflected in the sums below):

LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring = 94

LOTR: The Two Towers = 91

LOTR: The Return of the King = 96

Overall Franchise = 98

Special Link Mentioned in This Episode:

Luke Hickman’s new site for theatrical coverage: http://www.highdefdigest.com/

Contact Us:

E-mail us with questions, comments, suggestions: SequelsPodcast@Gmail.com, or catch up with us on Facebook by searching “Considering the Sequels.” Visit our Considering the Cinema discussion blog, where we write about unusual films. The CTS podcast is also on Twitter: @considersequels.


Thanks to our guests, Bill Barnes and Luke Hickman, for returning to our show. Thanks to our official sponsor, Heftel Studios, and thanks to the Dave Eaton Element for the use of Dave’s music. Thanks to Kara Brewer for her graphic designs and Bill Barnes for his artistic vision.

Episode 12 was recorded on May 15, 2011.


  1. So I'm still listening to the episode, but jeez you guys show some appreciation for the craft--complaining about the CGI, you guys have no idea how cutting edge this tech was and how hard people had to work to pull this off. If literally takes thousands of man hours to pull off what they did and you're complaining that it doesn't always look photo-realistic? I'm disappointed.

  2. Barrett - I probably didn't make a big enough argument about it, but I too loved the CGI. I thought it was as realistic as it could have been. It was glorious. They are still the most visually stunning movies I've ever seen. So, if I did not come off in the episode as agreeing with you, I'm sorry. I do.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Whoops, somehow deleted this comment. It went something like this:

    You did Andy, I wrote my comment the first time it came up in the episode--I just heard where you and Bill argued your points (and mine) so good for you.

    Here's my point, obviously everyone has their own opinion of a movie and that's interesting to hear. What I resent is someone sitting back watching something as spectacular as these movies are visually--especially knowing how much care and passion and WORK was put into the creation, and having the reaction of sort of, meh, that didn't look real.

    Comes off a bit spoiled and entitled as if movies should just come into being spontaneously and satisfy your every whim and desire perfectly and anything that falls short is a disappointment. This is the trap critics fall into a lot. I don't like.

  5. My favorite quote by the way, Jason: "that's apples to raisins" talking about comparing LOTR to Star Wars prequels.

  6. Ha! I knew we'd incur Barrett's wrath, but I didn't realize it would be concerning this topic.

    I am almost always enlightened (and persuaded) by Barrett's arguments — not to mention, humbled — but here's a case where I have to call BS, Barrett.

    Almost everybody on Earth despises telemarketers — except me. I have a special compassion for them, because I endured six years as a telemarketer. And moreover, many listeners are often quite flippant about the quality and content of podcasts (FREE podcasts, I might add), but knowing what's behind creating a podcast has certainly softened my heart toward podcasters.

    Barrett is a filmmaker (and a fine one, at that — I've admired his work on more than one occasion), and similarly, Barrett intimately knows the profound pains and commitment behind making a film. So, like me with the telemarketers and podcasters, Barrett is especially defensive on the filmmaker's behalf. Understandable.

    Now, I think we all showered this trilogy with the praise it deserves (indeed, I called it the very best example of a franchise), but there comes a point where we all have to admit that telemarketers are annoying and some podcasts are simply unlistenable. (And for some people, that might include this one.)

    It takes an amount of craft and artistry to shoot a film in black and white — even if a filmmaker today were to try to imitate the filmmaking from the 1920s and 1930s. But audiences have changed and have grown more sophisticated, and we've moved on from being dazzled by the kinetoscope, the nickelodeon, the silent film, the "talkies," technicolor, 3-D, CGI and so forth.

    So, as audiences get more sophisticated and critical, filmmakers have had to step up their game to try to keep seducing their audiences with their optical voodoo. It is this cycle that is responsible for such incredible experiences as "The Lord of the Rings." Indeed, I would argue that it is this very sort of criticism (like, the CGI looks cartoonish) that has propelled the technology of the motion picture industry forward. If we just allowed ourselves to be satisfied with any flicker of light, then we might still be amusing ourselves by spinning zoetropes.

    And let's face it, Barrett, filmmakers work very hard and still laugh their way to the bank with their substantial paychecks, while the poor telemarketers still only make 10 bucks an hour.

  7. Don't lump animators in with rich producers and directors making tons of money. Animators are the ones working so hard on the CGI--hours that few could relate to except doctors and lawyers. I guess I just don't get your point. Are you implying they could have done better on the effects but didn't for some reason? These are amazing effects by any standards. I'm sad for people who can't be wowed by the visuals in this movie. I'm sad for you Jason, when did you become so cynical? :)

    Again though, I still see in your argument an inherent lack of appreciation for the craft. These people developed new technology to create these visual effects and spent countless hours. It's not perfect but I choose to admire the great things they achieved rather than make a big deal out of the limitations.

    In general too it's way too trendy now for people to say they don't like CGI. Blah Blah.

    In many ways this was kind of a puzzling episode as you, Luke and Karl didn't really do much but voice criticisms and then gave the trilogy the highest scores and praise of any franchises you've previously reviewed. I think you approached this episode from the point of view that it was a given these films are great so the only really interesting thing to do is look for weaknesses. Am I way off?

    Out of curiosity, what did you think I would want to argue with you about? That you wouldn't call these masterpieces? Of course these are masterpieces, but I'm bored with that discussion.

    Loved the show as always, keep up the good work.

  8. You are absolutely correct, Barrett. It seems that just about everyone is bananas about LOTR — films that are indeed great but certainly not perfect. So, I can't speak for my co-hosts and guests, but I didn't think there would be much value or interest in an episode that strictly (and blindly, I might add) sings the praises of those films — when everyone else has already done that, ad nauseam. So, yes, I was being contrary for the sake of being contrary.

    I don't mean to be too much of an Armond White about them, but I think there's definite critical value in looking closer at the failings of films that are so widely and readily given a free pass.

    This will all be put to the test when we have our "Citizen Kane" BONUS episode, sometime next year. That film is widely regarded as the greatest film ever made, as you know, so it will be interesting to me to look at it with a severely critical eye.

    Haven't you ever gone to see a movie that everyone has raved about — only to be disappointed because the actual experience didn't match the hype? So, yes, looking more critically at the high school hottie is just a natural phenomenon in life.

    Another example of this: One of my favorite podcast hosts from another show is absolutely obsessed with John Carpenter's "Halloween" (1978). He believes that particular film is literally perfect in each and every way — and he says this all the time! Well, it's a fine horror film, sure, but after hearing him rave about it so much, I can't help but watch "Halloween" with a hyper-critical eye, after all the overly generous praise I've heard heaped upon it from this podcaster.

    Having said all that, the effects in LOTR truly are amazing — for the most part, but I don't think it's cynical to point out instances where I think they could have done better. Certainly, I believe the animators BELIEVED they had done their best... but I'd bet the farm that at least a few of them watch the movies today and have little regrets about their work — or maybe not regrets, per se, but things they wish they had done differently.

    Part 2 continued on the next comment...

  9. Part 2:

    Nevertheless, tell me how it's cynical to say that I think the instances in "Return of the King" where the dragons swooped down and buckled the running horses "appeared" to happen too quickly, giving it an artificial look, as if being sped up. Seriously, if that action had been slowed down, ever so slightly, I would have been blown away. (Am I entitled to be blown away? I'll answer with a question: Were the filmmakers "swinging for the fence" and intending to blow me away? Yes, to all the above.)

    So, in that dragon/horse scenario, I'm just pointing out what I believe to be a mere miscalculation in physics, or something. At any rate, it was a problem that I think could have been avoided.

    But here's my real question for Barrett and anyone else who wants to give the CGI in these movies a perfect score: How can we look at Gollum, whose special effects are out-of-this-world incredible, and then look at some of the "lesser" computer-generated imagery and be OK with that? Yes, it's nitpicking, but this kind of apparent disparity invites commentary and yes, criticism.

    If my kids do something 90% great, then I will praise them and overlook the missing 10%. But when we make judgments about art, should we overlook the missing 10% just because we admire the artist's incredible 90%? That's up to each critic, but I think each critic has the right to yearn for the full 100%.

    I am also sick of hearing complaints about CGI. In fact, I'm sick of CGI, in general. It brought tears to my eyes in 2005 when I saw "King Kong." But I think that CGI is so commonly a target of disdain now, because it's taking priority over — or altogether replacing — effective storytelling.

    Could I create better CGI than what we see in LOTR? No. Do I believe they intentionally created "less-than-Gollum CGI"? No. But do I believe the CGI could have been even better in some cases — even with the technology at the time? I have to say yes, having seen incredible images like Gollum.

    And yes, Barrett, I thought you would be upset by my declaration that the LOTR films are not masterpieces because they're just too lengthy.

  10. Sorry for hijacking the comment boards. Just wanted to also thank Barrett for his compliments on the show (and for submitting such great comments).

  11. Dang it Jason, quit arguing your point so well, I want to be right here.

    Okay, here's the deal I'm willing to make with you. I'll accept your criticism and everything you said above as long as you assure me that you watched these movies--especially the effects scenes where we get to witness that which previously we could only imagine, with a high degree of child-like awe and glee and I'll not think of you as cynical just very demanding.

    And if you promise to always maintain a respect and appreciation for the work and craft that goes into movies which means understanding that there are always limitations in technology, money and time that prevent them from being perfect, I'll not think of you as just another negative critic.

  12. Absolutely. That's a deal, Barrett. But I think you know I'm not just a cynical, negative critic, else I wouldn't spend so much time and effort considering the cinema through this podcast and other means. We have this podcast and our discussion blog because we love movies (and we admire most of the work of their makers), not because we're haters.

    I certainly have respect and appreciation for filmmakers' work and their craft; however, this is going be tested this next Sunday night when we discuss the screenwriting of the second and third "Pirates of the Caribbean" installments... I have a hard time classifying what Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio did as "craft."

    But I will try to be fair and civil because of your past teachings. In fact, you were the one who scolded me for my original review of one of those "Pirates" movies...

  13. Right, well I just didn't want you to get too carried away, but I like you hated those movies. Have at 'em I say.