The Set of 400: #102 – My Favorite Elephant Slide

Today! Because there never was much hope. Just a fool’s hope –

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Directed by Peter Jackson (x4)

Starring Elijah Wood (x5), Sean Astin (x3), Ian McKellen (x6), Viggo Mortensen (x2), Billy Boyd (x2), Dominic Monaghan (x2), Liv Tyler (x2), Andy Serkis (x5), John Rhys-Davies (x2), Orlando Bloom (x2), Miranda Otto (x2), Bernard Hill (x3), Cate Blanchett (x5), Hugo Weaving (x4), Karl Urban (x3), David Wenham (x2), Ian Holm (x4), Marton Csokas (x2), John Noble, Bret McKenzie (x2), Sarah McLeod

This movie won Best Film Editing at the Academy Awards. Let that sink in for a minute. This movie – all 201 minutes of it, with all of those endings crashing awkwardly into each other over the last fifteen minutes of the film – won an Oscar for the film with the best editing. Like, look, I love The Lord of the Rings – it probably is the best film trilogy of all-time, and by the time it came to the conclusion it was bound to win all the awards, considering the near-perfect first film lost to the thoroughly meh A Beautiful Mind and the solid second film lost to, like, the fortieth best musical ever made in Chicago – one of the weaker film stretches ever. Still, this movie – drunk on the success of the Extended Edition DVDs I guess and flush with all the cash raked down from the previous two Decembers – chose to just go on and on and on. Maybe the Academy needed a few years to come around to the idea of awarding a pure fantasy Best Picture – it had never happened before – and maybe awarding it every statue it was nominated for seemed like a fitting tribute – it was 11 for 11 – but my God, Best Film Editing? You’re telling me every one of those 201 minutes was essential? You’re telling me that interminable ending sat perfectly with you? Okay, so 2003 wasn’t the world’s best year for movies – fucking Seabiscuit was up for Best Picture – but hell, Best Film Editing also featured Master and Commander and City of God, two absolute triumphs of editing.

And holy shit, if you haven’t seen it, go watch City of God

But that’s enough about one technical award this movie won. It’s still marvelous, and a terrific capper to the series – followed by a prequel trilogy most would like to forget, but that I chose to include 1/3rd of on this list (suck it, haters!). Sure, there is a ton of stuff going on, and a bunch of it appears in the Two Towers book, but even with the ridiculous ghost army saving the day, there is plenty of tremendous action drama on display start to finish. Sean Astin should’ve won an Oscar if the movie was going to pull down every last thing. How great is Samwise the Brave in the final stretch, when all looks lost and he’s just trying to save Frodo’s mind from disintegrating? At the time of its release, RotK was the second highest grossing movie worldwide ever, only the second to crack $1 billion, with each film in the series having topped the one previous. Hell, these movies were so good that they can be directly credited with dragging each Hobbit movie over $950 million worldwide. That trilogy took in nearly $3 billion dollars, and virtually no one talks about it now! Should we all give The Hobbits another chance?

Oh my God, they made Extended Editions of those, too? How much more could they milk out of that one short book? I better buy it and find out!

It’s perfect 11/11 Oscars win broke the record for most Academy Awards without a loss, previously held by Gigi and The Last Emperor, both scoring nine. Eleven is also tied for the Oscar win record, with Ben-Hur and Titanic. As something that may only interest me, the career of Theoden actor Bernard Hill is interesting as he’s the only cast member of both Titanic and Return of the King, the two highest grossing movies ever before 2004 as well as the two Oscar winningest. He also appeared in Gandhi, which merely won eight Oscars and was the 12th highest grossing movie of 1982. So calling Hill the movie MVP might be a poor consolation – is he the MVP of the entire film era?

Being the third Middle Earth venture on the list, there are obviously loads and loads of new Two-Timers and advancing folks. Peter Jackson is the 10th Four-Timer director, following #362 The Hobbit, #179 The Two Towers, and #258 King Kong, while the actors are led by Ian McKellen’s entry to the Sixes (Hobbit, Two Towers, #165 X2, #277 X-Men, #192 Last Action Hero), followed closely by our three new Five-Timers, Elijah Wood (Hobbit, Two Towers, #344 Back to the Future II, and #228 Eternal Sunshine), Cate Blanchett (Hobbit, Two Towers, #186 The Talented Mr. Ripley, and #267 The Life Aquatic), and Andy Serkis (Hobbit, Two Towers, King Kong, and #120 Rise of the Planet of the Apes). Spotlight?

Seriously, everybody is in the guild at this point

Coming tomorrow! That Paris exists and anyone could choose to live anywhere else in the world will always be a mystery to me –

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