Tag Archives: Peter Jackson

Rocks In The Attic #760: Bo Hansson – ‘Lord Of The Rings’ (1972)

RITA#760Ah, the fantasy genre. The truly awful middle-ages have never appeared as good as they have in the last fifty years.  Books, films and television shows have glamorised these times, adeptly sidestepping the harsh realities of living in filth; a time when all food tasted like dirt and the average mortality rate was something like twelve years old.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings trilogy remains the genre’s high-water mark, of course, represented here by some lovely organ work by Swedish prog-botherer Bo Hansson. Before Peter Jackson’s film series in the early 2000s, and aside from a 1978 animated film, Tolkien’s work was only really visible through the imagined art of John Howe and Alan Lee.

Hansson’s Lord Of The Rings album adds to that work as a quasi-soundtrack, inspired by Tolkien’s writing and acting as an aural backdrop to the events of the books. As you might expect, it doesn’t sound a million miles away from the likes of Genesis records from around the same time. It’s the sort of music you might expect to hear in a shop that sells crystals and incense, run by a bra-less lady in her sixties.

Peter Jackson reintroduced Tolkien to the world, and gave the fantasy genre a commercial shot in the arm. This renewed interest in the anything-goes optimism of medieval times has led, of course, to the success of Game Of Thrones, both on television and in the writings of author George R.R. Martin. To be taken seriously in fantasy writing, it looks like you need to have two middle initials. One wonders whether the Yellow Pages’ fly-fishing book would have sold in greater quantities, and therefore been easier to find, if J.R. Hartley had had another middle name.

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The Game Of Thrones TV show recently concluded. After eight seasons of soap-opera level dialogue scenes, interspersed by the occasional action sequence, it’s finally over. I won’t have to hear people go on and ON about it anymore. All of these people, who have probably never seen The Wire, Band Of Brothers, or The Sopranos – or in some cases, not even Breaking Bad – will no longer bore me daily with their opinion that Game Of Thrones is television’s greatest achievement.

I have to admit, I’ve enjoyed this eighth and final season. The budgets have matched those you’d expect from feature films, and the long-separated main characters finally came together to fight a mutual enemy. If it had been like this throughout the show, I would have enjoyed it a lot more, but on the whole it’s been a long, ponderous show.

The first season was enjoyable, particularly the first episode reuniting The Full Monty’s Sean Bean and Mark Addy. It all fell apart after that, as the storylines drifted further and further apart. Most of the show’s fans seem to miss the point too, thinking that the show is about dragons and battles and the quest to sit on an iron throne. It’s not. It’s simply about a family that gets split up by the greed and bureaucracy of another family. Anything else is just dressing.

More than anything, the show was perfectly timed to cash-in on the young fans of the Harry Potter series, those annoying middle-class children who grew up immune to the derivative nature of J.K. Rowling’s books and their respective film adaptations, and were left adrift with nothing in popular culture to capture their attention. These children spent their adolescence in a time when science-fiction was in decline and Hollywood had almost killed off the traditional action genre. Suddenly, fantasy was king.

The other low point of Game Of Thrones was its unashamed use of sex to attract new, younger fans. This isn’t a new thing – even Homeland, a more serious (grown up?) show that ran over the same period, had more than its fair share of tits on display in its first season. Game Of Thrones seemed to relish in its portrayal of the female body though. You have to wonder how many of its hardcore fan-base came to the show primarily for this; came for the clunge, stayed for the dragons.

Hit: Leaving Shire

Hidden Gem: The Old Forest

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Rocks In The Attic #726: Joe LoDuca – ‘The Evil Dead – A Nightmare Reimagined (O.S.T.)’ (1981)

RITA#726The soundtrack rights to Sam Raimi’s original Evil Dead from 1981 have been in a legal quagmire for a very long time. Whoever owns them has them locked away in a cabin in the woods somewhere, probably in the root-cellar. In a weird twist, the original composer Joe LoDuca owns his score, but not the rights to the original recording, and so a long-overdue reissue of the score seems about as realistic as Donald Trump achieving world peace.

This year, LoDuca and Mondo Records has given us the next best thing – a full re-recording of the score, in a disgustingly beautiful green, yellow and purple swirl vinyl with red splatter. Pitched as a ‘reimagining’ of the soundtrack, it sounds similar enough to the original score with the main difference being the orchestration, both in size and scope. It sounds bigger and brighter than it did back in 1981, the same but different.

RITA#726aThe Evil Dead was one of the first horror films I saw in my early teens. Alongside the Friday The 13th and Halloween films, Sam Raimi’s second full-length feature made a big impression on me. It wasn’t until much later that I realised that it also made a big impression on New Zealand filmmaker Peter Jackson, who took the film’s DIY special-effects ethos as the basis for his first feature Bad Taste.

I still love the first Evil Dead. It was improved on greatly in the 1987 sequel, itself more of a remake than a continuation, but the original still stands as a classic of its genre. The 2013 remake / reboot, which in a weird twist of fate (given the Peter Jackson connection) was filmed in New Zealand, was just a mess, a dirge of a film. Just like the root-cellar, avoid at all costs.

Hit: Main Title

Hidden Gem: A Nightmare Reimagined / Overture

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Rocks In The Attic #616: Alfred Hitchcock – ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents Ghost Stories For Young People’ (1962)

RITA#616I took part in a trivia night last week, an annual event organised by the company I work for. Our team came a respectable sixth out of twenty five teams, but as always with these things a couple of questions really got under my skin.

In the Entertainment round, one of the questions was Which individual has won the most Oscars (28 in total)?

Now I should know this sort of thing. Ask me about which film has won the most, or which actor or actress has won the most, or even which three films have won all five major Oscars, and I’ll answer spot on, but this one had me stumped.

The rest of my team immediately suggested famous actors. I knew it wouldn’t be this – most actors do one thing and one thing only, with a small handful of people spreading their talents to directing or producing. Somebody else suggested Hitchcock, but if there’s one thing I do know, it’s that the Academy famously snubbed Hitch (he was nominated five times for Best Director, never winning, and only won once for Best Picture with 1940’s Rebecca).

Somebody else suggested Weta Workshop, Peter Jackson’s special effects studio – as New Zealanders love to talk about their own accomplishments, so the quiz writers could have put this in purposefully – but the question did state ‘individual’, and anyway, if it had been Weta Workshop all of New Zealand would know about it (and I’m sure a long-standing effects house like ILM would have won more craft Oscars than a relative newbie like Weta).

It had to be a producer, I thought, somebody who would spread their mark over a number of projects or even take the credit for the work of others. The mention of Hitchcock led me to think of Hitchcock’s American producer before he broke away and signed with Universal. But what the hell was his name? A big name producer, the kind of man with a name as big as the movies he made.

Hitchcock’s producer, Hitchcock’s producer, damn, what was his name? This reminded me of the time I started my GCSE History exam question on the development of the assembly line and mass production, looked at the question and immediately pulled a blank on the name of Henry Ford. Without remembering his name, I couldn’t tackle the question and had to resort to answering the alternative question instead.

What the hell was Hitchcock’s producer’s name? At any other time, I’d be looking on my phone for the answer, but they tend to frown on that sort of thing when you’re in the middle of a pub quiz. I had to rely on my failing memory instead.

Of course, if I had remembered David O. Selznick’s name, it would have been wrong anyway. He only won two Oscars for Best Picture (Rebecca and Gone With The Wind).

The answer – the individual who won the most Oscars – was Walt Disney of course; all for short films and documentaries. Everybody around the table kicked themselves, and we moved onto the music round, which we aced.

Just like I had predicted with my original idea around a producer taking the credit for the work of somebody else, I wonder if Walt had won his Oscars fair and square? Maybe it was a case of – to paraphrase a joke – What’s the difference between Walt Disney and Bing Crosby? Bing Crosby gives credit to others, but Walt Disney.

Hit: The Haunted And The Haunters (The Pirate’s Curse)

Hidden Gem: Johnny Takes A Dare (The More The Merrier)

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