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Lording it over the Oscars?

The J. R. Tolkien classic, "Lord of the Rings", has all but sewn up the Best Picture Academy Award, says ANAND PARTHASARATHY.


COMING ONLY a day after the Golden Globe awards of the Hollywood Foreign Press were announced, this year's Oscar nominations only underlined the general feeling that the final instalment of Peter Jackson's ambitious screen trilogy based on the J. R. Tolkien classic, "Lord of the Rings", has all but sewn up the Best Picture Academy Award - and a handful of other Oscars. Virtually ignored except in some technical categories during the last two years, it looks as if voters are saying: Let's wait for the whole series to be over. We'll reward it at one go.


Indeed, the three parts totalling nine hours of screen time are being compared to other great multi-part movie making ventures of the past: "The Godfather" trilogy; the "Star Wars" saga, already 27 years and 5 instalments old with a sixth helping, due next year; the 2-part Russian version of "War and Peace"... Yet, fantasy stories have generally faired badly at the Oscar's Best Picture stakes: In 1940, "The Wizard of Oz" lost out to "Gone With The Wind"; in 1983, "Gandhi" pipped "E.T." to the post and even the highly fancied first "Star Wars" film lost to a low budget "Annie Hall" in 1978.

But Frodo and his half-human Hobbit friends from Middle Earth may change all that. That may be because for all the relentless sound and fury, of devastating assault on eye and ear, the last Rings film, like its two predecessors, found time for human drama - laced with some humour. That is not to say that viewing "Rings/3" is easy for those who are not hard-core fans of the Tolkien originals. The towering 3-part epic novel first published half a century ago, has sold 200 million copies worldwide with its war of mythic proportions in a world of magic and fantasy. Director Peter Jackson, who also shares the screenplay honours, is said to have a fetish for fidelity to the original novels, treating it as one would a historical happening. This is great — if one has already read and enjoyed the massive text; but for today's younger cinemagoers, a story in which the central characters are all pointy-eared creatures, may not immediately look like an afternoon's ideal `time passer'.



Director Peter Jackson

So, will Indian audiences lap up the new Rings film, like film-goers in the West? We will know very soon; the film opens its Indian run this week.


But as far as Oscar tallies go, this may be immaterial. Tolkien's original masterpiece began with the words: "Three rings for the Elven-kings under the sky, Seven for the Dwarf-Lords in their halls of stone, Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die, One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne, In the Land of Mordor, where the shadows lie." It remains only to add: How many rings on Oscar Night?

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