Friday, October 13, 2017

Liverpool is Birmingham!

So, more signs that make it look as if the in-the-works Tolkien biopic may actually happen: they're scouting out sites where they might do location filming. At least that's what I gathered from the following little piece posted yesterday:

https://www.prolificnorth.co.uk/2017/10/new-tolkien-film-to-start-shooting-in-liverpool/

So, many things can and no doubt will go wrong with this project, but it's still live at this point, which is further than any previous such effort got.

And now to find out more about, so as to decide whether or not to watch, the latest 'based-on-a-true-story' film about a twentieth century British author, GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN.

Which, based on Christopher Milne's own account of his childhood in his excellent autobiography, sounds like it's the 'good parts' version, not particularly close to the facts. We'll see.

--John R.
--last day at Archives

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Another Lydney Dog?

So, my forthcoming piece on The Great God Nodens*  includes a section about one among the many mysteries associated with the site of his Temple: lots of dogs, including what's been called the best Roman bronze found in Britain.** Stone dogs, bronze dogs, ceramic dogs, even at least one depiction of a dog on pottery.

It's not surprising then that my attention was drawn to recent news from Gloucestershire, the county in which Noden's temple was found, about the discovery of a bronze dog, one already being associated w. the healing god Aesculapius.***


https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/sep/27/metal-detectorists-unearth-unique-hoard-of-roman-artefacts


What's striking about this report is the secrecy involved. The actual site of the discovery is being kept secret --which suggests that they may think there's more there to be found. The artifacts themselves are not on display but are also being kept at a secret location. We may find out that the discovery was near the site of Noden's Temple, or elsewhere in the Forest of Dean, or somewhere near Gloucester. Time, and follow-up reports, will no doubt tell.


--John R.
current reading: ON EAGLES' WINGS by Anna Thayer


*(or, to be more precise, on the background to Tolkien's piece on Nodens)

**so dubbed by Mortimer Wheeler, who was given to grandiosity

***the idea being that the dog has his tongue out because it's been trained to lick people's wounds in order to promote healing

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Hobbit Camp (1977)

So, thanks to Janice S. for the link to this strange, strange story.

http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/hobbit-camps-fascism-italy

Essentially this tells the story of Tolkien's appropriation in the Italy of the 1970s by 'Traditionalism',
a counter counter-culture movement who even staged their own right-wing Woodstock. Which they chose to call "CAMPO HOBBIT", deliberately evoking Tolkien's character. The movement seems to have fallen apart after 1981, but it's disconcerting to see Tolkien's characters used in such a context and for such a purpose.

And equally disturbing to hear that in these days, with the resurgence of white supremacy here and abroad, that this past summer saw a new such gathering forty years on, "Campo Hobbit 40"

The author of the piece, John Last, concludes that

"Middle Earth remains an empty stage onto which ideologues of all stripes can project their politics."

Except, I wd say, it's not. Middle-earth isn't an empty stage: Tolkien has plenty of ideas, strongly and subtly presented, such as his championing of anarchism with the Ents and their Moot, or his critique of apartheid in Bree. You have to willfully misapprehend him, picking and choosing with deliberation aforethought, to get a White Supremacist tract out of THE LORD OF THE RINGS, much less THE HOBBIT.

Given the climate of our times, and previous attempts by various unsavory groups to claim Tolkien as one of their own,* I think we can expect to see more pieces like this. Unfortunately.

--John R.

current reading: ON EAGLES' WINGS by Anna Thayer (2016), a book on Tolkien's use of deus ex machina, and HUEY P. LONG: SOUTHERN DEMAGOGUE OR AMERICAN DEMOCRAFT? ed. Henry C. Dethloff (1967).


*e.g the notorious 'That Noble Northern Spirit'.


Friday, October 6, 2017

Tolkien Spotting: the Italian Princess

So, thanks to the good folks at the Archives (thanks Mark; thanks Bill), I became aware of the passing Tolkien reference in the October/November issue of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC: TRAVELER. In the middle of a piece about Sicily, the author encounters Princess Vittoria Alliata di Villafranca, an expert on the Middle East with a doctorate in Islamic studies, author of several books, "including the Italian translation of The Lord of the Rings" (p. 49). A background in Islamic studies seems to be an unusual mix with translating Tolkien; just goes to show the wide array of interests among Tolkienists, here and elsewhere.

--John R.








Monday, October 2, 2017

I'm at Marquette

So, as of yesterday (after a far too early flight) I'm back in Milwaukee again for another research trip delving into the Tolkien manuscripts here at the Archives. Today was mostly spent reading through  my notes and comparing it against the material I've come to work with -- I have to remind myself where I was when I broke off last time; it takes a while to re-engage with such complex material.

This time rather than staying in on-campus housing I'm in a historic hotel not far from the lake, in a neighborhood with lots of cream city brick buildings all around. A beautiful place that's seen better days but has a lot of character (from what I've seen of them some of the clientele seem to be characters as well). Rather to my surprise, it reminds me of several of my old apartments during my grad school years at Marquette, especially the one on Walker.

So, here's hoping the project goes well, I get lots done, and I don't catch pneumonia like I did last time I came to Milwaukee (which played havoc with my ability to do the research I'd come to do).

--John R.
current music: Alan Parsons & his project, on the I-pod
current reading: THE FIRST FOSSIL HUNTERS, suggesting that legends of the titans and cyclops  and griffins were inspired by Greek and Roman discoveries of huge fossil bones.
current anime: CLASSROOM OF THE ELITE (wrapped up just before the trip)


Saturday, September 30, 2017

Cat-Walking Wednesday

Just two cats in the cat-room this week, so we were able to give nice long walks to both.

Tiffany had both cats out and in a mellow mood when I arrived, each relaxed and sleeping curled up on or by the bench not far from each other in the outer room. 

We walked Avry first. And, as usual, at first she just kept making bee-lines from wherever I set her down back to the cat-room door. While good exercise, this didn’t seem the best use of her out-of-the-room time. So we carried her over to the far side of the store, setting her down in the training room. After exploring for a bit she did her usual little flirting game, rubbing up against things and weaving in and out among the stools and getting her leash tangled up. After a while we opened the door and she walked around that side of the store for a while. She was out for about forty minutes, maybe a bit more.

Then it was Tris’s turn. As usual she greatly enjoyed just being out of the room, rolling belly-up on the tiles. Then she had a good time walking around the near half of the store. She was very sociable, going up and rubbing up against people to get their attention. Be warned, however, that when she’s belly-up she may look like she’s asking for a belly rub, but she’s not. She was also out for a good long spell, about forty minutes or so.

One thing I noticed: either TIffany is a really good cat-walker, or the cats really like having two walkers to one cat, or both. Both cats were much less hesitant to venture into a new aisle or go into a new area than tends to be the case when I walk them one-on-one. 



Health concern: Tris has a lot of little scabs, especially around her neck. Got a few loose ones off; the rest shd come in time. Think she also has a little cat-acne on her chin, but she wasn’t at all interested in my doing anything about it. Her ears seem okay, at least on a quick check. Cleaned up her bottom some with a wet cloth, which was about her least favorite thing in the world.  Also used another wet cloth to remove some loose fur along her back — she wasn’t sure whether she liked that or not. 

Avry seems to be doing well. She definitely likes having the big cage all to herself, especially having the high ground so nobody can sneak up on her.
]

—John R.

Friday, September 29, 2017

This Could Be For Real (Tolkien Biopic)

So, I've been on the record since about the time the HOBBIT films wound down, saying that the next Tolkien film we'd be seeing would not be anything from THE SILMARILLION (to which the studios don't own the rights) or one of Tolkien's minor works (much as I'd enjoy seeing a film of FARMER GILES OF HAM or THE FATHER CHRISTMAS LETTERS), but a film about Tolkien himself.

There have been rumors and announcements over the past few years about this person or that person's plan to make such a film, all of which have, so far as I cd tell, evaporated without leaving any trace behind.

The latest such announcement, however, sounds less ephemeral than most:

http://deadline.com/2017/07/jrr-tolkien-film-dome-karukoski-director-the-lord-of-the-rings-the-hobbit-1202134806/

Rather than just someone's announcing they'd like to do such a film, this has an actual director attached to the project (Dome Karukoski), and a pair of scriptwriters (David Gleeson and Stephen Beresford*), and even a production company (Chernin Entertainment, apparently with the backing of Fox Searchlight). Best of all, it has an entry in the imdb: 


The synopsis here reads: "J.R.R. Tolkien, a love lorn soldier, draws from an epic life on his return from the Great War to create one of the greatest works of literature in "The Lord of the Rings"." -- which makes it sound as if somebody owes Humphrey Carpenter and John Garth a credit. The imdb page also gives the film an alternate title:  A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS.


The deadline.com announcement had a more detailed synop: 

"explores the formative years of the orphaned author as he finds friendship, love and artistic inspiration among a fellow group of outcasts at school. This takes him into the outbreak of World War I, which threatens to tear the “fellowship” apart. All of these experiences would inspire Tolkien to write his famous Middle-Earth novels."


One description thus focuses on the love story and the other on the TCBS.


Perhaps one thing which makes this iteration seem more real than those preceding it is that this one has an actor attached to it to play the lead part: Nicholas Hoult. 

http://deadline.com/2017/07/nicholas-hoult-jrr-tolkien-movie-the-hobbit-x-men-dark-phoenix-1202135614/

Best known for playing the lovestruck zombie in WARM BODIES, Hoult seems to be making a specialty lately of playing historic figures in a series of recent films: Nikola Tesla, J. D. Salinger, and now Tolkien. More promising, he's also the voice of Fiver in a new adaptation of WATERSHIP DOWN.

Recently they've added an actress to play Edith T as well: Lily Collins  (daughter of musician Phil Collins, formerly of Genesis):

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2934314/?ref_=tt_cl_t1

So at least they got a pair of English actors to play the leads, rather than Americanizing the project.


There are a million things that cd go wrong this this project, assuming it ever gets from "pre-production" (= nobody's filmed anything yet) into actually getting filmed, and even released. But already this is the farthest anyone's gotten on an idea that's been kicking around Hollywood's collective mind ever since the last of Peter Jackson's billion dollar babies left the theatres.


Whether it'll actually be any good is of course impossible to tell at this early stage.

The thing Tolkienists will have to keep reminding ourselves of is that the words "based on a true story" = "this is a work of fiction". 

I expect 'creative embellishments' in a Tolkien biopic to be much harder to take, personally, than any adaptation of his work cd be (esp. since Tolkien himself sold the rights for LotR and H to be made into film, yet eschewed biographical inquiry with some insistence).

In short, we know Tolkien himself wd have hated the v. idea. But it looks like it's coming, if not now and with this team then down the road with another. Those of us who cd look on with equanimity at  the outrage of C. S. Lewis fans at Anthony Hopkins portrayal of CSL in SHADOWLANDS** are about to find it's our turn now.


--John R

*note that only Gleeson appears on the imdb page; can't say whether this is for reasons of space Beresford's leaving the project. Time perhaps will tell.

**or Johny Depp's depiction of J. M. Barrie in FINDING NEVERLAND (which actually made Barrie a good deal more normal that he was)