Dec. 17 marks the theatrical release of
the final chapter in Peter Jackson’s brilliant adaptation of “The
Lord of the Rings” trilogy with “The Return of the King.” However,
this filmmaking triumph has yet to achieve the acclaim of Academy
gold. Despite pleasing audiences and critics alike in December,
come February, the Oscars have failed to recognize the importance
of the trilogy.

Kate Green

For the most part, the “major” awards don’t really mean anything
(Does anyone even want a Grammy?), but the Academy Awards are
considered by the masses to be of greater importance. For every
obvious winner like “The Godfather” in ’72 or “Schindler’s List” in
’94, there is an aberration in the system. In 1977, audiences saw
“Star Wars” nominated for Best Picture, yet Woody Allen’s “Annie
Hall” walked away with the prize. It’s 26 years later and there is
no doubt in which film is considered to be the superior picture
(prequels and special editions shouldn’t affect the legacy). The
year 1998 also featured a complete injustice with “Saving Private
Ryan” losing to the light romantic comedy “Shakespeare in Love.”
Sure “Shakespeare” and “Hall” are good, but clearly not of the
caliber of their opposition.

When New Line Cinema agreed to finance three films budgeted at a
combined $300 million with an unproven director and no major stars,
it took a major gamble. Now everyone is laughing all the way to the
bank as fans eagerly anticipate the conclusion to the battle for
Middle Earth. Jackson has crafted three films that will be far more
memorable and lasting than the past two movies that won the
Academy’s prize.

“A Beautiful Mind” was not the best picture of 2001 and Ron
Howard was not the best director. Sure, Russell Crowe gave a great
performance, but the movie, to be completely honest, sucks and will
be all but forgotten in a few years. Meanwhile, “The Fellowship of
the Ring” moved fantasy films back into the forefront and
reinvigorated the magic of Hollywood blockbusters. The ability for
“Fellowship” to resonate with so many different audiences can be
attributed to the beautiful direction of Jackson, which brought the
book to glorious visual life.

After failing to capture the big prize in 2001, the second
installment, “The Two Towers,” was defeated by the meager
competition. Instead, a glitzy adaptation of a Broadway musical,
“Chicago,” walked away with the big one and a suspected pedophile
won Best Director for another Holocaust piece, “The Pianist.” These
films have their merits, but neither has the scope nor the impact
of “The Two Towers.”

December is slowly coming to a close, and the deadline for Oscar
consideration is almost here. The year has seen some films that are
worthy of contention for Academy Awards, but none will leave the
historical impact of “Return of the King.” The Academy has one last
chance to make amends for two years of poor decisions and a final
opportunity to award Jackson and company for their gift to cinema.
If the trilogy concludes without winning either of the big awards,
then the Oscars will be devoid of any meaning.

We have been spoiled the past three years with each film’s
release, leaving less to look forward to next December. As the “The
Lord of the Rings” comes to a close, fans must also remember to
appreciate and celebrate the films. Thank you, Peter Jackson, thank
you, New Line, and thank you to everyone else involved in the
creation of these masterpieces. Hopefully, come next February, it
will be Jackson and crew delivering the “thank yous,” instead of
just another lowly writer.

– Rottenberg can be reached at
“mailto:arotten@umich.edu”>arotten@umich.edu.

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