…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “Ian McKellen

90’s Showdown: Ian McKellen


It’s easy to do an impression of Ian McKellen, with recognizable, guttural vice that he uses whether he’s Gandalf or here in Gods and Monsters as James Whale. I have resented veteran actors for being too recognizable, that most of them can no longer disappear or change into a different way of looking or speaking. But why change what the audience expects from them.

James Whale is one of the male versions of Blanche Dubois, having the same vanity and nostalgia towards the successes of their youth. But he seems relaxed although his few years of has passed, finding different ways of expression and inspiration and making those new methods seem as healthy until we the audience realize that it’s not.

Cover of "Gods and Monsters"

Cover of Gods and Monsters

He’s also more aware of how others look at his age and sexuality, as James finds amusement at how he freaks younger men out. He’s also a mad scientist like the characters that real James Whale have directed on film, enforcing his monstrous, warped visions on the younger men, especially his gardener turned muse Clay Boone (Brendan Fraser before he got creepy himself). The way he treats Clay shows that he can’t maintain a stable and platonic partnering. But during the dissolution of James and Clay’s relationship, and despite Clay’s tears we never lose sympathy for the former.

(Give Ian McKellen a monstrous help by voting for him in Andrew’s Showdown)


LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring


While watching  Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring on the big screen, my friends, as you, realize that I have never seen it until now. Yeah, it’s really sad.

Movies with people with long hair look more dated than movies with people with short hair. This is the conclusion I got from looking at Frodo Baggins’ (Elijah Wood) hair. But I don’t say the word dated as an insult and other elements in the movie that give it that vintage-y vibe. The colors here are deeper as opposed to saturated or drained. The CGI, which is unfortunately becoming director Peter Jackson‘s signature as of late, is almost absent if not beautifully seamless.

And yes, I’m surprised at how Peter Jackson-y this movie is, having fewer similarities with King Kong and more with his earlier and raw work like Heavenly Creatures. He takes shots of Frodo and other characters in a voyeuristic way through windows or  through uncomfortable arm’s-length distances. It’s also close-up heavy, like that of Gandalf the Grey’s (Ian McKellen) who makes us feel like he’s larger than life. Jackson also gives that sense of urgency, telling Frodo, and us the audience, about strange lands from which Hobbits are supposed to stay away. In the same vein, tracking shots and zoom outs, like the one when Gandalf visits Saruman (Christopher Lee), have just enough wobble to let its audience know that a human being is behind the camera.

After a prologue, this trilogy starts with peace, showing the Hobbits living within the greenery of the Shire. Short shot lengths follow the unnamed citizenry of Hobbiton, their images accompanied by the bucolic music. The Hobbits seem immortal and magical but they’re more relatable because their lives aren’t as busy as the other races living miles away. The movie is more famous for its fantasy and its battle scenes, but this beginning shows how the hobbits are beautifully oblivious towards what could be lost. The same short cuts are employed when other races disturb the peace, as Jackson introduces the black riders. His camera bordering on sadomasochistic fetishism as he closes up on their hooded heads and horses’ hooves or mouths – i.e. they might be scary but those armored gloves look shiny and intricate. And when the Uruk-hai assemble their army, the Orcs’ faces crying out for battle.

The same rapid cuts are used when Arwen (Liv Tyler), a female elf, rescues Frodo, a male, and says something in Elvish to wash the black riders away. I mention the genders to obviously point out how the scene subverts expectations towards them. The only other thing I can say about that is that it reminds me of how these horses are weapon as they were used in historical crusades, the riders evoking evil Conquistadors while Arwen rides on with her virtuous looking white horse. It’s an intensely badass scene, transitioning into one of two hallucinatory hazes, the first one involving Frodo convalesces in Rivendell, as he sees other elves comforting him. These white flashes strangely fit into the movie itself.

Ok I lied. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen Fellowship, having seen glimpses of it when Teletoon was constantly playing this movie. They go to Mount Doom via the Mines of Moria where the titular fellowship made up of men of random races fight the Orcs. Gandalf and a Balrog have a death match culminating into Gandalf saying ‘YOU SHALL NOT PASS!,’ that seminal moment in gay history. Gandalf’s loss is one of two blows against the fellowship, but I held back my tears because rangers from the noble race of Men like Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) and Boromir (Sean Bean) are on the screen. I had this irrational feeling that if I did cry, those men would have jumped off the screen and made fun of me for being such a wuss. Which says a lot about how it handles that event, these characters gaining control despite Gandalf’s absence.

The rest of this leg of the epic journey is pretty masculine with the well representation of Aragorn and Boromir, but it’s  masculine in a valiant and not in a constricting way. The movie also questions that aspect of themselves, with Aragron’s self loathing doubts and Boromir’s close calls with temptation. It’s a great story about clashes and friendship set in the most luscious of fantasy worlds.