High-fives to all the staff and volunteers of the 12th annual Whistler Film Festival for throwing down another fantastic fest. Congratulations also to Picture Day, a flick produced by Whistler's own Peter Harvey that took top spot in the Borsos Competition for Best Canadian Feature. Winning large in your hometown festival has got to be unreal and Pete, currently living and working out of Toronto, is a true testament to the calibre of filmmaking talent Whistler is capable of producing. WFF is the real deal.
And as a sort of denouement, it's a very quiet week at the Village 8 but James Bond Skyfall is still playing as is Red Dawn (Sat/Sun only), and starting late Thursday night (13th) our little movie house will finally be ushered into the digitally driven future of cinema while at the same time is delivered right back to Middle Earth. Yup, The Hobbit is here, in 2 and 3D.
The Hobbit is, of course, a prequel story to the epic Lord of the Rings films. Author JRR Tolkien originally wrote this story of unlikely hero Bilbo Baggins as a 300-page kids' book but LOTR director Peter Jackson and his screenwriters (including Guillermo Del Toro) have adapted The Hobbit into another trilogy with this first installment, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, running almost three hours in length.
Tolkien's tale sees Bilbo thrust into a pack of adventuring dwarves on a mission to reclaim their homeland from a badass dragon named Smaug and along the way stuff happens. Jackson keeps that story intact but pads it out with alternate beginnings, scenes gleaned from other Tolkien writings, and some stuff fabricated just for the sake of dishing up more Middle Earth to an incredibly ravenous audience (LOTR trilogy grossed over $3 billion).
Does The Hobbit drag a little bit? Sure, tangents abound and the 40-minute set-up could have been half that but Peter Jackson has proven he can build a trilogy to perfection if allowed a bit of time and space to set things up as he wishes. Part of the problem of dividing one book into three movies is the lack of a unifying villain in this first section but Bilbo's character arc carries the story, the climax with Gollum is utterly kick-ass, and there are some epic battle sequences to keep the synapses firing.
Expectations are incredibly high for these films, as is nervousness — it wasn't so long ago that film lovers got nut-kicked with Star Wars: The Phantom Menace — but while Peter Jackson may find it difficult to duplicate his near-perfect filmmaking from LOTR, he's still gonna deliver some great movies.
On the technical side, Jackson shot The Hobbit at 48 frames-per-second, twice the normal speed of traditional film. Many critics are claiming this makes the action sequences smoother and the stunning New Zealand landscapes more impressive but others say it overexposes the light parts of the frame and makes the CGI more apparent. Some even claim the new frame rate makes all the characters' movements look "weird and fake-looking" even when they're just walking across the screen. A 24fps version is also released but I don't know what version the Village 8 will be showing. Hopefully both and then we can decide for ourselves.
The Dark Knight Rises and Lawless are both on DVD and download this week and there's a free screening of Electronic Awakening at the Savage Beagle on Dec. 9. It's a film about "Electronic Dance Music Culture" which means it will probably be way too tweaker for me, but there's no shortage of k-holers in town who will certainly enjoy it.