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At the fringes of fandom. August 9, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in Uncategorized, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. I was stunned to read this morning that Target is planning to sell replicas of the mockingjay pin worn by Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. Mind you, there’s nothing stunning about Target or anyone else trying to cash in on the most popular series since Harry Potter. And I’m sure plenty of fans would love to show their loyalty to Katniss by wearing her mockingjay pin, so selling one would actually do them a service.

Here’s what’s stunning: The pin costs $999. Not $9.99 or even $99.99 (it’s 14-karat gold, so that would make sense). But $999.00. That’s more than $1,000 (once you add sales tax and/or shipping and handling) in these recessionary times, when many people don’t even have $1,000 in the bank and are living paycheck to paycheck. Assuming they’re even lucky enough to have jobs.

But Target’s apparently confident that the pins and other Hunger Games-related mechandise they’re offering will sell. You can also buy a replica of Katniss’s leather jacket, or a holographic poster signed by the cast of the movie (a steal at only $699!), on their website, www.target.com. Better rush on over before they sell out!

The sad thing is that I’m sure diehard fans will rush over and buy the stuff, whether they can afford to or not. One woman interviewed in the movie “Ringers,” about fans of The Lord of the Rings, said she’d sold her house so she could go to New Zealand for the premiere of “The Return of the King.” When asked if she regretted it, she replied that she’d do it again in a heartbeat. There are probably people out there who’d take out a home equity loan or take on a second (or third) job to buy that mockingjay pin or poster, and feel that it was money well spent. (Admittedly—but don’t tell our friend Ben!—I wouldn’t mind having a poster of Liam Hemsworth, who plays Gale Hawthorne in the films, myself. Lucky Miley Cyrus!)

But there must be a better—or at least, cheaper—way to express devotion to one’s fictional heroes than going bankrupt in their cause. There are plenty of affordable fan books, as well as serious works, out there on The Hunger Games already; search on Amazon and see for yourself. There’s a CD of the music, and the movie is due for release on DVD and Blu-Ray this month. There’s all sorts of more affordable paraphernalia, and there’s even a contest that fans can enter to win a visit to the set of the next movie in the series, “Catching Fire.” I don’t know if there are Hunger Games action figures like the ones that proved so popular after the Lord of the Rings movies were released, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

At any rate, I checked on Amazon to see if there were already mockingjay pins out there for eager fans who didn’t happen to have $1,000-plus in their pockets. And yes, there are lots of options, starting at $1.49. So please, don’t blow your budget on something you can’t afford. Leave those $999 pins to the 1% and live within your means. Perhaps you can turn your Hunger Games enthusiasm into creating something original and meaningful yourself.

            ‘Til next time,



A little treat for Tolkien fans. July 29, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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This Sunday’s “Cul de Sac” cartoon featured a little boy picking out a book in the library, when a second boy told him it was “derivative and thin, like watered-down Tolkien.” When the first boy’s mother asked him where the book was, he replied “I put it back. It’s derivative, watered-down tolking.” He thought “tolking” was some kind of obscure water sport! As all Tolkien lovers know, there’s a lot of “watered-down tolking” taking up shelf space out there.

Still, it’s hard to get enough Tolkien for the die-hard fan. Our friend Ben is really looking forward to the film version of “The Hobbit,” especially now that I know that the wonderful Martin Freeman, who plays Dr. Watson in “Sherlock,” will be starring as Bilbo, and that Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Sherlock himself, will have dual roles as the voices of the dragon Smaug and “the Necromancer” (can you say “Sauron”?). Of course, I’m also looking forward to the return of the priceless Andy Serkis as Gollum and my hero, the (apparently) immortal Christopher Lee, as Saruman. Rumor has it that director Peter Jackson is now planning to turn “The Hobbit” into a trilogy; I hope he’s able to pull it off, since The Hobbit is by far my favorite of Tolkien’s books.

But there’s still quite a stretch of time before even the first part is released in December, so if you’re hungry for more, here’s a little gem our friend Ben discovered that has delighted me at least as much as—and possibly more than—the actual “Lord of the Rings” films. It’s called “Ringers,” and it’s a documentary of Tolkien fans, but it’s a lot more than that. It has lots of background information on Tolkien and his world, numerous interviews with the actors of the movies, behind-the scenes shots on location in New Zealand, insights from Peter Jackson and others involved in the film, as well as Discworld author Terry Pratchett, David Carradine, Lemmy of Motorhead, and a curious assortment of others. 

If you’re like our friend Ben, you’ll love the interviews with some of the more colorful Ringers (“Call me Grimlock!”), and with favorite actors like John Rhys-Davies. There’s a wonderful surprise appearance by Andy Serkis (in his own form but still Gollum through and through; one Ringer remarks “You’re looking a lot better these days!” to which he replies “Thanks, preciousssss!”). And you’ll be amazed—or perhaps not—at the lengths some Ringers will go to to get their Tolkien fix. (One woman sold her house so she could go to New Zealand for the premier.) Fans of Pippin will enjoy getting to hear more of Billy Boyd’s delightful Scottish accent.

As you might expect, Viggo Mortensen, who plays Aragorn and is himself a deeply literate author and poet, has considerable insight into Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings. But for our friend Ben, the best surprise of the film was the tremendously moving commentary of Sean Astin, who plays Samwise Gamgee, Frodo Baggins’s gardener and companion. In the films, his dialogue is mostly limited to “Mr. Frodo!”, “I’m coming, Mr. Frodo!” and “Don’t leave me, Mr. Frodo!” So it was wonderful and impressive to hear him expound on The Lord of the Rings in his interviews; his insights were the best of them all. Sadly, neither Christopher Lee nor another of our friend Ben’s favorites, Sean Bean (Boromir) were interviewed, but pretty much everyone else is there, with, of course, the exception of the Dark Lord Sauron himself. 

All this would make “Ringers” an exceptional documentary. But its creators have also added plenty of humor and cleverness in the way they treat the information. The scene in which they take down the early critics of The Lord of the Rings is worthy of Monty Python. If you’re used to documentary films being deadly serious, straight-ahead reporting, “Ringers” is a delightful, and delightfully funny, and ultimately delightfully human surprise. It’s one no Tolkien fan would want to miss.