Leo Grin

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Bored with the Good: The Ennobling Fantasy of J.R.R. Tolkien Part 4

It seems hard to remember now that there was a time when the American counterculture embraced J.R.R. Tolkien and his masterpiece. Groovy dudes in pipe-weed jerkins yelling “Go Go Gandalf,” walls covered with graffiti proclaiming “Frodo Lives!”, and election-year “Gandalf

Eucatastrophe: The Ennobling Fantasy of J.R.R. Tolkien Part 3

At heart, the works of J.R.R. Tolkien — The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and even the often bleak and sad Silmarillion — are kindly works, not bitter and cynical ones. He was not interested in leaving his readers

The Order of Grace: The Ennobling Fantasy of J.R.R. Tolkien, Part 2

In 1944, J.R.R. Tolkien was tickled to receive a charming letter from a twelve-year-old Yankee praising The Hobbit, released seven years prior. It was, said the lad, “the most wonderful book I have ever read. It is beyond description. Gee

The Bankrupt Nihilism of Our Fallen Fantasists

I used to think I was a fan of the genre known today as fantasy, and specifically the subgenres of High Fantasy and Sword-and-Sorcery. This was due to a number of factors. A childhood imagination dominated by Dungeons & Dragons.

Ronald Reagan and the Optimistic Cinema of the 1980s

Living in California and having as friends many artists, writers, and poets (all of them, to a one, blissfully, unreflectively liberal), I often have the opportunity to hear them wax poetic about the Golden Age of their lives: the late

How TV Shows Get Ruined: 'Human Target'

At the urging of a friend, I recently plowed through all twelve episodes of the first season of the Fox action/adventure series Human Target (2010) on DVD. He thought I’d like it, and he was right. Loosely based off of

Netflix, Redbox, and the Future of Hollywood

Over the last year I watched an interesting mini-social experiment play out: my sixty-something parents trying out Netflix. The company’s now-famous little red envelopes first gained fame around the time the dot-com boom went bust in early 2000. Video rental

The Decline of the Moviegoing Experience: Program Booklets

Cleaning out some old books in preparation for an impending move, I came across some items that reminded me about how precipitous the drop in the quality of the moviegoing experience has been. Believe it or not, there was a

A Tale of Three 'True Grits'

When the Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan, announced that they were going to remake True Grit, it sparked all of the usual arguments about the merits and demerits of such undertakings. The first film, released in 1969, sits in the

Top 5: Christmas Crooners

There’s been a dearth of Yuletide material here at Big Hollywood this month, so as The Most Wonderful Day of the Year draws nigh, let’s spend some time saluting the five men whose voices echo most strongly through the Christmas

Top 5: Blu-rays for Christmas

Yesterday I walked into my local supermarket to find they already had a massive Christmas tree up ornamented with gift cards. Yes, it’s quickly approaching “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” and that means gifts to buy, preferably before

TOP 5: Reasons Zombies Reign As Horrordom's #1 Monsters

With Hallowmas upon us, I thought I would go over the reasons why I consider zombies to be the greatest monsters yet invented, a sort of grand synthesis of all of the best elements of previous fright-mongers. See if you

How Minimum Wage Laws Helped Ruin The Moviegoing Experience

There’s an Ed McBain police procedural novel (Poison, I think it was), where the cops take a statement from a man accused of gunning someone down in a movie theater. The suspect explains how the deceased kept talking and talking

Top 5: Actors Who've Become Hams

We’ve all watched well-known, highly regarded actors for the umpteenth time on screen — perhaps even raucously enjoying both their performance and the movie — and thought about how painfully derivative and self-referential they’ve become. Somewhere along the way, over

Top 5: Actors We Trust

In the Age of the Hollywood Sucker Punch, betting your time and dollars on movies and TV is more perilous than ever. As often as not, you can expect to fork over $20-$40 at the theater expecting to laugh, cry,

Top 5: Most Anticipated Movies for Fall-Winter 2010

A good argument can be made that the period 2000-2009 was the single worst decade for movies in Hollywood history. Unfortunately, judging by what we’ve seen so far in 2010, the next decade could conceivably dip even lower into mediocrity.

Bring On 'The Expendables': I Was a Teenage 'Expendable'

Rumor has it that Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables marks a return to the glory days of 1980s action mayhem and pro-American machismo. Its appearance on the cultural horizon has certainly stirred up memories of my mid-Eighties, Midwestern suburban adolescence. It

Death of the Movie Star: Overpaid and Overrated

Pop quiz: what do the following movies have in common? Gone with the Wind (1939), Star Wars (1977), The Sound of Music (1965), E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), The Ten Commandments (1956), Titanic (1997), Jaws (1975), Doctor Zhivago (1965), The Exorcist