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Year of the Rings

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Year of the Rings
By Leonard Klady
Ring-a-ding ding!
The defining moment at the 76th Academy Awards occurred when Denise Robert, producer of The Barbarian Invasions, stood at the podium and said how grateful everyone involved with that film was that The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King didn’t qualify in the foreign-language film category. Of course, no one was accusing the makers of the J.R.R. Tolkien adaptation of being Elvish.
The nominees in cinematography and sound editing must have been harboring similar thoughts as the final installment of the trilogy was cited in every category it received a nomination. It was an unprecedented feat that’s difficult to argue, but let’s begin with the other honors, both awarded to craftsmen from Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.
In retrospect it’s rather amazing that cinematographer Russell Boyd, ASC was a first-time nominee, and certainly his work on the seafaring adventure was accomplished and distinctive without drawing undue attention. Fellow nominee John Schwartzman, ASC had received the award from his guild brethren for Seabiscuit, but Academy members generally appeared to be favoring either Boyd or Eduardo Serra, ASC’s painterly work in Girl With a Pearl Earring.
In sound editing there was a general consensus that Richard King’s work on Master and Commander ought to be recognized on its own terms and as the representative of the overall craft in the picture. One Academy member noted with humor that after viewing the film, he emerged from the theater soaked from sea spray, and that, in no small part was the result of King’s contribution.
Since the debut of The Fellowship of the Ring in 2001, the trilogy has been cited by the Academy 28 times and taken home 17 golden statuettes. The arrival of the final installment brought into focus the full achievement of the Herculean undertaking and, in one respect, an opportunity to reward previous oversights. Over the course of the three installments, the series has been cited in each of the Academy’s craft and technical categories, including three consecutive awards for its visual effects.
The most conspicuous areas that required redress were arguably art direction and costume design. Production designer Grant Major and set decorators Dan Hennah and Alan Lee had already pocketed the guild award but had to be anxious, having previously been bested in the Oscar competition by Chicago and Moulin Rouge. Their creation of Middle Earth was seamless and conveyed an easy, natural environment only belied by five years of tireless work comparable in a curious way to a military campaign waged across a continent.
Richard Taylor, who co-created the costumes, already had his Oscar as part of the first film’s visual effects team. Co-nominee Ngila Dickson this time found herself also nominated for work on The Last Samurai but that didn’t split her votes. Perhaps the only slight disappointment for the production was in film editing. Though the Rings’ Jamie Selkirk prevailed, each of the prior episodes were cut and shaped by others and in part he has to know that he shares the honor with them.
So, in conclusion, all that need be said is: Long live the Rings!

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