From the Inbox: Miscellany, with Hobbits

What with the one-two punch of Winter Reading and the Procrastinators’ Gift Guide — which, naturally, I procrastinated working on — my inbox has been slowly and steadily filling itself up with interesting yet uncommented-upon things. Thursday late morning is as good a time as any to post a rundown of a few Items of Note I’ve been unintentionally ignoring until now:

Sadly, we missed the Ursula K. Le Guin reading that was held last month to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Northwest Review. (This is one I would have liked to have cover in the paper, but we didn’t get the info in time. Rats!) I’ve loved Le Guin since I was about nine and my mother read A Wizard of Earthsea to me when I was sick; it was like magic, and I started feeling better immediately — yet I always miss her appearances. What’s my problem?

Also back in November, Wandering Goat barista Jordan Barber was one of six finalists in Seattle’s Northwest Regional Barista Competition. “Barber’s signature drink, Il Con Panna Proibito, was composed of an espresso shot topped with whipped cream infused with an organic apple cider, vanilla, and cinnamon, reduction and will be available to customers Friday afternoons 1-7 throughout November and December at the Wandering Goat Coffee Shop located at 268 Madison St.,” says the press release. Damn, that sounds good. Might have to go try one tomorrow. Congrats to Jordan! And congrats also to Goat barista Bev Edge and the other lass (whose name I missed) for their lovely rendition of “Winter Wonderland” at last weekend’s Fast Computers Holiday Spectacular at Sam Bond’s. More on that … later.

More congratulations are due to the two area winners of Oregon Book Awards: Alison Clement of Corvallis for Twenty Questions (reviewed here) and UO prof Garrett Epps for Democracy Reborn: The Fourteenth Amendment and the Fight for Equal Rights in Post-Civil War America.

As everyone knows by now, director Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema have resolved their various differences and are now teamed up for an adaptation of The Hobbit — and a post-Hobbit tale that, if what I’ve read is correct, borrows from Tolkien’s notes to fill in the time between Bilbo’s returning to the Shire at the end of The Hobbit and then his (reluctant) passing of the Ring to Frodo at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring (please let it be about the wizards!). I’ve read some very entertaining snarky commentary on what exactly happened in those Middle-earth years, but frankly, I don’t care — if it looks like Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films, I’m there, and several times over. But there’s the problem: Jackson isn’t directing. He’s executive producing, so he’s involved, but with The Lovely Bones and Tintin (which I was excited about until I realized they’re doing it Beowulf-style, which even the presence of Andy Serkis cannot make up for) on his plate, the man’s apparently just too busy. According to The New York Times, Sam Raimi has expressed interest in directing.

Let me back up a second: When I first read that Jackson would be involved in The Hobbit, I actually jumped up and down for joy. Suzi can vouch for this. But Sam Raimi? He of the moderately entertaining Spider-man, the horribly overrated Spider-man 2 and the Spider-man 3 that I couldn’t actually bring myself to watch after so many people fell all over themselves proclaiming the greatness of the tedious second film? Please, please, no.

Problem is, I can’t think of who I would like to direct, assuming we fanboys and girls can’t have Jackson — the obvious first and best choice. Suzi suggested Alfonso Cuarón, but I think The Hobbit is a bit too bright and happy a story for him, really, as much as I love every one of his films that I’ve seen. Obviously, Chris Weitz is out; for some of the many reasons why, look for a later post in which Suzi and I dissect every tiny thing that was wrong with The Golden Compass.

For inspiration, I looked at my running list of the films I’ve most enjoyed this year, and it gave me a few ideas, if somewhat unorthodox ones:

1. Brad Bird. Sure, he’s made his name in animation, but he’s got an unbeatable sense of pacing and character, and if he could make Bilbo half as endearing as Remy the rat, he’d be set.

2. Matthew Vaughn. Sure, Stardust was a touch frenzied, but he got the tone right — he SO got the tone right. And the casting. The Hobbit isn’t as serious and dark as the rest of LOTR; with Jackson looking over his shoulder, I’m downright certain Vaughn could do a damn good job with it.

3. Edgar Wright. Sure, he’s funny. But I’d like to see him do something a little different. I’d also like to see Simon Pegg playing a dwarf. Don’t kill me for that. (Really, this is a sort of off-the-wall notion, but I kind of think these guys could do anything.)

4. Agnieszka Holland. What, you haven’t seen Olivier Olivier? Get thee to a rental store, or put it on your Netflix queue. She also directed the beautiful, underseen 1993 version of The Secret Garden.

5. Bryan Singer. The golden boy could thereby redeem himself for handing over X3 to Brett Ratner. Plus, I rather liked Superman Returns.

6. Kathryn Bigelow. Sure, she’s sort of gone missing lately, and I’ve got nothing to say about K-19: The Widowmaker. But Strange Days has its strange, strange charm, and I’ve always thought she had some untapped potential.

It would have been so much easier to make a list of people who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near this production.

Anyway, who do you think should get The Hobbit’s reins?