As testament to the ageless appeal of this epic cycle, one 7-year-old wrote that he "liked the sneaky previews of the movie" and had hoped for a small poster insert, but settled on "cutting out all the pictures and saving them." Another diehard fan hailed the masterpieces of author J.R.R. Tolkien and director Peter Jackson as specific to "their own time and medium." Then there were the self-proclaimed nitpickers who weighed in with their own observations of our "gaffes," including that Deagal and "creepy" Smeagal are cousins, not brothers as we stated. But one aficionado clearly spoke for many when she breathlessly proclaimed: "It's good to see a 'Lord of the Rings' article that was *gasp* accurate, and to know I'm not the only 'Lord of the Rings' geek out there."
Bring On 'The Rings'
I greatly enjoyed your Dec. 1 cover story, "Hail to the Rings," particularly the discussion on the chances that the finale, "The Return of the King," has of winning the Oscar for best picture. While the final two installments of "The Matrix" were gut-wrenchingly awful and insulting, "The Lord of the Rings" movies leave their viewers in states of awe. The trailer for the third movie is already the best three minutes of film in 2003. It is time the Academy truly recognized a fantasy film for more than just technical awards. "Rings" is a masterful achievement in every aspect of filmmaking, from the superb acting to Peter Jackson's directing to Howard Shore's moving and thrilling score. It should not be penalized because of its popularity or supposedly light subject matter. It contains an immense amount of philosophical depth and religious insight. In January you predicted that 2003 would be the "Year of 'The Matrix'." I'm sorry, but it is the year of "The Lord of the Rings."
I'm glad the overpraised "Lord of the Rings" films are finally coming to an end. The world of these films is dreary and depressing, the "epic" battle scenes look like a bunch of computer pixels fighting one another and the story is, for lack of a better word, boring. I much prefer the other sci-fi/fantasy series of today, like the "Harry Potter" films, the "X-Men" franchise or the much-maligned but vastly superior "Matrix" films.
The "gaffes" sidebar about "the Lord of the Rings" contains an ironic error: the pictured orc, described as an Uruk-hai, is not an Uruk-hai. He's just a typical, weaker orc.
New York, N.Y.
Thanks to Jeff Giles for his wonderful report on "The Return of the King." I've been greatly anticipating the film and had read the book many times in my youth. The movie conclusion of this incredible trilogy has been my fantasy come true. After Ralph Bakshi's horrible animated interpretation in 1978, I despaired that any reasonable rendition--let alone an astounding one--could be achieved. Giles's report captures how I imagined the characters, the landscape, everything. However, does he mean to imply that Merry has no part in the downing of the Chief of the Ringwraiths? It was Merry's blow that toppled the Ringwraith and Eowyn's sword that killed him. He had a major part to play and is in all three movies, yet you made no mention of him in your article.
Scotts Valley, Calif.
Thank you for your cover story on "The Lord of the Rings." It was interesting to read about what goes on behind the scenes. I'm amazed by how well these movies have done at the box office. Fantasy movies have gotten a poor reputation over the years, but I think "The Lord of the Rings" will change that.
I enjoyed reading about peter Jackson's blunders on "The Return of the King." With an epic film like this, there are bound to be mistakes. But these blunders will fade to the back of audiences' memories. We will remember J.R.R. Tolkien's epic story told with flawless beauty and artistic mastery. I salute Peter Jackson for his superb accomplishment.
Paul Dale Roberts
Elk Grove, Calif.
Making Ends Meet
Thank you, Anna Quindlen, for pointing out what those of us who live on the brink of poverty have known for some time ("A New Kind of Poverty," The Last Word, Dec. 1). We are not thriving, just surviving. I am a college-educated high-school teacher and my husband owns a small business, yet every month is a game of who will get paid when, in order not to lose the cars or our small condominium, and pay for gas or food and the ever-increasing credit-card debt we cannot seem to get out from under. I live in one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, but because of my husband's business and because I carry the health insurance for the family it is impossible for us to relocate, but almost as impossible for us to stay. We will probably never be able to afford a home in our area. Saving for our two sons' college education is a constant worry even though we are middle class. Everyone I know is in the same predicament that we are. I wonder if those in Washington are even aware of us.
Anna Quindlen's essay on the plight of the working poor is long on hand-wringing and short on solutions. Presumably, Quindlen would address the problem with the usual liberal prescriptions: adopting universal health care, raising the minimum wage and increasing federally subsidized low-income housing. She would likely reject actions that could actually make a difference for the working poor: vigorously enforcing our immigration laws to decrease the nation's abundance of low-wage laborers and enacting meaningful reforms of public education so Americans have the ability to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. Indeed, she doesn't dwell on the notion of individuals' improving their standard of living through their own efforts. Quindlen fails to even acknowledge that the working poor bear some responsibility to adjust their family aspirations to what they can support. Even songbirds build nests before they lay their eggs.
Elk Ridge, Utah
How Many Cars Do We Need?
"Three For the Road" (Dec. 1) was right up my alley--or should I say driveway. I decided not to replace my 125,000-mile "mom taxi minivan" with a new one, because soccer cleats, food, soda, etc., from my four kids would probably make the new one feel old quickly. A side benefit is that there will be a lot less tension when a soda is spilled in the old van rather than a new one. The solution is to keep the old minivan, with its memorable dirt and stains, for the family and purchase a midlife-crisis Volkswagen Cabrio convertible, as I did. It's a lot more fun than a minivan!
Stacey J. Freling
I suggest reading Anna Quindlen's essay on the working poor before reading "Three for the Road." So the American household now needs a $35,000 third automobile as a "spare" and a three-car garage to keep it in, but we cannot sacrifice a tiny bit in order to spend a little more on health care, housing, education, the poor or our children's future? The automobile is such a good example of our greed. Even our children feel they must have a car to drive to a school that provides students with free bus rides--and not just a car, but a cool (read expensive) car. Previous generations, who worked hard and sacrificed so much to get us to this place, would be sad to observe the behavior of their rich, spoiled and shortsighted descendants.
Kenneth G. Wilson
Dripping Springs, Texas
As a financial adviser to retirees, I find your article "Three for the Road" disturbing. I would bet plenty of baby boomers are spending foolishly on cars and big toys and not saving for retirement. To whom are they going to leave the burden of Social Security and retirement funding? To their lone child who will one day pay outrageous taxes? Your article is a small example of how we, as a nation, will awake soon to a retirement nightmare. We have not connected the fact that children are our posterity and future prosperity, and that they need other children, not cars, cars, cars.
One motivation for having a third car is that it's a great investment that brings enjoyment to the family as well as possibly a better return than a 401(k). I would venture to say that more than 50 percent of those extra cars you describe fit in this category, even though they are driven sparingly, contributing greatly to our country's sense of history.
El Dorado Hills, Calif.
In "Three For The Road" you ask, "What's next?" for families with three cars and only two drivers. I hope it's an insurance company that recognizes that you can't--as in our case of having two drivers and four vehicles--have more than two vehicles in motion at a time. With New York state insurance rates, any company that would discount its rates based on this fact would probably entice me to switch. I certainly hope that's what's next.
Robert W. Cornell
Seneca Falls, N.Y.
The Meaning of Marriage
Can we set the record straight on gay marriage (" 'My Mommies Can Marry'," Dec. 1)? If you read the Bible, you find that for most of human history, marriage has been one man and several women simultaneously. It is the rare married man in the Bible who does not have multiple wives or concubines. For the first half of this country's history, slaves couldn't marry anyone--not even each other--because they were property. Interracial marriage was still illegal in some states until 1967, and that included all races, not just black and white. Marriage has changed radically and, praise God, will continue to do so.
Ladera Ranch, Calif.
The right is worried about the "sacred institution" of marriage? Would that be like the marriages of Michael Jackson? Or the millions that end in divorce, or the ones where the wife or children are beaten? I'd rather see a committed couple who love each other and try to do the best they can for each other and their children, no matter what the makeup of that couple. If any religion wants to believe that a marriage should consist only of one male and one female, that is its choice, but there is still a separation of church and state in this country, and some of us want it to stay that way.
Suzanne B. Libson
Who would benefit from banning gay marriages? Would it strengthen relationships? No. Would it increase heterosexual marriages? No. Would it reduce promiscuity? No. The sole effect of such legislation would be to put a legal stamp of approval on discrimination and homophobia. Marriage is more than a piece of paper. It is mutual respect, commitment, trust and love between two people. Gays and lesbians will continue to get married despite efforts to stop them. Let's hope that someday we will elect legislators who believe in the principle of equality for all people.
Iowa City, Iowa
In their story about the Massachusetts court decision concerning gay and lesbian couples, Howard Fineman and T. Trent Gegax say that "the Massachusetts court did away with" the distinction between civil-union law and the legal institution called marriage. In fact, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts did not decree that same-sex couples were entitled to marry. It said that they were entitled to "the protections, benefits and obligations of civil marriage." This means that the state legislature should find a way for them to have these "protections, benefits and obligations," not necessarily that it should allow them to get married.
Feeling Betrayed by AARP
I am one of millions of Americans who have had to go without certain medications because of cost. The new Medicare-reform bill the AARP endorsed appears to protect drug companies from competition and forbids importing prescription drugs from other countries, Canada in particular. Many of us will actually be worse off now that this bill has passed. I have to question whether the tens of millions of dollars the AARP will make from the passage of this bill influenced its judgment, or if its ruling council is no longer capable of representing our best interests.
John J. McGinty
Taking the words "retired persons" out of the title AARP is one thing. Stabbing the organization's older members in the back is another. There was a time when AARP opposed elder abuse. This 64-year-old member is outraged and out!
Thomas D. Corrigan
West Hartford, Conn.
I'm a retired senior on a limited, fixed income. Robert J. Samuelson's column "Medicare as Pork Barrel" (Dec. 1) actually got me feeling guilty about the cost of the new Medicare drug coverage, a cost that will be paid for by the young "who aren't paying attention, and so they're ignored." Then I read "Three for the Road," about the "American everyman" who now feels it's necessary to have an extra "date car" in his garage. Well, thanks, NEWSWEEK, for getting me off my guilt trip.
Mission Viejo, Calif.