March 7, 2004

Homie and I went and saw Hidalgo today. The thing about being as immersed in Lord of the Rings as I am... "WHAT?"... did I neglect to mention that I've been immersed in Lord of the Rings of late? Allow me to rectify.

December 2001: Fellowship of the Ring hits theatres. Gabrielle discovers Legolas.
November 2002: Fellowship of the Ring extended version DVD hits homes everywhere. Gabrielle discovers the wit of Billy and Dom. And discovers new scenes featuring the delicious Haldir. She idly wonders if he'll be seen again.
December 2002: The Two Towers hits theatres. Gabrielle's jaw hits the floor. Aragorn. Legolas. Faramir. Haldir. Eomer. So many men, so very little time.
November 2003: The Two Towers extended version DVD hits homes everywhere. Gabrielle falls in love with Billy and Dom. Much lamentation accompanies all several-dozen viewings of Haldir's death. A small memorial is set up.
December 2003: Return of the King hits theatres. The Greatest Movie Ever Made moves from hypothetical argument into reality. Leggy. Aragorn. Memories of Haldir. Faramir. Eomer. Merry. Wee Frodo. Pippin. Hail, hail, the gang's all here! Even Celeborn is oddly magnetic in his one silent scene.
January 2004: Having promised to wait a year to see Return of the King for the third time, Gabrielle is as good as her word. Action figures are collected. Elvish is studied. The names Craig Parker and David Wenham become commonplace. (Much to everyone else's chagrin.)
March 2004: Gabrielle and Homie go see Hidalgo.

The thing about being as immersed in Lord of the Rings as I am, is that whenever Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn for the uninitiated two) is forced to fight, I found myself wondering why the hell he was using a gun. He's got a sword whistling through the air towards his head. He jumps back and pulls his gun. "Draw your own sword, Aragorn!" I'm silently yelling at the screen. Then I remember. He's not Aragorn in this movie. He's Frank T. Hopkins. Horse whisperer, cowboy, endurance racer, sometime rodeo clown, possible fibber, and confirmed Mustang activist. Homie read this article that called bunk on many of Hopkins' claims including the one Hidalgo is based on - namely the riding and winning of the great "ocean of sand" race against Arabian stallions and Bedouin princes. When you see Hidalgo, though, truth fades into the background and you realize you don't care either way if Hopkins made the whole thing up or actually did what you're watching because the movie is well-filmed and quite riveting. But more than that, Viggo Mortensen is utterly and totally compelling. He has a way of embuing every character he touches with a kind of quiet nobility. The men he plays are usually put-upon, never without flaw or hang-up, and somehow find it within themselves to rise to the occasion with dignity. In his hands Hopkins is no exception. It's as though Aragorn were reborn as a wild west cowboy at odds with himself in a land that does not want him. Viggo is Hidalgo. Without the italics that sentence makes no sense since Hidalgo is actually a horse. The fiery little "painted stallion" of a Mustang that Hopkins rides against thoroughbreds across the desert. But in movie terms, Viggo is Hidalgo.

As an interesting side note, Viggo apparently adopted the horse who played Hidalgo as his own after filming. He apparently also did the same to the horse who played Brego in Lord of the Rings. If his star keeps on rising he's going to amass quite the stable before he retires. Unless he starts making movies about stamp collecting. They do eat less.

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