Here we go! Middle-earth March Madness 2020 begins today!
This year we’re pitting against one another various scenes from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, in the categories of Tearjerkers, Scenic, Laughter, and Drama/Action. (Those listed are the moments as they appear in Peter Jackson’s movies; though you can of course feel free to reread the appropriate sections in the book and use your imagination, when making your choices!) Do you love the part when the Ents stride out to war? Or do you prefer Theoden’s stirring speech to the Riders of Rohan on the edge of Pelennor Fields? Which makes you laugh more: Pippin’s, ‘Great, where are we going?’ or Gandalf’s command to him that ‘it’s better if you don’t speak at all’? Take a look at all the magical moments vying to be 2020’s Champion:
(Don’t worry if some of those seem a little unclear; when you go to the actual survey to vote, you’ll see a longer description to help you place the scene. We just had to fit succinct summaries on the bracket image!)
So, how do you play along, I hear you ask? Simple! Click here to go to a survey, where you can vote in each of the battles in this first round. You only get to vote once, so choose wisely! Round One runs until 10pm ET on Thursday 2nd April; on Friday 3rd in the morning we will post results, with an updated bracket, and voting on Round Two will begin. So it continues until only two remain, with the Grand Final happening on April 14-15. Which scene will be declared the overall winner? YOU decide!
Maybe you need to revisit PJ’s films to weigh up all these stirring scenes – a perfect excuse for a marathon viewing! Maybe you want to lift your copies of the books down from the shelf, and read aloud certain moments, in the Professor’s own words. Discuss online with friends, have a remote viewing party, and make the case for your preferences. HOW you decide on your vote is up to you! We’ve given you four days for this first round, so you have plenty of time to ponder, and to savour all these magical moments in the realms of Middle-earth.
We hope you’ll share your opinions with us too: here in the comments, on the message boards, in the Facebook group, via Twitter (#memarchmadness), etc. Are there incidents you think should be on there, which we’ve omitted? Finding it hard to choose? Share your thoughts and dilemmas! Let’s virtually gather together in this time of social distancing, to enjoy these stories we love; and to engage in a bit of friendly dueling!
It’s a tradition going back some years: TheOneRing.net’s own version of March Madness! Each Spring, staffers at TORn draw up a table of characters (or something else – see more below) from Tolkien’s realms, and we ask you all to vote in each round, until we have an overall winner. This year is no exception! We all need things to do, and to think about, to keep us distracted in these days of social distancing; so we hope you’ll join us and play along for this year’s Middle-earth March Madness!
The fun begins on Monday, when we’ll post this year’s brackets, together with a link to a poll where you can place your votes. We’ll be posting articles about the various ‘battles’, and we hope you’ll join in and discuss on facebook and the message boards. Meanwhile, here’s a look back on some of the earlier contests.
We first created our own March Madness fun back in 2012, making this the 9th year of the contest. (What shall we do for our tenth, next year?) That year our four brackets consisted of various characters from Middle-earth, with the brackets named for Ralph Bakshi, Rankin Bass, the Tolkien family, and Peter Jackson. The final was between Aragorn and Samwise, with Sam coming out on top.
In 2013 and 2014 the brackets were simply named for different places, with a mix of characters in each bracket. 2013 saw The Shire, Erebor, Mordor and Angmar brackets, with a final showdown between Thorin (from the Mordor bracket) and Gandalf (from Angmar). It was a close contest, but the wizard ultimately came out on top. 2014’s brackets were named for Bag End, the Lonely Mountain, Erebor (yes the Lonely Mountain going by another name) and Mirkwood. The finalists came from the Bag End and Mirkwood categories, and were father and son: Thranduil took on Legolas. The fans were out in force for both these pretty elves, but Thranduil won in the end.
2015 saw the first year that combatants were divided by specific categories, with brackets being Lord of the Rings characters, Hobbit characters, Silmarillion characters, and ‘Others’ from the Professor’s writing. It also saw a first in a combatant being ‘disqualified’: Thranduil’s fans were so desperate to see him victorious again, they were bucking the system and voting multiple times. With Mirkwood’s ruler thrown out, the final saw Bilbo and Gandalf face off; and Gandalf was champion for the second time.
In 2016 we drew up brackets according to attributes: Beauty, Brains, Brawn, and Baddies. Ultimate Baddie Morgoth took on Galadriel in the final, where the elf maiden was triumphant, taking two thirds of the vote! 2017’s groupings divided characters into ‘Book Only’, ‘Movie Only’, ‘Wider Mythos’, and ‘Movie and Book’. A first this year was that we deliberately did not include past champions Gandalf, Galadriel, Samwise or Thranduil; also the divisions allowed many first time entrants, such as ‘Sebastian the Hedgehog’ and ‘The Fox’. The champion in 2017, appearing in his second final, was Aragorn.
2018 mixed things up by including characters from outside of Tolkien’s writings. This year, we had roles from the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies, AND roles from other films, played by the same actors. This meant that was saw Lee Pace’s Ronan take on his Thranduil, as well as a show down between Count Dooku and Saruman. Middle-earth characters, however, were the ones who made it to the final, where Gollum beat Elrond.
And just last year, our contest became Middle-earth MAP March Madness, with all the entrants being locations: from The Shire, The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. Gondolin faced, but could not defeat, Rivendell in that final.
What will the categories be this year? All will be revealed on Monday! Or head on over to join TheOneRing.net’s Facebook group, The Worlds and Works of J.R.R. Tolkien, where you can get an early preview tomorrow. Let’s get ready to rumble!
Tomorrow is Tolkien Reading Day! And as so many of us are social distancing and staying at home right now, let’s get our copies down off the shelves and share some favourite paragraphs together. Farmer Giles, Roverandom, Father Christmas Letters, The Hobbit – whatever works by the Professor take your fancy, head on over to the message boards or the Facebook group, and post a passage for us all to enjoy.
Our good friends at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt have put together an online kit to inspire you, including maps, trivia, and a complete list of Tolkien’s works. Check it out, here. Let’s escape together into the pages of a book by our favourite author!
It is with a heavy heart that I write this news. Christopher Tolkien has passed away. He was 95 years old.
Christopher was the third son of our beloved author Professor J.R.R. Tolkien, and had spent much of his life honoring his father’s legacy and bringing us so many of the Professor’s works posthumously. He edited and published such monumental works as The Silmarillion, The Unfinished Tales, The Book of Lost Tales, The History of Middle-earth and, in recent years, the individually released tales of The Children of Hurin, Beren and Luthien, and The Fall of Gondolin.
Looking for that perfect holiday gift for your favorite fan of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings movies? Look no further! Monday, December 16 could be your lucky day. That’s the day Julien’s Auctions, known for their auctions packed with Hollywood collectibles, will be auctioning off one of the original tobacco pipes used by Sir Ian Holm in his role as Bilbo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring! The pipe will come fully documented for authenticity by both Peter Jackson and Animation Designer and Supervisor, Randall William Cook.
According to the Julien’s Auctions website: Jackson personally gifted this production artifact to animation supervisor Randall William Cook in celebration of Cook’s 50th birthday during the making of the film. Included with the prop is the original birthday card from Jackson to Cook when the gift was presented to Cook on his birthday as well as a letter of authenticity from Cook.
J.A. Bayona, director of the upcoming Amazon series set in the Second Age of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth, has arrived in Auckland and filming has begun! Well, okay, the film clip he posted to Instagram features no actors, unless the small bird in Fraser’s cafe in the urban setting of Mount Eden, a suburb of Auckland, is somehow related to the thrush of The Hobbit fame. According to Stuff.co.nz “the first piece of film he appears to have shot in New Zealand is a snapshot from Frasers cafe in Mount Eden. Bayona shared the clip to Instagram this morning. The camera appears to be focused on the cafe, then swings down to track a hopeful sparrow as it hops around some tables in search of crumbs.”
Watch the short clip here. Considering the cafe is in a very urban setting, with narry a dragon or dwarf in sight, it’s likely it was just a spur-of-the-moment snap from his phone, but exciting nonetheless.
Quoted from Deadline by Stuff:
“J.R.R. Tolkien created one of the most extraordinary and inspiring
stories of all time, and as a lifelong fan it is an honour and a joy to
join this amazing team,” he said in a statement to Deadline.
“I can’t wait to take audiences around the world back to Middle-earth and have them discover the wonders of the Second Age, with a never-before-seen story.”
In addition to directing, Bayona will also be an executive producer for the LOTR series alongside his producing partner Belén Atienza. He has been warmly welcomed by the writing team, lead by JD Payne and Patrick McKay and consulted by Game of Thrones writer Bryan Cogman.
Read more of the story at stuff.co.nz, and let us know, aside from the bird in the cafe, what in the Second Age you think the first ‘real’ filming will likely cover!
Collider announced earlier today that 23 year-old British actor Maxim Baldry “has landed a significant role” in the upcoming Amazon Middle-earth TV series. Baldry is perhaps best known so far for his role in the 2019 BBC/HBO joint production series Years and Years. According to Collider: “Character details are being kept under wraps along with plot details.” While that doesn’t give us a lot to go on, ok almost nothing to go on, we do know that the new series is set in the Second Age of Middle-earth, which narrows down, if only slightly, what “significant role” might imply.
Talent, locations, infrastructure and a warm Kiwi welcome. According to Pam Ford from the Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development agency in this piece from Radio NZ, those were the determining factors in Amazon Studios’ decision, confirmed on Tuesday, to film the upcoming Middle-earth-based TV series in New Zealand.
Quoted in stuff.co.nz, showrunners and executive producers J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay described New Zeland as indeed offering all of the criteria they were looking for: “As we searched for the location in which we could bring to life the primordial beauty of the Second Age of Middle Earth, we knew we needed to find somewhere majestic, with pristine coasts, forests, and mountains, that also is a home to world-class sets, studios, and highly skilled and experienced craftspeople and other staff”.
“And we’re happy that we are now able to officially confirm New Zealand as our home for our series based on stories from J.R.R. Tolkien‘s The Lord of the Rings. The abundant measure of Kiwi hospitality with which they have welcomed us has already made us feel right at home, and we are looking forward to deepening our partnership in the years to come.”
No doubt the prospect of a 20% to 25% rebate for every dollar spent also contributed to the ‘welcome’ factor. The good news for New Zealand is that Amazon will be spending approximately $1.0 billion of those dollars ($1.3 NZD) and will likely provide jobs that will spill over from the film industry to affect the rest of the economy for up to a decade.
Read more about the Auckland studios where filming will take place in our article from June, and be sure to listen to the full radio story linked above as it features our own staffer Garfeimao (Cathy Udovch)!
This is a follow up to the story announcing Amazon’s release of the LOTR series creative team (see link below), with a breakdown on what this announcement means for the future of the show. Afterwards, there will be a ‘reaction’ story from a Tom Shippey interview that occurred on the same day as the video was released.
Justin, the producer of our TORn Tuesday live streaming series breaks down the Amazon creative team announcement:
“This Creative Team has something for everyone that it almost feels generated by an algorithm to appeal so perfectly to all fan groups. Howe & Shippey lock in the core book, art & film fans.
Amazon got what it explicitly wanted day one — the next Game of Thrones — with 2 of the key people from HBO’s Thrones now on LOTR. Amazon is also following in the (successful) footsteps of Thrones by handing the show to a couple guys who have never produced anything, similar to HBO letting Benioff & Weiss run Thrones with zero producing experience.
JA Bayona is an inspired choice as he is Guillermo del Toro’s protege in dark storytelling. GDT financed Bayona’s first few projects and helped put Bayona on the map. With Amazon, fans may finally get something akin to what The Hobbit was shaping up to be under del Toro. Some Weta folk felt that the costume & prosthetic orc work they did under Guillermo del Toro was the best the workshop had ever done, so it would be wonderful to bring forth some of that practical creativity under GDT’s heir apparent Juan Antonio Bayona.
“Peak TV” fans will appreciate the writers room of people who wrote some of the best episodes of Westworld, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Hannibal. Those are all somewhat dark & twisted fantasies which LOTR second age also is.
Amazon’s corporate development team along with this LOTR writers room and production team is probably the most diverse multi-lingual creative group ever to work in Middle-earth. Tolkien wrote that LOTR is “fundamentally linguistic in inspiration… “ so it is wonderful to have a global group of filmmakers bringing in the next chapter of Tolkien’s legacy.”
Shortly after the video was released by Amazon, Tom Shippey did an exclusive interview with the folks at Tolkien Gesellschaft and he let a few very interesting tidbits out of the bag.
Shippey confirms this map is from the Second Age, but then also admits we don’t know a lot of detail about the Second Age, and that the end of the Second Age on a map looks much like the beginning of the Third Age. Of course, with Numenor on the Map, that puts us closer to the early or middle part of the Second Age. He stresses that you have to be clear where in Middle-earth history the story will begin so that it matches what this map is hinting at.
Another really important fact is that Shippey clears up a lot about what sort of filming rights Amazon has, and how much freedom they do and don’t have when filling in the empty spots in their stories. Amazon must follow the history that Tolkien did write, such as Sauron invading Eriador, being forced back by a Numenorean force, his return to Numenor and seducing them to break the ban with the Valar. So, they have a road map, but they get to choose the route and fill in all the things seen and encountered on that road.
Shippey doesn’t know much detail on when and where filming will begin, but we previously announced that New Zealand looks to be where the bulk of filming will be. He also mentioned that a Brian Miller was supposed to be the overall director, but since he didn’t feature in the video he surmises that things changed. It is interesting that Shippey seems to share our desire that more news was forthcoming. Yes, all these little teases arouse curiosity, but sooner or later you have to satisfy that curiosity.
Read the article to learn more details from Tom Shippey.
Amazon Prime’s Twitter and Facebook accounts have just dropped a new video introducing fans to the team of creators behind their new “Lord of the Rings” Prequel Series!
This includes such faces as showrunners J.D. Payne & Patrick McKay, as well the vast team of accomplished writers, producers, director J.A. Bayona, our beloved Tolkien artist John Howe and renowned Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey (yours truly would be lying if he didn’t say these last two fill him particularly with joy!).
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