RIP Malcolm Dixon

#RIP: actor Malcolm Dixon has died at the age of 66. Born in Sept., 1953 (his exact birthdate is unknown), he played Leektar the Ewok Warrior in “#StarWars VI: #ReturnOfTheJedi” (he was also a film extra in “Star Wars IV: #ANewHope), an Oompa Loompa in #WillyWonkaAndTheChocolateFactory, a dwarf in #FlashGordon, Strutter in #TimeBandits, an additional performer in #TheDarkCrystal, Goblin Corps in #Labyrinth, Diddy in #SnowWhite (1987), Nelwyn Band Member in #Willow, & more.

Our condolences to his family, friends and fans. May he rest in peace and may the Force be with him.

Malcolm Dixon

Malcolm Dixon (1953-2020)

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The British Library’s “Harry Potter: A History Of Magic” Exhibit Is Available Online

With the #BritishLibrary currently closed due to current #pandemic, they have made the “#HarryPotter: #AHistoryOfMagic” exhibit available online!

The online collection was highlighted as part of #HarryPotterAtHome by the Wizarding World franchise team, promoting ways to enjoy the Harry Potter series at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The initiative also includes J.K. Rowling opening up licencing for teachers to read Harry Potter to their pupils online.

The exhibition originally opened at The British Library in London in 2017 as a result of a collaboration between #Pottermore (now known as Wizarding World Digital), The British Library, and #Bloomsbury.

The exhibition includes historical artifacts related to magical topics, including:

  • The six-meter long Ripley Scroll, which is a recipe for making the fabled Philosopher’s Stone as seen in the first book “Harry Potter and the #PhilosophersStone”, a.k.a., “Harry Potter and the #SorcerersStone”.
  • Old drawings
  • Manuscripts
  • Synopses created by J.K. Rowling herself when she was writing Harry Potter.
  • Jim Kay’s work for the illustrated editions of the Harry Potter series.

The collection is divided — like the original exhibition — into various subjects, most of which are taught at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry:

  • Potions
  • Herbology
  • Charms
  • Astronomy
  • Divination
  • Defense Against the Dark Arts
  • Care of Magical Creatures
  • Alchemy.

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RIP Max von Sydow

#RIP: we are saddened to report that actor Max von Sydow has died at the age of 90. He played Lor San Tekka in “#StarWarsVII: #TheForceAwakens”, Doctor Kynes in #Dune (1984), Emperor Ming in #FlashGordon (1980), Three-Eyed Raven in #GameOfThrones, King Osric in #CononTheBarbarian (1982), Director Lamar Burgess in #MinorityReport, Judge Fargo in #JudgeDredd, Henry Farber in #UntilTheEndOfTheWorld, Vigo (voice) in “#Ghosbusters II”, Doctor Paul Novotny in the sci-fi / horror film #Dreamscape, uncredited role in #TheIcePirates, & more, including playing Father Merrin in the horror films #TheExorcist & “#Exorcist II: #TheHeretic”.

Our sincerest condolences to his family, friends and fans. May he rest in peace. The Force  will be with him always.

Max von Sydow

Max von Sydow (1929-2020)

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RIP Terry Jones

#RIP: we are saddened to report that actor actor, writer & director Terry Jones has died at the age of 77. He played Dennis’s Mother / Sir Bedevere / Left Head / Prince Herbert / Voice of Cartoon Scribe in #MontyPythonAndTheHolyGrail, which he also co-wrote and co-directed. He played King Arnulf in #EricTheViking, which he also wrote & directed. He played Toad in #MrToadsWildRide, which he directed and co-wrote. He played Scientist Alien (voice) / Van Driver in #AbsolutelyAnything, which he directed and co-wrote. He played poacher in #Jabberwocky, Prof. Mac Krill (English voice) in #AFishTail (“Hjælp! Jeg er en fisk”), Messenger Bird (voice) in #Dinotopia (2002 miniseries), Mr. Kreosote in #StrangerThanFiction, & more, including playing a variety of characters in the British sketch comedy series #MontyPythonsFlyingCircus, for which he also wrote a number of the sketches.

Our condolences to his family, friends and fans. May he rest in peace.

Terry Jones

Terry Jones (1942 – 2020)

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RIP Christopher Tolkien

#RIP: author & illustrator Christopher John Reuel Tolkien has passed away at the age 95. Born on Nov. 21, 1924, he was the third & youngest son of the author J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973), as well as the editor of much of his father’s posthumously published work. He drew the original maps for his father’s #TheLordOfTheRings books, which he signed as C.J.R.T.

From a child, Christopher Tolkien had long been part of the critical audience for his father’s fiction, such as listening to his father’s tales of Bilbo Baggins, which were published as #TheHobbit. As a teenager and young adult, he offered a lot of feedback on “The Lord of the Rings” during its 15-year development. He also had the task of interpreting his father’s sometimes self-contradictory maps of Middle-earth in order to produce the versions that were used in the books. He re-drew the main map in the late 1970’s to clarify the lettering and correct some errors and omissions.

J.R.R. Tolkien had written a large amount of material connected to the Middle-earth legendarium that was not published during his lifetime. He had originally intended to publish #TheSilmarillion along with “The Lord of the Rings”, and parts of it were in a finished state when he died in 1973; but the project was incomplete.

Once referring to his son Christopher as his “chief critic and collaborator”, J.R.R. Tolkien had named Christopher his literary executor in his will. With this authority, Christopher organized the masses of his father’s unpublished writings, some of which had been written on odd scraps of paper a half-century earlier. Much of the material was handwritten. Complicating matters, his father would sometimes write a newer draft over a half-erased first draft. Also, it was not uncommon for the names of characters routinely changing between the beginning and ending of the same draft.

Christopher worked on the manuscripts and was able to produce an edition of “The Silmarillion” for publication in 1977. His assistant for part of the work was Guy Gavriel Kay, who became a noted fantasy author himself.

“The Silmarillion” was followed by “Unfinished Tales” in 1980 and “The History of Middle-earth” in 12 volumes between 1983 and 1996. Most of the original source-texts have been made public from which “The Silmarillion” was constructed.

In April 2007, Christopher Tolkien published “The Children of Húrin”, whose story his father had brought to a relatively complete stage between 1951 and 1957 before abandoning it. This was one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s earliest stories. Its first version dated back to 1918, and several versions were published in “The Silmarillion”, “Unfinished Tales”, and “The History of Middle-earth”.

“The Children of Húrin” is a synthesis of these and other sources. “Beren and Lúthien” is an editorial work and was published as a stand-alone book in 2017. The next year, “The Fall of Gondolin” was published also as an editorial work. “The Children of Húrin”, “Beren and Lúthien”, and “The Fall of Gondolin” make up the three “Great Tales” of the Elder Days, which J.R.R. Tolkien considered to be the biggest stories of the First Age.

Christopher served as chairman of the Tolkien Estate, Ltd., which was the entity formed to handle the business side of his father’s literary legacy. He also served as a trustee of the Tolkien Charitable Trust until his retirement in 2018.

In 2001, Christopher expressed doubts over “The Lord of the Rings” film trilogy that was directed by Peter Jackson. He questioned the viability of a film interpretation that retained the essence of the work, but stressed that this was just his opinion. In 2008, he commenced legal proceedings against New Line Cinema, which he claimed owed his family £80 million in unpaid royalties. In September, 2009, he and New Line reached an undisclosed settlement. He also withdrew his legal objection to “The Hobbit” films. But, in a 2012 interview with “Le Monde”, he criticised the films saying, “They gutted the book, making an action film for 15 to 25-year-olds.”

Our condolences to Christopher’s family, friends and fans. May he rest in peace.

Christopher John Reuel Tolkien (1924 – 2020)

References

“Willing Suspension of Disbelief”: When it Works, When it Fails

An immutable requirement that impacts the success of any work of #ScienceFiction or #Fantasy is the audience’s ability to be able to willingly suspend their disbelief, which can be defined as follows:

The willing suspension of disbelief refers to an individual willingly suspending their critical faculties, logic and realism in order to believe something surreal for the sake of enjoyment.

It can also be defined as “a literary term of art referring to one of Aristotle’s principles of theater in which the audience accepts fiction as reality so as to experience a catharsis, or a releasing of tensions to purify the soul.”

Before sci-fi or fantasy were recognized literary genres, poetry and fiction involving the supernatural had gone out of fashion to a large extent in the 18th century, in part due to the declining belief in witches and other supernatural agents among the educated classes in favor of science. However, the poet and aesthetic philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge sought to revive the use of fantastic elements in poetry and developed a concept to support how a modern, enlightened audience might continue to enjoy such types of literature.

In 1817, Coleridge introduced the term “suspension of disbelief” in Biographia Literaria and suggested that if a writer could infuse a “human interest and a semblance of truth” into a fantastic tale, the reader would suspend judgement concerning the implausibility of the narrative. The term resulted from a philosophical experiment, which Coleridge conducted with William Wordsworth within the context of the creation and reading of poetry. It involved an attempt to explain the supernatural persons or characters so that these creatures of imagination constitute some semblance of truth.

Who’s Responsible?

The individual(s) most responsible for enabling and maintaining an audience’s ability to willingly suspend their disbelief is the author(s) or creator of the work. It’s not the responsibility of the audience and any author or creator who fails to understand that isn’t going to have a successful work.

What Allows it Work?

Any creative endeavor is only successful to the extent that the audience offers their willing suspension of disbelief as they read, listen, or watch. It’s part of an unspoken contract: the author or creator provides the audience with a good story; and in return, the audience accepts the reality of the story as presented, as well as the characters in the fictional universe as they seemingly act on their own accord.

But the author or creator has the important responsibility of enabling and maintaining the audience’s ability to willingly suspend their disbelief, and they key to doing this successfully is internal consistency.

Internal consistency means being consistent with itself.

Any rules, events, settings, or characters that have been established within a fictional work (as well as sequel or prequel works) are expected by an audience to continue to exist and function as they did previously, unless otherwise indicated.

What Causes it to Fail?

Suspension of disbelief can be broken when a work breaks its own established laws or asks the audience to put up with too many things that come off as contrived.

A common way of putting this is as follows:

“You can ask an audience to believe the impossible, but not the improbable.”

For example, people will accept that the Grand Mage can use a magic spell to teleport across the world, or that the spaceship has technology that makes it completely invisible without rendering its own sensors blind; but the audience won’t accept that the ferocious carnivore just happened to have a heart attack and die right before it would have killed the main character, or that the hacker guessed his enemy’s password on the first try just by typing random letters.

A respondent to a question posed on the website “stackexchange” wrote an excellent response to the question, “What breaks suspension of disbelief?” in 2011:

“Basically, anything that the reader considers implausible when he’s already suspending disbelief, can spoil the illusion and break that suspension. The key issue to understand is that up to a certain point, your story is exposing the world of the story, and explaining what’s allowed and what isn’t. Anything you establish clearly, the reader will be willing to accept, and suspend disbelief over. Anything implausible that you don’t explain, or suggest can be explained (perhaps later), is not ‘protected’, and can prompt readers to feel that the story is nonsensical or contrived – not in the agreed-upon, ‘protected’ premise, but in the reasonable flow of events and consequences from that premise.”

The respondent then provided some specific cases. We’ll share two of them:

Setting rules are inconsistent or unclear: An SF/F reader will generally be willing to accept bizarre and impossible world constructions, as long as they are internally consistent. But if your stardates don’t match up with each other, or if something impossible turns out to be possible with no real justification, then the reader senses that your rules are arbitrary and that the author does not feel bound by his own rules. The same thing happens if he can’t figure out what your rules are meant to be to begin with. It’s like playing a game somebody invented where he gets to change the rules all the time, and then declare himself the winner if he’s losing anyway.”

Coincidence as a plot development: If anything immensely unlikely happens, it’s best for it to happen at the beginning – as part of the premise. Using coincidence as a plot development can feel contrived – since it’s not really a coincidence, but fiat on the author’s side, the reader can sense that the author is deliberately manipulating the story in implausible, artificial directions, and he loses faith in the plot as being plausible, natural, and thus significant.”

Additional Causes of Failure

Here are some additional causes that can cause an audience to lose their ability to suspend their disbelief.

  • Character derailment. When an established character becomes largely different, exhibiting behavior contrary to what has been previously shown that is not a matter of organic growth. Rather than gradually changing in response to events and experiences, a derailed character will exhibit shockingly unusual behavior that implies malfeasance or incompetence on the part of the writers.
  • Dues ex Machina. A Deus ex Machina is when some new event, character, ability, or object solves a seemingly unsolvable problem in a sudden, unexpected way. It’s often used as the solution to what is called “writing yourself into a corner,” where the problem is so extreme that nothing in the established setting suggests that there is a logical way for the characters to escape. If a bomb is about to go off, someone finds a convenient bomb-proof bunker in easy reach.
  • Fridge Logic. This refers to some illogical or implausible plot point that the audience doesn’t realize during the show, but only long afterwards. This naming is highly subjective, since not every person follows the same train of thought. Some people will never even realize there was a problem, while others will call it a plot hole, since they already noticed the problem during the show. The phrase was technically coined by Alfred Hitchcock. When asked about the scene in “Vertigo” when Madeleine mysteriously, and impossibly, disappears from the hotel that Scottie saw her in, he responded by calling it an “icebox” scene, that is, a scene that “hits you after you’ve gone home and start pulling cold chicken out of the icebox.”
  • Plot Hole. Plot Holes are those gaps in a story where things happen without a logical reason. When a Plot Hole involves something essential to a story’s outcome, it can hurt the believability, for those who are bothered by such things.
  • Retcon. Short for Retroactive Continuity, this is the reframing of past events to serve a current plot need, meaning that the new plot need was not intended from the beginning. A retcon is considered by many to occur when current events contradict the past continuity of the series, and is often evidence of authorial intrusion.

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Revised User Rating Demographics on IMDb for “Star Wars”

Since we first posted our analysis of user rating demographics on IMDb for all #StarWars films on Dec. 23, 2019, there has been a change in overall user ratings for “Star Wars IX: #TheRiseOfSkywalker” that we will now share. Namely, the overall user ratings for Ep. IX have dropped and now are in sync with the previously released “Star Wars” film: “#Solo: A Star Wars Story”.

Revised User Rating Demographics on IMDb for "Star Wars"

Revised User Rating Demographics on IMDb for “Star Wars” (Updated on Jan. 2, 2020)

This downward shift for Ep. IX gives the film an overall “D+” rating and places it into the same “D”-rated films as “Star Wars I: #ThePhantomMenace”, “Star Wars II: #AttackOfTheClones” and “Solo: A Star Wars Story”.

Examining Age Demographics More Closely

We also decided to take a closer look at the overall demographics for each film regarding age groups and gender to see if any patterns emerge. The results follow.

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Sorry that this chart is a little busy, but some interesting patterns do emerge, though the user ratings per age group also need to take into consideration the age of the IMDb website, the age of the Internet, how many people had Internet access over time, and the age when the voters actually saw the films:

  • Since IMDb was launched on Oct. 17, 1990, it didn’t exist when the original trilogy was released. Hence, all of the user ratings for those films would’ve all occurred at least 7 to 13 years after the films were released; but the vast majority of those user ratings wouldn’t have started to probably accumulate for another 10 years over that. Hence, the age data won’t be based on when the films were released.
  • Only 4.1% of the world’s population was on the Internet when “Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace” was released. This grew to 14.6% when “Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith” was released. 46% of the world’s population had Internet access when “Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens” was released, and that number is now 58.8%.
  • The older the films, the more user ratings accumulate over time and the recorded age for each user rating is based on the age of the individual when the user ratings were first recorded. Some individuals may also have changed their user ratings over time and it’s not clear which age would remain: the age of the original user rating or of the most recent user rating.

So we can draw the following conclusions from these data issues:

  • The older the films are, the less likely the age data will reflect the age of the users when they rated the films.
  • The age data is less valid for older films than for newer films.

In spite of these data issues, we can still find some interesting patterns and correspondences.

  • Only those users who are at least 42 years of age were alive when “Star Wars IV: A New Hope” was released. The “45 >” age group most closely represents those who would’ve been able to see this film in theaters; but they would’ve been young children at the low end of this age range.
  • Only those users who are at least 36 years of age were alive when “Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi” was released. Everyone in the “45 >” age group could’ve seen this film in theaters, as well as the upper range of the “30-44” age group. Anyone who saw this film who are currently in the “30-44” age group would’ve been very young children when this film came out; and people in the “45 >” age group would’ve been at least 9 years old.
  • Only those users who are at least 20 years of age were alive when “Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace” was released. Anyone currently in the “30-44” age group would’ve been 10 to 24 years old when this film came out. Anyone currently in the “45 >” age group would’ve been at least 25 when this film came out.
  • Only those users who are at least 14 years of age were alive when “Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith” was released. Anyone currently in the “30-44” age group would’ve been 16 to 30 years old when this film came out. Anyone currently in the “45 >” age group would’ve been at least 31 when this film came out.
  • Since 10 years separate “Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens” from “Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith”, anyone who saw the latter film in theaters as children would now be in their late teens or early 20’s now. Those in their 20’s then would be in their 30’s now and those in their 30’s then would be in their 40’s now. Anyone who remembers seeing “Star Wars IV: A New Hope” in 1977 would likely be at least in their 50’s or older now.

In other words, grandparents today who saw the original trilogy in theaters could be taking their grandchildren to see the Disney sequel trilogy. Parents who saw the prequels as children could be taking their children to see the Disney trilogy. And, the people who were parents when the prequels came out would likely have been children themselves when the original trilogy came out.

So what does the age data on IMDb tell us?

  • The people who most love the the first two original trilogy films are either children today or were children when the films first came out. The people in between (who were children when the prequels came out) like these two films slightly less.
  • Males who were young children when Ep. VI came out liked the film more than other male groups: Ewoks. Ewoks don’t appear to have had the same impact with female viewers.
  • Males who were young children to early 20’s when the prequels came out enjoyed them more than other males, including those who were children when the original trilogy came out. For females, the older they get, the less they like the prequels regardless of how old they were when the films came out or weren’t yet born when they came out.
  • For Ep. VII, males who were children when the prequels came out liked the film best, as do all females who are 29 years of age or younger.
  • For Ep. VIII, both males and females who are 29 years of age or younger prefer this film over other age groups, which includes people who were young children when the prequels came out. Males who could’ve seen the original trilogy in theaters also like the film slightly more, but not as much as males 29 years of age and younger.
  • For Ep. IX, the greatest appeal is for both males and females who could’ve seen the original trilogy in theaters. In other words, nostalgia made a difference, but the younger the males, the more likely the disliked the film. Females who could’ve seen the prequels as children liked this film the least among female viewers.

Conclusion

While Disney succeeded in having their sequel trilogy appeal more to female viewers than male viewers overall, they weren’t as successful in building an audience with today’s children, which isn’t necessarily a positive long-term development when combined with the lack of overall appeal for the prequels a generation earlier. As the older generation who grew up with the original trilogy as children dies, the most appealing films continue to be the original trilogy. In other words, none of the Disney sequel trilogy films were able to touch the love that the original trilogy continues to have and has had for several generations.

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