Two days ago, Wednesday, I went to see the new Lord of the Rings movie: Return of the King. I didn't post anything about it immediately because I wanted to get some other things done first, and then I wanted to wait.

I wanted to see how long the movie's visceral impact on me remained. Turns out that it had some lasting power. I have a theory about Hollywood, that as a locus of film production, it more potential than any other spot in the world. When Hollywood decides to make a good movie, nobody else can even come close to making as good a movie.

There are plenty of examples, but instead of offering you personal dogma about powerful Hollywood films, I'd suggest that you think of a few examples on your own. It's not hard to do - there are plenty examples of iconic, pull-out-all-the-stops filmmaking that have become cultural tropes from the twentieth century. They alone have the money to create plush lighting and large, dramatic sets. They alone have the resources to convincingly pull off costume epics. They alone have the will to put a gloss on a movie that gives it an eerie, classic sheen - an aura of magnificence.

Return of the King is one of those movies, in my opinion. No expense was spared. Anybody who leaves that movie unmoved is lying about it or hates movies. Better movies may have been released this year, but I know I didn't seem them.


So, this weekend, then.

Sunday morning, about ten minutes after I woke up, I reached out of bed and clicked on the little clock radio I keep on my green dresser. It used to be across the room, but lately, sleeping on the floor, it's a matter of sitting up and flipping the switch.

I keep the dial tuned on NPR, and the news anchor was talking with a correspondent about the capture of someone in Iraq. Someone important, judging by their tone and the way they repeated meaningless details over and over again. One of them, I can't remember which, said "Saddam" and then I knew.

Over the weekend, I'd been reading Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' excellent "Watchmen", a comic so seamless, so excellent, it's difficult to describe. But a key plot point involves the arch-villain (or arch-hero, I can't decide) manipulating news and current events in a subtle way. But it's definitely to his advantage, and through this he stages an audacious act that seizes all the news headlines.

I listened to most of the coverage about the capture of Saddam Hussein, and read that book, and the combination of the incessant news broadcasts focusing on the small details, and the fantasy of the book, and the far-off perception of Iraq in my mind, all of it synthesized to create a strange, dreamlike state. I felt like I was a character in a book or a movie, but far from being the protagonist, I was an extra, a face in a living room who received the action of the plot, a reaction.

That's all I was, a reaction.