Simplicity (or, Why ‘The Hobbit’ Didn’t Have to Suck)

This post is not about growing stuff in a garden. Or renovating a house. Or building something from scrap. But it is about our founding philosophy here at The Dew Abides. And I, the writer, don’t even know how to put it into words.

Elegance through simplicity? That’s sort of it, if that were a phrase that didn’t sound like a slogan for some privileged person’s dining establishment. Can’t you just see the glass window with stenciled script?:

PRIMO

elegance through simplicity

Truth is, though, a straight path is not just the shortest distance between two points, it’s often the nicest walk too. The houses we’ve fallen in love with are Craftsman style — workmanlike and solid, but not without a bit of flourish. The gardens we like are informal, bordered by imprecise river-rock boundaries. The food we most enjoy is the stuff that’s easy to make, but might have a few unusual accouterments to surprise your palate. Or a rare steak, for me, sans any accouterments whatsoever.

You can probably guess that I wasn’t uber-fond of Peter Jackson’s first chapter in his telling of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit.” I didn’t hate it. But, at 2 hours and 46 minutes for just the first of three films — three films! — I found myself trimming the fat even while watching it the first time. I was convinced I could cut 40 minutes out of it without losing any of the pertinent story.

I was half right.

After home release, I threw the film into my video editing software and started snipping. And snipping. And snipping. Out went the potty humor, the sneezing into the stewpot, and the jokes that stretched one line too long. Out went about half of the revolting, physics-insulting video-game style escape from Goblin Town. Out went Mr. Frodo, shoehorned in as the ultimate pander to fans of the “Lord of the Rings” films.

Let's put this film on a diet

Let’s put this film on a diet

Out went 25 minutes of footage in all. I could’ve done more if I had access to separate dialog and music score tracks. But since my goal was to make seamless edits, I had to leave in scenes where music swelled, making transitions impossible.

It’s shorter. It’s funnier. It’s more elegant. Which, some might say, also describes me. But whatevs.

I made my violence-eschewing wife a slightly sanitized cut of Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds” a few years ago. It didn’t take as much trimming as you might think. Just a few, um, carving scenes for the most part. In some cases, I just blacked out the screen and left the audio in place. And in doing that, I made the shocking discovery that not showing the violence was actually more shocking than showing the red arterial spray.

Less was more.

Some of the best meals we’ve eaten were thrown-together things from the fridge, like fish tacos with a quick, fresh pico de gallo. Refurbishing a clawfoot tub in a bathroom looks nicer than any Fiberglas shower I’ve ever seen.

“Making do” is often the best you should do. Do not underestimate the power of simplicity.

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