30 Facts About 2017’s Most Googled Movies

Clay Enos - © 2015 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Ratpac-Dune Entertainment LLC
Clay Enos - © 2015 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Ratpac-Dune Entertainment LLC

From Beauty and the Beast to Baby Driver, 2017 was a big year for movies. And going by Google’s 2017 Year In Search lists, film lovers were hungry for as much information as they could find on killer clowns, superheroes, wonder women, and baby drivers. Here are 30 things you might not have known about the most Googled movies of 2017.

1. FOR DIRECTOR PATTY JENKINS, WONDER WOMAN WAS A DREAM PROJECT.

Director Patty Jenkins has long wanted to make a big-screen version of Wonder Woman. Following the success of her Oscar-winning feature directorial debut, Monster (2003), Jenkins was clear about what she wanted her next project to be: “I want to make Wonder Woman,” she told anyone who asked. “Everybody knew I wanted to make a superhero movie.”

In 2005, she was presented with a script for Wonder Woman and the opportunity to direct, but Jenkins was pregnant with her son at the time and couldn’t fathom leaving a newborn at home to go off to make a movie—even if it was her dream project. “When I’m on a movie, I’m unavailable, everyday for a year and a half,” Jenkins told Entertainment Weekly. “You can’t do that with a little baby. Somebody might be able to do it, but not me.” Fortunately, though it was in development, the project never got off the ground, and it eventually landed back in Jenkins’s lap. “Part of the reason I’m in such a good mood is this is the movie I’ve wanted to make my entire life,” said. “I feel so grateful that I get to be able to do this.”

2. FILMMAKERS HAD TO GET CREATIVE TO HIDE GAL GADOT’S PREGNANCY.

Speaking of pregnancy and superheroes: In November 2016, Gal Gadot had to slip back into her Wonder Woman suit in order to film some reshoots for the movie. There was just one hitch: She was five months pregnant. In order to hide her pregnancy from the cameras, and make sure the new footage matched the original footage, the production team had to get creative. Essentially, they covered her stomach with a piece of bright green cloth that they could use to digitally alter her appearance in post-production. “On close-up I looked very much like Wonder Woman,” Gadot told Entertainment Weekly. “On wide shots I looked very funny, like Wonder Woman pregnant with Kermit the Frog.”

3. IT BROKE ALL SORTS OF HORROR BOX OFFICE RECORDS.

Bill Skarsgård stars as Pennywise in It (2017)
Brooke Palmer - © 2016 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Andy Muschietti’s big-screen adaptation of Stephen King’s It was undoubtedly one of the summer’s most anticipated movies, and the box office numbers proved it. In addition to posting the biggest opening weekend of any horror movie in history (it raked in $123,403,419), it also ousted The Sixth Sense from the top spot as the highest grossing horror/supernatural movie of all time.

4. BILL SKARSGÅRD SCARED THE HELL OUT OF HIS YOUNG CO-STARS.

In order to up the fear factor in the scenes between Bill Skarsgård, who played Pennywise, and the kid members of The Losers Club in It, director Andy Muschetti kept Skarsgård away from his young co-stars until it was time to film. As such, “Pennywise was this looming force they knew was coming but hadn’t seen yet,” Skarsgård told The New York Times. “That built an excitement in the kids you could feel when they saw him for the first time. They were probably a bit scared.”

5. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST AND LA LA LAND COULD HAVE BEEN VERY DIFFERENT MOVIES.

La La Land and Beauty and the Beast were two of the most highly anticipated movies in recent years, but they both could have looked a lot different. Emma Watson was offered the role of Mia in La La Land (the same part that earned Emma Stone her first Oscar), but ultimately passed in order to make Beauty and the Beast. “I knew I had horse training, I knew I had dancing, I knew I had three months of singing ahead of me, and I knew I had to be in London to really do that,” Watson said. “And [Beauty and the Beast] wasn’t a movie I could just kind of parachute into. I knew I had to do the work, and I had to be where I had to be. So scheduling conflict-wise, it just didn’t work out.”

At the same time, La La Land’s Ryan Gosling passed on playing the Beast so that he could make La La Land. (And everyone lived happily ever after.)

6. DAN STEVENS SPENT THE BULK OF BEAUTY AND THE BEAST WEARING STILTS.

In order to help Dan Stevens cut an appropriately menacing figure as The Beast, he spent most of the movie walking around on stilts. “I was in a muscle suit on stilts covered in grey Lycra with dots on my face,” Stevens told Metro. “And every couple of weeks I would go into a booth—a kind of cage—they’d spray my face with UV paint, and 27 little cameras with UV light would capture what I was doing with my face in those scenes. And Emma would very graciously sit on the other side of this weird cage and we’d play all of the scenes whether they were arguing scenes, or waltzing scenes, and we’d gaze longingly at each other, just everything I could do with my face I did in that cage.”

7. JAMAL WOOLARD HAD SOME EXPERIENCE PLAYING CHRISTOPHER “BIGGIE SMALLS” WALLACE.

Playing The Notorious B.I.G. wasn’t a big stretch for Jamal Woolard in All Eyez on Me, Benny Boom’s Tupac Shakur biopic. Woolard made his big-screen debut starring as Biggie in 2009’s Notorious.

8. BABY DRIVER’S OPENING CAR CHASE WAS SHOT ON ONE OF ATLANTA’S BUSIEST HIGHWAYS.

The opening scene of Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver is a stellar piece of vehicular choreography, but it was no easy task to create. “The first chase is on the I-85, which is the main freeway in Atlanta, and you cannot shut down the I-85,” director Edgar Wright told Inverse. “That’s impossible, but what you can do is have a police motorcade, which is miles wide.” Because they couldn’t shut the road—which sees about 200,000 motorists per day—down, they had to plan their shot, and timing, very, very carefully.

“We were given a Sunday that didn’t have any ball games, and they said, ‘we’ve got 6 a.m. until 2 p.m. and then that’s it’—2 p.m. was a hard kick-off,’” Wright explained. “We had police cars on all lanes of the freeway, 50 stunts cars, actors and the camera cars, all in the middle of what is called The Bubble. This big flotilla of cars is going down the freeway at 70 miles an hour shooting, and sometimes the actors are in the car as well, and it’s insane.”

9. EDGAR WRIGHT HAD TO PERFORM A SCENE OVER THE PHONE TO GET MIKE MYERS’S PERMISSION TO USE THOSE AUSTIN POWERS MASKS.

In a comedic moment of miscommunication, Baby Driver’s gang of bank robbers pull off a job wearing Austin Powers masks when the original instruction to get Michael Myers (as in Halloween’s blank-faced serial killer) causes some confusion. According to the movie’s Blu-ray commentary, in order to receive permission to use those shagadelic disguises, Wright had to ask Mike Myers’s permission directly. He agreed, but asked Wright to perform the scene for him over the phone.

10. THE BIG SICK LANDED A SWEET DISTRIBUTION DEAL AT SUNDANCE.

Zoe Kazan and Kumail Nanjiani in The Big Sick (2017)
Sarah Shatz - © WHILE YOU WERE COMATOSE, LLC

After making its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, Michael Showalter’s The Big Sick—based on a script by (and the real-life relationship of) Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon—became the subject of a major bidding war. Netflix was hot to buy the rights, but Nanjiani wanted the film to have a theatrical release. Eventually, they sold the film to Amazon for $12 million, one of the biggest deals ever brokered at the Park City fest.

11. CHRISTOPHER NOLAN ORIGINALLY PLANNED TO MAKE DUNKIRK AN EXPERIMENT IN IMPROVISATION.

Director Christopher Nolan first conceived of shooting Dunkirk without a script, and just improvising the dialogue as they went along. His wife, Emma Thomas, advised him against this approach. “Emma looked at me like I was a bit crazy and was like, ‘okay, that’s not really gonna work,’” Nolan said. Fortunately, Nolan listened.

12. THE DARK TOWER SPENT A LONG TIME IN DEVELOPMENT.

The Dark Tower, Nikolaj Arcel’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series of books, took several years to come together. Both J.J. Abrams and Ron Howard were attached to direct the film at different points during its development.

13. DAVID BOWIE WAS DENIS VILLENEUVE'S FIRST CHOICE FOR THE PART OF NIANDER WALLACE IN BLADE RUNNER 2049.

From the earliest days of his involvement in Blade Runner 2049, director Denis Villeneuve had his eye on David Bowie for the role of Niander Wallace. Unfortunately, the iconic rocker passed away before production began. The part eventually went to Jared Leto.

14. VILLENEUVE KNEW HE HAD BIG SHOES TO FILL, AND HE WAS OK WITH THAT.

The fact that he was rebooting one of the most iconic and inventive sci-fi films of all time was certainly not lost on Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve. "I know that every single fan will walk into the theater with a baseball bat,” he said. “I'm aware of that and I respect that, and it's okay with me because it's art. Art is risk, and I have to take risks. It's gonna be the biggest risk of my life but I'm okay with that. For me it's very exciting ... It's just so inspiring, I'm so inspired. I've been dreaming to do sci-fi since I was 10 years old, and I said 'no' to a lot of sequels. I couldn't say 'no' to Blade Runner 2049. I love it too much, so I said, 'Alright, I will do it and give everything I have to make it great.'"

15. CRITIC ARMOND WHITE RUINED GET OUT’S PERFECT ROTTEN TOMATOES SCORE.

National Review film critic Armond White has developed somewhat of a reputation for his dissenting opinions. This is the man, after all, who gave a poor review to Toy Story 3, writing that: “Toy Story 3 is so besotted with brand names and product-placement that it stops being about the innocent pleasures of imagination—the usefulness of toys—and strictly celebrates consumerism.” So it was hardly surprising when he became the first critic to give a bad review to Jordan Peele’s Get Out, thus knocking its 100 percent fresh rate down to 99 percent. White’s problem with the film, which he called a “horror-comedy for Black History Month”? “In Get Out, just as Obama did, Peele exploits racial discomfort, irresponsibly playing racial grief and racist relief off against each other, subjecting imagination and identification to political sway,” White wrote.

16. A SINGLE CRITIC KILLED LADY BIRD'S PERFECT SCORE, TOO.

Saoirse Ronan in Lady Bird (2017)
A24

Like Get Out, Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird held a 100 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes ... until critic Cole Smithey ruined it all, knocking the film from its perch as the site's best reviewed movie. Following an internet backlash, Smithey took to Twitter to explain himself:

17. THOR: RAGNAROK HAS A CONNECTION TO DEVO.

The music for Thor: Ragnarok was composed by Mark Mothersbaugh, who is the lead singer and keyboardist for Devo. Not only did he integrate musical pieces from earlier Marvel films into the movie, but he included the famous “Lonely Man” theme from the ‘70s Incredible Hulk TV show.

18. THE ROOM’S TOMMY WISEAU APPROVES OF "99.9 PERCENT" OF THE DISASTER ARTIST.

James Franco in The Disaster Artist (2017)
Justina Mintz - © 2015 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

James Franco’s A-list retelling of indie filmmaker Tommy Wiseau’s so-bad-it’s-kind-of-good movie The Room has been getting lots of acclaim, including from the original film’s creator. When Franco asked Wiseau what he thought of the film after seeing it at SXSW. “I was like, ‘So, Tommy, what did you think of the movie?’ And he said, ‘I approve 99.9 percent,’” Franco told Entertainment Weekly. “And we were like, ‘What was the 0.1 percent?’ He said, ‘I think the lighting, in the beginning, a little off.’ [Laughs] I told Brandon [Trost, The Disaster Artist‘s cinematographer]. He was like, Yeah, maybe we should watch The Room, get some lighting pointers!”

19. JAMES GUNN HAD TO FIGHT TO KEEP ADAM WARLOCK’S POST-CREDIT CAMEO IN GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2.

James Gunn had to fight to keep Adam Warlock’s post-credit cameo in the movie, despite the character not showing up in 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War. To get it cleared by Marvel, he promised the studio that he would confirm on Twitter that the character is not scheduled to appear in the third or fourth Avengers films, “Because I didn't want people to have false expectations of what they thought was going to happen with Adam.”

20. THE THREE MAIN FEMALE CHARACTERS IN HIDDEN FIGURES WORE VINTAGE UNDERGARMENTS, FOR AUTHENTICITY.


Twentieth Century Fox

To add an extra layer of authenticity to the costumes in Hidden Figures, the three main actresses wore vintage undergarments, including corsets and girdles. “That snatches you into a perfect stature,” Taraji P. Henson said. “You have no choice. Women back then carried themselves not as loosely as the women do today because they were strapped down and pinned down.”

21. TREY EDWARD SHULTS WROTE IT COMES AT NIGHT JUST DAYS AFTER HIS FATHER’S DEATH.

In an interview with Den of Geek, Trey Edward Shults talked about how he wrote the script for It Comes at Night in just a couple of days following the death of his father, then revisited it a few years later to tweak it. “I would say that the final film is about 85 percent of what that first three days view was,” he said. “I’m not entirely sure, but it always really important to me, because it was stuff just coming out of me [at the time], stuff I didn’t fully understand even, that I went back and psychoanalyzed. But it was important for me to retain that, to convey the mood and tone and emotion of where I was at.”

22. JUSTICE LEAGUE COULD HAVE BEEN A GEORGE MILLER MOVIE.

In the mid-2000s, Mad Max: Fury Road director George Miller had been in production on a Justice League movie, getting so far as to have a completed script, costumes designed, and most of the main cast assembled. A writers strike and the ongoing work of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy delayed and eventually shut down the movie just weeks before it was set to film.

23. DENZEL WASHINGTON AND VIOLA DAVIS WERE KNOWN FOR THEIR ROLES IN FENCES LONG BEFORE THE MOVIE ARRIVED.

Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in Fences (2016)
David Lee/Paramount Pictures

Denzel Washington and Viola Davis starred in the 2010 Broadway revival of August Wilson’s Fences, and both won Tony Awards for their roles.

24. SABRETOOTH WAS SUPPOSED TO MAKE AN APPEARANCE IN LOGAN.

In one version of the script for Logan, longtime Wolverine foe Sabretooth was set to make an appearance during the casino scene, but his character was removed as the movie went through different drafts.

25. NAOMIE HARRIS HAD TO WORK FAST FOR MOONLIGHT.

Naomie Harris shot all of her scenes for Moonlight in just three days, in the middle of an international publicity tour for Spectre. All that work paid off; she received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

26. THE MUMMY'S STUNTS LEFT SEVERAL CREW MEMBERS SICK TO THEIR STOMACHS.

The Mummy's zero gravity plane crash stunt was shot in actual weightless conditions and took 64 takes, leaving many of the crew sick to their stomachs as a result.

27. AUDIENCES SEEMED PRETTY EXCITED FOR THE POWER RANGERS MOVIE.

Executives at Lionsgate had reason to be excited about the potentially huge audience for Power Rangers. The film's teaser trailer generated more than 150 million views within 48 hours of first dropping in October 2016.

28. ALIEN: COVENANT’S NEOMORPH WAS MODELED AFTER THE GOBLIN SHARK.

Even if you don’t know much about the nightmare-inducing goblin shark, its name sort of says it all. The animal is able to extend its teeth forward when attacking its prey in order to allow for a better grip, and to do more damage. It’s this creepy sea dweller that inspired the look of the Neomorph in Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant. "Some of those nature videos are so stomach-churning that they don't pay me enough to watch them," writer John Logan said. “But Ridley will see something to do with insects swarming, for example, which eventually finds its way into a movie. Usually there's some sort of grotesqueness we find interesting.”

29. SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING’S TOM HOLLAND IS VERY, VERY YOUNG.

Want to feel old? New Spider-Man Tom Holland wasn’t even born when Michael Keaton, who plays the movie’s villain The Vulture, was Batman in the early 1990s.

30. KENNETH BRANAGH'S MUSTACHE WAS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TO MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS.

Kenneth Branagh in 'Murder on the Orient Express' (2017)
Twentieth Century Fox

Though Kenneth Branagh's remake of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express was met with mixed reviews, viewers and critics agreed that his mustache was spectacular. And it's a good thing—as getting that facial hair right was extremely important to Christie's family, who served as advisers on the film. "The first thing they asked in their creative meeting was, ‘What are you doing about the mustache?'" Branagh said. "There was no twinkle in the eye. I knew it was critical. This mustache is serious business."

The 15 Best TV Series Finales of All Time

Ursula Coyote, AMC
Ursula Coyote, AMC

What makes a great TV series finale? It depends on the show, of course. But no matter what series you may be watching, you want a finale that ties up loose ends without being annoyingly completist, gives you heart without seeming overly sentimental, and of course makes you feel just as happy, sad, thrilled, or compelled as you did with each previous episode. It’s a very tricky needle to thread, and some series have undoubtedly done it better than others.

In celebration of what it takes to deliver a great final episode, here are (some of) the greatest series finales of all time.

1. The Sopranos // “Made In America”

“Made In America” is, infamously, the episode of television that made millions of viewers briefly think that their cable had just gone out at some crucial moment, when in reality what happened was creator David Chase simply decided one seemingly random moment was the exact second where Tony Soprano’s journey would end. The series finale of The Sopranos spent the better part of its runtime wrapping up a mob war that crippled the family, and then devoted its final minutes to a family dinner set to Journey. Fans still debate the meaning and merits of the final scene, but the sense of palpable unease Chase built up in those last moments—signifying Tony’s perpetual state of watching his back—were a brilliant way to end a show that began as a meditation on existential dread in the first place.

2. Six Feet Under // “Everyone’s Waiting”

The final minutes of “Everyone’s Waiting” are among the most famous in the history of television, and even if the rest of the episode had been a disappointment, they would still rank among the greatest farewells in the medium. As it is, Six Feet Under's final episode with the Fisher family is a gripping, heartfelt, and bitterly funny gem, all building to that last montage. As Sia’s "Breathe Me" plays, we see the deaths of every member of the main cast, which reminds us that death takes many forms beyond mere tragedy, all culminating in the last breaths of Claire. Just thinking about it is enough to make fans of the show burst into tears.

3. Breaking Bad // “Felina”

Few series finales have ever faced such high expectations and managed to rise to meet them so powerfully as Breaking Bad did with its final episode in 2013. “Felina” has everything you could ever want from a Breaking Bad send-off: Walt’s final conversation with Skyler, that incredible revenge shoot-out featuring the rigged machine gun, Jesse’s defiant cry of freedom as he drives away, Walt’s collapse, and that little smile of victory on his face. Some series finales deliver what you want; others deliver what you need. “Felina” somehow manages to do both.

4. M*A*S*H // “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen”

M*A*S*H was on longer than the Korean War was actually fought, and was more than 250 episodes into its run by the time “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” aired and became one of the most-watched television events in the history of the medium. You’d think the staff of the 4077th might have run out of things to say after such a run, but the series finale manages to be absolutely jam-packed, featuring everything from Hawkeye’s dark repressed memories to Klinger’s wedding. It all builds to that final shot of “GOODBYE” written in stones, which still ranks as one of the most iconic moments in TV history.

5. The Americans // “START”

The Americans quietly became one of the best shows on TV before finally winning a bunch of awards for its final season, and with good reason. The final adventures of Philip and Elizabeth Jennings as they contemplated a return to Russia and an end to their double lives in America were among the best the series ever delivered, all building to a final episode that stuck the landing in every possible way, from the thrills of their final escape to the emotional payoff of their daughter Paige’s big decision.

6. The Wire // "-30-"

The Wire was never going to end anything in a clean, cut-and-dried way, but its series finale did mange to wield the various talents at play in the series to end everything on an ambitious and fairly comprehensive note. The finale reckoned with many of the same questions the entire series did—from the nature of justice to the fragility of power systems and how far people will go to keep them in place—as it worked to resolve the homeless serial killer hoax, illegal wiretapping, and the all-important future of Tommy Carcetti. One last montage reminds us that life goes on in Baltimore, whether the show’s characters have reshaped it for the better or not.

7. Seinfeld // “The Finale”

The series finale of Seinfeld is also among the most divisive in the history of television, and it all begins with an amusing swerve. The show leads off by making us think Jerry and George are about to embark on a typical sitcom sendoff, bidding New York City farewell as they head to California to make a television series, but then the real plot kicks in as the show’s quartet of main characters is arrested for literally doing nothing as a man is carjacked.

The brilliance of the show’s protagonists getting in trouble for the very same thing they’d been doing for nine seasons in a “show about nothing” then pivots to a trial that does play by the sitcom rule of allowing old fan-favorite characters to come back as witnesses, then launches into a wrap-up that mocks the characters, the show’s fans, and the show’s own place of seeming importance in the pop culture landscape. Sitcom finales are usually more like curtain calls; "The Finale" was a provocative final joke.

8. Battlestar Galactica // “Daybreak Parts 1-3”

The finale of Battlestar Galactica might be a little too metaphysical in nature for some viewers, but there’s something about the sense of totality running through it that makes it a perfect sendoff for a series that always placed everything on the line with every single story it told. As the surviving humans of the fleet finally defeat their Cylon enemies, Starbuck sends them to a new home, and they agree to abandon all of their old technology and live among the primitive humans already present on what turns out to be our Earth. It’s a beautiful blending of victory, bittersweet goodbyes, seismic changes to everyone’s lives, angels, the future, and—believe it or not—“All Along the Watchtower.”

9. Star Trek: The Next Generation // “All Good Things…”

“Encounter at Farpoint,” the series premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation, is a famously slow, bloated affair that was a sign of things to come for the relatively weak first season. “All Good Things…” brilliantly repurposes that story as a time travel saga in which Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) learns that Q, the alien being who put humanity on trial back in the premiere, is continuing his test of the human race by placing Picard in three different eras of his life. It’s a brilliant conceit that makes an elegant circle out of the series while also allowing Picard to give viewers a grand tour of the series’ entire history, including his own future.

10. Buffy the Vampire Slayer // “Chosen”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer spent weeks setting up its series finale, laying out a last stand that would either end Buffy and her gang of allies forever or wipe Sunnydale off the face of the Earth—or both. The final battle itself has since been dwarfed by more epic series like Game of Thrones, but what makes “Chosen” so magical isn’t its fight scenes, but its heart. With her own army of potential Slayers at her back, Buffy asks Willow to perform a spell that will give them all the powers of a Slayer, leading to one of the most empowering montages in the history of television. Then, even while mourning absent friends, Buffy is able to look toward tomorrow.

11. Newhart // “The Last Newhart”

So many sitcom series finales are all about final goodbyes. Very often characters leave their longtime TV homes for somewhere new, leading to tearful farewells or at least a final moment for everyone to spend one last day together. Newhart absolutely blew that premise up with a twisty, joke-filled finale that includes the entire town being turned into a resort, a five-year time jump, and that brilliant final scene which reveals all of Newhart to have been the dream of Dr. Bob Hartley, Newhart’s character from The Bob Newhart Show. The level of ambition is admirable. That the ambition translated to genuine laughs is wonderful.

12. Twin Peaks: The Return // “Part 17 and Part 18”

Twin Peaks famously ended its early ’90s run with a cliffhanger, which then led to the joyous reception that accompanied The Return, an 18-hour monument to creative freedom which everyone hoped would finally provide some answers. In true David Lynch fashion, though, the answers we got were often difficult to parse. And by the time it was all over, we were left with even more questions. The final two hours of The Return are among the most mind-meltingly intense episodes of television ever devised, all building to a daring and stunning final scene that still has fans talking.

13. The West Wing // “Tomorrow”

The West Wing played the long game with its series finale thanks to a year-long election storyline, which meant that its final episode was always going to be the combination of both an end and a beginning. The intense election story—which included a live debate episode—culminated in the inauguration of a new president, and a farewell to Martin Sheen’s President Josiah Bartlet, but the sense of transition inherent in the plot managed to imbue the series with a new sense of potential energy as it made the turn toward home. Watching “Tomorrow,” you can’t help but fantasize about what it will be like for Josh Lyman and Sam Seaborn to be together in the White House again, changing the world in all new ways. That emotional weight meant that, after seven years, we actually all felt like we could use a little more of The West Wing.

14. Halt and Catch Fire // “Ten of Swords”

Mackenzie Davis as Cameron Howe in Halt and Catch Fire
Bob Mahoney, AMC

Halt and Catch Fire never got the audience it deserved when it was airing, which means many people likely don’t know just how brilliant and daring the show got in its final seasons, which included a time jump, a shocking death, and the dawn of the internet age. “Ten of Swords” is all about closing old chapters and starting new ones, and sends the show’s trinity of remaining major characters in promising new directions, even as they all come to terms with the fact that they can never again recapture what they once had.

15. 30 Rock // “Last Lunch”

30 Rock was one of the most acclaimed comedies of its era in part because of its outright refusal to ever be straightforward about anything. Every plot was jokes on top of jokes and references on top of references, creating a show that rewards viewers who can’t get enough of rapid fire wit (and deserves rewatching). “Last Lunch” continued that tradition while also managing to inject some genuine emotion into the affair, as Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) and Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) reconcile their friendship in a half hour packed with so many gags and callbacks you could watch it half a dozen times and still not catch everything.

10 Surprising Facts About J.R.R. Tolkien

Phil Romans via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Phil Romans via Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

There are plenty of things even the most ardent fans don't know about The Lord of the Rings author John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. In honor of Tolkien Reading Day (March 25th), here are 10 of them.

1. Tolkien had a flair for the dramatic.

As a linguist and expert on Old English and Old Norse literature, Tolkien was a professor at Oxford University from 1925 until 1959. He was also a tireless instructor, teaching between 70 and 136 lectures a year (his contract only called for 36). But the best part is the way he taught those classes. Although quiet and unassuming in public, Tolkien wasn't the typical stodgy, reserved stereotype of an Oxford don in the classroom. He went to parties dressed as a polar bear, chased a neighbor dressed as an axe-wielding Anglo-Saxon warrior, and was known to hand shopkeepers his false teeth as payment. As one of his students put it, "He could turn a lecture room into a mead hall."

2. Tolkien felt many of his fans were "lunatics."

Tolkien saw himself as a scholar first and a writer second. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were largely Tolkien's attempt to construct a body of myth, and their success caught him largely unaware. In fact, he spent years rejecting, criticizing, and shredding adaptations of his work that he didn't believe captured its epic scope and noble purpose. He was also utterly skeptical of most LOTR fans, who he believed were incapable of really appreciating the work, and he probably would have been horrified by movie fandom dressing up like Legolas.

3. Tolkien loved his day job.

To Tolkien, writing fantasy fiction was simply a hobby. The works he considered most important were his scholarly works, which included Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics, a modern translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and A Middle English Vocabulary.

4. He was quite romantic.

At age 16, Tolkien fell in love with Edith Bratt, three years his senior. His guardian, a Catholic priest, was horrified that his ward was seeing a Protestant and ordered the boy to have no contact with Edith until he turned 21. Tolkien obeyed, pining after Edith for years until that fateful birthday, when he met with her under a railroad viaduct. She broke off her engagement to another man, converted to Catholicism, and the two were married for the rest of their lives. At Tolkien's instructions, their shared gravestone has the names "Beren" and "Luthien" engraved on it, a reference to a famous pair of star-crossed lovers from the fictional world he created.

5. Tolkien's relationship with C.S. Lewis was complicated.

Tolkien's fellow Oxford don C.S. Lewis (author of The Chronicles of Narnia) is often identified as his best friend and closest confidant. But the truth is, the pair had a much more troubled relationship. At first, the two authors were very close. In fact, Tolkien's wife Edith was reportedly jealous of their friendship. And it was Tolkien who convinced Lewis to return to Christianity. But their relationship cooled over what Tolkien perceived as Lewis's anti-Catholic leanings and scandalous personal life (he had been romancing an American divorcee at the time). Although they would never be as close as they were before, Tolkien regretted the separation. After Lewis died, Tolkien wrote in a letter to his daughter that, “So far I have felt ... like an old tree that is losing all its leaves one by one: this feels like an axe-blow near the roots.”

6. Tolkien enjoyed clubbing.

Well, the extra-curricular, after-school sort. Wherever Tolkien went, he was intimately involved in the formation of literary and scholarly clubs. As a professor at Leeds University, for example, he formed the Viking Club. And during his stint at Oxford, he formed the Inklings, a literary discussion group.

7. He wasn't blowing smoke about those war scenes.

Tolkien was a veteran of the First World War, and served as a second lieutenant in the 11th (Service) Battalion of the British Expeditionary Force in France. He was also present for some of the most bloody trench fighting of the war, including the Battle of the Somme. The deprivations of Frodo and Sam on their road to Mordor may have had their origins in Tolkien's time in the trenches, during which he contracted a chronic fever from the lice that infested him and was forced to return home. He would later say that all but one of his close friends died in the war, giving him a keen awareness of its tragedy that shines through in his writing.

8. Tolkien invented languages for fun.

A philologist by trade, Tolkien kept his mind exercised by inventing new languages, many of which (like the Elvish languages Quenya and Sindarin) he used extensively in his writing. He even wrote songs and poems in his fictional languages. In addition, Tolkien worked to reconstruct and write in extinct languages like Medieval Welsh and Lombardic. His poem "BagmÄ“ BlomÄ" ("Flower of the Trees") might be the first original work written in the Gothic language in over a millennium.

9. Tolkien been published almost as prolifically posthumously as he was when he was alive.

Most authors have to be content with the works they produce during their lifetime, but not Tolkien. His scribblings and random notes, along with manuscripts he never bothered to publish, have been edited, revised, compiled, redacted, and published in dozens of volumes after his death, most of them produced by his son Christopher. While Tolkien's most famous posthumous publication is The Silmarillion, other works include The History of Middle Earth, Unfinished Tales, The Children of Hurin, and The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún.

10. Tolkien called Hitler a "ruddy little ignoramus."

Tolkien's academic writings on Old Norse and Germanic history, language, and culture were extremely popular among the Nazi elite, who were obsessed with recreating ancient Germanic civilization. But Tolkien was disgusted by Hitler and the Nazi party, and made no secret of the fact. He considered forbidding a German translation of The Hobbit after the German publisher, in accordance with Nazi law, asked him to certify that he was an "Aryan." Instead, he wrote a scathing letter asserting, among other things, his regret that he had no Jewish ancestors. His feelings are also evidenced in a letter he wrote to his son: "I have in this War a burning private grudge—which would probably make me a better soldier at 49 than I was at 22: against that ruddy little ignoramus Adolf Hitler ... Ruining, perverting, misapplying, and making for ever accursed, that noble northern spirit, a supreme contribution to Europe, which I have ever loved, and tried to present in its true light."

This piece originally ran in 2017.

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