Movie Mom

Movie Mom

If Bilbo Had a Lawyer….

posted by Nell Minow

James Daily writes intensive, witty, and very astute analyses of the legal issues raised in feature films.  I love his piece on the 5-foot long  contract between Bilbo Baggins and the dwarves in “The Hobbit.”  Here’s a sample on the very important legal principle of “consideration” (which means that there has to be some sort of exchange).


Here, Bilbo is promising to go with the Company to the Lonely Mountain and performing various services there, including extracting the treasure, plus a few more services we’ll get to later. In turn, as we shall see, the Company promises to pay Bilbo one fourteenth of the profits, plus a few other obligations. Thus we have “a promise for a promise,” otherwise known as a bilateral contract.

There are some other details to notice in these clauses. One is the use of defined terms (e.g. “referred to hereinafter as Burglar”). The parties to a contract may define terms however they wish, even in ways that contradict the definition used in statutes or regulations.

This is important in this case because of the use of the defined term “Burglar.”  Contracts to do something illegal are ordinarily unenforceable (e.g. collecting on an illegal gambling debt). But here what matters is not that the parties used the word ‘burglar’ but rather what sort of meaning they assigned to that defined term. As we shall see, the contract doesn’t require Bilbo to do anything illegal (or at least not obviously illegal), and so the contract will probably not fail for use of a questionable term.

And then there are the liability waivers, the non-disclosure agreement, and the provision for binding arbitration!  The write-up on the tax consequences of Clark Kent’s decision to leave The Daily Planet to be a blogger is pretty good, too!

Previous Posts

Interview: Adriana Trigiani of "Big Stone Gap"
Adriana Trigiani really is from a coal mining town in Virginia called Big Stone Gap and the biggest movie star in the world did choke on a chicken bone there. Now if that is not enough to inspire a book and a movie, I don't know what ...

posted 3:31:02pm Oct. 06, 2015 | read full post »

Carolyn Hax on the Toughest Media Question Parents Face
I am a huge fan of advice columnist Carolyn Hax, whose compassionate and insightful responses are always illuminating and often very funny. And I love the witty meta-commentary in the accompanying illustrations from Nick Galifianakis. Today, ...

posted 10:54:14am Oct. 06, 2015 | read full post »

Trailer: Martin Sheen and Rooney Mara in "Trash"
[iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0"] ...

posted 8:00:26am Oct. 06, 2015 | read full post »

John Hanlon Interviews Beth Kushnick on Designing for "The Good Wife"
"The Good Wife" has one of the best production design teams on television, so I was especially interested to read the interview my friend John Hanlon did with Beth Kushnick, set designer Beth Kushnick for The Credits. I loved the way she ...

posted 2:58:59pm Oct. 05, 2015 | read full post »

Trailer: "Back in Time" -- Documentary About the Making of "Back to the Future"
[youtube][/youtube] ...

posted 8:00:15am Oct. 05, 2015 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.