1) Sean Astin made me cry about four times and I'm not even a hobbit girl. His performance in this movie is astonishing.
2) Despite the slicing-and-dicing of Faramir's and Eowyn's stories nearly past recognition (which might frustrate me except I have to stop and remind myself that I did not LIKE Faramir in the books and it is only movie!Faramir who got me really interested in their stories), David Wenham and Miranda Otto were utterly brilliant and devastating in what scenes they had. So was Bernard Hill. I loved Merry and Eowyn bonding so quickly and believably with so few words.
3) By contrast Viggo Mortensen seemed somewhat flat and Orlando Bloom might as well not have been in the movie, since I'm sure it was a CGI Legolas who did the Stupid Elf Tricks, climbing oliphaunts and whatnot. If Viggo's goal is to convince the audience of Aragorn's extreme reluctance to be king, he did that superbly; I have never before felt sorry for a guy about to become the celebrated and beloved ruler of the free world. He was however marvelous speaking to the dead. That scene gave me chills, and I don't mean because of the ghosts.
4) John Noble must have been amazing because I loathe Denethor more than any movie character I can ever remember. I can't even talk performance because every time I picture his face, I want to see him explode in a shower of sparks. Worst. Parent. Ever. The scene where he makes Pippin sing for him while he's stuffing his face and Faramir is riding off presumably to his death (and oh god the look on his face!) almost made me too mad to cry, even though Billy Boyd was superbly heartbreaking.
(And ashinae has just reminded me about Gandalf aka Mithrandir whacking Denethor with his staff! GO GANDALF!)
5) The sequence where Pippin lights the signal fire in Gondor that then triggers fires all the way over the mountains until Aragorn sees the last one burning from the steps of the Golden Hall in Rohan...AMAZING. These huge sweeping helicopter shots combined with CGI...just stunning.
6) I wish Arwen were tougher. I wish she'd gotten to fight. That said, I still love her and I love the way Liv Tyler plays her and no one is ever going to convince me the filmmakers did wrong by giving her a larger role. I also love her scenes with Elrond, though I would willingly have sacrificed one of them to get the Houses of Healing back into the theatrical cut.
7) Even minus some scenes I wanted the pacing of the film is amazing. Long as it is, I had no real sense of time passing, except ironically at the start, which felt a bit much like TTT and dragged as I was expecting them to reach the stairs sooner with less fussing over what they were going to eat. Okay, I guess they had to convince us about Frodo mistrusting Sam so much, but I mostly thought it made Frodo look bad. Then again I wasn't sorry he looked bad since I wasn't sure I'd believe that this Frodo would refuse to destroy the Ring at the end, and I did believe it.
8) Smeagol did call Deagol "my love," didn't he? I did not imagine that? Oh, LOVED LOVED LOVED the opening...and the later parallels with Sam and Frodo...wow, I am just in love with Sam and I never saw that coming. And I LOVE that Gollum died as Smeagol. Added huge poignancy to his entire story.
9) Boromir in the credits and in flashback in the movie, even for two seconds...how I love the producers for keeping Sean Bean in there, which probably means they have to pay him residuals and everything.
11) Gimli still counting.
12) The severed heads in the catapults.