Wednesday, November 2, 2005

A 30-Year-Old Movie Review

So our Brazilian exchange student and I have been watching Star Wars. This began a couple nights ago when we watched my coveted bought-on-the-streets-of-Chinatown-before-the-theatrical-release DVD of Revenge of the Sith, after which (as I expounded on how the OLD movie now picks up the story after this NEWEST AND LAST movie) she said,

"I've never seen the original Star Wars."

Me (as though an electric current was suddenly fed into my earlobe): "Ssshh!! You gotta be careful who's around when you say something like that!"

(Confused look.)

Me: "That's like saying loudly, 'I don't poop.' If you don't want to eat your lunch alone for the rest of your life you just don't wanna go there."

So last night we watched the original, followed by The Empire Strikes Back. I still remember as a kid seeing the newspaper advertisement for the original movie--this is how I learned of its existence--and can recall still the giddy thrill I felt at the thought of a realistic space movie. I loved the movie and everything about it, like a brizillion other kids my age.

But now, 30 frickin' years later, it is harder for this all to bury its head in the sands of adolescent nostalgia and escape an unbridled adult assessment (well, to whatever limited extent I'm embracing adulthood). Joseph Campbell called George Lucas "my greatest student" and I think there can be no other explanation for the strength of the hold of this franchise on the collective American psyche than that Lucas has tapped into a kind of bone marrow societal mythology and given it an attractive, futuristic look (Sparky's feathers melting away because he got too close to the sun or a big, bearded dude carrying stone tablets down a mountain--these images are destined to bomb with a 21st Century film audience. Think Gigli).

The acting is wooden and cheesy, the creatures are stupid-looking, a surprising amount of it looks--I'm shocked to say it--low-budget now, and the dialog... God, the dialog is like listening to close-miked high fidelity recording of someone farting. It's absolutely, excruciatingly, distractingly, grab-the-sick-sack BAD.

But it's saved from an afterlife on the list of movies as punch lines (snuggled right in there between Santa Clause Conquers the Martians and The Giant Spider Invasion) by this grand, arcing story line that is the dream fulfillment of at least every pre-pubescent boy. Well, that and light sabers. OK, OK. And Natalie Portman (who, it must be said, did a great job of jettisoning any remaining shards of acting talent for this role), especially when her top goes from respectful SenatorWear to strategically-ripped barely-there Replicant StripperWear in the blink of a camera's eye. Ah, the magic of cinema.

And... More Fun With Nicknames!

Our 200 year-old dog is officially named "Ladybird." Susan decided that didn't sound quite right ("She's just not that dignified!") and so named her "Pupster" instead. But after a few weeks we realized that without her weekly bath, the dog wandering into a room--any room--has a similar effect on one's cognitive functioning as laughing gas at the dentist. And so she has been called "Stinky" ever since, often by people even on first acquaintance.

But lately (especially since her recent haircut) she looks just like a little lamb.

And so I've taken to calling her "Sweet Lamb of Dog" (which sounds like a cross between a Hmong delicacy and routine sacrilege). And I think it's working. Today on her walk she actually used her Stalin leg a bit (the right rear, which doesn't work any more, evidently due to an injury earlier in life), leading me to wonder if I'll soon be singing "Stinky got back!"


woolf said...

If you go to you can find out your Star Wars Twin. My results are as follows:

In openness I am a Yoda at 97%

In conscientious I am a Grand Moff Tarkin at 58% (basically I have a chance to ignore tiny details like the weaknesses of the death star)

In extraversion I am a Luke Skywalker at 79%

In agreeableness I am an Obi Wan Kenobi at 87%


In neuroticism I am and R2 D2 at 27%

wunelle said...

A FABULOUS suggestion! Here are my results:

In openness I am Wicket the Ewok at 70%--"You are relatively open to new experiences." (I hope this doesn't really translate as "too stupid to hold your ground.")

In conscientiousness I am Tarkin @ 41%--"You are neither organized or disorganized." (I, too missed those pesky exhaust ports on the Death Star! But I have killer cheekbones!)

In extraversion I am Luke @ 70%--"You are relatively social and enjoy the company of others." It says that Luke "longs to leave the slow paced, lonely life on Tattooine." This is my constant yearning to live in a large city.

In agreeableness I am the disgusting Boba Fett @ a pathetic 38%!--"You find it easy to express irritation with others." Apparently I'm "known for [my] ruthlessness." Looks like I've already slid to the Dark Side :-(

In neuroticism I am a saintly 1%, putting me right good in there with Princess Leia! "You probably remain calm, even in tense situations." I think we can agree that an airline pilot needs this characteristic, no? I am apparently "brave and relaxed, even when in great danger."

At least I'm not just flat-out Darth Vader!

green_canary said...

I am Yoda 90%. Yoda, I am! Hmmm! Jedi master to the stars, yo. Challenging the establishment and unlearning what I've learned. (I have that last one down pat.)

(Sadly, I'm also Grand Moff Tarkin because I have a tendency to forget the details, like vulnerable exhaust ports on Death Stars and braking when traffic stops.)

Stephanie said...

Sad to say, (and I watched Star Wars with my dad, I didn't know half of the people. but I know yoda. And obi wan. And Luke. WOOKIE)
And I poop. So there.

And you have a great Lamb.

The Retropolitan said...

Waitaminnit -- I don't poop. Is this not natural?

wunelle said...

That's it!! I am through having lunch with you, Retro!

Joshua said...

First, let me say that Episode II should have been called "send in the clones" Think about it. Steven Sondheim could have done a collaboration and REALLY made the soundtrack hum.

But I digress. I think, Bil, you touched on what keeps the originals around. The theme. Not just the wish fulfillment of every young man, but really of every society.

The overarching idea is that we are all stuck in some sort of struggle between the past (which was good in remembrance, but had it's share of evil) and the unknown future, which will always be assumed evil. It's the theme of just about every epic: that struggle between good and evil is really a struggle against change. Lord of the Rings is a good new example of the same.

And I bring that up because, at least in the original Star Wars, this idea was manifest in the nature vs. science debate. All things good were natural (metawhatevers, jedi, they still used swords) and all things bad were mechanical (darth vader, death stars, and lasers) The new ones, despite the much better cinematography, failed to realize this. They had a sort of perfect belnd between the two, the sort of perfect blend we cannot suspend our belief for.

The cheesy dialogue, wooden acting, puppets, we can forgive these things. But when you give us utopia, that we cannot take.

Although, it would have been nice to see more of Natalie Portman wink wink


Lizzie said...

Here are my results (because you are DYING to know):
Openness: 59%, astro mech droids
conscientiousness: 25% Admiral Ozzel
extraversion: 9%, wampas
agreeableness: 38% Boba Fett
Neuroticism: 80% C3P0

According to this I'm not very open, negligent, antisocial, rude, and high-strung. Yay!

btw, I didn't see Star Wars until I was 20 and when I finally did, I saw it in French- not quite the same thing. I didn't see it in English until after I saw episode 1. I know this is blasphemous but I think episode 3 is my favorite.
*ducking head in anticipation of outraged response*

wunelle said...

Send In the Clones. Yeah.

Every person can relate to the struggle between warring things in ourselves. Robert Wright's "The Moral Animal" (a fabulous summary of others' thinking) reminds us that morality is simply a pro-social charter, a behavioral code that enables more of us to get the most out of our environment. Star Wars places the hard choices of morality before us in ways comprehensible to kids while keeping the world interesting enough to keep adults in the theaters with their kids.

(Just started the special features from Episode 3's DVD release. I love the technical part of the making of these movies. I'm sure I'm in the wrong line of work! The sound design part especially is right up my alley.)

Lizzie, no punishment will ever be meted out to you from these quarters for embracing any part of the Star Wars universe; even the dialog (though I think much too highly of you to expect that!).

I liked Episode 3 best of all the new movies as well.

Sorry to have to say it, but... your Star Wars personality inventory is simply not flattering! (Let's just stick to the rorschach tests ;-)

But it's OK. You can still leave comments here.