Friday, May 20, 2005

It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

That said, Episode III totally sucked less ass than the earlier prequels. It's sort of like George Lucas woke up and realized that he'd left a whole lot of work undone and tried to cram everything that should have been in the prequels into one movie. I mean there's still a lot of bad; there are new, extraneous characters, like "General Grievous," a robot general that coughs and uses lightsabers. There's a whole lot of terrible dialogue, especially in the wooden romance between Anakin and Padme...

But maybe it's not the movie itself that bothers me, but what it represents...the original movies were much more human films, with characters that had meaningful interaction. The prequels feel much more like an elaborate video game, or a series of feature-length advertisements for the franchise. Why is it that we never learned where the Jedi came from, or a real history of the Sith? Why is it that in the prequels, the Jedi are little more than spectacular martial artists. Where is the wisdom of Yoda? Maybe there was a reason why we never saw Yoda with a lightsaber in the original series: because he sought other ways to influence conflicts, that did not involve the use of outright force.

The original series made me want to believe in this world, where anybody could be transformed from a yahoo tuning his speeder on a backwater planet into someone with a grand purpose. The original movies were scary; we cared about these characters. And what happened to them felt important. Somehow, that's lacking in the prequels -- the bluescreened shots and obvious CG makes the whole thing seem fake, and no matter how horrible Vader's acts, it seems somehow facile and, ultimately meaningless. The fact that the plot makes no sense and there are what seem to be obvious contradictions puts the nail in it for me. No matter how it struts and frets during its hours on stage, it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

And it seems to have drained dry the joy that Star Wars once gave me.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Why does it always rain on me?

I've got tickets to see the Red Sox and Athletics play tomorrow, May 18th, at 12:35 pm. The way I had imagined it, I would sit with my gal Brett and a couple friends, taking in the California sun and watching my favorite sports team in the world, the World Champion Boston Red Sox, play the local boys.

It's going to rain. As I just said to our roommate, I did not move to California for this shit. My boss assured me that by May, there would be no more rain -- I think that I've destabilized the weather pattern.

Sorry, Californians.


Sunday, May 15, 2005

Star Crossed

I just started in on the prequels. The Star Wars prequels. Then, internet explorer crashed.

So I'm going to lay this out in bullet points.

1) The prequels have no coherent narrative. Episode One was rambling enough, but Ep. 2 lost the narratives from Ep. 1 completely. Elected Queen? Wtf.

2) The prequels don't make sense in the Star Wars universe. One Jedi was enough to tip the scales against the Empire in Return of the Jedi, but a bunch of robots thrown together by a "trade consortium" mowed down half of the entire Jedi population in Ep. 2? Did you check out their strategy? GET IN THE CENTER OF THE RING AND LET EVERYBODY SHOOT AT US????? Are Jedi just dumber than droids, is that it?

3) The prequels are little more than a vehicle for CG effects and design objects; the story doesn't matter, unfortunately, as long as there are shiny spaceships and lightsaber battles. And "pod races."

I, like many people, was totally into the idea of the prequels, having grown up on Star Wars. I was ecstatic in the theatre as the film began, and that continued until about the end of the first scene, when Obi-Wan, confronted with two droids said, "uh, I can't handle this." It all went downhill from there.

If I were George Lucas, I would do this, right now: Stop Distribution of Ep. 3. You're not fooling anybody, George; these prequels are not going to cut it. Make three new ones and we'll all go see them again, as long as they don't suck. And I'm going to tell you how to do it. (Once again, with bullet points.)

1) The prequels should be the story of Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Palpatine.

2) The first film should begin at the end of Anakin's apprenticeship with Obi-Wan. No mitochondrians, no messianic bullcrap or kiddie actors. The story that needs to be told is about choosing the quick and easy way to power -- and it's a story that needs to be told now.

3) The first film should give a history of the Jedi, and a history of the Sith, and should focus on two settings: Coruscant and Dagobah, with some deep-space travel in between. Here's a quick synopsis:
a) Anakin becomes a full-fledged Jedi; we get some pomp, circumstance and history. Jedi respect life above all else, and serve to protect the Republic's peace. It is a golden age, and a Jedi seldom needs to lay a hand on his saber. The heaviest decision a Jedi can make to take a life. They are more monks than policeman.
b) There is a disturbance: Darth Maul shows up, shattering the peaceful image of Coruscant. Kills somebody important or something. This necessitates a history of the Sith, and a space pursuit to Dagobah.
c) Obi-Wan and Anakin follow Darth Maul to Dagobah, where they discover evidence that Maul has been training for some time. They fight and Maul actually has some dialog -- he tells Obi-Wan and Anakin of the Dark Side's power. Anakin pursues him and finally strikes him down -- in the same place Luke killed his doppelganger in The Empire Strikes Back.
d) The romance should also be in this one. Most Jedi are probably ascetics, but many of them find love and have children -- Anakin should be married at the end of the film.

That's my $.02 anyway. Or, really, if you count up all the money I've spent on movies, books, video games, and merchandise, my, I dunno, hundred bucks?

Oh -- and the clone wars. They weren't cloning storm troopers -- they were impressing people into the army to get them. They were cloning Jedi, who of course can be fought off only by other Jedi, and since the cloned Jedi look like the good ones, Palpatine creates the stormtrooper army to hunt them all down. You get me? Bad Jedi show up, good ones fight them, Palpatine convinces the people that they're all bad, and recruits stream into the army. Palpatine declares martial law, which he never gives up. That's my episode two. Oh yeah -- Anakin is watching Palpatine in Ep. 2. The film ends as he finally realizes that Palpatine is the Sith Lord who trained Darth Maul, and Anakin takes up his light saber, fueled by the anger he feels. This is where he goes on his killing rampage, mowing down Palpatine's guards with no regard for their lives. As he does so, he is consumed by the power of the dark side. Anakin and Palpatine have a no-holds-barred, balls-out battle, which Anakin, at great length wins -- only by embracing the power of the Dark Side. Anakin spares Palpatine, who calls Anakin his "apprentice." The credits roll, with John William's triumphant music changed to a moodier minor.

Ep. Three is tough, but it has to show a bit of redemption. Yoda and Obi-Wan need to escape, as well as Leia and Luke. Mrs. Anakin needs to give up her life to save them. C3PO and R2D2 should probably be involved in saving them, and should be introduced here. Obi-Wan and Anakin/Darth need to have a showdown, which ends with Obi-Wan having the upper hand. The Star Destroyers, but not the Death Star, need to be introduced, and shown as the fascistic planet-dominating tools they are.

So there it is. If you want another $30 of my and everybody else's cash, make them like this or better, George. Enough with this kiddie crap -- in order to be effective sci-fi, they have to be darker than the original movies. Otherwise, the prequels will be swept aside by history and go into the pile with the animated Star Wars series and the Ewok Adventure, (which if memory serves, was better than either Ep. 1 or 2). In today's world, where there is good movie sci-fi, people can tell the difference.

Ethan in Wine Country

p.s. now that that's off my chest, I'll probaby talk more about food, wine and outdoorsy stuff and how much I miss New York.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Welcome to whine country.

What you heard is true. I live in California wine country suckin' up the sun, crushing grapes with my feet I Love Lucy style and generally living well in this idyllic, tiny, boring town.

There's a saying at this bar in Sonoma -- welcome to wine country, have a beer. That pretty much sums it up. Understand?

Well anyway, I'm going to mess with this blogger thing. I've got some plans to whine about the upcoming star wars film, in general how the town of Napa is way lamer than New York City, and how the lack of rain and sunshine just drives me nuts. (Actually I haven't been in California long enough for that to be true -- I hear it takes a couple of years.)

But for now, I have to go to Home Depot in the suburban sprawl strip mall and get some mulch and high-nitrogen fertilizer, then plant my tomatoes while there's still time.