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The force was with me: Sith, sex, self-promotion, and a summary of events. I also list quite a few song lyrics; a snapshot of my playlist, so to speak.
I got up before 10, showered, and prepared breakfast. While the tea was steeping and the coffee brewing Mike called and set up a time when I needed to be at his place: 11:30 or so; we would then take an 11:45 bus in order to go to Sherie’s school to pick up her car and drive out to East Towne.
This was done.
We got to the theater about 12:30 and bought our tickets. Mike bought a soda. We figured we would watch the 1pm showing, but when I looked over the schedule I saw a 12:30 and a 1:45 ... nothing at 1. Perhaps, Mike said, that was only for Friday/Saturday (the 1pm, that is), so at 12:34 we walked in to the 12:30 showing and discovered that the trailers were still going—perfect. We got great seats and enjoyed the next two-plus hours.
Revenge of the Sith was formulaic, the dialogue was atrocious, and the special effects, while now standard, were impressive. That is to say: it was what I expected, better than I anticipated, and not as much as I had hoped for.
We often say film: films used to be made on film, but now many are digital. We say movies: but the metaphor of the motion picture is in many instances too limiting. The medium provides the opportunity of an experience that supplies a dynamic interplay of light and sound, and that play with light (and color and shadow ...) often results in images or pictures, but need not be so limited. Computer effects are a blessing and a curse when it comes to modern movies, for they are now so cheap that everyone can use them, but as a result they are often used for the most banal and formulaic of reasons or purposes. On the other hand they allow us to escape the tyranny of the fixed pespective and the purely functional, narrative, and representational. One must admit that movies/films were never purely functional; ever since Eisenstein—at the latest—that which we call the aesthetic has had a major role in movies.
There were a few scenes, such as in the early dogfight(s), where the potential of movies/films as a medium broke through, but Lucas is rather clear on two points: he wants to tell his story, and he wants to appeal to a young crowd. Nothing else seems to matter. As a result of the second goal he includes childish humor that grows tiresome rather quickly. Regarding the former, he tends to ignore characterization, quality dialogue, and plot subtlety. When he paints it is with broad strokes; most often he sketches outlines and tosses patches of color on his canvas, looking for a match. Criticism of these movies is useless to some extent: they are not great movies, everyone knows it, Lucas does not care, and they will make tons of money anyway.
This is sad.
This is sad precisely because these at-best-B-movie pieces of entertainment have a certain potential. Lucas cites himself and quotes the other movies in the series; he provides consistency as well as a space for irony and reflection. The special effects are brilliant at a technical level, and with them he is able to create worlds and settings foreign and beautiful. The characters have been with us for so long that we feel as if there could be some depth yet to explore. The universe created by the movies is so vast and the mythology—while simple and cribbed from so many cultural sources—so compelling that it deserves to be more than instrumentalized. On top of that quality actors put in time and effort, but judged on their performances in these movies alone one would conclude that they were talentless hacks devoid of range or ability.
As in so many recent special effects films, the perfection of the technique is in fact a curse. Such perfection mars the recent Lemony Snicket movie and I think it was an issue in Sin City; it is clearly a problem here. Perfect framing and clarity of composition and focus leads to boring scenes without tension. There is no movement, no imbalance, and when it comes to computer-generated objects, often no weight. Peter Jackson overcame this obstacle in his Lord of the Rings adaptation(s) everywhere, I feel, except with regard to Legolas’ fight on the Oliphant, which was too fluid, too facile. The first Spider-Man movie had this problem; the second mostly solved it.
Now for a few specifics: perhaps half the dialogue could have been cut, not because it was insipid (which it was) but because it was too demonstrative—it merely served to repeat what the actors were doing. In action sequences it broke up the rhythm, such as Anakin’s outbursts during the dogfight at the beginning. The only effective Padme/Anakin scene was the one where they were apart but shown in alternating images, with swelling John Williams music in the background; there was no dialogue. They went overboard with the special effects showing how deformed Palpatine had become. Regarding the Darth Vader costume at the end, even with a few visual tricks to make him look taller, it was clear that Hayden Christensen was too short—they should have just used a taller body double; he was behind the mask anyway, and his voice was done by James Earl Jones. I felt that the Palpatine-Anakin scene at the “theater” was the only effective scene of dialogue in the movie, and that is while acknowledging that it was designed to serve a plot purpose.
That all having been said, I enjoyed Revenge of the Sith a great deal and I will watch it again. Was it worth $5.50? Probably not, but I do not feel cheated.
Now for more comments on the PTC’s complaint(s) about the Carl’s Jr. ad:
Was Melissa Caldwell titillated? To the rest of us Paris Hilton is just a too-skinny, not terribly attractive woman who wears too much makeup and lets her private sex videos get into the wrong hands.
We have a response by Carl’s Jr. CEO Andy Puzder:
Has Puzder got a handy corruptometer around the house? Where can you buy one of those?
Back to Melissa “I was so titillated” Caldwell:
I can understand saying that teens are not ready for sex, but to say that teens are not ready for sexuality is irresponsibly stupid—ready or not, it is both all around them and in their hormones. You can lock them up and stop them from having sex with one another, but you cannot lock away the sexuality, unless you employ a lot of drugs and psychological warfare (though the number of sexually dysfunctional adults in this society speaks to the pervasiveness of the latter in our culture).
Last week I had to re-validate a lot of my webpages and correct them in the process. I went through my old book reviews, which meant that I had to read them, to an extent. The other night I was interested to see to what extent my reviews were useful; my review on Bookman’s clustering book, for example, was published on Slashdot, and since I also posted it on Amazon it has found its way to a number of other websites, though only rarely with attribution. Google searches for several of the books I looked at list my reviews either at the top, or at least on the first page of links. This amused me greatly.
I revisted my comments on C. Eller’s book about the myth of matriarchal prehistory, and to provide a more balanced view, so to speak, I will also link to a review much more critical than my own.
What seems like ego-googling actually turned out to be useful, for when searching for pages about D. Peat’s The Philosopher’s Stone I found a link back to my review listed on the archives on the Heckler & Coch blog. More useful, however, were the other entries, with some really fascinating links/discussions referring to topics of interest to me and my work. I find it worth checking out.
Mike and I drove back from the movie and went to the hostel, where we sat and talked for quite a while, mostly about the movie and about movies, though I got around to telling him that I am moving out of Madison and will be in Berlin next year.
I will be heading back to Idaho for a while in August, but am still working out the details of how I will do so. If I fly it will cost X-dollars; renting a car and driving (car and gas) would be more than the plane ticket, but if I take a bunch of items back with me in the car, I could store them in my dad’s garage and such, which might make it worthwhile. Mike said he would be interested in driving back with me. We could take the northern route, go through Montana, hit highway 12 or so and go to Kooskia and visit mom, and then go south to Boise. This all sounds like a promising idea.
I could fly to Europe from Boise (perhaps Boise to Minneapolis to Amsterdam to Berlin). There are many details to consider.
He had to take the car back to Sherie; her house key was with the car keys, so I walked home. He gave back the DVDs of mine that he had borrowed; I had not even missed them, except the Matrix sequels. Curious.
I had about an hour until my meeting with Corina at the Mediterranean Cafe, and shortly before I left I got a phone call from Kristin (of Jürgen and Kristin fame), and in the end she decided to join me and Corina for the “Conflict in the Classroom” theater production. After the Mediterranean Cafe for dinner we got ice cream at the union, survived gnats on the terrace, and met Kristin for the little performance.
It was interesting.
We left and ended up at Steep & Brew, since it was still early and no one had any desire to call it an evening. We chatted for over an hour about various things, from movies to the pope to linguistics and loan words.
So it was that I came home around 10:30.
Now I can call it an evening.
—May 25 2005