A Far Time Ago, In a Galaxy Long, Long Away... (the Big Deal about Star Wars)

This was inevitable.

I would not be able to stand by any sort of “Geek Cred” had I not eventually done a post on Star Wars. I’d have to turn in my membership card, if I didn’t.

Why? Because Star Wars is great. No matter how all the mucking up of it with the Special Editions and prequels has occurred, the fans still love it. I hated Episode 1, but I still saw it 4 times, and was in line for the midnight showing of Episode 2. Then, I wasn’t even that crazy about that one, but I saw that 3 times… and yes, had my advance tickets to see Episode 3, digitally projected, at the midnight showing at the ArcLight in Hollywood. Still some cringe-worthy moments of cheese, but the best of the prequels. (Though, it’s like calling it the “prettiest of three uglies”) No, I didn’t dress up in costume. I do have limits. (okay, okay… I just didn’t have a decent one…)

Yeah, they weren’t that great, as actual movies go. George Lucas hadn’t actually directed anything since the FIRST movie back in 1977… and it kinda showed. I have to admit, I actually started getting a tad nervous when I saw the Special Edition of the first movie (now called Episode 4). Why did it suck? Let’s start a list:

1) The effects. Yeah, it’s great you have all this new technology to put in all this “cool stuff” (a subjective term)… but was it needed? Did it move the story at all? No. It was done to look “neat”. Okay… but they didn’t look neat. The original trilogy was such a landmark of special effects… they look great even by TODAY’S standards… and these were made without CGI. Good old fashioned models and trick photography… and they looked brilliant. You could reach out and touch them, they looked so real. Now… combining the original model effects with new CGI… well, you could easily tell what was CG, even if you hadn’t seen them the first time around. It was… distracting. The new movies… had all CG. Looked fine. Old ones… all models, looked great. The Special Editions? Models combined with CG…. Uh… no. Now, a lot of movies being made now DO combine the model miniatures with computer effects… but they’re *meant* to be combined. They are photographed with the explicit purpose of putting in a computer effect *here* or *there*. The originals… never heard of CG. Those CG effects were never meant to be there in the first place… the technology didn’t exist. So now… the new stuff sticks out like a badly infected thumb.

2) The new scenes. Uh… why? Again, they didn’t need them. The new Jabba scene meeting Han Solo? Wow… suddenly, Jabba the Hutt isn’t the ruthless, bloodthirsty gangster that I thought he was when we first saw him in Return of the Jedi… he’s a friendly Irish slug who has no problem having his subordinates push him around. What??? Jabba has the power to have Han eviscerated Jack-the-Ripper style right there while he watches, drinking a Pina Colada… and Han is walking on his tail, poking him, and setting the terms of their deal? Makes me wonder why he starts begging and pleading when he next sees him in ROTJ. It doesn’t make sense to me. It only drove home the theory I’ve heard that says, “The more a villain talks… the less scary he is.”

Not to mention… the Biggs Darklighter scene? Holy cripes on toast! The whole Biggs Darklighter thing was actually a sort of Easter Egg for fans of the originals. Yeah, we didn’t realize it the first time… but there’s a lot going on, we don’t need to get it right away. After about the 20th time watching it, I realized… “Wait… that’s “Biggs”… Luke talked about a “Biggs”… they’re the same damn guy!” Now his line of “Just like Beggar’s Canyon back home” has a little more effect, even as a throwaway line, because he’s saying it TO someone, rather than just that weird country kid who just says random things out loud. Plus, his look of concern when Biggs crashes and bites the dust. It was a treat for loyal fans! Doesn’t add to the story… just a little something extra. Also gave us a bigger sense of scale to the story… because we *didn’t* see their meeting at the rebel base, so it drives home there’s stuff going on behind the scenes… more to the world than just what we’re seeing on screen for two hours. I loved that. Now… they have the “lost scene”. Oh God, it should have stayed lost based on the dialogue alone… “We’ll catch up, when we get back!” Why not just throw a Red Shirt on him, and post a Neon sign above his head saying, “Going to die in 10 minutes.” I’m surprised he didn’t show Luke a picture of his Sweetheart and talk about how he’s looking forward to his retirement after “this last job.” I honestly felt insulted.

3) Greedo shooting first. I remember hearing the reasoning for this alteration was that Lucas “wanted to show Han was really a good person, and was only doing it in self-defense.” Uh… isn’t he a *scoundrel*? The whole point of his character? Starts off a self-obsessed scoundrel, starts to let the nice-guy stuff show… and by the end of the trilogy, he’s a nice guy? Yeah, that’s called a “character arc”. We like character arcs, makes us not think we wasted time watching them. If he starts off as a “nice guy” and ends off as a “nice guy”… uh, where’s the arc?

I actually didn’t bother to see the Special Editions of Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi in the theatre. I was too soured on the first one.

Now before I get too long-winded (too late)… let’s hit a few points on the suckness of the Prequels.

Phantom Menace: Jar-Jar Binks. Need I say more? I do? Okay: Cute lil Annie Skywalker. “Are you an Angel?” Worst introductory line for a character in history. Going a little too far out of the way to show that he’s really a sweet, wonderful kid that can’t do any wrong. Dontcha think? He should have been 2 years younger than Obi-Wan, an actual Starpilot, and not the 10-year-old sci-fi version of a Go-Cart racer. Want more? The existence of R2-D2 and C-3PO. They were critical in Episode IV… the whole plot of the movie revolved around them and the information they had. They serve NO storytelling purpose whatsoever in this movie or either of the other prequels.

Attack of the Clones: Okay… the Clone War, neato. One side filled with a never-ending supply of exact copy drones that have no families, no dreams, no emotions, no personalities and are made only to kill and follow orders blindly with no conscience to rule them… and the other side has Robots. (with no families, dreams, emotions, personalities, made only to kill, blah blah blah) That about sum it up? Good. Who the hell am I supposed to care about? Hell, I felt *something* for the German Soldier in Saving Private Ryan… and he was the enemy! Where are the innocents being slaughtered? The shmoes on the front line that are forced to fight for a cause they don’t believe in? The guys with the sweethearts at home or nearing retirement? Yeah, you don’t have time to show that in a movie, but if you have ONE side as a never-ending onslaught of faceless drones, and the other is normal people fighting for their home… then you know that those sweethearts and retirees are in there. You automatically have an underdog to root for! And an urgency for the Jedi to end the war!

Revenge of the Sith: Shall I mention the dialog? Nah, too easy. (Though to be fair, there wasn’t anything as bad as “I hate sand”… but a robot saying, “She’s lost the will to live” comes damn close. Is that medical terminology, Dr. RTX1834?) How about some of the more interesting plot holes that pop up? Like… oh, I don’t know; If it takes them 20 years to build a Death Star (which “becomes operational” in Episode 4), how can they throw another one up in less than three years between the periods of A New Hope and ROTJ? Hmmm? How about… if Anakin is 23 years old (since this is three years after AOTC, which itself is 10 years after PM, and he was 10 then)… that means in 20 years he’s 43 (and Obi-Wan is only 53), and if the point of Obi-Wan and Darth fighting in the first movie is to show “two old men fighting” (stay with me on this)… this means that George Lucas considers 43 and 53 to be OLD… and Obi-Wan aged REALLY badly.

And WHERE IS MY NEW LIGHTSABER TRICK??? In ANH, we are shown that a Lightsaber is a two-handed weapon, wielded Samurai/Kendo style. ESB, Darth fights one-handed style. ROTJ, a NEW lightsaber color, plus a throwing attack. TPM, a double-bladed lightsaber. AOTC, using two lightsabers at once. ROTS? Nothing. General Grievous doesn’t count… he’s a droid PLUS it’s just a variation on the double lightsaber from the Clone Wars. Give me a lightsaber nun chuck or something, please!

Of course, the biggest reason to see the prequels honestly didn’t have much to do with the writing… or frankly, even the effects. You have to admit, it WAS a fairly defining social event of the time. Going to see those movies, was not only nostalgic, but an all out EVENT. Just the experience of seeing new Star Wars for the first time with a theatre packed full of fellow excited moviegoers, makes it worth it by itself. (And as you may have seen from the earlier post… I loves me a movie-going experience) Hell, the entire movie could have been simply George Lucas stepping out in front of a green screen in a Jedi robe, pulling it back, dropping his pants, and rubbing one out for the world to see. Credits roll. 11 minutes later, a legion of internet posters begin deconstruction and discussion of his stroking technique, writing, “Wasn’t exactly what I expected, but it *was* better than Phantom Menace”… from their iPhone as they get back in line to see it again.

Simply because it’s Star Wars. All of us old enough to have seen the originals the first time around have been waiting with baited breath for “more Star Wars”. Ever since Return of the Jedi in 1983. Even if you hated the Ewoks, you wanted more.

Why? Well… “That’s the trick, isn’t it?”

I met some friends not too long ago for our geek version of a “poker night”… I was the last to arrive, and when I got there, they were debating “which was the best lightsaber battle”? Out of all the movies. My vote is an easy one. The Empire Strikes Back: Luke and Vader. (Each movement has so much character in it, a very lopsided, yet passionate and realistic battle… plus one of the biggest plot twists in cinematic history. The prequels? Yeah, they’re pretty, but everyone pretty much uses the same moves, the same techniques. I heard a lot of “behind-the-scenes” talk of how they wanted to add in “character” to the fights… but honestly, I didn’t see it.) I’ve been involved in that conversation many times, as well as many other variations. Eventually, someone ends up remarking how they have a significant other or non-fan friend that is always wondering, “What is the big deal?”

I think the standard answer pretty much mentions the “Event” of Star Wars. How, when it first came out, there was NOTHING else like it that anyone had ever seen. For one: It has NO connection to Earth whatsoever. All other science fiction (even today) has a basis on Earth. Earth of the future, or people FROM Earth are involved in some way (even the new Battlestar Galactica has them *searching* for Earth). Partly, that’s how we relate, because it’s a familiar element to us. Whether it’s Earth of now, or Earth of the future, it involves us as Earthlings and just may happen to us. Star Wars… Nope. It takes place “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” (Possibly the greatest variation of “Once Upon a Time” ever conceived)

On a logistical level, the technology of the movie, and the visual style has inspired thousands of filmmakers from the 70s all the way to today. It changed the way movies were made, and changed the way we as an audience looked at them. It created the “Blockbuster” and briefly brought back the “event” of movies.

As Science Fiction… well, that’s probably a major oversight, because it ISN’T science fiction. A science fiction story has a novelty about it… a rule of some sort, and that rule is what dictates the entire underlying reality of that story. So if you have a world where everyone wears a toaster on their head… your story better not be about a Black & Decker falling in love with an Oster, of which their families vehemently disapprove in a bloody fashion. That’s not science fiction, that’s Romeo & Juliet. The story has to be ABOUT a Toaster on the Head. Maybe one person wants to take it off? They do so, and everyone says, “What are you doing? Put your toaster back on!” To the point that if the guy DOESN’T wear the Toaster, society will fall apart. Sure, the story is trying to break the rule of “everyone has toasters on their head”, but that’s the conflict… and the reactions and scenes all come out of the rule that “everyone wears a toaster on their head”. Now, it’s not Romeo & Juliet, it’s a metaphor for non-conformity and standing up for what you believe in.

Star Wars is Space Fantasy. Actually, it’s MYTHICAL space fantasy. George Lucas had consciously gone through Joseph Campbell’s Hero of a Thousand Faces and has put the universal elements of myths and legends found throughout the world… just put them in a very unique setting. You could take the basic elements of all six movies, and with very little tailoring, they could fit in ANY time period right here on Earth. It fits seamlessly into Feudal Japan (after all, Lucas himself stated that the movies of Akira Kurosawa were a huge influence… and if you see the movies Seven Samurai and The Hidden Fortress, you see a lot of the templates that would become our beloved Star Wars characters. R2-D2 and C-3PO are in Hidden Fortress), and you could make it fit anywhere else. The Force? That’s the Taoist concept of Chi… a universal energy that flows through the universe. Lightsabers and Blasters? Or are they just elaborate swords and guns? Ah-ha, you say… what about the Clones in Episode 2??? Gotcha! Nope. Is it really important that they’re clones? Or is it really about raising and building a massive army in secret? (Toasters-on-the-Head world really can only take place on Toasters-on-the-Head world)

Star Wars was the first Myth for my generation. The first story we saw that really affected us the way that legends of Perseus, Hercules and Jason affected Ancient Greeks. Or the way that the Tales of King Arthur affected Medieval times and the centuries beyond. We finally had a brand new old-time legend to pass on… one that wasn’t second/third/fortieth-hand. It was all ours. It presented old themes in new ways, and armed with this new myth, this new story that we could claim for our own… made us feel like we could do anything.

And I’ve noticed… that as I get older, there are even MORE themes that hit with me when I watch the original three movies… NOT the special editions. I still have my limited edition letterbox (with an actual Lettered Box) with the Hologram on the front, of the original, unaltered non-special edition Trilogy. My oldest T-shirt is of the Death Star Attack from ROTJ, and I’ve been threatened by many fellow fans that have said, “So, when are you giving me that shirt?”

(Hmmm… I wonder how many readers I’ve lost with my Ultra-Geekiness by now?)

The one theme that really hits with me… and for me really answers the question of “What’s the big deal with Star Wars?” has to do with what the movie is about.

A big part of this also has to do with the uselessness of the Special Editions. Lucas wanted to make those changes that “he always wanted”, and claimed that he had the right to. He is the creator and artist, and he can do that. Ummm… yes and no.

Yes, you’re the artist. No, I don’t think you have the right.

Because Film is an Art form. A collaborative art form, dependant on many people, but still an art form… still made as closely as possible to the vision of the initial artist. That being George Lucas, here.

What do you think the reaction would be… if we found a long-lost diary of Michaelangelo? In which he presents his original, unaltered notes for his plans for the Statue of David? And in these notes, he states that he didn’t want the statue to ultimately be NAKED, he just did those details for life-like imagery and detail. No, in these notes, he states clearly and explicitly that he wanted the Statue of David to be wearing clothes like Herb Tarlek from WKRP in Cincinnati. And of course, the Art World wants to follow the wishes of the Great Master, cause who are we to argue? …Puts a god-awful tweed and plaid suit on a centuries-old masterpiece statue.

As an artist, there’s a point, where you have to let go of your creation. If you truly want to “share it” with the world… by definition, you have to let it go, and let it live on its own. And if you consider your film or your art as “your child” (to get metaphoric)… how is it going to look when you go to your 20-year-old child and say, “You’re not good enough, I’m going to make some plastic surgery changes to you, and then you’ll be better!” You’d be the definition of a horrible human being. Your creation was something that was loved for 20 years just as it was, and was/is immensely beautiful in its flaws. Okay, so it wasn’t how you “initially imagined it”… no piece of art is. Ask an artist, “How close was this painting/sculpture/play/clay pot to how you originally envisioned it?” You might hear 10%... maybe 20%? Rarely would you hear more than that.

There’s something else that needs to be considered in the subject of Art: I don’t give a flying freeball F***K what Edvard Munch’s opinion of his painting The Scream is. I don’t care what he says it’s “about”. When I look at it, I see a particular story. I get a particular emotion, which is probably different from what YOU feel when you look at it. I’m willing to bet it’s nothing resembling what Munch was thinking or feeling when he was painting it. Being the very nature of Art… that also means that the Interpretation and opinion of the viewer is *just as valid*, if not more so, than the Artist them self.

So, sorry Georgie. I don’t care if you insist the story of Star Wars is “The Rise and Fall of Anakin Skywalker”. Because it isn’t. When I think of Star Wars, I don’t think of your prequels. I don’t think of your Special Editions. I think of the movie I saw in the 1979 re-release when I was 4 years old… of the second movie I saw in a Drive-In with my family in 1980… and the third I watched in 1983 with my brothers. The movies I spent hard-earned money on to buy the Letterboxed edition with the hologram on the cover, and have loved, memorized and researched since I could remember.

The Story of Star Wars… is about this:

A Son.

Plain and simple. But within those words, comes a lot of meaning for me. “A Son” implies having a father. “A Son” implies youth. Which itself implies learning, discovering, growing. Star Wars is the story of Luke Skywalker.

We meet Luke, living with relatives, never knew his father. He was told he was a navigator on a Spice Freighter, that’s it. Soon, he gets more information about him. He was a Jedi Knight… in fact, a great Jedi Knight. He is given one of his father’s most important possessions… his lightsaber. Its blue glow reveals a form of protection, of strength, and in igniting that “elegant weapon”; he ignites a curiosity and for possibly the first time… asks questions about his father. He’s told a story, a tale that he takes and holds with him. Believing his father was a great Jedi, a wonderful friend to Obi-Wan, and a great man who died tragically. If Luke was ever sore about Dad not being around, dying tragically is instantly forgivable, and reason and cause for him to go on and take his place, admiring all the way a man he never knew.

Luke trains in the ways of the Force, determined to be a great Jedi “like his father”. Wielding his father’s sword with pride, he works hard to “do him proud”. His image of his father is truly a benevolent one. One that I think most young men have of their dads when they are really young. As being great and wonderful, of being protecting and just, and a true model of the kind of man that you yourself want to become.

But then… as it may happen to all young boys, one day they realize that their Father… isn’t exactly the type of man they thought he was. Maybe he’s a close-minded bigot. Maybe he’s an unhealthy person to be around. Maybe he’s not such a great role-model. Maybe… he’s an asshole. In Luke’s case… he was certifiably, positively the BIGGEST asshole in the galaxy. Darth Vader. Yeah, you can’t exactly make excuses to your friends about that. “Yeah, well… he’s had a hard day at the Death Star, he’s got a lot of pride… he was a virgin birth, so he never knew my Grandpa… you know. Kind of a cyclical-thing…” “Sorry, Luke… your Pop is still an asshole.”

So, now his world feels upside-down. His whole idea of a great Jedi, a good person, and a true Man (with a capital M) is all based on a fabrication… on a falsity. His ideas on his father were one thing, and now he has solid evidence of the complete opposite. His dreams of being “just like his dad” have just fallen down a shaft on Bespin, along with the very elegant weapon that he clung to for support and protection. His whole image and standard of his father was in that lightsaber, and his father himself is the one that chopped it away, and giving Luke a permanent scar in the process.

So… between movies… what does he do? Well, he has to re-evaluate what it means to be a Jedi. Does he really want to be a Jedi “just like Dad”? Realistically, I would not have been surprised if Luke decided NOT to become a Jedi between the two movies. “If that’s what a Jedi is… no thank you.” But he doesn’t do that. He obviously came to the realization that he still wants to be a Jedi… for himself. Because we then SEE him as a Jedi. And he’s not wearing the traditional Jedi robes. Farmboy-Homeboy is wearing BLACK. (When in doubt… your basic black is always stylish.) We don’t see evidence of him having gone back to Dagobah to train with Yoda… so the six months or so that took place between the movies… he’s been training on his own. We know he was training, because that boy can do crap he wasn’t doing before. Choking guards, making telekinesis look easy, killing Rancors with a cool demeanor (hey, he was previously freaking out when that Wampa went to shake his hand). If Yoda didn’t help him with that, who did? Answer: No one. Luke trained by himself. Did a lot of soul-searching, a lot of introspection… and now brotha is back to kick some ass!

And when he does return? He’s got a NEW lightsaber. One that he *made*… and a DIFFERENT COLOR than his father’s. (Green… my favorite color, maybe that was the origin of that aspect of me) Showing quite clearly that Luke has become a Jedi (i.e. a Man) on his OWN terms, not his father’s. His own Jedi. He became a Man in a fashion not according to his father’s wishes… but no less valid. And he’s holding his own, as he continually fights with his father, trying to make him see reason.

I identify with that. I think a lot of people do. Young men AND women. My best friend told me that the view young women have of their mother can be very similar to that.

I envy Luke… he wins. At the last possible minute, Vader manages to do the right thing… seeing Luke for who he is, his own man, respecting it… and even agreeing with it. And his last act is an act of love, proving Luke right. And Vader… nay, Anakin Skywalker dies while Luke is finally able to truly look at him, and once again see that powerful, fatherly image that he did long ago, had hoped and wished was there all along… and he was right.

I would wish such an ending for all of us… except I hope it doesn’t take a deathbed for most of us to get that.

THAT’S why Star Wars is so great. That’s what the big deal is.

For me, anyway.


What Hollywood Should Be Doing (or Are You Experienced?)

Before I begin, I want to make something clear: This is NOT going to be another rant about how movies are crappy. There are articles and blogs and columns every day written by people saying, “We need characters to care about”, “We want interesting and original plots”, and “Stop doing Re-makes and sequels” and all that. In fact, I’m not even going to talk about “content” at all. Yeah, it seems odd, because the whole business of Hollywood, when you come down to it, is about “content”. They want to make money, but they have to have content, good or bad, to be able to sell. And not to diminish those arguments... because there is a lot of bad crap out there. Course, there’s also a lot of *good* crap out there… not to mention there’s also some Fantastic stuff out there. So all the other guys can bitch and moan about the content. I want… an Experience.

I love movies. I’m not that much of a film “buff”, contrary to what many that know me might think. I’ve always loved horror films, so if there was trivia to be known about that subject, I was looking it up. When I went away to Grad School, I got exposed a little more to “the classics”, both modern-day classics, and classic classics. Then living in Los Angeles, being surrounded by film history (you just need to be willing to look), plus working for a company that quality-tested DVDs… well, I got to see a lot of movies. I came to love more genres than just horror. In fact, I’d say my tastes are pretty wide about now when it comes to genres. I no longer qualify a “good movie” by the amount of boobs, blood or explosions that are in it… instead it’s a more general term I use: “I want a good story, no matter the genre.” And there is a LOT of films I haven’t seen before… a lot of “oh-my-God-YOU-haven’t-seen-that-movie” kind of films. Well, there’s only so many hours in the day, and for some movies I haven’t seen… there are some other obscure ones that I *have* seen. All in the search for a good story.

I am one of those guys that like to watch a movie to the end of the credits. For a couple of reasons, really. For one… there are some movies that like to put an extra scene at the end of the credits… whether it opens up the possibility for a sequel (not always a bad thing), is just a throwaway gag, clears up the last remaining plot question or whatever… I like to see that. Second… and this is a concept I first heard put into words when I saw Dark City in 1998 (an EXTREMELY underrated movie), it’s a sign of respect to all the people that worked on the film… especially if you really enjoyed the movie. A really nice concept, but to be honest… probably the weakest of the reasons that I stay. Third… it’s my “buffer” before getting back to the real world. When the credits begin, the freshness of the story is such that I don’t want to get up; I like to listen to the music that the composer wrote to accentuate the story and emotions. That music keeps the emotions going, and helps me feel like I’m still there, while slowly bringing me out of it at the same time. So when the final music fades and the rating card appears, signifying there is NO more to the film reels, I’m fully OUT of the world of the film story, and back in my theatre chair. (Or couch at home, wherever I happen to be watching it.)

As an extra bonus… staying to the end pretty much guarantees a smooth walk outside, as everyone else has already scrambled to be the first ones to their car, and get out to “avoid the rush”. Me… I tend to get there AFTER the rush, so it’s even smoother sailing. More evidence that “patience is a virtue”.

My brother is NOT one of those people. As soon as the credits even start (sometimes even before that), he’s already out of his chair and walking out, no matter how much he liked or disliked it. I’ve seen a few movies with him this year, and he always does that… and it bugs me. I want to just chill for a few minutes, and he’s saying, “Okay, we’re going… come on!” Obviously, my Movie-going practices and habits aren’t for everyone. Just get in, see the explosions and shiny things, hear the cool one-liners, and bolt. Fast-Track Living for a Fast-Tracked Life.

Can we slow down, please?

I don’t want the act of going to the movies to be a tightly scheduled thing. I like to be a little looser with it. If the movie starts at 1:40, and I happen to arrive at 1:48… well, then I’ll just come in to the Theater during the previews. Likewise, I don’t mind arriving a half-hour earlier and just chilling out waiting to start. Either way I’m totally cool with. I don’t consider myself “late” unless the actual movie itself has already started. In which case… I’ll catch a later showing. Because I *do* like to see every second of the story… even if it is just opening credits. (It too is the buffer from the real world… bringing us IN to the story.)

I’ve always considered “going out to a movie”… to be pretty much an all-day-activity… even though it isn’t. I’m not sure why I think that way… but I do. If the movie is 90 minutes long, well, you still have to drive to the theater, maybe grab something to eat (before or after), wait in line, sit in the theatre, waiting for it to start, then leave, drive home… and if it’s a Date, or you’re out with friends, well, there’s probably a little more involved, more time taken. So a movie that’s an hour and a half… could take up to 4 hours of your day. Or even more. That’s 4 hours… of an experience.

When you see a movie for the first time, you’re not just “watching” it. You’re Experiencing it. The filmmakers, actors, editors and everyone that worked on it can only DREAM of being in the position you’re in. Of seeing those jokes, shocks, plot-twists and revelations for the FIRST time. Your reactions to those moments are the closest to real-life, and (from a filmmaking perspective), the final solution to the mystery of whether or not a particular moment truly “works”.

How often have you seen a trailer for a movie, or heard about one, and said to your closest friend, “Dude! You and I *have* to see that movie together!” You don’t mean to say, “I’m going to buy a ticket at the first convenient time for myself, and if you happen to be there, that’s okay.” No… you want to go through that experience WITH that person, specifically. You’ll hold off going on opening weekend, until its convenient for BOTH of you, and then you’ll see it all for the first time together. So what happens when one person goes to see it, and the other one isn’t there? That other person feels “ditched”.

There’s a big difference between “I want to see that movie”, and “I want to see that movie with *you*.”

Even if the movie is really good, and you want to see it again, and go to the theatre AGAIN with that person to see the movie (2nd time for you, 1st for them)… it’s not going to be the same. Because you’re not Experiencing the movie anymore. You’re only watching it. Sure, you can keep your mouth shut and not reveal any details to your friend/date/whatever… But when friendships and relationships are built around “experiencing” things together… you’ve put a wall between the two of you. Some won’t consider it a big deal. I do. (As you may have guessed from reading these other blog entries… I tend to overthink things.)

I remember seeing a one-page ad in a magazine… I don’t even know what the product being advertised WAS, probably deodorant or something. It had a picture of a young couple sitting in a theatre. The caption said something like:

“First date. Popcorn is stale. Dialog is cheesy. Effects are laughable. Story insulting. Movie is horrible.

She puts her hand on yours.

You are watching the Greatest Movie Ever Made in History.”

Yeah, it’s all about the Experience. Even a movie that is laughably horrible can be a wonderful experience for you. Fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 can attest to that. Now, the Hollywood machine can’t do anything about my bad dates, past or future. But they CAN help contribute more to the Experience.

Last movie I saw (without my brother), just before the movie started, I saw something that I had thought was lost to annals of film history.

A cartoon.

One thing I think a lot of people have forgotten is that all those old Disney and Looney Tunes cartoons… the ones that used to rule Saturday mornings back when there was a concept of Saturday Morning Cartoons… those 9-minute shorts that we’ve laughed at countless times as children and adults… those were shown in movie theatres. One cartoon before a feature film. Sometime in the 60s they stopped this practice, and now it’s a rarity or a “throwback” to make a new 9-minute short “purely for nostalgic value”.

Well, I want more.

I don’t want shorts that have been outsourced to Korea or something… I understand the half-hour animated shows have to do that, and that’s fine. But I think we can get 9 minutes of material created right here at home. Easily. For an animator trying to break into the business, I think they’re willing to give us 9 minutes of their blood, sweat and tears. I’ll gladly give him, or her, a chance to make me laugh or cry with their drawings. There are so many out there, you could have a different cartoon every week, and a different one in every state. So the cartoons that California sees are different from the ones that New Hampshire sees.

The old-time movie experience always had a cartoon. Kids would spend their Saturdays paying a nickel to see the latest adventure picture, and with it would be a new cartoon showing the hijinks of Goofy, Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck, Daffy Duck, Mickey Mouse, etcetera etcetera etcetera. There’s also something else they had: A live action short.

The live-action short could be broken into 2 categories… the Cliffhanger serial adventures, or the stand-alones. The stand-alones were just that, 15-20 minutes of a completely independent story… far too short on material for a feature film and sometimes a bit on the “propaganda” side of the fence, but enough nonetheless. The Cliffhangers, though… were the best. These were the 12-part stories… a new 20 minute chapter every week at the local theater… these were the stories of Flash Gordon, or Zombies of the Stratosphere, King of the Rocketmen… these were the inspirations that would become the Indiana Jones movies, and even Star Wars. It was the origin of the whole idea of leaving an episode at a crucial point (like oh… the hero hanging off a cliff), making the audience wait till NEXT week to see the conclusion… a practice so many TV shows of today are utilizing. Hence why they call those endings “Cliffhangers”. Well, I want those back in the theater. The Cliffhangers OR the stand-alones.

I’m sure a lot of bean-counters will say, “We’d like to, but they’re not cost-effective.” Well, guess what? There’s an incredibly easy, cost-effective way to bring them to us. In practically every state, there is at least 1 or 2 “filmmaking festivals”. Of which each one is inundated with submissions of short films (10-20 minutes long) from young filmmakers. These short films are rarely, if ever, seen outside of that festival circuit. Buy some of them for a song. Hell, say it’s a “competition” and the winner gets it presented before a feature film over the country, then it’s free. Put THOSE in the theatres. You’ll be allowing millions of moviegoers the opportunity to see some bright new quality material, and be giving some deserving young filmmakers the opportunity to be seen. How is this NOT a win-win situation? The exact same thing can be done for the cartoons. So many animators looking for a shot, but there is no market for it. Well, there IS a market for it, there’s just no means for those that want to see them.

The last component to achieve that Old Time Moviegoing Experience… Newsreels. Back then, that was how a lot of people got to see the news. Very few, if anyone, had televisions, so they got the news from the radio. If you actually wanted to SEE what the president looked like? Outside of the newspaper, really the only place was at the movie theatre in the newsreels. And the advantage over radio or newspapers… you could actually match the voice and the body together. Obviously nowadays, that wouldn’t be worth it to make newsreels showing the actual news. We get it on the Internet at the speed of thought, or on TV as its happening. So… the solution? Talk to the folks at The Daily Show. Or the Onion… go to the people that make a living satirizing the daily news and current events. Give us an extra 3 to 5 minutes of laughter before the feature starts. Shoot and project it digitally, and you can keep it more current then the newsreels of old. Hell, shooting and projecting digitally… there’s no reason you COULDN’T show regular news stories in the theatres.

You add on a cartoon, a live-action short and a newsreel in addition to the trailers that are there (and some places are showing COMMERCIALS. You’re giving us commercials? Give us this good stuff, too!) and I won’t feel so gypped paying $11.00 to see an 80 minute movie, no matter how flashy the explosions are. If they’re smart, they’ll add a 4 minute intermission just before the feature starts so people can hit the bathroom one last time. (I *hate* leaving to pee… I usually cross my legs and try to wait it out.)

(On the side note of “being gypped”… this is to the Cineplex owners. Go to the supermarket or a drugstore. Go to the candy aisle. See what they’re charging? Charge that. And dump your supplier, 75% of the boxes are air. Go to Costco and buy them in bulk yourself. Sell the NORMAL boxes of candy at NORMAL prices, and you won’t get anymore people sneaking in candy. Which means you’ll sell more and MAKE more profit rather than selling very little for way too much and making NO profit. Thanks to you, the youth population have become better smugglers than Han Solo.)

Hollywood won’t like this for the same reason that they don’t like 3-hour movies. Less times they can show the film, and less money they can make on it. (Funny, that didn’t hurt Lord of the Rings…) So, let’s compromise: Put all this in front of a movie 3 times a week. Friday night at an 8pm showing on the “big movie” that’s out (since each theater chain is owned by a different movie studio, they can decide which movie that is). Saturday night at the 8pm showing… and Saturday afternoon at 1pm (the “kid adventure movie matinee”). It will make going to the theatre (on the popular times) an “Experience” again. I’d personally be more willing to go to the movies on opening weekends, rather than waiting a few weeks until the crowds die down, as I usually do.

To be fair… we movie-goers, as a whole, have some work of our own to do. Very few people know how to be a “good audience member”. There are many of us that need to figure out how to sit down and shut the hell up. (Frankly, it’s the only reason and circumstance, I think, in which Lynching should be legal.)

Give us more time being entertained, more time to feel our date’s hands on ours, more time to be immersed and appreciate the hard work that the filmmakers, actors, writers, producers and bean-counters put into it.

You can take us to other worlds. Let’s hang out and take in the sights. Whaddaya say?


Valentine Violence

I hate Valentine’s Day.

I *really* hate Valentine’s Day.

Now most people would just say, “Well, that’s only because you don’t have anyone to celebrate it with.” To which I say:

“Well, DUH!”

I think most people that hate the day, hate it because they’re single. There are people that are married/taken that hate it as well… (I’ve been to enough “Anti-Valentine’s Day Parties to meet them) and it’s easy to discern why those people hate it. That’s because the hatred is on a conceptual level, rather than “lack of opportunity”.

“I don’t need a day on the calendar to tell my sweetie that I love/care for them.”

Agreed. Because face it… the concept IS really stupid. It’s a “holiday” (in the loosest of terms… banks are still open, and no one gets the day off) that’s only there to sell red and pink things. And if you’re only taking one day a year to tell and show your significant other the sappy feelings you have for them… face it, you’ve got bigger problems than finding a florist that’s not out of roses.

But it’s easier to hate the holiday for Intelligent reasons when you’re in the demographic that’s NOT being excluded from the festivities. Sure, once you go to a trendy nightclub, you see the drinks are watered down, the bathrooms are cramped and dirty, and the music sucks. But if you’re not allowed in… you STILL want to go. Because despite the bad things… you *can* have a lot of fun.

I know I start hating it early on in January. That’s when all the stores start putting out the Valentine decorations, candy boxes, cards and whatnot. I can’t go pick up some shaving gel at CVS without walking by the ENTIRE product line of Transformers Valentine Cards. (Yeah, they’re for the kids… but is that REALLY how we want to introduce the concepts of love and affection to our youth? With a product tie-in to a Michael Bay movie? *shudder*) I started noticing in High School, that I always found myself to be depressed during the first part of the year. Wasn’t sure why… for a long time, I thought it was just generalized “Winter Blues”, and the funk would eventually pass once it hit Spring. I assumed it was an “everything is cold and dead… I want the Spring where there’s new life and color, etc” kind of thing.

But I was never sure if my loneliness and hatred of Valentine’s Day was a Symptom of the Winter Funk… or one of the Causes of it. I wonder if it’s a “little of column A, little of column B” kind of thing.

When you’re single, it feels like Valentine’s Day is being shoved down your throat constantly. I know a lot of “taken” people feel it too, but I think the pressure THEY feel is more of a commercial one. Pressure to spend money here, there and everywhere… Capitalism at its finest. But being single… the pressure feels more like, “Here’s an exclusive club that YOU are not cool enough to be part of! Beat it, loser!” You start thinking, “Well… I’d LIKE to buy something for someone… but I don’t have that someone to buy something for.” Next thing you know, you’re feeling depressed because you’re almost not being *allowed* to spend your own money. Yeah, it doesn’t make sense… but we’re humans, when was the last time *anything* we did make sense? (When Jeebus is born, we prepare for a fat guy to bypass our security and break into our homes. When he dies? A rabbit steals a chicken’s kids, camouflages them, and hides them in a field, some never to be seen again. Where the hell do we come up with this stuff?)

It’s about that time when you start reverting to the Intelligent arguments of the Taken Who Hate Valentines Day (the TWHVD)… “It’s just a stupid, lame, senseless reason!”

Thing is… and I think deep down, we all know it… Stupid, lame, senseless reasons… are fun.

Yeah, they’re stupid. Yeah, they’re lame. Definitely senseless. No argument there. But it’s like when you spontaneously decide to do something spontaneous… and be redundantly redundant… (Eventually, everyone does it) and then you’re asked, “What’s the occasion?”

“It’s Tuesday!”

It’s the same logic. Like having an “Arbor Day Celebration”. Who the hell actually *celebrates* Arbor Day? It’s just a lame, cheap excuse to get together with friends or family and have a good time.

And a lot of times, we NEED lame reasons. “No, I can’t go out. I have to work in the morning. Besides, why tonight? Oh… Canadian Boxing Day, you say? Hmmm…. Well, okay… ONE drink.”

Having a silly, lame reason is better than not having any reason at all. Even the reason, “Because I love you” is technically an excuse. If we honestly did things for NO reason at all… we’d buy romantic dinners for complete strangers. Why? No reason. Now factor in the myriad of other possibilities and situations, you’d realize more of us would be doing Hard Time in Sing-Sing in such a world. The term “Sociopath” would take on a much broader meaning.

So we need lame reasons. We WANT lame reasons. Sure the underlying concept of Valentine’s Day is a money-grubbing one… but the sales pitch is nice. And when I finally DID celebrate it… I very much enjoyed it.

I’ve celebrated Valentine’s Day (and not in the Anti-fashion) twice. Both with different women.

The first one, I almost missed… through no fault of my own. I didn’t “forget it” or neglect anything… but I had a theatre festival to go to at the time, and one of the days of this festival was on Valentine’s Day. So, I was going to be out of town, away from my girlfriend. She understood, and we decided that when I got back that weekend, we’d celebrate it then. But the actual day… looked like I was going to miss it. Morning of the 14th came… my friends and I checked the roster for the competition we were in, and saw we didn’t advance to the next round (not that we were really caring to), looked at some of the upcoming seminars, and weren’t that interested in them. So, we decided to save some money, and drive back early. I consciously did NOT tell my girlfriend… preferring to surprise her. One of my female friends helped me get a nice gift… on her recommendation, I got a cute pajama set (we hadn’t been dating that long, and my friend suggested that anything more extravagant would be too much), wrapped up nicely… and now instead of waiting till the weekend, I’d get to actually have a “Valentine’s Day” for the first time.

I called her place when I got home that evening (after a 5-6 hour drive), and got her roommate. She was at the library, studying. Sweet! Told the roommate I was in town, and coming over… and NOT tell my girlfriend. She loved the idea; let me in when I got there. I placed the gift neatly on her bed… then promptly hid under it (the bed). I waited there for about 45 minutes or so. (I had no problem with it… there’s no length I will not go to for my Master Plans), and then heard her come home. Her roommate said Hi… gave no indication I was there. My girlfriend came into her bedroom, and then walked back out to her roommate… “uh… did anyone come by?” “No, I’ve been here all evening.” “Well… there’s a wrapped box on my bed.” “I dunno.”

She came back in (all I could see was her feet), and I could hear her slowly unwrap the gift. She sounded pleased and touched when she read the card and saw the PJs… and then I grabbed her ankle. Shocked her for a second, then when I crawled out, she squealed happily as women do. Once I worked out the cramps (not a lot of room under that bed)… we made ourselves a nice modest college student romantic dinner, and had our Valentine’s Day… ON Valentine’s Day.

Afterwards, I thought to myself, “So THAT’S Valentine’s Day, huh? I approve.”

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I did NOT have my normal “Winter Blues” that year.

The next time I celebrated Valentine’s Day was with my last relationship. Yes, THAT relationship. The ill-fated one. But this was way back when things were good. Nay, things were GREAT.

Now, I had been dating her for about the same time as I had dated my other Valentine when said V-day arrived. (Just worked out that way. I don’t start relationships at only one time of the year) So, taking the old advice from my Grad School days, I was thinking that something similar would be appropriate. I wasn’t going to get the EXACT same kind of gift, another set of PJs, but something that wouldn’t cross the “Extravagant Boundary”. Then it so happened I was talking to one of my Aunts on the phone. She asked about our plans and what I was going to get her. I told her the ideas I was thinking about and she pretty much vetoed it right there. I guess there is no “Extravagant Boundary”… she told me that “Valentine’s Day is for jewelry. If you do not get her jewelry… I *will* kill you.”

Needless to say, I got her jewelry. Because my Aunt really would kill me. She don’t mess around.

I got her some nice earrings and a matching necklace… I thought they were very pretty (the jewel was my favorite color) and would look good on her. When I was buying them, I was simultaneously on the phone to my best friend who was helping me pick them out from 4,000 miles away. I would describe them, she’d veto or allow it. I thought we did a good job. On V-day, we dressed up fancy, went to a nice restaurant that I had wanted to take her to, and had them sitting on her plate when she returned from the restroom. She looked at me with that sly grin on her face while I did what I do really well…. Play stupid. “Huh? What? What are you talking about? I don’t know where those came from…”

I had a great time… (I hope she did too… hell, I just loved being with her), and when we got back to her apartment, she gave me her gift to me… a copy of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. WITH a free promotional T-shirt. :) Romantic? Maybe not in the normal sense… but I am a proud Geek, and it was EXACTLY what I wanted. That night, we cuddled and watched Sky Captain together… and I remember thinking that just being there with her… was the best Valentine’s Day I’ve ever had. And the Winter Blues never seemed further away.

That V-Day was 3 years ago.

And now… “Tis the season”, you might say. And I’ve been feeling the Funk. And not in the cool way that George Clinton and Parliament would promote. Ain’t no cool dancing or bright colors around here.

Last year, I started to wonder if she still wears that necklace and earrings I gave her. At first, I figured, “Why wouldn’t she?” If they look nice, and match the outfit, and they’re hers… there’s no reason she shouldn’t. Then again… I feel uncomfortable wearing that Sky Captain shirt. (Though the life-span of a cotton t-shirt is significantly less than that of jewelry… as well as fewer formal opportunities where it would be appropriate… right now, I think its packed up somewhere in storage. Maybe I should just toss it.) Maybe it was just the reminder for me... Good memories that you want to forget. *shrug* I have no idea of her thoughts about the subject, or if there even ARE thoughts about it. In fact, I probably shouldn’t even be having thoughts about it… not even for Blog Fodder. Just re-surfaces memories that I don’t want.

But it’s BECAUSE of those memories that seem to be making this time of year even more painful than it used to be. Not because I miss her… but in all honesty… the thought of actually trusting someone again… seriously has been making me *nauseous*. Sometimes I think I’ve been completely turned off to the idea of dating again. Completely. After the failure of the relationship, once I tried to put myself back out there… I seemed to find nothing but reasons to NOT put myself out there. Overenthusiastic cyber-dates, lame head-games and more circles than the Daytona 500.

It never used to bother me if a woman mentioned she has “a lot of male friends”… now, my suspicions jump up. Especially when I’m told that one in particular is “just like me, and we’d have SO much in common, we’d be instant friends, etc”

I know saying this may not make much sense, or make me seem egotistical or whatever… But I’m different. I know this. I actually THINK differently than most people. My thought processes are “different”, and sometimes affects the conclusions I come to. Or I’ll come to a normal conclusion in a completely different way. I’ve confused many a people with my reasonings when I try to explain myself. It’s hard to explain how… but it just is. I’m not saying I need medication or have weird psychological issues… But the only way I can describe it… is that it’s “different”. And EVERY single time I’ve met another guy that appears to “think” like me, or act that way… has turned out to be just that. An act. I work hard to be a good person and be 100% on the level, and when I meet some guy that APPEARS to be “just like me”… he’s always turned out to be Scum. Now you can ask, “So what makes you so special that makes you think you’re the only one ‘on-the-level’? Why can’t someone else try to be nice and sincere?” And I won’t have an answer. I’m sure plenty of them consider themselves to be Genuine and Nice. But when they turn around and let the Scum colors show (invisible possibly to themselves… the first victim of a Liar is the Liar himself), I can tell you right now, it is NOT the conclusions and actions *I* would come to. And how do I know this? Because inevitably I’ve already BEEN in a similar situation, and I clearly didn’t.

Like I said… I know that may not look to be “sincere”, but rather my own ego-stroking… and who knows, maybe it is. But it’s the only way I know to say it.

All my friends are different from me. Yeah, we have similarities, but ultimately, they’re all different. That’s why they’re my friends, and I trust them.

If someone is “just like me”…Well… I can trust myself. I can’t trust them.

(I feel like sense has just gone completely out the window here… *shrug* Gotta try and bring this back around…)

I wrote in an earlier blog: “I’m desperate for someone to trust. Because I’ve been having such a hard time doing so for so long.

I consciously know I have to let myself do it… but it feels like I can’t. Because I know that most likely… my next relationship won’t be “the one”. I’ll have other breakups, and relationships that “don’t work out”. And that idea frightens the ever-living piss out of me.

I just don’t want to put myself out there again. I swear, if I didn’t have such an aversion to Penises other than my own… I’d totally go Gay. Just on principle alone.

And I’m sure most people would look at my old experiences… and think they’re not that bad. Most would probably recover after a while, and move on to other relationships, other heartaches, other good times.

But remember: I think differently.

I was Emotionally Cheated on. Maybe if I was Physically Cheated on, this would have been easier to handle… while the reverse would be true for a lot of others.

But I can NOT go through all that again. It took too much out of me. Emotionally AND physically.

Either way, my opinion this year stays the same.

Valentine’s Day blows. I’m breaking out the Horror films.