While looking for a good photo of Carrie Fisher for yesterday’s Star Wars anniversary post, I stumbled across these.
While looking for a good photo of Carrie Fisher for yesterday’s Star Wars anniversary post, I stumbled across these.
I’d intended to mark the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, but I was still en route last Friday. However, I can at least give a tip of my lightsaber to the 33rd anniversary of Star Wars, which was released on May 25, 1977. I know how ridiculous this sounds, but I still divide my life into Events That Occurred Before May 25, 1977 and Events That Occurred After May 25, 1977.
I’ve written a lot about Star Wars over the years, so I don’t know that I have much to add at the moment. I will, however, share my favorite poster from its original theatrical run. It’s the “Style D” one-sheet, aka the “circus poster.”
And, because I always like to send you off with some music, here are two very special renditions of the Star Wars main title theme. First up is the jaw-dropping trumpet solo by beauty pageant contestant Stacy Hedger.
Then there’s Princess Leia herself, Carrie Fisher, singing “A Day to Celebrate” from the dreaded Star Wars Holiday Special. Because what John Williams’ famous theme was lacking was a set of cheesy lyrics. If Carrie hadn’t already been a drug addict at this point, this surely would’ve driven her to the pill bottle. Click on her to hear the song!
May the Force be with you…always.
WARNING: The following post is nothing but spoilers for the final episode of Lost. Turn back now, if ye wish to be unspoilt!
As the airdate of the Lost finale approached, I became concerned the series might end in one of two ways:
Fortunately, neither of these happened. In hindsight, the actual final shot (Jack’s eyeball closing for the last time) was just as obvious, but it hadn’t occurred to me.
While I wasn’t surprised that my wife and I reacted very differently to the episode, it seemed odd that I was less bothered by its focus on matters of emotion and spirituality rather than explanations of the nature and purpose of the Island. I think of myself as more skeptical about the possibility of life after death, and more likely to get caught up in niggling details like the experiments of the Dharama Initiative. Yet I felt generally satisfied by the conclusion whereas Vic was frustrated by what she felt was a cop-out.
That said, we both bawled uncontrollably. I think it was the dog. I was already tearing up during the final scene between Ben and Locke (yes, not Charlie and Claire or Sayid and Shannon, but Ben and Locke), then again during the last group hug. Yet, it was the shot of Vincent the dog sitting next to Jack to be with him as he died that sent both of us right over the precipice.
Emotionally, it all worked for me. I enjoyed that final opportunity to see (most) everyone together again, reconciling their “happy endings” in the so-called Sideways world with their memories of the friendship and love that developed during their stay on the Island. It felt earned. And after all the death on the show (by the end, they were down to about a dozen surviving characters, and that’s including Penny and Walt), it was comforting to have everyone back for a tearful curtain call.
I suppose that I wasn’t too bothered by the lack of hard explanations because I was already reconciled to my expectation that we’d already found out pretty much everything we were likely to learn about the Island, the Others and the Dharma folks. With the producers being coy about such simple details as the Man in Black’s name, I didn’t think it likely that they would offer a definitive answer about the Glowy Cave That Must Be Protected.
I’ll admit that I would’ve preferred that the final conflict not have come down to protecting a Mysterious Glowy Cave that had only been introduced two episodes ago. However, I can live with that. The Glowy Cave is clearly a MacGuffin; what it does is less important than how the characters react to it. Once you start down the path of explaining The Origin of the Glowy Cave, you’re entering Kingdom of the Crystal Skull territory. Maybe the glow represents immortality, absolute power or unlimited rice pudding. Maybe it’s the contents of Marsellus Wallace’s briefcase, or Repo Man’s trunk. I think that all you really need to know is that pulling the cork from the bottle is bad.
Besides, when the producers actually began to answer questions, the results could be rather clunky. Oh, hey, remember those mysterious whispers? They were the voices of those who had died on the Island yet hadn’t passed on! Do you feel better being told that?
A popular speculation in the early seasons of Lost was the castaways were dead and the Island was Purgatory. (After all, that’s Twilight Zone twist ending #2, right next to “It was Earth all along!”) This was flatly denied by producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof. Yet…that’s precisely what the Island was for characters such as Michael. And, while I take the show at its word that the events on the Island “really happened,” the Sideways world which dominated so much of this final season turned out to be itself a transitional afterlife.
Like the Glowy Cave, it’s best not to get too bogged down in the nature of the Sideways world. Was it the product of the atomic explosion that concluded Season Five? A gift from Hurley in his new, semi-omnipotent role? Whatever. It’s clearly not too bad a Purgatory, given that one can realize their rock n’ roll dreams and/or get it on with Rebecca Mader therein. And let’s not think too much about an afterlife in which people can be murdered again, or give birth to the same children a second time.
Already, the concluding minutes are being wildly misinterpreted. I read a couple of reviews that suggest that the entire story is Jack’s hallucination just before his post-plane crash death, even though 1) that would be an unforgivable cheat, 2) the show definitively states otherwise, and 3) he’s wearing different clothes.
Similarly, there are some who feel the views of the airplane wreckage over the closing credits are intended to suggest that there were never any survivors in the first place. I’ll be honest, I don’t know the point of those shots, but I’m going to take it on faith that the explanation given within the show is the explanation. Everyone died…eventually. Whether it was sooner or later, for a time they all wound up in the same metaphysical place. There’s enough wiggle room so that if you absolutely want to turn it into something less satisfying, you can do it.
For my own part, I’m content. There was enough there there. And I’m ready to move on.
I’m writing this from Austin, Texas, where I’ve spent the past few days attending the PBS Annual Meeting. But I’m not writing about that this evening. If you want the scoop about upcoming public TV series, you can check out my updates on TV Worth Blogging.
No, tonight I’m online to tell you about the place that’s going to make me sorry to leave Austin tomorrow afternoon: the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz. It’s one of those “brew n’ view” theaters with liquor and a full food service brought right to your seat, but that’s not what makes it the most awesome movie house I’ve ever visited. The Alamo Ritz is a year-round gonzo film festival: not content with cult and trash offerings, it features value-added shows such as a “quote-a-long” Princess Bride and a screening of Armageddon featuring live explosions. If I lived in Austin, I would be at the Ritz all of the freakin’ time.
Tonight I had the chance to visit the KLRU-TV studios to see where they shoot Austin City Limits, but then I found out that the Ritz was showing the neo-classic of bad cinema, Birdemic. It was no contest at all.
I only knew Birdemic: Shock and Terror (to give it its full title) by reputation and its gloriously awful trailer. Imagine The Birds remade by someone who had no idea what Hitchcock was trying to accomplish, with a budget of 100 bucks and the best computer graphics that 1979 could offer.
See for yourself.
One could watch Birdemic in the comfort of one’s own home, but the best way to experience it is in the company of a theater full of willing victims. Preferably, as I did, with a molten chocolate cake ala mode on one’s lap.
It did not disappoint.
Birdemic has most of the hallmarks of a truly classic bad movie. You get banal dialogue that sounded as if someone transcribed everyday conversations. (“The eagles killed Becky” is one of the better howlers.) You get a cast of amateur actors presumably filled out by various friends and relatives. You get bogglingly bad special effects, in this case crudely superimposed CGI eagles which hover in midair. Oh, and you get lots and lots of driving scenes. A fair amount of the movie appears to be happening in real time.
However, what makes it especially precious is the basic incompetence of the direction and cinematography. There aren’t any day-for-night shots, but there are mismatched camera angles, missing dialogue and multiple jump cuts within a single scene. Every shot lingers for several seconds too long. There’s no effort made to loop dialogue muffled by nearby ocean waves, or to clear passing vacationers from the background of the frame.
This is one laid-back birdocalypse. The characters stop for a frickin’ picnic in the midst of birdmageddon.
While the script doesn’t quite reach the insane logic of Ed Wood, it does feature Wood’s endearing earnestness. This is a movie that wears its heart on its sleeve, with a plaintive message about humanity’s rape of Mother Earth. Both a gun-toting scientist and a treehouse-living naturalist make didactic speeches to the camera explaining how global warming is to blame for the bird flu epidemic that is causing eagles (and only eagles, it seems) to go berserk. (None of them, however, offer any insight as to what causes the birds to explode on impact.)
So, Birdemic was worth the $8.50 ticket price. But you know what really made the experience at the Alamo Ritz special? The trailer which declared the theater to be a “no talking zone,” and made it clear that they meant it.
The TV gods giveth, the TV gods taketh away. On the same day that V was renewed, it was announced that Heroes will not be coming back. Despite the latter’s weak ratings, it was widely anticipated that NBC would give the show a final, shortened season to wrap up any dangling plot threads.
It may be difficult to recall, but there was once a time when Heroes was the golden child of serialized drama. Its premiere season coincided with the period in which Lost was foundering. While Lost was relating the infamous tale of Jack’s tattoos, Heroes barreled ahead with big revelations and jaw-dropping cliffhangers. (Remember cheerleader Claire waking up in the middle of her own autopsy?) Back then, I referred to Heroes as “the show on which shit actually happens.”
And then it all went downhill. Fast.
As brilliant as was most of that first season, it was hard not to feel disappointed by the finale. The long-promised showdown at Kirby Plaza fizzled. What should have been a Superman II-level donnybrook between two immensely powerful characters became a few perfunctory punches.
Yet I think if Heroes had stopped there, it would still be well-regarded overall. Unfortunately, there were three more seasons.
What happened? Well, for one, it turned out that the writers only had one story in them. The Company is bad! The Company is necessary! Everyone should have powers! No one should have powers! I’ve seen the future and New York City is destroyed!
Another major problem was that the series had three characters who were theoretically unstoppable. Hiro had total mastery over time and space. Syler had dozens of stolen abilities. And by the end of the first season, Peter could mimic the powers of virtually every hero and villain.
This, of course, could not stand. So Hiro was lost in time, Syler lost his powers and Peter lost his memory. Then they all got better. Then Hiro and Peter lost their own powers. Then they got them back…but not as good. Then Hiro got cancer. Then he got better. Then Syler was good. Then he was evil. And then good again.
By the conclusion of the fourth season, it was very difficult to care. Yet I stuck with the show to its bitter end. Vic says that it was because I’m a completist. I can’t disagree.
While I’m kinda sorry that Heroes didn’t get its victory lap, it’s not as if its cancellation wasn’t well-earned.
I’ve still got the first season on DVD. One of these days it’ll be fun to pop those discs into my player and relive the days when “Save the cheerleader, save the world” seemed like it meant something.
The word came down this morning that ABC will likely pick up a second season of its V remake. I’m pleased to hear it; while I think the show is still only half-formed, I’m a fan of the concept and would like to see it have a chance to play out.
A side benefit of the renewal is that Anna’s pixie haircut will continue to annoy my wife for another year. I once confessed that it worked for me; at least, it works for Morena Baccarin. Vicky’s since become obsessed with it; every week she says to me, “Really? You think that looks good?!?” So, that’s fun.
Haircuts aside, I think that V‘s chief problem is that is that it’s trying too hard to be Lost. It wants to be another series about endlessly drawn-out secrets and mysteries. We’re eleven episodes in and still don’t have a solid grasp of the Visitors’ agenda on Earth. It’s not enough to know that Anna is bad news; we need to know the stakes for humanity should the Resistance fail.
The show also needs a bigger scope. I realize that it may be a budgetary issue, but four good guys do not make a rebellion. If we’re to believe that our heroes have even a remote chance of winning, they need to fill out their ranks.
I feel that the new V hasn’t played enough with the idea that–in the era of Homeland Security–here we are rooting for domestic terrorists. It’s also failed, so far, to come up with its own analogue of the Holocaust; the original miniseries had the Visitors scapegoating human scientists and their families.
Oh, yes, one more thing. It’s a war. Let’s have some fightin’.
That said, the show has been picking up steam in the last couple of weeks. Anna’s treatment of her wayward daughter (“Break her legs”) was chilling. The introduction of a viral weapon against the Visitors evokes the Red Dust that saved the day in the original V: The Final Battle miniseries. Scott Wolf’s conflicted reporter character is finally interacting with the rest of the cast. And, if the preview for next Tuesday’s finale is any indication, “V” will stop standing for “Visitors” and once again stand for “Victory.”
A few days after the fact, here are photos from the recent Warhammer 40,000 Weekend I held at Casa del Thiel. It was fun, as always, to see my good friends Donn and Tonya again. The bout of stomach flu was rather less fun.
As usual, my Sisters underachieved. Can anyone remind me why I chose one as my primary army one of the trickiest to play? Oh yeah, it was because I thought flying nuns were funny.
Happily, Donn and I had the chance to combine our Tyranid hordes and crush Tonya’s defending Space Marines. Snicker snack!
When it comes to bowling, I’ve found that practice not only doesn’t make perfect, it actually makes my game worse. During my first year of league play, I bowled a lifetime high 206 game. Four years later, I finished the season with a 120 average and a half dozen games in which I failed to break 100. Clearly, bowling prowess is not hereditary.
Ironically, this is the year that the WILL team finally took home trophies! Okay, they were for fourth place. And I don’t really feel that I contributed all that much to the team outside of being spectacularly average.
I’m gonna pretend that it’s for the season I bowled that 206.
Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day.
Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.
Direct a man to a qualified instructor, and you can eat your own damned fish sticks in peace.