21 May 2005

Revenge of the Sith, Koo, Cheerleader Union, Kendra...


So last night, Friday May the 20th, after seeing the Red Sox beat the Braves 4-3 behind Wade Miller, I went to the Clearview Cinemas on 62nd and 1st to see the 11 o'clock showing of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. I walked over in cool weather, got there early, a nice seat and had a good theatre with great sound and a medium-sized crowd.

First of all- the movie was absolutely fantastic. The best of the prequels by far, and one of the best of the Star Wars series. It wasn't a "great movie" per se, but it was most certainly a great Star Wars movie, which for entertainment's sake, works just fine for me.

The story's pretty well known- Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader by jumping to the Dark Side, fights Obi Wan Kenobi, his master, and is nearly killed in the fight. He is put in the suit we all know him from the originals, and his wife Padme has his children in secret, Luke and Leia. The Republic is taken over by Palpatine, ruled as an Empire (and he an Emperor), and the need for a Rebellion begins.

The problem with the first two prequels were many, and operated on a lot of levels- of course nearly every Star Wars movie is populated by bad dialogue and terrible acting- but since this isn't the point of these movies, they survived. The originals got by on personality- pure, visceral excitement and joy grounded in organically created thrill. The first two prequels- The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones- had an aggregate technological superiorty, but had little-to-no-organic charm, and the personality of the originals was largely absent.

Every setup shot in the modern Star Wars series is populated by a nearly infinite amount of buzzes and pops- ships and ornate buildings and disparate aliens and lights and more jammed into the frame than can be appreciated in hours of viewing. This isn't inherently a bad thing- but it is suggestive of a path Lucas went down with the new trilogy that gave them an almost ghostly feel. Nothing in these movies save for (some) of the shots of the actors is tangible reality. The films have been created in a total vacuum, and in the first two, you could feel it. I think Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L Jackson, and even Jimmy Smits are great actors. They, as anyone who's seen the movies can attest, were terrible in the first two.

And Jar Jar Binks, and the Disney-fication of the first one, the obnoxious love storying in the second- you know the routine, you know why they sucked. I thought Attack of the Clones had some really, really strong moments, but was a disappointment, while Phantom Menace was the Darth Maul vs. Obi Wan and Qui Gonn battle, the Pod Race, and 2 hours of the worst Star Wars footage ever shot.

But Revenge of the Sith is different. Sith has personality, it has fear and danger and anger. It has a fire in it's belly the first two didn't- and it also has the benefit of being essentially the pay off of 4 hours of exposition preceding it, and 6 hours of expectations it would set up after it. For lightsaber battles- some of the best ever: Anakin vs Dooku, Obi Wan vs General Grievous, Yoda vs Palpatine, and arguably the best ever- Obi Wan vs Anakin, with a climax so engulfing, and so graphic, I was mouth agape in the theatre. Sith has Wookies, and specifically, Chewbacca, an entirely unecessary but incredibly satisfying few minutes of screen time. Sith also sports the greatest performance ever in a Star Wars movie- Ewan McGregor was terrific as Obi Wan, conflicted, horrified over what's become of his friend.

Where Lucas seemed to hedge things, holding back in the first two, he lets this one "hang out"- allowing the film to be both graphically violent and, at times, somewhat odd. Senator Palpatine's moment of facial scarring that would make him into the Emperor we knew in the originals was bizarre, uncomfortable, and really strange. It was great.

The movie's not perfect- there are some of holes, some horrendous dialogue, and a lot of the explanation of Anakin's descent into evil is a bit tenuous. It happens a bit fast when it comes, and if you don't want to buy it hook, line, and sinker, it could come off fishy. Some of the visuals are goofy- the performance attended by both Palpatine and Anakin was like Cirque de Soleil underwater, and a few of the planets shown were just plain ugly. I also found Yoda's revelation at the end to Obi Wan about Qui Gonn Jinn was really tacked on and out of place for what was essentially an explanation of a weird bit of Phantom Menace- that Qui Gonn was the lone Jedi not to "disappear" upon death.

And let's be honest- objectively, there is a lot to find goofy and ridiculous about the Star Wars movies. Anakin and Padme's love dialogue made a lot of devoted fans in the audience I was with laugh out loud. Stuff like Vader's reaction to Padme's death at the end too- probably should have been run by a few more eyes before it hit the screen.

But when Anakin becomes Darth Vader- when he is sealed into that suit for the first time, becoming the greatest villain in film history, an icon of American culture- there is little in a fan that cannot love it absolutely. The scenes depicting the Jedi Massacre were actually very affecting- as ridiculous as this might seem, it made me think of the Jesuit Martyrs in South America. It was sad- there was a feeling of dread and horror that Lucas- you have to give it to him- deftly achieved in this installment. The acknowledgment from Yoda* at film's end that not only has he failed, but that he has to go into exile, was devastating. We know not only that he does, but where he goes, and what becomes of him- and that he won't make it to see the end. Say what you want about Star Wars and the very specific execution of these ideas, but the ideas themselves are peerless. This is a modern American Greek Tragedy, a remarkable epic of fathers and sons and war and family and all the important things in literature. Just happens to be in space and rather poorly written. That epic feel informs the entire third act- the scenes where we see Padme and Anakin's children spirited off to be protected from their father are very effective and sad.

This is the gift of the final film- that sense of orientation in time- you know what's happened, and you know what will happen, and you're watching the very events it all turns on. Every line, every action in the last hour of the film is epic, larger than any of the people engaging in them. When Anakin, Yoda, and Bail Organa decide the fate of Luke and Leia, you can see Alec Guinness watching Mark Hammill, and Princess Leia being lead around as a captive by Darth Vader in A New Hope.

It's hard to join together what else I'm thinking about the movie- I loved that part when Yoda pre-empted his assassins when with the Wookies. I really like the idea that Anakin would kill kids. I thought the shot of Anakin leading a bunch of clone soldiers into the Trade Federation stronghold- and his butchering of them- was awesome. Did C-3PO look kinda funny to anyone else? I don't know what it was. I also found this one to be, in the first and second acts, a lot funnier than the first two prequels, echoing the originals. I really can't get that Jedi Massacre scene out of my head.

Anyway, I expect to see some more things worth mentioning when I see it again- which will be tomorrow, with Erin- so stay tuned. I can't wait to buy this fucking movie, either, by the way. Worth mentioning.

I would rank the Star Wars movies as such:

  1. The Empire Strikes Back

  2. Star Wars: A New Hope

  3. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

  4. The Return of the Jedi

  5. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

  6. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

*-Erin asked me who my favorite Star Wars character was, and I responded, naturally, Darth Vader. Of course, she was referring to my favorite "good guy," and I couldn't think of who I'd pick, so I went with C-3PO, because I do really like him. But the answer, of course, is Yoda. Duh. I'm a retard. I love Yoda!

Yes, I know how nerdy this post was. I'm not a "superfan"- I just enjoy (some) of those movies. But I'm ok with "nerdy" once in a while.

Watched the Mets- Yankees game, and as I was appreciating the wonder that is the Subway Series Rivalry, I caught arguably one of the most enjoyable sequences I've ever seen in a baseball game. I mean seriously- stuff like this only happens in baseball.

Dae Sung Koo, the left handed short relief pitcher for the Mets, came in to work to a few batters towards the end of the game, with the Mets in the lead. Getting out of the inning before facing all the important lefties he was slated to face, with his spot in the lineup coming around, Willie Randolph chose to hit with Koo rather than sub him and lose his only LH reliever. So there stood Dae Sung Koo, in his 2nd career AB in the majors, as a LHH, against Randy Johnson, the pitcher Tim McCarver called, earlier in the game, "the toughest pitcher on LHH in baseball history." Very likely bullshit- but if so, not by a lot. This was about as great a mismatch as you could possibly imagine.

And then Koo rocked a fastball on the inner half to deep CF, pulling up with a double to an absolutely incredulous crowd. I couldn't believe what I'd seen- managers ritually yank their best LHH for entire games against Johnson, and Koo crushed him. Amazing.

So the next batter, Jose Reyes, in true Luddite style, is ordered to bunt Koo over. After Posada rushed out to field the bunt and throw Reyes out at first, Koo rounded third and noticed- no one was covering home. So he darted for it, no help from a coach, totally on his own. And he made it.

Well, he really didn't make it, technically. Looked like Posada nipped it there just in time, but you know what? If it's that close, in a situation like that, and I'm the ump- sorry Yanks. That was too amazing to throw the wet blanket on. SAFE!

Just really incredible to watch. What other sport are you going to see something like that?

Watched a couple minutes of The Replacements today, one of my favorite shit-ass sports movies of all time. They're a blast to watch. In fact, for sheer stupidity, Summer Catch may be the only one besting this work of genius.

Anyway, you know the plot- football players strike, new coach needs to field a team, so he gets a rag tag bunch of misfits together to have a run at some success. Chick dig scars, blah blah blah.

The best part about that movie though, the part that KILLS me? The cheerleaders are, for some reason, striking too. They audition dancers, get some strippers, laughter ensues.

But the cheerleaders have the same union rep as the players? Huh? Why are they striking? Is it a really dumb coincidence, are they doing it in solidarity with the players, or are they negotiating the same terms as the players? So stupid. Gotta love that.

Ok, just to be clear, I hate Whose Line Is It Anyway?. I hated the British version after about a month of viewing, and I hate the ever more watered down American version with Drew Carey even more. Wayne Brady makes my skin crawl (his Dave Chappelle legendary skit notwithstanding).

But for some reason I stopped on it tonight for like three minutes while flipping around, and they were doing that "guess what the party guest is" game, where they get cards telling them what to act like, and the 4th guy has to guess what they're doing.

So Colin Mochrie gets "seal at Sea World begging for fish."

So he goes into his seal routine, barking and flopping on the ground, and the "host," goes, "Oh, look everybody, here at my party- it's STEPHEN HAWKING!"

But the best part? The BLEEPED THE STEPHEN HAWKING PART! Sorry, that was fucking hilarious, and much funnier than Greg Proops putting a hose on his head and pretending to be Medusa or something.

I just want to say that in the history of human competition, there has rarely been an ass-whooping of the magnitude levelled on Tana by Kendra in the final mission of The Apprentice. For the record.

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