DOD and I managed to fit in two movies between last night and today, the first being Amy, the Debbie Downer of a documentary about the recording artist Amy Winehouse, and the much-anticipated return of the Star Wars franchise directed by J.J. Abrams. I can’t help but want to blog about these, starting with the former so I can spare you the spoilers.
My take on Amy Winehouse has always been that, with the Back to Black album, she sort of luckily careened into a creativity singularity. I think she was talented but not that talented, but that for one album, yeah, she was that talented, and so were the producers and session musicians around her, and the style, the instrumentation, the market, the people yearning for something new, the timing, her emotional state at the time…
Sadly, though, I think had Winehouse lived another 20 years, she would not have replicated the feat. Back to Black was a one-time deal.
The film is quite the downer, especially if you’ve ever been as haunted by the Back to Black album as I have. You realize how utterly mismanaged she was after her success, how the relentless paparazzi contributed to her downfall, and how, surprising to me, how much bulimia likely contributed to her untimely death as did her fondness for various substances.
The movie missed a few things. I would have wanted more about the making of Back to Black; I’d want to know more about the technical aspects of making that fine album and more about the personnel. I’d also like more made of her collaborations with various 2-tone bands at the end of her life. It would have been nice had she been able to carry out a 2-tone renaissance and prove me wrong.
Anyway. On your bike. Let’s talk about STAR WARS. Which I can, finally. Cuz I went and seen it.
I have been chanting lately, as I consider this Abrams approach to the Star Wars tale, I’ve been chanting, chanting, chanting…please let him fix it. Please let him fix it. Please let him fix it.
I mean, George Lucas had this beautiful thing, this wonderful creative vision masterfully executed. Then came the prequels. Which were horrible. As documented, say, here, for example (Mr. Plinkett’s Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith Review).
So. Did he fix it?
That and beyond, my friends. That, and beyond.
Interesting challenge J.J. Abrams had, the way I figure. Dude had to appeal to two distinct audiences: Old farts like me who saw the first one in the theater when he was 11. And, younger farts who grew up initially exposed to the prequels and thinking that was what Star Wars was.
Hee-hee. Jar-Jar stepped in poo.
True story: I was opposed to seeing Star Wars when it first came out. I was 11. I did not want to see it. Because I was an aspiring peace-nik, even then. And the movie was about wars.
But I ended up going, accompanied by my DOD, and I still recall the experience as a wonderful, visceral thing. It was probably a seminal normative experience. I think it was for many people; I think it’s why people cling to the franchise so tensely.
Star Wars upped the game.
Just by watching this film, you became a better person, a more sophisticated consumer of film. You walked out changed. You would, from that point forward, require more from your cinema. Because while Star Wars gave more, it also demanded more. It made you infer and question and cast curiosity. And just watching it informed you about what works.
Star Wars titilated us. But it also formed and informed our tastes. That, I think, is why it resonates as it does.
J.J. Abrams gets it.
In The Force Awakens, Abrams essentially re-tells the original story. Like, all over again. It’s recast, there are adjustments eked, but all of the essential elements are there. Evil guy in a dark suit and mask with bidding minions the stromtroppers. The unrealized, unrefined protagonist with an unexpected quest presented, who soon discovers abilities previously unknown. The large evil weapon the size of a world and the desperate fight to stop it. The familial complications and their ties to the larger universal forces at work.
I could go on and on with the parallels. But I don’t need to because I’ve told you: It is essentially. The same. Movie.
A genius stroke, because as I’ve indicated, there are two large audiences with whom Abrams has to connect. He has to draw out the inner skinny child inside of us old farts, and, more important, I think, he has to shake from the younger folks the bizarre disillusion that the prequels had anything to do with Star Wars. This movie both excites the fan-boy in me and clues in the youngsters, letting them know that this, kids, is how it’s supposed to be. And he does it well, and it is precious, and
See, when I was a kid watching that movie for the first time in the theater, I felt a certain way. I remember it. I gripped the arms of the chairs at times, I grimaced and moved to the side sometimes, I put off the urge to pee because that was not a possibility I could not miss this not one minute
This movie made me feel like that again.
A few specific notes:
~ The only change, the only change I would have made would have been to throw R2 and 3PO out the air lock. Goodness. They were pure fan service, even the um “purpose” they were there for was horribly anti-climactic (DIDN’T SEE THAT COMIN’ FROM FIFTY MILES AWAY) but their existence in the franchise at this stage in the game is puzzling, I mean, just technically.
The 3PO unit is, simply put, a horribly unreliable piece of technology. Even in this iteration he shows up damaged. I mean, in 1977, you kind of expect a brass-plated humanoid style robot to be walking around in a a film like this. It was kind of required. Now? It’s like I watch Robocop of 1987 and I’m like WHY IS HE DRIVING A CAR?
No, a humanoid style robot is not useful unless you can build that sucker like Data of Star Trek Enterprise, or like a Cylon from the reimagined BSG. I cannot imagine the maintenance issues involved with a system that complex and yet so vulnerable. And the thing is, the movie audience would dig that.
C’mon. Every person in every audience has more computing power in their pockets than that of those two morons put together. Enough fan service.
And you can say but what about the BB unit? Eh, that little guy kinda makes sense, a Dyson take on a droid in this universe. At least with the sphere he can move faster than my adopted Grampa Harry. Can’t say that for 3PO and the other one, who spend this entire movie um, SITTING IN A ROOM.
R2-D2 and C3PO are obsolete. Sorry.
* And, oh, by the way, they do manufacture beings in the Star Wars universe who are more reliable than the 3P0 units: They’re called “clones.” How about making some clones for the purpose of handling protocol, training them, and then setting them off? Hmmmmm?
~ The ending scene is so brilliant. It is brilliant, and I know this because during it I was internally screaming “END THE MOVIE NOW END THE MOVIE NOW PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE MAKE THIS HOW IT ENDS PLEASE PLEASE NO MORE”
and the credits rolled.
Thing is. She’s handing it to him. But from what you’ve seen of her that isn’t right. And you know darned skippy he’s gonna be handing that thing right back to her next.
Those are my thoughts now. What I know is that I haven’t been this excited about a movie since Django Unchained, or maybe American Hustle. You owe it to yourself to see it, just to be reminded that movies, no, heck with that, to remind you what movies can be, what they should be, that it should be something so good it leaves you in a snotty pile on the floor for an hour after.
May the force be with you.