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Okay, there were a few moments where I went “BULLSHIT!” (Leia saying she’s always known Luke is her brother) and “THE LORD OF THE RINGS DID IT BETTER!” (Theoden’s dying scene with Eowyn—in the films, obviously—is pretty much cribbed from here, and I think it works better, because they went through Theoden’s curse/depression together), but for the most part, a nice way to cap off the series. The Ewoks weren’t annoying; I kind of like their design, since they’re little nightmare teddy bears, but the party at the end was a bit much. In any case, Leia was particularly awesome here, and I love the idea that she’s going to go on and become a Jedi herself. (And I kinda of love that in her reaction to the reveal, you get all the expected stuff, and a hint of “OH MY GOD I KISSED MY BROTHER?”, which shows up in Han’s reaction to the same fact.) I hope that happened in the Expanded Universe. We’re bouncing from a lighter film (with the Ewoks) to a more emotionally mature one (the family drama), but it coheres more than it doesn’t.

And the Rancor beastmaster is the best joke in the entire trilogy, I think. Although Obi-Wan trying to cover his ass via “Well, Luke, from a certain point of view, I didn’t lie to you at all!” is pretty good. Is it policy that Jedi Masters can just screw with their Padawans? Because I dig that. 

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Weirdly quiet and not as violent as I’d been told. Ah, ur-texting. The heart of it, for me, was the relationship between Mr. White and Mr. Orange, as Mr. White tries to take this young (…let’s be honest, gorgeous) kid under his wing even as everything goes to hell. That conflict worked out the best for me. I mean, I’m definitely happy I saw it, but it’s more education than enjoyment here. 

That shot of Orange as he’s telling the fake story—in the bathroom of the story, telling the story as the fictional cops stare at him… now that’s a gorgeous shot. 

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Widely considered to the best of the trilogy, and I think I agree. A lot of the elements that I, personally, find quintessentially Star Wars come from here—Han and Leia’s relationship, Lando Calrissian, Yoda, hints of Vader, and, of course, the reveal, which is how I was introduced to the franchise. (Never watched it as a kid, although my brother had. Then again, he is a decade older than me.) Han and Leia’s relationship here really struck me this go round; it’s something delicate between two very cynical people who know better, and it’s interesting to watch Han, in his own way (“You could use a good kiss!” comes across not well for me), actually be tender with her. The moment they share when he tells her the repairs are done and he’ll be gone soon—God, she repeats him and just looks at him, and he can’t tell her that he won’t run, because he will. 

And, while weirdly paced, Luke’s encounter with his own fear that he will become Darth Vader is one of the shots from this series that actually haunts me; just Luke’s face in the helmet. The whole Dagobah sequence is oddly paced, come to think of it.

Oh, and “There is another” makes me think Leia was going to have a much bigger role, because of course it’s Leia. TVTropes tells me it was initially going to be another sister, which explains tons, of course. 

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I’ve been craving film recently, so I hied myself down to a used media store and bought the Star Wars trilogy on mostly untampered VHS—it’s the 1995 “IT’S THE LAST TIME YOU CAN BUY THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY, GET ON THAT” release, so it’s not technically theatrical, but the tweaks are extremely minimal. I did see the original trilogy in high school, either on the 2004 DVDs or the Special Edition VHSes (I’ve a crap memory, which is why I do this!), but something was off. Part of it was that I wasn’t quite ready for old-school sci-fi, but part of it was the incongruity of the edits, especially the special effects added in. They just didn’t look seventies. It didn’t grab me.

This time around, much better. The pacing is tighter, Han is dangerous, and it manages to both feel very late seventies and timeless. I dig sci-fi and fantasy like that, hence my weird thing for eighties fantasy. (It’s not love. But it’s certainly fascination.) This round, Luke came out the best for me. Luke, especially in the first film, has this coltish, girlish charm to him even when he’s whining though the movie; he’s either very excited, frustrated, or sad. But it works, and Mark Hamill is dreamy. Come to think of it, so is Harrison Ford. Han worked for me a lot better this time around; I had no idea killing Greedo was so essential to the Han I know from pop culture! As for Leia, she really comes into her own in the other two films, although she’s not too shabby here. In fact, I think a lot of the identity of the trilogy lies in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

As for the edits… Star Wars feels brighter, vibrant, and more violent here; more swashbuckling. I don’t think the edits ruin the movie, but I do think they hurt the film, because they’re not integrated well. And in some way, there’s no way it can impress me, because I grew up in a post-Star Wars world; in fact, post-post-Star Wars, because I’m young enough that people inspired by Star Wars to go into visual effects were working when I started watching movies proper. There needs to be a name for this phenomenon; when you finally witness the ur-text everybody references. Ur-texting!

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I had no idea about the mockumentary format until I actually watched it, but what a fantastic set-up for the film. Sharlto Copley is fantastic (and now I feel obligated to watch The A Team remake, because I am, apparently, helpless in the face of a certain slight percentage of cragginess), the thing still looks good three years later (difficult for films with heapings of CGI), and, of course, exploring xenophobia and oppression via aliens is always useful. While I did want a slightly different ending, it’s really Blomkamp’s baby, with little compromise. 

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“I thought you said this was a comedy!” I shrieked, but all was well.

A nice, small film that is, of course, about fandom—sports fandom, that is. Paul is quite happy with his life, although everyone else in his life—except his best friend Sal—doesn’t think he can possibly be. The film renders Paul’s life realistically without making him pathetic; while I wouldn’t want to live his life, you respect his decision. It’s advertised as a comedy, but it’s more of a drama with lighter moments, as Paul deals with the fallout of his favorite player physically assaulting him. There’s a mostly unexplored motif about these unathletic white men idolizing and perhaps objectifying black male bodies; Paul has a poster of Bishop in his room that extolls other quarterbacks to beware, and, as Paul tries (or tries not to) reassemble the assault, he’s briefly haunted by an image of Bishop. It’s not explored, because the focus of the film is on whether or not Paul can reconcile his love for the Giants with what happened to him, but I kind of wish it had. 

I wonder if there’s any literature on this? There must be, surely. 

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A very interesting and even-handed look at the conflict between George Lucas and his fans, exploring the question of who really owns a story and the complications of living authors. While I appreciated that they discussed the rape metaphor being thrown around, putting that over a shot of a bunch of slave Leias at con? Not cool. Still, pretty solid. 

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Velvet Goldmine has been on my viewing list for many years—it came out when I was seven, and by the time I hit my “obsessively watching anything with queer men in it” phase in middle school, the film had already exploded as a cult classic because King Henry and Obi-Wan Kenobi make out in it. There are some movies that I’ve missed the right age to watch—The Breakfast Club, in particular, is a film about horrible people doomed to repeat their parents’ mistakes to me, since I watched it as an adult—but I’m relieved I didn’t watch Velvet Goldmine until I was twenty-one. 

In a way, Velvet Goldmine is like Moulin Rouge (Ewan McGregor’s presence in both films set aside); it’s a two-hour long music video, with the editing and pacing implied thereof. But while Moulin Rouge’s cheerful and romantic numbers are punctuated by a melodramatic storyline, Velvet Goldmine is punctuated by an investigation. (I was surprised to see how directly the structure of the film patterns itself after Citizen Kane.) But it’s not really about that investigation—it’s about the brief candle of glam rock that it captures, especially contrasted against the exaggerated dystopian 1984 that serves as the present day for Arthur Stuart, our journalist protagonist.

In another way, Velvet Goldmine is like Poppy Z. Brite’s Plastic Jesus, a short novella where she explores, via thinly veiled characters, the implications of a romance between Lennon and McCartney. Brian Slade is based off of David Bowie and Kurt Wild, McGregor’s character, is based off of Iggy Pop, and there’s a moment taken verbatim from Angie Bowie’s account of finding her ex-husband in bed with Mick Jagger in the nude. The film concerns itself a lot with sexuality and discovery—the young Stuart has a revelation over a photo of Slade and Wild kissing—and the figure of Jack Fairy, the person who single-handedly starts glam rock, haunts the film. (I was surprised to hear him sing at the end of the film.) 

All of this is important, of course, but the core of the film is the inscrutable Slade and his appetite for fame, and the destruction wrecked thereof. For the most part, it works—I was thrumming with energy halfway through the film, utterly unconcerned with the world outside the film—although there are some missteps, like the fact that the older Slade is played by a different actor who entirely lacks Rhys Meyers’ energy (although that might be the point…). And I’m still not sure what to make of the opening, which posits Oscar Wilde as an alien and aspiring pop star whose emerald brooch is passed from glam rocker to glam rocker. (Naturally, Jack Fairy is the one who finds it.) But it’s part of glam rock, this identification with the ultimate alien, and claiming Oscar Wilde is part and parcel of being queer and creative. The film actually borrows quite a lot of Wilde, and the resultant smorgasbord manages to be quite affecting. 

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Famous for being the film from whence the phrase "I reject your reality and substitute my own!" comes from, Dungeonmaster (or Rage War) has an interesting premise—essentially, it's a video game, with a different director for each "level"—which it promptly wastes by being exceedingly silly and eighties.

This, of course, is a selling point for me.


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Eralk Fang

July 2016


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