In 1977, my father took me to see Star Wars after he had already seen it once. He loved it and wanted me to love it too. I don't remember anything about that experience. I was only 2. However, we did have a VCR — it was huge with faux wood paneling — and I would watch the movie over and over and over again in the years following. We also recorded and rewatched the infamous Holiday Special.
In 1981, my father took me to see Empire Strikes Back in a theater after it had been playing a few weeks. I can't tell you exactly where. All I remember was that it had red walls in the lobby. Though at the time I was disappointed by the cliffhanger ending, I wasn't disappointed enough not to love all the cool new toys. Not long afterwards, my brother accidentally decapitated my original black-vested Han Solo figure, and my parents replaced him with a Han in Hoth gear. What a downgrade. (I retaliated by running over Trey's sensorscope R2-D2 with my bicycle.)
In 1983, my friend Greg Owens saw Return of the Jedi before I did. He complained the movie had too many purple-lipped talking dogs in it. Their catchphrase, Greg said, was "Eat your momma." When I finally saw it (again with my family, again theater unknown though probably in Stone Mountain, GA), his review was borne out. By Christmas, I had all the available Ewok action figures and a Wicket doll.
In 1999, I saw The Phantom Menace at the new Hollywood 24 theater in Atlanta with friends. The movie was fine enough — in fact I think I continue to like it more than many — but I was disappointed by how many people I spoke to seemed to love it for what they put into it, not what it was. Darth Maul, like Boba Fett before him, particularly irked me. Fans decided he was cool because he looked cool. Their love was for a thing they had created in their heads, not a character that had appeared on screen. This realization that fans loved the franchise not for what it was but for what they wanted it to be was the beginning of the end of my love affair with Star Wars. I have a hard time associating with people who worship style over substance.
In 2002, I watched Attack of the Clones at the United Artists Scottsdale Pavilions theater in Arizona with my brother. We both agreed the movie was terrible. Bad acting, worse writing. Between the forced romance and that CGI Artoo video game sequence, this film is almost unwatchable. I distinctly remember saying that the only reason anyone should pay money to see such a thing was to get out of the desert sun.
In 2005, I have no memory of watching Revenge of the Sith. My friend Keith has told me he remembers my laughter at the final reveal of Darth Vader, so I assume I watched it in Atlanta, presumably back at the Hollywood 24. It was awful. How could any so-called fans of the older Star Wars films still love this franchise after old Ben Kenobi was revealed as the kind of man who turned his back on his friends and his responsibilities, "master" Yoda was an isolationist failure, or Vader himself was a tantrum-throwing idiot? Weren't these supposed to be kids movies? Yuck! If this was the Star Wars Universe, I wanted no more part of it.
In 2015, I watched The Force Awakens at some theater on the north side of Atlanta with reserved seating in recliners that kept my feet from touching the ground. I didn't want to see it, but I'd made the mistake of saying I'd watch it if they found a way to bring Han Solo back. They did. I watched. I found it an insulting exercise in nostalgia. (Hey, guys, let's forget all that prequel nonsense. Remember what you liked about Star Wars? Here it is again!) It's now the highest grossing film of all time.
In 2016, I watched Rogue One at Regal Cinemas 11 in Panama City, Florida. It was my father's birthday present. It was a bad present. The movie was yet another excuse for brand reinforcement, a short story intended to fill gaps in the original Star Wars backstory with stereotypical yet well-costumed characters that would make good action figures.
In 2017, Disney released The Last Jedi. A new one already? As if I wasn't burnt out enough. I hear it's different. I hear this one will change everything I've ever thought about Star Wars. I feel like I've heard that before. Maybe I'll see it one day when it comes on television. Maybe. I'm not in any hurry anymore.
How did you pass your snow days?
I want to finish listing the movies I watched in 2017 before we get to 2018, so I need to double time these reviews. Here is November part 2 of 3.
149. (1208.) Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (1975)
This movie's intro and finale borrow the worst bits of 1966's Batman approach to sound effects, but most of it is more in the vein of Adventures of Superman. That's when it's at its best.
150. (1209.) Ladyhawke (1985)
I thought I would enjoy this, but not so much. The costumes and sets were fantastic. The music, however, felt incredibly out of place, constantly reminding me that I was watching a modern take on a fairy tale. Matthew Broderick's constant one-liner anachronisms didn't help. Still, it is a much better movie than Krull.
151. (1210.) Speed Racer (2008)
This film, on the other hand, was great fun (if a bit hard on the eyes). It was surprisingly respectful (perhaps too respectful) of its dumb-as-bricks source material, which I do like. Racer X is the man.
152. (1211.) The Big Sick (2017)
I know this relationship comedy was based (loosely) on a true story experienced by lead actor Kumail Nunjiani, so maybe that's why it still felt so honest. The extended cast all conveyed the feel of real (dysfunctional) families. Good work.
More to come, sooner than later.
It snowed today. In December. In Georgia.
I was looking for some way to commemorate the event here on the blog when I stumbled across this in my collection:
"Where Walks a Snowman" in Batman #337 (July 1981) begins as "a typical evening in Gotham City; under a sky heavy with the threat of snow, the city sparkles...". But the story isn't about snow. That probably would have been a better story.
Odd events during a smash-and-grab at a sporting goods store soon convince Batman that albino Olympic skier Klaus Kristin is involved. There's no chain of evidence, but Batman's got a hunch. So he steals Kristin's mother's diary and discovers that she had sex with a yeti. (Are all albinos yetis, or is Batman just racist?)
Being the offspring of a blonde-haired, blue-eyed hottie and a "mythical creature of the Himalayan peaks" has endowed Kristin with the ability to transform himself into an abomination that can project sub-zero temperatures from his fingertips. Calling himself "Snowman" (probably because he was a big Smokey and the Bandit fan), Kristin uses these abilities to rob sporting goods stores.
Uh, yeah, ok. I think that will hold up in court.
Anyway, Batman brings Kristin to justice by startling him off a cliff. Don't call it murder, though. As Batman points out, Kristin let him "get close." So it was all his fault. Again, I'm sure that would hold up in court, too.
Fortunately for Batman's ethics, Kristin wasn't dead. He survived his fall and went into peaceful, penitent seclusion in remote parts of the Himalayas. Peaceful, at least, until Batman tracks him down in "Snow Blind" (Detective Comics #552, January 1983). Justice will be served!
Despite being pursued to the literal ends of the earth, Kristin saves Batman's life and for his trouble is shot by the Chinese Sherpa he calls "Chi." (Apparently Batman is racist.)
Kristin chooses death and is carried off into the sunset by his father. Aw. Kristin finds his daddy, and Batman gets his Justice. How's that for a happy ending?
So next time it snows in December in Georgia, remember the sad tale of the Snowman. Stay inside reading comic books. That's what I do.
Movies watched in November, part 1 of 3:
144. (1203.) The Wilby Conspiracy (1975)
A surprisingly enjoyable action/thriller about the brutal lengths that the White Man would go to keep the natives down in Apartheid era South Africa. A lot of the credit goes to the Sidney Poitier/Michael Caine pairing. Those guys could act.
145. (1204.) The Falcon in Mexico (1944)
Tom Conway stars as freelance detective The Falcon in this series of mystery films for RKO. Not very deep and kind of predictable but still a lot of fun. (RKO made the best disposable mystery film fiction of the era.)
146. (1205.) Deadly Friend (1986)
Wes Craven is better than this. I've read there was a lot of studio interference in this movie. It shows. The film is never sure what kind of film it wants to be. It fails as both a coming of age love story and a sci-fi slasher flick. Thankfully, Kristy Swanson went on to be Hollywood's original Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and this schlock isn't her legacy.
147. (1206.) The Falcon in Hollywood (1944)
More Falcon! I liked this one even more than Mexico, mainly thanks to the fast-talking blonde sidekick.
148. (1207.) Lonely Are the Brave (1962)
Some movies really stick with you. This is one of those. On the surface, it's a modern Western film, but it's really a message movie. Thematically, it has a lot in common with The Misfits (1961). Both are about the death of the West, fading youth, the illusion of freedom, and existential loneliness. In this one, the cosmic hammer is a truckload of toilets. (See also: The Man Who Had Power Over Women, which borrowed the idea somewhat more literally in 1970.) Where was I? Oh, yeah. Damn good movie.
More to come.