Archive for June, 2016

What’s Rick McCallum Up To Now?

June 30, 2016

Jedi News managed to notice an article in Variety on what PT producer Rick McCallum is up to these days.  He runs a production company out of Prague and is apparently married to a Czech woman now:

But being a little enchanted while shooting in the Czech Republic is not uncommon for most producers.“After working in over 50 countries, I always have a great time shooting here,” McCallum says. Most recently, Film United worked abroad and at home as co-producer of “A United Kingdom,” a true story featuring David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike portraying the romance between Botswana’s first president and an English woman. Film United’s body of work spans a dozen features, including George Lucas’ Prague-shot, World War II-set “Red Tails.”

Advertisements

Essay: “Old Things Become New”

June 30, 2016

Originally posted on matril’s LiveJournal page; I’ve edited the post down to the discussion about the prequels.

“Old Things Become New (Or Why The Prequels Make Everything Better)”

What I’m going to focus on here is what I love about the prequels: that they, in contrast, make watching the original trilogy even more enjoyable. I suppose here is where haters might suggest that their lesser quality makes the OT look so much better, but that’s not at all where I’m headed. I enjoy watching the prequels as a tragic tale in their own right, and I enjoy the original trilogy on its own. Putting them together, however, creates a richer, deeper, incredibly rewarding experience. Here’s why.

1. We see what was lost when the Empire took over. The galaxy of the OT is a harsh, constricted place in more ways than one. The aesthetics, the colors, the clothing and settings are stark, limited mostly to shades of black and white and brown. Everything is utilitarian, with only an occasional glimpse of beauty or color. Now I understand that this is something a lot of fans love about Star Wars, that it has a “lived-in” look, that there’s grit and dust and all that. But let’s just consider, honestly – is it somewhere you’d like to visit? Consider the settings – an unforgiving desert world, a planet of ice, a murky swamp, an armored space station whose only purpose is to deal out death. The only places that seem relatively hospitable are the jungles of Yavin IV and the forest moon of Endor, but those brief glimpses of lush green are in constant peril from the Empire’s incursions, representing the spark of life struggling to remain alight long enough for freedom to be regained.

But then we have the prequels. And they show us that the galaxy is gorgeous.

73317_900

I don’t just want to visit Naboo. I want to live there. I mean, look at that. Imagine what the Empire’s work must have done to that beauty, especially considering it was the Emperor’s native planet and its peaceful ways were always vulnerable to attack. It makes the tragedy all the more tangible, knowing what was lost – and the drive for victory all the more meaningful, seeing what the Rebels are fighting to restore.

The same is true for the costumes, the architecture, the indicators of high culture. This was a mighty Republic at the peak of its power; prosperous, affording great luxuries to many of its citizens…and of course, dangerously decadent and complacent, which is how they managed to lose it all to the corruptive influence of a Sith Lord. If the galaxy looked the same before or after the Republic’s fall, then what’s the big deal about its fall? The contrast is deliberate and powerful.

2. Familiar tropes are turned upside-down. The prequels contain many parallels to the OT, but always with some surprising alteration. Anakin’s age in Episode I, for one thing. Since Luke as introduced on the verge of manhood, we probably assumed Anakin would be as well. Instead, he’s a wide-eyed, innocent child. In addition to setting the stage for Anakin’s future struggles – early separation from his mother, clashes with the Council’s long-established methods of training – it also helps us better appreciate Luke’s journey, and how his different position grants him the opportunity to make up for his father’s failures.

Another thing we learned in the OT was to associate the stormtrooper look with the bad guy’s endless hordes of evil henchmen. They’re basically faceless automatons. And how do they show up in the prequels? As clones, programmed from birth to serve the Republic. They’re fighting on the side of the good guys. When the Republic becomes the Empire, as far as the clones know they just keep doing what they’ve always done. But we will never look at them quite the same way again. They’re not merely a simplistic manifestation of the Empire’s power; they’re physical proof of the Emperor’s heartless evil, as he happily produces score upon scores of living beings who have no choice but to fight and die for him and him alone. He treats them like battle droids. We know better. Also, the little fact that they’re basically Boba Fett’s little brothers is a fun tidbit I never would have imagined.

3. Every meeting/reunion becomes so much more poignant. When Luke sees the hologram of Leia, and later meets her in person on the Death Star, we mostly assumed he was struck by her beauty. After ROTJ, maybe we considered that they had some kind of twin-vibe going on. But it’s after Episode III that these moments become most powerful. We’ve seen their birth. We’ve seen the brief moments they were together as babies, and then watched them get taken away to their respective adoptive homes. Twenty long years later, seeing the children of Padmé and Anakin reunite is so satisfying. Just knowing who the twins’ mother was, her passion and courage and kindness, gives their characters fresh significance, seeing how much of her lives on in both of them. And let’s not forget that Luke’s first glimpse of his long-lost sister happens in the exact same room where Anakin confessed his dark vengeful actions to Padmé. That dingy old garage becomes a place of destiny.

Vader and Obi-Wan’s reunion is heartrending. You get a tantalizing glimpse of their backstory if you just watch Episode IV, but how much more powerful to see their relationship grow, then deteriorate after Anakin’s fall, culminating in the tragedy on Mustafar – and then to watch them meet on the Death Star. Just imagine what must be going through their minds, how fraught that moment is. You know they won’t both walk away from this one either, but this time it’s Obi-Wan who willingly sacrifices himself.

And consider how much more tragic to see Alderaan destroyed when we know more about Leia’s adoptive parents, particularly Bail. We see clearly how a man such as that would raise a passionate freedom fighter like Leia, and we share her anguish so much more deeply as her home is lost forever.

Meanwhile, it’s pretty darn entertaining to see Yoda show up in Episode V if you’ve seen him as a wise, respected leader of the Council….sure, he’s testing Luke, but I’m pretty sure he’s gone a bit loopy after all that time alone on Dagobah. The contrast is a lot of fun.

4. New details offer clarity, and a number of surprises. When Obi-Wan and Yoda’s bodies vanish and they become ghosts, it’s easy to assume that’s just a Jedi thing. The prequels reveal just how rare it is – and we see Qui-Gon’s influence extends long past any explicit mention of him. Blue ghosts are even more miraculous than we might have thought.

When Yoda says Luke is “too old” to begin training, it sounds like he might just be searching for excuses. Then Episode I told us that Anakin, at age nine, was too old. No wonder Yoda was so resistant to teaching an adult! But Luke’s success tells us that the former Council’s methods weren’t necessarily infallible after all.

5. The contrast of Anakin’s fall with Luke’s triumph is such a thing of beauty. Though Anakin’s ultimate decision to join the Dark Side is one that, I hope, we cannot sympathize with, there is much in his preceding struggles that is highly sympathetic. He misses his mother, and deeply regrets that he was too late to save her from death. He longs for a life with Padmé and fights to reconcile that with his allegiance to duty. He fears losing her as well. He’s overwhelmed by the prospect of fatherhood. He feels under-appreciated and resents the Council’s distrust of him, turning instead to the pleasant flattery of Palpatine. None of this excuses his fall, but it makes us recognize how perilous it must be to walk the path of a powerful Jedi.

So Luke’s path is equally uncertain. Considering Anakin’s fall arose from a fear of losing the ones he loved, imagine how terrified Obi-Wan and Yoda must be when Luke is gripped by those same fears, flying recklessly off to Cloud City to try to rescue his friends. And failing spectacularly. Vader, we realize, laid the trap for him precisely because he knew how powerful the fear of loss could be. He knew it would draw Luke to him like nothing else could, because that’s what happened to him. His claim to Luke in ROTJ that Dark Side is “the only way to save your friends” makes a lot more sense when we see how Palpatine lured Anakin to the dark.  And Luke’s refusal to give in to hate is glorious, shining a light so bright it casts away the shadow that has enveloped Anakin since his fall. Knowing the innocent child he used to be makes his return so much more poignant.

I’m sure there’s much, much more. I appreciate every detail more each time I watch the saga. At the end of it all, watching the prequels makes me even happier when I watch the originals afterwards.

Essay On “Love, Hate, & Geek Culture”

June 29, 2016

Thomas Storai on Midichlorian Center posted an essay on the prequels and geek culture:

And so how do these people have to do anything with the Geek culture? It’s exactly those “fans” fueled geek culture with hate towards the Prequels, it’s those people dictated what to like and what not to like. The problem with geek culture is that people in there spend most of their time hating on something rather than focusing on what they love, they don’t listen to other’s opinions and state that their opinions is the rightful one and the only one that exists so discussion is not possible as they take the biggest space on the Internet trolling people who love things they hate.

Great Scenes of the Prequel Trilogy: Anakin And Watto Meet Again

June 27, 2016

In AOTC, Anakin returns to Tatooine to find his mother, Padmé and Artoo in tow.  He is disobeying his orders to remain on Naboo with Padmé and she goes along ostensibly to make sure he’s not “technically” in trouble, but of course it’s also because she is in love with him.

Anakin first finds Watto in Mos Espa.  Watto, wearing a nifty hat, at first doesn’t recognize his former slave.  The odd thing about their meeting is Anakin first addresses him in Huttese and helps him fix a troublesome piece of what looks like a pit droid.  It seems almost affectionate, as though Anakin is acknowledging that tie with Watto and at the same time is hoping that would remind Watto of who’s addressing him.

Watto realizes he’s speaking with a Jedi and then recognizes that it’s Anakin.  Watto tries to be friendly, even affectionate with Anakin, like an uncle who hasn’t seen his nephew in a long time.  He even has the nerve to ask Anakin for his help to go after some deadbeats.  But Anakin becomes intimidating.  He dispenses with pleasantries (to borrow from his later alter ego Vader) and demands to know where his mother is.  Watto starts to seem uncomfortable as he reveals Shmi was sold.  Anakin speaks softly but his “I’d like to know” is delivered like a Mafia enforcer looking for the guy who owes him protection money.  Watto gets the message and goes to find the location of the Lars homestead.

One amazing thing about this scene is to see how the dynamic between Watto and Anakin changed from TPM to this awkward reunion in AOTC.  Here is one moment in the film where Anakin’s growth into a young man served to his advantage.  He’s no longer Watto’s property; the Toydarian no longer has Anakin’s fate in his hands.  Anakin is tall and casts an imposing figure over his former master.  Plus Anakin is a trained warrior.  The body language and tone of the scene seems to reflect Anakin saying, “You don’t scare me anymore.  I can swat you like the flies all around here.”  This is an empowering scene for him and it’s interesting to note that Padmé is there beside him as this is happening.

At the same time, Watto clearly had some affection for Anakin and in a weird way, Anakin seems to have a teensy-tiny soft spot for Watto as well.  It’s not as though Anakin took out his lightsaber, held it to Watto’s throat, and demanded Shmi’s whereabouts.  Watto had better thank his lucky stars he didn’t encounter Anakin as Darth Vader!

Watto doesn’t get enough credit as an achievement of CGI.  I always found him believable and loved his characterization.  Hayden Christensen does a fine job interacting with Watto and expressing Anakin’s conflicting emotions.

Plus there is the visual feast of Mos Espa, a place teeming with animals, aliens, people, and droids.  There’s something about Lucas’s visuals that make a place come alive.  Mos Espa always make me think of Moebius’s comic art, which served as inspiration for the PT.  Completing it is John Williams’s score reflecting an ancient and exotic culture.

 

Star Wars Wedding Dress Ideas

June 24, 2016

starwars.com posted an article on how various Star Wars costumes can serve as inspiration for custom wedding dresses, including more than a couple from the prequels.

It also suggests the handmaiden dresses could be reinterpreted as bridesmaid gowns.

AOTC’s “Matrix” Easter Egg

June 24, 2016

I knew the same guy who played Mouse in “The Matrix” played death stick dealer Elian Sleazebaggano in AOTC.  But this guy noticed a lot of things in this scene that are a direct reference to the 1999 film and more specifically, the same scene in which Mouse appeared!     I didn’t even know until now that the girl in the club looking flirtatiously at Anakin was the same actress who played the girl in the red dress.

As Neo says in the film, “Whoa.”

New Series: Sex And The Prequel Trilogy

June 24, 2016

anakinpadme

Wait, what???

I had a similar reaction back when I was in college and while poking around the film book section of the library, found an essay about sex and the Star Wars films (back when there was only three).  Some of it was wacky and a bit of a reach.  Some of it had some interesting points that I’m now 100% sure were intentional, such as Luke’s maiming in TESB being a symbolic castration.

Certainly I hope for many clicks, but don’t worry, this is going to be strictly PG to PG-13 serious discussion of themes in the films. The discussion will focus on the films themselves, not comics or novels (both “legends” and “new canon”) and not fan works.  Some Clone Wars mentions will occur.

Just by way of introduction, we all know that as family-oriented entertainment, the Star Wars films do not put sexuality up front and center and it certainly never depicts it in an explicit way. What is shown is fairly restrained. The kissing scenes aren’t overly long and emphasize the romantic feelings and the emotional investment of the characters rather than raw sexual desire. There’s no tongue action or the aggressive steak-chewing kisses common in modern films, even in PG-13 rated ones. I frankly found it a tad surprising that there was even a little bit of open mouthed kissing in AOTC; I chalked it up to changes in standards between the time of the OT and the early ‘00s. There are no walking off to the bedroom/waking up the next day in bed type of scenes, much less any outright explicit sex scenes. The only implication at all that sex has taken place between characters is if they end up having children, and in Shmi’s case, even THAT doesn’t necessarily mean nookie happened. The movies don’t even imply sex between unmarried characters; Hondo Ohnaka’s joke to Aurra Sing about young Boba Fett (something like “he’s not one of mine”) in of all things The Clone Wars is literally the only time that kind of thing is ever mentioned or implied. There’s a reason why Kevin Smith once said that Han and Leia’s first kissing scene in TESB was the Star Wars equivalent of porn.

George Lucas may be pretty traditionalist in his outlook and he always had a family audience firmly in mind but that does not mean he is a prude. This is after all the same guy who made “THX-1138” and executive produced “Body Heat.” Sexuality certainly played a prominent (but not a graphic) role in “American Graffiti.” It is present in Star Wars, most notably when Leia spent a good chunk of ROTJ in her infamous bikini that stirred the hormones of many a young lad. (There is also something perverse about a huge slug who gets his jollies from females of a different species.) It gets freaky with Leia and Luke’s twincestuous kiss in TESB, which wasn’t topped until Game Of Thrones came along. But usually, it is approached in a subtle way that sails over the heads of young kids. An example is the innuendo between Han and Leia in TESB that went over my 10-year-old head with the whole “Captain, being held by you isn’t quite enough to get me excited”/”Sorry sweetheart, I haven’t got time for anything else” exchange.

Sexuality certainly does play a role in the prequels. Much of it obviously pertains to Anakin and Padmé’s relationship but it goes beyond simply the nuts and bolts of making sure there’s another generation of Star Wars characters. It’s in part about the both of them growing up and realizing who they are as a man and as a woman. It’s partially about symbiosis, about natural vs. unnatural reproduction, about using color and setting to express things that aren’t going to be depicted onscreen, about attachment, passion, and the different kinds of love. There’s a lot to unpack, which is why this is going to be a multiple part series. Stay tuned!

 

Clone Wars Character In “Rogue One”

June 22, 2016

I hate linking to EW for anything but it has the exclusive info on who Forest Whitaker is playing in the movie.

I realize for some people this constitutes a spoiler but to me, if it’s officially-released info, it’s not really a spoiler.  There’s character info on everybody else in the film that was issued today as well.

So if you haven’t clicked yet and stuck with this post thus far, the character is Saw Gerrera, last seen on The Clone Wars back in 2012.  He and his sister were insurgents being trained on Onderon by Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Ahsoka.  As you may recall, Saw’s sister kind of had a thing with Lux Bonteri, who had joined the insurgency, until she fell off a cliff and Ahsoka couldn’t save her.  It’ll be interesting to see how Gerrera’s experience of being bitten in the butt by one insurgency would affect his being a part of another some years later.

Video on Why Jar Jar Was A Great Idea

June 21, 2016

A guy named Brett Farkas made this video explaining why Jar Jar was a great idea:

In other words, he was aimed at kids.

Life of Anakin In A GIF

June 20, 2016

I found this on the Galactic Academy’s Facebook page over the weekend and when I shared it on the SWPAS FB page, it was a huge hit.

giphy