This Has Been A Good Week

Lisa and I finally got to go up to Lake Texoma this week and it’s been great just to get away from it all. We’ve observed a no-TV rule with a few exceptions. Tonight, we’ll definitely be breaking the rule so that we can watch the Oscars. I haven’t seen many of the nominees but I’m still looking forward to seeing how the ceremony is going to handle giving out awards during the final days of a pandemic.

Plus, there’s always the competition to see who will give the worst acceptance speech. I’m going to guess Sacha Baron Cohen if he wins for Trial of the Chicago 7 or for writing the Borat movie.

Ramsey Clark, Send No Flowers

Ramsey Clark, who never met a dictator or an anti-Semite he wouldn’t defend, has died. He lived long enough to see his image whitewashed by The Trial of the Chicago 7. Will the American viewers of that film ever know that Michael Keaton was playing a man who went on to defend Nazi war criminals and the leaders of the Rwandan genocide? Undoubtedly, they will not.

Happy Pi Day

Today is 3.14, also known as Pi Day, which I guess means that it’s a good day to stare at coffee cups and stock reports.

My friend Jay literally stopped drinking coffee after he saw Darren Aronofsky’s Pi for the first time.  While Pi isn’t even my favorite Aronofsky film, it’s still definitely one that stays with you.  It’s been years since I last I watched it but there are scenes from that film that I will never get out of my head.

 

In Memory of Kelly Preston

Hearing that Kelly Preston died yesterday really hurts.

If you were growing up in the late 80s or the 90s, Kelly Preston was probably one of your first crushes.  She was undeniably beautiful but she was also a good actress, though she never really got as many roles as she deserved.  She was usually just cast as “the girlfriend” or occasionally “the wife.”  She appeared in several romantic comedies as the bad girl who would inevitably tempt the film’s star away from the girl that he was meant to be with.  There were only a few films — like Alexander Payne’s Citizen Ruth — where she really got to show what she could do.  But even when she played a stereotypical role, she always did it with so much skill that you got the feeling that there was more going on beneath the surface.  Even when she played a character who was meant to be unsympathetic, it was hard not to like her.

Her films were popular on HBO and Cinemax when I was growing up.  Later on, I guess she was best known for being married to John Travolta.  I read somewhere the she stepped back from acting so that she could raise their family.  Even when she was in her 40s and her 50s, she still seemed came across as being just as youthful and energetic as she did in the films that she made when she was a teenager.  I think her death has left us all feeling a little bit older today.

She will be missed.

May the 4th Be With You: Star Wars Thoughts

Today is May 4th, which is known to some people as being Star Wars Day.  (May the 4th be with you.  Get it?)  I love the original Star Wars movies, even if Return of the Jedi deserves its less than stellar reputation.  The first three prequels I could do without, even though Revenge of the Sith was actually fairly good.  Of the three sequels, The Force Awakens was good.  The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker were both overstuffed and forgettable.  Solo was adequate.  I liked Rogue One.  It was the only one of the new films to really seem to get what Star Wars was all about.

If I had to rank them all, I think it would go something like this:

  1. The Empire Strikes Back
  2. Rogue One
  3. New Hope
  4. The Force Awakens
  5. Revenge of the Sith
  6. Return of the Jedi
  7. Solo
  8. The Rise of Skywalker
  9. The Last Jedi
  10. Attack of the Clones
  11. The Phantom Menace

I’m not going to rank the two Ewok movies or The Holiday Special.  You have to draw the line somewhere.

Looking over the franchise as a whole, I think Star Wars shows the danger of overexplaining.  In a New Hope, it didn’t matter whether or not we actually knew what the Kessel Run was or the exact details of The Clone Wars.  They just sounded cool and they sparked our imaginations.  We also didn’t know how the Empire came to exist or how Darth Vader could be both Luke and Leia’s father.  We didn’t know how the Force worked, exactly.  Nor did we know the exact details of how the Jedi were wiped out.  We really didn’t need to know.  We just accepted what the films told us and then let our imaginations fill in the missing pieces.

Then the prequels came along and suddenly, we discovered that everyone in the Star Wars universe was obsessed with trade routes and suddenly, The Clone Wars lost all of their mythic grandeur as we learned, in pain-staking details, every reason why the wars began and how they ended.  They just became another collection of CGI space battles.  And then Solo showed us the Kessel Run and we discovered that it really wasn’t anything that special.  Probably the only prequel (and sequel) that didn’t diminish the other films was Rogue One.  In fact, Rogue One brought some of that epic grandeur back to the films.  With its scenes of Death Star destroying entire cities and planets, it actually made A New Hope more effective.  After watching Rogue One, it’s not as easy to mock the Empire’s super weapon.

Today’s big news is that Taika Waititi will be directing the latest Star Wars film.  Waititi was the first director to actually understand what to do with Thor (who, up until Thor: Ragnarok, had been Marvel’s least interesting hero) and, of course, he also directed JoJo Rabbit.  My hope is that Waititi will be given the freedom to bring some new life to Star Wars.  I think he’s capable of bring some wonder back to a universe that could definitely use it.

May the force be with him.

Lockdown Journal: 4-15-20

The days are blending together and right now, there’s no end in sight.

In a time of crisis, people have to be able to trust that there’s someone looking out for their interests.  What makes this crisis so difficult is that many of us no longer have that feeling.  We don’t know how bad things actually are.  We don’t know how close things may be to reopening.  We don’t feel like anyone — in the government or the media — is willing to be honest with us about the situation and it makes us all feel even more alone.  It’s hard to trust Trump’s positivity because we know that he’s loathes the idea of acknowledging that there’s a problem that he can’t solve on his own.  It’s hard to trust the media’s negativity because the media has been telling us that the sky is falling for three years now.

Unfortunately, the election is not going to change that.  Even if Biden defeats Trump, it’s going to be hard to trust a media that has such a clear rooting interest in one party.  In 2016, we had a terrible choice.  In 2020, we’ve got another terrible choice.

I wish I could be more positive tonight but realistically, I can’t be.  Fortunately, there’s 7 Police Academy films on Netflix, just in case I need to remind myself that things could be worse.

Lockdown Journal: 4-13-20

Lisa and I are currently watching something called Tarzan in Manhattan.  It’s a late 80s tv movie where Tarzan goes to New York and teams up with a private investigator played by Tony Curtis.  Jan-Michael Vincent is in it, as well.  It’s pretty bad but at least I know what I’ll be reviewing for the Shattered Lens tomorrow.  As bad as this is, I’m glad that we found it before we forced to resort to binging our way through the Police Academy movies on Netflix.  That day will come eventually but we’re still trying to hold it off for as long as possible.

We watched a little of Trump’s daily press briefing today.  A lot of people are upset because Trump said, incorrectly, that he has absolute authority as President.  It’s amazing to watch the people who celebrated eight years of “I have a pen and a phone” suddenly discovering why checks and balances are actually a good thing.  One would hope that they would continue to remember it even after they return to power but I doubt they will.  They’re not really upset about the potential usurpation of power.  They’re just mad that Trump is the one doing it.  America deserves better than it’s getting from both its leaders and its media.

Other than Trump’s press conference, the big political news is that Bernie formally endorsed Joe Biden today.  They had a live stream conversation, during which Biden appeared to be reading from a teleprompter.  Say what you will about Bernie, and I think I’ve made it clear that I don’t agree with him about much, but Bernie doesn’t need a script to have a conversation.  It may not matter, of course.  Trump is such a divisive figure that the Democrats may not need a good candidate to beat him and there are a lot of people who will happily vote for anyone but Trump.  But I still can’t imagine actually being enthusiastic about Biden on any level other than the fact that he’s not Trump.

In the UK, Boris Johnson is out of the hospital.  That’s some good news to end on.