movie thoughts: Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) – part 1 of ???

movie thoughts: Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) – part 1 of ???

I began typing up my reaction to TLJ and I couldn’t stop and now I’m up to two pages of notes in Google Docs and still have so much more to say. So rather than posting a TL;DR length ramble, I’m going to break it up into chunks. Consider this part 1 of whatever haha.

Spoilers, obviously, though this post is relatively vague compared to what is to come.

TLJthoughts1

I will start by saying that I know it was not a perfect movie – it ran a bit too long, I felt the timeline didn’t quite add up, among other things that I will mention under the cut. But overall, I loved it and the more time I have had to think about it, I really appreciate all of the stories being told.

I always say that the power of the original trilogy came from the fact that Lucas drew on classic myths and legends from cultures all over the world and the reason the prequel trilogy faltered so much was that it tried to pull from Star Wars, which wasn’t enough to sustain the story. But this new trilogy proves me wrong – if you know what you are doing, you can use Star Wars as your myth and create something that is more than the sum of those parts. The real problem with the prequels was clearly Lucas and his confusion about what made Star Wars resonate with so many people. I feel like Abrams and Johnson are far more aware because they are fans, but they also know that, to paraphrase Faulkner, you must kill your darlings.

For many of us, the original trilogy defines our childhood, with epic heroes and stories of adventure and family, both blood and found family. We still clung to these stories as we got older because of that sense of innocence around them, but we also started to realize that very rarely are these kinds of stories so clear cut, that the world is filled with shades of gray. I think the TFA trilogy taps into that more adult sensibility, and actually a reality that I feel, more and more, people are trying to instill in their children earlier on – that the world isn’t so easy to understand, that sometimes the villains have a point and the heroes act like jerks. Because we are all people, even our heroes, even our leaders, they are just people with their own flaws. This idea was presented in ‘Empire Strikes Back’ but I think most of us overlooked it, focusing more on the Father/Son story than the fact that we had a fallen hero and one who was teetering on the edge.

I think for some fans, this rubbed them the wrong way – they wanted their heroes to remain spotless. I won’t lie, when I first heard that TFA would feature the original cast, I panicked – I said it was because I didn’t want to see old versions of Luke, Leia and Han but now I’m realizing that what I didn’t want to see – didn’t want to know – was about their life after RotJ. Because anyone who had ventured into the EU books in the 90s knew that life goes on and life gets messy. Perhaps, deep down, that was my fear.

But I actually liked finding out about their lives and their mistakes. Han and Leia were together, they had some happy times. Luke tried his best to set an example as the last Jedi. Life went on, as it does – there are no happy endings because nothing ends. To think that evil could be wiped out, could be removed from the galaxy was naive. Plus, as The Last Jedi makes clear, The Force isn’t about good vs evil, but finding a balance between darkness and light – neither of which are inherently good or bad.

More specific thoughts later…

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Star Wars is about standing in line: The Force Awakens at The Senator Theatre

The internet is full of reviews for Star Wars: The Force Awakens right now, so I don’t feel the need to type up anything in-depth about that.  Instead, I wanted to talk about the experience, quite possibly the last time I am this excited about a movie ever again.

There is a movie theater in Baltimore, Maryland called The Senator Theatre.  It has been there since 1939.  I was not.  I was born in 1981, not in a galaxy far far away, but also not in Maryland. I didn’t see Star Wars in theaters (technically I saw Return of the Jedi but I wasn’t really old enough to appreciate it).  For me, the Star Wars Trilogy, my favorite movies of all time, had only existed on BETA cassettes, watched on my parents TV while playing with my action figures. I have no memory of the first time I saw Star Wars, the revelations about Luke and Vader and Leia were always known to me.

In 1997, Lucasfilm released the “Star Wars Special Edition” and I finally had a chance to see it on the big screen!  I’m really not sure why my parents chose The Senator – maybe it was the only movie theater in town showing Star Wars (the mind boggles) or maybe it was because they had a THX Certified Sound System.  Doesn’t really matter, because all I know was this experience was the start of a tradition.

In 1997, there was no online ticket ordering or advanced ticket sales. To see Star Wars at The Senator, we had to arrive early and stand in line. This was my first time experiencing this. I was a 16 year-old girl, a Star Wars fan (I had written the entire cast list on my history notebook because apparently knowing who played Admiral Piett was slightly more interesting than knowing about U.S. history…whoops) and I had always felt like I was the only one who really loved these movies.  Then I got to stand in line.

Star Wars fans and geeks in general love lines. There is a reason. When you find yourself standing in a line for a movie/book/video game or convention appearance, you know you have something in common with everyone there. Casual fans don’t stand in line, casual fans will get tickets later when the rest of us finally go home. I’m not trying to pull rank here, I’m just saying that you know you are on the same level as those around you. I remember my Mom striking up a conversation with the people in front of us in line, talking briefly about Star Wars and our family.  Nothing in depth, we didn’t become life long friends, but for that brief moment, we connected with random people. Then the ticket office opened, we paid our way and went in to find our seats and I got to experience Star Wars on the big screen. The crowd applauded when “Lucasfilm” came on the screen and then cheered when “STAR WARS” began to fly through space. I can remember hearing the Tie Fighters flying around my head, but not much else about that viewing experience.

But that bond that we formed, however brief, stayed with me long after the movie. When “The Phantom Menace” was announced, I knew I had to see it at The Senator. After much debate, Lucasfilm announced that they would allow advanced tickets sales for Episode I. On May 11, 1999, my parents let me skip school and I convinced a few of my friends to come with me to camp out for tickets.  My mom dropped us off outside the theater. We arrived “late” by Star Wars fan standards (we were 18! What did we know!) and the line had already wrapped around the corner of the theater and was down the street.  We ended up on some dentist’s front lawn.  I brought my Star Wars Trivial Pursuit game and we all waited.  We had blankets and snacks and we slept outside on the grass, in lawn chairs, or kept ourselves awake sitting on the sidewalk. I remember the local restaurants handing us their menus then coming back for orders. I remember the news showing up and filming us playing trivial pursuit. I remember a guy showing us his brand new tattoo, featuring Darth Maul. I remember watching the guy from the box office come out and count heads, passing us and then going down the line a bit more, only to tell everyone behind us that they wouldn’t be able to get tickets to the midnight showing because they were too far back in line.

We're on the TVs! It was an amazing experience. I think remember more about that night in line than I do about seeing the movie for the first time. My friends thought I was crazy but they also loved the experience because there is no other movie that you would do this for. NONE. Tickets on sale now!

When the movie night came, the crowd burst into cheers of delight as the yellow text scrolled up the screen, laughed when Obi-Wan mumbled that he “had a bad feeling about this” and you could hear the intake of break as Qui-Gon introduced his Padawan to Anakin Skywalker – it was a thrill like nothing else. A new Star Wars movie!  We had waited so long…and that is about all I remember about the TPM premiere.

Ticket Stub When “Revenge of the Sith” ticket sales were announced, thinking this would be the last Star Wars movie, I knew I had to get tickets. (I didn’t camp out for “Attack of the Clones” because Lucasfilm, in their wisdom, had the tickets go on sale while Celebration II was going on! My friend Paul stood in line for me, said that some guy took shots at them from his car, so he might not be as nostalgic about line standing as I am). The Senator still did not have online ticket sales in 2005 so I knew I had to camp out again. By this point, I had found a Star Wars club (DCSWCC) and had made friends with more awesome geeky people who were just as excited about the movie as me. Or maybe we were just excited about standing in line again? Revenge of the Sith @ The Senator Theatre

It was a miserable, cloudy day out but we came bundled up and sat on the cold sidewalk.  Then the most amazing thing happened – the theater owner, Thomas Kiefaber, took pity on us and let us all inside the theater! He had his Star Wars memorabilia out for us to look at and brought us all some snacks.  We all sat around in the theater lobby, talking about life, the universe, and everything.

Revenge of the Sith @ The Senator Theatre Revenge of the Sith @ The Senator Theatre

Revenge of the Sith @ The Senator Theatre When the morning came, we all miraculously went outside and got back in line again (after eating bagels that Mr. Kiefaber brought for us from the local shop!) and bought our tickets for the midnight show. Revenge of the Sith @ The Senator Theatre

I don’t remember much about that actual premiere night. After the other two films, I think we all knew that this wasn’t going to end well but we knew that seeing it with 800 other fans would be better than seeing it in a mall multiplex.

Jump ahead 10 years later.  I was unsure about this new Star Wars movie. After the magic of seeing the prequels at The Senator wore off, I tired of them pretty quickly. I loved my original trilogy but was worried about what direction this new movie would take. I tried to stay cynical and distant. And then I watched the official trailer…and I was that 16 year old girl again, writing actor names on my notebook.

I ran upstairs and immediately went online to The Senator’s website and I snatched up two tickets for the 10:30 pm showing (apparently midnight showings have gone out of style?).  So no need to camp out in line, it was all about bandwidth. Still, I anticipated that I would need to get to the theater early to get the good seats.

I requested to leave work early on Thursday, December 17. My husband of three months agreed to come along with me. We ate dinner and got to the theater a little after 7pm. There was almost no line out front.  I think we were among the first ten (I was maybe a little anxious since one of my friends who attended the 7pm showing had arrived around 2pm).

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Of course, this is 2015 so we all had our smartphones. The group behind us was watching Robot Chicken Star Wars clips on YouTube. Would I get to enjoy the feeling of belonging one more time while waiting in line? I wasn’t so sure, then I started listening to the couple in front of us in line.  They were saying random names of actors and musicians. I couldn’t figure out the connection. Finally, I found a way in to their conversation when Jim Henson came up (I was in the middle of his biography so I was bursting with random facts) and discovered they were playing The Name Game. They invited me to join and a little after that, the person in front of them in line also started to play. Eventually we had a fun little group, including my friend who had seen the prequels with me back in the day.

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Around 9:15, the previous showing started to exit the theater and there was my brother and his girlfriend.  They came up to me and gave me their spoiler-free reactions and we talked for a bit.  After he left, my friend Steve and his wife appeared and gave me hugs and their quick reactions. Imagine trying to do that in a giant, 24 theater multiplex?  Yes, this was WHY I went to The Senator (and my brother too).

And then it was our turn to head inside.

I had fun with my single-serving friends and once inside the theater I never saw them again. We found our seats and listened to a local music teacher play Star Wars melodies on his keyboard while we got our popcorn.

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The new owners of the theater said a few words and then a single trailer ran (ONE trailer – I can’t imagine how many the people in regular theaters had to sit through).
And then silence. A black screen. The green letters begin to sparkle on the screen and there’s a smattering of applause. And then STAR WARS and cheers. And the magic was back. And we laughed together. We cheered together. We gasped together. It ended and we applauded.

I left the theater, giddy from the movie I watched but sad because I knew that was the last time this would happen.  The experience of camping out for tickets, standing in line to see a movie – it would be gone soon. It made me feel kind of special, and kind of sad because I think it was these experiences that made me into the passionate Star Wars fan that I am today. It was just about watching a movie, but seeing a movie with a room full of strangers who are, for those two hours, also your friends. Because you all love that silly little movie on the big screen, even if it was only for 160 minutes.

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the stories are all true

We don’t have cable/live TV, we were watching a movie and when it finished I thought “Hey, wonder if the Star Wars trailer is on YouTube yet?”

2:37 later, I bought my tickets.  10:30pm at The Senator Theatre in Baltimore. #starwars #movies #forceawakens

2:37 later, I bought my tickets. 10:30pm at The Senator Theater in Baltimore.

And can I say, I am kinda thrilled how much of the trailer focuses on Rey.

That’s about as coherent as my thoughts can be right now…otherwise my brain is just going:

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Star Wars Force Awakens trailer thoughts

Teaser Trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I can’t help it, I’m so giddy. I am staying optimistic about this, I am hoping that this will be a labor of love from the crew.

Just hearing those main titles and realizing I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THIS STORY IS ABOUT makes me happy.

(though I am a little concerned with that Sith’s lightsaber…I mean, those exhaust vents on the side seem unsafe…he might chop is OWN arm off…)

Now just to wait a year…

#ToyTuesday – my first collectible

New thing I’m trying to start – I have quite a collection of stuff around my apartment and I figured I should feature it on my blog to justify it’s existence (because every time someone posts about how cool or impressive something is, it will justify my next purchase hehe).

Starting off with my first fandom and one of my first true rare collectibles (well, it felt rare to little pre-teen me!)

Star Wars Fan Club Micro Machines

I joined the Official Lucasfilm Fan Club around the time Young Indiana Jones Chronicles was just starting out (I think I found the sign-up form in the back of The Mata Hari Affair novelization that I picked up at a book fair). I was a proud card carrying member, as you can see:

Lucasfilm Fan Club cards

But when I got these beauties in the mail, I felt so special. It was the mid-90s and I think the club was just beginning to switch over from the Lucasfilm Fan Club to the Star Wars Fan Club, prepping us for the big prequel announcement on the horizon. I had a lot of Star Wars toys that I was now taking better care of after years of play. I was also collecting the Micro Machine series. In fact, I had both of these ships and figures already.

BUT THESE WERE NUMBERED!

Star Wars Fan Club Micro Machines

I knew that was important. I knew having that number on the box meant there were only a limited amount of us that received these toys. Even if I already had them sitting on a shelf in my room, THESE were better because they had a number. Oh the RUSH of knowing I had something so special in my hands. That I had earned it because of my loyalty. Yes, this was the gateway drug of collecting.

Star Wars Fan Club Micro Machines

Look, the box even had special printing, TELLING me how these will be a VALUABLE addition to my collection.

I was hooked. And here I am twenty years later a proud member of the DC Star Wars Collecting Club.

Do you collect anything? What was the first collectible you remember being really excited about? Share in the comments or post your own story and link back!

#MusicMonday The Piano Guys

This was a recent discovery (as of Saturday). My friend Stephanie posted a link to my wall of the Star Wars Parody, “Cello Wars” and then I just kept clicking and loving everything I heard! Four very talented guys who just want to play music and have some fun (you can tell by the silly grins on their faces the entire time they are playing).

 

I think if kids saw more videos like this, they would be encouraged to stick with their musical instruments a bit longer (and if music teachers let their students play movie themes and pop songs, it would also keep them practicing a bit more).

 

 

 

 

Star Wars Memories: The Phantom Menace camp out

It has come to my attention (thanks to dunc) that today is the 15th anniversary of the release of The Phantom Menace.

tickets please

I guess that is right. That means it’s been 15 years since I graduated high school. Freaky.

Though, for me, the movie premiere was only a small part of the experience. Most of my TPM memories are from a week before, on May 11, when my friends and I camped out for midnight premiere tickets for Baltimore’s historic Senator Theater. The Senator is an old movie house with one BIG screen, THX certified sound and only 800 seats. If you wanted to see the midnight show, you had to set up camp.

front of the line

We were 180th in line, this was not our main view. We were actually on the front lawn of a dentist’s office. No one really seemed to care though. I think a movie with this sort of following only comes around every few years so I’m sure they hadn’t had crazy teenagers sleeping on the sidewalk before. My parents let me skip school for the occasion (which, me being a total straight laced nerd was a BIG deal). This was MY senior skip day. And night. And then a little bit of day again.

This was all pre-WiFi and Smartphone, mind you. I had my cell phone for emergencies but that was all I used it for. We had to use the bathroom in the bar across the street and after that closed the gas station at the corner. The local news paid us a visit, I remember being elated to see footage of us all sitting around playing Star Wars Trivial Pursuit on the TV (I had told me mom we might be on the news and she managed to tape the 3 minutes segment for me).

I have to say, this has to be one of my favorite fandom memories. Being outside with all these other fellow Star Wars fans. In the morning we sent out search parties for food and the bagel shop down the road was smart enough to show up and hand out their menus so that was where we all went.

I don’t know if anyone camps out for movie tickets anymore. I know I haven’t done it since Revenge of the Sith. Now that you can order online, it takes some of the magic away. Though I can’t think of a movie I would need to see at midnight. I will see the next wave of Star Wars movies in the theater, but I doubt I will be excited enough to want to camp out.

Anyway, a week went by and we were back at the theater at midnight for the movie. While I was in the moment, in a theater of 800 crazy Star Wars fans who knew all the write moments to applaud, cheer, and laugh it was a fantastic time.

Afterwards, after I had left the glow of the theater, I found myself trying to make myself love the movie but knowing deep down that it had missed the mark. (I clearly remember the guy in front of us in line had Star Wars tattoos all over him and he had just had Darth Maul added to the collection. After the movie was over, I wondered how happy he was with the movie.) It was a confusing time. I just kept hoping that the next movie would make it all better.

What about you? Did you see Phantom Menace at midnight or on opening day? Do you remember your reaction?

mission accomplished