Category Archives: movies
I am, of course, aware that Yoda is already dead, and has been for decades. Bear with me on this…. Beginning in 2015, the long-dormant big-screen incarnation of the Star Wars franchise was revived. All the original cast returned, playing their iconic characters, and fresh new faces playing new characters were also present. It was the first time since Revenge of the Sith in 2005 that a big-screen Star Wars movie had been made at all, and the first time since Return of the Jedi in 1983–thirty-two years previously!–that the original cast was back in action. As of this writing (July 2019), two of the movies of the third and final trilogy–The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi–have been released, with the third, The Rise of Skywalker, slated for release in five months. Two standalone movies, Rogue One and Solo have also been released, and further movies with a new cast are projected; but the main attention has been focused on the three movies which conclude the Skywalker saga. Fan and critical reaction has been sharply divided on the two released so far, with seeming storms of controversy regarding The Last Jedi in particular.
I don’t really have anything to add to the discussion in terms of a conventional movie review or rating. It’s been forty-two years since the original Star Wars debuted, and I still don’t think The Empire Strikes Back has been topped. I certainly don’t have any interest in further stirring the pot of accusations and counter-accusations of sexism, racism, political correctness, and so on and so forth. More heat than light has been generated on this front, and I doubt there is much likelihood of dialogue in this area, anyway.
What I do want to look at is the metaphysics, or perhaps more precisely, the philosophical and spiritual themes that are present in The Last Jedi and which have been little remarked on in all the tempestuous arguments about other issues. I think The Last Jedi has definite flaws (some of which, in fairness, were inherited from the plot of its predecessor, and some of the stupid and cockamamie decisions J. J. Abrams made in writing the script for said predecessor), drags somewhat in the middle, and arguably loses focus a bit by expanding the already expanded cast even further. I definitely would not place it above The Empire Strikes Back. All that said, I would argue that Last Jedi is actually the second-best movie of the seven Skywalker-centric sequels and prequels to the original Star Wars, right after Empire (and allowing for the fact that Episode IX has not yet been released). This, I assert, is because of the themes I have already alluded to, and because The Last Jedi is the only movie in the entire Star Wars franchise to take those themes seriously since The Empire Strikes Back (Rogue One made a nod towards some of these themes, but not to the extent that Last Jedi does). Some of these films have been around quite awhile, and some not; but just to play fair, SPOILERS ABOUND for all the movies in the franchise from this point onward–tread with caution!
Yesterday was “Radio Gaga”; today is Lady Gaga! Long-time readers know that Lady Gaga is pretty big around here, so no suprise! This is her duet with Bradley Cooper from the new version of A Star is Born. Enjoy!
One could cogently argue that the 1980’s Giorgio Moroder cut of Fritz Lang’s seminal science fiction movie Metropolis is not the best or definitive version. I would argue, though, that Moroder’s soundtrack for Metropolis is one of the best soundtracks of the 80’s, or, in fact, of that latter part of the last century. The soundtrack album, though, has different versions of the songs, though, and is in my opinion substantially inferior. This is most evident with Pat Benatar’s contribution. She sings “Here’s My Heart”, which recurs throughout the film; and the version in the film is far superior to that on the soundtrack album. The version above is a spliced-together mix of the movie version of the song. Despite the inferior production values of the album version, Benatar does great on it; but in the movie version, she sings like an angel. I dare you not to fall in love with her after listening to this! 😉
After forty-one years and counting of the Star Wars franchise, which has brought us ten movies, seven television series, and God knows how many books, comics, works-in-progress, and various other media artifacts, I still maintain that the pinnacle of them all was the second movie (Episode V), The Empire Strikes Back. I will take that statement as self-evident 🙂 and thus I don’t intend to make that argument here. Rather, I recently wrote a post about space in which I mentioned time dilation in The Empire Strikes Back, and said that that would be material for another post. This is that post.
I watched The Empire Strikes Back when it came out in 1980, the summer after my junior year in high school. It was long-anticipated, and as I’ve mentioned before, some loud-mouthed acquaintances, having read the book before the movie came out, spoiled the big reveal about Darth Vader being Luke’s father. Despite this, I found I enjoyed the movie enormously, more even than I had the first. I think this is a good demonstration of an argument made by the Plaid Adder, a blogger I follow. She says that if a reveal is properly done, then a spoiler–finding out about it ahead of time–doesn’t, in fact, spoil the show. This was definitely the case with me and Empire.
Anyway, I don’t know when I got to thinking about the specific issue I want to discuss today, but it gradually presented itself to me over the course of a few years. I don’t think I was aware of it at the time I watched the movie for the first time; but I think I had the matter articulated by the time I was in college. To make it clear just what I’m talking about, let’s have a quick recap of the relevant events of the movie.
Star Trek, of course–what kind of question is that? Actually, if I’m going to write an essay, I should have more to say….
Star Trek, in its original incarnation (which I will henceforth refer to by the standard fan abbreviation TOS for “The Original Series”) began its prime-time network run on NBC in 1966, at which time I was three years old. Its last season ended in 1969, at which time I was six, and about to begin the first grade. I know Mom and Dad watched it, so I no doubt did, as well. I’ve seen every episode multiple times since, and given that, it’s hard to sort out any genuine memories of the series’s original airing.
It doesn’t really matter, though. Throughout my childhood and young adulthood, TOS was more or less constantly in syndication somewhere on one channel or another. Every time it was available on any of the channels we got, I always watched it. For reasons that are obscure, certain episodes (e.g. “The City on the Edge of Forever” and “A Piece of the Action”) were in very heavy rotation, whereas others (such as “Errand of Mercy” and the insanely elusive “The Mark of Gideon”) were rarely if ever aired. I made it my goal to watch every one of the original seventy-nine episodes at least once. I set this goal at the age of around twelve or thirteen, and it took into my mid-twenties to complete it, but complete it I did. In the meantime, my involvement with Star Trek was expanding far beyond watching reruns.
In the course of this reconsideration of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, we’ve looked at all the major aspects of production except for what some consider the most important, the director. I don’t really have any strong feelings either way with regard to the auteur theory–I think there are cases to be made both ways. In either case, the director is certainly one of the most important aspects of any film; and the director chosen to helm STTMP was the distinguished veteran filmmaker Robert Wise.
Robert Wise was a Hollywood veteran of long standing, who had worked in almost all cinematic genres. He won Academy Awards for West Side Story and The Sound of Music. More germane to the present consideration, he directed the movie widely considered to be the best science fiction movie of the 1950’s, The Day the Earth Stood Still. He also directed the science fiction thriller The Andromeda Strain. Unlike later directors who often stamped their personality onto all their films, Wise had a reputation as a consummate craftsman who worked with what he was given to make the best movies he could. Wise had not been familiar with Star Trek, but he had been a favorite director of Gene Roddenberry. Thus, after several possible directors were discussed, Wise was chosen to direct Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
I just wanted to note an upcoming change here at the Chequer-Board of Nights and Days. As you can see at the top of the screen (for now), one of the pages is labeled “movies”. Some years ago, for some reason or other–I don’t remember why–I began posting movies to the site. They were mostly B-movies, with a mixture of serious movies, comedies, documentaries, and made-for-TV content. The number expanded to the point that I organized all of them on a single page so that visitors could browse the selection and watch what they wanted.
Alas, YouTube videos (which is what most of them were) are an ephemeral thing. They’re always going up and down, and many of the videos I had posted–probably the majority–had become dead links. I’ve been too lazy to do anything about it, but I’ve gotten back to active blogging lately, and I decided that I needed to clean out the underbrush. Thus, I will eventually be deleting the “Movies” page.
Why “eventually”? Well, counterintuitively, it’s actually almost as hard and time-consuming to get rid of all these posts as it was to put them up. I could just delete the page, but that would leave up all the dead-link posts, and then I’d not have links by which to easily find them again. Thus, I’m having to gradually go through, post by post; see if the link is dead or not; if the link isn’t dead, and if I want to save the content, then I need to save it at my YouTube channel, or download it with converter software; then I have to delete the blog page; and eventually, after doing all of that, I’ll delete the “Movies” page. Whew! I’ve deleted probably twenty or thirty items so far, but there’s quite a bit to go.
The whole concept was a noble attempt, and I hope some of you got some enjoyment out of it; but it just isn’t worth the effort to maintain (I’d have to be fixing links and adding and removing pages all the time), and I need to focus on other things. The library remains open, however, and I’ve added a few items lately, so feel free to check it out at any time!