How to become a true Star Wars Fan – Guest Blog

Guest Blogger Gregory Wildeman

(Ed. Note: Greg and I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens together. He apparently has been considering how one becomes a true Star Wars fan for the first time and shared an email with me, which I have turned into a post)

I read your review and I wanted to put an idea forth to you on Star Wars. Firstly the review was more or less spot-on in my opinion. I’d like to expand on it by taking you through a progression of what I believe is something that needs to be discussed:

How to intake Star Wars for the first time. 

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This debate, which has gone on for some time, actually has a prevailing theory: The machete order.

I find this theory to vastly under serve one trying to understand the full universe. See, the full universe is not only about the movies- there are books, comics, movies, video games, etc. Some of these are canonical (defined as released directly from a Lucas Company or now Disney) and some aren’t. I am going to create the Ultimate Order using only canonical reference. In which case you can only discuss moves, tv shows, and video games.

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And The Oscar Nominees Should Be…

I have done really well on my annual attempt to see all the big Oscar nominees by show time (Sunday, February 28) – and even better to anticipate them by nomination time (Thursday, January 14). After seeing a great New York Times article listing who Manhola Dargis, A.O. Scott, and Stephen Holden thing the nominees should be, I decided to have a hand at my own list.

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From the Times, I learned how many films I still haven’t seen that are quite notable, even if they will be ignored the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science. They cite The Assassin, Experimenter, Results, Clouds of Sils Maria, Tangerine, 99 Homes, James White, The Diary of Teenage Girl, and two films I just never got around two seeing, Magic Mike XXL and Grandma. So for an amateur film buff, I might have done all right, but I have miles to watch.

Here are my thoughts on which Actors should be nominated based on the power and quality of their work. They ignore the Academy’s usual disdain for certain genres. They also don’t accept a lead role being positioned as supporting to help move an actor into a more winnable category.

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Mini-Review: The Revenant

The Revenant

R, 156 Minutes, 2015 – Opens Wide January 8, 2016

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About: An 1820s scout must survive the American wilderness as lots of really bad stuff happens to him and everyone else.

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domnall Gleeson (who has had quite the year with Ex Machina, Brooklyn, and Star Wars), and that kid from We’re the Millers (Will Poulter)

Directed: Alejandro González Iñárritu – If Birdman didn’t win you over to his skill, this will. He is a modern day master especially with his ability to craft a shot.

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Best Thing About It: Wow is this film beautiful and captivating. Long uncut shots (no surprise) with 360º swings, incredible vistas, gorgeous framing of the magnificent wilderness. Nature (mostly Canada, some Argentina) which is a co-star in this film, does its job outstandingly, and is captured with mastery.

Worst Thing About It: This is not a film for everyone. It is long. There are huge periods of silence. The plot of the movie isn’t that challenging.

And it’s pretty gross. The battles are realistic with gruesome resulting injuries. On-the-fly surgery is worse. There is a nasty persistent racism towards American Indians and the violence towards woman is raw and horrific. Animals are shown and eaten in all sorts of ways you’ve never desired. It’ll be a tough sit for many people. Know yourself.

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Notable Things About It: Just give Leo the Oscar already. 5 nominations. Should have won for The Aviator. This role was physically brutal. As IMDb reports, he grew that nasty beard, learned to shoot a musket, build a fire, and speak two native American Languages (Pawnee and Arikara). Just give him the Oscar already! (By the way, Tom Hardy is pretty outstanding too, but will get no Oscar love)

Overall: The movie is a pleasure as a visual feast and for the acting. But somewhat like Birdman, the plot is not captivating enough. Go see it as it really should be seen on the big screen.

Rating: 3 RaMaKs
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Mini-Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

PG-13, 135 Minutes, 2015

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About: A long time ago… a plot was borrowed from a 1977 and told it again. But with more lightsaber fighting and a woman in the lead.

Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver – your lives have massively changed forever.

Directed: JJ Abrams continues to show he can take a classic property, rework their old scripts, and make people love them anew. He does an even better job here than he did in Star Trek. And no lens flares.new-the-force-awakens-character-descriptions-for-finn-rey-kylo-ren-and-captain-phasma1.jpeg

Best Thing About It: When Rey uses the force to get the lightsaber. It is the establishment of a new generation of heroes and specifically that a young woman can be the central protagonist – something lacking in most classic Science Fiction.

 

Worst Thing About It: The Nazi imagery when General Hux address the Stormtroopers was way over the top.

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Notable Things About It: Best acted and funniest of Star Wars movies. Was not shot all in digital, so has grittier more realistic feel than the Prequels did. You can skip Episodes 1-3 and understand this fill without a problem – Prequels can be dead now.

IMAX/3D: Saw it in 3D on a regular screen and on IMAX/3D. While IMAX/3D makes your viewing into an event – and therefore worthwhile – neither is really needed.

Overall: JJ Abrams succeed in creating Star Wars for the next generation while satiating those of us who were transformed by it as children decades ago. That is one tough task and he did an amazing job.

As we prepare for 18 months of waiting for the next episode, some questions below…

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Questions: The film leaves a host of questions to debate until Episode VII in May 2017. Some of them:

  • Who are Rey’s parents? Unlikely to be Han and Leia. Current betting is on Luke, but she was a little girl when left on Jakku so you’d think she’d remember her parents and everyone else (Han, Leia, Ben Solo) would remember her.920x920.jpg
  • Is Finn just a rare rebellious Stormtrooper or does he have some interesting back story? I doubt he is Lando Calrissian’s son, but love to see some Billy Dee Williams.
  • How did Kylo Ren turn evil? And where did Supreme Leader Snoke come from? And is he really very tiny (like Yoda), but compensates with a Wizard of Oz giant head?
  • Who is the old guy at beginning and what’s his story? Internet tells us his name is Lor San Tekka and gives some history that wasn’t in the movie.
  • But most of all: Why does C-3PO have a red arm?

 

Rating: 3 1/2 RaMaKs (out of 4)

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Mini-Review and Premiere: The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight

R, 168/187 Minutes, 2015

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I had a chance to go the NY Premiere of The Hateful Eight at the Ziegfeld Theatre. If you’ve never been to the Ziegfeld, it is an experience of epic moviegoing proportions.ziegfeld_v7_460x285.jpg

I have never been to a premiere before so this was lots of fun. The was tons of free popcorn, soda, and candy. We received souvenir tickets and a program booklet.IMG_0917.jpg

Before the movie began, Harvey Weinstein welcomed us and then introduced a very energetic Quentin Tarantino. Quentin gave a short speech and then invited up 7 of 8 of the “Hateful Eight” along with Channing Tatum. (Samuel L. Jackson wasn’t there).

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The movie began with applause for every name in the cast (they were sitting right there) and much of crew. The film had an overture and then later an intermission.

 

There’s a lot of waiting around at a premiere – getting there early to get a good seIMG_0924.jpgats, movie starting late – but it was all good fun. Michael Madsen came right next to my seat and was being encouraged to sit in the empty chairs next to me, but he declined (and I don’t think watched the movie). After the film, I ended up right behind Harvey Weinstein, but only got this picture (to the left).

But we’re here for the movie review…

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In a Galaxy Far, Far Away… Best and Worst of the Star Wars Original Trilogy

StarWarsFinding flaws in the Prequels isn’t a challenge. Everyone does it. But judging the Best and Worst in the Original Trilogy which  I’ve seen so many times and that are iconic is harder than bullseyeing womp rats back home. So I picked out a few favorites, a few misses, and especially looked for connections back to the Prequels that stood out on watching all 6 films in a row.

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Worst Thing: The Special Edition. Yes, the Jabba scene isn’t needed and Han shot first. However, it is the clutter that most gets me. Every scene has to be endlessly busy at all times. The least George could do is release a box set that also had the otherwise unavailable original versions.

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A Long Time Ago… Best and Worst of the Star Wars Prequels

I don’t remember movie going experiences from when I was 7. Except one. My mom, older brother, and I arrived late at a giant theater (movie theaters used to be bigger) for Star Wars. We arrived about 9 minutes in because I remember the images of C-3PO and R2-D2 walking on the desert sands of Tatooine. I was instantly in love.

7866287364_658fa41747_b.jpgFast forward 22 years.  I was very early for a midnight showing of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. I had arrived a few hours earlier to a group that had been in line all day. We were excited. When the movie began we screamed for the LucasFilm Logo. We screamed for the words “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….” We screamed for the amazing John Williams music starting, screamed for even for the film’s stupid title as the opening crawl appeared.

Then it happened. I can point to it exactly. In the second sentence of the crawl I read, “The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute.” And I knew we were doomed.

I haven’t seen the Prequels since their first showing in the movie theater. So I decided over Thanksgiving weekend to check them out again and how they connected to the Original Trilogy. As I have seen the movies before, I didn’t need to use the Machete Order, which is the best way to show the movies to someone seeing them for the first time (i.e. your kid). I was looking for chronological flow.

preqi.jpgAlong the way I noted some of the best and worst moments of each film and I share them here.

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