Tag Archives: star wars

Because it’s too complex and long for a hashtag. Black Lives Matter. Yes All Women. The Mockingjay Lives.

27 Nov

It’s Thanksgiving in the year 2014 (by a certain reckoning) and I live in a world where people behead other people. Seriously! Beheading! I live in a world where women are scared to be women. Where people with darker skin get shot at and killed. Where shooting and killing other people is often considered (and then demonstrated) to be ok.

I want to live in a world where humanity is free to discuss the exciting stories of our times. “Hey! There’s a new Star Wars teaser trailer coming out tomorrow!!” “Star Wars Episode 7: The One Where Han Solo is Old.” “Have you all seen the brilliant Mockingjay (part 1) yet?”

In one corner of my Facebook newsfeed people are discussing how the cops in Boston are pretty good and that being afraid of them doesn’t make too much sense. In another corner a friend of mine posted about their experience peacefully protesting and being forcefully pulled across a barrier and then arrested by Boston police. They’re pretty good though and being afraid of them doesn’t make too much sense. Maybe I read too much Facebook.

We are human beings. We ought to live in a humane world. I like to start from there because it’s the ultimate purpose behind things. The goal isn’t “just” equality. We are human beings. We ought to live in a humane world.

We ought to live in a world where it is never ok to shoot another human being. We ought to live in a world where everyone is encouraged to be who they are and given the support they need. We are human beings. We ought to live in a humane world.

Theoretically, we tell stories because they help us learn and grow. Well told stories can inform us about being human, and about how we can work towards that humane world that we all ought to be living in. I want to talk about the story of The Hunger Games, I don’t want to live it. Heck, the point of telling The Hunger Games is to show us all how to avoid living it.

And yet… here we are.

We ought to live in a humane world. Katniss is a hero because she is deeply human. She is powerfully humane in even the most inhumane and cruel circumstances. She is not a hero because she kills other people. She is not a hero because she can fight well. Indeed, when she fights and kills she becomes less human.

We need more empathy and less fear. We need to remember not just to love our friends and our families, but every human being. Every. Single. One. Even the ones who behave inhumanely.

Happy Thanksgiving. May the odds be ever in our favor, and The Force be with us. Especially since it’s waking up.

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Star Wars Visual Symphony

16 Jul

It is done.

Part I: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfXz37vFwkA?rel=0

Part II: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1asOVdQeJSo?rel=0

 

I’m genuinely surprised with how well this project came out.  I just started it (years and years ago) as a hobby, something for me to just play around with video editing whenever I was bored.  I never figured it would end up as good as it has, but I’m really moved by parts of it.

It’s like I took what makes the story of the Star Wars Saga powerful and good and condensed it down into 15 minutes.  Of course having John Williams’ music over the whole thing doesn’t hurt (in fact I’d say it’s essential).  At any rate I’m quite pleased with it.

What should I work on next?

Star Wars Visual Symphony: Concerto II

9 Jul

The second in the three-part symphony is now up.  Concerto II in Love and Death

This may be my favorite of the three, although the third isn’t quite done yet. There is certainly something to enjoy about the epic conclusion, but I think this one ended up being the most powerful. Plus, there is something to be said for the Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon love scene.

Star Wars Visual Symphony: Concerto I

2 Jul

Behold the bounds of my geekiness!  Marvel at the remarkable montage!  The first of the trilogy is finished and now available for anyone (and everyone) to see!

Star Wars Visual Symphony sneak peek

10 Jun

So you know that Star Wars Visual Symphony project I’ve been working on since 1999 when Episode I came out?  Of course you don’t.

But there is one, and I’ve finally made some progress on it.  So much so that the first movement (first of three) is almost done.

Here’s a small sneak peek at it, if you’re interested.

Four Ways to Fix the Prequels

7 Apr

Yes, I spent some time thinking about this while bored at work. Why do you ask, doesn’t everyone think about this when bored at work?

As a follow up to a previous entry on how I wish the fundamental approach to writing the prequels had been different, here are a few ideas I’d throw out there for consideration:

1. The presentation of the Jedi. This is a big one. Jedi are cool. We “know” this because we saw Luke (and Obi-Wan to a lesser extent) in the original three movies. The Jedi are badass warriors who have Force powers and use lightsabers. Turns out though that the Jedi are not, in fact, cool. They’re political pawns. Diplomatic soldiers. They’re a rigid Order. They follow a life devoid (as much as possible) of attachment. A life devoid of emotion. They sit around and meditate, or teach others to sit around and meditate. They study archives. They teach others to study archives. They use lightsabers (ok, that part is kinda cool) or teach others to use lightsabers. It’s a risk to portray what was once cool as abruptly uncool, but I think it’s necessary for the prequels. Anakin’s decision to leave the Jedi has more resonance if we’re not so sure about them ourselves.
     I like the way the Jedi Order is portrayed in the movies, but I wish the reasons for the Jedi Order being the way they are were made clear. When you have a world where a minority of the beings (Jedis in this case) have superpowers and the majority of beings do not it creates an interesting tension. How do the superpowered beings react? Do they believe themselves superior? Attempt to enslave the “regular” majority? Do they see themselves as having responsibilities (with great power comes great blah blah blah…)? Do they see their powers as license to do whatever they want? Do they see their powers as a mandate to help others less fortunate? etc.
     I’m fairly certain that if all the people on our police force had superpowers we would want them to be restricted by a code of some sort, perhaps we’d even prefer to have them under our government’s control. Then we’d feel comfortable with them protecting and serving us. As guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy, the Jedi must surely know that the biggest threat to the galaxy is a rogue force-user: a person with superpowers that doesn’t follow any code or agree to government restrictions the way the Jedi do. A Sith, for example.

It’s not attachment or fear or anger or emotion that leads to the Dark Side. It’s power. This is why the Jedi Order takes all the force users from everywhere in the galaxy (except the Outer Rim apparently) at an extremely young age and brainwashes them with the ways of the Jedi. It’s for the greater good if all the force users are Jedi. It’s the best way to train soldiers, er, guardians of peace and justice. It’s why the Jedi have such “narrow, dogmatic views.”

One way to show at least some of this is to have Qui-Gon be a true maverick, an actual rogue Jedi, and not just a mostly regular Jedi who doesn’t “follow the code” (whatever that means). Perhaps start Episode I with the chancellor sending Obi-Wan, on his own, to negotiate the trade dispute, but he finds Qui-Gon there. Qui-Gon, as Obi-Wan knows, is one of only 20 Jedi to ever leave the order (another one being Count Dooku) and as such he is a fugitive from justice. Obi-Wan is under authority of the council to return Qui-Gon to justice, a notion which Qui-Gon deems absurd. Qui-Gon is there on Naboo though, because he’s sensed a large disturbance in “the living Force.” (See, Qui-Gon believes that the Force is more than just an energy field, he believes it’s actually a sentient being which has feelings and desires, something which the Jedi Order does not.) So now Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are reluctantly paired on Naboo and there’s inherent conflict between them which originates from their character. Make Qui-Gon a cynical rogue akin to, oh, I don’t know, Han Solo or something like that. He’s amused that Obi-Wan thinks he could actually “return him to justice” but he tags along because he wants to find out what is causing the disturbance he senses (plus the droids try to kill them). Obi-Wan is constantly on edge because he knows Qui-Gon is (or at least could be) dangerous. Qui-Gon is constantly trying to convince Obi-Wan that the Jedi are missing something significant about not only the very nature of the Force, but also something disturbing which is originating on Naboo (a phantom menace of sorts).
     Anakin’s got the idea of Jedi that we had gotten from the original movies. He thinks they’re cool. He looks up to them in the way a boy looks up to heroes. He wants to be one because it’s the greatest thing one could possibly be. When he’s confronted with a regular Jedi, Obi-Wan, and a rogue Jedi, Qui-Gon, his confusion about what it is to be a Jedi starts in right away, a tension heightened significantly when they inform him that he himself has force powers and could, in fact, be a Jedi. (Well, Qui-Gon says he could, Obi-Wan isn’t sure since he’s already too old to enter the Order…)
     Obviously this one significant change in the character of Qui-Gon has massive implications for the rest of Episode I as well as the next two.

2. Include Count Dooku (pronounced the way Lucas does in the EpII behind the scenes stuff, so that his name “Dough-Koo” sounds more like the japanese word for “poison” and less like literal shit) in all three episodes. The way the movies are currently, some time shortly after Episode I Count Dooku becomes Darth Tyrannus. This means that during Episode I Count Dooku is a fallen Jedi (one that has left the order). He is also Qui-Gon’s old Master (perhaps where Qui-Gon got his I-don’t-follow-The-Code behavior?). Why not have Count Dooku contact Qui-Gon in Episode I? Or perhaps the other way around with rogue Qui-Gon seeking out Dooku? Perhaps Anakin overhears this. Count Dooku confides in his old Padawan that things aren’t as they seem, he’s onto something big and he’s not sure exactly what yet. Perhaps he tells Qui-Gon he suspects the sith have returned. Perhaps he tempts Qui-Gon to join him in his quest to defeat the Sith.

3. Include Qui-Gon in all three episodes. This is actually the case with the movies the way they are now, sort of, but it’s really badly done. If he’s made into a cooler rogue character this is even more important. In a saga where the quest to stop death becomes one of Anakin’s primary motivations Qui-Gon is the one character who figures out immortality. He teaches it to Yoda and then (after Episode III) to Obi-Wan. He’s important. He’s talking to Yoda in Episode II but this is so subtle I’m guessing very few people notice (and some that do can’t tell it’s supposed to be Qui-Gon because it’s badly done). Qui-Gon is the one who finds Anakin and the first to believe that he’s someone special. The more significant Qui-Gon’s belief in Anakin the more tragic his sudden departure in Anakin’s life becomes. Anakin is out to try and stop death… perhaps not just because his mother dies, not just because he’s sure Padmé will, but perhaps also because Qui-Gon died. Have Yoda bring up the fact that Qui-Gon has retained his identity after death. To Qui-Gon Anakin listens… Why not have Qui-Gon show up as a ghost in Episode III? Instead of having Yoda tell Obi-Wan that he “has training” for him, have Qui-Gon appear and tell Obi-Wan himself… the first Jedi to figure out post-death-identity-retention ought to be the first ghost shown, right?

4. Fix Padmé’s death. I don’t like thinking that Padmé, the mother of Luke and Leia, dies of a broken heart. Sadly, Episode III indicates that she does. Personally I read between the editing of that scene, examine the subtext that I might be making up, and see it differently. But I shouldn’t have to do this. Padmé’s death ought to be one of the great mysteries and powerful moments of the prequels. It’s one of the few things that we don’t know about. We know she doesn’t live, but that’s all we know. How does Leia remember her? How does Luke not? How did she die? These are fundamental questions that are poorly answered in the movies, if they are answered at all. Her death could be used as a great way to show the true power of the Dark Side, the power of The Force, and the way it truly does connect all of us. Her death can be used to illustrate the profound affect that Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side has on those around him. She is bonded to Anakin, and he to her. When he “dies” this force connection between he and her is broken. When he devotes himself to the Dark Side, after devoting himself to her, some of that new devotion goes into her, perhaps despite her desires. Her connection with Anakin is torn from her. That violent ripping could be cause, in combination with traumatic birth and near-death experience on Hell Planet, for her death. But show that! Don’t just have a droid say she’s dying but we don’t know why.

Juno’s Top Nine Movies of the Decade

20 Dec

Filmmaking has really turned a corner this decade. Special effects are truly at the point where absolutely anything is possible. The first movie on the list attests to this amazing fact. While being able to produce any imagined image can be freeing, the story is still king. Several new directions were explored in this arena as well, from Memento telling a story backwards, to Primer telling a story in, uh, whatever order Primer is (or isn’t) in.
Movies on this list are not just supreme examples of movie-craft, they are also entertaining and enjoyable narratives. Enjoyable, for this list at least, is a key word here. Many many movies came out this decade which are, technically speaking, brilliant. Many of them are, critically speaking, better than some of the movies on this list. Movies like Pan’s Labyrinth, Tsotsi, Babel, Brokeback Mountain, Traffic, or City of God are technically excellent movies, worthy of becoming classics. But they are not on this list because the stories they tell are not enjoyable. They’re told magnificently, yes, but I don’t anticipate revisiting them. I don’t long to sit through them again. All the movies on this list I enjoy watching, and enjoy re-watching (and with one obvious exception I have seen each one at least twice). I should also note here, in the interest of fairness, that I have not seen even half of the movies that were made this decade. Particularly recently, I’ve been very remiss in my movie watching. Many critically acclaimed movies are not on this list because I simply haven’t seen them. Movies like Slumdog Millionaire, Everything is Illuminated, or Monsoon Wedding (to throw out a few random ones) could very well be deserving, but I don’t know.

That out of the way, let’s get on with the list that I know you’ve all been waiting for (as well as a list of some runners-up).

9. Avatar (digital 3d version) – written and directed by James Cameron:
Avatar validates movie theaters. Seeing this movie in digital 3D is an experience like nothing else. Now, to be clear, this movie will not change the world. The story is as derivative as Star Wars with characters no thicker than stereotypical cut-outs. It’s Dances With Wolves. It’s Dune. It’s Pocahontas in space. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before. Yet you’ve never seen, or experienced, anything remotely like Avatar. I actually wonder how they pulled off some of the visual effects in this film (like Jake’s withered legs), and that’s rare. The action is clear and easy to follow and incredible. This movie, when seen in proper digital 3d, is a glimpse into the future of cinema where screens become not just moving pictures but true windows into vast (and in this case beautiful) new worlds. Also: dragons.

The rest of the list