|JUNE 1999 Part 2|
|Finally saw Star Wars, and Im wondering: am I just too old, or is George Lucas overrated? All the things that made the movie wonderful were the creation of other talents, specifically the armies of code-slaves who crafted all the digital effects. All the things that made the movie stink were the direct result of Lucas lead pen and inability to direct human beings. Maybe Im too old and have lost my Childlike Wonder. But I dont think so. Here comes some heresy:
I liked Jar-Jar.
Im not kidding. Liam Neeson is a great actor, but he played the role as if he was trying to remember if hed left the iron on at home. Ewan McGregor is a fine actor, and he shone at the end when he actually had something to do, but most of the time, he didnt have anything to do. The kid who played Darth Mikey was bad. His mom was acting through a fistful of quaaludes. Natalie Portman - good-looking woman, but a sock puppet without a hand has a wider dramatic range. Samuel Jackson was good for the 2.7 seconds he was on screen; it was nice Yoda again to see, although apparently he had lumbago even then.
The only actual acting that took place was inside a computer, and Ive yet to read a review that points this out. It was two movies: one made of skin & sinew, one made of bits & bytes, and the latter outacted the former in every single instance. I had come prepared to hate Jar-Jar, and at first I tried. But then I noticed that whatever scene he was in, I was watching him; I was never bored when he was in the action, because he moved, he shouted, mugged - everything the other characters werent doing. His face had expression and his vocal tonalities spanned more than three notes. For Gods sake, the Hutt had more star quality than Liam Neeson did. The purple-winged junk dealer, who looked a lot like a Muppet I cant remember, had more presence. The evil hand-walking pod-racer guy was an ACTUAL CHARACTER. If I had to pick which creatures were the products of a computer, it would have been the human actors.
And thats Lucas fault. He cant write dialogue; he cant shape a scene; he cant direct actors. He can dream the great dream, and for that we thank him. But he fails in the particulars, over and over again. The scene where hes talking to Darth Damiens mother, and she lets it slip that the lad didnt have a father - for Gods sake, this is a portentous moment; at the least, Lucas is making a bid that his myth is on an equal footing with Christianity. But the mother might as well have noted that her son had a big Pez collection. The first meeting between R2D2 and C3P0 should have brought grins & wet eyes to the audience, but it had all the emotional impact of two boxcars coupling.
Of course, the actings always been bad. Let us never forget Lukes great fever-dream oration: Dagobah. Dagobah system. Or the miserably unconvincing byplay between Solo and Leia in the opening bars of Episode 5; were it not for the I love you / I know exchange (which, I believe, Lucas didnt write) the entire relationship would seem even more contrived than it was.
Thrill! as import duties come down. Gasp! as currency futures are battered by robot arbitragers. Swoon! as Darth NSidious slaps ruinous tariffs on nerf pelts.
Best sound: the engines of the bad guys pod racer.
Ill stop now.
Ill also buy it on DVD, because, well, because I want to see it again. And another time after that.
Why did big-head frog boss get the last scene? This is a gaffe right up there with the Wookie being cheated out of a medal at the end of Ep IV.
Okay, thats enough.
Yes, its week two of Rejected Interface Month, where I trot out all the ideas that seemed good at the time. Ive always wanted to do something with a 20s-30s feel, even though it doesnt fit the 50s-60s feel of the Institute and other sites. Well, what the hell. Here it is. I like the rollevers on this one. I may actually keep this one around for the rest of the month.
Around 1:30 AM I said to hell with it, and went for a walk in the woods with Jasper on the way back it seemed like a good idea to drop in the grass and look up at the stars, so we did. Then Jasper stood and barked alarm - a shaggy figure was stumbling over the bridge, frizzy hair backlit by the pathway lamp. I jumped to my feet - and since creatures springing unseen from the deep grass might well surprise anyone, I said good evening. He said nothing. Limped his way south. Very strange. Followed him for a few blocks, wondering where it was going; he had that Igor-back-from-the-cemetary-with-fresh-parts aspect to him.
That was Friday.
Saturday was incredibly hot, just they way I like it. Sat outside and drank gallons of water and finished the Po Bronson book, which ended up making me wonder why he wrote it. Contractual obligation, Im guessing. The point seemed to be that there are a lot of people in Silicon Valley with interesting curious lives doing interesting curious things, and we love them all except for George Gilder, who is - gasp! - conservative on some social issues. (Bronson drops this news as if were supposed to reel back in horror upon viewing the Gorgon, whereas the news that another character is a Communist - and probably an apologist for any number of mass murderers as well as an advocate of the elimination of private property - is viewed as a charming quirk: oh, look at the Marxist making money, isnt that cute?) Sara wanted to stain the deck, so I took out all the chairs and pots - and damn, they were heavy. Could feel my back give small peeps of distress. Then the clouds came, and a storm rolled in - so I put the pots back in the porch. Same bright pangs from the lumbar region.
Ahh, it was nothing. As I was setting up the VCR to record Deep Space Nine, I realized that I was unutterably screwed, that the muthafarkin bastiches would no doubt splatter thunderstorm warnings all over the screen for half the show. Grrr. Well, well see.
The Giant Swedes came along to get me for the movie; Sara was going to this little cabaret she attends with a friend once a month. As we left the rain was pounding down at full strength, your average summer storm, but I knew the TV would be full of dire warnings. Grrr. The movie theater was sparsely populated and frigid, and the movie was overpopulated and frigid. Full review tomorrow. I liked Jar-Jar, though.
Went to supper with the Swedes and the Ukes, argued over Kosovo. Went home, checked the tape: sure enough, its all weather warnings. Sunzabitches.
Walked Jasper in the woods, everything wet and fresh; a new platoon of storm clouds trooped in and sent commands zigging across the sky. One bolt took out all the lights along the pathway, dropping us into instant absolute darkness. I loved it. We explored for a while, then headed home when a few hungry mosquitoes started to feast.
Sara returned, and we sat on the deck enjoying the rain, having summer libations. Perfect. Later that night as I was heading downstairs to get something my sock hit a tuft of dog hair, or some patch of silicone, or something smooth and slippery; I fell tailbone first on a step, and yes, it hurt a great deal.
Sunday: woke, moved, screamed. Most of my back was sore from moving the pots, and that which had survived pot duty was bruised from the fall. I couldnt move. But, well, I had to, lest I soil myself, so Up! I walked the kinks out, which took a while. Spent most of the afternoon grimacing and grunting, actually. Especially when Sara asked me to move all the pots out again. Giant Swede calls, asks if I want to run errands, and of course I did; we went first to Taco Bell, where we both declined to buy Ani Skywalker Drink-Cup Toppers.
And of course we talked about the movie. The following may contain spoilers, but since there wasnt a single thing in the movie that could be described as a plot twist or a surprise, I dont know what I could possibly give away. Given what we know now, the first movie has some huge coincidences. At some point someone had to report to Darth Vader:
My Lord, two droids, C3P0 and R2D2, have escaped to Tattoine, where they were purchased by a Mr. and Mrs. Skywalker. These two moisture farmers were subsequently killed by Imperial Stormtroopers.
Vaders first thought may have been: stormtroopers actually hit something? Boy, medals all around.
Then it might have struck him: the ship he was chasing was carrying the droid hed built as a child. The droid left in an escape pod that landed on the planet where he, Vader, was born. The droid was bought by his brother (or brother-in-law; that parts cloudy) whos taking care of his son. Great Sith, what are the odds of that? And wait a minute - what, you incinerated my brother? Bring me the bright boy with the itchy flame-thrower finger, NOW.
It just doesnt hold up.
Went to Daytons Daisy Sale, dropped a roll on shirts and ties. Home. Cut the lawn, swearing all the way, cursing like Felix Unger: my back! ohhh, my back! Vacuumed the house, washed the floors, did three loads of laundry. The radio said a bad storm was coming, so the pots had to go back inside - but since the deck was still wet with the stain, I had to schlep them all to the garage. My God, it hurt. It never rained.
At 7:10 the clouds passed and the sun came out. Wonderful.
And then it began to rain.
So, to recap: no computer game, no Trek finale, so-so movie, back pain.
Or, to put it another way: romance, friends, activity, humidity, adventure, fun. Nothing as Id expected, but one of the better ones nevertheless.
I was watching a movie the other night - morning, really - and the actress seemed familiar. She was a perfect Grace Kelly clone; same cottony petulant steely-soft attitude. Her character was the improbable wife of Bing Crosby, who played a washed-up boozer crooner given One Last Chance by William Holden. I knew Id seen that actress somewhere before, but whenever I tried to place her in a movie, Grace Kelly came to mind. Poor dear - her entire career was probably overshadowed by the resemblance.
So I looked in the TV section to see the name of the actress. It was Grace Kelly.
Well, settles that. And poor Grace Kellys career was overshadowed
by Grace Kelly, eventually.
Ah. My wife is making curried couscous, or cousied currcurr. No: Cousie CurrCurr is a Star Wars character.
Long day. Looonng day. Fought a battle with my keyboard at the office, which decided not to respond when the T, Z, comma, period or G keys were used. Then it crashed and ate a column. Not the optimal circumstances for writing merry diversions. I called tech support, and they asked what my problem was.
My fist is stuck in the monitor, I said.
Yes. Buried up to the elbow.
I imagine they get that complaint a lot.
But I salvaged a column out of it all, and drove home. Traffic moved like spackle through a drinking straw, and after thirty blocks I saw why: The city had put a lane-closed / merge sign around a pile of sand that was heaped near the curb. I imagine the city also dropped off the sand to justify the deployment of a spare merge sign. Otherwise, you know, they just sit in the warehouse and rust. Use em or lose em! Once past the sandpile I opened er up and pushed the Defiant to a nice brisk 50 MPH, which always feels fun on a city street. Went home, supped, napped, walked the dog on his terms. In the evening he gets to set the route, both of us just slaves to his snout.
Its also the time of stinky dogs and mosquitos, but thats part of it too. I only complain when its cold on the days when it should be warm. Thats my rule. Hot? So take off some clothes. Skeeters? So slap, already. right now its a quarter to eleven and the suns been gone for only an hour and 15 minutes. No complaints are possible; no complaints will be entertained. Yes, the keyboard stuck and the column got eaten and the game stinks, but: the windows are open and the breeze is warm.
End of story.
Saw a freeway accident today. Or, more accurately: caused a freeway accident today. I was driving down 35W at 30 MPH - traffic was unaccountably bunched up, and Id sidled over to the right-hand lane, intending to exit at the next opportunity. When I came to the next ramp, it was choked solid, and there were a dozen cars queued up to merge. While I usually let people merge - its good karma, and more importantly gives me the right to swear blue smoke at people who dont let me merge - it wasnt a good time now. To my right I saw a car bolt out of the line waiting to merge - a beater driven by a guy hunched over the wheel with that sweaty-maniac look. He was going to force the issue, and I could either slam on my brakes or keep going. I made the decision to keep going exactly .5 seconds before he decided to force the issue. He slammed on his brakes and plowed into the car in front of him. Engage the cliches: I saw it all in slow motion, including the unbelievably pissed expression of the fellow he hit; heard the sounds - BASH and CRANK expressed simultaneously with a coda of tinkling debris.
The cause of the bunch-up was a truck parked on the shoulder a half a mile down. This is the way the universe operates: one truck throws a rod; half an hour later, a guy gets his bumper creased, and neither of them will ever know the cause and effect that ruined each ones day.
Fascism, communism, anarchism - they all meet at the point where the totalitarian desire swamps humanism, and turns your fellow man into an object.
All to save the earth and shake off the shackles of oppressive government - a government so heavy-handed that the main spokesman for the group, who prints cartoons celebrating the assassination of police and businessmen and supports the brilliant work of the Unabomber, is not only free to print, free to hold his meetings, free to speak his mind in the paper without fear of arrest, but free to keep his job . . . as a day-care provider.
I was so incensed after reading the article I wanted to call them all up and argue, but instead I just glowered at the dog. When his ears went back I reassured him it wasnt his fault.
Ill protect you from anarchists, I said, and he liked that.
We sat on the porch and watched the storm roll in. Yes, the storm.
The day began with rain, ended with rain, with hot wet sunny hours in between - all of which were spent in the office. It was like a newspaper rolled up and left on the steps in a storm; everything was soaked except for the business section. This mornings storm was impressive - an authoritative clap of thunder was one of the best audio productions of the season thus far. Rotund, modulated, loud, percussive. This evenings production was dispirited, like a summer-stock play performed on a cool Tuesday. Oh, the role of Wind was done well, but nothing extraordinary; the part of Rain was performed in a timid and rote fashion, without the angry enthusiasm the role required.
During intermission we walked in the woods, sheltered by the ragged parasol of the braches above, chastened by the rushing stream: hushhhh said the water, listen. And so I did: in the distance, a great crash, like two gargantuan cars colliding. Perhaps after every storm the tropospheres premiums go up. But probably not.
What happens when you push your hours deeper into the night, wake later, nap heavily, and do 150 pushups right before bed? Correct: you dont sleep when you want to. Last night was the worst: I had a million things spinning in my head prior to bed, and naturally I laid there thinking of this and that, staring at the wall with headlight eyes. The chainpull from the ceiling fan clinked against the light globe - tink tink tink like someone tapping my eardrum with a long cold fingernail. Eventually I drifted off . . . BEEP! BEEP! I woke, realized it was the CO detector downstairs. Good. Carbon Monoxide? Good. Now I can really get some sleep. Then I saw that the fan blades were spinning down . . . hmm, wife must have pulled the chain because it was making too much noise . . . got up, pulled the chain to start up the fan, because it was hot . . . noticed all the clock lights were dark. The power had gone out.
BEEP BEEP! from the studio - the PC turning itself on as the power was restored. I was awake again. Tried to sleep. Turned. Thrashed. The dog left the bed, plopped on the ground, and after a long heavy sigh made a series of gagging noises. Get up, check dog; dog is okay . . . back to sleep, close eyes, please: sleep . . . CHEEP CHEEP CHEEP. The loudest bird in the world had awakened, and was peeping some idiot story outside the window. Get up, close windows . . .
I got more sleep than I thought I did; when its constantly interrupted, you think the night has been sleepless. I had plenty of pep today, and none of the ham-headed drowsiness you feel when you dont get enough REM. Go figure.
Interesting point, but when its being made by 30 robed guys in black-and-white masks pounding a table, you have to roll your eyes and say wow, man, heavy.
That said, the Prisoner was still a good show. What was American TV doing at the time? I Dream of Jeanie.