Tag Archives: Star Wars

Talking Books on the Human Business Way

Back in February I talked books with Chris Brogan. He’s a social media/marketing/business guy who does the Human Business Way podcast. He titled the show “Kevin Hendricks is a Book Fiend,” which is pretty accurate. We spent about 20 minutes talking books, swapping titles and even get into Star Wars:

Chris: “This is the nerdiest podcast I’ve ever done and I’m blaming you.”

And I accept the credit.

Books to Read
It’s a fun little interview. A few of the great books mentioned include Ready Player One, The Fault in Our Stars, Feed, The Passage, Wool, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, For the Win, Tell Me a Story and The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

Since the podcast aired so long after we talked, Chris guessed about how many books I’d be up to now. He thought 50. I’ve actually read 65 so far this year. But #50 is worth mentioning: The Martian by Andy Weir (I blogged about it earlier). Unfortunately, it was picked up for major release next year, so it’s no longer available. Last time I checked Amazon had an audio version otherwise you need to find someone you can borrow it from or wait until next year. But it’s so full of sci-fi, nerdy goodness that it should have been mentioned in this podcast, right between Wool and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

Star Wars
We also spent some time talking Star Wars and the question every parent faces of whether or not to admit the prequels exist. When we did the interview my kids had only seen the originals, but since then they’ve watched the prequels as well. Sadly, they both thought Jar Jar Binks was hilarious. But on the plus side, they like the originals best. Warms a father’s heart.

137 Books
If you want to know more about my crazed reading schedule, you can read my [short] book, 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading Again. I talk about how I read so many books and get into practical, nerdy stuff such as tracking what you read and making the most of the library.

Star Wars: Watching the Prequels

In the last two weeks Lexi has watched all three of the Star Wars prequels.

The good news? She didn’t like Episode III (who does?).

The bad news? She liked Jar Jar Binks.

You win, some you lose some. I guess. Lexi became a Star Wars fan last year when she watched the original trilogy with me. It seems the defining question of our generation is in what order will you let your kids watch Star Wars? Though it’s more a question of fandom. I’ve never met a Star Wars fan who wanted their kids to watch the prequels first. My nephew watched the prequels first (and as of last year had no idea who Luke Skywalker was!), but my sister-in-law is no Star Wars fan.

As much as I dislike the prequels, it is fun watching them with my kids. Just entering the Star Wars universe with them is enjoyable, even if I groan every time Jar Jar speaks while both Lexi and Milo bust a gut. For all the failings of the prequels, it’s still Star Wars. The music still crescendos just right even if the kid on screen can’t act (in all fairness, Luke was pretty whiny in Episode IV). While I’m leery of what Disney will do with a new batch of Star Wars, I’m also excited to see more of it in the theater again.

Sidebar: There could be a thousand lessons of what not to do from the prequels, but one thing I realized from this recent watching is I wish the light saber battles would get sane again. In the original trilogy they were pretty basic sword fighting. But with the prequels basic sword fighting was too old school and we had all kinds of ridiculously choreographed fight scenes. It got to the point where you couldn’t even tell what was happening. And it got non-sensical: In one scene in Episode III Count Dooku (I still laugh at that name) is fighting Obi-wan and Anakin with a single light saber. How is it that two light sabers can’t beat one? Never mind the lava-hopping ridiculousness of Obi-wan and Anakin’s showdown that comes down to who has the higher ground. It makes their final showdown in Episode IV look like a geriatric duel. Light saber battles are pretty sweet, but I hope in the new movies we can go back to sane light saber fights and not try to come up with zanier choreography.

Another thing that I love about the originals (and is only now standing out to me in contract to the prequels) is Luke’s insistence that there’s still good in his father. Those lines have become so commonplace that it’s hard to recognize how controversial they are. The scary, evil bad guy who chokes people from across the room, seemingly for fun, somehow has good buried under that creepy mask? Not only does Luke insist on it, he lays his life down to prove it. And he’s right!  A hero who throws down his weapon and refuses to fight? A villain who can be redeemed? I don’t think I’ve ever considered that Star Wars delivers a pacifist message, but there it is.

The best news from watching the prequels? Lexi’s favorite episode is the original. All is right with the world.

And a few fun links that always come up when I talk Star Wars:

Let’s Watch More Star Wars!

That’s what Lexi exclaimed when the credits for Return of the Jedi rolled. It makes a father proud.

We’ve been watching the Star Wars series the last few weeks. It happened by accident. I felt like watching a movie in the basement with the fire going and I decided it’d be Star Wars. I’ve always wanted to watch these movies with my kids, but Lexi is still freaked out about the bad guys in Disney princess movies and if she can’t handle a weird, cartoony sea witch, she’d be no match for Darth Vader. My earliest movie going experience is watching Vader through my hands. The intensity can be pretty scary for a little kid.

So I didn’t expect Lexi to sit down with me and watch the first Star Wars movie. I didn’t expect Milo to sit around either. But they did. They missed parts here and there and I think that helped to break up the intensity, but we watched Star Wars together. There was much hiding under blankets and even a teary goodnight with thoughts of the Rancor, but no matter how many times I suggested we shut it off if it was too scary, they refused.

It helped that Princess Leia is mentioned in the opening crawl of A New Hope. Suddenly it became a princess movie and Lexi was hooked.

And no, there was no consideration of starting with the prequels. That’s not even a question. Though as Lexi talked about watching more Star Wars, I did reluctantly tell her about the prequels. Of course we don’t own them and I’m not rushing out to get them, so she’s safe for now. Besides, I don’t think she’s ready for the intensity of Anakin going bad. Not that she even knows who Anakin is: “Who’s that guy with the thing on his face?” (Darth Vader) “Is that guy Luke’s brother?” (Han Solo) “Where’s the princess?” (during a scene where Han & Leia kiss) “Where’s that Empire guy?” (The Emperor) “Hey! We have a Lego of him! (Yoda).

Though though they did love the Ewoks (Milo: “Look at the teddy bear!”) and Milo thought it was hilarious when the Ewok steals the speeder and spins upside down. Lexi also pointed and laughed during the celebration scene when the Ewoks use stormtrooper helmets as drums (which is frightfully morbid when you think about it). Both of which reminded me how much these movies were made for kids with the necessary humor built in to relieve the tension. I also couldn’t help but feel smug when Lexi was confused by the scenes of galactic celebration that George Lucas added to the end of Return of the Jedi. You shouldn’t muck with a good thing, George.

If you can’t already tell, these movies are deeply ingrained in my psyche and I’m thrilled to finally share them with my kids. I never thought it’d be in such a random, slipshod fashion, but it works. Sometimes it’s better to let these moments sneak up on you.

 

Revisiting Star Wars

Over Christmas break my 4-year-old nephew was watching Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and I sat down to watch some of it (after all, Star Wars is a family affair). The next day Spike TV was showing the originals and I caught parts of Return of the Jedi.

“Who’s that guy?” Ari asked when Luke Skywalker strode onto the screen. My nephew had never seen the original trilogy, only the prequels. Sacrilege!

All of which transported me back to the wonderful world of Star Wars. The other day I borrowed Revenge of the Sith from the library since I don’t remember watching it since it came out in theaters. And as if watching Attack of the Clones again wasn’t bad enough, Revenge of the Sith was painful.

Apparently I enjoyed it despite its inconsistencies the first time around, but now the lack of a sensible plot and unbelievable character motivations was just too much. If you really want to revel in the Star Wars prequel bashing, check out the profanity-laden reviews by Harry Plinkett (I’m serious about profanity-laden. They’re beyond inappropriate in spots as well, so be warned).

In some ways it feels good to have someone else point out the inconsistencies and show me why the prequels always feel so flat. My biggest complaint has to be the over-use of digital effects. You’d think George Lucas would have learned his lesson with Jar Jar Binks, but oh no, he introduces General Grievous in Revenge of the Sith, a digital character with no weight whatsoever. Who is this guy? Why do we care? He’s like a lame version of Darth Vader, more machine than man, but the Emperor is still tinkering with proportions and this one is too much machine.

And it goes well beyond characters. Almost every scene in the prequels is on a green screen. Nothing is real. It all looks and feels fake. Sure, the matte paintings in the originals weren’t perfect either, but that’s why they were used sparingly. Lucas turns to digital backdrops in every scene of the prequels.

For a current comparison I think the digital effects of Transformers are just as fake, but the backgrounds and action are real. When a Decepticon slices a city bus in half, Michael Bay cut a real bus in  half, so at least the destruction looks real even if the alien robot doesn’t. In the prequels we don’t get so much as a model, we get digital everything. Lame.

I could go on and on but three paragraphs is already too much. I still love the original Star Wars movies, but I think the prequels will forever stand as an example of the downfall of excess.

But let’s end on a positive note. Perhaps my favorite writing about Star Wars is this piece that explains the inconsistencies by imagining R2-D2 and Chewbacca as integral leaders in the rebellion. That’s awesome.

Star Wars Holiday Special

To make your Christmas bright I humbly offer the Star Wars Holiday Special. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s an exercise in complete and utter awfulness. Released in 1978 months before Empires Strikes Back hit theaters and never seen again, the two-hour film centers on Chewbacca’s family and their celebration of holiday called Life Day.

Among other gems the film includes:

  • The first ten minutes include about nine minutes of nothing but Wookie dialogue.
  • Chewbacca’s father, Itchy, enjoying a “fantasy” experience that kind of resembles a porno.
  • A performance by Jefferson Starship, complete with a microphone that resembles a lightsaber.
  • Carrie Fisher singing.

I could go on. For all the negatives, the holiday special does include the first appearance of Boba Fett (unless you count that dumb added scene with Jabba the Hutt in the special edition version of A New Hope), in cartoon form no less!

You can’t really understand how awful it is until you’ve seen it. For anyone who complains about Episodes I-III, the Star Wars Holiday Special is proof that you should have expected something awful from George Lucas. At least even Lucas regrets the special.

And now, the Star Wars Holiday Special:

Part 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11

(These videos tend to disappear from YouTube, so you might just have to search for them.)

For more holiday special fun, check out the Rifftrax from the Mystery Science Theater guys. For more Star Wars hilarity, check out my Goofy Star Wars lens on Squidoo for a Star Wars guest spot on The Muppet Show.

Parents: What’s the Best Viewing Order for Star Wars?

Jason Kottke posed an interesting question on his blog: In what order should a parent show their child the Star Wars movies? Kottke rarely opens his entries up to comments, but for this one he opened the floodgate and so far has 138 comments. It’s a ridiculous poling of geekdom, most suggesting viewing the movies in original release order and quite a few suggesting parents never let their kids see the prequels.

Quite the geeky discussion, but that’s OK. I love it. Seems like I’ve blogged about this before and how interesting it would be to never think of Star Wars in terms of originals and prequels, but just six movies (is that even possible, considering the vast technical differences?). Seeing the movies in internal chronological order (prequels then originals), as opposed to release order (originals then prequels), shifts the focus from Luke to Anakin/Darth Vader, which is kind of bizarre. The prequels do naturally lend a whole new perspective to the originals.

Serenity is the New Star Wars

Yesterday morning I read this quote from Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon about his movie directing debut, Serenity:

“I worked for a long time to come up with something epic enough to be a Universal movie and not just a glorified episode of Firefly. I wanted to make a movie that made me feel or made people feel the way I felt the first time I saw the first Star Wars.”

Yesterday evening I went to a pre-screening of Serenity, and I’ll just say that as dangerous as it may be to compare a movie to the original Star Wars, in this case it’s not a bad idea.

Go. See. Serenity.

It opens Friday.

(For those really geeking out, I’d also recommend the Time interview with Whedon and the Amazon Whedon sale [Oops, guess it was yesterday only]. Just for kicks, yesterday and today Firefly was among the top 10 selling DVDs on Amazon.)

Update: I’m feeling like I should really qualify and explain the comparison to Star Wars, but I don’t want to spoil anything. Let’s just say the greatest similarity is in the movie-going experience. Once more people have seen Serenity we can get into the details.

Reflections on Star Wars

Tonight I’ll be seeing the final chapter of the Star Wars saga. I’ve been reading about it and writing about it for weeks and weeks and weeks, and then some more and more until we’re done.

Whew. My complaints about Episodes I & II have been heard before, though I still agree with people who say Mmm… Star Wars. As much as Lucas mucks it up with stuff like Jar Jar Binks and sappy love scenes, I still love Star Wars.

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