Saturday, July 23, 2016

Star Trek Beyond(2016): Movie Thoughts

Growing up Trek as a kid wholly enamored with the possibilities of pluralism in space, I opted to attend school miles from home because of a greater mixture of kids my age. As colorful as my childhood background was, the world of Starfleet was something that had become important to my personal development while a few took on the traits of their less than at ease parents. A part of me longed for a future where a poor kid from a largely migrant farmer community would become a supporting player in this greater realm of play and cooperation. It's a belief that continues to drive my every decision from how I socialize to who I support intellectually and politically. A lot of this is still so important due to Gene Roddenberry's science fiction evergreen. And while many continue to wrap themselves into seemingly irrevocable knots over JJ Abrams' take on the world of the Enterprise and crew, a great deal of that optimism and belief in family shines through with Star Trek Beyond. With Justin Lin now at the helm of the Kelvin Timeline, we find ourselves at a course correct complete with reverence for every incarnation thus far with warmth as beacon.

Now, three years into its five year mission, the crew of the Enterprise has begun to settle into a groove of episodic regularity. Expressed with charm, the captain's log of James T. Kirk(Chris Pine) denotes a growing sense of "what now", as his role has found itself into a groove. Now reaching a birthday one year older than his late Starfleet hero father, weighing in on the future seems to hover over him. Beginning to think that maybe leaving command and moving on might make for a good new move. Even more troubling, Spock (Zachary Quinto) has received news that his elder alternate universe self, Ambassador Spock has passed away(a sweet nod to the late, great Leonard Nimoy), all while having broken up with Uhura (Zoe Saldana), he contemplates heading back toward helping his now fledgling kind on New Vulcan. There is a sense of crossroads for our heroes, as they have now become the classic characters, endlessly encountering troubled spots across the universe.

But upon arriving at the Federation's latest achievement, Yorktown base, a humongous multigravity space station and community, an emissary comes knocking. Leading to an encounter with a hostile force bent on capturing nearly all of the Enterprise crew, and taking them to a hidden class-m planet where Kirk, Spock, Bones(the ever wonderful Karl Urban), Chekov( R.I.P. Anton Yelchin), Scotty(Simon Pegg, who's scripting duties here help immensely), Uhura, Sulu, and the rest must band together to escape an increasingly hopeless situation. All with the assistance of the resourceful Jaylah(Sofia Boutella), the crew find themselves against the imposing Krall(Idris Elba), a creature seemingly bent on not only capturing the starship, but breaking everything they stand for. His belief that unity between beings is a weakness, and that conflict defines all beings is  echoed throughout, often placing isolationism first. And with an ancient object found by our heroes, Krall's plan may at last find fruition after he is through with them.

Beyond is one part affirmation session, equal parts celebration of the mythology and ideals of Trek. Not merely concerned with nods to the past, and more about breaking these archetypes down, and examining why they're still beloved 50 years later. One clever conceit that helps bring up Beyond, are the script's needs to split characters up, forcing them to better open up about where they are now, and what they face together or alone. Through the crisis, McCoy and Spock are stranded together with the Vulcan injured. A decision that forces the often bristling duo some much needed exchange about what comes next. Meanwhile, Kirk find himself with Chekov (In a choice that feels so eerily prescient now), which pits youthful optimism with a growing weariness in the captain's brow. There are these quiet moments sprinkled throughout that help in ways that even Abrams' entries could not. With us now fully invested in who these characters are, the action at last finds itself well balanced enough to pop. We've finally moved past the recycled father issues and time travel baggage, and are at last more concerned with the here and now, which is refreshing for a film series that took a bad left turn previously.

And while the action department at times suffers from either a lack of winning timing or energy, it's hard to fault everything else. This is also where it bear mentioning that Star Trek Beyond, is also a very funny film. Lin has always had a knack for finding good humor in the absurd, which is perfect considering this version of the Trek timeline. If we aren't going to delve deep into the supposed hard science of Trek, we could at least focus on what makes these characters so universal. Beyond is also willing to use the now cookie cutter "stranded antagonist with an axe to grind against the Federation" toward discussing something more prescient, and less venal. By taking what was hinted at with Into Darkness, in this case a militarized state, and placing it against the explorer nature of Starfleet, we at last have a case for what makes Kirk and crew so worth rooting for. By not making the film Kirk-centric, we finally have a case for Roddenberry's ideals and also explore the cost of laying that foundation. The implication is that none of this is easy, and that shifting gears between the two is often fraught with peril, and the possibility of a population of those left behind by time. While it isn't entirely successful in breaking free from the need for a killer Macguffin to be featured in an action finale, Lin and co. do make up for it with a lot of charm.

So for all its laughs and sense of breeze, Beyond remains a safe means of celebrating what helped shape me as a young one. I do not expect the Kelvin world to be one that flirts with godlike beings, or time travel shenanigans in Depression era New York. And it's perhaps all said knowing full well that Into Darkness didn't happen according to this film. Which is all for the better honestly. This cast deserved a much better trip to the races than they got last time. What we have here, is an appropriate and refreshing take on old leftovers. A beloved mixtape from an old friend. Faith, reaffirmed. Here's to the challenges ahead.

We're back on track with Trek, and all is well.    

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Green Room(2015) Movie Thoughts

Been filled with thoughts recently about the art of the magic trick, misdirection, and how crafty one can be when talking a premise to a film, versus how one executes it. How we the audience an be played toward looking at the hat when we should be looking elsewhere, never being fully sure where the rabbit truly was, nibbling comfortably before being revealed. Suddenly, expectations are thwarted by the appearance of a dove. Nary a hint was given. We expected a rabbit, but received something else. We never saw it coming. This is exactly how I've been feeling about the new Jeremy Saulnier film. With Green Room, we are not only in the realm of a director who cares about payoff, we are in the presence of a refreshing new turn in how to subvert.

Somewhere, in the Pacific Northwest, traveling punk rock outfit the Ain't Rights have been living the gig to gig dream. As expressed in an interview with a local college rock reporter, they have no social media presence due to a deep love with connection. A romance for being present. But this also comes at the expected price; barely surviving, siphoning gasoline from parked vehicles, playing family mexican restaurants for a few bucks, not knowing where the next burrito meal will come. And due to a communications flub, the Ain't Rights are cornered into taking a gig deep into the rural Oregon wilderness. A roadhouse largely known to be hard right wing skin territory. Largely unfettered by the possibility, and ready to do anything to keep moving, the band agrees. Having done shows with skinheads in attendance before, their belief in the music grants them the confidence to veer in for a short set. All seems to go well, then the band's lead guitarist, Pat (Anton Yelchin) opts to tempt the lion by way of a Dead Kennedys cover that states in no uncertain terms, their relationship with the crowd. But it's what occurs after that lands Pat, Sam(Alia Shawkat), Tiger(Callum Turner), and Reece(Joe Cole) trapped in the venue's green room, without means of communicating with the outside world, with a human corpse on the floor, and possibly armies of violent zealots aching to protect their isolated universe.

Now siege films have been the stuff of classic genre and grindhouse fare for decades. (Many of personal favorite, John Carpenter's films being iconic examples.) And many of us are pretty savvy on how these tend to work. "Survive the night". But what Jeremy Saulnier and his team concoct with Green Room, feels every bit as intelligent and painful as what they had achieved with Blue Ruin. By taking the most sober approach, the film becomes one Rube Goldberg experience in mounting suspense and payoff that is wholly rare. And the greatest magic trick pulled within the film, is in how secure we are made before everything goes to hell. The love of the vagabond band, and life on the road is given enough time and sensitivity for viewers to realize how close knit Ain't Rights are are a unit. We are granted a pretty good idea of how they operate, joke, and bounce off each other. So when Pat reveals himself to be akin to many punks I grew up around; quiet, but occasionally plucky, we may not agree, but feel some empathic connection, as with everyone else. So when the tide begins to reach uncomfortable depths, we are not only along for the ride, we are suffering with them. It is a brutal turn this film takes, and it does so without the usual sentimental language the genre often insists on. So we're left to our imaginations to fill in the horrible blanks that are scattered about. We find ourselves as viewers as desperate and terrorized. And we are with them all the way when the tide begins to turn in their favor. The siege film is returned to the hands of directorial intent, to place us there, to have us absorb the predicament, and for us to seek a way out, no matter how dire it all seems.

And dire it becomes.

Soon, Gabe(Macon Blair, in a terrific put-upon performance) has to call in the roadhouse's owner, Darcy (Patrick Stewart) for damage control. And it is within the mind of Darcy, that we begin to fully understand how bad it is for our heroes. A quiet, fatherlike, and truly smart leader figure to what looks to be an army of angry youth living in the woods, Darcy plans to make sure the whole fracas is brought to a close, and that the Ain't Rights are as guilty, as they are dead. Just another roadside murder. Bringing down potential "Red Laces" to the location, things have reached fever pitch, while inside, the band is trapped with Amber(Imogen Poots), a strange girl who was witness to the inciting incident, and bouncer, Big Justin(Eric Edelstein). Darcy, with his age and intelligence, only seems ready to lay down so many young men for his cause, that it ultimately becomes less a black and white narrative, but a grueling treatise on how the disenfranchised could eat their own if not tended to.

With matters reaching almost unbearable levels, both parties find themselves in a situation far more than clean and easy. Saulnier makes sure we realize just how the simplest choices could have dire consequences for all involved. There is an unshakeable feeling throughout that so much could have been avoided had pride not been allowed to dictate a few brief moments. And choices like these are what fuel so much of Green Room. It makes the whole of the piece so singular, it becomes a social event. It's one hell of a ride. Not to mention, one of the most effective windows into the punk world I grew up in translated onto film. Thankfully, I've never witnessed anything as horrific or traumatic as what happens here. But I can say that for being a disillusioned kid, Green Room strikes home in a huge way. And considering where our national fabric is at the moment, it couldn't have come at a better time.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

I Didn't See A Batman/Superman Film This Weekend

The writing is beyond the walls, and the consensus has largely digested a pretty clearly shared distaste for certain filmmakers this weekend. In many ways, I feel like I shouldn't even have to comment on any of this. It's not a place fot a review because to put it any more plainly, what many of us witnessed, wasn't something any film pundit, theorist, or armchair theorist could dissect outside of an autopsy. I didn't see a Batman/Superman film this weekend. I truly didn't. I didn't see the adverts plastered across every third corner of my L.A. living eye, and say to myself that what was contained within the two plus hours of footage, something that resembled a coherent story filled with discernible beats, engaging characters, thematic throughlines, and even an attempt at capturing the most important element in such common superhero tales, the essence of these mythological beings, and the ethos they each uniquely stand for.

It's not enough that I dislike Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice, it's more that I find it's existence to be pretty much tragic.

I don't see merely failed storytelling. I see board meetings soon after the glow of Harry Potter, and the Dark Knight Trilogy fading into the distance, while Sony crumbles from awkward start to post-internet hack panic attack. I see film executives fumbling over how to best repair the damage done by hoping that throwing money at auteurs, and expecting workable franchises with no real personal investment in a shared universe, nor its slate of popular characters.  That's right. This entire debacle can be traced back to when WB said nevermind to Justice League soon after the Iron Mans took flight, and Asgardian royalty graced Earth with his presence. I see a cat, scrambling desperately after diving into a tub of scorpions after thinking that might be a good idea. No, cat. There is no grace to be found. Licking your paw, feigning innocence will not help you today. This is what many of us would like to call either hubris, or a deliberate attempt to renege against the very task you chose . A work of corporate art, undone by juvenile, throbbing, gnashing, bile duct expending, knee-jerk, anti-human. borderline sociopathic emotion, far less interested in storytelling and world-building than it is in flexing its muscles in the name of creating an anti-altar for those it deems lesser than they.

That is right. In a nutshell, this film hates you.

However, this project cannot find any more clever means of expressing this hate than nods to Benghazi, a middle finger to democracy, and shooting a beloved boy photojournalist square in the face. If one were a conspiracy nut, it might not even be a stretch to assume that those involved were taking their reflexive stance on the very idea of this film, and plugging in what they feel is a "necessary" counterpoint to the more all-inclusive, community-centric, closer to centrist politics of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It felt that a certain demographic had indeed found itself largely ignored in multiplex cinema, and figured the opposition during a contentious time of political turmoil, required a voice. This film openly doesn't care about the endless nods to FDR and the spirit of the New Deal that inspired the classic Superman character. It's not that the film simply doesn't understand him, it sees him as problematic in their view. They cannot reconcile with his very existence, even in fiction, so this is what we get. In fact, similar comes in the shape of a grizzled, homicidal Batman, who's motivations feel less organic to the tormented billionaire playboy, and more to a painterly violence fetishist with the reasoning of an abused pre-teen. The film simply doesn't work, not because it fails to tell a story, but because those in charge never listened to the warning signs posted writ large by films such as 300 & Watchmen. Films that adore the punishment of the morally compromised, and the aggrandization of extremism over conversations. They saw pretty pictures about fascists, and thought that was good enough.

And what they have on their hands, is something both blander, unintentionally funnier, and uglier than I could ever have imagined. Like sending a loved one a bag of feces in protest, when all one had to do was walk away from what looked on paper to be a bad deal. With my day job as help for a powerful law firm in a Century City high rise, suddenly, the title makes total, telling, completely honest sense. If it's not merely desperate to sell based on a battle that barely lasts for seven minutes, it is desperate to call to attention the legal clusterfuck hovering over a studio scrambling for something resembling a clue.

Or perhaps it's merely an engravement on a tombstone? Either way, it's a raging sigh for a culture awash in its own poor choices.

Post Script: There is another telling moment in the denouement, where Bruce Wayne posits to Diana Prince (Gal Gadot, who's Wonder Woman, is gravely underused) that the so-called Metahumans, should eventually band together (in a nod to the possibly-now-not-upcoming Justice League feature?) . And when questioned about this by Diana, Wayne (not looking her way) replies with the supposedly arc-completing line, "Men are still good". This is after certain female characters are seen to be killed in a suicide bombing, targeting a place of power. 

Take from that what you will..

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Witch (2015) Film Thoughts


Unwilling to atone for a mysterious act was in defiance of a newfound colony, extreme puritanical father, William gathers his family, and delves deep into the uncharted lands of New Hampshire in the name of religious conviction. With his wife, Katherine, daughter, Thomasin, son, Caleb, and two smaller siblings, they find promise in a plain at the foot of a foreboding and dark forest. It isn't long before a fifth child is born to the family. During another day of farm chores and settlement, Thomasin is left in charge of watching over little Samuel, when he is suddenly snatched away in broad daylight. Painful tragedy, while seemingly enough gives way to fear, deception, and ultimately encroaching despair, as the lone family seem to be driven closer toward madness by a malevolent outside forest..deep in the wood.

True to many stories of wrenching hardship that befell many new American settlers throughout the latter 1600s, Robert Eggers's The Witch, not only fashions a stark, bone-rattling tale of ancient fear, the film also presents one of the most compelling existential horror visions this side of the original ALIEN. Endless isolation and dread invert the aforementioned film's legendary claustrophobia, and presents open space as every grain as terrifying, and packed with poetic wonders. While we never know the circumstances that led to the family's defiant exodus from their home community, we instantly gather just how much faith binds and defines them via father William, who soon imparts to his son that the land has been unforgiving, and that deception is necessary in light of the news of a lost child. "We will tame this forest, Caleb. It will not consume us." Early into matters, the masculine dominator philosophy of William's faith is laid bare, with the God fearing staving off the assault of nature, which is always creeping in.

While a more ordinary narrative might have given us no real hint of something supernatural in the woods, leading to a more psychological horror, Eggers chooses to confirm matters immediately, prompting questions as to the whys of the shape-shifting crone. The film is not asking, is there? It is asking, why is there? And soon after, the film starts turning tight these screws of folklore, fictions, and fear, to the point that even such a seemingly well-kept family unit finds themselves at odds with each other. And with sparse dialogue interspersed between often desolate and beautiful imagery, we are immersed in a world that owes as much to Malick, as it does to William Harris Weatherhead. Unforgiving cold and careful use of Mark Koven's brilliant score, complete with diabolical use of natural quiet sends home a grand fear that only life on earth can deliver. 

But the truest testament to The Witch's success lies in Eggers's terrific use of casting and unerring attention to period detail. From the clothing to the tools, to the home, and even the tactile remnants of an England left behind. The entire work is impeccable in how it captures a bone dry life of austerity in the name of belief. That without this guiding force, no sane being could survive in these woods. That perhaps these same beliefs fashion a perverse opposite with enough isolation, and questions. Something that befalls the entire family when the chores seem to bear little fruit, and prayer no longer seems to be enough. Ralph Ineson, is quake inducing as William, a staunch father of the faith, struggling to maintain his choices, all while the world seems to conspire against him. Kate Dickie's Katherine, is overpowered, proud, yet increasingly brittle as her family seems primed to an increasingly evident doom. She longs for sense to all the madness surrounding them, and is a tremendous counterpoint to William. But the film's true secret weapons are with Anya Taylor-Joy's Thomasin and Harvey Scrimshaw's Caleb, who see and wish to assert agency into the fray, but find themselves at the behest of forces beyond simple comprehension. Thomasin's observational abilities find themselves at odds with the family's longing for something simple as an answer, while Caleb only wishes to do what is right for everyone. It's painful to witness their respective tragedies, and yet by the finale, one might just have been another symptom of a father's pride. All family members, turning belief in each other into modes of save and harm.

The film considers the new world, and the implications of the white encroachment into often inhospitable territory, coupled with religion's often ambivalent feelings about nature. The constant separation between powers of the cross versus the often contradictory laws of earth beyond civilization. While the story here is set in New Hampshire, not too far away in Massachusetts, people like Anne Hutchinson had been questioned for her strident beliefs, which ultimately led in large part toward the founding of Rhode Island. There is also the story of the minister, Roger Williams which fits well here. But what of many others? Those who found their faiths at odds with community, only to find themselves at the mercy of a less forgiving landscape. Not everyone found salvation in the wilderness. The Witch, also serves as a dramatic exploration of what happens when pride comes face to face with the natural world. A land without pluralism, a forum for distinct voices is often one doomed to repeat the same mistakes time and again. And often left to cycle the same fears and prejudices throughout history.

So yes, there is indeed a witch in that deep, dark hollow, and it takes many forms. But is it truly nature? Or rather our own vanity, spewing repressed dark viscera back into our own faces? 

The Witch, is a remarkable horror achievement. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Tokyo Tribe (2014) Movie Thoughts

You'll never believe what all the squabbling is about..

Could it be that I'm far beyond done with Takashi Miike? After a year plus of hearing frenetic buzz about Shion Sono's hypercharged adaptation of Santa Inoue's mad urban fantasy manga(1993, 1997-2005), I guess a part of me never suspected that it would wallow so much in familiar depths that it would forget the potential inherent in its more experimental qualities. Just pull focus back from all the holiday and gold laced lens flare, urban garishness, fly honeys, pimps, chinpira, bruisers, DJ grannies, chrome-dudded shogun on tanks, and dialogue in rhyme, and one has seen pretty much all of what happens here through any number of Miike's V-Cinema output in the 1990s.  Sion Sono, may be one of the most furiously active filmmakers in the world, and as such one cannot blame him for not knocking this delirious piece out of the park, but the end result feels deprived of a life it is certainly aching for.

Set in a fantastical urban myth of Tokyo, the city has become fragmented after quakes and rioting have severed the land into several unique district gangs. (Each with their own distinct rapping and DJ style) Told through the eyes of rhyming narrator, Sho (Shota Sometani) , we learn about these gangs, and the nightmarish kingpin that pines for dominion over the entire city. Led by the perverse crime lord of Bukuro, Buppa(Riki Takeuchi, in full coked-out mode), he and his cadre of sex and violence crazed beasts plot to crush peace-loving Musashino Saru. Stemming from an unexplained grudge belonging to Buppa's Adonis-esque enforcement , Mera(Ryohei Suzuki), a trap is set that begins a turf war that threatens not only Musashino's gang of country kids, but of every other group in Tokyo. Amidst this bubbling conflict, is the missing daughter (Nana Seino) of a foreign high priest on the run, and the street kid charged with protecting her. Plot takes a grand backseat, as Sono, cast and crew pull out all possible stops in creating an immersive hip-hop opera that largely drowns in its concept instead of marinating in it.

While the beats and visuals of Tokyo Tribe aim to create something truly singular in the world of the japanese gangster pic, so much happening within it plays like a greatest hits of a half century of Nikkatsu productions. This really should function dazzlingly on paper, but what ends up bogging a lot of the film down, is that pesky inability to allow us an emotional connection to anything that's happening. While Sono offers the viewer an immense playpen of swirling cameras, and impressive single takes, our identification with central characters end up surface at best, and label at worst. With a film so reliant on music and spectacle, it becomes hard to focus on any single character, leaving something of a void while matters grow increasingly mad, and the blood begins to fly. This also speaks to the female quotient of the piece, which renders them either as window-dressing, or accessory action. And even then, the debasement seems perfunctory, like a post-it note on everyone's trailer door. While Sono has never shied away from matters of the unveiled id, Tribe seems less interested in the psychology of such extremes, and just wallows. At least with this film, the human circus is presented as whirlwind sideshow, and we're given no real sense of absorbtion. It's a theme park ride logic that threatens to alienate many sections. As good seems so overpowered by evil throughout, it's hard to care when the cost is so casually explored.

Matters are not helped that we are never granted any greater reason to care whether the gangs unite or not, or a means to feel the villains beyond them being villains. Sure, there are implications of toxic masculinity, but to cop a reasoning ala The Warriors, one should be willing to offer up a bit more punch.

Sure, we've been here before. The one film that comes to mind with all of this is Sogo Ishii's Bakuretsu Toshii(Burst City), which also dealt with a colorful apocalyptic cityscape populated by musically driven communities, fighting for their share of a broken world. But what allowed that film to endure was a patience to hit pause long enough for us to grasp the world that was being lost in the rabble. Here, we are allowed in only so far as to where everything is a farce, bodies are disposable, and J-shock cinema has rendered viewers into inert quantities. In the two decades since super-violent post-anime action has declared an expectation of blood, blades, and exposed breasts as the law of the land, one would think that one of the premiere voices of Japanese film would offer up something beyond a louder version of what we've been overstuffed with. It's like we've been on pause since at least 1999, and that's the film's most glaring shame.

There is exuberance and energy to be found among the bass and fire of Tokyo Tribe. Just don't ask it to deliver past the packaging.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

I Come To Bury Star Wars, Not To Praise It..

Dear Star Wars,

Yes. I am aware that I am speaking to you in a voice that denotes your existence not unlike that of a sentient being with its own soul and sense of free will. And it isn't without merit. There are a great many things I must thank you for as someone who has grown up with your presence ever near, even when paths led you astray, and allowed relations to fray with many the galaxy over. There are a great many things you taught me over the course of my life, and it is within the walls of this personal site that I am at last able to happily willing to place a date of expiration next to your name. Oh, please do not feel sorrow for such a choice. What I am saying? Your existence and spirit does more than well enough without me, especially now that you have an entire new generation of admirers and friends to keep you company deep into history.

And please do not think that this is completely borne out of some angst-ridden schism between you and I. Far from it. While we've certainly had our ups and downs over the years, your very role in the adventures of my days goes so much deeper than an attraction to all effects special, or the promise of escape from an existence surrounded by oceans of sand in every direction. You sheltered, and inspired me when those who would hope to be a beacon flickered. As a child of divorce, your earliest tales informed and comforted me with notions of both toil and redemption that few other grand stories ever could. You helped me understand that even the most forthright of heroes had their dark days, and that we are often placed firmly between angels and demons. You helped me understand myths beyond those bound by a cross, and illustrated the conflict that makes for the bulk of my life. And that good was a responsibility, and not merely a face to wear for benefit. That light and dark were but facets of the whole. It was through you that I became interested in stories, storytelling, human psychology, philosophy, metaphor, and gained a yearning for writing and teaching.

And as we at last witness the first official new installment of your saga, a part of me feels that it is more than time to step away, and to seek tales anew while markets readjust, rendering you into something wholly different from what you once were. Again, this is no slight onto you. Far from it. But part of me reside deeply within the fleshy matter of human connection. Elements that drew me most to your fire. As we watched technology and visual mastery evolve, as we have also seen storytelling evolve into new forms, for both better and worse. After seven features, several television films, animated series, novels, merchandise, and a holiday special, I cannot help but feel that this is all I ever truly needed from you. The notion of a friend for all time, while a genuinely sweet and noble ideal, is far from a realistic one. Ships must inevitably disembark, and tides must again tug and sway. Otherwise, there is always the possibility of a relationship finding fissure. Fissures that often rear themselves after too much exposure.

There are also matters of why you remain here, and why it's so important that you tale see itself reinterpreted, and it isn't always for the most earnest or personal reasons. In fact, this is perhaps where I am most willing to depart. Any good thing in life can ultimately turn against the very ideas and feelings that made it so important to my personal evolution. Much like a child growing up and candy lover, at last faced with a genetic predisposition to diabetes. There is a certain point where our greatest joys can give way to harmful repercussions.

Looking at your history as a global crowd-pleaser, I can definitely see why many out there feel that is is you who could save the landscape from great change. But I also believe that change is paramount for life to evolve. So to see your soul taken wholesale in the name of saving a previous business model, a part of me cannot help but sigh in mild dismay. And while it is indeed true that a lot of Episode VII:The Force Awakens, carries with it an aura of what made you so special, it too harbors the decay and facade of a loved one, long dead and shambling about under well-meaning, but misguided control by powers out to rescue us from the current day. Again, while a lot of the heart flesh remains, there is barely enough to allow it to move emotive or intellectual powers that once seemed so easy to access. We've been here before, and a mere few augmentations here do very little to hide the little brother wearing grandmother's glasses, dancing about in strange voices, trying in vain to make us smile the same way again. I do care and thank you, but it seems that studios and a dying multiplex infrastructure needs you a lot more than my heart does.

It's also deeply important to me that people see the face of you, not so much the mask. I still see so many enamored with the idea of you, rather than your ideas. The brand, and not so much the personality within. While I do understand the appeal, I cannot help but feel that there was always a great deal more to you during those early days. It's true. There is no going back. But if your legends cannot offer new and challenging responses to your soul, then all we're doing is looping. When all we probably needed to do, is look back. (Provided your father was willing to allow us to do this unreservedly - I know this is something of a sticking point.

Apologies for bringing this up.

We need numerous gardens to explore, not merely several pickings from the same batch. Homogeneity, even from you, sounds rather unhealthy.

So while I do intend to be near you for one more film, I would love to very much make my intentions more than clear. There are parts of me that are truly warmed inside by your new cast of characters. They are charming, energetic, and come from an earnest place. Make no mistake, these are worthy heirs to your legacy. And even though I really do wish to travel alongside them a little more, there is a feeling that there is little else you could possibly share with me that I am not already familiar with or understand. You are the most fanciful of bedtime stories. You grant people light when so much seems so dark. Sometimes, you're willing to illuminate that these things aren't so alien to one another. But it's hard to imagine art and expression working themselves through with a necessary amount of freedom confined to a single myth instead as opposed to the broadness of genre. The powers in charge would like to think this is an answer, but I cannot agree to it. You mean a lot to me, even when parts of me have denied it in the past. It's true. You were a spark that led to a flame. But the wood has neared its end, and I need new elements offering with them fresh and healthy amounts of oxygen. I'm only looking out for my health you see. I only wish to do good by what you imbued within me.

Even if it means leaving you behind soon.

Trust that I'll always keep you close, even if I'm not there.   

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Status Of The Force: Some Personal Thoughts

I hadn't initially planned to spill anything about my thoughts on next week's events, but since many are airing out how important the Star Wars saga has been for them, it suddenly felt right to place them into a snug place like this. Like so many kids of the seventies and eighties, the original trilogy holds a powerful sway upon my relationship to all things genre. And as I grew older, discovering just how much it carried within it legacies of mythology enriched my appreciation for them more. Be it through the mountains of merchandise even young first generations experienced throughout the early 1980s, or those hopeful days before the release of Episode I in the latter 1990s, the flirtation with longer exposure to the world of space knights, hyperdrives, and galactic empires seemed more like a junkie's promise than an organic and necessary expansion of a beloved universe. 

But to hold them in such high esteem while the medium of film has evolved into a sort of mass production machine, coldly aiming for those nostalgic nerves in hopes of igniting a new generation, parts of me grapple with the notion that we have moved so far beyond this spark, that it often feels redundant. And to that end, rife with the ability to strip thin bones that would sooner provide the blood cells necessary to spur further discussion between kids. Talks that even a small me was willing to have with fellow kids, and even adults about the nature of good and evil, themes of fate, and questions about revolution. Perhaps this isn't the most common person's view of Star Wars, but it was mine as far back as grade school. I wanted to know why our relationship with nature decided where we were as people. A notion fathoms beyond the average kid who often found themselves enamored with fantastical tech, and grand scale space warfare. The mystery of the force, and how it binds all things was what granted a pull for me in the wake of spiritual chasm that were the revelations at the end of Empire Strikes Back. Where even the wisest could find themselves in the wrong for lying. Coming out of a separation after parents divorce, and seeing in both film and in real life how adults couldn't hold to their word despite their assumed station was a pivotal door for me to walk through at an early age. And perhaps this granted the series more depth than I was able to comprehend at the time.

That's right. A part of me feels like there's little else more Star Wars can truly offer except for new variations of the same thing. And unless the model is willing to take some bold leaps away from the tired and gunshy positioning the departed George Lucas undertook as far back as Return Of The Jedi, it may be a venture unwilling to do more than cycle endlessly. What made the films so special to me, were the operatic touches, the relationships, and a clear understanding that heroism can quite easily morph into villiany. It's meat and potatoes grand myth. So perhaps the only real way to acknowledge the most important updates the saga, is to look sharply at the new cast, and to celebrate the shift in focus that potentially will reside. It's true that there is real, hard hitting possibility in the series' new heroes.

But what I'm truly hopeful for, is a glimmer of revolutionary honesty beyond the blasters and destruction of machines. That our heroes will indeed observe a new world with unprecedented potential. To see past the demographics, and offer up means to respond to mythology of the past. Star Wars, served as an important window to what became my love for anime, classic westerns, samurai cinema, as well as the works of Joseph Campbell and Carlos Castaneda. So a part of me is not sure we were ever meant to linger in one place. New myths can offer new bents to classic tales, and perhaps illuminate truths that often the most rudimentary stories often find themselves unequipped to explore. Which isn't to say that I don't believe this is possible. But there is a doubt that there is enough room, or hook in one universe to do so. I would very much like to be proven wrong, but as it stands, Star Wars has become more a place of comfort, rather than a means to challenge. It's a reliable old pal at this point.

But just because a friend invites you over, doesn't mean you should overstay your welcome.