Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace

I spent a good part of the morning cleaning up the apartment. It did look a little bit better, at least. I also found my Man of Steel 3-D glasses. I went out to see “Anomalisa” again. It was somewhat more meaningful the second time because I wasn’t drowsy this time. I think I really expected something wilder from the imagination of Charlie Kaufman, although there were still some mysteries within “Anomalisa.” I went home and watched “The Phantom Menace” again. I thought the movie was in trouble from the introduction, which had the words “taxation” and “Congress” in it. I liked Liam Neeson, but I thought much of the cast could have been better. Natalie Portman sure seemed too quiet and subdued for such an important character. That weapon of hers looked like it was be as effective as a cap gun. She would be so much stronger and more convincing in “V for Vendetta.” Ewan McGregor is not one of my favorites, and he reminded me that the Jedi leaping thing that he did was ridiculous. I don’t know that that little kid could build C-3PO. His pilot built was not too amusing. When you make the dangerous action look easy because a child can go through with it, the action loses its urgency. I see that each trilogy has a death of a key character by lightsaber. I haven’t yet mentioned Jar Jar Binks, who was supposed to provide the comic relief, but became the most disliked character in the Star Wars movies. His clumsiness is like Inspector Clouseau of the Pink Panther movies, only Jar Jar seems to destroy the tone of every scene he’s in. I kept thinking about whether the lightsaber should be redesigned. The handle looks like it is hard to hold, and it seems that it would be a more effective weapon if it were silent. I questioned the aerodynamics of it, although if it’s really light coming out of it, it shouldn’t matter. I thought that there should be a master craftsman working on these weapons, like in “Kill Bill.” It’s like making a Stradivarius violin. George Lucas should have had help from Lawrence Kasdan in the writing. He really should have had someone else to bounce ideas off. Does every Star Wars movie have an explosion of a large structure in it? Samuel L. Jackson might have given this movie more pep, although I didn’t like the idea of a Jedi council with more people discussing things. I liked the look of some of the new effects and machines and creatures, although those massive battle scenes got to be tiresome. I think we wanted to see individuals facing off, and there wasn’t much of a buildup towards the confrontation between Qui-Gon Jinn and Darth Maul. Darth Maul was one of the best creations of the prequel trilogy, but how much screen time did he get compared with Anakin? Also, it was really annoying that Anakin got the nickname Annie like he was the Annie who sang the song “The sun’ll come up tomorrow.” If Lucas had dispensed with this trilogy altogether, he could have had Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher with still a lot of life left in them in 1986, 1989, and 1992, possibly. We wouldn’t have the likes of Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, and Hayden Christensen representing the older generation. There wouldn’t have been such a gap between “Return of the Jedi” and “The Force Awakens.” The bad thing is that we might have seen a sex scene between Han Solo and Princess Leia. I wonder if they were both drunk. They really needed to use birth control there. Did Luke forget to pack a razor when he disappeared for all that time? What puzzled me was that Lucas thought that he needed material for three movies from this starting point up through the beginning of “A New Hope.” It seemed that all of it could be condensed to two movies, or better yet, one three-hour movie, each episode taking up one hour. Why did Lucas feel that he had to show us Darth Vader’s early days to us? We didn’t want the Lucas explanation of why he turned to the dark side. We wouldn’t want to hear it from a qualified psychologist, much less a director who took his ideas from Akira Kurosawa. Did I see a bit of Fellini’s fog from “Amarcord” in “The Phantom Menace”? I think George Lucas had too much money to work with for this movie. It was supposed to have the spirit of a movie serial. This movie looked too clean, although Anakin’s face got dirty from the race. I thought the idea was that everything is a struggle. The Jedi knights use their powers casually, like they are in a Monty Python skit. They’re constantly whipping out their lightsabers the way the Jets took out their switchblades in “West Side Story.” Lucas should have been more sparing with the cool stuff. I’ll have to admit that J.J. Abrams learned a few things from watching the early Star Wars movies. You can use a lightsaber to stop shots because that would be like using a sword to stop bullets from a machine gun. I think the Jedi knights should have more of an Asian approach to the lightsaber as opposed to the swashbuckling Three Musketeers approach. I’m talking about a single stroke and either death or survival, like Toshiro Mifune in a samurai movie. The loser falls down to his death in slow motion, of course. The ending of “The Phantom Menace” hardly feels like an ending, since there’s more that has to happen to connect with the history we know. Two of the previous three Star Wars movies ended with a victory celebration, suggesting that George Lucas didn’t consider too many alternate endings for these films. I couldn’t believe that he could express disappointment in the latest episode. “The Phantom Menace” was what he came up with after 16 years, and it was a bratty kid in a race and a dispute over taxation. He certainly could have used a fresh voice 17 years ago, although I’m not sure he really needed Disney. The movie on Blu-ray looked very, very good. The visual aspect was enjoyable, even if the story was crappy. I heard on the news that the Warriors won big in Cleveland. I also heard the sad news of the death of Glenn Frey at age 67. Two of his songs that I will always remember are “Lyin’ Eyes” and “New Kid in Town.” I stayed up to watch Elton John on the Jimmy Kimmel show. Some of the people who died on January 19 include James Dickey (1997), Carl Perkins (1998), Hedy Lamarr (2000), Tony Franciosa (2006), Wilson Pickett (2006), and Suzanne Pleshette (2008). Today is a birthday for Paul Rodriguez (61), Katey Sagal (62), Dolly Parton (70), Shelley Fabares (72), Michael Crawford (74), and Tippi Hedren (86). According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for January 19, Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” reached Number One on the Billboard album chart in 1980. In 1990, “Tremors” was released.

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