Fan Art Friday! Anakin’s Fire

Let’s just get it out there and talk about the elephant in the room: Anakin’s skin color.  Yup.  Total fail/mess up.  BUT I HAVE AN EXCUSE.  My colored pencils are one of those big “50 different shades!” boxes of colored pencils.  As such, sometimes the colors look a little similar on the outside but when you actually draw on the paper – they come out way different.

I had two such pencils lying near each other.  One I was going to blend into Anakin’s clothing and the other was for his skin.  I used the wrong color (clearly).  Then I tried to rectify the situation and as I am possibly one of the worst people with art and therefore do not know what happens when you blend two colors – I came out with green.  So then I tried to rectify it again and I think he kind of came out looking like some versions of Toad from X-Men.

Ah, well.  You win some, you lose some, right?

Barring Anakin’s skin color, I’m actually quite pleased with what I did.  I thought the circles behind him reminded me of water and since we definitely had fire, I wanted to create a feeling of conflicting emotions within Anakin since this is a “transitional Anakin”…i.e. Anakin from AOTC where he’s not quite good, but not quite bad either.

Below him, I did some foreshadowing and made the red veins look like Mustafar, the planet that seals his fate as Darth Vader.  I used different oranges and reds throughout the picture.  I think I’m most pleased with the flame.  That’s an example of blending colors gone right.

Overall – a cool picture and I had fun doing it and playing with different themes from Anakin’s life.

Be sure to check out Mei-Mei’s picture once she has it up!

Unfortunately, Mei-Mei, we are moving houses so I won’t be able to participate in the next few.  Can I start back up in September?  Let me know!

Ranking the Soundtracks

I’ve been sitting on writing this post for a while.  I thought it would be fun, in follow up to the post I wrote years ago on the best compositions in Star Wars (here and here), to instead write my rankings of the soundtracks.  Instead of individual pieces, I wanted to look at the soundtracks as a whole.  Which do I think are the top and which do I think make it to the bottom?

The only reason I’ve been sitting on it for so long is because IT’S SO HARD.  It changes often but I wanted to imagine someone asking me to give my final answer, as if I were playing Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and something was on the line.

After much thinking (like two months, seriously), here is my own personal Best of Star Wars Soundtracks list:

8.  Rogue One.

I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I didn’t really like Rogue One as a movie or it’s the fact that John Williams did not write the soundtrack that caused this movie to be on the bottom, but there you go.  The second time I watched it, I did come away feeling slightly more kind towards the music, but I think both having a different composer and not enjoying the movie was a double whammy that landed this at the bottom of the list.  Plus, it never had the wonderful themes that we love so much played enough throughout it.  I am planning on listening to it more, but for now, it ends up on the bottom.

7.  Attack of the Clones

One of my favorite pieces is Across the Stars.  It wows me and moves me every time I listen to it.  But as a whole, AOTC is slightly underwhelming.  There are probably about 2-3 tracks that I would want to listen to that on the soundtrack and if I were being perfectly honest, none of them stand out like Across the Stars.

6.  A New Hope

Agh, I hate even ranking this soundtrack so low because A New Hope introduced the world to Star Wars music.  Some of my favorite tracks of all time are in ANH.  But if I was looking at it as a whole, ANH involves too much brass in it’s soundtracks to make me rank it any higher.  The staccato, brass music is not my style and I don’t like listening to it too much and often skip most of the tracks.

5.  The Force Awakens

Number 5 and 4 are in close competition.  I love Rey’s theme and it was my top listened to track of 2016 (according to Spotify).  Currently, my most listened to track is The Jedi Steps.  Clearly, I love some of the pieces.  March of the Resistance and Kylo Ren’s theme (okay not really called that but it’s played whenever he comes on screen) are also really well done.  I originally did not like the soundtrack that much but as time has gone on, I have listened to certain tracks at least once a week.  I love it, but the reason it’s still ranked lower than most is that I believe I love it because I’m a Star Wars fan.  When leaving the theater, there were not many pieces that made me want to run home and figure out which music was playing when.   My love affair with the TFA soundtrack grew over time as a fan, but I don’t think there is anything in the soundtrack that stood out to the casual viewer.

4.  The Phantom Menace

I love TPM’s soundtrack.  It was a fresh new sound to the Star Wars music and set the Prequels off on the right foot.  The Naboo Palace was one of my favorites, and I loved the battle droid music.  Anakin’s theme was softer than expected but had hints of darkness at the end.  Duel of the Fates is unbeatable and is still one of my favorite tracks of all time.  I probably also rank it higher because it was the first Star Wars soundtrack I ever owned (on cassette!) so nostalgia plays a big part in this decision.

3.  The Empire Strikes Back

There are some great pieces in ESB, namely of course, The Imperial March.  That track is SO GOOD.  I love the Imperial March and could listen to it over and over again.  I also love Yoda’s theme and the music played throughout Cloud City at the end of the soundtrack.  The Asteroid Field and Han and Leia are excellent tracks that round out this soundtrack and brings it to the next level.  I feel like this soundtrack is balanced well, but again, not something I could probably listen to over and over again.  The key pieces are amazing but there are some others in there that bore me.

2.  Revenge of the Sith

I think ROTS is one of the most underrated soundtracks out of all the Star Wars movies.  The expanse of what the soundtrack covers is breathtaking.  Some of the most moving pieces in the Saga come from ROTS.  Battle of the Heroes is the most prominent track, but Padmé’s Ruminations still stands up there as one of my favorite compositions of John Williams.  Every time I listen to it, I actually DON’T want to listen to it because of the breadth of emotions it pulls from me.  I think General Grievous’ theme is brass done well.  The soundtrack flows in a way that even without seeing the movie, you can follow along with the music and feel your soul move.  It starts out fast, clipped, and semi-dangerous.  By the end, your heart is broken and full of foreboding.  If I had never seen the movie, I would still be able to feel the emotions I am supposed to.

1.  Return of the Jedi

I place ROTJ first because it’s a soundtrack where I like almost every single one of the compositions created by John Williams.  Not only does it flow well, but it mixes some of my favorite music throughout the entire soundtrack.  We have the Force theme, the main theme, Luke and Leia, the Emperor’s theme, some of the Imperial March, the second Death Star battle, the Ewok’s forest battle music, and the celebration at the end.  It’s bittersweet in some places, we find resolution in other pieces, there is fear, hope and tension woven throughout the soundtrack.  If I had to listen to one soundtrack from the Star Wars universe for the rest of my life – it would be this one.

 

I’m surprised that I picked ROTJ as my favorite of all time (for now).  I didn’t expect it when I first started out with this project.  Yet out of all the movies, it’s soundtrack has most of the compositions that I enjoy.

 

If you had to – how would you rank your favorite Star Wars soundtracks?

Haiku Me Friday! A formidable queen

Planet in distress Lovely, isolated queen So young for the role

Planet in distress
Lovely, isolated queen
So young for the role

Shout out to Queen Amidala.  I was supposed to do a Fan Art Friday with Mei-Mei and I completely dropped the ball.  First, I forgot.  Then, my daughter got very sick and all my attention was devoted on getting her well again.  So be sure to check out Mei-Mei’s coloring book post and I’ll be back with her in February for the next one.

But I wanted to give my own little homage to Queen Amidala because she is one of my favorite characters in the PT.  I like Padmé, but Queen Amidala and Qui-Gon Jinn changed my liking of Star Wars into an obsession when I was 11 years old.  Padmé and Queen Amidala are the same though, right?  Yes and no.  I don’t think the Barack Obama we see on TV is the same Barack Obama behind closed doors with his family.  Padmé from AOTC and ROTS was different than Queen Amidala as she was no longer ruling.  Though she was a senator, she was freer to be herself.

I loved Queen Amidala because she represented strength to me.  Though I am older and also see the way she got played by Palpatine, I hardly fault her for it.  Palpatine is one of the best characters in Star Wars because of how he plays everyone in the galaxy as pawn in his masterful game of chess, including Amidala.

I’m not sure I realized it at the time, but another reason why I loved her is because there was no man by her side.  The Jedi protected her, but they were not from Naboo, nor were they part of her politics.  I appreciated how she made the decision to return home to Naboo though every man advised her not to.  She appreciated the advice of counsellors, but led with her gut and made her own decision in the end.

It’s hard for me to relate to people who hate The Phantom Menace.  I understand where they are coming from as TPM is vastly different from the Original Trilogy, but by hating the movie, they miss out on some great characters, with Amidala being one of them.

But the Female Lead Theme Music…

I have a little bone to pick with John Williams.  I love him, you know I do and I’ve written posts about the PT music vs. OT music.  I think he is THE greatest composer of this day and age.  While I love Lord of the Rings and its soundtrack, I really don’t think it should have been voted by the BBC as the best soundtrack.  Though it has great themes and music, it’s a little repetitive, whereas Williams’ tracks are always original.

My bone to pick with Mr. Williams started small, but it has lately been gnawing at me a little more: the female themes in Star Wars are lacking, or worse, get forgotten.

There are so few female leads in the saga, but because of that I feel like the main three should get some stellar treatment from Williams.

  • Prequel Trilogy – Padmé Amidala Naberrie
  • Original Trilogy – Princess Leia Organa
  • Sequel Trilogy – Rey (as it stands now)

padme-amidala-coruscantWhen looking at the themes for the PT, I have to ask – what about Padmé?  Why does she not have her own theme?  Padmé is just as an important character as Anakin.  In fact, without Padmé, we would not have Darth Vader – the reason for the saga and why we’ve been following the Skywalker family.  I think John Williams could have done an amazing theme for her and I believe some of her theme, if she had one, shows up in Across the Stars.  The theme is tragic, beautiful, and dark all at the same time.

But unfortunately, and this is where my annoyance also gets stronger in the OT, Across the Stars is a blend of Anakin and Padmé, not Padmé by herself.  It pulls in hints of Anakin’s downfall, a doomed love, and Padmé’s beauty with indications of foreshadowing.

Princess Leia does have her own theme in ANH, which is a step up from Padmé and her lack thereof.  It’s a beautiful theme and really pretty – but we rarely hear it.  There is a snippet of it before she is stunned right in the beginning, but other than that, most of ANH is dominated by brass and some of the Force theme.

I look at the Force theme as Luke’s theme because, obviously, it shows up whenever he is present.  It is similar to the Imperial March being construed as Vader’s theme because it starts playing whenever he looms into the camera.  You’d think that Princess Leia’s theme would also show up when she’s on screen and into the next two films as well.

Unfortunately, Leia’s theme dissolves while the Force theme still rears its head whenever Luke is around for ESB and ROTJ.   What bothersluke-leia-han-gif me more is not the fact that her theme is no longer present – but the fact that Leia’s theme gets pulled into other themes.

Within ESB, there is “Han Solo and the Princess” and in ROTJ there is the beautiful “Luke and Leia”.  Don’t get me wrong – I love “Luke and Leia”.  It’s one of my favorite pieces of ROTJ, but that’s not the point of this post.  It’s like Leia can no longer stand on her own and she becomes interlocked with the two men in her life.  I find it a little jarring because that’s not how I view her character (thankfully) but in terms of the music, the fault lies with Williams.

I do believe that musical themes should evolve – but they should not lose their core identity.  Just like we, as people, evolve through our lives, we still have a core of ourselves that is the same.  Luke’s Force theme shows up interwoven in different pieces throughout the OT and I wish I could see the same with Leia’s.

Water under the bridge at this point.

…Or is it?  Can this pattern be changed with Episode VIII and Rey?

I may like Rey’s theme even more than Leia’s.  Of course I’m biased because my daughter’s middle name is Rey, but the spunky, light-hearted, slightly wistful theme has become part of the weekly repertoire of music I listen to.  It touches my core and brings out something inrey-star-wars me where I almost feel like her at times; an understanding for Rey even though I have no idea what her life is like.  Williams’ music has the power to do that.

Williams said that one of his main reasons for coming back to compose music for Episode VIII was because he didn’t want any other composer writing music for Rey.  I love hearing that and it gives me hope that he keeps the essence of her in the upcoming movie within the score.

My main question and fear is: as Rey evolves as a character, will Williams keep her theme at the core?  Or will he forget it entirely?  Worse, will he blend it with other men?

I never thought I’d have an issue with Williams and his music, but here it is.  I’m also curious to see if Jyn Erso has a theme and if so, what it will sound like.  Or perhaps Michael Giacchino will not have any themes since it’s a standalone film and he’ll break the cycle.

Has anyone else noticed what I wrote about? 

 

Haiku Me Friday! Padmé’s Strength

A young but strong queen A vivacious senator Doomed to love evil

A young but strong queen
A vivacious senator
Doomed to love evil

It’s a long time since I’ve talked about Padmé.  I feel she’s been slightly forgotten with the addition of TFA to the saga.  Rey has taken over as the new, evolved, wonderful main female protagonist and Leia has been thrust back into the spotlight because of TFA as well.  So Padmé has been pushed aside.

Without Padmé, we wouldn’t have Leia, Luke or Kylo Ren (I still think Rey looks so much like her that I believe she could also be a Skywalker).  I know that goes without saying, but it’s something to remember as we head into this new era of Star Wars.  I wonder if we’ll see the future directors looking back at Padmé and using some of her traits to guide Luke, Leia, and Kylo’s actions.  I feel Abrams actually did that strongly with Kylo Ren and his temper tantrums.  They were so similar to Anakin’s that I’d like to believe it was deliberate, though Abrams has been known to shun the Prequels.

Though I didn’t love Bloodline, I did love this one section where Leia referenced going back into records and finding out as much as she could about Padmé so she could understand her birth mother.

padme 3Padmé is an amazing character.  She was queen of an entire planet at 14.  SO young.  What was I doing at 14?  I was a freshman in high school.  I had my first boyfriend who was a year older than me and we talked every day on the phone (he didn’t go to my local high school).  I hung out with the punks, one guy had pink hair and one had a bright green spiked Mohawk.  I only hung out with them because they were different and I was trying to find my group…I didn’t remain friends with them as high school continued.  Needless to say, my daily stresses only included getting homework done and trying to maintain a relationship that was cute at best, it didn’t have any substance (though I can’t imagine telling my 14 year old self that…I would not have taken that well).

Padmé was ruling an entire planet, and on top of that, ruling a planet when it was in a crisis.  The Trade Federation had formed the blockade and she had to escape the planet to plead her case to the senate.  Oh, and her ship’s hyperdrive broke while escaping.  She had to make a large decision to leave the safety and security of Coruscant to return to Naboo and befriend the Gungan race whom had previously ignored each other.

When she ended her stint as queen, she gravitated towards politics and became a senator.  By the time she met Anakin again at 24, she was a full-fledged senator of Naboo, weighing in on issues that effected the entire galaxy and her planet.  When I was 24, I had been married for a year.  The biggest stress I had was making sure we made enough money to save some and also pay all our bills.  Okay, that’s a pretty big stress, but I can’t imagine also having to make and participate in decisions directly effecting Massachusetts and the United States at that age.

So how can someone so smart not see that Anakin was turning to the dark side?

I went to an all-women’s college, Mount Holyoke, and while I loved the college and would go back in a heartbeat, it was sheltered in some ways.  A lot of the women went to a same sex college with the sole purpose of devoting their time completely to their studies with no distractions from men.

I imagine Padmé’s track a little similar…she focused so much on her career and politics that she may have not been completely attuned to the Padme1romantic part of life.  She hadn’t sharpened that gut feeling of when something is not right with your partner.  Sure, she had boyfriends (actually we only know of one other boyfriend other than Anakin) but like my 14 year old relationship, they were not substantial.  Her first serious boyfriend was Anakin, whom she later married.

I think a lot of critics and fan dismiss Padmé because she died of a broken heart.  But by doing that, you negate her amazing life and intelligence prior to her death.  I believe Padmé could have been smarter than Leia and Rey, though they are both quite intelligent.  But when it comes to book smarts, Padmé and Leia were probably on the same page, with Padmé inches ahead of her.

I hope that we see some homage to her in the upcoming movies because she is quite a woman and quite a character.