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! Fields of beauty

She smiles at me The green, the warmth, and her face… Stop me where I am

She smiles at me
The green, the warmth, and her face…
Stop me where I am

Guys, I don’t know what’s wrong with me but I think I’m on some kind of weird AOTC + first person haiku kick.

Whatever problems I have with Attack of the Clones, I think that Naboo retreat scenes are beautiful.  The acting in the picnic scene was terrible but it had a lot of great insight into how radically different Anakin and Padmé’s views on politics were.  Anakin already favored the dictatorial stance and Padmé rooted for democracy and hearing out the people.  But they were too in love to see it.  Or perhaps, Padmé shied away from seeing what she probably knew deep down as Anakin laughed it off.  Anakin was in the flirtatious mode of trying to impress Padmé, so when he realized she strongly disagreed with his feelings, he tried to act like it was a joke.  He was smitten and who can blame him?  I would also be smitten with those surroundings.

What I also love about these scenes is not just the extra insight it gives into their opposing political viewpoints, but that George Lucas was, inanakin-padme-naboo-fireplace a way, giving us an old fashioned courting period between Anakin and Padmé.  You could argue that the whole movie was a courtship, but I believe these scenes were a chance for the characters to slow down and have fun.  The script writing and acting (mostly on Christensen’s part) was pretty bad so it wasn’t entirely believable, but if we take a step back and look at it as a whole – I appreciate the effort that Lucas put into these scenes.  It’s easy to brush them aside because on the surface it does not look like it moves the plot forward too much.  But the movement of the plot here is more subtle…it’s a wrestling between what they want and what they’ve been told cannot be.  The quote on the way to Naboo is setting the scene for tumultuous emotions between the two characters that happens as soon as they land:

Attachment is forbidden. Possession is forbidden. Compassion, which I would define as unconditional love, is essential to a Jedi’s life. So you might say, that we are encouraged to love.

We have these stunning beautiful scenes that are juxtaposed against their inner turmoil that culminates in the fireplace scene at night, where defenses are most low.  There you see their true feelings come to light, when Padmé’s clothing reflects her feelings.

So while I may not like AOTC that much, there is so much to be taken from these Naboo scenes.  More than I sometimes like to give Lucas credit for.

Haiku Me Friday! The Outlander Club

The smoke fills my lungs Creatures of all kinds and shapes What? A lightsaber?

The smoke fills my lungs
Creatures of all kinds and shapes
What? A lightsaber?

I did a little twist this week and tried to imagine what it would be like to be a patron at the Outlander Club when Obi-Wan and Anakin show up chasing Zam Wesell.

I love this scene in Attack of the Clones (yes, I just admitted to loving something in AOTC).  It’s one of the few times we get to see the seedy underground of Coruscant and what everyday beings do when it’s time to unwind.  Apparently, just like on Earth, people like to go out and have a drink, possibly gamble, and watch sports.

In this scene, two Jedi show up which must have been unusual.  I feel like Jedi could have been a little like police – when they show up in their Jedi outfit, you know something is about to go down.  I wonder if the reaction to the Jedi was similar to the reaction people had to Stormtroopers 15 years later, but not *as* harsh, since there was a chance you could live when you encountered a Jedi.

I purposefully ended my haiku where I did because I have not yet been able to figure out if Anakin used a mind trick on the patrons of Outlander Club to make them forget their encounter with Zam or if it was an honest statement that it was “Jedi business”.  It’s not like I stay awake at night thinking about this, but I have always wondered (I bet the novelization would give me more insight).  So for the haiku, I had that be the last quick thought before they either go about their business and don’t care, or if they forget because Anakin used a mind trick.

Can you imagine living in a world where this is kind of normal though?  Injuring/killing people like it’s no biggie?  I remember telling my dad that I loved how Han Solo was able to kill someone, flip some extra money to the bartender, and go about like nothing happened.  I’m not sure why I found that cool, because honestly, I wouldn’t really want that to happen in my everyday life, but when I was younger – it was the bees knees!  Now I see it for what it is – a nod-of-the-head to the old Western movies where similar scenes often happened in Saloons.

I’ve said this over and over again on this blog but – I really hope in future movies to see more of the seedy, other side of the Star Wars universe.  We definitely got to see some with Cassian in Rogue One but it still was part of a bigger picture with a fight of Rebellion vs. Empire.  More individual, interesting stories of average folks that make the universe seem as large as it should be would be a good step for Disney to take.

 

Do you guys have any thoughts on the Outlander Club?  Or seeing something different in Star Wars?  Would you want to see stories that step away from main characters, Jedi, Rebellion, and the Empire? 

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?