Haiku Me Friday! A pivotal scene and the need to control

The hatred flows through
They took her away from us
My anguish blinds me

As much as I have trouble enjoying Attack of the Clones and finding moments to like about it, I do enjoy the part when Anakin goes in search of her mother, kills the Sand People and cries about it to Padmé.

It’s this tense chase we are on with him and I think Lucas does a great job of NOT showing us Anakin killing the sandpeople. As an audience, we are put in suspense until he reveals to Padmé that he did, in fact, kill them all. To make matters hit home, the fact that Anakin killed both the women and children as well was deftly played by Lucas.

I think it was hard to feel sorry for the Sand People and hard to connect with them as a species. We never see them doing anything interesting; much less have feelings towards them one way or another. For the most part, the Sand People were annoying to me. They always showed up at an inconvenient moment as a plot point to spur the movie along. In fact, they are kind of like savage animals.

Yet, by having Anakin kill the entire village of sandpeople, and confess to doing the unthinkable by killing the women and children, we now feel pity.

Who kills women and children?

Even in war, it’s deplorable, almost everyone can agree to that. It’s part of what makes the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki so heart wrenching. There were thousands of innocent people living in those cities. On top of being innocent people, there were women and children – the future.

By killing the Sand People’s women and children, Anakin is preventing further life, preventing the future. And with that, George Lucas spins how we feel about the Sand People. Anakin says “They are like animals. And I slaughtered them like animals. I hate them!” Yet, now we feel pity and sadness, which brings the Sand People to a human status.

We also feel foreboding towards Anakin’s actions. This anger and rage comes from his feeling of powerlessness. He wants to control everything around him, including death. How can you control death? It is the one certainty in life – that everyone dies. Yet Anakin does not want to accept that.

If you watch Padmé’s face during this scene, you can see that she has fear. What has happened to Anakin? Who kills women and children? Why can’t he understand that it was out of his control and that Shmi’s death was not his fault?

Shmi’s death is a turning point in Anakin. He always feared loss, even in TPM when Yoda points it out to him. When Shmi dies, and then he has dreams about Padmé’s death in ROTS, it spurs him to use his hate and anger to try and channel it into what he thinks is something good.

Shmi’s death and this scene is so important to the entire saga. I often overlook it due to my frustration with AOTC but it shapes Anakin as a character and is a pivotal step for the Skywalker story.

I, too, can be a control freak. I like everything to be just right and when something disrupts my schedule or plans, I don’t deal with it well. I think most of the arguments I have with my husband come from when I have something in my mind of how it should go, and he has something different, and I have a hard time being flexible.

In some ways, it’s a good thing. My control helps me be extremely organized which helps me run my business, keep my daughter at home most of the time, and be a wife.

Yet the need for constant control seeps into a lot of our daily lives. I believe the need for control does stem from fear. Fear of losing control, but a deeper level, fear of not looking like I have it “all together” or that I’m easily handling everything. It’s a fear of loss, though different from Anakin’s. It’s a fear of losing face, in some ways. I think having a child has made it better (they really are unpredictable!) but now I have new aspects to try and control which raises stress levels.

 

Do you or do you know anyone who are controlling? Who has fears that drives them to dangerous points like Anakin? Or, honestly, do you have any advice for me or others similar to myself?

So Love Has Blinded You?

Over the past week I have come to the realization that if I connect with a character in a deep and meaningful way in a Star Wars movie, I become blind to almost all the other flaws within the movie.

I came to this realization primarily with two movies of the Saga:

  1. The Phantom Menace
  2. The Force Awakens

 

The Phantom Menace

 

With the Phantom Menace, my obsession is with Qui-Gon Jinn. Qui-Gon opened up a world to me that didn’t exist prior to the Prequels, and more specifically, the world of the Jedi as a functioning unit/organization.

I loved it. But it was peculiar because I loved Qui-Gon and didn’t care about any of the other Jedi on the Council or within the movie. Obi-Wan generated a shrug and “whatever” attitude from me, but I was obsessed with Qui-Gon.

I think the reason is two-fold: 1) Qui-Gon is a Jedi so therefore he follows some kind of moral compass , but 2) he is not on the council because he does not completely follow the Code and that is deliberate because he marches to the beat of his own drum.

I adored everything Qui-Gon said and did in The Phantom Menace…and I still do. I don’t understand why people dislike TPM because I’m blinded by the fact that Qui-Gon is in the movie and takes the movie to the next level.

There are flaws in TPM though, just like any other movie but there are glaring issues. I never realized this until this weekend when I saw that I have the same predicament with The Force Awakens.

Here are what I believe are the main issues with TPM. Correct me if I’m wrong, I’m only just coming to these realizations this weekend when I tried to take an objective look at the movie.

  1. The characters. If you’re a fan who grew up with the OT, the characters of TPM seem stale, lacking in warmth and connection, and they are not relatable. Whereas with the OT, we can kind of see ourselves in each of the three heroes shoes, with the PT, unless perhaps you followed a political career path, the characters seem less at ease and more distant. And don’t get people started on Jar Jar Binks (though I don’t really mind him but can understand why some people do).
  2. The politics. I have noticed this one before and have written about it. The movie is bogged down in politics to the point that it may become suffocating for some people. There is no simple (or even really linear) plot as everything is shrouded under Trade Federations, senate issues, etc.
  3. Droids. The droids were not as menacing as they should have been. The Destroyers did the job well but the Battle Droids came off comical. Where’s the fear that people had of the Empire? It’s not there in TPM, in fact, other than Darth Maul, there’s no real fear of the Trade Federation.
  4. No greater cause. With the OT, it felt like they Rebels were fighting for something real and a greater cause for the galaxy. In TPM, that essence is missing. There’s no overarching big bad guy to fight.

 

I’m only trying to play devil’s advocate here as many of you know how much I love TPM. It was the first Star Wars movie I saw in theaters and I thought it was amazing. I love that the main character is a child and there are numerous GOOD things about the movie.

But, I also came to realize that when digging deep on why I like TPM it all comes back to Qui-Gon. I blabber on about the Old Republic and the Jedi, but at my core, it’s all about Qui-Gon. He has blinded me to faults within TPM.

 

The Force Awakens

 

I had a very interesting Twitter discussion this weekend with other Star Wars fans. I learned that most hardcore fans are NOT looking forward to the Han Solo movie (this was also slightly confirmed in blog comments from last Friday). On top of that, what I thought was a minority of fans dissatisfied with Disney and the new movies, it’s actually a lot larger and the frustration runs a lot deeper than I had originally assumed.

I know there are people who did not enjoy The Force Awakens and as I was (am) a lot older when I saw TFA vs. TPM, I’m more aware of the issues in present time, instead of finding out years later.

However, I have a similar issue with TFA that I did with TPM: I love Rey. I love her more than I love Qui-Gon. She’s a female character who is relatable, but she can also fight and use the Force. She is strong without falling into a stereotype of a bland, physically strong female protagonist who has no emotion. I loved the character so much that I named my daughter with Rey as her middle name.

People bring to my attention all kinds of flaws with TFA and I have been able to argue or rationalize all the problems. I try to convince people that the movie is actually quite good and they are being bullheaded. But is the movie good? Or is my love for Rey blinding my love for the movie?

Tweeting this weekend with other fans made me take a step back and realize that TFA has some pretty major flaws.

  1. Too similar to A New Hope. This is obvious and even I couldn’t deny this one. The movie practically copies ANH in every way possible, to the point that even my beloved main character comes from a desert planet. Really? Starkiller Base is a bigger, badder Death Star…that gets blown up by the Resistance. Resistance sounds too similar to Rebellion. At least the Empire got a makeover in their name.
  2. Our 3 main heroes never get screen time. If you are going to go to such lengths to copy ANH and pay homage to the movie, why didn’t you give our 3 heroes some screen time together? If everyone survived, we could have maybe hoped for a reunion further down but that has been revoked with Solo’s death and the real death of Carrie Fisher.
  3. Politics…or lack thereof. Whereas TPM delved into politics TOO much, TFA goes in the extreme opposite direction where we have no understanding of the current political climate. At least within ANH we had some mumbles about the Imperial Senate and we understood Empire vs. Rebellion. In TFA there was Republic, a Resistance, and a First Order…but the First Order sounds kind of small? Or is it large? And is the First Order now the opposition group, like the Rebellion was?
  4. Too much convenience. Rey learns to use the Force very quickly. Artoo wakes up at the most convenient time. Luke/Anakin’s lightsaber magically appears at the right moment with no explanation of where it came from. There’s a certain amount of suspension of disbelief that you can accept when you see a movie, especially one in the sci-fi category, but TFA leaped and jumped over that line. Perhaps we will get all the explanations later, but if not, this is a glaring problem.

 

I have stood up to people’s complaints about TFA just as I did with TPM, but this weekend, I had to admit and accept that both movies have a lot of flaws. Would I love TPM or TFA as much if Qui-Gon and Rey were not in them? That’s where I bite my lip and think…no, probably not.

Qui-Gon was not in Attack of the Clones or Revenge of the Sith and I do not enjoy the movies as much as I enjoy TPM. I actually reallllly don’t like AOTC and I enjoy ROTS but it’s not something I usually pull out to watch at odd times like I do with TPM.

With the future Sequel Movies, I get nervous that they won’t capture Rey’s essence as well as they did in TFA. I worry that there will be no character development or that she will become the Hollywood stereotype of a “strong female character” instead of, well, just, Rey. At least there is hope for The Last Jedi and Episode IX, whereas the Prequels are over and done with.

 

Tell me – have you ever loved a character (any movie, doesn’t have to be Star Wars) so much that it’s blinded you to shortcomings in the movie?

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.