Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Yard Padawan, anyone?

A couple of items to go along with my Star Wars movie review below...

Apparently, young 'uns become Jedi Knights in a sort of union contract deal where they learn from an elder Jedi. There is a Master, and an apprentice, or "Padawan." ("Well, ya see son, first yoose join the Jedi Local 108 an' start out as a Padawan. Then you do shit work fer a couple o' years, like cleanin' 'droids and emptin' Yoda's spit bucket. Den, after yoose show you can do a good job killin' clone warriors -- NEVER ON HOLIDAYS EXCEPTIN' YOU GET TIME-AND-A-HALF NOW! -- then yoose become a Jedi Master.")

Well folks, I would be happy to be someone's "Yard Padawan." Being a relatively new homeowner, I now have a yard. And I have NO IDEA what's weeds and what ain't. Oh sure, the roses I can tell what they are. But the rest of the plants growing in front of our house that have been planted by previous owners? What the hell IS all that stuff?

I need a Yard Master who will say: "Young Padawan, why are you letting this scheiss-grass and ugly-weed grow amongst the roses and flowering sage? Focus, my young your feelings and you will know which big, healthy green growing things are actually plants from...THE DARK SIDE!"

Yeah, okay, I guess I could get a book or something.

And finally...

"The dark side is a pathway to hedgehog slaughtering abilities that many believe to be...unnatural."

Surely, you can't be sidious!

I AM sidious, and don't call me Shirley!

Okay, now that that's out of the way, I can proceed with my review of "Star Wars III: Revenge of the Shit." Oh. Did I give away my feelings already?

Actually, I agree with most of the critiques I've read. This one is the best of the prequels (which of course is not saying a whole helluva lot). The marriage of CGI and live action is practically seamless. That said, does anyone else think that CGI just isn't good enough yet? I still think that "Blade Runner" (to which Lucas does a nice "fire plumes over the city" homage in SWIII) and the dragon in "Dragonslayer" beat any CGI creations hands down. Models for some reason just seem to have more depth. But that may just be me -- "Back in my day, they didn't have any fancy digital sampling ProTools whatsits! There was just a guitar, a bass, some drums and a microphone, with Pete Townsend, John Entwistle, Keith Moon and Roger Daltrey. Beat THAT you button-poking tweak-monkeys!"

But I digress. The film is the best looking of the lot and moves briskly (thank Christ). For some reason, technology now seems to have allowed Lucas to stage light saber duels at close range (with just the top half of the actors filling the screen, rather than the less effective full body shots of the past) which, when combined with Lucas' always astounding sound design, creates a far more inclusive experience for the viewer. However, Lucas still has a shocking disregard for little things like dialogue and getting good performances from actors. I haven't seen Hayden Christensen or Natalie Portman in anything else (Christensen was supposed to be pretty good in "Shattered Glass," and Portman decent in "Closer") but from what I've seen in the SW prequels, neither actor will make anyone forget Olivier or Streep anytime soon. Not that they've much to work with; the dialogue they're given to symbolize their love amounts to "I love you." "I love you more." "No, I love YOU more." If you haven't seen the movie yet, take that opportunity for a pee break...the film is over 2.5 hours long, and you don't want to miss the last third, which is a pip. The rest of the cast fares better. Mostly. Ewan McGregor manages not to embarrass himself, even though the fact that his hair was always perfect even after plunging off cliffs and engaging in hand-to-hand combat over molten lava flows bothered the SHIT out of me -- what, is perfect hair some kind of side benefit of the Force? Ian McDiarmid also has some great moments as Darth Sidious. However, he degenerates into such gleeful cackling towards the end that, if he'd had a mustache, he'd have been twirling the sucker. Again, George, are you actually WATCHING what your actors are doing, or are you only paying attention to whether or not they've hit their marks so that the CGI compositions look right?

In short, I can recommend the flick (it MUST be seen on a big screen with big sound) but wait 'til the matinee. If you're lucky, you can do what I did and show up on Free Popcorn Day, which was Tuesday. I guess the Force was with me!

PS -- If you want your villain to have serious dramatic heft, DON'T have him star in Burger King commercials.

PPS -- Does anyone else think that -- in the commercial where Darth Vader comes face-to-face with the new life-size plastic Burger King spokes-golem -- the BK guy is WAAAAAAAY more scary than Darth Vader?

Monday, May 09, 2005

Crazy 4 Luv

Okay, I'll be the first to admit that I'm sometimes a bit impetuous. I chalk this up to my alter-ego, "Smoky." Smoky is the kind of guy who, after a couple of beers says, "Hey! You know what would be a good idea? Let's fly to Vegas! Better yet, let's buy tickets for some friends and we'll all go fly stand-by! It won't seem to take very long if we never sober up!"

Occasionally, however, Smoky has a good idea. Take, for example, the fact that I flew this last weekend to Heidelberg to visit my wife. Total time away from home: 72 hours. Total time in transit: 28 hours. Total time spent with Argotnaut: priceless.

Granted, I didn't just go fly stand-by. I was able to get an extraordinary deal from, which made the trip fiscally possible. Then I had to take Buddy to the Howliday Inn Doggie Day Care center here in Portland (which is really wonderful and with which Buddy is already familiar) so the little dog had a good place to crash for three days. And then I negotiated with a neighbor, Greg, to look in on the kitties while I was away. Actually, no negotiation was necessary, as he was happy to do it -- plus he was rewarded with a big bottle of pilsner beer, some cognac-filled chocolates direct from Deutschland and, of course, the company of our very entertaining pussycats.

I didn't mention the trip in this space before now because I didn't want to advertise on the web when I'd be away from home. Call me paranoid. Go ahead. Everybody does.

So for those of you who bugged me for an update, well, first things first -- I was pretty busy getting everything in order for the trip. I won't provide particulars of the visit itself because this is a family site and if I went into detail then I'd have to charge folks to view its content. HOWEVER. I can say that Argotnaut and I enjoyed a lovely romantic weekend, including dinner at a wonderful Italian restaurant across a cobblestone street from a church that looks like this:

One would think I'd be pretty exhausted by the time I dragged my sorry ass on the plane for the trip home. One would be correct. But I was feeling better than the young man sitting in the row in front of me. He was illin' and covered himself with a Lufthansa blanket as if sealing himself in a body bag. He looked like this:

Buddy, of course, was gratifyingly happy to see his daddy and ran around the perimeter of Howliday Inn's office area for five minutes after I got there, tossing his stuffed hedgehog toy in the air the whole time. After he got home, he looked like this:

However, the cats remained in an enviable state of grace, serene upon their pedestals like Egyptian monuments guarding the tombs of kings...or in this case, guarding the counter by the stove where I open their cat food cans.

Without a doubt, the trip was worth the trouble. But I'll tell you one thing. I'm never spending this much time away from my wife again. As a matter of fact, I think I'll visit again right now...