Switching to a new host; dy will be down for a bit this evening.
Update: Well that certainly didn’t work. Maybe I’ll try again on the weekend. On the up side, while my email address was pointing to The Void I saw a significant decrease in spam.
We’re having one of our rare bouts of sunny weather here in Seattle, and man am I exhausted. I must suffer from some kind of reverse photosynthesis. It’s, like, the more direct sunlight I receive, the less energy I have.
Maybe it’s an adaptation, having been raised in the perpetually overcast Pacific Northwest. Maybe our bodies are trained to think that there is only one explanation for a bright light in the heavens: God has come to take us home. So just lay down, lay down and sleep.
The general consensus is that Attack of the Clones, while not great, is much better than The Phantom Menace, though I’ve heard a few people express the opposite opinion. I think it basically comes down to one question: what do you find more excruciatingly unwatchable, Jar-Jar’s slapstick or the Anakin / Amidala romance?
Me, I found the latter much more forgivable, thanks to something a reviewer once wrote about Titanic: while he conceded that the romantic dialogue in Titanic was atrocious, he pointed out that it was also a fairly accurate depiction of how young people in love actually talk, i.e., maudlin, dramatic, and as cliched as all get-out. I don’t think for a moment that Lucas wrote lines like “you are in my very soul, tormenting me” because he was trying to emulate what 16 year-olds say when they are trying to convey the sentiment “holy shit, being a virgin sucks!” but if you pretend like that was Lucas’ intent the film is much more bearable.
That said, skipping all the love scenes detracts not at all from the movie — we didn’t need to see the nitty-gritty of Han and Leia falling in love to know it was happening — so feel free to do so.
Here, then, is the cheat-sheet for fast-forwarding through Attack of the Clones. As with the previous guide, this is intended for folks who have already seen the film and are only interested in refreshing their memories about the plot in anticipation of Revenge of the Sith. Again, my goal was to get the film down to about 90 minutes and to axe anything that wasn’t integral to the story. I’ve also included tips on removing much of the love story, for those who can’t abide it.
|Start FF time||End FF time||Elapsed Time||What you’re missing||Why you might want to watch it|
|14:25||24:46||10:21||Following the formula that worked oh so well in Phantom Menace, Lucas grinds his film to a halt 15 minutes in for an interminable sequence that does absolutely nothing to advance the plot. This time we have Obi Wan and Anakin racing around in a jetcar as they chase down the assassin who attempted to kill Amidala, confronting the assassin in a bar, and then dragging the out to a back alley, only to see her killed by a dart from the gun of Jango Fett before she can reveal any useful information.||The bar scene is marginally interesting so you could stop fast-forwarding at 21:46, but I suggest you just lose the assassin entirely, since she in completely unnecessary. Just imagine that Jango himself was the one who tried to kill Amidala and Obi Wan found the dart on the scene.|
|34:50||36:03||1:13||Love scene: The first of many.||Anakin gives a little background on the Jedi and mentions that they discourage “attachments” (i.e., “nookie”).|
|44:00||45:48||1:48||Love scene: Good gravy, this one is really dreadful. AVOID.||To see Anakin and Amidala first kiss.|
|47:47||50:17||2:30||Love scene: Anakin and Amidala talk politics||The scene contains this exchange which is actually kinda important:
Amidala: The trouble is that people don’t always agree
Anakin: But then they should be made to.
Amidala: Sounds an awful lot like a dictatorship to me.
Anakin: Well? If it works …
|53:00||56:41||3:41||Love scene: Anakin and Amidala discuss the assorted reasons why their relationship is forbidden.||If you’ve ever wondered what Romeo and Juliet would have sounded like had it had been written by a 12 year-old girl.|
|1:37:17||1:42:38||5:21||Anaki and Amidala wander into a droid factory; the subsequent scenes are as exhilarating as sitting on your couch and watching your roommate play Tomb Raider. This whole sequence looks so much like a video game that I expected the Master Control Program to be awaiting them at the end. Skipping this scene is also essential if you want to avoid entry #3 in the litany of Wrongheaded Star Wars Revisionism; namely R2-D2 CAN FLY WTF DON’T YOU THINK THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN USEFUL IN EPISODES 4-6??!!||There’s no good reason for this scene, and it doesn’t even make sense according to the movie’s own (tenuous) internal logic. All you need to know is that Amidala and Anakin are captured by Dooku’s forces.|
|1:42:38||1:49:32||6:54||Dooku tosses Anakin and Amidala into a arena along with the previously captured Obi Wan, and the three have to fight off a multitude of crappily-rendered CGI beasties.||Astute readers will notice that the start time for this segment is the same as the end time for the last. Why didn’t I just lump them together into one fast-forward, then? Because you need to see the conclusion to the arena battle — my recommended fast-forward ends as the heroes are surrounded by battle droids — so you may just want to watch the whole thing. But I still advise against it.|
|2:15:47||2:22:20||7:07||End Credits||You want to check for the thirtieth time to see if that’s really Samuel L. Jackson in the role of Mace Windu, so you can marvel at Lucus’ uncanny ability to coax subpar performances out of even great actors (see also: Natalie Portman).|
Total time saved: 41:21
Analysis: I so loathed Phantom Menace that I swore I wouldn’t see Clones in the theater, but when my in-laws hornswoggled me into going I was surprised by how much I liked it. It’s mediocre to be sure, but mediocre is still one infinity better than Episode I (though I realize that “better than The Phantom Menace” is damning with the faintest of praise, like saying “more delicious than echinacea!”). Watching it again on DVD gave me a glimmer of hope that Revenge of the Sith may be as good as some are claiming.
Some have claimed that the
But the big big problem with this whole trilogy is that I don’t give a rat’s ass about any of the protagonists. The Jedi — Obi Wan, Qui-Gon, Yoda — are too noble to be endearing; Anakin is a rageaholic jerk; Amidala isn’t even much of a character, just the obligatory catalyst for Anakin’s lovelorn dramatics. Furthermore, these first two movies aren’t even about these people — they are about Darth Sidious and his subtle machinations to seize power. This is in sharp contrast to episodes 4-6, which really were about the heroes: Luke, Han, Leia — even Chewbacca felt like your buddy by the end of it all. I wouldn’t want to go for beers and pinball with anyone in Phantom or Clones, except for Anakin’s mom who was kinda hot until the Tusken Raiders got to her.
Lastly, I’d just like to say that Ewan McGregor’s impersonation of Sir Alec Guinness is just shy of miraculous, and almost makes up for the fact that all the other acting sucks.
Plot Points For The People Too Smart To Rewatch This: Again, a complete summary of the film can be found at sf-worlds.com. But for those who just want the highlights:
Random Revelation: Hmm, an angst-ridden young man learning to cope with his extraordinary powers and being tempted by the Dark Side? The novelization of this movie should be called Harry Potter And The Order of the Jedi.
The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D: “There’s sad news to report about The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D: Put on the cardboard glasses, and you can still see the movie.” — Make Clark, USA TODAY
High Tension: “An inept Gallic version of an American psycho-killer/stalker movie, the movie is a model of multinational incompetence.” — Michael Sragow, BALTIMORE SUN
The Perfect Man: “Crawls hand over bloody hand up the stony face of this plot, while we in the audience do not laugh because it is not nice to laugh at those less fortunate than ourselves, and the people in this movie are less fortunate than the people in just about any other movie I can think of, simply because they are in it. ” — Roger Ebert, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES
Ice Princess: “This movie wasn’t just made for 11-year-old girls; it seems to have been made by 11-year-old girls. ” — Kyle Smith, NEW YORK POST
The Bridge Of San-Luis Rey: “After watching this movie, I was moved only to find my own bridge to leap from.” — Desson Thomson, WASHINGTON POST
Bush plays the Nazi card, June 28, 2004.
Senator Byrd Compares Republicans To Nazis, March 02, 2005
GOP Senator Compares Democrats To Nazis, May 19, 2005
Senator Durbin Likens American Servicemen To Nazis, June 15, 2005
Hey, you know what these teapot-contained tempests have in common? In none of them did the person who allegedly compared X to Nazis actually compare X to Nazis. But apparently “Nazi” has joined the rarified ranks of Words That Are So Bad That Just The Sound Of Them Is Offensive Regardless Of Context.
It’s convenient that you no longer have to go through the trouble of actually calling someone a Nazi anymore. All you have to do is say the word “Nazi” and then, sometime in the subsequent 24 hours, mention a person or group of people, and then OMG ARE YOU CALLING ME HITLER??!! Hooray for modern political discourse!
Joseph Biden, D-DE: Some Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee requested more American warships for the Persian Sea and Oman Sea, so I reminded them that those bodies of water are technically ‘gulfs’ and not ‘seas.'”
XXXXX DRUDGE REPORT FLASH XXXXX
SEN. BIDEN CALLS REPUBLICANS, SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE, AMERICANS “NAZIS”
“I heart terrorism,” we can only assume Biden then muttered under his breath.
BIDEN REFUSES TO APOLOGIZE THAT MEANS HE’S GUILTY P.S. DEAN FULL OF RAGE AND CRAZY DEVELOPING …
Or who knows? Maybe it’s one of those words that’s only offensive when outsiders say it, but okay when used amongst people of the same group. I can see John McCain strutting into a Republican fundraiser and being all, like, “yo, what up my nazis?”
This may be the last post ever on defective yeti, as I started this blog with one main objective and that objective has now been fulfilled.
Yes, O envious Internet: I met Mighty Girl.
Long-time readers know that I have based my entire on-line literary career on Margaret Mason’s model: Mighty Girl started a blog devoted to conversations overheard on public transportation, so I started a blog devoted to conversations overheard on public transportation; Mighty Girl became a contributing writer for The Morning News, so I became a contributing writer for The Morning News; Mighty Girl launched a profitable website called Mighty Goods and started writing for The New York Times, so I often daydream about launching a profitable website and writing for The New York Times while squandering my life away playing Kingdom of Loathing. Fortunately, I hold an edge on Mighty Girl in one key category: production of small people. So when Mr. and Mr. Girl rolled into town last Wednesday, they requested an audience with The Squirrelly. It took some wheedling, but eventually they said I could come along as well.
We agreed to meet for lunch. The Squirrelly, perhaps sensing the momentousness of the occasion, spent all morning preparing. First, he woke up an hour earlier than he usually does. I realize that the non-parents in the crowd don’t recognize this as Ominous Foreshadowing, but when you’re going to take a toddler out in public around his usual naptime, any change in regular sleep patterns is as foreboding as a shark filled with nitroglycerin. Worse, The Squirrelly has music class on Wednesday mornings, which is applesauce’s only serious rival for the title of “Best Thing In The Universe” in his opinion. During music class the two teachers play guitar and sing while the babies and their parents sit quietly and listen enraptured — all the babies, that is, except The Squirrelly, who spends the hour racing around the room like an balloon released before it’s tied closed.
So by our prearranged meeting time The Squirrelly was both sleepy and tired. He had, in fact, fallen asleep in his carseat moments before we arrived at the hotel. Unfortunately I had arranged to meet them inside the lobby, so I had no choice but to wake him up and carry him in. So Margaret and Bryan’s first look at my child was as he was curled up on my chest, blinking sleepily and completely docile. I should have been wearing a t-shirt reading “WARNING: TODDLERS ON SHOULDER ARE CRANKIER THAN THEY APPEAR.”
We headed down to The Bell Street Diner, got a table, and strapped The Squirrelly into a high chair. He immediately set about demonstrating the suitability of his nickname, squirming about with such velocity that I was afraid he might pull a Flash and vibrate himself into another dimension. In an attempt to calm him down, I pulled out his bowl of food and set in front of him. He immediately began grabbing handfuls of avocado and cramming it into his maw. Remembering that I was sitting across from a woman who writes columns on etiquette, I said, “uh, we read that it’s empowering to allow toddlers to feed themselves like that, using their hands,” i.e., his complete lack of decorum is the result of a deliberate philosophy, and not because he is being raised by a race of subterranean lizardmen who live in our crawlspace.
Fortunately, I had an unexpected ally in Bryan. “Wow, lookit him go!” he cried with genuine enthusiasm. “He’s just shovelling it on in there!”
I spent the rest of the meal dividing my attention between my guests and my son, the former of which was politely asking me questions about my life and family, the latter of which grabbed everything within reaching distance and dropped it on the floor like he had been deputized to enforce the law of gravity. As a result, I have pretty much no recollection of our conversation. I do remember, though, that at one point The Squirrelly got so fussy that Margaret scooped him up and carried him around the restaurant, pointing out things and speaking to him quietly. Act like a savage and you get cuddles from Mighty Girl: take note, people.
(If “Touched By An Angel” has a spin-off show called “Cuddled By A Mighty Girl” I would totally watch it.)
All-in-all a complete debacle, I’d say! So we tried again later that evening, this time removing The Squirrelly from the equation and replacing him with The Queen and copious amounts of alcohol. We met at Cyclops for cocktails, and then moved on to the Dahlia Lounge for after-cocktails cocktails and six dollar doughnuts.
And I’m happy to report that Mighty Girl is every bit as charming as you’d expect, one of those rare Internet personalities that turns out to be as engaging in real life as they are on their site. And whatta great guy, that Bryan. If airplanes ran on charisma these two could fly around the world.
Naturally I have no photographic evidence of any of this, because I am a very poor blogger. But it all happened, I swear.
P.S. Seattlites will be pleased to know that I did my level best to convince the duo to move to our fine city. I think we have a shot, too — so long as they never do the math and realize that Seattle will one day be home to a teenaged Squirrelly, roaming the streets.
P.P.S. Those six dollar doughnuts at the Dahlia Lounge were freakin’ awesome.
Gringos is a novel. It is by Charles Portis who lives in Arkansas, where he was born and educated. Thr book is about brightly painted walls and men in hats reading books. Just regular men wearing hats, not the 80’s pop group “Men In Hats.” If I had to describe Charles Portis I would agree with Ron Rosenbaum of Esquire who called him “perhaps the most original, indescribable sui generis talent overlooked by literary culture in America.” Though, to be honest, I have no idea what “sui generis” means …
Okay, okay. I didn’t finish Gringos like I said I would. but that’s okay, because you didn’t either. So everyone gets another week before the review — huzzah!
No, I haven’t seen Revenge Of The Sith yet. Stop asking.
I had never intended to see it soon after it’s opening, although I have resigned myself to the inevitability of seeing it in the theater eventually. Actually, I was kind of excited about it for a little while, but my enthusiasm seems to have peaked about a week ago, and my interest in the film has been dwindling ever since.
So in an effort to rekindle the Star Wars flame — or possibly snuff it out entirely — I decided to rewatch The Phantom Menace. I wanted to reacquaint myself with the story, and this seemed the best way to do it — even though, truth be told, I was dreading the screening. I’d seen The Phantom Menace twice before, and pretty much hated it both times.
What I really wanted was an abridged version of the film, with just the plot and the cool scenes but none of the crap. Such a version is rumored to exist in the form of The Phantom Edit, but I had no idea how to secure a copy. The next best thing would have been a knowledgeable friend sitting next to me as I watched the DVD, telling me what stuff I should fast-forward through.
Well, I’m that knowledeable friend now. If you foolishly decide to watch The Phantom Menace yourself, here’s all the skippable stuff.
I started compiling these fast-forwards with two objectives: to get the film under 90 minutes, and to eliminate as much Jar-Jar Binks as possible; halfway through the film I spontaneously added a third: to omit all the midichlorian flummery. (This might be a bad idea — it’s possible they play a role in Revenge of the Sith, though I’m guessing that, like Jar-Jar, Lucas is going to pretend like he’d never introduced them.)
|Start FF time||End FF time||Elapsed Time||What you’re missing||Why you might want to watch it|
|10:55||18:40||7:45||Qui-Gon and Obi Wan flee Trade Federation ship and literally run into Jar-Jar; he takes them to the Gungan city, where they are given a ship to travel through the planet’s core to reach the main Naboo city. Many gratuitous special effects and much Jar-Jar bufoonery ensues.||If you can’t remember the exact moment in The Phantom Menace when you realized the movie was going to suck Tauntaun balls, you could remind yourself by watching this eight-minute scene, jam-packed with Jar-Jar and jar-jarringly bad dialog.|
|19:19||20:39||1:20||Underwater voyage concluded; Qui-Gon, Obi Wan and Jar-Jar arrive at Naboo city||If you watched the previous sequence and really, really liked that part where the giant marine monster attacked their ship, only to then be eaten by an even larger creature, you could watch this segment and see that exact scene a second time.|
|28:53||29:30||0:37||Padme meets Jar-Jar; Jar-Jar recaps the last 15 minutes of the movie in unintelligible gibberish||None. Seriously, this scene serves no function whatsoever.|
|30:13||31:38||1:25||Padme, Qui-Gon and Jar-Jar walk into a Tatooine town. Padme insists on accompanying them. Once in town, the look for somewhere to buy parts for their broken spaceships||Qui-Gon gives little background on Tatooine, but doesn’t say anything you didn’t know from A New Hope. The presence of Jar-Jar (stepping in dewback droppings no less — hah hah!) negates the usefulness of the exposition.|
|35:16||37:10||1:54||Jar-Jar’s slapstick in a Tatooine market gets him in trouble; Anakin intercedes on his behalf.||This is arguably the most important scene in the entire film, as it’s when Anakin meets his first Jedi in the form of Qui-Gon. Padme and Jar-Jar met Anakin in an earlier scene, though, so all you need to know is that Anakin recognizes the Gungan and joins the party as they wander around the market.|
|47:13||51:08||3:55||Oh man, there’s a lot of bad stuff in just four minutes. First: Anakin has no father, and was the product of immaculate conception: WHAT. THE. FUCK. LUCAS????!!!!! Then we get Anakin working on his pod racer with a generous side of intolerable Jar-Jar slapstick. And then, as if you aren’t already trying to figure out a way to go back in time and kill Lucas’s great-grandfather, we get “midichlorians” sprung-on us, the ridiculous “mastery of the force has a biological component” claptrap that is second only to “Greedo shot first” in the litany of Wrongeheaded Star Wars Revisionism.||Anakin is teased by some local kids while working in on his pod racer in a scene that proves the unprovable: there exist worse child actors than Jake Llyod. (His last name is spelled with two l’s — you know, like “unwatchablle”.)|
|55:24||1:10:01||14:25||The pod race. Yes, in its entirely. If you’re bridling at the suggestion that you omit what was often cited as the best sequence in the whole movie (after the final light saber battle), then you clearly don’t remember how unfathomably boring it was. It may have been worth watching for the state-of-the-art special effects when Phantom was first released, but now it looks like the obsolete video game it essentially is. Just skip it. Anakin wins, that’s all you need to know.||If you are a big fan of The Wacky Racers but wish the races were twice as long and half as interesting.|
|1:25:07||1:25:16||00:09||This is the briefest fast-forward in this entire guide, but essential if you want to steer clear of the midichlorians.||Like Transformers combining into a single, giant robot, here Lucas manages to takes the two dumbest conceits of the film — Anakin’s immaculate conceptions and the midichlorians — and weave them into a revelation that is stupider than the sum of its parts: Anakin may have been sired by the midichlorians. Gah!|
|1:35:31||1:36:21||0:50||MIDICHLORIANS I AM NOT LISTENING LA LA LA LA LA!!!||Lucas’s clumsy attempt to show off what little he remembered of “mitochondria” from his eighth-grade biology class wonderfully illustrates the old adage that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.|
|1:48:18||1:50:03||1:45||As in Return of the Jedi, the climax of Phantom Menace cuts back and forth between two separate battles. In this case, it’s the Gungans trying hold back the droid invasion of Naboo, while Qui-Gon, Obi Wan, and Anakin attempt to disable the robots by destroying the spaceship that controls them. Unfortunately, only the latter is interesting. The skirmish between the droids and the Gungans looks like shit now that you’ve seen computer-generated mass-battles done right in Lord of the Rings, Jar-Jar zaniness infests every scene, and the whole thing is completely lacking in tension. Better to just skip it and stick to the other plotline.||If you haven’t seen a movie featuring computer animation in the last few years, you may still be impressed by the special effects showcased here. But, then again, maybe not: I remember thinking the whole thing looked fakey even in 2001.|
|1:53:05||1:53:35||0:30||More Gungan v. droids.||If you’ve skipped all the scenes I’ve suggested above, you could watch this one to remind yourself how Jar-Jar almost singlehandedly ruined the Star Wars franchise.|
|1:54:32||1:55:19||0:47||One of the stupidest escape sequences ever committed to celluloid.||Actually, this one is so awful it’s almost worth watching.|
|1:56:40||1:58:10||1:30||More Gungan v. Droids||You know, trying to find positive things to say about this movie is wearying.|
|2:09:45||2:16:00||6:15||End credits||You’re dying to know who the gaffer was.|
Total time saved: 42:42 (although I’ll admit that including the end credits in the time is kinda cheating).
Conclusion: Rather to my surprise, The Phantom Menace was every bit as bad as I remembered. I thought that perhaps it had gotten worse in my memory, but, nope: it’s full-on travesty. The saddest thing is that the first 10 minutes of the film are very promising, making minutes 11-138 all the more tragic, like spotting a $100 bill on the sidewalk, bending over to pick it up, and having a piano dropped on you.
“Unlike you I am not an idiot and have no intention to rewatching Phantom Menace, so why don’t you sum up?”: You can find a very thorough summary here. In a nutshell, though, there are three main points:
Random revelation: I have long assumed that the title of the final movie in the series, Return of the Jedi, refers to Luke Skywalker. At some point in watching Phantom Menace, though, it occurred to me that the titular Jedi could be Darth Vader — when Luke is on the verge of being killed, the Jedi in Anakin returns and intervenes.
I was in the car this evening listening to 103.7 The Mountain, and they played a song so funny that it had me laughing out loud.
I later checked their website for info on the song, but the track was omitted from the playlist. So I sent an email to Marty Riemer, The Mountain DJ who had played it. Not only did Riemer write back almost immediately (it wasn’t even during his shift), but after informing me that the song in question was unavailable on CD he even went through the trouble of creating and sending me a MP3 of the performance. Whatta great guy!
The song is “Business Time” by a group called “Flight of the Conchords,” who describe themselves as “New Zealand’s 4th most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo.” They don’t appear to have an official website, but a comprehensive fan site can be found here.
And without further ado:
This was taken from a live recording of FotC playing at the Montreal Comedy Festival. The music starts at :55, but the preamble is funny too. More clips from these guys can be found at http://www.whatthefolk.net/soundandvision.htm, and a CD of their stuff (but lacking “Business Time,” alas) can be purchased here.
And while I’m heaping praise on 103.7, may I point out that one of my favorite programs, “The Chill Side of the Mountain,” which used to air only on Sunday evenings, is now broadcast five days a week. Here is the most recent playlist. Good stuff for Seattlites.