Fangirl Love Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Oh boy howdy, The Empire Strikes Back is a good movie. Just appallingly and spectacularly good.

I went in to this watch not sure what I wanted this essay to be, and found myself thinking about a million things, especially in connection with my having watched Clone Wars and Rebels recently. Mostly, thinking about The Force.

The Skywalker family’s strength in the Force, is undisputed, they’re in it deep, connected possibly pure force beings of some kind. Anakin turning his back on his role as the keeper of balance was a big problem, as laid out in the wonderful (though I have learned controversial) Mallus trilogy of episodes in Clone Wars. But what’s even more important here is the way that Luke repeats that mistake here, and Yoda and Obi-Wan know it.

Luke chooses to go after Han and Leia in Bespin rather than continue his training. Anakin chose Obi-Wan and Ahsoka over his destiny as the chosen one. And he chose Padme’s life over everything, the galaxy, even his own soul. Yoda and Obi-Wan want to spare Luke this, and spare the galaxy the fall of another Skywalker.

It’s an intriguing dynamic in the saga and one that’s illuminated by looking at things as a whole, even if that isn’t how they were originally meant to be. Filoni, and JJ Abrams and Rian Johnson, build a lot from the dynamics Lucas and Kershner set up in this movie and it’s quite impressive.

As for all the other stuff, I’ve mentioned that The Empire Strikes Back is my favorite love story ever, right? Han and Leia’s half of the movie is masterful. From the first look across the control room on Hoth to “I know,” everything is done subtly and gorgeously and naturally, and knowing as we do now that Carrie Fisher was the one writing it (for the most part) just makes the whole thing even stronger.

And then there’s Lando. If there’s one thing that my since the Disney acquisition full on embracing of Star Wars thing has taught me it’s that I really, really like Lando Calrissian. It’s almost non sensiscal, but I just really love seeing him on screen, in comic books. (Charles Soule!) Billy Dee Williams is awesome as Lando, and you guys, I’m just so happy that he’s going to be coming back. Aren’t you? BE HAPPY ABOUT IT! Also I think they should give Donald Glover his own Lando movie.

(That was a real, “Ma’am, this is an Arby’s,” moment.)

Next week we wrap up the Originals with Return Of The Jedi, which I secretly like better than Empire because it has more dance parties, and all movies should have dance parties.

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60 Books In 2019 #45: It By Stephen King

Bill Denbrough is a gunslinger. I thought quietly as the Loser’s Club came together in two timelines throughout the first 500 pages of the epic It. Maybe Beverly Marsh and Mike Hanlon too. Maybe all of them, but definitely, definitely Bill. 

It is a funny book. Even for King, it rambles and fails to cohere in places. It’s brilliant and beautiful and odd and unfathomably strange. It’s  both obsessed with sex and chaste as a nun. It’s about memory and childhood and forgetting and magic and fear, and somehow, not very scary at all?

I can tell you one thing, as all things serve the beam (which gets a shout out as King describes one of the Losers Club’s better summer afternoons), I hate that fucking Turtle a whole lot.

What a godamned useless cosmic entity it is. Spitting up universes with terrible monsters, that infect small Maine towns and eat children my manifesting evil murder clowns and giant birds and what not.

But I love Bill Denbrough. I’ve fallen in love with one character in each of King’s stories that I’ve hit, that I never wanted to let go of, and for It, it’s Bill. (One would think Richie, given my allegiance to second Bananas, but no.) What a great kid! And grownup. And leader. Seriously. I love this character.

The book’s playing with memory is outstanding writing and It, and Pennywise The Dancing Clown are scary monsters. (Though, having read it practically back to back with The Shining, I find the Overlook’s ghosts much creepier.) The Losers Club are a tight band of heroes, a ka-tet worthy of the name.

But man, fuck that fucking Turtle.

Up next is Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope

Is there anything left to say about Star Wars, or A New Hope depending on your level of fandom pedantry?

I don’t even remember the first time I watched this movie, that’s how weaved into my life it is. I’m sure it was a rainy Saturday, and I’m sure my dad had his arm around me. I couldn’t have been older than three. I don’t remember this, I just know this is so, because that’s how we watched movies when I was little.

Here’s the thing about A New Hope that I think I, despite talking about the movie constantly, and loving what it has birthed, tend to forget. It’s a basic ass movie that is miraculously not boring. It should be boring. It’s weird that it isn’t boring.

The story is so simple. The dialogue is silly. The acting is very good. The score is sublime and the action is terrific. And this all gels to make something wonderful, something unqiue and beautiful that has since just exploded, like a death star.

I don’t know, I didn’t find anything new in this watch. I was just so happy to be watching this movie again. I was happy to watch Han, Luke and Leia all meet. I was happy to see Obi-Wan become one with the Force. I was just so damn happy. I love Star Wars.

I wish there was more to this post, but I just don’t know what’s left to say. It’s a really good movie and I like it a lot and I will watch it again many times in my life.

Next Week We’re heading into the Star Wars GOAT with The Empire Strikes Back, I don”t know exactly what I’m going to be writing about, but there’s a good chance is that it’s going to rhyme with “Brando.”

60 Books In 2019 #44: With The Fire On High By Elizabeth Acevedo

When I was in grade school one month out of the year we would be told that our book report had to be a “multi cultural book.” This vaguely racist category basically meant we had to read a book that wasn’t about white people. That’s it. The main character couldn’t be white.

As I read With The Fire On High which is fun, compelling and interesting I thought this was the perfect book for such an assignment. The main character, Emoni, is an Afro-Puerto Rican girl living in Philadelphia. She had a baby at fourteen and wants to be a chef and the book is about her senior year.

It’s a great slice of life story, and Emoni is a really compelling protagonist. Her dreams are small but still in her mind out of reach. She loves her daughter but wonders if her life would be easier without her. She resents her absent father. She’s falling in love after years of hiding from boys because of her kid. She’s worried about her grandmother, who raised her. She loves her friends, has petty feuds with her classmates.

As I’m trying to teach myself to cook and write about food, I find books about food all the more compelling. Emoni’s story is punctuated by recipes, all of which sound delicious. (If I’d been home while reading this I would have absolutely given a few of them a whirl.) And as I try to expand my YA palate, I was happy to find Aceveda. (I’m planning on picking up her other book, Poet X as well.)

Up next is IT because CAN’T SLEEP CLOWN WILL EAT ME!

60 Books In 2019 #43: The Shining By Stephen King

If you’ve hung around this blog for the past two years, you know how deeply I regret not letting myself be scared and falling into the work of Stephen King years ago. But as I read The Shining last weekend,and stunned a beach house full of graduated Georgia Tech Sorority girls by explaining I’d never read it before. (Well, the ones that had known me for years were stunned. The ones I’d never met before barely cared, which is fair.) I realized even with my pediatrician mandated, mother sleep needing rules against horror in my adolescence, I probably wouldn’t have been reading King anyway.

If there was one thing in the world that I craved as a teenager it was acceptance. I’ve often described myself as feeling like a guest star with my various groups of friends. (This caused one therapist, one of my favorites, who I had to part ways with because of changing insurance, to remind me that “life is not narrative.” Mr. King would probably disagree, Ma’am!) I hid my nerdy obsessions from my friends, where they didn’t fit. With my theater friends, I was all about Sondheim and Schwartz, with my hometown friends I loved indie rock and sitcoms and old movies, with my school friends (who had some theatrical crossover) it was punk rock and YA novels and blockbuster movies. (This allowed the X-Men and Batman to creep in occasionally.)

If I’d gotten into Stephen King then, and started talking about Danny Torrance’s Shine in relation to Jake Chamber’s Touch I don’t know that I could have survived the baffled looks.

This preamble is all to say that talking about The Shining, Stanley Kubrick’s brilliant but very different from this book much to the chagrin of it’s author, film would have been acceptable conversation among all my friends, the book was anathema to them.

Anyway, The Shining, which rules. Just definitively, it’s amazing, and I’m glad I didn’t read it while I was still high on the tower but saved it for when I knew I was going to need a kick start back into his style, with several big deal adaptions on their way.

The book itself is a masterful haunted house story, with The Overlook Hotel taking on a monstrous personality, and it’s mysterious “manager.” (I believe I said outloud as Grady, the long dead caretaker discussed management with Jack Torrance, “The Crimson King?”) Because I began my constant reading journey with The Dark Tower I know I am doomed to feel the pull of the beam whenever I pick up a King book, ya dig? But I was eventually able to see past my own tower induced blinders to the horror and scares at The Shining’s heart, the horrors of addiction and rage and toxic masculinity. The things that consume Jack Torrance as his wife Wendy tries to shelter Danny from them.

And let’s talk about Wendy, shall we? Man, if I’d read this book when it came out and then watched that movie I’d have been PISSED AS HELL about Wendy, who is nothing but a tower of strength and patience balancing on a frayed nerve from her first moments. Granted, King has a tendency to do this with his women, he writes soft hearted survivor ladies, who come out of the crucible of male cruelty saintly and strong. It’s a problem on it’s own but it’s a hell of a sight better than the screaming, whining, snivelling performance given by Shelly Duvall in the movie.

Danny Torrance is a great character, maybe a little young for his role, King hadn’t yet hit his sweet spot of tween hero boys yet, so five year old Danny feels over precocious. (If Danny were 10 he’d be perfect. Then again, if Danny were 10 he’d be Jake Chambers…so there’s that.) (Look, we all know this is ending with me reading The Dark Tower again, I mean, not yet, but it’s going to happen.)

Anyway, I really enjoyed this book. Up next is With The Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo. Let’s get our YA on y’all!

60 Books In 2019 #42: The Proposal By Jasmine Guillory

You guys remember how much I really loved The Wedding Date, right? Well, now we expand into Jasmine Guillory’s California, with The Proposal. Freelance writer Nikole finds herself publicly humiliated when her casual, kind of douchey boyfriend who she was thinking about dumping anyway proposes to her on the jumbotron at a Dodger’s game. (YIKES) She says no, obviously, and is quickly rescued by Carlos Martinez, who we knew as hero Drew’s best friend in The Wedding Date.

The two start dating, and once again competing priorities nearly break them up but don’t!

Having already clicked in to Guillory’s formula I enjoyed watching it play out. I wasn’t as into this as I was her first, though I related to Carlos a lot. (Putting his life on hold because of his family, or at least that’s his excuse. BEEN THERE MAN!)

The book moves quickly and was exactly what I needed this weekend as I moved around Florida and had no idea where I was going to be sleeping. It’s such an easy read and so perky and happy and fun. I also appreciate the natural way Guillory works with diversity, not have characters who “happen to be” minorities, but who’s race and backgrounds influence everything about them. It’s a nice change from my usual rom-com fair, of perky white girls who move to NYC to be journalists. (I will never abandon my perky white girls who move to NYC to journalists. I love them.)

Up next, and now for something completely different, The Shining by Stephen King. As I close in on the 60 books, and pressing myself to do more diversity, we’re bumping up against the weather changing and 3 (count ’em) Stephen King related projects coming out (IT, Castle Rock season 2 and Doctor Sleep) which means, you know…we gotta get back on the path of the beam.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Of the four “Disney/Kennedy” era Star Wars flicks, Rogue One: A Star Wars story ranks a steady third from me. I don’t love it love it, the way I do Solo or The Force Awakens, and while I recognize from a formal standpoint The Last Jedi is interesting, it’s never tugged at me the way the others have. So, there’s that.

Rogue One, grows on me everytime I watch it. I smile at Jyn Erso’s transformation from cynicism to hope, at Cassian’s dedicated whatever it takes attitude, I’ve love K2-SO from jump, so that’s not really fair. The rest of their ragtag team is great too, especially Donnie Yen as Blind Force Monk who’s just Donnie Yen.

I really like Kroenig as an adversary, and frankly, I love the whole idea that this is about a lower level of the Galaxy, it’s about the people who set the stage for the grand melodrama that is The Skywalker Saga, the guys that built the Death Star, the spies and cells that became The Rebellion. It  was a great idea for a movie that was beautifully pulled off, and that, as I said, I’ve grown to like more and more.

It’s a pretty subtle piece of work, especially for a series that I’ve always loved for it’s broader strokes. Part of the deal with the Stories (and Clone Wars and Rebels) is that you get to play around in the grey a little bit more, which is a good deal of fun. I do wish the characters in Rogue One were a bit more distinct, but I’m otherwise always happy with the film.

It also gives me the thing that I love the most, which is room for Jimmy Smits to do his thing. I really like Jimmy Smits.

I have no idea if I wrote that tweet while I was watching Star Wars or The West Wing or Brooklyn 99. I like the guy a lot. And he’s fun in this, Bail Organa showing up a few times and making cryptic references to “his Jedi friend,” and “Someone he’d trust with his life.” Bail and Leia make a good  contrast to Jyn and Galen, two people who died for the rebllion, and two who didn’t have to.  (Well Bail died, but in a pointless genocide, not for the sake of the rebellion.)

Next week we get to where this all started, A New Hope. Also, I apologize for the lateness of this post. I had a bit of a time this weekend. (Cancelled vacations, bachelorette parties, evacuated air line terminals.) (There was actually a minute there where this column MIGHT have been about me seeing Galaxy’s Edge.)

Speaking of! It’s looking like we’ll be talking about Black Spire Outpost and Batuu by March. I want to solidify a few other things, but there is just NO WAY I’m skipping a week in points sunny this winter, even if it means I eat nothing but rice and beans for the forseeable future. And if those points sunny wind up being the Sunshine state, well, we’re going to Batuu.