Fangirl Loves Star Wars: Poe Dameron (Comics) by Charles Soule, Phil Noto & Angel Unzueta

Um, I don’t know if you know this or not, readers, but I really am fond of the character Poe Dameron.

That might be an understatement…

What’s the word for a character who’s life story you’ve dived into, who you’ve written tons of secret fanfiction about, who you’ve spend hundreds of dollars to create cosplay for, and who’s actor you’ve decided you must watch his entire filmography?

OH! Is the word, obsessed? Yes, I think that’s the word.

Never forget the tagline of this blog is “Saving The World One Obsession At A Time!”

And while my obsessions wax and wane and sometimes go away entirely. (I no longer feel the need to purchase every Billy Joel album, for example! And I never even got The Nylon Curtain or Cold Spring Harbor.) But ever since that night watching The Force Awakens five years ago, Poe Dameron and by extension Oscar Isaac’s have been pretty steady.

Poe Dameron the Comic series was written by Charles Soule who is very good at writing comics. (READ SHE-HULK! He made her comic into a David E. Kelley show and it was great and perfect) He was also very nice to me once at ACBC, so you know, there’s that.

Poe Dameron covers the time before and between movies. First we get the lead up to The Force Awakens where he is trying to find Lor San Tekka (Remember how Kylo Ren killed Max Von Sydow? That guy) because Leia said so.

Seriously, one of the best things about Poe, which is preserved here is that when Leia says jump, his answer is, “How high? Also can I do a barrel roll?” Anyway, our self proclaimed best pilot in the galaxy is not alone, he’s got a great group of friends in his Black Squadron. Snap Wexley (there’s a moment where Snap’s childhood droid friend, Mr. Bones from Aftermath makes a comeback and I said, “Oooh YAY!”),  Jessika Pava, Kare Kun and Suralinda Jones. They’re a good team, and also Snap and Kare are in love and great and now I am even more sad about how Snap died. (This is not even getting into the great tragedy of him being shot down right before his step dad Wedge Antilles showed up on Exagol. My friend Jess warned me of this, but it is ROUGH y’all.) There’s also a bunch of stuff about C-3P0’s spy network, which is BADASS, and BB-8 rolling around being the best.

The art is good. There’s something a little off putting about photo realistic art of characters who’s actors I know well, but the likenesses are quite good, and once I was used to it it got easier.

But mostly it’s a lot of piloting and character building which is cool. It makes Poe’s disposition in The Rise Of Skywalker make a lot more sense. He’s given up everything for this fight, he’s lost friends and he’s kind of done.

Anyway, I’m glad to have picked up this one. Our next visit to a galaxy far far away will be the novel Bloodline. First I’m going to be hanging out where no one has gone before…because y’all Picard starts tomorrow! New Clone Wars not far behind btw. Lot going on at the moment.

 

Magical Movies Tour: Fantasia

This was the second time I watched Fantasia since getting Disney+, and it probably won’t be the last. (Unlike Pinnochio, which I really didn’t like much at all on adult revisit) It’s a really beautiful and interesting film, a delightful anthology of music and creativity that’s a wonderful love letter to the way the performing and creative arts communicate with one another.

The pacing surprised me when I revisited it. I felt as a kid that it was an endless wait to get to “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” but it’s only the third segment! I also always loved “The Rite Of Spring” and now I think it’s kind of ugly and dull. I’m no longer a nightmare inclined kid, so I can see “Night On Bald Mountain” and “Ave Maria” as stunning dual images of the supernatural rather than you know, the most terrifying thing ever and a boring parade of lights.

There are so many things that I think get overlooked. I’m sure when designing Hercules Disney Animation when back to “The Pastoral Symphony” because while not identical, so much of the design matches up. “The Nutcracker Suite” images here are still the ones I see in my head when I hear the music. Those fairies spreading dewfall and dancing flowers are much more ingrained than any ballerina.

Fantasia’s initial financial failure is so sad to me. It’s such a special and beautiful film. I actually never saw the sequel Fantasia 2000 so when we get to it in a few months, I’m actually pretty excited to revisit the concept. I may just watch it this week too, in addition to Dumbo, which is, incidentally, our next movie! I’m not sure what I’ll have to say about Dumbo…but I bet it’s racism.

 

Magical Movies Tour: Pinnochio

As someone who love Disney in all it’s forms. (All praise to the Mouse!) I found myself stunned by watching Pinnochio another one I hadn’t watched since I was little. While there’s the light through line of Pinnochio wanting to become a real boy, and Geppetto searching for him on his adventures, it’s much more episodic than anything else, we go from scrape, to scrape, thatat Pinnochio and Jiminy get into.

But I was also blown away by how despite not knowing the movie that well, I knew every word to every one of these songs, because they’re used ad nauseum in the parks. “When You Wish Upon A Star” obviously, but also, “Hi Diddly Dee,” and “I’ve Got No Strings” just all over the place.

Jiminy Cricket is an interesting character, I like that he’s a little bit more of a scoundrel than I remembered, or at least, kind of a bum. He’s looking for some level of “becoming real” as well, or at least a place of belonging. The Blue Fairy sees this in him and grants him purpose, he’s a conscience. He’s terrible at this job but he’s trying his best.

The animation is once again, mind blowingly lovely, the transformation of the boys into Donkeys is terrifying, as is Monstro the whale, but in general everything looks so smooth and beautiful, the dancing in particular is a marvel and such a step up from Snow White, which I know was something that Disney himself was very adamant about, he wanted there to be revolutionary and new animation in each film.

While I didn’t enjoy Pinnochio as much as I did Snow White, seeing the way the animation moved forward was cool, and I love the music here, truly love it.

Next week, even more music! It’s time to talk about Fantasia. I actually watched this the first weekend that Disney+ was available, but I’m excited to watch it again. It’s remarkably beautiful.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: The Aftermath Trilogy by Chuck Wendig

This is my first dive into the Star Wars extended universe. (OK, I read a few comics) and I figured this direct sequel to Return Of The Jedi which is meant to bridge that time with the new era of The Force Awakens and beyond seemed like a good enough place to begin.

Also Chuck Wendig is fun on twitter. So there’s that.

The Aftermath trilogy tells the story of Norra Wexley (mother of Greg Grunberg’s Snap! He’s in the books too!) a pilot with the Rebellion, now the New Republic and the waning months of the Galactic Civil War against the Empire. Norra finds herself in the general orbit of Princess Leia and Han Solo, as they prepare for the birth of their son. (Watch out for onion ninjas when all conversations around Ben ensue. But also RED FLAGS all over the damn place regarding the kind of parents Leia and Han turned out to be) She also puts together a rag tag crew of a bounty hunter, an ex imperial torture officer, a clone descended rebel soldier (COOL) and her kid. Her kid Temmin Wexley, who is nicknamed by the one and only Wedge Antilles (who Norra falls in love with) Snap.

On the Imperial side there are various people vying for power though we follow, mainly Grand Admira Rae Sloane. Sloane’s a pretty great villain and I like that we’ve got women as our main antagonist and protagonist.

The book took some getting used to. The use of third person present tense is a lot for someone who does as much reading as I do. I understand this is a hallmark of the EU and does create a sort of propulsive immediacy, but it’s also, a lot. First person present tense is tough enough to take, but third person…oof.

Anyway, the books were fun, from a Star Wars perspective, seeing how the hold the Rebellion had on the Galaxy was shaky from the start, as well as the political differences between Leia and Mon Mothma, really does help solidify the shaky ground that is the New Republic and Resistance schism. They work in concert, but they’re not the same. It makes some sense. Or more sense. It’s still not great.

Also, Sloane ends her journey travelling on The Emperor’s ship towards the unkown reaches. So we know what that’s all about now. Again, kind of.

Overall, I think this was a good place to start. If only for sweet little Temmin, who I continually pictured as Greg Grunberg but small. Not young. (Was Grunberg ever young? He came off middle aged even on Felicity!) Just small. Shrunk down. This was an extremely amusing visual and if you decide to read these books you are welcome to it. He also has a droid friend named Mr. Bones who is also great. Seriously, Disney Era, kicking it out of the park with the droids. from BB-8 on they’ve each been all time.

The rest of the team didn’t quite do it for me. I like Sinjin, the ex imperial, but his narrative of finding his conscience was interesting if a little slow compared to everything else. Wendig writes a damn good Han and a not as good Leia. The visions that Leia gets during her pregnancy are incredible, (including her own birth, though she doesn’t realize it’s that) as well as her connection to Ben in utero and beyond. I liked that.

Up next we’re reading Charles Soule’s Poe Dameron comics series, I mean, not right next, a few things in between, but next for this feature.

Magical Movies Tour: Snow White And The Seven Dwarves

Welcome my friends to the Magical Movies Tour! For the next fourteen months we’re going to be watching all of the Walt Disney Animations Studios Movies. To be specific, these are the Walt Disney Animation, NOT Pixar, and only the theatrical releases. Maybe I’ll dive into those at a different time, but just the Disney Studios stuff at the moment.

And where better to start than Snow White And The Seven Dwarves, the beginning (and we will be proceeding chronologically from there). So, here we go.

I was nervous going into Snow White which I don’t think I’d watched all the way through since I was a kid, and I’d always written off as “annoying” and “simplistic” and “not particularly good.”

About five minutes in when I realized how wrong I was about the film. Aside from the revolutionary and incredibly beautiful animation, the music is lovely and Snow White herself is a better character than I’ve ever considered, while she is certainly more reactive than proactive, I’m OK with that. Making the Dwarves individualized rather than a collective was a genius decision on Walt Disney’s part. And each of the seven gets a moment to shine.

And then there’s this music. There are good, good songs in this movie. “I’m Wishing,” “Whistle While You Work,” “Dig Dig Dig & Heigh Ho” are all bangers in the musical theater/Disney tradition. Not to mention, “Someday My Prince Will Come,” which is a truly lovely “I Want” song. I was so charmed by this movie watching it again, truly. If I had to choose something to criticize I would say that the first act is a little choppy.

There’s nearly no exposition to the Queen’s jealousy, or Snow White’s trip to the woods with the Huntsman, or the magic mirror. It just jumps from place to place. The Prince also appears and disappears. I don’t mind gaps in exposition, especially in fairy tales, but it’s conspicuous and makes the first act hard to follow. However once the Dwarves enter the proceedings, the movie is nearly perfect.

The animation is legitimately some of the most beautiful ever created, stunning and scary and charming. I keep coming back to that word, but really, that’s the best one for the film, charming. This is a charming film, with personality to spare. No wonder it spawned an empire.

Next week we’re going to watch Pinnochio. 

 

In The Shadow Of Adaptation: Little Women

I’ve been joking around about how every angry nerd bro was about to get their revenge from me, as Greta Gerwig’s Little Women was announcing. If this movie wasn’t good, I was going to scream and yell and throw things. I was going to CREATE A YOUTUBE channel just to make videos dismantling the movie. I was going to every single time any cast member came up change the subject to how Little Women was crappy.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is my favorite book ever. I read it every few years, most recently, two weeks ago, and I find something special and new in it each time I read it. I’ve built my personality around The March sisters. I love it so much. I’d heard it was good, I’d heard the ending was “controversial.” (It shouldn’t be, Gerwig figured out how to fix the ending of Little Women to have her cake and eat it too, and it’s genius. I sat down in the theater and crossed my arms, saying, “OK, show me.”

I was shown. The choices that Gerwig made are clear and concise, choosing to move between the timelines of the parts of the story really worked for me. So many adaptations of Little Women are top heavy, leaning on the childhood portions and leaving the grown up portions bereft (Beth’s death is the exception.) But here, begining with Jo’s return to Concord when Beth’s sickness develops and Amy and Laurie’s reconnection in France, and moving through their memories from there let’s each story breathe. Meg still gets short shrift, which is a shame. I hope someone delves into her dreams of a happy married life and the way she struggles a bit more some day. This did more with it than the 1994 version, so we’re getting somewhere, but still.

I’m in love with this movie. It’s a wonderful adaptation, I love the cast. I am obsessed with Florence Pugh, but mostly I just love that it felt right. As teenagers, the characters felt like teenagers. Their emotions felt true, the barely contained chaos of the March house felt like home.

Let’s talk about the ending, if you’re new to Little Women, because of this movie, welcome, come inside. I’ve made some blanc mange but I swear I used sugar not salt! Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women as a lightly fictionalized (very lightly) version of her childhood. Famously, she only married Joe to Freidrich Bhaer at her editor’s insistence, Alcott herself never married, and she didn’t want Jo to. Gerwig takes this fact and makes Jo’s actual fate ambiguous. We see her argue the ending with her editor writing, “Under The Umbrella” where Jo and Bhaer agree to marry, in real time. But we also see Jo’s school at Plumfield, and Friedrich is there, so which is it? The choose your own aspect is wonderful. 

I have a lot of feelings about this movie, about Little Women in general, and about how to adapt older work, about feminism in this story, about female characters, and I’m very happy to point to this movie forever and say, “Look at Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, just DO THAT!”

I think I’m going to continue this sporadic feature. I don’t know if any books that I love a lot are getting high profile adaptations this year off the top of my head, but I’m sure there’ll be at least a few. It was really rewarding rereading Watchmen, His Dark Materials and Little Women. (I still have to finish HBO’s His Dark Materials, which…probably speaks to how I feel about that adaptation) we shall see.

It’ll Be Important If You Write It

I am not to be trusted when it comes to stories that I love and criticism, and I more than love Little Women. 

Little Women is my favorite book ever. Little Women is me in so many ways, it’s shaped the way I think, the way I feel, the way I interpret stories and especially how I feel about adapting stories I love. (But we’ll talk about that later in the week)

Greta Gerwig is a talented writer and director and she’s found a great collaborator in Saorise Ronan. This Little Women feels vital and new and yet stays faithful to it’s source. The March sisters are rowdy, loving and full of life, Laurie Laurence feels of them and apart from them at the same time. They learn, they grow, they love, they lose. I wept through most of the film, but that’s not a surprise. Timothee Chalamet is the Laurie I’ve always wanted, both dreamy and dorky, brooding and awkward. Ronan is born for Jo, Emma Watson is charming as Meg (Meg is the least challenging of the girls, really) and Eliza Scanlan is heartbreaking as Beth. But this is a version of Little Women that belongs to Amy March in many ways and Florence Pugh runs away with the flick. Laura Dern, Meryl Streep, Bob Odenkirk and others aquit themselves well.

Rankings

  1. Knive’s Out
  2. Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood
  3. Jo Jo Rabbit
  4. Frozen 2
  5. Little Women
  6. Spider-Man: Far From Home
  7. Star Wars: Episode IX: The Rise Of Skywalker
  8. Avengers: Endgame
  9. Rocketman
  10. Detective Pikachu
  11. Zombieland: Double Tap
  12. Godzilla: King Of The Monsters
  13. Downton Abbey
  14. Joker

Trailers

I Still Believe: I’ve been listening to the podcast Good Christian Fun, and I really can’t wait for them to review this movie, but I’m not going to see it. KJ Appa’s natural hair is disconcerting.

Spongebob Squarepants: Sponge on The Run: Is this the fourth or fifth Spongebob movie?

Respect: 2 OSCARS FOR JENNIFER! Let’s do it!

Ghostsbusters: Afterlife: Did we not just go through two weeks of gnashing of teeth at unnecessary grandpa connections? DO I CARE ABOUT EGON SPENGLER’S GRANDKIDS BUSTING GHOSTS? I do not.

In The Heights: This did not help…with the crying. You are going to have to mop whatever theater I am in when I see this. I am going to cry buckets.