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Monday, December 19, 2016


I went to see two films this weekend, La La Land and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.  I don't do real movie reviews.  I mostly pontificate to provide some background so you can decide for yourself.

Let me start with La La Land, for I almost walked out after the first ten minutes.  Looked too much like Flashdance when the students danced in the streets.  I thought, oh no, one of those productions where you don't recognize any songs.  They all bomb. People just don't identify with tunes they hear for the first time.   

But Rotten Tomatoes raved:  94%/91%.  So I hung in there. Then, Ryan Gosling (five years ago I picked him as one of the up and coming personalities--I also included Rick Perry, and, hey, he will be the new Department of Energy secretary) and Emma Stone took over (their third as lovers).  After that shaky start, I actually found the total experience enjoyable.

Director Damien Chazelle (only 31) wanted to catch the spirit of Singing in the Rain, and style of Fred Astaire dance films.  La La, of course, has to do with Los Angeles but, more so, a state of dreamy disconnection from reality.  The ending, in particular--and I give nothing away here--provides exactly that.  Should you fantasize about what could be? Or appreciate what you have?  An unexpected, un-Hollywood, and certainly atypical, touch.  Chazelle, by the way, wrote and directed Whiplash, which won three academy awards last year.  Best of all, against a production budget of $3.3 million, the film earned $49 million.

If you're a normal human being, you are perplexed as I am about those Star War films.   There are too many characters in confusing time frames.  There was an original trilogy beginning in 1977.  The problem, though, is that they added three more that were prequels, ending in 2005:

Star Wars: Episode 4: A New Hope (1977--photo below
Star Wars: Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) 
Star Wars: Episode 6: Return of the Jedi (1983) 
Star Wars: Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (1999) 
Star Wars: Episode 2: Attack of the Clones (2002)
Star Wars: Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith (2005)

Or looking at them in chronological order

I. The Phantom Menace May 19, 1999 
II. Attack of the Clones May 16, 2002 
III. Revenge of the Sith May 19, 2005 
IV. A New Hope May 25, 1977 
V. The Empire Strikes Back May 21, 1980
VI. Return of the Jedi May 25, 1983

The first three (in terms of when they were released) were better than the next three.  A decade after the 2005 Episode 3 came Star Wars 7 (The Force Awakens), which did very well, garnering 92%/89% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, while the latest, Rogue One, got 84%/90% scores.  The very first, Episode IV (A New Hope), scored the highest:  93%/96%.  By most measures, Episode 1 (The Phantom Menace) was the worst, RT at 55%/60%.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far way....note the tense.  In a way, I guess the crawl at the beginning is hopeful, as intelligent life must have survived all those wars.  Best as I can figure out, these Star Wars episodes occurred in the 33rd century, or 1200 years from now.  But if the Great Galactic War occurred 3653 before that battle, how can that be?  In any case, more than a millennium, but less than five millennia.

How far away is a galaxy far, far away?  Keep in mind that light takes 2.54 million years to get from Planet Earth to the next closest, Andromeda, so will science perfect stellar engines, dilate time or cross wormholes in a millennium or two or three or more?

Regarding timeline, here is a table of what happens relative to the 1977 film, the year the Battle of Yavin occurs when the first Death Star is destroyed.  This space station had a cannon that could destroy planets:

Rogue One occurs in the 15-year period leading to the battle, or the period between Episodes III and IV.  Episode 8 will occur 34 ABY (after the Battle of Yavin).  Just to confuse you, #9 about Han Solo squeezes in between Episode III and Rogue One, so will not be sequential like the first two trilogies.

Remember, I don't like Marvel Comic movies, and Star Wars get too close for comfort, but I thought same old, same old.  Entertaining, but you are at the same time confused about how these characters fit into the history, while pretty much knowing their fate.  Of course, good special effects and lot of battles.  I continue to be disillusioned, though, that many thousand years into the future, they still will use bullets and swords.  Come on....future wars will be electronically determined to incapacitate robots and computers, while biological warfare or something worse will dispose of humans and aliens.  Guns?  You got to be kidding.

In case you're interested, Episode 8 (writer and director on the extreme right, Rian Johnson--Gareth Edwards of Godzilla fame directed Rogue One--which, incidentally, has to do with the fact that the title does not have Star Wars up front, for this was a kind of rogue-type film, plus, Felicity Jones in the middle, plays a rogue) will be released in December of 2017, followed by a yet untitled Han Solo movie for 2018, Episode 9 in 2019 and an untitled spinoff in 2020.  Disney paid Lucasfilm $4 billion for the franchise and won't wait 16 years between films, which occurred between Episodes 6 and 1.

Anyway, weekend box office revenues showed Rogue One at $155 million (worldwide, $290 million) with #2 being Moana at $12 million.  La La Land earned an embarrassing $4 million for 7th place, even though it won eight Golden Globes.

However, as of today, La La Land remains as the favorite to win the Oscar for Best Picture.   Rogue One is not even in the discussion.  But that is the recent trend.  The voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences last selected a biggie in 2004, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.


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