Monday, May 16, 2005

Things that me me go AAAAARRRRGGGGH!

1. People who talk in the movies. In fact, most people at the movies - they talk, drum their fingers noisily on the plastic lids of empty drink containers, rattle ice cubes at inappropriate moments or otherwise create jarring sounds that distract me from the film and drag me out of that sometimes-transendent cinematic experience. Bastards!

2. Stupid idiots who stand in the doorways of trams, oblivious of the fact that A) there's lots of room further along the aisle, and B) that they're inconveniencing other people who are trying to get on and off. Fuckers!

3. Noisy packs of schoolgirls. Thank fuck I was never a heterosexual teenage male: I would have been totally intimidated and driven to beserk, school-bag swinging rage by the high-pitched squeals, the chattering, and the choking death-cloud of over-applied perfume, hairspray and other assorted products that emmanate from packs of schoolgirls on public transport. As it is I'm often forced to get off the tram and catch the next one, or walk several blocks while grinding my teeth and glaring at people from behind my sunglasses, due to the barrage of noise/scent etc. We hates them my precious!

I should at this stage point out that it's not just crowds of schoolgirls who force me to do react in this fashion: some days I just find the majority of the people on trams so bloody irritating that I'm compelled to flee screaming. Sometimes literally.

I met someone at a party once who said he first encountered me while I was running screaming down a street in the city, although I think in that instance I was fleeing from religious pamphleteers of one demoniation or another, not schoolgirls. I had chosen to cheerfully and manically over-react to their question about personality tests/free booklets/the Good News, in order to put the fear of God/Satan/Great Cthulhu into the god-botherers in question. I like freaking out the mundanes.

You must admit, it's an interesting way to make an impression on someone, the whole 'screaming as you run off down a busy city street' thing.

It must have worked, because the bloke in question sure as hell remembered me when we met at this unnamed party several months later, even though he was initially eyeing me off in a nervous fashion akin to a meercat that was being introduced to a hungry hyena. Once he decided I wasn't mad he gave me a ride home on his moped and we ended up stopping off in a park and having some rather excellent sex in the moonlight.

The moral of this story is: spectacularly over-reacting to things that irritate you help you get laid.

Try it sometime, and let me know if it works for you!

Friday, May 13, 2005

REVIEW: Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

I attended the only Melbourne media preview of the new Star Wars film on Wednesday morning... You can see the film yourself next week, if you can be bothered.

* * *

The culmination of decades of work for writer-director George Lucas, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith completes the epic space-opera sextet which burst onto our screens in 1977, and brings the tragic story of Jedi knight Anakin Skywalker and his transformation into the iconic villain Darth Vader to a close.

The film opens with a battle in the upper atmosphere of the planet Coruscant that sees juggernaut spaceships pitted against tiny fighters, in a deliberate and contrived echo of the opening scene of the original Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Jedi knights Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) weave their ships through a barrage of explosions and enemy fire, intent on rescuing Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), the political leader of the galactic Republic from the clutches of General Greivous, the wheezing robot leader of the separatist rebels who are threatening to tear the Republic apart.

This spectacular but curiously emotionless beginning sets the action-driven pace of the following 140 minutes of the film, which abandons the laborious political intrigue established in Episodes I and II in favour of almost constant combat between an array of characters and alien races.

The streamlined plot takes in the doomed romance between ambitious Anakin and his wife, Senator Padmé Amildala (a bored-looking Natalie Portman), Palpatine’s betrayal of the Republic, and the long-anticipated moment when Anakin swears allegiance to the dark side of the Force.

While Lucas delights in visual spectacle throughout Revenge of the Sith, overall the film lacks any real tension, even in the fight scenes, which should have us on the edge of our seats. Partially this is caused by the fact that we already know the outcome: we know how history is shaped out by the events which are fated to unfold in this film, and so the film lacks suspence. Equally critical however is the fact that it's hard to muster any concern over CGI animations, no matter how seamlessly they are blended with the real actors appearing beside them on-screen.

The resulting film is strangely passionless, a situation not helped by the lack of chemistry between romantic leads Christensen and Portman. The script’s painfully clumsy dialogue, which manifests in cliched and emotive outbursts from all the important characters, further exacerbates the film's numerous flaws.

What does work is the film’s pace, although it largely fails to manifest any palpable sense of inevitable tragedy; and the way in which Lucas for the most part adroitly introduces characters, and foreshadows events that are already legendary among legions of Star Wars fans (although the clumsy introduction of Chewbacca the Wookie is jarring to say the least).

Lucas' storytelling skills are at their best during the film’s climax, when he adroitly intercuts from the inevitable showdown between Obi-Wan and the newly named Darth Vader on the volcanic planet Mustafar, and Jedi master Yoda’s desperate attempts to defeat the evil Palpatine back on Coruscant. That we already know the outcome of these battles is, in these sequences at least, of no concern. The film’s final scenes, including the first appearance of the armour-clad Darth Vader and the birth of Padmé’s twins Luke and Leia, are more forced, but are sure to satisfy the franchise’s many fans.

While suffering many of the same flaws that dogged the previous two instalments of the series, (including at least one major plot hole you could steer a Death Star through) Revenge of the Sith occasionally comes close to recapturing the grandeur and sense of wonder which made the original Star Wars trilogy so memorable. It is a fitting albeit overdue end to a saga that has entertained so many, for so long.

Monday, May 09, 2005

A great talent is dead

I just found out that the SF and fantasy writer Andre Norton has died. I first read her work as a shy country boy, when one of the weekly highlights of my life was the visit of the Mobile Library to our small town of Trafalgar (in the Latrobe Valley) was one of the highlights of my existence.

Read an obituary for Andre Morton here:

Tomorrow I'm going to go out and buy, steal or borrow some of her books, which I haven't revisited for far too many years.