The Last Jedi

December 19, 2017

It appears that critics are ranking the new Star Wars movie much higher than average viewers.

My guess, after looking at social media, is that lots of viewers don’t “get” the mania this franchise inspires in some fans or, like a reply I saw on one friend’s Facebook page, they say things such as, “I like movies that make me think” with the implication that The Last Jedi does not.

As with any film, I cannot not think. Here’s a slightly tongue-in-cheek (and deeply abbreviated) sample of what I thought while watching the movie. [Mild SPOILER ALERT]


Hmmmm…Snoke operates like Trump (but with more awareness)…the red backdrop in his chamber works for me visually…Kylo Ren is a weird amalgamation of Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner (but with vulnerability, a measure of self-doubt, and muscles)…General Hux is a little like a smarter Eric Trump…Rose is strategically placed in the narrative in ways that will support Asian sales of the picture…”The greatest teacher failure is” is certainly true…Yoda is my favorite character…he’s not as green as he used to be, and that’s a bummer…gosh, that island would be a great retreat…I think I want one…how much of that green stuff on the island is moss?…the rightest value frameworks of the original three pictures (heredity over environment, absolute over relativist ideology, veneration of the past over the future, etc.) have been complicated in the more recent movies, which is a good thing…Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver are really good actors…the pacing is off at times…I am ambivalent about porgs…the cheesy jokes actually work for me and set the tone in ways that evoke the first three (by release date) films…this movie is a little long…Benicio del Toro seems to have some reverse aging going on…representation of gender roles continues to improve…thank goodness…Laura Dern’s hair is certainly lavender…I am happy to see Poe get his comeuppance for doubting the dame in charge…Crait is a cool location for evacuation and a final confrontation sequence…the red substance beneath the top layer of white salt is visually appealing and recalls the red of Snoke’s chamber…those crystal critters are really growing on me…did I mention that Rey is amazing?…I did get goosebumps at the end twice…I can’t remember precisely the first time, but the second was when the kid holds his broom like a saber and reveals his resistance ring…that made me think…Democrats need to find a Rey, Finn, Poe, and Rose to draw on the wisdom of those who have gone before and launch a new resistance…I’m just sayin’…

Since I’m a media studies professor, specific words are part of my business.

Do you know the word “polysemy”? Basically, it means that a word or text can have at least two separate meanings. I think part of the power of the Star Wars franchise is that it is polysemic.

I can only imagine that when Steve Bannon watches the films, he fancies himself Luke Skywalker (who is a bit scruffy in this chapter of the saga) and considers himself a resistance leader. Again, I’m just sayin’…

What did you think of the latest installment in the franchise, The Last Jedi, or about Star Wars more generally?


Epic Eight

December 17, 2017

There are eight episodes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I plowed right through them today…and…after an auspicious beginning…the series just got better and better.

Satisfying binge on a cold and gray Sunday.

Marvelous, Indeed…

December 17, 2017

After starting The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel this morning, all I want to do is binge through the series.

It is fresh, funny, and fitting for our times with a gentle but insightful look at gender roles and how they evolve.


Rachel Brosnahan is delightful as the eponymous character, Miriam “Midge” Maisel.

When the “perfect” 1950s housewife confronts a change in circumstances, she decides to become a stand-up comedian.

In an age when so many characters on “television” are dark, deceitful, or mean, it is…well…it’s actually a relief…to have a smart and basically nice central character to identify with and root for without having to perform psychological contortions.

Next up on my binge list: TransparentShe’s Gotta Have It, and The Crown (plan to watch the new season with my mother at Christmas).

What are you watching and enjoying? I love suggestions!

Weekend Movie Recommendations

December 8, 2017

Thinking about taking a movie break this wintry weekend?

I’ve seen two movies at local cinemas this weekend and can give a robust recommendation to one and a qualified recommendation to the other.

During a scene early in Three Billboards Outside, Ebbing Missouri, one of the characters is reading a paperback copy of Flannery O’Connor’s collection of short stories A Good Man is Hard to Find. Knowing the tone of the stories, especially the one carrying the name of the collection, provides viewers with a clue for how to view the film.

Writer-director Martin McDonagh (In BrugesSeven Psychopaths) uses his lead actors (notably Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Caleb Landry Jones, and Woody Harrelson) to great effect in this unusually dark and sometimes funny tragedy.


It is also important to mention the technical beauty of the film. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is extremely well crafted, and the formal properties of the movie are striking but consistently complement rather than overwhelm (or undermine) the central narrative.

I can’t say the same for Loving Vincent. Take a look at the image below and imagine it coming to life.


The idea is clever and it is magnificently rendered — tell a story about Vincent van Gogh’s final days and his art through animated oil paintings. Sequences of the film are breathtaking, and that may be enough to lure some viewers to the screen with satisfying results.

For me, the story does not match the imagery, but I’m still glad to have seen Loving Vincent for the novelty of its approach.