I often get obsessed with watching movies linked by a certain theme — sometimes I like to track down different films featuring a particular actor, or different films by a certain director. A few months ago, for example, I wrote about my exploration of the films of David Mamet. Over the past few months I’ve written about several films by the Coen Brothers, Burn After Reading, The Hudsucker Proxy, and, more recently, The Big Lebowski. No surprise, my great enjoyment of those two flicks prompted me to seek out several other Coen Brothers films.
Blood Simple (1985) — I had never seen this film before, and I was bowled over — it is phenomenal! Despite being the Coen Brothers’ first film, it is now, without question, one of my favorites of their work. A Texan bartender named Ray (John Getz) launches into an affair with Abby (Frances McDormand, terrific in her first role). Unfortunately, her jealous husband Marty (Dan Hedaya), who is also Ray’s boss, finds out and hires a hit-man (M. Emmet Walsh) to get rid of them both. What transpires is a tale of spreading ripples of crime and chaos. As in most films by the Coen Brothers, the twisty tale of mistakes and double-crosses is engaging, but also subordinate to the fun with all of the unique, colorful characters filling out the film. Dan Hedaya (Cheers, The Usual Suspects) hasn’t appeared in many movies lately, but his angry, scenery-chewing turn here reminds me of why I love watching him so much. And the great M. Emmet Walsh (Serpico, The Jerk, Blade Runner, and so many other great films) simply dominates every scene he’s in. This film is a blast.
Miller’s Crossing (1990) — This might be the first Coen Brothers film that I ever saw, and as such, I’ve always had fond memories of it. (I love gangster movies, so that helps, too). It had been a while since I’d last seen it, and I wasn’t sure how well the film would hold up. I am pleased to report that it holds up mighty well, indeed! The film follows Tom Reagan (Gabriel Byrne), the right-hand man of Leo (Albert Finney), the Irish gangster who is top dog in his town. But when Tom and Leo fall for the same woman (Marcia Gay Harden) who may or may not be manipulating them both in order to protect her brother (John Turturro); and Italian underboss Johnny Caspar (Jon Polito) begins challenging Leo’s control of his territory, Tom has to rely on his wits and his quick-talking skills to stay alive and, hopefully, in control of the spiraling-out-of-control events surrounding him. Miller’s Crossing is
I saw a truly amazing performance last weekend at the Somerville Theatre in Somerville, MA. Before I tell you about it, let me share a bit of history:
If any of the topics that I have written about on this site appeal to you, then I probably don’t have to tell you about Mystery Science Theatre 3000. Created by Joel Hodgson, the TV series ran from 1988 through 1999 on a variety of stations. The plot is irrelevant, and is quickly dispensed with during the catchy opening theme for every episode. In short, a man is trapped in space and forced to watch terrible movies. To maintain his sanity, he constructs a bunch of robot buddies, and the three of them wisecrack their way through each film as it unfolds. In each hour-and-a-half episode, the gang would take on a different, awful old film. It was a riot. Like many fans, I was deeply disappointed when the show took its final bow (making fun with the truly abysmal Danger: Diabolik on August 8, 1999).
But that was not the end! Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett (the lead players of MST3K during its later years) reunited a few years back to form Rifftrax! The project involved the three recording feature-length “riffs,” making fun of movies exactly as they did back with MST3K. Except, this time, the films they’re making fun of are modern, well-known movies (everything from Star Wars to Star Trek to The Lord of the Rings to Indiana Jones, etc etc etc.). The way the site works is that for a few bucks you can download one of their podcasts, for a movie whose DVD you either already own, or go out and rent. Pop the DVD into your player, start the podcast, and you’re off! I’ve downloaded a bunch of their Rifftrax over the past two years, and their over-all quality is stellar. It’s the same joke-a-second format of MST3K, and it’s a lot of fun to listen the gang take on some of the big films from the past decade. (If you’re looking for a place to start, I’d suggest downloading their Rifftrax for Batman and Robin. Sure, making fun of that movie is like hitting the broad side of a barn, but still — the track is genius.)
Entirely separate from the Rifftrax project, five members of the ORIGINAL MST3K team have re-formed to create their own MST3K-type project: Cinematic Titanic. Creator Joel Hodgson has teamed up with Trace Beaulieu (the original voice for Crow; he also played Dr. Forrester), Josh Elvis Weinstein (the original voice for Tom Servo), TV’s Frank Conniff, and Mary Jo Pehl (Pearl Forrester). Unlike Rifftrax, the … [continued]
In 1992, the groundbreaking Batman: The Animated Series premiered on Fox. To this day, despite some mighty competition from the last two live-action Batman movies (especially the magnificent The Dark Knight), this show still stands as my favorite non-comic book depiction of Batman, the one that is most true to the character I have always pictured in my head. Gorgeous animation combined with terrific stories that played Batman serious and scary made the show a knock-out right from the beginning (and ensured that the episodes would be as strong upon repeated viewings over 15 years later as they were when the show first launched).
But when considering all of the elements that made Batman: The Animated Series such a terrific success, we would be remiss in neglecting to mention the magnificent music. In support of this point, La-La Land Records has recently released a phenomenal two-CD collection of the soundtrack from the show. Unlike most cartoons of the time, which relied on a lot of recycled music, each episode of Batman: TAS had its own original score, performed by an orchestra. The music was masterminded by Shirley Walker, ably assisted by a team that included Lolita Ritmanis and Michael McCuiston (all three of whom have a lot of work represented on this new CD collection). Like the very best film score, the music from Batman: TAS was a critical element in creating the over-all tone of the piece, and it is strong enough to be tremendously enjoyable when listened to on its own.
The CD begins with a presentation of the Batman: TAS main title theme, which was composed by Danny Elfman (creating an interesting and catchy variation on his theme from Tim Burton’s Batman). We are then presented with music from eleven notable episodes from the series’ early run.
I am not a musician, so writing about music doesn’t come easily for me, but let me try to share how much I enjoyed listening to these CDs. What is incredible is the way each episode has its own unique themes, composed to reflect the action and the characters (heroic and villainous) featured in that particular show.
Right away a stand-out is the work on the series’ first episode, “On Leather Wings,” in which Batman is blamed for crimes committed by a mysterious and monstrous Man-Bat creature. The Batman: The Animated Series theme is wondrously woven in to the adventurous, exciting score that the conveys the energy and action of Batman’s vertiginous mid-air battle with the Man-Bat while establishing the series’ dark, brooding tone.
Other stand-outs for me include the creepy, almost child-like theme for Harvey Dent, tracking his descent into madness as he becomes the creature … [continued]
I love watching the Oscars.
Oh, don’t get me wrong — it’s a pretty ridiculous popularity contest, and I usually find that Hollywood’s choices (in terms of the nominations and the winners chosen) range from the bizarre to the absurd. BUT I do enjoy the spectacle of the show — particularly when there’s a good host bringing a lot of comedy into the proceedings — and the night is a great excuse to gather with some friends and talk about movies for three-plus hours.
If I disagree with Hollywood’s selections, then what movies do I think should have been nominated? So glad you asked! If you missed it, click to read part 1 and part 2 of my Top Ten Movies of 2008 list. It’s quite a different bunch than the films that you’ll hear mentioned at this weekend’s ceremony!
As for Hollywood’s choices, I have ranked the Best Picture nominees below, in order of my preference:
1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button — This is the film I’m pulling for. I loved it, and I hope to have a chance to see it again before it leaves theatres. I’ve been having some fun with this flick in my comics all week, and you can click here to read my full review of the film.
2. Frost/Nixon — A fascinating slice of history, brought to life by a group of powerhouse actors. Click here to read my full review.
3. Milk — An important film that is powerful and terrifically entertaining at the same time. It almost made my top 10. Click here to read my full review.
4. Slumdog Millionaire – You know that Seinfeld episode where Elaine feels like she’s the only person in the world who didn’t like The English Patient? That’s me with this movie. I didn’t HATE it — it’s a perfectly fine, entertaining movie. I just didn’t think it was anything that special, and CERTAINLY nowhere even close to the best film I saw in 2008. Click here to read my full review.
5. The Reader — Despite some terrific acting performances, I found this film to be just a mess. Click here to read my full review. If the film is making the point that I think it is making — that is, that Michael Berg (David Kross/Ralph Fiennes) is just as much a victim of the Nazis as were the Jews — then I find that to be a rather objectionable idea. A movie that addresses the conflicted feelings of modern Germans about the Holocaust is a fascinating idea for a film, and I feel that I can be very sympathetic for Germans who suffered during the Holocaust, or through its … [continued]
A few months ago I wrote about some of the exciting Star Trek fiction that Pocket Books has released over the past several years, picking up story-lines left hanging by the now off-the-air 24th century Trek series (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager). The over-all quality of these books has been terrific, and I have really been enjoying the sense of a coherent, connected universe that the novels have created. Story-lines from one novel lead into the next, characters are growing and changing in ways they seldom did on the TV shows that needed to preserve the status quo from week-to-week, and there’s been a strong sense of the over-all narrative moving forward towards something really exciting.
That something exciting is Star Trek: Destiny, the three-novel series by David Mack that serves as a sort-of “season finale” for all of the Trek novels released recently. Multiple characters from all of the Trek series, as well as a variety of new characters that have been introduced and developed in the novels, converge in this enormous storyline.
Half a decade after the end of the Dominion War, Captain Dax of the U.S.S. Aventine has discovered in the Gamma Quadrant the wreckage of Earth’s second Warp 5 starship, the U.S.S. Columbia NX-02, lost for centuries. (The Columbia and its Captain, Erika Hernandez, were a big part of the fourth and final season of Star Trek: Enterprise.) Meanwhile, the moment the Federation has long dreaded has arrived: The Borg have launched a full-scale invasion of Federation territory, with hundreds of cubes. Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise attempt to lead the remains of Starfleet in a last-ditch effort to protect the core systems and somehow halt the Borg advance, but as world after world falls, their struggle becomes increasingly hopeless.
Destiny is an ambitious, far-reaching story that tells several (interconnected) tales simultaneously. We follow Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise as they fight to find some way to defeat the Borg, as they have so many times in the past. Meanwhile, far outside of Federation space on a mission of deep-space exploration, the hopelessness of Captain William Riker and the crew of the U.S.S. Titan at being too far away to help their friends and family is compounded when they find themselves in an impossible situation, trapped by the highly advanced species called the Caeliar. This long-lived race is connected to the mystery of the Columbia, which Dax and the Aventine are investigating in the Gamma Quadrant. (And, not surprising, both stories are connected to the Borg’s invasion of the Federation — although what IS surprising is the remarkable nature of … [continued]
Haven’t done one of these in a while…
Here’s some of the fun stuff floating around the interwebs these days:
The Simpsons has moved to HD! This has apparently necessitated a change in the show’s iconic opening credits sequence, which has remained constant for 19 years. (Can you believe it’s been that long??) Fear not, fans, the new credits sequence is quite spectacular. It follows the general pattern of the old opening, bringing us through Springfield — from Bart writing on the blackboard to Homer working in the plant to Lisa in band class to Marge shopping with Maggie, etc etc. But there are a LOT of great new gags, and new appearances by many of the popular characters who weren’t around when the show originally launched (Groundskeeper Willie, Otto, Ralph Wiggum, Pattie & Selma, Sideshow Bob, Apu and his Octuplets, and many more). And the new animation is terrific. If you missed yesterday’s episode, check out the new opening by clicking here. Note that the couch gag is, of course, just this week’s version — that ending joke will continue to change every week. By the way, after watching this clip, do you find yourself missing Bleeding Gums Murphy? (He’s one of the characters Bart used to skateboard past, who has now been removed.) Don’t worry, he’s still there! Check out the pictures on the wall behind the kids in Lisa’s band class…
Just like the year when there were two asteroid-hitting-the-earth movies (Deep Impact and Armageddon) or the year when there were two volcano movies (Dante’s Peak and Volcano), this year there are two Mall Cop flicks coming out. Perhaps you, like me, chose to pass on Paul Blart: Mall Cop, starring Kevin James. But you might still be interested in Seth Rogen’s much, much darker take on the idea. Click here to see a trailer for Observe and Report.
Speaking of trailers, Quentin Tarantino’s let’s-go-kill-some-Nazis flick Inglourious Basterds (yes, that is how the title is spelled) has a teaser trailer that was just released. Click here to check it out.
Is Joaquin Phoenix melting down before our eyes, or is this all some kind of hoax for the documentary that Casey Affleck is apparently filming about Phoenix’s attempt at a rap career? I have no idea, but click here to watch his truly bizarre appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, and judge for yourself.
If you’re a Watchmen fan who is chomping at the bit for the movie to be released (Match 6th is coming!!), then you definitely need to click here to watch the teaser for the Tales of the Black Freighter direct-to-DVD release.
Finally, I … [continued]
Every so often, we get to witness a magical synthesis between actor and role that takes a quality piece of material and elevates it to something really special. Mickey Rourke burst onto the movie scene in the early eighties in films such as Body Heat and Diner. But if you’ve heard or read anything about The Wrestler, then you probably know all about his subsequent fall from grace. He started to gain a reputation for mis-behaving on set — showing up late, not learning his lines — and then he quit acting in order to become a professional boxer. After a brutal four years (which resulted in the destruction of his movie-star good lucks) he returned to acting, only to appear in bomb after bomb. (You can visit his imdb profile to check out the long list of films he appeared in in the nineties and early aughts that I guarantee you’ve never heard of.)
In The Wrestler, Rourke stars as Randy “the Ram” Robinson. In the eighties, he was an enormously successful wrestler. But those days are long past, and when we meet Randy in the opening scenes of The Wrestler, he has become “an old, broken-down piece of meat” (as he describes himself later in the film). His face and his body have been battered by decades of wrestling, he needs a hear-ing aid to hear properly, and he devours pain-killers to manage his constant-pain. He still wrestles, but mostly before light crowds in school gymnasiums. His days of glory are just a memory.
What we know of Rourke’s life over the past two decades inevitably colors our perspective of the Ram. Rourke doesn’t even need to say anything — just a look at his broken face says it all. Although the details are different, in many ways Rourke’s story IS that of the Ram’s, to such a degree that it is impossible to imagine any other actor in the role. This gives a powerful, additional level of resonance to the story.
But Rourke doesn’t rest on his personal similarities with his character. In every scene, in every moment, in every little look and gesture, he uses his acting abilities — which are still quite formidable — to create an iconic performance. The Ram is an enormous mountain of a man — yet also a figure of surprising gentleness, which we see in the way he interacts with the neighborhood kids, in his kindness to his fans, and in the way he reaches out to his estranged daughter. But he is also prone to making bad decisions, and consistently tripping up his own good efforts at creating or maintaining relationships with others.
The Ram’s closest personal … [continued]
When I wrote my Top 10 Movies of 2008 list, I began by listing the many movies that I hadn’t yet had a chance to see. Well, even though 2008 is well behind us, I’ve been trying to catch up on some of the films that I missed. (I’ve had some time to do so, since these days it is apparently anathema to Hollywood to release any decent new movies during January or February. Am I wrong??)
Below are two films that were on my missed-in-2008 list. There were certainly elements of both that I enjoyed, but neither of them would have made my Best of 2008 list even if I had seen them in time.
Gran Torino – Clint Eastwood is a pretty amazing guy. The man is in his seventies, and he is putting out new films at a pace to rival Woody Allen. He released two films that he directed in 2008, Changeling and Gran Torino. For Gran Torino, in addition to directing, he also starred (for the first time since 2004′s Million Dollar Baby), produced, and worked on the soundtrack. Eastwood plays retired Korean war veteran Walt Kowalsky, a sort of Dirty Harry meets Archie Bunker figure, a man almost gleeful in his anger and constant use of racial slurs. As you might expect, over the course of the film the lovable fellow underneath shines through, and he learns some valuable lessons and teaches some to others (in this case, a pair of neighborhood kids).
The biggest pleasure of Gran Torino is watching Mr. Eastwood growl his way through every scene. There’s a surprising amount of humor in the middle section of the film, and his comic timing is impeccable. (I would love to see how his growls and grimaces were spelled out in the screenplay. Did someone actually type out “grrr” for those moments, or was that all Clint?) Eastwood cast a number of non-actors in the roles of the local kids, and although there are some spots of dodgy acting (such as Thao’s supposed moment of rage at a climactic moment when Walt locks him in his basement to stop him from confronting the local gang), for the most part the kids are quite compelling. The biggest weakness of the film is its one-dimensionality. If you stopped the film after the first 10 or so minutes, and then wrote down on a notepad what you think will happen to all of the characters, I’d wager you’d be able to pretty accurately predict the remainder of the film. There just aren’t any surprises as the story-lines unfold. And the characters themselves are all pretty one-note. Take Walt’s ridiculous family, for example. They’re one-dimensional buffoons,
I have just seen the definitive version of Star Wars.
And it wasn’t created by George Lucas or anyone at ILM. It was made by one fan.
For years I have been reading about the variety of “fan-edits” of the six Star Wars movies that have been floating around the internet. Last month I finally got ahold of the famous Phantom Edit of Star Wars: Episode I, which I wrote about last week.
I was so blown away by the high quality of that edit that I decided to check out some of the other fan-edits that are out there. I am eager to watch the Phantom Editor’s take on Episode II (and I’ll certainly write about that here once I see it), but after perusing various sites such as fanedit.org and originaltrilogy.com, it became clear that people were very excited about a fellow called Adywan’s special edition re-edit of Star Wars: Episode IV, titled Star Wars: Revisited. I decided to track it down and take a look.
Let me say again: Wow.
This one fan has produced an astounding re-edit of Star Wars that is, in my mind, by far the best presentation this film has ever received on any home video format.
Before I go into detail about what Adywan has done, let me give you a brief history of the many versions of Star Wars. Even in the earliest years of its existence, George Lucas had a habit of fiddling around with it (adding in the Episode IV: A New Hope subtitle, for instance, or the brief scene on the Death Star where Chewie growls at the little black droid). In 1995, Lucas returned the original three Star Wars films to the big-screen with the Special Editions. In addition to giving a whole new generation of folks (like me) a chance to enjoy the Star Wars films on the big screen, these versions contained a number of CGI enhancements. Some of these changes were very cool (particularly many of the snazzy new space-ship shots, like the Millennium Falcon blasting out of Mos Eisley and some action-packed additions to the Death Star battle). Some were controversial (the re-insertion of a scene between Han Solo and Jabba the Hut; the many new creatures added into the background of Mos Eisley). Some were down-right stupid (Greedo shooting at Han and somehow missing at point-blank range, before Han shoots and kills him). In 2004, the Star Wars Original Trilogy was finally released to DVD. Sadly, it was a mess. There were additional changes to the film that were not for the better (the Han-Greedo scene was further mucked with, with Han and Greedo … [continued]
Back on September 9th I wrote about Star Trek: Phase 2, by far the most interesting of the many fan-made Star Trek projects that have sprung up over the past few years, in the absence of any new official Star Trek material on TV or at the movies. The goal of Phase 2 is to create the fourth season of the Original Series (which was cancelled at the end of its third season). Each installment of Phase 2 (there have been five episodes so far, counting their “pilot”) is an hour in length, and what is astounding about the endeavor (betcha thought I’d say enterprise) is the degree of professionalism involved in the production. While the episodes don’t QUITE look like actual broadcast-able Star Trek episodes, they come pretty damn close.
The fifth episode was just released on-line: ”Blood and Fire Part I.” This is the first installment of the series’ first two-part episode. The episode opens with a fierce battle between the Enterprise and a Klingon warship. Although the Klingons are ultimately defeated, the Big E sustains Star Trek II level damage. However, before the Enterprise can return to a starbase to be repaired, they receive a distress call from another Starfleet vessel, the USS Copernicus, which appears to be locked on course directly into a dying star. When Spock leads an away team over to the Copernicus to try to figure out what happened to the ship and its crew, they soon find themselves in quite a lot of jeopardy. ”Blood and and Fire” also re-introduces us to Captain Kirk’s young nephew Peter (introduced in one episode of the Original Series, “Operation — Annihilate!”), who has transfered over to the Enterprise to be closer to his husband-to-be, who is already an Enterprise officer.
“Blood and Fire” was written and directed by David Gerrold, who is only the lastest industry professional (and someone involved with the production of the original Star Trek) to have gotten involved with this fan-made series. Mr. Gerrold was a key writer for the Original Series, and he wrote what many consider to be one of the finest Original Series episodes ever produced: “The Trouble With Tribbles.” This story, “Blood and Fire,” was actually written by Mr. Gerrold for the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but it was never produced. (According to the Phase 2 web-site, the episode was shelved because of its mention of a gay crewman on the Enterprise.) Mr. Gerrold re-worked the story for Phase 2.
Over-all, “Blood and Fire Part I” is another winner from the Phase 2 team. The production values are incredible. The sets, the costumes, the make-up, the lighting — everything looks just … [continued]
My brother Dave had the great idea, recently, to start a Double Feature Club. This is a movie-version of a book club, in which a group of friends will gather, approximately once a month, to enjoy a Double Feature on a certain theme.
Dave hosted the first installment last week — two movies starring Jeff Bridges: Arlington Road and The Big Lebowski.
Arlington Road (1999) — Jeff Bridges plays Michael Faraday (no connection to the time-traveling Daniel Faraday on Lost), a widowed college history professor who teaches courses on terrorism in America. He becomes friends with new neighbors, Oliver and Cheryl Lang (Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack). However, he grows increasingly suspicious of Oliver, and when he begins looking into Oliver’s background he becomes convinced that Oliver is plotting a terrorist act on American soil.
Arlington Road is a nice taught thriller that has a dynamite twist ending. It really stunned me when I first saw it in theatres back in ’99. Because movies like these, with twist endings, tend to lose something upon repeat viewings… and also because the film is, frankly, quite a downer, I’d never re-watched it in the years since. I was very curious, now, to see how the film held up.
No surprise, it loses a lot of its power once you know the ending. However, there is still fun to be had in watching the film through while knowing the end, and seeing how that knowledge colors scenes that you’d previously thought of differently. The plot holds up pretty well to scrutiny. In a post 9-11 world, this story about the fear of terrorism, and possibility of hidden dangers even among our suburban neighbors, has a lot of extra weight. The film is completely colored by that now, but I don’t think that’s altogether a bad thing.
The main joy of the film is watching Bridges slowly unravel as Faraday becomes more and more obsessed with his neighbors. Robbins and Cusack are also a blast, alternately playing friendly & gregarious and very, very creepy.
The Big Lebowski (1998) — Jeff Bridges is Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski, a stoned LA lay-about who gets mixed up in a Chandler-esque tale of intrigue and mistaken identity. I’d loved this film back in college, but it had been years since I’d seen it last. As with Arlington Road, I was eager to see how well this film held up.
Well, I am pleased to say that it remains ferociously entertaining. Bridges is just terrific as The Dude, conveying an eminently likable slacker/stoner without laying on the shtick too thickly. As always in a film by the Coen Brothers, our lead is surrounded by an ensemble of … [continued]
I have been reading, for years now, about the mysterious Phantom Edit of Star Wars: Episode I. Apparently, some time after Episode I was released, a fan who was as dissatisfied as all the rest of us were decided to take matters into his own hands and re-edit Episode I in an attempt to address some of its many flaws. Word of this Phantom Edit spread, and it wasn’t long before I was reading about in on-line and even in some mainstream magazines. (For example, here is an interesting piece on the Phantom Edit from Salon.com from back in November, 2001.) Kevin Smith had to publicly deny being responsible for this re-edit. (Eventually the Phantom Editor was revealed to be Mike J. Nichols from California.)
Finally, after many years and a little help from one of my friends (you know who you are — THANK YOU!) I have finally had a chance to watch the Phantom Edit of Star Wars: Episode I myself.
It is a revelation.
By lifting out lines of dialogue, re-arranging moments, and even deleting entire sequences, Mr. Nichols has worked to excavate the core of a decent story buried under the bloated two hour and twenty minute run-time of George Lucas’ original film. (The Phantom Edit runs just a hair under an hour and fifty minutes.)
So what has changed?
Nichols has removed many of the more juvenile (and, let’s say it, stupid) elements of the film. The main focus of his deletions is, surprise surprise, on Jar Jar. Now, Jar Jar is still in the movie, don’t get me wrong. There is no way to have the story be coherent without his presence. But Nichols has trimmed Jar Jar’s presence in the film WAY back. No longer does he step in poodoo, or get his face numbed and start talking like Bill Cosby doing his dentist routine, etc. Nichols has even, in many places, reduced the volume of Jar Jar’s dialogue, subtly shifting the viewers’ focus away from his antics in the background to the things we SHOULD be paying attention to that are going on in the foreground.
Nichols actually gives Jar Jar something of an “arc” in the film, mainly by cutting the scene during the end-battle on Naboo where Jar Jar surrenders to the battle droids. On the commentary (yes, there is even a commentary, and I was very pleasantly surprised by how well-spoken Nichols was, and the straight-forward way in which he laid out his rationale for all the changes he made), Nichols argues quite persuasively about how ridiculous it was to have Jar Jar on the podium celebrating with everyone at the end of the movie. Wouldn’t the … [continued]