star wars day

Hello, readers.

This past Saturday, Star Wars Day happened at the BFI at London’s southbank. Here’s a picture of that.

IMG_0417

From 11 in the morning until 8:20 in the evening, me and a shiny, fairly new friend watched the original trilogy flicker past. There was that fantastic opening shot that framed the scale of the struggle; that tiny rebel ship pursued by a rumbling, neverending star destroyer. There was Luke being all dramatic, looking off into the horizon at the twin suns setting, longing for adventure, for anywhere but here. That shot stays with me as much, or more, than most others. Simple. Beautiful. And that score by John Williams welling up in the background.

When Greedo shot first, people in the audience booed. I wasn’t sure what to make of that. There were a few boo’s to go along with the cheers. These were the special editions being screened. I don’t remember now if I was one of those, a long time ago, who felt so cheated by Lucas for tinkering with our childhood. Older, now, different, I don’t care. The movies I watched as a child only exist in my mind anyway, and it’s in my mind that I watch them now, seeing not just the films themselves, understanding again how beautiful they are, how superbly edited, how perfectly orchestrated (such a soundscape!), but seeing more–seeing how they sit in culture, in terms of feminism, in terms of people of color, in terms of the dawning age of computers and automation, the eternal struggle between human and machine, and not just machine in terms of electronics, but machines in terms of our own emotions, our bodies sometimes acting like mechanisms of hate and lust and love and fear. The lessons of Star Wars, of Yoda, as simple as they are, as mythic and profound they seemed to me as a child, still matter. I still watch Yoda lift that X-wing out of the swamp and hear Luke say, “I don’t believe it,” and Yoda say, “That is why you fail,” and I know that those are words worth remembering.

There was, before Empire Strikes Back, an introduction from Billy Dee Williams, clearly speaking about the presence of race in Star Wars, of how for some, the first Star Wars existed as a white-washed future in which the only person of color was Darth Vader, and he, just a fashion and a voice, at that. Also, evil. Williams spoke about Lucas wanting to answer those critics, to include a different perspective. And, what was wild and sad and confusing, was how Williams seemed to be avoiding words like race or black in his introduction. I don’t know why. He said he was a person of the world. Which he is. I was sad when some parts of reality were upset that the first face in the The Force Awakens trailer belonged to John Boyega, a person of color.

I hope that in forty years, we remember his face, and these new stories, as fondly as we remembered those first three. I hope, and this is a lot of hope, is that somehow these new films touch on the old new myth of Star Wars, mixing together fairy tales and science fiction in a way that open up a new chapter in the neverending struggle between humans and the mechanisms they design: philosophies, religions, governments, beliefs. I want a new myth from an old story. It’s what I always want, really. I want a new way to see.

When the evening ended, and there was Luke fighting Vader, and Vader as a ghost (and more boo’s) and there was my friend experiencing ridiculous amounts of joy at the Ewoks, I was left feeling as much like myself as I could feel. Which is a strange thing to say, because, how do people ever not feel like themselves, but they do, and there’s not much you can do about it. It happens with time and space. And, if you’re lucky, there are people and stories that remind you who you were at the same time they let you grow. Every time I see Star Wars, I am older than I was, and different, and the same boy who stared at the setting suns and wanted more. Much as the films themselves.

They’re just stories, of course. But so is everything.

Happy Monday, readers.

ttfn.

gyeongju

Hello, readers.

As mentioned, the London Korean Film Festival occurred recently and among the many wonderful films on display I only managed to see the one, Gyeongju, but, happily, within this one wonder there were many wonders as so often does happens with wonders. One day I may retire the word wonder, but not today.

via: londontree
via: londontree

In Gyeongju, the film (dir: Zhang Lu, a Korean professor living in Beijing (a man played by Park Hae-il returns to Korea, and in particular, the city of Gyeongju after the death of a friend. He is a man bereft. We don’t need to know why. All we need to know is there in the scene when he lands in Gyeongju and removes a cigarette from his pocket but doesn’t smoke it; he holds it under his nose, inhaling what he’s no longer allowed. His wife, it seems, can’t stand the smell.

The city of Gyeongju contains a great many temples, grotto’s, folk villages, and very large hills in which are buried the bodies of a great many former great people that lived and ruled during the Silla dynasty. It’s a small, quiet place, somewhat overburdened by death and time, and such is the film set here. The professor seeks a cafe and a portrait that once hung there, a portrait that depicted something indecent. He finds the cafe. The owner (a woman played by Shin Min-a) tells him she wallpapered over the portrait. She serves him his tea. They spend the day together, from morning to sunrise the next day, having tea, riding bicycles, eating, singing, visiting the hills that keep warm the dead, and listening to messages left on their phones that will crack open your chest and rip out your heart.

Many reviewers say it reminds them of the Before series, and I see what they mean. Gyeongju like those films, concerns itself with conversation and the magic shared between two people trying to understand one another. Perhaps, more than in Before, though, Gyeongju possesses a greater sense of time and sadness, of ghosts pressing up through the earth and mind, altering the contours of things. It’s a quiet film that made me chuckle, smile, laugh, and hope.

via: hancinema
via: hancinema

There’s a thing in films I love more than anything, and that’s when a director allows the camera to rest on a scene, allows us to fall inside the moment. No cuts. No extra music. Just people living. Zhang Lu delivers so many moments like this, of such cutting perfection, such careful observance. There’s a scene inside this film, inside of a noraebang, that is a thing of such beauty, longing, and awkwardness, oh, it’s so good. The movie deserves a bit of your time, if nothing else, for that scene.

And that’s not mentioning the thing with the ear touching. Oh! The ear touching.

Happy Wednesday, readers. I’m sure there’s a joke to be made about humps and burial mounds, but I will refrain from such.

ttfn.

moments

Hello, readers.

Last night, I attended a screening of Gyeongju, shown as part of the The London Korean Film Festival. A full review of that will appear shortly, including descriptions of the crowd what included sparkling converses and spider-haired men that smelled of beer and damp sheets.

In other news, this happened.

And this.

The other day, in this post, I described a moment from my life. I enjoyed it. I will most likely do it more, and I will tag each such entry with the tag, ‘moments’. Many of the moments will probably be moments that involved me. Some of them may not. Some of them I might make up. All of them will be real, though, and will have happened to me. Especially the ones I make up.

Happy moments, readers.

ttfn.

p.s. As you go to sleep tonight, try to remember one moment. Could be from today, or yesterday, or from a film, or a story someone told you once. Hold the moment in mind, let it sit on the tip of your tongue. See if it speaks to you in your dreams.

p.p.s. That came out sounding much more romantic and, um, dreamy that I originally intended. Ah, well. These things happen.

space

Hello, readers.

One late night, while walking through a field near Oxford, Mississippi, a friend turned to me and asked, between the shush-shush of our steps through the tall grass, “Do you ever feel like when you look up at the stars you see more than other people?”

We were walking to a pond near a farmer’s house. We were meant to go skinny dipping. A late-night walk, a late-night swim, a return home, a goodnight, a goodbye. One of our friends was leaving the next day for distant mountains and very well known dangers.

I looked up. I saw more stars than I had ever seen. It was so dark and so clear that you could see the dust between the stars. Galaxies caught in the winds of dark matter.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean because we grew up with Star Trek and Babylon 5 and Star Wars, because we read Foundation and Dune, because we care about the multiverse and so when we look up we see aliens and star destroyers and sliders surfing the dimensions. We see stories.”

I knew what he meant. And I said so.

“I know what you mean,” I said. “Stories in the dust.”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah.”

Now, thinking about it, I suppose I could have said that people have been dreaming into the dust since forever. I could have mentioned Cyrano de Bergerac’s L’Autre Monde: ou les États et Empires de la Lune, or Dante’s various planetary paradises, or those Hindu epics of flying machines that flew equally well underwater or in outer space. But, that wasn’t what he meant. And I knew what he meant then and now. He meant that we possessed a shared inheritance and responsibility of wonder that had been passed down from forever and, for us, that wonder happened to be populated with Skywalkers and Baron Harkonnens, as opposed to angels and demons, and it would be our job as writers to keep populating the dust with stories of what was and what still might be.

Happy Wednesday, readers.

ttfn.

p.s. Later this month, EG and I will be seeing 2001. It will be her first time. Hopefully, we’ll catch Interstellar, as well. One must never stop re-wondering the imagination.

subtle, but obvious

another, possibly the first, in a neverending discussion of the differences between the U.S. and UK.

Hello, readers.

Sometimes differences between the U.S. and the UK are obvious, but not immediately noticed. Such as the way British people wear jumpers and U.S. people wear sweaters. You would probably not notice this unless you entered into a conversation with a British person while both wearing a ‘knitted garment intended to cover the torso and arms’ and complimented them on their sweater only to hear them say, “This old jumper? It’s good, innit? Nicked it on sale from Somewheretherebe’s.” 1

Sometimes the differences between the U.S. and the UK are not at all exactly obvious, but immediately noticed. Such as the manner in which British doors very often lack doorknobs.

And sometimes the differences betwen the U.S. and the UK seem to conform to such widely held stereotypes that you doubt if what you’re seeing is really happening or if someone has put on a stage play for your benefit.

78sKG

EG and I attended a recent Q&A between Richard Ayoade and a film critic, in which were discussed, among other things: Ayoade’s career as a writer, actor, and director, as well as a Truffaut film–to be screened after the Q&A–called La Nuite américaine, or, as they say in the U.S., Day for Night. It was a great Q&A. Ayoade being brilliant and funny and not at all ruffled by his being interviewed by a film critic that at times appeared like a caricature of Britishness you might expect to find on the cover of The New Yorker (the closest thing the U.S. has to a British paper, really). The critic ridiculed, fairly straight off, the U.S. title of the film, saying, really, we’ve lost all the romance there, haven’t we? (which, yes, to be fair, but The American Night plastered on a marquee would just as well lead people in the U.S. to believe they were about to see a period film concerning Paul Revere). He also discussed, at length, in the run-up to one question, the particularness of the male psyche, and it’s desire to be loved, and how very unique it is to a boy, this need to be loved. He also very often asked questions to which it seemed fairly clear he already knew the answer, or, at least, the answer he expected or believed correct. Ayoade did not particular engage with the questions along the lines of the special magic of being a young boy, as opposed to being a girl, and, in one of the more memorable exchanges, when the film critic posited a question surrounding whether or not as a director Ayoade’s job was to answer questions, sometimes without knowing the answer, such as to what lens to use for a particular scene, but to still appear to know what what he was doing whether or not, in fact, he did, Ayoade responded, simply and effectively, thusly:

“That’s one approach, yes. You might also say, I’m not sure, and what do you think. Rather than, well, lying.”

So there you have it. British people are snobs. Also, British people are funny and not snobs.

There is a danger, of course, in experiencing a single event outside of your culture and attributing the nature of said experience to the entirety of that culture. For example, once, in England, I walked into someone and that person apologized to me. Would it be right for me to assume from this one experience that English people deploy apologies the way certain other cultures deploy ‘fuck off’? Probably not. But, I do it anyway. I am from the U.S., after all, and we excel at nothing if not the ability to hold fast to our beliefs whatever gusts of fact the heavens might send.

Happy Tuesday, readers.

ttfn.


  1. You should hear my British accent sometime. It’s even worse.