The Frances Farmer Show #16: The Last Jedi

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We tracked him down and thawed Mike out of his carbonite prison for this special episode all about Star Wars and The Last Jedi. Topics include but are not limited to: Porgs, Galactic capitalism and the flaws inherent in the Republic, Ron Howard, wipes, and Mike’s dog.

You can listen to the show by downloading it directly, or by subscribing on iTunes or the podcast player of your choice.

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The Last Jedi (Rian Johnson, 2017)

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The following are a few brief thoughts on The Last Jedi rather than a proper review. I try to keep it vague or completely unmentioned for fear of spoiling. Depending on how sensitive you are to such things, you probably shouldn’t be reading any reviews at all. Maybe I’ll come back to it in a few weeks, after I’ve had a chance to more fully absorb it and to see it again.

The Last Jedi is the Star Wars movie we’ve been waiting for, the culmination of years of ancillary products building on and expanding the mythos developed over the first trilogy and inverted in the second. Like The Force Awakens, its structure is explicitly modeled on a film from the first trilogy, in this case, The Empire Strikes Back. Despite our heroes’ triumph in the last film, a rag-tag band of freedom fighters find themselves under assault by the fascistic enemy. They escape, but the principal good guys are separated and their storylines play out individually, one set on the run in space, while another tries to get advice from a reclusive Jedi master. All threads come together in an ending more bittersweet than triumphant, setting the stage for a final showdown in part three of the story. But this, aside from a handful of gags both visual and verbal here or there, is where the similarities end. In fact, The Last Jedi deftly subverts the expectation of repetition, resolving some conflicts while deepening others, breaking out of the series’ ringlike story and calling for a radical break with the past. To put it into the terms of our contemporary politics: if the original trilogy is about the triumph of neo-liberalism, and the prequel trilogy about the corruption of that ideology by the forces of fascism, then The Last Jedi is where the trilogy truly embraces revolution.

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Memories of the Sword (Park Heung-shik, 2015)

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Opening this week at the Century Cinemas in Federal Way is this Korean wuxia film, a revenge tale bearing more than a little resemblance to a certain sic-fi trilogy and filled with striking sunsets, lovely fields, elaborate sets and digitally-enhanced swordfighting. Directed by Park Heung-shik, the man behind such award-winning films as 2001’s I Wish I Had a Wife and 2004’s My Mother, the MermaidMemories of the Sword follows in the footsteps of Zhang Yimou’s martial arts films Hero, House of Flying Daggers and Curse of the Golden Flower in that it is a highly melodramatic tale told in sumptuous, gorgeously photographed settings. Beginning with a young woman walking through a field of sunflowers, she puts down her basket and takes a flying leap over a giant stalk, soaring weightlessly through the air. Her joy as she lands safely, accomplishing what must have been a task she’d set herself for weeks if not years, is palpable. Unfortunately it’s the last bit of happiness in what becomes an unremittingly grim tragedy. Like Zhang’s films, the tastefulness of the enterprise undermines any life the genre film within might have possessed.

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