Friday, December 18, 2015

The One Guy in the World who Never Got into "Star Wars:" Me.

"The Force Awakens" was released today. Have fun seeing it. I won't be there.

When I was eleven years old, the first “Star Wars” movie came out. My mom took me and my friend Mark Bernstein to see it at the General Cinema Theaters in Sherman Oaks.

I was bored out of my skull. There was something very cold and distancing about it. I couldn’t follow exactly what was going on. I didn’t like any of the characters or care about any of them. It just seemed like a lot of things flying by and there was a lot of mumbo-jumbo. At the end of the movie, I had no feeling about it at all, because it was emotionless. At that age, I just wanted to see comedies – anything with Peter Sellers, Gene Wilder, Mel Brooks, and Woody Allen. Plus, I wanted to see adult dramas, horror movies, and even foreign movies, since they seemed mysterious. If I'm going to see something that takes place in an unfamiliar world, I'll take a movie set in a different country over one that takes place in outer space, anytime.

It’s not that I didn’t like “fun” movies. Like any kid, I did like them! I enjoyed the first two “Superman” movies because they were full of warmth and humor, and recognizable human emotion. It wasn’t just explosions. (In fact, I saw "Superman" five times in the theater, the summer it came out.) I thought that Spielberg’s “Close Encounters,” which came out when I was thirteen, was just about the best movie I ever saw, because while there were spaceships in it, it was about a family. Two years later, I enjoyed “E.T.” for the same reason – there were aliens and spaceships, but it was about a real family, and it was also a film about brothers. “Superman,” “Close Encounters,” and “E.T.” were about hope, too. I also continue to enjoy the original “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and what makes that movie great is that, at many points in the film, Harrison Ford actually looks scared in it – he does this really subtle stuff with his eyes – so you’re able to put yourself in his shoes, and that’s what makes the exciting parts exciting. In "Raiders," Harrison Ford looks genuinely engaged, but in "Star Wars" he seems like he's just trying to utter monotone written dialogue. I also like all three “Alien” movies, the “Matrix” movies (even the sequels that nobody else likes), and the first two “Terminators,” because they are full of emotions and human interest and jokes to go along with the action.

In ’99, George Lucas made three new “Star Wars” sequels – “Parts 1 through 3,” I guess. I saw the first one, because my friend did some of the special effects, but I fell asleep in it. All I remember is that the characters were talking about trading posts on other planets or something, and it turned me narcoleptic. In the case of those three movies, everybody agreed with me that they were boring. But I thought the original one – the first one from 1977 – was almost as boring and too complicated to follow.

What I want from any movie, is just a simple story where somebody overcomes something recognizable and wins. And if possible, I would like my movie to take place on earth, because we have a lot of problems here, and they’re more interesting and pressing than problems on a Death Star or whatever it is. If it takes place on another planet, that’s cool, but what’s happening in the movie should be an allegory for what’s happening here, and in the case of “Star Wars,” it wasn’t. It was just noise. (I did like the tie-fighters flying in the tunnels, though.)

I never bothered to see the two original sequels to “Star Wars” – “Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi.” Yesterday, a full thirty-four years after its initial release, I tried to watch “Empire Strikes Back for the first time.” I got about a half hour in before I turned it off. I sort of liked when Harrison Ford was trying to rescue Mark Hamill in the snow, but I was pretty non-plussed by the camel-looking thing he was riding that wasn’t a camel. And after they thawed Mark Hamill out, they started showing space ships and some space commander guys were talking about something bad that was about to happen, but it didn’t make any sense. The actors were speaking English, but I didn’t know what they were talking about. It seemed like they were speaking another language that is apparently understood by every other movie fan in the world except me, and so I turned it off, and what I also noticed about the "Star Wars" movies, is that nobody looks too excited in them. They are hollow. Guess I’ll never make it to “Return of the Jedi,” or to the new one that’s coming out today.

In the case of the whole “Star Wars” phenomenon – I don’t want to be a dick. I don’t want to be a contrarian or a buzzkill. I don’t want to be the one guy in the world who doesn’t like “Star Wars.” There’s nothing for me to gain out of being a curmudgeon. I actually want to like it. I WANT to be on the bandwagon. I want to be excited by it. But for me, the “Star Wars” world is completely devoid of emotion, and an emotional experience is all I want in a movie. My initial idea, a few days ago, is that I would catch up with “Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi,” and then I would be all ready for the new “Star Wars” movie. But I guess I won’t be making it to this new one, either.

I always wonder if there's any other movie fan in the world who doesn't care for "Star Wars," just like me. But I think I'm the only one in the world.

When I was in high school, I told my French teacher, a very nice/erudite older French-Moroccan lady, Mrs. Berman, about how I was bored by “Star Wars.” She told me: “You’re not supposed to like something like this. This is the kind of movie that, ten or twenty years ago, would have been considered a children’s matinee. They would show it once a day, at noon, to small children.” In this conversation, Mrs. Berman and I were actually anticipating the future. Today, grown-ups want to be stay kids forever. (When I was eight, I wanted to be an adult. I wrote an essay about how for me, the perfect summer camp, would be set in a luxury hotel, where all the kids got their own rooms, and you could just watch movies all day. And each room had a milkshake machine, and you had your own butler, and you had to be dressed-up in a tuxedo all day. Also, in a 2nd grade art class, I had to draw a picture of a man. I drew a man in a full business suit and brief case. In the world I would like to live in, that's what guys wear -- not jeans and an untucked shirt -- although on this particular point, I'm a hypocrite, because I just have one suit that I bought 20 years ago, and I wear jeans and an untucked shirt every day.)

All I want in a movie is a nice, easy-to-follow story and no mumbo-jumbo. That’s it. I wanted that when I was a kid, and I wanted it now. And if the movie takes place on earth – so much the better.

PS: To this date, I’ve never seen a single episode of “Star Trek,” or any of the movies. When I was a kid, I liked “Get Smart,” “All in the Family,” and The Three Stooges, and I liked the “Batman” t.v. series with Adam West, because it was full of funny jokes.

PPS, nowhere in this little rant did I say that "Star Wars" is bad, so get off my jock. It's just not my thing.

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