Thursday, December 21, 2006

Of Mace and Men

This children's Halloween costume I stumbled upon horrified me a little bit:

Peer into the cold, black eyes of Samuel L. Jackson's deathmasque, strangely disproportionate to your six-year-old's adorable little feet!

Some notes on my relationship to Star Wars. I rediscovered it in college, suddenly inclined to revel with older eyes in the details of aesthetic design continuities throughout the saga, and milking the echoes of my primal childhood response to the films... re-experiencing some of that big feeling from 15 years earlier. My parents procured a VHS bootleg of the original movie from some insider (we lived in Hollywood at the time) back in the late 70's which I continued to watch for years. It had some quirks from the transfer, one of which excised an entire scene where 3PO and R2 are hiding from Stormtroopers in a back alley of Mos Eisley, offering instead a strange, static-filled transition from the preceding scene to the one following. But chronologically, this tape's impact (by the time I actually got around to watching it) actually came after...

...The Empire Strikes Back, which I swear marks the emergence of my conscious memory. Also contending for that honor is the whale at Disneyland... I saw boats go in its mouth but didn't see them emerge on the other side, and the mystery of what horrors people experienced within that whale haunted me through the fourth grade. Anyway, Han Solo being put into carbon freeze is what I remember from that screening; a mixture of color schemes (blue and orange, somehow mixing to purple in my memory, and did that blue and orange lead me to become a Mets fan?), disbelief, and some sort of attractive darkness that made my heart hurt. That scene is like a conduit back to that time, that feeling, and it continues as some sort of litmus test against which to measure myself at intervals along my march towards an inevitable and hopefully far, far off death.

As a teenager who overthought everything, the personal, collegiate re-emergence of Star Wars seemed like an excellent thing to fixate on, taking the place of the day-in-day-out micromanagement and second-guessing of all my relationships and personal behavior (a role now fulfilled by video games). In that respect I can thank Star Wars for taking me out of my own head a little bit, though that may have happened naturally anyway. I can also thank it for drumming up a level of personal enthusiasm in 1998 and early '99 theretofore unmatched since the Christmas when I received my first Nintendo. I figured Lucas's return to the universe was a George Tenet-ian "slam dunk". And I suppose it was. In that it was not. Maybe one of my friends who also attended the 2 a.m. screening of The Phantom Menace could describe the horrified daze in which I walked out of there. I went on to see it 10+ times in the theater. I was an aimless chap back then, and after a night of drinking it was easy to slip into a 1 a.m. screening on a given night and fervently catalog all the things that were wrong with it.

Anyway, I do like Mace Windu, with all his weird line deliveries, and that funny little scrunched up face he makes when fighting Chancellor Palpatine... in extreme close-up.

"This party's over!"


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