Friday, November 01, 2019

Football Counter-Programming 2019: Week 11


Are you ready for some more Star Wars-related Football Counter-Programming?!?

I'm coming back around to this idea again, my friends. Because what else--other than football--commands a larger part of the well-off brain than discussing pop culture--and most especially Star Wars pop culture? Ever since 1976, we've been talking Star Wars, reimagining Star Wars, copying Star Wars, trying to recreate Star Wars, prequalizing Star Wars, animating Star Wars, disliking Star Wars, debating Star Wars, resurrecting Star Wars, loving Star Wars, and anticipating Star Wars.

And between now and the theater debut of the eleventh new Star Wars feature film, we'll once again be doing each and every one of those things once more--possibly several of them per day.

So, what better way for me to distract you from watching football on a weekend and then rushing to social media to talk about that football than to get your neurons firing in a totally different part of your grey matter on a very different subject?

So, unlearn what you have learned about football and come debate me on my ranking of the worst to best Star Wars movies!

Category 5: Smells Like a Tuskin Raider Died in This Trash Compactor


Are you at all surprised that we begin at the bottom by starting at the beginning? It's (of course) one of the prequels.

#11. Star Wars Ep. II: Attack of the Clones
Hold me as tightly as you want while we gaze at the lakes of Naboo, but there is no way you can tell me that this movie doesn't deserve to be at the bottom of this list. Whether its Anakin and Padme's love story or the hatred levels of sand . . . there is little here to recommend. (Unless you like the video game scene where C3P0 gets mechanically abused on the droid assembly line.)


#10. Star Wars Ep. I: The Phantom Menace
The things that kept this one from tieing for last place are mostly the scenes with Darth Maul being a Sith badass. His level of mysterious cool overcame Jake Lloyd's YIPPEE! or the fact that Natalie Portman was supposed to credibly feel the stirrings of love enough to slightly hit upon a nine-year-old. Plus the fact that there is just enough of a bone-deep love of Star Wars in me to allow the pent up excitement of the franchises return when that first crawl hit the screen in 1998 to overcome its many, many shortcomings.



Category 4: As Bad as a Dying Tauntaun

#9. Star Wars Ep. VI: Return of the Jedi
You might be upset with this one. It is one of the original trilogy and many would expect that it might rise further up my list--especially since I haven't even listed all three of the prequel movies in this list yet. But still . . . Return was always the weakest of the originals. And it DOES contain the original sin of Ewoks. I wring my hands a bit here and do not display near the amount of turmoil that Luke does in the many Emperor throne room scenes. But I'm going to be bold and stick to my blasters with this choice.


#8. Star Wars Ep. III: Revenge of the Sith
Seriously. I'm putting this one here. And it's because that fight scene at the end of the movie is just so anticipatory. It might be diminished a bit by what comes after--Padme just giving up and dying for some reason? and the Nooooooo Frankenstein moment at Darth's awakening. But that crumbling slide of Anakin fully into darkness and the lightsaber duel between him and Obi-Wan on Mustafar was just enough to bump it up a bit for me. Even in the dark disappointments of the prequel movies I always wanted to know a bit more about Anakin's embrace of the Dark Side. Though the acting on screen was lots of scowling and angry eyes under overlarge hoods . . . I still had been wanting to know. I'd been wanting to know ever since Darth outstretched his hand to a wounded Luke in the underbelly of Bespin Cloud City. How had it all gone wrong? Was I asking about Vader or am I asking about the Prequels?




Category 3: Unfairly Maligned--Kinda like the Gunguns Maybe?

7. Solo: A Star Wars Story
You might say "I've got a bad feeling about this." Or you might have heard others say that about this movie. But it was not as bad as you think. I'll admit that I've only seen it once--making it easily my least seen Star Wars movie on this list. But I found nothing objectionable about it. It was acted well--far more so than Hayden Christiansen or Jake Lloyd . . . or even many scenes presented by the very good Natalie Portman. I liked the story. I liked learning more about young Han. And getting Donald Glover as young Lando was more than we deserved. It might end up being a test case for most of the upcoming offerings on the streaming Disney+ network. But I'll happily put it middle of the pack and let you call me an easy touch and a grade inflator.




Category 2: Okay. I've Got a Bad Feeling About This


6. Star Wars Ep. IV: A New Hope
Here in Category 2 is where I'm really gonna start stepping on some fanboys toes and where I'm wading into the Internet Trolls mind space. Let's begin here by downgrading the originator of the whole franchise. I will always be a Star Wars stan (as you can see). But the movies ranked above A New Hope so greatly improved upon the original that I had to push it down, don't you see? It suffered because of its time. Its visuals--though groundbreaking for 1976--cannot compete with the spectacle of today. And we've just become better at telling Star Wars stories. Do you expect that the Epic of Gilgamesh must always be ranked number one in all story criticism?


5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
This movie is simply great. It's just so good. It accomplished what the prequels meant to do, and for an added degree of difficulty, it did so after the prequels failed at it so spectacularly. Daisy Ridley and the character of Rey ably picked up the burden (and the lightsaber) left by Mark Hamill's Luke Skywalker. And the creative minds of Lucasfilm and Disney showed that they could be true to their Star Wars roots--and know the future--by creating the delightful presence of BB-8. It was a rollicking good time, exactly as the fun parts of Empire. And it just felt like Star Wars. (Sure, it suffers . . . slightly in my mind but more so in others estimation . . . from feeling TOO MUCH like Star Wars. But when it came out, I unreservedly loved it and haven't lost that excited feeling in subsequent rewatches.


4. Rogue One

The only questionable thing about this movie is the few instances of CGI de-aging on General Tarkin and Princess Leia. (Honestly, I'm only bothered by the waxy looking Leia in the final scene of the movie. I didn't even register the technique with Tarkin when I first watched the movie, and I actually thought to myself with surprise how little the actor had aged in my entire lifetime. So . . . maybe that admission alone disqualifies me from ever having a public thought about movies ever again. But still I persist.)
In short, Rogue One is bad ass. And the last thirty minutes are as good a movie as anyone could hope. The taking down of the Scarif shield and the tension that mounts as Leia's cruiser escapes with the plans while Vader decimates everyone in the airlock hallway is incredible. It completely connects to and justifies the cold opening scene of A New Hope in every possible way.


Category 1: You Must Unlearn What You Have Learned

3. Star Wars Ep. V: The Empire Strikes Back
Maybe no one will hate me more than they will hate me for this. Unquestionably, throughout my lifetime--that is the lifetime of the Star Wars franchise, I might add--this has been the gold standard movie. I love it. Every character is great. Luke looks wonderful. Leia is strong and sexy. Han wears every outfit like it was precisely made for him. Hell, they even made you believe in a gnomish Muppet as a critically pivotal character.
And did I forget to say that it provided the most dramatic plot twist of any movie in the last 40 years? All of that--plus the sublimity of the visuals and score of the chase through the asteroid field.
I must be crazy for doing this.



2. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
So many people got all butt hurt about this movie and I just don't understand it. It continued the deepening of Rey's story. It gave us more sympathy for Kylo Ren and then allowed him to yank that sympathy away. And it gave us a correct and honest ending to Luke Skywalker's conflicted life, giving him the space he deserved to call out the real failing of the Jedi Order. It allowed Leia to fully and completely stand on her own as a leader, a rebel, an inspiration.
It was also an incredible visual feast--from the red sands of Crait, to the duel in Snoke's throne room, to the solemnity of the Holdo Maneuver. I LOVED IT!



1. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
I haven't seen it. And neither have you. So you have no right to criticize my anticipation of greatness. If it is bad, I'll say so--especially if they make the wrong choice and make Rey a part of the Skywalker ancestry and not the unknown nobody that she ought to be.
But, other than that, I really look forward to this being a great movie.

 

So--just remember. The kids playing out there on your alma mater's football team grew up in the Star Wars era. Heck, for all I know, they may think Count Dooku is the best villain in the entire saga. So try to forgive them when they fail to stop that 4th and 2 play in the final minutes of the Fourth Quarter.

Until next week!

[NOTE:  I briefly struggled with which of the three main Rise of Skywalker trailers to insert here. I really like the emotional and historical tone of the second one (minus the misleading visual that comes at the end) while also being awed by the visual spectacle of the first one. Which of the three would YOU have wanted me to prioritize?]

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