Thursday, May 19, 2005

Anticipation, Nostalgia and Sith

Well, I'm on my merry way to view Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith this coming weekend, although a lot of folks in the media have already seen it and given it very positive reviews. Last time I checked the tomato rating at rottentomatoes.com, Lucas's latest installment had garnered something like 83% positive ratings, which is extraordinary.

Many of the reviews - by grown-up Gen X'ers like myself - have used the occasion of a review to ponder the entire Star Wars experience, 1977 - 2005, and discuss feelings of completion, as a chapter of life closes. I understand the sentiment. I've seen every Star Wars on opening weekend since 1977 with my Mom and Dad, and so every new Star Wars adventure is a kind of special event for me too. And yet, I don't know what I'll feel during the film.

Nostalgia is the most useless of emotions, as someone famous once said and for movie critics, nostalgia is actually an impediment to clear thinking. I wonder if critics who go into Star Wars thinking about all the baggage of nearly 30 years are in the right frame of mind to review the film fairly. Or, conversely, if Lucas is banking on that, and the film is riding a tide of good will.

Nostalgia and anticipation - help or hindrance to Star Wars? Discuss amongst yourselves...

Here are my thoughts. Each time a Star Wars movie is released, aren't we old timers/OT'ers really just comparing the new film to an "experience" we remember as a pleasant one from childhood? How can anything really compare to that memory? So - clearly - nostalgia and anticipation have worked against previous installments...

For instance, I consider The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones - both of which I own on DVD - two of the most boring motion pictures I've ever sat through. Nowadays, from the comfort of my couch, I can't stay awake through more than the first 11 minutes of Phantom Menace without heavy doses of caffeine. I guess Attack of the Clones is marginally better. I can usually stay awake almost thirty minutes sans coffee.

I just hope I will stay awake through all of Revenge of the Sith. That's my first benchmark. Let alone re-capture the glory of Star Wars that I remember from childhood...

But on the other hand, Revenge of the Sith plays most like an OT movie by all accounts. We see the inside of the rebel blockade runner. Darth Vader and Chewbacca return. Luke and Leia are born. Yada yada (or Yoda Yoda...). So Lucas is clearly banking on nostalgia here to carry some elements of his flick. It seems to have worked, because nearly every review has commented on the film's closeness in tone to Star Wars.

So nostalgia cuts both ways in regards to Star Wars movies. I'm just not sure which way it will cut for me as a critic. But that's okay, because only a Sith thinks in absolutes, right?

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Encyclopedia of Superheroes on Film and Television selected among "Best of Reference, 2005" by New York Public Library

Hey everybody, I'm just recently back from New York City, where on April 29, 2005, The New York Public Library selected my 600+ page 2004 book The Encyclopedia of Superheroes on Film and Television (McFarland, 2004) as one of the "Best of Reference" for the year 2005. There was a celebration at the Donnell Library Center that morning, and my wife Kathryn and my agent June attended with me. It was great fun.

Every year, the NY Public Library (and a committee of librarians) selects a list of "books, websites and electronic resources" for this distinguished honor. According to their site, the selection criteria include "value and appropriateness for branch collections, organization of material, style of presentation, and authority of authors and editors." It's very cool - and very humbling - to see my book on this select list (which also includes titles such as The Cambridge Guide to English Usage, and The Encyclopedia of the American Presidency).

Just as cool as making the list was attending the ceremony, and seeing the stalwart librarians put on an amusing Buffy the Vampire Slayer skit to celebrate and describe my book for the audience. Very, very cool (and well-performed!).

The NYPL calls The Encyclopedia of Superheroes on Film and Television "an amazing collection of superhero biographies" and notes that the book is "detailed," so I'm just tinkled pink about the whole thing. Kathryn and I also got to visit my publisher in New York, Applause, and visit with family in New Jersey, so it was a wonderful trip all around.

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