We get it, Disney: a lot of very vocal fans didn’t like The Last Jedi. We don’t even have to call all of the dislike of Episode VIII an expression of toxic fandom; Rian Johnson’s stab at Star Warswas designed to be something of a slap in the face of business as usual, and while I loved the daring of many of its ideas, they weren’t always executed altogether well. At times I could see what Johnson was going for but felt that he was doing so in ways that were clunky or at odds with other things the film was trying to do.
Nonetheless, The Last Jedi had ideas, it had a vision, it was interested in doing more than being the Star Wars cover band that The Force Awakens was, even if that one delivered its version of A New Hope‘s greatest hits with panache. If Rise of Skywalker wants to do something, it’s kowtowing to the loudest and most toxic critics of The Last Jedi. It doesn’t have a vision other than that of apologising loudly and unthinkingly for the perceived mistakes of the previous episode. In short, Rise of Skywalker may just be the most cowardly expression of fan service I have ever seen.
In past years I always forgot about doing a look back at the year that was until my friend and co-blogger Mege did his own retrospective – and by that time it was too late. This year I come prepared and bearing not just one or two but eight awards. Enjoy!
Even though I greatly enjoyed Looper, Brick and, yes, The Last Jedi, it took me until last weekend to check out Rian Johnson’s sophomore film, The Brothers Bloom. It’s a strange film, strongly recalling the arch constructions of Wes Anderson while still breathing with a fabulating, downright sexy verve that’s not frequently found in Anderson’s works. There’s a willfulness to The Brothers Bloom that, in my eyes, makes it the closest of Johnson’s works to The Last Jedi. And, last but not least, it has reminded me of two things:
Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!
Bruce Willis has made far more stinkers during his career than really good movies. Time travel is often just a gimmick for action-loaded sci-fi flicks, and used in a wrong or physically impossible manner. If you are certain of these things, then obviously, you haven’t seen Rian Johnson’s Looper. And I think you should. I am not much of a sci-fi or fantasy fan, but Looper lets a few of my pet peeves come together and turns them into a pretty good flick.
Tune in for episode 6 of A Damn Fine Cup of Culture podcast, which returns us to a long time ago (all together now!) in a galaxy far, far away: what did we think of The Last Jedi? What role did that mega-franchise play in our childhood? And has Rian Johnson ruined or renewed Star Wars? Also, some thoughts on The Leftovers – the novel, not the series – and on Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer.
It’s been a while since Star Wars had the ability to surprise me – and in part that was its appeal: being the galactic equivalent of comfort food. Pop in a Star Wars episode and you generally know what you get, namely an epic fairy tale with farm boys destined to greatness and cloaked space wizards of the good and evil variety. You get secret weapons blown up after a one-in-a-million plan pays off. You get grand revelations, redemption and heroics.
Along comes The Last Jedi, and guess what – Star Wars has the ability to surprise me again. Continue reading →