Over the years, transformation in animation has fascinated me. Whether they be whimsical or sometimes violent, just something about things being turned into other things just draws my attention.
Upon seeing a trailer for the Netflix release A Whisker Away in early-summer 2020, it’s story seemed a intriguing.
After encountering a strange mask seller at a summer festival, Miyo Sasaki finds a cat mask she got from him, has the ability to temporarily turn her into a cat. When a boy at her school named Kento Hionde finds her in her cat-form and takes her in on the assumption that she’s a stray, Miyo begins to lead a double-life. By day she attends school with Kento, and for a few hours every evening, she visits him as a cat. As things in her human life begin to weigh heavily on her mind, Miyo begins to ponder if life as Kento’s pet may not be so bad after all.
After watching the film, it felt like a better concept was shown in the minute-long trailer that had first intrigued me. Once I had thought about what I had watched, I couldn’t help but feel that much of the film was a beautiful mess.
Part of the mess happens to lie in how the characters are depicted.
After a rather confusing opening, we get to see Miyo in full-on “crush-mode,” loudly hip-checking Kento in the morning, and becoming a drooling lovesick wreck at times, while Kento himself just seems to quietly find her actions annoying.
The film slowly attempts to chalks up Miyo’s quirky behavior to problems within her family, as she struggles with being a child of divorce. One would expect we’d get some deep drama as she adjusts to life with a new stepmother, but the filmmakers jettison some much-needed introspection in favor of her “obsession” with Kento.
Kento also isn’t very well-developed either. We only get a few faint bits of information about his personality, let alone his struggles to find an identity that may not be what his widowed mother wants him to be.
The film’s inability to work on developing the characters’ back stories, let alone give us some more time understanding Miyo’s struggles being both human and cat, prove to be some of the most frustrating parts of the film. The filmmakers want to take the easy way out, hoping these tiny-yet-unsatisfying glimpses into Miyo and Kento’s lives will allow us to connect-the-dots, and buy that these two kids belong together no matter what.
It also doesn’t help that the film’s youthful characters and cat-like imagery, put me in mind of a few much better films from Studio Ghibli. At times, it feels like that studio’s feature films Whisper of the Heart and The Cat Returns served as major inspirations for this tale. Unfortunately, if there was inspiration taken from those two films, it was mainly the style of those films over the deeper substance of bettering yourself, or working to understand who you are.
If there’s something positive I can say about the film, it is that the background paintings are really eye-catching! There’s some top-notch artistry on display here, though it largely shines in the third act when the film finally throws us into a whole other world.
What is strange at times, is it feels like most of the scenes are set up to show us more of the world surrounding Miyo and the others. Camera angles most of the time tend to draw our focus to the environments, shoving characters to the side or into the background, as if the characters are more of an “afterthought” to what we are seeing.
In conclusion, A Whisker Away is a beautifully-rendered production, that attempts to tell a flimsy “young love story.” It’s attempts to make us care and root for Miyo never becomes engaging enough, and the characters around her barely register enough to get us fully-invested in the overall story. It also isn’t a good sign that as I watched the film, I kept thinking of numerous ways the story could have been improved. When I start trying to improve on what I’m seeing, it’s a good sign that the film has some problems.
Final Grade: C
Currently available on Netflix. Rated TV-MA for Language and Smoking
Sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction.
On June 4th, 2004, an armored bulldozer rampaged through the small mountain town of Granby, Colorado. Heavily-fortified with steel and concrete, the dozer caused millions of dollars in property damage over a few hours, before it’s driver Marvin Heemeyer, took his life.
The story was national news for 24 hours, and then the newsfeed was taken over by the death of former President Ronald Reagan the next day. After that, there was no additional coverage or follow-up as to why Heemeyer had done what he did.
Director Peter Solet and his brother, were two people that became interested in understanding more about what led up to that fateful day. Now after almost a decade, that research has been released in the form of the documentary, Tread.
A former Air Force pilot with a knack for welding, Marvin Heemeyer ended up owning a muffler shop in Granby. Some claimed he seemed friendly and reliable, and made enough to support his hobby as an avid snowmobiler.
Where things started to go downhill was when Marvin purchased several acres of land in town. According to audio cassettes he recorded months before his rampage, the purchase seemed to begin a chain reaction which led to a number of prominent people in the community deciding to make things difficult for him. Eventually, Marvin started believing that God was telling him what he could do to “level the playing field.”
Along with Marvin’s voice utilized via audio cassettes, there are a few people he knew that also give some additional insight into him. However, they are little more than local acquaintances, and only take up a very small amount of screen time.
Most of the interview time happens to go instead, to a number of people and prominent family members in Granby, whom Marvin claims “wronged” him. Most notable about the local people interviewed, is they seem relatively calm, with nary a harsh word towards Heemeyer, and some even contradicting his feelings and verbal tirades. Most seemed relatively unaware he was harboring such deep grudges towards them.
Much of the film contains re-enactments of some scenes, with the more interesting ones occurring once Marvin decides to purchase a bulldozer from a California auction. This leads to the more action-oriented finale of the film, where parts of the rampage are recreated with a replica of the bulldozer (though thankfully, not filmed anywhere near Granby).
While the story of what led to the events that fateful summer day do make for a good story, it feels like Solet (who is also the writer), narrows his focus a little too much, deciding to only gather information on Marvin during his life in the town.
We do learn about Marvin having family and spending some time in Florida with friends, but none of them are interviewed or provide additional insight regarding him. We don’t know what he was like as a child, or if maybe something in his past or his time in the Air Force affected his thinking. There are points where we see pictures of him with weaponry as well as him speaking about God giving him his task. These are extra character avenues that had me wondering what others had to say regarding these circumstances.
Tread also perplexed me with how it ended. Once the rampage is over, the film just peters out. One would assume we’d get an epilogue exploring more of the town of Granby, and how what Marvin did affected it all these years later. We don’t even get to hear what the local citizenry have to say about Marvin, or even get eyewitness accounts from regular people who he may have serviced in his muffler shop, or who watched the rampage that day.
That to me is the problem with Tread: it feels like it’s missing some extra material to flesh out the film and make it seem a little more “balanced.” While we do get some good insight about Marvin Heemeyer, it feels like the filmmaker is really just in a hurry to give us the cliff’s notes version of his life in the small town, and get us to “the money shot” as quickly as possible.
Final Grade: B
With recent developments revolving around COVID-19, this country has found itself in a deadly game of tug-of-war. With people demanding their “freedom” to do whatever they wish in the face of a pandemic that (as of this posting) is still infecting and causing deaths with no signs of a readily-available vaccine, I couldn’t help but feel that even here…I was thinking of a Twilight Zone episode I hadn’t seen in years.
It turns out that on Social Media, some others were thinking the same as I was…leading me to craft this little Retro Recap of the Season 5 episode, The Old Man in the Cave.
In an unnamed town with nary a working automobile or electricity, we see a number of disheveled people huddled around some boxes of canned food. One person claims the food is “pre-bomb,” and safe to consume. However, another says they should wait to hear what The Old Man has to say about the food.
Eventually, a man named Goldsmith (John Anderson) returns to the townspeople to deliver a message from The Old Man in the Cave. Along with advising them all to prepare for inclement weather (which could spread radioactive contamination), Goldsmith says the Old Man has proclaimed that the canned goods are toxic, and are not to be consumed.
It is then that the camera whip-pans, and we find Rod Serling standing in the street, delivering his opening monologue:
What you’re looking at is a legacy that man left to himself. A decade previous, he pushed his buttons, and a nightmarish moment later, woke up to find that he had set the clock back a thousand years. His engines, his medicines, his science, were buried in a mass tomb, covered over by the biggest gravedigger of them all: a bomb. And this is the earth 10 years later, a fragment of what was once a whole, a remnant of what was once a race. The year is 1974, and this…is The Twilight Zone.
As the townspeople begin to dispose of the cans, a Jeep pulls into town, with four armed men. One of them gets out, and introduces himself as Major French (James Coburn). He claims that the town is now to be placed under a Constabulary, and expects full cooperation from the people.
When Goldsmith speaks up against this declaration, French threatens to hang him for insubordination if he doesn’t cooperate. Claiming that there are only around 500 people left alive after the bombing, French says that his command is the new way to retain order in a lawless country. Upon seeing the canned goods, French inquires why the townspeople haven’t partaken of them yet.
Hearing about how The Old Man in the Cave cautioned the town against this, French laughs, telling how he’s heard tales of other “cults” the meager populations across the country have gathered into, and assumes that this is more of the same.
When Goldsmith offers scant details as to the identity of The Old Man in the Cave, French demands they find out more about the town’s reclusive benefactor.
French, his men, and the townspeople are led to the cave, which is sealed shut by a metal door. When French asks how the Old Man can survive inside the cave, Goldsmith claims he does not know…only that notes and messages are given to him, and this information he relays to the townspeople.
French’s men then use a hand grenade to blast open the door, but the metal holds strong. Yelling through the door to The Old Man that ‘this is just the beginning,’ French and his men return to the town with the citizens…where they then start passing out the canned goods to the townspeople!
Goldsmith claims that the canned goods could be poisoned by Strontium-90 (a radioactive isotope), but French calmly eats from one of the cans, and feeling no ill effects, once again claims the stoic man is overreacting.
Goldsmith however, does not relent. He claims that they don’t know where the cans came from or who processed them. If the food has been poisoned by radiation, they’ll be dead in 10 days.
But French’s words and actions, are more than enough to cause the starving townspeople to ignore Goldsmith. He again pleads with them as they begin scooping up the canned foods, before one of French’s soldiers breaks into a store with the words “contaminated” on the door, and starts passing out liquor bottles from inside!
By nightfall, the townspeople (sans Goldsmith), have opened the food and drank from the liquor supplies. During this time, French has a conversation with a man named Jason (John Marley), before Goldsmith comes over to him.
French taunts Goldsmith for not partaking in the food and spirits, claiming he (French) has helped these people, and inquires why the stubborn Goldsmith does not “unbend.”
“You came as intruders,” says Goldsmith, “But now you’re murderers. Only God knows how many people will die because of tonight. The Old Man in the Cave warned us about this food dozens of times. He warned us.”
The talk irritates French who then loudly calls for attention, claiming Goldsmith has lied to the townspeople, and has made up The Old Man to hold sway over them all. Soon, he has riled up the townspeople, and they take Goldsmith back to the cave, demanding he open the metal door.
Once again, Goldsmith pleads for reason, claiming that they should think logically. Though they have suffered hardships over the past 10 years, The Old Man has succeeded in helping to keep them alive. He claims they shouldn’t need to intrude, but his words fall on deaf ears, and he consents to their demands.
Activating a hidden switch in the nearby rocks, the metal door opens, and the townspeople and soldiers rush inside. What they find causes them to come to a halt.
There is no Old Man…only a large computer, it’s lights blinking, and the sound of information processing through it’s system.
French demands that the people need to kill their ‘tyrant’ if they are to be free of it, and Goldsmith quietly watches as the townspeople destroy the machine.
Some time later, we see the town, with it’s citizenry strewn about it’s streets, unmoving…including Major French and his soldiers.
We then hear movement, and see Goldsmith, walking about, quietly looking at those who have been poisoned by the canned food and liquor. As his eyes fall upon French’s corpse, he speaks aloud.
“When we talked about the ways that men could die,” says Goldsmith, “we forgot about the chief method of execution. We forgot faithlessness, Mr French. Maybe you’re not to blame. Maybe if it weren’t you, it would have been someone else. Maybe this has to be the destiny of man. I wonder if that’s true. I wonder. I guess I’ll never know…I guess I’ll never know.”
As Goldsmith walks further among the dead, Serling delivers his closing monologue:
Mr Goldsmith: survivor. An eyewitness to man’s imperfection, an observer of the very human trait of greed, and a chronicler of the last chapter. The one reading, ‘suicide.’ Not a prediction of what is to be, just a projection of what could be. This has been…The Twilight Zone.
And that was The Old Man in the Cave.
The episode does leave several questions unanswered, such as the relationship Goldsmith has with “The Old Man.” The image of the perfect-and-clean machine sitting in a cave feels quite “artificial,” let alone we do not know how the computer stays powered on. Did Goldsmith craft it? Did he know of it’s capabilities prior to the bombing, and hid it in the cave? There are a number of questions here that Serling chooses not to answer, instead focusing on the battle of wills between Goldsmith, and Major French.
Throughout the episode, Anderson’s portrayal of Goldsmith is one that never wavers in his “faith” (or the chiseled, placid look upon actor John Anderson’s face). Though he does give-in and open the metal door in the end, he presides over the townspeople mainly like a priest trying to keep his “flock” alive in these troubled times. He will offer words of encouragement, but he will not strike back at those in the town who come against him.
It is notable how Serling has given these people a man-made savior in the form of the machine, but unlike man himself, it is not prone to emotions like selfishness or greed…just giving calculations and information that is able to keep the people alive, even through the worst of conditions. It’s information looks to be a help to everyone in the town, and survival is not based on a caste or class system.
It is also notable that some in the beginning of the episode, defend The Old Man. It’s prediction at the start of 80% inclement weather shows it doesn’t always get everything perfect, but has gotten enough right to keep the people willing to listen to Goldsmith for over 10 years. There is talk about how the people attempted to grow crops in areas that were deemed unsuitable by The Old Man, resulting in dead or mutated vegetation that most likely made them put more faith in the machine’s messages.
The portrayal of Major French could easily have been turned into a belligerent tyrant, but Coburn imbues his character as a man who is looking for logical answers to Goldsmith’s hold over the people, even as he and his men are brandishing weapons.
We even find out that French went to college and that he seems well-studied, with a personality that is more realist. French has to see The Old Man in order to believe Goldsmith. He has to taste the food before he’ll believe it to be poisoned. Without the proof, French believes he is justified in his actions, and that he is “helping” instead of “hurting.”
The Old Man in the Cave is an episode that uniquely blends together faith and logic, leaving the viewer to ponder the events of what has happened. In the end, with The Old Man destroyed, Goldsmith is on his own, with the viewer to assume that he will most likely try to get by as best he can, but now runs the risk that without guidance, he may die soon.
Much of the episode feels pretty simplified in where it’s going, with the townspeople’s mob mentality putting me in mind of other instances in The Twilight Zone, from the episodes The Monsters are Due on Maple Street, or The Shelter. Unlike those episodes, the violence here does not reach the nightmarish levels we’ve seen before, as the people here are merely looking for hope, guidance, and a possible break from the miserable life they’ve lived after the bombs fell.
Much like Serling’s underrated episode from season 4 titled He’s Alive, The Old Man in the Cave is a story that shows there are themes made almost 50 years ago, that can still resonate in today’s time, but just under different circumstances.
Times may change, but there are certain elements of humanity it seems, that are everlasting…and in some cases, some of those elements can still prove dangerous to many.
Movie Musings: Palpatine’s three key manipulations to becoming Emperor (aka “It wasn’t all Jar Jar Binks’ fault”)
“All democracies turn into dictatorships–but not by coup. The people give their democracy to a dictator, whether it’s Julius Caesar or Napoleon or Adolf Hitler. Ultimately, the general population goes along with the idea. What kinds of things push people and institutions in this direction? That’s the issue I’ve been exploring: how did the Republic turn into the Empire?…How does a good person go bad, and how does a democracy become a dictatorship?” – George Lucas , from the April 21, 2002 edition of Time Magazine
Of all the incidents within George Lucas’ prequel trilogy for his Star Wars saga, the one that has come to light in recent years, has been the constant talk that Jar Jar Binks was responsible for the rise of The Empire. Plus, thanks to a small bit in a Robot Chicken sketch on Cartoon Network, a rumor developed that the dopey Gungan was not only a secret Sith Lord, but the true “Phantom Menace.”
Regarding these fan-theories, I find the secret Sith Lord one to be ridiculous. As for bringing about the rise of the Empire, like most things that people think are so simple, there’s more to that story than people realize.
As we’ve seen from our own real-world political systems, it is often a number of people being manipulated, to get some of those in power what they want. With this post, I hope to shed a little more light on the political chess game of the prequels, and hopefully show ‘a certain point of view’ some may not have considered before.*
Let us consider Palpatine’s first major move to become Emperor. It would involve someone from Naboo…but not Jar Jar.
*Note: This post only takes into account the films and their script information. It does not take into account the Expanded Universe.
In The Phantom Menace, Naboo Senator Palpatine (under the guise of Sith Lord, Darth Sidious) manipulated the Trade Federation to blockade his peaceful homeworld. With a security force made up largely of volunteers, their armed forces would not have stood a chance against the thousands of battle droids the Federation unleashed across the planet.
In regards to her political stance, Queen Amidala put great faith in diplomacy and negotiations, and refused to go to war. Upon hearing that Supreme Chancellor Valorum had sent two Jedi (Qui-gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi) to negotiate a settlement, she was confident the matter would be resolved amicably.
Acting on orders from Palpatine, the Trade Federation attempted to kill the Jedi, but the two succeeded in getting to the capital city of Theed, and alerting the Queen to what had happened.
Though Amidala wished to remain with her people, Qui-gon recommended she escape with them, feeling her first-person account of what was happening, would convince the Senate to help her planet.
Arriving in the Republic capital of Coruscant, Padme was met by both Palpatine and Valorum. Though the Supreme Chancellor informed her that he had called an emergency meeting of the Senate to hear of her situation, Palpatine later told Padme in private, that he doubted anything would be done.
“The Senate is full of greedy, squabbling delegates,” he said. “There is no interest at all in the common good.”
Palpatine also claimed that some felt Valorum himself was compromised, and that he was under the thumb of the bureaucrats. To save their planet, Palpatine floated two options.
The first option, would be to call for a vote of no confidence in Valorum. This would (hopefully) allow for the election of “a stronger Supreme Chancellor,” who might be able to help them.
The second option, would be to submit a plea to the courts…which would probably take more time than the Senate to come to a decision regarding the blockade.
When Palpatine and Amidala appeared before the Senate, the Queen’s words were shouted down by the Trade Federation’s members. Objecting to the ‘accusations,’ they claimed Amidala had no proof, and that a committee be sent to Naboo to find out the truth.
Valorum attempted to intervene, before his vice chair Mas Amedda had a few words in private with him.
“Enter the bureaucrats,” Palpatine whispered to Padme. “The true rulers of the Republic, and on the payroll of the Trade Federation I might add. This is where Chancellor Valorum’s strength…will disappear.”
It sounded like Palpatine’s words rang true when Valorum conceded, asking Padme if she would allow the Trade Federation’s request to be accepted.
The young ruler refused, claiming she had come for a proper resolution of help, not to see her people be ignored further. It wass then that she took Palpatine’s advice, and called for a vote of no confidence in Valorum.
Following these events, Palpatine ended up being one of the senators nominated to succeed Valorum. Telling the Queen the news, he explained that their planet’s current situation could create “a strong sympathy vote,” that might sway the election in their favor.
In the end, Padme and her companions returned to Naboo, and with the help of Jar Jar and the Gungans, took back control of the planet.
As the Trade Federation leaders were led away, the newly-elected Supreme Chancellor Palpatine greeted the Queen. With a smile, he promised that they would bring “peace and prosperity to the Republic.”
Of course, within that smiling optimism, was the mind of a devious tyrant, happy that his plans were still moving forward.
Yes, Jar Jar Binks did have a hand in Palpatine’s rise to power. No, it wasn’t all his fault.
When we first meet Jar Jar in Attack of the Clones, he is in residence at Amidala’s senatorial apartment on Coruscant. Following the Battle of Naboo, he was chosen as a representative for the Gungans in the Galactic Senate.
Though he was just there in a physical manner, when Padme was forced to go into hiding due to several assassination attempts, she appointed Jar Jar to act as a full representative to Naboo in her stead.
At the time, Padme and a number of other Senators were strongly opposed to “The Military Creation Act” in the Senate. With the rise of the Separatist movement (being led by former Jedi, Count Dooku), there were fears that the powerful group could overthrow the Republic. While some felt a military act would quell the Separatists, Padme and a number of other Senators still believed that diplomacy could win out.
Of course, she couldn’t have foreseen Palpatine’s next move. This would occur due to two pieces of information, uncovered by Obi-Wan Kenobi.
The first was the discovery of a Clone Army, that was being created on the planet Kamino, for the Republic (though the order was placed through an unknown Jedi named, Sifo-dyas).
The second revelation occurred on the planet Geonosis, where Obi-Wan found the Trade Federation’s droid factories creating a droid Army, that was to be utilized by the Separatists to attack the Republic.
While some senators felt that a ready-in-waiting Clone Army could be advantageous to the Republic, senator Bail Organa expressed concern that there was not enough support in the Senate to approve such a thing in case the Separatists did swiftly decide to attack.
This was when Palpatine’s advisor Mas Amedda made a shocking proposal: give the Supreme Chancellor emergency powers. This would allow him to override the Senate’s indecisiveness, and immediately approve the use of the clone army.
“But what senator would have the courage to pose such a radical amendment?” questioned Palpatine.
“If only…Senator Amidala were here,” muttered Amedda.
These words seemed to be leveled at Jar Jar, and wanting to do right by Padme and his homeworld, he volunteered to raise the issue in the Senate. Much like how Padme had been sucked in by Palpatine’s manipulations 10 years before…now too, would Jar Jar!
Explaining the dire situation facing the Republic, Representative Binks’ request was approved by a majority of the Senators, and Palpatine addressed the delegates.
“It is with great reluctance, that I have agreed to this calling,” he said. “I love democracy, I love the Republic. The power you give me, I will lay down, once this crisis has abated.”
And thus, the clone army was ordered to Geonosis to try and stop the Separatists. However, the Separatist Leaders and Count Dooku succeeded in getting away, and thus, the Clone War began.
Palpatine had now gained special powers beyond the Senate, and a massive army at his command…but, he was not all-powerful…yet.
As the Clone War entered it’s third year at the start of Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine began to finalize his grand scheme. All he needed…was a powerful-yet-confused young Jedi.
Palpatine had befriended Anakin after the Battle of Naboo, and while Anakin seemed to believe in the Chancellor, he saw nothing wrong with the Senate giving him even more power. Unlike Padme, Anakin favored more direct action, and less diplomacy.
During a battle over Coruscant, Palpatine had tested Anakin’s resolve to kill Count Dooku, and Anakin had reluctantly beheaded the former Jedi at the Chancellor’s request. Palpatine could sense his power over Anakin…but, he needed to push him to further doubt his allegiance to the Jedi, to win him over to his side.
This would occur in several ways.
The first was Palpatine appointing Anakin to be his ‘personal representative’ on the Jedi Council. The council found this decision ‘disturbing,’ but made a concession: Anakin could serve on the council per the Chancellor’s order…but he would not be granted the rank of “Master.”
This decision infuriated Anakin, but so did a secret request by the Jedi to spy on the Chancellor for them…a request that was made in secret by his mentor, Obi-Wan.
However, what weighed most heavily on Anakin’s mind, was a vision in which Padme had died during childbirth. In Attack of the Clones, he was unable to save his mother from death on Tatooine, and vowed he would not lose Padme as well. Anakin spoke to Master Yoda of his fears, but all Yoda would tell him was that he must accept the deaths of others he cared for…something which Anakin was unable to do.
Palpatine sensed these roiling emotions in Anakin, and told him of a Sith Lord called Darth Plagueis, who it was said could save others from dying. However, it would require knowledge of the Dark Side of the Force, to gain this ability.
“Is it possible to learn this power?” asked Anakin.
“…not from a Jedi,” Palpatine had responded, sensing that he had piqued Anakin’s interests.
When next they met, Palpatine revealed himself as a Sith Lord…but as he expected, Anakin did not kill him. Instead, Anakin reported Palpatine’s identity to Mace Windu, hoping that the Jedi would jail the Chancellor, and allow Anakin the chance to find out more about what Palpatine knew. Instead, Mace felt the Sith Lord was too dangerous to live, and attempted to kill him upon their confrontation!
Fearing the loss of the power to save his wife, Anakin attacked Mace, giving Palpatine the chance to electrocute the Jedi Master with Force lighting, and throw him through a window to his death.
Palpatine knew he now had Anakin in his clutches. Promising the two of them would discover Plagueis’ secret to ‘cheat death’ together, Anakin then pledged his allegiance to the Sith Lord…and was bestowed the mantle, of Darth Vader.
Anakin even gave into Palpatine’s words that all the Jedi had to be destroyed, or they would surely try to take over the Republic. With the promise that their deaths would lead to strengthening his new powers, Anakin led a battalion into the Jedi Temple, and was even willing to slaughter children if it meant keeping his wife alive.
He then traveled to Mustafar, where he dispatched the Separatist leaders. This would mean an end to the Clone War, but the real nightmare was about to begin for the Republic.
During the slaughter on Mustafar, Palpatine called an emergency meeting of the Senate.
Appearing before them with his ‘scarred and deformed’ visage, he told how the Jedi had attempted to overthrow the Republic and kill him, and were now in the process of being ‘hunted down and defeated.’
This should have come as a shock to many in the Senate. The Jedi had been a part of the Republic for many generations, and yet the announcement that the “Jedi rebellion had been foiled,” led to cheers from many (though not from Bail Organa or Padme Amidala, who quietly watched the horror that was unfolding before them).
It was then that Palpatine declared that to ensure a ‘safe and secure society,’ the Republic would be reorganized, into the first Galactic Empire.
This declaration that signaled the fall of the Republic, was met by a look of shock from Padme, as the Senate chamber erupted into a cacophony of approval.
“So this is how liberty dies,” sighed Padme. “With thunderous applause.”
And as Revenge of the Sith drew to a close, it seemed that the Power of the Dark Side had triumphed. The Jedi Order had been destroyed, there was a massive military force at the beck-and-call of the new Emperor, and Palpatine was now the most powerful Sith Lord in the galaxy.
Though the Sith had taken over the Republic, it would take some time before the Empire would be defeated.
Much like how Palpatine had manipulated Anakin into becoming his apprentice, he soon hoped that Luke Skywalker would be able to replace Vader. However, Luke was not so easily swayed. Though caught off-guard at times, he proved to be stronger than his father had been, resisting the Emperor’s temptations, and even helped redeem his father when Vader threw his master down a shaft in the second Death Star.
And as we’ve seen via The Rise of Skywalker, Palpatine survived to terrorize the galaxy another day…but that is another story that we can delve into at another time.
For now, I hope I have opened your minds a little further, and we can give Jar Jar Binks a little more of a break.
Do you ever get tired of seeing people claim something, and you know it to be wrong?
Along with the numerous rumors about Walt Disney over the years (the tamest being that his head is frozen, and hidden deep beneath the Walt Disney World theme park), there are plenty of others revolving around items related to his legacy.
One I have heard a lot in the last few decades, was how Cinderella in his studio’s animated feature, was a pushover who was just waiting around to marry a prince.
Much like how some assume that Belle from 1991’s Beauty and the Beast developed Stockholm Syndrome, I felt this was a pretty ridiculous notion. For this post, I thought I would lay out some observations about Disney’s 1950 animated feature, that some may not have considered.
Why did Cinderella really want to go to the ball?
The short answer: because she was invited.
The palace sent out royal invitations to all the households in the kingdom, requesting that “every eligible maiden” attend.
It should be noted that it is the Stepsisters that jump at the mention of the prince being in attendance, and it is also the Stepmother who seems eager for one of her daughters to catch his eye. Cinderella’s main joy at the news is not related to any of their conclusions, but is simply the joy of knowing that she can attend, making it one of the first opportunities since before her father’s passing, that she can leave the grounds of the family chateau.
Did the Fairy Godmother intend to help Cinderella marry the Prince?
My two cents: I don’t believe so.
At the very least, she came to help the poor girl fulfill her greatest wish. I personally feel that if allowed to go to the ball, Cinderella could have endured for the rest of her life under her step-family, being given this one request…but as we see, her step-family are unwilling to show her even the smallest of kindnesses.
I imagine some assume the slippers were a way to lead the prince to Cinderella, but I also think this is simplifying things.
Though the Fairy Godmother claimed that “everything would be as it was before” once the spell was broken at midnight, Cinderella’s shoes still remained as glass slippers (with one still on her foot, and the other in the possession of the Grand Duke, after she fled from the palace).
I feel keeping the slippers as she transformed them, was the equivalent of the Godmother letting Cinderella have something she could keep to remember this magical night.
Did Cinderella realize she had met the Prince?
In writing this post, this question suddenly crossed my mind for the first time!
Watching the film, we as the audience have already identified who the prince is, but it’s not like every household in the kingdom has a picture of the royal family. It is very likely that most do not know who he is until they are announced to him at the ball.
It is notable that when Cinderella arrives at the palace, she doesn’t immediately make for the main reception area. Instead, she slowly wanders around, taking in the towering columns and architecture of the place she’s only seen from her bedroom window. When the prince notices her, she isn’t even looking at him, but is still just taking in the entire palace.
Some could wonder why he doesn’t ask her name, but it’s been a long, long evening of dozens and dozens of girls being announced to him. Maybe he sees her as a way to get out of this ‘royal rut,’ and do something besides just stand around ‘receiving’ guest after guest.
His interaction with Cinderella is all done in silence, though I think it’s assumed that he just quietly asks her for a dance. In Cinderella’s case, this is probably the first time she’s ever been asked by anybody to dance, and thinking that this is just what you do at a royal ball, she accepted without knowing who this man is. In her mind, it was just a magical evening getting to go to the ball, and dancing with someone from the palace.
I originally didn’t realize that her reaction the next day (when she accidentally drops some breakfast dishes), was the full realization of who she had danced with.
Plus, the fact that she reveals the other slipper to the Grand Duke, ends up being a triumphant moment for her, that not even her stepmother could prevent.
Kindness can Help You
This doesn’t quite tie into the main theme of this post, but I felt it had to be said.
Though abused and humiliated by her step-family, Cinderella doesn’t try to take out her mistreatment on those around her like a bully. She still tries to keep a positive demeanor whenever she can, though she does get a little ‘snippy’ on a few occasions.
She definitely isn’t a robot, as we see her get upset at the house cat Lucifer several times, and after she receives the invitation from the royal doorman, she has a mischievous grin thinking of interrupting her stepsisters’ off-key ‘music lesson.’
In a number of Disney films, there have been examples of how kindness can be reciprocal.
We see this on several occasions in this film, with the mice and birds Cinderella has befriended. They help her get ready to start the day, and when it seems she won’t have the time to alter her mother’s dress to go to the ball, they take it upon themselves to help her.
We also get a little guide to the household and her kindness, in the form of the little mouse she names Gus. At first caught in a trap, naked and afraid, Cinderella helps to free him, and provides him with his name and a new set of clothes. Cinderella even helps him out when he is unable to procure some corn for breakfast.
Gus isn’t the brightest of the mice, but he quickly becomes the sidekick to the main leader of the household’s mice, named Jacques. When the Stepmother locks Cinderella in her bedroom, the two mice struggle to overcome impossible odds to get the key to her, and help her persevere.
This leads to an interesting, reciprocal notation.
In the beginning of the film, it is Cinderella who helps free Gus from being trapped, and at the end of the film, with the help of Jacques and the other mice, Gus helps free Cinderella from being trapped.
In the end, it seems Cinderella’s attempts to stay kind-hearted and persevere under the worst of circumstances, were rewarded. This is reinforced in several places by the main theme song, A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes. It’s a song that sounds bubbly and positive, but also includes talk of “heartache,” and “grieving.” But under it all, is the hope that things will turn out alright in the end.
It definitely isn’t the kind of film that would be made in today’s world (as can be attested to the changes made to the 2015 live-action rendition the studio produced), but one has to remember that the 1950’s film was a stepping stone in getting the studio back to producing animated features, following the end of World War II. Plus, the film helped cement the studio’s reputation for fairy tale stories revolving around princesses, that would become a staple of the Disney legacy as the years rolled by.
When it comes to Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling, there are some who say that his being drafted into service during World War II, had a profound impact on his life.
Returning from the war, his mind seemed to be filled with a number of topics that he wanted to get out. From injustice to racism, Serling saw these topics being kept from the public’s eye, and sought to bring them to light via his writings and projects.
The Twilight Zone was where many of these ideas could be brought to life, usually with some form of the supernatural, or science fiction thrown into the mix. In November of 1961, the show would address a real-world atrocity, intermingled within the show’s fifth dimension.
As the show opens, we see a man walk into a hotel and ask for a room. As he signs his name to the guestbook, the woman assisting him grows nervous. When she makes note of the name he’s signed (“Mr Schmidt”), she timidly mentions that the man reminds her of someone during the war.
Mr Schmidt seems amused by the woman’s nervousness, but claims he was actually stationed at the Russian front during the war. When he asks about a prison camp in the village, she claims he is talking about the Dachau Concentration Camp.
“Most of us, would like it burned to the ground,” she claims.
These words cause the man to narrow his eyes at her, before he heads out the front door. It is then that Rod Serling’s opening narration begins:
“Mr Schmidt, recently arrived in a small Bavarian village, which lies eight miles northwest of Munich. A picturesque, delightful little spot one time known for it’s scenery, but more recently related to other events, having to do with the less positive pursuits of man: human slaughter, torture, misery and anguish. Mr Schmidt as we shall soon perceive has a vested interest in the ruins of a concentration camp, for once some seventeen years ago his name was Gunther Lutze. He held the rank of a captain in the SS. He was a black-uniformed strutting ‘animal,’ whose function in life was to give pain, and like his colleagues of the time he shared the one affliction most common amongst that breed known as Nazi’s: he walked the earth without a heart. And now former SS captain Lutze will revisit his old haunts, satisfied perhaps that all that is awaiting him in the ruins on the hill is an element of nostalgia. What he does not know of course is that a place like Dachau, cannot exist only in Bavaria. By it’s nature, by it’s very nature, it must be one of the populated areas…of The Twilight Zone.”
Taking a cab to the abandoned camp, Lutze enters through it’s gates. Exploring the ruins, a smile graces his face, as he imagines the bodies of the dead hanging from now-empty gallows, or recalling how he joyfully denied water to a pleading prisoner.
Suddenly, the sound of a door catches Lutze’s attention, and he finds himself staring at the face of a man in a striped uniform.
Lutze recognizes the man as Alfred Becker, but is surprised how it seems he hasn’t changed since he last saw him, 17 years ago. Lutze assumes Becker is the caretaker of the camp, when a howling sound catches the former officer’s attention, causing him to look uneasy.
When Becker keeps calling him captain, Lutze demands he stop, but Becker claims that it is who the man was.
“I was a soldier, Becker!” bellows Lutze in defense.
“No captain,” replies Becker, “You were a sadist. You were a monster who derived pleasure from giving pain.”
Lutze responds to this by claiming that Becker should not dwell on the past, when the howling sound is heard again.
Becker claims that it is the sound of the victims, moaning their disdain to the man’s denials that he was at all involved in the atrocities that he committed in this place.
Lutze attempts to escape through the front gates, but they are suddenly locked. It is then that Becker reveals some rather unconventional information: Lutze had escaped to South America after the war, but he left that safe haven to return to Dachau..but why?
Lutze confronts this question, claiming he felt enough time had passed, that people would forgive “the little mistakes of the past.”
Becker looks insulted that the deaths of many is considered a “little mistake,” but he explains that since Lutze is now here, he is to be put on trial for his crimes.
These words cause Lutze to attempt to flee once more, but he suddenly finds himself in Compound Six of the camp, with a group of people staring at him, as Becker reads the charges.
Lutze struggles with a nearby door, his voice growing louder as he tries to drown out the indictments being read, before the howling sound of the prisoners overwhelms his own voice, and he passes out.
When he comes to, he finds Becker next to him…telling the man that he has been found guilty. When Becker also claims it is time to pronounce sentence, Lutze merely laughs, claiming that there is noone there to do such a thing, and the caretaker is making something out of nothing.
“They’re in your mind,” sneers Lutze, “You’ve planned your vengeance out of a crazy quilt of your imagination, sewn together with thin level-threats of wishful thinking…why didn’t I kill you when I had the chance!?”
It is then that the man remembers…he did kill Becker, the night the Americans came to liberate the camp. Becker’s death was one of many, in the captain’s desperate attempts to destroy ‘the evidence’ of what had happened there.
Lutze charges at the man, but suddenly finds himself outside in the main area of the compound…where Becker’s voice is heard. The jury’s sentence is that the former captain be rendered “insane.” Soon, Lutze feels the pain of the tortures he inflicted on others: the bullets piercing flesh, the rope of a noose around his neck, and the unspeakable tortures put upon those, behind closed doors.
As Lutze cries out and lays in agony on the ground, Becker walks up behind him.
“Captain Lutze,” he says, “if you can still reason, if there is still any portion of your mind that can still function, take this thought with you: this is not hatred, this is retribution. This is not revenge, this is justice. But this is only the beginning, captain, only the beginning. Your final judgment…will come from God.”
A few hours later, the cab driver returns, and upon finding Lutze unresponsive on the ground, alerts the authorities.
A doctor has Lutze taken to a hospital, but is perplexed: he seems to be insane, but is unsure what could have caused such a thing. As he packs his medical bag, the doctor looks at the dilapidated structures around him.
“Dachau,” he says, with a tinge of distaste. “Why does it still stand? Why do we keep it standing?”
Serling’s voice returns, closing out the episode:
“There is an answer to the doctor’s question. All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwalds, the Auschwitzes…all of them. They must remain standing, because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the Earth into a graveyard. Into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all, their conscience. And the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance, then we become the gravediggers. Something to dwell on and to remember, not only in the Twilight Zone, but wherever men walk God’s Earth.”
Revisiting the episode for this posting, I did notice a few more things than I did during my previous viewings.
While he could bring about intriguing subject matter, Rod Serling could get a bit “wordy” in his scripts, and that does happen quite a few time during Death’s Head. Then again, maybe he feels that Becker explaining things to Lutze, is similar to schooling the naive members of his television audience about what happened in places like this (including Becker showing Lutze a number tattooed on his arm). There may have been some even after all those years, who still weren’t fully aware of what went on in the camps.
Reliving the past or going back to a place (or time) that held special meaning, has been viewed in a number of episodes of The Twilight Zone. However, Serling has shown that in many cases (such as in this episode and The Incredible World of Horace Ford), not all trips down memory lane are like we remembered them.
Watching the episode now, one thing that stood out was how the concentration camp looked more like a re-purposed film set…which it was. Apparently, the studio had built a fort for a western television series, and after a few changes, it became Dachau.
Oscar Beregi Jr plays Lutze in the episode with an aire of pomposity at times (he could almost be seen like a bullying high school jock, coming back to his old stomping grounds). An uncomfortable smile plays across his face, like that on a man who feels he has gotten away with his crimes…though when the tables start turning, one can see that Lutze is very much a coward trying to keep control as the rug is pulled out from under him. Beregi’s bellowing voice also shows him trying to regain some form of authority, as he finds his reality crashing down around him.
What is rather notable about the character, is how he doesn’t seem to question some information that Becker knows (such as how he escaped to South America after the war). This is where the character gets a tad questionable in my eyes regarding how Serling writes him.
Alfred Becker is played by Joseph Schildkraut. An Austrian-born actor, Schildkraut would be better-known for his portrayal of Anne Frank’s father Otto, in the Broadway and film productions of The Diary of Anne Frank. Schildkraut’s role plays Becker as a man who is almost like the voice of a conscience over Lutze’s shoulder. His voice never rises to the volume of the captain’s, but the way he conducts himself with “quieter” movements, seems to show he is in total control of the situation.
In many of Serling’s films, he often had little love for those that were the bullies, or looked down upon others. The Twilight Zone episode here shows Lutze being a man who got an extra degree of punishment for his crimes against humanity, though there is the thought that if punishment escapes men like this on Earth, it will eventually catch up to them after their life has expired.
In the end, Death’s-Head Revisited offers a brief history lesson in an okay episode. One has to wonder, as we seem to be headed into another dark area of human history…can human beings truly learn from the past, or are we forever doomed to be trapped in a neverending cycle?
Another week, another new episode of The Mandalorian on Disney+.
After time on two desert planets and a forested world, our leading man’s latest journey keeps him out among the stars, but not far enough out of trouble.
The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) reaches out to a mercenary he knows named Ran (Mark Boone, Jr), looking for work. What he gets is a prison break job, where he’s teamed up with Ran’s assistant Mayfield (Bill Burr), a Devaronian named Burg (Clancy Brown), a crazy Twi’lek named Xi’an (Natalia Tena), and a droid named Zero (voiced by Richard Ayoade).
Mando finds there are added stipulations, but takes the job. However, it just feels like this deal is getting worse all the time.
After a few minutes with this week’s crew, it feels like Mando has fallen into a combination of Suicide Squad and Rogue One with this episode. This is one of those scenarios where it seems the operatives were chosen for their skills, and if they happen to work well as a team…well, that’s just a bonus.
We get some hints of people having knowledge of Mando in this one. From Ran to Xi’an, there are small bits of information that their paths have crossed, but we’re left in the dark regarding most of those past exploits. There also is a continued mention of Mando’s disliking of droids, and a little more information on his ship, the Razor Crest.
Rick Famuyiwa directs his second episode of the season, taking us from open desert terrain, to the confining hallways of a New Republic prison ship. There’s definitely some flashbacks to the sleek-white interior of the Tantive IV from Episode III & IV, mixed in with some new elements as well (after the fall of the Empire, the New Republic now has the credits to afford droids to guard their prisoners).
Fortunately, The Prisoner ends up not relying so much on nostalgia like last week’s episode, The Gunslinger. The little shout-outs to certain areas of the Star Wars universe in this episode, are a little more unexpected. We get a minor reference to The Last Jedi, while one of the character’s call-outs to a certain prequel species, shows that racism is still alive and well in the galaxy.
With a crazy crew of characters, I was hoping there would be some faces here that would be more memorable. Alas, the characters are pretty much here to serve their basic purposes of being colorful scum, that feel like we’ve seen them in other popular culture materials. I’d dare anyone to watch this, and not think of Xi’an as a Twi’lek “Harley Quinn,” or Burg as the team’s “Drax.”
The highlight of the episode is seeing how resourceful the Mandalorian can be in a tight spot, and when things really start to go downhill at one point, some of what he does brought a smile to my face. Pity that I couldn’t have enjoyed the rest of the episode as much as one little scene at the end, where Famuyiwa gets a little “house of horrors” in how he stages a tense scene or two.
Just like last week, The Child is relegated to a smaller role, as our focus is mainly on Mando. All showings of The Child in this episode, seems mainly to let us know he’s still alive, but that’s about it.
In my humble opinion, The Prisoner is definitely better than The Gunslinger for an overall story that doesn’t rely on nostalgia, but it doesn’t give enough decent characters to really make me care much for plight of most on-screen.
With two episodes left in the season, The Mandalorian started out strong, and seems to have become rather middling with it’s recent stories. With two episodes left in this season, I am hoping the first season will conclude in a way that will make us eager for season 2.
Final Grade: B
Half-way through it’s first season, The Mandalorian has become a runaway hit for the Disney+ streaming service. Each new episode has revealed a little more about the helmeted lead (played by Pedro Pascal), and opened our eyes to the galaxy beyond the live-action feature films.
For the fifth episode, writer/director Dave Feloni, takes us back to a familiar locale.
After a space battle severely damages his ship, The Mandalorian is forced to seek repairs at the nearest spaceport…which happens to be in Mos Eisley on Tatooine.
Needing to pay for the repairs, Mando accepts a request to help a rookie bounty hunter named Toro Calican (Jake Cannavale). The assignment leads them out to the Dune Sea, intent on capturing an assassin named Fennec Shand (Ming Na Wen).
While we have seen some locations this season that reminded us of places we knew from the older Star Wars films, this is the first episode that drops us back into a familiar locale…but things have changed since we were last here.
Mos Eisley does not seem to be the bustling spaceport we once knew, with Feloni showing us a place affected by the downfall of the Empire (and most likely the death of local crimelord, Jabba the Hutt!). This could be a sign that while the New Republic may be good for certain areas of the galaxy, it might be hurting newer areas that have opened up in the often-overlooked Outer Rim Territories.
The search for Fennec Shand utilizes a bunch of touchstones we’ve come to associate with the planet over the years. From speeder bikes to dewbacks, the episode is a veritable drinking game of callbacks…pity that the story can’t really overpower the visual moments (or composer Ludwig Göransson’s “south of the border” musical flourishes) .
As a new bounty hunter looking to make a name for himself, Toro comes off almost like a mixture of Hayden Christiansen and Shia LeBeouf in tone. Canvalle’s acting reminds me of the way Hayden spoke as Anakin Skywalker, and I do wonder if this was intentional. Like Anakin, Toro is someone who wants to prove himself, and in some cases, is willing to do whatever it takes.
Much of the story between Toro and Mando is focused on the mission. I feel there could have been some moments where Mando could have opened up more and given Toro some deeper life-lessons, but The Gunslinger doesn’t want to slow down and smell the roses. It’s storytelling is pretty straight-forward, and there aren’t a whole lot of surprises to be found here.
Fennec’s role is also much more brief than I had expected. I was hoping we would have gotten more time with her, like with Gina Carano’s introduction in last week’s episode, Sanctuary. Alas, it feels like Ming Na’s role is over before she’s had much time to register with us.
While The Child is involved in the story, it’s role is much smaller this time around. Much of the interaction with him is done through a docking bay mechanic (played by Amy Sedaris), who provides some minor comic relief during the story. Out of all the new characters in this story, Sedaris’ role was the only one that stuck in my mind after it was all over.
The Gunslinger drops us back into familiar territory, but the storyline just doesn’t feel as engaging as in previous episodes. Toro and Fennec have their moments, but pale next to Sedaris’ docking bay mechanic who steals almost every scene she’s in. Writer/director Dave Feloni does manage to give us a teaser at the end of the story, possibly hinting that the adventure on Tatooine might have future repercussions for The Mandalorian’s journey.
Final Grade: B
Since it’s premiere on Disney+, The Mandalorian has become one of the most surprising things to come out of Disney since the acquisition of Lucasfilm Ltd.
Creator Jon Favreau (Iron Man) and showrunner Dave Feloni (Star Wars: The Clone Wars), have managed to channel into the gunslinger/samurai mentality that George Lucas often cited in various parts of the Star Wars saga. The episodic nature of the series is one part Saturday afternoon serial, and one part Spaghetti Western, with each week revealing more about our title character, and his place in the world of Star Wars.
Following events at the end of episode 3, The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) and his new companion (simply known as The Child) attempt to lay low on the planet Sorgan. However, Mando comes across two unexpected encounters.
The first is a woman named Cara Dune (Gina Carano), A former shocktrooper of the New Republic who has settled down in the area.
The second is a small group of villagers, who request Mando’s help to take care of some marauders that threaten their isolated community.
Given the action-packed pacing of the first three episodes, it stands to reason some will be disappointed with how “simple” Sanctuary is. However, it’s the first real “breather” we’ve had since the show began, and I welcomed the chance to see Mando and the Child interacting with other beings. It’s one thing to see characters in intense situations, but it’s another to learn more about them when they aren’t being fired on from all sides.
Cara Dune proves herself to be another worthy addition to the ever-growing cast of supporting characters. Seeing her team up with Mando to assist the villagers, gives us some more insight into her, let alone how her own training can be utilized to help the people. While Cara may have turned her back on the New Republic, that doesn’t mean she isn’t capable of helping others in need.
The village doesn’t feel that far removed from a native tribe, intermingled with a Japanese village from the days of the Samurai (those who have seen Akira Kurosawa’s films will surely see some connections!). Our main contacts to this world are a widow named Omera (Julia Jones), along with her daughter, Winta (Isla Ferris).
While Winta happily acclimates The Child into the village’s younger ranks, Omera seems to quickly take an interest in the Mandalorian. Her character isn’t that far removed from the young woman we’ve seen in Westerns, entranced by a strong-but-silent newcomer. In Omera’s case, it almost feels like her type of character is a little “too soon” for the series. The writers still manage to keep her interesting, even if she seems a little “by-the-numbers” at times.
The effects provided by Industrial Light and Magic in this story, really works within the environment. This is the first time we’ve seen The Child really stretch his legs, and while certain scenes may involve an animatronic figure, computer-generated effects are used in a sparing way, almost hearkening back to the days of Terminator 2, and Jurassic Park.
Episodes like Sanctuary are a great way to use the slower moments to understand more about characters. We learn not only about the galaxy post-Empire via Cara, but more about the Mandalorian code, and a few more hints about our lead character’s past. The storytelling of Mando being tempted with a life of simplicity however, feels a little too soon to tell, given we’re only four episodes into our adventures with him.
Most will probably discount this episode given it’s tone, but for managing to “simplify” where others want a lot more, I feel it’s a bit more worthy of praise than most will give it credit for.
Final Grade: B+