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21 Nov

For some weeks now, I read positive things about North and South – the BBC mini-series of Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel. Last week a looked at ordering it. And discovered that the German edition is about 30 minutes shorter than the English edition. (I prefer to buy German editions because then there are slim chances of badgering The Boyfriend into watching one of my movies with me. With an English edition – let’s just say the already slim chances are no longer chances at all.) I can’t say that I was surprised. This happens quite often and meant I wouldn’t get the German edition.
The English edition (UK import – thanks to amazon) costs 38 Euro (~ 55$), the German 20 Euro (~ 28$). So no, no North and South for me.

Last evening, I wanted to show The Boyfriend what I couldn’t convince myself to order (there is always Christmas) and discovered that the English edition of North and South went down to 28 Euro (~ 41 $)!

Now we could talk. I ordered it right away. Delivery time: 2- 4 weeks which means it should be here before Christmas.

This evening, I got an email saying they already shipped it (delivery times changed to 24 hours). Sometimes even I get lucky. Now it should be here before the weekend.

And the weekend is taken care of.

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Film: "Final Fantasy VII – Advent Children"

15 Dec

I watched this film two times. The first time with the German synchronisation which is – who is surprised about it? – bad. Then the second time with the English one which is better. I also thought the film the second time better – because I picked up more things then.

I don’t think Advent Children is just pure eye candy. There are some nice (and subtle) things I only got the second time because a lot of things are only hinted at and easy, maybe inevitable, to miss the first time. So Advent Children is not just action without a plot. There is some if you look for it. But nevertheless, I really think of it as a looooooooong ending sequence to Final Fantasy VII (PS1 game) in which Cloud gets to solve his hang-ups with something that happened during the game. Of course, it also serves to bring back memories of the favourite (?) villain in the Final Fantasy universe.

There is a bonus feature on the DVD which tells the story of the game again with in-game sequences. In all honesty, I have to say that this was the first time I really got the story of Final Fantasy VII in the game because the German translation of the game is so bad most of the time I didn’t get what they were talking about, it was all jumbled and random. Of course, I might be that I was just to dense to get it. Anyway, I really had to struggle to keep me from starting the game.

Film: "Three Nuts for Cinderella"

1 Dec

– also called Three Wishes for Cinderella or Three Gifts for Cinderella (original title: Tri orísky pro Popelku).

Three Nuts for Cinderella has been part of Christmas for as long as I can think. Every Christmas, this film is on German TV – on a lot of channels. I have ample opportunity to watch it and it is a kind of tradition to do this every year. The Boyfriend bought me the DVD version of it so that I can watch it every time I want. But it’s still only in December that I dig out my copy.

Three Nuts for Cinderella was filmed in Czechoslovakia and East Germany in 1973 and is a more modern take on the fairy tale than all the other versions I know. I always thought that Ever After has some similarities. In Three Nuts for Cinderella, Cinderella is active and strong – a real equal to the prince. Just looking good (= attending three balls) doesn’t cut it here.

Then there is the beautiful music. Just thinking about it – “La la la la la…” – yes, it’s definitely time to get the DVD.

There is a nice fanpage.

Finally Watched The Train Wreck That Is "Star Wars III: Return Of The Sith"

10 Nov

I won’t moan about plot wholes, contradictions with the later movies or over-reliance on special effects and action scenes here. I will moan about the failure to deliver what should be the main point of Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith, what even Lucas himself said to be the main point of this movie in one of the many documentaries: Why does a good person turn bad?

All everybody wanted was a convincing answer to this question. The answer given in Star Wars III isn’t convincing. I would even say that it goes one step further: it damages or even destroys the character known as Darth Vader in the movies IV-VI.

I’ll concentrate here on the most important scene in the movie, Anakin’s final turn to the dark side and say why it didn’t work for me. Here it is (Anakin chopped off Jedi master Windu’s arm to keep him from executing chancellor Palpatine [dark side]. This gave Palpatine the chance to attack Windu again with lightning bolts. Windu falls from the window):

Anakin: “What have I done?”
Palpatine: “You’re fulfilling your destiny, Anakin. Become my apprentice. Learn to use the dark side of the Force.”
Anakin: “I will do whatever you ask.”
Palpatine: “Good.”

WtF?

In this exchange there is nothing (substantial) that might seduce one to turn to the dark side. It’s my destiny? Well, I must still think about this before I say yes. Before this exchange, Anakin’s inclination to make things go his way is present: he prevents Windu from executing Palpatine because Palpatine is (supposedly) able to save Padmé from death. It’s Anakin’s wishes and his will that motivates his action. But instead of using this in the “seduction” speech to make Anakin’s turn to the dark side more believable, we get some non-specific gibberish that is not strong enough to counter Anakin’s realization of “what have I done?” and make his acceptance of his new master convincing instead of unbelievable and seemingly out of the blue. Leave the “what have I done?” out or give a better reason, e.g. “Become my apprentice. Learn to use the dark side of the Force. Together we can save Padmé” or some such nonsense, to make this scene work better.

I don’t say that I would find Anakin’s turn to the dark side more convincing then, but at least I wouldn’t find him a stupid fool who is not able to think for himself even a little in this scene. Think of what this does to Darth Vader’s character: Anakin realizes he did something terribly wrong and a few seconds later he meekly complies to someone telling him it’s his destiny and commits himself to a future where he has to do “terrible wrong things” all the time. Darth Vader is a character who came to be because he didn’t think. Urgh! Talk about damaging a perfectly good villain.

To be fair, Anakin next sentence after Palpaltine’s “Good” clearly states Padmé’s safty as (one) motivation for his action, but I think it’s too late. Palpatine’s “good” makes Anakin’s “I’ll do whatever you want” a total acceptance; Anakin’s (possible) specification – Palpatine shall help him to save Padmé – now just seems a mere afterthought:

Anakin: “I will do whatever you ask.”
Palpatine: “Good.”
Anakin: “Just help me save Padmé’s life. I can’t live without her.”

Reading that, maybe it’s better to say it’s all about Anakin’s wishes – and the weakness they imply. Talk about damaging a perfectly good villain.

And now Palpatine talks about his ability to save Padmé’s life:

Anakin: “Just help me save Padmé’s life. I can’t live without her.”
Palpatine: To cheat death is a power only one has achieved but if we work together I know we can discover the secret.”
Anakin: “I pledge myself to your teachings.”
Palpatine: “Good. Good.”

Palpatine spells it out for Anakin: he doesn’t have the ability to save Padmé’s life. But if they work together … Never mind that Padmé is already pregnant for some months (at the most 3 months to go) and in all the time before only one Sith discovered the secret to cheat death (=to raise someone from the dead?, but Anakin says that he won’t let Padmé die, so huh?), Anakin never considers that maybe they won’t have enough time to discover the secret and save Padmé. Instead he pledges himself to Palpatine. So again, no brains? Talk about damaging a perfectly good villain.

Here is the rest of this gem of dialogue:

Palpatine: “Good. Good. The Forche is strong with you. A powerful Sith you will become. Henceforth you shall be known as Darth Vader.”
Darth Vader: “Thank you, my master.”
Palpatine: “Rise.”

And so Darth Vader was created and destroyed in one scene.

Okay. That is a bit hard. But is it really better to say that the destruction of Darth Vader started earlier? Maybe it started even in Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones? Yes, that’s my dissatisfaction with Hayden Christensen in the role of Anakin Skywalker speaking. He’s just bad in this role, making Anakin and therefore Darth Vader unbelievable. Maybe it started with Anakin’s hare-brained motivation to join the dark side: Padmé’s death in childbed, seen in nightmares? Not once does he stop to wonder about the possibility of this happening in their time with the advancement in all kinds of knowledge. And it certainly doesn’t help that there is zero chemistry between him and Natalie Portman who plays Padmé, the love of Anakin Skywalker’s life, either, to make it somehow believable that he’s so in love he can’t think clearly.

It’s hard to suffer or even identify with Anakin. Sadly, that’s the one thing needed since we know what will happen to Anakin. In this view, Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith fails to deliver a convincing answer why a good person turns bad. But more, in this view, Darth Vader exists because Anakin is a whining, self-centered, sulking boy who can’t think to save his life, literally. He’s all skills and no intellect. He has brawns but no brains. He’s the perfect tool to help other persons to power. A fool, a moron, call it what you will. And if that doesn’t damage and destroy Darth Vader’s character in the later movies I don’t know what does.

So is it really too hard to say Darth Vader was created and destroyed in one scene? – I think, better that than to think about, and write about, all the missed opportunities that went before and helped to make Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith the train wreck that it is.

PS: I have to get this off my chest: Wookiees as tarzans? Lucas choice to delete scenes with Padmé showing her as more than just a pining house wife (watch the deleted scenes – they are just a few minutes) to “develop” Anakin’s story?