January 31, 1997

The Death of Obi-Wan Kenobi

The death of Obi-Wan Kenobi confused me as a kid and bothers me as a movie fan. When Obi-Wan Kenobi battles Darth Vader on the Death Star, Kenobi eventually stops fighting, raises his saber in a moment of prayer(?), and Vader swipes at Kenobi. In a long shot, we see Vader's lightsaber pass through Kenobi's (suddenly) empty cloak, which falls to the deck. Vader steps on the empty cloak, as if to confirm that it's empty.

When this scene originally played out in May 1977, movieogers knew very little about lightsabers and how they work. At that point in the Star Wars saga, we had only seen a lightsaber used once- when Kenobi defends Luke in the cantina in Mos Eisley. When Vader swipes at Kenobi and an empty cloak falls to the deck, I assumed that Vader's lightsaber had cut Kenobi in half and vaporized him.

In the episodes that followed, Lucas revealed more about the Jedi and their lightsabers:

  • You cannot vaporize someone by cutting them in half (see Darth Maul, Episode 1).
  • Jedi's bodies can disappear when they die (see Yoda, Episode 6).
  • Jedi's bodies don't necessarily disappear when they die (see Qui-Gonn Jinn, Episode 1).
During his battle with Vader, Kenobi implies that he his express-ticketed for the Force afterlife: "You can't win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine." In retrospect we can assume that Kenobi sacrificed himself in order to give Luke, et al, a chance to escape on the Millennium Falcon. We can also guess that the moment Vader's saber struck Kenobi, he died, and he immediately passed on to the Force afterlife. After all, Kenobi's ghost calls out in Luke's head moments later ("Run, Luke!") and throughout the remainder of the film.

My problem is that none of this is obvious from the way Lucas staged it in the movie. I would have staged it like this:

The old Jedi Knight looks over his shoulder at Luke, lifts his sword from Vader's, then closes his eyes with a serene look on his face. Vader brings his sword down, mortally wounding Kenobi. Ben falls to the deck. Vader looks down on Kenobi's dead body as his form fades away to nothingness, leaving only his cloak and lightsaber behind. Vader is puzzled at Ben's disappearance and pokes at the empty cloak.
Not only would this effect have been easier to create with optical effects, but it would have conveyed the idea better: Vader kills Kenobi with his lightsaber, and then Kenobi passes on to the afterlife.

Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope SPECIAL EDITION

I am a little frustrated with George Lucas's tinkering with the Star Wars movies. George Lucas has gone on the record repeatedly that Episode 4 was released in May 1977 with only half the effects completed to Lucas's satisfaction. Many of his changes have improved the movies by further fleshing out the futuristic and alien worlds, but other changes are simply self-indulgent and distracting. While the Special Editions are still fun after all these years, I began to realize then that my generation's opinion of these movies is strongly influenced by our nostalgia.
In January 1997 I drove from Portland, Maine, all the way to Burlington, MA, to see this Special Edition, because my friend Chet was obsessed with seeing Episode 4 on a THX-certified screen. We ended up seeing the movie from seats all the way on the right-hand side of the theater, so the picture was still great, but the stereo surround sound was a little crooked: When the Millennium Falcon enters the Alderaan system, and is buffeted by the remains of the destroyed planet, I thought the sound effects from the right surround speakers were gonna knock my head off! Nearly nineteen years later I would see The Force Awakens on the very same screen (with a major overhaul in picture, sound, and seating!) January 31st, General Cinemas Burlington, MA; February 8th, Flagship Falmouth, ME

January 25, 1997

Hamlet

I drove 110 miles to see Ken Branagh's amazing uncut adaptation, shot with 70mm cameras, and projected with a 70mm projector at the Kendall Square Cinema.

January 15, 1997

The Golden Days of 1984

A nice, concise, focused time capsule of my favorite music from 1984.
SIDE A
  1. "1984/Jump" Van Halen
  2. "Oh Sherrie" Steve Perry
  3. "Separate Ways (World Apart)" Journey
  4. "Love is a Battlefield" Pat Benatar
  5. "Infatuation" Rod Stewart
  6. "Say It Isn't So" Hall & Oates
  7. "Cuts Like a Knife" Bryan Adams
  8. "Be Good Johnny" Men At Work
  9. "Hungry Like The Wolf" Duran Duran
  10. "Stay The Night" Chicago
SIDE B
  1. "Footloose" Kenny Loggins
  2. "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" Cyndi Lauper
  3. "Borderline" Madonna
  4. "Sad Songs (Say So Much)" Elton John
  5. "You Take Me Up" Thompson Twins
  6. "Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)" Phil Collins
  7. "Heart & Soul" Huey Lewis & The News
  8. "All Night Long (All Night)" Lionel Richie
  9. "Billy Jean" Michael Jackson
  10. "Say Say Say" Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson
  11. "Let's Hear it For The Boy" Denice Williams
(94 minute Sony cassette)

January 11, 1997

Evita

evitaI hate Andrew Lloyd Webber- and this movie didn't change my feelings one bit.

January 7, 1997

Mix Tape Forty-Three

This mix was a little under-baked. I couldn't even fill a 60 minute cassette with music I liked. Several of these tracks I actively dislike!

January 2, 1997

Forty-Two: Merry Christmas 1996!

My second mix to highlight music received as Christmas presents.

January 1, 1997

The Crucible

crucibleAnother "bad teeth" performance from Daniel Day-Lewis. (Maine Mall Cinema)