Sunday, May 29, 2005

Not Part III

I'd continue the series today as planned, but I'm running on four hours of sleep, so I'm not quite up to it. Instead, behold the state of my life.

My Finals: Since I'm graduating, my finals are earlier than the usual Finals Week, so the professors can grade them in time. I already took Analysis; I have both Differentiable Manifolds and Algebraic Curves on Thursday. I was uncharacteristically anxious about the Analysis final: I can't remember the last time before this that I felt queasy over a test. (I'm lucky in that respect, I know.) Maybe my nervousness had something to do with Kenig's threat to fail me. I think he was just trying to shock me into doing more work. I hope. Berkeley would not be happy.

My Summer Schedule: After I take my finals, I hang around for Senior Week (Finals Week for the non-graduating students), and finally cross the stage on June 11th. I go home on the 12th, and after a few days I'm traveling with my family to sunny Hawaii. It's our first real vacation together since 2000, so I'm excited. We return home on the 21st, Alice and Danny (Katie's boyfriend) come to St. Louis for a week, and in late July I will drive out to Berkeley. I'm planning to take Father Keyes up on his offer to rent the St. Edwards guest room while I'm looking for someplace to live in Berkeley. And, God willing, I'll be ready for the preliminary exams in August.

My Weekend: Memorial Day weekend is, again, quite eventful. Friday evening was Religious Appreciation Night, a potluck supper to which we students invited the priests and religious who have helped out at Calvert this past year. Yesterday I went and saw Episode III with Alice, Erik and Katherine, then returned home to Ian's birthday party. I'll leave it to him to describe the party as he wishes; it was quite fun and not terribly unwholesome. Anyhow, this should explain my four hours of sleep.

Today, our Mass was followed by a Eucharistic procession across the quads, the congregation chanting the Pange Lingua before the respectful landscapers and the befuddled wanderers. Then I went with a group to eat and to watch "The Cardinal", a three-hour 1963 film tracing the life of a fictional American cleric from 1916 through 1944, bringing him face-to-face with well-known personalities and the main issues of the day (as seen through a 1963 American Catholic lens); it was commented that it's "like a Catholic Forrest Gump. While it ultimately wasn't really epic, it was not bad; while it didn't really capture anything too poignant about Catholicism (save for the old liturgy, which seen now is stunningly beautiful), it illuminated the ideas of obedience and vocation in a way that modern Hollywood is loath to do. It was the better of the two movies I saw this weekend.

And tomorrow, Memorial Day, I'm going to see some old buddies at the Midtown Center Barbecue. I worked there in summer 2002, as a counselor for middle-school students in their summer program. It was a good summer for me; I stayed in the building with seven other counselors (we called ourselves the 8-Pac, went on trips up to Lake Geneva, argued literature and philosophy and the like). It's a program run by Opus Dei, an organization whose spirituality I don't fully agree with but which I do respect. Anyway, this should be a good completion to this weekend.

Episode III: Oh yeah, that other movie I saw this weekend. It was a gut-wrenching two hours of disappointment for me. Now, upon reflection, I won't say that a smart person can't enjoy this movie. It's just that it fell into so many of my personal plot and dialogue pet peeves; that every time I was getting ready to suspend disbelief, something came across that revolted my inner critic. So I spend the entire movie in a huff about how it could have been done so much better if George Lucas' ego had let him give the script to anyone else.

Let me explain why. The following examples are not really spoilers of the important parts of the movie. But be forewarned nonetheless.

1. George Lucas draws heavily from the "List of Clich├ęd Lines That Should Never Be Used At A Dramatic Point In A Movie." Transliterating them into Yoda-speak does not help. When Darth Sidious talks about taking over the galaxy, Yoda replies, "Not if anything to say about it I have!" Disappointing.

2. The Star Trek habit of inventing new technology as lazy plot advancement. The Jedi are about to leave the spaceship, when out of nowhere a blue glow surrounds them. "Ray shields!", obviously impervious to Jedi countermeasures. Well gee, why didn't anyone use or mention THAT handy invention in ANY OF THE OTHER MOVIES? Disappointing, especially since the Jedi could have been captured here in any number of other ways.

3. The inability to step back and ask, "Would any half-sane character really do this?" This has been more glaring in Episodes I through III than in the originals, because we knew that the Resistance was desperate. But the side of the Republic, which clearly has the upper hand, is not going to stake all its hopes on a half-assed rescue attempt that involves (1) two lone Jedi against a battlecruiser full of robots, (2) these Jedi intentionally walking into what they suspect to be a trap designed specifically for them, (3) these Jedi counting on a lone, barely-armed droid to bail them out at the crucial moment, and (4) these Jedi starting a close-quarters battle with lightsabers and guns blazing in the immediate vicinity of the unarmed and vulnerable hostage. Disappointing.

4. Dialogue that is so bad an eight-year-old could do it better. I think that I sum up the singular craptacularity of this script in the following line: "Hold me, Anikin; hold me like you did by the lake on Naboo!" Disappointing fails to express what I felt. I felt like I had just taken a verbal lightsaber to the gut.

If you can look past all that, there were exciting fight scenes, neat landscapes and the answers to many questions in the Star Wars pantheon. But I couldn't look past it.

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