Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Score as Symphony: John Williams’ The Last Jedi (2017)

Williams’ new score for The Last Jedi is his eighth Star Wars score, an almost bewildering achievement for the now eighty-five year-old composer. Though he probably doesn’t view this achievement with quite the applause that Star Wars fans do (he recently said in an interview that he doesn’t remember writing anything particularly memorable for the films!), it has created an entire language for the saga—a language that extends into every byproduct of the original trilogy (shows, games, commercials, etc.). To see Darth Vader is to hear his music, and to even think Star Wars is to hear the iconic theme come blasting across the screen. It’s a considerable achievement to live up to, and even the most cynical composer must have thought twice before penning a new trilogy—or rather, a third new trilogy! 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Star Wars for the 21st Century: The Last Jedi

Whenever I see a Star Wars movie in theaters, I’m immediately watching it as the 8 year-old kid I was when I first experienced them in theatres in the early 80’s. I have vague memories of watching The Empire Strikes Back umpteen times (movies were so much cheaper back then), and I vividly recall when my mom took me to attend the opening week of Return of the Jedi shortly after school one afternoon. I’ll never forget how people booed as Darth Vader came striding down the ramp in the half-completed Death Star, or how people cheered when he threw the Emperor down the seemingly bottomless shaft. I would feel ashamed today to even applaud after a movie’s closing credits...I last remember that occurring after Fellowship of the Ring in 2001. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Wattpad Review: Caitlin E. Jones’ Shoppe Walpurgis

One of the fasting-growing subgenres of fantasy is the fairy-tale retelling, which has spawned a number of popular books and a slew of indie fiction. One of the biggest criticisms of these stories, however, is how little is left to tell: since everyone knows the story, there’s no real surprise left to uncover for the readers (and isn’t narrative drama one of the true hallmarks of the novel?). To make it work, an author has to take a familiar story and treat it like a myth that can be transported to different characters and lands and help us see something about our own world through the ‘old’ frame. Most re-tellings, frankly, feel a bit like literary exercises, a chance for the author to stretch their wings even though they have nowhere in particular to go. We might even enjoy the trip, but once we’re there, the book is instantly forgotten and we can only remember the original tale—which, frankly, taught us a lot more to begin with. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Fanny Price--Austen's Greatest Heroine? (a re-reading of Mansfield Park)

Of all of Austen’s novels, Mansfield Park (1814) gets precious little attention—and far too little love. Why? Actually, I’m somewhat at a loss myself, since I’ve always loved this novel and decided to re-read it after 8 or so years to make sure my judgment is sound. In fact, I recently re-read all of her novels, and taught most of them, too, with unparalleled delight. Nothing is more fun that taking a group of college students through the wonders of Jane Austen’s quicksilver prose,  her devastating yet subtle satire, and her effortlessly character arcs. But I had never taught Mansfield Park, largely because it’s on the longer side for a novel most people seem to dislike. Yet if you take a step back and look at some of the basic elements of the novel, you can’t help but wonder why this isn’t hailed as her greatest novel, or at least the most beloved.

[Spoilers ahead…]