Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith at Hoyts, Broadway

I actually saw Revenge of the Sith over a week ago, but I have been flat out updating fencing websites (Challenge Australia, Commonwealth Fencing Federation and NSW Fencing Federation), as well as preparing Circular 2 for the Australian Universities Fencing Championships, so I haven’t had time to write it up.

To do this film justice, it was better than Episode I and Episode II. And the special effects were great. But the story just … wasn’t. I felt utterly unconvinced by Anakin’s slide into the Dark Side – and, to be honest, I didn’t really care. He seemed more like a sulky little boy, stamping his foot because he couldn’t have cake and chocolate, than like a grown man struggling with conflicting emotions and loyalties. I honestly think George Lucas just doesn’t get tragedy – doesn’t understand what it is that makes, for example, Macbeth a great play. Like I and II, this film took itself far more seriously than the original trilogy, but I didn’t feel there was any real substance behind its ponderousness.

Episode I was just generally awful, and Episode II, while it had some good bits, also had some positively nausea-inducing scenes. This one, though, was funny – right up there with Mission: Impossible II in the number of times I had to stifle laughter at scenes that were meant to be taken Seriously. (The trailer for Alexander had much the same effect, although it didn’t inspire me to actually see the movie.)

A few other random general comments (which do contain spoilers):

  • With all the amazing technology, why don’t they do ultrasounds at any point in a pregnancy?
  • Why don’t the terrifyingly high walkways and balconies have guard rails? Has nobody ever accidentally stepped off the edge?
  • Given that a replacement Death Star was built between the end of Star Wars and the start of Jedi, and since the first one was well underway at the end of this film, why did it take so long to finish it?
  • It’s a pity there was no Han Solo cameo. I have no idea how much older than Luke and Leia he is, but there has to be at least 5 – 10 years (Harrison Ford is apparently about 9 years older than Mark Hamill, and 14 years older than Carrie Fisher). So surely a 10 year old Han could have had a brief appearance somewhere.
  • I think between them, Obi Wan and Mace Windu completely mishandled Anakin, and they are partly to blame for his failure to see through Palpatine’s transparent attempts to manipulate him.
  • And what was Obi Wan thinking of, to just walk away and leave Anakin dying slowly in agony? Surely if he cared for him, he could have made it a quick finish – or at least, stayed with him to the end. Or, if he thought Anakin was irretrievably gone to the Dark Side, he should have killed him. But to just walk away and leave him is either incredibly callous, or totally stupid – or both.
  • Why did they wipe Threepio’s memory (for no readily explained reason) but not bother with Artoo? Maybe it means that those beeps are actually just random noise, and he can’t really communicate with anyone (so it therefore doesn’t matter what he knows).

Book Meme

Someone on Girlsown posted a link to a book meme at Online Learning. (If you follow the links back from the site, you may find where the meme originated. Or you may not – I gave up after a while.)

The instructions are:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
5. Don’t search around and look for the “coolest” book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.

The closest book is Tops and Bottoms by Noel Streatfeild. Since I am writing my Uni treatise on Streatfeild, all her books are handily shelved on the bookcase nearest my desk, and this one happened to be at the end of the shelf. The fifth sentence on page 123 is the rather uninspiring “Beaty looked ashamed of herself -“.

Tops and Bottoms is definitely not one of the better Streatfeilds, and I’m not actually referring to it in my treatise, but it was the closest book to hand. At least, it was the closest book to my left hand. The closest book to my right hand was the Dreamweaver 3: Using Dreamweaver, but I’m not sure that a several-versions-old software guide really counts as a book; and, in any case, it was about four centimetres further away than Tops and Bottoms. Amazingly enough, at this precise moment in time there are actually no books lying on my desk – the ones that were there about an hour ago are currently in a pile on the floor. Had I not cleared off the desk, you would have got a sentence from Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception – or maybe Booktalk: Occasional Writing on Literature and Children.

Sorcery and Cecelia* by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

This was such a fun book!

I think I first heard it described as “Jane Austen meets Harry Potter”. Well, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell was also described that way, and I found it turgid to the point of unreadability. Sorcery and Cecelia was anything but. It’s a series of letters between Kate, in London, and her cousin Cecelia, in Essex. In both locations, Evil Doings are Afoot, involving a stolen chocolate pot, a beautiful neighbour, a missing brother, a charm bag … and two dashingly handsome (if frustratingly enigmatic) young men.

Coincidentally, just after I finished it, I discovered it was the Galaxy Bookshop Fave Rave in their April 2005 Nexus. Stephanie, who wrote the review, said it was “Jane Austen with magic”, and even considered whether or not you have to be familiar with Austen to appreciate it (which you don’t). I can only assume that Stephanie has never come across Georgette Heyer, since anyone who has will recognise her influence on the writing. I can’t really see any significant Austen connection beyond the time period (and it’s much more Heyer’s Regency than Austen’s), and maybe the epistolary format (which Heyer never used – the only published Austen that uses it is Lady Susan, but the first drafts of both Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice were apparently written in this style).

The book is actually dedicated to Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer and J. R. R. Tolkein. I would say that while Austen and Tolkein have given the authors much joy and general influence, the most direct connection is with Heyer. It’s not as good as Heyer – it’s a sort of “Heyer-lite” (with magic). It’s actually being marketed as a Young Adult title, and I think this is the right call, although I can’t put my finger on exactly why it feels YA in a way that Heyer doesn’t.

I have a nasty feeling Heyer wouldn’t have approved of this book. In The Private World of Georgette Heyer (Jane Aiken Hodge, 1984) there is an extract from a letter to her publisher about an imitator:

I feel compelled to protest against the injustice done me by the author in omitting my name from her list of the works to which she declares herself to be indebted. It might well take the place of Jane Austen’s, for while no one would suspect [the author] of owing anything to Jane Austen it must be obvious to many besides my unknown informant that she owes to me plot, incidents, character, several surnames, and such examples of Regency slang as she has used.” (p. 145)

Sorcery and Cecelia does owe a couple of names and a great deal of Regency slang – plus a general Regency world view – to Heyer. On the other hand, the authors do acknowledge her (though I gather this wasn’t the case with the first edition of the book). Also, of course, the magic component means that it’s not actually a Regency Romance.

Another factor is that it wasn’t originally intended for publication. The two authors were simply playing the “letter game” – writing to each other in character, and making up the plots (without consultation) as they went along. It was only after it was finished that they realised it might be publishable. This makes the Heyer pastiche aspects of it more understandable – and it’s such a key part of the writing style, that I honestly don’t see how it could have been excised when they were preparing it for publication.

So maybe Heyer wouldn’t have objected to it. I’d like to think so, anyway.

Having read this book from the library, I have now ordered my own copy of the book, and of its sequel, The Grand Tour, which I’m really looking forward to reading.

* Actually, the full title is Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot: Being the Correspondence of Two Young Ladies of Quality Regarding Various Magical Scandals in London and the Country

Kingdom of Heaven at Hoyts, Broadway

Kingdom of Heaven’s visuals were great. The characterisation was thin in the extreme (people were either Good or Bad – there was nothing in between). The plot was a bit dull.

Democracy (Michael Frayn) – Sydney Theatre Company production at the Sydney Theatre

Before seeing Democracy, I knew as much about post-War German politics as I did about British Rail before seeing The Permanent Way. So I have absolutely no idea how accurate a portrayal it was of the personalities involved. However, it was a compelling piece of stagecraft, and regardless of whether or not they were true to life, the characters were interesting. It was quite strange to see a play with ten characters, all of them male.

By a fluke, this was the “Night with the Actors”, where after the performance the actors come back on stage and answer questions asked by any of the audience who have cared to stay for it. They said that the number of characters, the pace of the dialogue and the speed of exits and entrances made it almost like playing a farce – except, of course, that the subject matter was totally different.

Unfortunately, I didn’t quite get up the nerve to ask a question. I would have liked to know how Paul Goddard felt about his part. He played Arno Kretschmann (Guillaume’s Stasi controller), and he was onstage for almost the entire play, but spent most of it off to the side, observing the action. The only character he actually interacted with was Guillaume. I’d be curious to find out whether this makes it more or less draining as an actor. I’m inclined to think it would be more so – having to stay focussed the entire time, but mostly without dialogue to support engagement with the character.

It was a completely different sort of play from Copenhagen (the only other Michael Frayn play I have seen), but just as worthwhile a night at the theatre.