Tag Archives: max von sydow

The Force Awakens (2015)

Before we get started, I really, really encourage you all to read a criticism of The Force Awakens that my friend Matt Murray wrote. You can check it out here; it’s not a very long read. Matt’s a very good filmmaker. He’s been making independent movies of all shapes and lengths for decades. He understands cinema better than most people, and his criticism of TFA is absolutely correct. I can’t disagree with a single point that he makes there. And yet at the same time he’s completely wrong. TFA is indeed a tame and safe corporate-led rehash without an original idea in its skin and a desperate need to appeal to a diverse audience without doing anything to challenge either its characters or that audience.

But it’s fun. It’s actually fun. It’s the first time a Star Wars movie actually did anything to entertain me in more than thirty years. It was made by a director who doesn’t seem to have lost his sense of wonder, and the performances that he brings from his actors convince me that they’re genuinely people. The prequels created some nice environments that seemed extremely interesting, but even the heroes in those movies are so repellently wooden that I can’t envision what they’re doing when they’re not servicing the needs of the plot. Imagine having dinner with Finn or Poe. Now imagine having dinner with Amidala. You can’t even imagine Amidala eating.

And so, with life and joie de vivre restored to the set of a Star Wars movie for the first time in a long time, I didn’t mind this being a cover band retread. It’s fun. The previous four installments were not. That’s all that matters. Certainly I’d prefer they have gone with something more original, but they did with the next movies. TFA is the back-to-basics restatement of principles. It’s the Beatles working simple with the Get Back/Let it Be sessions before they did Abbey Road. Each of the three films that followed TFA are superior, but all four movies are better and more entertaining than the four that preceded them. I like Let it Be and Abbey Road better than Sgt Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, and the white album too.

Our son is hardly a reliable critic, but he was also pretty impressed. We teased him afterward about whether he likes movies or he just likes explosions. But despite his oddball protest that the only thing he really liked was Starkiller Base blowing up, we certainly saw him bouncing with glee at the various chase scenes and gunfights. The death of Han Solo didn’t move him much. I honestly really loved that experience when the film was first released. Kind of appropriate that an actor who’s said variations on “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” as often as Harrison Ford has would get to bow out here in a scene that put a lump in my throat for about ten solid minutes before his inevitable end, feeling that bad feeling so strongly that I hoped against hope that I was wrong.

Rewatching it, sure, the missed opportunities stand out. Some of the concessions to “cinema” over reality grate. Wouldn’t this have been a more thrilling experience if the First Order was a zero-budget terrorist organization instead of yet another galaxy-striding, who-the-hell-is-funding-this super-army with yet another Big Gun? Having felt the horrible shift in the Force that came with Ben/Kylo’s final fall and Han’s death, why does Leia choose to ignore Chewbacca when they return so that she can embrace a complete stranger?

I could go on, because, sure, it’s a movie that gets a lot wrong. But it’s also a movie that gives Max von Sydow such an overdue chance to join this universe, and which introduces us to so many interesting characters and some really fine actors. As nice as it is to see Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher casually being extremely good, my interest is in Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac. As I keep saying, we see very little contemporary film and television, but I’d be willing to see them in anything. I’m a little less sold on Adam Driver, but that’s arguably a credit to how horrible a person Kylo Ren is.

I dunno how episode nine is going to end. I really prefer not to speculate much. But I can’t help myself and I really do hope it isn’t Rey who finally kills this villain. I want Chewbacca to bring him down. I’m not going to place any money on it, mind.

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Young Indiana Jones 1.5 – Vienna, 1908

The Vienna installment was one of six episodes of Young Indy shown in the spring of 1993, and the only Corey Carrier one, before the show was taken off the air ahead of the May sweeps period and quietly cancelled. When the show came back with the highly-publicized appearance of Harrison Ford for the bookends of Young Indiana Jones and the Mystery of the Blues that March, it was to a very respectable audience of 18.2 million viewers on a Saturday night. But audiences, whose numbers were inflated anyway by a massive snowstorm that paralyzed the East Coast and kept everyone indoors that night, weren’t going to stick around without Ford. Just four weeks later, this episode, written by Matthew Jacobs, only had 6.9 million watching.

Young Indy falls in love a lot during this show, but his first crush is shown in this story, and for a guy with decades of women troubles, he certainly started with a humdinger. He meets Princess Sophie, the daughter of Austria-Hungary’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand, at a riding school while his parents are staying at the American embassy in Vienna. Sophie would have been about seven at the time of their meeting – the real Sophie passed away at the age of 89 about two years before this was filmed – and Indy almost causes a diplomatic incident by sneaking her away to ice skate, having no idea that there were people in Vienna who’d love to see her dead.

So with the butterflies of puppy love in his stomach, Indy turns to three other guests of the embassy for advice: Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Alfred Adler, who are all conveniently in town for a conference. Not only does their frank discussion of sex and biology send the women away from the table, it turns out to be downright terrible advice. Indy is told that he must find balance before his love destroys him, and his literal storming of the palace had our son grumbling “Oh no, he should not do that. This is crazy…”

I had to do a fair amount of walking our son through this one. Everything up to the palace hijinks is very quiet and stately. It looks beautiful – it was helmed by the acclaimed director Bille August, who cast his wife Pernilla in the role of Sophie’s governess – but it’s very talky and hushed. I think he was every bit as confused by the dinner with the psychoanalysts as Indy himself was. Famously, they cast Max von Sydow as Freud. That got a fair amount of publicity in 1993, but it unfortunately didn’t translate to viewers!

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