Growing up with Star Wars

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I’ve mentioned before that when I was at first school, most of my friends wanted to be Sandy in Grease, but I wanted to be Princess Leia.  I even got my Mum to put my hair in Leia-type hairdo’s, involving plaits mostly.  The boys let me play as none of them wanted to be Leia.  They were too busy arguing over who was Han and who was Luke…..and Chewie and the droids.

Iconic scene from Star Wars: Luke on Tatooine

Any child born, or growing up, in the 70’s would literally have to have been from another planet if they had not at least seen, what is, the most famous movie saga in the world.  That instantly recognisable operatic movie score from John Williams.  The closest anything else has come to Star Wars is Harry Potter, but that is for another post.

Star Wars: The Millennium Falcon

When George Lucas wrote Star Wars, he was writing a space adventure for children to enjoy.  He never envisaged it would reach such stratospheric levels of fandom, love and devotion. He says he was inspired by westerns, the old-fashioned good vs. evil and that good always wins in the end.

The Empire Strikes Back: Luke and Yoda

I remember my brothers collecting the Star Wars spaceships and figures.  I was bought My Little Pony and Barbie, which utterly bored me.  I was forever playing with Lego and Star Wars toys when I wasn’t riding my bike, or climbing trees.  I was a little tomboy.  Hence my admiration for Princess Leia.  I loved the scene in Return of the Jedi when she leaps on a speeder bike in pursuit of a biker scout, for example.  She didn’t wait for the boys to deal with the dilemma/problem.

That ending. Gulp….

I was 8 when I saw the Empire Strikes Back (the same year I saw ET) and I remember crying when Han got frozen, confusion at that paternity revelation and the ending.  It couldn’t end like that, could it?  As an adult, Empire is my favourite of the trilogy.  It is the operatic, dark, second act.  However, back to my childhood, I was relieved when good won out in Jedi and loved the cute ewoks, but my brothers found them annoying.  However, the boys got Leia in a gold bikini so they shouldn’t complain.

Return of the Jedi

My teens, which I hated, came and went.  In my early 20’s the trilogy was rereleased at cinemas ahead of the new prequel, The Phantom Menace.  I had never seen the films at the cinema as I was only 2 when Star Wars came out.  I dragged one of my best friends along and after seeing Star Wars, she really looked forward to the next two films.  Seeing certain scenes such as the X-Wing attack on the Death Star, Hoth, Cloud City and the speeder bike chase on Endor was amazing.  To a child, this would be pure cinematic magic.

Wicket. Cute.

So, in 1999, the day tickets went on sale for The Phantom Menace, I got up early and booked tickets for myself and two best friends for the first showing.  On the day, queues were going round the block and people were offering three or four times the price for a ticket, but nobody was selling.  There was an air of hushed excitement when we all filed in, which I’ve never experienced before in a cinema………it was all for nothing.  It just didn’t have the charm, or magic.  The best thing Star Wars-related that year was Simon Pegg’s episode of Spaced called ‘Chaos’.  Simon Pegg is another huge fan of the trilogy.

Mace Windu. Bad-Ass Jedi. Purple Lightsaber.

I dutifully watched Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, hoping things would improve, the latter film being the best of the prequels.  I feel sorry for Jake Lloyd who copped all the flak.  He was just a kid.  Lucas should have cast an older Anakin and Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman (forgiven because of Black Swan) were wooden and awful.  Then there was the awful Jar-Jar Binks….. There were a few good scenes and glimpses of what could have been, in all three movies.  Ewan McGregor hit his stride as Obi Wan in Clones and Revenge.  Darth Maul was the best thing in Phantom.  Mace Windu was the best thing about the whole trilogy.  Too cool for Jedi school.

Episode VII Cast Meeting

Anyway, onwards and upwards.  My 5 year old is now Star Wars obsessed.  Star Wars is his world.  Luke Skywalker is awesome and my son wants to be a Jedi when he grows up, alongside acting, directing and winning the Tour de France. Of course.  He will be 7 when Episode VII is released in December 2015.  I cannot wait to take him to the cinema, along with my husband, my brothers and nephews.  This is a film with huge expectations, build-up and excitement, much like Christmas.  I have every faith in JJ Abrams being the man for the job.  I think the force is strong in this one.

Images: IMDb

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My Favourite Movie Soundtracks

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The soundtrack to a movie is hugely important.  It gives a movie impact by stirring the relevant emotion in the viewer.  Think of John Barry’s music for Out of Africa for example.  Here is a list of some of my favourite soundtracks, some well known, others not.

 

The Talented Mr Ripley – Various artists

Beautiful, brilliant and haunting…..just like the film, this music will get inside your head.  I love that Matt Damon and Jude Law perform on the soundtrack.  My favourite piece is a classical music piece, Italia, by Gabriel Yared. It reminds me of how I feel when I arrive in Italy on holiday.

 

The Virgin Suicides – Various Artists

Again, beautiful soundtrack.  Everything about Sophia Coppola’s films are in the little details and the soundtrack is perfect, making one think of lazy, hot summers and first love.  I adore Playground Love by Air.

 

Tron Legacy – Daft Punk

I have always liked Daft Punk so I thought it was pretty cool that Disney gave them free rein on the soundtrack.  Daft Punk have created an amazing score that could not be more perfect for this film.  Various pieces have been used for adverts, unsurprisingly.  We always listen to the whole album when driving over the San Gottard pass to get to Italy every year.  My favourite track? Two, Outlands and Disc Wars, but if you love electro then you’ll love the whole album.

 

Moulin Rouge and Romeo & Juliet – Various Artists

The music for these two fantastic films, is key. It is quite unusual for the music to be centre stage in what are not quite musicals in the traditional sense, or Romeo & Juliet is not at least.  I love the variety of rock and pop.  My favourite tracks are I’m Kissing You by Des’ree and Diamond Dogs by Beck.

 

Hitch – Various Artists

Just like the film itself, the soundtrack is totally feel-good, I  mean, this film has Heavy D & the Boyz for goodness sake!  My favourite track is 1 Thing by Amerie.  This movie and soundtrack reminds me of a great year in my life.

 

Despicable Me (1 & 2) – Pharrell & Various Artists

What can I say?  I have two little boys who adore these films and I admit, I enjoy the soundtrack with them too.  My 5 year old knows the despicable me ‘rap’.  Best track?  Happy.  End of.  Pharrell is indeed a clever guy.

 

The Bodyguard – Whitney Houston

Now, more than ever, this soundtrack is more heartbreaking because of poor Whitney.  She was at the top of her game here and surprised everyone with how good an actress she was to boot.  I love, I Have Nothing.

 

Lord of the Rings – Howard Shore

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Sweeping and epic, like the trilogy, the Lord of the Rings soundtrack is a triumph.  Instantly recognisable, like other hugely successful film saga soundtracks, this is already a classic.  All of it is as brilliant as the three films themselves.

 

The Empire Strikes Back – John Williams

Speaking of epic sagas, John Williams score for Empire is just that.  The best track on the soundtrack is undoubtedly Finale.  Best soundtrack of the trilogy for the best film of the trilogy.  I’m not including episodes 1-3.

 

The Lost Boys – Various Artists

One of my favourite movies from my teens, this is one awesome soundtrack.  Really, no competition, best track is People are Strange by Echo & the Bunnymen.

 

Last, but not least….

When Harry Met Sally – Harry Connick Jr

I love this film.  Meg Ryan, Billy Crystal and writer, Nora Ephron (RiP), are at the top of their game.  So was Harry Connick Jr when he made this soundtrack.  Perfect songs for a movie about a couple of friends in New York trying to find true love.  My favourite track? Gotta be, It Had to be You.

 

There are so many more, too many to mention, but anything by John Williams, the fab techno soundtrack to Run, Lola, Run, Quentin Tarantino’s movies always have good music (Kill Bill a prime example), I love Danny Elfman’s quirky sound (he scores Tim Burton’s movies), Michael Ghiacchino’s score for Star Trek: Into Darkness, Alan Silvestri’s score for Avengers Assemble, the Bond movie soundtracks…..

 

images: IMDb

 

 

Movies, Memories and Childhood: Part II – Spielberg

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I was lucky growing up.  Born in the mid-70’s, all the best children and family films were enjoyed by my generation.  These films have become part of pop culture and are still much loved today.

For me, one name is synonymous with my childhood: Spielberg.  My generation grew up with Steven Spielberg’s movies.  Without sounding too much like Dawson Leary, Spielberg’s films have a magic that other directors don’t have.  I think the closest directors in creating Spielbergian magic these days would be JJ Abrams and M Night Shymalan, the latter with Signs in particular.

ET and Elliot in the famous bike scene

Certain scenes in his movies really stand out for me; in Jaws, the mother of the little boy (killed by the shark) walks up to Brody and slaps him, Brody seeing the shark…..the opening scene of Raiders and Indy shooting the assassin in the market…..in ET it’s the scene with the bicycles and the goodbye….in Empire of the Sun it’s the scene with Jim and his Mother in the crowd…..there are too many moments to name, but I remember them all.

Empire of the Sun

Some are dismissive of his work for this very reason, but how can you dismiss a director who made Empire of the Sun, War Horse, Lincoln and Schindler’s List?  Every Spielberg film has at least one truly beautiful moment.  The light, the music (by the amazing John Williams), the emotion…..Spielberg is like a magician, turning scenes into iconic cinematic moments.

The Goonies

Spielberg has also written and/or been executive producer of other childhood favourites such as, The Goonies, Gremlins and Back to the Future.  One talented guy.

More recently Steven Spielberg directed the wonderful ‘The Adventures of Tintin’.  My 5 year old loved it.  It is so good that after 10 minutes, you forget it’s animated.

Jaws

I always feel Steven Spielberg underrates himself as a director in interviews.  Being humble is a very good quality, but if I ever had the chance to tell him, I would tell him how beautiful and inspiring his films have been and how he is still inspiring the next generation of children (my son).  I hope he keeps on making wonderful films.

“I interpret my dreams one way and make a movie out of them and people see my movies and make them part of their dreams” Steven Spielberg

images: IMDb

So, why start a blog on films?

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For myself.  I have always loved films.  

For other women.  Women are often patronised when it comes to films.  We are often told we are only meant to like chick flicks when many of us actually love a variety, if not all genres of film.  

For anybody that loves films.  

Lastly, for my eldest son.  He is only 5, but already I see so much of myself in him.  He already has a love for films.  He is a sensitive, imaginative little dreamer.  Dreamers are often told to wake up, but I want to nourish that side of him.  Without dreamers, we would have no movie industry, or indeed other art forms.  I love the following quote from one of my favourite directors, Tim Burton:

“Certain things leave you in your life and certain things stay with you.  And that’s why we’re all interested in movies – those ones that make you feel, you still think about.  Because it gave you such an emotional response, it’s actually part of your emotional make-up, in a way.”

I have never forgotten the first film I saw that got me thinking, I love this, I would love to be a part of this, I love films.

I was 6 years old.  It was the early 80’s.  My family were visiting our relatives just outside Berlin and my older cousins had to entertain me (my brothers were 4 and 2, so with my parents) one afternoon.  They took me to the cinema.

Their local cinema was a beautiful art-deco building, which was wonderfully old-fashioned in every respect, complete with ushers.  The event started with a couple of old black and white serials, Flash Gordon and the Lone Ranger.  After a rest break (love that) it was time for the main feature.  The lights dimmed and a respectful silence fell (no mobile phones then) with a hushed sense of excitement filling the room.

From the start, with that opening scene, where we don’t see our hero’s face until several minutes into the movie, I was hooked.  The film?  Raiders of the Lost Ark.

indy

The music, courtesy of the legendary John Williams, the cinematography, the pace, the banter between Indy and Marion….perfect popcorn pitch and tone.  Yes, at 6, I was probably too young for such a film.  Clearly, back then people didn’t worry quite so much about stuff.  However, I didn’t understand bits of it and it wasn’t until I watched it again when I was 9 or so that I thought, oh, that’s a bit scary.  The bit I took away with me was the opening scene.

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I can almost (hmm, almost) forgive George Lucas for those three films because he created Indiana Jones.  He wrote it because of those old black and white adventure serials he watched as a boy that used to be standard in all cinemas before the main film.  Therefore, it was fitting that my first viewing of Indiana Jones was in the same setting.

Film Facts:

Indiana Jones was actually Indiana Smith when Lucas first wrote the script

The film was made with an $18 million budget and grossed $384 million, worldwide

Tom Selleck was wanted for the role of Indy, but could not commit because of his contract playing Magnum PI

In Empire magazine’s list of the best 500 movies of all time, Raiders came 2nd after The Godfather (another favourite of mine)