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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The Godfather 2

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“Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”

The Godfather 2.  Where do I start?  I love, love, love this film!  It is one of my favourite movies.  If I had to choose only five films, it would be in my top five.  Sweeping, epic, beautiful, thrilling, operatic, emotional….

The Godfather is a fantastic film, but The Godfather 2 has the rare talent of bettering its predecessor (like The Empire Strikes Back).  Francis Ford Coppola made a beautiful film that has stood the test of time and repeatedly sits in top ten movies charts.

Iconic Emblem

I wasn’t even born, in 1974, when The Godfather 2 was in the cinemas.  I first watched The Godfather films when I was a teenager and I was hooked.

Telling the story of the Corleone family, the trilogy could be watched individually by somebody who hasn’t seen any of the films before and be enjoyed.  However, if you have the time, definitely watch all the films.  It is in three ‘acts’ like an opera and like an opera, it’s protagonist, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) has his fair share of highs and lows.

If you can only watch one film, make it part 2.

Beginning in 1901, in Corleone, Sicily, we follow Vito Andolini (who will become Vito Corleone) and find out how he came to be in America and how he became head of a crime family.

We then switch back to the ‘present’ day of 1958, where Michael Corleone (Vito’s youngest son) is throwing a communion party for his own son, Anthony, whilst holding meetings in his new role as Don of the family.

Michael, Kay, Anthony and Mary Corleone

The film sweeps easily back and forth between the young Vito as a boy and a young man (a role played to perfection by Robert de Niro) and his life in Little Italy in New York to Michael Corleone and his own family in the 50’s in Lake Tahoe.

Vito Corleone

Vito: [in Italian] “Do me this favour.  I won’t forget it. Ask your friends in the neighbourhood about me.  They’ll tell you I know how to return a favour.”

Michael started off as a ‘good guy’ in the first film.  He wanted to make his own way and did not want to be involved in the family business.  Something changes this, eventually leading to him becoming Head of the Family.  We see the change in him in part 2.  He becomes the man he always said he would never be.

The supporting cast around De Niro and Pacino are flawless.  My particular favourites are Diane Keaton as Michael’s wife, Kay, who is fantastic.  She tries to be the supportive wife, but can’t bear seeing the man she loves turn into a monster.  Talia Shire is also wonderful as Michael’s sister, Connie.  John Cazale is a delight as Fredo, Michael’s older brother.  He portrays him beautifully and his character is key to Michael’s descent into a cold, unlikeable man.

Fredo with Michael

Senator Pat Geary: “I despise your masquerade, the dishonest way you pose yourself.  You and your whole fucking family.”

Michael: “We’re both part of the same hypocrisy, senator, but never think it applies to my family.”

 

Little Italy and Sicily are great in their supporting role too.  Coppola lovingly films these places and somehow, even amidst the violence, keeps the beauty intact.

vito

The Godfather 2, won 6 Academy Awards including; Best Picture, Best Director and Best  Supporting Actor (Robert de Niro).

If you like really meaty stories with strong characters, beautiful music and epic cinematography, then you will love this film.

Trivia:

The Godfather 2 is the first sequel to win an Academy Award

It took 104 days to film

In the flashbacks, the language spoken is a combination of [mostly sicilian] southern italian dialects

Method actor Robert de Niro lived in Sicily to prepare for his role of Vito

Young Vito is marked with an ‘X’ when he arrives at Ellis Island as an immigrant.  Apparently, immigrants were marked with this if the inspector thought the person was mentally ill

Images: IMDb