Star Wars Film Festival: Star Wars (1977)


In preparation for the release of  The Rise of Skywalker, I am rewatching all of the previous Star Wars films in episode order.

Here’s my review of Star Wars, originally published February 16, 2016.

Title:  Star Wars
Release Date: 1977
Director:   George Lucas
Summary/Review:
Rating: ****1/2

What can you say about this movie in 2016?  Most people know and love the movie and our popular culture is steeped in its motifs.  But this was the first time my children watched the movie and  the first time I’ve watched it in a long, long time (but still within this galaxy).  The kids generally claim not to like movies, but they liked this one and asked to watch it again, which is always a good sign.  I wonder what it’s like to watch Star Wars for the first time when it’s something that’s always been around and references are wound into our culture like mythology as opposed to when I was a child and it was brand new?  I was impressed that the movie holds up very well.  There are many things from the 70s, 80s, & 90s that seem to have dated much more than this.  Of course, I’m an old fuddy-duddy and prefer the somewhat slower pace and practical special effects of Star Wars to many of today’s blockbusters.  But really the stories and the characters are what made the movie what it is and what makes it persist.  So simple, rooted in older stories, yet so fresh and new at the same time.

Some Stray Post-Rewatch Thoughts:

  • I’m pretty sure the opening scenes on Tantive IV features the only time in any Star Wars movie that a blaster is used on stun setting.
  • Captain Antilles: A Star Wars Story
  • A distinction of this movie is that it really allows scenes and settings unroll slowly.  For example, we spend a lot of time just following the droids through the desert, panning through the Jawa sandcrawler, looking around the cantina. Maybe modern filmmaking considers this “boring” but I think a lot of the success of later Star Wars media is that it provided such a rich background for creators to fill in the blanks.
  • It’s often said that R2-D2 and C3PO are the point of view characters for this movie but that’s only true up until the point when Aunt Beru calls Luke to dinner.  From that point, Luke is the point of view character, with cuts to things happening on the Death Star.
  • From the dialogue, every indication is that Uncle Owen and Anakin Skywalker are brothers. I’ve been re-writing the prequel trilogy in my head and think that a tense relationship between a teenage Anakin and a disapproving older brother would’ve been a good place to start. I suppose, alternately, Beru could’ve been Anakin’s older sister.  Either way it would be a much less convoluted family dynamic.
  • I unironically love “Maclunkey!”
  • So TK-241, another stormtrooper, and the scanning crew are all killed by Han, Chewie, and Luke.  Do they fly off from the Death Star with four dead bodies on the ship?
  • Leia recognizes the name “Ben” Kenobi and calls Han a “flyboy” when she shouldn’t know these things yet.
  • I want a supercut of all the scenes in Star Wars movies where stormtroopers are just chatting.
  • Chewbacca doesn’t get a medal, but he gets the last word in the movie – “ARGH!”

 

Book Review: The Second Amendment: A Biography by Michael Waldman


Author: Michael Waldman
TitleThe Second Amendment: A Biography
Narrator: John Glouchevitch
Publication Info: Tantor Audio (2018)
Summary/Review:

The Second Amendment: A Biography is a thorough history of “the right to bear arms” in America from colonial period to today.  Bearing arms has always been seen necessary for hunting and self-defense, but in Colonial America the greatest purpose of gun ownership was the duty of serving in a citizen militia for mutual defense.  The idea of militias was highly regarded in the culture of the time since its membership included the most prominent members of the community whereas the regular army drew from the dregs of society. There was a fear of standing armies being a temptation for tyrannical rulers, so the civilian militia was seen as the ideal.

When the Constitution was sent to the states to be ratified, many opponents complained that it did not include a bill of rights and submitted over 100 suggestions for inclusion in a list of rights.  The Framers of the Constitution for the most part didn’t consider a Bill of Rights necessary since they were already encoded in most state constitutions, and by the time the first Congress met the push for a Bill of Rights had faded away.  Ironically, James Madison was among the leaders who didn’t see a necessity for a federal Bill of Rights, but as his constituents were particularly adamant about the issue, he took it upon himself to whittle down and combine the many suggestions into the Bill of Rights we know today.

Waldman takes the time to discuss how this process of revision, combinations, and debate lead to the awkwardly worded Second Amendment that we know today.  He also cites records of the drafting to show that the concerns underlying the Second Amendment were related to individual gun ownership and self-defense as many activists insist today. Waldman examines the quotes the Second Amendment activists use from leaders like Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry and shows that they are used out of context or are irrelevant to the Second Amendment.

The idea and practice of the militia evolved over time with the Civil War prompting a major growth in a federal military.  By World War I, the United States had the standing army many early Americans feared, and militias had all but evaporated.  Even within these changing times, courts still interpreted the Second Amendment as a communal rather than individual right. When the Franklin Roosevelt administration introduced bans on machine guns and sawed-off shotguns, event the president of the National Rifle Association wrote in support of sensible gun regulations.

The great societal upheavals of the 1960s – especially expanded civil rights for Black Americans and urban riots – lead to a backlash among conservative white people who began emphasizing the right to firearms for individual defense. At a NRA convention in Cincinnati in 1977, the more conservative members revolted against leadership and moved the organization to be the activist gun rights lobbying organization we’re familiar with today.

At the same time, judicial appointees from the Nixon and Reagan (and later the Bushes) made the courts more conservative in their interpretations of the Second Amendment.  Waldman focuses particularly on Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and his idea of following the original intent of the Framers. Waldman demonstrates that original intent is actually a reactionary and activist position. Over Scalia’s long career on the Supreme Court, he went to being an outlier on the idea of Constitutional originalism to being in a judiciary where such interpretations were widespread.  Which leads to the landmark case of District of Columbia v. Heller where the Supreme Court affirmed for the first time that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to bear arms.

Waldman’s book is very detailed and provides a lot of interesting context for a thorny topic.  Regardless of where you stand on the issue, I expect this book will show you that there are a lot of things about the Second Amendment that are not what you thought.  This is a good book to read as we continue to grapple with the issues that come at the conflict of individual rights and communal responsibilities.

Recommended books:

Rating: ****