Star Wars Film Festival: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

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 The Empire Strikes Back, originally published February 22, 2016.

Title:  The Empire Strikes Back
Release Date: 1980
Director:   Irving Kushner

Still the best of the Star Wars films, allowing space for the characters to breath and grow and for the actors to show their chops, while still having intertwining action plots that come together at the end.  And it’s funny.  It certainly wasn’t satisfying as kid to have it just end with the good guys essentially losing and so much unresolved.  Watching this with my kids for the first time meant lots of questions, Yoda being scary, and Darth Vader being unexpectedly cool.

Rating: *****

Some Stray Post-Rewatch Thoughts:

  • I’d never cottoned on before that “The Imperial March” made its debut in this movie. And how impressive is it’s first use on the fleet of Star Destroyers!
  • Han is really creepy to Leila in this movie. I guess she does like scoundrels.
  • Watching so soon after the prequels’ CGI Yoda really emphasizes how much more lifelike and expressive is Frank Oz’s puppetry work.


Classic Movie Review: A Place in the Sun (1951)

TitleA Place in the Sun
Release Date: August 14, 1951
Director: George Stevens
Production Company: Paramount Pictures

This movie made my list because I’ve liked the song by The Clash “The Right Profile,” which is a tribute to Montgomery Clift, and I wanted to watch one of his movies.  Clift stars opposite Elizabeth Taylor in one of her first films after transitioning from a child actor to more mature material.  There’s definitely an essence of a new generation of “hot, young stars” powering this movie.

A Place in the Sun is based on Theodore Dreiser’s 1925 novel An American Tragedy, although the story is updated to the 1950s. Clift plays George Eastman, a young man who grew up poor with a mother who serves as an inner-city missionary. He attracts the attention of an industrialist uncle and at the beginning of the film arrives to take a low-level position at his uncle’s swimsuit factory.  While the 1950s are often imagined as a time when “a woman’s place is in the home,” it is significant that the vast majority of employees in this factory are women.  Against the company rules, George dating fellow factory worker Alice Tripp (Shelley Winters), and soon she finds herself “in a family way.”

At the same time Alice is dealing with unexpected pregnancy, George is rising through the ranks in the factory and beginning to socialize with his Eastman relatives.  At a party he meets the beautiful heiress Angela Vickers (Taylor) and they swiftly fall in love.  George is caught between two potential futures: poverty and an unhappy marriage with Alice or continuing his ambitious climb up the corporate ladder with his dreamgirl Angela.  His solutions prove deadly.

The movie is admirable in addressing issues such as premarital sex, abortion, class wars, and capital punishment within the bounds of the Hayes Code.  But overall the story plays out as a soapy melodrama.  Clift, Taylor, and Winters all put in excellent performances (the former two making odious characters somewhat sympathetic) in what is, by and large, a bad movie.

Rating: **