Saturday, February 6, 2016

Gagging on syrup

In which our blogger tries to remember what happened a few weeks ago:

Well, actually, here's what happened last year -- late December, to be exact. I had been hyping myself up for Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens and even bought an opening weekend ticket. And yet, as I approached that date, I thought about it -- really thought about it, and realized that I wasn't even that big a fan of the Star Wars franchise to begin with. Don't get me wrong, I find the Original Trilogy very entertaining but I was never THAT into it the way everyone else was into it. It kinda bummed me out that I could never really join in those particular reindeer games, and I guess I was trying to fake my way into it. Anyway, I realized that and cancelled my ticket (thanks Fandango VIP!) and put that film away for later viewing, most likely at a discount house or Blu-ray.

Then my aunt died.

2015 had been a really shitty year for my late father's side of the family and a really lucrative one for the Grim Reaper. It's almost as if my father's family had come to Death's wedding rehearsal and killed everyone there and left Death for dead. Then Death came out of its coma and made a list and started with my dad that January, then my grandmother in the summer, and then my aunt's Cancer decided to leave her children a nice body-bagged present under the tree on Christmas Day.

Forgive me for being a dick about the whole thing but if I don't make light about it then the darkness wins, know what I mean? If it makes you feel any better, I've been averaging a nice sob daily. I never got that Big Cry I was expecting after Dad died, but rather a consistent minor emotional cleansing since. So don't hate, congratulate? Wait, that doesn't sound right. How about: Don't judge, go fudge? No, that carries fecal connotations and that's not what I was going for, I was trying to refer to eating fudge and OH STOP IT ALREADY, ME.

OK. So, here we went -- another day, another funeral. It was almost like living in South Central Los Angeles in the height of the Crips vs. Bloods feud with all the goddamn funerals. But yeah, we went to the service and after that I talked with my sister and brother-in-law (two separate people) and I brought something up that up until that moment seemed so goddamned alien that the concept was like E.T. and a camper full of illegals combined:

I asked them if it was OK if I took my niece and nephew -- their children -- to go see a movie.

Freeze frame on my stupid fat face: You see, lady and gentleman, my niece and nephew really got the shit end of the stick when they were assigned Me as an uncle. I was a terrible uncle. I was so into my own thing, that I had little to no time for them. A purely selfish choice -- an subconscious one, but a choice nonetheless. And it wasn't like I was ignoring them because I didn't like them -- no no -- I loved them, but I wanted to have something to provide, like good times, which I apparently I thought I was unable to provide except in a more material fashion. I looked forward to being in a position where I could be the cool uncle and get them cool shit and take them to cool places but I just had to make a little more money to do it, that's what I thought. I had to be in a better place for myself -- what I perceived to be a better place for myself. Of course, I did not sacrifice personal Me-time for my own trips to cool things and maybe not-so-cool things. Was this what I really thought or the excuse I gave myself?

And while I tried and failed to make something of myself in my busy time, and used my spare time to get drunk and smoke weed, and my spare spare time recovering from drinking and weeding, time flew. When I turned my back on my niece and nephew, they could barely talk. When I turned to face them again, they were honor students in high school. I lost all that little kid time with them -- fuck, I threw all that time away with them -- and there was no getting it back. What made it worse is that these are good kids, they've never been entitled brats, they're certainly better than I was when I was their age. They've never given me shit for it, and neither have their parents. Every time I gave them some time, they were happy to see me. I was not deserving of their kindness, nor the kindness of their parents. But I guess unconditional love that comes with being related can be a motherfucker that way.

(Motherfucker in the figurative definition.)

This was also how I mostly was with the rest of my family. Time mostly thrown away to less tangible attempts. I would attend family functions but would make sure to do the minimum required to still look like a member of the family. I always had something else to do, somewhere else to go. Me me me and I'm sure they'd understand -- they're family, I love them and they love me. There will always be another time for me to make up for it. The truth? An excuse?

Then people in my life began to die. My father's death is the one that hurts the most and all the lovely memories I have of my life with him are occasionally clouded with the regret that comes with knowing I could've done more with him. And I can't. Not anymore. That window of opportunity has closed and has been walled over with the most unbreakable unobtainium. That's just how it is.

But -- somewhere in my overly generous self-pity party I thought: Hey, I'm still alive, and they're still alive. For the time being, all living parties are still alive. (And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.) And until the Beatrix Kiddo of Death visits one of us again or decides to go for the group rate when someone in the world goes All In and starts World War III or a giant meteor turns us all into a distant memory or fuckin' Gwyneth Paltrow becomes Patient Zero, there is still time ahead of us to do the right thing. Time to be an uncle to my niece and nephew, said the nagging voice in the back of my head.

So. Flash forward to the funeral service of my dearly departed aunt. Unfreeze frame: I knew about my niece and nephew wanting to see the new Star Wars and so I asked my sister and brother-in-law about taking them to see it, but rather than the usual neighborhood theater, I wanted to take them to one of my hangouts. They were pleasantly surprised and kind of taken aback. But they happily said Yes and so I made the arrangements to take them to the Cinerama Dome at the Arclight Cinemas in Hollywood, and so the arrangements became an actual thing when I took them.

So, this movie. What can I say that hasn't already been said. Nothing. So I'll make it brief because this isn't really about the movie anyway. All I can say is that I think it's as good as the films from the Original Trilogy, except maybe The Empire Strikes Back, because c'mon, that's a tough one to top. But I found this one incredibly entertaining and I will admit that as anti-P.C. as I could be, it did warm the heart to see a blockbuster film like this starring a triple-play of Diversity: a woman, a Black dude, and raza -- and because it's the Star Wars universe, they don't have names like Girly McGirl or Homie McBrother or Dirty McWetback. They have made-up space names. These roles could've been played by anyone but instead J.J .Abrams and company not only chose the best actors, they also kept their eyes on the prize: no, not box office, I mean, yeah, that too, but also a long-lasting feeling of inclusion for all the little girls and boys of racial and/or ethnic impurities who watch this.

In addition to that, even children of racial superiority will watch this film and not give a shit about the bull that we adults waste energy on; they'll watch this film and afterward they'll go play and pretend to be Rey or Finn or Poe Dameron because those characters are cool heroes, and gender or background won't enter into it -- at least not until their drunken father stumbles in, Coors Light in hand, and asks what they're up to. The children will answer: "I'm Rey!" "I'm Finn" "I'm Poe" and the father won't remember who was who, so he'll ask, and when they detail their responses, oh dear reader, oh that's when the Coors Light will land on the ground and the veins in this man's head will pop out.

He will have had enough, this dad, livin' in a country that is goin' down the shitter ever since they voted that nigger into the White House. Ever since then, there are no longer Girls and Boys, now there are Gays, Bis, TGs or GTs or GTOs or whatever the fuck they call them -- it all spells AIDS to me. And now they wanna take away my guns. This goddamn Commie fuck. Please oh please, Jesus, let Trump win or shit, I'll take fuckin' spic Cruz or Rubio so long as that goddamn bleeding slit Billary or that goddamn Christ Killer Jewy Sanders don't take my guns away and tax all my hard-earned money so all them monkeys and beaners can pay for their goddamn cell phones and cable tv while sitting on their lazy asses and I can't fuckin take -- UGGGH!!! URRRHKKK! GUUUUH!!! AHHH JEEEZUSSS OOOOOHHHHH UUUUUHHHH GWAAAAWWWHHH GAAAA!!! 

"Daddy? DADDY?!" the children will scream as they watch the Old Man clutch his chest and drop to the ground, stone cold dead. My heart will bleed for them because they are too young to understand this hateful fuck, but he is a father and they just lost him. That's a hard knock for anyone. But in the long run, they are better off because that is one less bad influence, one less possibility of catching the Hate virus. At least until their older teenage brother steps in, this angry virgin who can't get none and can't understand why Susie Harris hangs out with those fags from Cheer Team but won't give him the time of day. No women means No Dates. No Dates means idle time. Time to hang with the siblings. Then he'll start in with the infection. And then the cycle will continue.

But at least there will be a few years of childhood innocence that contains an energy so pure that to attempt to bottle it would result in your muthafuckin' face melting off like a goddamn Nazi who either opened the Ark or took too much Charlie Sheen.

But yeah, I dug this movie. It was lots of fun. A few years ago, J.J. Abrams tried to make a Spielberg film with Super 8 but only succeeded in showing us that he needs to get off ol' Stevie's nuts and grow his own. But here he accomplished making a Star Wars film that feels part and parcel with the series -- hell, this feels more like a Star Wars film than the prequels. The action sequences had the perfect mix of exciting and funny when they should be, or exciting and Serious As Fuck when they should be; the climax of the film, which includes another trench run (but who cares, because trench runs are awesome!!!) and a lightsaber duel fight is aces, man. I was into it, I was fuckin' feeling it. Boo Hiss the asshole villain and Yay Cheer the good guys, that's what I'm talking about and that's what I fuckin' got.

Sure, it's very very very similar to A New Hope; you have Rey as the new Luke Skywalker and Poe is kinda Han Solo-ish and Finn is kind of a blend of both, and then you have Outer! Space! from Inside Llewyn Davis as Kylo Ren as Darth Vader II, and BB8 is R2D2, and fuck a Death Star because now we have Starkiller Base in this bitch, but shit man, I've got no problems with variations on a theme, especially when it's done well and done right -- which is what we have here with The Force Awakens.

I remember an old Patton Oswalt routine where he moaned about the prequels and said something like "I don't give a shit where the stuff I love comes from! I just love the stuff that I love!" and that's pretty much the approach Abrams took with this one. He gave people they stuff they loved. But to be fair, the idea of the prequels was a really cool one, it's just that the execution wasn't what people expected?

I put a question mark at the end of the last sentence because for years now I kept hearing about how shitty the prequels were but they were all giant hits -- and not in that first weekend sorta way, people went and came back for more. According to Cinemascore, all three prequels scored an A- which to me sounds pretty damn good. I'm guessing it's really the superfans and nerds and The Internet that didn't approve, while Joe and Jane Average thought they were pretty good?

As mentioned a few paragraphs back, I didn't think the prequels were as good as the Original Trilogy but they weren't terrible, either. I'm not in a hurry to see The Phantom Menace again any time soon or ever, but the other two had their moments. Shit, I remember the audience going Totally Fucking Nuts in Episode Deuce when Yoda started jumping around waving that laser cock at Dracula, myself included. But enough of that.

So in addition to the new blood, you have Carrie Fisher coming back and bringing some fuckin' gravitas as General Leia. I mean, she really does come across to me as someone who carries some serious scar tissues on her soul but never shows it externally, because she can't, she's the Bawse and has to stay strong while keeping this Rebellion thing going. She isn't some star-hopping jagoff like Han Solo who used their separation as an excuse to go look for his fuckin' Millennium Falcon. Running away from responsibility, this guy. In a way, I can relate to him, which is why I'm giving him shit.

I give Han a hard time, but he's still pretty awesome, no doubt about it. There's a moment in the film where his character does something in the name of Self-Preservation that came off to me like ol' J.J. flipping off George Lucas with that Han-Shooting-Greedo bullshit he fucked up in the Special Edition. Kinda like J.J. was making it clear that in A New Hope OK fine, maybe our boy Han shot second to defend himself but here in the muthafuckin' Force Awakens, Han will sacrifice-kill first and ask questions, like, never. There are a few more parts in the film that felt like middle fingers to Lucas, but the one I can still remember is Starkiller Base doing its thing and taking out a few planets in the process. In this film you see the poor citizens of these soon-to-be-former-planets as they face the oncoming annihilation and I actually had a sense of OH FUCK watching it, as opposed to just watching that shit explode 1977-style and laughing it away with Sucks To Be You, Alderaanians. Abrams was like, Look I Just Showed Everybody What You Couldn't Or Wouldn't, Lucas!

By the way, I don't hate on George Lucas. Yeah, it's pretty fucked up that he locked up the original Original Trilogy and likes to pretend they never happened. But the way I see it, he's also done a lot of good as far as charities and helping out other filmmakers and putting up his own money to ensure that affordable housing gets built in Marin County. He's not fuckin' Emperor Palpatine, people. He's just kinda dicky about letting us see the real Star Wars trilogy. Besides, sooner or later, new owners Disney will release it. They have to. That's too much potential money to not be making, and if we know anything about the House of Mouse, it's that they love money so much that they only put up with people in order to get more money from them. In the meantime, one can search out the Despecialized Trilogy and get a pretty damn good reconstruction of the Real Thing.

It was great to enjoy this film with my niece and nephew, our first movie theater experience together. They dug the film, sharing my opinion that it was as good as A New Hope and they got a kick out of watching it on the curved-out Cinerama screen (it was their first time there). The drive home was a good one, with enough time to discuss the movie and for me to establish my Old Man credentials by decrying the state of current pop music. I thought, hey, maybe this is how it was meant to be, because evidently I'm a lot better talking with teens than with grade-schoolers -- mostly because I'm about as mature as a teen. By the way, these are the only teens I've talked to, that last statement wasn't some kind of pervo-confession.

After dropping them off, I talked to my sister and brother-in-law and suddenly that pesky voice in the back of my head said There's still time to be a family member and I suddenly found myself inviting them and the kids to see The Force Awakens in 4DX. Again, pleasant surprise and aback-taking. It just felt right, I guess.

So the following weekend, I drove them all to the L.A. Live Regal and experienced Episode VII in this newfangled 4DX format, which I had experienced before with Ant-Man and Mad Max: Fury Road -- it made a decent movie better and a great movie even greater. 4DX is one of them there deals that in addition to 3D also involves motion seats that moves along with the on-screen events, meaning it'll move up and down, left and right, pitch forward and backward, rumble, and even kick you in the back until you're pissing blood. It also includes wind blowing in your face, water spraying in your face or rain dropping down from above, light flashing all over the joint so you'll think you're having a stroke, fog effects that'll allow you to hit the vape pen and get away with it, and even scents. I've yet to experience the scents at one of these, and to be honest, I'm not sure if I want to unless it's a scene involving food or how lovely Amy Adams' fragrance must be during the scene.

Of my three 4DX experiences, The Force Awakens was my favorite. It was almost like a feature-length version of the Star Tours ride at Disneyland (well, the one in Paris nowadays). I had fun experiencing it, but what really added to it was hearing my family's reactions to it as it went along. It became a drug for me, the laughs and screams and cheers. They raved about it after and that's when I told them that this has to be a thing now, that we need to go see movies together more often, and for sure we'll do 4DX for every new Star Wars film. They all wholeheartedly agreed. After, at their place, as we said our goodbyes, we did the hugging thing and that's always been something I was never that good at. I always felt kind of awkward with most hugs and would want to be quick. This time I felt awkward hugging them because I was afraid I wouldn't want to let go.

Since then, I heard somewhere that the Disney peeps aren't necessarily playing the trilogy game with this new run, and they don't really know how many of these Star Wars joints are going to be rolled, which is basically them admitting that they're going to make these for time immemorial or until the grosses go down. A year ago that would've pissed me off. Now it only makes me more optimistic.

In conclusion, if you like young English twats acting like they think they're Space Hitler in Space Triumph of the Will, then you've probably seen Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens five times by now.