P. Kirby's Blog
January 12, 2016
Came across this article about the actor who play Jar Jar Binks. Gotta pity the poor guy who played Jar Jar. At least, unlike Hayden Christensen, nobody actually saw his face. In fact, until I read this article, I didn’t know the name of the actor who played Jar Jar.
In the article’s comments, there’s some discussion regarding what would have made Jar Jar a good addition to the Star Wars universe, instead of something reviled. One suggestion being that like the aliens in previous films, Jar Jar not speak English.
Maybe, but the issue goes beyond linguistics. The problem with Jar Jar, as I see it, is that he’s used for over-the-top, kiddy-friendly, comic relief and is tonally a bad fit. Star Wars was obviously geared toward a younger crowd, but young doesn’t mean preschool or elementary. In fact, I remember, as a child, finding some aspects of the Star Wars (New Hope, et al.) films rather scary. The crispy bodies of Luke’s aunt and uncle, for instance. Or the severed arm in the cantina. Nowadays, I’m a total gorehound, but back then, when I was a delicate little flower, that was some frightening shit.
Star Wars tone is lightened by the antics of C3PO and R2, and sometimes, Chewie, but the humor never (rarely?) gets infantile. Jar Jar’s idiocy, obviously geared for paste-eating demographic, drops like a ton of silly bricks on a serious story line. I mean, the prequels are the tragic downfall of Anakin Skywalker, the kind of plot that demands drama, not the SF equivalent of the Three Stooges.
Adding insult to injury, Jar Jar’s entire species is treated as a joke, rather than a living, breathing culture. Basically, you’ve got the addition of a character and his people whose sole purpose is to make the preschool set happy and distract from all the war n’ schtuff.
Could the character still have retained the funny and been a good fit? Sure, if the humor was derived from smart, snappy dialogue rather than slapstick gags.
Ultimately, George Lucas was so busy making the world of the Star Wars prequels absolutely beautiful, that he forgot to populate it with actual people. Jar Jar Binks is pretty much a feature, not a bug, of the prequels.
January 1, 2016
So…Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Saw it. And…
Whaat? I do like things–sometimes*. Yeah, I hated Jurassic World, a movie universally loved by people of questionable taste everywhere. I mean, seriously, people? Did we see the same crap fest of bad CGI, uneven (read: “adolescent”) plotting, and horrible characterization? Jurassic World was the “Let’s serve up a shit sandwich and see if the audience will eat it” kind of movie you’d expect from Michael Bay. Except, he didn’t direct it. (Or did he? Me, I suspect he stealth directed the fuck out of it.)
But, I digress…back to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It’s fun, fast-paced and exciting. Kinda fluffy and fun, in the same vein as the original trilogy. Back to the basics with a simplistic depiction of good vs. evil, and archetype-driven characterization (the loveable rogue, the reluctant hero, the orphan with a destiny, etc.). It even recycles the “droid is the McGuffin” plot. Back too is the “Scruffy, rag-tag rebels versus the mighty war machine” conflict.
With that comes the return to the dusty, lived-in, space opera feel of the original films, in particular, the first two. Before George Lucas developed a pathological fascination with overblown CGI and kid-friendly abominations like Ewoks** or Jar Jar Binks***. There’s plenty of CGI, as well as weird creatures in The Force Awakens, but it doesn’t feel like the director vomited every space alien in his imagination onto the screen. The sets have a realistic feel, instead of the overly pristine, cold cityscapes of the dreadful prequels.
And Abrams, unlike Lucas, knows how to direct real live actors, so gone are the wooden performances and holy-happy on a stick, so too is the stilted dialogue. Star Wars discovers contractions!
The quicky, no spoiler, premise of the story: Poe (Oscar Isaac), the Resistance’s bestest pilot, is about to leave a desert planet–that looks a whole lot like Tatooine, but isn’t–along with his trusty droid, BB8, who–wouldn’t ya know it?–is carrying a secret map to something important. I know, it’s totally ripped off from Star Wars (Episode. IV, A New Hope), but I thinks that’s point. Big chunks of The Force Awakens are an homage to the original films. Anyway, the evil empire, i.e., The First Order shows up, clever little BB8 escapes, but Poe is captured. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), the requisite man in black, orders his troops to massacre innocents, causing one Storm Trooper to grow a conscience.
Next up, on The First Order’s battleship, Poe is being tortured–because what’s an evil empire without some torture? On the planet below, little BB8 rolls far and wide across the dunes until he has a chance encounter with Rey (Daisy Ridley), a young woman living off what tech she can scavenge from the remains of crashed Star Destroyers and other wrecks in the sand. Meanwhile, Finn (John Boyega), the Storm Trooper with a conscience, busts Poe out of jail, and they make a daring escape from the First Order’s ship; destination, the desert planet, so that Poe can retrieve BB8.
And thus our heroes will meet….
Their paths will also intersect with old-school heroes, Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Leia (Carrie Fisher), and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). I confess to being in the minority and way less than enthusiastic about the inclusion of the original cast. Actual lament was: “But I don’t wanna see an old Han Solo! I wanna remember him young.” Ambivalence aside, I concede that the screenplay manages to use them as more than nostalgic pander pieces. Their history informs the current story.
The Force Awakens is far from perfect. Like Star Wars, it’s thematically thin, but without the shiny newness that hid the lack of complexity in the first films. Adam Driver, as Kylo Ren, the new big bad, doesn’t have a tenth of Darth Vader’s menace. In fact, he’s a lot more young Severus Snape than Vader, an association that kept pulling me out of the story. (Snape, put down the light saber and get to potions class!) Supreme Leader Snoke, The Force Awakens‘s equivalent of Emperor Palpatine, looks like the lovechild of Gollum and Voldemort but without the sinister charm of either.
The biggest fault drops like a rock at the end, where an inexperience character manages, much too improbably, to beat a skilled and highly trained character. This being the age of the internet, there are already loads of discussions justifying and explaining how this is possible, but I’m not buying it. Nope.
I suspect that audience perception in part will be driven by whether or not one sees The Force Awakens as a blatant rip-off of Star Wars, or instead a competent reboot that trades heavily on the legacy of its predecessors. Me, I’m in the latter group, and my enjoyment of the movie is in no small measure buoyed by belief (relief?) that nothing could be as bad as The Phantom Menace, and the two atrocities that followed. (I’m taking The Force Awakens as an apology for the prequels.)
So…Yay, low expectations?
*In 2015 I also liked Avengers: Age of Ultron and love, love, loved Max Max: Fury Road. So there.
**Regarding Ewoks. This is where certain people, probably the same people who loved Jurassic World, send me hate mail, because, “How can you hate Ewoks?” Because I’m not six years old. Because it’s fucking obvious that they’re little people dressed as dead-eyed teddy bears in costumes that were made from peed-on carpeting ripped from daycare centers. Seriously. You can see the seams on their asses.
***No one ever defends Jar Jar, so no explanation is necessary.
November 26, 2015
On the eve of what will be Adobe Dragon Design Studio’s last craft/art show of 2015, I’m in a last minute panicky rush of makin’ schtuff, namely windchimes. I first made chimes a couple of years ago, just five, and they sold out in the first two days of the show. Since then, chimes have become a staple in my art repertoire.
The best thing about windchimes is that I really enjoy making them. Even certain overly popular designs–Kokopelli, quails and roadrunners, sigh. And my bestsellers, greyhounds (greyhound folk love their needlenosed hounds.) No two are ever alike, I experiment with different colors and types of glass and metal beads, charms, and wire wrapping. The latter being a challenge because I string them with bailing wire, which is stiff and not inclined to delicate styles of wrapping. The operative word here is “rustic,” which is appropriate since my style is best described as folk art.
In the Albuquerque area this Thanksgiving season? Come on out to the Corrales Starving Artists Holiday Art Sale, November 27, 28, and 29. 10AM – 4PM. Corrales Senior Center, 4320 Corrales, NM. FREE ADMISSION/PARKING! Make a day of it, visit Corrales’s fine art galleries and antique shops, and enjoy a meal at one of our restaurants.
Be there, or be overwhelmed by Black Friday shoppers at the mall.
May 28, 2015
The demented wail of the neurotic gardener. It’s quite possible, at the moment, that my level of neurosis would make Woody Allen seem stable.
My garden, aka. the Kirby Garden, in this year’s Corrales Garden Tour, is a work in progress. The main bits of garden are completed–but no garden is ever done. Plus, there’s the perpetually not-stuccoed adobe wall, which is a patchwork of plaster, stucco netting and in few places, crumbling. The wall’s lamentable state being a function of us Kirbys being too busy with regular jobs and our little art business.
I’ve been told–repeatedly–that my garden is lovely. But I’m insecure. So my little garden’s public debut is nerve-wracking. If the garden was an actual debutante, she’d be quite pretty, but with unruly hair that refused any tame hairstyle; her clothing would be colorful but too bohemian among her sleeker, chic counterparts.
It started out with the best of intentions, if “best” is defined as “tidy, everything in its place.” Color schemes were planned, flowering times coordinated.
But plants and disordered minds like mine chafe under rules. We plot bloody insurgency and would see order’s head on a plate.
Stuff died and was replaced with things with the wrong–”Oh, the horror!”–flower color. Things that actually grew well in the heat and survived the freezing temps over winter. In some cases, things that should have failed miserably, but thrived where the perfect plant died in a month. I started worrying less about design and began planting whatever the hell caught my eye in the nursery. “Ooo! That’s pretty. Cha-ching! Buy!”
And feeble order gave way to chaos. Yeah, go Team Chaos!
By June, the garden’s heyday, before the blistering summer heat beats most things into wilted submission, it’s a mess of riotous color. Color schemes are a thing of the past, but the abundant wildlife doesn’t care. The quails enjoy the bird feeder; lizards hunt for insects in the shrubbery, and the squirrels–Fucking squirrels!–snack on flowers.
Zombies rise from the gravel, shy dragons and gargoyles hide among flowers and Pan plays a tune on his pipe. Original metal artwork, made by my husband and I, fills niches along the garden’s walls. A little fountain gurgles in the rock garden.
It’s a garden; it’s filled with life; it’s fun.
Anyhoo, here’s the linky-dinky for the Corrales Garden Tour 2015. Tickets are $10 for a tour of six gardens, including mine. Come out and spend a day in our lovely little community!
August 19, 2014
“Listen, smile, agree, and then do whatever the fuck you were going to do anyway.” ~Robert Downey Jr.
Even though I’d like to think of myself as given to speaking my mind, the truth is, even now, I rarely do. My default reaction to shit that pisses me off; people trying to give me commands; or plain old human stupidity, is “Uh-huh.”
“Uh-huh” is code for “Fuck you.”
If I think it’s in my best interest to not be a total asshole–because like Captain Mal of Firefly my driving motivation is “what’s of use to me” –I’ll give you a faint smile and lie to your face, feigning interest in your totally wrong point of view or pretending I’m going along with your moronic plan. A frequently-played song in my passive aggressive repertoire.
But…then I’ll go and do the exact opposite of what you proposed.
Because, as the saying goes, it’s easier to apologize than ask permission.
August 3, 2014
On watching Guardians of the Galaxy, two things become quite evident. First, Thanos should hire better minions, or he needs to get his bad-ass, mad Titan self off the throne and fetch his magical McGuffins o’power all by himself. Because the hired help, thus far, in Marvel movie ‘verse, just aren’t working out.
Also, if it weren’t for daddy issues, nothing–good or bad–in the universe would get done.
Of course, if it weren’t for dead mothers, no hero would ever get motivated. Consequently, the first scene in Guardians shows a young Peter Quill, eventual Starlord, sitting outside a hospital room, listening to that awkward predecessor to playlists, the mixed tape. His grandfather appears and ushers him into a room where a deathly pale woman lies in bed. Before getting down to dying, Mom rambles about the boy’s father, using the word “angel,” so that you know young Quill is something special.
Mom lifts a trembling hand toward the lad and says, “Take my hand…” And in my head I hear Les Miserables‘ Fantine singing, “…and lead me to salvation.” The lad, however, is too freaked out to take mom’s pasty paw and he runs from the room and out into the night, were he is immediately sucked up into a spaceship.
And I breath a sigh of relief, because nothing fracks up a good action adventure than a shit-ton of needless emotional, dead-mommy, this-is-why-the-character-is-what-he/she-is schmaltz.
Fast forward a couple decades and Quill (Chris Pratt) is now grown up and tromping irreverently through the ruins of a once prosperous city somewhere that isn’t Earth. He’s still got his trusty Walkman and he’s dancing through dark, grotty crumbling buildings, kicking the local pests, rat-lizards, like soccer balls and moving unhurriedly toward his goal–the story’s McGuffin. Just as he finds the thing–a pretty, silver filigreed metal orb–he’s beset by henchmen, muscle employed by Ronan, the story’s main antagonist. A scuffle ensues, nifty gadgets are deployed and spaceships start a-flying, and things shift into a speedy gear that is sustained for the remainder of the film.
Which is a good thing [Martha Stewart voice]. Guardians knows it’s a ridiculous, physics-defying, minimal character arc romp, and it goes with it, giddy, funny and full of shiny CGI hyperbolic action. Take the initial meet-cute-with fists between Quill, Rocket, Groot, and Gamora. Rocket (Bradley Cooper), the scene-stealing raccoon, and his Ent-ish companion, Groot (Vin Diesel), want Quill for the huge bounty on his head. Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Thanos’s daughter-not daughter, wants the orb to get back at Daddy (more daddy issues). The madcap chase scene that follows gets all four thrown into prison. Where they meet the fifth team member, Dax (Dave Bautista), who has sworn blood vengeance against Ronan for the death of his wife and daughter (again, dead women are great motivators).
Ronan is Gamora’s current employer and making her dead would go far in fulfilling Dax’s revenge fantasies. Quill, however, manages to convince the big lug to postpone killing Gamora in exchange for the opportunity to kill Ronan, himself. And so the team is formed, they escape the prison and make for their appointment with destiny. Where destiny means keeping possession of the orb long enough to sell it to the highest bidder, provided that bidder doesn’t plan to use it to rip apart the universe, and stay alive in the process.
Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) wants the orb so he can explore his genocidal impulses on the Xandrians (perhaps they killed his mother?). Thanos wants the orb because he’s Thanos and likes things of power. The Collector (Benicio del Toro) wants it because…well, d’uh. And Quill’s foster-dad, Yondu (Michael Rooker, Darrell’s brother in Walking Dead) wants it because he’s a space pirate and pirates love swag.
Ironically, the two things that could have turned Guardians of the Galaxy into a cinematic bomb are what transform this messy story into a fun romp. The talking raccoon and the sentient flora. Yeah, Rocket and Groot steal the show. Saldana and Pratt are likable as Gamora and Pratt, although their slight romance is a sort of tepid, as if the two actors just weren’t that into each other. Wrestler-turned-actor Dave Bautista’s inclination toward wooden actually works for the subtly humorous Dax.
But the instant Rocket arrives, engaging in a bit of people watching and doing what most of us do (but deny), make fun of the objects of our scrutiny, you know he’s going to be walking all over the rest of the cast. And Groot (“I am Groot”) is the oaken version of Chewbaca to Rocket’s Han Solo.
The folk on the villainous side of the equation, however, suffer from script neglect. Lee Pace does a respectable job emitting a menacing and sorta sexy* vibe underneath his black, tar-like smudge of a beard and heavy black leather. (*Yes, I have a thing for Pace.) But he doesn’t get much acting in until the final, inevitable confrontation, and consequently, isn’t a particularly memorable villain. Nebula (Karen Gillan), Gamora’s sister, and loyal henchgirl to Ronan, looks awesome in her makeup, but again, doesn’t get much to do besides the expected throw-down with her sister.
The world building is similarly weak, with the story hopping from one new location to another, each setting eye-catching and CGI-enhanced, but lacking a strong sense of real place.
Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t perfect, but it’s a testimonial to the power of an engaging ensemble cast, a collection of actors (real and CGI) who seem to be having so much fun it’s impossible not to get caught up in the adventure and easy to forget the film’s flaws.
July 28, 2014
The statement is significant, in that my spouse, unlike me, is generally kind to movies. Me, I love excoriating a bad movie, detailing its sins against plot, characterization, cinematography, etc. But the hubs usually just shrugs and says, “It wasn’t good, but there were some funny parts.”
To say The Lone Ranger is a hot mess is to disparage steaming piles of poop everywhere. After all, certain types of excrement make good fertilizer. Not so, The Lone Ranger.
Possibly taking a page from The Princess Bride, the story alternates between the actual adventures of the masked man and native sidekick, and a conversation between a cute lad and an elderly storyteller. Only instead of Fred Savage and Peter Falk’s cute chemistry, we have a young boy trying to illicit a response from a sullen, elderly Tonto, played by Johnny Depp.
Many critics have complained that Depp’s Tonto is a retread of Captain Jack Sparrow, but with worse headgear and more eyeliner. My feeling is that only in those few moments when Tonto emits au de Jack, is Tonto even remotely alive. I’m tempted to lay the blame entirely on the director, Gore Verbinsky, but taking into account Depp’s experience as an actor, it’s difficult to understand how the two couldn’t come up with a character who was dynamic and possessing Jack Sparrow’s psychotic joi de vive, without actually being Jack.
The problem isn’t when Depp is too pirately, but rather when he is the dull-eyed, wooden, cigar store Indian of the majority of the film. It’s like whenever Depp started to show any hint of life, the director told him to tone it down, and all the actor had left was moribund misery.
The meat of the story (think hamburger left in the sun for a week) is the meet cute between The Lone Ranger and his sage Native American minion Tonto. (A name which always makes Spanish speakers giggle.) Tonto and notorious criminal Butch Cavendish (William Fitchner, the only actor who seems to be enjoying himself in this stinker) are on a train, in police custody and bound for a hangin’. Cavendish, who obviously has some inside help, slips his chains, kills the guards and is about to escape when John Reid (Armie Hammer) arrives in the nick of time and stops him. Well, almost. See Reid is the district attorney and the ultimate Dudley Do-Right. Instead of just plugging Cavendish with some well-place lead, he monologues about truth, justice and honor, blah-blah. Cavendish, of course, kicks his ass, and escapes.
This, of course, sets the pattern for the rest of the film, with Reid opting for the bureaucratic path to justice, which invariably backfires and gets more people killed. Tonto, meanwhile, follows along, driven by his own need for vengeance against Cavendish, and urges Reid, a.k.a., The Lone Ranger, to just effing kill someone. This is the extent of their partnership–Reid makes like the Great White Moron and Tonto rolls his eyes. Hardly the stuff that great friendships are made of.
The Lone Ranger and Tonto’s bromance-that-wasn’t is set against an uneven tonal backdrop that careens between serious message movie (progress, Manifest Destiny=bad; Indians= noble and good) and campy shoot-em-up. One wonders if the intent was create a film with a Quentin Tarantino vibe, a bloody cheese fest that was simultaneously lampooning bloody cheese fests. Except the violence in The Lone Ranger is tame, even the sequence where Cavendish cuts out a man’s heart is sanitized and tidy; and the action sequences too much old timey Saturday matinee. The scenes where the tone turns serious feel like excerpts from another movie altogether. For example, there’s the backstory on how Tonto got his feathered headgear and case of crazy brain. The sequence is designed, one assumes, to inform the audience that Tonto is sad, sad clown, but it arrives in the story like a ton of bricks.
Eventually, for no particular reason, other than the movie being over budget, The Lone Ranger decides to get his hero on, and in yet another ridiculous train sequence (there are many), brings the killing to the baddies. Notable in this sequence is the fakest fake horse in the history of ever. I mean, at this point, the cinematographers were too lazy to even attempt to hide the fact that Silver, in the close-up riding sequences, is a big, fat, stuffed horse.
(Speaking of horse, however, the flesh and blood equine(s) who plays Silver is the best actor in the movie.)
As a fan of movies with swords, guns, space, car chases and numerous explosion, I’m adept at ignoring a high percentage of cinematic sins and crimes against physics. What dooms The Lone Ranger, however, is the relationship, or lack thereof, between the two central characters. Had Depp and Hammer possessed the delicious zing of Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law in Sherlock Holmes, The Lone Ranger‘s other weakness could have been easily ignored. Instead, Tonto and his white protégé never progress beyond mild antipathy.
Maybe the sequel (if there is one) should simply be about Silver.
July 8, 2014
Been AWOL, busy, making like a hippy (growing my hair). And creating art.
May 3, 2013
"Dancer" flower pot whimsy
Looking for something fun to do in Albuquerque? Drive just a smidgen north to historic and charming Corrales, New Mexico for the annual Art Studio Tour, the first weekend in May.
This year, me and the hubs will be participating! We will be opening our studio/workshop and garden and exhibiting our metal art. Gardeners: this means you can visit an established Corrales garden, free; get ideas for your own yard; and see what works in my high desert garden. The garden is at its finest mid-June through July, but stuff is starting to bloom now.
Tree of life garden gate by Justin Kirby
The Corrales Art Studio Tour is the first weekend in May (the 4-5) and maps can be picked up at the tent outside of Frontier Mart and at Villa Acequia (Preview Gallery), both on Corrales Road. Maps can also be downloaded here. Did I mention it’s free! Free tour! We’re Number 69 on the tour.
The weather should be great. See you there!
Click on images for larger view.
April 12, 2013
Give a husband an iPhone and he shall torture the dog.
In which I try to teach the greyhound geology.
The lesson is precipitated by our new granite countertops and because I have nothing better to do (other than laundry, yard work, writing, taxes, etc.).
I’m in the kitchen, having a healthy snack of baby carrots and the greyhound is watching in that bright-eyed, super intelligent way that dogs have been watching humans with food since the dawn of time. I crunch a carrot, chew, swallow and consider the hound.
“See this?” I point at a reddish smudge on the counter. The greyhound, a very tall dog, shoves his skinny nose where I’m pointing. “That’s garnet. My birthstone. Can you say, ‘garnet?’”
Finding no food where I’ve indicated, he flares his ears out like a bat and stares at me in a way that says, “Carrot!”
“No, not ‘carrot.’ ‘Garnet.’”
I try again, finger on a black streak. “This here is biotite, a mica. Can you say, ‘biotite?’” ‘Mica?’”
Because I’m stupid that way, I try with feldspar and quartz. I go back to garnet, because it sounds like carrot.
I give the hound the damned carrot.