SWD: Wars and Rumors of Wars

After spending an entire day following Anakin around, the action and point of view of Episode III splits to follow Anakin and Obi-Wan’s separate plot arcs. Also the action portion of Revenge of the Sith starts to get going again, which means we are treated to more CGI battles and computer wizardry.

Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (00.48.00-01:01:56)

I start first with Obi-Wan Kenobi’s journey. The Jedi Council meets via hologram and real time from Coruscant to Kashyyyk. Yoda is operational with the Wookiees (and hey! look, Chewbacca in a totally pointless cameo). Anakin presents the news he learned last night, one wonders why he didn’t inform the Jedi immediately, it isn’t like the war sleeps, and the Jedi decide that Obi-Wan should be the one to hunt down General Grievous.

I give Hayden Christensen props for this scene. He conveys the hope and enthusiasm that his character feels when he gives Palpatine’s recommendation that Anakin be sent to find the droid general and the disappointment when the suggestion is shot down. Anakin really is hoping for a relief from this infighting and political scheming, something for which he has no patience. Christensen gives us that with just his eyes and a few small gestures. Good acting is so rare in the Star Wars prequel trilogy that I like to point it out whenever possible.

Back to Chewie. Other than fan service, why is he here? I really can’t figure out a valid reason. Nothing in the original trilogy suggests he is anything other than a smuggler who partnered with Han Solo. Bringing Boba Fett in as the clones was also semi-pointless, but at least that served a bad plot reason. Here Chewie exists merely to exist.

Anyway, Anakin and Obi-Wan say goodbye in a scene that accomplishes nothing except to show Obi-Wan to be a massive idiot. He praises Anakin and his abilities mere minutes after Kenobi, Yoda, and Windu had a conversation about how unpredictable and immature Anakin is. Sure, Obi-Wan was defending Anakin in that scene, but it is clear that what the other Jedi are discussing is common knowledge for the Jedi council. If nothing else, it is an informative conversation for Kenobi. The point is: Anakin isn’t what Obi-Wan says he is, and the audience knows it. Thus, this scene simply shows that Obi-Wan is either a moron or woefully naive. Either are bad qualities for your main supporting character who is supposed to be wise. I’ll grant that this is probably supposed to be foreshadowing Obi-Wan’s big failure training Anakin, but at this point, Anakin is trained. Master is splitting from apprentice. There is no reason for Obi-Wan not to be realizing that he completely messed up with Anakin. And if he secretly does, why all the praise? Why not a last ditch effort to train? This scene is just badly written.

After this, all of Obi-Wan’s scenes are traveling to Utupau and finding General Grievous and starting to fight him. The action is mostly empty CGI and a stupid lightsaber battle in which the general has four lightsabers because Anakin fought with two in Clones because Darth Maul had a double lightsaber in Phantom. Seriously, lightsaber battles are not about spectacle but conflict. The number of blades and the flashy flashy lights might wow a kid (probably the real point) but none of the lightsaber battles in the original trilogy were meant to be flashy first. They were to accentuate the conflict between characters. Here the conflict is almost nonexistent and the flash is everything. The dialogue is stupid and there is no build up of what it means for Kenobi to fight the General and vice versa. Also with droid reflexes and four lightsabers, I don’t care how good Kenobi’s Jedi defense is, the General wins.

Back to Anakin. He has another vision of Padme in pain, this time with Obi-Wan in the picture. This leads to a very awkward conversation between Anakin and Padme about the stress that Anakin is under and something about Anakin feeling lost which because of bad writing and lame acting just sounds like whining. Seriously, if you as a director cannot give direction to your actors, hire someone else. Hayden Christensen isn’t a bad actor, but he was badly directed.

I want to mention to that this subplot about Padme dying in childbirth is a stupid one. I think I already mentioned back with Anakin’s first vision, but no, women do not die in childbirth on Coruscant in the Star Wars universe. If she had been shown being killed in battle or something, yes, that is a valid threat, but in childbirth? I doubt anyone really took the threat seriously. This exists as one more example of bad writing.

Lastly, Anakin is shown being given an assignment: give Palpatine news that Obi-Wan has engaged Grievous and judge his reaction. After he leaves, Mace Windu finally gets the idea that the Chancellor is evil and might not step down as Chancellor after the war is over (because apparently he is only in power for the duration of the war). This leaves the Jedi with the choice to remove him from office or not by force.

What? Why not allow the good senators to at least try to make a motion for the Chancellor’s dismissal? Even if all the rest of the Senate is evil and under the Chancellor’s sway, are there not those that stand by rule of law? Make him make a move to stay in power before just summarily removing him. Make him justify the use of force. The point here is that once again, the threat is not real or immediate. There is so much that could happen instead. When you have this big of a plot hole, or more correctly, this many loose threads, the plot unravels rather quickly. Nothing that follows necessarily needs to happen. I find it, as an audience member, frustrating when lazy writing leads to stupid actions on the part of supposedly very wise and knowledgable characters. Nothing adds up and it all feels dumb.

Anyway, Anakin is off to get a reaction out of the Chancellor while Obi-Wan is chasing down Grievous. Another day has ended on Coruscant.

SWD: Operatic Considerations

It has been nearly three years since I last delved into the world of Star Wars and my deconstruction of the prequel trilogy. Since that time much has happened in my life, but my love of Star Wars remains undimmed. I return to Star Wars Deconstructed and pick up where I left off: in the early part of Episode III, Revenge of the Sith.

To recap briefly, the galaxy is at war, and young Jedi Anakin Skywalker is at the centre of all the conflict, both professionally and personally. Currently, Anakin is enduring a very long day, filled with people in his life pulling him in separate, often conflicting, directions. The night prior he had a prophetic dream in which his wife died in childbirth, and the next morning Yoda could only tell him to “let go of everything you fear to lose”. At a morning briefing on the Clone Wars, he was informed that Chancellor Palpatine wanted to meet with him. The Jedi are not happy with Anakin’s close relationship with the Chancellor. Palpatine wants Anakin to sit on the Jedi Council as his personal representative. The Council allows the appointment, but only if Anakin will spy on the Chancellor for them. Later in the day, Master Windu and Yoda express distrust of Anakin while Anakin faces pressure from his wife, Padme Amidala, to use his influence with the Chancellor and the Jedi Council to foster her push for peace talks. Anakin responds with frustration at being used as everyone’s pawn.

That evening, he receives an invite to the opera, and meets with Chancellor Palpatine for a second time, and things get even more confused for the frustrated young Jedi.

Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (00.42.40-00.48.00)

As Anakin arrives at the opera house there is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo of Star Wars director George Lucas. He is dressed in fancy robes and is painted blue, so don’t worry if you miss him the first time around.

Anakin is drawn into a what will prove to be the first of several seductions from Chancellor Palpatine, also known as but not yet revealed to be Darth Sidious, Dark Lord of the Sith. In fact, this is his second seductive meeting of the day, the first was earlier when the Chancellor placed Anakin on the Jedi Council. Slowly, gently, and yes, seductively, Palpatine is giving Anakin what he wants while playing on his fears, his frustrations, and his failures.

Despite some stiff acting from Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker, next to some somewhat subtle acting from Ian McDiarmid as Chancellor Palpatine, this scene works very well. The mood is sombre and underscored by the deep operatic singing of the Mon Calamiri who form the backdrop of the conversation. If only the acting were on par with the setting, this scene could give chills.

This time, the bait Palpatine offers is that the Chancellor, through “clone intelligence”, has discovered where General Grievous is hiding. This is what Anakin most wants as a Jedi warrior, his enemy where he can destroy him and he swallows the bait. Earlier, the Jedi council had admitted that the couldn’t find Grievous, and in his eagerness to find him and his blind trust in Palpatine, Anakin does not question how the Chancellor knows Grievous’ whereabouts. I give Anakin a pass for not calling Palpatine on this. His head is no doubt spinning from his back and forth day, and he has a lot on his mind as a result.

Palpatine dismisses his aides and invites Anakin to relax, and begins stage two of the evening’s seduction games. Palpatine admits that he doesn’t trust the Jedi council, and this prompts Anakin to confide the same. Anakin considers Palpatine to be a father-figure, and is taken aback when Palpatine somehow knows that the Jedi Council wants Anakin to spy on the Chancellor. I think Anakin should be slightly more suspicious of how precisely the Chancellor is guessing here, but again, I give him a pass.

This leads to a discussion of Jedi versus Sith, how they are similar, how they are different, and how all who seek to gain power are afraid to lose it. The dialogue transcends McDiarmid’s delivery of it, and his assertion that “good is a point of view” is spot on. I wonder if Lucas actually did write this part of the script because of how well it is written. I guess even a bad writer can occasionally get it right. However, right about the time when Palpatine offers up, sort of from nowhere, a Sith parable, Anakin should be getting alarm bells in his head. Trusted mentor or not, he has been trained his whole life to be wary of Sith philosophy, and to be on the alert for the Sith to return to prominence in the galaxy. How Palpatine knows this “story the Jedi would [not] tell you” is a question he should ask. Sith legends that promise exactly what you really, really want shouldn’t go unquestioned. As a former slave child, Anakin should have a defensive mechanism against things which sound too good to be true, especially from questionable sources, that is the Sith more than Palpatine from Anakin’s perspective. That he doesn’t question Palpatine and this story is an unforgivable logical lapse in the plotting. Even if Anakin eventually decides to side with Palpatine, he shouldn’t be so trusting at this point. At the very least Palpatine should have been forced to come up with a bad excuse for being so familiar with Sith philosophy and old Sith legends.

Also troubling here is the other side of this talk which rather directly implies that the legendary Darth Plagueis created Anakin Skywalker. This is a dangling plot point, not to mention a gaping plot hole. Why would a Dark Lord of Sith create a child and then abandon him to be potentially found and trained by the Jedi? Why not raise and train him yourself as the ultimate Jedi killer? This whole midichlorians-are-the-Force thing is something I wrote about in my deconstruction of the Phantom Menace, but here I will say again that a biological underpinning to a mystical power is dumb and unnecessary. The Force operates just fine without a biological source, and such a source only raises questions about Jedi and Sith and the entire “ancient religion” that they both adhere to. Furthermore, if a Sith lord can create life, why hasn’t he created an army of Sith and ruled the galaxy already. Why rely on his apprentice and a long con war to give the Sith a galaxy wide victory? None of this life-creating death-delaying makes any sense as presented. Even Yoda wasn’t powerful enough to forestall his own death in Return of the Jedi, so this super powerful Sith definitely shouldn’t have stopped with one Sith-Force-rape kid he then abandoned to the deserts of Tatooine.

Still, if you choose not to think of any of that while watching this scene, the Sith legend thing kinda sorta works. Anakin at least is thinking about it, and wonders if it is possible to learn this power and discovers that he can, just “not from a Jedi”. Seduction: underway. Who exactly does Palpatine know that can teach him? Anakin never thinks to ask and that is yet another example of why the Star Wars prequels are examples of bad writing: an incurious hero is a dumb, shallow hero.

Anyway, the action in Revenge of the Sith is about to pick up, which means so will the pace of my writing about it as I move through the rest of the film. I promise not to wait another three years before the next installment of the series!

To read other Star Wars: Deconstructed posts, search my blog for “SWD” or click “Star Wars” at the top.

Why I Write About Depression

My name is Phil, and I struggle with depression.

I’ve been writing a lot about depression recently, and I apologize if I am wearing out the ears of those who listen. But rarely I have little else I can do, and writing is my way of speaking to the world. I don’t really know how big my audience is, beyond my mother, but I write anyway because if I can reach just one person, that it is worth it.

If you are reading this, then you know me, and that means you know at least one depressed person. Knowing is half the battle. Part of being human is caring for your fellow human. It helps to know what someone is feeling so that you can adequately and appropriately care for them. Helping someone with a broken leg walk on the leg isn’t helping. You have to immobilize the leg and keep pressure off of it, and help them walk on crutches. Knowing how to help is everything, and you can’t do that unless you know what is wrong in the first place.

I write about my depression so that you know what it feels like. Depression is such a hard thing to understand precisely because most people think they do understand. The “blues”, feeling sad, or dealing with life’s normal problems is what most people think of when they contemplate depression. That isn’t it. Those things fade, or come and go with life’s ups and downs.

Depression, that is, clinical depression, what I suffer from, is a constant feeling of heaviness. Constantly being sad or weary for no reason at all. Life goes up and I stay numb. Life goes down and I stay numb, or get worse. Something sad happens and I cry for days. The blues, and most other colors, are black or shades of grey. There is no color.

There is fear as well. In my case, debilitating terror. Fear that I will never feel better, which is, in part, justified. Clinical depression can be managed, but not cured. Fear that I can’t do anything. This fear they tell me is irrational. It doesn’t matter, I feel it all the same, and most days, it overwhelms me.

There is guilt. Did I do this to myself? Answer: no. But it doesn’t matter. I feel guilty that I am not normal, that I don’t function and live like everyone else. My mind constantly tells me that I screwed up, that I made this happen, and that if I just bucked up and got with it, I could be better. Nothing is further from the truth. No, I didn’t make this happen, and I can’t unmake it either.

There is sadness. I am sad for all that I have lost, all that I don’t have, all that I am not normal. I have lost a wife, friends, family, several jobs, self-sufficiency, happiness, pleasure, enjoyment, a full palette of emotions. I know that I have lost or lack those things. I can’t will them back, or make them happen just because I want to. Sometimes I feel vestiges, sometimes I hear echoes of those things, but sometimes I merely remember or imagine what they must be like.

There is anger. Anger is born of helplessness, in this case. I know exactly how little I can do to alter my situation. There are no bootstraps, and pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps usually results in you smacking your chin on your knees and getting nowhere. I can be proactive. I can get out of bed. I can take my medication. I can do something, no matter how inconsequential or irrelevant. But nothing will banish my depression. Nothing will make it go away. And that makes me mad, angry and upset. It is unfair and frustrating. It is wrong. But it is nonetheless.

And that is just four little things. I hesitate to keep going for fear that it will sound like wallowing or self-pity or “woe-is-me”. This, too, is a symptom of depression. It is difficult for me to fully articulate what I feel because I don’t want to sound like I am merely complaining or moaning. But someone needs to tell it like it is, someone needs to speak up about how it feels. I have no pride left, so it might as well be me. Judge me all you want, tell me to suck it up and be a man if it makes you feel better about who you are, but this is my everyday reality as of right now. I wish 1000% that I could just change it. I pray and ask God to make me better. But wishes aren’t real. God, if he is real, doesn’t do that sort of thing. Medical science can only make my condition manageable, and right now, barely so. What else is there to do but speak up?

But speaking is only half the battle. Now you know how I feel, in part. How do you help me walk with a broken mind? Be a crutch.

It is a failing of American culture that we abhor help. Americans are all about “do-it-yourself” and “self-made-men”. Mostly that’s bullshit. Sorry, but there is no better term. Be a crutch, be a help, do not make me do this myself. Being alone only makes all of this depression worse. Trying to go it alone is mostly impossible. Speak to me: let me know that I still have friends, people who care. Help me out: literally. Offer to come over and help me clean up the apartment. Offer to pay for my laundry and or help me haul it up the stairs. (I’ll probably say no out of humiliation or misplaced pride.) Come and cook with me so I have meals to re-heat. (I don’t know how I’d respond.) Come and go grocery shopping with me. (That could work.) Come and play games with me or hang out and watch a movie or hang out and talk or just hang out and be quiet. (I’m always up for this.) Take me out somewhere to do something. Depression keeps me apartment bound so much of the time. (I’ll almost never say no.) Every little gesture means the world. I can feel and live vicariously. By literally being with me and helping me I can be, even for a little while, normal through you.

Is it your responsibility to make me better? No. Do not feel guilty if you can’t do any of those things. Don’t make it your place to be my everything. That is on me. But anything you can do is a help. I have to walk on the crutches, but without crutches to walk on, it is hard to walk. Crutches come alongside the injury and lift up the heaviness. Help by being a crutch.

And that is why I write. So that you know how I feel and how to help. But not just me: there are millions of depressed people. Some function better than I do, some worse. All need crutches. Get out there and help people walk.

To read what else I have written about depression, search this blog for “depression”.

Ordinarily Depressed

Hello. My name is Phil and I battle depression.

What I am about to say is both difficult to say and strange for me to admit: I’ve been depressed. It is difficult because for a long time I didn’t know what was happening to me or why. I felt pain, I felt sadness, I felt guilt, and I didn’t know what to do with myself. It is strange because Depression, or Clinical Depression, is my every day state of affairs. Little d depression isn’t. Strictly speaking what I am experiencing is death, death of a very dear relationship, but the symptoms of that death are depression and sorrow.

As many already know, my wife is divorcing me. Don’t ask me why, I don’t really know. Ask her. She left last May on a mutually agreed upon separation and the very next time I saw her, November, she was submitting paperwork for divorce. We have barely spoken, not through lack of my trying, so I really have no idea what is going on or why this is happening. All I do know is that it is happening. Somehow, somewhere, the relationship died. That is a tremendous burden that I have been bearing for almost a year now. But ever since the divorce papers were filed, I’ve felt something different, something more. At first I didn’t know that I was bearing it, or what I was bearing, or that it was different than my day to day depression, but now I’ve come to recognize it for what it is: little d depression.

I didn’t know big D Depressed people could feel the depression of ordinary folk, the fleeting, down in the dumps blues. In fact, I’ve written quite a bit about how large D Depression doesn’t go away, is much more intense, and is a constant pain in the head. But to experience little d depression on top of that is new for me. To grieve a death of a relationship is new for me.

Back in the day I lost my grandmother to indifference. As far as I know she is still alive physically, but the last time I saw her was 20 years ago when I was 6. One day she just stopped coming around. I was young, carefree, and not terribly close to her, so I can’t say it bothered me all that much. Sure, it was sad to have a grandmother who didn’t care about you, but I don’t remember grieving over her. She just ended in my life.

Around the same time (I think) my great, great grandmother died. I remember my older brother and my mother being very upset, but again, I was young and I didn’t really know her so I had little grief. My first real brush with the grief of death was when Larry died. Who was Larry? Larry was an older gentlemen who lived on the street where I grew up as a little boy. He was an old, crusty salt of a former sailer and a surrogate grandfather. I loved hanging out with Larry and he loved to spoil me and my brothers with ice cream from the ice cream truck and we had all sorts of fun together. He used to decorate his house outrageously for Christmas and always was an interesting person to be around. Larry died from lung cancer brought on by a lifetime of smoking. Larry I mourned, but I remember being more angry that he was taken from me than sad that he was gone.

The first time my sadness outweighed my anger was when my grandfather died. Grandpa Curwin, my maternal grandfather, was a constant in my life and I loved him so much. I still remember how he smelled, how he smiled, and his loving affection. I used to love to talk to him and wheedle out stories of his time in the Army during World War II, or stories about his many automobiles and girlfriends. My grandfather was loved by many people, and he was such a nice, wonderful person it isn’t hard to see why. But he died suddenly of many things. His was the first funeral I ever attended and to see him lying in that casket is something I will never forget. I was angry, but I was also so very sad to know that I would never hear his voice again or see that twinkle in his eye or smile on his lips. He was gone, and I had to say goodbye.

The death of a relationship is different altogether. The person still lives. The feelings still exist. But the relationship is deemed to be over and there is nothing you can do about it. Unlike a physical death, where there is an acceptance of the circle of life, a grave to visit, and a body to see to sink home the reality, here the vibrancy and immediacy to life still exists. The person lives, and breathes, and laughs, and continues, but is no longer accessible. You want to accept it, you want to feel the reality, but every time the person is seen, or heard of, the heart wants to say “they are alive, run, embrace them and be joyful! death has ended!” only it hasn’t and you can’t. There is little possibility of real mourning. There is only the pain and separation. And thus my depression.

I had to have my therapist explain what I was feeling and why, and fortunately she is wise and experienced and knew almost immediately what I was describing. Still, it was a revelation to me. To be ordinarily depressed is new. Usually I am a happy, upbeat kind of guy. According to my therapist, my mother, and most others I talk to about how I feel, these little d depressed feelings will pass. I will come out the other side and I will be ok again. Grief lasts but a moment in the long term of life, so does loss, and where one relationship ends, there is always the possibility that another will begin, or so they say. I had just become used to the idea that my sadness, my mental inertia, and the dimness that is my Depression would be with me always. I didn’t know I could also get depressed, but it is an encouragement to know that depression lifts, and that I can return to normal.

I wish it didn’t have to be this way, but I am coming to accept there is nothing I can do about it, and that the only actions I can take are those that I do anyway: get out of bed, do something, take care of myself and my pup, and get through the day. Anything more is a good day, and while you are depressed through grief over death, you don’t have good days, especially when you are also Depressed.

Still, it is nice feeling to know that in being ordinarily depressed, some part of me is truly ordinary. Life is strange and wonderful and dirty and confusing and sticky and bad and good and full of feelings. No matter what you feel, or why, remember that. When you feel you are alive, and never more so than right in the feelings.

To read what else I have written about depression search this blog for “depression”.

wander, wander on

the path ahead is veiled
the ship from shore has sailed
I know not where I walk
specters beside me stalk
my heart is sad and weeps
my soul longs for sleep
weary I must trod along
within my mind a song
of tears and bitter memories
along the way mine enemies
spit and shout harsh words
they brandish, cut like swords
drip drop the plops of blood
I wash away with the flood
I long for days of warm sun
a time when smiles mean fun
instead of shields for pain
a shelter from the storm of rain
I know not where the path leads
or what will grow from these seeds
I only hope for a better day
and to walk a clearer way
I only wish for a kindred spirit
someone I can hold dearest
through the storm crows and ravens
within whose arms I find haven
a companion along the broken road
till then I stumble along the wode
pulling tattered cloak close about
in effort to keep the despair out
while I wander, wander on…

a Villain-elle, Part 3

a Villainelle, Part 3 (Bane)

“He will shatter kings in the day of his wrath.” – Psalm 110:5

Your punishment must be more severe.
Until I put on the mask no one cared
Speak of the devil and he shall appear.

It comes later, the time for rising fear
I’ll feed Gotham’s people hope to despair
Your punishment must be more severe.

I am Gotham’s reckoning, it is clear
An end to borrowed time and corrupt heirs
Speak of the devil and he shall appear.

They belong to me, the shadows here
Blinding to me is the daylight air
Your punishment must be more severe.

When Gotham is ashes, your city dear
You have my permission to die there
Speak of the devil and he shall appear.

The fire rises, a wall sheer
Victory defeated you, left you bare
Your punishment must be more severe.
Speak of the devil and he shall appear.

Read a Villain-elle part 2, the Joker, here.

I am Iron Man

I am Iron Man, a villanelle

I’m just not the hero type.
Throw a little hot rod red in there.
The truth is…I am Iron Man.

I’m in it. It’s a suit. It’s me!
I shouldn’t be alive unless it was for a reason.
I’m just not the hero type.

I am your nuclear deterrent.
Wow. That tastes like coconut. And metal.
The truth is…I am Iron Man.

I have a plan: attack.
Genius. Billionaire. Playboy. Philanthropist.
I’m just not the hero type.

I’m the mechanic, Tony.
Everybody needs a hobby.
The truth is…I am Iron Man.

I am not a soldier!
I’ve created my own demons.
I’m just not the hero type.
The truth is…I am Iron Man.