水曜日, 5月 25, 2005

John Williams Heaven

The Boston Pops is featuring a tribute to John Williams this week under its "Hurray for Hollywood" series. Traditionally, John Williams himself conducts the music. This year, alas, he is too busy writing the score to War of the Worlds. (*shakes fist at Spielberg, Cruise*)

Tonight was "opening night." I arrived twenty minutes late to a packed symphony hall. The usher groaned when he saw my ticket--my seat was at the left-most corner on the second balcony. It was a struggle to get past everyone without causing a commotion, but oh was it worth it. I was right over the orchestra--if I leaned forward too much, my glasses would knock out the harpist. Fortunately, the Williams tribute was the second half--I considered the remaining 'Chaplin' piece a bonus track.

I'm not really an acoustics gal (not a musician. Just a tone deaf fan) so being at the sidelines didn't bother me. What I love watching is the interplay between musicians, trying to guess exactly which of the French horns is going next, the overwhelming beauty when the entire string section melts like pure chocolate.

The conductor would turn around, give a short intro, then play us a clip from an interview with John Williams on that piece:

In the beginning, there was Star Wars. I probably have the Empire Strikes Back soundtrack memorized, but have never seen the music played live. It is the piece I want played at my wedding. (And the Force theme at my funeral.) I will always be in love with that music.

A Harry Potter sequence.

Jaws. The interview clip shows two fingers playing that ominous theme, followed by maniacal laughter. And the camera pulls back to show us Williams hunched over the piano, a wild look in his eye. Oh, Lord. But I do have an appreciation now for what Williams called that feeling "in the gut." It really is that sound of the bow on the string that completes the sound of that theme.

Schindler's List. The violin solo had me tearing up. That movie was just devastating.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind. And then the closing scene for E.T. Williams can do grandeur, pathos, tragedy...but what he also excels at is wonder. And the final piece for E.T. is just one long bike ride down the mottled path, wind and laughter raking through your hair.

We gave the orchestra a standing ovation, of course. And the conductor returned for the encore and said, "We have connections to the top"--so here is the score for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, and we'll perform "Battle of the Heroes. The movie opened last weekend, and we are probably the first orchestra in the country to perform this live.'

We younglings on the balcony (and a lot of us were kids still in high school) gasped and went wild.

I'll leave a review of the piece to Jaquandor. My heart pounded with the beat. My only regret is that the record stores are already closed, so I can't go home and buy the soundtrack NOW.

Another round of applause, and half standing ovation. So the conductor returns, flushed, and launches in the Cantina Theme. You could feel the energy in the audience shoot to new heights. I was just geeked out to see the percussionist doing all those cool sounds in the back.

A final standing ovation from the first row persuades the conductor to give us the theme from Indiana Jones. We marched out the symphony hall into the cold rain, but our grins were warm.

土曜日, 5月 21, 2005

Been back at TheForce.Net. It's odd when forumites growl at the " '05 " and post things like, "You're an '01. Honestly, have people ever been respectful of each others' opinions here?" I never realized what a nerd I've been until I checked and discovered I was a '99. Yikes.

Second Viewing

Yes, I went to watch Episode III twice in less than 24 hours. (Because my papers were kicking my ass, and I needed Star Wars to keep me sane.) Please don't tell my parents.When we left the theater the first time, I literally started shaking. It was a bit crisp at 3 a.m., but I was mostly shaking from all that adrenaline. This time, I felt pretty calm through most of the movie and even wondered if the magic was diluted.But then the Duel began. And some time during it, my heart started pounding in time with the music. I could only sit back and enjoy the best heart attack of my life.:D

It was another sold-out showing, with applause at the end. I enjoyed the second time even more, because the scenes no longer moved too fast and I was able to spot all the little things as Lucas brought us back to the atmosphere of ANH. I sat next to a couple--before the theater darkened, the girl was expressing her disappointment with the prequels. But she gasped when Anakin killed Dooku and clutched her boyfriend once Anakin began to turn. Nothing can replicate the feeling of the midnight showing, but watching her become so involved in the movie was a good substitute.

Revenge of the Sith

[I watched it midnight Wednesday and rushed back to gush all over the livejournal. My original idea was to produce something more coherent for the blog--but decided to let it stand. Reposted from there:]

*SPOILERS* (And if you haven't seen the movie yet, I will hit you.)

It was an embarassment of riches. From the first moment Anakin and Obi-Wan's fighters slipped over the side of a cruiser...and we saw the entire freakin' battle. The first time R2D2 zaps one of those wasp-like robots...the lightsaber fight with Dooku...Anakin and Obi-Wan being friends, BROTHERS, often voicing their trust and faith in each other. Anakin knowing what he's doing is wrong--but still hearing Palpatine's voice. Anakin is so much like MacBeth: commits an unforgivable crime in one moment of weakness, then trapped into it. Yet, even as Darth Vader, he sheds tears.

So packed. I got there almost two hours early, and walked into a three-fourths full theater. Managed, somehow, to get an aisle seat with NO ONE in front of me. Must be the good karma kicking in. And apparently, I'd missed out on the line that stretched two blocks up the street. By the time the trailers started, every seat was taken.

So much happening. Every important scene had its ten minutes. And what full ten minutes. But I justed watched Return of the Jedi last night, and did you know they took half an hour to rescue Han from Jabba? My god, in half an hour....Episode III took twice the story of Return of the King, and compressed into half that time. Good god.I went in mostly unspoiled. And was overwhelmed.

Before I forget. Applause points:

--The one worthy trailer: Batman Begins. Applause began with the first sight of the bats. That will be the other hit of the summer. Some catcalls for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Nothing really for Cruise in War of the Worlds.


--The silent hush (even though the theatre lights still weren't off >_< ) as the words "a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away."

--And then the yellow words appeared on the screen. And we went wild.

--The first time R2D2 zaps those robot thingys.

--Obi-Wan and Anakin's crash landing into the docking bay: And even before the hatch fully opens Obi-Wan is out and swinging the good old lightsaber.

--Laughter as R2D2 has to deal with an inopportune call from Obi-Wan.-

-Applause when R2D2 figures out an creative way to extricate himself (hint: the squid tactic)

--Laughter (esp. from some sheepish male members in the audience) when Anakin sort of has to refocus on what Padme is actually saying (instead of staring at her) with the general "I love you more."

--Obi-Wan vs. Grievous.

--When Yoda figured out Order 66, and busted out the lightsaber.

--Laughter and "Awwww" when Chewbacca offered Yoda his arm and Yoda clambered on to his shoulder.

--Yoda dropping two Imperial Guards, just like that. (Okay, it was pretty obvious that Yoda was the favorite of the evening.)

--And then there was little to applaud. Because we were all dead silent (even the two eight year-old boys who'd talked excitedly through the 2+ hr. wait. They never said a word during the entire movie), entranced. And the Duel. Obi-Wan's "I loved you." The Birth of Vader. Padme's last words. Tantiv IV. Laughter at "And wipe the protocol droid's memory". The final sunset. God, so much happened, I'm having a hard time keeping track of it.

Other moments I loved:--How Anakin won't leave Obi-Wan behind. Not while they fly their way through the battle. Not while Obi-Wan is passed out from Dooku's throw.

--Obi-Wan's "Wait a minute, we are smarter than this..."God, the humor's so corny and REAL in this one. Many groan-worthy lines, but the spirit is there.

Okay, okay, enough gushing.Was it a perfect movie? Dunno about the critics. But it was the one I wanted to see. And even at the end, I was in shock, in denial. It can't end like this! I knew I wanted Vader to be born, but not at the expense of Anakin!

Yes, Anakin's fall IS a tragedy.And Episode III is marvelous.

Thank you, George Lucas.

月曜日, 5月 16, 2005


I'm pretty right-of-center, but is it really necessary for disgruntled conservative columnists to bash George Lucas and Episode III? Even Glenn Reynolds is laying on the negatives.

For me, conservatism is a relatively recent thing, born out of--but not sustained by--teenage rebellion. The first time I watched Star Wars was when Dad bought us the VHS box set in '93, back when Han still shot first and the Sarlacc didn't have those cool tentacles. My brother Isaac and I went nuts. We would watch A New Hope one weekend, Empire Strikes Back the next, then Return of the Jedi, only to start all over again. I loved ROTJ best because it had Ewoks. Even today, my bro and I can do the Ewok battle cry at the exact moment in John Williams' ROTJ soundtrack. Isaac always preferred ESB, especially when the "cave" is collapsing. Though I grew to appreciate ESB, I spent most of my youth fastforwarding through the "gross" scenes, a.k.a. most of the duel with Vader. My goal was to become Princess Leia, meet Han Solo, and kick Grand Moff Tarkin's ass.

In 4th grade, my wise-cracking best friend and next-door neighbor Bryan founded "SOP"--Society of Popcorn. Our main task was to watch the Original Trilogy until we knew all the lines. Sometimes we'd take a break and play Trivial Pursuit, during which the sore loser is entitled to whack everyone else with a stuffed raccoon. Bryan was the crazy conservative kid in our grade--heck, his hero was Pete Wilson. Mine was FDR. We had long complicated political arguments, or complicated for fourth graders. Bryan and I drifted apart--I still feel guilty about that--but the conservatism sank in. What I miss most, though, are still the times we watched ANH and tried to spout the dialogue a second before the characters. (Very hard with C3PO.)

Those golden days passed. My brother and I bought the Special Edition VHS set in '97 and literally wore it out. (He tried to play ESB again last winter and the tape tore.) We dragged Mom all the way to Taipei and its newest theater to watch The Phantom Menace--she slept through even the Duel of the Fates. For Attack of the Clones, our entire Tae Kwon Do team went, and we spent the rest of the day debating minutiae. Mom put her foot down at our naming the dog "Yoda." So she's officially "Yoko Yoda."

I was a Star Wars fan before I was a conservative. Heck, I'll be a Star Wars fan long after I swing from conservatism to hippy-dippy environmentalism. I can't imagine not loving Episode III when I watch it midnight Wednesday. Yoda can sprout hairy (hairier?) feet and fight to "save the Shire" this Wednesday, and I will love it. Grumpy conservatives can go throw themselves down the Death Star reactor shaft.

Update: Dang, Jaquandor beat me to it.

土曜日, 5月 14, 2005

Saw Jenny off to the airport, then wandered the darkening streets of Cambridge in search of senior gifts and travel guides. Ultimately bought a copy of Walden and started reading it for the first time. By the time I paused, it'd stolen three hours from my life--or rather, I gave them freely.

The way I see it is: if I were the type to drink, I'd lose my evening AND incur a morning hangover. Instead, I've volunteered my evening and now want to spend my life hoeing beans at Walden pond--or studying marine life along the coasts of Japan.

How tragic it is that Biology is developing its greatest tools just when biology itself is being lost--as if we have finally built a flashlight, only to shine it into the abyss. To be a biologist at the dawn of the 21st century is to be a librarian in the last days of Alexandria.

木曜日, 5月 05, 2005

Jaquandor thanks TheForce.Net for all the good it's done, especially as a news source and connection to other fans. I'd join him with my thanks, but first I want to wring TF.N's collective neck, for tempting me with spoilers ALL DAY LONG. Come on, I don't even have the self-discipline to write papers for classes I love--how do you expect me to just avoid learning everything I can about Episode III?

Right now, I cheat a bit and skim online and magazine articles very quickly, telling my mind to blank out anything that looks remotely spoilerish. But it's not working. And to exacerbate it all, I just bought a ticket to see the Boston Pops Orchestra honor John Williams as part of its Hurray Hollywood night. *sigh*