The Seven Most Overrated Movies I Can Think Of at the Moment

These movies mostly qualified as highly rated by being on one list or another of critics’ favorites. That means a lot of people who get paid to do so think these movies are truly great, but I watched them and I think they fall somewhere short of “best ever.”  I reserve the right to add to this in the future, as I know there are lot of overrated movies I thankfully haven’t gotten around to being disappointed by.

7. The Shining. Watching Jack Nicholson go mad is mildly creepy and amusing but not all that scary. Watching Shelly Duvall watch him go mad is mildly irritating but not scary. Watching other various scary things you don’t understand unless you’ve read the book is mildly unsettling, but not scary. So, I guess you could say it’s the Citizen Kane of unscary horror films.

8. Pulp Fiction. The Seinfeld movie: a movie about nothing. Is it funny, scary, shocking and at times compelling? Yes. Do I love the funky chronology? Yes. Did I ever I tire of the overly clever and ironic dialog Tarantino loves to write? Eventually. But is it the greatest film of our generation? No: for that a movie’s got to be about something, have something to say about something. But this is, to quote Jules, “one of the ones that became nothing.”

5. 2001: A Space Odyssey. This movie is huge for me – seeing it when I was kid was monumental – but a recent viewing, wherein I nodded off while Dave was flying through some flashing Andy Warhol paintings,  forced me to see that, as good and groundbreaking as it is, it still does not deserve the place it has been given by critics.

4. Some like it Hot. In a word, oversold. Too much praise as one of, if not the funniest movies ever, builds quite a bit of expectation, and promises more than it delivers. Especially if you waited until you were well into your forties as I did. Lots of the humor seems pretty juvenile now. If it weren’t for Marilyn Monroe, would this movie be so revered? Watch a Pink Panther movie instead.

3. The Producers. This movie suffers from the same oversell as Some Like it Hot. When you’re told from birth that this the most hilarious, side-splitting work of comic genius the human race has ever beheld, you expect a lot of laughs. What I got instead was one really good laugh, from a scene/segment many of us have seen more than once, and which was, I’ll grant, even funnier when seen in the context of the whole film. But the rest of the movie, not so much.

2. The Rules of the Game. I love Jean Renoir, and don’t think La Grande Illusion is overrated. And I don’t hate this movie. I like it and recommend it, but it has been ranked very high, even number one on some lists of the best movies of all time. It’s good, but not that good. Come on. Yes, the French give it the number one spot, but remember: number two is The Nutty Professor.

1. M*A*S*H. Hands down, this is number one. I hate this movie. I consider it one of the most deplorable well-known movies I’ve seen. I realize this really sets me apart from the vast majority movie buffs, and even family and friends. Look, the movie has some laughs, but there is just no getting around what a smug, callous, mean, cooler-than-thou stench hangs over this movie. I’ve seen the movie probably three times in my life, and each time was more unpleasant than the last. I find it unwatchable now. It’s the sort of film that actually seems to detract from my humanity just by watching it. I feel something has been taken, and it isn’t just two hours.

I recall that when I saw it as a young person, I was horrified by the shower scene with Sally Kellerman (Houlihan), and utterly perplexed that audiences laughed at it. That pretty much exemplifies what I dislike about the whole thing: it celebrates bullies (The Swampmen), more than any movie I can think of. Sure, they’re hip, free-wheeling and ironic. But it’s the worst instance of bullies: Altman has you rooting for them, because being cool, smart and funny makes them superior to their victims. Barf.

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We found the stone rolled away and the final reel missing

From the Manger to the Cross (1912)

Despite being made ten years later, it seems fitting to compare this movie with The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ (1902-05). Both early silent Jesus movies, they are also both offered to current viewers on the same DVD and likely to be seen by the same audience.

From the Manger to the Cross is an important movie, apart from its subject matter. It was was made on a large budget, was a huge commercial success and was selected in 1998 by the Library of Congress for preservation in its National Film Registry. Director Sidney Olcott was praised as the greatest film director working.

Sidney Olcott 1873-1946

Watching Manger shows how fast the art and craft of cinema was developing in its early days. In most respects this careful American production, shot on location in Palestine, is superior to its French predecessor. The acting is much improved, and in place of theatrical sets and costumes,  locations, costumes and extras lend more authenticity to the experience. It has more of a narrative flow to it, using intertitles that include dialogue and quotes form the King James Version setting up each scene.

It is a more sober telling of the story. The pace is relaxed. The special effects take a back seat to the realism of the setting and performances. Though the camera does not move, the actors freely within the space, and different angles are sometimes used. The composition and blocking are much more sophisticated.

Gene Gauntier 1885-1966

Two of the performances should be noted. Mary the mother of Jesus is an older, down to earth woman, far from overwhelmed by the burden she has received. There is a fascinating scene that I think I have figured out.  In Nazareth, Mary and Jesus, age 12, are sitting together just outside Joseph’s shop. While Joseph seems to be fumbling with his work, Mary is holding up a scroll, presumably of the Scriptures, and they are reading and discussing it together. It is not clear who is learning from whom; perhaps they are learning together. Is this a suffragette Mary? Given the era, this seems a remarkable insertion into a fairly spare retelling.

I wondered about this until I recalled that Mary is played by the remarkable film pioneer Gene Gauntier – actress, director and screenwriter – who also wrote the script for this film. I believe that, like the renaissance masters, she has painted herself into the picture: a student of Scripture, sitting with Jesus.

Then there is Jesus. Robert Henderson-Bland has given us a better performance , with greater emotional range, including smiling here and grieving there. But  other choices make Jesus out to be a pretty cool customer at times. He puts on a nonchalance, turning away from amazed onlookers after a miracle as if t’were no big deal. After turning the water into wine, he saunters back to his seat. “Yeah, that’s how I party, folks.”

There are little flourishes and details that are interesting and unexpected. The last supper shows everyone actually reclining rather than sitting, and Jesus is shown carrying a tau cross – both indications Gauntier did her research. Mary of Bethany has the most delightful look of pleasure when Jesus admonishes her sister. The priests are particularly wicked, laughing out loud at Judas when he throws the money down and runs away in remorse. The passion is very violent, bloody even. It must have been genuinely intense viewing for a 1912 audience. The mockery and other abuse is ugly, as it should be. The crucifixion is realistic and beautifully shot.

The most stunning surprise of this movie shouldn’t have surprised me at all, because it’s in the title. When Jesus dies on the cross, the story ends. Intertitle with John 3:16. Roll credits. Movie over.

Wow. When they said from the manger to the cross, that’s just what they meant. No burial, no garden tomb, no resurrection. Yes, I was – and am – very surprised that a movie made for American audiences in 1912 ends with a dead Jesus.

If you were planning your Easter to include a Jesus movie, you should skip this one.

Animated Icon

The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ
(La Vie et la Passion de Jésus Christ) (1902-5)

I have intended for some time to post short reviews of the major Jesus biopics, so here goes. There are many more films in this class than you or I would have access to, so I am limiting myself to those that are available on Netflix. You may be able to find more if you seek out DVDs for sale. Many more are discussed at Matt Page’s Bible Films Blog.

It seems superfluous to comment on a movie for you, when you can sample it or view it in its entirety for yourself by clicking your mouse. Nevertheless, I have a few thoughts.

The Life and Passion
is an early and primitive movie, but one made by the best producers in the world at that time, Pathé Frères of Paris. It was originally made in 1902, then scenes were added until it took its final form in 1905. You can now find an amazingly well preserved print of this 44-minute feature superbly transferred to DVD. On the same disc they’ve included 1912’s From the Manger to the Cross, which I will review shortly.

This was a popular film, lively, colorful and Catholic in its point of view. It used elaborate if not convincing sets and costumes, and employed the best of special effects at the time, including the pain-staking process of hand-tinting: adding colors to the picture by painting them directly onto the black and white print, frame by frame. The film deserves some respect for the care, creativity and energy the cast and crew put into it.

Hardly anyone watches silent films anymore. As it would be hard to find anyone younger than myself (born 1963) who grew up with easy access to them (even though they are even easier to find now, on DVD), mine may be the last generation that watched and enjoyed them. I started with Chaplin around age nine, then Lon Chaney and Buster Keaton, and as I got older, added Griffith, Murnau and Lang. To appreciate them calls for a suspension of current standards in acting and film-making technique. You need to see them for what they were at the time, given the limitations they worked under. Do that, and you will marvel at the genius, artistry, innovation, unbridled creativity and sheer insanity some of these brilliant pioneers gave to the world. To this day, people are still watching and enjoying Murnau’s Sunrise and Nosferatu, Lang’s Metropolis and Chaplin’s City Lights.

At the same time, I don’t expect the average viewer today is going to enjoy most of early cinema’s lesser achievements. The Life and the Passion would probably fall into this category: it is technically marvelous for its time, but undeveloped in its story-telling and old-fashioned in its performances. When you see what was being produced in the mid-to-late 1920s, the turn of the century films are rightly deemed primitive. The camera might pan, but it doesn’t move (see the Nazareth scene). There are no close-ups. There is no montage, not even simple cross-cutting. In fact, there are no separate shots, only one master shot. (The year 1903 saw most of those innovations for the first time in Edwin Porter’s Life of an American Fireman and The Great Train Robbery.)

With that in mind, I offer some comments for the modern viewer.

The Baptism of Jesus

Even with the kinetic energy and technical flourishes, it’s a little hard to look past the essential goofiness of this film. Through 21st century eyes it most resembles a Nativity pageant at the corner church, albeit with spectacular stagecraft. Shot in a series of tableaux scenes, there is no real narrative thread to connect them, so it it doesn’t flow or connect. “Scenes from the Life of Christ” might have been a better title. The intertitles identify each scene, but there are none that explain the action or provide dialogue. If you are not familiar with any of the stories portrayed, you are unlikely to have any idea what is happening in them. Possibly for the original, more biblically-literate audience, this was not much of a problem, since at that time the entertainment value was inherent any moving image. Add the spectacle, the miracles, real babies for the Slaughter of the Innocents, the appearance of Jesus, and well, you’ve got a happy audience.

In this early effort some of the challenges, solutions and failings of later Jesus movies are already presenting themselves. Here the legend of Veronica is used, found in Catholic tradition but not in the gospel narratives. Also, we find the conflation of stories, presumably for economy’s sake – an acceptable but potentially confusing adaptation (see this at 21:23 in the video below). Good Friday is bloodless, until  Jesus is “pierced” (actually tapped with a stick dipped in fake blood) by the centurion: the scourging (at 32:05) consists of Jesus being lashed with silk scarves for 11 seconds.

"That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

Let’s talk about Jesus. One of my keenest interests in Jesus movies is the portrayal each offers of Jesus himself, a role that poses serious challenges for the best of actors. I will have more to say about this in later reviews. For now, let me speculate that this actor (I haven’t been able to discover his name) was given a free hand in developing a physical presence in this film. In fact, the performances of both the 12 year old  Jesus and the adult Jesus  suggest the actors were having a lot of fun playing him. A little too much fun, perhaps. Not that he is merry. No, he is grand. Instead of being humble and unassuming, he sweeps through the scenes, with big, “Hey, look at me” gestures, waving his arms, lecturing everyone with his index finger, and making a big deal whenever his attention is turned heavenward. At least once it appears that he points at the ground as if he were telling the Samaritan woman to kneel before him (at 18:42; Jesus allowed people to worship him, but he never told them to.). This Jesus looks like the aging proprietor of a head shop or a roadie for the Grateful Dead, but he acts like a low-level bureaucrat that just got made king of the world.

So even with the stagey acting and frenetic pace that quickens to almost farcical speed as it winds up to its climax (The Ascension: It’s spectacular, but it ill-advisedly shows God the Father as a grey-haired old man, ala Gary Larson’s The Far Side);  its flat, fake scenery; its lack of continuity; even with all that, I must choose the portrayal of a show-boating Jesus (“Everybody watch me turn this water into wine!”) as the most serious flaw in this movie. Their first task was to tell a good story, but 110 years ago the conventions of doing that on film were not yet established, so I won’t hold them to that standard. But I will fault them for a hammy, grandiose Jesus who gesticulates but never connects with another person. How could you read any of the gospels and not at least observe the deeply personal connection he makes with everyone who approaches him? There’s nothing even remotely like that here. He is an eccentrically animated icon, nothing more.

This points to one of the supreme challenges for the makers of a Jesus movie: how to bring him to life. Knowing him would seem to be absolutely necessary for the attempt, or at least a genuine sense that one knows him – as a writer, as a director, and as an actor must know their subject. Some actors have been honest enough to say that they struggled with how to play him. Other filmmakers have brought something running the spectrum from admiration to love for him. But it is almost a sure bet that the cultural perspectives of the time will have a lot to do with the image of Jesus. In this case a traditional, French Catholic image, as presented by a studio rather fixed on the business of entertainment and on technological innovation, peopled by creative entrepreneurs and artists. “Let’s make a Jesus movie! Oui! Angels! Stars! Miracles!”

But enough of my opinion (or had that already crossed your mind?) – Watch it for yourself. And just for fun, see if you can find the completely weird placement of the Pathé rooster in almost every scene.

Passing on The Passion

It’s been more than six and a half years since The Passion of the Christ was released. I still have not seen it. This is by choice, not by chance. Since I am writing a series of reviews of all the major films that portray the story of Jesus, I thought I should explain why this one – by far the most popular and highest-grossing Jesus movie ever – is being omitted, at least for the time being.

My reasons are both personal and theological. Let me say at the outset that my reasons have nothing to do with the man who made the film, Mel Gibson. Even though I think his personal life indicates that he is a deeply troubled man with some serious failings, that alone would not keep me from seeing it. After all, Richard Wagner was at least as flawed, and I listen to his music. Also, the fact that the film was controversial would not have kept me away. The Last Temptation of Christ was also controversial, and I saw it. More on this point later.

The film was released three months, almost to the day, after the death of our 13-year-old son in an automobile accident. At the time our 11-year-old daughter had just awoken from two and a half months in a coma, and my wife was living at the hospital with her. At this point any sensible person would say that alone was reason enough why I wouldn’t go running off to the movies. But actually, just once I had gone to the movies (The Return of the King). And I wish I hadn’t, at least when I did. But one typically considers seeing a movie when everyone else is seeing it, when it is being widely discussed and, in this case, debated.

I went though a lot of anguish and inner struggle over having lost my son. As a Christian, it was not a crisis of faith so much as a trial of faith. I felt like the soldier on the battlefield who is having his leg amputated after the anesthetic has run out. I know I can live through it, and know I must endure it, but that does not take the pain away. Will the fire refine me or burn me up?

One thought that kept recurring was that God the Father had also lost His Son to the grave. I would always think, “Yes, but that was only for three days; this is for the rest of our lives.” I eventually came to believe that the difference I perceive between three days and the rest of my life will someday evaporate in light of eternity. If you were to say, “But God knew that His Son’s death was only temporary,” I would say, “So do I.”

All of this to say, I couldn’t contemplate watching a whole movie that focused on Jesus’ death. Death had gutted me: I’d had enough of it. “Well, it wasn’t just any death. Maybe it would have helped.” I doubt it.

Another reason: I was horrified at reports of people walking into the theater with their little kids, buckets of popcorn and half-liters of pop as if they settling in for Toy Story. This is not just a movie, and it is certainly not for the little ones. This is like Schindler’s List or Saving Private Ryan. It calls you to witness a harrowing portrayal of suffering that will not amuse you. It is not entertainment. Perhaps in a few months I could sit through such an experience, but I could not sit with such an audience. I certainly could not abide people subjecting their children to such an ordeal. I would have to watch it alone.

I know that the movie was charged with portrayals that some took as anti-Jewish (The movie had Jewish defenders as well as detractors). Without having seen the movie, let me assume that it reflects the gospel narratives. The gospels have a polemic nature, so there are antagonists and protagonists. It should be pointed out that while some of the antagonists are Jews, practically all of the protagonists are. But more significant is that, while in Jesus’ arrest and trials the key actors are the Jewish leaders, in his execution there is a clear and necessary joining of Jewish power and Gentile (Roman) power. Any fair reading of the texts would bear this out. This fact also has a theological significance for the early church:

So when they (the Christians) heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of Your servant David have said:
‘Why did the nations (Gentiles) rage,
And the people plot vain things?
The kings of the earth took their stand,
And the rulers were gathered together
Against the LORD and against His Christ.’
For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.” (Acts 4:24-28 NKJV)(Parentheticals mine.)

Jew and Gentile, who were separate and opposed, came together in agreement that Jesus should die. In this collaboration they represent all of humanity. Luke, the only Gentile NT writer, makes a point of telling us,

That very day Pilate and Herod became friends with each other, for previously they had been at enmity with each other. Lk. 23:12

Of course, I would have to see the movie to know for sure, but if the charge is that the movie is anti-Jewish because the New Testament is, I don’t accept the premise. Just because the Jewish leaders are villains does not make the narrative anti-Jewish. All the the heroes are Jewish as well – not the least the rabbi Yeshua himself.

Finally, my interest in the film is dampened by by the apparent emphasis it has on the gruesome nature of Christ’s sufferings. I have no doubt that the torture and mutilation it shows is without exaggeration. I have seen plenty of stills, and a few clips from the movie. I have also seen most of the major Jesus movies, with their typically mild depiction of the passion. Tiny stripes with little streaks of blood. This is for two obvious reasons that I can think of and one less obvious. The audiences and the level of violence that both they and the censors (when they reigned) would have tolerated would not permit of a graphic rendering of Jesus’ torture. Second, most people would like to consider the story of Jesus a family movie, and not want the little children of the world to be exposed to such horrors. The less obvious reason is that most Jesus movies, from the silent era on, drew their imagery and staging from Christian iconography – most commendably from great renaissance painting and sculpture…

…and more regrettably from lesser forms of popular art, like those found in old family bibles or on prayer cards.

The Passion is to those sanitized portraits, I imagine, what P.O.D. is to Evie.

But I think there is an even more important consideration. I have sat through at least a half dozen sermons in my life that did in words what The Passion has done on film: draw attention to the gore and mutilation of the passion. The speaker usually goes for the effect of horror or revulsion and then says something to the effect of, “He suffered all of this for you.”

And it’s true. He did suffer these things on behalf of everyone of us. The New Testament says this very clearly, and I do not disagree. But what it does not include is any of the vivid details. That’s because it was neither necessary – most readers and hearers were all too familiar with the cruel practices of the day – nor was it central to the point of His sufferings.

The meaning of His suffering is profound, and it is considered from more than one perspective in the NT. We are to understand it as the ultimate form of humilty and obedience.

And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Php. 2:8

It is a model of suffering for us, that is, it makes our character and conforms it more to Christ’s.

For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. Heb. 12:3

It paid the penalty in full for all the sins of the world.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit…1Pe. 3:18

And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. 1Jn. 2:2

It reveals the full extent of God’s love for humanity.

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1Jn. 4:10

To understand this should not require – and apparently the writers of the NT agreed – a detailed mental image of butchery and mutilation. The point of His torture and death is spiritual and theological not physiological. To have witnessed the events would have elicited an R-rating, but to understand what they meant in the fullest sense certainly does not.

Perhaps someday I may feel differently about the prospect of watching The Passion of the Christ. From what I have read, it is an extraordinary film. But it is hard for me to foresee gaining so much from it that it would outweigh the ordeal of watching it.

Straw Wars

(Warning: There there is an outside chance that reading this post will throw some very cold water on the fire of your love for the Star Wars films. If this is unacceptable to you, skip it. – SD)

This week my dazzling bride was teaching Sunday school and I was assisting. One of the boys, age 8, said, “Today I’m going to watch Star Wars!”

“Which one?” I asked.

“One,” he responded, minimalistically.

“With the little guy.”

“Uh-huh.”

“And the metacholorians.”

“The what?”

“Better ask your dad to explain it. Fun stuff. And the trade embargo. Very exciting.”

“What?”

Two thoughts came to mind. One is, I may be a little too facetious for the first- and second-graders class. But that will be for another post.

The other is that I am still mourning my lost love for Star Wars. Even though its been exactly eleven years since the first of the last three films began to undermine my enjoyment of the first three films, it still irritates me that the sterile, fun-free, computer-generated episodes have the effect of diminishing movies that were a kind of cultural laser cannon cutting through the nihilistic gloom of 70s cinema.

How did this happen? Well, it feels as if your grandpa dragged all your childhood toys out of a closet and pounded the daylights out of them for six hours. You can revive your enjoyable memories, but you’ll never look at them or grandpa the same way.

Grandpa is, of course, George Lucas. He took all your old imaginary friends and pounded every last sign of life out of them. He made them silly and boring. He bogged them down in trade disputes, embargoes and – heaven help us – politics. Worst of all, he infected all three films with something the first three were refreshingly absent: cynicism. Yuck. For that I can go back and watch old Billy Wilder films. His cynicism was at least entertaining. None of my kids at any age have had the least notion of what these movies are about. Heroism? Valor? Good versus evil? Outnumbered democratic republicans versus the evil empire?

Uh, no. It’s about the whiniest, moodiest teenage Jedi punk you ever laid eyes on.

Sorry kids, in this movie the good guys stand around, clueless and feckless, muttering dark suspicions while the empire rises under their noses. Fun for the whole family!

When Episode One came out, I told my friends that I thought Lucas had failed in deciding who the films should be about. He chose Annakin Skywalker, committing himself to a downward, suspense-free story arc in which the main character sinks ever deeper into himself and the dark side. It was bound to be a complete bummer, and as it turned out, it was. In my view, the story in these episodes should have been about Obi-wan Kenobi.

Here’s why. In episodes 4 – 6, it was Obi-wan that represented the heroic era of the Jedi upholding justice and goodness in the last days of the Republic. I would have shown the Republic in its glory, with Obi-wan as it’s central hero. Heroism, after all, is at the core of the old movies. Lucas, now a rather cynical used-to-be, has given us instead a darkly political-economic (instead of moral) view of the Republic as the late Weimar (with passing suggested equivalence with US), a rotting corpse of a state ready to be displaced by energized fascists. Again, yuck. (In other words, Lucas has shown us what Star Wars would have been like if he had been in the same gloomy mood as the rest of Hollywood in the late 70s.)

Showing the glory days of the Republic would have illustrated what it was that the Rebels were later fighting for so valiantly. It would have made sense. And it would have been fun, just maybe. In my story, the Skywalker story would have been secondary, and probably confined to the third and perhaps the second episode. Sure, show the rise of the Empire, but for crying out loud, have something decent to contrast it with! Lucas gave us a completely lame Republic that left us wondering what the rebels would have even been fighting for 20 years later. Sadly, I’m afraid it is Lucas himself who could no longer pretend to believe there is anything worth fighting for, so, in a sense, if there is such a faith in the old movies, he has now renounced it.

By contrast, consider the theme in the vastly superior Lord of the Rings tilogy:

Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?

Sam: That there’s some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.

- From The Two Towers

LOTR managed to portray evil in three dimensions, while rejecting both naivete and cynicism. Star Wars, all six films, suffer so much in comparison to this masterpiece of mythic – truly mythic – storytelling, that it is hard for me to ever see the old movies the way I did as a teenager when they were new.

In fact, the supposed mythic underpinnings of the first three films are quite open to question. This salon.com article from 2002 blows some big holes in the SW mythical mythmaking.

Lucas has made many statements such as this one in an interview in the April 26, 1999 issue of Time:

“With ‘Star Wars’ I consciously set about to re-create myths and the classic mythological motifs,” Lucas says. “I wanted to use those motifs to deal with issues that exist today.”

The Salon piece by Steven Hart points out that Lucas’ “inspiration” for SW was largely pulp sci-fi (and more respected works), not the mythic themes of the ancient epic story-tellers. But grasping the weight that could be lent his films by making such claims, Lucas, sometime after the first film was out, began citing, not old sci-fi pulp mags and paperbacks, but revered samurai films and the writings of Joseph Campbell (who himself deserves to be taken down a few credibility notches). These claims have only grown more pompous and inflated over the years. And his attempt to “deal with issues that exist today,” accounts for most of my complaints about the last three episodes. If I wanted him to do that, I’d suggest he get a cable news show. I prefer he tell a good story and have some fun doing it. I personally don’t need an intellectual or high-culture justification for enjoying a movie. Especially a fake one.

In spite of all this, I can actually still find enjoyment, even if diminished, in the first three films. But I have to try to forget all the silly claims of seriousness and purported involuntary submission of my subconscious mind to George Lucas’ all-powerful myth-making skills. I have to try and watch them as I did when I was was a thirteen-year-old boy watching Star Wars for the first time at the movie theater in Seaside, Oregon in the summer of 1977. I had been nurtured on Ray Harryhausen, Arthur Clarke, Ray Bradbury and Rod Serling, but rarely had experienced their kind of story telling on the big screen. Star Wars exploded before our eyes with magic, imagination, heroism and fun.

That’s why we loved it, George.