Will anticipation kill The Force Awakens?

Star Wars fans waited in anticipation. The trailer for the new Star Wars film, The Phantom Menace, was going to premiere in theaters. First, rumors spread that the trailer would be attached to Wing Commander, also a 20th Century Fox film. Then, the rumors, and later confirmed reports, placed it in front of Meet Joe Black.

The anticipation for this new trailer in November of 1998 was huge. I went to see Wing Commander hoping to see the trailer. Instead, I saw a bunch of trailers to movies I didn’t care about. And I had to watch Wing Commander.

Phantom Menace Darth Maul

In retrospect, Darth Maul was still a badass!

As a New York Times article reported at the time, people bought tickets to Meet Joe Black, watched The Phantom Menace trailer, and left before Brad Pitt ever walked on screen. Also, the response to the trailer was incredibly positive.

Now, of course, everyone says they knew The Phantom Menace would stink – a sentiment I still don’t exactly agree with. The Phantom Menace is a weak film, but still has a lot to offer. Roger Ebert wrote a very positive review of the film, stating:

What [George Lucas] does have, in abundance, is exhilaration. There is a sense of discovery in scene after scene of “The Phantom Menace,” as he tries out new effects and ideas, and seamlessly integrates real characters and digital ones, real landscapes and imaginary places. We are standing at the threshold of a new age of epic cinema, I think, in which digital techniques mean that budgets will no longer limit the scope of scenes; filmmakers will be able to show us just about anything they can imagine.

And while it’s easy to look at Rotten Tomatoes and see all the negative reviews, most of them are in hindsight. A review written a decade after The Phantom Menace has its value, but it fails to represent the zeitgeist of the era in which The Phantom Menace was released. Looking back at the reviews featured on Rotten Tomatoes, a pattern emerges, especially in reviews from the time the film was released, the mixed reviews included some that hated the film and others that loved the film.

Kylo Ren the force awakens star wars

You see Darth Maul had a double-edged light saber. Kylo Ren has a broad-sword-style light saber. Originality has no end!

Yet, here we are again, 16 years after The Phantom Menace. The Force Awakens, the first Star Wars film made without the input of George Lucas, is being released in a few weeks. Fans on YouTube and on online forums have praised the trailers. The anticipation grows. Many fans have said this will finally wash the bad taste of the prequels out humanity’s collective consciousness. However, I believe fan reaction will be similar to the prequels. At first, there will be excitement. Then, derision.

I worry that fan expectation will ruin the new Star Wars films.

Star Wars has become something bigger than a series of movies, with books, comics, toys, video games, and pajamas attached. It has become a religion for many. Fans have built an expectation of what they individually believe Star Wars should be. If Jesus came back today, would he be accepted by the gun-worshiping conservatives, who out of one side of their mouth worship him as the Prince of Peace, yet walk around fanning the flames of violence? Or would Jesus, who taught that the Jewish law would last forever, be accepted by liberal Christians who believe in multiple paths to God? The point is this – Star Wars cannot please all fans. Many, nearly all, fans I read on the Internet, say the new movies need to be more adult because Star Wars needs to mature with them as they get older.

Bullshit! Are fans who discovered Star Wars in the late 80s or early 90s really saying that Star Wars needs to mature at the rate they mature? I was there, May 1977, at my local theater. I was eight and wanted to see this new movie. It was like a born again experience when that little ship was chased by that gigantic triangular star ship. For me to say that Star Wars needs to be in line with my near-50 mentality and exclude everyone else is a sign of religious zeal and not a love of the films.

And for those who somehow think Rogue One is going to be the adult Star Wars film, I have one word: Disney.

I appreciate the anticipation for The Force Awakens. I’m not writing this to say that I think it will be bad. I like a lot of what I’ve seen in the trailers. I want it to be an amazing experience. However, it is being made by Disney, which is mainly in the business of branding. And the signs are there that this is a film made to meet “fan” expectation. Nearly every scene in the trailers mirrors something from the original trailer. Hell, the poster shows that we are getting a new, improved Death Star. It was good enough for two movies, why not three? Screw originality!

And I like J.J. Abrams, but his theatrical films have been derivative at best. Mission Impossible III was good, but it was a sequel. His Star Trek films run from the very entertaining, but stupid, first film and the atrocity that is Star Trek into Darkness. Neither film had much respect for the 40-plus years fans had invested in the characters. Elements like Khan and tribbles were thrown in, not to please fans, but because the general population knows those things, and not much else. As a matter of fact, both of Abrams’ Star Trek films demonstrate a clear disrespect for fans, who don’t represent enough money to cater to, and the general public, which the films seems to believe are too shallow to want any real emotions in their movies.

But, in his defense, Abrams had little to do with the writing on those films. In the special features for Star Trek into Darkness, he seems professional about the process of making the film, yet never shows a real enthusiasm toward the series. With the Star Wars series, he seems more involved, not just as a filmmaker, but as someone who loves the galaxy far, far away.

I sympathize with the anticipation fans are showing toward the new Star Wars films. As fans, we have been told almost nothing about the new film. I hope everyone involved knocks it out of the park, pleasing critics, fans, and kids.

And by the way, if you are not watching Star Wars Rebels, why not? The animated series is pure Star Wars, yet introduces new concepts and ideas. It’s geared toward a young audience, pre-teens and early teens, yet has compelling stories, great action, and wonderful characters. At 47, should I be embarrassed that I’m watching something on Disney XD? I don’t think so. It sucks me into the adventure every time. Hopefully The Force Awakens will do the same.

©  Paul George and The Reno Signal, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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Wild West Shootout 2014

IMG_20141210_0001The Wild West Shootout was held the first week of December in Reno, Nevada. The competition is held to raise funds and support for the Sierra Kids Foundation, which raises funds to help low-income families dealing with the challenges of having an young autistic child.

The 2014 Shootout made nearly $14,000 for this cause. High School teams from Nevada, Arizona, and California came to participate in the event.

For the third year in a row, Jax Marketing’s Jackie Shelton asked me to write an article for the event’s program. I happily accepted the assignment, which was a challenge because I now live in Massachusetts.

But also because, just as I started the assignment, I received news that my grandson Darius, 2, had just been diagnosed with autism. While this did not affect my article, it did make me stop and think a little more about the SKF and what it does.

“The Road to Reno” is a two-page article about the schools that came to Reno from other cities. I also wrote a second piece “Wild West Shootout Facts,” which collects interesting facts about the schools involved.

©  Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Reno Signal Goes East

As a teenager, basketball star Kevin Johnson went to the gym every evening to practice. One evening the janitor said to him, “Kevin, it’s Saturday night. Why aren’t you out at parties, like everybody else?”

“Parties,” Johnson replied, “won’t take me where I want to go.”

(Mack and Casstevens 2001)

This is a good representation of what I look like when I'm writing. (Image courtesy of Nickelodeon)

This is a good representation of what I look like when I’m writing. (Image courtesy of Nickelodeon)

In 2009, I enrolled in college, looking for an opportunity to escape my dead-end career in bookkeeping and start a new career as a writer.

I graduated May 2014 with the hope of getting work as a journalist, copy writer, or social media writer. After one year, more than a thousand résumés, and four job interviews, I have come to the realization that Reno will not “take me where I want to go.”

In Reno, my degree makes me worth less than when I had no degree. It seems spending four years in college and getting outstanding grades means minimum wage in this town. And it isn’t because of a change in careers – starting at the bottom again.  The best job I’ve been able to get is a part-time job as a mail clerk.

And I’m sick of living on beans and rice.

So, where to go?

brockton boxersI am moving to Brockton, Massachusetts, a city about twenty miles south of Boston. Not only do I have family there, but the opportunities for someone with my skills are much better in Boston.

 

img003I spent a chunk of my teen years in Massachusetts, attending Brockton High School and, later, Taunton High School. However, aside from a few short visits, I have not been in New England since 1990. So this move is a bit of an adventure.

 

What does this mean for The Reno Signal? I’m not sure. I have another month in Reno, so expect a few more posts before I leave. I plan to continue blogging, but will have to decide whether or not to keep this URL.

 

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Thanks to everyone that has checked out my blog. I’ve tried to make something useful.

Peace!

Tony George

 

Boston's public transit includes a train system that runs throughout the eastern part of the state.  I'm intimidated already!

Boston’s public transit includes a train system that runs throughout the eastern part of the state. I’m intimidated already!

Bibliography

Mack, Gary, and David Casstevens. Mind Gym. New York: McGraw Hill, 2001.

 

 

I Can’t Wait for Captain America to Return!

So, I usually write about what’s going on in Reno or a movie review  (because maybe you live in Reno and are wondering if a movie is worth checking out). But I try not to show my excitement about a movie. My goal is to review a movie as is, not what I hope it is. But today is an exception.


I am seeing Captain America: The Winter Soldier tomorrow night with my youngest son, 14. I enjoyed the first a lot. The first half was one of the better origin stories in Marvel’s cinematic universe. The second half was a more traditional comic-based story.

What I love about Captain America, in comics and in the movies, is that he’s a good guy because he wants to be.  He has abilities superior to the average man and he wants to help. I think, a midst the tortured souls of the Marvel Universe, he does what he does because it’s the right thing to do.

I know almost nothing about the new Captain America movie, other than what has been in the trailers. It looks like Cap putting his all-American ideals against those who have corrupted the spirit of the nation. If so, I’m in. I really look forward to this film. I hope to have my review up by Friday morning.

Peace!

P.S. I may have had a bit too much red wine while writing this.

Copyright 2014 Tony George

How Wal-Mart Saved My Life

While working at Wal-Mart, I took on the name Tony. For me, changing my name liberated me from much of my toxic past.

While working at Wal-Mart, I took on the name Tony. For me, changing my name liberated me from much of my toxic past.

“One’s real life is so often the life that one does not lead.” – Oscar Wilde

At 39, I was overweight, defecting from a cult-like and hypocritical religion, and, ultimately, in a state of self-hatred after nearly two decades married to a woman who never said she loved me once. I had no money and spent months looking for something in accounting.

I spent most of my marriage unemployed. I had become severely ill, so it was better that my wife worked while I took care of the kids. I was a great househusband. I cooked, cleaned, changed diapers, and helped the kids with homework.

Then it all ended and I needed a job. I tested, frequently, for city and state positions, scoring in the top two or three of all those who took the assessments. Interviewer after interviewer said the same thing; you haven’t worked in years. We need someone who knows the current accounting rules, they said. Accounting rules, by the way, haven’t changed in decades.

Desperate, I applied at Wal-Mart. I immediately got a call and started orientation the next week. I’ve joked that, as a consumer, Wal-Mart is a bit of an abusive relationship that I always go back to. Now I was going to be a cashier there.

Self-hatred is a difficult thing. My marriage had a lot of problems, and there’s symbolic blood on both my hands and hers. My contribution to failure was this; how can a man love his wife when he hates himself?

I was happy to have a job, but self-loathing haunted me, a hungry ghost of the past looking to feed off my negative thoughts. And I knew it. While going through orientation, I had to put together my name tag. I was told I could use a nickname if I wanted. I always liked my middle name, Anthony, more that my first name, so I put “Tony” down as my name.

This seemingly small change made a large difference. Paul was a sad guy; feeling like life had beaten him into the ground. As his soon-to-be-ex-wife said to him frequently, he was unlovable. Paul had emotional baggage and regrets. Paul was shy. Paul dwelled on his problems, but rarely could find a solution.

It wasn’t intentional, really. But Tony was a friendly guy. Everyone at Wal-Mart liked Tony. And Tony filed divorce.

And soon I became Tony George. Only my supervisors knew my name was legally Paul. I came to work, put a smile on my face, and responded to customers with warmth and sincerely. Many people came to my line because they knew, not only was a fast at my job, I talked to people and made them feel better when they left than when they came in.

Wal-Mart drew me out of my shell of emotional abuse. Paul dwelled in self-pity. Tony encouraged co-workers to go to school and better their lives. Paul saw a life of pain and suffering and had no way out of it. Tony meditated, accepted suffering, and looked for ways to move on.

At Wal-Mart, I had to be friendly and helpful, even when I felt like running of and crying. My focus became the people in front of me, not my problems. I learned to talk to people by using their interests as the subject.

Wal-Mart did not literally save my life. In Barbara Ehrenreich’s book “Nickel and Dimed,” she writes about her experience working at Wal-Mart. I read her book about a year after leaving Wal-Mart. And my experience with the company matches hers a lot, especially the training and the anti-labor messages.

I was in no position to date; I was going through a divorce. Not only was I not ready, I truly believed that getting involved before the judge put her signature on the divorce was wrong. But my female customers were so positive.

“You are too handsome and charming to be working at a Wal-Mart.”

“So what days do you work here? … Well, I’d better make sure I show up on those days.”

“Oh my God, you smell wonderful!”

The last one was by a 13-year-old girl. I think her comment was innocent in intent. Her mom, however, practically dragged her away.

But I needed that kind of environment. It helped me build my confidence. As that grew, so did my warmth and friendliness with others.

My year at Wal-Mart was the best therapy I could have. I had been seeing a therapist, who commented that my determination to become someone better was inspiring.

Then I slipped. The city of Reno offered me a job, which I gladly took. I enjoyed the job very much. While, like any government job, there was too much needless paperwork, my position as a program director benefitted many of Reno’s seniors and disabled citizens. I learned much about dealing with people at Wal-Mart, and I brought this attitude to my new position.

But dammit! My nametag said “Paul,” and getting it changed was a nearly impossible challenge. So I was called Paul again. And some of those old feelings came back with the name. After getting laid off from the city, I started college. Again, Tony got shoved aside by Paul. And I let it happen.

College was the best experience of my life, and you are welcome to read about it here. The last few semesters were incredibly difficult, and I stumbled a bit. Yet, I loved school.

But I was still Paul. There’s still some baggage to that name. I opened up a lot during my four years in college, but still tended to be that shy guy. Given my height and build, people interpret “shy” as “mob enforcer.” Actually, I’m a sweetheart.

So, I’ve decided to start using Tony as my name, socially and professionally. Let’s see how that works out.

Over the course of some future blogs, I am going to open up about the events that led to my divorce and why it was the best decision I ever made. Wait, didn’t I just say going to school was my best experience ever? Both are true. I could have never gone to school married to this person. She even admitted shortly before I graduated that she would never have allowed it.

If you are unhappy, either with your life or you, only you can change it. It will not be easy, but you have to consider the possibility that you are not living your life right now. You are living someone else’s version of your life.

Hello Blogosphere, It’s Me, Paul

So … any of you who have visited this blog have surely noticed the dearth of new entries. This has been an incredibly busy few weeks.

I have been involved in the Nevada Media Alliance, a nonprofit project funded by the Reynolds School of Journalism. Our goal has been to cover the Nevada Legislature, which begins in a few days. The project has reeked havoc on my schedule. Additionally, I have been interning at KOLO 8 in Reno, learning to write news for broadcast.

However, I do plan to be back at this blog soon.

Please stay tuned!