Archive for May 2005
I reposted my review of Revenge of the Sith on rec.arts.sf.written. An interesting discussion ensued, in the course of which one person pointed out that despite my skepticism, I did, after all, go to see the film in the first place. My reply to that poster, suitably cleaned up and hyperlinked.
Until now, I’ve thought of myself as a reasonably critical and selective consumer of popular culture, evaluating myself as quite competent to deal with science fiction since I’d exposed myself to so much of it. I only became familiar with the Star Wars Expanded Universe after I saw the movie and wanted to figure out what was going on, I refrained from seeing The Phantom Menace in theatres because the reviews were so uniformly bad, and I dropped Enterprise after the first season not because they didn’t tell us whether Andor was orbiting Epsilon Indi or Procyon but rather because the writers too frequently neglected to compose good stories. And yes, in case you’re wondering, I live a thousand kilometers from my parents’ basement, and while it is true that I have not yet kissed a girl I do have, um, legitimate excuses.
Why did I go see it? I thought myself well-briefed on the plot of Revenge of the Sith, and I was excited. Love, betrayal, grand political drama: This, I thought excitedly, could bring Star Wars close(r) to the level of Greek tragedy. Although the first of the new films mainly made me marvel at its impressive number of offensive ethnic stereotypes and the second struck me as half-sketched, I thought that the third could be different. A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back were each good films for their time, and I think that they continue to stand up well now. The first two movies, I’d reasoned, were flawed because they were of necessity open-ended. Surely the third movie, which had to end with the situation we witnessed in the first trilogy, would be better? I underestimated George Lucas’ talent for making bad movies.
You could say that seeing _Revenge of the Sith_ last Thursday was a waste of time, in the sense that I could have been doing something else for the two hours and change that I spent watching that film. I wouldn’t want to say that, though. Whatever the film’s cinematic failings, it ably served a variety of useful social roles. I got to do something other than poison my liver; I got to hang out to interesting friends; I got to partake on the final chapter of what is still a major cultural icon. _Star Wars_ might not be a very good collection of movies, after all, but it’s certainly an important one. It’s rather depressing that something better hasn’t taken _Star Wars_’ position in global popular culture, true. Does it really matter that much so long as we remain aware of this fact?
One thing that I will do in the future, mind, is find movie reviewers I trust. I’ve no idea what George Lucas paid or threatened to do to the reviewers who said the film was decent, but hopefully there are some critics out there who can’t be bought.
Sally Cole’s article “At home in Japan”, up at the website of the Charlottetown Guardian, describes how Islanders at Expo 2005 experienced the glowing reception given to all things Prince Edward Island in Japan.
The award-winning East Coast group consisting of Kim Stockwood, Damhnait Doyle and MacLean gave nine performances during their two- week engagement at the Canadian pavilion in Nagoya.
This city quickly became the P.E.I. home away from home for Japanese visitors, many of whom had travelled to Canada’s smallest province to follow in Island author L.M. Montgomery’s footsteps.
“It was so much fun. We learned to introduce our songs in Japanese,” says MacLean, who grew up in Charlottetown.
And everywhere she went, that feeling of pride continued to grow.
When Duncan McIntosh and Kate Macdonald Butler, who is a granddaughter of Montgomery, showed a slide show about Prince Edward Island during a press conference, MacLean felt that her heart was going to burst.
“It was just so wonderful to be somewhere else in the world and discover that P.E.I.–the place where I come from–brings so much love and joy to so many people,” she says.
McIntosh and Butler were there to announce a year-long celebration of the 100th anniversary of the publication of Montgomery’s most famous novel, Anne of Green Gables, on Prince Edward Island in 2008.
In the process, they were swept away by Anne affectionados.
“It was an incredible experience. Everyone made us feel so welcome. It was wonderful,” says McIntosh, a member of the L.M. Montgomery Institute’s international advisory board.
However, the greatest welcome was waiting for Jennifer Toulmin, who plays the red- haired orphan in the Charlottetown Festival‘s Anne of Green Gables. When she arrived later that week, everywhere she went, crowds of people lined up to get her autograph or have pictures taken with her.
“It was overwhelming . . . I felt like a celebrity. I was surrounded with gifts, kindness, favour and special treatment,” says Toulmin during a telephone interview.
The immense popularity of Anne of Green Gables and all things relating to Lucy Maud Montgomery has been explored by, among others, Sonja Arntzen in her essay “Exchange? Canada and Japan’s Anne of Green Gables.” As with many pop-cultural phenomena, it started on a surprisingly small scale.
The exchange began on the eve of the Second World War when returning Canadian missionaries gave a copy of Anne of Green Gables to a former graduate of their mission school, Hanako Muraoka. With clouds of war on the horizon, they gave it to her as a token of their personal friendship and mutual respect. For Muraoka, it also became a tenous link with a country and culture she had come to love through person to person contact. Muraoka began translating the work during the war; such an act represented a faith in the eventual restoration of a peaceful relationship between Japan and the rest of the world including Canada. Her translation Akage no An “Red-haired Anne” was published in 1952 and was an instant best seller. It is still on the shelf of virtually every book store in Japan in this first translation version and many other abridged versions, including now, of course, cartoon editions. An animated cartoon has been produced on the story, and a whole section of a Canadian theme park in Hokkaido is dedicated to “Anne’s land.”
Arntzen goes on to suggest that three elements in particular of Anne of Green Gables–the abundant imagery of nature, Anne’s “sincere heart,” and her filial piety towards her adoptive parents the Cuthberts–might combine to ensure the novel’s continuing success. Me, as a Prince Edward Islander, I find it ironic that a novel and an author so frequently misinterpreted as reactionary actually constitute the main mechanisms behind the globalization of the Island.
Newsweek‘s typically glib and superficial coverage of Iceland’s recent economic boom, “The Icemen Cometh,” does raise an interesting question: Why are small dependent insular and quasi-insular economies doing so well of late? Ireland, Singapore, Mauritius, arguably the French overseas territories, the Alands, Cyprus, Malta, Iceland: All of these islands have traditionally been impoverished, but in the past generation they’ve been booming. What gives?