Sunday, November 27, 2011


I've been going to the movies since I was 3 years old. When I was a kid, and for as long as my parents and relatives would tolerate it, I saw a lot of movies. The rule was simple: if it wasn't rated PG-13 or R, I could most likely see a movie. How often would a PG-rated movie have content that was unsuitable for children? Of course, this meant that some movies I saw went over my head, not because they were too adult, but because not every PG-rated movie is intended for children first.

But I saw a lot of movies. And if I liked a movie, I'd see it twice, or I'd try to see it twice. My parents--usually my dad, who was more patient--would see the movie with me the first time, and if I walked out saying "That was the BEST movie," I would likely be able to see it again, as long as my aunt Mary was willing to see it with me. She lived about 20 minutes away and rare was the time when she didn't see a movie with me, just to spend time with me. Now, I was a kid and a lot of movies for kids aren't really that good. I didn't know any better--and growing up during the Disney Renaissance made it so me wanting to see Beauty and the Beast or The Lion King multiple times didn't and still doesn't seem crazy. As I grew up, I didn't see a lot of movies twice in theaters, simply because I didn't have the disposable income to do so. (My parents and aunt didn't have disposable incomes, either, but a) movies were cheaper back in the 1990s and b) I wasn't a very pampered kid with tons of toys and gizmos at home.) In the grand scheme of things, seeing a movie twice isn't the biggest luxury, but time and money are frequently more important than seeing a fictional story twice, especially when it'll be available to own in a few months.

I bring all of this up because now, if I see a movie twice, it's because that movie is going to hold a special place in my heart, and I want to give it all the space it needs. Every once in a while, I do see a movie multiple times, from Toy Story 3 to The Dark Knight to There Will Be Blood. For various reasons, those movies mean something to me, and weren't movies I wanted to see on the big screen just once. This weekend has brought two new movies, The Muppets and Hugo, that will likely hold similarly vaunted places for me in years to come. I don't know if I'm likely to see either of them in theaters again, but I'd like to. I've already written about (and recorded a podcast, too) The Muppets over at Mousterpiece Cinema, so I want to talk about Hugo right now. I don't know that children will like Hugo or dislike it, but guess what? I don't have kids, so who am I to say what child will or won't like it? I saw Martin Scorsese's latest in a 3D theater yesterday; while it was probably not as packed as a theater for The Muppets was, there were a lot of families and children in the audience. They didn't seem restless, but frankly, I don't care if kids like this movie or not. Martin Scorsese didn't make this movie for children. He made it for people.

There's been plenty written about the irony of making a movie that argues strenuously and passionately for film preservation in digital 3D, not 35MM film, which is in its dying days. But it's important for us to remember that film preservation can take many forms. Yes, we can argue strictly to preserve the very concept of physical film, but it's just as important--if not moreso--to preserve the movies that men and women have created either on film or digitally. As I watched Hugo, Scorsese's 22nd film (have there been only 22 over the past 45 years?), I was constantly thinking of the visionary British filmmaker Michael Powell. After the film, I was nudged to consider Powell's personal relationship to Scorsese as a mentor in a different way, thanks to an e-mail exchange with fellow film aficionado Gabe Bucsko, but in the moment, I was reminded of Powell's versatility as a filmmaker. In a seven-year stretch during the 1940s, he and writer Emeric Pressburger collaborated to make a whimsical romantic comedy, an epic war biography, a melodrama about repressed nuns, an ode to ballet as the center of creativity, a rustic screwball romance, a jittery and tragic character study, and a mercurial and moving love letter to the beauty of living the slow life.

Everything about those woefully brief synposes (see the movies of the Archers, by the way; it'll change your life) shouts versatility. Michael Powell didn't just make romantic movies, he didn't just make dramas, he didn't just make comedies; he made movies. He made great movies, but he couldn't be typecast as a writer and director. Martin Scorsese has been proving lately that he shouldn't be typecast either, even if most people assume Scorsese is a mobster-movie director. Think of the films he's made over his career, from the splashy and entertaining biography of Howard Hughes to the dark and introspective look at the last days of Jesus Christ to the crowd-pleasing drama about a pool hustler and the kid he's mentoring to the post-WWII musical. Yes, Scorsese made Goodfellas and Casino. Yes, he won the Oscar for The Departed, another mobster movie. But typecast Scorsese at your discretion. Still, that's what people are doing. They read the logline for Hugo, about an orphaned boy who lives in a Parisian train station, fixing its clocks after his father passes away and uncle leaves him to his own devices, and they scratch their heads. People so often forget that Martin Scorsese is and has always been making movies he'd want to see, movies he would've loved when he was a boy, unable to go out due to his asthma.

Here's something else: people fall over themselves to praise Clint Eastwood for his work ethic. And, hey, why not? An 81-year old man directing one movie a year? Good on you, sir. Even more credit is given him because he's clearly very versatile, jumping from genre to genre with ease. Let's be clear: I don't really share that opinion. Yes, I appreciate that Clint Eastwood is very old and still making movies that have unique scopes and motives. I also don't think a lot of those movies are very good. The last film of his I legitimately enjoyed was Million Dollar Baby; just last week, I saw and was underwhelmed by J. Edgar, and I've put myself through the tortures known as Hereafter and Gran Torino, so I'm not coming at this without any prior knowledge. And sure, Martin Scorsese turns 70 next year, so he may not be as sprightly and energetic in a decade. I sure hope he is, though, because look at the output of work he's done in the last decade. Gangs of New York. The Aviator. The Departed. Shutter Island. Hugo. And I haven't forgotten his work on the pilot episode of Boardwalk Empire, or the six documentaries he's made since 2003, including three in the past 18 months. Martin Scorsese could've chosen to relax after finally winning the Best Director Oscar for The Departed. Instead, he's challenging himself with an ostensible kids' movie.

What a movie it is, by the way. I've spent so much time talking about pitting elder-statesman directors against each other that I almost forgot that Hugo is an incredible achievement. First, it proves once more that 3D is not a completely useless format. There are a lot of things to champion about Hugo, a myriad of elements to praise, but let's start with the 3D. Yes, friends, this is a movie you need to see, and you need to see it in 3D. I wish I could remember who said it on Twitter this week, but someone (not me, I promise) said that watching Hugo in 2D is like watching Modern Times without the sound on. You get the same story, but the experience is so much different. That person was dead right, too. From the very first shot, a swooping, zooming tracking shot that introduces us to the set where the majority of the film will take place, that train station, Scorsese is inviting and instructing us to strap in, because he's not just going to utilize the 3D format to thrust sharp objects at the audience. This is 3D at its most immersive. We may not be entering the world of Pandora, but the world of Hugo, as designed by Dante Ferretti and shot by Robert Richardson, is just as welcoming and exciting to watch.

The story of Hugo, written by John Logan and based on a book by Brian Selznick, is a tricky one, because it changes gears halfway through, unexpectedly zigging instead of zagging. Hugo is a 12-year old orphan whose father died mysteriously. He lives in the walls of a Parisian train station circa 1932, fixing its many clocks because his ne'er-do-well uncle left him to go drinking. All that really keeps Hugo going is the thought of fixing the one thing his father left him: an automaton that is meant to write out...something. Hugo hopes it's a message from his dead father, but even with all of the parts he's pilfered from the train station, mostly from a toy store run by a grouchy old man, there's one part of the machine he can't find: a heart-shaped key that seems to power the automaton. Even the notebook with detailed instructions that his father left behind hasn't helped Hugo, but one day, the grouchy old man sees that notebook and takes it away from the boy, for no discernible reason. Hugo meets Isabelle, the goddaughter of the grouchy old man, known as Papa Georges, soon after and they become fast friends. The mystery deepens when Hugo realizes that Isabelle is wearing the very key he needs to turn on the automaton. Once the automaton is turned on...well, things take a turn.

The less said, the better, frankly. Some film buffs will know, or have some inkling, of where Hugo is going, but most people won't. Certainly, almost every child watching this movie won't know the wonders and surprises of the second half of the film. But let's make something perfectly clear: Hugo doesn't become a great movie in its second half. It's a great movie from the beginning, only getting better. Even once the movie leaves the train station, the visuals are sumptuous and dazzling. The music, from Howard Shore, is playful and romantic, hearkening to a forgotten time, a time that might have only truly existed in people's minds, their imaginations. As it goes with pretty much every Scorsese film, the cast is excellent, from Asa Butterfield and Chloe Grace Moretz as Hugo and Isabelle, to Ben Kingsley as Papa Georges, Sacha Baron Cohen as the antagonistic train inspector, and Michael Stuhlbarg as a man with surprising knowledge up his sleeve. Kingsley, in particular, is incredible. He's proven here and in other recent roles that he's one of the finest older actors working in Hollywood; now, he just needs to stop appearing in Uwe Boll movies.

Though it would be wrong of me to reveal the secrets of the final hour of Hugo, let it be said that this movie should be necessary viewing for kids. Kids should have an appreciation of film, good and bad, simply so they can see what wonders can be achieved, and what wonders have been achieved, through the medium of cinema. There may not be crass or gross-out humor in this movie, and sure, it's a period piece. But an entertaining, edifying movie is what it is. Children can embrace this as well as adults can, because in Hugo, Martin Scorsese taps into a primal instinct we all have when we watch certain movies: the silver screen can make us all children again, can tap into our inner child easily. Hugo is a movie for the film lover in each of us, and it's one of the best films of the year.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Lovers, The Dreamers, and Me

Who doesn't love the Muppets? I suppose that's a question being posed across the country right now, as some people's love for these felt characters is being sorely tested with the release of the seventh movie starring Jim Henson's group of characters, The Muppets. Now, consider that for one moment: we are getting ready for the seventh film starring a group of puppet characters whose lines and actions are performed by men and women kneeling or crouching in carefully placed sets and trenches to interact with human performers. How the hell have there been seven Muppet movies? How was there even one?

It's worth considering this fact: at the height of their popularity, there were apparently 300 million people around the world watching The Muppet Show, their five-season syndicated series from the late-1970s. 300 million people. Can you imagine such a number? TIME Magazine called the program one of the most popular shows on TV ever, and with numbers like the one I mentioned above--apparently the only one available on the Interwebs--it's hard to argue with that statement. Equally impressive is that, in 2011 dollars, the 1979 film The Muppet Movie would have made over $200 million. I imagine that Walt Disney Pictures is crossing its collective fingers for a number that's close to half that, let alone higher, for the new movie coming out in a week. But I'm writing this post mostly to give a major shout-out to The Muppet Movie, which I watched for the first time in a couple of years this weekend and fell in love with all over again.

Here's a potentially bold statement: The Muppet Movie is one of the best all-around family entertainments. Ever. I know that I come into watching the movie for the umpteenth time with knowledge of what jokes are coming around the bend, the music, and general nostalgia for the characters. But I remain impressed and floored with what came out of Jim Henson, Frank Oz, and the rest of the Muppet performers and writers to make this movie. If you want proof in this world that children can grasp relatively complex concepts, look no further than the conceit of this film: the Muppet characters, like Kermit, Miss Piggy, Sam the Eagle, Gonzo, and the others, are watching The Muppet Movie. They're watching the movie of how they made it in Hollywood. Meta humor, thy name is Muppet. The movie-within-the-movie also makes plenty of fourth-wall jokes; the best part is actually appreciating them once you get to a mature enough age. I can tell you that when I was a kid, I laughed at both the "You should try Hare Krishna" and "Good grief, it's a running gag" lines in the El Sleazo Cafe sequence. I can also tell you I had zero idea what those jokes meant. The delivery made me laugh. Now, the meaning makes me laugh.

And hey, that's kind of the point: The Muppet Movie is really, really funny. It's funny in ways I hadn't been aware of, even when I last watched the movie. One of the great joys I find in watching films I've seen countless times before is seeing something new. How it is that the human mind can't perceive every element of a movie they're presented with (or choose to present themselves with) numerous times is beyond me. But so it goes. The example from this viewing: when Kermit and Miss Piggy get stuck in a trap set by the evil Doc Hopper--who wants to make Kermit the new spokesman for his frog's-legs restaurant, but you knew that already, right?--they face off with an evil German doctor played by Mel Brooks. This mad doctor plans on hypnotizing Kermit to want to be Doc Hopper's shill; he makes some joke about turning Kermit's brains to jelly, but after a few seconds of Hopper and his cronies laughing, he stops them. "I detest the surfeit of provincial laughter," he says curtly.

My hand to God, I hadn't ever heard that line before. It wasn't that I'd heard it and didn't get it. I just had never heard it before. Maybe it's that Brooks talks quite fast as the doctor, or that I was too young to ever take into account his riposte, but there you go. And hey, that's a funny Goddamned line of dialogue, too. There are a lot of funny lines, and not just from the massive cast of celebrities who show up for a few minutes here and there. But they're all pretty great, from Steve Martin ("Don't you want to sniff the bottle cap?") to Carol Kane ("Yeth?") to Milton Berle to the climactic cameo from Orson Welles. But the rest of the Muppets are hilarious, too, and sometimes moving. I don't know if the new movie can capture that mixture of tones as well as this one does, but I'm hoping for the best.

Now, I'm not going to get too far in-depth about either this movie or the Muppets as a whole now. I leave that for the Disney movie podcast I host, Mousterpiece Cinema, which you're listening to, right? Go check it out. But I did want to give a bit of an appreciation to this movie, especially in its music. We all know, of course, "The Rainbow Connection," the sticky-sweet song that Kermit sings as the opening credits roll. I have no idea how this song still works, even for a guy at age 27, but saccharine lyrics and plaintive banjo be damned. Maybe it's that I cannot resist the charms of Kermit the Frog, maybe it's that the tune is catchy, but whatever the case, "The Rainbow Connection" is untouchable. The other music, though, in the movie is equally important, if not as instantly iconic as the opener.

I didn't appreciate it until watching the movie this time, but there are only a few main characters or groups in this movie, if we base it solely on the songs. There's, of course, Kermit, who sings "The Rainbow Connection" solo and is a co-lead on a few other songs. There's Miss Piggy, his paramour, who sings "Never Before and Never Again," the overwrought love song she dream-sings after spying Kermit at the beauty pageant she wins halfway through the film. There's Kermit's unflappable sidekick, Fozzie, who co-sings "Movin' Right Along." There's the Great Gonzo, who sings the melancholy "I'm Going to Go Back There Someday" at the gang's darkest hour. Then, we have Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, who sing "Can You Picture That?" and also help Kermit and his pals out at various key moments. If you're looking for a deus ex machina, that's them. Finally, there's Rowlf, who takes the lead on "I Hope That Something Better Comes Along."

Now, I imagine that once we get past Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, and Gonzo, you might assume that there really shouldn't be any other main characters. And that's not really incorrect, but the more I thought about the music in this movie, the more I realized that these are all main characters in some respect. Hell, Rowlf sticks around with the group after his song--and if there's a flaw, it's that while Kermit does verbally encourage the other characters to join him, we don't see him do so with Rowlf--all the way to the end of the movie. I don't know that I'd fully appreciated his presence in the tour bus after Dr. Teeth and his crew pick the gang up in the middle of the desert until this viewing. The point remains: if we look at the music, these are the main characters. What's more, we should look at that music, because this is a musical. It's got romance, comedy, drama, action, and horror, but this is a musical first and foremost. The only major difference is that none of the humans sing a word. Considering the structure of The Muppet Show, it's a little surprising to me that Jim Henson and friends didn't find a way to sneak in a musical performance of some kind from one of the human characters, but so it goes.

Anyway, I've written a bit more on this topic than I'd expected, but here's the thing: I've gotten far more excited in the last week or so for The Muppets. Part of me, I will not lie, is worried that the people making the new movie won't be able to pull off the tone, that they are banking on nostalgia more than anything else. Worse yet, I'm also worried that I'm going to let that nostalgia blind me. Honestly, even if the movie isn't as great as I'm hoping it will be, I want it to do well. If there's a franchise I want revived, it's this one. I'm more than fine with Disney milking every drop from Kermit and his friends, as long as it means more Muppets in pop culture. If that's what comes from people going gaga for these characters again, I'm cool with it. And I's the Muppets. Who doesn't love the Muppets?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Do The Right Thing

Oh, what a week. I say I'm glad to have it over, but then again, I'm not Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Joe Paterno, Brett Ratner, Eddie Murphy, or any of the other people who've had a publicly bad week. I only want to talk about one of these major scandals, as it's the one that will likely be going on for quite some time. And folks, I'll be honest: this is not an issue where I will budge easily. When I was younger and would fight for my point on the most minor thing, whether it was why I liked Movie A and someone else didn't or something equally trivial, my parents would sit me down and remind me that the world is not black and white, right and wrong, whatever. There is gray in everyone, in all of the world. And while that's true, I just can't budge on the Penn State ordeal.

I have been consistently impressed and amazed this week at how immensely stupid people can be in this world. NPR has been covering the story in a mostly evenhanded fashion, but something in each of their stories over the past few days has set me off. This is one of those major media circuses that is both horrifying and compelling to behold. If ever there was an example of rubbernecking at a train wreck, that's what this is. Today, for example, a reporter told Steve Inskeep that people at Penn State are now concerned about what this disgusting story will do for their reputation.

Let's pause for a second. You may not know much about the story I'm referring to. So, context: last Saturday, a grand jury report came out that a former assistant coach for Penn State's college football team, the Nittany Lions, had, over a period of 15 years, been molesting young boys on campus grounds. Since at least 2002, the team's coach, Joe Paterno, as well as a few other coaches and high-level administration officials including the college president, were aware of the allegations. None of them ever went to the police. The former coach, while not being an employee of the college since 1998, was able to access the campus because he still had an office thanks to his cushy friendship with Paterno. Since the grand jury report was revealed, the assistant coach was arrested, Paterno was fired as was the president of the college, and others are being charged with perjury. The level of cowardice in this story is breathtaking. The level of deification, while somewhat expected, is staggering.

So, back to the present. People at Penn State University are concerned what this scandal is going to do to the institution's reputation. I have bad news, Nittany Lions: your reputation is in the toilet and will continue to be if the public perception you give off is that YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT YOUR REPUTATION. One of the greatly troubling aspects about this story is that those from the university shouting loudest are not shouting about the tragedy that a number of young boys, some now in college and some older, have gone through because people stood by and did nothing. The incident in 2002 where Paterno and the others were alerted to the assistant coach's proclivities occurred when a former PSU quarterback-turned-coach literally saw the coach raping an 11-year old boy in the locker room showers. His first move was to ask his dad what to do. He could've stopped the elderly coach, but he did nothing. He could've gone to the cops, but he did nothing. He went to Paterno. Paterno did nothing. The administrators and president did nothing. So, Penn State? You have no reputation anymore. You are an embarrassment to the idea of higher education in America. You are an embarrassment to what it means to be decent and moral.

Of course, what I was shouting at my radio this morning was more along the lines of "Fuck your reputation, you selfish sons of bitches. Fuck your reputation, and fuck you." I would normally apologize for my profanity, but you know what? I don't care. This is one of those rare moments when I get enraged at something that's legitimately worth getting enraged about. I got enraged when I heard the reaction from PSU students and fans when Paterno was fired on Wednesday night. (By the way, consider this: it took the PSU Board of Trustees FIVE DAYS to take any action of any kind. Boys, you made the right decision, but it took you far, far too long to do so.) Earlier that day, Paterno had made the decision to retire at the end of the season, just so he could leave the way he wanted to when he wanted to. For some people, this was appropriate; let the guy finish out the season, right? I mean, sure, he sat by as one of his former employees used his privileges at a nationally respected university to have illicit sex with boys, but he's JoePa! (The stupidest Goddamn nickname I've heard in a long time, that is.)

So, what did the PSU students do--fairly put, not ALL of them--when they heard of the firing? They rioted. They rioted because they were angry that Joe Paterno was fired.

I'll write that again: students rioted in favor of a man who let criminal actions go by under his watch. People were protesting against going to the police. They were protesting against doing the right thing. They protested against morality. They protested against decency. I'm being dramatic, you think. I'm being hyperbolic, you say. But think about what that action was. Why are these people protesting? The easy answer, the simple one, is that the coach of the football team got fired and people did not agree with the circumstances of that firing. But what WERE the circumstances of that firing? Well, he got fired because he didn't do enough. He didn't do enough to prevent child abuse from occurring on campus. He didn't do the right thing, the moral thing, the decent thing. So, tell me again: how is that being dramatic? How is this hyperbolic? This is just the fact of the matter.

Now, there are some people floating in the ether who think that Paterno did his duty, by telling administrators. Wrong. Crime happened, and you don't sit on it. You don't let the man who's accused of pedophilia work at the college. You don't let him continue to run his charity for helping out troubled young boys. You don't let him anywhere near children. You call the cops. The so-called legal thing to do is not to tell an administrator. You go to the cops so you can sleep at night, so you can look at yourself in the mirror tomorrow. Now, of course, we're getting to the crux of the problem: a lack of empathy for the victims.

As I mentioned, a lot of people at PSU are assuming that they are the victims. How will they manage in the aftermath of this incident? How will the rest of the football season be? How can they handle the national media being all bothersome? These are not questions you ask a week after finding out the tragedies that occurred on the campus. You ask about the victims. You ask about their health. You ask about their well-being. You don't focus on yourself. You think about yourself last. No, strike that: you think about Joe Paterno last, yourself second to last. So when Alec Baldwin asked on Twitter yesterday if it wasn't tragic that Joe Paterno's legacy was forever tarnished because of this scandal, I went out of my way to say that, no, really, it's not tragic. A man's record as a coach of a sport being ruined because he didn't do the right thing is not tragic. What's tragic is that, by not doing the right thing, he let the wrong thing happen. Paterno let the assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, molest children because he didn't want to ruin his precious football program.

So, to anyone concerned about Penn State University's reputation after this scandal, fuck you. For anyone who feels bad for Joe Paterno, a man who had a job well past his expiration date, a man who let absolutely atrocious acts happen on his campus, fuck you. And if you think you have a right to riot because a man is fired justly, if you think that the anarchy you display is the right message to send to the rest of the country, to the rest of the world, fuck you. And, to those people, I wish--oh, how I wish this--I could be in the room when it happens. The rest of you--the sane ones--know what "it" is. "It" is the moment of epiphany. The moment of realization. Sometime soon, probably not for a year or so (though hopefully, some of you will realize earlier), the students who rioted on Wednesday night will be struck with the realization that part of what they've given to the world is a rash act of stupidity. College is partly about being stupid. You're meant to learn, to be educated, but you're also meant to get those last bouts of immaturity out. So you get drunk before you're allowed to. You fool around, because you can. Rioting is not immature. It's chaotic and childlike. It's throwing a large-scale temper tantrum. And guess what, kids? In a year, you are going to be embarrassed. Eternally embarrassed. And I wish to God I could see what that looks like.

There is, of course, no light way to end this post, but I've gotten out a lot of bitterness, because that's all I feel right now about this reaction from people who don't appear to be mental patients. Anyway, this is just one of those "I have to write this or else I'll keep shouting in my car" kind of posts, so thanks for indulging. Have a good, safe, and moral weekend.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

All Or Nothing

The proliferation of Internet culture mixing with everyday life is well documented, but make some room on the pile for another bit of chatter. I can only admit to being at the top of the pile now because I've been having these thoughts for a while, and who says this isn't a great time to write it down? (Also, as much as I'd love to talk more about Brett Ratner, Eddie Murphy, and the Oscars, I said my piece earlier in the week, back when they both were involved with the awards show.)

I suppose I have a different mentality when it comes to the way people communicate on the Internet. While I appreciate that everyone has the ability to act like a huge asshole online simply because the people they're being assholes to are likely never going to run into them at the grocery store, it's not how I operate. (Please, throw the parade tomorrow at lunchtime. Thank you in advance!) I have to watch my words on a constant basis, not because I fly into rages without being kept in check, but because the job I have doesn't give me the ability to speak like I would if I was trolling on a comment board. I have to communicate as succinctly, as honestly, and as nicely as possible, all at the same time. But I also have my opinions, and most times, I'm going to fight for those opinions until my throat goes dry. So, I like a healthy debate. Debate is good.

Not on the Internet, though. Here, debate is bad. Here, you love something or you must hate it. You hate something or you must love it. This happens frequently with popular culture, depending on what the topic is. You should feel comfortable arguing your love for The Middle, because most people won't contest that love one way or the other. But if you say a single bad word about Community or The Dark Knight or any other bit of modern entertainment that's considered untouchable by the seeming masses of people who make up comment boards, watch out. (And let me clarify: I love Community and The Dark Knight. So don't flame this post.) Here's the real issue: it's not that we love what we love, or we hate what we hate. It's that for many people, there is no in-between area. There is nothing between love and hate. There's one and the other. You're with me or you're against me.

The real issue for me is that we're shutting down conversations before they begin, simply because a person has no interest in engaging in a discussion, a debate, even an argument about a topic. Here's an example. As you may or may not know--and you really should--I'm running a Disney movie podcast called Mousterpiece Cinema and have been for the past few months. (Shameless plug: check it out on iTunes.) One of the ways I'm trying to get the word out for the show is by posting in the Disney fan forums all over the Internet. I'm focusing on four, because they're the biggest and because I don't have all the time in the world to dedicate to posting to mostly travel-dedicated Disney forums. (Sidebar, that I'll likely explore in the podcast's blog at one point: why are so many Disney fanatics online--I consider myself such a person, mind you--not Disney movie fans? I don't say this as a way to complain that the folks on these forums aren't listening to the show, but to point out that each of these forums puts all entertainment-related discussion at the bottom of the boards, as if it's not important. To those people, I say only that the parks you love do not exist without the movies I love. End sidebar.) On one such forum, there cropped up a discussion about the new ABC drama Once Upon A Time.

Now, far be it from me to make an opinion into a declarative statement. So, I'll just say this: I don't think much of Once Upon A Time. I think the concept is OK for a movie or miniseries, but not a TV show, and the execution is sometimes legitimately laughable. Frankly, I don't think I'm lying to say I've laughed out loud at something that's clearly not supposed to be funny at least once in each of the first three episodes. (To answer the question you're all asking, my wife likes the show, so I've seen all of the episodes so far, even though that streak will likely end soon.) So, on this board, it may not surprise you to know that the opinions offered about this Disney-produced show about the Disney version of fairy tale characters was positive. Most of the opinions were short and sweet. They were also riddled with grammatical errors, but that's neither here nor there. I ventured in to offer my slightly longer, more detailed thoughts. My response was, "That's too bad for you. It's a very good show."

One of my many flaws is that I can't let things go. Of course, most of the things I can't let go are minor, thus making my inability to drop a subject even more perplexing. (You could even, if you wanted, assume that me writing this post is proof of not letting the issue go, or trying to make it evaporate through a blog.) If this had been a discussion I'd had in real life, depending on who I was talking to, I might've countered with, "Well, you may think that, but it's not a fact. I don't like the show." There wasn't much of a follow-up (though another poster took the time to list out, in number form, the problems they had with the show, and bless their heart for doing so), because it wasn't worth it for me to get into a virtual shouting match with someone who uses the Internet as a place to throw out their quickie reviews and just shrug off anyone who disagrees.

Listen, the issue at hand is not about whether Once Upon A Time is a good show or not. The issue I have is that, too frequently these days, we shut down conversations if it involves us having to defend something. That, dear reader, can be the beauty of liking something so much. Not only will others not share your opinions, but you need to defend it. Why shouldn't we defend what we like? One of the more engaging, exciting aspects of the Internet is that we're interacting with people we'd never have met before, and we're talking with them about our interests. Difference of opinion should be encouraged on the Internet as should debates about those opinions. If you like something and I don't, tell me why you like it. Maybe you'll convince me. If I like something and you don't, let me tell you why. Sometimes, it'll be as simple as, "It makes me laugh," or "The characters appeal to me." Sometimes, it can be a comment the size of a term paper. But the defense should be welcome. I hesitate to say that if you can't tell me why you like or dislike something, your opinion is invalid, but if you're willing to open yourself up to the vast expanse of the World Wide Web, you better be prepared to do a bit of thinking.

I also suppose this ties into another frustration I have with some folks on the Internet: everything doesn't have to be the best thing ever. This is a weird argument to make, I know, and it positions me as a real misanthrope. But honestly, there comes a point where you being positive about everything makes me feel like I'm on a neverending sugar high. I notice it with some folks in Hollywood (not all, mind you, but there are a select few I have in mind who I won't name here), and it happens on some of these forums. It's a real challenge to, in my case, have a Disney movie podcast that will not gush about every single Disney movie in the history of cinema (hint: this is because they are not all the best thing ever), and go to forums where people treat those movies as happy awesome happy cool happy. I feel weird having to say this, but I am not a hateful miser. I like things. I love things. I love Disney; hence the show. (A personal favorite I just discussed on the show is Ratatouille, which I discussed about at length, because I could defend my enjoyment.) But not everything is perfect. And being unwilling to engage with people who don't feel the way you do is a way not only of shutting down discourse, but of saying you don't want anyone to tell you different. That's a real shame.

How do we learn anything in this world? Do we just parrot what our parents tell us? I mean, I know that some of my beliefs were shaped by my parents, and I certainly have similar characteristics to them, but I also know that we have frequent debates and disagree on various issues. (They don't like The Royal Tenenbaums, which is crazy because it's THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS. Who doesn't like that?) And sometimes, my opinions are challenged by them, by my wife, by my friends, and by others online. Guess what? GOOD. I want to be challenged. I want to challenge ideas, and I want to have mine challenged. Maybe a challenge to my opinion means I need to reevaluate why I think that way. Changing my opinions doesn't mean I'm weak, it means I'm adapting. Hell, even listening to the opposition is a form of adaptation, because it means I'm willing to hear out what others say. I guess the rambling form of this post is my way of just saying to you, whoever you are: positive opinions and negative opinions are all well and good, but don't be surprised that everyone else in this world doesn't agree with you and don't get angry if you have to back your thoughts up. That's a good thing.

Monday, November 7, 2011

That Old Saw About Assuming

If you'll indulge me, I'm going to spend most of this post making wild comparisons between the frivolity of pop culture and the seriousness of the real world. So, you're warned. Anyway, thanks in no small part to the stupidity of pop culture news today--hey, everybody who needed confirmation that Brett Ratner is a douchebag, this is your lucky day--I got thinking about the way this year has unfolded. We began the year with what's been dubbed the Arab Spring, in which the people of Middle Eastern countries began rising up against their leaders, creating democracy as opposed to waiting for another dictatorial move.

The way the people of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and other countries spoke out against tyranny was inspiring and will remain so for the future. You want your Time Person of the Year? Look no further than the men and women of those countries, those brave people who stood up for a righteous cause even under the threat of torture or death. Now that Gaddafi (or Qaddafi, or however his name is spelled, and wasn't that the worst type of topical humor this year? I digress.) is dead, the remnants of the Arab Spring remain outside of the Middle East. In Greece, we've seen the establishment of politics get unseated due to financial worries. And in our country, the Occupy Wall Street protests have gathered steam quickly over the past couple of months. The attitude of these protests is the same as that from the Arab Spring.

Of course, the media has been stymied by the Occupiers from the beginning. "What do you want? Why don't you have a clear list of demands? We don't know how to cover complex issues anymore!" It's harder to overhaul the financial system than to overthrow a dictator, sure, but it's also very clear that the cynicism dominating this country is echoed by the Occupy Wall Street protests. What's more, when we see stories of peaceful protesters being attacked by cops in Oakland or Boston or somewhere else, you just have to wonder if the establishment has any idea how that looks to the so-called 99 percent. But what the establishment thinks the rest of us wants versus what we actually want is a very common theme this year.

It happened in the Arab Spring, it's happening in Occupy Wall Street, and lately, it's been happening in popular culture. Another term that will live with 2011 is Qwikster. You all remember Qwikster, right? Back in the halcyon days of September, the people who run Netflix thought that their subscribers secretly wanted two separate sites and bills for the separate actions of streaming movies and watching them on those boring old DVDs. (Aren't DVDs and Blu-rays BORING, you guys? Barf.) What Qwikster will be remembered for isn't just as being one of the great bonehead moves in modern business. What people remember is that the Netflix execs, lead by Reed Hastings, almost immediately reversed their decision. Only a couple of weeks after announcing Qwikster's existence, they said they made a mistake and promised to keep Netflix the way it is...well, except for all those pesky price hikes. Those are here to stay. And while Netflix isn't as establishment as a dictator or greedy American politicians, the attitude the company exuded during this debacle is that we didn't know yet that we wanted Qwikster, but we really did, so stop all yer whinin', folks.

The establishment reared its ugly head when the Oscars hired Brett Ratner to produce the Oscars. I'll only spend a few sentences on this, because I did spend a lot of time talking about Ratner and the Oscars yesterday. It just so happens that in the last 24 hours, some comments that Ratner made at a Q-and-A in Los Angeles Friday night made news on the Internet. In response to a question about whether or not he rehearsed with his actors, Ratner said, "Rehearsal is for fags." Though Ratner has already apologized for his idiotic remarks, what some have wondered is if the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will make Ratner step down. Listen, I'd love for him to not produce the Oscars, but I have a feeling AMPAS will just shrug and assume we'll all forget about Ratner's homophobic comment by the time the Oscars air. (I, of course, will be watching to see if every aspect of the show seems improv-ed know, REHEARSED. 'Cause that would be so queer, AMIRITE, FELLAS?)

But here's the thing: Brett Ratner has long cultivated his "I live the Entourage lifestyle every day and isn't that baller?" persona. So to anyone surprised, shocked, or disappointed by these comments, I'd like to heartily extend my welcome to you from the cave you've been living in for so long. Thanks for checking out the blog, folks. To everyone else, I guess the only question I'd ask is: why are we so much more angry that Brett Ratner used a homophobic slur than his demeaning comments about Olivia Munn last week? There were rumors that she was referring to Ratner and his allegedly tiny manhood in her book, and a few days ago, he said that he'd "banged" her back when she "wasn't Asian," and a shiny farthing to anyone who can tell me what the hell that means. And you know, I'm not the biggest fan of Olivia Munn, but Ratner's just as demeaning towards women as he is to gay people. Be outraged, sure. But be equally outraged. And don't hold your breath for a new Oscar producer. AMPAS thinks we want a young Oscars, and they think Brett Ratner has his finger on the pulse of the country. When AMPAS realizes they made a mistake, maybe they'll hire Justin Bieber to host next time.

I suppose my basic point here is that the establishment's tone-deafness has been much more obvious as of late. I was thinking this again over the weekend, when the absolutely disgusting controversy at Penn State emerged publicly. For those who haven't read the story, it goes like this: Jerry Sandusky worked under Joe Paterno for the PSU footabll team until 1999, when he resigned. Sandusky is now being charged with pedophilia for having forcibly raped young boys all the way from 1994 to 2009. And Paterno, the college president, and other higher-ups at the college knew. They were told by a then-grad assistant (who's as at fault as anyone else for not telling, you know, THE POLICE) in 2002, after said assistant witnessed Sandusky having sex with a boy in the showers. Two of the higher-ups have resigned or gone on sabbatical, but let's be clear: this is an embarrassing and nauseating abuse of power, and everyone involved needs to be brought up on criminal charges. The grand jury investigation related to this took place over 2 years, and the evidence is more than damning. The response from the college's president is as noncommittal and jaw-dropping as you can imagine; Graham Spanier is unaware or unwilling to accept his complicity in this matter, and his public response just makes me wonder what it is about people.

Is it that these people are born into wealth and never grasp what the rest of society is like? Is it that these people let money warp their minds once they get it? I guess this is just an extrapolation of fears I have about growing up. I'm a relatively progressive guy, and the old stereotype is that young progressives harden into old conservatives. One day, people my age will see me as the establishment. I can't imagine that day, but I can only hope that I won't represent the establishment if this is what the establishment looks like.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Childish Things

How many little kids, do you think, got audibly excited about the Academy Awards every year? How many kids get excited about such awards shows? Not for the fashion, not for seeing the famous people. No, how many people get excited about the Oscars simply for appearing to treasure the best in each year's output of cinema? I did when I was a kid. Each of us, when we're young, gets to that point where we want to be adults. We want to be grown up, mature, whatever. But we all hit that point, and it manifests in different ways. I have no easy explanation for why it was always movies, but that's it. It's always been movies. And when I was young, the best example I could latch onto was the annual awards show that was as big as the Super Bowl to me.

I equated adulthood with movies, to boil it down to the bare essentials. I loved movies, but for a long time, I didn't get to watch as many as I wanted. Maybe this is why I'm still a Disney fan (and why I'm doing a Disney movie podcast): those were pretty much the only movies I could watch when I was a kid. My classmates would brag about having seen The Terminator or even Jurassic Park; I could only count down the days to when I was allowed to watch these movies. But every year since I could remember, my parents let me stay up and watch the Oscars, because where was the harm? Whatever inappropriate moments there were in movies like Unforgiven, Schindler's List, and Forrest Gump, among others, would be cut out for network television. And sure, I doubt I got half of Billy Crystal's jokes (and Lord knows I was completely stymied by David Letterman's hosting at the innocent age of 10). But they let me be an adult for one adult wearing pajamas and holding onto an Eeyore stuffed animal, but dammit, I could stay up until midnight.

Growing up, being able to actually watch some of the movies that might be nominated for the Oscars, had its good and bad points. On the good side, I could actually see the movies people would talk about as they talked about them, not catching up to them years after the fact. Sure, I like The Silence of the Lambs and Goodfellas--OK, I love the latter--but I had to catch up with them years after everyone else knew about the fava beans and a nice Chianti, or Joe Pesci asking how exactly Ray Liotta found him funny. But I got to see some of the big movies of 1999 right around the time when they were released. I got to see movies like Being John Malkovich and The Matrix and The Sixth Sense as they came out. (And yes, I did say The Sixth Sense. I loved it when I was 15, and I bet it still holds up, unlike almost all other M. Night Shyamalan movies.) The problem, of course, was that the Oscars were beginning to disappoint me.

I was slowly being introduced to the very real idea that, hey, guess what? The people who vote for the Oscars and I didn't always agree. I got a big reminder of that in 2000, when Gladiator won the Best Picture Oscar. Who knows why I, a nearly 16-year old, found that movie stifling, dreary, and dull, but there you go. So, even though it was a big-budget epic action movie, I was massively disappointed that the voters fell for this overheated silliness. (I grant you, had they done the same for the outrageous, stupid 300, the only other wildly successful swords-and-sandals epic in the past decade, it'd be a lot, lot worse.) As the decade continued, I mostly found myself out of sync with the Oscars, and I'll tell you something you've probably already guessed: it took me a very long time to truly grasp that my disappointment with the Oscars was perhaps accurate if fruitless. I don't know that the 8-year old version of me would believe it, but it took me a very long time to fall out of love with the Oscars.

Over the last few years, as movies I treasure get passed over, I've finally come to terms with the idea that I should not care about the Oscars. I would be lying to you if I said I wouldn't watch the show early next year, but my hopes are not high, for the telecast and the awards. Regarding the former, it's somewhat of an inspiration for this post. See, this is the weekend when Tower Heist opened in theaters nationwide. You know, this is the Ocean's Eleven-lite with Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy teaming up with other disgruntled blue-collar workers to steal from a Bernie Madoff type. The movie is important not just because it heralds, in some small way, Eddie Murphy's return to legitimate comedy, not just idiotic family movies. (Those movies are, by the ways, ones I'd have seen if I was still a kid.) No, Tower Heist is also important because it's directed by well-known purveyor of douche-y blandness Brett Ratner. Ratner is this year's Oscars producer. Murphy is this year's Oscars host.

Now, when Murphy was announced as the Oscars host, there was a great big fooforah online where film writers, fans, and Oscar prognosticators sent hosannas left and right, praising the Academy for hiring Murphy. I, of course, could be wrong, but it seems like all of that praise was rooted in nostalgia for Coming to America, Trading Places, and Murphy's incendiary 80s stand-up specials. (I forget if only one of them deserves the subtitle "Homosexuality is Weird, Right?") Don't get me wrong, folks: Eddie Murphy has the capability to be incredibly funny. His last truly funny performance was in Bowfinger, which happens to be Steve Martin's last truly funny performance. Murphy is brilliant in a dual performance, and it may be one of the true highlights of his 90s-era roles. And I do like Trading Places, Coming to America, and 48 Hrs., but I guess I'm more of a cynical realist than others. I am presented with a man whose career has some highs, but a lot of lows. The Eddie Murphy of the last decade is not someone I'm looking forward to as Oscar host, certainly not with Brett Ratner guiding him along.

Here's where Tower Heist enters into it. It was no coincidence that the director and one of the stars of the movie were going to join the Oscars for the first year; it was frequently said that the movie being a hit would help cement the idea that audiences nationwide were primed to see Eddie Murphy's comeback explode at the big televised ceremony. So what are we left with when seeing that Tower Heist fell to Puss in Boots at the box office this weekend by a gap of over $8 million? I've mostly left behind any interest in box-office discussion, but this combines a few passing interests of mine. Last year's Oscars telecast was an unmitigated disaster; when both hosts are admitting, after the fact, that the show was kind of a train wreck, you know you have a turkey on your hands. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has had a quandary on its hands for a few years now, and adding Ratner and Murphy to the show isn't likely to help. The ratings for the Oscars telecast have pretty steadily decreased since Titanic took the top honors in early 1998, and AMPAS is trying to figure out how to keep viewers from watching something else. Maybe the movies aren't famous enough for mass audiences to tune in? Let's nominate 10 movies! Wait, that experiment only worked a bit for one year? (The ratings for the 82nd Oscars, where The Hurt Locker won, were up a few million, but down just as much this past year.) Let's make it possible but not mandatory for 10 movies to be nominated! Hey, we need young people to watch this show. Let's have James Franco and Anne Hathaway, the king and queen of the teen set (circa 2002), host! Ooh, that didn't work. Let's put Eddie Murphy in there instead!

I think the real problem is that other people are realizing the same thing I've realized: the Oscars are not going to share my opinion in film, so why should I watch? There are 18 billion types of awards for movies these days. (Don't check that number. Just trust me.) Frankly, you could probably get away with creating your own awards and getting people interested; it's almost like there could be blogs that do just that. Why watch the Oscars anymore, especially when it's presided over by very old people who are struggling to understand what the young people like these days. I don't say this to be ageist or anti-seniority, but I'd rather the elders of the Academy stick to what they know best and not attempt to be hip and pander to people under the age of 30. While hiring Eddie Murphy to host the Oscars is not the most boneheaded move the Academy has made recently (it will be difficult to top the Franco/Hathaway choice, even if Ratner's hiring comes close), it's not a massive saving grace. And this weekend at the box office proves that.

What is a boneheaded idea is saying that if Tower Heist made a lot of money, it would validate hiring the two men for the Oscars. Maybe if the movie was released mere days before the Oscars aired, I could get behind that idea. Why not ride some potentially massive buzz into one of the biggest TV events of the year? I get that. It makes sense. But Tower Heist is opening months before the Oscars. Hell, it's not even the same year. Some folks will discuss the controversy surrounding Universal Pictures' failed attempt at charging sixty dollars--let me repeat that, so it sinks in: SIXTY DOLLARS--to watch Tower Heist on demand; this is not why Tower Heist has done solidly but not fantastically. (Quick sidebar: I admire Universal head Ron Meyer for his recent honesty about some bad movies his studio has released, but his willingness to stick with the VOD idea is ridiculous. Unless the movie is The Magnificent Ambersons and it has the fabled missing reel of footage, I'm not paying sixty dollars for any movie on VOD. Also? That hypothetical situation includes me getting two large pizzas.)

Tower Heist making just over $25 million at the box office happened for the same reasons that most movies these days do not make massive amounts of money: "I didn't want to see it," "I didn't want to see it this weekend," "I'll wait for Netflix," teenagers didn't want to go, "There wasn't enough money," "I couldn't find a babysitter," "I just didn't have the time," "I didn't know it came out this weekend," "I wanted to rewatch every episode of The Wonder Years," and finally, "What's Tower Heist?" There is not a reason. There are many. This is why TV ratings are plummeting, except there, the issue also revolves around multiple points of access. But the point is this: pinning your hopes for an Oscar telecast on a safe action comedy (get it? "Safe!" And it's about a heist! Oh, I kill me.) is dumb. It's just as dumb as pinning your hopes for an Oscar telecast to succeed based on the performance of any movie. There are no guarantees that one movie will be the key to success. Hey, you never know, AMPAS: this year might be the year with boatloads of viewers, but it won't be thanks to Eddie Murphy and Brett Ratner.

Like I said earlier, I'll watch the show. I'll probably end up watching the Oscars for years to come, but I treat the Oscars now the way I treat film school. Both were things I desperately wanted to be part of when I was a kid. I don't think I was incredibly vain to want to be part of the Oscars; again, mostly, this was due to me wanting to be a grown-up and seeing that as the ticket in. But I really wanted to go to film school, to be a writer. I didn't get in, which is disappointing, sure, but then along comes YouTube and Flip cams, and I started to wonder just how necessary it was to have a film degree to be a filmmaker of any kind. And I've started to wonder why it is we need the Oscars, or any awards show, to lend legitimacy to movies we like. The answer is, of course, that we don't. If you like the Transformers movies, if you think they're your favorites, good for you. (As much as I dislike those movies, I mean this sincerely.) If you think there hasn't been a great comic filmmaker since Preston Sturges, good for you. But if you think movies need awards to justify your opinion of them, it's time to reevaluate that. It's time to mature, to grow up past that position, folks.

Friday, September 2, 2011

No One To Blame But...

Before I truly get into this rant, let's go over a few things. Yes, it is more than just a little predictable for someone to bitch and moan about George Lucas tampering with the Star Wars movies. Yes, it is fruitless to do so, because Lucas is one of the richest, most powerful figures in Hollywood and he's going to do whatever the hell he wants with his movies. I am also aware that I am one of, oh, say, billions of people to take to the Internet to lodge my complaints with Mr. Lucas, formal or informal. So, while this may be a pointless, fruitless rant directed at a person who would not read it if he was forced to, I'm powering ahead. Join me, won't you?

Like I said, I've made my peace with the fact that George Lucas is going to forever and always feel the need to tinker with the original trilogy. Hell, I'll go ahead and admit that, in 1997, when the original three were re-released in theaters, I didn't really care that much about the changes that had been made. Now Han gets to talk with Jabba! The special effects are even cooler, 'cause they don't look as cheesy! But I was also 12 years old and still far more naive than most other kids my age, and certainly more naive than the people who were 12 in 1977 or 1980 or 1983. So I not only didn't really notice a lot of the changes, but I didn't really care that much. When the new trilogy began in 1999, I knew that something was off, but it didn't fully sink in until after I saw it that the Star Wars of old was not being replicated anew.

Frankly, what rankles me now is not that Lucas continues to tamper with the movies he made because he thinks the masses want him to do so. (Make no mistake, as much as I am annoyed about Lucas updating the original trilogy for the Blu-ray release on September 16, and as happy as I'm going to be to boycott said release, it'll sell millions to people who don't know better or don't care.) What I don't like is that George Lucas assumes he knows what people want, vis a vis removing the original versions of the movies as much as he can. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised; fans know well of his long attempts to essentially erase the "Star Wars Holiday Special" from existence. Being fair, in that case, he's absolutely right to want it banished from the world, as it is legitimately, hilariously terrible. The real problem is that by continuing to update the original trilogy, George Lucas assumes what we all want is the new.

And why not, right? We're all going to buy the trilogy on Blu-ray, the new format, so why wouldn't we want everything to look fancy? Bring on the bells and whistles, right? What Lucas doesn't grasp is that, at least for some fans, new doesn't work. At all. While I know that plenty of young audiences flock to the new trilogy and Clone Wars like moths to a flame, just as many people think of George Lucas and shudder, for good reason. So, when I read that Lucas is screwing around with the ending of Return of the Jedi or making Ewoks blink, I shake my head. I don't do so in disbelief, mind you, because like any half-intelligent person, I expect this kind of behavior from Lucas. I don't like it and wish it wouldn't happen, but I expect it. What annoys me most, though, is something I should've done a while ago: buy the original trilogy on DVD. The most recent DVD release, in 2008, included the original, untouched films, thrown in as something of an afterthought. I didn't buy it then, leaving me with the 2004 release in fullscreen. Talk about shuddering.

This should pose no problem, right? I've seen it on Amazon and Best Buy, and it's only 30-something bucks. More than worth it to hold onto the last remaining vestiges of old-fashioned fun in the Star Wars franchise, so I'll just--hold on a second. Why isn't Amazon selling the 2008 DVDs? Why is it only used and--holy shit, 100 bucks for a used copy? I'll just go to Best Buy. But...not there either. Or on Target's website, or on Walmart's. Or on any number of DVD sites. Because, apparently, the 2008 DVDs have been discontinued. What exactly is George Lucas accomplishing by removing an option from a prospective buyer? It reminds me slightly of how Disney puts its animated releases into the vault for a number of years before re-releasing those movies on a new format or with updated features. Except, you know, Disney DOES release those movies again. And other sci-fi films with numerous cuts, such as Blade Runner, get released with all options available. Do you want to see the version Ridley Scott said was the director's cut in 1992? Check out Disc Two. Want to see his 2008 version? Disc Three. But not with Lucas.

I am going to get the original trilogy, as it was meant to be seen in 1977, 1980, and 1983. It'll cost me more than I want, but it's worth it, almost as a fuck-you to Lucas. I understand that he would say the movie he wanted to make in the 1980s wasn't possible because technology just wasn't up to snuff. I get that he thinks he's improving the movies. I don't get why he assumes I wouldn't want to look at the old version, too. That's the real shame here.