Last night I wathed The Philadelphia Story, a George Cukor movie starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and Jimmy Stewart. I love movies where each character's lines bring to mind a furiously scrabbling animal of some kind, so that, put together, dialogue is something like an unpredicatable, violent frenzy.
The story centres around Hepburn's character, Tracy. It's essentially an introspective journey of hers to see whether or not she's a remote goddess of some kind. But every character is rather vivid. And it was very important that both male leads win your heart, so Grant and Stewart are absolutely essential. Stewart won an academy award for his performance and it was well deserved. Hepburn was nominated, but she also deserved an award. I really dug the scene where Hepburn was angrily explaining to Stewart, who's a writer, that he doesn't know people as well as a writer really ought to--and then stops as she catches herself accusing him of the same thing Grant had accused her of earlier. It was an utterly believable moment that could have easily seemed contrived. But no, this was the real frenzy of creatures.
The sight of Hepburn's bare legs as Jimmy carried her from the pool was also nice.
And, of course, I love Cary Grant. His scenes are like surgical strikes--it only takes a couple lines from him for you to fall in love with him again, no matter how charming Stewart was with all his stammering and energy.
After this movie, I found myself consumed with energy, perhaps having something to do with all the soy milk I was drinking. So I did my laundry, and began reorganising my closet, including all 157 tapes of movies I've made that were all lying about messily.
And I came across a great, great relic of the old world.
On a Christmas, before the Star Wars special editions were even whispered about, and I was still living with my parents, I was given several hundred dollars. With my family at the mall a couple weeks later, I spotted a hundred dollar item that destiny insisted I buy; the Star Wars trilogy, in widescreen.
My mother told me I was crazy. Why pay a hundred dollars for three movies you could get for much cheaper elsewhere and without black bars on the top and bottom? This was long before most people knew any better about widescreen. In this matter, I was the crackpot prophet who was best left to his twisted ways in some shadowy corner somewhere. But who's laughing now, huh? Hehe he.
So in my closet last night, I came across this massive boxed set, the Star Wars trilogy in it's original form, before Greedo shot first. I suppose George Lucas might call me a sick bastard for wanting to see Han blast Greedo in cool blood. Well, I am a sick bastard. And I miss when Lucas was a sick bastard too.
But, this is truly an artefact. You can't buy the original trilogy any more, and most of the people who still have it on tape from buying it more than a decade ago, very likely have it in pan-and-scan. I may be one of, oh, maybe fifteen people in California who has this thing. Which is kind of sad, if you think about it.
Lucas sells the Special Edition now as simply "The Star Wars trilogy," as if another version had never existed. The DVD release later this year, Lucas has decreed, shall be even more revised, with Hayden Christianson edited into Return of the Jedi (no, I'm not making that up).
Watching Star Wars: A New Hope last night, I found myself wondering what it is exactly that makes the older version better, besides Greedo's more believable gunplay. The answer, I think, is Lucas's current faith in CGI.
The main problem with the new Star Wars movies is that there is a very annoying cartoonish quality about them. I asked myself if this sensibility was at all evident in the old Star Wars movies and I realised that it was--the aliens in the cantina, the Jawas, some of the droids--all of these things have a broadly comic quality about them. But it worked, I think, because we believed in the reality of the latex and plastic. It was something we could imagine touching. So, then you have these two forces working against each other--real, maleable material and a sensibility to craft it into something bizarre, but familiar enough to be humorous. It almost feels like a dare.
But in the new movies, and the new versions of the old, Lucas goes to far. In the new version of A New Hope there's an extended version of Luke and Co.'s entrance into Mos Eisley that very thoroughly undermines Obi-wan's description of it being a wretched hive of scum and villainy. It's hard to believe in it when robots are running around, imitating the Three Stooges because the camera's on them.
Anyway, I've gone on too long to-day . . .