Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday's Old Fashioned: Cisco Pike (1972)

Although “Cisco Pike” was Kris Kristofferson’s first film role it doesn’t quite show. Yes, Kristofferson’s character, concocted by writer/director Bill L. Norton, is a singer-songwriter and, yes, Kristofferson’s songs fill the film’s soundtrack, suggesting a laziness in characterization, but all this adds definable texture that specifically gives this otherwise shaggy dog story something resembling a point. Cisco is kind of a California precursor to Rocky Balboa, a one-time music star who’s slowly seen that star fade. We catch up with him shortly after he’s been busted a second time for dealing drugs, the racket he apparently turned to when his time at the top of the charts concluded. He’s determined to go straight at the behest of the feisty woman (Karen Black) he loves, the woman who’s disappointingly given no inner life aside from standing by her man, though Black ragefully trembles with the best of ‘em. It’s a tough road to hoe, though. He visits a friend at a recording studio but doesn’t get asked to sit in on the sessions; he’s only asked if he’s got pot for sale. He’s a guy trying to figure out, to quote one of his tunes, “If the going up is worth the coming down” because that’s precisely where “Cisco Pike” finds Cisco Pike – in the midst of coming down.

His suspect situation worsens when Sgt. Leo Holland (Gene Hackman), the narcotics cop who’s busted Cisco twice goads him into helping unload god-only-knows how many kilos of top-grade ganja because Hollands need $10,000 in forty-eight hours or else. Or else what? Well, he never really says. He hints. He alludes. He says things like “fifty-four percent of the population dies of heart disease” as if it’s supposed to tie back to the bigger picture. The performance by Hackman, which only receives scant screen time, is coated in stressed out desperation, a delightful trove of tics, like crazy calisthenics that he suddenly busts out as if it’s the only thing that will keep his head screwed on straight. He’s not simply a loose cannon, he’s a glorious eccentric, the sort of supporting character with a whole movie of his own stashed off screen where I like to imagine him taking aerobics classics while still wearing his short-sleeve dress shirts and ties.

Cisco seems to have a choice as to whether or not he wants to go along with Holland’s scheme, and though he exercises that choice now and again, he mostly willingly lets himself get strung along, maybe because it’s easier than trying to write a hit song. It’s tough to know for certain. “Cisco Pike” has the bare minimum of psychological insight, favoring endless shots of Cisco stalking the streets, taking endless drags on cigarettes, his guitar case in hand like a “Desperado” dope dealer. Kristofferson, his windswept hair and his youthful face evoking Kurt Russell more than the formidable stone-faced growler he now emits in his twilight years, has a winning presence in the part, the perfect actor to hold down the center of the film that is all over the place. He gets worked up when things go wrong, but he never sweats. He doesn’t seem to know where he’s going or what he wants to be doing, and so Kristofferson makes it clear that the character is in a hurry.

That consistent lackadaisical vibe amidst what’s supposed to be such an urgent quest stands in stark contrast to a conclusion that just seems to drop in out of the air like the helicopter that shows up to start taking shots at an increasingly agitated Holland. If it doesn’t exactly fit in tone, it more than fits in narrative, a head-scratch, not so much a deus ex machine as a Throw Your Hands Up In The Air. “You do things and one day wonder why you’re doing things. Ya know?” Holland asks with an ambiguity that’s positively hilarious. Then he shrugs, “I don’t know.”

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Who In The World Will Charlotte Gainsbourg Be In Independence Day 2?

Virtually everyone in the original “Independence Day” that lived appears set to return for the seemingly unnecessary “Independence Day 2” aside from Will Smith. But Will Smith’s absence is not what intrigues Cinema Romantico. No, what intrigues Cinema Romantico is the presence of Charlotte Gainsbourg. That’s Charlotte Gainsbourg. Yes. You heard me. Lars von Trier regular, César Award winner, official card-carrying member of the Arthouse Charlotte Gainsbourg is going to be in “Independence Day 2.” This is incredible. This is the kind of out of the box casting Hollywood needs to be leaning on with a vengeance. How in the world is Charlotte Gainsbourg going to fit in with the original ID4ers? Ah, what an excellent question, inquisitive reader! Luckily we here at Cinema Romantico have a few theories!

Who In The World Will Charlotte Gainsbourg Be In Independence Day 2?

1. As the foremost and forgotten primary rival of Vivica A. Fox at her, ahem, adult dance club, Gainsbourg’s Loleola Eppinette, who was involved in a deep and passionate relationship with Harry Connick Jr’s Jimmy Wilder, blames Capt. Steven Hiller for her lover's death. She sets out on a path of both physical and psychological vengeance – successful at first, only to devolve into a literal canyon of existentialism when the second alien invasion commences.

2. Gainsbourg stars as Sophie Archambault, wife of the late French Prime Minister, killed in the alien attacks of “ID4”, not unlike President Whitmore’s own spouse. However, through a series of diary entries, reveals by staffers, soul-searching voiceovers, and crane shots set on windswept cliffs, we learn that Whitmore’s wife and Sophie’s husband were engaged in an illicit transnational affair. Inexplicably, Sophie and Whitmore are drawn to one another in their hour of need. A new alien invasion erupts. Sophie and Whitmore throw off the shackles of stewardship and opt for passion instead.

3. Despondent over the death of their beloved father, Russell Case, his three children, Miguel, Alicia and Troy, find themselves drawn into a doomsday cult lorded over by a charismatic if unstable woman (Charlotte Gainsbourg) whose fervent belief that extra-terrestrials would prove the savior of mankind has gone to pot. When another wave of aliens attack, she beseeches the heavens for the apocalypse. When the aliens are repelled once again, she vows to engender the apocalypse herself.

4. In a post alien-invasion world, relations between the United States and France grow testy when the latter accuses the former of being “too bossy” on account of its primary role as Earth’s savior and the former accuses the latter of “cowardice” in fending off their invaders. President Whitmore calls upon his trusted NATO Ambassador (Charlotte Gainsbourg) to ease tensions. Yet as the situation develops and a new alien threat emerges, the Ambassador begins acting wonkily as nations pull out of NATO left and right, turning their back on America. Eerie sounds echo throughout the White House. President Whitmore begins seeing the Ambassador at odd hours. He has visions of aliens. In a late film reveal, President Whitmore, combing through the Ambassador's file, realizes she was once a junior intern at S.E.T.I. and has since become highly involved in a violent splinter S.E.T.I. group advocating for alien rights. Hearing a clang behind him, President Whitmore turns, and there she stands with a digital readout of an impending alien invasion she has helped coordinate. The world is destroyed.

5. After a brief re-ignition of love with his ex-wife at the first film’s end only to have it fizzle out, David (Jeff Goldblum) has re-married with Sonia (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and they are living happily in the same tenement building as David’s wacky father (Judd Hirsch). Then a young ingénue (Ludivine Sagnier) moves in next door and almost instantly begins making doe eyes at David. Sonia suspects something is amiss. It is. Soon, David’s wacky father winds up dead in an accident that doesn’t seem so accidental. And now it appears Sonia might be next. There also aliens.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Star Wars & Nostalgia

As a staunch “Star Wars” prequels adversary, both with their existence and “artistic” execution, there is nonetheless a single moment near the end of Episode III, “Revenge of the Sith”, that I find positively delightful. It was a sudden and remarkable realization that Bail Organa was strolling through the snow white hallways of a fairly familiar looking spaceship. “That’s Leia’s ship!” I internally screamed like Bruce Springsteen had just ascended the stage. It was the same ship, the storied Tantive IV, in which this and that galaxy’s most famous Princess (sorry, Kate) tried to flee the Imperial Starfleet. It was the same ship as a kid lo so many years ago I would pretend to be in as one of the hapless rebel soldiers trying to stave off the small-scale storm trooper invasion. It was the same ship that sent a whole film franchise, for better or worse, spinning into orbit, and now it was on a screen in front of me and I was overjoyed.

Of course, that joy stemmed not from whatever context in which Leia’s ship was currently being used in “Episode III.” I’d be hard-pressed to provide even a vague description of why Bail Organa was strolling through its snow white hallways. But that’s because its role in the story was beside the point; its presence was all that mattered. Seeing it again flooded me with a sensation as precarious as it is liltingly potent……nostalgia.

I felt the waves of nostalgia rolling in once again when the latest teaser for J.J. Abrams’ brontosaurusly hyped “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (release date: December 18th) made the rounds last Thursday. The Twitters were aflame with social media fanboy screams and Facebook status updates confessed to goose bumps aplenty. Adults became kids – specifically adults of my generation, that is, and that makes me wonder what truly provoked all these screams and goose bumps? After all, no one seemed to be mentioning Daisy Ridley fleeing an explosion like a Michael Bay guest directed spot. That’s not what thrilled us.

What thrilled was the voice of Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker reciting recognizable dialogue (“The Force is strong in my family” – aiyeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!). What thrilled us was the sight of an Imperial star cruiser, crashed and burned. What thrilled us was the Millenium Falcon mid-soar. In other words, what thrilled us was a Thursday afternoon wistful remembrance of the way things were. These are sights and sounds of a time gone by, resurrected for a fleeting moment, perfectly captured in the wink of a teaser trailer that doesn’t have to follow through any further than ninety seconds later. Yes, Oscar Isaac looked pretty fly in that X-wing pilot suit but that image of Oscar only left me pining for an appearance by Wedge. The teaser felt like flipping through a photo album and focusing on the faces we once knew with such immense fondness and haven’t seen in a long, long time. And that makes me wonder, are we really anticipating “The Force Awakens” or is its hype overdrive merely waking the echoes?

The most indelible image of the teaser was Han Solo & Chewbacca standing in what appeared to be the innards of Earth's favorite spacecraft, the Millennium Falcon. “Chewy,” Han says in the least gruff timbre Harrison Ford has managed in at least a decade, “we’re home.” It’s a line overflowing with audacity, a deliberate flouting of Thomas Wolfe’s infamous observation. “You can't go back home to your childhood,” he wrote and yet that’s precisely where the teaser takes so many of us. It transports us to the past, to our youthful homes and our glorious childhoods when we were so young and so naïve and the world seemed full of such hope and wonder that we really did feel like we could take on the whole empire ourselves. God, it's dangerous. The gorgeous blue illumination of the Falcon's engine grill calling out like a beacon may as well be a flashing green light across the harbor.

J.J. Abrams has trafficked in this sort of nostalgia before, of course, with “Super 8”, an insistent homage to Father Spielberg. Yet that film worked for me; at least, that film worked for me in real time inside the movie theater where I was subsumed by nostalgia. Outside, afterwards, on the long walk home, in a blink, the whole damn thing fell to pieces, and I realized the film was just a hollowed out spectacle, not unlike the Tantive IV of “Revenge of the Sith”, a gleaming re-creation, not the real thing. I felt sad. I also felt satisfied. It was just a trick, but for two hours that suspension of disbelief kept me riveted, to hell with hindsight. And if for just a couple hours J.J. Abrams can trick me into thinking that, yes, old sport, you can repeat the past, maybe, just maybe, that will be enough in spite of the emotionally bankrupt charlatans telling me to mind my sentimentality. Like Janis sang, “I’d trade all my tomorrows for one single yesterday.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Going Clear

When Lawrence Wright, author of “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief”, the text that gives Alex Gibney’s documentary its title and backbone, is asked why he wrote the book, he explains it was not so much to offer an argument for or against Scientology so much as reach a greater understanding of it. In a world of whippet-quick judgment, that’s admirable. Gibney, on the other hand, enters his film already having passed harsh judgment against Scientology. Oh, he presents an overview of L. Ron Hubbard’s transnational cult – er, religion, sure, but he provides it in the manner of, say, Robert Christgau providing an overview of Def Leppard’s “Pyromania” as “music” – that is, in a tone so snide you can sense his eye rolls without ever seeing them. This is not an examination of Scientology but an attack, upfront and out loud. And that’s not necessarily wrong. After all, we learn that one of Scientology’s tenets is to attack dissenters. Boy, do they, as the evidence suggests. And like the old basketball strategy that goes “attack an attacking team”, Gibney simply gives as good as so many dissenters have gotten.

Any conversation about Scientology must begin with its founder and Gibney does, tracking LRH from his bungling days in the US Navy to a wandering life that included excursions in the occult and fiction writing before conjuring The Modern Science of Mental Health, a science that he eventually transformed into a religion. Is it really a religion? Who’s to say, though Gibney, rest assured, has little use for the notion that it is, so much so that he hardly wastes time giving thought to what might make someone want to sign up for one of those infamous billion year contracts in the first place.

An interview separate from the film with a younger John Travolta, one of Hollywood’s poster boys, along with Tom Cruise, for the movement, indicates he was drawn in on account of its “joy”. But where exactly is this “joy” of which he speaks? It’s never shown. We are never presented with joyful testaments of faith. Of course, such testaments might have been unfeasible. Current members might be executed for high treason if they talk won’t talk and so all Gibney has are ex-members who want to bash the LRH liturgical formula. The closest we get is infamous ex-son Paul Haggis, the Academy Award winning screenwriter, who recounts his origin story with earnestness, though it remains difficult to detect what kept him in.

Yet what the film lacks in pledges of modern mental health allegiance only to works to embolden Gibney’s overriding argument, one succinctly summarized in the recurring image of Scientology’s Los Angeles headquarters, looking less like The Vatican than Trump Tower, a shiny beacon to capitalism. As the film tells us, Scientology is worth a cool 3 billion despite having less than 50,000 members. In other words, its focus seems to be padding its bank account rather than ministry, and shouldn’t ministry be any religious organization’s foremost aim? Say what you want about Mormonism but they have the chutzpah to go on missions to spread the gospel as they see it. Scientology, on the other hand, is completely cloak and dagger, keeping its apparent belief system under tight wraps, preferring to angrily respond to all accusations against its mission with bristled statements rather salutations of gospel, behavior which inevitably raises red flags which prompts inflammatory documentaries just like this one.

It leads to the sense that anger rather than joy, as Ambassador Travolta would tell us, is Scientology’s governing principal. Look no further than the moment that made it famous, the one that functions as “Going Clear’s” crux, when Scientology was able to goad the IRS into officially deeming it a religion by badgering it with lawsuits. It’s a fascinating moment – the eternally despised Internal Revenue Service actually, improbably becoming likable in the face of LRH's genesis. And it’s the moment that sent Scientology into the financial stratosphere and the moment that Gibney reckons changed the game.

The back half of “Going Clear” deliberately jettisons any sense of Scientology as some sort of spiritual balm, railing against its tax exempt status, contending with a furious anger that LRH’s successor, David Miscavige, has no aim aside from exploiting his followers for cheap wage labor to accentuate his own wealth and maximize his power. None of the information throughout is necessarily new but Gibney isn’t seeking to break ground. Instead he marshals all the information at our disposal to put forth a lawsuit in the court of public opinion, to rattle the cages, to stir things up. It’s a cinematic act of aggression. “They fear freedom,” Mr. Hubbard wrote of those who would challenge his pseudo-philosophical baby. “They fear we are growing. Why? Because they have too much to hide.” Yet, if “Going Clear” proves anything, it’s that Scientology fears freedom, that it’s not growing, and that it has a whole helluva lot to hide.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Happy Valley

“We had Camelot.” So says Sue Paterno, wife of the late Joe, coach of the Penn State University Football team for forty-five years where he conducted a so-called Grand Experiment seeking to marry sports and academics before it all came crashing down over one turbulent week in October 2011. For an instant, you think she must mean it ironically. But she doesn’t. She seriously believes it. “Sue,” you want to say, “Camelot wasn’t real. King Arthur was a myth.” We invent such ideals in fiction because they are impossible to achieve in real life, and if you think you have, well, the fall from imagined grace is always titanic.

That fall, of course, originated from the utterly horrifying crimes committed by Paterno’s one-time top assistant, defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, a man eventually found guilty on 45 counts of child abuse that often took place within facilities on the Penn State campus. This is, without question, the greatest tragedy of State College, Pennsylvania, and the film understands it. But the film is not called “Sandusky”; it is called “Happy Valley”, the nickname for the insulated, idyllic farming community where Paterno and Sandusky once reigned. This is because director Amir Bar-Lev yearns not to simply re-hash the myriad sordid details but to observe the place torn in two by those sordid details. What he finds, frankly, is terrifying in its own right, a climate of denial so pervasive it’s an honest wonder if the area will ever move forward.

Formally, “Happy Valley” is hardly adventurous, relying almost exclusively on stock footage and talking heads. Yet Bar-Lev deploys these talking heads with a deft purpose. He interviews Paterno family members, a Penn State student in his early twenties, a local historian, lawyers, and Paterno’s biographer, Joe Posnanski, a writer for whom I retain much respect, though in this specific arena he continues wearing blinders eight miles wide. For a good while you fear the film is nothing more than a festival of Penn State apologists. Eventually, however, it dawns on you that what Bar-Lev is subtly, skillfully doing is allowing this unending line of talking heads to unwittingly dig their own graves.

Whether Joe Paterno knew for certain what was happening or how long it had been going on, is open to debate, even if it seems difficult to believe the ruler of this central Pennsylvania kingdom could have been unaware. And the idea of whether fulfilling his legal requirement once he did learn of “something” was enough or if moral obligations also played a role is for each person to judge. “Happy Valley” passes no judgment. It offers the information as we know it and allows each interviewee to speak to it, and as they do, it becomes apparent that protecting Paterno’s legacy usurps deducing precisely what happened within the Paterno empire to enable a sexual predator to roam undetected.

Was it a stretch for the NCAA to employ Louis Freeh’s investigation into the matter to lay the hammer to Penn State program, to strip it of scholarships and take away numerous Paterno victories that he still earned even if the “record books” claimed he didn’t? Sure, it was. As Matt Jordan, Penn State film professor notes, the NCAA engaged in a “shaming spectacle”, one that essentially diverted attention from the real crimes perpetrated by Sandusky. “It’s a way to avoid doing something about it,” Jordan says. Truth.

So when Jay Paterno, Joe’s oldest son, explains they wanted to do something about it, you think perhaps this is the moment when the community rallied around focusing its efforts toward Sandusky’s victims, but no. The “it”, we quickly learn, of which they choose to do something about is not matters of child abuse but protecting JoePa’s legacy. Not even protecting, really, as much as relieve themselves of guilt. They hire their own investigators to essentially counteract the Freeh Report and once their own investigators have done just that, well, then they can sleep at night, or something. One of Sandusky’s adopted children, Matt, interviewed throughout, comes forward with his own tale of abuse at the hands of his foster father, something he suppressed for years, and admits to being ostracized, illustrating the community's closing of ranks, its eternal deference to their “beacon of integrity”. 

Happy Valley chants “Fuck Sandusky” at a pro-Paterno rally as if it alone will settle the ethical bill. It touts high graduation rates as if they alone will provide absolution. It blames the media for focusing on the community's darkest transgression while refusing to cope with that transgression itself. As such, the film's primary point rises intrinsically from the people telling this story, those still immersed in a cocoon of outrage always aimed outwardly while what happened within its ivy tower goes un-examined.

Jay Paterno says it best, without realizing that he says it best. “I tell my wife, if I don’t hear it, it doesn’t exist. If I don't know it exists, it can’t bother me. … I know that’s denial but so what? It's healthy for me.”

Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday's Old Fashioned: The Naked City (1948)

“The Naked City” contains perhaps the most famous two lines in cinematic voiceover history, so famous that everyone knows them whether or not they have seen the film. They go like this: “There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.” Of course, those lines don’t arrive until the very end and the narrator (Mark Hellinger) is omnipresent throughout, adding perhaps the most critical layer of texture to Jules Dassin’s, uber-gritty, icona-classic noir film. Beginning with the camera checking up on all manner of New York locations, iconic and unmemorable and in-between, Hellinger advises us that what we are about to watch is yes, most assuredly, a movie. It is, however, a movie unlike most with which we as an audience would have been familiar at the time.

It was shot not on sound stages but on real live New York locations, its camera moving to and fro, freely, throughout the city and allowing people and cars to move liberally in the background of shots out windows to reinforce the impression that what we are watching is the real thing. William H. Daniels won the Academy Award for Cinematography and it’s richly deserved, not simply for carrying his camera around on bona fide concrete but for the way he makes so many tried & true cobs & robbers moment ring out instead with a kind of NYC neo-realism. Consider the brief shootout set on a fire escape. Daniels places his camera in a wide shot from just below, cross-cutting occasionally with more intimate action, but that broader angle makes it seem as if the audience was simply passing by below, perhaps on its way home after dinner and a show, and wandered into the middle of the wild, wild east.

It feels like we’re eavesdropping on an entire city, awake and at play. It’s 1 AM on a Sunday night, Hellinger tells us, and like the journalist he really was in real life the camera elicits the sensation of a newspaperman’s point-of-view, out and about at an ungodly hour and trying to find a story to weave for the morning papers. As the camera flits about, momentarily stopping on all manner of residents, For the briefest of moments, we linger on a woman cleaning the floor of a bank, and hear her mutter to herself: “sometimes I think this world is made up of nothing but dirty feet.” It sounds, doesn’t it, like the opening sentence to some tightly coiled mystery book that turns out better than its cover might lead you to believe, and I half-yearned for “The Naked City” to track a day in her life. Ah, but you know what hackneyed movie newscasters say: If it bleeds, it leads.

That’s how we end up, when the opening monologue is all said and done, in the apartment of Jean Dexter, a model who’s just been murdered. We meet the murderers, so their identity is no secret even if their motivation is. We meet the detectives assigned to the case who go through the requisite motions and reversals, conducting interviews and following leads, eventually untangling the web. And what’s surprising is just how ordinary this entire criminal investigation feels. Surprises are minimal and no deeper psychological insight is truly gleaned from the wrongdoing itself or from those who perpetrated it. And that’s okay, because the very point of the case at the core of “The Naked City” is its ordinariness. If this is but one of 8 million stories then it’s reasonable to assume, right, that, say, 1.7 million other stories are akin to this one.

The city is the main character and its actual characters are simply playing supporting parts, beholden to the city’s simultaneous overwhelming size and suffocating intimacy. To live it, you have to make peace with hit, as Det. Muldoon (Barry Fitzgerald) has done. He may have been on the force for two decades but he’s not grizzled, not depressed, not counting the days ‘til retirement. There’s a magnificent shot when he’s perched at his window watching a few girls below playing a rope-jumping game and speaks to the way he treats detective work – as a game. Every new development results in heightened eyebrows, a quizzical smile.

His partner, Jimmy Halloran (Don Taylor), is the obligatory newbie, and the only scene that gets away from the urban jungle is one at home with his wife which is set to chirping music like it’s a scene from The Donna Reed Show. And yet, a subtle undercurrent of darkness lingers, emblemized by his wife asking her hubby to give their son a spanking. Jimmy seems to know he needs to but can’t bring himself to do it, likely because his hearth & home is his safe haven, the place where everything is supposed to be as happy as that music on the soundtrack makes it seem.

That’s what makes the end so powerful. On the surface, it’s just another chase sequence topped with a case of Climbing Killer Scenario. But it’s so much more. It’s the principal villain thinking he can be swallowed up by the city, never to be found, only to wind up completely exposed and helpless, which is pretty much the perfect metaphor for what the big city inevitably does to us all.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Don't See The New Star Wars: Force Awakens Trailer Here!!!

Today was the first day of “Star Wars” Celebration, scheduled to run until Sunday at the Anaheim Convention Center. Cinema Romantico bought a ticket in hopes of seeing the debut of the first full length trailer for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and recording it on our iPhone to upload here to the teeming masses. I should have known better. I was forced to check my iPhone at the door and was then treated to a security patdown by guards armed with Chewbacca tee-shirt guns who absconded with my ankle Samsung Galaxy. So I had no choice but to document was I seeing with an old-fashioned pen and notebook. What follows is exactly as I wrote it down, no embellishments.....

The trailer begins not with the familiar notes of John Williams’ score but with something approaching……Gershwin. We fade in to Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley at what appears to be a Coruscant food co-op discussing the relevance of the Golden Age of Alderaan literature. The audience is a little restless. You can sense it. But it's okay. The music turns ominous. We cut to an X-wing just chilling in the hangar. Oscar Isaac is in the cockpit. A harried Greg Grunberg walks up and offers him a bag. “What's this for?” Isaac asks. “For being an honest X-wing pilot?”

The next shot is Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher standing in front of some sort of CGI-enhanced landscape. They're dressed like it's an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond” and he's Ray and she's Deb. The crowd cheers. “Kids,” Ford says. “They're not doing anything you didn’t teach them to do,” Fisher replies. “We taught them to be rebels,” he growls. “And they are,” she says.

Spacescape. X-wings. Laser blasts. Then……wait, is that a Death Star? …… Nope. Sorry. It’s just a disco ball gleaming above some sort of ginormous dance floor on the forest moon of Endor. Suddenly, we see Billy Dee Williams, dressed like a resort owner on Zeltros, which he might be, at a turntable. “Welcome to Lando’s Landing! Home of the all night pants off dance off and combustible champagne!” Now it looks like that scene in “The Matrix Reloaded”, the one where everyone’s throbbing to the beat, a beat that's like Petra Marklund fronting the Cantina Band. People around me are starting to get skeptical. I’m, like, into it.

Now we’re on Jabba’s skiff. It’s just like that scene in “Return of the Jedi”. It IS that scene in “Return of the Jedi”! Except it’s old Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill and Billy Dee Williams scampering around and trying to avoid being seen by young Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill and Billy Dee Williams! It’s like that scene in “Back to the Future 2” where the characters from now wind up back in 1955! PEOPLE ARE LOSING THEIR MINDS! OR SCREAMING CURSE WORDS! I CAN’T TELL WHICH!


Wait, Keira Knightley is on the screen now with an aquamarine lightsaber dressed like her version of Guinevere in “King Arthur”. Did they time travel back to “The Phantom Menace”? Was Natalie Portman HER decoy? Or is this the Marcan herbs kicking in? Did I not mention that? That beforehand I was out in Jabba's Tent in the Anaheim Convention Center Parking Lot where they were passing around hookah?

Now Disney representatives are going through the aisles and stealing money from people. I think. I might be imagining that too.

Send help.