Monday, June 03, 2019

On ‘Toxic’ Masculinity.

I’m going to pour myself a glass of water.

Cool, clear. Healthy. Vital for survival. Nourishing, refreshing, revitalizing. Essential.

Now let’s add a household cleaning agent to it.

F*ck it, let’s add poison.

Add Pine-Sol. Let’s add bleach. In fact, we can add any other deadly agent.

Now, do I really want to drink that water? No. Why? It’s toxic.

Does this mean I hate water because I don’t want to drink that glass of nastiness we just created? No, not at all. Anyone with a brain could see that’s a ridiculous statement. I don’t all of a sudden ‘hate water.’ I just don’t want to drink toxic water because I know the difference between what’s good for me and what’s harmful.

Take masculinity.

Strength. Courage. Character. Protectiveness. Honesty. Integrity. Accountability. Spirit. Competitiveness. Support. Compassion. Caring.

Now let’s add some not-so-healthy attributes, behaviors, impulses, etc.

We’ll add misplaced rage. We can add deeply-entrenched generational misogyny. Let’s add homophobia. Let’s add physical and emotional abusiveness, generations of it, in fact, why not? Now let’s add a strange, impulsive need to establish dominance over others. Let's add sexual harassment. Throw in sexual assault. Let's add in a weirdly predatory worldview.

Let’s add years of really unhelpful cultural conditioning (raises hand). Maybe we can add repression, the kind that creates unpredictable volcanic outbursts (points to self).

Now, let’s add a heavy dash of emotional immaturity (guilty). Let’s keep adding self-destructive behaviors. Add acting out (check). Let’s add any other unhealthy characteristic we can think of. Gaslighting? Sure. Mansplaining? (Well, actually-- that's a real thing), catcalling women on the street? Throw it in the glass.

Now, do I really want to be the guy with all those unhealthy traits & behaviors added? No. Why? They’re toxic. Toxic to relationships, toxic to workplaces, social situations, families and, in fact, toxic to me. These traits & behaviors lead to wrecked lives, broken homes, fractured friendships, and can even lead to depression, desperation, workplace violence, and even suicide.

Does this mean I suddenly hate masculinity? No. Anyone with half a brain could see that’s a ridiculous statement. I don’t all of a sudden ‘hate masculinity.’ And I’m not suddenly ‘less of a man,’ because I don’t want those negative traits, behaviors or impulses in my glass. 

I still aspire to strength, courage, character, honesty, protectiveness, etc. I just don’t want any part of those toxic attributes because I understand the difference between what’s good for me and what’s harmful. In fact, working towards moving through any or all of those traits and behaviors through counseling, therapy, or even just a good-faith conversation about what’s going on inside us can be a helpful thing.

(And if the immediate knee-jerk reaction to taking away the stuff we just added to the glass is Dude you're asking me not to be a man anymore then... I got nothing, brother. You need to stop reading this and see a counselor asap.)

That's not to say I'm some Saint or Boy Scout. I’ve gone through-- and still experience-- my share of cloudy days. In fact, I struggle with the anger management aspect, and when it rears its ugly head there is nothing left except the reverberation of recrimination, shame, and dissipated possibilities and alternatives to how I could have handled things differently. 

My temper can be toxic to those around me. It's my Achilles heel.

But here's the thing to understand- culturally my temper just means I'm a fiery guy - a strange, socially forgivable Toxically Masculine trait. See? Not good, toxic in fact, but weirdly acceptable. That has to change, the culture has to change, I have to change because it actually isn't acceptable. A woman blowing her stack when things don't go her way doesn't get a pass like I do for being 'fired up.' She's called a hysterical mess and an emotional basket case. See? Weird when one looks deeper at it.

Honestly, though, I’m working on it.

But strangely enough, even though I've got anger management issues, the phrase Toxic Masculinity has never angered me, nor have I ever scoffed at it or felt threatened by it. There’s a part of me that understands it- because I recognize it and have felt both the first and second-hand effects (not to mention the generational familial effects) it has had upon generations of men in this country who have been told ‘boys will be boys,’ (consequences don’t apply) ‘boys don’t cry,’ (what are you, a sissy?) and ‘I’d rather die than ask for help… or directions.” (LOL that last part is a joke, you can laugh, good lord, lighten up, Tony Soprano.)

So I see the phrase 'Toxic Masculinity' as a simple way to discuss manhood like a glass of water.

If we remove the bullshit that clouds our lives, our minds, our relationships, and our emotional well-being, we can become our clear-eyed best selves. 

We can become better men.

And if we do this, it might become easier to help young men clear their glasses, too.

So the next time you hear the phrase Toxic Masculinity in reference to a set of behaviors or social mores related to the contemporary social expectation of manhood, don’t just laugh and roll your eyes. Maybe take the time to say "What exactly do you mean by that?" Then engage the conversation from there. It may pay dividends down the road.

And every day, take stock of what’s in the glass of your life.

Is it cloudy or is it clear?

Monday, December 10, 2018


How I do the dishes at home.
I’ve been going 'great guns' for a few weeks now and the recent snowfall in Richmond has given me a chance to recover, rest and reflect. As I write this, I’m sitting upright in bed with a scarf around my neck sipping from a mug of hot water to soothe a voice which has been tested due to overuse. The last few days I have not said much, which I’m sure is an early Christmas gift to everyone around me.

THE GAME’S AFOOT: HOLMES FOR THE HOLIDAYS is up and running at Virginia Repertory Theater at Hanover Tavern and we have been thrilling virtually sold-out houses since our opening November 30. The overall run is certainly a challenge, as we have two-show days on Wednesdays and Saturdays and the high-octane hijinks demand the ensemble run full-throttle for two-plus hours in the wintertime, which invites exhaustion which in turn can often pave the way for colds & flu.

We’re all doing our best to stay healthy and focused on giving 100% each night. The cast is incredible and I love working with each one of them. The show runs through January 6, but I’ll be stepping out of the run on December 30 to tackle my next project, which just so happens to be my ‘day job’ at the moment...

Daily from about 10am-3pm, I’m rehearsing the role of shock-jock ‘Barry Champlain’ in Eric Bogosian’s 1987 hit play TALK RADIO, about a radio personality who goes full throttle until he has a full-blown on-air meltdown on the eve of his show’s ascendency to national syndication. The show, produced by 5th Wall Theatre, opens at The Basement on January 10 and runs through the 26th. I’m working with one of my favorite directors, the great Morrie Piersol, and our cast is stellar.

As if that wasn’t enough, I’m rehearsing A VERY GOOD YEAR, my nightclub-style New Year’s Eve cabaret at Richmond Triangle Players at the Robert B. Moss Theatre backed by a jazz trio featuring musical direction by the incredible Ryan Corbitt. We’ll be offering two shows on December 31, 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., complete with a champagne toast welcoming in 2019.

Shout-out to my vocal teacher, Opera singer Sarah Walston (Our brilliant ‘Abigail’ in the 2016 Virginia Rep production of ‘1776’) for giving me plenty of resources to keep the voice running and resting and meeting each challenge. I’m using a Vicks’ steamer, drinking Fire Cider (Made in Pittsfield, Mass, my hometown), pounding water and tea, and trying to get as much sleep as I can. Still, it is a lot and I often find myself having to take a nap from around 4-5 p.m. each day. This is an invaluable and indispensable activity. I highly recommend naps. I wish I would have taken more of them when I was younger. They're refreshing and-- best of all-- free.

Despite sometimes feeling weary, I am really proud of the work I’m doing and the people I’m doing it with. I am a very lucky fellow to be doing what I love-- namely, telling stories and engaging with audiences. It is all I've ever wanted to do.

In any case, thanks for reading. Hope to see you at a show sometime. 

I'll be waiting for you.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Avengers Infinity War: SPOILER REVIEW!!

I’m on Navy Reserve duty in Norfolk, so I decided to kill an afternoon secured early by seeing AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR for the second time.

I freaking love this film.

I saw it the first time at CINEBISTRO at Stony Point on the opening Sunday after one of the busiest weekends of my life, and, while I enjoyed it, I was 1.) really tired and 2.) eager for certain things to be included which I didn’t get in the film (I’ll get to those) but this second viewing just filled me with so much more awe and appreciation for what the Russos, Kevin Feige, screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and Marvel have done with this incredible universe of characters.

If you are not a Marvel enthusiast or an emotional devotee of the previous 18 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) you will probably not enjoy and or ‘feel’ the story as much as someone who is. Therefore, the payoff(s) within this film will feel a bit hollow and insubstantial. That’s something to put right up-front. My wife is in this camp. To her and to many folks who just don’t love it, the superhero film genre (and MCU films in particular) feature stories which often seem interchangeable.

The formulas are often very basic and predictable:

Heroes/Villians/Crises/Fights/Jokes/HugeCGI finale/Rinse/Lather/Repeat.

I get it, I totally do. These movies ain’t for everybody. God bless my wonderful wife. I drag her to them at least four times a year. That’s why we often go to CINEBISTRO because these ‘Event’ movies are enjoyable for us both when we can have dinner and enjoy a great ambiance free from texters, talkers, kids and screaming babies.

However, if, like me, you have a lifelong attachment to these characters based on the source material, you will find yourself swept up in the adventure, tone, scope and the sheer joy of seeing them rendered faithfully on film.

That’s what the MCU ultimately gets 100% right: They simply nail these characters. They have so much fun bouncing them off of one another that it becomes a joyful exercise in inspired storytelling wherein the characters drive the story in a genuine way.

Let’s get reviewin.’ As advertised, SPOILERS.

Thanos, a mad warrior dictator from the planet Titan, succeeds in his quest to bring together all six powerful infinity stones in an effort to “re-balance”’ the Universe by wiping out half of all life with a snap of his fingers. The deaths, random and impersonal, affect life everywhere-- especially the ranks of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

-Josh Brolin as THANOS. It is tricky playing a CGI villain who speaks only in declarations and strides through a three-hour film with unflagging, genocidal purpose, but Brolin and the Russos have created a magnetic, multi-layered antagonist from whose POV the entire story is told.

The filmmakers and Brolin imbue Thanos with true human emotion while setting him up as the ultimate foe. Thanos is both physically and intellectually a cut above the usual bombastic blowhards of the superhero genre. He dispatches the Hulk in the first five minutes of the film, hitting him with a throat punch which stuns and confuses the big green guy. This tells us that Thanos is next-level bad. We feel for the Hulk as if he were a wounded animal. Then... Thanos snaps the neck of fan-favorite anti-hero Loki and says “No resurrections this time.” The tone is set.

Brolin’s performance is pitch-perfect. He makes unusual, quiet acting choices which give Thanos a rich complexity and a dangerous, compelling unpredictability. Thanos finds other characters and their struggles really interesting. He empathizes. He finds honor in others as they struggle valiantly against his plan. He kills some, spares others, loves, hates, loses… and, ultimately WINS.

In performance, Brolin actively listens and we can see the wheels turning in his mind. Flashes of loneliness, humor, despair, pride, and rage jump out beyond the purple CGI shell. Another actor might not be able to bring such rough gravitas and quiet nuance to the role, so thank Odin for Brolin.

Perhaps the most chilling back-and-forth Thanos has is with his daughter, Gamora, where he looks heavenward in weary exasperation before declaring with a steely resolve that he is the only one who can see the logic of his quest to re-balance reality and therefore the only one who can do something about it. It is at this moment we see his casual, terrifying certainty locked firmly in place. It’s like a holiday dinner conversation with that nut-job relative who has it all figured out-- “If only ‘they’ were gotten rid of, everything would be just fine…” Yikes.

-Chris Hemsworth as THOR. Wounded, weary, beaten and battered, the God of Thunder will never ever give up. His quest -- create a weapon (Stormbreaker) to replace the shattered Mjolnir, with which he can kill Thanos-- is the central ‘hero’s journey’ in the film, while Thanos’ quest is the perverse inversion of it. 

Hemsworth as Thor is just great. He has such charisma and real star quality. His interplay with the Guardians is hilarious and inspired. Drax sums it up when he tells Chris Pratt’s STAR-LORD “This is not a dude. You are a dude. This is a MAN.” Word.

Thor sees his half-brother Loki and his pal Heimdahl killed along with half of what’s left of the Asgardian refugees from THOR: RAGNAROK, and it all hits him-- hard. His quiet monologue with Rocket Raccoon is poignant, touching, and slightly meta, but he grounds Thor’s quest in something real. Kudos to the Russos for giving us the moment of reflection. It all pays off.

And trust me, Thor’s third-act entrance as a literal Deus-Ex-Machina is a genuine cheer-out-loud-in-the-theatre moment.

-RDJ and Cumberbatch as STARK and STRANGE. 
RDJ is the original MCU hero and he doesn’t disappoint in INFINITY WAR. Only now, he has a new and just-as-charismatic foil in Cumberbatch as Dr. Strange. Their chemistry is incredible. Their witty banter and snarky one-upsmanship lift the early scenes to the joyous anything-can-happen heights of a great summer film.

Both actors know who they are and each simply stands his ground against the other to the sheer delight of the audience. What I really love about the pairing is that one is a tech genius grounded in science and the other is a master of the mystic arts. They both have so many wonderful surprises hidden up their sleeves-- Strange with his array of spells and portals, and Stark with his new-and-improved bleeding edge nanotech armor, which he uses in a jaw-dropping, pulse-pounding late-inning do-or-die one-on-one battle with Thanos himself.

RDJ gives everything he has in this film-- you can feel his desperation to save the day in every frame, and his paternal relationship to Tom Holland’s Peter Parker leads to an absolute heartbreaker. The Russos give RDJ his props in this film. Even Cap (My favorite character) articulates the fact that Iron Man is the earth’s strongest protector and man, is he right.

If y'all don't know, RDJ as Stark is the OG badass who started the MCU, and he ain’t done yet.

-The Comedy. The tone is heavy at times, but it is punctuated perfectly by moments of levity and fun which provide great beats of laughter in an otherwise bleak tragedy. The directors let these actors do what they do best and the atmosphere is really loose and relaxed and fun. We want to be in the movie. We want to have cool powers and hang out and banter and solve problems with the characters. We always feel like we’re in on the joke, and it is so much fun.

-Peter Dinklage. Not a huge fan of his on GAME OF THRONES, but I think that’s mainly due to the fact that I can’t get past his English accent. It. Is. Not. Good. He just sounds like a guy at a local renaissance fair who really really thinks he’s nailing it while he takes a long time to sell you an oversized turkey leg, and you’re forced to kind of… deal with it and pretend along with him until you get your food.

I just-- I can’t do it-- especially here, in a bajillion dollar film when, as in GoT, he is paired up with actors who have actual, commanding, legit classical sounding British-affected lilts to their voices. Listening to him do dialogue opposite Hemsworth is like "Story, plot, character, nuance, humor, charm" and now BAD ACCENT GUY SAYS HIS LINES. He’s a great actor otherwise, and his film the STATION AGENT is wonderful-- It just takes me out of the film each time I hear him not-quite-get there. Gah.

-YOU CAN’T GET TO EVERYONE. You just can’t touch on every single character the way you’d like to when you have a roster of 30-something heroes to focus on. I was disappointed initially because I wanted more Cap/Bucky/Widow/Sam narrative. These characters understandably get short-shrift narratively speaking, but all do a great job with what they are given.

I have to stop and give props to Chris Evans for a moment. In a film where so many other characters shine by displaying huge moments of charisma and humor, Evans plays Cap with a stoic resolve and literally takes it the other way as a sustained acting choice. This Cap is quietly burning up with anger, self-recrimination, and he’s just focused on doing his job. In performance, though, there are some really great nuanced moments, like when Vision thanks Cap for saving him-- we can see on Cap's face the lingering feeling of betrayal from CIVIL WAR. 

No doubt Cap will have more to do in AVENGERS 4, but I just want to say I see you, Chris Evans, and I love what you’re doing, man… 


PETE JUMPS INTO THE FRAY. Spider-Man jumping out of the bus and swinging across the East River makes my spirit leap out through my chest. It is so wonderfully Huck-Finn-Tom-Sawyer awesome I literally get a lump in my throat thinking about how great it is to be young and excited and want to leap into the fray to help. It has nothing to do with fighting and everything to do with helping people. Pure adventure. Look out, here comes your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

YIBAMBE: It means "Hold Fast" in Xhosa. I got goosebumps in that standoff and ensuing battle as T'Challa's forces combined to face the outriders-- and I spent the next week with it echoing in my head. Good mantra for anything, especially facing alien attacks.

THE BLEEDING EDGE ARMOR REVEAL. Slow-motion, Tony Stark Swagger.

TONY ANOINTING SPIDEY AS AN AVENGER. The music swells for just a second as Pete allows himself a brief moment of joy before refocusing on earning it. Tom Holland IS Spider-Man and his eager earnestness is so refreshing.

CAP’S ENTRANCE. Steve steps out of the shadows as the original Alan Silvestri AVENGERS theme blares. Cap may not have a huge featured role in this, but Team Cap out there knows what I’m talking about. 

I can do this all day.

OKOYE THROWS SHADE AT BANNER AND WANDA. The badass General and protector of Wakanda has some great moments of fighting and reacting to the strange Avengers she has never met. Danai Gurira is awesome as Okoye and she was my favorite character in BLACK PANTHER. Her reactions to the intergalactic threat raise the stakes and really make us feel how daunting a foe the outriders are. She’s fantastic and I hope she plays a larger role in the MCU going forward.

THE TITAN FIGHT. The Russos have put together a great sequence where Spidey, Iron Man, Doctor Strange and members of the GoTG take on Thanos as he attempts to add the time stone to his Infinity Gauntlet. The way in which each character’s abilities are showcased in service to that goal is just wonderfully inspired and makes perfect sense. The Russos and the writers (Markus and McFeely) do a great job of explaining why Thanos doesn’t just wipe them all out by preventing him from making a fist to activate the stone’s energies. The heroes almost had Thanos disarmed, too, until Star Lord’s emotional outburst ruined it all NOT COOL JACKASS NOT COOL AT ALL

Doctor Strange looked into 14,000,605 possible outcomes of the conflict with Thanos and saw that the Avengers only win one. I want to see this movie that many times, too. I liked it that much.

Doc determined that giving the time stone to Thanos in exchange for Tony Stark’s life was a part of that one winning timeline, but at a horrible cost, as Thanos subsequently used the time stone to 1.) reverse time and 2.) pull the mind stone out of Vision’s head before 3.) casting his broken android body unceremoniously aside.

Not even having his chest ripped open by Thor’s badass new axe Stormbreaker could prevent Thanos from precipitating the ‘Snapture,’ (Thank you, Glen Weldon from NPR’s ‘Pop Culture Happy Hour’ for that beautiful name) so pretty much everybody dies at the end, yes. The list is long and you can probably google it because it is getting late here and this review is now longer than the film.

So now we have 1.) Stark and Nebula shell-shocked on Titan, with Stark badly wounded and his armor malfunctioning 2.) The surviving heroes in Wakanda in stunned silence as their friends turn to ash and 3.) Pandemonium all over the universe as life forms disappear at random. In his last valiant act before crumbling away to nothing, Nick Fury sends out a 1990s-style space pager message to Captain Marvel, who is most likely embroiled in the Kree-Skrull conflict on the other side of the universe.

They dropped several hints in the film about how “We don’t trade lives.” Cap says this to Vision in a scene early on. I think that where we have these characters positioned now, it is perfectly poised for them to make the "trade" when the time comes. Stark may sacrifice himself to bring back Peter. Steve might sacrifice his life to bring back Bucky. Possibly Okoye will sacrifice her life to bring back T’Challa. The themes of trading and sacrificing and parenting are all over this film. 

Everyone loses someone or something they love. Everyone.

Basically, the film is like issue #6 of a 12-issue limited series. You have to be in it for the long haul. Marvel is and the Russos are, and Feige certainly is. Luckily they know the fans are, too, and they are willing to go where the story goes.

I have to imagine that in Avengers 4, we will see Ant-Man and Hawkeye added to the fray. Possibly Hawkeye will lose his family to the snapture and will go all Ronin on the bad guys (Whoever and wherever they are) and Ant-Man will find his way through the quantum realm as a shortcut to possible permutations of reality which can unlock and undo some (not all) of the damage Thanos has wrought.

There’s also another Infinity Gauntlet on Nidavellir, the place where Stormbreaker was forged. It would take one heck of a powerful being to use it to fix reality -- someone as powerful as Adam Warlock in the comics, or like Captain Marvel perhaps? Or maybe Stark? One thing is for sure, this film establishes that there comes a true cost to wielding the power of the Infinity Stones, and despite the shock value of the cost of this film, Avengers 4 is going to be the one where the full bill really comes due.

Make Mine Marvel. Excelsior.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

THE LAST JEDI. My spoiler-filled observations.

Here are some great lines from our favourite heroes in EMPIRE STRIKES BACK:

"That's right, and my friend's out in it..."

"We have to go back, I know where Luke is..."

"I can't get the vision out of my head, they're my friends, I've gotta help them." 

The biggest-I’ll repeat-- the biggest blunder this new trilogy makes is starting from the premise that Luke and Han, best friends and decorated heroes of the rebellion, each of whom never had a real family but always stayed loyal and steadfast to their friends and their cause even to the point of death and destruction, freezing, annihilation and the end of all hope-- those guys, the guys we dressed up like and pretended to be because they were brave and selflessness and freed the galaxy from catastrophe-- those guys-- both of them-- Han Solo and Luke Skywalker completely quit when it got too hard.

They quit on marriage, parenthood, mentorship, responsibility, duty, guardianship-- hell, one even contemplated murdering his nephew in his sleep. Han gave all the above up to chase Rathtars. Luke set off for a peaceful daily life of drinking alien milk.

Rian Johnson turned Luke Skywalker into a broken, guilt-crippled, cynical intergalactic Big Lebowski who leaves his sister to fight a war by herself. Han Solo? A debt-ridden absent father and husband who leaves his wife to-- you guessed it-- fight a war by herself. Our favourite characters no longer have a moral centre or any feeling of responsibility to one another. That entire idea is sooooo passe. We no longer know who in the hell these characters are. In fact, they are completely unrecognizable from who we knew them to be based on how they previously faced challenges together in service to one another. 

Why should I have ever expected anything different? We now live in the era of the whiny, moody, sullen, hopeless Superman. Of course, we got the cowardly, absent Han Solo, now along comes the morally crippled Luke Skywalker.

This is the foundational weakness of the whole new saga. I feel cheated and pissed and depressed and disappointed and angry. I guess I really should have seen this coming. Every time they would ask Mark Hamill about it in interviews, there was a hesitation and a brow-furrowing as if he's going "how exactly do I say this without pissing off the execs…??” But he’s Mark Hamill, dammit. So he said it:

“I at one point had to say to Rian, ‘I pretty much fundamentally disagree with every choice you’ve made for this character. Now, having said that, I have gotten it off my chest, and my job now is to take what you’ve created and do my best to realize your vision.’ ” 

Some vision. Hamill was right. Johnson scripted the dumbest, most insulting, most illogical use of the single most iconic Star Wars character in the saga. They had one shot to do it right and they whiffed big time.

So let me get this straight- just so I got this: LUKE SKYWALKER, A JEDI MASTER who believed in the tiny sliver of goodness within his genocidal war criminal space wizard father and redeemed him through sheer faith and devotion and love and selflessness and proved that love can destroy an empire, grew powerful enough to train a new generation, but suddenly WANTED TO KILL HIS OWN TEENAGE NEPHEW IN HIS SLEEP.

But then he somehow wasn't powerful enough to defend himself from the creepy sleepy emo nephew's force attack. Yet the mysterious Rey --WITH NO TRAINING AND NO TIES TO THE SKYWALKER FAMILY AND NO ANYTHING-- beats Kylo Ren in a lightsaber duel in The Force Awakens and then beats Luke's ass on the island... with a stick.

This film was written by a committee of latte-sipping global marketing execs--and Abrams and Kasdan--aided and abetted by Johnson, who-- in his defence-- had to reverse-engineer a justification for Luke to be out of the fight for so long. He chose... guilt. 

So, Johnson wrote Luke a galaxy-altering moment of uncharacteristic... what? Weakness? Fury? Fear? Aggression? That sets off something horrible-- you know what? Fine. But here’s the thing: Heroes face that shit. They confront growing evil. They don't stand creepily over sleeping kids. They face adversity, they personally question, challenge and get everything out in the open and stand up for what's right in the light of day.

Like an educator saying "I thought this kid was capable of precipitating a violent incident, so I stood over his sleeping body with a 9mm handgun-- but you know, just for a second-- and when I came to my senses he woke up and attacked me." WHAT THE FUUUU

But I could have dealt with all of it if they had just made Luke actually risk something by going to Crait and physically standing in the way of the First Order. To protect the sister he risked everything for waaaaay back when he was a young farm boy and she was a complete stranger to him. To stand up for justice and get back in the fight.

He could have whipped up a giant salt-storm, caused a force-induced earthquake, made lightning rain down, fought and died at the hands of Kylo and a barrage of AT-At fire... and I would have felt like he worked through something, atoned for a sin he would never have committed in the first place. (Know how I know he wouldn’t have? Because he turned his lightsaber off when faced with a much tougher and more critical choice over 35 years ago. It’s called internal logic.)

But... no. Alas. We don’t even get that. Because he's a hologram. A force projection. How is the audience supposed to recognize that and suddenly justify his death? I was shocked and confused by it all. I was like...."You're kidding me right now... we are doing this now? He's dying from this?” I could almost see the crisp, white Starbucks coffee cups and the yellow legal pads of the Disney execs as they took it all in in the meeting:

 “He dies? Luke dies? LOVE that. LOVE it. Hamill is a pain in the ass anyway. So the middle-aged fans in the 35-65 bracket will have a quick cathartic moment and we can do the twin sunset thing too because symmetry. Rian, you’re brilliant. Can we also have Rey say something about Luke dying with ‘peace and purpose?’ You know, have her say it right to the audience in just those exact words? I’d really like to add that, you know our mantra, ‘tell, don’t show.’ Ok now that we’ve checked that box, we can move on to some real storytelling in episode-- what is it now, nine? I can’t remember, they’re all alike. (Laughter from the group) Can we see those new plush Porg toy prototypes now? Greaaaaaaat.”

Johnson cut every single set-up spike Abrams left him. Snoke? NOPE. Rey’s parentage? NAH BRO JUNKERS. Luke gives up the force and the Jedi order? Oh, ok. THEN WHY IS HE WEARING JEDI ROBES WHEN WE SEE HIM FIRST? WHY DOES HE CHANGE INTO A DIFFERENT OUTFIT RIGHT AWAY? WHY DOES HE LOOK AT REY AS IF HE KNOWS WHAT HAPPENED TO HAN AT THE END OF TFA?

And don't get me started on the incompetent, ridiculous resistance and their illogical internal politics/strategy and the Battlestar-Galactica-ripoff-fuel-cris-slow-motion chase and the joke’s-on-General-Hux-he’s-soooo-goofy routine.

Seriously, though. If you want to move in a new direction, tie up the fates of our beloved characters with resonant, emotional payoffs. Make them care enough to actually do something. Then let them go and introduce new characters. But I don't give a shit about anyone new because they are market research cutouts and I don't feel a thing for them.

The whole plot of the movie from both the first order and the resistance POV:




That's a window into the decision-making process that went on in this film. ...and it shows.


-Poe Dameron would be shot for mutiny, but Leia's like "he's so cute, isn't he?"

-Admiral Jurassic Park could have told Poe 'CHILL, WE HAVE A PLAN' at ANY TIME IN THE 3 HOURS

-Admiral Ackbar is dead. Ok. thanks…??

-If you can get off the ship to go to Vegas or Atlantic city to find a 'codebreaker' WHY CAN'T EVERYONE GO TO VEGAS, JUST PUT EVERYONE ON THAT SHIP WHAT THE FUCK

-If you can use ships as hyperspace missiles and cripple First Order Dreadnoughts WHY NOT SET THE SHIP'S AUTOPILOT TO DO SO WHILE YOU GUYS ESCAPE

-With TFA I knew Harrison Ford wanted out, but I thought they'd make Kylo conflicted-- so they get to a moment where he won't kill Leia… and he decides not to-- but thennnn… NAHHH KILL EVERYBODY TAKE NO PRISONERS

-NOT ONE SCENE between Kylo and his mom. For all the familial ties in the saga, these guys sure pass up opportunities for dramatic conflict


-ROSE- Cool character, good performance. But I desperately want to see a deeply resonant plotline about the relationship between siblings and their names are LUKE AND LEIA

-LUKE was the maguffin, initially-- it was like WE HAVE TO FIND LUKE and the first order was like NO WE HAVE TO FIND SKYWALKER FIRST-- IT IS PARAMOUNT!!! in this one, the First Order is like "Ummm... Wait until they run out of gas or something..."




I never ever in a million years thought I would find myself writing this about a Star Wars film, but "Where do they go from here"is met with a resounding WHOOOOO CARES.