LIVE Tweeting Sabotage of the 2012 Oscars on Behalf of The Phantom Menace!
I always watch the Academy Awards, and I don’t know why—hardly any of the movies that I really love are even nominated, let alone win. My wife likes to tell people that we’re “banned” from Oscar parties because of our insolent and constant comments about the proceedings, but sometimes I think she just tells people that so we don’t have to go to their house and pretend to care about a bunch of Hollywood types patting each other on the back.
So this year, in the name of The Phantom Menace, I’m striking back, and awarding Oscars to who I think deserves them. I’m going by “feel, don’t think—use your instincts”—so I don’t even know yet who’s nominated, I’ll just award whoever feels right! This is happening NOW (830pm EST/530pm PST) on twitter, which you don’t even need to join to see—just go to http://twitter.com/tpmholiday .
I saw TPM3D again the other day, hoping that noon on a Wednesday would be nice and low-key. When I got into the theater, there was only one other person in there, which was great. Though nothing beats the excitement of a packed midnight showing, sometimes you just want to watch a movie without a theater full of people. As the trailers played on (my attempt to get there late enough to miss them failed, and I was stuck having to listen to that teeth-grindingly twee Polyphonic Spree song in “The Lorax” trailer again), a woman and a few kids came in and sat down up in the back somewhere. TPM started, and as usual, the spell was cast from the first drumbeats of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare.
About 5 minutes into the movie, this lady comes in with two kids, talking at full volume—I just knew where they were going to sit; and sure enough, in a decent-sized theater with only 5 other people present, she and her kids plop down in the row right behind me, directly in back of me. As The Great One once said in The Phantom Menace Scrapbook (Scholastic Books, 1999), “Why meesa always the one?”. Why indeed, JJB! The kids weren’t the problem, it was this lady…she would not…shut…up, and all at full blast. I gave it a few minutes and thought, “Okay, once they’re settled, she’ll quiet down”, but no!! On and on she blathered, each word twisting into my head like a rusty corkscrew. I sort of half-looked back a couple times, hoping she’d pick up on that passive-aggressive social cue, but no such luck. Finally, I realized that either I was going to turn around and ask her to please quiet down, or I was going to just have to let it go. After thinking about it for a minute, I went with the latter route, for this reason: if I turned around and chastised her, no matter how justified I was, or how polite I would have been, her two little kids would forever remember The Phantom Menace as “The movie where that guy was mean to my mom”. I took one for the team, and my team is The Phantom Menace!! Anyways, I have seen TPM maybe just a few times, so it wasn’t like I couldn’t follow along. Being mindful of ‘the Living Force’ paid off delightfully, because this lady was INSANE, and insanely entertaining!!
Throughout the movie, she’d randomly ask the kids if they were “sleepy”—which, if they were, they would’ve been wide awake when she asked them so loudly. I think those poor kids and I were in the same boat, they just wanted to enjoy TPM! During any sort of action, she’d let loose with either a wary, “Mmmm!” or, if somebody got what was coming to them, a smug, “Mmmmm-hmmmm!”. The theater was full of “Mmmm!’s” during the Boonta Eve Podrace. Her insanity revealed itself completely shortly thereafter, when Darth Maul was attacking Qui-Gon as he and Anakin are on their way back to the Royal Starship. Loudly (of course), she inquisitively asked one of her kids, “Is he the bad guy???”!!!!! Now by this point in the movie, even though Darth Maul hasn’t had a lot of screentime, I don’t understand the question! We’ve seen him hanging out with Darth Sidious, talking about taking revenge on the Jedi, standing there menacingly with his arms folded across his chest…creepy whispers play on the soundtrack when he’s shown on screen! HE WEARS BLACK, HAS YELLOW EYES, AND HAS A RED FACE AND HORNS LIKE THE DEVIL!!!!!!! “Is he the bad guy???”??????? Even if you had never seen a second of a Star Wars movie in your entire life, and were flipping through channels and it landed on him, you’d intuitively grasp that HE WAS THE BAD GUY. I mean, look!:
The movie went on and she kept making noise, but it didn’t bother me, as I was sure she’d supply more entertainment—and she didn’t disappoint. She was wide awake when Darth Maul impaled poor Qui-Gon on his lightsaber—I know she was, as she was talking the whole time—and after Obi-Wan dispatched Maul and had his final exchange with Qui-Gon, the lady made what sounded like a heart-felt, “awwww…”. Fast forward to the solemn scene of Qui-Gon’s funeral…as the camera focused in on Qui-Gon’s body burning on the pyre, with serious alarm in her voice, she shouts, “THEY’RE BURNING HIM ALIVE!!”!! I started laughing, but tried to cover it up unconvincingly with a cough…I heard one of her kids whisper, “No, he got killed by the lightsaber”. My mind was blown! This woman actually thought that one of the main heroes of the movie was being BURNED ALIVE by all of the rest of the good guys, as they stood in robes in a circle around him!! WTF was going on in this woman’s head?!? Imagine the implications—Anakin asking Obi-Wan “What’ll happen to me now?” takes on such a sinister cast! “Now that we’re burning Qui-Gon to death, what about ME?” If she had run out to the bathroom or concessions during the duel, I guess I’d have given her a pass—but she even made a sad noise when Qui-Gon DIED!! When the credits finally rolled and I got up to leave, I couldn’t bear to look at her, because I would’ve cracked up…and that would’ve been even more rude than burning your master/friend/mentor alive!
Though this may be seen as kicking McDonald’s while they’re down, that’s just a happy coincidence! On the positive side, this post offers yet another reason to glorify the Pizza Hut/Taco Bell/KFC 1999 Phantom Menace triumph!
Not only were the PH/TB/KFC toys and cup-toppers (all of which will be given their due praise here in the future) superb, but even things like paper cups, pizza boxes, kid’s meal boxes, and tray-liners amplified the 1999 TPM experience. I keep wanting to call the tray-liners “placemats”, but that would suggest a slightly more fancy dining experience than you’d find in any of these fast food joints. This two-sided Pizza Hut tray-liner exceeded all reasonable expectations, leaving TPM-crazed diners in a frothing state of bliss…let’s start with the first side:
(click here for maxi-big size!) Pizza Hut doesn’t talk down to you—they assume that you’re a well-traveled galactic citizen, coming and going freely to that shimmering jewel of a capitol, Coruscant (my friend Ric once told me that “the whole planet was one big city”). Pizza Hut knows that they don’t have many franchisees in the Outer Rim, so they kindly remind you to stock up while you can! Taking the charm to another level, a large picture of Jar Jar Binks’ friendly face smiles sincerely at you as you enjoy your grease-laden slice of pan pizza. When he sees that you’re eating too fast, JJB gently advises you to take it “steady…steady…”. How many stomachaches did this wrongly-maligned Gungan prevent in 1999?? I don’t have any numbers on that, but I’d guess it’s in the upper 6-digits. If this tray-liner was only this one side, it would still be a lofty achievement—but the Pizza Hut of 1999 wasn’t content to merely make you happy with a nice picture of Jar Jar, they wanted to change your life:
(click for maxi-big!) Wow. Starting at the top left, you could take the words “Games of the Galactic Senate” at face value, and interpret them solely as referring to the “Find the Jedi and Sith”, Trivia, “Chart Your Course”, and “Direct the Droid” challenges…but I think that, like the Phantom Menace itself, Pizza Hut had a hidden agenda—I think that the “Games” they’re talking about are the corrupt machinations of most of the Senate at the time of TPM. Much like the concealing zeyd-cloth robes of Darth Sidious, Pizza Hut cloaks their dire assessment of the Republic’s political system in a series of children’s games—brilliant.
Moving beyond the games and Jar Jar coloring activity, what makes this side of the tray-liner into the stuff of legend are the characters featured in the “Find the Jedi & Sith Lords” game. Sure, you’ve got big stars like Darth Maul, Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, Yoda, etc., that you saw everywhere in 1999…but then you have an array of prized weirdos including Gragra the gorgmonger, Ithorian senator Tendau Bendon, the stately Toonbuck Toora (AND her mysterious consort), the flea-ridden Jedi Oppo Rancisis, and Yarael Poof!!
The first time I got this tray-liner in 1999 (and this is the actual first one I ever saw—if you look at the scan closely, you can see a fold-line in the middle, whereas the one I found after that, I kept unfolded), I remember being completely bemused that they went so “deep” into the characters of TPM for just a kids’ game on the back of a tray-liner. In a Pizza Hut, of all places!! I love all these “blink and you miss ‘em” characters, because even with so much background material available now in books, comics, games, etc., you can still allow your imagination to soar when thinking about them. To borrow a phrase from Star Trek lore, it’s “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations”. Pizza Hut—for bringing a Mos Espa gorgmonger and Q-Tip-headed Quermian Jedi Master to the otherwise oblivious pizza-eating masses—I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Years ago, I was thinking about the old bootleg t-shirts you’d see in the late 70’s saying things like, “May The Force Be With You” or “Darth Vader Lives”…and I wished that there was a modern counterpart for The Phantom Menace. I found some hokey on-line t-shirt company where you could come up with your own text, and they’d print it and send it to you—but the best part was that they had a feature where you could see what it looked like first (it seemed pretty hi-tech in the early 2000’s). I don’t know about you, but if I saw somebody walking down the street wearing any of these t-shirts, I’d shake their hand and buy them a drink.
McDonald's: The Darth Sidious of Star Wars Fast Food Premiums?
Please watch the above first…and then check this link out—TPM3D Kids’ Meal Premiums at French Quick Restaurants —this is the charming and FUN stuff(with a welcome focus on Padme Amidala)that they give away at tiny fast food chains in France and Belgium. Though it’s pretty obvious that the French “Quick” chain Star Wars stuff is supposed to be split between boys and girls,at least they bother to consider that girls might like Star Wars! McDonald’s doesn’t even do that—during their TPM3D promotion, they offer a clear choice: a “Build a Bear” happy meal for girls, peppered with small pink plush teddy bears, and the Star Wars happy meal for boys. Lame and backwards. To paraphrase Nute Gunray, “Tahhk [them] awayyyyy.”
Valentine’s Day? It’s fun when you’re a little kid, but as an adult, it’s pretty exclusionary to a lot of people. When I was single, I hated V-Day, and I still stand in solidarity with all my single brothers, sisters, and Toydarians. Still, it’s yet another reason/season for ludicrous Star Wars products, like these Phantom Menace valentines from 2000! I had an unopened box of them from back then, and decided to give them out virtually. In grade school, I’d give everybody in class one, even if I didn’t like them; it just seemed so lousy to pointedly skip people—but I remember the nasty kids who didn’t do that (always the “popular” kids and their friends, no surprise). I’d be willing to bet my new racing pod that some of those same bullies now pollute the internet with their anti-prequel screeds!!
Let’s start with the valentines for the “nice kids”!
Okay, the Qui-Gon one sounds like something he’d say…if he was into Earth “Greeting Card Holidays”. Not the most inspired statement from such an individual thinker, but maybe he had a long day arguing with those arrogant members of the Jedi Council.
Sure, they’re trying to turn the whole “I’ve got a bad feeling about this…” on it’s head. Lazy, and it sounds too much like what Qui-Gon said, but whatever. I also don’t think Obi-Wan would say this without a smirk.
They looked so lovey-dovey on Oprah’s special, they deserved a valentine.
Hmmm, then why were you so fussed about being “naked”, Threeps??
Brilliant work, Maestro!
This seems to denigrate all of Artoo’s complex and vital communication down to mere noises that you might make when calling your cat.
I like Rick, and I don’t think people who refer so dismissively to him as a “yes-man” really understand what a movie producer’s role is. All I know is that when we went to Star Wars Celebration III, Rick McCallum seemed genuinely excited and super-enthusiastic about the then-forthcoming Revenge of the Sith, and I think he even won over some prequel-haters that day with his infectious presentation.
I don’t know, Padme Amidala seems like she can take care of herself pretty well for a 14 year-old elected monarch of an entire planet…Maybe whoever wrote the copy for this valentine had in mind that she was writing it to the venerable Sio Bibble??
Poor Ahsoka, I fear this may be one of her last Valentine’s Days! Better to let people know how you feel when they’re still around…
And now, valentines for the “kids” who suck…
I prefer to read this at face value, and not think of it in any kind of cutesy “somebody’s after you…because they love you!” way. No, it’s a wish of pure malice!!
…and who better to wish that on than the youtube.com bore posting as RedLetterMedia! If you’re not familiar with who that is, some sheep-like internet denizen has probably sent you his 70-minute youtube video where he pretends to be some fourth-rate Andy Kaufman character illogically ripping The Phantom Menace apart. Yawn.
Whoever wrote this valentine had reached the point in their job where they were so cynical, they probably should’ve just moved on to other employment. “Eh, that kid says dumb stuff like ‘wizard’ and ‘yippee’, he’d probably say ‘Mighty Blasters’. Who cares?” Why not just make Ani say “Leapin’ Lasers!” and be done with it?!?
Well, Simon, I hope the very sight of young Ani makes you ill. You don’t speak for me!!
Nice try, but I think the writer of this valentine didn’t get the Rules of Gungan Grammar and Syntax book. “Mesa wishin yousa MAXI-big valee-tine daysa” seems better; I don’t think JJB would call it “Val Day”. What do I know, I’ve only loved the character since 1999 and named my beloved and departed (and female) Siamese cat after him…
Melt under the guileless grin of the gasser-booming Gungan, haters!!
If you’ve read any of the previous Phantom Phindz, you’ll know that the one thing I’ve been hellbent on finding are the exclusive-to-Walmart “Discover The Force” TPM figures. Everything else, I’ve been like, “eh, I’ll find it sooner or later”—but I’ve had difficulty finding some of Walmart’s previous Star Wars exclusive items in the past; some stores never get them in, and others sell out of their initial stock quickly, and don’t replenish it. There were 12 of them in all, and 6 that I was after; the other 6 were just older figures repackaged, and I already had all of them.
There were a couple of reasons I was so obsessed with finding these as soon as possible(and yeah, it became a Captain Ahab-level obsession, as you’ll see)—for one thing, TPM figures have been few and far between in the last 13 years, and a new Gungan, an obscure astromech droid on the Queen’s ship, and a new podracer are the kind of figures I go crazy for. I was even looking forward to the new Ric Olie figure, despite being traumatized by the memories of seeing HUNDREDS of Ric Olies hanging for several years after the TPM toy explosion of 1999—if you’re not familiar with the term “pegwarmer”, it refers to a figure that just sits in the store, unsold forever, keeping the pegs warm. The 1999 Ric Olie figure was like the 5-time MVP pegwarmer.
[does anybody else remember the 1998/1999-era spy reports/rumors that Ric Olie would be “a Han Solo-like rogue” and “mentor” to young Anakin?? Maybe just a tiny bit off…]
The main reason for my maniacal desire to find these figures, though, is that I felt like somebody who truly LOVES The Phantom Menace should find them first, rather than just somebody looking to “keep their collection complete”—and there are far more people like that than you’d think. I’m not a “I have to have it first” kind of dude, but these were different. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t feel like I was entitled to these figures at all; I put a ton of hard work into finding them, screwed up my sleep patterns for almost two weeks, and wasted so, so much expensive gasoline. I also know that there are plenty of other people who wanted these figures—and who love TPM—besides me. I think that after years of witnessing people on Star Wars collecting forums droning on about how much they hate TPM/AOTC/ROTS, and then in their next post, writing about how they grabbed the latest wave of figures drawn from those movies, and that they’re “done ‘til the next wave”—as if it was a chore that had to be completed—I was just like, not this time, you bastards.
The figures were supposed to be released on January 30th, 2012—and of course they weren’t. I still checked a couple of Walmarts that day, but the real descent into madness began very late that night/morning, when I knew that Walmarts stocked the shelves. I’ve gone through a few of these surreal shopping trips in past installments of Phantom Phindz, and it never failed—Walmart was always weird in the wee hours; I guess it just added to the adventure. Though I wasn’t seeing on-line reports of anybody in the US finding the figures, I foolishly/optimistically thought, “Well, somebody has to find these figures first—why not me?" For whatever reason, I really wanted to find them before TPM3D was released on February 10th; maybe to evoke the glories of 1999, when everything launched two weeks before TPM came out.
In all, I searched at 10 different Walmarts between January 31-February 10, 2012. In the map below, the plain green marks were only open during the day/evening, the red dot is where I live, and the green marks with orange dots were the Walmarts open 24 hours, and the ones I’d hit in the witching hours…I averaged about 3-4 of them per night:
Night after night, on and on it went, and no luck—No online sightings of them, either. Finally, on February 5th, a guy in Texas found them, and that gave me a boost of hope…but still nothing. I realized how senseless it was to keep spending so much money on gas and getting so little sleep, but I felt that I’d crossed the Rubicon, and there was no going back; I wasn’t about to quit after putting so much effort into it all. Even though calling the stores was pretty useless, I started doing that before I’d go out for the night—more to rule certain stores out. A few minutes past midnight on February 7th, I called the Walmart in Canandaigua, NY (which was a lonnnng drive), and talked to a really helpful lady who told me they had “32 units on the shelf”. At last!! I jumped in the shower and drove down there ASAP; thinking of the worst case scenario along the way—that the 6 new figures would all be gone, and the “32 units” would be the repacked figures that everybody already had. Little did I know that that was only the 2nd “worst” case scenario…
I arrived there around 1:30am, grabbed a cart, and sped to the back of the store (if nothing else, all that walking around multiple Walmarts each night was fantastic exercise!), only to find…nothing. I went up and down every single aisle in their toy department at least twice, and saw no evidence whatsoever of the TPM figures. Right before 2am, I went to the back customer service area, and hit the little touchscreen summoning a Walmart employee for help. 5 minutes passed…10…15…eventually, a stocker walked past me and asked if anybody was helping me, and when I replied no, he went to find somebody. I circled the aisles a few more times, hoping I’d just made a dumb mistake and walked right past them. He returned about 10 minutes later, and told me that he couldn’t find anybody working in that department, but kindly said he’d look for somebody else. 5 minutes later, two guys came out of the back, a kind of tattooed Laurel and Hardy, armed with a Telzon, the little device they can check store stock with. I explained the situation to them, they checked, and the looks on their faces told me everything. The next thing the one guy said was, “Do you remember the name of who you talked to on the phone? We don’t have these in the store, or even in transit…Maybe in 3-7 days, I’m really sorry you drove all the way down here…” I thanked them for finally clearing it up, and dejectedly left at 2:30am, having put in a futile hour there. Back in the car, turning up the TPM soundtrack, and off to check a couple more Walmarts before returning home
The next night, the 8th, was just as fruitless. The movie was the next night, and my self-imposed deadline was racing up to meet me. During that day, I called a few Walmarts armed with the UPC number for the figures, hoping that I’d get a daytime manager who knew what was going on. My last call, around 4:30pm on the 8th, was to the Walmart in Geneseo, NY (farthest south on the map above), an area I’d never even been to before. My expectations were so low, I was just calling there to be thorough…but after the lady I was talking to came back from checking, I was stunned to hear her say, “The figures with the 3D glasses attached? Yeah, I have 3 pegs of them.”! Without even thinking, I thanked her profusely and hung up…and then thought, what the hell—why didn’t I ask her to hold them for me for a few hours?? So I called back and asked, and she replied, “To be honest, I can’t…we really have no room to put them.” Huh??? Your store is larger than most aircraft hangars, and you have NOWHERE to put them?? What?? I still thanked her, and hung up. This sucked, because Valerie and I only have one car that we share, and she wasn’t supposed to be home from work for a couple of hours. I told her on-line about the whole sordid tale, and how it was just my luck, blah blah blah. She responded that she was at an off-site meeting south of the city, and could just jump on the freeway afterwards to check it out, and did I WANT her to…Of course I did, with every fiber of my being, but I also knew she was having a long day, and in the end, a happy wife is a million times more important to me than even Phantom Menace figures. I told her not to worry about it, but she insisted, because she knew how important it was to me. She texted me when she left her meeting, and then I didn’t hear from her for about an hour, until I received one saying, “GOT ALL THE FIGURES!” I was grateful, elated, and relieved:
I love my wife.
That night, I went on a pressure-free and casual search (I thought of it as a victory lap, sort of), just out of habit and pre-TPM3D excitement, and found another Gungan and a box of Lucky Charms with a verrrry small TPM3D poster:
I still have a problem with that poster not featuring Qui-Gon, Amidala, Jar Jar, or Anakin (other than his pod), but I was glad to find it, as I hadn’t even known it was available.
As a little epilogue, I saw this post on my city’s “store reports” section on a Star Wars collectors’ message board:
02-08-2012, 02:23 PM
[screenname of dime-a-dozen hateboy redacted] Join DateDec 2005LocationWNY
Not going to TPM 3D…… [link posted to some TPM hate-video on youtube]
$$ better spent on exclusives at…….a certain WM[walmart].
Thanks for justifying my crazed motivations, jerk!! It’s kind of like taking the milk, but not buying the cow. Well, I love the cow AND the milk…and that’s the weirdest statement on loving The Phantom Menace and all its merchandising that you’ll read all day, so best to end it here!
Special Guest Column: 'The Phantom Menace' Misfit Manifesto
Candy Wilder was kind enough to let me repost her heartfelt ” ‘The Phantom Menace’ Misfit Manifesto” below—please read it, and thanks, Candy!
‘The Phantom Menace’ Misfit Manifesto
by Candy Wilder
This week we have all been blessed with a double-shot of Star Wars (The Phantom Menace 3D release and The Clone Wars tonight at 8pm, baby!). However, we have also been cursed with more hatred and more controversy spewing from the pie-holes of self-important “fan”boys and so-called ‘reporters’ who can’t find anything better to do than poop in the punch bowl of everyone who happens to (gasp!) actually ENJOY The Phantom Menace and The Clone Wars. I’m not talking about legitimate criticism of the film and/or the show, which is nigh impossible to find. I’m talking about anyone who uses these shows as an excuse for character assassination directed at George Lucas *and* those with the courage to be fans of his works. The same people who gripe about how Lucas is only retooling the films to pull in more money (despite his investing that money in technologies that make EVERYONE’s films better, as well as educational programs that make everyone’s KIDS better) are the same people who gladly shell out hundreds of dollars for an annual passport to *DISNEY*land (HELLO? Can we say “self-aggrandizement” in its most extreme form?), and jet over to Best Buy to pick up box sets of all SIX Star Trek TV series (including the (barely) animated series) and TEN, count ‘em, TEN movies, with nary a PEEP about how either Disney™ or Paramount™ are only in it for the money. Nothing against Star Trek. Nothing against Disney films, TV, etc. EVERYTHING against hypocritical, disingenuous BULLYING.
For example, I hate horror films. But I do NOT go around calling everyone who loves horror films “sheeple.” The vitriol directed at anyone who DARES to recognize merit in The Phantom Menace and The Clone Wars is astounding, and disheartening for anyone trying to have faith in humanity. It’s darn near religious fervor. And any of these nutjobs who say they speak for “all the fans” (I’m looking at YOU, Simon Pegg and Patton Oswalt) ain’t worthy of my respect. You’ve NEVER spoken for me. You know why I like TPM? You know why I like Jar-Jar and See-Threepio and boys who say “Wizard!” and Ben Quadrinaros? Because I *am* Jar-Jar. I *am* Ben Quadrinaros. I *am* See-Threepio. I *am* that odd kid that says goofy things like “Wizard!” and “Okey-Day!” In 1977, I was an eleven-year-old Star Wars fan who had the audacity to be born a girl. I was a misfit even among misfits. All the boys had other boys to share their fandom with. I had *no one.* I am a product of my generation’s pop culture, which included Disney films, The Monkees, Laugh-In, Hee-Haw, and secret nights when we’d turn on our black-and-white TV in our bedroom and turn the sound down really low to watch “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.” I gained an appreciation for the silly and the absurd, the jovial and the sarcastic. I identified with anyone who was the misfit, the character constantly getting shoved in the background and ignored, because that’s who *I* was. So when ‘Star Wars’ came out, I fell in love with Artoo and Threepio. ‘Empire’ was never my favorite because they took the promise of Threepio’s character and chucked that out the window, and Han was never more than just a big bully. ‘Jedi’ came out and of course I rooted for the Ewoks (especially when they put Han on the spit). ;) In the Original Trilogy, I recognized George’s appreciation of silliness. That’s what made me love Star Wars from age 11 - in the midst of all the manly-man hardware and esoteric philosophizing, there was still something in it that spoke to ME.
Cut to 35 years later. I’m still silly. I’m still a misfit among misfits. I will confess to liking Han Solo a tiny bit now. But I still root for the outcasts, the ones that all the “fan”boys wish would disappear so they could fill the screen with yet more faceless dudes in identical armor. I recognize myself in Jar Jar, in Ben Quadrinaros and his faulty power coupling, in Threepio, in little Ani preferring to fix his pod engines (AWESOME) rather than play ball with all the ‘cool’ kids. (BOOORR-IIINNNG!) Anakin is also a misfit. Anyone who doesn’t empathize with him shooting daggers at Mace Windu in the Jedi Council Chamber doesn’t know what it means to be so on the outside even other outsiders don’t accept you.
So in short, to all these raving sociopaths who love to tear down this sweet saga of good and evil, disgrace and redemption, as well as anyone who enjoys it, and then turn around and yell “It’s just a movie!” if we voice our displeasure at their affronts, I say, “No, what you’re doing is not just attacking the film. You’re attacking me, and anyone like me, who watches these stories and feels something deep and precious and alive resonate within our being. Why you have such a hatred of people on the quirky end of the personality spectrum, I don’t know, but I suggest you get some therapy for that ego trip you’re taking. If you’re that hungry for power, GO SUCK ON A BATTERY and leave us alone!”
Wow, did I love TPM3D. At times, I felt like I was watching a live play instead of a movie—the most elaborately staged play of all time! As much as the 3D added a revelation of depth and a weight to everything (especially all of the CGI characters—Watto, JJB, Sebulba, etc), what’s really impressive is how beautifully done the original work from 13 years ago is. I will never understand how anybody could hate this movie as much as they profess to; even if they can’t commit to the story(or if they go into it planning to dislike it), there are just so many fascinating things going on on-screen at any given time…it’s a “God is in the details” thing, and there are so many details. The care, hard work, and obvious love that went into creating this movie—every tiny little part of it— completely negate the braying of the “Lucas iz a soulless hack Gary Kurtz and Marcia Lucas are Star Warz!!111” crowd. I don’t know how many dozens of times I’ve watched TPM beyond the 18 viewings in the theater in 1999, but I saw things the other night that I’ve never seen or noticed before…and that’s even including poring through tons of books, magazines, and behind-the-scenes videos.
I’ll save ‘til later to go into how much and why I love the story and characters of The Phantom Menace—but if you’re reading this, saw TPM once in 1999, didn’t feel like it was the Star Wars you wanted, and got swept up in the internet hate wave, please give it another chance…I can’t imagine the three Star Wars movies I grew up with as a kid without the three that I grew up with as an adult. I love them all, but have a special place in my heart for TPM; to paraphrase Yoda, the only thing in the theater is whatever you take with you…if you leave your TPM Hate-blaster outside, you may find a movie you could love.
On a side note, I have a new favorite Neimoidian, and it’s Mik Regrap—Lott Dod’s aide, as seen in the Neimoidian senate pod:
Is it his stylish hat? Is it the outrage he communicates so eloquently with his furrowed Neimoidian brow? Whatever it is, it made me really notice how cool he was for the first time. He just “popped” in 3D, I guess!
What would ANY Star Wars movie be like without John Williams’ music?? I never want to know that horrible world. I can still vividly remember when, in fifth grade at St. James School in 1983 or 1984, they took us on a field trip to Severance Hall in Cleveland to see the Orchestra do a “kids program”—-and the chill that went down my spine when they played the SW Main Theme. I’ve listened to the soundtracks of all 6 movies incessantly for years, and I never get tired of them. The “Ultimate Edition” of The Phantom Menace Soundtrack has been blaring in the car during each late-night failed Phantom Phindz mission for the past week and a half, the only sound in the frozen darkness of Upstate New York.
As much as “Duel of the Fates” still gets my blood racing, “Anakin’s Theme” is such a brilliant piece of music, that I can’t not post it. It’s so melancholy and perfect, and those final notes from the “Imperial March” will break your heart if you’ve got one. I can’t wait to be sitting there through the full end credits tomorrow night at 2am or whatever and hear it as it’s meant to be heard. Thanks, John Williams!
Portraits of Uncelebrated Characters of The Phantom Menace #2: Senator Toonbuck Toora
I love all the ancillary books that came out in 1999 around The Phantom Menace—none more so than DK Publishing’s Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace The Visual Dictionary. It just got an expanded edition which I haven’t seen yet, but if it’s as good as the original, it will be well worth owning. Especially great were all the photos and blurbs of characters barely seen in the movie, including this dazzler, Senator Toonbuck Toora. I patiently await the day that Hasbro produces an action figure of her…In the meantime, I drew this picture of her, and composed a haiku in her honor:
There’s a lot I’d like to get to this week on here, but let’s start with the latest Phantom Phindz. It’s down to mere days before TPM 3-D comes out, and everybody in the world will have the opportunity to fall in love with Watto and Captain Panaka all over again—I couldn’t be happier about it!
Instead of doing what I’ve done in the dead of night nearly every day this week—gone to Walmarts in search of the annoyingly-delayed and unfortunately-acronymed “DTF” (Discover The Force) Walmart-exclusive TPM figures— I called 4 of them Friday night/Saturday morning and had them check the UPC number to see if they had them in stock…no luck. 3 of the people were just as polite to me as I was to them—I didn’t blurt out, “DO YOU HAVE THE STAR WARS TOYS TELL ME TELL ME TELL ME”—I just asked them to run the UPC numbers and thanked them profusely at every step of the way. One nasty lady, when asked very politely to check the UPC number for me, spat back at me, “No, I’m busy right now, I’m the only one back here”. No “I’m sorry” or anything!! Since she didn’t even know what I was looking for, what if it had been some top-of-the-line HDTV?? Her stupid Walmart would’ve lost out on hundreds of bucks (and not just the, uh, dozens I really would’ve spent)! I’ve worked the graveyard shift in my life before, and it’s usually no fun…but in the words of one of the most beloved Gungans to ever grace the silver screen, “HOW WUDE!”
All of the above were found at Target on Saturday morning. Valerie and I went to TRU and Walmart also, but there was nothing I needed at either of them—except for the Qui-Gon Jinn “Ultimate FX” lightsaber that I know will find it’s way into this house sooner rather than later…I’m a big fan of QGJ.
The Darth Maul “helmet”—and I find it odd that somebody’s FACE is described as a “helmet” instead of a mask—is just so ridiculous, that I couldn’t not buy it. I’ve passed it up for the past few weeks, but today—after an event in the Target aisle that involved me putting it up to my face and dancing around that only ended with Valerie quietly informing me, “that person is staring at you”—it made it into the cart. You press one of his horns, and he says a variety of lines; some taken from the movie, and new statements about fear that are vaguely stalkerish. No regrets about buying this disturbing face-helmet!
The Phantom Menace valentines are okay—they come with weak little magnets, and say predictably lame things like, “You are OUT OF THIS WORLD, Valentine!” and one with a Podracing Ani that unconvincingly states, “You’re a WINNER, Valentine!”. Maybe little Ani gave them out to his fellow podracers who kind of sucked…I’m sure he gave one to Ben Quadinaros. In the “$1 Spot” at Target, I grabbed another of those leprechaun-sized ‘journals’, this time with a nice lenticular cover featuring Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan:
My wife insisted that I get the new TPM sticker book, and I’m glad she did—there are some bizarre sticker choices in there, but I guess there would have to be, as there are more than a thousand stickers in it. I’ll try to scan some of them in later this month, but I’d love to meet the kid who gets excited about putting a sticker featuring Sio Bibble being marched down the streets of Theed by Battle Droids onto his school notebook. Reading that sentence back, I just have to take a quick picture of it and include it here:
Wait!! There’s DOUBLE-BIBBLE in that picture—check out the lower right!! I just went through the entire book, all 1000+ stickers, to find out how many featured Sio Bibble—10 in all. Insane. I realize now that the kid who’d be excited about the Sio Bibble sticker is the same kid I’ve envisioned for years who only collects things featuring the “old white men” of Star Wars: Old Ben Kenobi, Tarkin, Sio Bibble, Sebastian Shaw-Anakin, Senator/Chancellor Palpatine, Uncle Owen, and Chancellor Valorum. He’d be all over this. What a weird kid!
The Star Wars “Fighter Pods” are a new attempt to cash in on the popularity of ‘Squinkies’ line of toys featuring rubbery, micro-sized (each figure is smaller than a dime) Star Wars characters that you put in tiny translucent balls and, I guess, fight with. You can buy them in a variety of ways; little “blind bags” with two figures where you don’t know what you’ll get, and then progressively larger packs with more figures and tiny vehicles. Though they have the potential to include tons of Star Wars characters from across all of the movies and the Clone Wars cartoon, it’s a bit of a bummer that the first assortment of them only includes Darth Maul, Qui-Gon, and Obi-Wan from TPM…you’d think that since they’re part of this whole merchandizing blitz to support TPM 3-D, they’d include more characters from The Phantom Menace. It’s hard to be too disappointed in that, though, since this TPM-based pack also included Bossk, who I’d wanted since these were first announced:
They’re fun little toys, if a bit overpriced for their size.
Target had a nice display on an endcap of the Star Wars aisle which Valerie took a glare-free picture of; though I get why Darth Maul’s face is plastered on everything, it would be nice to see some of the other characters from TPM represented:
More later! Until then, enjoy the most deliberately creepy picture you’ll see all day:
I have a new Phantom Phindz that I’m mid-way through writing, but I don’t want to go off half-cocked with it, so I’ll just post it tomorrow. In the meantime, I customized this figure back around 2002 or 2003, and dubbed him “JJB-4” (har har har, get it?). He’s a droid version of Jar Jar who contains his essence somehow, and in this utterly stupid storyline I’d concocted (complete with other customized figures), he became Artoo’s new sidekick after C-3PO became evil and took over a replica of Vader’s body…known from there on out as D-VPO, of course.
I wanted to find a background that was as close to the color of vintage Kenner yellow as possible, but my poor old camera back in the early 2000’s couldn’t quite deliver the quality I was looking for. I created JJB-4 because I felt like Jar Jar got short shrift in Attack of the Clones—after The Phantom Menace, I’d been hoping that Jar Jar’s story arc would develop in some way that would make all of his haters feel guilty for hating him so much, but no such luck. Unlike Threepio, JJB-4 is only fluent in ONE form of communication, and a lot of people don’t even understand that.
A Communication Disruption That Means Only One Thing
Usually, when I read some Phantom Menace-bashing article and the predictably vicious comments that accompany it, I just roll my eyes and move on to something else…much as I wish the TPM haters would do. Maybe it was because I read the “article” in question after returning from a fruitless and frustrating attempt at “Phantom Phindz” in the wee hours of the morning, but I finally had to reply. Here’s what I wrote; if you need to read the comments that drove me to it, click the date below and hit “ALL” right above my post:
The Geek™ With a Thousand Faces, each mouth babbling variations on the same themes, for thirteen increasingly tiresome years: “Prequels suck, Lucas is a hack, hopefully when Lucas dies ________ will make a REAL Star Wars movie, Only ANH and ESB are any good, Lucas is surrounded by yes-men now, I’m embarrassed to have ever been a fan, blah, blah, blah.” It’s kind of like going to a friend’s wedding in 1999, thinking the food was lousy, and continuing to complain about it…until 2012 (and beyond, assuredly). It’s not entertaining for anybody to read these played-out paroxysms any longer; surely, it can’t be entertaining or fulfilling on any level to write them? And yet, anytime this movie comes up, it’s the same hateful chorus. Everybody is entitled to their *own* opinions, but I’m not so convinced that most of these constantly-repeated refrains are your “own” opinions, as they seem to be produced by some Geek™ Party Line Generator. Why not invest your energy into something you actually like; wouldn’t you prefer talking about whatever Urban Fantasy novel or My Little Pony mash-up du jour that you’re into? I loved The Phantom Menace before you hated it, but your hatred of it makes me love it even more.
Let’s face it, during this Phantom Menace Holiday Season (a season that has no end in sight), you’re going to get company—family, friends, and other holiday well-wishers. All of your guests are going to wake up hungrier than an Eopie stranded in the Dune Sea, so I’d like to share this festive recipe for a quick, healthy, filling, and delicious Kaadu Egg Breakfast Wrap. It’s under 200 calories, and will give you enough energy to outrun an invading Trade Federation Droid Army!!
First, heat your pan up for a few minutes at medium high, while filling your 1/2 cup with the Kaadu Egg Beaters (60 calories worth, two servings). Fill half the 1/3 cup with your Shaak milk cheese (1/2 serving, 40 calories).
Once your pan is nice and hot, toss your Tarpals Tortilla in there, browning one side more than the other. When the tortilla starts to “bubble”, take it out and set it on your plate.
Next, drop a little forkful of Booma Butter Light into your pan, shake it around, and then add however many Naboonana Peppers as you’d like…If you prefer a different veggie, such as Theed Onions, you can substitute those. Let your Naboonana peppers simmer for a minute or so.
After your Naboonana Peppers are browned to your satisfaction, dump your Kaadu Egg Beaters over them in the pan, and then evenly sprinkle your Skim Shaak Milk Cheese over the mixture, like this:
Using your spatula, turn the mixture over as needed, scrambling the eggs and the cheese. When they’re cooked as much as you want them to be, put them off to the side of the pan, and then drop your Tarpals Tortilla in, with the less-browned side down. Scoop your eggs onto the tortilla with your spatula, and let it sit in the pan for about thirty seconds.
Scoop your tortilla and eggs out onto your plate, and if you’d like a little more heat, sprinkle some Sio Bibble’s Planet Core Hot Sauce over your eggs.
Serve to your holiday guests, perhaps with a 40 calorie cup of Otoh Gunga Oranges, and Bombad Appetit!
Bonus: Secret PhantomPhindz!
I just couldn’t help it—in the middle of last night, I once again left my warm house, wife, and cats, and went to Walmart in search of Phantom Menace glory. To rationalize the madness of it, I also picked up lightbulbs and a new shower hose, so I felt like I was doing something that normal people might see as productive. My Captain Ahab-like quest died with a whimper in Walmart’s emaciated Star Wars toy aisle, though. This was a different Walmart than the one I’d gone to the other night; there was no Walmart Rousseau to impart enigmatic wisdom to me in the form of riddles, there were no friendly conversations. I don’t think a single person working in there so much as made eye contact with me, and even the check-out was an automated self-checkout!!
After the Menace-less toy aisle, I made my way over to the grocery portion of the store, and had a little bit more luck there. I found the Lipton’s Brisk Iced Tea with Darth Maul on the bottle, grabbed another box of TPM Go-Gurts (all the same characters on the tubes as the previous box I’d bought—bleh), and picked up what seemed to be the only box of cereal with the TPM pens inside, a solitary Reese’s Puffs. Of course, when I made it out to the car, I swiftly opened the box—-only to find another damned Artoo pen!!! I tell myself that I’m not a gambler, because I don’t buy lotto tickets or play Baccarat or whatever—but I guess that I am one, with the high stakes being pens based on Phantom Menace characters.
Wegman’s grocery store wasn’t much better. The only evidence of The Phantom Menace was this Lipton’s Brisk display with Darth Maul and Yoda—but oddly, not a single bottle or can with TPM characters was to be found:
Sorry that the picture is so bad—there was a lady stocking shelves in the next aisle over looking at me suspiciously; maybe she thought I was doing industrial espionage on behalf of Tops or Safeway. Would the truth have upset her even more than that?? We’ll never know…
I got up and out at an ungodly hour yesterday, driving over ice and snow-covered roads—all in service of more Phantom Phinds, one of humankind’s most noble pursuits.
Since the alleged big “street date” of Phantom Menace stuff was 1/30, I’d been checking people’s reports from around the country for days in advance. Due to finding a lot of what I’d wanted earlier in the month, it was all down to the exclusive figures/ships that were only at Walmart. Of course, those were nowhere to be found in the US on 1/30, and are delayed until (hopefully only) later in the week. I guess I can live another day without a new Ric Olie figure…I guess. Regardless, I was still hoping to find something new and Phantom Menace-y, so I was off to Walmart.
I think I was the only customer in the massive 24-hour Walmart Supercenter I went to, and I was definitely the only person there headed straight to the toy department at 4am. I was greeted there by a nice lady straightening up the aisles, who looked like a castaway on Walmart Island—kind of an older Rousseau on “Lost”. She good-naturedly mumbled something about how the aisles were rearranged…”again”, cackled, and pushed her shopping cart of damned toys to the end of the aisle. Once Walmart Rousseau was on her way, I took in the Star Wars section and saw this dispiriting product gap:
While a few weeks ago I would’ve been ecstatic to see all of the Phantom Menace “vintage” figures in stock (left of center of the gap), since I’d found them already, the thrill was mostly gone—though I was happy for somebody else to luck onto them for the first time. Maybe some Phantom Menace-hating Star Wars “fan” would see them in that classic Kenner packaging, and, like the transformed Grinch, would realize that it’s ALL part of the same big story?? sigh. No, I guess they’d just shriek about how the “slots” in the action figure line were “wasted” on characters like Ratts Tyerell and Daultay Dofine.
The one thing I was realistically hoping to find, the new Vulture Droid/Droid Starfighter, I didn’t see, and was prepared to write the trip off as a loss…until I turned around and saw it on the other side of the aisle amidst some wrestling figures. Walmart Rousseau mystically appeared and asked if I was finding everything okay; I happily replied that I was, and wished her a good night as I wheeled my cart away from her doomed realm.
My next stop was the cereal section, which I had the bad timing of visiting as two employees were stocking the shelves, pallets full of cereal in the middle of the aisle—right in front of the Cheerios I was hoping would contain the three TPM pens I haven’t found yet. Using my Retail Eagle Eye™ to peer around their pallets, it turned out that the Cheerios were all devoid of any Phantom Menace pens—bummer. On the other hand, I’m Cheerio-d out, and we still have 5 and a half more boxes of them to go through due to my crazed TPM pen hunt. Then, a wee green-suited Celtic demon beckoned to me—not Warwick Davis’ Leprechaun, but the lazily-named Lucky, the Lucky Charms Leprechaun. Hopeful that maybe a new cereal would give me a fresh chance at finding the other three pens besides the Artoo, Threepio, and Yoda that I already had doubles of, I threw it in the cart and checked out. After a friendly conversation with the lady sweeping by the doors (4am Walmart is a harmonious place, everybody I dealt with was super-nice), I got in the car and gingerly opened the box of Lucky Charms…only to find another Artoo pen. Damnit.
I love the Vulture Droid, but it’s odd to me that in an “exclusive” toy line whose sole purpose is to support the re-release of The Phantom Menace, nowhere on this box are the words “The Phantom Menace” or even “Episode I”! There’s a little 3-D photo gimmick with all these Walmart “Discover the Force” toys, and it actually works really well—though in another strange packaging choice, the 3-D image on the back is just a picture of the actual toy, whereas a much, much more exciting 3-D image would’ve been the dynamic battle scene on the front! It’s like, if I want to see the toy in 3-D I’ll just look at the actual toy, which is in the box!!
Now that I’ve just spent a full paragraph whining about the design of a box for a children’s toy, I’ll move on to the actual toy, which is great. It’s just a repainted version of the Clone Wars droid in TPM colors, but it captures the essence of the droid (Droid Essence…The newest scent for her) in the movie perfectly. It dwarfs the old 1999 Droid Starfighter, though I’d like to imagine that this picture is a heartwarming mother and child reunion that I made possible by going to Walmart at 4am.
No Phantom Phindz tomorrow—there’ll be something else—but it’ll be back soon enough!