Fangirl Loves Star Wars: The Mandalorian: “Chapter 13: The Jedi”

In which all my dreams come true and my emotional reaction is much more muted than I expected.

She’s here, y’all, Ahsoka Tano has arrived in live action and while I was apprehensive about the casting decision here (not that I don’t love Rosario Dawson, she’s wonderful) I was vibrating at a frequency I can’t really explain to people who don’t know her and how wonderful she is to people.

So, we open with a scene of a shadowy figure running through some burned out woods and taking out motherfuckers with two white light sabers. It ends with Ahsoka standing before a Magistrate at a wall, who tells her that she’s going to kill her. Ahsoka basically rolls her eyes at this and disappears into the mist and ROLL CREDITS.

Baby Yoda is trying to get his little silver ball back and Mando is babbling about finding Ahsoka (Mando is all of us in this moment, and LBY is all of our friends who don’t know, nor care about Ahsoka). and when they land on Corvus (a planet I’m very into) they go to the Magistrate who hires Mando to kill Ahsoka.

He goes into the woods to find her and she gets the drop on him because she’s the best and they discuss why he came looking for her. She has a little telepathic force conversation with LBY who is actually named GROGU.

WE HAVE A NAME AND AHSOKA GAVE IT TO US. We learn that Grogu was trained at the temple but was taken away sometime before or during Order 66, and also after some Force Powers testing, Ahsoka refuses to train Grogu, because of his emotional connection to Mando and is fear of losing him. She’s been on that particular heart breaking, Dark Side leading train before.

She does however ask for Mando’s help freeing the village and in a badass set of fight scenes they do just that. She then tells him to go to a Jedi Temple planet and hopefully, Grogu can then commune with the Force and choose his path, and a teacher will come.

This teacher will, with all likelihood be Ezra Bridger, because, during her fight with The Magistrate, Ahsoka asks about Thrawn, and as we all know, the last time either of them were scene they were riding some space whales into the unknown reaches.

Anyway, the nerds were in fine form this time around, with a lot of screaming and talking about how much we love Ahsoka (because we do) and speculation about Ezra, and shouts of #NotAJedi.

I was overwhelmed by how good Rosario Dawson was as Ahsoka, managing to capture her movements and facial expressions perfectly. And I’m so glad for more people to know her and love her. She’s the best.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: The Mandalorian: “Chapter 11: The Heiress”

You guys are we all doing OK? I’m not, (I mean in general maybe, my OK-ness varies hour to hour at this point) but in regards to this episode and it’s bearing on Star Wars and Science Fiction television, in general, I am not OK.

I mean, I’m thrilled but I’m also like *BOOM* galaxy brain. SO, let’s get into the episode.

Mando, LBY and Frog Lady land on an industrial planet and Frog Lady is reunited with Frog Husband. Mando puts The Razor Crest in for repairs, and heads to a tavern to get some information on other Mandalorians and some food for LBY, now that his supply of yummy frog eggs is gone. The baby gets some soup that tries to eat him. (Star Wars is whacky) Mando gets a ride on a fishing boat that will allegedly take him to some other Mandalorians.

It doesn’t. The captain just wants to feed them to a sea monster and steal the Beskar. RUDE. Luckily, they are rescued by three Mandalorians jumping on board. They include MOTHER FUCKING BO KATAN! And not just a new intrepretation of Bo, she’s played now in person by Space Jesus herself, Katee Sackoff.

When she takes off her helmet Mando is scandalized and she and her two companions laugh and say that he’s “A Child Of The Watch” which he doesn’t even know, but they agree to help him find The Jedi for LBY if he helps them with a heist. Said heist is to find The Darksaber so that Bo can take her place as ruler of Mandalore again.

Cool, great, love it. We see a brief conversation with Moff Gideon and eventually Bo gives Mando a piece of information, he should go to a forest planet and there he will find a Jedi to help him with the baby. That Jedi is….AHSOKA TANO.

Guys, seeing Bo, and seeing Katee playing her would have probably held me over to the next season, really. But that we’re this close to Ahsoka made me run around flailing. Because of some family commitments I couldn’t stream this with my friends, but I did leave family dinner to watch them all get these revelations and it was so satisfying.

Bo Katan is great, I like learning for sure that Mando was raised in an extremist sect (this was always the assumption), and that we are likely in the next few weeks going to see live action Ahsoka is pretty much getting me through. (Having things to look forward to is my main coping mechanism, and I’m freaking out a little about the Holidays due to COVID spikes and also, my sister isn’t going to be at Thanksgiving for the first time ever and OMG YOU DON’T CARE!) Ahsoka is very important to me, as I have outlined many times. I love her very much. I’m still mixed about her being played by Rosario Dawson, WHO I ADORE, because part of what’s made Ahsoka mean so much to me is Ashley Eckstein’s stewardship of her, and my odd, parasocial relationship with Ashley.

That’s beside the point though. Ahsoka is about to enter mainstream, live action Star Wars and I cannot wait.

The Weird Bits That Made Me: The Rocketeer

Welcome To: The Weird Bits That Made Me, an expoloration of the idiosyncratic or obscure pop culture that I was into as a kid. I lived a strange suburban existence, with relatively young and somewhat hip parents and there were some real gems in the offbeat cultural stuff they exposed us to as kids. It hought it would be fun to once a week explore some of that

I’m not the only nerd of a certain age to talk about how the notorious Disney produced flop The Rocketeer, made in 1991 by director Joe Johnston, was a big influence on their taste. There are tons of blog posts and think pieces out there about this one. Mostly, because Johnston went back to the well in some major ways when he made Captain America: The First Avenger which I also love.

The Rocketeer tells the story of Cliff Secor (Billy Campbell, adorable) a struggling stunt pilot in 1930’s Los Angeles, who comes across an experimental jet pack, along with his trusty mentor and mechanic Peevy (Alan Arkin! The cast only gets more exciting from here folks). The pack was stolen from Howard Hughes (Terry O’Quinn!) by gangster Joey Valentine (PAUL SORVINO!) who has been employed by matinee idol Neville Sinclair (TIMOTHY DALTON! Who we will be talking about more eventually!) who is actually a Nazi spy. Sinclair becomes interested in Cliff’s girlfriend Jenny, an up and coming actress (Jennifer Connolly at her absolute hottest) and shenanigans ensue.

It’s a great movie. Fun, and funny and grown up without feeling tawdry, with clean exciting practical action and a “Gee Whiz!” energy that never feels corny. Johnston really excels at this, and I’m 1000% convinced that fond memories of this movie got him the Cap job. There are quite a few beats reused. (It ends with a couple of kids running around the airfield pretending to be The Rocketeer, which made me laugh out loud.)

We also watched this movie maybe every weekend growing up. It was my brothers favorite movie ever, and I can honestly say, my absolute love of this movie, is I think a testament to how oddly isolated to my family my childhood was. I spent most of my time with my siblings and cousins, and so we liked all the same things. When I was a teenager and referenced something like The Rocketeer, and no one knew what I was talking about, was the first time I learned that my references were just a little out of step. And when someone did know what I was talking about, I knew they were a friend.

Yesterday afternoon, I attended one of my nerd friends Central Park hang outs, (these have been sanity saving) and I mentioned watching it for this feature and got an explosion of, “I love The Rocketeer” from a few, and then describing the flick, a “that sounds awesome.”

The Rocketeer is a great movie and I hope more people discover and fall in love with it because of Disney +. It was also nice to do a movie after having done music based ones for the past few times. (Most of these are going to be music though, probably)

Magical Movies Tour: Frozen 2

I have so much to say about Frozen 2, that I started, stopped and restarted, reworked and rethought what I wanted to say with this essay.

Did I want to talk about this movie is really, super gay? Did I want to talk about Kristoff as a model of positive masculinity? (“My love is not fragile” is incredible) Did I want to talk about Queen Anna? Or Olaf modeling working through an existential crisis for the children? Colonialism? There’s so much! It’s a movie that’s packed full of stuff.

I couldn’t pick so instead here’s what I have to say. Frozen 2 is very good. The animation is cool and great. The story is fantastic. The songs are very good. Idina Menzel, good singer. Jonathan Groff, also good singer. Kristen Bell and Josh Gad, do less singing this time around, but they also good. Sterling K. Brown is around too. He’s great. There’s not really a villain which is good because Hans might be the weakest part of Frozen.

I love the idea of Anna and Elsa as a bridge between the people of Arrendell and the indigneous Northaldra. It’s a nice piece of symmetry. I really love the set piece in the glacier that goes along with my favorite song in the movie, “Show Yourself.” I sob each and everytime I watch it.

It’s really a surprise that I’m having trouble wrapping up, as I am TERRIBLE at endings. And this brings us to the end of the road here. I have watched ALL of the Walt Disney Animation Studios films.

It was a very fun project that I’m glad I did. I learned a lot and found some new favorites. (Bambi, Lady And The Tramp, Treasure Planet!) But now it’s time for something completely different! I considered plowing forward with animation and going into Pixar, and I still might, but I need a break from that kind of world and maybe to feel a little more grown up. And So! Starting next Monday, I will be watching all of the James Bond movies! I think it’s going to be really fun. I’ll also be checking in with more of The Weird Bits That Made Me, and of course on October 30, it’s the exciting return of Fangirl Loves Star Wars with The Mandolorian Season 2. (Ahsoka Lives! #WheresEzra? BABY YODA RETURNS!) After that, The 007 Project will move to Wednesdays. We cool? Great!

Thanks for coming along on the magical movie tour, this was an exciting thing for me. It made me miss Disney less. (I HAVE MY TRIP IN MARCH BOOKED AND I AM SO AFRAID)

Magical Movies Tour: Ralph Breaks The Internet

I think you all probably remember from a few weeks ago how much I really enjoyed Wreck-It Ralph, and while I hadn’t watched Ralph Breaks The Internet yet, although I’d attempted to a few times. (I started it on multiple air plane rides and fell asleep each time.)

I’ll say this for the movie, it sure does pack a lot of fun visual gags into it, but even, midday, settled comfortably on my couch, I was having a lot of trouble focusing on the movie.

I think the plot is perfectly solid, and honestly, I think Ralph and Vanellope are as fun as ever. I also like all of the new friends they meet. I do think the movie is maybe 15 minutes too long, and thinks it’s more clever than it actually is.

That said, each individual sequence is great, I appreciate the light Disney Princess parody and I really like the message about the ways that people grow up and apart without losing one another. Sarah Silverman’s performance as Vanellope continues to stun me, teetering right on the annoying line that she’s always walked so well. Her confusion and searching in this movie are definitely work the best.

Overall though, I just didn’t feel the heart in this one, which bummed me out because Wreck-It Ralph was so chock full of heart. I know a lot of people love this one and I just didn’t get it.

Next time, our final rewatch, we head into the unkown with Frozen 2.

Magical Movies Tour: Moana

I love Moana. I love Moana so much. Trying to decide what to focus on for this essay is almost impossible, but I’ve decided very specifically to focus on how Moana, the character in the movie Moana, goes perfectly on every step of “The Hero’s Journey”

Shall we?

The Call To Adventure

From the time she’s a literal baby, The Ocean is calling on Moana to venture out and save her people, she drops the Heart of Tafiti into her tiny baby lap. Of course we must first establish her normal life, as the chief’s daughter she’s learning to lead the tribe. It’s going very well.

Refusal Of The Call

Moana spends her whole life resisting this urge to go out onto the ocean and leave her home behind. She has responsibilities and also her father really hates the ocean. BUT, her island is in trouble and she goes into a cave and has a vision of her people’s history as voyagers and realizes what she needs to do.

Supernatural Aid

The Ocean itself finally sends Moana on her way, as does the spirit of her Grandmother, who passes away right as Moana realizes her true calling.

Passing The Threshold Of Adventure

I mean, she LITERALLY HAS TO GET PAST A REEF SURROUNDING HER ISLAND TO BEGIN HER QUEST. (To find Maui and replace the heart of Tafiti) Also, when she meets Maui and convinces him to join her

Belly Of The Whale

Moana fight the Kakamora, realizing that this journey will be perilous and not as easy as she thought.

The Road Of Trials

This is largely the battle with Tomatoa, but also the journey across the ocean, where Maui teaches her to sail, and regains his powers of shapeshifting with his hook. This is also when Maui and Moana fail at their first attempt to get the heart to Tafiti, blocked by the demon TaKa.

The Meeting With The Goddess/Atonement With The Father/Abyss/Apotheosis

After Maui flees in their failure, Moana communes with her ancestors, especially her grandmother and realizes that she is a hero and she needs to finish her quest. (I weep, and weep like a tiny baby.)

Here the hero is supposed to have a greater realization about themselves and their quest, here, Moana know at last, who she is and what she wants.

The Final Boon

Moana restores the heart! She wins! Also, she realizes that trauma is not the defining portion of a person’s life and soul, when she returns the heart and it is revealed that Taka is the heartless Tafiti.

The Master Of Two Worlds/The Freedom To Live

Upon returning to her people, Moana teaches them to voyage once again, and takes her place as the next chief. Also, Maui returns to his place as a great hero.

I left a few categories and steps that didn’t apply, but otherwise, it’s a pretty straightforward telling and I love it so much. Frozen II also fits pretty well, but we’re mostly going to be talking about feminism and matrilineal lines of power when we get there.

Next time, I do my best to finish a movie that I feel asleep watching on planes like 4 times, Ralph Breaks The Internet

Magical Movies Tour: Zootopia

It’s kind of amazing that Disney manged to make a movie like Zootopia that is an entertaining mystery, features adorable and interesting animal characters, and is someone how a very effective fable about the dangers of both personal prejudice and institutional other-ing.

Also, Shakira plays a Gazelle.

I really quite enjoyed watching Zootopia again, especially in light of the…well, everything, lately, and I think it hold up pretty well, despit being a little on the naive and simple side. (But I mean, this is a movie where Jason Bateman voices a fox in a Hawaiian shirt, so we can only expect so much of it right?) I also appreciate that pop culture references, which aren’t totally glaring and feel relatively timeless.

What’s even more exceptional is the absolutely perfect voice casting, even using almost entirely celebrities. Ginnifer Goodwin and Bateman do excellent work as our leads, Judy Hopps and Nick Wylde, and I especially like Jenny Slate as the villainous Mayer Bellwether.

I also appreciate the way the animation and environments look, Zootopia doesn’t really look like any other movie and the animals are uniquely designed and adorable. I particularly like Judy, who really manages to stand out from the crowd with relative teeniness and grey and blue color pallet.

And did I mention that Shakira plays a Gazelle, because that happens and it’s pretty wonderful.

Next time there’s just no telling how far we’ll go with Moana.

Magical Movies Tour: Winnie The Pooh

Literally the only thing I remembered about this Winnie The Pooh movie was that it was released the same weekend as Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part II, and the marketing campaign was therefore highly engaged in the concept of holding on to childhood as counterprogramming to Deathly Hallows, “And now childhood ends,” approach, and I thought that was absolutely genius at the time. Still do, in fact.

That said, I think the reason that I didn’t particularly remember this one is that it isn’t particularly memorable.

It’s a nice little Hundred Acre Wood story, where Christopher Robin arranges a contest to get Eeyore a new tail, the prize being a pot of honey. Pooh Bear needs that honey, obviously, though he doesn’t win initially, he does in the end. There’s also a digression where the animals fuss over Christopher Robin being kidnapped when he was just off at school for the day, which is terribly sweet.

But it’s also just, there’s so much of this movie that is absolutely trapped in 2011. (The songs are sung by She & Him, for example!) That it loses the timeless quality that makes Winnie The Pooh and his group of friends really special. I do like the animation, which is strong and pretty, but strays too much from the classic feel, without reinventing enough.

I was just underwhelmed by the movie in general, I guess? It wasn’t charming enough and didn’t get the emotional moments right at all, even if all the delightful child logic of this world was on full display.

Next time, we go turbo with Wreck-It Ralph. 

Magical Movies Tour: Tangled

I fell in love with Tangled before I saw it.

I was watching the Oscars and Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi were performing, “I See The Light,” and I gasped. The song was wonderful, and so touchingly and lightly performed by these two actors.

Then I watched the movie, and I fell head over heels for it. I loved Rapunzel’s characterization, I loved Donna Murphy’s brilliant voice performance as Mother Gothel, and my god, Levi has never been better than he was as Flynn Ryder.

This was also the return of Alan Menken to the Disney fold, working this time with , and it’s some fine work, some of my favorite that’s not with Howard Ashman. I mentioned, “I See The Light,” but “When Will My Life Begin” is such a wonderful bit of ingenue introduction, and I mentioned Donna Murphy, yeah? “Mother Knows Best” is perfection in a villain song. It’s so full of gaslighting and abuse, and the melody is bouncy and menacing and I love it so much.

The other thing that Tangled has going for it, is that it is funny. It’s really, and honestly a great road trip comedy with fairy tale trappings, aided by Moore and Levi and of course the animators making Rapunzel and Flynn so very loveable and fun to follow.

I also love Rapunzel’s chameleon buddy Pascal, and Maximus a palace horse who acts like a bloodhound for some reason. I’ve never been sure why, but it’s a delightful gag.

Next time we’re back to that Silly Old Bear, and check out Winnie The Pooh. 

Magical Movies Tour: The Princess And The Frog

Isn’t it nice when the stars align and an important movie is also a good one?

The Princess And The Frog earns the first distinction, “important,” by being the last hand drawn animated feature from Walt Disney Animation and for it’s black, working class leading lady. Tiana is a waitress for New Orleans, who after being raised by a bus driver and seamstress, has worked her whole life to open her own restaurant.

She crosses paths with Prince Naveen who is transformed by the wicked Dr. Faccillier into a frog and then because they didn’t follow the rules explicitly (Tiana is not a princess) she turns into a frog rather than him turning back into a man.

It’s, more than a little convoluted when you write it out, but presented visually, Tiana and Naveen’s journey through 1920’s Louisiana is a delightful rom-com, opposites attract romp, punctuated by super fun character designs, and some catchy tunes by Randy Newman.

I really love this movie, and every time I watch it I’m only more enamored. There’s some stuff that I think could have used another pass. (There’s no real connection between Tiana and Dr. Facillier, for example, this feels like an odd error.) And as I get older and more interested in social justice narratives in popular culture, I am in awe of the decisions made with this film. Tiana is in complete control of her destiny from minute one, but this doesn’t prevent conflict or growth. There’s a variety of black faces and bodies on display, the music, that slow New Orleans style jazz is so much fun.

I’m generally on board with The Princess And The Frog getting more attention whenever possible, and am thus super excited for the upcoming retheme of Splash Mountain to a Princess And The Frog ride. I think it’s a brilliant decision that also means we’re going to get Louis Audio Animatronic, which I think fits into Imagineering’s sweet spot perfectly. Also, replacing an attraction based around something super racist, with something based around a strong and exciting Black female protagonist sends the right message.

Next time we continue down the path of magical princesses ,and see the light with Tangled.