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January 19 2006

Serenity chosen at best sci-fi movie of 2005 by Feature Six. "True, it doesn't pack the punch of Lucas' final epic, but it's a hell of lot more fun and less cringe-inducing."

This is the first time I had to agree with most everything an article had to say. So much so, I have to add a few of the movies I hadn't the time or the chance to see to my list.
It packed plenty of punch, for me, anyway.
The only thing I would disagree with, is the 'pack the punch' comment.

I cant remember the last time a cried and gasped out loud when watching a film.
I took "pack the punch" to mean the massive amount of dollars invested in visual effects. That's how Episode III is impressive -- through visuals only. Of course we all know Serenity is the better movie. I have no problems saying Episode III is superior visually because we all know that's the only way it's supierior.

Off topic: So, guess what film I'm planning to show my adult students next week in their English Listening class? Won't bore you with all the reasons but I think even though they won't understand it all (and they know that) the action will keep them interested.
But we KNEW that
Actually, the final 15 minutes of Sith (except the "NOOOOOOO!!!") made me cry (in a good way). Serenity didn't.

But yeah, Serenity is of course a much, much better movie.
Off topic: So, guess what film I'm planning to show my adult students next week in their English Listening class? Won't bore you with all the reasons but I think even though they won't understand it all (and they know that) the action will keep them interested.

OK. Someone help me find a way to show "Serenity" in one of my classes this semester. I've been able to use a Buffy episode for one course in the past, but is there any way I can stretch it and show it in my "Sociology of the Family," "Sociology of Childhood and Adolescence," or "Working Women in American Society" course(s)?

I really have to get out and see some of these other movies (but not Star Wars III; I made that mistake already.)

[ edited by Nebula1400 on 2006-01-19 20:28 ]
I have no problems saying Episode III is superior visually because we all know that's the only way it's supierior.

If you say so. Disconnect yourself from Firefly and Joss Whedon, and I think you'd find Revenge of the Sith's final act is better than Serenity's.

That said, Serenity's still the more entertaining film.
Deleted due to some unfortunate insanity!

[ edited by lone fashionable wolf on 2006-01-19 19:58 ]
Nice list of films. Horrible page layout, though.
I'm a big fan of Star Wars but I'm sorry, "Sith" sucked ! Am I the one on Earth to think that ?
Nebula1400 -- it really depends on how much you stretch it...

"Sociology of the Family" : They say in Spaced, and maybe all of England that the family of the 21st century is made up of friends and not relatives... How may that be reflected within the group dynamic of Serenity? Compare/contrast the relationships between brother and sister to the rest of the people aboard?

"Sociology of Childhood and Adolescence" : ...Huh, this one is throwing me off, but at most you can get away with the opening ten minutes about how children and more impressionable and how propaganda works upon them? Or how Mal in part has that adolescent thing about having no faith in people in power?

"Working Women in American Society" : ...Yeah, this one is kinda a goner given the setting, but nearly all of the women have some sort of working role in the film... Zoe's practicality in a more manual job, Kaylee isn't really touched on but she is in a scientific field, and Inara... is a working woman in the more euphemistic sense but that's not really too obvious in the film unless you go with deleted scenes. Uh, also I suppose there's something about the role of the fan dancer in illegal practices or something...
The movie might be a pretty significant stretch, but "Safe" would be a great episode for that class, no?
"Working Women in American Society" is actually an easy one if you are willing to go the route of how Americans are viewing working women now vs the past as reflected in popular entertainment. Even comparing the working women of Serenity with the working women in the original Star Trek series, the radical shift is obvious. Going back further than that shows an even bigger change.
Yep, you've gotta love an article that has a "Best Kid’s Movie about Necrophilia" category ;-).

If you say so. Disconnect yourself from Firefly and Joss Whedon, and I think you'd find Revenge of the Sith's final act is better than Serenity's.

Disagree (there's a surprise). Serenity's final act features character development for Mal in a thematic reversal of the battle of Serenity and the movie ends on a great bit of meaningfull dialogue.

Sith ends on a high as well. You've gotta love the "you were the chosen one!" bit and you've gotta love ending on a major nostalgia-fest for original trilogy fans. But it still features bad dialogue, the characterisation in the entire movie, including the last act, is just crappy and while there's an important development for both Anakin (welcome Darth Vader!) and the Universe (The Empire rises, two remaining Jedi go into hiding) the movie manages never quite sells them as much as Serenity does its major events. Sith was fun because it's a major established mythology that finally fills in the last gaps.

But I think if you'd disconnect yourself from the whole Star Wars mythology, you'd find Sith is actually inferior to most movies that came out this year ;-).

Now I loved it to bits, but that's just because I love the original trilogy and adored the fact that the movie restored some of the magic that was lacking in the first two prequels. But objectively, it's simply just not that great at all.
> If you say so. Disconnect yourself from Firefly and Joss Whedon, and I think you'd find Revenge of the Sith's final act is better than Serenity's.


Sorry, cheap shot. 8-)
"Nooooooooooooooo!!!" was no worse than anything Doc Ock did in Spider-Man 2, and yet everybody loved that movie ;-)

Now I loved it to bits, but that's just because I love the original trilogy and adored the fact that the movie restored some of the magic that was lacking in the first two prequels. But objectively, it's simply just not that great at all.

Again, I disagree. I was born after Return of the Jedi came out. I like the original trilogy a lot, but I don't have an emotional connection to it. My childhood isn't shot to bits if I don't enjoy the prequels. I like Sith because it gets an emotional reaction from me. When Sidious kills Mace Windu, Anakin murders the Jedi children, etc. I'd like Episode III regardless of the other five films in the series.

The sequence of Palpatine declaring himself Emperor, intercut with Obi-Wan and Yoda's discovery of the bodies and Anakin's slaughter of the Separatist leaders was more emotionally involving for me than anything in Serenity.

[ edited by The Dark Shape on 2006-01-20 00:01 ]
That was certainly the most effective sequence in the movie, TDS, I agree. But it didn't affect me as much as, say, Book or Wash's death, or Zoe's line about flying true, or Simon apologising to River for leaving.

And I didn't mind the "Nooo" etc. OTOH, the "You were the Chosen One" line couldn't possibly do anything but make me smile and hear ASH's voice in my head.

Off-topic, but I'm going to keep whining about the use of "objectively" (just did that on another thread) - Merriam-Webster Online gives it as an adverbial form of objective, which in turn is defined (for our purposes) as:

"1. b : of, relating to, or being an object , phenomenon, or condition in the realm of sensible experience independent of individual thought and perceptible by all observers : having reality independent of the mind"


"3. expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations"

Given that our discussions here are purely based on our personal feelings, prejudices, and interpretations, I guess I should await the argument that the goodness or badness of Revenge of the Sith has a reality independent of the mind.

We probably don't need to get into the philosophical discussion, but I do wonder if "objectively" has any meaning left at all if it can mean simply "because I think/said so". And don't give me the language is fluid bit - this isn't fluidity, this is gaseous. With no offense to any particular member - just a big bete noire of mine.
That was certainly the most effective sequence in the movie, TDS, I agree. But it didn't affect me as much as, say, Book or Wash's death, or Zoe's line about flying true, or Simon apologising to River for leaving.

Yep, I wholeheartedly agree, SNT. As for when I was born, I'm from 1980, I saw none of the original SW movies in the theatre and I think I saw 'em for the first time when I was 13 or 14 and fell completely in love with the original trilogy.

Now I agree that there's good points in Sith, which is why it's the best of the prequels. The things TDS mentions getting an emotional reaction, got an emotional reaction from me too. It's just that it was completely hit-and-miss. These moments, for me, don't compensate the lack of good dialogue, the better but still-not-great acting or the bloated visuals, for instance.

Off-topic, but I'm going to keep whining about the use of "objectively"

Well, yes, you do have a point. There's not much that is truly objective. Some science, mathematics, stuff like that. Since everything else we discuss, think or whatnot are influenced by our own personality - even if we don't want it to - there is no objectivity. But I agree, we shouldn't get into the philisophical discussion. That is interesting, but not something to do here on the black.

As for objectivity in the things we discuss here, I do feel the word has meaning (hey I used it, so I must think it does, right?). For me, it's the distinction between something I like and something I feel is good. I try to find objective benchmarks by which to measure a movies worth. The quality of plotting, dialogue, acting, characterisation, things like that. To do that completely objectively you have to have a set of benchmarks which are beyond discussion - and they don't exist. But that doesn't mean you can't try and strive for objectivity.

Sith is actually a good example. I loved the movie to bits. I've seen it numerous times already. But I can see there's a whole lot of things wrong with it. Those are not directly influenced by my feelings about the movie, but more with my preconceptions of what a good movie needs to do. So, yes, there's no pure objectivity there, but there is a scale. And when I say "But objectively, it's simply just not that great at all", what I'm trying to say is that I reach that conclusion when I try to judge the movie on its merits, try to seperate my judgement from my personal feelings and preconceptions about it, even though I may not be completely succesfull in doing so. Now I could say it like that, but that'd just sound pompous ;-)
I enjoyed the story elements of ROTS's final act. In fact I think Lucas has a good feel for story and all six films are epic in scale but still have interesting personal arcs. However, the guy just cannot write dialogue. At all. Don't agree that the 'Noooooo' was alright in any way, to me it was one of the most cringe inducing portions of any film i've seen in 10 years. That and the droid saying (paraphrasing) 'It's like she's lost the will to live'. Give us a bleedin' break. That said, i'm not a billionaire and judging by the distinct lack of rolling plains, galloping horses and sunshine, I don't have a ranch in California either, so what do I know ;).

Personally, I thought the final act of Serenity was better realised and for me more emotionally engaging (in fairness, probably at least partly because we know what happens to all the characters in ROTS) even tho' it didn't have the mythology or sheer cultural impetus of a Star Wars movie. I don't think it was the best film of last year tho' it was probably the one I enjoyed most.

(BTW, SNT, hear hear. I have the same issue with the word 'literally' among others. I like new words and even new grammar occasionally but we can't just arbitrarily redefine terms to suit our own requirements. If we do then we don't have language, we just have sound).

ETA: Ah, GVH, that makes sense tho' maybe 'looking at it analytically' or something similar would be less prone to misinterpretation ? I actually agree as well that I enjoyed ROTS, except for the bits when I wanted the words to just, y'know, stop, in the name of all that is good ;).

[ edited by Saje on 2006-01-20 01:07 ]
Sorry I'm way down the list here, Nebula1400, but for "Sociology of Childhood and Adolescence" I think Objects in Space would be great, with or without commentary. It's certainly the story of a teenager trying to find her place in a world she doesn't feel welcome in, although maybe Jubal Early is too violent for a classroom. Other Firefly episodes could also work for "Sociology of Family," since you have a brother/sister and a husband/wife onboard the ship.

Serenity would have to be in "Working Women," since the women of the crew all have important jobs, with just that note about Inara orangewaxlion pointed out. The doctor who investigated what happened on Miranda is also a working woman, and I guess you could ask students if they think that a character like Zoe can only exist in science fiction (as opposed to drama or comedy) -- a warrior woman who is really strong and effective, but who also has a husband she loves, meaning, not single like Ripley and not, er, like Xena! ;-)

[ edited by billz on 2006-01-20 01:23 ]
billz, orangewaxlion, and newcj, thanks! I think if I tried any of those, my students will start asking the department chair if they got me from the local psychiatric facility. (Actually, newcj' s suggestions aren't too far-fetched, but I have to see what kind of students I have in that class before I try it. The guy in charge of running the building I'll be in, though, would probably be all for it, as he's a Browncoat.)

ETA: Xena wasn't single. She had Gabrielle.

[ edited by Nebula1400 on 2006-01-20 01:29 ]
George Lucas himself said that he found it so hard (motivation-like) writing the script for Episode III that he had to force himself to finish it. That doesn't sound very encouraging and it really shows. I also question George's true motivation for doing it at all. If it's not for the art then surely it must've been for the commerce.

Joss by contrast wrote pages and pages for Serenity and had to whittle it down to a workable shooting script. There must have been such a well-spring of new ideas, story elements and concepts in his head. Add to that his enthusiasm for his newly created world and the form he carried over from writing and directing network television not too long before and you have a much more accomplished piece.

People should know when to go out at the top and not let down their fans (well, at least a good lot of them). The Wachowski's should have done the same for the Matrix.

Finally, Episode III as it should be been done.
I'd like to point out that, though it may come off as different, I *loved* Serenity. But as this is a Whedon board, and the film is (most deservedly) praised, I feel it's more in the interest of the discussion at hand to focus more on ROTS' good points than Serenity's.

Joss by contrast wrote pages and pages for Serenity and had to whittle it down to a workable shooting script.

That's not an entirely fair argument. Lucas has always believed films come together in the editing room, while Joss is much more of a get-it-down-on-paper type of person. The first draft -- and filmed version -- of Episode III was very different than the final cut, and Lucas only brought it together once he saw what worked and what didn't.

Those who have the Trilogy DVD box set will know that even A New Hope didn't work until it was completely re-done in the editing room.
Lucas certainly did strongly believe in the editing room.

"Oota-goota, Solo?"
I think we appreciate that you are both a staunch Whedon fan, and a staunch defender of George Lucas, TDS. And why not, I say. In the cosmic balance, I still owe George more than he owes me, is how I choose to look at it. :)
ETA: Xena wasn't single. She had Gabrielle.
I'm with you, Nebula1400. I was saying *Ripley* was the single one, and Xena was a person who did not have a *male* spouse. I was thinking that there is a cliche of strong warrior women characters being loners (Ripley), playing around (Starbuck) or lesbians (Xena), but Zoe is an exception because she has a husband. I agree that newcj's teaching ideas were probably the best, but I'd totally love a teacher who showed Whedonverse in class for any reason! ;-)
Nebula -- Re: Sociology of Family -- think about Mal's line about being a part of the "crew". Then think, say, about how John Steinbeck defines family -- not the people you're born into, but the people you acquire over a lifetime. Steinbeck spent his career writing new aspects of family -- and in Serenity, "crew" is really family, no buts about it.

As for ROTS versus Serenity. Wow. Cannot even comment, having nearly been kicked out of the theater for openly laughing at what I considered to be both the best-of-three and a waste-of-time in ROTS. Yawn. "Oh, no, he's going to kill the YOUNGLINGS!!!" My gosh Lucas, didn't you know at one point in your life how to A) write dialogue and B) make me care about your characters?
Lucas was fond of the editing room, sure, but wasn't so much fond of little things like plot, character development and the like. Did anyone see his Rolling Stone interview this summer? Nothing made me MORE ANGRY than his lines about the first of the prequels. . . and how he was really just biding his time for movie #3.
ETA: Xena wasn't single. She had Gabrielle.
...lesbians (Xena),

Why do you think Xena was/is a lesbian?

If you watched the show, you know that Xena had been married to Marcus. He was killed. Later in the series she went all the way to Hades to get him and take him to the Elysian Fields (heaven). She was also with that war lord guy and bore him a son, who was given to the Centaurs to raise. (Yeah, I'm a fan.)

I think people have this Xena's a lesbian idea because of our society's deep-seated dislike of women in general: What good are women? The only reason to be around a woman is for sex.

Why don't people think Hercules was gay? (Or Starsky and Hutch for that matter.) He buddied around with Iolas. But no. They were pals. Buddies. Home-boys. Xena and Gabrielle, however, must have been gay. Why else travel around with another woman? Actually, Gabrielle was Xena's constant reminder that she had left her Bad Self behind. And Gabrielle didn't care that Xena had a horrible past. They had each other's backs.

But if it makes you comfy to think Xena and Gabrielle were a "couple", maybe you should check yo'se'f. Just my humble opinion. And I'm stickin' with it, y'all.
; )
Sorry, AmazonGirl, I didn't mean to set anything off at all. I totally see by your name and knowledge that you are definitely a Xena fan; me, too! She was/is a big hit in our house. You make some good points I want to respond to.

First of all, you are certainly correct to remind me that Xena had a lot of sexual attraction to men, so "lesbian" or "gay" is not a correct adjective in any case. Still, I think that it is reasonable to say that her character was bi, because both the producers and fandom (Whoosh, etc.) made much of the "subtext" that Xena and Gabrielle, who started as unwilling mentor and protege, eventually became friends, fighting comrades and at some point lovers. Especially in the last season, many characters talked to them about their connection being a couple connection, not just friends. There were also many scenes of shared bunks, tubs, and kisses (even if Xena was in Autolycus's body at the time).

It's also certainly possible that Herc was bi (he had been married, too -- twice, and they both got killed, ouch!), as well as Starsky and Hutch or any other pair of male "buddies." I mean, how much slash fanfic is out there saying just that! However, I brought up Xena because I was talking about women warrior characters; I don't have anything to say (in this thread) about men warriors, or male characters who might be lovers.

Also, I don't mean any kind of "good/bad" judgement by saying that bisexuality might be/is part of Xena's personality. To me, it's no different than saying, "Xena has dark brown hair." So I certainly was not coming from a place of "deep-seated dislike for women." I do agree with you that society has some very negative uses of women in fiction, as illustrated in all the films where "the girl" is just there as the "hero's" girlfriend, or is red-shirted to be killed off so that the hero can be good and mad at the villain. That sux. That is part of what I was saying I like about Zoe; she is strong (I mean, how scared of Zoe is Jayne? *Real* scared!) and balanced between her job and her personal life, which in her case happens to include a husband. I also really like that Joss always makes it clear that Mal absolutely relies on Zoe, and their relationship is about trust and shared experiences in the workplace (which in their case is a battlefield or a bank vault, etc.!), NOT about sexual attraction. They are comrades, and Mal is not "keeping her around" in hopes of sleeping with her someday. Nor is Zoe sticking around in hopes of sleeping with him someday. In fact, Mal is probably still alive only because Zoe has his back, constantly and consistently, and vice versa (although I'm pretty clear that Zoe is the "better" fighter!). In a way, it's the same kind of character Geena Davis is playing as the president in Commander in Chief; she didn't get there by sleeping with someone, and she does not flirt to get things done. She's tough, and North Korea had better check they'se'fs (see this week's CiC ep)! ;-)

I'm not "comfy" or uncomfy thinking that Xena and Gabrielle were a couple or not. I was just making a point about Zoe being a unique woman warrior character who is neither a loner nor a person who is part of the LGBT community. I consider myse'f "checked"! :-)
hey billz, don't worry. i wasn't hating.

just stirring the pot a little.
; )
yay to no hatin'! ;-)
I still think "Safe" is a great thing for any classroom discussion on family....

And, although I'm clearly in the minority, didn't see the Stith movie and never will.

But I'm used to being an anomaly.
To be honest, I have no qualms about stating which film I prefer- Serenity or Revenge of the Sith. And this is speaking as a person who has loved Buffy, Angel and Firefly, as well as someone who immensely enjoyed the Star Wars Original Trilogy and looked forward to the prequels with an open mind.

I felt Serenity was just incredibly engaging and entertaining throughout. The characters were all unique and multi-dimensional. We could clearly understand their motivations even if we didn't agree with their actions. There was believable conflict and reconciliation between the characters. I connected with the film and the characters emotionally because I felt they were believable people and appreciated the attributes of their personalities.

Now, take the Star Wars OT. The characters may not have been quite as complex as those in Serenity, but they were at least distinct and compelling. There is a reason people remember Han, Leia, Luke, Obi-Wan, Chewie and the droids. There was a sense of history and danger in the films, even if the tone was often more whimsical and a little lighter than either the prequels or Serenity.

As far as I am concerned, Lucas is an excellent director and someone who can create beautiful, comepelling stories and a dense, interesting mythology. His action and fighting scenes are amazing, beyond compare. But dialogue has never been his strong point, which often weakens the classical stories he presents us with. I didn't feel the OT was too bad in this respect, and the involvement of different people with the script tweaked it for the better. For example, Harrison Ford replied to Princess Leia's "I love you," in Empire Strikes Back not by repeating what she said, as Lucas has intended, but with "I know", which is much more in character and yet just as poignant and less clichéd.

My problem with the prequels is that the characters are all flat and unengaging. If you actually think about most of the main characters, they share a lot of the same qualities and they aren't as broadly defined and different as those in the OT, nor as fleshed out as those in Serenity. There is a confusing lack of geography, as we visit numerous planets and people without actually finding out what their names are, especially with secondary characters.

There is a sense of seriousness that the OT did not have, as if every actor seems to think that it is a very serious dramatic role. Yes, parts of that are required, but not constantly throughout. R2D2 and C3P0 seem to provide the vast majority of comic relief in the last two prequels, but when the film relies on this I think it becomes too crude, and that's not even to mention Jar Jar Binks. There is a sort of clash between the immense seriousness and importance of every human actor's lines, often delivered in a flat and unconcerned tone, and the often childish and awkward humour found elsewhere.

I did think RotS was an improvement over the other prequels, but I found moments of emotion were erratic in the film. How can I truly be upset at what Anakin is doing if it doesn't make sense? Why try to kill Padme if it was for her sake you went to the dark side in the first place? I didn't find his descent into darkness realistic or understandable, which isolated me from him, and the same happened with many of the other characters. The joyless, stony-faced acting of Natalie Portman, who I usually find a great actress, makes me WANT Padme to die.

Samuel J. Jackson, also a usually reliable actor, was completely over-the-top in RotS and unfortunately I found that a few of Palpatine's scenes also suffered from this strange vaudeville-style acting. And it's hard to care about the fates of these nameless, CGI created characters we may have glimpsed for a few seconds.

I will admit that the Order to kill the Jedi scene did make me feel a little sad, and parts of Obi-Wan and Anakin's duel were engaging, but also hampered by some flat acting and cringe-worthy lines. The last act was probably the best, but for me I just didn't find the characters as interesting or endearing as those in Serenity, and that also made me enjoy the action scenes more because I was more engrossing in the film, waiting with baited breath to see what happened.

And of course I won't force anyone to admit that Serenity was better because I am aware that that is only my view, and not everyone will share it.
Well spoken, Razor, must agree. Though I was a little disappointed with some of the 'Serenity' characters seemingly a bit thin as compared to the 'Firefly' series, I still feel their acting and dialogue were light years ahead of RotS. And that's one of the traits I look for in my movies. Sure, RotS was spectacular with all its eye candy of special effects. But the acting scenes with their wilted dialogue between the characters often left me rolling my eyes. "Oh gosh, who wrote and directed that? A sixth grader?" Please do not take me wrong, I mean no disrespect towards Lucas, anyone who can take a little story and turn it into a billion dollar+ project is certainly on a right path to their goal. I just wished he realized he had limitations and hired a gifted writer to smooth out the rough areas (Calling Docter Joss, calling Docter Joss, you're are needed in....). And, this is where 'Serenity' blows away RotS. Drama. The scene when Inara confronts Mal and he opens up that she is frustrating him. Heartbreaking. A personal touch. The scene when Simon asks River if he's talking to someone else and he gets "the eye". Wonderful, every brother and sister knows that feeling and can relate. Humor. Need I say more than Jayne and his grenades.

Oh, Joss, if you happen to be lurking in the room, there's only one thing I would change in your movie. The end scene when River is with Mal in control of the ship. It would've been nice if River was holding one of Wash's dinosaur action figures in her lap. Just a thought.

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