Yet another death

One of the brightest lights of the new Star Trek movies has now gone out.  It seems, too, that we’re only learning what we had with Anton Yelchin now that he’s gone, given how my timeline erupted yesterday, and it definitely wasn’t just the Trekkies who had reason to mourn; this man had done so many good things by 27 it’s painful to think how much more he might have done.  Plus he seems to have been a delightful person:

Anton Yelchin & the birds

Seriously. You can’t even.

RIP Anton Yelchin.

Leonard Nimoy, 1931-2015

It is a time of grieving for Trekkies.  Nimoy isn’t even our only loss this week; we also lost Maurice Hurley, one of the primary shapers of The Next Generation, and creator of the Borg.  But more than anyone else, even Gene Roddenberry, there’s been a feeling that Leonard Nimoy is Star Trek.  There has been no character from any of the franchise’s many installments as iconic as Mr. Spock, no other character that has so transcended Star Trek and become part of a our general pop culture.  Roddenberry had to fight to keep him on the show after the first pilot, and thank the cosmos he won that battle.  Spock was the alien, the symbol of the great universe out there, that was different from everyone else, but was unquestionably a valued member of the crew, his different way of doing things enriching the group.  He was also a character we humans could still identify with, especially with his story of being of mixed race, and suffering prejudice as a result-a story all too familiar to Nimoy, who suffered from the same in his youth-being an inspiration to outcasts all over the world.  He was also out introduction to the Vulcans, a race vital in shaping the Star Trek universe, one that has always been there and always had their say.  And Nimoy, both by his performance and some of his offscreen influences on the character, played even greater a role in shaping Mr. Spock than most actors do.  Mr. Spock would never have been Mr. Spock without Leonard Nimoy.  Even when another actor took over the role for the reboot, Nimoy was still there to guide the new Spock on his way, and the new James Kirk too, and he more than anything else gave the movies the feeling that there was a true connection between them and all that had gone before.

That would be enough of an accomplishment for any man, but it wasn’t Nimoy’s only one.  He played other roles too, some of them remarkable indeed.  There was also his work as a director and as a photographer, and in the latter he made a point of photographing women with unusual body types and portraying them as just as worthy of being photographed as those who looked more socially acceptable.  And a poet; his final public act was to tweet some worthy final words to leave us with.

His was a long and prosperous life.  RIP.

Another one!

They say they always die in threes, but I don’t think a day after losing Robin Williams, anybody was prepared to lose Lauren Bacall too! Currently rewatching clips of The Big Sleep, which I saw in film studies class and loved:

Loved her in Murder on the Orient Express too, but YouTube doesn’t seem to have the same kind of clips from that one.

Don’t want to think who might turn up dead tonight…

“Suddenly I found myself in the snow on a glacier in Norway.”

For the past day I have been rewatching The Empire Strikes Back, both with and without the commentary track.  I first got the DVD a few months ago, and it was one of the commentary tracks I hadn’t listened to.  My first impression of Irvin Kershner that day was that he was a bit pompous, but by the time I’d finished, I was glad he’d directed it.  On the second listening, I understood even better: if he was pompous, well, he’d only directed what was by then pretty much assured to be the best of the six movies that make up one of the most classic, history-changing franchises there’s ever been(I’m pretty sure it was recorded before Revenge of the Sith came out, but really, we knew it wasn’t going to surpass Kersh’s film).

Not only that, but while he was sure to acknowledge George Lucas as the man who gave him the universe in which he did what he did, he also knew, as Lucas did, that he could do what the more famous man couldn’t.  He could take into the dark, apply a proper filmmaker’s technique to it, make a classic out of pulp.  Much of his commentary focuses on how he wanted to develop the characters, how he wanted them, in their “improbable place,” to come off as real people.  In other words, he approached it with the respect many would have given only to a more “realistic” film, and the world is by far the better for it.

Not only that, but we forget, after this past decade of trilogies being shot back to back as one good-quality movie and comic book sequels that signify a franchise improving as it finds its feet(the third movies of these franchises, on the other hand…), that once upon a time, a sequel was almost certainly considered to be, at best, a shadow of the first.  Kersh’s sequel might have been the first to surpass the original.  Who knows how movie history might have been different if he hadn’t pulled that off.

And that from a man who insisted that a movie will never be perfect, that it will always involve a lot of guessing, and that he had to go with what worked.  What he went with seemed to work pretty durn well.

Rest in peace, Irvin Kershner.  May the Force be with you; you will always be with history.