Howdy. I'm Matt Todd. My wife and I have four kids and a dog,. I'm passionate about orphan care. I'm a die-hard fan of the Evansville Aces, the Indiana Hoosiers, and Star Wars. I'm trying to live life by the Todd family motto: "It behooves us to live!"

Why A New Hope is my favorite

Me & VaderI remember when CBS aired Star Wars* on network tv for the first time. It was a big deal. A big-huge deal. Gigantic. Enormous. Gargantuan. You get the idea?

I asked Grandmama and Grandpa to record it on their big-huge VCR because we didn’t have one yet. Every time we visited their house (which was often), I’d pop in the tape and watch it over and over and over again. I wanted to be part of the Stuben family with their giant collection.

All that being said, I still thought it was pretty weird to get married in line while waiting for the movie. I mean….having a Chewbacca-shaped Groom’s Cake is one thing. Spending your wedding night in a movie theatre?

That’s something else.

But I digress…

Every time someone would walk into the room while I was watching the beloved Star Wars videotape, I would shout, “Shhh! Shhh! This is my favorite part!” Of course, every part was my favorite part.

Leia gets captured? My favorite part.

Luke is ambushed by Sandpeople? My favorite part.

The Millennium Falcon has to blast its way out of Mos Eisley? My favorite part.

The Princess is rescued from her cell?** My favorite part.

I think you get the idea. Every single part of this movie was my favorite part of my favorite movie. It was so captivating. It transported me to a different world – one that I would continue to live in when I wasn’t watching the movie at my grandparents’ house. Star Wars has a very special place in my heart because of the memories it evokes. For this reason alone, Star Wars will always be my favorite. There are other reasons, however, why Star Wars is such a masterful piece of storytelling.

The music

John Williams is a genius. George Lucas is a genius for getting him to work on this film. The score is so intertwined with the visuals that it is impossible to imagine Star Wars without the soundtrack. I would suspect it would be a much, much different experience. And it probably wouldn’t have been as memorable of a movie.

Here’s an example of how the two tie in so perfectly. Try not to get a little misty-eyed as you listen to Binary Sunset (around the 1:50 mark). In your mind’s eye, you can see young Luke gazing off into the horizon, wishing he could leave for a life of adventure that he cannot have while he’s stuck at his uncle’s farm.

OK. Maybe I’m the only one who can see the scene in my mind’s eye. And maybe I’m the only one who gets misty-eyed. But it’s still a powerful scene. And we owe it to the soundtrack.

The jaw-dropping special effects

With Star Wars, George Lucas understood the purpose of special effects. It could be argued that he lost his way when it came to the prequels, but that’s a different discussion. When you look at Star Wars for what it was, it was an amazing technological leap forward in the realm of special effects and film.

And it played second fiddle to something much more important: the story.

Without a good story full of engaging, memorable characters, you don’t have that much of a quality movie. If you throw special effects in there and use them to drive the story, then you have even less of a movie.

Special effects are just a tool, a means of telling a story. People have a tendency to confuse them as an end to themselves. A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing.

George Lucas
From Star Wars to JediThe Making of a Saga

The story is a timeless fantasy. Farmboy growing up a hundred miles from nowhere becomes a protege of a wise, mysterious, old wizard. They team up with a band of outlaws on a journey to rescue a princess. Along the way, they topple an evil Empire and this seemingly insignificant farmboy from an insignificant place saves the galaxy.

While the special effects were groundbreaking and are still pretty amazing, they’re subservient to the timeless story. And that’s the way it should be. I wish more filmmakers (including George Lucas himself in later years) would learn from that. Special effects are a tool to tell a story. Special effects are not the story. Star Wars nails this point perfectly.

I think that’s why I have been so disappointed with the tinkering they did with the films for the Special Edition – and after the Special Edition. The story becomes a tool to show off your special effects, which is the opposite of how it should be. It messes up the story.

All that being said, there’s one addition in the Special Edition of Star Wars that does help the story. It’s the brief encounter Luke has with Biggs before the final battle. It helps the audience understand why it was such a big deal that Biggs is shot down at the end. It’s not just that Luke is now all alone. He’s also lost his best friend.

Luke and Biggs before the Battle of Yavin
image via Wookieepedia

I feel like I should also mention that the final battle scene in Star Wars is where I strongly disagree with Roger Ebert’s initial review of the film. I have always thought the final battle was just the right length.

The magic

Star Wars is an adventurous joyride full of ups and downs and twists and surprises and it doesn’t stop until the final explosion and you jump up and down with joy as all the tension releases from your body. Steven Spielberg once said that Star Wars “put the butter back into the popcorn.” And he’s right. With Star Wars, movies became fun again. Once again, movies could take you off to a place far, far away, and invite you to stay. Moviemakers have been trying to capture that magic since Star Wars. While some have had varying levels of success, none have been able to come close to matching the magic of Star Wars.

Its endurance

Some movies, like Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan are great because they tell moving, heartbreaking stories. And I never want to watch them again.  Other movies are great because you want to watch them over and over and over again.

As you can see, Star Wars clearly falls into the latter. And I’m pretty sure that’s why it’s my favorite of my favorites. Always has been. Always will be.

Which Star Wars film is your favorite? Do you like any prequels better than the Original Trilogy?

For the duration of this post, please realize that I’ll be using ‘Star Wars’ and ‘A New Hope’ interchangeably. If you have a problem with that…well…that’s really your problem. I suggest you find something else to get upset about because this really isn’t that big of a deal.

** I warned you here. I warned you again here. I have no sympathy for you if this is a spoiler. Just watch the daggum movies already!

Why Return of the Jedi is my favorite

Return of the Jedi

Tomorrow marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Return of the Jedi. I remember the weeks (and maybe even the months) of hype leading up to this film. I remember sitting on the edge of my seat (honestly? it was a couch. you get the idea though) in the Living Room in our old house on Iroquois, watching Entertainment Tonight’s feature about the filming of the speeder bike scene. I could.not.wait. I was caught up in Jedi fever, like the rest of the country (be sure to note the price of the scalped tickets in that link. I’d be pretty happy with those prices today!).

While I didn’t camp out in the ticket line or attend any midnight showings, I was the first of my friends to go see it. I was pretty proud of that fact.

I still remember seeing that vile gangster, Jabba the Hutt, on the big screen for the first time. I still remember holding my breath during the final duel. I still remember the magic of the final chapter of the Original Trilogy. And because of this experience alone, Return of the Jedi will always be a favorite movie of mine. But that’s not the only reason.

Ewoks

Ewoks. Love them.
image via Enemy of Peanuts

I know. Many people think the Ewoks are the Original Trilogy’s equivalent of Jar Jar Binks. It’s become the cool thing to say.You can say that if you want. It’s OK for you to be wrong.

I argue that Ewoks are a crucial part of the story. The Rebellion is a ragtag group up against the arrogant, evil, well-oiled Imperial machine. The involvement of prehistoric Ewoks in the war against a new technological terror is merely an extension of the theme that has been evident since the beginning of the Star Wars saga – don’t count out the little guy. Love and friendship conquer all.

Darth Vader

Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker's final battle in Return of the Jedi
image via Yodapedia

Once you realize the entire Star Wars saga is the story of Anakin Skywalker turned Darth Vader turned Anakin Skywalker*, you view Jedi through an entirely different lens. Watching the redemption of Darth Vader at the end of the film brings a tear to my eye. It gives me chills. In fact, I have goosebumps right now just because I’m writing about it.

The Good Guys Win!

Celebrate the Love in Return of the Jedi
image via Odds & Thens

The entire saga ties together in one dramatic climax. The Emperor is gone. The Empire is defeated. The friends are wiser, stronger, and closer to each other than they had ever been before. There’s dancing and singing and everyone is celebrating the love (not “lord,” as a teacher once insisted in high school) – but only in the original version. That’s one of the reasons I strongly dislike the Special Edition, by the way. Order has been restored. Evil has been destroyed. Good has won. All is right with the galaxy. Just like it should be.

Does Jedi work as a stand-alone movie? Probably not. But as a conclusion to an epic Trilogy? Absolutely! Sure, there are some faults. Each episode has them. But Jedi has a special place in my heart. And for that reason, it’s my favorite.

Which installment of Star Wars is your favorite? Why?

*I’m sorry if this is a spoiler, but…come on….it’s been 30 years. If this is a spoiler for you, then what are you waiting for? Pretend you didn’t read this, go borrow someone’s copy of Return of the Jedi and watch it tonight!

#TwitterTuesday

A wrap-up of some of my favorite tweets from the last two weeks…

I understand.

https://twitter.com/LeilanMcNally/status/332638159538098176

Thanks again to everyone who shared and voted during our campaign! In case you missed the news, here’s where we stood in the voting.

I think KY fan’s reaction to this statement was almost as funny as the tweet itself.

While this is an important reminder every day, it’s pretty fitting for today.

Congratulations, Hoosiers!

Welcome to Twitterville, @LizTodd3032! Kick your shoes off. Stay awhile.

My friend, Mark, also reviewed The Great Gatsby. He’s quite thorough.

https://twitter.com/Ivan_Renko/status/335947031560482816

Well said, Boomstick.

I can’t…I don’t….Wow. Just wow.

Knock ’em dead, Sara! Deep down, my kids will always be Blackhawks.

Feel free to donate to the Red Cross here.