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Goodbye Margot Kidder

On May 13, 2018, Margot Kidder passed away at the age of 69. She was a generation’s definitive Lois Lane. She was a grand comedian and, by her own admission, a bit of a crackpot. In ’96, her bipolar disorder got the best of her and it resulted in a big scandal, with Margot faking her death. In 2004, I was contracted by Sirens of Cinema, owned at the time by Draculina‘s Hugh Gallagher, to profile Margot for a cover story. She’d worked with Tom Savini for a rather lackluster anthology movie called “Death 4 Told”. Her publicist insisted: “Do not ask her about her breakdown.”

Calling Margot the next day, the first thing she said to me was, “Did they tell you not to ask about my breakdown?”

“They did.”

“Want to talk about my breakdown?”

Here’s the unedited version of that 2004 interview. She was a delight to talk to, wild, wacky, very funny. I’m going to miss her.

MARGOT KIDDER

Here’s some good news for fans who grew up part of that weird, untethered generation between the Baby Boomers and the so-called “X”: Lois Lane herself is returning to her horror roots. Margot Kidder, who will forever be known for her portrayal of the headstrong and empowered lady journalist of the Daily Planet in the SUPERMAN franchise that began in the late ‘70s, will soon be seen in the independent horror anthology DEATH4TOLD, directed by Bo Buckley and C. Michael Close. As the psychic Madam Badeau, Kidder is tying the segments of the film together, as she forsees death, pain and destruction for those who seek her out.

What makes this news particularly exciting to those of Gen-in-between is that this will be Kidder’s first out-and-out ‘horror’ role in some time – depending on your definition, DEATH4TOLD could be her first horror film since the much-beloved 1979 classic, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR. Sure, she is and always will be Lois Lane to the kids inside us all. But to the blood-thirsty teenagers who also share space in our ids, Kidder is Barb Cord in the Bob Clark masterpiece BLACK CHRISTMAS. And beyond that, the demented twins Danielle Breton/Dominique Blanchion in DePalma’s claustrophobic SISTERS. “It’s a fun genre,” she says. “You tend to forget but everyone [in these movies] has a twinkle in their eye. Gleeful! That’s a great word for it – that’s exactly what it is! [laughs] I like to take the tact that a sweet murderer is always more surprising.”

And that’s why DEATH4TOLD will be a project to watch for. “I got the script and it made me laugh,” Kidder says about her latest horror venture. “I thought I might use the same French-Canadian accent I used in SISTERS – I don’t know if it will work, I’ll have to fiddle with it. It’s just a great little piece. I don’t know these guys at all but they sound terrific. This director’s fantastic. He said, ‘here’s what I thought of for the backstory’ and he gave me the most detailed backstory I’ve ever had – it was almost like a novel. It was the best I’d ever gotten from a director, I was really impressed. I went, ‘well, I’m just going to steal this rather than work out my own!’ These guys did all this wonderful homework. I can’t wait to meet them. They’re really, really prepared, really enthusiastic and just seem like good guys. To find something that is basically ageless and fleshed out [as this role is] and fun besides is a great relief. [Madam Badeau] is a person who is a psychic. But the trick becomes – and this is where the director and I have been talking – is how much of this stuff does she buy? When I separate her reality from mine, I don’t buy any of it. That’s just me. So does she buy it? How much does she have to buy in order to keep her business going? All those questions. But there are all these little tricks to the trade – that’s what I want to learn.”

DEATH4TOLD began for Kidder in July, shooting in Ohio, a far piece from her home in Montana, which doesn’t bother her at all. “I have my nice normal – I guess boring to other people, but quite delightful to me – life in Montana. And then I make these forays into that other world I lived in for so many years. And then by the end of it I’m ready to come home and run with the dogs, see my friends and putter in the garden!”

Life is treating Kidder pretty good right now. These days her family, her daughter and grandchildren, are her first priority, but every now and then a project comes along that gets her excited about working again. She spent much of the last few months, for example, touring and performing in the vastly popular stage show THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES. “It’s such fun. It started out as this thing where, ‘okay, I’ll do a couple of shows’. It ended up being this two-year adventure, banging around the country in my terribly-non-politically correct SUV, with my dogs. I became the guest star who came to dinner. I was just guesting on a couple of shows, but I was just having so much fun. At my age, one of the criteria for doing things is somewhat different from the raging ambition from when you were young – and one of those things is ‘are you enjoying what you’re doing? Do you feel that this is worthwhile?’ And I fulfilled both of those criteria!”

Just a decade ago, Kidder had distinctly different criteria for doing things, just as she suggested. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, it seemed as if she was in everything. SUPERMAN and its sequels had made her a household name. When she wasn’t busy as a theatrical staple, she could be seen on television, in versions of PYGMALION as Eliza Doolittle, or alongside James Garner in THE GLITTER DOME. But fame, particularly in those youth-obsessed days of drug-high Hollywood, usually meant pressure and increased pressure. “It’s not the least stressful of careers but it beats working in a bank,” she says with a laugh.

“I think [my] primary goal back then was fulfilling a need for things certainly lacking in my life, but it was also a need for approval, it was a need for applause, it was a need to gain a certain status in society. Because I didn’t feel like I had it in myself. That’s an old cliché but it’s really true. It is a terrible cliché, but cliché’s are based on something. So the goal – when I was in my early twenties, my goals were quite firm. I was to have become a movie-star, directed a great movie and written a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by the time I was thirty. And if I hadn’t done all that, I was a failure. Well if you have goals like that, you’re destined to be a failure! Because nobody can accomplish that. But those were my terribly modest goals. So you kind of set yourself up! [laughs] I look back at it now and get a giggle. I did the first part, and did some directing, but didn’t get the novel written, obviously. Then you have to work really hard at getting rid of all those voices that say ‘see, you’re a failure, you didn’t get your novel written!’ Kind of a wasted life, huh? [laughs]”

With the added pressure placed on herself, Kidder was constantly in forward-motion, searching for that next project that would keep her in ‘Lois Lane’ world-wide status. You would think that being a star in that monumental franchise would have been empowering enough, but that wasn’t the case. “You know, when you’re in it, it isn’t [empowering]. When you’re in it, and you’re young and ambitious, you usually can’t see past your nose. What usually happens and what happened to me, I was just thinking about this yesterday, is you get caught on that ‘what makes Sammy run’ treadmill. You’re going from project to project and you’re offered everything in the world, you’re on top of the world but you can’t see that. You just know that you have to get to the next level and you can’t stop or everything will fall apart. I don’t think I really enjoyed it. I think I was an asshole. I was just so consumed by ambition and moving on and making sure that the next building block was in place. I never did what I do now everyday, which is slow down and stop and smell the roses – quite literally, actually – and go ‘oh this is fun!’ I think I was just pushing too hard. And I think that’s very common. Which is so sad. I look back and say ‘Jesus Christ, I had the world at my feet and I didn’t know it!”

SUPERMAN, beginning with the landmark Richard Donner-directed blockbuster, was a runaway phenomenon, and it was everywhere. At the same time, there was litigation from the camps of the original ‘Superman’ creators, Siegel and Shuster, suing DC Comics for ripping off their creation. There were allegations of theft and “fine-print” thieveries made against the DeLaurentiis production company and the producers themselves. But the fans, if aware of any of this, paid little attention. SUPERMAN was a hit, Kidder and star Christopher Reeve were the embodiment of the cinematic heroes. “You couldn’t miss it! You couldn’t go to the grocery store. It was madness. Running through airports with my baby in my arms screaming at paparazzi to leave me alone. Oh no, it was all over the world. There’s nothing quite as weird as becoming world-famous overnight. It happened over a few months but it was very real. No matter how much you’ve wanted it, nothing prepares you for that kind of scrutiny. And you go through this thing when you’re an actress and become famous, you don’t lose your insecurities – if anything they seem to amplify. So you become terribly consumed with trying to cover them up, so people don’t see all your flaws – which of course are still there and you’re still a big jerk like everyone else. I figure we’re all fifty-percent jerk, fifty-percent angel, as humans in the species. You spend a lot of time paralysed by the fear of being found out. That’s why famous people tend to know primarily other famous people – it’s like a little club. It’s such an odd experience to have. The whole thing of shared experience is very real. You’re in a crowd of people who are all terrified of being found out. [laughs] And there’s a kind of consolation in that.”

In the wake of that fame came the inalienable back-end fact of celebrity, in that it is fleeting. But after being so big for so long, slowing down was not an option for the actress – as her aforementioned goals will testify. But Hollywood is a die-hard boy’s club, with a ‘sink-or-swim’ mentality that is practically a thrown-gauntlet for women in the industry. The Entertainment Capital requires women to work twice as hard as men to find quality roles in film, twice as hard to hold onto their achievements and fame. The boy’s club mentality requires women to stay young and beautiful forever. “[Which is] less of a problem when you’re younger, but when you’re 54-years-old in LA, you’re supposed to disappear and spare everyone the embarrassment of watching you age. But we’re so stupid about that in this country.”

This mentality has posed to be a problem for her in recent years, and she rather subtly-hints at some of the other odd turns her career has taken. “When you add to [my age] the fact that I flipped out in public doesn’t exactly make producers go ‘Whee! We want her!’ [laughs]”

Her candid admission and good humor might strike some people as a surprising, but the current person in the Margot Kidder shoes is not the same as those who wore the Lois Lane pumps. The Kidder of the ‘80s was goal-oriented to the exclusion of all else, particularly her health and well-being. And because of this obsession with forward-momentum, in the mid-90s, she had a considerably public nervous-breakdown, in which she was found cowering in the bushes of a private residence in Los Angeles, convinced that she was under government surveillance. The tabloids and trash-journalists had a field day. “I had a girlfriend who told me ‘just tell everyone you had a bad day!’ I don’t think that’s going to wash,” she says with a laugh.

While she’d struggled with insecurity and manic depression for most of her life, her resistance not only to treatment, but to understanding the problems were what led to, as she calls it, “the last big flip-out”. With time and distance between her and the problems, Kidder is not only frank about that period of her life, but also approaches it with a sense of humor. There’s no ‘poor-me’ in her voice whatsoever. In fact, she seems to consider the breakdown more of a break-through. “I was really lucky,” she says. “A lot of people do have to go through it alone because you alienate people. I told you, my behavior when I was younger was just appalling. Just real awful, rude, obnoxious, crazy behavior based on a total unconsciousness of what was going on with myself. I’ve been blessed by friendships that are rock-solid, and after that last big flip-out in public, the general public was so supportive – the press wasn’t and the tabloids weren’t. But I had so many people who wrote to me and you don’t realize how many people had someone in their family go through it. And how common it is. And that was a big shock to me. Having spent years and years trying to hide my little flights into madness, looking at that and going, wait a minute, everyone on the planet knows somebody – often knows somebody well – who has either flipped out or they flipped out themselves. There were so many letters from people that were so sweet and so supportive. And that was really an eye-opener for me. In the sense of ‘well, what makes you so special?’

“It was being manic depressive – which is very real. And running from the depression, I didn’t do my homework and didn’t know that once you start spinning out on a manic cycle, you’d better stop it or you end up exactly where I did, thinking the CIA is after you. What I had was a very common psychotic break. I had the most ordinary one you could have, which was quite a blow to my pride. Thought it was kind of unique, but it wasn’t at all. And if you have any tendencies towards manic depression and something doesn’t stop the mania so you start sleeping and start eating, you’re going to end up exactly where I did. It’s kind of pre-ordained. So it was really interesting – first of all, how much the general public did know about it and were sympathetic, and then going and doing my own homework and learning all about it. A lot of people – I hate the words ‘mental illness’ because it’s got its own connotations and it’s not a very accurate description because there’s something physically wrong with you – but a lot of people who go through mental illnesses have lost all their friends. There’s where the real tragedy is and then you’re at the mercy of all those god-awful psychiatrists who simply pump you full of drugs. I took those drugs for years and years and now I just don’t want any part of them. I feel very sane and very well now, and have for about eight years now. I was very lucky,” she says again. “Life is terrific, I must say. It’s hard to complain. Things are just the way they should be as far as I’m concerned.”

The contentment that fills her voice is nothing short of astounding, and she insists that it came from finally embracing one of the very things she feared the most: time. “Everyone tells you it’s horrible, and you live in terror of this horrible thing called ‘getting older’ and then you actually get older and go ‘wait a minute, this is pretty empowering. This is kinda cool’. It’s actually wonderful, and that’s where I am with it. I was worse than anyone I know in terms of the fear of the woman getting older thing. My terror was huge. But now I’m really having a great time. It’s very empowering in that you’re not dealing with the ‘how does it look from the outside?’ level. You don’t look as good from the outside, so that’s no longer your criteria for impressing people or not impressing people, or impressing yourself or not impressing yourself. The impressing part doesn’t enter into it, you can just be yourself, because there’s not much of a choice. And your sexual credit card is kind of used up, so worry about all that shit isn’t an issue. So all you get to do is say and do exactly what you please. I don’t care who you are, very few people do that when they’re young. Everyone’s too concerned with how they look to other people and is this going to get them ahead, and is that going to be misinterpreted. When you get older you make your own rules, and it’s really great. It’s the big secret about getting older that nobody tells you.”

With her new attitude came a certain kind of peace that is also quite evident. For one thing, Lois Lane doesn’t seek out roles, they come to her. “Wild horses couldn’t get me down to LA – I just don’t go there if I can help it. I’ll go down to do the VAGINA MONOLOGUES, and while I’m there I’ll take some meetings. But it’s… okay, I don’t push it, I’m terrible! [laughs] This is my time of life where I get to indulge myself in my grandchildren and my garden and my dogs. I spent so much time not noticing life from moment to moment, so life has slowed down considerably and as a result is much richer. Acting itself has become very delicious, but the career itself is not as much an issue. I don’t get my retirement for another ten years, so I have to earn my living until then. [laughs] But the career part is a non-starter. Just getting to act, I love. It’s a much more pleasant way to work. You don’t have one eye ahead of you at all times. You can be in the moment.”

Of course, nowadays, Kidder doesn’t have to seek out her roles. With the in-betweeners and Gen-Xers making their own films, they’re coming to her, now, just as Buckley and Close did with DEATH4TOLD. Kidder takes this as a good sign for a number of reasons. “I am thrilled to see all these kids doing independent movies like we did in the early seventies. I think it’s absolutely imperative that [independent spirit] does come back. If we don’t have people in the arts making statements against this general direction that American culture and society is taking itself – greed is good soulless Republican attitude – there’s no hope. I think it’s time for all of us to make our little statements and say ‘enough’. I think that it’s great thing to see, where people are not judging their projects not by the money it makes, but by the process of making it and what worthwhile things it has to say. So that’s a great relief. But you know, we’re in George Bush era – greed is good times ten and the greedy shall inherit the earth. So anybody who tries to fight that I’ll cheer on forever. Some of these movies are just wonderful, so if we could just educate audiences to go see them… I do love a good movie. But I see everything a little later than everyone else. I’m in Montana, so you really have to make an effort to go see stuff. I don’t like this trend towards all these stupid special-effects blockbusters, because all the special effects have been done with computers and you can tell! I don’t find it very convincing. SUPERMAN’s special effects weren’t computerized and I think they were much better. The HULK doesn’t look real!”

There’s a lot of philosophy in Kidder’s life these days, and a lot of contentment. She’s embraced her bad times and has stepped back far enough to finally appreciate the good ones. Once upon a time, the words ‘Lois Lane’ were the last she’d ever wanted to hear. “Now, I have two grandchildren that I live for, and my grand-daughter is at a phase where she can see SUPERMAN any minute and it’s really thrilling. I think, my gosh, I was in classic! My granddaughter’s going to watch it with her friends. And I can’t tell you how warm and fuzzy that makes me feel. It’s just fantastic. Any vain and false-pride notions I had at being just known as Lois Lane as opposed to – I’ve done lots of parts and always considered myself kind of a character actress – any vanity about that just goes out the window. She’s still at an age where she’s only now coming to grasp certain things. She still calls him “Thermos-Man” because he’s on her thermos that she takes to pre-school. It was on TV and my daughter pointed me out, my grand-daughter is going ‘well, why is she in the TV with Thermos-Man?’ So we’ve got a way to go yet. [laughs]”

Almost a decade ago, just after Kidder’s breakdown, SUPERMAN star Reeve was thrown from a horse, an accident that severed his spinal column and rendering him paralyzed from the neck down. Since the accident, Reeves has served as an inspiration to all who know him and to those who suffer the same affliction. His strength of spirit is remarkable, and his former co-star is in just as much awe as the rest of us. “I haven’t talked to him for almost a year now, but he’s doing just terrific! His mental attitude is just impressive. It’s extraordinary. He really reached down inside himself and pulled out some really profound wisdom.”

Obviously, Reeve isn’t not the only one who came up with the positive after a healthy-round of enforced soul-searching. We in-betweeners can learn a lot from the real people behind our celluloid heroes.

“I’ve had a few dramatically, spectacularly bad times! Bad times that just screamed for attention. Then people tend to look at those and go ‘oh god!’ You get a lot of juicy gifts in this business. I got to fly all over the world, I’ve had adventures in half the continents on the planet. I have had a really great life so far.”

 

Kill the D.J. Use a Lobster.

 

The “Kill the DJ” episode of Season 4’s Black Mirror was probably the stand-out entry this year for a number of reasons, not the least of which the tender way it presents the concept of “Simulation vs. Reality” shaped in the context of “Dating is Really Hard and Frustrating”. More than anything, thought, it put me in mind of Yorgos Lanthimos’ 2015 The Lobster, a movie everyone in the world liked more than I did.

In “Kill the DJ”, a young couple joins a society in which they are paired up with multiple partners for specific, computer-determined lengths of time in order to collect preference data and find them their “Perfect match”. The program boasts, continuously, of 99.8% accuracy. There is no opting out of this program, no chance of escape, and you have to accept the partner you are assigned on your “Match Day”. In an early example, our hero is trapped with a humorless termagant for a year; the heroine is matched with an okay businessman-type, but she becomes immediately bored with him and has to trudge through nine months with a guy who isn’t a jerk, but isn’t for her. Those versed in narrative construction can probably guess where it’s going, but there are still surprises along the way.

The Lobster has a similar premise: you join a society and you have to find your perfect mate within a short period of time or else you’re turned into an animal. During the course of the program, from which you can’t opt out, you are required to journey into the woods and hunt down folks who have attempted to escape this program. The “Society” is just as strange as those living outside of it—there is no masturbation, and if you’re caught, they stick your hand in a toaster; you can’t have sex, but they make sure your sexual tension is wracked way up first thing in the morning courtesy of maids working in the complex; in the wilderness, if you’re caught kissing another person, your lips are mutilated via “The Red Kiss”. There is also something called “The Red Intercourse”, and you can guess at the ramifications of that.

Colin Farrell, in sad-sack mode, shows up with a border collie who used to be his brother, but failed the program. Should he fail, he chose to be a Lobster. No explanation is really offered for this choice, no more so than any explanation for joining the program in the first place, other than “it’s better than being alone.”

Interesting set-up. A lot of avenues to follow. Lots of different paths to take towards the conclusion.

Not that Lanthimos takes any of them.

It’s not that I believe Lanthimos is ignorant of narrative structure. I think, based on The Lobster and his previous head-scratcher, Dogtooth, he holds narrative structure in contempt. Not a single concept introduced in The Lobster is explored to any great degree, and nothing has a pay off. The brother is a misdirect and is quickly dispatched. The “Red Kiss”/ “Red Intercourse” has no bearing on the plot. Neither, ultimately, is wanting to be a lobster.

While The Lobster was heralded by critics and fans as a masterpiece of surrealism, I found it nasty and off-putting. There isn’t a single sympathetic character to be found, nor, most importantly, is an interesting one. Lanthimos seems to hold his characters in contempt as well. And what he’s set up: uninteresting characters in a rigidly structured situation with absolutely no where to go and no desire to see them arrive. It’s a story about overcoming loneliness and eschewing what society has deemed a “healthy relationship,” as if there is such a singular thing.

From a narrative standpoint, what we have here is a two-hour Chekhov’s Gun, which is often referenced, but never fired.

Throughout 2015, more than a dozen people would continuously grill me, asking if I’ve seen The Lobster. “Well? Have you? HAVE YOU???” When I did, I walked up to the first co-worker who recommended it and punched him in the arm. He then accused me of having no patience for non-traditional storytelling. I asked him if he had elderly relatives.

He replied in the affirmative.

“Do you enjoy long, rambling stories about people you don’t know or care about having adventures going to the dentist, the hair-dresser, and the post office, either on a Tuesday or, no, it was a Wednesday. I remember because my neighbor was watering her lawn and the mail had come early that day…”

That’s the narrative structure of The Lobster.

I spent the majority of the movie rewriting scenes in my head so they would make some sort of compelling argument for continuing on this interminable journey. From the premise, I worked up a quick conclusion—one the movie did not have to follow, but was at least a concrete path made of the stepping stones I’d been given.

Farrell chooses a lobster because he sees himself as a bit of a bottom-dweller, but one that’s usually desired by people with money. Lobster, after all, is usually the most expensive dish on the menu. The restaurant didn’t name itself Red Tofu.

He can’t find anyone within the compound he connects with. When is brother is dispatched, he escapes, meets equally-uninteresting Rachel Weitz in the woods, and they pair up out of necessity. She is also a failure of the compound. So they have that in common.

Weitz explains the concept of the “Red Kiss/Intercourse”, which horrifies everyone and seems really counter-productive to escaping the fascist compound runners.

Weitz and Farrell, brought together out of desperation, have sex in the woods and get caught. Just as they are about to have “The Red Intercourse” inflicted upon them, new recruits from the program show up and gun everyone down but Weitz and Farrell.

Captured, they are brought to the compound. Since it’s a first offense for both, they will be made into the animals of their choice. Farrell asks what Weitz’s choice is. She replies, “A lobster, of course.”

End shot: two lobsters dropped into a boiling pot for the consumption of those running The Program. Credits.

Again, that the movie didn’t follow my threads wasn’t what bothered me. I just built the building with the bricks given. The problem is the movie gives the audience bricks, then goes and digs a hole in the ground to live in. It doesn’t make any sense. We have all these bricks. Build a fucking roof! I can appreciate a willingness to subvert expectation. What I can’t abide by is being told, by the filmmaker, that I was an idiot for watching the film in the first place. I was guaranteed lobster. What I got was interpretive dance about food that left me confused and still starving. When was the meal arriving?

Which is, of course, my long-winded way of saying “Watch Black Mirror on Netflix and learn what it’s like when your expectations are subverted honestly.”

 

“This is how we win. We don’t fight what we hate; we save what we love.”

Last week, like nearly everyone else in the world, Amy and I went to see The Last Jedi. It’s been a family tradition for the last three years now, starting, of course, with The Force Awakens. Sometimes my parents do this as a present for us, pre-Christmas. This year, my sister April did the honors. We’re a Star Wars family in that sense.

Like The Force Awakens and Rogue One, The Last Jedi was flawed, exciting, exhilarating, emotional, it ticked off all the boxes I wanted from a Star Wars movie. Plus, Rian Johnson, a director new to the franchise, added some touches that I thought were just brilliant, as true as they were painfully true. Sometimes you do have to let the old things die. I don’t necessarily agree with Douche Vader that you have to kill them, necessarily, but torches are made to be passed. This is as true for Star Wars as it is for anything.

There are many things in The Last Jedi that didn’t work for me. I agree that Finn’s and Rose’s side quest went on a bit too long. The Canto location didn’t bother me—it was a high class Mos Eisley, just the scum and villainy dressed better and had the ability to oppress this time around. But without it, we wouldn’t have met Benicio Del Toro’s “DJ” and we might have gone on believing that every scoundrel out there is a secretly altruistic Han Solo. I didn’t love Luke’s character arc and apparently neither did Hamill, but his needs for the character seemed to be more complicated than Ford’s needs for Solo.

Fans hate Luke’s downfall and isolation. Even Hamill said, “Jedi don’t give up.” Well, Mark, in this case, a Jedi did. So did the Jedi that found him. So did the Jedi that trained him. You’re part of a vicious circle of Jedi abandonment. Obi-Wan and Yoda both fucked off. So did Luke. You’re a product of your own environment. And a 25-year-old Luke, full of hubris, having just defeated the figurehead of the Empire, got greedy and wanted to create more Jedi. And he failed. And in failing, he ran away. Just like Obi-Wan. Just like Yoda. This is one of Lucas’ endless echoes, the ones that rippled all through the ill-advised “prequel” trilogy. It just feels…what? “Unearned” in the Abrams-era Star Wars?

I like Leia’s “Force walk” through space. I find it charming when Star Wars people remember that space is a vacuum, that you shouldn’t hear ships explode, or whine as they whizz by, banking on non-existent air. Leia’s tentative link with the Force, due to familial ties, has been hinted at forever. Why wouldn’t it manifest itself to save her life? Or was it the cliffhanger cheat—used throughout the previous 8 films—that enraged so many?

I loved the women in charge, as pilots, as grunts, and as admirals. My family is rife with strong women. As Amy said, “I grew up thinking I could be a princess. The Last Jedi showed me I could grow up to be Red Leader.” A new generation of little girls, my nieces included,are going to see those opening scenes in the film and grow up to be pilots, astronauts, engineers. It’s long since time they saw themselves represented. To the MRAs with their knickers in a twist over it: I have nothing to say to you. Scream and whine and light all the tiki torches you want. The Jews didn’t replace you, your womenfolk did. And you gave them the moral authority to succeed you.

I loved seeing Yoda return as a puppet. It was nice to see the squishy face that doesn’t look at all like E.G. Marshall. While the Editor part of me felt that maybe this scene could have gone away in favor of pacing, but the writer of me knew that it was absolutely necessary, to show that Yoda, even as a ghost, is still a gleeful little lunatic who understood that The Force, and mastering it, didn’t require any display of physicality. As for the sacred texts, “Page turners, they were not.”

The Sacred Texts. That “Expanded Universe” stuff with Skywalker twins and a Solo family filled with villains. (I actually don’t know a lot about it, beyond that the EU has legions of pissed off fans that the canon was jettisoned, hence a lot of pre-emptive anger towards The Force Awakens a full two years before it was released.) A lot of the complaints seem to be that every fan had a special fanfic adventure mapped out in their head, living there for twenty years, and not seeing it fulfilled in multimillion dollar Technorama made their hearts hurt.

Truth be told, for its faults, The Last Jedi is a very adult Star Wars film, and I think that trend, starting with Rogue One, is off-putting to many. DJ’s declaration that arms dealers get rich by selling weapons—to bad guys and good—was an uncomfortable truth few wanted to hear. We want Star Wars to be clear cut, good against evil. The Abrams’ era isn’t about that. “Villains” in white armor can have hearts of heroes. Vicious killers can be buffoons, but because they’re buffoons with power, they can be slapped around, but still be in power. Unstoppable figureheads can be betrayed just as well as they betray. Heroes aren’t always heroic—Luke says as much at least twice. Heroes can still wind up dead. Villains can be conflicted about their actions, particularly when they realize that they’ve been wrong all the time, but just can’t admit it.

What bogged down things down for me was the double-dip rehash of taking down yet another superweapon. Now the First Order has portable planet killers, and I have to ask: for what purpose. They already knocked out five or six star systems in The Force Awakens. At the rate they’re going, who will fall in line and bow to their superiority? Not even porgs like them.

What fans never seem to realize when arguing so viciously about movies like this, and especially this film in particular, is that the movies give you something to talk about. Whether you loved it, hated it, started an idiotic masturbatory petition to have it “stricken from canon”, whatever that is supposed to accomplish, you’re talking about it. And now, it seems, people are discussing important issues about fandom in general.

Why can’t there be people of color in the universe, beyond Lando and that one black cloud city pilot whose figure sat on remainder shelves until 1994? Why were Leia and Mon Mothma the only women within 12 parsecs? And why is asking those questions considered some hideous declaration of being an “SJW”? (A derogatory term whose derogatory nature I still don’t fully understand.)

I go into Star Wars films utterly biased. After the previous trilogy, I went into The Force Awakens with immense trepidation, but came out damp-eyed and smiling. The same with The Last Jedi but for vastly different reasons. I was always a Han guy in spirit, but at heart, I was always a Luke too chickenshit to strike out on my own. I was always looking at setting twin suns. So I go to Star Wars to recapture that. In the Abrams’ era, I’m getting that again. The wonder, the fantasy, the sometimes out-of-place humor that still gets me (the prequels contain nary a quotable line in the three).

But the ultimate take-away, the thing that almost brings me within slapping mode when confronting some people, is Rose’s last line: “This is how we win. We don’t fight what we hate; we save what we love.”

Right now, fans hate The Last Jedi, they hate each other, they hate dissenting opinions—and I get it. Every person on earth has a private relationship with the Star Wars series, even if it’s only to say “I don’t like Star Wars.” It’s become, over time, another religion. And the them of The Last Jedi is: it shouldn’t be.

Because Johnson’s script, and even what holes exist, treated Star Wars fans, for the first time, like maturing adults. Yes, we all wanted to feel like kids again, but we’re not kids. Not those screaming the loudest, ironically. We were supposed to grow with the series, and Johnson acknowledged that.

[Now, I’ll admit to a certain proprietary feeling over Johnson because he’s one of us. He’s an indie guy who clawed his way up, never gave up. The only difference between him and us is he knew Joseph Gordon-Levitt. And if you haven’t seen Brick yet, you have done yourself a great disservice. So suffice to say, I was backing Rian 100% well before the first frames of the film ran before my eyes.]

With this script, Johnson said, ‘Hey, yes, this is escapism, but there have always been some unavoidable truths in there. Usually it’s about friendship, loyalty, doing what’s right. But the ‘70s and ‘80s are over, the ‘90s and the emptiness we felt then: that’s gone. The current state of the world, things aren’t black and white any more. We’re fighting an unstoppable enemy and we’re doing so with a decimated army. They are probably going to roll over us, but there are still allies out there who will answer our call if we send it. In the meantime, sometimes we have to follow crystal cats out of the cavern if we ever want to see daylight again.”

In this labored metaphor, I don’t know what the crystal cats are in our reality. As far as I can see, we’re still trudging through the cave with the hope that there’s a light there. We’re hoping someone is on the other side (Rey or a Special Prosecutor) who can move those rocks before we are destroyed. And yeah, we might be beaten down, but we’re not done.

That’s what I wanted. I wanted emotion, I wanted almost intolerable suspense, but I also wanted a hint that good guys can still win. Fuck, I need to believe that. I think most of us do. Because in the world around us, one that Star Wars is increasingly mirroring, the bad guys win every day and the good guys seem relatively powerless. I’m looking all over the place for a crystal cat right now—something to shine the way.

Like everyone else right now, SW fans are allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good, which is ridiculous because not only is “perfect” subjective, it doesn’t exist. At all. Full stop. End of story.

Everything is flawed. Sometimes, the flaws we see in someone are what we love the most. Sometimes a flaw should be necessarily overlooked for the very reason that nothing is perfect. Everyone who believes something perfect will have their hopes dashed by the first person to come along and say it isn’t. We are a society still comprised of small tribes. Instead of spears and rocks, we hurl insults and invectives. We have to get over this. We have to let the past—grudges, feuds—die.

This is Star Wars for the foreseeable future. This is still Star Wars for us, but specifically for those who came after us. If you can’t accept it, then perhaps you have to let Star Wars die for yourself. It’s not like Abrams snuck into your house and removed all the previous releases, tie-ins, toys, ephemera that fill our homes all over the world. Those things still exist. Your childhood was not “raped.”

If you cannot accept a universe that echoes, but still evolves, then, yes, Kylo Ren is right. Otherwise you’ll never be satisfied.

Too many fans turn eagerly towards the Dark Side, ignoring the lessons of the past they are so eager to preserve. Fear leads to Anger leads to Hate leads to The Dark Side.

Which side do you want to be on? Your ten-year-old self already chose. Listen. Save what you love. And grow.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM HAPPY CLOUD

happy cloud type:logo

It’s been a long year. We Got Out to Ragnarok out with Thor; Spider-Man had a Homecoming. The second part of a trilogy about Jedi was dubbed The Last.

Then there was some political stuff.

Anyway, here’s to the North end of the South-bound year that is 2017! Spend some of your ill-gotten holiday loot on Indie horror, comedy, and thoughtful film commentary.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Happy, Happy, ferchrissakes HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Click HERE for the Holiday Sale

Return of the HCP Blog: Bow Down to Your Disney Overlords!

Welcome to the very first Happy Cloud Media, LLC, blogpost. In keeping with tradition, we’ll recycle old news first!

In light of Disney acquiring the bulk of 20th Century Fox, (save for Fox “News” Channel, of course), I’d like to re-run something I’d written in 1999 (the overuse of the word “Now” was, I insist, intentional):

Taking Over A Small World

by Mike Watt

I firmly believe that Disney is planning to take over the world.

Don’t laugh. Just think about it. Who out there has ever been to DisneyWorld? Forget Disneyland or that weird French place, I’m talking the Capitol: The Magic Kingdom. And it’s surrounding countries, EPCOT and MGM Studios. Now let’s go over this paranoid theory slowly — and let me remind you that this particular conspiracy was not dreamed up by Oliver Stone, but by forces far more hideous and complex. These particular, world-encompassing ground plans stem from the grave itself!

Now, picture this. You’re on I- whatever, straight out of the Orlando airport, driving along, passing hundreds of billboards, every third one reassuring you that you are still approaching “The Happiest Place on Earth”. The familiar silhouette of spherical ears stares at you from every direction, the signs increasing not only in number, but in size the closer you get to this alien realm. Soon, you’re able to detect the kingdom itself, whether it is the ominous Pastel Palace of Cinderella or else the reflection of the sun off God’s Golfball, Spaceship Earth, which serves as the landmark for EPCOT .

Certain subtle things begin to happen. You’ll notice that the weather is less severe once you reach the boundaries of DisneyWorld — which reach out far beyond the parking lots and entrance gates of the park. If it was raining while you drove in, the rain will lessen almost to a light spring mist, the closer you get — not stop, however; they don’t want to appear too obvious that even the weather obeys their every command. And the insects — the ones that were trying to make off with the smaller children in the airport parking lot — have completely vanished inside the Safe Zone. No insects allowed within park’s gates, unless they’re cute fluffy bumblebees, stingers having been genetically removed.

Now, you’re there. Maybe not at the Palace’s doors, but you’re there. Trust me. Once the Palace can be spotted with the naked eye, you are within park boundaries. Look at the map: you are now no longer in Orlando. IT’S TRUE! This is a fact: DisneyWorld is not part of Orlando, it’s not even officially part of Florida! You have reached the sovereign Magic Kingdom! The music from its unearthly loudspeakers can be heard for miles. Sweetness and light cascading from every pore. It is very possible that Uncle Walt even bought the mineral rights beneath his Pastel Palace, thus actually splitting from the U.S. of

If you’re not quite frightened yet. If the overwhelming “Bibbitty-Bobbetty-Boo”-ness of the place hasn’t yet pervaded your sanity quite yet — in other words, if you haven’t left the safety of your car yet, let me hit you with this tidbit of info: Disney Dollars are recognized as currency in practically every bank in America. And since most international banks can do currency exchanges as well, you could exchange your Disney Dollars, with their happy, multi-colored Mickey’s staring out at you (In Walt We Trust), for practically ANY currency, ANY time, ANY where in the world. Disney Dollars are recognized as legal tender, my friends. They may not work at your local Quicki-Mart, but go down to PNC and ask for your dollar-to-dollar exchange, and they have to give it to you. Any theme park with its own money scares me. This goes way beyond the Chuck E. Cheese tokens, folks!

Now then, you are now, for all intents and purposes, in another country, with its own currency, its own internationally recognized flag (Mickey Mouse can be identified in virtually every country in the world. Try it. Take a picture of Mickey, even his silhouette, to an Australian Aborigine. Bet he launches immediately into a chorus of “It’s a Small World”)[1] , playing host to immigrants all across the world. You find yourself assaulted by a barrage of languages and accents, from Irish to Aztec to Hottentot. If aliens exist on our planet, they have already applied for jobs at Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Signs have been translated into the big three: French, Spanish and German — with still others in Japanese, Russian, Toltec and Egyptian hieroglyphics (complete with Mickey and Donald in the bent arm style made popular by that ancient civilization).

Now, while all three parks, with their Frontierland and Journeys into Imagination and Brown Derbies, offer a variety of life-sized fluffy cartoon characters strolling about (complete with internal employees virtually dead from heat stroke), not to mention animatronic delights on millions of subjects, what they don’t leak to the public is information about their elaborate spy network, their underground weapons plants, and the genetically altered army of Mickey Police who wait at the ready, preparing to take over the world with smiling, happy, maniacal grins. They’re targeting the children, you know.   Of course you know.

Amidst the mewling, shrieking infants, dragged to this unholy ground immediately upon emerging from the womb by the happy, joyous parents, ready to thrust their offspring into the arms of any gigantic duck or mutant chipmunk who happens along, without a thought towards who or what might be lurking inside (as if the fact that an actual man-sized mouse would be preferable to a person in a costume). And as the infant, separated from its mother for perhaps the first time in its young life, has a apocalyptic heart attack, the parents smile and take pictures and go “awww”.   This, of course, creates an indelible impression on the unconscious mind of the child. He will not consciously remember having been given over to the Army of Mickey, but the impression will be there, waiting to be summoned forth when the Final Musical Light Parade is underway.

You’re laughing now. You’re not taking me seriously. Let me suggest that when you go, you check the plants near your table at the Restaurant of Your Choice, take note of the myriad of loudspeakers piping out Hakuna Matata, and say, in a very loud voice “Mickey is our friend!” Maybe you won’t be the first one against the wall when the revolution comes.

And as a final reminder: the symbol of the MGM studios, with the Muppets held as political prisoners deep within, the very first thing you see when you walk boldly, happily through the gates of the park, is a spire. Atop the spire is a constantly spinning replica of the Earth, its continents in raised relief, painted with bright blues and greens. Atop that ever-spinning Earth is Mickey Mouse, waving happily to all his fans, inviting each and every one in the world to pay fifty bucks apiece to enter the wonderful, magical, Happiest Place on Earth.

[1]     — that song was translated into every known language, by the way. Ride the ride. It will prove it. (A ride, by the way, which is the “kinder ” equivalent to the school meat grinder in Pink Floyd: The Wall!)