Star Wars: My Introduction to the Force

On the heels of the new teaser trailer coming out, I just had to write about Star Wars.

First of all — that trailer, though. If I wasn’t at work, sitting at a table surrounded by co-workers, I would have freaked out. It took a whole lot of focus to contain my excitement. No controlling the goosebumps, though.

I’m not sure what I liked better — the crashed Star Destroyer in the background of the first shot or Han and Chewie in the last shot. (BTW, has someone determined a Wookiee lifespan? Is that Chewie or like, Chewie Jr.?)
(Update: Found out a Wookiee lifespan is 400 years. All good, then.)

Eventually, someone in the office asked me today, “Are you a Star Wars fan?” She barely finished asking before I answered, “Yes.” My Star Wars appreciation has really grown over the years, for sure.

But what about the first time?

I know exactly when I saw Star Wars for the first time. Okay, not exactly. Couldn’t tell you the year (1996?) or the season (winter? It was dark…) but I know this — it was AN EVENT.

An Event in my household most often meant a viewing event – a movie or TV show or special we all wanted to watch. Surprisingly, these events were few and far between. Scheduled events, anyway. Usually, if one of us made a big deal about a show, the rest would eventually gather around and watch along. Or sometimes, if I walked in while my dad was watching something he felt was incredibly important and I stopped in the living room just long enough to watch, he would say, “This is a good movie,” which was dad-speak for, “sit your ass down and watch this.”

But the Star Wars event was fully scheduled over the course of 3 weekends. Pretty certain this happened because we had just gone to Florida and rode Star Tours, got our picture taken in front of the giant AT-AT, and admitted to Dad we had never seen the movies. In fact, the most James and I knew of franchise was probably learned from clips in the Muppet Babies.
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We could *identify* Star Wars, but we’d never seen it.  Obviously, this needed to change.

The first Saturday was good. I loved 3PO and Leia. I recognized elements from the ride. I was definitely looking forward to next week.

The second Saturday was when young Sarah’s mind was blown away. I loved every second of it. The Han and Leia romance made my little heart race. Han actually going into the carbonite and not being saved at the last minute? Unexpected. Yoda was great, and I was so proud I could identify Frank Oz. But when Luke was revealed to be Darth Vader’s son? I damn near lost it. How? How could this be?

It was probably the last truly innocent and genuine cinematic shock I will ever experience. I couldn’t get over it. While in my state of disbelief, I inquired to my father incredulously , “Darth Vader is Luke’s father? Really? Really?! What next, Leia’s his sister?”

Dad, always eager to spoil, even back then, looked at me with raised eyebrows and side smirk – the sign I was dead on.

“No way. No!!”

He made some “hmmm” noises, refusing to verbalize that I was exactly right. But he didn’t have to. I knew it.

So the third Saturday, I watched my prediction come true. Also, I was a huge fan of Return of the Jedi. The Ewoks get a lot of heat, but they really were adorable, so if it was a kid-ploy, it worked and helped stoke my fandom. I even loved the little song and dance scene at the end. So there.

As a side note, my mom, who sat with us all three Saturdays, hates Star Wars and sci-fi in general. She doesn’t do well with aliens, so she has particular disdain for Jabba and Admiral Ackbar. Yet, she does love E.T.

Anyway, I watched all three movies pretty regularly after that. When the prequels came out, I was beyond excited, but that’s a story for another day.

I forever love Star Wars, thanks in no small part to how I was introduced to it.

If you remember when you first saw the original trilogy, share with me!

Yes, I Love Award Shows

Yes, the Academy Awards are tomorrow. So, of course I could write a big, long thinkpiece about the lack of diversity in Hollywood, the disconnect between audiences and Academy members, the over-inflated pomp of an industry in love with itself….

I could also give you my Oscar picks, list who I think will win, who should win, and what kind of drinking game I’ll be playing (that’s actually a good one, but I’ll explain in another post).

I won’t be doing any of those things, not this time, anyway. It’s all been said already, so I’m not sure I can bring anything new to the crowded table.

Instead, I’m going to explain why I love award shows. I love them unconditionally. Without shame or guilt.

And it all goes back to the same thing: family tradition.

We didn’t watch sports in my house. My dad loves football, but if he dared watch a game, it was usually in his bedroom, door shut tight. That’s mostly because my mom does not like sports. At all. Growing up with four super-athletic, competitive brothers might do that to a person. You’re either with them or against them, and my mom was the latter. So no sports.

Honestly, this didn’t turn out to be a big deal. James and I were far more interested in movies and TV shows and theater and music, so it all worked out. Though it did make for some highly embarrassing gym classes, but that’s a post for another day.

In our house, it was not about the Super Bowl or the World Series. It was the Oscars. The Emmys. The Tonys. The Golden Globes. The SAGs. The DGAS. All the Guild awards, really. When we were younger, it was the Kids’ Choice Awards and the MTV Movie Awards.

But it didn’t start out to be a family event.

I’m not sure when, but from a really, really young age, I became fascinated with whatever my parents would watch after I went to bed. Probably because I would usually sleep with my bedroom door open slightly, and I would hear them cracking up. And it killed me. What was so damn funny? What are they talking about? (Side note: Neither my brother or I grew up with a TV in our bedrooms. I was in college when I finally got one. This played a HUGE part in my love for TV, but again, another post.)

They always watched award shows, so I wanted to watching along with them. I was so young, I rarely knew any of the celebrities by name, except maybe Robin Williams, but I recognized faces and voices. My dad yelled at the TV when there was a shocking win or loss. My mom would comment on the ladies’ dresses, questioning trendy colors and jewelry choices. Dad would (and still does) spout off facts and tidbits from the back of the room like a Pop-Up Video you couldn’t turn off.

When an award show would start, I was always allowed to watch the first hour or so. But come 9 or 9:30, I’d be sent to bed, forced with the decision to either hide behind the wall near the steps to LISTEN to the rest of the broadcast, or wait til morning when my mom would fill me in on the winners.

Typically, I’d be sent up during a commercial break. At each break, I would beg, “One more commercial! Just one more!” My dad would relent, and I’d pull the same thing until he said no. This worked for a few years, but when I got a little older, I learned a phenomenal trick.

I wouldn’t make a peep.

Once it started to get late,  I’d curl up tight in the corner of the couch and stay perfectly still. If I didn’t budge, nobody said anything. It was the weirdest thing.

I mean, okay, I knew my parents knew what I was doing, at least eventually. But it just worked so well, and it was thrilling. As the show would cut to commercial, my heart would race and I’d hold my breath, seeing if I could make it one more round.  It’s how I finally got to see an Oscar broadcast in its entirety.

Over the years, we developed little traditions, like mini parties and legendary drinking games.  It was always an affair.

So bring on the dreadful red carpet interviews, the stiff presenters, and the ceaseless commercial breaks – I will not be sent to bed.

(Well, I’m on PST now, so it’s still way too early for bed. But you get it.)

 

PS – Do you have a favorite Award Show host of all time? From ANY Award Show? Vote Here!

Why Are You the Way That You Are?

A valid question, indeed. After all, when people first discover my extensive knowledge of NBC’s schedule from 1985-1990, my passion for Nickelodeon’s meteoric rise, and my ability to ruin “reality” shows by calling winners based on editing cuts, they seem very, very surprised.

I guess it’s surprising. I’m quiet and have an air of serious intelligence, I make no secret of my high standards.

So… where did this obsession with the god-forsaken entertainment industry come from?

As with most grown-up issues, my childhood home life is to blame. It really started with my dad:

Right around the time I was 2, my dad found a new hobby – recording movies off TV onto VHS tapes. Being the OCD personality he is, he quickly devised the most efficient system, recording 3 full-length features per VHS tape. Each tape was the numbered and tallied into a green binder. This green binder was my dad’s holy grail. He had covered the front of it with those tiny stamps from movie club mailers. Films were broken down by genre, as determined by my father. (Drama encompassed almost everything, but he had a whole section for The Beatles…?) He registered what network he recorded it from (so he knew if it was a desperate move, recording off a broadcast network with…. COMMERCIALS), what year it was made, and what number tape it was on.

Those hundreds of tapes were all over the house – in cubbies under the living room end table, stacked behind the sound system speakers, squirreled away in cabinets in my brother James’s room. It would be a few years before he had massive bookshelves built, which eventually housed most of the collection, albeit temporarily.

While James and I had our own store-bought video collection of Disney movies, in their squeaky plastic cases, most of our favorite movies were found on one of Dad’s tapes.  He made it a point to record great films he thought we should see; he just happened to record them between Dirty Harry and Scarface.  By 6, I was an expert at fast-forwarding  – trucking through one movie to land perfectly on the the middle one, coasting through commercials. Because, of course, we had to stop the tape and fast-forward blindly. “It was better for the tape” than hitting play THEN fast-forward. And it was all about the health of the tape. I also became an expert  at tracking — you know, when you watched a tape too much and it began to get those gray lines. We called it “flippy.” “Daaaaaad, The Wizard of Oz is getting flippy!!!!” I remember sitting in front of the VCR while a movie played, slowly twisting the tiny knob hidden beneath a panel on the front of the VCR, making the flippiness stop as best as I could.

Speaking of lecturing, we were also taught the rules of recording — if the red light was on, we could not use the VCR. Don’t touch it. Don’t look at it. Don’t put the silverware in it. (Funny story: James once put a spoon in the VCR. He couldn’t have been more than 3. I’ll never forget my dad, who is not particularly great at taking things apart or putting them together, hovered over the VCR inards, muttering to himself. But James’s reasoning was sound – he wanted to know if whatever you put in the VCR would show up on the TV.)

The whole point is, from birth, I was surrounded by a library of cinematic history. My dad’s collection was the prize of the household. I was 12 when I finally grasped the concept of “renting” movies. It was an additional activity, along with puzzles, coloring, and imaginary games. We watched movies after a day of swimming, on sick days and rainy days, before we went to bed.

I know this isn’t necessarily about TV, but it definitely set the tone for how and why we consumed media. My dad’s hobby, his passion, was instilled into me and my brother. It’s a family thing.