Charlie Chaplin & The Empire Strikes Back (in that order)

1 Sep

darth dictator

(illus. by The Great Tom Trager)

It’s hot here. It’s quite hot. And beyond the window unit in the upstairs bedroom, our house’s cooling system is, at best, insufficient.

This is the time of year when, normally, we go see the Air-Cooled Movies. Sadly, however, there’s precious little we really want to see that we haven’t seen. Also, our nieces, 4 and 8, are in school (already! What happened to Tuesday after Labor Day?) and by virtue of this our available visit times have become more specific.

First, while 4 was the only one around, Sunnyside and Easy Street came out. She’s seen and loved The Gold Rush, got most of the way through The Great Dictator (which we had no intention of showing her but were the victims of the fools at a local branch of a movie chain who decided to show a different picture than the advertised Modern Times) and some other shorts.

She has her own Charlie box set (as well as a small stuffed Charlie and a Taschen book of movie stills she “reads”), but prefers to watch them when we’re around, which is sweet, but is also preventing the proper indoctrination that comes with leaving them on all the time instead of Bubbleguppies or whatever. Still.

1charlieeasystreetThe takeaways from this particular viewing: the dream fairies and the floor-mowing were the big hits of Sunnyside; she was, despite not knowing how gaslight works, really into the lamppost scene from Easy Street; the upside-down baby bottle “peeing” on Charlie’s leg is golden; and she now knows Eric Campbell by sight, if he’s not too heavily disguised. My avuncular work is done here.

Later, 8 came home and it was time for the continuation of something that started earlier in the summer: the Star Wars introduction.

yoda

A brief statement of fandom-gauging: I was born in 1973, so my geek level here is just generational, i.e., I only know the names of characters a) whose names are actually said in the movie or b) with corresponding Kenner toys. I read no related novels or comics. I was, like all right-thinking people, profoundly disappointed by the special editions and prequels.

I know these are a religion to some. (I cannot get het up about universe-continuity in a set of movies that cannot themselves settle on the pronunciation of lead characters by lead characters from scene to scene, nor should anyone else – “Hahn/Hann?” “Leea/Laya?”) But I think of these as two terrific movies and one that’s okay but kind of has to be seen. And I accept, again, like all right-thinking people, that The Empire Strikes Back is the best one.

So we had the pleasure of introducing 8, who got her green belt in karate later that night, to Yoda. The effect was as pleasingly bug-eyed as expected in the moment (“No…there is another.”), but 8 is notoriously a slow-burner: we’ll show her something and it will be days before she suddenly makes clear that she’s memorized it. So more news is forthcoming.

This is the mission. And we accomplish it in stages.

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