Friday, May 20, 2005

I have this

doubtless completely mistaken idea that everyone reads the New Yorker as faithfully as I do--it arrives on Monday evenings and unless I'm having a really busy week (or have an unusually good supply of light reading) I usually read the whole issue all at once on Monday night, barring the fiction, which I almost always skip--it is staggering how much less interesting it usually is than everything else in the issue. So I don't usually link to stuff there. But this week has an especially funny piece by Anthony Lane about Revenge of the Sith:

The general opinion of 'Revenge of the Sith' seems to be that it marks a distinct improvement on the last two episodes, 'The Phantom Menace' and 'Attack of the Clones.' True, but only in the same way that dying from natural causes is preferable to crucifixion. So much here is guaranteed to cause either offense or pain, starting with the nineteen-twenties leather football helmet that Natalie Portman suddenly dons for no reason, and rising to the continual horror of Ewan McGregor's accent. 'Another happy landing'--or, to be precise, 'anothah heppy lending'--he remarks, as Anakin parks the front half of a burning starcruiser on a convenient airstrip. The young Obi-Wan Kenobi is not, I hasten to add, the most nauseating figure onscreen; nor is R2-D2 or even C-3PO, although I still fail to understand why I should have been expected to waste twenty-five years of my life following the progress of a beeping trash can and a gay, gold-plated Jeeves.

No, the one who gets me is Yoda. May I take the opportunity to enter a brief plea in favor of his extermination? Any educated moviegoer would know what to do, having watched that helpful sequence in 'Gremlins' when a small, sage-colored beastie is fed into an electric blender. A fittingly frantic end, I feel, for the faux-pensive stillness on which the Yoda legend has hung. At one point in the new film, he assumes the role of cosmic shrink--squatting opposite Anakin in a noirish room, where the light bleeds sideways through slatted blinds. Anakin keeps having problems with his dark side, in the way that you or I might suffer from tennis elbow, but Yoda, whose reptilian smugness we have been encouraged to mistake for wisdom, has the answer. 'Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose,' he says. Hold on, Kermit, run that past me one more time. If you ever got laid (admittedly a long shot, unless we can dig you up some undiscerning alien hottie with a name like Jar Jar Gabor), and spawned a brood of Yodettes, are you saying that you’d leave them behind at the first sniff of danger? Also, while we’re here, what’s with the screwy syntax? Deepest mind in the galaxy, apparently, and you still express yourself like a day-tripper with a dog-eared phrase book. “I hope right you are.” Break me a fucking give.

I have sometimes found Lane a rather glib reviewer, but the turning point for me was his absolutely superb essay about P. G. Wodehouse from a year or two ago. It was one of my favorite things, a really excellent piece of writing. And now I read him with a more sympathetic eye...


  1. That was wonderful! I'll track down a copy of the New Yorker to read the entire thing (my subscription hasn't kicked in yet). BTW, I also skip the fiction (I thought I was the only one who did that!).

  2. Oh, break me a fucking give! Most excellent!

    I've been a HUGE Anthony Lane fan since grad school (early 90s) and think he's fallen away a bit: he used to be just this sharp all the time. He's the best when his arrows are sharp, his target is worthy (fittingly gaseous), and he's got the right balance of mania and calm. Sounds like he's there. Hurrah.