The perception of legacy has to do with how a story is told. Granted “The Mandalorian” owes many things to many people. But structure is a big part of it as well. In the second episode of “Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian” entitled “Legacy”, the approach is balanced in a progression of three very different perceptions: the original films, the prequels and the post-Disney acquisition. None of those differences are spoke of specifically but the aspects of flash points are very evident. The “Jurassic Park” moment is, of course, one many talk about and what influenced Stanley Kubrick to move forward on “AI” which he was not able to make before his death. It also encouraged Lucas to actually move forward on the next “Star War” trilogy. The person who is the most Interesting in this episode is Kathleen Kennedy who doesn’t do many roundtables like this. You can feel her power in the room, It is palpable even next to Filoni and Favreau. What is interesting is the different energies. Kennedy makes an interesting point that Lucas owns many many patents but each person sees the advances differently. Favreau doesn’t really say his but Filoni mentions Edit Droid and I believe “Episode 1” effects coordinator John Knoll mentions motion control. Kennedy says George was thinking of “Star Wars” during Indiana Jones (obviousy since he was still making them then).
Having Carl Weathers and Pedro Pascal (whom we haven’t seen too many interviews with) talking about their initial impact with”Star Wars” is interesting. Pascal’s memory mirrors my own in a way since he talks about his parents I guess getting the hard-to-score ticket to “Return Of The Jedi” on opening night in 1983. The same happened with me with my mother and her cousin getting me a seat for “Return Of The Jedi” at a midnight show opening night where they were standing room only in the back. I have an earlier memory of “Star Wars” but not actually being in the theater. I was only 9 at the time for”Jedi”.That is what legacy means more than anything else.: memory. Taikia Waititi’s reference on his favorite line in “Empire” is very telling. And David Filoni’s explaataion of the mythic representation of the “Duel Of The Fates” fight in “Episode1” is interesting in that it shows the underlying familial breakdown structure of the entire original and prequel trilogy. It shows his breathe and understanding of the universe specifically guided by Lucas. It also reflects the story he told earlier of his first Lucas meeting in episoe 1 of this series. Most of these interviews were seemingly done in the roundtable at one time so they probably last throughout the season. This episode is an important one and more based in the mythology than the process which helps with showing essence of motivation within the creators.
Showing the behind-the-scenes in a “Star Wars” universe has always been an important part of the process. With “The Mandalorian” using ancillary aspects and the fact that this was the jumping off point for Disney+ makes sense. While more ancillary material in a way than an actual new series, it is great to tide audiences over in anticipating of the next iteration (especially with the advent of COVID-19) which might slow down production. Creator Jon Favreau again uses his indie instincts in this perception because he does what he used to do with “Dinner For Five” back in the day. He sits people around a table to talk with people (just no wine like before). While this first episode entitled “Directing” focuses on the directors, one gets a sense of input from different arenas. All the directors are inherently different. But that is what makes them unique. It is hard to say how much they actually were on everyone else’s sets. Favreau seems inherently around a lot even though he was finalizing “The Lion King” at the time. He did not direct an episode in the first season. Dave Filoni was likely consecutively working on “The Clone Wars” at the same time so it is interesting to see that balance that he could find time to direct but again it is perception of how they could balance. Seeing George Lucas sitting on set with Filoni and Favreau watching some of the scenes being directed really added credibility to the proceedings.
The one aspect of the virtual background sets (which again will make shooting post COVID inherently different) seemed to be incorporated almost fully the whole time even though it will be explained later. Even on Bryce Dallas Howard’s episode (which bears certain parallels to “Willow” in many ways) it seems that the wrap around back screen mattes/projection were going constantly. Deborah Chow, who is set to direct the Obi Wan series seems to have her focus extremely visceral which again should be interesting in approaching Kenobi especially with an actor who knows him inherently, Taika Waititi tries appear aloof since he is also a comedy actor after all so there is an interesting play where his tone is. He gels with the people even though he is primarily at a different place than many of the others. It works but it almost seems if he is trying too hard to play up to the paradox. All the episodes are good but his season finale was exceptional. Hearing Bryce’s recollection of being in Japan with her dad (Ron Howard) when he met Kurosawa and she fell asleep when she was 5 was great lore and cemented her perception and love of film making. Continuing episodes especially how they explore the story and creatures should be a treasure trove for Star Wars fans until they can hunker down for the next installment.
The building of “The Mandalorian,” taking into effect expectation but also traversing the character beats, is an interesting quandary. The continuation of what Jon Favreau and crew are trying to create takes into account each director and certain writers capabilities within each episode. In having Taika Waititi direct the final episode of the season, there is a different balance in comparison to earlier episodes. Episode 8 is meant to resolve a lot of the questions of the season. And while it does and gives firmer focus, it does open up the door to more ideas but it gives the coming season a very specific trajectory. What works in this specific episode is the fact that it has more stakes than perhaps was there before.
Without giving too much away, it strives for a sense of meaning within what the characters want and what drives them. Giancarlo Esposito’s character in particular does this well while speaking to a connection to Mandalore lore with the use of a single item. Strategy also plays a significant part. Whether this is in the visual texture of Waititi or just the general bent of the narrative, it closes the loop with much greater agility. The audience gets to see briefly into The Mandalorian’s psyche and a bit of where he comes from. Another interesting dichotomy is that the show continues to show the connection between the film world and the impact of the animated series (specifically “Rebels”) which is directly referenced here. There are many iconic images and perhaps some humor that was a bit too dry earlier in the season that has found its groove here, helped in part by Waititi’s sensibilities. All in all, a very fitting end to the season while both managing expectations but also not overextending its possibilities or production expenditure.
The aspect of a foreign film festival is to provide a perspective of what is both possible and perceivable throughout the world. Within the essence of the 4th iteration of the International Film Festival & Awards Macao (aka IFFAM), the idea is as much about the human experience and its psychological impact as it is about the final result. The films, in their own way, reflect that.
JoJo Rabbit The opening night film while an interesting diatribe in the States is an angled approach for Far Eastern audiences who can be primarily removed in many aspects of Western culture. The story inherently is one of tolerance but the tone is just a little bit off from satire. It believes it is funnier than it is which is to its detriment. If it was played a little more extreme (“Top Secret”  despite its over the top tongue-in-cheek quality understood this much better) it would have much greater impact. The balance of the love story has possibility but never quite makes its connection. Waititi plays Hitler with an aloofness that is not altogether wrong but, at certain points where he could have made some metaphorical points that didn’t necessarily align with history, he misses the mark. The audience would have gone with him on the journey undeniably but it is a lost opportunity. Some of the greatest heart of film comes not from the lead JoJo but from his best friend [Yorki played by Archie Yates] who gets the inevitably of it all right. It is only through him and, in a very specific way, Sam Rockwell as a commander who both has a secret to keep but a brazen nihilistic feeling of his own existence that makes it work. They seem to get it. Granted Rockwell did “Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy” and he still hit that exactly right. At one point when Rockwell jumps out with his gun and winks at the camera during a battle scene, you get a sense of what the film could be. Scarlett Johansson tries but she should have been allowed to play the comedy much more broadly where she mostly sticks to a certain angle. She has a gift for it and that smile when she shows it belies the kind of heart that is sometimes missing from her roles since many of her characters are in misery.
Buoyancy Misery is a continuing structure in many of the Far East films integrated here. “Buoyancy” knows what it is: a tale of primality through and through. Hope in the lead character is an overrated commodity. The story follows a boy in Cambodia who believes he is made for bigger things. But his naiavte ends up placing him on a Thai fishing ship basically as identured labor where he needs to survive in learning by example. The example unfortunately is undeniably brutal. One scene involving what is akin to drawn and quartered with boats shows the incessant darkness of the story. But in true form, the weak must become strong and lose a sense of right and wrong to exist in the gray.
Wisdom Tooth The aspect of a better life is sometimes wasted on the eyes of the beholder. Just getting by versus seeing how the better half lives can sometimes be a curse. A sister works at a hotel and is kept happy by the smaller things in a corner of China. Her brother, or the man she believes is her brother, cares for her and life continues in a sense of suspended animation. There are aspects of the underworld and corruption in play but it is portrayed simply in many ways a part of the fabric of life. The lead actress is replete in her details recording things she hears including that which might be against her own best interests. The interests dovetail which is a bit off kilter but undeniably conflictive. Her brother finally makes a connection with a romantic love bathed in a secret and yet the relationship doesn’t play with a sense of protection but jealousy. It is an interesting dynamic but yet played to an awkward level bouyed by a sense of loneliness which creates an interesting dichitomy of drama. The kind of pain she feels (in the scene shown in the photo above) is akin to a wisdom tooth. so close and yet so far away, something that can’t be removed except with excessive pain.
I’m Livin It Like “Wisdom Tooth” before it, the closing night film is replete with people suffering through their own ego but also their inherent situation. Aaron Kwok always tends to show an interest in people on the slight fringe of society who are a result of the circumstances. The title is a reflection of the 24-hour McDonalds-type establishment ability per se to act as a haven or oasis for homeless people, at least in Hong Kong. Kwok plays Bowen who used to be a financial maven until he was convicted of embezzlement. The film doesn’t really expand on the psychological reasoning of his character’s fall from grace but rather his incessant need to redeem himself while doing really nothing to improve his situation. Everyone in the film seemingly has a hang up which continually holds them back yet the story is one of perservance even as every character seems to fall further down the rabbit hole against their own best interests. Ultimately the movie does pull at the heartstrings in concert with the viewer’s own best instincts. The fact is that the people try so hard and they have talent but life seemingly just is stacked against them. Times are tough and the film doesn’t bely that point but it has resolutes itself with a sense of integrity even in the face of certain tragedy.