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10 Reasons Why I Loved “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

Before I get into this outrageously fun post, I have THREE QUICK THINGS to share with y’all:

Okay, enough with the announcements. I mentioned in my review of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker that I still hadn’t seen The Last Jedi–but I finally remedied that problem a couple of weeks ago. And guess what? I LOVED IT.

Now, The Rise of Skywalker did retcon some things, and I do have some minor quibbles with certain plot points and storylines. But as Jane Austen would say, “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can.” And like Rose Tico, I’d far rather focus on the things I love rather than the things I hate.

So without further ado, here are 10 reasons why I loved The Last Jedi!

1. BB-8’s Most Excellent Adventure

BB-8 is my favorite droid, hands-down, bar none, no questions asked–so I was thrilled he got so much fun screen time in this movie! Between helping Poe destroy a First Order Dreadnought, pelting bad guys with casino coins, and rescuing Finn and Rose multiple times, who knew the Resistance’s most adorable mascot could also be such a fierce little fighter? 

@ Google Images

He is also a smol baby who needs lots of cuddles from his daddy, as you can see from this sweet GIF.

2. Luke Skywalker’s Character Arc

Luke’s inner conflict in The Last Jedi gets a lot of flak, but I thought it made perfectly good sense based on what we already knew about him. Luke feels everything very deeply, and he tends to takes a lot onto himself: we saw it in his desperation to help Han and Leia in The Empire Strikes Back, and in his unshakeable faith in Anakin Skywalker in The Return of the Jedi. He’d probably be terribly hard on himself if ever he failed someone…especially if that Someone happened to be his young nephew.

I wasn’t shocked by Luke’s self-imposed isolation or his depression…but I really appreciated the fact that he didn’t stay in that place of self-loathing. Skywalker Males tend to be a bit melodramatic (*side-eyes Anakin, Luke, and Ben*), but they always get their act together in the end.      

3. Rose Tico

Okay, Rose’s adventure with Finn and BB-8 didn’t really advance the plot (except to get the Resistance into even deeper trouble). I’ll admit that right-up front. But I don’t mind too much, because Rose still represents the small, ordinary folk of the Star Wars universe–people we don’t often get to see! Yes, we’re dealing with space battles, galactic politics, and awesome warriors, but we’re also dealing with everyday people who just want to defend their homes and regain their freedom.

That is why Rose is important. Plus, she’s an absolute dear–so pure and sweet!

4. Poe Dameron

Poe is such a fun character: warmhearted, reckless, snarky, and intensely loyal to his General-Princess. He learns a lot in The Last Jedi, though–namely, that he isn’t the Fount of All Strategic Wisdom, that Ellie Sattler–uh, I mean, Admiral Holdo–might actually know more than he does, and that if he misbehaves, Her Royal Highness Princess Leia will literally rise up out of a coma to shoot him with a stun gun.     

Leia loves him dearly, though. I suspect that he not only reminds her of Han, but also that she’s “adopted” Poe in the absence of her own son.

5. Rey’s Jedi Training

Rey went to Ach-To expecting to recruit Luke Skywalker and learn everything she ever wanted to know about the Force. Instead, she got pushback and scorn from a depressed old man. Not exactly the most encouraging situation for my favorite Star Wars character of all time.

But Rey proves in The Last Jedi that she is more than able to face these challenges. Not only is the Force always with her, but it highly favors her–and her courage, compassion, and intuition serve her well. When Leia looks straight at her and tells her the Resistance has everything it needs, it’s because Leia knows Rey is the Last Jedi. She is their greatest weapon against the Darkness.

[Disclaimer: I could digress into a long discussion about how the Force is an unbiblical concept, but we’ll confine that to the comments and/or another post for another day. Suffice it to say that I’ve noticed the Force has become more “personal” over the years, which is interesting.]

6. ForceTime™ (because it’s like FaceTime…sort of)

I LOVE the scene when Rey and Kylo Ren are quietly minding their own business in their own places, when boom–all of a sudden they’re in each other’s presence! They’re still in their own locations, but they can see, hear, and even touch each other now. And Rey’s first impulse is to try and shoot him in the gut. (*proud grin*) That’s my child.

We get an immensely satisfying explanation for this in The Rise of Skywalker, but watching them figure out how it all works in this movie is mesmerizing, especially as they become less hostile, more vulnerable, and even sympathetic towards each other.

7. Princess Leia

This was technically Carrie Fisher’s last movie (J.J. Abrams used recycled footage to build her scenes in The Rise of Skywalker), and I’m so glad Leia played such a pivotal role in it. We got to see her in action not only as the Resistance’s beloved General, but also as a grieving mother and a trusting sister.

I also love the fact that Leia “adopts” Poe and Rey and that her own skills as a Jedi are on full display in this movie. She is truly an iconic character–not just in Star Wars, but in modern storytelling as a whole.

8. The Throne Room Scene

Okay, guys…THIS SCENE. I was on the edge of my seat, and I had no idea what to do with my emotions. Rey’s defiance, Snoke’s nastiness, Kylo Ren’s absolute horror when his master starts torturing Rey, the “WOW WOW WOW” look on Rey’s face when Kylo sent her lightsaber flying back into her hand and they got to fight together…gosh, it was a rollercoaster ride from beginning to end. And don’t even get me started on the “Join me” bit. I didn’t know whether to be furious or heartbroken.

This is so worthy of a GIF, it ain’t even funny. (Thank you, Tumblr.)

And may I just say how unbelievable the choreography is? Daisy Ridley says it took twenty-five takes to get it right, and when they were finally finished, Adam Driver hoisted her over his shoulders and carried her off the set in exhausted triumph. (#bless)

9. The Battle of Crait

Crait was so unique: a salt mine planet where everything looks white…until you scrape your foot along the surface of the ground. Then it looks like you’re leaving bloody footprints in the snow. My inner artist’s appreciation for symbolism and dramatic effect found it rather fascinating.

The desperate “last stand” of the Resistance against the full might of the First Order also establishes a few key points: Kylo Ren is still a horrible person (in spite of the Throne Room Scene, alas), Luke Skywalker is still a true-hearted, self-sacrificial hero, Poe Dameron has learned what it means to be a real leader, and Rey is truly the new hope of the Resistance.

10. The Foreshadowed Eucatastrophe

Watching The Last Jedi in a post-Rise of Skywalker world is thrilling when it comes to the Eucatastrophe of the Sequel Trilogy (which I discussed at length in my review of the final film).

“If [Ben Solo] were turned from the Dark Side, that could shift the tide!” Rey tells Luke. “This could be how we win!” She even goes as far as to insist, “He’s our last hope!” When I first heard that, I had goosebumps.

You’re just about one year too early, Rey–give it some time… (@ Tumblr)

It wasn’t the only moment of foreshadowing, of course. The Throne Room Scene itself foreshadows Rey and Ben’s epic reunion on Exegol beautifully. But Rey’s plea to Luke predicts Ben’s Eucatastrophe beat for beat. His “conversion” does shift the tide, it does help Rey and the Resistance win against Palpatine, and he does prove to be Rey’s last hope by bringing her back from the dead.

What are your thoughts on The Last Jedi? I’d love to know! (Please keep them respectful, though–I know it’s a controversial movie for some and I want to keep things pleasant on this blog 😉 )
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Movie Review: “Mr. Holland’s Opus”

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links, meaning that I receive a small commission if you make any purchase through my links marked clearly with an asterisk, at no cost to you. Please read my full disclosure for more info.

Being an artist of any stripe is a rewarding and glorious calling. And the good news is that we’re all artists; we’re all creatives! The mother who works hard to make her home a place of light and comfort, or the student who strives to do his or her very best work, is as much an artist as the painter who fashions a swirling, starry night on canvas. It’s just part and parcel of being made in the image of an artistic Creator-God. 

But that also means we’re all susceptible to the nagging fear that nothing we do will amount to much in the end. We pour our hearts into our “babies”–whether those are literal babies or our novels, assignments, paintings, symphonies–and yet we wonder…is it really worth the blood, sweat, and tears?

The 1995 film Mr. Holland’s Opus* assures us that yes, it is absolutely worth it…because our art reverberates in ways we never expected or imagined.

mr. holland's opus poster

@ Google Images

Glenn Holland starts out as a frustrated young man, newly married and obsessed with a dream he just doesn’t have time to chase. He wants to write a sweeping new “American symphony,” but pressing priorities (like providing for his family) take precedence over his piano. With great reluctance, he takes a job teaching music at a high school.

Unsurprisingly, he’s an awful instructor. He’d rather be at home with his own music, and it shows. But when the school’s indomitable principal confronts him about his behavior, she finally strikes a chord:

A teacher has two jobs; fill young minds with knowledge, yes– but more important, give those minds a compass so that that knowledge doesn’t go to waste.

@ Google Images

Once Mr. Holland finally recognizes his disinterested students’ potential, his attitude changes. He takes a vested interest in them, using popular music to bring some of the more abstract concepts in his class down to a level they understand. But most importantly, he encourages these discouraged, lonely kids to embrace the magic of the music.

“Playing music is supposed to be fun,” he tells one discouraged young girl. “It’s about heart! It’s about feelings, moving people, and something beautiful–and it’s not about notes on a page. I can teach you notes on a page. I can’t teach you that other stuff.”

As the years pass, Mr. Holland faces all sorts of challenges: the birth of his deaf son, the Vietnam War, recalcitrant kids, and even the (ultimately rejected) allurement of a young and talented beauty. Through it all, he chips away at his symphony–though he fears he’s poured so much of himself into everyone and everything else, its grand potential (and his own) will never be realized.

@ Google Images

What Mr. Holland doesn’t see, however, is that he’s already having a profound impact on his own small world. Through his quiet faithfulness and his undying love for music, he inspires three decades’ worth of students to cultivate their own imaginations, chase their dreams, and enrich the world. As one of his former students says:

There is not a life in this room that you have not touched, and each of us is a better person because of you. We are your symphony, Mr. Holland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus. We are the music of your life.

After years of patient toil, Mr. Holland’s own students perform his triumphant “American Symphony.” Surrounded by his friends, his devoted wife, and their son (who, like Beethoven, “hears” the music by vibration), Mr. Holland’s opus finally takes flight.

It’s all very reminiscent of It’s a Wonderful Life: even the smallest life has eternal significance, and it’s a truly beautiful message. But for me, Mr. Holland’s Opusemphasized how important it is that we teach the arts to our children–not so they can rattle off random facts about Rembrandt, Beethoven, or Austen, but so that they’ll be keenly aware of the enchantment, the beauty, and the redemptive story of God’s creation.

When Mr. Holland’s school cuts all funding for the arts, the new principal pompously declares that “if I’m forced to choose between Mozart or reading and writing and long division, I choose long division.” Mr. Holland sadly replies, “Well, I guess you can cut the arts as much as you want. Sooner or later, these kids aren’t going to have anything to read or write about.

Reading, writing, division, chemistry, etc., are very important. No one is denying that. But as Andrew Peterson writes in his book Adorning the Dark*, “Those of us who write, who sing, who paint, must remember that to a child a song may glow like a nightlight in a scary bedroom. It may be the only thing holding back the monsters.”

Mr. Holland gave his students a sword in tumultuous times, reminding them in his own simple way (as Peterson also puts it) “that the good guys win, that the stories are true, and that a fool’s hope may be the best kind.” May we all be ready to give the people around us that same gift, no matter where our God-given, creative talents take us. 

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My 7 Writing Music Recommendations!

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links, meaning that I receive a small commission if you make any purchase through my links marked clearly with an asterisk, at no cost to you. Please read my full disclosure for more info.

Every January I put together a new “Writing Playlist.” This isn’t always because I have new music, mind you. Most of the time I just enjoy cycling through my rather large collection of movie soundtracks.

This Christmas I did get some new writing music, however–and I spent some time revisiting a few of my old favorites. I’m very picky about my writing music: I need tracks that won’t derail my train of thought by triggering either a Fangirl Attack (which is why “One Shot” from Avengers: Endgame will not be on this playlist) or an Anxiety Attack (no “Flight to the Ford,” thank you very MUCH).

But I also need tracks that stir my imagination and emotions. I want you to care about my characters and what they’re going through, so I need music that reminds me of characters love. I think that’s part of the reason why I love movie soundtracks so much. When I hear “The Real Hero” from the Avengers: Endgame soundtrack, I think of Tony Stark (and occasionally still cry). When I hear “The Force Is With You,” I see Rey standing up to Emperor Palpatine. When I hear “The Shepherd’s Boy,” I see the Twelfth Doctor fighting his way through a diamond wall.

So here are some of the composers and soundtracks I’ll be enjoying as I embark on some new writing adventures in 2020! I hope it’ll give you some ideas for your own playlists 🙂

Photo by Julio Rionaldo on Unsplash

1. The Lord of the Rings soundtracks

I first bought these soundtracks in 2004 as a giddy twelve-year-old completely obsessed with The Lord of the Rings. While a few of the tracks have always had a special place in my heart (“The Black Gate Opens” and “Concerning Hobbits” come to mind), it’s been years since Howard Shore’s magnum opus featured so heavily in my writing playlist.

2. Joel Clarkson

I appreciate Joel Clarkson because he knows how important music is when it comes to concentration. He composed his latest album, Story Book Soundscapes, as a helpful resource for people–whether students, creatives, or both!–who need background music that’s both epic and non-distracting. I also love his album Music for the Lifegiving Home, which features a special theme for each month of the year (“January: A Framework for Home” is my favorite).

3. George Winston

George Winston’s haunting holiday album has been a Christmas staple in our home for as long as I can remember. In fact, it’s the ONLY Christmas CD I listen to year-round, and ONLY because most of the tracks aren’t traditional carols AND because it’s probably the most relaxing music in my entire library. More recently I’ve come to enjoy his Summer album; for some reason it reminds me of Wendell Berry’s novels.

4. John Williams

I’m pretty sure John Williams has a larger presence in my music library than any other composer. When you count everything I own from Far and Away to Star Wars to Indiana Jones to Jurassic Park to War Horse, it sounds and looks about right. I’ve loved Williams’ distinctive, epic style for years, and these three soundtracks are my current favorites:

5. Call the Midwife soundtrack

Let the record show that this is the only soundtrack that made me CRY while listening to it for the first time! I wept for “Barbara’s Last Journey”–unsurprising, since I ugly-cried for That Particular Scene. This beautiful show will be the death of me one day. In all seriousness, though, this soundtrack is full of lilting whimsy and joy beyond the walls of grief. Listen to it and be blessed. 

6. Doctor Who music

Now, unlike Call the Midwife or even The Rise of Skywalker, I cannot actually listen to an entire Doctor Who soundtrack straight through while writing. There are just too many action tracks. It gives me Anxiety. My solution? I cherry-pick tracks out of the albums! In this one instance, I can have my cake and eat it, too: Whovian Feelings are fully activated without sending me and my writing into a tailspin. (I did a whole blog post on Doctor Who music, by the way, which you can read here.)

7. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society soundtrack

Despite my ongoing sorrow over the fact that this movie still isn’t out on DVD (*glares at Netflix*), this album has been a staple of my writing playlists for quite a while now. It’s similar to Call the Midwife: simple and relaxing, yet deeply emotional and even sweeping at times. My favorite tracks are “Juliet and Dawsey” and “Across the Sea,” though again, this is one album I could listen to straight-through.

Three Honorable Mentions:

  1. Avengers: Endgame*: not really a soundtrack I can listen to from beginning to end, but “The Real Hero” is absolutely gorgeous. Great for writing those tear-jerker scenes. I’m just sayin’.
  2. The Intern*: A delightful, whimsical soundtrack from an equally delightful, whimsical film, this soundtrack that would be perfect for writing a contemporary romance. Not that I’ve actually written any contemporary romances, but I just have a strong feeling about this.
  3. Little Women (1994)*: My entire family listens to this soundtrack on a regular basis! The main theme always reminds me of Thanksgiving and Christmas, since we always watch the movie while we do our holiday baking–but it’s wonderful background music for any creative project, as well.

What are some of your favorite musical selections for work and play? I’d love to hear your recommendations!