Star Wars – Machete Order

This weekend, Ruth, JTA and I watched the Star Wars films in a single sitting, in Machete Order. What’s Machete Order, you ask? Well, assuming that you’re too busy to click the link and find out, the short summary is that you:

Machete Order. The way Star Wars should be enjoyed.
Machete Order. The way Star Wars should be enjoyed.

This is a remarkable and unusual order in which to watch the films, but it’s not without its merits, especially compared to the two most-common alternatives: Release Order and Episode Order:

[spb_message color=”alert-warning” width=”1/1″ el_position=”first last”]Spoiler Alert! The remainder of this article contains extensive spoilers about the Star Wars universe. If you haven’t seen the films yet, go watch them in the order specified above and then come back. It’ll only take you about 11 hours; I’ll wait.[/spb_message]

  • Release Order – IV, V, VI, I, II, III – has the problem that you either watch the original cut of Return of the Jedi, and see Sebastian Shaw playing the ghost of the “unmasked” Darth Vader at the end (and then go “that doesn’t look anything like him!” when you get to Attack of the Clones), or you watch the 2004 edit of Return of the Jedi, in which they inserted Hayden Christensen in his place, and you go “who’s that guy? we’ve never seen him before!”, because he hasn’t been introduced until the next film that you’ll watch.
  • Episode Order – I, II, III, IV, V, VI – should fix that problem, but it introduces an even worse problem: it completely ruins the surprise that Luke’s father is Darth Vader (and as a result, also ruins the surprise that Leia is Luke’s sister, and results in more “eww” moments when we see them kiss in The Empire Strikes Back).

Machete Order fixes those problems. The new films become a “flashback” in a longer ongoing narrative, and the timing couldn’t be better. At the end of The Empire Strikes Back, Luke has just learned that Darth Vader is his father, and so we zip back by about 20 years and see the story of how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader. You couldn’t plan it better.

Darth Vader
Darth Vader. You probably knew that already.

You lose The Phantom Menace, but seriously, you’re not missing much (and you can always go back and watch it later): a surprisingly dull podrace, an incredibly annoying alien, “midichlorians”… all of these are dropped. You get to start and end with the strongest movies. And the continuity is actually pretty beautiful, seeing Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith as a flashback rather than a series in their own right.

JTA tweets about Star Wars: Machete Order
JTA tweets from the front lines about Star Wars: Machete Order

So what did we learn:

  • This is absolutely the way to watch Star Wars. If I ever come across somebody who’s never seen any of them films, this is the order that I’ll recommend that they watch them.
  • It takes a surprising amount of energy to sit and watch 11 hours of a story in a single sitting. Make sure you’ve got plenty of booze and snacks lined-up, and are ready to sacrifice a day, if you want to do this in one stretch. It wasn’t quite as hard as when we watched all of the Lord of the Rings movies (Directors’ Cuts, no less) back to back at a Troma Night many years ago, but it was still a bit of a marathon.
  • The model shots (IV, V, VI) have aged, but they still look okay. The CGI effects (II, III) have aged, and they look awful. Watching a mixture of old and new films in this way exaggerates this.

If you’d like to learn more about why this is such a great way to watch these films, I’d highly recommend that you read the original article that inspired us. And then – whether you’ve seen the films before or not – you should totally go and do this too.


Argh, It Burns! Night

This weekend the other Earthlings and I celebrated Burns Night. Of course, we’re just a little bit eccentric between the four of us to celebrate it like normal people, so we decided to apply a little bit of a twist to a tried-and-tested theme.

A traditional Burns Night consists of a hearty meal of haggis, ‘neeps and tatties, drinking of whisky, and the recitation of songs, poems, and stories (with a particular emphasis on works by the poet himself). We all enjoy a nice haggis – albeit a veggie one, which I dubbed a vaggis, for Ruth and Paul – and a dram or two of decent whisky – with the exception of Paul, who substituted a series of Irn-bru-themed cocktails – so these aspects were kept intact. But we decided to swap out the traditional songs, poetry and storytelling for something a little more contemporary…

In our newly-invented, “Argh, It Burns! Night”, attendees each perform a reading of the worst piece of fan fiction that they can possibly find. There’s a wealth of truly awful fan fiction in the world, and we wanted to do justice to it by performing readings and voting on which was the most awful, or most entertainingly terribly. I suppose this was inevitable: after Troma Night gave us years of watching the worst films imaginable, the next step had to be to expand to other media.

After finishing our supper and fortifying ourselves with a drink or two, we drew lots to determine who was to go first. JTA began.

JTA begins his reading.

JTA had chosen to read Guywars, by Josh Vandergriff, a strange crossover between the Monkey Island and Star Wars franchises, with an embarrassing number of “jokes” stolen verbatim from Spaceballs. Depite lurching between the past and present tense and riddled with humour a little immature even for the playground, we couldn’t help but laugh out loud at some of the accidental moments of literary genius, like this gem:

Guyvador [a Darth Vader-like character] breaths like someone breathing out of a paper bag might breath, only without that great lunchy smell.

Paul and Ruth appreciating the... umm... "art?"

Next up was Ruth, who shared with us all Garfield: First Blood, the first in a two part series of stories in which Garfield repeatedly rescues Natalie Portman from vampire gangsters. And I’m ashamed to say that I really enjoyed this piece. Not because it was good – far from it – but because it was so beautifully awful.

“HAHA Garfield!, We demand the blood Bank of USA give us 600 million gallons of blood, all in one hundred dollar bills or else we will be making evening breakfast out of Natalie Portman!” Said the head Vampire Gangster with menace.

I’m honestly not convinced that the author  is even aware of who Garfield is, because instead of being a lasagne-eating, lazy feline, the Garfield in this story carries a handgun (difficult with paws), drives a pickup truck (very difficult when your knees are backwards), and woos movie stars. I would love to see somebody make a comic book of this story.

But although the author – the optimistically-titled “ShakespeareHemmingway” – may not know who Garfield is, he certainly knows who Natalie Portman is. The story ends with a postscript to let her know, if she’s reading this, that if she would like to date him, that would be okay.

Ruth performing a reading.

Paul took the chair next, giving us a reading of the first six chapters (they’re miniscule, although one gets the feeling that this is perhaps because large chunks of them are missing, based on the continuity problems) of HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH – yes, that’s really it’s title.

Listening to this story is like going to Azathoth‘s house and dropping acid. While outwardly it sort-of appears to be Harry Potter fanfiction, I’m convinced that it’s something more: I’m not sure what. Perhaps it’s a chant to summon demons of insanity, or perhaps it’s a piece of neo-Dadaist genius, but there’s something there. What I can tell you, though, is this: hearing it makes you feel like your brain is at risk of melting out through your ears.

Harry vomited steam and summoned a great meteor from space to smash into Hogwarts and kill everyone there, for no reason at all… He encased the entire meteor in a wreath of holy fuckfire and flew through Mercury, killing the fuck out of it. Then he sent Mercury’s carcass into Venus, killing the fuck out of it and making every vagina in the galaxy explode, and inside every vagina a booby sang of mortal life’s fleeting precipice.

Seriously. You can’t tell me that doesn’t mean something?

Paul and JTA listen and prepare for the voting...

For my story, I’d selected QUAKE THE EPIC FIGHT!, which is – I hope – probably the only piece of Quake-themed fanfiction to have ever been written. It’s starts – and finishes – with Chapter One, which kind of makes me wonder why it bothers with a chapter title in the first place, and tells the story of old schoolfriends Bill and Norman as they fight together against the, and I quote, “evill strogg robot alien things who kill humans”.

It’s pretty dire, and remarkably hard-to-read on account of it’s random tense changes, spelling (both awful and inconsistent), and the absence of punctuation. Let me share a sentence:

ther vas loud boom when bills ship crash but ther vas louder more BOOM when normans did. “oh no is he ded!” bill sayed lik sad but ther vas body who climed up from shp and they ran to others in happy!

Ballot papers.

Finally, it came time for the voting – by STV, of course, because we’re not savages. After a run-off round between tied winners Ruth and Paul, Ruth finally came out on top! Garfield had it!

The prize! Jack Daniels and ginger. In a can.

JTA has decided to provide a prize that fit with the theme. Fanfiction is a good way to ruin a perfectly good story… so what happens if you ruin whisky? You get this, it turns out: Jack Daniels and ginger, in a can. Ruth was less-than-delighted by her prize (it didn’t taste too bad all by itself, but the soapy aftertaste was pretty grim), but managed to gulp down the whole can with minimal help from the rest of us.

Ruth with her "prize".

Ruth mentioned that there existed a sequel to the piece of fan fiction she’d read, and we insisted that she give us a reading of this, too. And so, we got the dubious pleasure of a live reading of Garfield: First Blood Part II: The Legend of the Warrior of the Forever Fist, feature fantastic paragraphs like this closing moment:

Garfield and Natalie Portman went on her bed and embraced for love makings. They rubbed eachother with oil and perfume and touched eachother all over. Their bodies then joined like peanut butter and jelly and created delicious loving all night long.

Wow. The author even updated his postscript to let his admired Natalie Portman know that he’s still single (shocking, I know, that a talented author like this can’t get a date) if she’s interested.

All in all, the first ever Argh, It Burns! Night was an amazing, hilarious, and only sometimes painful, success. We’re totally going to have to do this again next year.

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