“The Eagle Huntress “

Though  I am not a raptor fan ( and often , like James Audubon and Benjamin Franklin, wish this bird of prey was not chosen for our National emblem) , I am mesmerized by its ability to soar. Maybe, this is what our forefathers’  1782 selection of the Bald Eagle was meant to  symbolize  ~all the possibilities of freedom.

In the documentary,”The Eagle Huntress”, the Golden Eagle stars. Unlike the Bald Eagle ( Haliaeetus leuccephalus ), the Golden Eagle ( Aguilera chrysaetos ) is less of a scavenger and has leg plummage. The Bald Eagle has a white-feathered head, not bald at all. Both  predators  have the amazing ability to  lock their feathers and ride the thermal currents. Director Otto Bell succeeds in showing viewers that the eagle is no ordinary bird.

Our human stars are a father and daughter pair who will delight you in every way. Aisholpan  Nurgaiv is thirteen, and she is fascinated with her father and  grandfather’s legendary quest and its two-thousand -year -old tradition. Her father, Rhys Nurgaiv, is a gentle, encouraging teacher. In the remote Mongolian mountains of Altai, we follow their nomadic way of life and watch their teamwork in capturing a three-month-old eaglet from its lofty, craggy-crested  aerie.

Rhys constant affirmations of Aisholpan’s attempts  in training her specimen should be modeled by all teachers. He prays for her aloud: ” May God help you on your Eagle path. May no horse leave you. May nature …”.   Honor and tradition are respected, yet Rhys has no doubt that his daughter can break the gender boundary that the older tribesmen hold. They have their doubts. Woman power becomes a theme. Aisholpan will hold rank with Elizabeth Blackwell as a female first for her tribe.

English actress Daisy Ridley provides the narration since the language spoken is Kazakh. The Festival Contest is suspenseful and enthralling. When our Huntress raises her gloved arm and calls for her bird, we gasp at its powerful landing. Her pride and its power and the sweeping aerial photography is spellbinding. Children should be seeing this as a respite from animated Pixel lessons.

The methodology in Aishopan’s training was my favorite part. She calls the eagle to eat and feeds small pieces of sinew to it by hand. Using a rabbit pelt, our young  huntress practices developing the eagle’s flying style. His response time is clocked and perfected. Their bond and skill is honed.  A fox must be hunted and downed before full eagle hunter status is given. Icy cliffs form the backdrop. Patience and extreme weather are givens.

Seventy contestants gather in the city for the annual  Goldn Eagle Festival competition. Cloud-shadows move  across rock formations. Outfit, horse, equipment,   speed and skills are all panel judged. A ten point system is used. By the time the blue flag is dropped, we are thinking more of freedom than trophy. Each bird only remains with its human family for seven years. Then it is returned back into the wild. Its  high-pitched  ” kee-kee”, the borderless land, and a young girl’s triumphant smile make this film a winner.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

It is still 2015, and George Lucas’ characters are a bit worn. Instead of Luke,Han and Leia, we now have a new trio: Poe,Rey and Finn. It was fun to see Carrie Fisher in a new hair style and Harrison Ford re-cracking some familiar jokes,but the whole shebang was a tad retro for me. The new characters introduced are richer if one purchases and reads the  available prequel to  better understand their individual histories. I like deep characterization within a film, action or not. Buying a book to better understand the fledglings seems too commercial here. Franchised comics and toys tool this movie as much as nostalgia does. However, little girls are now slinging their own light sabers.  Yet, “May the force be with you” seems utterly hijacked.

Rey is a savvy pilot whose breathtaking zooms and swivels delight the game playing set the same way the light sabers and blasters do. I was more into gliding through the stars when the  action  cooled. Working as a scavenger for food portions, Rey played by Daisy Ridley is a fresher -faced Jennifer Lawrence in that she portrays a girl willing to fight for what is right in the world order. She is independent and is often annoyed by the cavalier  Finn (  John Boyega  ) wishing to take her hand. His “stay calm” is given Rey’s disclaimer, “I am calm”,only to have Finn retort with. “I’m talking to myself !”  This  rather rye tone of asides continues throughout the action giving everyone a little breather from all the zooming.  Harrison Ford’s Han Solo’s  “This is not how I thought this day was going to go” continues in the same vein.  Solo’s  “The girl knows her stuff”  makes certain that no one misses “the girl power”.

Oscar Isaac as Poe,the resistance fighter pilot, looks lovely even when he is presumedly sand -swallowed with the freighter wreckage. He is best being surprised by Rey’s prowess,and his absence leaves her with time to shine like Katniss “Ever after” of “Hunger Game” fame. Not much is newly creative in Episode VI of “Star Wars”. Getting the piece of  the map which may help locate the last Jedi, Luke Skywalker, is the quest.

Hidden in the droid by Poe, the map hints at the first Jedi Temple rumor. Could this be where Luke resides? Enjoy the bar-like shenanigans, the tender meeting of Leia and Hans,Nazi-like power symbols and a grizzled Harrison Ford. All the flying parts-and there are lots of them- are balanced by mind- reading magnetic forces. “Get out of my  head” takes on literal meaning. Dialogue like  “The galaxy is counting on us” , “It would take a miracle to save us now” and , “Escape now,hug later” is best written for the pre-teens who will rush to see this.  A juvenile throw back with oscillators and storm troopers, J.J. Abrams’ movie is raking it in.

On the dark side, the patricide bothered me . General Leia’s comment to Han that there is still light in their fallen son did not ring true ,at least in this episode. My favorite line was another of Leia’s ( Carrie Fisher). To her former husband she says, “No matter how hard we fought. I always hated to see you leave”. Has the collapse of the planet really begun ?!