How did a few notes scribbled on a legal pad in 1973 by George Lucas, a man who hated writing, turn into a four billion dollar franchise that has quite literally transformed the way we think about entertainment, merchandizing, politics, and even religion? A cultural touchstone and cinematic classic, Star Wars has a cosmic appeal that no other movie franchise has been able to replicate. From Jedi-themed weddings and international storm-trooper legions, to impassioned debates over the digitization of the three Star Wars prequels, to the shockwaves that continue to reverberate from Disney's purchase of the beloved franchise in 2012, the series hasn't stopped inspiring and inciting viewers for almost forty years. Yet surprisingly little is known about its history, its impact -- or where it's headed next.
R2-D2 excels in areas where humans are deficient: deep computation, endurance in extreme conditions, and selfless consciousness. R2-D2 is a computer that compensates for human deficiencies -- it shines where humans fail.
C3-PO is the personification of the selfish human -- cloying, rules-bound, and despotic. (Don't forget, C3-PO let Ewoks worship him!) C3-PO is a factotum for human vanity -- it engenders the worst human characteristics.
I love the chart he did for the piece, characterizing 3PO's D&D alignment as lawful evil and his politics as Randian.
In a local Chicago TV segment from 1980, here's film critic Gene Siskel reviewing The Empire Strikes Back.
Interesting that he spends most of his time commenting on the special effects. At the time of this review, Siskel had been doing a show with Roger Ebert called Sneak Previews, but they seemed to have missed reviewing the original Star Wars or Empire on the show. Ebert reviewed Empire in 1997, giving it four stars and calling it "the best of the three Star Wars films".
"The Empire Strikes Back" is the best of three Star Wars films, and the most thought-provoking. After the space opera cheerfulness of the original film, this one plunges into darkness and even despair, and surrenders more completely to the underlying mystery of the story. It is because of the emotions stirred in "Empire" that the entire series takes on a mythic quality that resonates back to the first and ahead to the third. This is the heart.
The film was made in 1980 with full knowledge that "Star Wars" had become the most successful movie of all time. If corners were cut in the first film's budget, no cost was spared in this one: It is a visual extravaganza from beginning to end, one of the most visionary and inventive of all films.
The Despecialized Edition is the years-long work of a diverse group of people who have taken elements from many different sources and created the ultimate version of the first Star Wars film. It has also been upgraded to display properly on high definition screens, with high-quality sounds and a near perfect image.
The latest Blu-Ray release of the film serves as the skeleton for this edition, but elements of the 2006 bonus DVD that included the unaltered version of the film was also used to remove special effects and edits that were added by Lucas.
Of course, we still don't know how to make a lightsaber. One big problem is confining plasma (if that is even what it is), into some tube. But a bigger problem is the amount of energy required. We can actually calculate this from clues in the movies!
In Episode I, Qui-Gon jabs his lightsaber into a door, and melts part of it. That's just basic physics! To melt something, you have to raise its temperature to the melting point, and you can calculate how much energy that takes using the specific heat capacity of a material.
Hi, everybody! Tim Carmody here, guest-hosting for Jason this week.
Not everybody gives their computers, smartphones, or wireless networks distinctive names. You're more likely to see a thousand public networks named "Belkin" or some alphanumeric gibberish than one named after somebody's favorite character in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
But many, many people do name their machines -- and ever since we slid into the post-PC era, we're more likely to have a bunch of different machines of every different type living together on a network, each needing a name. So, how do you decide what to call them? Do you just pick what strikes your fancy at the moment, or do you have a system?
About three years ago, I asked my friends and followers on Twitter this question and got back some terrific responses. I don't have access to all of their answers, because, well, time makes fools of us all, especially on Twitter. But I think I have the best responses.
Most people who wrote back did have unifying themes for their machines. And sweet Jesus, are those themes nerdy.
A lot of people name their computers, networks, and hard drives after characters, places, and objects from Star Wars. Like, a lot of them.
Even more of my friends name devices after their favorite books and writers. My favorite of these came from @DigDoug: "All of my machines are named after characters in Don Quixote. My Macbook is Dulcinea, the workhorse is Rocinante." (Note: these systems are also popular among my friends for naming their cats. I don't know what to make of that.)
Science- and mythology-inspired names are well-represented. Mathias Crawford's hard drives are named after types of penguins; Alan Benzie went with goddesses: "The names Kali, Isis, Eris, Juno, Lilith & Hera are distributed around whatever devices and drives I have at any time." (When I first read this, I thought these might have been moons of Jupiter, which would both split the difference between science and mythology and would be a super-cool way to name your stuff.)
Wi-fi networks might be named for places, funny phrases, or abstract entities, but when it comes to phones or laptops, most people seemed to pick persons' names. Oliver Hulland's hard drives were all named after muppets; Alex Hern named his computer's hard drive and its time capsule backup Marx and Engels, respectively.
Some people always stuck with the same system, and sometimes even the same set of names. A new laptop would get the same name as the old laptop, and so forth -- like naming a newborn baby after a dead relative. Other people would retire names with the devices that bore them. They still refer to them by their first names, often with nostalgia and longing.
As for me, I've switched up name systems over the years, mostly as the kinds of devices on my network have changed. I used to just have a desktop PC (unnamed), so I started out by naming external hard drives after writers I liked: Zora, after Zora Neale Hurston, and then Dante. The first router I named, which I still have, is Ezra.
Years later, I named my laptop "Wallace": this is partly for David Foster Wallace, but also so I could yell "where the fuck is Wallace?!?" whenever I couldn't find it.
Without me even realizing it, that double meaning changed everything. My smartphone became "Poot." When I got a tablet, it was "Bodie." My Apple TV was "Wee-Bay," my portable external drive "Stringer." I even named my wi-fi network "D'Angelo" -- so now D'Angelo runs on Ezra, which connects to Dante, if that makes sense.
As soon as it was Wallace and Poot, the rules were established: not just characters from The Wire, but members of the Barksdale crew from the first season of The Wire. No "Bunk," no "Omar," no "Cheese." And when the machines died, their names died with them.
The first one to go, fittingly, was Wallace. I called the new machine "Cutty." I was only able to justify to myself by saying that because he was a replacement machine, it was okay to kick over to Season 3. Likewise, my Fitbit became "Slim Charles."
Now, for some reason, this naming scheme doesn't apply at all to my Kindles. My first one was "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius," and its replacement is "Funes the Memorious." I have no explanation for this, other than to say that while all my other devices commingle, the Kindles seem to live in a hermetic world of their own.
Johnson will take over the core film franchise, and he'll get started quickly and this will be his preoccupation for quite awhile. Technically, he'll write that second treatment but the intention on both sides is that he direct the two installments.
First Abrams and now this...Disney seems to be doing a much better job shepherding the Star Wars franchise than Lucas did. (via df)
Yesterday I posted a video looking at the influence of Akira Kurosawa on Star Wars. Well, Michael Heilemann has posted an amazing feature-length exploration of Star Wars and the films that influenced it.
It's not Heilemann talking about anything...it's a sort of meta-Star Wars comprised of dozens of elements from other films that influenced Lucas in making it. For instance, here's the opening crawl from Forbidden Planet (1956):
Heilemann also includes a crawl from a 1936 Flash Gordan serial. For more, check out Kitbashed, particularly the extensive ebook on Star Wars sources.
This video looks at the influence of Akira Kurosawa and his films (especially The Hidden Fortress) on George Lucas and Star Wars.
How are Samurai films and a car crash responsible for Star Wars? How did World War II affect the global film industry in the 20th century? Why are Jedi called Jedi?? Give us 8 minutes, and we'll explain it all...
So, this showed up on Vimeo last night and will likely be pulled soon (so hit that "download" button while you can), but here's the deal. In 2012, actor Topher Grace showed an edit he'd done of episodes I-III of Star Wars to a bunch of friends, trimming the 7 hours of prequels down into 85 action-packed minutes of pure story. This Vimeo edit is longer (2:45) and is "based on the structure conceived by actor Topher Grace", which you can read about here.
Grace's version of the film(s) centers on Anakin's training and friendship with Obi-Wan, and his relationship with Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman). Gone are Trade Federation blockades, the Gungan city, the whole Padmé handmaiden storyline, the explanation of midichlorians, the galactic senate and the boring politics, Anakin's origins (a backstory which never really needed to be seen in the first place), the droid army's attack on Naboo, and Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best) appears only briefly for only one line of dialogue, used as a set-up to introduce us to the Queen.
In an item on Ain't It Cool News about the working title for Star Wars VII (The Ancient Fear!), a pair of comments list fourteen things about the Star Wars movies as bad as or worse than Jar Jar Binks:
1. Dance number added to Jedi
2. CGI Jabba added to A New Hope
3. Han/Greedo scene changed in A New Hope
4. Horrible acting in the prequels even by the good actors
5. Obi-Wan riding around on Yoshi in Revenge of the Sith
6. Anakin/Padme love story
7. Jake Lloyd
8. R2-D2 flying
9. Hayden's ghost added to end of Jedi
10. Rick McCallum
12. Virgin birth of Anakin
13. Vader as C-3POs maker and R2's buddy
14. Han/Jabba scene added in ANH
Nestled in the midst of Matt Zoller Seitz's video essay on Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is this bombshell: the movie contains a Star Wars reference no one seems to have noticed. Seitz synced the scenes for us:
There have to be others, right? Many of Anderson's films end with all of the characters gathered together like at the medals ceremony in Episode IV...someone even synced up the end of the movie with the closing credits music from Zissou and it works really well:
..Though the poster contained no painted imagery, it did introduce a new logo to the campaign, one that had been designed originally for the cover of a Fox brochure sent to theater owners....Suzy Rice, who had just been hired as an art director, remembers the job well. She recalls that the design directive given by Lucas was that the logo should look "very fascist."
"I'd been reading a book the night before the meeting with George Lucas," she says, "a book about German type design and the historical origins of some of the popular typefaces used today -- how they developed into what we see and use in the present." After Lucas described the kind of visual element he was seeking, "I returned to the office and used what I reckoned to be the most 'fascist' typeface I could think of: Helvetica Black."
The Smart SPHERES, located in the Kibo laboratory module, were remotely operated from the International Space Station's Mission Control Center at Johnson to demonstrate how a free-flying robot can perform surveys for environmental monitoring, inspection and other routine housekeeping tasks.
In the future, small robots could regularly perform routine maintenance tasks allowing astronauts to spend more time working on science experiments. In the long run, free-flying robots like Smart SPHERES also could be used to inspect the exterior of the space station or future deep-space vehicles.
They are outfitting the Smart SPHERES with Android phones for data collection:
Each SPHERE Satellite is self-contained with power, propulsion, computing and navigation equipment. When Miller's team first designed the SPHERES, all of their potential uses couldn't be imagined up front. So, the team built an "expansion port" into each satellite where additional sensors and appendages, such as cameras and wireless power transfer systems, could be added. This is how the Nexus S handset -- the SPHERES' first smartphone upgrade -- is going to be attached.
"Because the SPHERES were originally designed for a different purpose, they need some upgrades to become remotely operated robots," said DW Wheeler, lead engineer in the Intelligent Robotics Group at Ames. "By connecting a smartphone, we can immediately make SPHERES more intelligent. With the smartphone, the SPHERES will have a built-in camera to take pictures and video, sensors to help conduct inspections, a powerful computing unit to make calculations, and a Wi-Fi connection that we will use to transfer data in real-time to the space station and mission control."
A nice interview with Wes Anderson. He discusses how he got his start in filmmaking, his prospects as the director of the next Star Wars movie, and his new film with Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel.
DEADLINE: Star Wars was among the films that influenced you early on. What would the world get if Wes Anderson signed on to direct one of these new Star Wars films Disney will make?
ANDERSON: Well I have a feeling I would probably ultimately get replaced on the film because I don't' know if I have all the right action chops. But at least I know the characters from the old films.
DEADLINE: You are not doing a good job of selling yourself as a maker of blockbusters.
ANDERSON: I think you are reading it exactly right. I don't think I would do a terrible job at a Han Solo backstory. I could do that pretty well. But maybe that would be better as a short.
Now that I have a 5-year-old, I pay attention to things like Star Wars branded Lego sets. And they are a rip off. Why are these little plastic bricks so expensive? The cheapest set I can find is $7, most of the minifigs are more expensive than that, many sets are a few hundred dollars, and the most expensive sets are the price of a used car: there's a Lego Star Destroyer for $1600 and a Lego Millenium Falcon for $3400.
Now get off my lawn!
Update: Ah, the Star Destroyer and Millenium Falcon are discontinued and collectable, that's why they are thousands of dollars. Original prices were $300-500. It's so difficult to tell these things on Amazon when you're old and crotchety and and and wait, where are my pants? (thx, everyone)
From the March 1979 issue of The Atlantic, a profile of George Lucas, who at the time was only two years removed from creating a cultural movement.
Star Wars was manufactured. When a competent corporation prepares a new product, it does market research. George Lucas did precisely that. When he says that the film was written for toys ("I love them, I'm really into that"), he also means he had merchandising in mind, all the sideshow goods that go with a really successful film. He thought of T-shirts and transfers, records, models, kits, and dolls. His enthusiasm for the comic strips was real and unforced; he had a gallery selling comic-book art in New York.
From the start, Lucas was determined to control the selling of the film, and of its by-products. "Normally you just sign a standard contract with a studio," he says, "but we wanted merchandising, sequels, all those things. I didn't ask for another $1 million -- just the merchandising rights. And Fox thought that was a fair trade." Lucasfilm Ltd., the production company George Lucas set up in July 1971, "already had a merchandising department as big as Twentieth Century-Fox has. And it was better. When I was doing the film deal, I had already hired the guy to handle that stuff."
This article is like a time capsule of how the movie business used to work. Empire Strikes Back was a year away from release and there was no specific mention of it in the article. Star Wars opened in only 25 theaters and made only $9 million in the first two months. Those numbers don't quite match those from Box Office Mojo but they are close enough, especially when you note that the film's biggest grossing weekend was 43 weeks after the initial release.
I've been offline for two days and Aaron already posted this (and had the information relayed to me via land line into my power-less house) but this is just too, like, wow to pass up. Disney is buying Lucasfilm for $4 billion.
Under the deal, Disney will acquire ownership of Lucasfilm, a leader in entertainment, innovation and technology, including its massively popular and "evergreen" Star Wars franchise and its operating businesses in live action film production, consumer products, animation, visual effects, and audio post production. Disney will also acquire the substantial portfolio of cutting-edge entertainment technologies that have kept audiences enthralled for many years. Lucasfilm, headquartered in San Francisco, operates under the names Lucasfilm Ltd., LucasArts, Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound, and the present intent is for Lucasfilm employees to remain in their current locations.
And they're gonna release a 7th Star Wars film:
Ms. Kennedy will serve as executive producer on new Star Wars feature films, with George Lucas serving as creative consultant. Star Wars Episode 7 is targeted for release in 2015, with more feature films expected to continue the Star Wars saga and grow the franchise well into the future.
Crazy. A non-Lucas non-prequel Star Wars film will hopefully be pretty great, but the purchase price is puzzling. Only $4 billion?
I own a secluded 88 acre tract of wooded land where we'll be building. We have selected a site on the property that is low enough so that the top of the Falcon can be seen easily from several vantage points. A flat area roughly 400' x 400' is being cleared. And yes, I am aware that it will eventually show up on Google Earth and Google Maps. I'm counting on that.
Edd Dumbill writes that Twitter, as it strives to become a profitable company, is turning into an old media company.
Twitter's bait-and-switch, now they've built their reach on the back of eager early adopters, is disappointing. It marks them as part of old, unenlightened, business, and consigns them to a far less remarkable place in the future economy than they otherwise might have had.
Michael Heilemann has a somewhat harsher take in his post on Amazon, Twitter, and Star Wars:
Some part of me can't help but admire the purity of the clusterfuck that is Twitter's continued downward trajectory from startup wunderkind to some sort of bland, wannabe ad-driven media company.
It's incomplete, but I can't help but draw comparisons between Twitter's alienation of their original users and ecosystem to, because I am me, Star Wars.
Despite what George Lucas says, the continuing alterations to Star Wars have been driven by business reasoning, not some artistic auteur need to see the vision completed. And in both cases, the original fan base is the one getting run over, while the unwashed masses get to enjoy Jar Jar and Justin Bieber, respectively.
Yoda's greatest display of raw power in the original trilogy came when he lifted Luke's X-Wing from the swamp. As far as physically moving objects around goes, this was easily the biggest expenditure of energy through the Force we saw from anyone in the trilogy.
The energy it takes to lift an object to height h is equal to the object's mass times the force of gravity times the height it's lifted. The X-Wing scene lets us use this to put a lower limit on Yoda's peak power output.
First we need to know how heavy the ship was. The X-Wing's mass has never been canonically established, but its length has-16 meters. An F-22 is 19 meters long and weighs 19,700 lbs, so scaling down from this gives an estimate for the X-Wing of about 12,000 lbs (5 metric tons).
Kinect Star Wars has a Galactic Dance Off mode where you can "dance to modern songs remixed with Star Wars lyrics". After watching 30 seconds of this, you may not be able to get "I'm Han Solo" out of your head. It features dance moves like "The Speeder", "Chewie Hug", and "Trash Compactor".
Kind of amazing, but not surprising, that the Star Wars universe has come to this. As one YouTube commenter noted:
I just felt the death of Star Wars. It was as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.
Here are some of the lyrics:
I'm feeling like a star,
you can't stop my shine
I'm loving Cloud City,
my head's in the sky
I'm solo, I'm Han Solo,
I'm Han Solo.
I'm Han Solo. Solo.
Yeah, I'm feeling good tonight,
Finally feeling free and it feels so right, oh.
Time to do the things I like,
Gonna see a Princess, everything's all right, oh.
No Jabba to answer to,
Ain't a fixture in the palace zoo, no.
And since that carbonite's off me
I'm livin' life now that I'm free, yeah.
Told me to get myself together
Now I got myself together, yeah.
Now I made it through the weather,
Better days are gonna get better.
I'm so happy the carbonite is gone.
I'm movin' on.
I'm so happy that it's over now.
The pain is gone.
I'm putting on my shades
to cover up my eyes
I'm jumpin' in my ride,
I'm heading out tonight
I'm solo, I'm Han Solo,
I'm Han Solo.
I'm Han Solo. Solo.
I'm picking up my blaster,
put it on my side.
I'm jumpin' in my Falcon
Wookie at my side.
I'm solo, I'm Han Solo,
I'm Han Solo.
I'm Han Solo. Solo.
It's at this point that Lando comes on and gets jiggy. Amazing. (via ★ironicsans)
Rhett Allain from Wired asked and then answered, "could you build a scale Lego model of the Death Star?" Using the scale of the Lego people as a guide, Allain estimated that the Lego Death Star would be much taller than the world's tallest buildings and weigh more than 2 billions tons. My favorite bit: a visual of what the Lego Death Star would look like in low earth orbit. "That's no moon" indeed. (via @educurate)
Whats most shocking is that with only 85 minutes of footage, Topher was able to completely tell the main narrative of Anakin Skywalker's road from Jedi to the Sith. While I know the missing pieces and could even fill in the blanks in my head as the film raced past, none of those points were really needed. Whats better is that the character motivations are even more clear and identifiable, a real character arc not bogged down by podraces, galactic senates, Jar Jar Binks, politics or most of the needless parts of the Star Wars prequels. It not only clarifies the story, but makes the film a lot more action-packed.
We began by looking at how big the Death Star is. The first one is reported to be 140km in diameter and it sure looks like it's made of steel. But how much steel? We decided to model the Death Star as having a similar density in steel as a modern warship. After all, they're both essentially floating weapons platforms so that seems reasonable.
Lucas has decided to devote the rest of his life to what cineastes in the 1970s used to call personal films. They'll be small in scope, esoteric in subject and screened mostly in art houses. They'll be like the experimental movies Lucas made in the 1960s, around the time he was at U.S.C. film school, when he recorded clouds moving over the desert and made a movie based on an E. E. Cummings poem. During that period, Lucas assumed he would spend his career on the fringes. Then "Star Wars" happened -- and though Lucas often mused about it, he never committed himself to the uncommercial world until now.
Sitting in a sun-drenched office, his voice boyish, Lucas talked about himself as if he were a character in one of his movies. He's at the end of an epic saga; he's embracing a new destiny ("Make the art films, George"); he's battling former acolytes who have become his sworn enemies; and George Lucas is -- no kidding -- in love. Before he takes his digital camera with him into obscurity, though, Lucas has one last mission. He wants to prove that with "Red Tails," he can still make the kind of movie everyone in the world will want to see.
Available at Etsy, prints of Star Wars characters wearing designer clothes by John Woo (not the director). A stormtrooper wearing Thom Browne, Boba Fett wearing Supreme Visvim, and my favorite, Jango Fett wearing Comme des Garçons.
That got me thinking...what were George Lucas' seven sins related to the Star Wars movies? Here's my crack at an answer:
1. Greedo shoots first. The obvious #1. In the original theatrical release, Han shot Greedo without any return fire. In subsequent releases, the sequence was sanitized by Lucas for younger viewers: Greedo shoots at Han first and Han kills him in retaliation.
2. Jar Jar Binks. Or perhaps this should be #1?
3. Digital Jabba talking to Han outside the Falcon in Episode IV (and many of the other digital alterations Lucas made starting in 1997). Fake fake fake.
4. Young Anakin. Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christensen were both horrible.
5. Ewoks. Not as bad as Jar Jar, but...man. You know, for kids.
6. Natalie Portman. She can be a really good actress but needs strong direction. Guess who sucks at directing actors? Lucas!
7. Midiclorians. No one needed a scientific explanation of The Force. Just do a bunch of hand-waving about "the Force is strong with this one" and leave it at that.
Did I miss anything big? (I mean, aside from Episodes I-III?)
Star Wars: The Blueprints is a $500 limited edition book that contains photographs and illustrations about how the Star Wars movies wre created.
Star Wars: The Blueprints brings together, for the first time, the original blueprints created for the filming of the Star Wars Saga. Drawn from deep within the Lucasfilm Archives and combined with exhaustive and insightful commentary from best-selling author J. W. Rinzler, the collection maps in precise, vivid, and intricate detail the very genesis of the most enduring and beloved story ever to appear onscreen.
Star Wars: The Blueprints gives voice to the groundbreaking and brilliant engineers, designers, and artists that have, in film after film, created the most imaginative and iconic locales in the history of cinema. Melding science and art, these drawings giving birth to fantastic new worlds, ships, and creatures.
Most importantly, Blueprints shows how in bringing this extraordinary epic to life, the world of special effects as we know it was born. For the first time, here you will see the initial concepts behind such iconic Star Wars scenes as the Rebel blockade runner hallways, the bridge of General Grievous s flagship, the interior of the fastest hunk of junk in the Galaxy, and Jabba the Hutt's palace. Never before seen craftsmanship and artistry is evident whether floating on the Death Star, escaping on a speeder bike, or exploring the Tatooine Homestead.
If there was a Star Wars version of Coachella, some of the bands playing at the festival would be called Kessel Run DMC, Guided by Millions of Voices That Suddenly Cried Out in Terror and Were Suddenly Silenced, and C-3PO Speedwagon.
Amazon has put Star Wars on Blu-ray up for pre-order on its site: the original trilogy for $45 or $90 for the whole thing. The release date looks like September 2011. One more time, just for old times sake, let's all buy the same six films for the very last time. Well, until the ultra mega special holographic boxed set comes out in 2013.
Galactic Empire™ Cupcake Decorating Kit - "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the Jedi Kitchen Council devised a powerful new way to spread fun through the galaxy. Jedi Master pastry chefs created this extraordinary collection of tools..."
Sandwich Cutters with Vintage-Style Tin - "Transform your Jedi's favorite sandwiches into high-energy fuel for lunches, snacks and parties with Millennium Falcon™ and Darth Vader's TIE fighter™ sandwich cutters. Created by the Jedi Kitchen Council to celebrate the Rebel Alliance's victory over the evil Empire, these cutters are fun and easy to use -- just press and cut." [The "Vintage-Style Tin" is actually, how you say, a metal lunchbox.]
Pancake Molds - "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a Jedi Kitchen Master used the Force to create three pancake molds in honor of his favorite galactic hero and villains: Yoda, Darth Vader and a stormtrooper. Use these molds to add whimsy and fun to your next pancake breakfast." [The Vader pancake looks a lot like Hannibal Lector in his mask.]
What, no Jar-Jar Binks Home Preserves Kit? (thx, meg)
And that's what this post it about; the creative process. Cultural touchstones like Star Wars might seem to have sprung fully formed from the minds of their lauded creators, but as in all creative endeavours, movie making, web design or this very post, nothing could be further from the truth. Creation is a process, and strangely, by looking at how everyone's favority plush first-mate sprang into existance, we can learn a lot about any collaborative creative endeavour.
Star Wars is like nerd scripture: moral homilies, scrupulous exegesis, debates over canonicity, commentaries on commentaries, gnostic gospels, and after-the-fact revision and then purging of the source texts. But some of the secondary writing that tries to resolve the contradictions in the series (especially between the beloved original trilogy and reviled prequels) is just plain fun.
"A New Sith, or Revenge of the Hope" was my introduction to this genre, and it's still one of the best. It takes the prequels as canon, and argues for an intriguing, sinister subtext to Episode IV.
Another approach is to just reinvent the stories altogether, changing whole plot points at will. I tried my hand at this at a short-lived but wonderfully fun group site called Counterfictionals. (Scroll down for the better posts, or check the whole archive for terrific stuff by other writers on Star Trek, Batman, etc.)
At HiLobrow, Joshua Glenn maps a virtuoso cultural interpretation that I can't summarize, except to say that it involves the use of a semiotic square and the use of the word "quatsch."
Finally, this one comes out of the Kottke archives. Aidan Wasley argues that the whole six-part-series is "the greatest postmodern art film ever," relentlessly self-referential, where mysterious elements like "the Force" stand in for the artifice of plot itself.
Delsaux's Burj image comes from a project called The Dark Lens, which features images of Star Wars characters populating the circa-2008 Earth. I believe that's the Millennium Falcon docking at the Burj:
I confess that I only had time this morning to watch the first 10 minutes, but from that viewing I can safely conclude that this is the best 70-minute video critique of The Phantom Menace that exists in the world. If the first 20 seconds don't get you, stick around until "protagonist". Or don't take my word for it; here's Lost's Damon Lindelof's reaction:
Your life is about to change. This is astounding film making. Watch ALL of it.
Part the first:
After watching the last 3-4 minutes of this first segment, I wanted to give Lucas a hug because I feel so bad for the guy for failing in public in such a huge way. (thx, scott)
This did unsurprisingly well when I posted it to Twitter, so I've archived it here for posterity. This is Carrie Fischer and her stunt double taking a nap under the Tatooine suns during the filming of Jedi.
Once upon a time, Luke | Kirk | Neo | Harry was living a miserable life. Feeling disconnected from his friends and family, he dreams about how his life could be different. One day, he is greeted by Obi Wan | Captain Pike | Trinity | Hagrid and told that his life is not what it seems, and that due to some circumstances surrounding his birth | birth | birth | infancy he was meant for something greater.
Not quite a building, but the monumental quality of its form and its polygonal facades lend this Jawa Sandcrawler a building-like presence. These large treaded vehicles have inspired buildings from a Tunisian hotel to Rem Koolhaas' Casa de Musica in Porto.
But aside from what we see onscreen, the Ewoks are miserable little creatures for a completely different reason: they are the single clearest example of Lucas' willingness to compromise the integrity of his Trilogy in favor of merchandising dollars. How intensely were the Ewoks marketed? Consider this: "Ewok" is a household word, despite the fact that it's never once spoken in the film.
When I was a kid, I had a friend who knew all the names of even the most minor characters from the Star Wars movies and had no idea where he got that information. Was there a fourth movie I didn't know about? It wasn't until much later that I realized his extensive collection of SW action figures had filled in all the blanks for him.
I find your lack of pants disturbing. Chewie and me got into a lot of pants more heavily guarded than this. I cannot teach him. The boy has no pants. In his pants you will find a new definition of pain and suffering. Han'll have those pants down - we've gotta give him more time! I have altered the pants, pray that I don't alter them further.
On Stanley Kubrick, George Lucas, Robert Morris, Robert Smithson, Jane Jacobs, 2001, Star Wars, and minimalism: Star Wars: A New Heap.
Kubrick's film presented a future of company men moving with assurance and clear intention toward a godlike minimalist object. Lucas, on the other hand, gave us a slapdash world of knuckleheads pursued by industrial-scale minimalists. Visually, Kubrick's film is as seamless and smooth as the modernist authority it mirrored. Like the mid-century modernists, 2001 associated abstraction with the progressive ideals of the United Nations as embodied by its New York headquarters. Lucas, on the other hand, was a nonbeliever. Even the initially smooth and unitary form of the Death Star was shown, as the rebel fighters skimmed its surface, to be deeply fissured with an ever-diminishing body of structural fragments. These crenulated details suggested a depth and complexity to modern life that modernism's pure geometries often obscured.
A flying saucer had never been a slum before. The immaculate silver sheen of the saucer was reinvented as a dingy Dumpster full of boiler parts, dirty dishes, and decomposing upholstery. Lucas's visual program not only captured the stark utopian logic that girded modern urban planning, it surpassed it. The Millennium Falcon resisted the modernist demand for purity and separation, pushing into the eclecticism of the minimalist expanded field. Its tangled bastard asymmetry made it a truer dream ship than any of its purebred predecessors. It is the first flying saucer imagined as architecture without architects.
You: "Okay, if you can just use your Force powers to get in to the palace and all the way to Jabba, then let's just have you go in right now and get Han out."
Luke: "No, that's stupid. I'm going to get myself captured. Because then you see, we'll be taken to the sarlacc pit and then, when we're on the skiff, I'll get sent out first and then R2-D2 will manage to get to the top of Jabba's sail barge and shoot out my lightsaber, and then with Lando's help, we'll just rescue everyone and then everything will be fine!"
You: "That is the stupidest plan I've ever heard of."
The Star Wars empire has grown into one of the most fertile incubators of talent in the worlds of movies (Lucasfilm), visual effects (Industrial Light & Magic), sound (Skywalker Sound), and video games (LucasArts). Along the way, some of the original Lucas crew has gone on to become his biggest competitors.
So it's irrational, but is it insane? It's true that a major amp makes your body less functional, so how can it be sane to do it? For me, I think the answer is in what I was going through before my amp. I was so consumed by the drive to lose my hand that I could scarcely function.
Now I've totally lost the desire to amputate anything. I'm totally used to doing things with a hand and a stump. It's true I need to ask for help like once a day, that I'm a bit slower at dish washing, keyboarding, and stuff like that, but is that worse than being seriously overweight, or being short of breath from smoking, or even trying to walk in stiletto heels?
Man, I tell you what...you read Admiral Akbar's resume, take a look at his long career, his credentials, and it's amazingly clear how qualified he is to run a major government. What about his prescient snap evaluation..."It's a trap!" We sure could have used that in Iraq.
Look, I know it's Friday you're just looking for some fun stuff to end the work week with, but we've got a pressing matter to discuss. Let's say you're a new father and a movie fan. When your child is of an appropriate age to start watching movies, in which order will you show him/her the six Star Wars movies? By original release date (Star Wars, Empire, Jedi, Phantom Menace, Clones, Sith) or according to the intra-movie chronology (Phantom Menace, Clones, Sith, Star Wars, Empire, Jedi)?
We're currently leaning toward by original release date, but I can see the advantages of the other way around too. At dinner the other night, a friend asserted that not only was original release date the way to go, but that viewing the original versions on VHS was essential as well. I believe the relevant tapes and a cheapo VCR have been stashed away for this purpose already.
What do you think? How would you approach this? (thx to rehan for the suggested topic)
Wikigroaning: comparing sparse Wikipedia entries about high culture topics with the more fleshed-out entries about low culture topics. For instance, compare the entries for Hammurabi, who wrote some of the world's first legal codes, and Emperor Palpatine, who ruled the Empire in the Star Wars movies.
What a group of copy editors thought of the best headline ever (Skywalkers in Korea cross Han solo). "For the the Han solo hed to work, there'd have to be a reason for the allusion to Star Wars. Since there isn't, it's a forced attempt to be clever. Your average rap artist has a far better grasp of cleverness than whoever wrote that headline." (thx, braulio)
I know it's only 2007, but this is the headline of the decade. For a story about people crossing a tightrope strung across the Han River in South Korea, AP came up with this masterpiece: Skywalkers in Korea cross Han solo.
This video has so much goodness in it: a short Bollywood-esque production featuring Daleks and the Tardis and then Kevin Smith arriving at an event flanked by a bunch of Stormtroopers, Boba Fett, and Anakin Skywalker. "Stormtroopers, keep it tight, we gotta move." I wonder if he always travels that way and if so, does he fly business class while the Stormtroopers are stuck in coach? (I assume Boba Fett has miles and can upgrade most of the time.)
Update: I really like the idea that the Stormtroopers, after the fall of the Empire in Return of the Jedi, are this giant unemployed workforce who occasionally find work chauffeuring Kevin Smith about.
Interviewer: Ok, tell me about your past work experience.
Stormtrooper: Most recently, I flanked Kevin Smith.
Good. What else?
Um, I was in the room when Lord Vader choked an Admiral.
Wow! Right next to Vader?
Well, no. He choked him over the video screen and I was in the room with the Admiral. But it was still pretty cool.
When I saw these Star Trek business cards the other day, I knew that Star Wars ones had to exist. Novelty business cards must have been a popular thing back in the day. Anyone up for making Matrix and LOTR cards?
Neal Stephenson on the larger lessons of Star Wars. "Nothing is more seductive than to think that we, like the Jedi, could be masters of the most advanced technologies while living simple lives: to have a geek standard of living and spend our copious leisure time vegging out."