A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, paralyzing political divisions threatened democratic governments. Disputes over free trade, and the free movement of people and goods, were a big reason. Stymied by polarization and endless debates, the Senate proved unable to resolve those disputes.
As a result, nationalist sentiments intensified, leading to movements for separation from centralized institutions. People craved a strong leader who would introduce order -- and simultaneously combat growing terrorist threats.
A prominent voice, Anakin Skywalker, insisted, "We need a system where the politicians sit down and discuss the problem, agree what's in the interest of all the people, and then do it." And if they didn't, "they should be made to."
Eventually, something far worse happened. The legislature voted to give "emergency powers" -- essentially unlimited authority -- to the chief executive. An astute observer, Padme Amidala, noted, "So this is how liberty dies... with thunderous applause."
Well, that was kind of terrifying to read. My ill-feeling peaked at "a democratic body, a senate, not being able to function properly because everybody's squabbling" as a cause of Hitler's rise in Germany. As Sunstein notes, the parallels between that situation and our do-nothing Congress & the authoritarian gentleman currently running for President are obvious and possibly significant.
This woman in the talking Chewbacca mask is really feeling her Friday. FRIDAY!!! She's not making the noise, the mask is! Get your own mask here and have your own fun. (It's been a long week. This was delightful.)
When it came out in December, Star Wars: The Force Awakens made a shed-load of cash, garnered positive reviews from critics and fans alike, but also got dinged for borrowing too much from the previous films, particularly the original. In this edition of Everything is a Remix, Kirby Ferguson considers JJ Abrams' remix settings on The Force Awakens and wonders if the essential elements of such an undertaking (copying, transforming, combining) were properly balanced.
In this fun, erudite and often moving book, Cass R. Sunstein explores the lessons of Star Wars as they relate to childhood, fathers, the Dark Side, rebellion, and redemption. As it turns out, Star Wars also has a lot to teach us about constitutional law, economics, and political uprisings.
Update: Sunstein, who is a professor at Harvard Law School, gave the commencement address last year at Penn Law. He starts off, dryly: "Graduates, faculty, family, friends, our topic today is Star Wars."
In a new video, Even Puschak talks about the rise of the serialization genre, from Dickens to Flash Gordon to General Hospital to Star Wars. Now that our entertainment is increasingly serialized, he argues that audiences have a unique opportunity to shape what we watch. (Case in point: the increased importance of non-white and non-male characters in The Force Awakens and Rogue One.)
Everywhere, studio suits are recruiting creatives who can weave characters and story lines into decades-spanning tapestries of prequels, side-quels, TV shows, games, toys, and so on. Brand awareness goes through the roof; audiences get a steady, soothing mainline drip of familiar characters.
Forget the business implications for a moment, though. The shared universe represents something rare in Hollywood: a new idea. It evolved from the narrative techniques not of auteur or blockbuster films but of comic books and TV, and porting that model over isn't easy. It needs different kinds of writers and directors and a different way of looking at the structure of storytelling itself. Marvel prototyped the process; Lucasfilm is trying to industrialize it.
Ranging from installment novels, mysteries, and detective fiction of the 1800s to the television and movie series, comics, and advertisements of the twentieth century, serials are loosely linked by what may be called "family resemblances." These traits include intertwined subplots, diverse casts of characters, dramatic plot reversals, suspense, an such narrative devices as long-lost family members and evil twins. Hayward chooses four texts to represent the evolution of serial fiction as a genre and to analyze the peculiar draw that serials have upon their audiences: Dickens's novel Our Mutual Friend, Milton Canif's comic strip Terry and the Pirates, and the soap operas All My Children and One Life to Live. Hayward argues that serial audiences have developed active strategies of consumption, such as collaborative reading and attempts to shape the production process. In this way fans have forced serial producers to acknowledge the power of the audience.
All this makes me realize that I've often thought of kottke.org as a serial. The "family resemblances" amongst all my posts might be difficult to see sometimes, but it's there most of the time. In my mind, at least.
The trailer for the first "Star Wars Story" has dropped.1 Rogue One is about how the Rebellion stole the plans for the Death Star before the events of A New Hope. Don't read the comments on YouTube...there's whining about how the protagonist is a woman and the cast is diverse. :(
"A Star Wars Story"...that's a bit of a hamfisted name. Regardless, there are two other "Story" films planned so far that focus on Han Solo (pre-Hope) and Boba Fett (pre-Empire).↩
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is now out on Blu-ray and digital download. If you have Sphero's BB-8 toy, you can have BB-8 watch the movie with you and react to what's going on on-screen. Here's BB-8 reacting to seeing the Millennium Falcon for the first time in the movie:
One of the things that a number of people commented on after seeing The Force Awakens (including me) was that the movie seemed to be a remix or an homage to the original Star Wars.
With The Force Awakens, JJ Abrams did the same thing, but instead of pulling from Flash Gordon and Kurosawa like Lucas did, he pulled from what he grew up with as a kid and in film school...Star Wars and Spielberg. In a way, The Force Awakens is a reboot of the original 1977 Star Wars, similar plot and all. And even if it isn't a true reboot, it sure does rhyme.
Although some of the comparisons are a stretch, this video does a nice job highlighting the visual similarities of the two movies.
Related: Kenji Lopez-Alt took off his food nerd hat for a second and donned his Star Wars nerd hat with this piece at Medium: Rey is a Palpatine.
This is a fan edit of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace with all of the crappy bits removed and several other scenes reworked. Among the changes:
- Jar Jar is now a useful character instead of an annoying tag-along
- Queen Amidala's voice is pitch-shifted back to her normal pitch
- Midichlorian references removed
- Anakin is edited to be a more deliberate hero instead of an accidental one
Howard Shore, composer of the orchestral score for The Lord of the Rings, uses leitmotif to help tell the story, in the form of recurring thematic musical phrases that accompany certain actions, places, or characters. For instance, there's a Shire theme that plays when the hobbits are central to the action but which becomes less important as their physical distance from the Shire increases. Wagner famously used leitmotif in his Ring cycle and so did John Williams in Star Wars...Vader's theme is a good example.1
This has me wondering: has anyone done a close "reading" of the music in The Force Awakens? I bet the placement of some of the musical themes give clues as to the Force sensitivity, parentage, and origin of some of the characters that we're wondering about.↩
Peter Mayhew, who plays Chewbacca in Star Wars, is tweetingout photos of his original Star Wars script from March 1976. As you can see, it was originally called "The Adventures of Luke Starkiller as taken from the 'Journal of the Whills'". So catchy...why'd they change it, d'ya think?
Huh. Hollywood has invented a new type of movie trailer: the "we just started filming and here's 5 seconds of the film that's basically the last 5 seconds of the previous film" trailer. And whaddya know, idiot bloggers will post it because Star Wars Rey Luke squeeeeeee!!
Lego and Disney are teaming up for a Star Wars: The Force Awakens video game, out this summer. The trailer for it is possibly more fun than the movie was and is well worth watching if you enjoyed The Lego Movie.
This is maddening if true: according to an industry insider, vendors making tie-in products for the new Star Wars movie were directed by Disney1 to exclude Rey from Star Wars related merchandise.
In January 2015, a number of toy and merchandise vendors descended on Lucasfilm's Letterman Center in San Francisco. In a series of confidential meetings, the vendors presented their product ideas to tie in with the highly-anticipated new Star Wars film. Representatives presented, pitched, discussed, and agreed upon prototype products. The seeds of the controversies Lucasfilm is facing regarding the marketing and merchandising of The Force Awakens were sown in those meetings, according to the industry insider.
The insider, who was at those meetings, described how initial versions of many of the products presented to Lucasfilm featured Rey prominently. At first, discussions were positive, but as the meetings wore on, one or more individuals raised concerns about the presence of female characters in the Star Wars products. Eventually, the product vendors were specifically directed to exclude the Rey character from all Star Wars-related merchandise, said the insider.
"We know what sells," the industry insider was told. "No boy wants to be given a product with a female character on it."
What good does it do our culture if JJ Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy work to make popular movies with progressive characters if the cowards in marketing are not going to follow suit?
Update: Lots of people are sharing this story, and I wanted to highlight and explain the "if true" in the first paragraph. There are good reasons to be skeptical of the article I linked to. It relies completely on a single anonymous source. I have no idea what Sweatpants and Coffee's fact-checking procedures are. There are also many Star Wars related products featuring Rey (like Lego), so clearly the directive to "exclude the Rey character from all Star Wars-related merchandise" was either not issued in such a restrictive manner or was disregarded in some cases.
The article was annoyingly unclear on who was doing the directing, but you have to assume it's Disney. Who else in the room would have the authority to so direct?↩
A look at how some of the most arresting visual effects were done in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The filmmakers used many real sets and models (i.e. practical effects), but there were also 2100 shots in the movie with digital effects.
Update: The original video was removed, but I replaced it with one that's a bit better.
Update: Here's how the visual effects on the Millennium Falcon's escape from Jakku scene were done.
The Resistance had no idea Starkiller Base existed. This is extrapolated on quite a bit. Snoke's decision to destroy the New Republic is about flushing out the Resistance. Utter annihilation of the enemy is a mere side effect. Snoke knew using the weapon would give away the base's location. The Resistance would then send a reconnaissance team to scout the place and the First Order could follow the scouts back to the Resistance HQ and destroy them once and for all. While this is what happens in the movie, the motivations are a bit murkier.
Kylo Ren knows who Rey is. After failing to call Anakin Skywalker's lightsaber to his hand, Ren turns to Rey -- who is now holding the blue lightsaber -- and he declares, "It IS you," and then the fight begins.
Ok, whoa. What does that mean?
Han hadn't seen Kylo Ren/Ben since he became an adult. When Ben removes the helmet of Kylo Ren, Han Solo is shocked by how grown-up his son looks as he hasn't seen him since he became an adult. This lends credence to the theory that Snoke seduced a teenaged Ben to the Dark Side. Speaking of which, Leia knew Snoke was trying to get his claws in her son since he was a child and never told Han until right before the Starkiller mission.
[Rey] struggles with the Dark Side almost immediately. Rey might look serene as she finds the Force and battles a badly injured Kylo Ren, but she is fighting with rage. After beating down her opponent, a voice inside her encourages her to kill him. She rejects the notion, but is still struggling with herself when the rift opens up and separates the two of them.
[Ren] also cracked open something in Rey's mind. One of the advantages of a book is internal narration. When Ren attempts to retrieve the map from Rey's brain he senses something weird within her mind. Not resistance, but a barrier. Probing at it is what causes Rey to suddenly find herself -- with no provocation -- inside Ren's mind. Now this is just speculation, but it certainly sounds like someone had walled off Rey's Force sensitivity and Kylo Ren accidentally broke down the wall.
Luke Skywalker Immediately Knows Who Rey Is and Why She Is Here. The script describes Luke Skywalker as being older now, with white hair and a beard. It says that he looks at Rey with a "kindness in his eyes, but there's something tortured, too." Most interestingly, it says that Luke "doesn't need to ask her who she is, or what she is doing here." Does this mean that he knows Rey is his child? Or does this mean that he knows because of the Force? The script only adds that "his look says it all."
Kylo Ren Is Horrified By His Actions. The script gives us some internal insight into Kylo Ren after he just killed his father Han Solo. The screenplay notes that "Kylo Ren is somehow WEAKENED by this wicked act," noting that he is "horrified" and his "SHOCK is broken only when" Chewbacca cries out in agony.
Fun fact that I just discovered: the novelizations of all three of the original Star Wars movies were released before the movies came out! Star Wars the book came out 6 months before the movie, Empire a month before, and Jedi a couple of weeks before. I'm amazed you could walk into a bookstore an entire month before The Empire Strikes Back was released and discover that Vader was Luke's father. Truly a different approach to spoilers.
A short entertaining look at Star Wars' secret sauce. Joseph Campbell? Kurosawa? Flash Gordon? The ancient future? The sounds? (PS: The Wilhelm Scream shows up pretty early on in The Force Awakens, as Poe and Finn exit the First Order hangar bay.)
Of Oz the Wizard is the entire Wizard of Oz movie presented in alphabetical order by dialogue. So it starts with all the scenes where Dorothy and the gang say "a", "aaiee", "along", and proceeds through "you're" and "zipper". Even the words on each of the title cards are sorted alphabetically.
(I feel like I've posted this before -- or something like it -- but I can't find it in the archives. Anyone?)
Update: Ah yes, I was thinking of this alphabetized version of Star Wars (which I've seen before but somehow never posted):
Another example is Thomson & Craighead's The Time Machine. Matt Bucy, the creator of Of Oz the Wizard, seems to have pioneered this technique (the Vimeo page indicates it was completed in April 2004) but didn't post the video online until a few days ago. (via @Mister_Milligan, @sannahahn)
How can Han Solo talk to and understand any alien he meets? Why is he such a gifted pilot? In this short piece from 2008, Tim Carmody answers those questions and more: Han Solo Has the Force.
Luke and Vader (especially young Anakin) are remarkable, inventive pilots, as is Lando, but Han blows them all away. In one scene after another in Empire, Han is able to perform feats that Artoo or Threepio say are mathematically near-impossible. He does this in a ship that has a remarkable warp-speed computer but which appears singularly unsuited for close-quarters maneuvers. Finally, he gets the drop on Vader in Episode IV, and while Vader may have been distracted by his sensations re: Luke, this is still evidence that we are dealing with a very special pilot.
And there's further evidence from The Force Awakens (slight spoilers!): he shoots a stormtrooper with a blaster without looking. As I recall, it wasn't a look-away, like this Cristiano pass or this Jordan assist, it was more like he could actually see the stormtrooper behind him. (Of course, Cristiano and Jordan might also be Force-sensitive, but that's another post.)
1. There are SPOILERS in this post. If you have not seen the movie, do not continue reading. I've only read one other review of the movie, so much of this may be stated elsewhere (and better) by others.
2. Overall, I enjoyed the movie. But thinking back to The Phantom Menace, I also enjoyed that quite a bit in the same spine-tingling way. But this movie is way better than the prequels were.
3. The cast was excellent and the casting progressive. I love that the two new protagonists are a black man and a woman. "Why are you grabbing my hand?"
4. Carrie Fisher's voice has changed a lot. It suited her character.
5. By far the best part of the movie at the showing I went to didn't appear on screen. I went to a matinee at 11am and the audience was mostly adults...probably 98% over the age of 30. When Rey uses the Force to persuade the Stormtrooper to release her, a little kid's voice from the front row echoed out loudly across the entire theater: "Jedi mind trick". The place exploded in laughter. A perfect comedic moment.
6. How many times are they going to keep making the same movie though? The plots of A New Hope, Return of the Jedi, and The Force Awakens are more or less the same: a small band of resistance fighters going up against an evil superpower headed by two practitioners in the Dark Side discover a weakness in the enemy's planet-sized superweapon and destroy it with some X-wing fighters in the nick of time. Also: stolen plans in a droid, a young orphan discovering the ways of the Force, a trench run by a gifted young pilot to blow up the superweapon, a bailing-out of the X-wing fighters by the crew of the Millennium Falcon, sons/students striking down their fathers/masters, and so on. Is this part of the reason that Empire Strikes Back is considered the best of the series, because it's different?
7. When Lucas made the first trilogy (and when he and Spielberg made Raiders of the Lost Ark), he constructed it from a bunch of different sources from when he was a kid and in film school. With The Force Awakens, JJ Abrams did the same thing, but instead of pulling from Flash Gordon and Kurosawa like Lucas did, he pulled from what he grew up with as a kid and in film school...Star Wars and Spielberg. In a way, The Force Awakens is a reboot of the original 1977 Star Wars, similar plot and all. And even if it isn't a true reboot, it sure does rhyme.
8. Aside: when is the Empire/First Order going to learn not to put all of their eggs in one basket? Their superweapon strategy has failed three times now. They always seem to know where the rebels are hiding, they possess overwhelming force...why don't they just defeat them through conventional means?
9. More synchronicity. When I watched the original Star Wars as an adult, one of the things I noticed is what a relatively minor character Vader is in the Empire when compared to his importance to the story and his increased power & responsibility in Empire and Jedi. He's not in command, he's not really part of the military at all, and the military leaders aren't all that impressed with The Force. It's almost almost like he's the Emperor's personal assistant. Kylo Ren's role in The Force Awakens is similar...he's not in charge (General Hux is), he's not really part of the military (although he commands troops), and according to Snoke, Ren hasn't even completed his training. (What was Vader's excuse, then? He presumably completed his training long before the events of A New Hope...what was taking him so long to gain power?)
10. The scene at the very end bugged me. Having discovered the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker, the last of the Jedi, the Resistance sends Ren, Chewy, and R2 to see what's up? I get the symbolism and all, but wouldn't Leia be interested in seeing her brother again? Or more persuasive in getting him to come out of retirement?
11. We're going to hear more about Rey's parentage, right? She's Luke's daughter or something? (I'm guessing not. Waaay too obvious, even for Star Wars.)
12. Speaking of parentage, why is Snoke so big? So we're not wondering if Rey is Snoke's granddaughter or something? Or is it that Snoke's hologram is big and he's normal sized? (Wookiepedia says Snoke is 7 feet tall but doesn't cite a source.)
13. If you liked this movie, you have to give the proper credit to George Lucas for allowing it to exist. He could have sat on this series until after his death and beyond. But he didn't. He sold the whole shebang to Disney and trusted Kathleen Kennedy to make more movies.
14. Ok, Kennedy. Now I want to see Quentin Tarantino's Star Wars. Wes Anderson's Star Wars. Miranda July's Star Wars. Seriously, do this. (I do not want to see Kevin Smith's Star Wars. That one you can keep.)
15. All theaters should have assigned seating. I got the exact two seats I wanted (two months ahead of time) and showed up to the theater about 10 minutes before showtime, sat down, and the lights went down soon after. So much less stress than getting there 45 minutes (or 2 hours) beforehand and playing Are These Seats Taken? with strangers.
Update: 16. Does Han's death scene reference the cantina scene w/ Greedo in Episode IV? He and Ren are both holding the lightsaber. Ren tells Han he needs to do something but doesn't know if he can go through with it. Ren asks Han to help. The lightsaber activates and Han dies. Does Han activate the lightsaber, thereby causing his death? In other words, does Han shoot first? (Bonus update: I just saw the movie again and I don't think Han activates the lightsaber. He looks too surprised and Ren definitely thrusts the saber into him.)
Update: 17. In his belated review, Chris Blattman notes the remarkable agreement on the lack of spoilers on social media:
Humanity's tacit agreement to abide by a no-spoilers-on-social-media rule was one of the greatest acts of social cooperation I have witnessed. And we used it up to keep you from learning Han Solo is killed.
YouTube user darman212 used iOS coding app Hopscotch and Final Cut Pro X to make a version of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser trailer entirely out of emoji. BB-8 is a soccer ball with a bowl of ramen on his head!
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is out today, at least in NYC theaters.1 To celebrate, I watched the classic clip of Triumph The Insult Comic Dog interviewing people standing in line for Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.
You look like some kind of super-nerd. It looks like you were built in a laboratory out of parts from lesser nerds.
It is all sorts of inappropriate, but also one of my favorite comedy bits of all time. (via @fromedome)
Another thing that's lost on some people is that everyone there was in on it. After all, we were nerds camping on a sidewalk to see a Star Wars movie. We were very much aware of who Conan O'Brien was, and what Triumph was all about. Everyone there was a fan and if you watch the video, people are hunched over laughing in the background in basically every shot. We were glad to let him mock us. In fact, we helped.
So, did they add these Thursday showings after the initial announcement of tickets going on sale back in October? When I bought my tickets that day, I got them for the first available showing (11am on Fri), or so I remember. Did Disney add these earlier shows at a later point to sucker fans into having to buy tickets twice in order to see it as soon as possible? (I did not do this. But I definitely thought about doing it.) ↩
Star Wars Minus Star Wars is a video essay on the original film that doesn't use a single shot, sound, or snippet of music from the original movie. Instead, it strings together scenes and sounds from movies that influenced George Lucas in making the film and also from movies that have been influenced by Star Wars.
It's impossible to overstate the impact of Star Wars. Its arrival in theaters on May 25th 1977 marked the end of one chapter in film history and the beginning of another. It's a hinge on which film history swings. Upon its release, critic Pauline Kael derided the film as "an assemblage of spare parts-it has no emotional grip... an epic without a dream" Twenty years after its release critic Roger Ebert remarked that the film "colonized our imaginations, and it is hard to stand back and see it simply as a motion picture, because it has so completely become part of our memories."
They're both right. Star Wars succeeded because of its roots in film history and mythology, and its influence over generations of filmmakers can be felt in countless works that came after it. For better or worse, Star Wars engulfs the past and future of moviemaking.
Update: This might be even more impressive. John D'Amico made a full-length shot-for-shot remake of Star Wars using material that influenced (or may have influenced) Lucas in making the film. Very cool.
With the new Star Wars movie only a couple weeks away, fans and Star Wars scholars have gone into hyperdrive1 spinning alternate theories about what the series of movies are all about. The most popular such theory attempts to rehabilitate the worst character in the prequels, Jar Jar Binks. Because maybe he's the most powerful Sith Lord in the galaxy? Who uses drunken fighting like Jackie Chan?
Another theorist asserts that the prequels were secretly brilliant because of a little-discussed over-arching theme related to the Jedi Code and the corruption of the Jedi.
I don't know what Midi-chlorians actually are. They might be something like symbiotic/parasitic bacteria or archaea, they might be organelles that live inside a cell, they might even be coherent chunks of molecular code...machines living inside the very DNA of their hosts.
What I do know is what they can do. They manipulate their hosts, they control them and eventually take them over. Eventually, they force them to fight while releasing as much dark energy as they can possibly manage, because that's how they continue their life cycle.
Being force sensitive just means you're more heavily infested and more easily manipulated.
A more focused study, however, is needed to truly understand that the Star Wars films are actually the story of the radicalization of Luke Skywalker. From introducing him to us in A New Hope (as a simple farm boy gazing into the Tatooine sunset), to his eventual transformation into the radicalized insurgent of Return of the Jedi (as one who sets his own father's corpse on fire and celebrates the successful bombing of the Death Star), each film in the original trilogy is another step in Luke's descent into terrorism. By carefully looking for the same signs governments and scholars use to detect radicalization, we can witness Luke's dark journey into religious fundamentalism and extremism happen before our very eyes.
"The issue was ultimately, they looked at the stories and they said, 'We want to make something for the fans,'" Lucas said. "People don't actually realize it's actually a soap opera and it's all about family problems -- it's not about spaceships. So they decided they didn't want to use those stories, they decided they were going to do their own thing so I decided, 'fine.... I'll go my way and I let them go their way.'"
Soooooooooooooooo, if Star Wars is a family story, why did you make it about spaceships and special effects?
These new movies won't just be sequels. That's not the way the transnational entertainment business works anymore. Forget finite sequences; now it's about infinite series. [...] Everywhere, studio suits are recruiting creatives who can weave characters and story lines into decades-spanning tapestries of prequels, side-quels, TV shows, games, toys, and so on. Brand awareness goes through the roof; audiences get a steady, soothing mainline drip of familiar characters.
Forget the business implications for a moment, though. The shared universe represents something rare in Hollywood: a new idea. It evolved from the narrative techniques not of auteur or blockbuster films but of comic books and TV, and porting that model over isn't easy. It needs different kinds of writers and directors and a different way of looking at the structure of storytelling itself. Marvel prototyped the process; Lucasfilm is trying to industrialize it.
Harry Potter could be a great infinite series, but it'll be interesting to see if Rowling is interested in heading in that direction. Ditto Middle-earth and Tolkien.
From a 2005 post on Marginal Revolution by Tyler Cowen, an alternate take on the Star Wars movies positing that while the Jedi aren't the bad guys, they are also not to be trusted.
1. The Jedi and Jedi-in-training sell out like crazy. Even the evil Count Dooku was once a Jedi knight.
2. What do the Jedi Council want anyway? The Anakin critique of the Jedi Council rings somewhat true (this is from the new movie, alas I cannot say more, but the argument could be strengthened by citing the relevant detail). Aren't they a kind of out-of-control Supreme Court, not even requiring Senate approval (with or without filibuster), and heavily armed at that? As I understand it, they vote each other into the office, have license to kill, and seek to control galactic affairs. Talk about unaccountable power used toward secret and mysterious ends.
See also Darth Jar Jar and Luke Skywalker, Sith Lord. I also wanted to link to a video I saw within the past year that suggests that instead of a rebel leader, Princess Leia is a petulant child whose father, Vader, is attempting to bring to heel. Ring a bell? The internet is so choked with crackpot theories about Star Wars that it's impossible to search for one in particular. (And now this post is part of the problem.)
50 unknown facts about Star Wars, many gleaned from How Star Wars Conquered the Universe. I've heard some of these before, but not many...the list doesn't include low-hanging fruit like Harrison Ford's carpentry.
Favorite facts: 1. Early on, Luke Skywalker's nickname was "Wormy". Wormy! 2. The actor who portrayed Vader, David Prowse, spoke his dialogue on set not knowing he would be dubbed over. Because of his West Country accent, the other cast members referred to Prowse as Darth Farmer.
Off and on, for over six month, the Dunnes engaged a construction crew to expand the waterside deck, install waxed pine bookshelves, and lay terra-cotta floor tiles. The men tore out prefabricated plywood walls and pulled up "icky green" flooring. Harrison Ford headed the crew. "They were the most sophisticated people I knew," Ford said. "I was the first thing they saw in the morning and the last thing they saw before cocktails."
In Vegas, Dunne wrote, "[W]hat had started as a two-month job ... [stretched] into its sixth month and the construction account was four thousand dollars overdrawn... I fired the contractor. 'Jesus, man, I understand,' he said. He was an out-of-work actor and his crew sniffed a lot of cocaine and when he left he unexpectedly gave me a soul-brother handshake, grabbing my thumb while I was left with an unimportant part of his little finger." The next day, Dunne realized the only thing separating him and his family from the Pacific Ocean was a clear sheet of Pliofilm where the French doors were supposed to go. "I rehired the contractor," he wrote. "'Jesus, man, I understand,' the contractor said."
Much later, when Didion's daughter was ill, Ford did the family a further service.
The following day, Didion flew from Teterboro to Los Angeles on Harrison Ford's private plane, along with her friend Earl McGrath. Ford "happened to be in New York and heard about Q's condition ... and called to offer to take Joan," said Sean Michael. "I find that to be a beautiful thing," he said. "A man you hire to build cabinets, thirty years later is flying you in his private jet to your daughter's hospital bedside."
As if to make up for her absence, a parade of stars was in attendance. Harrison Ford, who was prepared to present her the award, spoke somewhat extemporaneously instead. "I just want to tell you all how much her friendship has meant to me," he said. Forty years ago, Didion and her husband, John Gregory Dunne, were "The most sophisticated people I knew."
Then a carpenter, Ford was hired by Didion and Dunne to build their beach house in Malibu. "I was the first thing they saw in the morning and the last thing they saw" -- he paused -- "before cocktails."
Kent Jones has directed a documentary on the 1962 meeting where a young François Truffaut interviewed a seasoned Alfred Hitchcock about his films (the output of which was a beloved book). As the narration from the trailer says, "[Truffaut] wanted to free Hitchcock from his reputation as a light entertainer", to which Peter Bogdanovich adds, "it conclusively changed people's opinions about Hitchcock".
In 1962 Hitchcock and Truffaut locked themselves away in Hollywood for a week to excavate the secrets behind the mise-en-scène in cinema. Based on the original recordings of this meeting -- used to produce the mythical book Hitchcock/Truffaut -- this film illustrates the greatest cinema lesson of all time and plummets us into the world of the creator of Psycho, The Birds, and Vertigo. Hitchcock's incredibly modern art is elucidated and explained by today's leading filmmakers: Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Arnaud Desplechin, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Wes Anderson, James Gray, Olivier Assayas, Richard Linklater, Peter Bogdanovich and Paul Schrader.
Truffaut's recontextualization of Hitchcock and his work reminds me of the point Matt Daniels recently made about younger generations deciding how work from older artists is remembered in his post about timeless music:
Biggie has three of the Top 10 hip-hop songs between 1986 and 1999. This is a strong signal that future generations will remember Biggie as the referent artist of 80s and 90s hip-hop. And there's No Diggity at the top -- perhaps it's that glorious Dr. Dre verse.
Hip hop heads will lament the omission of Rakim, Public Enemy, or Jay-Z's Reasonable Doubt. It's a depressing reality that exists for every genre and generation: not every artist will be remembered. The incoming generation will control what's relevant from the 90s and carried into the future, independent of quality and commercial success. For rock, that might be Blink-182. For electronica, that might be Sandstorm.
Take Star Wars as another example. I've had conversations recently with other parents whose young kids are really into the series. The way they experience Star Wars is different than my generation. We saw Episodes IV-VI in the theater, on VHS, and on DVD and then saw Episodes I-III in the theater accompanied by various degrees of disappointment and disregard. Elementary school-aged kids today might have watched the prequels first. They read the comics, play the video games, and watch the Clone Wars animated series. To many of them, the hero of the series is Anakin, not Luke.1 And Generation X, as much as we may hate that, there's not a damn thing we can do about it.2 Unless... there is... another... (via subtraction)
Thanks to Anil or David for this insight...I can't remember which one of you said it.↩
You know, the Anakin-as-the-true-hero view has its merits, despite how it was presented in the prequels. Anakin was a good kid who fell because he couldn't handle the power given him but, in the end, was redeemed by the actions of his children. That's a solid heroic narrative arc. And, glad you noticed, it ties neatly into what I'm trying to say about younger generations rehabbing older ones.↩
In the ongoing struggle of Star Wars vs. Star Trek, Wars is the clear winner in the speed category: the Millennium Falcon is thousands of times faster than the Enterprise. Also, I didn't know the Death Star was so fast!
If you are a fan of Raiders of the Lost Ark -- and who isn't? -- then this is your holy grail: a feature-length commentary on the movie by Jamie Benning that includes seemingly every tidbit related to the film, including deleted scenes, audio commentary from the cast and crew, behind the scenes video, and much more. An incredible resource in understanding the film.
Every day, a program written by Julien Deswaef selects a war-related news item from the NY Times, formats it in the style of the infamous Star Wars opening crawl (complete with John Williams' score), and posts the results to YouTube.
Published yesterday, the crawl for Episode XXVII was taken from a NY Times article about an Obama speech about the Iranian nuclear deal.
They showed this 3 minute 30 second behind the scenes video of Star Wars: The Force Awakens at Comic-Con yesterday.
Fans at San Diego Comic-Con's Hall H were treated to a special look behind the scenes of Star Wars:The Force Awakens by director J.J. Abrams, producer and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy and writer Lawrence Kasdan. The filmmakers were joined on stage by cast members Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford to the surprise and delight of fans.
At the end of the Hall H presentation, the entire Hall H audience of more than 6,000 fans were all invited to continue the celebration and join cast and filmmakers at a surprise Star Wars Fan Concert. The San Diego Symphony performed the classic Star Wars music from John Williams at the Embarcadero Marina Park South.
I have zero interest in Comic-Con, but that would have been pretty cool to see.
Disney is proceeding at full steam in delivering more Star Wars to your eyeballs. Today they announced that Christopher Miller and Phil Lord, the duo behind The Lego Movie, will direct a movie about a young Han Solo.
The screenplay is written by Lawrence Kasdan and Jon Kasdan. The story focuses on how young Han Solo became the smuggler, thief, and scoundrel whom Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi first encountered in the cantina at Mos Eisley.
Release date is May 2018. As Princess Leia once said, "Disney, I hope you know what you're doing."
All six films1 from the Star Wars series played at the same time, superimposed on top of each other.
Watch this while you can...I imagine it'll get taken down in a few hours/days.
Until Disney decides to reboot episodes 1-3 in another 10 years, we are stuck with six Star Wars films in the canon. As Yoda once said, "Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force."↩
In 1977, only a few months after the movie came out, a hour-long television special called The Making of Star Wars aired on ABC. It was the first documentary about Star Wars.
LOL to the rehearsal shot at 4:10 of Han going "bang, bang, bang, bang, bang" while shooting his blaster, the reaction of Luke, Han, and Leia to a boom mic blowing the 18th take of a scene at 34:20, and the description of Princess Leia as "royalty of a very liberated kind". (via kung fu grippe)
SWAPI is a new web service will use a RESTful interface to return JSON about the "Planets, Spaceships, Vehicles, People, Films and Species" from all six of the Star Wars movies. This API would be really useful if Disney would have done as Matt Webb suggested and turned Star Wars into a genre rather than a franchise.
Imagine, imagine if Disney had said: Star Wars isn't a franchise, it's a genre.
Open the Holocron. Show everyone what's in it. Let it become history.
Then let anyone make movies and books that share the Star Wars world. Not like all those other franchises that argue about what's canon and what's not... rise above it, become a new shared set of conventions, formulas, history and myth, just like the western but for the 21st century.
My friend David suggested something similar with Harry Potter a few years ago...open it up and let any director take a shot at making Potter movies. Open source franchises.
Here it is, the very first look at JJ Abrams' new Star Wars movie.
Not ashamed to say I felt chills down my spine when the music kicked in. Please please please let this not suck.
Update: From the teaser, it's a little early to tell whether Abrams is following these four rules to make Star Wars great again (1. The setting is the frontier. 2. The future is old. 3. The Force is mysterious. 4. Star Wars isn't cute.) but there are hints of 1&2 in there...they're still driving those old rust-bucket X-Wings and wearing beat-up helmets.
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)