Monday, May 16, 2005
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The confessions of George Lucas
For me, coming out of a vacation news vacuum is like moving from still water to a class ten rapid in thirty seconds -- there's just too much to catch up on. [Didn't you read anything while you were gone?--ed. Honestly, I didn't surf the web at all and the only thing I read in a newspaper that caught my eye was a reprint of this Victor David Hanson essay blasting the concept of tenure.]
Later on in the week I'll try to deal with violence in Uzbekistan, the explosive situation in Afghanistan (and Newsweek's monumental f@#$-up that triggered the problem), but to start post-vacation blogging, let's get to something really important... like George Lucas confessing his moviemaking sins.
In an Entertainment Weekly cover story by Jeff Jensen (sorry, the story is mysteriously absent from EW's Star Wars index page -- which is one of many things wrong with EW's web site, but that's off-topic), we get this little tidbit from George Lucas about how he feels about the prequel trilogy:
I'm glad to hear that Lucas agrees with me about the quality of his last two films... except that Lucas didn't cop to this when Episodes I and II came out. And the promotional campaign for Episode III has been just as heavy as the roll-out for Episode I. So I'm not getting close to a movie house for this one unless there's multiple independent confirmations that the movie is good. [But in the Jensen story the Star Wars-obsessed Kevin Smith is quoted saying, "Sith will not only enthrall the faithful, but it'll pull the haters back from the Dark Side."--ed. Two words: Jersey Girl.]
To date I've been able to resist the siren song of Revenge of the Sith. Reading Jensen's story and thinking about Lucas' execrable "Hamburger Helper" will make it even harder to turn me to the dark side.
[You'll see it at some point. It is your.... destiny--ed. Oh, go do promos for CNN or something.]
UPDATE: Well, A.O. Scott praises the movie in the New York Times, but has this ominous line: "Mr. Lucas's indifference to two fairly important aspects of moviemaking - acting and writing - is remarkable." Meanwhile, Kelli nicely encapsulates my attitude towards Lucas -- and asks an interesting question: "whether to take the kids." Sith is rated PG-13. Discuss away!!posted by Dan on 05.16.05 at 02:03 AM
There have, indeed, been many favorable reviews so far, both from professional film reviewers and from certified Star Wars fanatics, while the only bad ones I've seen were from John Podhoretz and that guy at the NY Observer who hated the whole Star Wars phenomenon, or at least all the sequels. Maybe they're wrong, but I'm definitely seeing it.posted by: Crank on 05.16.05 at 02:03 AM [permalink]
Does anyone else just hate Star Wars? Maybe I don't hate it, but I didn't like the movies. And I don't get the hype.posted by: Jeff on 05.16.05 at 02:03 AM [permalink]
Headline: Lucas Confesses to Picking Fans' Pockets Twice Before, Promises Value One Last Time "For Auld Lang Syne." In my books, of course, that means he should let us all see the stinkin IIIrd one gratis. Especially those of us with small boys who hear "dum dum de dum, dum de dum, dum de DUM" in our hollow brains from overexposure.
Here's the pathetic thing: I'll go see it anyway. To not do so would be tantamount to flying to Hawaii and not going to the beach--it's the ultimate coitus interruptus, and I simply won't do it to myself (I know, I'll show Lucas my disdain, I won't see his bloody movie--he would notice? he would care?)
A more serious question involves whether to take the kids. For my kids, who've only seen the inside of a church on major holidays at the gramps (yes, heathen conservative, me) Star Wars is a philosophical/theological construct. I hate to admit it, but I'm surely not the only one who's let this happen. And, yes, it could be worse--Grand Theft Auto could be the template, so there. So how then to keep them away? Or ought one to? Suggestions?posted by: Kelli on 05.16.05 at 02:03 AM [permalink]
Dan, I don't believe there is any such thing as a class 10 rapid.posted by: JEB on 05.16.05 at 02:03 AM [permalink]
"multiple independent confirmations that the movie is good. "
See today's NYtimes review: better than Star Wars.posted by: Ugh on 05.16.05 at 02:03 AM [permalink]
Was there anything in episode #2 (other than the marriage) that was not filler ? Yes, there were some nice special effects, but 95% of the story could have been cut out.
I enjoyed Star Wars, but I've never been a Star Wars fanboy. Maybe this comes from seeing Star Wars many, many years after it came out, in my mid-twenties rather than in my impressionable youth.
Of course, I also happen to have read Jack Kirby's Fourth World before I saw Star Wars ..posted by: erg on 05.16.05 at 02:03 AM [permalink]
The '77 original revolutionized sci-fi/fantasy flix for me. Saw it as a kid - been a SW fan ever since.
But we knew it was just Ep. IV in some bigger bundle. So once the prequels started, hell - even towards the end of the trilogy, we all knew there'd be moocho filler. If Ewoks weren't a clue...
I'm just a fan of the fun. This has been fun.posted by: wishIwuz2 on 05.16.05 at 02:03 AM [permalink]
Lucas annoys me. He's a hypocrite and he knows it and he doesnt care. Thats fine. But then he still blabs on and on about his socalled convictions. Ugh. Im not taking lecture about the evils of giant corporations when i cant walk down the grocery store isle without darth vader and yoda staring down at me from every box they can fit them on.posted by: Mark Buehner on 05.16.05 at 02:03 AM [permalink]
Does anyone else just hate Star Wars? Maybe I don't hate it, but I didn't like the movies. And I don't get the hype.
I was a huge SF fan in 1977 when Star Wars came out - ran out to see it the weekend it debuted (Memorial Day weekend, IIRC). Even as an impressionable teenager, I thought it was about the stupidest movie I'd ever seen - spaceships that make noise, moronic plot, cheesiest super villian ever.
Well, that movie pretty much single handedly ended my interest in SF. No great loss, now that I think about it.
The other 9 or 11 or whatever sequels? Haven't seen 'em, doubt I will.posted by: uh_clem on 05.16.05 at 02:03 AM [permalink]
What someone needs to do is take all three of the "new" movies and make one darn good 2.5-3 hr film (shades of "The Phantom Edit". Any takers?
I'm with Crank on this one. Based on what I've read over at Rotten Tomatoes, many of the critics who are panning the new movie seem to despise the series itself, including the universally acclaimed films like Star Wars and Empire. The review from the New Yorker is almost deranged in its mouth-foaming hatred of Lucas, the series, and everything it represents.posted by: DRB on 05.16.05 at 02:03 AM [permalink]
Star Wars (and to a lesser extent its sequals) were about a fantasy-adventure set in outerspace.
The prequels were about Star Wars.posted by: PD Shaw on 05.16.05 at 02:03 AM [permalink]
Rapids go from Class I - flat water - to Class VI - unrunnable and lethal. Proving that whitewater freaks can be just as geeky as the dude in the stormtrooper outfit camping in line at the multiplex. Except that my helmet is all sparkly.posted by: classwarrior on 05.16.05 at 02:03 AM [permalink]
"1. Realize that there are two different rating systems: the European scale (International Scale of River Difficulty) and the American scale.
Wait, are people planning to watch this thing for reasons other than the hotness that is Natalie Portman?posted by: fling93 on 05.16.05 at 02:03 AM [permalink]
Read the American scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being the easiest and 10 being very dangerous."
Hmmmm. I've never even heard of this "American" system with ratings going up to 10. Everything I've ever read about whitewater uses the international system (I - V with VI being classified as unrunnable).
I think the information at EHoow is erroneous. If the "American" rating system exists at all, it is used only rarely, with virtually everyone in the whitewater community using the International standard.posted by: uh_clem on 05.16.05 at 02:03 AM [permalink]
"the hotness that is Natalie Portman"? Do you have a Barbie fetish, Fling? Sure, she looks awesome in those getups but when she opens her mouth I always think she's about to tell me how much she just dropped at Barney's on accessories. "Garden State" was a revelation in that I saw a decent acting range hitherto unimagined in her, but Lucas treats her like a Dressy Bessie. Blech.
Back to the storyline, however. I think all you disappointed sci-fi heads out there fail to see this series as the "Boys' Own" adventure serial it truly is. So I guess I'm agreeing with PD Shaw to an extent here. I think the real model for these prequels (much more than the original three, which were westerns in space) is the old British Empire flicks of the 20s and 30s ("Gunga Din," "King Solomon's Mines" etc.). Ironic, isn't it, when you consider Lucas' professed politics that he is in fact resurrecting a thinly veiled "white man's burden" trope?
For me the biggest crime has been not developing Obi Wan in the prequels, because Alec Guinness deserved more than Ewan MacGregor's cardboard cutout acting as prissy schoolmarm to pouty Anakin. The test will be the extent to which the actions of the "good" characters balance out the darkness of Vader's betrayal. Go ahead and laugh, sci-fi geeks, but this series has done more to shape the moral universe of Gen Xers (and now, sadly, their children) than any other bit of popular culture. It's actually quite important to me that Lucas gets it right.posted by: Kelli on 05.16.05 at 02:03 AM [permalink]
AO Scott has zero cred with me. He wrote a similarly positive review for AI, filled with the same kind of crappy positive spin in this review. (He praised it for taking "risk" of making it 3+ hours -- a charitable way to say it is LONG AND BORING!)
Unfortunately, after all these years and five movies, I am completely invested. I have to see this one. And Episode VII when it comes out too in six years.posted by: Michael Weiksner on 05.16.05 at 02:03 AM [permalink]
I agree with uh clem about the ratings thing (if Dan ever visits Colorado, we can show him some measly Class IV that will both clear his sinuses and cause him to swear off any notion of class 10).
And I caught Episode III a couple weeks ago at a preview -- AO Scott's review is too positive for my tastes, but it is easily the best of the three prequels and probably the third best overall (I put it ahead of Return of the Muppets). The action and the effects are both a step up from the lameness of Episodes I and II, even if the dialogue and the acting aren't.posted by: classwarrior on 05.16.05 at 02:03 AM [permalink]
Kelli: Do you have a Barbie fetish, Fling?
No, I tend not to go for blondes, just brunettes and redheads.
Kelli: Sure, she looks awesome in those getups but when she opens her mouth I always think she's about to tell me how much she just dropped at Barney's on accessories.
I don't get that impression at all. She seems pretty on-the-ball and down-to-earth. Not that it matters to me. I liked her in "Garden State" mostly because she had a lot of screen time and I could pretend that I was Zach Braff.posted by: fling93 on 05.16.05 at 02:03 AM [permalink]
I have a friend who is a movie reviewer (that can be trusted by all Star Wars fans) and he already saw the film. He said other movie reviewers were literally weeping at the end. Overall, it's not as good as Empire and Star Wars, but he said it more than makes up for episodes I and II.
The reason it's so good is because Spielberg and Coppola beat the crap out of him over episodes I and II, brought in Coppola's acting coach, and rumor has it Tom Stoppard did the ghostwriting. Consequently, it is a powerful, well-written story with the FX controlled.
As for taking your children, he said that the PG-13 stuff is total hype. Your children will be fine. Take them.
It's going to impress Dan Drezner--but like all of us sane fans--we will still not forget the agony of Episodes I and II and we will continue to believe that Lucas is a total squit.posted by: Brian on 05.16.05 at 02:03 AM [permalink]
uh clem is ... well ... right on ...
The original Star Wars was a great Western.
But it was only above-average Sci Fi. (What
At least Lucas has admitted he stole (almost)
Not that he's ever bothered to pay anything
mmmm ... maybe George Lucas was the model for
No, I don't hate the movies. They just aren't
ted: No, I don't hate the movies. They just aren't "real" science fiction. But they are what the MSM tells us IS "real" science fiction.
In case you were unaware, hang on for when Joss Whedon's Serenity hits the theatres in September. Firefly was one of the few shows where there was no sound in space. Plus Tyler Cowen likes it! And it's a sci-fi western!
Pick up Firefly on DVD if you haven't yet!posted by: fling93 on 05.16.05 at 02:03 AM [permalink]
Natalie Portman is about as anti-barbie as i can think of. Tall, blonde, buxom, wasp vs short, slender, brunette, 'normal sized', jewish girl.posted by: Mark Buehner on 05.16.05 at 02:03 AM [permalink]
2. Read the European scale from I to VI, with I being the easiest and VI being unnegotiable.
3. Read the American scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being the easiest and 10 being very dangerous.
My God... You mean the Americans are using... The Metric System???!!!posted by: Independent George on 05.16.05 at 02:03 AM [permalink]
Following up on DRB, n.b. that Anthony Lane, who dissed Episode III in the N'Yawker, is a huge Tolkien geek & loved the godawful LOTR movies. So he has no room to condescend. The guy claims to speak Elvish, ferchrissake.posted by: Anderson on 05.16.05 at 02:03 AM [permalink]
Men don't get Barbie at all do they?
She's not just a symbol of blonde vapid beauty. She's a doll upon which girls practice budding makeup and fashion fetishes.
The comments are less about Portman's skill as an actress (though, sorry guys, these are pretty slight) and more about the absolute cockup of a character the Princess/Senator/Mrs Vader has proven. She can't hold a candle to her daughter, Leia in the ballsiness dept., but her outfits (which change every 10 minutes) are FABULOUS. Poor Carrie Fisher just got that sexy braless toga-dress by comparison, and SHE never gets the credit she deserves for carrying those earlier movies on her coked-up back.
Of course, it's too late now to give Lucas advice, but he should have stuck Natalie in a latex sheath (which seems de rigour for neanderthal male viewers) and let her shoot more bad-guys.posted by: Kelli on 05.16.05 at 02:03 AM [permalink]
"Of course, it's too late now to give Lucas advice, but he should have stuck Natalie in a latex sheath (which seems de rigour for neanderthal male viewers) and let her shoot more bad-guys."
They stuck Hayden Christensen in the latex sheath. What does that say about neanderthal female viewers? Whats wrong with eye candy anyway?posted by: Mark Buehner on 05.16.05 at 02:03 AM [permalink]
Kelli: Men don't get Barbie at all do they? She's not just a symbol of blonde vapid beauty. She's a doll upon which girls practice budding makeup and fashion fetishes.
My feminist wife would probably consider Barbie an incarnation of the male hegemony's indoctrination of women into believing that their role in this world will always include looking artificially pretty for men, no matter how successful they become.
Kelli: The comments are less about Portman's skill as an actress (though, sorry guys, these are pretty slight)
Well hey, I'm not stalki... er... I'm not a fan of her because of her acting (it ain't bad, though, especially compared to the Jessica Albas of the world).
You're right, Leia kicks ass. But those movies (hokey as they may be) were still more about character and plot than these movies, which are just thinly-disguised excuses for Lucas to play with new toys and for the viewers to watch eye candy -- including the hotness that is Natalie Portman.
Hey, I'm a guy.posted by: fling93 on 05.16.05 at 02:03 AM [permalink]
Well said. Go on being a guy. I always encourage a bit of unattainable fantasizing on the part of my husband--gives me insight into what the "ideal" woman is (her? you must be joking?).
The sudden hotness of Hayden Christensen is as astounding as it is jaw-dropping. My heart skipped a beat watching the trailers last week at "Hitchhiker's Guide" (hubbie noticed and said something along the lines of "Him? You must be joking?"). Almost felt sorry for Ewan MacGregor. He might actually miss the screaming teen girls.
Still, one quibble: when Darth gets "sheathed" it's because his body is misshapen and deep fried--hardly the same as Halle Barry in a Cat Woman get up, is it?posted by: Kelli on 05.16.05 at 02:03 AM [permalink]
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