Archive for the ‘George Lucas’ Category

SWCO 40th Anniversary Panel Notes & Thoughts

April 13, 2017

It would be an understatement to say this panel pushed every possible long-term fan button and delivered surprises galore.  It was one of those things that was almost as exciting to watch from home online as it was to be there in person.  At least until the streaming started hiccuping around toward the end.  Maybe when you figure you didn’t have to pay to get in, book a flight and hotel, or sleep on the sidewalk for three days, it wasn’t a bad tradeoff.  It sucks more to have done all that and STILL not make it inside.

Highlights:

* THE MAKER!!!!!  I figured there was a good chance Lucas would show up and show up he did in his trademark checked shirt and jeans.  He stayed for the entire program.  My favorite thing he said was SW at its core was a film made for 12-year-olds.  Sadly he did not say he was coming out of retirement.

*Warwick Davis…he’s always been funny and charming.  Nice job MC’ing.

*Dave Filoni…the master reunites with the apprentice.

* The Dark Side Rockstars.  Ian McDiarmid and Hayden Christensen appeared to chat about their involvement in the prequel era with George Lucas to big cheers.  Who knew the Emperor had such a great sense of humor?  This was Hayden’s first con appearance since Celebration II in 2002 and he said it was great to be back.  They mentioned the opera house scene had one of if not the longest stretch of dialogue in the entire saga.  Ian praised Hayden and Ewan’s work on the lightsaber duel from ROTS and thought they should’ve done a roadshow demonstrating their fighting skill.  Hayden talked about how hard it was to film without making the lightsaber noises.

*The OT reunion minus the alumni who have left us, which was kind of sad.  Which leads us to…

*The long and touching tribute to Carrie Fisher.  I know this sounds super hokey and I’m not the Long Island Medium, but it really felt like she was there in spirit among her fans, friends, family, and former co-stars.  This included some first glimpes of Leia in TLJ.

*Thank God on the livestream we were spared the pre-show hype man.

Surprises:

*JOHN FREAKIN’ WILLIAMS!!!  His first Celebration appearance ever with a local orchestra for a great closing program of music, at first in tribute to Fisher then to SW in general.

*HARRISON FORD!!!  Also his first Celebration appearance, with many plane jokes to go around.  I have to say this was the most coherent I’ve ever seen Ford in a live interview; he usually seems drunk or really nervous.  Here he seemed relaxed, present, and genuinely happy to be there.  He expressed his gratitude to Lucas and to the fans.

*Video howdys from Liam Neeson and Samuel L. Jackson!!!  Neeson sent his regrets from the set of something he’s shooting in the Canadian rockies and looked a little beat up.  He joked that it was about Jar Jar going to the dark side.  He spoke of how honored he was to play Qui-Gon.  Jackson kicked off his Bring Back Mace Windu campaign by mentioning how many other characters have been killed only to return stronger than ever with cybernetics.

*Billie Lourd!!!  I was so ticked off when the streaming went wonky just after her speech started.  Since this was her first public appearance since her mother’s and grandmother’s deaths, I imagine every celebrity news and gossip site jumped on the feed immediately.  I’ve read/seen bits and pieces of her speech, where she capped it off by reciting from memory Leia’s your my only hope part from ANH.  The Leia-inspired dress she wore was custom-designed by Tom Ford.  Because I care about stuff like that.

*No Disney kids?  I kind of thought this would be a crash-bang journey through all four decades of SW-ness with some of the ST or Rogue One cast dropping by but I guess with a panel tomorrow and a separate RO panel with Forest Whittaker and Felicity Jones, it would be kind of redundant.  This panel was about George Lucas’s classic SW (PT, OT, a little bit of Clone Wars).

Lowlights:

*The flow of the panel felt a little disjointed until they got to the Fisher tribute.  I can’t put my finger on why.

*The streaming going wonky at one of the panel’s emotional highlights.  Your service sucks, Verizon!  It’s really going to be a nightmare tomorrow with the TLJ panel.

*Hey, Kenny Baker passed too.  Remember him?

*While I’m glad this is the most acknowledgment of the prequels I’ve seen at any Celebration since 2005, what happened to Ewan and Natalie?  What, are they training with SEAL Team Six in South Korea as we speak?  In all seriousness, I know Ewan is filming “Fargo” and Natalie is the very tired mom of two including a newborn daughter.  But they couldn’t drop a quick hello on Skype?

 

“Thank The Maker” Essay

October 7, 2016

Andrew Belfast at Future Of The Force posted “Thank The Maker:  A Defence Of George Lucas,” which naturally defends Lucas and of course the prequels:

As a fan of the Prequels I find it extremely frustrating to continue to see these films randomly dismissed by routine thoughtless journalism on three central grounds; namely dialogue, CGI and Jar Jar Binks. So let me outline my views on each of these points in turn in Lucas’ defence. If I don’t change any minds at least I will have made a case against casual, overly generalised and thoughtless criticism. In doing so I should add that I don’t want to be pigeon-holed into a group in making these points. I do not associate my love of Star Wars with any one era of films or film-making. I do not call myself a “Prequel lover” – my love is for the extended saga in all its forms – Prequel, Original Trilogy, Sequel Trilogy, TV shows and books.

Essay: “The Renegade”

July 26, 2016

This is a repost from matril’s LiveJournal page, with her permission.

If you would just follow the Code, you would be on the Council!

Ah, poor Obi-Wan. He just doesn’t get it. A stickler for the rules, thoroughly dedicated to the Council’s authority, yearning for approval and validation. His master follows a different path, and even after all these years as his Padawan, Obi-Wan still can’t quite understand the inner workings of Qui-Gon’s mind.

You see, Qui-Gon doesn’t care about anyone’s approval. He doesn’t worry about missing out on honors and accolades and positions of authority. He’s not motivated by external metrics of success. The Force alone is his guide; specifically, his personal interpretation of the Force’s will. Above all else, he does it his own way.

Yeah, George Lucas is basically Qui-Gon Jinn. I sincerely doubt he created the character with that intent; from what he’s said, he feels that he started out like Luke but fears he might have become Vader, though he’d prefer to see himself as Yoda. Well, subconsciously or whatever, he invented a near-perfect avatar for his older self – the maverick, the renegade who thoroughly baffles the establishment, the outlier whose feats gain their grudging admiration, who cares not a bit that they refuse to grant him access to the inner circles of their elitist club.

I shall do what I must. The moral renegade follows his own conscience, rarely influenced by popular trends. He’s not immune to missteps. And sometimes his single-minded determination can came across as abrasive or callous.

I know, Padmé. Dealing with a presumptuous Jedi is about as much fun as confronting a corrupt Galactic Senate. What’s really annoying, though? Qui-Gon was absolutely right. Anakin won the race and your ship got repaired, just like he said would happen. That makes it even more irritating.

But of course we have very different metrics for success in the movie-making world. A lot of them are money-based. No one can deny that Lucas became a very successful man in that regard, though they often try to credit anyone but him for the original trilogy’s success. The other metrics are quality-based, which is far more subjective and harder to pin down. Lucas, however, never showed much interest in pleasing critics. At all. Good reviews, bad reviews; whatever, as long as he made the movie he set out to make. When he goes back and changes little things here and there, it’s to satisfy his own artistic sensibilities. Whatever anyone else thinks of it is pretty much irrelevant. This has not endeared him to self-styled purists, although I personally feel a tremendous amount of empathy for an artist’s drive to tinker and tweak with his work. There is a force guiding him too, though not quite so mystic as Qui-Gon’s – the force to put his vision into cinematic form. Whatever you might say about that vision, it’s a far more admirable motivation than money-making. He sold his company for a fortune and immediately donated the bulk of it to charity. Greed is not his driving influence, that’s clear enough.

He is the Chosen One; you must see it!

It’s not all serenity and unconcern for Qui-Gon. There are clashes with the Council, and this last one was portentous. He has made it his quest to bring the boy of prophecy out of slavery and present him for training. And the Council summarily denies his request. Qui-Gon can’t let this one go. It’s too important to him, to the very fate of the Force. I often wonder what he would have done if he survived the Battle of Naboo; if he would have persisted until the Council relented, or, barring that, if he would have ignored the Council entirely and trained Anakin anyway, risking expulsion. I suspect that Qui-Gon still has a loyalty to the Jedi Order even if he doesn’t agree with the Council or Code’s every stricture, so I doubt he would committed such a flagrant transgression as that.

But that’s not what happened. Qui-Gon is killed, while defending the galaxy from the avatar of the very phantom menace threatening to overthrow the Force’s balance. Oh, it’s not Sidious or the Sith alone who throw that balance askew. The Council is so insular, so rigid, so blind and deaf to the world outside the Temple, that they are losing their grasp on the living Force that Qui-Gon was so in tune with. His loss is a symptom of their sickening, their growing weakness. Obi-Wan, only just a Padawan himself, far more prone to the influence of the Code and the Council than his master was, is faced with the overwhelming task of training the Chosen One. And much of Anakin’s conflicting troubles will arise from the fact that in his outlier impulses he’s far more like Qui-Gon, yet he shares Obi-Wan’s yearning for approval and acclaim from the Council. A renegade who needs validation. Qui-Gon rarely had that problem.

It would be absurd to declare that a similar impending doom threatens the Hollywood establishment; the fate of the galaxy hardly hangs in the balance if movies nowadays are more derivative, less imaginative and innovative. There have always been great movies and lousy movies from the very beginning, though I’m deeply sad that none of these new so-called Star Wars films will have the heart and soul that Lucas lent to his six. But some of the battles Lucas has fought have been pretty far-reaching. Just one example: films that have no opening credits, so you can become immediately immersed in the story? You can thank Lucas for that, and it wasn’t an easy battle by any means.

What I do fear is the mean-spiritedness, the nasty sense of entitlement that treats Lucas like some sort of monster simply for making movies the way his artistic conscience leads him to. He’s always done that from the beginning, as much as his resources allowed, and I feel that’s what made Star Wars great. Not the X-Wings or the masked villains or the exploding Death Stars, though those are the fun superficial markings of a deeper world of creativity and storytelling genius. It was the renegade mindset, the man who said, “I shall do what I must” and always remained true to that ethos.

Qui-Gon can be a difficult man, but overall he is generous and kind. When Obi-Wan apologizes for arguing with him, Qui-Gon doesn’t gloat or grab the chance to claim superiority. He praises his Padawan, assuring him that he will be a far greater Jedi than himself. Now look at that video again. Lucas’s AFI tribute was sweet, but also full of a lot of good-natured roasting from all the people he worked with. And he chuckled through the whole thing. Go ahead and tease him, poke fun at him. He knows he’s not perfect. He’s put up with far worse abuse over the years, and I’m astonished it took him this long to finally get a little fed up with the whole thing and go into retirement.

Qui-Gon’s defiance I sense in you.

May we all have a just a little bit more of that renegade spirit. We could certainly do with less complacency and unoriginal thinking in the world of movies, and the world at large.

New Shirts From George Shot First

June 17, 2016

George Shot First has unveiled its second wave of pro-Lucas tees, Vote of Confidence.  Show that no matter where you stand politically, you’re backing Lucas.

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Quick Catch-Up Stuff

April 21, 2016

Some short tidbits from over the past day or two:

*”Obi-Wan & Anakin” #4 came out on Wednesday.  Head over to your friendly local comic book store to get your copy.

*T.V. has dropped some prequel references lately.  On Tuesday’s episode of “The Flash” there was mention of Vader/Anakin and midichlorians and on last Friday’s episode of “Dr. Ken,” there was mention of “padawans.”  I applaud Hollywood finally hiring prequel fans.

*The George Shot First shop has gone live:  show your support for Papa George with these tees.  Apparel of all kinds celebrating his films, including the prequels, are forthcoming.

 

A Couple Of Lucas Appreciation Posts

March 1, 2016

This first blog post doesn’t mention the prequels very much but I’m sure you’ll appreciate the content all of the same:

One of my favorite Lucas stories occurred in this time, but I only became aware of last year. A man named Joe Johnston was a very important art director for the first three films, and who deserves an awful lot of credit for the great look those films achieved. Lucas thought he had a future in film school, though Johnston was reluctant. Lucas kept Johnston on at half salary, paid his tuition to film school in full and offered to help him pursue his own opportunities in the business. Selfless and loyal gestures like that, inspire me to do that for the workers I have in my employment today.

This next post goes into the prequels a lot more as well as the Ring Theory and the anti-Lucas faction of fandom.  The author gets critical of TFA but most of it is about Lucas’s Star Wars:

And the thing is, it’s always more rewarding to try to understand the piece of art that’s in front of you, rather than only understanding your own predispositions. When the prequels were coming out, it was a fascinating puzzle to me, and I was watching very closely how the structures of the two halves would tie together. Before Episode II came out, I predicted to my friends that it would end with a shot of Anakin and Padme’s wedding. I predicted too, also in 1999, that Episode III would end with the arrival of the twins in their new homes, the last shot being Luke with Owen and Beru on Tatooine. I even predicted that the first shot of Episode II would contain a camera tilt up to a planet, rather than a tilt down. Every other episode started with a tilt down, but once Lucas had a rule like that, there was always one exception as a counterpoint. I could see the musical structure to it, and enjoy what he was doing, rather than bitching because he wasn’t doing what I wanted him to.

George Lucas’s References

January 29, 2016

Someone on Reddit did something worthwhile and compiled a list of reference books and novels seen in the background of an old web doc on George Lucas writing TPM (“All I Need Is An Idea”).

The books are a very interesting mix of child psychology, gnosticism, folklore, science fiction novels, and mythology, plus basic reference material.

Here’s the webdoc:

Tribute Video Is Live

January 17, 2016

Susan Bowes’s tribute video to George Lucas is up on YouTube.  Spread it around and let it go viral!

Who’s Sorry Now?

January 11, 2016

Image from seller Devil Olive on Redbubble.com. Yes, you can buy stuff with that image.

After TFA’s release there has been some articles here and there that have been encouraging yet maddening; wistful pieces that dare I say miss Lucas’s influence on Star Wars (and kinda sorta show some grudging respect for the prequels if not outright appreciation). Right now I’ve noticed most of these pieces are in higher-brow publications or sites that are more aimed at cinephiles than nerds, but I’ve seen more or less similar sentiments in the New York Post’s and GQ’s websites.

A couple of examples dropped in The New Yorker within the past week. The latter piece is interesting because here’s a Serious Film Guy who hadn’t seen any of the films until recently and didn’t really care for them…except for AOTC and ROTS. It’s as though the acid didn’t finally kick in until five films into the series. However, I’ll agree ROTS is Lucas firing on all cylinders and it’s great to see for a change somebody else notice how AOTC is a beautiful, complex film.

Of course I didn’t need TFA or anything else to recognize Lucas’s value as an artist and a visionary. I already know! That’s one reason why I’m bothering with this site. I just wonder to these guys, where the heck were you when we needed you? They certainly were not around during the prequel years. Back then it was cool to beat up on Lucas and his work and portray him as something worse than serial killer or a pedophile, a sentiment that unfortunately carried over to how TFA was reviewed. Oh sure there were a few people here and there who broke the trend but kicking Lucas around became a pop culture/media thing for a long, long time that got us to where we are now. As Jett Lucas tweeted around Christmas, think of all of the movies we would’ve seen already had it not been for all of the prequel bashing.

I think it’s widely acknowledged what George Lucas has done for entertainment and advancing cinema. There’s a reason why he got the Kennedy Center Honors after all. But he’s horribly undervalued and unappreciated as an artist. He seems to have shared the same fate as his mentor Francis Ford Coppola. In the ‘70s, Coppola could do no wrong. By the ‘80s and ‘90s everybody was throwing tomatoes at him and now he’s making his own weird experimental movies that occasionally get released to even more terrible reviews. (At least people like the wine.) Now Lucas is in his own exile, cut from the popular entertainment stage because frankly, nobody understood what the hell he was trying to do all along. Especially not Star Wars fans. Had there been more prominent voices who did understand Lucas’s oeuvre and if we had a culture more receptive to those voices, things would be very different today. Lucas might be still with the saga he created.

However, I suppose it is nice a few people are starting to recognize Lucas’s artistic strengths now instead of waiting for him to die. Maybe if we’re all lucky, this might kick off a reappraisal of his films, including the prequels, and at last a genuine understanding of the saga.

Update On Fan Appreciation Video

December 29, 2015

I mentioned back in November Susan Bowes’s plans for a fan appreciation video for George Lucas and his work on the prequel trilogy. She has moved the deadline to mid-January, so there is still time to get a video clip to her. Her e-mail address is susanbowes@optonline.com.