Director's Commentary - The Star Wars Essay

Posted by Dan Monday, June 20, 2005 0 comments

While it's true that my Courtney is an evil taskmistress, it's also true that she's got a soft streak. Sometimes she'll take pity on me and let me slide. Case in point, my review for Star Wars Episode III, Revenge of the Sith.

The deal was, one review for each movie we go to, and I have to actually post the review before we go see another one. After reading a literal googleplex of blog reviews of the thing, I got kind of disenchanted with adding another post-it to the Star Wars pile. So, I begged and pleaded, but it really wasn't necessary. She let me off the hook in trade for a short jog down memory lane.

I know Star Wars will never truly go away, and I know the second trilogy is just as important to a whole new generation of kids. But it sure seems like the passing of an era.

The End of the Shaping of Dreams

Posted by Dan Saturday, June 18, 2005 0 comments

Being nothing even close to a review of the movie
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

I was seven years old when Star Wars came to the Fox Multiplex in Great Falls Montana. It debuted there on a Friday, and that was our family movie night. The evening in question will always be transcendent in my memory, but not for the obvious reason. For the first time ever, my little brother and I were turned loose on our own to go see a movie. We got to see Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo all by ourselves while Mom and Dad went to see an R rated feature we had never heard anything about. It was some space movie called Star Wars and Dad, being a longtime Star Trek and Twilight Zone fan, wanted to check it out. Back in the day you didn't usually take your five and seven year olds to an R rated movie. It just wasn't done.

I can still remember the look on my parents faces as they shuffled out of the crowded movie theater. Years later while serving in the Air Force during Operation Desert Storm, I would become intimately familiar with the term "shock and awe." We used it to describe the affect an initial bomb strike has on the populace of the designated city. That was what I saw on the faces of my parents that evening as they walked out of Star Wars for the first time... shock and awe. They said three words to us that night, "We're going again!" and after a quick stop to get tickets and snacks, we were seated into the second half of an impromptu double feature.

We went the next day too, twice. And the next day. Then twice the following weekend. We saw Star Wars about eight times during its first release, and probably ten times the following year when it was re-released. We had never seen anything like it. Star Wars was unique in its presentation, and pure in its vision. It changed everything about how films are made, how they're distributed, and how they're marketed.

It changed me too. Star Wars altered the course of my life by opening me up to the possibilities that the future could bring. I became a futurist, and a science fiction fan as a direct result of my initial exposure to Star Wars. For the past twenty-eight years, Star Wars has been an everpresent force in my life.

With the successive release of each new movie, George Lucas has built his movie franchise into an international pop culture treasure. The relative merits of the individual movies have been hotly debated over the years. While it's true that I have my favorites, just like everyone else, as a whole I love them all. I have, ever since the day that seven year old kid first stumbled out of the darkened theater, eyes full of shock and awe, with only one phrase on his lips and heart, "Let's go see that again!"

Now, twenty-eight years later, the seven year old kid is faced with the prospect that there won't be any new Star Wars movies. I think I'm okay with that, but it's heartbreaking in a way. I think this finally hit home for me during the scene in Revenge of the Sith where Anakin finally makes that last heart-rending decision to fully commit to the dark side of the force. I had tears in my eyes during that scene because I knew deep down that the Star Wars Saga that I grew up with was going away forever. From now on it will be transmogrified from a larger than life communal experience, to a mere nostalgia trip that we get to watch whenever we want on T.V. While as an adult I understand completely that George Lucas wants to move on to other things, but the seven year old kid in me feels like he's lost his best friend, his puppy, and his favorite toy, all on the same day.

So, here's to George Lucas, who gave us a lifetime of light and magic. Here's to the cast of the entire Star Wars Saga, the large group of friends that have been with us most of our lives to entertain and comfort us. Here's to the future and the infinite possibilities that it brings.

And as far as our collective inner seven year olds go, they're young. They'll get over it I suspect... in time.

I was sitting here thinking that I hadn't posted to this thing in a while. So in a half-assed attempt to keep up some fresh content I give you my top 25 horror/monster movies. There really are a few posts in the works; one on why I hate blog memes, one on and my long delayed review of Revenge of the Sith. They're coming.

Look at it this way, at least I haven't resorted to putting up my poetry...yet. :)

25. Videodrome David Cronenberg's very first mind scrambler, and a casting coup with Deborah Harry and James Woods in the lead roles. This movie is scary and just too weird. Do not watch this while high.

24. Lair of the White Worm Like all Ken Russell films it has a tendency to go for the gross-out, but it's made that much more palatable by his excellent direction, and his superb taste in cinematographers, the incomparable Dick Bush.

23. Innocent Blood Not the best horror movie John Landis ever turned out, but it rates right up there. Anne Parillaud, sexiest... vampire... ever.

22. Halloween III Season of the Witch I don't care what anybody says about this movie, I thought it was brilliant. It didn't belong anywhere near the Halloween franchise, but it was undeniably scary and good.

21. Bram Stoker's Dracula I disliked this movie until I bought the thing on DVD and gave it a really close look. It has so much background detail that it's almost overwhelming. Francis Ford Coppola does things with shadows and light in this movie that defy imagination.

20. Hellraiser This film is a sensual and frightening study of obsession, and it's just grand. Clive Barker has yet to write a story that translates well to the screen, but this one comes closest. Doug Bradley carries this movie with the scariest performance of his career.

19. The People Under the Stairs The best haunted house movie ever made without a haunted house. It's a funny and brilliant story, and Wes Craven pulls some outstanding performances out of everyone involved.

18. Dracula In 1931, Tod Browning created a 75 minute masterpiece, and star Bela Lugosi found the role of his lifetime. It's creepy and excellent, and Lugosi can chew scenery with the best of them.

17. Night of the Living Dead George A. Romero's zombie tour-de-force. This movie is a no budget classic. It's claustrophobic and relentless, and it still gives me the creeps to this day.

16. The Mummy The year after Tod Browning came out with Dracula, his cinematographer Karl Freund, directed The Mummy for Universal Studios. Who knew he'd turn out a cinematic masterpiece.

15. Poltergeist Even though it sported the most obnoxious tag line ever (and arguably one of the most memorable), Tobe Hooper created a scary fright fest, while persevering through rumors of producer Steven Spielberg having completed most of the direction. I don't buy it. The camera work and the actors performances don't feel like a Spielberg film.

14. The Amityville Horror Bar none, the most frightening haunted house movie ever made. Disregard the silly notion that it's "based on a true story." (I've been to the house, it's so not.) It's just a plain good story.

13. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Tobe Hooper's second foray into moviemaking. With a story based very loosely on the Ed Gein murders, and a tweaked out William Shatner Halloween mask, Hooper created the slasher film sub genre.

12. Halloween If Tobe Hooper created the slasher film, John Carpenter certainly refined it with this movie. Sleek and eerie, Halloween is edge-of-your-seat tense. Jamie Lee Curtis is stellar as the beleaguered Laurie.

11. King Kong Forget the stupid 1976 remake, the original 1933 Kong is the one to watch. The biggest and best monkey of them all.

10. An American Werewolf in London This was the first John Landis movie I ever went to at the theater, and what an introduction. This movie is by turns funny and horrific, and the combination makes this the best werewolf movie ever made. That and Rob Bottin's groundbreaking special effects work.

9. The Scream Trilogy These three movies stand as the current pinnacle of both Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson's careers. A set of brilliantly written films that stand the slasher film on it's ear. All three films are must-sees for any fan of the horror film genre.

8. A Nightmare on Elm Street Here's Wes Craven again giving us the only movie that still occasionally gives me nightmares. The Scream Trilogy is technically better, but I like this one best, because of the dead on killer, way over the top performance by star Robert Englund.

7. Phantasm What can I say. There's just something about a movie set in a morturary, and starring a little flying spiky ball that appeals to me. There's really no stand out performances here. The acting is universally bad, and so is the directing, but the cinematography is pretty, it's fast paced, and a whole lot of fun. And fun is what it's all about.

6. Dawn of the Dead I know, heresy right? No way. This version blows the socks off George A. Romero's 1978 original. Team Troma alum, James Gunn (The man responsible for introducing Tromeo and Juliet to thousands of unsuspecting Shakespeare fans), and first time director Zack Snyder, crafted a labor of love with this movie. Ving Rhames and Mekhi Phifer are the standouts here, though props should be given to Inna Korobkina for going along with the zombie baby birthing scene.

5. The Creature From the Black Lagoon I have a soft spot for gill men and evil sea creatures. With one exception, this is the best of the best. I love this movie for no other reason.

4. The Exorcist The most flat-out terrifying movie ever made. It messed me up as a kid, and I still get the uncontrollable shivers every time I see it. I still can't look at Linda Blair without seeing Regan's full on possessed face superimposed over the top of it. *brrrrrrrr* Let's move on.

3. Underworld Kate Beckinsale as a killer uber vampire in a world where Werewolves and Vampires are locked in an eternal struggle. The visuals and special effects in this movie are just phenomenal, and the story is mythic.

2. The Bride of Frankenstein There are few horror fans familiar with the works of James Whale that would argue that this film is not his masterpiece. It was the first horror movie I ever saw, and I will always love it. It's a well acted, brilliantly directed, love story wrapped up in a classic horror narrative.

1. Jaws I will always consider this the best horror film ever made. This movie is groundbreaking on so many levels, and a tribute to what a brilliant filmmaker can do when he's hemmed in by production problems and forced to improvise on the fly. Jaws remains one of the few movies that I consider a masterpiece, and it's definitely the best of its genre.

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Im an essayist, critic, online blogger, short story writer and to borrow a descriptor from Peter David, "Writer of stuff." I love all things pop culture related: Music, Movies, Comics, Books, Politics... if you can label it I probably have an opinion about it, and I love to argue. All informed opinions are welcome here.
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