Tag Archives: George Lucas

The Girlfriend Experience: Episode One–The Phantom Menace

This is a six-part (potentially longer if we get into The Clone Wars) series where I will sit through the Star Wars saga chronologically with my girlfriend who has, aside from snippets here and there and that one time I sat her down with A New Hope, never watched the original trilogy in its entirety. My purpose is to see how a person without the emotional attachment of having grown up with the originals will:

1) Respond to the prequel trilogy on their own and in light of their reputation

2) Respond to the original trilogy three decades after the fact, especially in light of their place in cinematic history

3)  View The Saga in its entirety as a single, over-arcing story

I also decided to use the title of porn star Sasha Grey’s non-porn film, The Girlfriend Experience, in a shameless attempt to bait dudes looking for spank material into clicking on my blog, thus bumping up my hit count. And to that end: Sasha Grey Sasha Grey porn nude tits vagina anal anal blow jobs pooper Sasha Grey. Sex.

1) Briefly summarize the plot of The Phantom Menace.
um. the republic was all corrupt and the jedi knights had to go fight to regain peace among the peoples for queen amidala. then by chance they found anakin and qui-gon thought he was the chosen one so they gambled to get him. the jedi leaders didn’t think anakin should be trained but qui-gon’s dying wish was to have him be trained by ob-wan. then there was like a war and sith lords and shit.

2) Which character(s) did you like the most and why?
i liked anakin best, he was smart and cute and i liked his whole back story. they did a great job building his character, i cried when he had to leave his mom. and i liked the connection between him and padme. also, qui-gon because he was a total hotty. duh.

3) Which character(s) did you like the least and why?
jarjar binks was gay. i HATED the way he talked. him/his species were an obvious cheap ploy to get kids into the movie.

4) What was your favorite scene(s) and why?
i liked when they were on anakin’s planet… meeting him, during the pod race and with his mom.

5) What would you have liked more of?
i would have liked more back story on queen amidala/padme and on qui-gon. i was sad he died because i liked him and wanted more of him.

6) What could you have done with less of?
too much cgi and computer animation… i like that they use it but everything looked too shiny and new. i would have liked if they kept it grittier and rustic feeling. it all felt too polished. also, some of the alien characters were just too out there, it took from the feel of movie.

7) What did you know about certain characters going into the movie/figure out as it went along?
i know ob-wan, he is a jedi. i think he is a good guy in the later movies. i know that anakin and luke are related in some way obviously, i kinda thought they were the same person but i guess not. ’cause you just said no. jabba the hut was there, he is fat. i kept asking why queen amidala and padme were both played by natalie portman, and i still don’t really get why but at least i know that i wasn’t imagining things.

8 ) What sticks in your mind most about The Phantom Menace?
i know tony must think im an idiot ’cause i kinda didn’t know what was going on the whole time.

9) What, if anything, surprised you about The Phantom Menace?
i was surprised that it was a little hokey almost… i remember the old movies feeling so much more important and this one just didn’t strike me in the same way. not that i’ve watched (empire strikes back and return of the jedi) in entirety or anything. the animated characters took way too much away from the whole star wars feel.

10) What were your general impressions of The Phantom Menace?
i know that i am slightly jaded by things you have said about the movie. i don’t think i am ready to say if it was good or bad or mediocre. i did enjoy watching it with you, of course, but i do think that the plot wasn’t as strong as it could have been (i obviously had some issues following) and i wasn’t really charmed by it.

I was surprised by how much Sondra enjoyed Jake Lloyd. While I never found him particularly awful (he’s a kid and they generally blow in movies) he seemed to be a pretty high ranking bone of contention for a lot of people. I also found it odd that she didn’t ever mention Darth Maul in our post-TPM discussion. He tends to be one of the few highlights for prequel haters. However, I was really blown away by just how little she knew of what was coming down the line. The fact that she asked me at one point of Luke and Anakin are the same person got me really excited to see what the uninitiated would consider to be big twists. Example: she was crushed when she over heard a casual Star Wars discussion at work and had Anakin’s transformation into Darth Vader spoiled for her. Those are the sort of OMG moments this experiment is all about. Curious…

Celebration V recap!: or, Didn’t You Go to Some Star Wars con, like, a month ago?!

First the second part: No, I went to Comic Con International a month ago, DUH! I went to Star Wars Celebration V, like, a WEEK a go. So there!

Now the first bit. Recap! Why the hell has it taken me a whole week to get to writing about the closest thing to a religious experience (slight overstatement? you decide!) I will ever…uh…experience…

Well, the answer’s not a flattering one. I’m lazy. Pure and simple. Plus I felt no overwhelming rush since there’s lots of information about CV out there AND I was pretty consistently posting photos over the course of the four days. Yes, that’s right, if you or someone you love is unfortunate enough to follow me on twitter or are fans of My Best Friend is a Wookiee on Facebook then you were bombarded by photos at a rate usually reserved for tweenaged girls who stumble across a Jonas Brothers look-a-like bikini charity car wash.

But those photos cold have been faked! I could have just stolen other people’s memories of celebrating Star Wars and called them my own, even going as far as the photoshop myself in some of them! Just who the hell do I think I am?! I think I’m a swag hound whose idea of self restrain when it comes to buying Star Wars merch still proves to be more than I should have spent. I wore a Rebel flight suit, in public, despite it not being up to Rebel Legion par. I had the audacity to tell some dude who asked me for a cigarette in a parking lot that, despite his claims, he wasn’t Boba Fett only to find out that he was, in fact Daniel Logan, the actor who portrayed him in Episode II and The Clone Wars and I lived to tell the tale–no disintegration!

Moments before I pissed in this guy's gas tank...

The first day was a relative breeze. I wandered aimlessly, figured out where everything was and, most importantly, I spent all of my money on toys right off the bat. I figured it would be best to just get it out of my system early so that I could enjoy the panels and events unburdened by the fear that the last vintage-packaged Zuckuss and 4-Lom could be swept out from under me while I was listening to Ben Burtt discuss how he used an old audio clip of John Wayne for Garindan‘s voice.

Not Shown: IG-88 coffee mug, kick ass signed Ralph McQuarrie print and Princess Leia "hair bun" earmuffs.

I was also, for the first time ever, wearing a Star Wars costume. Growing up I was terrified of dressing up in costume outside of Halloween because I assumed it was a giant, self-imposed “Kick Me” sign. My costume, that of a Rebel X-Wing pilot, looked great. A lot of the thanks goes to my wonderful girlfriend, who upon realizing she’d have to make me nerdy costumes at a pretty early stage in our relationship,  decided not to run far, far away to the welcoming arms of some non-geek.

...So of course when I find the guy someone wants to get our picture! It took a lot for us not to kill one another. Clearly we were thinking of the children.

The next two days consisted of lots of panels. Ben Burtt gave a great talk about the origins of some classic Star Wars sound effects and the process by which he turned animal roars and the sounds of twanging tension wires into Wookiees and lightsabers. LucasArts had some awesome gameplay footage and cutscenes from The Force Unleashed II, then a hands on demo running on the show floor. It was still very much a pre-final demo, but it already feels a lot more intuitive than the original. Throw in a couple of very God of War inspired elements and I for one was pretty pleased with it.

The Clone Wars had a great showing, and it was a blast watching Supervising Director Dave Filoni squirm while trying his hardest to answer the questions of adorable young Star Wars fans while still maintaining his producer-mandated veil of secrecy. We did see the reveal of Darth Maul’s brother (zuh?), the Clone Wars debut of Delta Squad and the vague admission that we will see a connection to the classic trilogy.

I also got to meet fellow author and Star Wars nut, John Booth, whose Collect All 21! I wrote about in my last post. We only spoke for a few minutes, but he was a super nice guy. We have a lot in common, John and I, everything from our love of these films to our mutual, though short-lived jealousy over the other’s book. Back when I was writing My best Friend is a Wookiee (then under any number of working titles, from Fear and Loathing in Mos Eisley to You Don’t Ob-Wan Ke-know-me) I somehow came across John’s book. My immediate response was “Fuck! Someone beat me to it!” then I clicked out of the page, erased my browser’s history and shot crystal meth into my eyeballs until I forgot I ever discovered it. When I met John he confessed to initially feeling like I had written his book. Of course after we both sat down with them we realized that while our obsessions were mutual and our experiences similar, we were both of two very different ages of fandom and as such we learned from one another as opposed to having to throw down and battle each other to the replica-death with replica-lightsabers. I said it in my last post, but I’ll say it again, Collect All 21! was a lot of fun, and any fan should do themselves the service of giving it a read.

Of course the big reveal of the weekend was during Jon Stewart’s interview with George Lucas that the whole saga will be hitting Blu-Ray next year. No indication that the pre-special editions will be on the set, but at this point that’s a battle we fans should probably just throw the towel in on. Plus I really don’t know how much I want to see the old Vaseline blob job in high-definition. And for me, now, the prospect of getting deleted scenes from episodes IV, V and VI make up for it.

By the end of the third day I was pretty much wiped. After three days of soaking in all things Star Wars I was physically and mentally exhausted. I’m bummed that I missed out on Gary Kurtz talking about his role in the original trilogy and a Return of the Jedi that might have been, but the LA Times did a great piece with him here.

The highlight of my trip, however, was getting to give a copy of the book to Carrie Fisher. On the last day of the event I was just sort of wandering through the exhibit hall. There weren’t any panels left that i wanted to catch before I had to leave for the airport, so I just took it all in one last time. It was then, when I least expected it, that Princess Leia walked by, arm in arm with some dude, on the convention floor. She walked right. by. me. As if on autopilot I started to follow her. It felt like I was floating through some weird daydream, but I was quickly snapped out of it by the whispering masses.

“Oh my god…”

“Look who it is!”

“It’s her! I can’t believe it’s here!”

Realizing that the poor woman was about to get bum rushed I quickly slid up alongside her.

“Excuse me, Carrie?” Carrie?! Who the fuck am I to call her that!

“Yes?”

“Hi! IwrotethisbookandI’dbehonoredifyoutookacopy!”

“…Okay…?”

I handed her the book, thanked her and split. Fuckin’ ran away! Part of it was because I couldn’t believe I addressed her by her first name like we went way back or something. (We do go way back, she just doesn’t know it. Also, when I say we go way back I mean me and the image of her in her metal slave bikini on the cover of my Return of the Jedi VHS “go way back”). The other part of it was because I half expected George Lucas’ goon squad to crack down on me hard for disturbing her worshipleness.

And so on that note I went back to my hotel, the swankiest of the swank EconoLodge and waited impatiently to get on a plane that would take me away from this temporary holy land. I’m already looking forward to Celebration VI. With any luck it will be anywhere other than Orlando in August.

The Hidden Fortress

After years of sitting on my bony duff, picking my nose and not watching Akira Kurosawa‘s  The Hidden Fortress I decided it was high time I finally watched Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress whilst continuing to sit on my aforementioned bony duff with my finger still firmly jammed three knuckles deep into what over the years has become my favorite picking nostril, the right one. Why is this something that I make it sound like should have happened a long time ago? Two reasons:

1) Kurosawa is supposed to be some big shot, cracker jack, A-1 director whose work I’m a bit embarrassed about not being at all familiar with aside from that one time I sat through most of Seven Samurai‘s 14 hours, only to fall asleep in the last ten minutes, therefore missing what the big deal about “Rosebud” was*

2) George Lucas cites it as a bit of an influence. Not so much on Howard the Duck, but kinda-sorta on Star Wars

Truth be told it took me two tries to watch the movie, though not at all because I didn’t like it. I really, really enjoyed it, but the first time I was bogged down by being a bit too tired and a bit too hung up on the Star Wars connection. Plus I fell asleep like halfway through it. But the second time, man, the second time I made it start to finish, just like a big boy! Score one for bucking the trend of a society whose attention span can hardly sustain it through an iPod commercial, nevermind a two and a half hour, black and white Japanese period piece from fifty years ago!

Anyway! The movie was surprisingly funny. As I said, I really don’t know anything about Kurosawa aside from his reputation and that one time I saw (almost all of) Seven Samurai. While I do remember some occasional lighter moments from Seven Samurai, the peasants were quite funny at the fittingly unfitted participants of two warring, medieval Japanese clans. It was also a wonderful film visually and having seen it I can now identify its influence on Star Wars first hand as opposed to taking the internet’s word for it. It also needs to be said that Toshiro Mifune‘s spear duel was pretty badass, especially given how goofy spears are when compared to samurai swords.

So how about the Star Wars connections? They’re everywhere. I already mentioned that visually Lucas lifted some neato tricks from it–a lot of far away shots of characters with their surroundings in full view then bringing it up close while things happen around them. A lot of those shots made me think of the droids’ arrival on Tatooine, particularly Artoo making his way through the canyon and Threepio waving down the Sandcrawler, which is hardly a coincidence since the droids are very much based off of the peasants Tahei and Matashichi. In a featurette on the DVD, Lucas discusses how he liked the the way Kurosawa showed the story of a war through the eyes of the two lowest characters on the totem pole, an explanation towards the prominent roles he gave the droids play in the Saga.

There are various other references, namely a princess trying to get through enemy lines with something important while being aided by an older general. In Hidden Fortress the princess and a samurai are trying to smuggle gold over the border to rebuild her clan. You can probably figure out where to swap in Jedi, Death Star plans and aid a rebellion for freedom in that sentence.

Above all else, the most obvious element Lucas borrowed here is the scene fade. Anyone familiar with Star Wars can see it right away. The first time a scene changed with the assistance of a slow moving, right to left fade I totally LOL’d. By the tenth time I was at least thankful that, over the course of six movies, George decided to mix it up and go left to right, top to bottom and occasional rock the diagonal.

So yes, better late than never on this one. As I said, I really liked it, but to be honest there’s probably nothing I can really say about it that a lot of other people haven’t already said a lot better than I can. As a raging fanboy it was particularly awesome to watch, to sort of see what George Lucas was seeing while Star Wars was still in it’s infancy.

Word,

Tony

*I’m totally kidding