lazypadawan: (Default)
Someone on Twitter linked to this page from Random House listing various Star Wars books set for publication over the next several months (RH is the parent company of Del Rey). At the top of the list is a book (no cover art yet) called "Images: A Journey Through Art From Egypt To Star Wars" by Camille Paglia. The publication date is October 16, 2012 and it doesn't give a whole lot of info, but it is by that Camille Paglia, professor, feminist, essayist, pop culture expert, and Star Wars fan.
lazypadawan: (Default)
Look out, because a bunch of academics are going to toss your way "Star Wars And History" in 2013:

http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/03/studying-how-star-wars-mined-history/

A few years ago I wrote an essay for Saga Journal on a possible inspiration for TPM, and that is the real-life story of Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia. Change out Selassie for Queen Amidala and replace Ethiopia with Naboo, and it's pretty much the same thing except for the Rastafarian worship.

The publishers want to publish similar tomes concerning science and politics.
lazypadawan: (Default)
This book looks awesome, but do I really want to spend $500 to get it?

http://www.starwars.com/vault/books/star_wars_the_blueprints/index.html

Maybe I'll luck out and they'll pre-sell it at Comic Con at a 50% discount.
lazypadawan: (Default)
I finally finished going through Abrams' Star Wars Visions, which is a collection of fine art "interpretations" of the Star Wars films. According to the introduction by J.W. Rinzler, George Lucas himself came up with the idea about five years ago and it has taken this long to get all of the artists on board and get the book published.

Some of the artists are pretty well-known, like Moebius or H.R. Giger, while others I suppose are pretty well-known to specific genres. I noticed there were a lot of people known for their Western-themed art. I guess Lucas collects a lot of that kind of stuff.

I was very pleasantly surprised to see that there was a good balance of stuff represented from all of the SW movies. I worried before the book came out that it would be All OT All Of The Time. Some of the best pieces in the book were inspired by the prequel flicks, including one with Anakin and Padmé.

Interestingly enough, artists could choose any subject matter they wanted and while many stayed in-universe, there are plenty of pieces that "go nuts." Threepio walks among Native Americans, droids hang out at Mel's Diner, and a girl working a car hop looks suspiciously like Olivia Munn.

Even more interestingly enough, um, apparently nudity is "ok." If you ever wanted to see Aayla Secura naked, it's your lucky day. In fact, there are a lot of Twi'lek babes depicted in the book. The funny part is that if you read the notes about many of the paintings in the back, you'll see that for one of the Twi'lek Babe pieces, it was Lucas's idea. There's another huge piece, "The Struggle Behind The Mask" with nekkid figures, male and female. However, I can't figure out what this is supposed to be. Is it a representative of good and evil? Anakin and Padmé? Help me here, because it's either a bold and stunning piece or Vader is peeking at some kind of weird orgy.

I felt slightly disappointed that instead of a new Giger work, there was a painting he did in 1981. It was however, obviously inspired by Vader's costume design. But the biggest cop-out ripoff in the book was Jamie Wyeth's piece called "Night Vision" or something like that. Looking at it, you'd initially believe that it was maybe a portrait of Luke in his Gilligan hat from ANH. But reading the notes in the back, you'll see that it's actually a portrait of a Vietnam War soldier done a full decade before any SW movies ever came out along with the "excuse" that Vietnam like totally inspired Lucas. Come ON. If Wyeth was too busy, I'd rather see some kid's envelope art in its place. The idea was supposed to be that the art was inspired by the movies.

Overall though, this is a book worth buying. Go get it!
lazypadawan: (wtf)
A couple of weeks ago, starwars.com posted that the coffee table book "The Complete Vader," due out in October, was going to be delayed because of a "printing problem." Lo and behold, a few days later I got my copy from Amazon.com. I figured it was a delay by a few days because now it was in my hot little hands.

Now comes this announcement on starwars.com stating the new release date is now October 25, 2011:

http://www.starwars.com/vault/books/news20091022.html

I've flipped through the book and while the pages seem to have some static cling, once you separate the pages, they're fine. Maybe this is the printing problem but why should it take another year to resolve? I didn't notice any other problems with the book but I haven't read it in detail yet.

Consider me confuzzled (but really lucky).
lazypadawan: (Default)
A new book that chronicles the best and the strangest of Steve Sansweet's vast collectibles arrived from Amazon today, meaning I suppose that you can buy it at the store as well.

I haven't read "Star Wars: 1000 Collectibles: Memorabilia and Stories From A Galaxy Far, Far Away" but I flipped through it after freeing it from the box. He's got some crazy stuff, including a Han and Leia skeleton figurine set, and some amazing stuff that you and I will never acquire. What are the chances I'll ever find for myself the pachinko game seat covers with cute anime-style art? But I look forward reading through it all. Even if you have a collection like mine that's pathetically small by comparison to those super collectors', every piece has a story.
lazypadawan: (Default)
Will Brooker, the guy who penned the basher-friendly Use The Force some years ago, has returned with a book about ANH for BFI Modern Classics where he asserts Lucas is rooting for both sides, torn between the order and control of the Empire and the energy and creativity of the Rebels. It's an interesting theory. But I think every film director is probably that way ;). If you ask me, I think the whole saga is on some level a metaphor for the process of independent filmmaking. But Brooker also claims that Lucas became a "distant, cold, and fearsome disciplinarian" while making ANH. I don't know if Lucas is a wonderful guy or not and I suspect neither does Brooker. I'm not particularly interested in either hagiography or iconoclasm. The book's on Amazon in case you are interested.

Meanwhile, actor Tim Dry, who was a background guy in ROTJ, wrote an e-book called "Continuum"about his experiences on the set and on the convention circuit years afterward. I have no idea if it's worth reading or not...Christian Simpson wrote some very interesting blog entries on starwars.com about his time on the set of ROTS...but if you're interested, head over to http://www.starwarscontinuum.com. The download is $10.
lazypadawan: (Default)
Recently, some fan sites plugged a book called Collect All 21: Memoirs Of A Star Wars Geek by John Booth, which piqued my curiosity. After some issues with Amazon shipping my copy to Indiana, then ending up with two copies within a day of each other, I plowed through it in a couple of days.

It's one of those amateur press self-published jobbies you can do on the internet now and it's basically the author's collection of short essays on his favorite SW-fueled memories. In between essays are short tidbits labeled "Proof Of Purchase." Booth is around my age and the book is especially amusing for those of us who were small fry when ANH came out. Growing up in a time long before the internet and when you bought action figures to play with them, not to have them hermetically sealed, there was a purity and innocence to our SW obsession. This book captures that time very, very well. For instance, rumor control was non-existent, so people came up with cockamamie stories about SW all of the time. Booth recounts a buddy of his claiming there was a Darth Vader funhouse at a mall somewhere, and he mentions a playground rumor that there were already 12 SW movies in existence, and they were showing at some theater in Kansas City. He recalls the days when a SW costume consisted of a bathrobe and a flashlight. Before little boys knew anything about fan fiction or fan films, he and his pals were cranking out their own stories and ideas for their own homemade movies. I was laughing out loud quite a bit because while I had only a few "Star Wars guys" (as he calls his action figures) myself, I remember those halcyon days quite vividly.

Like most of us from that first generation of SW geekdom, SW went underground during Booth's adolescence but it wasn't forgotten. He chronicles his father's failing health and a rotten relationship coinciding with the beginning of the 1990s SW renaissance, then his excitement at taking hours to download the first SW Special Edition trailer. Booth even paid money to see Space Jam then went auditorium-hopping like I did back in '96 to watch the trailer several times. Hee hee. Then it rolls into the prequel era, where Booth's attitude is "well, at least it was fun getting excited about them and taking my kid to see them." No outright bashing but the obligatory grumbling about perceived flaws. There were some fun stories about Celebrations II and III. This is the thinnest portion of the book and his heart isn't quite as in it as much.

The book isn't always cohesive and there were times where I felt he could have filled things in a little more, but he may have his reasons for not going into a lot of details. It's definitely the first of its kind; I don't know of any other fans who have recounted lives in SW this way.

If you recall what it was like when every kid in your class had a transfer patch SW t-shirt and the joy of finding Kenner SW toys under the ol' Christmas tree or you remember those arguments over whether Vader really was Luke's dad, then you will definitely find "Collect All 21" a hoot. Even if you're a younger fan, you might find insights into childhood in the late '70s-early '80s interesting.

The book is available on Amazon and on Lulu.com (www.lulu.com/content/2895347).
lazypadawan: (Default)
Boy am I glad I preordered that thing on Amazon months ago. It was $47.50 back then and Amazon's policy is to give you the lower price when you preorder should the final version cost more. Now it's $75 on Amazon and $125 at full retail price!

With seven different authors and three volumes, it goes to show you how much was added to SW since the last edition in 1998. Much of it is because of the expanded universe of books, comics, and video games, but of course we've also had three more movies and an animated series.

Now some of you are wondering why, in an age of Wookieepedia and other references sources on the internet available for free, would you bother buying this? Won't the info be obsolete in just a year? Six months? Well, sometimes you just want to-the-point, accessible info without having to plow through inaccuracies and the sort of overdone information you commonly find on wikis. Not to mention biases. Besides, this has pretty pictures!
lazypadawan: (Obi-Wan)
I have a little ways to go with Order 66 and Millennium Falcon is next after that.

In the meantime, I can definitely recommend Ryder Windham's The Life & Legend of Obi-Wan Kenobi. It's similar to the kids' book they put out last year on Darth Vader/Anakin, only from Obi-Wan's perspective. The conceit is Luke finds Obi-Wan's journal while trying to construct a lightsaber pre-ROTJ and it has all of this stuff from the storied past, incomplete of course. There's not much from the Jedi Apprentice era or anything about Obi-Wan's childhood at the Temple, but there are a lot of "new" scenes from his lifetime both during and after the PT era. When Anakin dies, Obi-Wan is there to help usher him into blue ghostie immortality. Yayz. But then the epilogue is the now-unfortunate scene from Heir To The Empire where blue ghostie Obi-Wan permanently bids adieu to Luke so that nobody is around to advise him in the post-ROTJ continuity. Overall though it's a pretty enjoyable read.

The Making of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed is actually more interesting than the novel. Covering the three-year process to bring the game to your console, it describes the different concepts game designers toyed with and their setbacks. Some of the concepts were kind of fascinating but were dropped for one reason or another. For instance, one of the ideas was to have Vader on a quest to bring Padmé back to life. Another idea was to introduce a much younger Leia and give her a bigger role in the game. You can also read about the casting process, the technical mumbo-jumbo and the gaming problems that pushed its release back a year. But the best thing about the book is the beautiful concept art that's on par with anything I've seen created for the actual movies. Whatever you might think of the game, it's an interesting look at what goes into creating a title.
lazypadawan: (Default)
Here are some of the books I've finished lately:

The Making Of Indiana Jones

t's a very interesting book, particularly since I don't know nearly as much about the behind-the-scenes stuff on the IJ movies as I do about SW. The meatiest part of the book is about Raiders of the Lost Ark; here you can read about the evolution of Indiana Jones and the movies/artwork that inspired the character as well as the process of casting. Everybody knows Tom Selleck was originally going to play the character until CBS decided it needed to rope him down with "Magnum P.I.." But did you know Sean Young--then an actress with only a little bit of experience--was a strong contender to play Marion? Every detail of filming is chronicled, from the illnesses of cast and crew to the quirks of Steven Spielberg (he brought his own canned food on location, which was probably smart) and Frank Marshall (who created a tradition of jumping into a cake). There's less detail on the subsequent films but some surprising things crop up nonetheless. Ke Huy Quan, the kid who played Short Round, was only accompanying a brother trying out for the film only for the casting folks to take an interest in him instead. Papa George wanted to have a Scottish haunted castle somewhere in there, which ended up being the unhaunted big German castle in "The Last Crusade." The book kinda runs out of gas when it gets to "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." Sure it was interesting to see what plot points and set pieces were there from the get-go--Lucas insisted on aliens all along and Spielberg had to be convinced--but because there's not a lot of history behind the movie we instead get a lot of PR-ish "(insert name) is so awesome" or "(insert name) is just the best." It gets a little old after a while. But there is a poignancy to the fact that many of the key players who worked on "Raiders" were deceased by the time KOTCS started shooting.

All in all a fascinating read.

Star Wars Manga Black & Silver

This was originally published in Japan with different language translations in Europe by Tokyopop. I remember reading about it a few years ago and could never find anywhere with a copy until I came across a recent LiveJournal post on how the two volumes are available through Amazon's British sister site, Amazon.co.uk. The order wasn't cheap, even at a discount from a second-hand seller, thanks to the exchange rate. But the manga is definitely unique and it's always fun to have something unusual and rare in your collection. It's a bit like the Star Wars Infinities series, with most of the stories revolving around Darth Vader. One dark, angst-filled story is about Vader taking on a young Jedi survivor named Tao as an apprentice and then discovering his son is still alive. But other characters like General Grievous star in their own stories and there's some lighthearted fare, including one about Jawas and another about a Gungan playing a feint with Vader just before ANH. As someone not used to reading untranslated manga, the format was a bit of challenge to follow.

The Clone Wars

Just finished Karen Traviss's novelization. This reads like a PG-rated version of her Republic Commando books only with more Anakin and less Mando culture. The book's Anakin is darker and angstier than the one in the CW cartoon, a guy with a lot of secrets and resentment. It's obvious Traviss loooooves Anakin and haaaaaates the Jedi Council. If it's not Anakin mulling over how the Council has screwed him over or its mind games, it's Ventress mulling over how the Jedi are hypocrites. Still, Anakin takes to Ahsoka and there are several passages that will make A/P fans happy :). Ahsoka fares well and at one point, Anakin realizes she is going to be a good Jedi and will butt heads with the Council, figuring that went hand-in-hand. Captain Rex and his fellow clones are written well too. There are scenes not in the theatrical release and there are scenes done from a different perspective than the film version.
lazypadawan: (wtf)
I'm sure you've been drooling over those Star Wars Frames volumes scheduled for publication next year. If you don't know what it is, it's a six-volume collection of books featuring George Lucas's favorite frames from each SW film published in a fancy-pants high-grade format. I knew these books were going to be expensive...after all the entire set weighs over 200 pounds! But a sharp-eyed fan on my PT fan site got a case of sticker shock after he saw on another website how much these babies are going to cost. He thought the set would cost $1000. The set starts at $4,000 and goes up to 5 grand. Here's the weirdest part. The higher the number on the edition (there is going to be only 1,138 sets worldwide), the more expensive it is. Waaah:

http://www.jedinews.co.uk/news/news.aspx?newsID=1416
lazypadawan: (Default)
I am still reading the most recent LOTF, Revelation. By the time I finish the 400+ epic, Invinicible will be out :P.

However, I finished another non-fiction book about two weeks ago and I keep forgetting to post about it. This one is called "Wizards, Wardrobes, and Wookiees: Navigating Good and Evil In Harry Potter, Narnia, and Star Wars" by Connie Neal. It is a Christian look at Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, and SW. Her take is that these popular fantasy stories have themes that echo in the Bible and they can all teach us about confronting evil and staying on the light side. It's obvious the author knows a lot more about the Potterverse and about Narnia than about SW. Her discussions on SW generally do not go into a tremendous amount of detail although they are astute if not brief observations. She also misspells stuff like "Alderaan" (Alderon??!!).

That said, the author understands quite well how fantasy stories work and what purpose they serve. It's interesting to see her combine what she's learned from reading all of C.S. Lewis's work, including his religious writings, and from secular myth scholars like Joseph Campbell. I don't think I've seen anyone do that before.

It's available here on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Wizards-Wardrobes-Wookiees-Navigating-Potter/dp/0830833668/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1206509571&sr=1-7
lazypadawan: (Default)
I am so behind in my reading, it's ridiculous. I'm still slogging through the 468-page Republic Commando: True Colors. I still haven't finished Jedi Vs. Sith: The Essential Guide To The Force. There's another book I haven't started yet and I haven't even purchased the second Darth Bane book.

But I have done the once-over through Star Wars Vault and it still is a great volume to add to your collection. I love being able to play with all of the cool inserts and the book does an admirable job trying to summarize the whole 30-year SW Experience. The audio CDs were a terrific bonus, complete with cheesy radio ads ("it's just the death breath of the Dark Lord!!"), interviews, and excerpts. I have to say that Hayden Christensen now sounds like a baby in those old interviews from 6-7 years ago. Geez, it makes me feel like an even dirtier old lady! The best quote was from an interview with Samuel L. Jackson: "when you see (Yoda) drop his cane, you better run!" My only nitpicks were a) the section on politics. They tried to be fair but editorially, I can see where the author's sympathies lie, if you know what I mean. And b) I'll echo what [livejournal.com profile] krpalmer wrote in his review of the book, a little too much assumption that "everybody" likes this best and "everybody" hates that. Oh, and there was a factual error. The t-shirt Lucas is seen wearing on the set of TPM was not a quote directly from a New Yorker article per se. The New Yorker article from 1997 was quoting another critic's review of ANH from 1977.

I hear the book is 50% off in some stores, so you have no excuse.
lazypadawan: (Default)
My copy of "Star Wars Vault," a massive book by Steve Sansweet and Pete Vilmur, arrived today from Amazon.com. Obviously, I haven't had time to sit down and read the whole thing, but I've flipped through it to see what it had.

You have to buy this. Seriously.

I know it's expensive (I got the bargain price of $53), but if you're going to buy only one SW book this year, buy this one. Do whatever it takes. Sell your bodily fluids if you have to. If you're any kind of SW fan at all, this is a must-have. It has two CDs of radio ads, rare interviews, and Princess Leia warbling away during the Holiday Special. It has reproductions of all kinds of cool stuff you can pull out to look at, including ads, invitations to various events, George Lucas's handscribbled notes, John Williams's handwritten music sheets, stickers, advertisements, newsletters, postcards, stickers, filmstrips, etc.. A lot of it is stuff I'd never seen before, such as a Queen Amidala tarot card used as an invitation to a Lucasfilm function or rare photos from the set of ANH.

I can't wait to dig through it all!
lazypadawan: (anakinsabs)
Revenge: The Real Life Story of Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith
by Jonathan L. Bowen


Two years ago, Jonathan L. Bowen unleashed Anticipation: The Real Life Story of Star Wars Episode I The Phantom Menace, a book that chronicled TPM's journey from the writing of the film through its debut on DVD in 2001. Anticipation is a pretty good source for fans or anyone else looking for facts about the film. It also does a terrific job knocking out a lot of misconceptions and inaccuracies that have surrounded the film since then.

Bowen more or less does the same with Revenge, although the tack he takes with this book is that ROTS vindicates George Lucas, fans who have stood by the PT, and the SW phenomenon as a whole. He doesn't go into as much detail with ROTS's pre-production as he did with TPM, but given that it's the last hurrah for a pre-assembled team and not a start-from-scratch film like TPM was, that's to be expected.

Bowen also covers AOTC's pre-release hype, if you can call it that, its run at the box office, in IMAX format, and on DVD. Bowen acknowledges, as I've been saying for years, that AOTC was underpromoted and that had an effect on its box office.

The way Bowen frames it, ROTS had to prove itself to naysayers and show everyone SW still had it. And it succeeded.

As with Anticipation, the best parts of Revenge is when it lets the facts tell the story. This is especially true when it comes to tracking ROTS's box office numbers, its merchandise sales, and its DVD sales. When it comes to the business/economic side of movies, this book excels. All of it is presented in a way anyone can understand and it's not dry or dull. Bowen did extensive research in a shorter time frame than the six years it took for him to write Anticipation. He tries to make his citations clearer this time. Not perfect, but definitely an improvement over the previous book.

Even though just two years have passed since ROTS graced theaters, Revenge brings back things you may have forgotten in that short period of time. Remember the people busted for pirating ROTS? (There's a chapter in the book about piracy of the film, though there's no mention of good ol' "Backstroke of the West.") Or parents allegedly getting up in arms over the PG-13 rating? How about Wal-Mart's 48 Hours of the Force promotion in April 2005?

He also has on record, in case anyone suffers amnesia, several critics who gave ROTS glowing reviews. ROTS may actually be the best-reviewed SW film since ANH. He bases his percentages of positive reviews on RottenTomatoes.com, though I think you'd have to do more in-depth research through means such as microfilm and databases like Lexis/Nexus (rarely used outside of legal/legislative circles) to really get the full picture of reviews from the OT era. Still, he's probably right.

Then there are the tidbits I didn't know about, such as how ROTS's merchandise earnings outdid its predecessors when everyone expected the numbers to fall in between TPM's and AOTC's. Not all of it is quite as sunny. Bowen discusses how for some reason, the Italians just aren't into SW. None of the six films performed all of that impressively in the land of pasta. Mamma Mia! Bowen also notes the few attempts by the international media to downplay or even distort ROTS's box office success. One columnist in Australia prematurely declared ROTS a flop in the land Down Under, which it was most certainly not. Crikey!

One problem with Anticipation that is carried over to this book is the lack of a really good editor. Bowen needed somebody to keep him focused and avoid going off on tangents. The chapter on LucasArts is interesting but it felt like a chapter from another book. It's not important to the story of ROTS and its success to go through the entire history of the company over several pages. As a fan, Bowen wants to pack in as much as possible, leaving nothing unmentioned, but as a writer you can't do that.

T'Bone at T'Bone's SW Universe noted in his review that if he had any criticism at all of the book, it was that Bowen injects too much of his opinion. Don't worry, he is generally favorable to the PT, but at times even I felt from a writer's perspective the editorializing was distracting. The facts in the book speak for themselves.

There's a chapter on the political controversy the movie generated but while the chapter implicitly denies the movie was meant as a commentary on the Iraq war or the Bush administration, in the next chapter "Understanding Revenge" he tries to argue that "only a Sith deals in absolutes" is a commentary on the Iraq war and the Bush administration.

What's this about SW being a guy thing again? It's stated more than once in the book ("especially young boys") even though Bowen gets statements from female fans as well as the dudes.

And to be really nitpicky, the events at Comic Con 2004 didn't exactly transpire the way he described it. The title wasn't announced by having Steve Sansweet whip off his baseball jersey to reveal his ROTS t-shirt. There was a specially-made video shown right before that which actually revealed the title. It's probably archived somewhere on starwars.com.

Overall Revenge is a fascinating and eye-opening read. Fans can get a lot out of Bowen's history of the final SW film and so can anyone who's interested in the business/economic side of the movies.
lazypadawan: (Default)
Sorry I haven't had much to post lately. The past week at work has been very stressful and that can drain on my inspiration.

However, all is not lost. For one thing, the SWPAS is close to completion. Once it's ready to rock, I will let you know. But I have ideas for it...and no, I haven't forgotten about the t-shirts.

One idea is to try and get an interview with fan Jonathan L. Bowen, who wrote Anticipation and the book I'm reading now, Revenge. Like its predecessor, the book could've used a really good professional editor to help keep Bowen focused, but also like its predecessor, it often makes for fascinating reading. What's interesting is that in this new book, Bowen mentions how he had trouble finding a publisher for Anticipation and then getting any media interested in booking him for interviews. They all felt that Bowen's generally positive attitude toward SW, particularly the prequels, wasn't representative of fandom. Quite amazing. Maybe I can get Bowen to name names ;).

I've already started working on my fanzine collection of A/P fan fic. It's sort of fun, like a throwback to my zine days in the '90s. It's even more fun because I don't have to edit or wallow through people's submissions ;).
lazypadawan: (Default)
Yet another Christian-themed book about the SW saga, "The Gospel According To Star Wars" sets out to show that the six films teach moral lessons that are relevant to Christians. The author, a "Meldrum Lecturer" of theology at the University of Edinburgh, makes his case by referring to the Bible, various theologians, and articles about the movies. McDowell in the introduction jokes that the book is to prove to his non-comprending wife there's value to his endless discussion about SW with his sons. McDowell is knowledgable enough, even though he does make a couple of factual errors.

To the book's credit, McDowell understands the movies pretty well and for the most part he is favorable to the saga as a whole. He critiques various essays, reviews, and articles written about the movies, secular and religious, as he goes on to make his points. Chapter Four on The Tragedy of Anakin Skywalker is an excellent analysis even if it is a little light on the Christianity. His chapter on the Theology of SW on the other hand reads like a SW-themed seminary lesson on the nature of the Force and what it means for Christians.

It's a little jarring to see him drag the EU into his discussions because while Lucas's company rubber stamps these books, they're not stories Lucas created. You can't discern Lucas's intent from what happens in "Shatterpoint." But where McDowell loses it for me is his insistence on dragging in his left-wing politics. This was annoying enough in books like "Star Wars On Trial" but it was doubly irritating in this book because I expected the Gospels, not socialism. While he dismisses the notion that ROTS was a screed against the Bush administration, he certainly finds the ink to discuss his grievances about the deceased President Reagan. He praises collectivism and decries "individualism," "consumerism," and the free market. What made my eyes glaze over were his sniffy attitudes toward the U.S., disdain for the idea of moral clarity, and his absolute pacifism. McDowell does not seem to understand, or just doesn't want to understand, the right of free people to remain that way. Tyrants generally don't want to sit down and chat over tea to work it all out. Even Lucas has that figured out.

While this book has its high points, if you want a better Christian discussion about SW, go with Star Wars Jesus or the completely apolitical Finding God In A Galaxy Far, Far Away.
lazypadawan: (papageorge)
Finally I've finished the behemoth of a book, over 300 pages in length, especially if you splurged for the hardcover edition like I did. So it took me a little while to get through it all. J.W. Rinzler chronicles in detail the arduous and troublesome path ANH took from its inception in the early 1970s through its insane box office run years later. He managed to dig up never-before-published interviews with many of the key players that were recorded back in the day, capturing impressions from people who had little idea of what they were a part of. Who could've known, anyway? The making of ANH was filled with logistical problems, corporate meddling, personality conflicts, creative differences, and a real lack of faith on the part of Hollywood insiders who didn't understand what this bizarre project was about. And in the end, even with ANH's success, Lucas still wasn't entirely happy with the end result. He was happy that audiences liked it but knowing what he wanted to accomplish with the film, he apparently felt efforts fell short. Little wonder he tinkered with it years later.

Rinzler writes most of his book in the present tense, as though he'd been working on this thing since 1973. It's consistent with the style of "The Making of Revenge of the Sith," a book he started working on in 2002 just as production on the film was underway. He chronicles Lucas's many drafts, clarifying what was in each draft, what changed, what was dropped, etc.. Over the years, people have gotten a little mixed up over what was in those drafts and when. The mythical "Journal of the Whills" isn't anything more than a short background summary. What is rather interesting is how Lucas's radical '60s politics played into some of his concepts. It's one of those things we all sort of knew was there but it's here in print what exactly he was thinking at the time. One can headdesk over how Lucas could've naively bought that the VietCong were just innocent folk of the wood while totally ignoring the real evil Empire that was funding them, but it also goes to show you that sometimes a great story can transcend almost anything.

Some true stories are elaborated upon; Alec Guinness was initially okay with being killed off but for some reason he changed his mind by the time the production moved on to London and it was at that point, Lucas had to talk him into not leaving the project. Other interesting tidbits are revealed. Carrie Fisher almost missed her chance to audition for the film due to play obligations at her drama school in London. Various ILMers were battling each other, particularly with John Dykstra. The reason why Lucas saw limos outside of the Chinese Theater on that famous day he watched from the Hamburger Hamlet across the street was that Hugh Hefner had come out with his entourage to see ANH. (So Hef's been on the bus since day one.) Phone operators in Los Angeles were getting 100 calls an hour for the numbers of the two theaters in town showing the film.

The book seems to cure any fanboy notions that producer Gary Kurtz was Lucas's discipliner who somehow managed to whip ANH into shape. Interestingly enough, the person who comes across as perhaps the biggest hero aside from Lucas is Fox's Alan Ladd, Jr.. He stood by the project all along even though he probably would've had the boot had ANH failed, doing whatever he could to keep it alive and get the support of the suits (Ladd left a few years later over DGA fining TESB director Irwin Kershner).

There are also scores of rare and never-before-published photographs that for some reason haven't been iconned yet. What's wrong with you people?

The hardcover edition features pages of storyboard and what's called Lucas's ideas for the "expanded universe." The latter is a misnomer; it's really background info he was using to develop the characters and the filmed story, not ideas for books and comics. Still, it's a very fascinating read. Some of it has made it into "secondary sources" and spinoff fiction, some of it has become part of the later chapters or even the PT, and some of it doesn't fit at all into what the saga has evolved into. For example, Han being raised for a few years by space gypsies who were sometimes cruel to him and made him panhandle ended up in the "Han Solo Trilogy" published 10 years ago. Threepio was "reassembled by a young boy who worked for a junk dealer," background that ended up in TPM. Leia's background states she worked on relief efforts and was directing mercy missions at age 7, info that turned into Padmé's background in the AOTC novelization as well as in a short deleted scene from the film. At the point these character studies were created, Vader and Annikin, Luke's father, were written as two separate people, which we all know changed.

Oh, and one has to wonder if Lucas has some psychic abilities when in his earliest drafts he doodled with using characters named "Ford" and "Hayden." I swear to God it's true.

All in all, required reading for all SW fans. After years of urban legends, misinformation, fuzzy memories, misconceptions, and rumors, it's nice to see something that gives us the straight dope as well as stuff we haven't read before. It also chronicles how the making of any film is difficult, especially one that was so different for its time.
lazypadawan: (Default)
I finished "Star Wars Jesus: A Spiritual Commentary On The Reality Of The Force" by Caleb Grimes (Winepress Publishing, 2007) a week ago but with all of the stuff for Celebration going on, I kept putting it on the backburner.

As you might have figured out, it is another Christian take on the SW films and perhaps one of the best to date. Each "chapter" is about each of the films, featuring a series of short essays about various scenes. Most of them are almost like a stream of consciousness, as though he's just sitting there talking about the movie while you're watching it. His point overall is that despite much being made of SW's Eastern influences, there are a lot of Christian influences as well. Not only was it an engaging discussion about faith, it was also a very engaging discussion about SW. He brings up points I'd never considered before, taking on things from a fresh perspective. He really does understand the films and while I don't agree with every point he makes, it's nice to see someone who's a genuine fan dissect it all. All six movies are covered, with the OT taking about half of the book, and with ROTS taking up quite a bit of the PT section.

Grimes's denomination--if he belongs to one--is never mentioned. Some of his essays and observations don't involve religion at all. Some things he says might grate on liberal readers, while other parts might make you wonder where this guy stands on things. *Shrug.* Better than a lot of the blatantly radical stuff I've been reading lately in the SW analysis category and certainly not anywhere near Frank Allnut.

Go check it out!

December 2012

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