Tuesday, January 12, 2016

BEST MOVIES & TV: 2015



Rey, the new star of Star Wars!



Shortcut links:
BEST MOVIES: 2015
BEST DOCUMENTARIES: 2015
BEST TV: 2015




"And...Action!"


BEST MOVIES: 2015





THINK




-SELMA
✭✭✭✭✭
Ava DuVernay's timeless reminder of the Civil Rights struggle is universally invaluable.
David Oyelowo is in fine form as the human and humane Dr. King.




-MR. HOLMES
Ian McKellan as Sherlock Holmes.
That should be enough, but clever inversions and nimble drama round it out.

-A MOST VIOLENT YEAR
The best movie 1974 didn't make. An understated and perfect homage to New Hollywood crime dramas.
Oscar Isaac channels his best Pacino beside an iron Jessica Chastain.

-LOVE AND MERCY
A moving biopic of Brian Wilson's musical triumphs and spiritual tragedies.
The period details are excellent, and the recording of Pet Sounds is worth the admission alone.

-SUFFRAGETTE
A strong docudrama of a young woman's rise from servant to rebel in the original Feminist revolution.
Carey Mulligan and Helena Bonham Carter.

-THE KEEPING ROOM
Brit Marling leads a trio of women trying to survive the end of the Civil War.

-SPOTLIGHT
A true story of a terrible social crime exposed by actual journalism (remember that?).
Plays like a relentless thriller propelled by a crack ensemble cast.




Most Valuable Player, Dept.:
Oscar Isaac

Like Jessica Chastain, Oscar Isaac is becoming ubiquitous as the go-to actor.

After breaking through in the Coen Brothers' INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (2013), with fine singing and guitar playing no less, Oscar's star is on the rise. This year he was the amiably conceited creator in EX MACHINA; the ethical man trying not to slip in A MOST VIOLENT YEAR; the accidental crusader in HBO's intense mini-series SHOW ME A HERO (from the creator of THE WIRE); and he ended on a high note as the best rebel pilot in the galaxy in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS.







SMILE




-TANGERINE
Two untrained transexual actors shot by three iPhone cameras in the L.A. streets equals ludicrous magic.

-WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (New Zealand)
Twisted slapstick in a vampire mockumentary full of laughs.

-PEOPLE PLACES THINGS
A smart antidote to rom-coms, with fresh angles and Jemaine Clement (Flight Of The Conchords).







DREAM




Proper Star Wars art by Drew Struzan.

-STAR WARS: The Force Awakens
✭✭✭✭✭
A wonder and a blessing, perhaps the finest Star Wars film yet made.
Rey and Finn are terrific new leads for the future.




-EX MACHINA
A clockwork rose.
A smart character film with turns that reward multiple viewings.

-MAD MAX: FURY ROAD
THE ROAD WARRIOR was the best, and this is ten times better.
An epic completely grounded in empathy, swiped by true star Charlize Theron as Furiosa.

-TOMORROWLAND
Pessimism is passe, optimism takes real courage.
This smart, inspired film makes a fine case for the power of the positive.

-THE MARTIAN
Robinson Crusoe on Mars.
Ridley Scott brings us a gripping thriller with a sharp cast.

-SPECTRE
The Daniel Craig films are a perfect prequel arc of the origins of Bond.
And they've rebuilt him better for the future.



Underrated, Dept.:

-TERMINATOR: Genisys
The first hour's re-evocation of the first film is amazing.
A more proper substitute as the third film to a trilogy.





NIGHTMARE




-CRIMSON PEAK
Guillermo Del Toro's gorgeous gothic romance where craft is the star.
Like a Poe or James story filmed by Powell and Pressburger (à la BLACK NARCISSUS, THE RED SHOES).

-IT FOLLOWS
Like the best indie horror film John Carpenter didn't make in 1979.
Straightforward suspense with quietly layered subtext.

-FELT
A touching and disturbing indie film, and conceptual cousin to REPULSION (1965).




GRAPHIC IMAGES





-AVENGERS 2: AGE OF ULTRON
More ambitous even than the first, and more richly rewarding to the attentive.
The leads do well, but the non-solo-film characters grow and shine here.
All hail Joss Whedon!

-ANT-MAN
A fun romp better than anyone expected.
A Wasp-centered sequel promises even better.

-THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL
Phoebe Gloeckner's acclaimed graphic novels >> become an inspired and poignant dramedy.




ARTFLIX



-INSIDE OUT
Pixar makes films for adults who remember the wonder of childhood.
This navigation of the emotions is a profound guide for all ages.

-THE GOOD DINOSAUR
Pixar.


-WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE (Japan, 2014; English dub, 2015)
From Studio Ghibli; Yonebayashi channels Miyazaki's pastoral nostalgia with Takahata's emotional edge.
A moving and surprising story beautifully rendered.

-ANAMOLISA
An innovative and game-changing stop animation film that plays as a fine indie character dramedy.





BEST DOCUMENTARIES: 2015





-MONTAGE OF HECK
The secret life and creations of Kurt Cobain.



-MR. DYNAMITE
A solid overview of James Brown and a nice companion piece to last year's biopic, GET ON UP.

-SONIC HIGHWAYS
Dave Grohl's profiles of key studios and music scenes is required learning.
The Washington DC episode covering Trouble Funk and Go-Go, and Punk and Dischord Records, is essential.

-THE WRECKING CREW
From the late 50's to mid-70's, one session crew played on all of your favorite Pop songs.
Illuminating and heartfelt.


-DESPITE THE GODS
Jennifer Chambers Lynch fought the impossible to make a sabotaged film, and this behind-the-scenes documentary referees the struggle.



-SUFFRAGETTES FOREVER! The Story of Women and Power (UK)
Ever-timely and needed mini-series on the original Feminist empowerment struggles.

-THE BLACK PANTHERS: Vanguard of the Revolution
All Power To The People!

-HE NAMED ME MALALA
The betrayla and rise of Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai.

-GOING CLEAR
An expose on the machinations of the Church Of Scientololgy.







BEST TV: 2015




(The season number follows each title.)





DRAMA




-RECTIFY 3
✭✭✭✭✭
Still television's best and most unknown drama.
As true a grasp of being human as can be found on the screen.

-BETTER CALL SAUL 1
✭✭✭✭✭
With quiet, assured grace this prequel to BREAKING BAD paves a new path and style.
The story of "Saul" is touching and surprising at every turn.

-FARGO 2
The ambitious second season is a stunner, at times breathtaking in its sharp skill.
This 1979 prequel arc homages much of the Coen canon, along with curveball surprises.

-MASTERS OF SEX 3

-SHOW ME A HERO (HBO mini-series)
A true drama about civil rights struggles in late 80's Yonkers.
Oscar Isaac shines in a project by WIRE creator David Simon.


-MR. ROBOT
That time Palahnuik, Easton Ellis, Moore, and Dick wrote a jam session to destroy our corporate overlords.
Or as close to it as a gleefully seditious show can get.



WONDER





-THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE 1
Philip K. Dick's celebrated novella about an alternate world where the Nazis won is adapted into a riveting series with finely-etched characters.

-12 MONKEYS 1
In which more good mileage is twisted out of Gilliam's film scenario than one could expect.

-GAME OF THRONES 5
Serious tumult and turnover as the series hinges toward the endgame.

-SENSE8 1
The Wachowskis drop the expensive FX of JUPITER ASCENDING for pure character and action.
A gestalt group of international players turn communion and boundaries inside out.



-THE WIZ (live special)
A new staging for the 40th anniversary of the urban Wizard Of Oz musical.

-CHILDHOOD'S END (mini-series)

Good:
-DARK MATTER
-KILJOYS
Okay, they're not FIREFLY, but they're enjoyable fun.





HORROR





-FORTITUDE 1
A strangely brave show set in an eerie arctic that's almost an alien world.
The first half is a brilliant mystery procedural... and the second half goes intrepidly bent.
Spellbinding and startling.

-HANNIBAL 3
The prequel reaches its crescendo adapting "Red Dragon".
Like a surreal fever dream too entrancing and horrid to look away from.

-THE RETURNED (U.S.) 1
A solid remake of the French "Les Revenants", nearly obsessive in its exactness, before forking to a new path at the end. But it was cancelled.

-LES REVENANTS/ The Returned (France) 2
At last, the delayed second season of the French original rebounds and expands on the mystery and promise of the resurrected.

-ASH vs. EVIL DEAD 1
Hilarious fun that balances horror and slapstick.
Bruce Campbell is almost effortlessly great with crazy lines.



UK




-OUTLANDER 1.2
The intimate GAME OF THRONES, more fleet and personal.
With one of the most exponentially hateable villains ever created.




-DOCTOR WHO 9
An evenly paced season that builds to a brilliant send-off for Jenna Coleman.
And Peter Capaldi is more assured and fun than ever.

-HUMANS 1
A terrific remake of the Swedish "Äkta människor/ Real Humans" that only improves it.
This series streamlines the strengths into a more unified, surprising whole.


-ORPHAN BLACK (Canada/BBC) 3
Tatiana Maslaney. The chameleon actor schools us in how its done so well that the plots seem like loose frameworks for the fun.

-PENNY DREADFUL 2
Eva Green. The League Of Extraordinary Coincidence takes on black magic, and pays a heavy toll.

-JONATHAN STRANGE & MR. NORRELL (mini-series)
Excellent adaption of Susanna Clarke's book, bringing vivid life to an alternate 19th century London where magic exists.


Good:
-JEKYLL & HYDE 1
Crazed pulp fun with a crack cast clearly enjoying themselves.

-THE FRANKENSTEIN CHRONICLES 1
Sean Bean. An interesting take on fiction distorting 19th century reality in the wake of Shelley's book.





HEROES




We're in a golden era of superheroes onscreen. This is actually the screen catching up late to comics revolutions that already happened on the page.

Every decade had comics renaissances that improved the maturity, craft, range, and credibility of the genre. Networked by comic shop outlets, the 80's sparked indie revolts like American Flagg, Love And Rockets, The Rocketeer, and Starstruck.


The two majors noticed. Marvel rebuilt their cred in the early 80's on Frank Miller's brutally noir take on Daredevil (and DC partially with Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns.); stripped, adult, harsh, hardboiled, haunted. In the 2000's, writer Brian Michael Bendis revamped Daredevil in Tarantino terms with cinematic art by Alex Maleev and David Mack, pooling a loose collective of Hell's Kitchen defenders who were decidedly human and R-rated: Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, etc.

If upbeat mainstream shows like Flash, Arrow, and Supergirl echo classic mainstream comics, then the Netflix adaptions of Daredevil and Jessica Jones directly reflect the hard R comics of Miller and Bendis, down to the story arcs, the dialogue, the visual style, the adult tone, the credits, and the ad art.

The revolution is televised because it was already won in print.


-DAREDEVIL 1
An exact blending of Miller's template with Bendis' expansions, this bonejarring noir is the best Batman show never made.
Just as Miller's comics matured the medium, this streetwise series (and Christopher Nolan) reset the bar for adult comics on the screen.

-JESSICA JONES 1
Just as Bendis leveraged the momentum of Miller, this series raises the gravity and power razed by the companion Daredevil series.
Based on Bendis and Gaydos' ALIAS, the character drama tackled anger, pain, and loss to universal acclaim.




-AGENT CARTER 1
Hayley Atwell gets the star vehicle she deserves as 40's superspy Peggy Carter, mother of S.H.I.E.L.D.

-AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. 3.1
All the setups pay off in this turbocharged, twisty season.
With more to come.

-POWERS 1
A pretty good take on Oeming/Bendis' comics, that catches fire when Eddie Izzard and Michelle Forbes appear.

-THE FLASH 2.1
The Multiverse begins, bringing the DC mythos to mainstream success.

-ARROW 4.1
More magic, more fun, and a good collective against a mercurial villain.

-SUPERGIRL 1.1
The Kryptonian we need, all positive hope and ethics!

-CONSTANTINE 1
John Constantine, as he was intended, briefly invades normal airwaves for a season.
Generally sharp with some great highs.

-VIXEN
The online cartoon companion to THE FLASH and ARROW, starring African superhero Vixen.





DETECTIVES




-AMERICAN CRIME 1
Oscar-winner John Ripley (12 YEARS A SLAVE) crafts what could be The Wire for mainstream TV.
Amidst our reductive kneejerk era, this carefully nuanced anthology instead covers all angles, quietly exposing all the false divisions that suffocate empathy and humanity.

-FARGO 2
Ambitious, intricate, arresting.

-BROADCHURCH 2
The first season was great, but the second is better, wringing unexpected dramatic gold with the aftermath of the murderer's trial.

-ELEMENTARY 4.1
Enter Holmes' father, and an even stronger focus.
Sherlock gets all the attention, but this underprized series continues to shine on its own.


Good:
-TRUE DETECTIVE 2
The genre anthology moves from Southern Gothic to Neo-Noir, subtly tracing by oblique angles the secret cabal that runs things.
Less quotable and clear, sure, but much more complex and daring.
Rachel McAdams, playing against type, was especially terrific.



COMEDY




-ASH vs. EVIL DEAD 1
Some of the funniest lines and most demented actions on the screen.

-BROAD CITY 2
Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson go more brazen crazin', and it's too late to stop them.

-MASTER OF NONE 1
Aziz Ansari.

-UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT 1
Ellie Kemper and Jane Krakowski, via Tina Fey.

-MAN SEEKING WOMAN 1
Absurdist.





THINGS TO CATCH UP ON, Dept.



Hey, who has time (or money) to see everything?


THE BIG SHORT
CREED
SLOW WEST
BROOKLYN
LEGEND

A HARD DAY (South Korea)
BLACK COAL THIN ICE (China)
ABOUT ELLY (Iran)

WILD TALES (Argentina)

ADVENTURE TIME
STEVEN UNIVERSE





See also:


BEST MUSIC: 2015

BEST MUSIC: 2014
BEST MOVIES & TV: 2014

BEST MOVIES & TV: 2013
BEST MUSIC: 2013

BEST MOVIES & TV: 2012
BEST MUSIC: 2012
BEST COMIX: 2012

BEST MOVIES & TV: 2011
BEST MUSIC: 2011
BEST COMIX: 2011

BEST MOVIES: 2000-2010
BEST COMIX: 2000-2010
BEST MUSIC: 2000-2010



How STAR WARS Is Changing Everything!


"Cut!







______

Friday, January 1, 2016

BEST MUSIC: 2015, with Music Players!



Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes






Nevermind those suburban-angst
"Best Music" lists that taste like paste!

These tunes will divine your mind
and shake your goodness sakes!


Shortcut to Music Players:
BEST ALBUMS: 2015
COOL SONGS: 2015
BEST RE-ISSUES: 2015






BEST NEW ALBUMS: 2015


This is a Spotify player. Join up for free here.



This music player has songs from the following albums, in the same order.




-Jacco Gardner, "Hypnophobia"

-Liz Vice, "There's a Light"

-Diane Coffee, "Everybody's a Good Dog"

-Alabama Shakes, "Sound & Color"





-Bop English, "Constant Bop"

-The Sonics, "This Is The Sonics"

-Anderson East, "The Muscle Shoals Sessions"

-La Luz, "Weirdo Shrine"





-J.D. McPherson, "Let The Good Times Roll"

-BC Camplight, "How To Die In the North"

-Peach Kelli Pop, "Peach Kelli Pop III"

-Django Django, "Born Under Saturn"





-Barrence Whitfield & The Savages, "Under the Savage Sky"

-Pond, "Man It Feels Like Space Again"

-Leon Bridges, "Coming Home"

-Thee Tsunamis, "Saturday Night Sweetheart"





-Father John Misty, "I Love You, Honeybear"

-Mahalia Barnes And The Soul Mates, "Ooh Yea!: The Betty Davis Songbook"

-Destination Lonely, "No One Can Save Me"

-The Arcs, "Yours, Dreamily,"





-Erase Errata, "Lost Weekend"

-The Pop Group, "Citizen Zombie"

-Public Enemy, "Man Plans God Laughs"

-Delaney Davidson, "Rough Diamond"





-Devo, "Hardcore Live!"

-Groovy Uncle, "Life's a Gift"

-Mbongwana Star, Konono No.1, "From Kinshasa"

-Holly Golightly, "Slowtown Now!"





-Paul Weller, "Saturns Pattern"

-Ty Segall, "Mr. Face"

-Le Butcherettes, "Cry Is For the Flies"

-Lianne La Havas, "Blood"







COOL SONGS: 2015




Funk! Spaghetti Western! Psychedelic!
Soul! PostPunk! Psychobilly!
Electro! Riot Grrrl! Delirium!



COOL SONGS 2015
This is a Spotify player. Join up for free here.



Dengue Fever; Gary Clark, Jr.;
Motobunny; Young Fathers


9 hours of kicking music, featuring:

Calibro 35, Palmyra Delran, ELO, Colleen Green, The Mighty Macombos, Speedy Ortiz, Horst With No Name, Zun Zun Egui, Moon Duo, Wire, Tracy Bonham, and of course some Scottish rap, Indian funk, and Polish afrobeat!








BEST MUSIC RE-ISSUES: 2015




Quality is timeless.


BEST REISSUES 2015
This is a Spotify player. Join up for free here.



This music player has songs from the following albums, in the same order.



1930's & 40's

-Lead Belly, "The Smithsonian Folkways Collection"





1950's

-The "5" Royales, "Think"

-Various Artists, "Tam...Tam...Tam...!" (1958) (Brasiliana revue show)




1960's

-The Kinks, "The Anthology 1964-1971"

-The Staple Singers, "Freedom Highway Complete" (1965)

-Bob Dylan, "The Cutting Edge 1965-1966"

-Curtis Knight & The Squires (w/ Jimi Hendrix), "You Can't Use My Name" (1965, 1967)

-Jimi Hendrix, "Freedom: Atlanta Pop Festival (Live)" (1970)

-Fadoul, "Al Zman Saib" (Moroccan funk, 1970)




1970's

-The Rolling Stones, "Sticky Fingers (Deluxe)" (1971)

-Gloria Ann Taylor, "Love Is a Hurtin' Thing" (1975)

-Led Zeppelin, "Physical Graffiti (Deluxe)" (1975)

-Alessandro Alessandroni, "Industrial" (1976)

-Led Zeppelin, "Presence (Deluxe)" (1976)

-Various Artists, "Ork Records: New York, New York" (late 70's punk)

-Fleetwood Mac, "Tusk (Deluxe)" (1979)

-Lizzy Mercier Descloux, "Press Color (Deluxe)" (1979)




1980s

-The Mothmen, "Pay Attention" (1981)

-Various Artists, "Sherwood At the Controls, Vol. 1: 1979-1984" (On-U Sound dub mixes)

-Led Zeppelin, "Coda (Deluxe)" (1982)

-Paul McCartney, "Tug Of War (Deluxe)" (1982)

-Rodion G.A., "Behind the Curtain: The Lost Album" (c. 1980-83)

-Various Artists, "Trevor Jackson Presents: Science Fiction Dancehall Classics" (mid-80's dub mixes)




1990's

-A Tribe Called Quest, "People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm" (1991)

-Kurt Cobain, "Montage of Heck" (early 90's)

-Pops Staples, "Don't Lose This" (unissued 1999 album)




2010's


-Ty Segall, "Ty Rex" (2011)









"A splendid time is guaranteed for all!"






See also:

BEST MOVIES & TV: 2015

BEST MUSIC: 2014
BEST MOVIES & TV: 2014

BEST MUSIC: 2013
BEST MOVIES & TV: 2013

BEST MOVIES & TV: 2012
BEST COMIX: 2012
BEST MUSIC: 2012

BEST MOVIES & TV: 2011
BEST COMIX: 2011
BEST MUSIC: 2011

BEST MOVIES: 2000-2010
BEST COMIX: 2000-2010
BEST MUSIC: 2000-2010




Tuesday, December 22, 2015

How STAR WARS Is Changing Everything!

(updated, reposted from 5/25/2012)


STAR WARS is to cinema what The Beatles are to music.

STAR WARS recreated modern culture: entertainment, technology, craft, and industry.

It remade how movies look, sound, and are experienced, and how they are crafted, budgeted, marketed, merchandised, and franchised.

But most importantly...it created a global generation of creators.


Here's a view on it from someone who lived through it and was happily changed by it.







--- Fun can be High Art, too: ---




"Here's where the fun begins."





How did this happen?

I believe the 60's generation, which George Lucas is part of, is so storied because they ignited a cultural renaissance that changed global society, a Big Bang that we are still expanding from. One outgrowth of that creative revolution was that the counterculture saved Hollywood.

Young people had quit going to slick films that didn't speak to them by the late 60's and Hollywood was going bankrupt. In desperation they gave the reins to hippie creators. Overviews of this New Hollywood era like "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls" and "A Decade Under The Influence" reveal how the resulting films -more daring, more realistic, more nuanced- reversed their bad fortunes and progressed a better cinema.>

Now, you can go with their unfortunate snide postscript that 'the auteurs did serious pictures with depth, but then George and Steven dumbed it all down into blockbusters for the masses'.


"I find your lack of faith disturbing."


Or...go with the reality that all of these directors were applying a modern, realist sensibility to what used to be dismissed as 'genre pictures', and that Lucas and Spielberg are part of that same pantheon.

Left to Right: Easy Rider; The Godfather; The Exorcist; American Graffiti



Genre pictures as Art:

  • EASY RIDER (biker pic)
  • PATTON and APOCALYPSE NOW (war pic)
  • M*A*S*H* and ANNIE HALL (screwball comedy)
  • THE GODFATHER (gangster pic)
  • THE FRENCH CONNECTION, CHINATOWN, and TAXI DRIVER (crime pic)
  • THE EXORCIST and JAWS (horror pic)
  • THE LAST PICTURE SHOW and AMERICAN GRAFFITI (teen pic)
  • PAPER MOON and BOUND FOR GLORY (period piece)
  • ROCKY and RAGING BULL (sports pic)

Those genre labels seem pretty outmoded compared to the end results, huh?

These classics were made by smart film buffs who recognized how these stories should have been made, and lifted the subject matter to the level it always deserved. This is the same generation that resurrected the forgotten CASABLANCA, invented Art Houses for showings of Italian Neorealism and Japanese directors and French New Wave, canonized the Silent Film comedians and the Marx Brothers, archived comic strips like "Prince Valiant" and "Krazy Kat" in coffee table books, filtered comic books through Pop Art and deconstructed them in Underground Comix, and upgraded dusty crime pictures to 'Film Noir' shaded with expressionism and existentialism.

They knew what it was like to live and breathe this material when they were young, process it through higher education and hindsight, and filter their film works through the bold faith of a youth coupled with the insightful craft of an adult.


"Don't call me a mindless philosopher, you overweight glob of grease."



STAR WARS is actually richer than those films.

It is a polyglot that references all genres of film, myth, and text at once. Not one of these films or those before them, for all of their unimpeachable merits, does that. As such, it is a metatext for the entire creative century. Its prism of the past for the present anticipates the following future of hybrid art from cyberpunk to steampunk, postpunk to hiphop, WATCHMEN to FIREFLY, RAW magazine to JUXTAPOZ.

In the 20th century, modern life had become fast and complex, and was best expressed in the mosaic; whether it's Pablo Picasso's overlapping abstractions, Hannah Hoch's or Romare Bearden's collages, John Coltrane's 'sheets of sound', or the cover of "Sgt. Pepper", meaning was conveyed in multiplicity. If you knew all that stuff, you knew, and if you didn't, you're Mr. Jones.



"Something is happening here
and you don't know what it is..."



In the wake of ON THE BEACH and PLANET OF THE APES, early 70's Science Fiction had become message pictures warning about where we were heading. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, SOYLENT GREEN, and THX-1138 were valuable for social criticism and heady enough to earn critical credibility, but that ethical outlook soon strayed into a pessimistic solemnity. Pointing out a fire is a good thing, jumping into it without hope is a wrong move. Yet Science Fiction and Horror could only find validation from academia when they subscribed to the dark side. This unfortunately played to that critical failing which mistakes the depressing for depth and bitter disappointment for insight. That defeatist view is actually a form of spiritual cowardice which succumbs to the disease of despair instead of the antidote of the possible.

STAR WARS was the welcome antidote to pessimism, reminding us that the optimism of the counterculture strove for a funner, better world. Joy was just as valid and more essential than darkness, and for audiences exhausted by Watergate and roiling times, that view was exactly what they needed.

"Seriousness is the only refuge of the shallow." -Oscar Wilde

Lucas' triumph was also in proving that 'pop trash' and 'genre culture' were just as worthy as the 'realistic' stuff, and that smart films can still be fun.

At first, the critics knew that. TIME magazine declared it "The Year's Best Movie" when it was only May, and a televised countdown that year of the 'Greatest Films Ever Made' had STAR WARS already in the Top 10.






"He doesn't like you."



But gradually the Huffs and Tsks slung euphemisms like "effects pictures", "high concept", "popcorn flicks", and "blockbuster" in disdain for these rabble-driven affairs, and went to worship Woody Allen without his permission.

"Ohhh, the Great Unwashed! (throws wrist to forehead) Quickly, Jeeves, turn on UPSTAIRS DOWNTON! The vapors!"

The idea that blockbusters are 'simple pictures for simple people' is simply elitism, of course.

The earlier work of Lucas and Spielberg like AMERICAN GRAFFITI and JAWS were initially recognized for the same depth of craft and story as parallels like MEAN STREETS and THE EXORCIST, in particular by young critics informed by a similar outlook and cultural background. But STAR WARS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS expanded the palette to a speculative fiction range that started to make conservative 'realist' critics uncomfortable.

That's because they tend to respect introspection but lack imagination. Or think that these are mutually exclusive. Dry dramas suffused with muted angst reassure them of their reality, while -for centuries- any story with imagination was dismissed as 'flights of fancy', 'boys adventure tales', 'potboilers', or 'escapist fare'. It's the sad old saw you see in how narrow critics relegated Jules Verne to the 'Juvenile Fiction' shelf, heard Bebop's sophistication as cacophony, and called comic books subliterate trash while EC was pumping out subversive art.

The learned opinion was invalid here because it was based on reflexive prejudice.

"Every normal human being is interested in two kinds of worlds; the Primary, everyday world which he knows through his senses and a Secondary world or worlds, which he not only can create in his imagination, but also cannot stop himself creating."
-W.H. Auden, 1967

But the mass success of the films also troubled newer critics, who feared that the victory of personal artistic films won by New Hollywood was now in danger of losing out to a backlash of kitsch crap.

To be fair, there was cause for concern. The late 70's was propelled by a rising wave of younger people who embraced hedonistic excess or slick fun over communal spirit and political revolt, and the mainstream age became ever glossier, finecombed, bubblegum, and hollow by the minute. Alarmed critics saw it all as one dumb throb of Hype, full of loud emptiness and signifying nothing. The sheer freshness and vitality of STAR WARS and the epic scope and careful character of CE3K won initial kudos, but with their seismic social success, what would Hollywood copycats wreak in their wake?

"Brought to you by the makers of Mr. Prolong/
Better known as Urge Overkill/
The pimping of the pleasure principle."

-Parliament, 1977.

It was a valid concern but applied to the wrong suspects. Lucas and Spielberg were friends, peers, and equals to the best respected of the New Hollywood creators like Scorsese and Coppola. Their craft, intelligence, and works stands with the best of the class. But if their imagination surpassed the limited scope of some starchy critics or clueless awards shows, whose failing is that?

You might see quaint photos, from when Beatlemania first hit New York, where unhip Businessmen mocked it wearing bad Beatle wigs and danced around. They look clueless and stupid because they were. The exponential legacy of the band only makes their obliviousness more archaic and laughable. They're a drag, and a well-known-drag; we turn the sound down on them and say rude things.

Next time, Mock Turtle, know the difference between genius and junk. Lucas and Spielberg may have made auteur films that happened to be popular, but personally I think it's their acolytes afterward that truly lost the plot. I could go on about how Dante, Zemeckes, and Columbus tended to make mall movies for the suburban bubble, and how that approach devolves into real Effects Catastrophes like GODZILLA, TRANFORMERS, and G.I. JOE...but I just did, so next.

“Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths.”
― Joseph Campbell

What was undeniable from any perspective is that George and Steven changed the paradigm of film in favor of the people.







--- STAR WARS reinvented
the future from the past: ---





"That wizard is just a crazy old man."





L to R: Metropolis; The Hidden Fortress; Darkseid of The New Gods; 2001: A Space Odyssey



The film is a prism that taught young people to 'refine the past, redefine the future'. It divined its light from many sources.

    -Books from "John Carter Of Mars" to "Dune", from "Lord Of The Rings" to Joseph Campbell's "Man Of A Thousand Faces"
    -Pulp Science Fiction magazines from the 10's to the 40's
    -Westerns like THE SEARCHERS
    -Easterns like THE HIDDEN FORTRESS
    -Middle-Easterns like LAWRENCE OF ARABIA
    -Early Science Fiction films from METROPOLIS to Saturday matinee serials
    -Comic Strips like "Buck Rogers", "Flash Gordon", and "Prince Valiant"
    -Comic Book influences from Doctor Doom to Darkseid, from PLANET COMICS to Cody Starbuck
    -The arthouse cred and SFX acumen of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, and offspring like SILENT RUNNING and DARK STAR
    -The metaphysical New Wave Of Science Fiction books, and the used universe aesthetic of SOLARIS and Metal Hurlant/Heavy Metal.


And then there was Big Picture stuff like:

    -World War II
    -The Space Race
    -The Counterculture values



"Where did you dig up that old fossil?"



John Williams skipped the atonal electronic scores then current in the downer flicks and modeled his score deliberately after the triumphant orchestral themes and marches of great 30's film composers like Erich Korngold and Max Steiner.

Even the classic art deco 20th Century Fox logo intro was brought back from mothballs as a triumphant celebration of the past by the present.

Sly Stone said, "If it was good in the past, it's still good." The sharp kids got that, and backtracked to all these sources with equal respect. Or they ate their popcorn and had a good time, which is nice, too.



STAR WARS Reissue poster, 1978
(by Drew Struzan & Charles White III; in the spirit of J.C. Leyendecker and N.C. Wyeth)







--- Before and Aftermath: ---




Before:



"It's an energy field created by all living things."







STAR WARS clearly made no claims for arriving full-cloth by itself. It wore all its many influences as precisely the point. But it also succeeded on the crest of many social undercurrents that lifted it up.

    -From the early days of SF fandom, when Forrest J. Ackerman created the first pen pal networks and attended the first 1939 convention
    -to the rise of 60's fanzines and small comic conventions
    -to the letter-writing campaign to save STAR TREK, and the networks of fans who then created the exponentially successful TREK conventions in the early 70's
    -to the art cred of new speculative literature like "2001", "Slaughterhouse-5", and "Gravity's Rainbow"
    -to the modest success of LOGAN'S RUN (1976), an unusually large-budget SF film that spawned comics, books, and a brief television series
    -and especially to the success of toys and merchandise for STAR TREK and PLANET OF THE APES in the mid-70's, even after those franchises had been years dormant.

The support system is in place, and the precedent has just been set by an unlikely film.

Before JAWS (June 1975), movies were released gradually across time by regions, building up word-of-mouth momentum. Only exploitation movies had wide simultaneous release, which was meant to grab a quick buck before advance word sunk them.

When JAWS was dumped into wide-release as a summer quickie, it became the highest-grossing film ever released. Crowds knew it was a smarter take on monster pics, full of craft and character beyond the shocking thrills, and came back again and again. Lines formed around the block for every showing and stayed that way for months. Hollywood was blindsided by this reaction, but Lucas saw the value in opening wide close to Memorial Day, when kids are out of school and the summer would drive droves into air conditioning.

May 25th, 1977 was when everything changed.>>>




After:




"Don't everyone thank me at once."




One advantage STAR WARS had was no competition. In the few years after, there were few at the studios canny enough or fast enough to grasp how to respond. There were incredibly long gaps for impatient fans wanting more. The announcement that the second STAR WARS would take another three years was almost an inconceivable wait. (The talk was there would be '12 Adventures Of Luke Skywalker', and at this rate we wouldn't be done till 2010!)

This was endurable for awhile because the film was still thrilling the throngs months and months after it had opened. There were no multiplexes with multiple showings yet, so you went to the traditional contained theatre and stood under the hot sun in a line measuring 12 parsecs. In fact, it came right back when it left. Normally, a film may have a reissue on a tenth or twentieth anniversary. STAR WARS was rereleased on its first anniversary when it had barely left the dollar theaters! And it made money all over again.

What came next were only films that had already been in process. At first there were just grinders like THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN and LASERBLAST. But verrrry gradually the great successors rolled out:

    CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (Dec 1977)
    INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (Dec 1978)
    SUPERMAN (Dec 1978)
    ALIEN (May 1979)
    STAR TREK: The Motion Picture (Dec 1979)

L to R: CE3K; Invasion Of The Body Snatchers; Superman; Alien



It's important to note not just how good these films were, or how successful they all became, but how diverse they all are. And that they pretty much owned the times they debuted with little or no competition. It also gave audiences time to really appreciate each film as a work, instead of being lost in a cockfight competition.



"What a piece of junk."



Which is where we mention that the Suits threw out also-rans like BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS, METEOR, SATURN 3, FLASH GORDON, KRULL, and THE LAST STARFIGHTER along the way. Disney was so rattled that they just remade their own 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA as THE BLACK HOLE with a pinch of 2001 at the end. If these films looked like what some hapless Suit thought a Sci-Fi or Fantasy film was, well, yeah. Which I say to make the point that these bandwagon movies were committee-driven instead of creator-driven.

(If you were a kid and liked these films, don't take my flip quips to heart. If some yob with a blog dissed ESCAPE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN, I'd probably get miffed, too. 'Like and let like', I say.)

1977 to 1982 is a golden age for great SF films, but also a learning curve for the new Hollywood machine.

By 1980, you finally had the true sequel THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, plus bonuses like ALTERED STATES and SOMEWHERE IN TIME. And in 1981, the gears start turning with RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, along with scattered gems like SUPERMAN II, TIME BANDITS, EXCALIBUR, and OUTLAND. These films were spread out across the year, paced carefully to give each one room to profit. But it wasn't till 1982 that The Machine had finally got into full gear, producing what is arguably 'The Best Sci-Fi Summer Ever'>:

    E.T.
    POLTERGEIST
    STAR TREK II

    BLADE RUNNER
    THE THING
    THE ROAD WARRIOR*
    TRON

    *(THE ROAD WARRIOR was actually the 1981 sequel, MAD MAX 2, from Australia. The first hadn't been a hit here, so they renamed the sequel in the United States.)

See that gap? That's because the first three made immediate money and the next four were written off as flops. In that time, the STAR WARS model still held sway: people rung blocks all day for months on hit films. Months. The latter films were crushed by that kind of competition, and were only saved by the new rise of home VHS tapes and cable showings a few years later. I remember enjoying BLADE RUNNER, appropriately in a huge vintage 1930's theatre, with only three other people.

Another factor that would make or break films was that you could only see them in the theater, so you had to go back repeatedly. A fraction of people had HBO then, and the very lean choices on VHS were impossibly expensive. STAR WARS wouldn't be shown on TV or be affordable on tape until 1984. The theater was the temple of the times.


L to R: E.T.; Star Trek II; Blade Runner; The Thing


There were also parallel attempts that year like MEGAFORCE, CONAN, AIRPLANE II, SWAMP THING, and CAT PEOPLE. The distinction is the classic one. The best of all these films were by fans/auteurs who knew what they were doing. The worst were by hacks who didn't know to respect the material or the audience.


"The plans you refer to will soon be back in our hands."



1982 is a watershed year because The Machine is now in place. They know the market, the release pattern, and the media (like Entertainment Tonight and Time) to promote it. And they know the two times to release the big guns: either Summer or Christmas. If 1977 is when the SF blockbuster was invented, then 1982 is when the Summer Of Competing Blockbusters came to fruition.

The wilderness years are over and our modern system is here, for both good and ill.





--- The STAR WARS Effect: ---







"It belongs to us now."




Ultimately, STAR WARS became the wave that floats all boats.

The global success of STAR WARS single-handedly...

    -made Science Fiction and Fantasy viable industries in the mainstream
    -resurrected STAR TREK in films and new TV series
    -created a cottage industry of merchandise: mags, books, posters, toys, etc.
    -accelerated the importation of Japanese animated series like "Battle Of The Planets" (Gatchaman) and "Star Blazers" (Space Battleship Yamato), which opened Anime and Manga to the West
    -saved Marvel Comics and Fox Studios from bankruptcy
    -rewrote how movies are greenlit, budgeted, crafted, marketed, merched, and released
    -advanced all the technology to make films
    -generated enough popular demand to initiate multiplexes
    -improved movie theaters with THX sound and, later, digital projection
    -paved the later success of Fantasy, Comic Book, and Video Game films
    -created a generational tide of fans


After John Williams, movie scores returned to full symphonic suites from heirs like James Horner (80's), Danny Elfman (90's), and Mark Giacchino (00's).

The San Diego Comic-Con was a modest hive of comics mavens when STAR WARS did a poster giveaway for publicity in 1976. Now it's bigger than God with lavish extravaganzas footed by all the major and minor multimedia empires, covered by all the major and minor media.

Without its success there would never have been franchises/cash cows like LORD OF THE RINGS, THE MATRIX, TOY STORY, HARRY POTTER, TWILIGHT, and HUNGER GAMES. Or television series like the four new STAR TREKS, ANDROMEDA, FARSCAPE, FIREFLY, LOST, and CLONE WARS.

Or parodies like HARDWARE WARS, SPACEBALLS, and ROBOT CHICKEN!






--- "The love you take is equal
to the love you make": ---




But beyond the superficial level of accountants, there is the deeper level of how the film inspired and empowered the creatives.


"It binds the galaxy together."






STAR WARS fans didn't want to just consume the movie, they wanted to create it themselves.

The first question on their minds was, "How was that done?"

They bankrolled the first waves of media culture. The SF start-up magazine STARLOG suddenly went from pulp to glossy along with satellite mags like FUTURE (hard science) and FANGORIA (horror films). STARLOG -essentially the TIME magazine of Science Fiction in its day- became so important as the monthly community lifeline that every year legions of genre celebrities flooded them with birthday greetings. There were studied theses in academic rivals like SCIENCE FANTASY FILM CLASSICS and FANTASTIC FILMS: the mythological subtext of STAR WARS; a long treatise on the original INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS as a criticism of McCarthyism; and a radical and prescient theory positing all of Superman's powers as actually being telekinetic. And the seminal FAMOUS MONSTERS reminded you where all this came from.

Film studios had given up on SF films right before STAR WARS and dismantled their Special Effects departments. Lucas had to invent the Industrial Light And Magic department just to do his film. But magazines like STARLOG and CINEFEX taught a new generation of teenagers and children how SFX were done and about all the pioneers like O'Brien and Harryhausen who perfected them: blue screen, green screen, motion control, glass matte paintings, optical printing, stop motion, maquettes. They also introduced the young to the canon of great films, shows, and books and interviewed the casts and creators. They relayed the continuum into the community.

Beside mags, the fans bought soundtrack albums, official film storyboard books, ship and set blueprints, the published scripts and the bootleg drafts, and even under-the-table bad bootleg VHS dubs of STAR WARS years before it was released publicly.

And of course toys. When they finally came.


"I thought you said this thing was fast!"



As impossible as it seems, there were no STAR WARS toys when the film came out and wouldn't be for awhile. Lucas was smart to release a novelization well in advance and a Marvel Comics adaption a few months early. Between those and the cover story of STARLOG #7, he hooked folks like me who hit spinner racks, Waldenbooks tables, and drugstore mag stands. Once we were hooked, the Hildebrandt poster and the rest were scooped up. But there were no toys. You had to buy a voucher from Kenner for four action figures, which would be delivered in a little white box well after Christmas in February, a full nine months after the film opened. Measured in Kid Time, this was like aeons. And after decades of 12" G.I. Joes and Barbies, their 4" simplicity came as sort of a shock. But they sold enough figures that next year to outnumber the present population of the United States!

This generation was insatiable to know how to do everything, based on their inspiration from STAR WARS: Special Effects, Scriptwriting, Directing, Music, Sound, Cinematography, Storyboards, Set Design, Editing, Costume Design, Creature Design, Posters, Credits, and Logos. Just as The Beatles inspired untold millions to jump into music, so this film drove a tsunami of talent into every phase of production for films, and eventually games, software, digital art, and toy design.

It's why sculptors and game designers now can become superstars at conventions. And why fans will watch the 'Making Of' features on discs as intently as they watched the film.

"How is it done? I want to do that for a living."

Doubt their impact on the 'mainstream' culture? How about that Tupac hologram that you watched on your Droid phone?


"I can't think of a story meeting I've ever had without STAR WARS being evoked at some point." -Jon Favreau >



If you want to see this come full circle, watch the movie SUPER 8 (2011). This sweet ode to the films of 1977 to 1982, and the teen auteurs it inspired, is made by J.J. Abrams who was one of them.

Their rooms look like my room did. That Chewbacca trading card, that cover to Detective Comics #475, the Starlogs. It's all there, and wonderfully done.


Update, 2015:
And now the circle is complete. J.J. Abrams has created the critically acclaimed and monstrously-lucrative comeback film, STAR WARS: Episode VII, The Force Awakens.

A Rey of new hope.






--- Geek Culture: ---





"We don't serve their kind here."




There is no geek culture. There are only creators.

There's this media myth called the Geek. It's based on the fact that media archetypes are essentially like being in High School Forever: reward the Football Hero, swoon for the Prom Queen, party with The Bully, and knock the Nerd. (And follow the Popular until they aren't.)

Even the U.S. Congress resorted to these stereotypes about Nerd-calling in referring to computer savvy. As Jon Stewart pointed out, "Really? Nerds? You know, actually, I think the word you're looking for is 'experts'." (Audience explodes in cheers.):




"You're who?"




It may be all geek to them, but let's drop those fratboys. Let's reject Geek. We wear it like a Scarlet G, but enough. We're too grown for their word.

When you walk around Comic-Con, you're in a Disney World of every variation of creativity. Look at the hundreds of thousands of varied faces and interests and personal styles there and try to point out the Geek. Only a news crew can, when they shoot the only cliches they know (cosplay of film characters). The reality of the event is too much to quantify and the crowd more so. This is just...everyone, and it sure isn't High School anymore.

I recognize us on smart shows like SPACED, but not in the grating cliches on BIG BANG THEORY.

The people libeled labeled Geeks or Nerds are not nebbishes, perma-virgins, dweebs, malcontents, librarians, math-heads, Slave Leia's, Klingon-abbees, inflexibles, misanthropes, obsessives, cockatoos, mice, or ugly ducklings. They are not loners on the margins of some fantasized Barbie and Ken mainstream. They are smart, funny, thoughtful people of every personality type, shape, and background who are engaged with the possibilities of the world. They read, they think, they make, they reimagine. They are capable people who can actually do things or say something meaningful about them, instead of just buying or voguing things.

They have never been just daydreamers, they are visionaries.

They are not the weird people. They are the interesting people.

They're your daughter or your best friend, or you, if you're reading this.





"You're braver than I thought."



The people called Geeks are the Experts who learned how to do everything fun and cool. They were inspired by STAR WARS or STAR TREK or something very cool like them.

This generation of creators led to the myriad Special Effects and Digital Effects companies; to Pixar and all the CG animation studios; to video games and software companies; and to entire syndicated networks like the SciFi Channel (now SyFy), The Cartoon Network, and Adult Swim.

They put us on the moon and placed the satellites that bounce the call to your cell phone that they designed. They turned Dick Tracy's wrist-TV into your video conference meeting. They're why your car can park itself or your bus runs on electricity, how you MapQuested your trip or GoogleEarthed the streets of other countries.

They write WIRED magazine and LOST and THE AVENGERS, expand the Internet, do all of the flashy TV commercials, design all the Apps, and made casual wear, action figures, and pop trivia essential in the hip office.

They are the life's blood of Silicon Valley, which is the engine of the economy. They're the bulk of staff at Apple, eBay, Amazon, Craigslist, Electronic Arts, FaceBook, YouTube, ThinkGeek,and any design agency.

They are Wikipedia, Wikileaks, AintItCool, Anonymous, Rotten Tomatoes, MoveOn, Entertainment Weekly, Good Vibrations, Funny Or Die, Crackle, and Huff Post. They are Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. They are the Cosplayers, the Webcomic makers, the IT gurus, the DJs, the Steampunks, the Fan Fiction writers, the Indie Rock and Hiphop bands, the Film and Art and Fashion students, the Plush makers, the Modern Primitives, the Comic Shop owners, the Podcasters, graphic designers, illustrators, and voice talent.

They are the indie filmmakers behind HALLOWEEN, BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET, BLAIR WITCH, PI, DISTRICT 9, MOON, and CHRONICLE.

They conjured all the devices and programs that let you make movies, music, and art of your own.

If it was cool and imaginative and fun, they made it.


"So I believe that dreams -day dreams, you know, with your eyes wide open and your brain-matter whizzing- are likely to lead to the betterment of the world. The imaginative child will become the imaginative man or woman most apt to create, to invent, and therefore foster civilization."

-L. Frank Baum, 1917.


They aren't just the consumers that prop up the economy, they are the creators who enable it.

As they always were, but now more than ever, they are the architects of the real world.

L to R: Brother From Another Planet; The Blair Witch Project; District 9; Moon





"I don't know, I can imagine quite a bit."



Now we live in a time when the flood of new film franchises is almost simultaneous. This is not just because Suits have become adroit enough to milk us (The Architect). More crucially, it's because we have grown up to become the creators in the industry (Neo).

It's our imagination that ripples the social waves. We are going from galley slaves to captains.

Quality is the tell. Let's look at how 'subliterate trash' like Comic Books have been redefined by a generation of filmmakers who knew better, for a global audience that responds to that quality.

Since the 60's, Comics have undergone continuous renaissances that have broadened and deepened their scope, and made superstars out of their artists and writers. It's inevitable that a comic-culture wave of auteurs is, like before, showing Hollywood the merit of genre material and how to do it at the better level it deserves.

'Refine the past, redefine the future.' They knew what it was like to live and breathe this material when they were young, process it through higher education and hindsight, and filter their film works through the bold faith of a youth coupled with the insightful craft of an adult.

Tim Burton admits to being clueless about Batman as a character, but Christopher Nolan knew him inside out; Burton coasted on goth style and Jack Nicholson, while Nolan respected the great Comics writers and artists by making great character films. When Kenneth Branagh pitched his ideas for a Thor film, the Marvel Comics chief admits that Kenneth knew their mythos better than even they did. Joss Whedon seamlessly integrated all the storylines and styles of other Marvel films into his astounding AVENGERS, but more importantly, he made an ensemble character piece with wit and imagination that honors the true mythos of Marvel Comics, the creators, the fans, and thrills the general audience.

But it's not all capes and clang. Meanwhile, fans/creators have made critically-acclaimed pictures without many viewers realizing they were from graphic novels: GHOST IN THE SHELL, FROM HELL, GHOST WORLD, ROAD TO PERDITION, PERSEPOLIS, AMERICAN SPLENDOR, V FOR VENDETTA, TAMARA DREWE, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, SCOTT PILGRIM, and the series THE WALKING DEAD.

There's even a rich world of acclaimed comics-inspired films that don't come from actual comics at all: THE MATRIX, UNBREAKABLE, THE INCREDIBLES, DR. HORRIBLE'S SINGALONG BLOG, PUSH, HAUNTERS (Korea), CHRONICLE, and series like MISFITS and THE FADES (both U.K.).


L to R: American Splendor; V For Vendetta; Persepolis; Scott Pilgrim



Is V FOR VENDETTA 'subliterate' when it is inspiring actual democratic change in the world? When did MANHATTAN or HOWARD'S END ever do that?

Who galvanizes the viewers and the critics with TWIN PEAKS, LOST, and GAME OF THRONES?

Maybe it's time to snap out of the 'Praising The Pretties' media routine and quit segregating the interesting people out of reality.

Newspeak like 'Geek Chic' only glosses over the once-ostracized putting the free in Freak. Are the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, and Rolling Stone devoting constant columns to this culture as just a hot trend...or, more likely, because the staff is part of this vast culture?

Lazy journalists will write cringe-inducing 'Bam! Crash! Zow!' articles about these works decades out of date. But a generation of fans now writes professionally for all the major outlets. The days of the bad translator are ending when the person who speaks the language is finally hired. TIME magazine counted the WATCHMEN graphic novel as one of The 100 Best Novels of the past century. Alison Bechdel's graphic novel FUN HOME was considered one of the best books of 2006 by The Times of London, the New York Times, Salon.com, the Los Angeles Times, and more. And MAUS won the Pulitzer Prize.

Which leads to the ultimate question: if Geeks are outside of the mainstream, how come they are the ones creating it?

From the top grossing films for thirty years, to the devices that we all use, to the popular culture we converse in, to the new creative ideas that generate all the wealth, to the music that matters, to the vast array of creative undergrounds that always pave our cultural future...the mainstream has been our doing for quite awhile.

So, for the record once and for all, we are not in that conceptual closet anymore. We are the tributaries that create the mainstream.




"Still, she's got a lot of spirit."






By the same token that they can't exclude us anymore, we shouldn't exclude each other.

White suburban dudes are often getting their geek props, but I'll be more impressed when proper due is finally given to overlooked oceans like the female >>>> or the Asian >>> or Black >>>> fan communities.

Hello, always here, always a part of it, too (waving arms)...



Girly Vader finds your lack of faith disturbing.




Update, 2015:

STAR WARS: The Force Awakens
The new stars of the third STAR WARS trilogy: John Boyega and Daisy Ridley.
Art by Drew Struzan.




--- "Remember, the Force will be with you...always." ---







STAR WARS had a unique perspective on spirituality that hadn't been expressed before in mainstream films.

I grew up through a religion that controlled people through guilt. It constricted joys and emphasized suffering. The best you could be was a pawn in a chess game between a Good and Evil you should fear equally.

STAR WARS took a Buddhist stance that instead empowered you personally with real choice over your own faults or strengths. This sheared the shackles of dogma right off of me in one swoop.

For that alone, I owe it the deepest gratitude.





--- Jedi vs. Sith ---



There's a dark side and a bright side to all this, of course.



What's wrong:


"I have a very bad feeling about this."





In many ways, all the success of STAR WARS is eating itself.

-Contest Media: STAR WARS became the biggest film of all time for awhile. Since then, entertainment pundits reduce every new release to a money score. Films are ruthlessly vetted over mass bucks in opening weekend, rather than on their quality or long-term success. From BLADE RUNNER to JOHN CARTER, many fine films got bum-rushed by this accountant narrowness.

(Media-Myth Buster #1: JOHN CARTER is actually a good film, loved by wise creators like Neal Adams, Walt Simonson, Howard Chaykin, and Michael Moorcock.)

(Media-Myth Buster #2: JOHN CARTER made all of its budget back in the rest of the world, and is profiting now on DVD.)

Popularity contests are for High School. Drop the cock fight and spread the spotlight.

-Insane Budgets: STAR WARS cost $10 Million to make. EMPIRE doubled that. Now, it costs $100 to $200 Million just to design a poster. Meanwhile economies falter and kids starve. I avoid the obvious schlockbusters as much out of economic protest as from their lack of quality.

-Franchise-Building: The new F word is Franchise. LORD OF THE RINGS was a legitimate literary trilogy. Splitting TWILIGHT into two parts to milk teens is just greed.

-Dumb Summer Glut: For every STAR WARS you were bound to get a GALAXINA. And now the budgets of small countries are spent foisting BATTLESHIP and loud clattering CG animals on us weakly weekly.


"If money is all that you love, then that's what you'll receive."



-Merchandising: Just listen to Kevin Smith talk about Joel Silver and Warner Brothers wasting the entire 90's trying to turn a wrongheaded SUPERMAN film into an excuse for horrible toy revenue...(shudder).



(Proving that Suits never learn, they recently threw Brayn Singer's magesterial -and successful- antidote SUPERMAN RETURNS under the bus so they could regress to making wrongheaded Superman films with Zak Snyder instead.)


"Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed."



-Ronnie's Raygun: A paranoid Reagan devised an impossible missile defense system that got tagged 'Star Wars' by a zombie press, and the courts enforced their right to do so over Lucas' objections.
(Some of you kids missed this bad movie, but they remade it recently as the Bush years.)


-Rupert Murdoch: STAR WARS' profits pulled 20th Century Fox out of bankruptcy, where it was later bought up by this scheming megalomaniac and corporate criminal to destroy journalism and democracy through apprentices like Fox News.


"Only a master of evil, Darth."




"He has too much of his father in him.":


-The Father Complex: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK has one of the greatest surprise reveals in film history. This was rapidly devalued by everyone and their left asscheek. James Earl Jones was playing the villain in CONAN a few months later; when he laughingly remarked that some of the dialogue with the hero reminded him of that moment, the director rewrote it to make it the same revelation!

Susan Faludi, the Pulitzer-winning journalist, writes in "Stiffed: The Betrayal Of The American Male" of the counterculture's true conflict: they asked their parents and elders to live by the ethics they taught instead of betraying them in practice, and were demonized for the request. I believe that countercultural films from ROSEMARY'S BABY and THE GODFATHER, CHINATOWN and ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, to CARRIE and THE SHINING, APOCALYPSE NOW and EMPIRE used the paternal rift as a metaphor for betrayed social (/familial) pacts.

But now Hollywood steals that specific Darth riff for every hero/villain confrontation. 'You're evil' 'But I made you.' BATMAN, ALIEN 4, THE X-FILES, SPIDER-MAN 3, MINORITY REPORT, BATMAN BEGINS, IRON MAN, THE DEPARTED, THERE WILL BE BLOOD, THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE ...

At least TOY STORY 2 had fun with it!






What's right:


"Stay on target.":




The inspiration of STAR WARS is exponential.


-It energized a generations of creators, who now show the videos to their kids.

See "The Force is still strong in Katie" article.

-It revolutionized tech innovation: computer-aided special effects, theatre speaker systems, editing software, games, personal devices, and applications.

-The best disciples focus on storytelling and character at the core of their worldscapes.

-Smart fun craft has been made. People have felt great and wanted to share that.






"You have taken your first step
into a larger world."



Some movies should only be seen on the big screen where they are bigger than you. CITIZEN KANE, WIZARD OF OZ, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, 2001, THE GODFATHERs, STAR WARS, APOCALYPSE NOW. They're too big and they deserve the space. They make you come to it and respect its true granduer.

May there always be a big screen to see wonderful movies on.



STAR WARS also came out on my birthday. It was the best gift that has never stopped giving.

Thanks, George!








See also:


The Canon: 50 Books That Created Modern Culture


The Big Bang of STARSTRUCK


Camille Paglia: "Why George Lucas Is the Greatest Artist of Our Time"