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Posts Tagged ‘George Lucas’

a long time agoThere has been lots of talk about where the Star Wars saga should go.  I was skeptical about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and if it were a good idea, ultimately it turned out to be fantastic.  The as yet untitled Han Solo movie is a step further.  Firstly to make a young Han Solo movie it requires a new young actor to plan Han Solo, if you have to do it, Alden Ehrenreich is a good choice, but do they have to do it?  Is Han Solo’s past not best left a mystery?  It is clear why Disney want to make the film; existing properties are the vain of gold that the studio are most expert at tapping, the value of this vein is greatly increased by the addition of an A list character from the franchise.  So where does the franchise go from here? han solo movie cast

Around the time of the original release of Return of the Jedi, I remember an interview with George Lucas where he spoke of a nine film series.  The original trilogy followed by two further trilogies, one prequel, on sequel.  By the time the prequels came out Lucas had changed his tune suggesting that he was too old to make any further films beyond the second trilogy and furthermore, there was only ever going to be two trilogies, the original and the prequel series telling the story of the rise, fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. star_wars_episode_one_the_phantom_menace_ver1

As luck and a strange twist of fate, or to be more honest money would have it, we are now getting the third trilogy.  But what next? to quote Winston Churchill (hopefully correctly) “This is not the end, this is not even the beginning of the end, this is just perhaps the end of the beginning”.  So what next, after the Han Solo movie and episodes VII and IX?  There has been constant suggestions of a Boba Fett movie, I am not sure why, he has never been an interesting character.  There is however a whole universe and a thousand generations of stories to be told!

A notable thing about original story is the time in which they are set.  The fight for good and evil, light and dark is told over three films, each set over no more than a few days, this works for the original films but will not work with an origin story.  The second and third prequels stretch the idea to tell their storey over a longer period, this is to their detriment. So back to those thousand generations.  The original conversation between Ben/Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker tells us so much of the Star Wars universe, in some ways too much as George Lucas had to retcon so much of it to fit the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi into the mythology, this was even before he started rewriting everything to make the prequels work.  But there remains one statement from Obi-Wan Kenobi still untouched of diluted:

“For over a thousand generations, the Jedi knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the old Republic… before the dark times… before the empire.”luke and obi wan

How long is a thousand generations and what stories could be told?  Best guess, a thousand generations is around 20,000 to 25,000 years.  The stories are endless, You could start with the origin of the Jedi and the start of the battle between light and dark.  This however could be too much of a religious allegory , far better would be individual stories of turning points in the battle.  These could be told in a single stories or trilogies.

The possibilities are endless.  Where and when did the Jedi begin?  Was this a time before intergalactic travel and set on a single planet?  Would you tell the story of The First Jedi?  Who came first, The Jedi or The Sith?  Did one begin as a balance to the other, or did they start out as the same thing and one broke away over disagreements on the use of the force.  I like the idea of a story of a young apprentice learning the ways of the force with his master, only to discover that they are the bad guys not the good guys, we the audience should realise this before the apprentice but not before long before.  The final act would be the apprentices own personal battle between good and evil as he/she has to choose between what they have always known and what they now understand to be right.  Both the prequels and The Force Awakens suggest young Jedi are taught as a collective before been taken on by a master, is there room for a Jedi high-school movie? Jedi are presented as little monk like, how about the story of the first female Jedi? What about Yoda origin story, or even better a story of a power struggle on the Jedi council with a young Yoda as new, headstrong and less wise character than we know.yoda and younglins

As mentioned, the possibilities are endless, I am sure Disney have both the quality and quantity of writers to be able to think up more and better ideas than me, I just hope they do it, I want to hear a thousand generations of Jedi stories.

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Where were you in ‘62? This is the question George Lucas asked of us on the poster for American Graffiti in 1973. As previously mentioned American Graffiti is possibly George Lucas’ best film, but more importantly it’s the best example of a filmmakers nostalgic look at his teenage years. A decade later Kevin Reynolds had similar idea looking back to 1971 in Fandango (1985). But, a decade after that, Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused (1993) looked back nearly two decades to 1976. But if we go back to the 60’s and 70’s we may see the reason; John Milius’ classic surf movie Big Wednesday (1978) chronicles the lives of a group of friends against the backdrop of the Vietnam War (one day people will come to realise it is better than The Deer Hunter from the same year). And that may be the crux of it, the Vietnam War loomed large in the lives and minds of film makers in the 70’s.American-Graffiti-poster

But then there is another issue. New Hollywood or the American New Wave of the 60’s and 70’s saw the ideas and ideals of the independent, European and Asian cinema. Possibly by the 90’s and certainly the 00’s the spirit of the New Wave was dead (thanks Michael Cimino!) and we had to look to burgeoning independent cinema to give us what we had seen from the studios in the past. But does it go deeper than that? In the time from when American Graffiti was set and when it was made, the world looked very different. The first US combat troops were sent to Vietnam and the ceasefire was signed. The Beatles released their first single conquered the world and split up. President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. The Summer of Love was followed by Woodstock and culminated in The Altamont Speedway Free Festival. John Fitzgerald Kennedy had overseen a peaceful end to the Cuban missile crisis and possibly averted world war III, and was assassinated. The Apollo 11 program had put the first man on the moon.fandango

How has the world changed since 2003? The same wars are still going on that were a decade ago. Mobile phones got smaller and smaller, then started getting bigger and bigger. The airways are filled by boy bands manufactured by crappy TV shows. To quote Pete Townshend: “But the world looks just the same, And history ain’t changed” . to put it simply the world really hasn’t changed. We are seeing movies about the wars and conflicts in the middle east, and the infantile crisis, but these are contemporary social commentaries not nostalgic movies. It just leaves the question, will filmmakers in the 2020’s be making nostalgic movies about this decade?

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Last week saw the release of Ben Wheatley’s fourth feature, A Field in England. A thriller, horror, historical drama? I’m not sure what you would call it. Set during a period of history largely overlooked in cinema in the last few decades, the English Civil War, the film sees a small group of deserting soldiers who are forced to search a field for an unnamed treasure. 

A Field in England

More interesting than the film itself, is the way it was released in the UK. On 5 July 2013 it had a simultaneous multiple platform release, being made available on DVD, video on demand, in cinemas, and screened on Film4 that evening. When interviewed on BBC radio, director, Ben Wheatley compared the multi platform release to the “Pay what you want” release of Radiohead’s In Rainbows album. The idea isn’t completely new, back in 2010 the horror/thriller Frozen was release in cinemas and video on demand at the same time. A filed in England is yet to receive a North American release but it is expected that distributor Drafthouse Films will opt for a similar structure showing the film in theatres and through video on demand. Radiohead In Rainbows album cover

Is this the future of film release? Its hard to say. It is clear that the way we consume movies is changing. Hopefully not in the way George Lucas has suggested. Given the chance to see a movie in the comfort of our own homes at the same time as in cinemas will create an interesting question. Do we choose to watch the big event movies on the big screen and the smaller releases at home? Will this result in falling cinema attendances? Will it drive prices up, down or will they stay the same? Will it encourage or stamp out piracy? It is hard to say.George lucas

An lot will depend on the individual in question, although people will react to the changes their character and opinions won’t. I once had a conversation with someone who watches as many films as me but in a very different way. He tends to watch pirate DVDs. When I asked what the last movie he saw in a cinema he said it was Batman movie but couldn’t remember the name. “Batman Begins or The Dark Knight” I asked (it was shortly before the release of The Dark Knight Rises). “No” he responded “The one with Val Kilmer”. That was the day I thought there was a future for multi platform releases. If there is a way to get a regular film watcher who hasn’t seen the inside of a cinema since John Major was prime minister to pay for his movie consumption in a way that sees some of the money going back into the film industry and not into the hands of criminals it has to be a good thing.val kilmer batman

My fear is independent cinemas. I am loyal to one particular cinema chain, not because they are any better than anyone else, but because they have a pass scheme that results in me paying around £1.50 per film and not the usual £5-10. I do however visit an independent cinema from time to time to watch films that don’t make it into a multiplex. I’m sure many other people do the same thing. Are these smaller release the ones that will receive multi platform releases making it harder for independent cinemas to survive? That stands a good chance. However I don’t anticipate many films to be released on all these platforms. It is more likely that films will be released in cinemas and on another platform such as video on demand or DVD. If they go down the video on demand route that creates a further question; will some providers pursue exclusive rights to some movies?

Whatever happens, it is clear that we are at the start of a period of change. How long will it take and what will the situation be at the end? I don’t know, but one thing is clear, The cinema is still the best and by far my favourite way of watching movies and for the foreseeable future I still intend to watch an average of two movies a week in the cinema.

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A couple of days ago Ryan at The Matinee wrote an interesting article about George Lucas’ vision for the future of cinema. We seem to have a similar view on Lucas’ brave new world so I decided to write a comment; not for the first time in responding to one of Ryan’s articles a quick response suddenly became 600 word rant. Rather than post it I decided to publish it here.

As I have mentioned many times I am my local multiplex’s worst customer. I pay £15 per month for a pass allowing me to attend as often as I like. I go around ten times per month. I don’t buy confectionary or drinks (that’s where the cinema’s real profit is) and I take advantage of their three hours free parking. All in all I pay around £1.50 per film (that’s around $2.25) excluding the cost of travel. I sometimes go to my local independent cinema for around £7 to se a film that isn’t on at a multiplex. I am prepared to go to the extra effort and cost for a smaller independent film, I’m not sure I would bother for a bigger film if things were the other way around. If a big movie opens I often go and see the smaller releases first as I know they won’t be out for long. It also means when I do o and see the blockbusters the cinema won’t be quite as packed. This month I have seen the big releases like World War Z and Man of Steel, but the film I was most looking forward to was Before Midnight. To put it simply the big movie isn’t always the most appealing or to of my to see list.George lucas

As you may have guessed I think George Lucas has lost the plot. The only way I can see where he came up with this is if he truly has no idea how much $40 is to the man on the street in a regular job and a regular income. The multi billionaire appears to want to make the most inclusive and accessible visual art form into something exclusive. Given his history I wouldn’t expect an idea like this to come from a man like him for two reasons: 1 – He is the man who made a film that grossed 250 times its budget (American Graffiti not Star Wars); 2 – One of the reasons the Star Wars movies make so much money is the people who go back and see them for a second or a third time. american graffiti

The concept of changing prices between a bread and butter movie and an event movie isn’t that strange. English Premier League football clubs vary their ticket priced depending on who they are playing, however the price difference he is mentioning makes no sense. Forgetting any discounts a standard ticket is £7.70. if they were to drop that to £7.50 for most films put it up to £10 for “event movies” it would make a kind of sense. In a way they are already doing this with “event movies” often being in 3D and Imax, with the additional charges and the price of 3D glasses we are getting used to paying extra for certain films. They tend to be the most expensive to make but far from the best films. In that way we only have ourselves to blame if we are stupid enough to go and watch the 3D movies. In my defense I always go for the 2D version when I can, but there is often no 2D option or the time of the 3D is better for me.The Great 3D Swindle

Here is the interesting thing. How will distributors decide what is a $7 movie and what is $40 movie? If a studio makes a turkey like John Carter that gets panned by the critics do they hold out for the $40 a ticket to recoup their money or do they sell it cheep in the hope of getting bums on seats? If a movie has a large budget does it have to wear its $40 ticket as a badge of honour, anything cheaper would be an admission of weakness or lack of quality? I think there will be a time in the not too distant future where ticket prices will rise. There is a limit to how much the cinema’s can keep increasing the cost of food and beverages. It is unlikely that distributors will let cinemas take a larger cut so to keep on making money they will have to increase ticket prices. This is a very different thing to what Lucas has proposed.

The great successes of cinema is despite the rising prices it can still be a relatively cheep night out. That is why admissions have gone up during the recession the way they did during the great depression. By pricing a lot of people out of the cinema at a time when home systems are getting bigger and better would be counterproductive. Or to quote Ryan “Hollywood – your product makes you money because of one simple reason: you stack ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap. Don’t fuck with that.”

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Mixtape Movies Image 2

As promised I am posting a Mixtape Movies each week to give you an idea of what I have planned. For this first one as well as the final post I am going to quickly run through the process as it may help anyone unsure of what I was thinking.

I thought it would be fun to start with the movie that gave my blog its title: Fandango. Set over a single day during a time of transition for the young characters, Dazed and Confused and American Graffiti were obvious choices. I quickly added Stand By Me involving a younger group of friends. The journey they were on seemed appropriate to fandango and with Richard Dreyfuss it shares an interesting link to American Graffiti where he plays a similar character at a different time in his life.

For my final pick I was going to go for the quintessential high school movie; The Breakfast Club. I discounted it as a contemporary film and not a nostalgic one. It is also set indoors in winter where all the others are set outdoors in summer. I then considered: Animal House, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Say Anything, Rebel Without A Cause, The Last Picture Show, Rushmore and Risky Business. Discounting all of these for one reason or another I went back to The Breakfast Club because it just fits, and that’s what matters in a mixtape. As we are translating an idea from music to movies, I have also lent towards movies with memorable music.

Finally my wildcard movie: Big Wednesday. Where all the other movies are set over a day or two Big Wednesday is set over a period of years and shows the transition not just the turning point in the life of the characters. So here is my first Movie Mixtape:

Mixtapes Movies - Fandango

Stand By Me (1996) directed by Rob Reiner – Labor Day weekend, September 1959, four friends set off on a journey to find the body of a missing boy.

The Breakfast Club (1985) directed by John Hughes – A diverse group of kids attend a Saturday detention. What at first appears to be a simple tale of teenage rebellion against authority figures actually turns into a movie about acceptance and understanding.

Dazed and Confused (1993) directed by Richard Linklater – May 1976, It’s the last day of school in an Austin, Texas suburb. The following years seniors split their time between planning for a party that night and hazing the incoming freshman.

American Graffiti (1973) directed by George Lucas – August 1962, two high school graduates spend their last night cruising the strip in their small California town before they are due to fly off to collage.

Fandango (1985) directed by Kevin Reynolds – May 1971, a group of students set out on a final road trip from their fraternity house in Austin, Texas to the Mexican border on southwest Texas

Wildcard movie:

Big Wednesday (1978) directed by John Milius – Set over twelve years from 1962 to 1974, the life of a group of surfing friends is told against the backdrop of the Vietnam War.Stand By Me - The Breakfast Club - Dazed and Confused - American Graffiti - Fandango - Big Wednesday

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