kottke.org posts about Star Wars

The World According to Star WarsApr 26 2016

World According Star Wars

In The World According to Star Wars, Cass Sunstein explores the philosophy and life lessons of Star Wars.

In this fun, erudite and often moving book, Cass R. Sunstein explores the lessons of Star Wars as they relate to childhood, fathers, the Dark Side, rebellion, and redemption. As it turns out, Star Wars also has a lot to teach us about constitutional law, economics, and political uprisings.

Update: Sunstein, who is a professor at Harvard Law School, gave the commencement address last year at Penn Law. He starts off, dryly: "Graduates, faculty, family, friends, our topic today is Star Wars."

(via @EmilyBrenn)

Charles Dickens, Star Wars, and the genre of serializationApr 13 2016

In a new video, Even Puschak talks about the rise of the serialization genre, from Dickens to Flash Gordon to General Hospital to Star Wars. Now that our entertainment is increasingly serialized, he argues that audiences have a unique opportunity to shape what we watch. (Case in point: the increased importance of non-white and non-male characters in The Force Awakens and Rogue One.)

Further reading: Wired's You Won't Live to See the Final Star Wars Movie, which I've thought about almost every week since I read it.

Everywhere, studio suits are recruiting creatives who can weave characters and story lines into decades-spanning tapestries of prequels, side-quels, TV shows, games, toys, and so on. Brand awareness goes through the roof; audiences get a steady, soothing mainline drip of familiar characters.

Forget the business implications for a moment, though. The shared universe represents something rare in Hollywood: a new idea. It evolved from the narrative techniques not of auteur or blockbuster films but of comic books and TV, and porting that model over isn't easy. It needs different kinds of writers and directors and a different way of looking at the structure of storytelling itself. Marvel prototyped the process; Lucasfilm is trying to industrialize it.

And Puschak recommends Consuming Pleasures by Jennifer Hayward.

Ranging from installment novels, mysteries, and detective fiction of the 1800s to the television and movie series, comics, and advertisements of the twentieth century, serials are loosely linked by what may be called "family resemblances." These traits include intertwined subplots, diverse casts of characters, dramatic plot reversals, suspense, an such narrative devices as long-lost family members and evil twins. Hayward chooses four texts to represent the evolution of serial fiction as a genre and to analyze the peculiar draw that serials have upon their audiences: Dickens's novel Our Mutual Friend, Milton Canif's comic strip Terry and the Pirates, and the soap operas All My Children and One Life to Live. Hayward argues that serial audiences have developed active strategies of consumption, such as collaborative reading and attempts to shape the production process. In this way fans have forced serial producers to acknowledge the power of the audience.

All this makes me realize that I've often thought of kottke.org as a serial. The "family resemblances" amongst all my posts might be difficult to see sometimes, but it's there most of the time. In my mind, at least.

Rogue One: A Star Wars StoryApr 07 2016

The trailer for the first "Star Wars Story" has dropped.1 Rogue One is about how the Rebellion stole the plans for the Death Star before the events of A New Hope. Don't read the comments on YouTube...there's whining about how the protagonist is a woman and the cast is diverse. :(

  1. "A Star Wars Story"...that's a bit of a hamfisted name. Regardless, there are two other "Story" films planned so far that focus on Han Solo (pre-Hope) and Boba Fett (pre-Empire).

An honest trailer for The Force AwakensApr 06 2016

They go hard on the rhymes with A New Hope angle. I LOL'd when they called JJ Abrams "diet Spielberg".

BB-8 will watch Star Wars with youApr 05 2016

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is now out on Blu-ray and digital download. If you have Sphero's BB-8 toy, you can have BB-8 watch the movie with you and react to what's going on on-screen. Here's BB-8 reacting to seeing the Millennium Falcon for the first time in the movie:

Hey, quiet in front, #bb8. Some of us are trying to watch #theforceawakens.

A video posted by Chris Taylor (@futurechris) on



That's pretty cute. But I kinda wish it worked for any Star Wars movie. Or any movie period...like a Mystery Science Theater 3000 just with BB-8 reactions. (via nerdist)

Visual evidence that The Force Awakens is an homage to Star WarsMar 25 2016

One of the things that a number of people commented on after seeing The Force Awakens (including me) was that the movie seemed to be a remix or an homage to the original Star Wars.

With The Force Awakens, JJ Abrams did the same thing, but instead of pulling from Flash Gordon and Kurosawa like Lucas did, he pulled from what he grew up with as a kid and in film school...Star Wars and Spielberg. In a way, The Force Awakens is a reboot of the original 1977 Star Wars, similar plot and all. And even if it isn't a true reboot, it sure does rhyme.

Although some of the comparisons are a stretch, this video does a nice job highlighting the visual similarities of the two movies.

Related: Kenji Lopez-Alt took off his food nerd hat for a second and donned his Star Wars nerd hat with this piece at Medium: Rey is a Palpatine.

The Phantom Menace Anti-Cheese EditMar 21 2016

This is a fan edit of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace with all of the crappy bits removed and several other scenes reworked. Among the changes:

- Jar Jar is now a useful character instead of an annoying tag-along
- Queen Amidala's voice is pitch-shifted back to her normal pitch
- Midichlorian references removed
- Anakin is edited to be a more deliberate hero instead of an accidental one

Pro tip: the best Star Wars prequel is still Triumph The Insult Comic Dog interviewing people standing in line for Attack of the Clones.

The rich meaning in The Lord of the Rings orchestral scoreFeb 19 2016

Howard Shore, composer of the orchestral score for The Lord of the Rings, uses leitmotif to help tell the story, in the form of recurring thematic musical phrases that accompany certain actions, places, or characters. For instance, there's a Shire theme that plays when the hobbits are central to the action but which becomes less important as their physical distance from the Shire increases. Wagner famously used leitmotif in his Ring cycle and so did John Williams in Star Wars...Vader's theme is a good example.1

  1. This has me wondering: has anyone done a close "reading" of the music in The Force Awakens? I bet the placement of some of the musical themes give clues as to the Force sensitivity, parentage, and origin of some of the characters that we're wondering about.

Chewy's original Star Wars script from 1976Feb 19 2016

Star Wars Script

Peter Mayhew, who plays Chewbacca in Star Wars, is tweeting out photos of his original Star Wars script from March 1976. As you can see, it was originally called "The Adventures of Luke Starkiller as taken from the 'Journal of the Whills'". So catchy...why'd they change it, d'ya think?

Star Wars episode VIII is now filmingFeb 15 2016

Huh. Hollywood has invented a new type of movie trailer: the "we just started filming and here's 5 seconds of the film that's basically the last 5 seconds of the previous film" trailer. And whaddya know, idiot bloggers will post it because Star Wars Rey Luke squeeeeeee!!

Trailer for the upcoming Lego + The Force Awakens video gameFeb 02 2016

Lego and Disney are teaming up for a Star Wars: The Force Awakens video game, out this summer. The trailer for it is possibly more fun than the movie was and is well worth watching if you enjoyed The Lego Movie.

Product companies were told to exclude Rey from Star Wars related merchandiseJan 20 2016

This is maddening if true: according to an industry insider, vendors making tie-in products for the new Star Wars movie were directed by Disney1 to exclude Rey from Star Wars related merchandise.

In January 2015, a number of toy and merchandise vendors descended on Lucasfilm's Letterman Center in San Francisco. In a series of confidential meetings, the vendors presented their product ideas to tie in with the highly-anticipated new Star Wars film. Representatives presented, pitched, discussed, and agreed upon prototype products. The seeds of the controversies Lucasfilm is facing regarding the marketing and merchandising of The Force Awakens were sown in those meetings, according to the industry insider.

The insider, who was at those meetings, described how initial versions of many of the products presented to Lucasfilm featured Rey prominently. At first, discussions were positive, but as the meetings wore on, one or more individuals raised concerns about the presence of female characters in the Star Wars products. Eventually, the product vendors were specifically directed to exclude the Rey character from all Star Wars-related merchandise, said the insider.

"We know what sells," the industry insider was told. "No boy wants to be given a product with a female character on it."

What good does it do our culture if JJ Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy work to make popular movies with progressive characters if the cowards in marketing are not going to follow suit?

Update: Lots of people are sharing this story, and I wanted to highlight and explain the "if true" in the first paragraph. There are good reasons to be skeptical of the article I linked to. It relies completely on a single anonymous source. I have no idea what Sweatpants and Coffee's fact-checking procedures are. There are also many Star Wars related products featuring Rey (like Lego), so clearly the directive to "exclude the Rey character from all Star Wars-related merchandise" was either not issued in such a restrictive manner or was disregarded in some cases.

  1. The article was annoyingly unclear on who was doing the directing, but you have to assume it's Disney. Who else in the room would have the authority to so direct?

Visual effects breakdown for The Force AwakensJan 14 2016

A look at how some of the most arresting visual effects were done in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The filmmakers used many real sets and models (i.e. practical effects), but there were also 2100 shots in the movie with digital effects.

Update: The original video was removed, but I replaced it with one that's a bit better.

Update: Here's how the visual effects on the Millennium Falcon's escape from Jakku scene were done.

Filling plot holes in The Force AwakensJan 11 2016

Some people were bothered over supposed gaps in the plot in The Force Awakens. I wasn't...save the hand-wringing for more weighty fare. But if you were, the novelization of the movie connects some of the dots left detached. Here are some of the more interesting ones (spoilers, obvs):

The Resistance had no idea Starkiller Base existed. This is extrapolated on quite a bit. Snoke's decision to destroy the New Republic is about flushing out the Resistance. Utter annihilation of the enemy is a mere side effect. Snoke knew using the weapon would give away the base's location. The Resistance would then send a reconnaissance team to scout the place and the First Order could follow the scouts back to the Resistance HQ and destroy them once and for all. While this is what happens in the movie, the motivations are a bit murkier.

Kylo Ren knows who Rey is. After failing to call Anakin Skywalker's lightsaber to his hand, Ren turns to Rey -- who is now holding the blue lightsaber -- and he declares, "It IS you," and then the fight begins.

Ok, whoa. What does that mean?

Han hadn't seen Kylo Ren/Ben since he became an adult. When Ben removes the helmet of Kylo Ren, Han Solo is shocked by how grown-up his son looks as he hasn't seen him since he became an adult. This lends credence to the theory that Snoke seduced a teenaged Ben to the Dark Side. Speaking of which, Leia knew Snoke was trying to get his claws in her son since he was a child and never told Han until right before the Starkiller mission.

[Rey] struggles with the Dark Side almost immediately. Rey might look serene as she finds the Force and battles a badly injured Kylo Ren, but she is fighting with rage. After beating down her opponent, a voice inside her encourages her to kill him. She rejects the notion, but is still struggling with herself when the rift opens up and separates the two of them.

[Ren] also cracked open something in Rey's mind. One of the advantages of a book is internal narration. When Ren attempts to retrieve the map from Rey's brain he senses something weird within her mind. Not resistance, but a barrier. Probing at it is what causes Rey to suddenly find herself -- with no provocation -- inside Ren's mind. Now this is just speculation, but it certainly sounds like someone had walled off Rey's Force sensitivity and Kylo Ren accidentally broke down the wall.

The script for the movie clarifies a few things as well.

Luke Skywalker Immediately Knows Who Rey Is and Why She Is Here. The script describes Luke Skywalker as being older now, with white hair and a beard. It says that he looks at Rey with a "kindness in his eyes, but there's something tortured, too." Most interestingly, it says that Luke "doesn't need to ask her who she is, or what she is doing here." Does this mean that he knows Rey is his child? Or does this mean that he knows because of the Force? The script only adds that "his look says it all."

Kylo Ren Is Horrified By His Actions. The script gives us some internal insight into Kylo Ren after he just killed his father Han Solo. The screenplay notes that "Kylo Ren is somehow WEAKENED by this wicked act," noting that he is "horrified" and his "SHOCK is broken only when" Chewbacca cries out in agony.

Fun fact that I just discovered: the novelizations of all three of the original Star Wars movies were released before the movies came out! Star Wars the book came out 6 months before the movie, Empire a month before, and Jedi a couple of weeks before. I'm amazed you could walk into a bookstore an entire month before The Empire Strikes Back was released and discover that Vader was Luke's father. Truly a different approach to spoilers.

What makes Star Wars Star Wars?Jan 08 2016

A short entertaining look at Star Wars' secret sauce. Joseph Campbell? Kurosawa? Flash Gordon? The ancient future? The sounds? (PS: The Wilhelm Scream shows up pretty early on in The Force Awakens, as Poe and Finn exit the First Order hangar bay.)

Of Oz the Wizard, an alphabetized version of The Wizard of OzJan 04 2016

Of Oz the Wizard is the entire Wizard of Oz movie presented in alphabetical order by dialogue. So it starts with all the scenes where Dorothy and the gang say "a", "aaiee", "along", and proceeds through "you're" and "zipper". Even the words on each of the title cards are sorted alphabetically.

(I feel like I've posted this before -- or something like it -- but I can't find it in the archives. Anyone?)

Update: Ah yes, I was thinking of this alphabetized version of Star Wars (which I've seen before but somehow never posted):

Another example is Thomson & Craighead's The Time Machine. Matt Bucy, the creator of Of Oz the Wizard, seems to have pioneered this technique (the Vimeo page indicates it was completed in April 2004) but didn't post the video online until a few days ago. (via @Mister_Milligan, @sannahahn)

Is Han Solo Force-sensitive?Jan 04 2016

How can Han Solo talk to and understand any alien he meets? Why is he such a gifted pilot? In this short piece from 2008, Tim Carmody answers those questions and more: Han Solo Has the Force.

Luke and Vader (especially young Anakin) are remarkable, inventive pilots, as is Lando, but Han blows them all away. In one scene after another in Empire, Han is able to perform feats that Artoo or Threepio say are mathematically near-impossible. He does this in a ship that has a remarkable warp-speed computer but which appears singularly unsuited for close-quarters maneuvers. Finally, he gets the drop on Vader in Episode IV, and while Vader may have been distracted by his sensations re: Luke, this is still evidence that we are dealing with a very special pilot.

And there's further evidence from The Force Awakens (slight spoilers!): he shoots a stormtrooper with a blaster without looking. As I recall, it wasn't a look-away, like this Cristiano pass or this Jordan assist, it was more like he could actually see the stormtrooper behind him. (Of course, Cristiano and Jordan might also be Force-sensitive, but that's another post.)

The Force in a Jar speaks to youDec 24 2015

You want the Force. But how do you get it? You buy it in a bottle for $16. It's The Force in a Jar.

Star Wars brawlDec 23 2015

Cool "Star Wars" poster artwork by Tomer Hanuka. See the other version at This Isn't Happiness.

star-wars.jpg

Star Wars inspires Splash WarsDec 22 2015

Behold, Princess Leia wearing milk. You can find the rest of photographer Manu Cabanero's "Splash Wars" series here, but be forewarned the rest are NSFW.

splash-wars.jpg

(via This Isn't Happiness)

The Force is with your inkDec 21 2015

Marisa Kakoulas at Needles and Sins has a cool post on "Star Wars" tribute tattoos.

The one you see here is by A.D. Pancho.

star-wars-tattoo.jpg

15 thoughts about Star Wars: The Force AwakensDec 19 2015

1. There are SPOILERS in this post. If you have not seen the movie, do not continue reading. I've only read one other review of the movie, so much of this may be stated elsewhere (and better) by others.

2. Overall, I enjoyed the movie. But thinking back to The Phantom Menace, I also enjoyed that quite a bit in the same spine-tingling way. But this movie is way better than the prequels were.

3. The cast was excellent and the casting progressive. I love that the two new protagonists are a black man and a woman. "Why are you grabbing my hand?"

4. Carrie Fisher's voice has changed a lot. It suited her character.

5. By far the best part of the movie at the showing I went to didn't appear on screen. I went to a matinee at 11am and the audience was mostly adults...probably 98% over the age of 30. When Rey uses the Force to persuade the Stormtrooper to release her, a little kid's voice from the front row echoed out loudly across the entire theater: "Jedi mind trick". The place exploded in laughter. A perfect comedic moment.

6. How many times are they going to keep making the same movie though? The plots of A New Hope, Return of the Jedi, and The Force Awakens are more or less the same: a small band of resistance fighters going up against an evil superpower headed by two practitioners in the Dark Side discover a weakness in the enemy's planet-sized superweapon and destroy it with some X-wing fighters in the nick of time. Also: stolen plans in a droid, a young orphan discovering the ways of the Force, a trench run by a gifted young pilot to blow up the superweapon, a bailing-out of the X-wing fighters by the crew of the Millennium Falcon, sons/students striking down their fathers/masters, and so on. Is this part of the reason that Empire Strikes Back is considered the best of the series, because it's different?

7. When Lucas made the first trilogy (and when he and Spielberg made Raiders of the Lost Ark), he constructed it from a bunch of different sources from when he was a kid and in film school. With The Force Awakens, JJ Abrams did the same thing, but instead of pulling from Flash Gordon and Kurosawa like Lucas did, he pulled from what he grew up with as a kid and in film school...Star Wars and Spielberg. In a way, The Force Awakens is a reboot of the original 1977 Star Wars, similar plot and all. And even if it isn't a true reboot, it sure does rhyme.

8. Aside: when is the Empire/First Order going to learn not to put all of their eggs in one basket? Their superweapon strategy has failed three times now. They always seem to know where the rebels are hiding, they possess overwhelming force...why don't they just defeat them through conventional means?

9. More synchronicity. When I watched the original Star Wars as an adult, one of the things I noticed is what a relatively minor character Vader is in the Empire when compared to his importance to the story and his increased power & responsibility in Empire and Jedi. He's not in command, he's not really part of the military at all, and the military leaders aren't all that impressed with The Force. It's almost almost like he's the Emperor's personal assistant. Kylo Ren's role in The Force Awakens is similar...he's not in charge (General Hux is), he's not really part of the military (although he commands troops), and according to Snoke, Ren hasn't even completed his training. (What was Vader's excuse, then? He presumably completed his training long before the events of A New Hope...what was taking him so long to gain power?)

10. The scene at the very end bugged me. Having discovered the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker, the last of the Jedi, the Resistance sends Ren, Chewy, and R2 to see what's up? I get the symbolism and all, but wouldn't Leia be interested in seeing her brother again? Or more persuasive in getting him to come out of retirement?

11. We're going to hear more about Rey's parentage, right? She's Luke's daughter or something? (I'm guessing not. Waaay too obvious, even for Star Wars.)

12. Speaking of parentage, why is Snoke so big? So we're not wondering if Rey is Snoke's granddaughter or something? Or is it that Snoke's hologram is big and he's normal sized? (Wookiepedia says Snoke is 7 feet tall but doesn't cite a source.)

13. If you liked this movie, you have to give the proper credit to George Lucas for allowing it to exist. He could have sat on this series until after his death and beyond. But he didn't. He sold the whole shebang to Disney and trusted Kathleen Kennedy to make more movies.

14. Ok, Kennedy. Now I want to see Quentin Tarantino's Star Wars. Wes Anderson's Star Wars. Miranda July's Star Wars. Seriously, do this. (I do not want to see Kevin Smith's Star Wars. That one you can keep.)

15. All theaters should have assigned seating. I got the exact two seats I wanted (two months ahead of time) and showed up to the theater about 10 minutes before showtime, sat down, and the lights went down soon after. So much less stress than getting there 45 minutes (or 2 hours) beforehand and playing Are These Seats Taken? with strangers.

Update: 16. Does Han's death scene reference the cantina scene w/ Greedo in Episode IV? He and Ren are both holding the lightsaber. Ren tells Han he needs to do something but doesn't know if he can go through with it. Ren asks Han to help. The lightsaber activates and Han dies. Does Han activate the lightsaber, thereby causing his death? In other words, does Han shoot first? (Bonus update: I just saw the movie again and I don't think Han activates the lightsaber. He looks too surprised and Ren definitely thrusts the saber into him.)

Update: 17. In his belated review, Chris Blattman notes the remarkable agreement on the lack of spoilers on social media:

Humanity's tacit agreement to abide by a no-spoilers-on-social-media rule was one of the greatest acts of social cooperation I have witnessed. And we used it up to keep you from learning Han Solo is killed.

Emoji version of The Force Awakens teaser trailerDec 17 2015

YouTube user darman212 used iOS coding app Hopscotch and Final Cut Pro X to make a version of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser trailer entirely out of emoji. BB-8 is a soccer ball with a bowl of ramen on his head!

Emoji BB-8

(via @marcprecipice)

Triumph The Insult Comic Dog vs Star WarsDec 17 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is out today, at least in NYC theaters.1 To celebrate, I watched the classic clip of Triumph The Insult Comic Dog interviewing people standing in line for Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.

You look like some kind of super-nerd. It looks like you were built in a laboratory out of parts from lesser nerds.

It is all sorts of inappropriate, but also one of my favorite comedy bits of all time. (via @fromedome)

Update: One of the people from the video wrote an article about the experience last month.

Another thing that's lost on some people is that everyone there was in on it. After all, we were nerds camping on a sidewalk to see a Star Wars movie. We were very much aware of who Conan O'Brien was, and what Triumph was all about. Everyone there was a fan and if you watch the video, people are hunched over laughing in the background in basically every shot. We were glad to let him mock us. In fact, we helped.

(via @CastIrony)

  1. So, did they add these Thursday showings after the initial announcement of tickets going on sale back in October? When I bought my tickets that day, I got them for the first available showing (11am on Fri), or so I remember. Did Disney add these earlier shows at a later point to sucker fans into having to buy tickets twice in order to see it as soon as possible? (I did not do this. But I definitely thought about doing it.)

Star Wars Minus Star WarsDec 17 2015

Star Wars Minus Star Wars is a video essay on the original film that doesn't use a single shot, sound, or snippet of music from the original movie. Instead, it strings together scenes and sounds from movies that influenced George Lucas in making the film and also from movies that have been influenced by Star Wars.

It's impossible to overstate the impact of Star Wars. Its arrival in theaters on May 25th 1977 marked the end of one chapter in film history and the beginning of another. It's a hinge on which film history swings. Upon its release, critic Pauline Kael derided the film as "an assemblage of spare parts-it has no emotional grip... an epic without a dream" Twenty years after its release critic Roger Ebert remarked that the film "colonized our imaginations, and it is hard to stand back and see it simply as a motion picture, because it has so completely become part of our memories."

They're both right. Star Wars succeeded because of its roots in film history and mythology, and its influence over generations of filmmakers can be felt in countless works that came after it. For better or worse, Star Wars engulfs the past and future of moviemaking.

That was super-fun to watch. See also Where did Star Wars come from? and Paul's Boutique Minus Paul's Boutique. (via @tonyszhou, who calls it "the best Star Wars video essay ever")

Update: This might be even more impressive. John D'Amico made a full-length shot-for-shot remake of Star Wars using material that influenced (or may have influenced) Lucas in making the film. Very cool.

(thx, jim)

Jar Jar is a Sith Lord and other alternative Star Wars theoriesDec 02 2015

With the new Star Wars movie only a couple weeks away, fans and Star Wars scholars have gone into hyperdrive1 spinning alternate theories about what the series of movies are all about. The most popular such theory attempts to rehabilitate the worst character in the prequels, Jar Jar Binks. Because maybe he's the most powerful Sith Lord in the galaxy? Who uses drunken fighting like Jackie Chan?

Another theorist asserts that the prequels were secretly brilliant because of a little-discussed over-arching theme related to the Jedi Code and the corruption of the Jedi.

But my personal favorite theory suggests that the past and future Star Wars movies are about ridding the galaxy of a bacterial plague carried by the Jedi.

I don't know what Midi-chlorians actually are. They might be something like symbiotic/parasitic bacteria or archaea, they might be organelles that live inside a cell, they might even be coherent chunks of molecular code...machines living inside the very DNA of their hosts.

What I do know is what they can do. They manipulate their hosts, they control them and eventually take them over. Eventually, they force them to fight while releasing as much dark energy as they can possibly manage, because that's how they continue their life cycle.

Being force sensitive just means you're more heavily infested and more easily manipulated.

Update: The Radicalization of Luke Skywalker suggests that the first three Star Wars films about Luke Skywalker becoming a terrorist.

A more focused study, however, is needed to truly understand that the Star Wars films are actually the story of the radicalization of Luke Skywalker. From introducing him to us in A New Hope (as a simple farm boy gazing into the Tatooine sunset), to his eventual transformation into the radicalized insurgent of Return of the Jedi (as one who sets his own father's corpse on fire and celebrates the successful bombing of the Death Star), each film in the original trilogy is another step in Luke's descent into terrorism. By carefully looking for the same signs governments and scholars use to detect radicalization, we can witness Luke's dark journey into religious fundamentalism and extremism happen before our very eyes.

  1. Cue the Millennium Falcon's hyperdrive malfunction noise...

Lucas on the Star Wars divorceNov 25 2015

George Lucas says he had nothing to do with The Force Awakens and furthermore that the movie was not done the way he would have done it.

"The issue was ultimately, they looked at the stories and they said, 'We want to make something for the fans,'" Lucas said. "People don't actually realize it's actually a soap opera and it's all about family problems -- it's not about spaceships. So they decided they didn't want to use those stories, they decided they were going to do their own thing so I decided, 'fine.... I'll go my way and I let them go their way.'"

Soooooooooooooooo, if Star Wars is a family story, why did you make it about spaceships and special effects?

You won't live to see the final Star Wars movieNov 17 2015

Someone on Twitter said this is the best piece about the upcoming Star Wars movie, and I think he's right. But it's not so much about Star Wars specifically as it is about how Hollywood studios are trying to build infinite series of movies.

These new movies won't just be sequels. That's not the way the transnational entertainment business works anymore. Forget finite sequences; now it's about infinite series. [...] Everywhere, studio suits are recruiting creatives who can weave characters and story lines into decades-spanning tapestries of prequels, side-quels, TV shows, games, toys, and so on. Brand awareness goes through the roof; audiences get a steady, soothing mainline drip of familiar characters.

Forget the business implications for a moment, though. The shared universe represents something rare in Hollywood: a new idea. It evolved from the narrative techniques not of auteur or blockbuster films but of comic books and TV, and porting that model over isn't easy. It needs different kinds of writers and directors and a different way of looking at the structure of storytelling itself. Marvel prototyped the process; Lucasfilm is trying to industrialize it.

Harry Potter could be a great infinite series, but it'll be interesting to see if Rowling is interested in heading in that direction. Ditto Middle-earth and Tolkien.

Star Wars characters as Greek statuesNov 11 2015

Travis Durden

From artist Travis Durden, Greek-style faux-marble sculptures of Star Wars characters. I think the one of General Grievous is my favorite. (via colossal)

P.S. Colossal is on a roll lately. Go look.

Japanese trailer for The Force AwakensNov 06 2015

This is a Japanese trailer for The Force Awakens. It's similar to the most recent trailer released in the US, but it contains a bunch of new footage. Still no Luke. (via @gavinpurcell)

Can we trust the Jedi?Nov 05 2015

From a 2005 post on Marginal Revolution by Tyler Cowen, an alternate take on the Star Wars movies positing that while the Jedi aren't the bad guys, they are also not to be trusted.

1. The Jedi and Jedi-in-training sell out like crazy. Even the evil Count Dooku was once a Jedi knight.

2. What do the Jedi Council want anyway? The Anakin critique of the Jedi Council rings somewhat true (this is from the new movie, alas I cannot say more, but the argument could be strengthened by citing the relevant detail). Aren't they a kind of out-of-control Supreme Court, not even requiring Senate approval (with or without filibuster), and heavily armed at that? As I understand it, they vote each other into the office, have license to kill, and seek to control galactic affairs. Talk about unaccountable power used toward secret and mysterious ends.

See also Darth Jar Jar and Luke Skywalker, Sith Lord. I also wanted to link to a video I saw within the past year that suggests that instead of a rebel leader, Princess Leia is a petulant child whose father, Vader, is attempting to bring to heel. Ring a bell? The internet is so choked with crackpot theories about Star Wars that it's impossible to search for one in particular. (And now this post is part of the problem.)

Update: Aaah, yes, the Auralnauts. (via @peteashton & @Lemur_Lad)

The official Star Wars trailer (whatever that means)Oct 19 2015

Trailer: watched. Tickets: bought. Luke Skywalker: still missing.

50 unknown facts about Star WarsOct 13 2015

50 unknown facts about Star Wars, many gleaned from How Star Wars Conquered the Universe. I've heard some of these before, but not many...the list doesn't include low-hanging fruit like Harrison Ford's carpentry.

Favorite facts: 1. Early on, Luke Skywalker's nickname was "Wormy". Wormy! 2. The actor who portrayed Vader, David Prowse, spoke his dialogue on set not knowing he would be dubbed over. Because of his West Country accent, the other cast members referred to Prowse as Darth Farmer.

Speaking of Harrison Ford's carpentry, the new biography of Joan Didion has a good story about that time Didion and her husband John Dunne hired Ford to do some construction for them.

Off and on, for over six month, the Dunnes engaged a construction crew to expand the waterside deck, install waxed pine bookshelves, and lay terra-cotta floor tiles. The men tore out prefabricated plywood walls and pulled up "icky green" flooring. Harrison Ford headed the crew. "They were the most sophisticated people I knew," Ford said. "I was the first thing they saw in the morning and the last thing they saw before cocktails."

In Vegas, Dunne wrote, "[W]hat had started as a two-month job ... [stretched] into its sixth month and the construction account was four thousand dollars overdrawn... I fired the contractor. 'Jesus, man, I understand,' he said. He was an out-of-work actor and his crew sniffed a lot of cocaine and when he left he unexpectedly gave me a soul-brother handshake, grabbing my thumb while I was left with an unimportant part of his little finger." The next day, Dunne realized the only thing separating him and his family from the Pacific Ocean was a clear sheet of Pliofilm where the French doors were supposed to go. "I rehired the contractor," he wrote. "'Jesus, man, I understand,' the contractor said."

Much later, when Didion's daughter was ill, Ford did the family a further service.

The following day, Didion flew from Teterboro to Los Angeles on Harrison Ford's private plane, along with her friend Earl McGrath. Ford "happened to be in New York and heard about Q's condition ... and called to offer to take Joan," said Sean Michael. "I find that to be a beautiful thing," he said. "A man you hire to build cabinets, thirty years later is flying you in his private jet to your daughter's hospital bedside."

Jesus, man, I understand.

Update: Some of Ford's comments from the book were taken from Carolyn Kellogg's reporting on an awards festival.

As if to make up for her absence, a parade of stars was in attendance. Harrison Ford, who was prepared to present her the award, spoke somewhat extemporaneously instead. "I just want to tell you all how much her friendship has meant to me," he said. Forty years ago, Didion and her husband, John Gregory Dunne, were "The most sophisticated people I knew."

Then a carpenter, Ford was hired by Didion and Dunne to build their beach house in Malibu. "I was the first thing they saw in the morning and the last thing they saw" -- he paused -- "before cocktails."

Hitchcock/TruffautSep 30 2015

Kent Jones has directed a documentary on the 1962 meeting where a young François Truffaut interviewed a seasoned Alfred Hitchcock about his films (the output of which was a beloved book). As the narration from the trailer says, "[Truffaut] wanted to free Hitchcock from his reputation as a light entertainer", to which Peter Bogdanovich adds, "it conclusively changed people's opinions about Hitchcock".

In 1962 Hitchcock and Truffaut locked themselves away in Hollywood for a week to excavate the secrets behind the mise-en-scène in cinema. Based on the original recordings of this meeting -- used to produce the mythical book Hitchcock/Truffaut -- this film illustrates the greatest cinema lesson of all time and plummets us into the world of the creator of Psycho, The Birds, and Vertigo. Hitchcock's incredibly modern art is elucidated and explained by today's leading filmmakers: Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, Arnaud Desplechin, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Wes Anderson, James Gray, Olivier Assayas, Richard Linklater, Peter Bogdanovich and Paul Schrader.

Truffaut's recontextualization of Hitchcock and his work reminds me of the point Matt Daniels recently made about younger generations deciding how work from older artists is remembered in his post about timeless music:

Biggie has three of the Top 10 hip-hop songs between 1986 and 1999. This is a strong signal that future generations will remember Biggie as the referent artist of 80s and 90s hip-hop. And there's No Diggity at the top -- perhaps it's that glorious Dr. Dre verse.

Hip hop heads will lament the omission of Rakim, Public Enemy, or Jay-Z's Reasonable Doubt. It's a depressing reality that exists for every genre and generation: not every artist will be remembered. The incoming generation will control what's relevant from the 90s and carried into the future, independent of quality and commercial success. For rock, that might be Blink-182. For electronica, that might be Sandstorm.

Take Star Wars as another example. I've had conversations recently with other parents whose young kids are really into the series. The way they experience Star Wars is different than my generation. We saw Episodes IV-VI in the theater, on VHS, and on DVD and then saw Episodes I-III in the theater accompanied by various degrees of disappointment and disregard. Elementary school-aged kids today might have watched the prequels first. They read the comics, play the video games, and watch the Clone Wars animated series. To many of them, the hero of the series is Anakin, not Luke.1 And Generation X, as much as we may hate that, there's not a damn thing we can do about it.2 Unless... there is... another... (via subtraction)

  1. Thanks to Anil or David for this insight...I can't remember which one of you said it.

  2. You know, the Anakin-as-the-true-hero view has its merits, despite how it was presented in the prequels. Anakin was a good kid who fell because he couldn't handle the power given him but, in the end, was redeemed by the actions of his children. That's a solid heroic narrative arc. And, glad you noticed, it ties neatly into what I'm trying to say about younger generations rehabbing older ones.

Star Wars Episode IV: Laser Moon AwakensSep 04 2015

The Auralnauts provide an alternate soundtrack and dialogue for Star Wars.

(via @waxpancake)

Han Solo frozen in carbonite beach towelAug 18 2015

Han Solo Beach TowelThis beach towel featuring Han Solo frozen in carbonite is the only Star Wars merch I want in my life. (thx, meg)

Update: Ok, I had forgotten about the Han Solo frozen in carbonite ice cube tray, which is slightly more awesome. (via @ajsheets)

The speed of sci-fi ships, rankedAug 05 2015

From Back to the Future's DeLorean to Dr. Who's Tardis, here's a listing of sci-fi vehicles ranked from slowest to fastest.

Sci-fi spaceships speed

In the ongoing struggle of Star Wars vs. Star Trek, Wars is the clear winner in the speed category: the Millennium Falcon is thousands of times faster than the Enterprise. Also, I didn't know the Death Star was so fast!

Star Wars: The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm BoyAug 03 2015

Lucasfilm is coming out with a set of books about the first three Star Wars movies written by authors of acclaimed teen and preteen books. The first is Star Wars: A New Hope. The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy.

Star Wars Kids Books

The other two are called Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. So You Want to Be a Jedi? and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Beware the Power of the Dark Side! (via dooce)

Ultimate commentary on Raiders of the Lost ArkJul 23 2015

If you are a fan of Raiders of the Lost Ark -- and who isn't? -- then this is your holy grail: a feature-length commentary on the movie by Jamie Benning that includes seemingly every tidbit related to the film, including deleted scenes, audio commentary from the cast and crew, behind the scenes video, and much more. An incredible resource in understanding the film.

Benning has also done similarly excellent commentaries for Jaws, Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. (via @drwave)

Star Wars-style opening crawls of the day's newsJul 23 2015

Every day, a program written by Julien Deswaef selects a war-related news item from the NY Times, formats it in the style of the infamous Star Wars opening crawl (complete with John Williams' score), and posts the results to YouTube.

Published yesterday, the crawl for Episode XXVII was taken from a NY Times article about an Obama speech about the Iranian nuclear deal.

Here's how the project was made and if you'd like to try it yourself, grab the source code. (via prosthetic knowledge)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Comic-Con 2015 ReelJul 11 2015

They showed this 3 minute 30 second behind the scenes video of Star Wars: The Force Awakens at Comic-Con yesterday.

Fans at San Diego Comic-Con's Hall H were treated to a special look behind the scenes of Star Wars:The Force Awakens by director J.J. Abrams, producer and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy and writer Lawrence Kasdan. The filmmakers were joined on stage by cast members Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford to the surprise and delight of fans.

At the end of the Hall H presentation, the entire Hall H audience of more than 6,000 fans were all invited to continue the celebration and join cast and filmmakers at a surprise Star Wars Fan Concert. The San Diego Symphony performed the classic Star Wars music from John Williams at the Embarcadero Marina Park South.

I have zero interest in Comic-Con, but that would have been pretty cool to see.

Young Han Solo movie announcedJul 07 2015

Disney is proceeding at full steam in delivering more Star Wars to your eyeballs. Today they announced that Christopher Miller and Phil Lord, the duo behind The Lego Movie, will direct a movie about a young Han Solo.

The screenplay is written by Lawrence Kasdan and Jon Kasdan. The story focuses on how young Han Solo became the smuggler, thief, and scoundrel whom Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi first encountered in the cantina at Mos Eisley.

Release date is May 2018. As Princess Leia once said, "Disney, I hope you know what you're doing."

All six Star Wars films at onceJun 16 2015

All six films1 from the Star Wars series played at the same time, superimposed on top of each other.

Watch this while you can...I imagine it'll get taken down in a few hours/days.

  1. Until Disney decides to reboot episodes 1-3 in another 10 years, we are stuck with six Star Wars films in the canon. As Yoda once said, "Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force."

An oral history of Industrial Light and MagicMay 19 2015

Star Wars was a film that literally couldn't be made; the technology required to bring the movie's universe to visual life simply didn't exist.

So George Lucas did what any enterprising young director who was destined to change the movie business would do. He invented a company to invent the technology. Wired's Alex French and Howie Kahn take you inside the magic factory with the untold story of ILM.

A short video tribute to the sounds of Star WarsMay 12 2015

Watch all the way to the end for some sounds that didn't make it into the movies.

Star Wars x Star Trek: The Carbonite ManeuverMay 12 2015

From an alternate universe in 1985, a Star Wars crossover with Star Trek that never happened in which Lord Vader has the Genesis Device.

Paging JJ Abrams. Mr. Abrams to the white courtesy phone please. (via @khoi)

Make your own Star Wars BB-8 rolling ball droidApr 20 2015

When the first trailer for JJ Abrams' new Star Wars movie came out, we all assumed the rolling ball droid was CGI (and perhaps based on this 2008 xkcd post). Then an actual working model of the droid, called BB-8, showed up on stage at Star Wars Celebration. Minds blew. Industrial design student Christian Poulsen figured out how to make his own version of BB-8 by hacking a Sphero:

Update: It looks like Sphero will be manufacturing an official BB-8 droid toy, which will likely be a massive success.

Update: Sphero is selling a smartphone-controlled BB-8 droid. This is the droid you're looking for.

Authentic Movement: Guide your BB-8 with a smartphone or tablet

Listens & Responds: BB-8 recognizes and reacts to your voice

Holographic Messaging: Record and view virtual holographic videos with BB-8

Autonomous Behavior: BB-8 has a mind of its own - explore the Star Wars galaxy together

Adaptive Personality: Your BB-8's unique attitude and actions evolve as you interact

It's also available at Amazon, although they are currently out of stock.

The Making of Star WarsApr 17 2015

In 1977, only a few months after the movie came out, a hour-long television special called The Making of Star Wars aired on ABC. It was the first documentary about Star Wars.

LOL to the rehearsal shot at 4:10 of Han going "bang, bang, bang, bang, bang" while shooting his blaster, the reaction of Luke, Han, and Leia to a boom mic blowing the 18th take of a scene at 34:20, and the description of Princess Leia as "royalty of a very liberated kind". (via kung fu grippe)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser trailer #2Apr 16 2015

Ok, this one gave me goosebumps. I hope this is good.

Crayon sculpturesMar 13 2015

These crayon sculptures by Hoang Tran are amazing.

Hoang TranHoang TranHoang TranHoang TranHoang Tran

Select sculptures are available on Etsy. (via ignant)

Sounds like failureDec 16 2014

Quick three minute video about how they made the Millennium Falcon hyperdrive malfunction noise for Star Wars.

Favorite detail: one of the sounds is from the clanking pipes in the studio's bathroom. (via df)

The Star Wars API and Star Wars as a genreDec 08 2014

SWAPI is a new web service will use a RESTful interface to return JSON about the "Planets, Spaceships, Vehicles, People, Films and Species" from all six of the Star Wars movies. This API would be really useful if Disney would have done as Matt Webb suggested and turned Star Wars into a genre rather than a franchise.

Imagine, imagine if Disney had said: Star Wars isn't a franchise, it's a genre.

The legendary galaxy, a long time ago, far far away, is well understood: What's true is what's in the Holocron continuity database.

Open the Holocron. Show everyone what's in it. Let it become history.

Then let anyone make movies and books that share the Star Wars world. Not like all those other franchises that argue about what's canon and what's not... rise above it, become a new shared set of conventions, formulas, history and myth, just like the western but for the 21st century.

My friend David suggested something similar with Harry Potter a few years ago...open it up and let any director take a shot at making Potter movies. Open source franchises.

George Lucas' Special Edition of the Star Wars: Episode VII TrailerNov 30 2014

What if George Lucas was making the new Star Wars movie instead of JJ Abrams? This recut trailer offers a glimpse of the cheesy CG madness.

So so good.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser trailerNov 28 2014

Here it is, the very first look at JJ Abrams' new Star Wars movie.

Not ashamed to say I felt chills down my spine when the music kicked in. Please please please let this not suck.

Update: From the teaser, it's a little early to tell whether Abrams is following these four rules to make Star Wars great again (1. The setting is the frontier. 2. The future is old. 3. The Force is mysterious. 4. Star Wars isn't cute.) but there are hints of 1&2 in there...they're still driving those old rust-bucket X-Wings and wearing beat-up helmets.

How Star Wars Conquered the UniverseNov 20 2014

In his recent book, How Star Wars Conquered the Universe, Chris Taylor tells the story of how avant garde cinema fan George Lucas built one of the biggest movie franchises ever.

How did a few notes scribbled on a legal pad in 1973 by George Lucas, a man who hated writing, turn into a four billion dollar franchise that has quite literally transformed the way we think about entertainment, merchandizing, politics, and even religion? A cultural touchstone and cinematic classic, Star Wars has a cosmic appeal that no other movie franchise has been able to replicate. From Jedi-themed weddings and international storm-trooper legions, to impassioned debates over the digitization of the three Star Wars prequels, to the shockwaves that continue to reverberate from Disney's purchase of the beloved franchise in 2012, the series hasn't stopped inspiring and inciting viewers for almost forty years. Yet surprisingly little is known about its history, its impact -- or where it's headed next.

(via mr)

Our robot future: R2-D2 or C-3PO?Oct 16 2014

Rex Sorgatz wonders what sort of robots we'll build, R2-D2s or C-3POs.

R2-D2 excels in areas where humans are deficient: deep computation, endurance in extreme conditions, and selfless consciousness. R2-D2 is a computer that compensates for human deficiencies -- it shines where humans fail.

C3-PO is the personification of the selfish human -- cloying, rules-bound, and despotic. (Don't forget, C3-PO let Ewoks worship him!) C3-PO is a factotum for human vanity -- it engenders the worst human characteristics.

I love the chart he did for the piece, characterizing 3PO's D&D alignment as lawful evil and his politics as Randian.

Gene Siskel reviews The Empire Strikes BackOct 06 2014

In a local Chicago TV segment from 1980, here's film critic Gene Siskel reviewing The Empire Strikes Back.

Interesting that he spends most of his time commenting on the special effects. At the time of this review, Siskel had been doing a show with Roger Ebert called Sneak Previews, but they seemed to have missed reviewing the original Star Wars or Empire on the show. Ebert reviewed Empire in 1997, giving it four stars and calling it "the best of the three Star Wars films".

"The Empire Strikes Back" is the best of three Star Wars films, and the most thought-provoking. After the space opera cheerfulness of the original film, this one plunges into darkness and even despair, and surrenders more completely to the underlying mystery of the story. It is because of the emotions stirred in "Empire" that the entire series takes on a mythic quality that resonates back to the first and ahead to the third. This is the heart.

The film was made in 1980 with full knowledge that "Star Wars" had become the most successful movie of all time. If corners were cut in the first film's budget, no cost was spared in this one: It is a visual extravaganza from beginning to end, one of the most visionary and inventive of all films.

(via devour)

Star Wars Episode II: The Friend ZoneSep 18 2014

Amidala friendzones Anakin, Obi-Wan hunts for drugs, and Jango Fett pumps the bass in this hilarious Auralnauts reimagining of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.

You may have also seen their recent video of the Throne Room scene at the end of Star Wars without John Williams' score (reminiscent of these musicless musicvideos) or Bane's outtakes from The Dark Knight Rises. Still champion though: bad lip reading of NFL players. (via @aaroncoleman0)

Star Wars: The Despecialized EditionAug 19 2014

A remastered copy of the original 1977 Han-shoots-first version of Star Wars is out there and you can watch it but it's probably illegal. But Disney is never going to show it to you, so maybe it's ok to find it on Bittorrent?

The Despecialized Edition is the years-long work of a diverse group of people who have taken elements from many different sources and created the ultimate version of the first Star Wars film. It has also been upgraded to display properly on high definition screens, with high-quality sounds and a near perfect image.

The latest Blu-Ray release of the film serves as the skeleton for this edition, but elements of the 2006 bonus DVD that included the unaltered version of the film was also used to remove special effects and edits that were added by Lucas.

Here's a short feature on the video sources used:

And here's how to get the full film.

Update: Here's an extensive side-by-side look at how dozens of shots were modified to make The Despecialized Edition.

The science of Star WarsAug 04 2014

Science Of Star Wars

Physicist Andy Howell recently gave a talk about the science of Star Wars and wrote up a summary of it for Ain't It Cool News. Topics covered include binary star systems, droids, the Death Star, and lightsabers:

Of course, we still don't know how to make a lightsaber. One big problem is confining plasma (if that is even what it is), into some tube. But a bigger problem is the amount of energy required. We can actually calculate this from clues in the movies!

In Episode I, Qui-Gon jabs his lightsaber into a door, and melts part of it. That's just basic physics! To melt something, you have to raise its temperature to the melting point, and you can calculate how much energy that takes using the specific heat capacity of a material.

(thx, greg)

Naming the machinesJul 29 2014

Hi, everybody! Tim Carmody here, guest-hosting for Jason this week.

Not everybody gives their computers, smartphones, or wireless networks distinctive names. You're more likely to see a thousand public networks named "Belkin" or some alphanumeric gibberish than one named after somebody's favorite character in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

But many, many people do name their machines -- and ever since we slid into the post-PC era, we're more likely to have a bunch of different machines of every different type living together on a network, each needing a name. So, how do you decide what to call them? Do you just pick what strikes your fancy at the moment, or do you have a system?

About three years ago, I asked my friends and followers on Twitter this question and got back some terrific responses. I don't have access to all of their answers, because, well, time makes fools of us all, especially on Twitter. But I think I have the best responses.

Most people who wrote back did have unifying themes for their machines. And sweet Jesus, are those themes nerdy.

  • A lot of people name their computers, networks, and hard drives after characters, places, and objects from Star Wars. Like, a lot of them.
  • Even more of my friends name devices after their favorite books and writers. My favorite of these came from @DigDoug: "All of my machines are named after characters in Don Quixote. My Macbook is Dulcinea, the workhorse is Rocinante." (Note: these systems are also popular among my friends for naming their cats. I don't know what to make of that.)
  • Science- and mythology-inspired names are well-represented. Mathias Crawford's hard drives are named after types of penguins; Alan Benzie went with goddesses: "The names Kali, Isis, Eris, Juno, Lilith & Hera are distributed around whatever devices and drives I have at any time." (When I first read this, I thought these might have been moons of Jupiter, which would both split the difference between science and mythology and would be a super-cool way to name your stuff.)
  • Wi-fi networks might be named for places, funny phrases, or abstract entities, but when it comes to phones or laptops, most people seemed to pick persons' names. Oliver Hulland's hard drives were all named after muppets; Alex Hern named his computer's hard drive and its time capsule backup Marx and Engels, respectively.
  • Some people always stuck with the same system, and sometimes even the same set of names. A new laptop would get the same name as the old laptop, and so forth -- like naming a newborn baby after a dead relative. Other people would retire names with the devices that bore them. They still refer to them by their first names, often with nostalgia and longing.

As for me, I've switched up name systems over the years, mostly as the kinds of devices on my network have changed. I used to just have a desktop PC (unnamed), so I started out by naming external hard drives after writers I liked: Zora, after Zora Neale Hurston, and then Dante. The first router I named, which I still have, is Ezra.

Years later, I named my laptop "Wallace": this is partly for David Foster Wallace, but also so I could yell "where the fuck is Wallace?!?" whenever I couldn't find it.

Without me even realizing it, that double meaning changed everything. My smartphone became "Poot." When I got a tablet, it was "Bodie." My Apple TV was "Wee-Bay," my portable external drive "Stringer." I even named my wi-fi network "D'Angelo" -- so now D'Angelo runs on Ezra, which connects to Dante, if that makes sense.

As soon as it was Wallace and Poot, the rules were established: not just characters from The Wire, but members of the Barksdale crew from the first season of The Wire. No "Bunk," no "Omar," no "Cheese." And when the machines died, their names died with them.

The first one to go, fittingly, was Wallace. I called the new machine "Cutty." I was only able to justify to myself by saying that because he was a replacement machine, it was okay to kick over to Season 3. Likewise, my Fitbit became "Slim Charles."

Now, for some reason, this naming scheme doesn't apply at all to my Kindles. My first one was "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius," and its replacement is "Funes the Memorious." I have no explanation for this, other than to say that while all my other devices commingle, the Kindles seem to live in a hermetic world of their own.

A People's History of TattooineJul 17 2014

In the same vein as the Zinn/Chomsky Lord of the Rings commentary is A People's History of Tattooine, a Twitter conversation that Jacob Harris kicks off thusly:

What if Mos Eisley wasn't really that wretched and it was just Obi Wan being racist again?

Some other highlights:

"more civilized time?" Check your privilege, Obi Wan

the Tusken People. Raiders presumes some malevolent intent

all I'm saying is that I don't blame the Tusken People for steering clear of the racist, violent and armed old man

like anybody forgets what Luke and his friends did to native womp rat populations at Beggars Canyon Park

First trailer for Star Wars from 1976Jul 07 2014

In 1976, 20th Century Fox released a teaser trailer for a little film called Star Wars...aka "the story of a boy, a girl, and a universe".

No James Earl Jones voiceover for Vader, no John Williams score (which wasn't finished until just two months before the film premiered), but those visuals must have impressed.

Here's the first teaser trailer for Empire Strikes Back, which features no film footage at all, just concept art drawn by Ralph McQuarrie:

And for the sake of completeness, the teaser trailer for Return of the Jedi, which appeared in theaters before Lucas changed the name from Revenge of the Jedi:

Rian Johnson to direct Star Wars VIII and IXJun 20 2014

Rian Johnson, director of Brick and Looper (both of which I really enjoyed) and one of the best episodes of Breaking Bad, is rumored to be the director of the 8th and 9th episodes of Star Wars.

Johnson will take over the core film franchise, and he'll get started quickly and this will be his preoccupation for quite awhile. Technically, he'll write that second treatment but the intention on both sides is that he direct the two installments.

First Abrams and now this...Disney seems to be doing a much better job shepherding the Star Wars franchise than Lucas did. (via df)

Where did Star Wars come from?May 29 2014

Yesterday I posted a video looking at the influence of Akira Kurosawa on Star Wars. Well, Michael Heilemann has posted an amazing feature-length exploration of Star Wars and the films that influenced it.

It's not Heilemann talking about anything...it's a sort of meta-Star Wars comprised of dozens of elements from other films that influenced Lucas in making it. For instance, here's the opening crawl from Forbidden Planet (1956):

Forbidden Planet

Heilemann also includes a crawl from a 1936 Flash Gordan serial. For more, check out Kitbashed, particularly the extensive ebook on Star Wars sources.

Star Wars and Akira KurosawaMay 28 2014

This video looks at the influence of Akira Kurosawa and his films (especially The Hidden Fortress) on George Lucas and Star Wars.

How are Samurai films and a car crash responsible for Star Wars? How did World War II affect the global film industry in the 20th century? Why are Jedi called Jedi?? Give us 8 minutes, and we'll explain it all...

(via devour)

Star Wars prequels, recutMay 08 2014

So, this showed up on Vimeo last night and will likely be pulled soon (so hit that "download" button while you can), but here's the deal. In 2012, actor Topher Grace showed an edit he'd done of episodes I-III of Star Wars to a bunch of friends, trimming the 7 hours of prequels down into 85 action-packed minutes of pure story. This Vimeo edit is longer (2:45) and is "based on the structure conceived by actor Topher Grace", which you can read about here.

Grace's version of the film(s) centers on Anakin's training and friendship with Obi-Wan, and his relationship with Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman). Gone are Trade Federation blockades, the Gungan city, the whole Padmé handmaiden storyline, the explanation of midichlorians, the galactic senate and the boring politics, Anakin's origins (a backstory which never really needed to be seen in the first place), the droid army's attack on Naboo, and Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best) appears only briefly for only one line of dialogue, used as a set-up to introduce us to the Queen.

(via @bursts)

Worse than Jar JarMay 07 2014

In an item on Ain't It Cool News about the working title for Star Wars VII (The Ancient Fear!), a pair of comments list fourteen things about the Star Wars movies as bad as or worse than Jar Jar Binks:

1. Dance number added to Jedi
2. CGI Jabba added to A New Hope
3. Han/Greedo scene changed in A New Hope
4. Horrible acting in the prequels even by the good actors
5. Obi-Wan riding around on Yoshi in Revenge of the Sith
6. Anakin/Padme love story
7. Jake Lloyd
8. R2-D2 flying
9. Hayden's ghost added to end of Jedi
10. Rick McCallum
11. Midichlorians
12. Virgin birth of Anakin
13. Vader as C-3POs maker and R2's buddy
14. Han/Jabba scene added in ANH

Meesa agree with most of this list.

Star Wars HighMar 06 2014

Denis Medri illustrates scenes from Star Wars as if Luke, Leia, Han, and the rest of the gang were teenagers in an 80s movie like Back to the Future, Karate Kid, or Breakfast Club.

Luke and Leia in high school

Great Scott, the Force is strong in these two.

The mogul skiers of HothFeb 13 2014

I can't stop watching this...watch Imperial AT-AT's attack Olympic mogul skiers on Hoth:

Those skiers are not going to make it past the first marker. (via devour)

Thomas Kinkade + Star Wars = YES!Nov 01 2013

Roland Deschane took a few paintings by cheeseball artist Thomas Kinkade and incorporated Star Wars characters into them.

Kinkade Star Wars

(via @Coudal)

Blooper reel from Star WarsOct 28 2013

A blooper reel from the original Star Wars...looks like this hasn't ever been seen before.

Wes Anderson's Star Wars referenceOct 22 2013

Nestled in the midst of Matt Zoller Seitz's video essay on Wes Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is this bombshell: the movie contains a Star Wars reference no one seems to have noticed. Seitz synced the scenes for us:

Life Aquatic Star Wars reference

There have to be others, right? Many of Anderson's films end with all of the characters gathered together like at the medals ceremony in Episode IV...someone even synced up the end of the movie with the closing credits music from Zissou and it works really well:

And of course, there's Conan O'Brien's take on what a Star Wars movie directed by Anderson might look like.

Four rules to make Star Wars great againSep 30 2013

Disney and JJ Abrams are rebooting the Star Wars franchise. This two-minute video outlines four simple rules that could make Star Wars great again.

The rules are:

1. The setting is the frontier.
2. The future is old.
3. The Force is mysterious.
4. Star Wars isn't cute.

Star Wars opening crawl done with HTML/CSSSep 16 2013

Tim Pietrusky made an HTML/CSS version of the opening text crawl from Star Wars.

William Shakespeare's Star WarsJul 03 2013

What if William Shakespeare wrote Star Wars?

Shakespeare Star Wars

Boing Boing has an excerpt.

The evolution of the Star Wars logoMay 31 2013

An extensive examination of the evolution of the Star Wars logo, which went through too many iterations to count.

..Though the poster contained no painted imagery, it did introduce a new logo to the campaign, one that had been designed originally for the cover of a Fox brochure sent to theater owners....Suzy Rice, who had just been hired as an art director, remembers the job well. She recalls that the design directive given by Lucas was that the logo should look "very fascist."

"I'd been reading a book the night before the meeting with George Lucas," she says, "a book about German type design and the historical origins of some of the popular typefaces used today -- how they developed into what we see and use in the present." After Lucas described the kind of visual element he was seeking, "I returned to the office and used what I reckoned to be the most 'fascist' typeface I could think of: Helvetica Black."

(via df)

Watch all six Star Wars movies at the same timeMar 25 2013

In the spirit of 130 simultaneous episodes of The Simpsons and 135 simultaneous launches of the Space Shuttle, here are all six Star Wars movies at the same time:

(via @aaroncoleman0)

Star Wars taxidermyJan 18 2013

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, hunters used to kill and mount tauntauns and banthas over their fireplaces.

Star Wars Taxidermy

White House response to Death Star petitionJan 14 2013

In November, some serious individuals created a petition on the The White House's We the People website requesting the construction of a Death Star in 2016. The petition received the 25K signatures required for a response, and in a Friday night news dump, the White House responded with a memo full of Star Wars puns.

Reasons for rejection include:

*The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000. We're working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it.

*The Administration does not support blowing up planets.

*Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?

The petitions submitted to the We the People site aren't always treated as a joke, here's the response to the people who signed petitions about seceding from the United States.

NASA's Smart SPHERES, floating robot drones on the ISSJan 14 2013

NASA is testing something they call SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites) on the International Space Station...they are spherical robots that can fly around the station and perform simple tasks. They were inspired by the floating droid remote that Luke trains with in Star Wars. The most recent test was in December.

The Smart SPHERES, located in the Kibo laboratory module, were remotely operated from the International Space Station's Mission Control Center at Johnson to demonstrate how a free-flying robot can perform surveys for environmental monitoring, inspection and other routine housekeeping tasks.

In the future, small robots could regularly perform routine maintenance tasks allowing astronauts to spend more time working on science experiments. In the long run, free-flying robots like Smart SPHERES also could be used to inspect the exterior of the space station or future deep-space vehicles.

They are outfitting the Smart SPHERES with Android phones for data collection:

Each SPHERE Satellite is self-contained with power, propulsion, computing and navigation equipment. When Miller's team first designed the SPHERES, all of their potential uses couldn't be imagined up front. So, the team built an "expansion port" into each satellite where additional sensors and appendages, such as cameras and wireless power transfer systems, could be added. This is how the Nexus S handset -- the SPHERES' first smartphone upgrade -- is going to be attached.

"Because the SPHERES were originally designed for a different purpose, they need some upgrades to become remotely operated robots," said DW Wheeler, lead engineer in the Intelligent Robotics Group at Ames. "By connecting a smartphone, we can immediately make SPHERES more intelligent. With the smartphone, the SPHERES will have a built-in camera to take pictures and video, sensors to help conduct inspections, a powerful computing unit to make calculations, and a Wi-Fi connection that we will use to transfer data in real-time to the space station and mission control."

Here's some video from a past test:

Wes Anderson on Star Wars, Bill Murray, and his new movieJan 02 2013

A nice interview with Wes Anderson. He discusses how he got his start in filmmaking, his prospects as the director of the next Star Wars movie, and his new film with Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

DEADLINE: Star Wars was among the films that influenced you early on. What would the world get if Wes Anderson signed on to direct one of these new Star Wars films Disney will make?

ANDERSON: Well I have a feeling I would probably ultimately get replaced on the film because I don't' know if I have all the right action chops. But at least I know the characters from the old films.

DEADLINE: You are not doing a good job of selling yourself as a maker of blockbusters.

ANDERSON: I think you are reading it exactly right. I don't think I would do a terrible job at a Han Solo backstory. I could do that pretty well. But maybe that would be better as a short.

The Star War$ and Łego universeDec 07 2012

Now that I have a 5-year-old, I pay attention to things like Star Wars branded Lego sets. And they are a rip off. Why are these little plastic bricks so expensive? The cheapest set I can find is $7, most of the minifigs are more expensive than that, many sets are a few hundred dollars, and the most expensive sets are the price of a used car: there's a Lego Star Destroyer for $1600 and a Lego Millenium Falcon for $3400.

Now get off my lawn!

Update: Ah, the Star Destroyer and Millenium Falcon are discontinued and collectable, that's why they are thousands of dollars. Original prices were $300-500. It's so difficult to tell these things on Amazon when you're old and crotchety and and and wait, where are my pants? (thx, everyone)

Update: Why are Legos so expensive? Because each brick has to fit perfectly with every other brick ever made. (thx, @johnhutch)

Wes Anderson's Star WarsNov 09 2012

Finally, the answer to the question "what if Wes Anderson directed Star Wars"

(via devour)

George Lucas profile from 1979Nov 08 2012

From the March 1979 issue of The Atlantic, a profile of George Lucas, who at the time was only two years removed from creating a cultural movement.

Star Wars was manufactured. When a competent corporation prepares a new product, it does market research. George Lucas did precisely that. When he says that the film was written for toys ("I love them, I'm really into that"), he also means he had merchandising in mind, all the sideshow goods that go with a really successful film. He thought of T-shirts and transfers, records, models, kits, and dolls. His enthusiasm for the comic strips was real and unforced; he had a gallery selling comic-book art in New York.

From the start, Lucas was determined to control the selling of the film, and of its by-products. "Normally you just sign a standard contract with a studio," he says, "but we wanted merchandising, sequels, all those things. I didn't ask for another $1 million -- just the merchandising rights. And Fox thought that was a fair trade." Lucasfilm Ltd., the production company George Lucas set up in July 1971, "already had a merchandising department as big as Twentieth Century-Fox has. And it was better. When I was doing the film deal, I had already hired the guy to handle that stuff."

This article is like a time capsule of how the movie business used to work. Empire Strikes Back was a year away from release and there was no specific mention of it in the article. Star Wars opened in only 25 theaters and made only $9 million in the first two months. Those numbers don't quite match those from Box Office Mojo but they are close enough, especially when you note that the film's biggest grossing weekend was 43 weeks after the initial release.

Lucas, if you hadn't heard, is donating the majority of the $4 billion he got from Disney for Lucasfilm to various charitable foundations.

Disney bought Star WarsOct 31 2012

I've been offline for two days and Aaron already posted this (and had the information relayed to me via land line into my power-less house) but this is just too, like, wow to pass up. Disney is buying Lucasfilm for $4 billion.

Under the deal, Disney will acquire ownership of Lucasfilm, a leader in entertainment, innovation and technology, including its massively popular and "evergreen" Star Wars franchise and its operating businesses in live action film production, consumer products, animation, visual effects, and audio post production. Disney will also acquire the substantial portfolio of cutting-edge entertainment technologies that have kept audiences enthralled for many years. Lucasfilm, headquartered in San Francisco, operates under the names Lucasfilm Ltd., LucasArts, Industrial Light & Magic, and Skywalker Sound, and the present intent is for Lucasfilm employees to remain in their current locations.

And they're gonna release a 7th Star Wars film:

Ms. Kennedy will serve as executive producer on new Star Wars feature films, with George Lucas serving as creative consultant. Star Wars Episode 7 is targeted for release in 2015, with more feature films expected to continue the Star Wars saga and grow the franchise well into the future.

Crazy. A non-Lucas non-prequel Star Wars film will hopefully be pretty great, but the purchase price is puzzling. Only $4 billion?

The Full Scale Millennium Falcon ProjectOct 18 2012

Chris Lee and his friends have embarked on a project to build a 1:1 scale model of the Millennium Falcon, complete with a correctly scaled interior.

I own a secluded 88 acre tract of wooded land where we'll be building. We have selected a site on the property that is low enough so that the top of the Falcon can be seen easily from several vantage points. A flat area roughly 400' x 400' is being cleared. And yes, I am aware that it will eventually show up on Google Earth and Google Maps. I'm counting on that.

Twitter is old mediaSep 11 2012

Edd Dumbill writes that Twitter, as it strives to become a profitable company, is turning into an old media company.

Twitter's bait-and-switch, now they've built their reach on the back of eager early adopters, is disappointing. It marks them as part of old, unenlightened, business, and consigns them to a far less remarkable place in the future economy than they otherwise might have had.

Michael Heilemann has a somewhat harsher take in his post on Amazon, Twitter, and Star Wars:

Some part of me can't help but admire the purity of the clusterfuck that is Twitter's continued downward trajectory from startup wunderkind to some sort of bland, wannabe ad-driven media company.

It's incomplete, but I can't help but draw comparisons between Twitter's alienation of their original users and ecosystem to, because I am me, Star Wars.

Despite what George Lucas says, the continuing alterations to Star Wars have been driven by business reasoning, not some artistic auteur need to see the vision completed. And in both cases, the original fan base is the one getting run over, while the unwashed masses get to enjoy Jar Jar and Justin Bieber, respectively.

Can I interest you in a 24-horsepower Yoda?Jul 24 2012

Ignoring the prequels (of course), how much power does Yoda put out when he's using the Force? It's perhaps less than you'd realize.

Yoda's greatest display of raw power in the original trilogy came when he lifted Luke's X-Wing from the swamp. As far as physically moving objects around goes, this was easily the biggest expenditure of energy through the Force we saw from anyone in the trilogy.

The energy it takes to lift an object to height h is equal to the object's mass times the force of gravity times the height it's lifted. The X-Wing scene lets us use this to put a lower limit on Yoda's peak power output.

First we need to know how heavy the ship was. The X-Wing's mass has never been canonically established, but its length has-16 meters. An F-22 is 19 meters long and weighs 19,700 lbs, so scaling down from this gives an estimate for the X-Wing of about 12,000 lbs (5 metric tons).

Game of Thrones with lightsabersJul 09 2012

How do you improve upon Game of Thrones? Maybe by adding lightsabers to the duel of Jamie Lannister and Ned Stark?

(via nextdraft)

Star Wars in the style of Dr. SeussJun 11 2012

A series of drawings by Adam Watson that imagine Star Wars characters drawn in the style of Dr. Seuss.

Seuss Star Wars

I sense a presence

which I know to be

the old Jedi,

Obi-Wan Kenobi

I sense his presence

I know he's near

but I can't find him

there or here!

(via @followSol)

Kinect Star Wars dance partyApr 02 2012

Kinect Star Wars has a Galactic Dance Off mode where you can "dance to modern songs remixed with Star Wars lyrics". After watching 30 seconds of this, you may not be able to get "I'm Han Solo" out of your head. It features dance moves like "The Speeder", "Chewie Hug", and "Trash Compactor".

Kind of amazing, but not surprising, that the Star Wars universe has come to this. As one YouTube commenter noted:

I just felt the death of Star Wars. It was as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.

Here are some of the lyrics:

I'm feeling like a star,

you can't stop my shine

I'm loving Cloud City,

my head's in the sky

I'm solo, I'm Han Solo,

I'm Han Solo.

I'm Han Solo. Solo.

Yeah, I'm feeling good tonight,

Finally feeling free and it feels so right, oh.

Time to do the things I like,

Gonna see a Princess, everything's all right, oh.

No Jabba to answer to,

Ain't a fixture in the palace zoo, no.

And since that carbonite's off me

I'm livin' life now that I'm free, yeah.

Told me to get myself together

Now I got myself together, yeah.

Now I made it through the weather,

Better days are gonna get better.

I'm so happy the carbonite is gone.

I'm movin' on.

I'm so happy that it's over now.

The pain is gone.

I'm putting on my shades

to cover up my eyes

I'm jumpin' in my ride,

I'm heading out tonight

I'm solo, I'm Han Solo,

I'm Han Solo.

I'm Han Solo. Solo.

I'm picking up my blaster,

put it on my side.

I'm jumpin' in my Falcon

Wookie at my side.

I'm solo, I'm Han Solo,

I'm Han Solo.

I'm Han Solo. Solo.

It's at this point that Lando comes on and gets jiggy. Amazing. (via ★ironicsans)

Building a scale Lego model of the Death StarMar 13 2012

Rhett Allain from Wired asked and then answered, "could you build a scale Lego model of the Death Star?" Using the scale of the Lego people as a guide, Allain estimated that the Lego Death Star would be much taller than the world's tallest buildings and weigh more than 2 billions tons. My favorite bit: a visual of what the Lego Death Star would look like in low earth orbit. "That's no moon" indeed. (via @educurate)

New Star Wars movie! By Topher Grace?Mar 12 2012

According to Peter Sciretta at Slashfilm, Topher Grace has made an 85-minute cut of Star Wars episodes I, II, and III where Jar Jar appears only briefly, midichlorians are not mentioned, and Jake Lloyd is not seen or heard from.

Whats most shocking is that with only 85 minutes of footage, Topher was able to completely tell the main narrative of Anakin Skywalker's road from Jedi to the Sith. While I know the missing pieces and could even fill in the blanks in my head as the film raced past, none of those points were really needed. Whats better is that the character motivations are even more clear and identifiable, a real character arc not bogged down by podraces, galactic senates, Jar Jar Binks, politics or most of the needless parts of the Star Wars prequels. It not only clarifies the story, but makes the film a lot more action-packed.

Sadly, it was a one-time screening for friends. (via ★interesting links)

How much would the Death Star cost to build?Feb 20 2012

Over at the Centives economic blog, they figured out how much it would cost to build the Death Star in 2012 dollars. Spoiler: A lot. It would cost a lot.

We began by looking at how big the Death Star is. The first one is reported to be 140km in diameter and it sure looks like it's made of steel. But how much steel? We decided to model the Death Star as having a similar density in steel as a modern warship. After all, they're both essentially floating weapons platforms so that seems reasonable.

(via marginalrevolution)

George Lucas is retiring from movie makingJan 18 2012

Well, from making blockbuster movies anyway. And that's only one of the interesting tidbits in this long NY Times profile of Lucas

Lucas has decided to devote the rest of his life to what cineastes in the 1970s used to call personal films. They'll be small in scope, esoteric in subject and screened mostly in art houses. They'll be like the experimental movies Lucas made in the 1960s, around the time he was at U.S.C. film school, when he recorded clouds moving over the desert and made a movie based on an E. E. Cummings poem. During that period, Lucas assumed he would spend his career on the fringes. Then "Star Wars" happened -- and though Lucas often mused about it, he never committed himself to the uncommercial world until now.

Sitting in a sun-drenched office, his voice boyish, Lucas talked about himself as if he were a character in one of his movies. He's at the end of an epic saga; he's embracing a new destiny ("Make the art films, George"); he's battling former acolytes who have become his sworn enemies; and George Lucas is -- no kidding -- in love. Before he takes his digital camera with him into obscurity, though, Lucas has one last mission. He wants to prove that with "Red Tails," he can still make the kind of movie everyone in the world will want to see.

Hipster Star WarsJan 17 2012

Available at Etsy, prints of Star Wars characters wearing designer clothes by John Woo (not the director). A stormtrooper wearing Thom Browne, Boba Fett wearing Supreme Visvim, and my favorite, Jango Fett wearing Comme des Garçons.

Star Wars Hipster

Woo does similar illustrations outside the Star Wars universe...here's the T-1000 from Terminator 2 wearing Thom Browne. (via flavorwire)

The seven deadly sins of Star WarsDec 01 2011

Adam Koford drew an illustration of the seven deadly sins at Jabba's palace on Tatooine:

Star Wars Deadly Sins

That got me thinking...what were George Lucas' seven sins related to the Star Wars movies? Here's my crack at an answer:

1. Greedo shoots first. The obvious #1. In the original theatrical release, Han shot Greedo without any return fire. In subsequent releases, the sequence was sanitized by Lucas for younger viewers: Greedo shoots at Han first and Han kills him in retaliation.

2. Jar Jar Binks. Or perhaps this should be #1?

3. Digital Jabba talking to Han outside the Falcon in Episode IV (and many of the other digital alterations Lucas made starting in 1997). Fake fake fake.

4. Young Anakin. Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christensen were both horrible.

5. Ewoks. Not as bad as Jar Jar, but...man. You know, for kids.

6. Natalie Portman. She can be a really good actress but needs strong direction. Guess who sucks at directing actors? Lucas!

7. Midiclorians. No one needed a scientific explanation of The Force. Just do a bunch of hand-waving about "the Force is strong with this one" and leave it at that.

Did I miss anything big? (I mean, aside from Episodes I-III?)

Four-year-old learns Darth Vadar is Luke's fatherOct 03 2011

You've never seen a literally slack jaw until you've seen a four-year-old watching Empire Strikes Back for the first time and learning that Darth Vader is Luke's father.

Han Solo in carbonite ice cube tray!!!!Aug 26 2011

Sorry about all those exclamation points but I just love this:

Han Solo ice tray

Perfect for your "Jabba goes to the Cantina" cosplay needs. (via mlkshk)

Update: Amazon is all sold out, but you can find the trays here as well.

The Star Wars blueprintsJul 08 2011

Star Wars: The Blueprints is a $500 limited edition book that contains photographs and illustrations about how the Star Wars movies wre created.

Star Wars: The Blueprints brings together, for the first time, the original blueprints created for the filming of the Star Wars Saga. Drawn from deep within the Lucasfilm Archives and combined with exhaustive and insightful commentary from best-selling author J. W. Rinzler, the collection maps in precise, vivid, and intricate detail the very genesis of the most enduring and beloved story ever to appear onscreen.

Star Wars: The Blueprints gives voice to the groundbreaking and brilliant engineers, designers, and artists that have, in film after film, created the most imaginative and iconic locales in the history of cinema. Melding science and art, these drawings giving birth to fantastic new worlds, ships, and creatures.

Most importantly, Blueprints shows how in bringing this extraordinary epic to life, the world of special effects as we know it was born. For the first time, here you will see the initial concepts behind such iconic Star Wars scenes as the Rebel blockade runner hallways, the bridge of General Grievous s flagship, the interior of the fastest hunk of junk in the Galaxy, and Jabba the Hutt's palace. Never before seen craftsmanship and artistry is evident whether floating on the Death Star, escaping on a speeder bike, or exploring the Tatooine Homestead.

And hey, Amazon's got it for only $450.

AC/D2 to play Star Wars music festivalApr 19 2011

If there was a Star Wars version of Coachella, some of the bands playing at the festival would be called Kessel Run DMC, Guided by Millions of Voices That Suddenly Cried Out in Terror and Were Suddenly Silenced, and C-3PO Speedwagon.

1950s version of The Empire Strikes BackJan 27 2011

Ivan Guerrero remakes recent-ish movie trailers using footage from old movies...for instance, imagine if The Empire Strikes Back came out in 1950:

Guerrero has done several others, including Ghostbusters (1954), Up (1965), and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1951). (via @themexican)

Finally, Star Wars on Blu-rayJan 06 2011

Amazon has put Star Wars on Blu-ray up for pre-order on its site: the original trilogy for $45 or $90 for the whole thing. The release date looks like September 2011. One more time, just for old times sake, let's all buy the same six films for the very last time. Well, until the ultra mega special holographic boxed set comes out in 2013.

Darth SpatulaNov 29 2010

It's real and it's spectacular.

Darth Spatula

Whether the mission is baking cookies or flipping pancakes, young Padawan cooks will love using our official Star Wars spatula featuring the fearsome Darth Vader.

And that's not all! Williams Sonoma sells all sorts of Star Wars-themed cooking gear:

Galactic Empire™ Cupcake Decorating Kit - "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the Jedi Kitchen Council devised a powerful new way to spread fun through the galaxy. Jedi Master pastry chefs created this extraordinary collection of tools..."

Sandwich Cutters with Vintage-Style Tin - "Transform your Jedi's favorite sandwiches into high-energy fuel for lunches, snacks and parties with Millennium Falcon™ and Darth Vader's TIE fighter™ sandwich cutters. Created by the Jedi Kitchen Council to celebrate the Rebel Alliance's victory over the evil Empire, these cutters are fun and easy to use -- just press and cut." [The "Vintage-Style Tin" is actually, how you say, a metal lunchbox.]

Pancake Molds - "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a Jedi Kitchen Master used the Force to create three pancake molds in honor of his favorite galactic hero and villains: Yoda, Darth Vader and a stormtrooper. Use these molds to add whimsy and fun to your next pancake breakfast." [The Vader pancake looks a lot like Hannibal Lector in his mask.]

What, no Jar-Jar Binks Home Preserves Kit? (thx, meg)

Star Wars weatherNov 15 2010

What's the weather like on Dagobah, Alderaan, or Hoth? Find out with these handy OS X Dashboard widgets.

Hoth weather

The making of The Empire Strikes BackOct 12 2010

Vanity Fair has excerpts (photos mostly) of a new book on the making of The Empire Strikes Back.

Vader Luke Mattresses

This is right before Luke fell to his death sleep. (via df)

And on the sixth day, Lucas created ChewbaccaSep 21 2010

Ok, so this is about how George Lucas came up with idea of Chewbacca (hint: he basically stole it from someone else) and yes it's a bit inside-baseball but it's also a great illustration of how the creative process works and the difficulty of explaining how the magic happened even after the fact.

And that's what this post it about; the creative process. Cultural touchstones like Star Wars might seem to have sprung fully formed from the minds of their lauded creators, but as in all creative endeavours, movie making, web design or this very post, nothing could be further from the truth. Creation is a process, and strangely, by looking at how everyone's favority plush first-mate sprang into existance, we can learn a lot about any collaborative creative endeavour.

Also, the name of Lucas' dog was Indiana.

Four ways to reinterpret Star WarsAug 11 2010

Star Wars is like nerd scripture: moral homilies, scrupulous exegesis, debates over canonicity, commentaries on commentaries, gnostic gospels, and after-the-fact revision and then purging of the source texts. But some of the secondary writing that tries to resolve the contradictions in the series (especially between the beloved original trilogy and reviled prequels) is just plain fun.

  • "A New Sith, or Revenge of the Hope" was my introduction to this genre, and it's still one of the best. It takes the prequels as canon, and argues for an intriguing, sinister subtext to Episode IV.
  • Another approach is to just reinvent the stories altogether, changing whole plot points at will. I tried my hand at this at a short-lived but wonderfully fun group site called Counterfictionals. (Scroll down for the better posts, or check the whole archive for terrific stuff by other writers on Star Trek, Batman, etc.)
  • At HiLobrow, Joshua Glenn maps a virtuoso cultural interpretation that I can't summarize, except to say that it involves the use of a semiotic square and the use of the word "quatsch."
  • Finally, this one comes out of the Kottke archives. Aidan Wasley argues that the whole six-part-series is "the greatest postmodern art film ever," relentlessly self-referential, where mysterious elements like "the Force" stand in for the artifice of plot itself.

Let's just say that under this interpretation, James Franco is giving Lucas a run for his money.

Victorian Star Wars portraitsJun 29 2010

Victorian ChewbaccaDuke Chewbacca, Master Threepio, Sir Boba Fett, and, er, Lord Vader (more or less).

Pixar Star WarsJun 25 2010

Illustrations of Pixar characters drawn as Star Wars characters.

The world's tallest building, out of timeFeb 03 2010

Martin Becka and Cedric Delsaux are a pair of photographers who feature Burj Dubai in their work. Becka's Burj comes from his Dubai, Transmutations project in which he uses the photogravure processing technique to make images of brand-new Dubai that look as though they were taken in 1880.

Martin Becka Dubai

Delsaux's Burj image comes from a project called The Dark Lens, which features images of Star Wars characters populating the circa-2008 Earth. I believe that's the Millennium Falcon docking at the Burj:

Cedric Delsaux Dubai

Many more of The Dark Lens images are available on Delsaux's site.

Darth Vader opens Wall StreetDec 22 2009

Darth Vader and a number of Storm Troopers from the Star Wars Saga rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

(via @kngofwrld)

Why the Phantom Menace sucksDec 18 2009

I confess that I only had time this morning to watch the first 10 minutes, but from that viewing I can safely conclude that this is the best 70-minute video critique of The Phantom Menace that exists in the world. If the first 20 seconds don't get you, stick around until "protagonist". Or don't take my word for it; here's Lost's Damon Lindelof's reaction:

Your life is about to change. This is astounding film making. Watch ALL of it.

Part the first:

After watching the last 3-4 minutes of this first segment, I wanted to give Lucas a hug because I feel so bad for the guy for failing in public in such a huge way. (thx, scott)

Lucas wanted David Lynch to direct Return of the JediDec 11 2009

In this video, Lynch decribes a visit with George Lucas and why he turned down Lucas' offer to direct Return of the Jedi.

So, he took me upstairs and he showed me these things called Wookiees. And now this headache is getting stronger.

Making of: CG for Star WarsNov 06 2009

There was a short CG special effects sequence in Star Wars (the Death Star explanation at the Rebel briefing); here's how it was made.

Princess Leia and stunt double sunbathing on TatooineNov 05 2009

This did unsurprisingly well when I posted it to Twitter, so I've archived it here for posterity. This is Carrie Fischer and her stunt double taking a nap under the Tatooine suns during the filming of Jedi.

Tatooine sunsbathing

What do Stormtroopers do on their day off?Sep 22 2009

They play video games, dance, fish, hang out with Wall-E, and all kinds of other stuff. I can't decide which is my favorite...this one, this one, or this one? No, it's gotta be this one:

Stormtroopers at the beach

(via @ettagirl)

Barack Obama, Jedi KnightSep 17 2009

The President recently hosted a rally at The White House in support of Chicago's bid to hold the 2016 Summer Olympics. Some members of the Olympic fencing team were there. Obama was given a plastic sword. Photos were taken. Photoshop (with an assist from me) did the rest.

Here's our President attacking an unseen Sith Lord or perhaps someone condemned by a death panel:

Obama Lightsaber 01

And having finished them off to the delight of the assembled, a victory pose.

Obama Lightsaber 02Update: See also the Japanese Obama action figures. (thx, myles)

Potter, Stars Trek and Wars, Matrix all the same movieJun 26 2009

You've likely seen this comparison of Harry Potter and the first Star Wars movie but that comparison has recently been expanded to include not only Potter and Star Wars but also The Matrix and Abrams' Star Trek.

Once upon a time, Luke | Kirk | Neo | Harry was living a miserable life. Feeling disconnected from his friends and family, he dreams about how his life could be different. One day, he is greeted by Obi Wan | Captain Pike | Trinity | Hagrid and told that his life is not what it seems, and that due to some circumstances surrounding his birth | birth | birth | infancy he was meant for something greater.

Update: The connecting theme is the monomyth. (via @adamlgerber)

Update: Or perhaps Potter is really Young Sherlock Holmes? (thx, stephen)

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