George Lucas

Eraserhead

I love looking at filmmakers’ early work. Sure, it might be juvenile or lacking the grace of experience, but it’s also the artistic eye before fame, celebrity personas or narrowly honed visions. It’s the work they made before output was partially (if not totally) influenced by investors, studios and critics. First films can be like cinematic diaries of the directors’ vision – like David Lynch’s iconic Eraserhead, which is now on Criterion Blu-ray with almost all of his short films – or whiffs of artistry before the mainstream. Some, sadly, are still out of reach to the Internet masses, though they’d be fascinating first glimpses at cinematic themes and techniques. Long before 12 Years a Slave, Steve McQueen debuted with a revealing video installation, Bear, which only makes the rounds at live events. Kathryn Bigelow “plays down” her first film from 1978, The Set-Up, where Gary Busey and another guy fight each other as semioticians deconstruct the images – a film that certainly speaks to her future work, but hasn’t been released for modern audiences. And though someone who thinks they’re clever put up a slave scene on YouTube, insisting it was Spike Lee’s first film, his debut – the Super 8 film Last Hustle in Brooklyn – is actually about “Black people and Puerto Rican people looting and dancing.” Those three might remain out of reach, but here eight filmmakers’ early visions that speak to humor, darkness, unexpected twists, and for one – an artistry before an obsession with […]

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Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey in Heavenly Creatures

They say the easiest way to make your first feature is to do a horror movie. They’re cheap and have an enormous audience, and even if you don’t hit big with it, there’s a chance for either a cult following or even just the benefit of having something under your belt, to show producers when developing your next project. What kind of movie is best to do second? It’s not scientific, but I have a theory that the coming-of-age genre is a good place to go for a follow-up. Maybe it doesn’t have to be your sophomore feature, but somewhere early on you can do well to come of age yourself, as a filmmaker, by delivering a story of kids or teens growing up. The career that inspired this idea is Peter Jackson‘s. He was doing okay with his splatter films and R-rated puppets before directing Heavenly Creatures, but that’s the one where he suddenly displayed great maturity as a filmmaker, and it’s the one that put him on the map critically and internationally. The movie, which turns 20 today (if born at its debut at the Venice Film Festival), was more a passion project for Jackson’s partner, Fran Walsh, which makes sense — it usually takes a woman to help us boys grow up. It also remains Jackson’s best movie yet, which is probably something to discuss for another time. For now, I thought we could see what other directors broke out best with a coming-of-age movie.

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Stormtrooper Hits Head

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Princess Leia in Star Wars - Troopers

It’s hard not to think about Star Wars with all the news and potential spoilers about Episode VII dropping lately. Still, for the purist, the original will remain the greatest of the series, even if there is no high-quality version of the theatrical releases available. With so much Star Wars lately, it only seems appropriate to go back to the beginning and revisit Star Wars before it was ever known as A New Hope. For the DVD release in 2007, a commentary track was added to the film, which has been preserved through the subsequent Blu-ray releases. Recorded separately and cobbled together for relevant points of the film, the commentary includes George Lucas, Carrie Fisher, Ben Burtt, and Dennis Muren. While this particular commentary does not offer a modern perspective of the legacy of the prequels or the upcoming films and spin-offs, it does give a look back at the making of a classic.

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Flash Gordon

On this week’s episode, in honor of the upcoming X-Men flick, Cargill and I mount our own exploration into alternate timelines as part of a new recurring series we’ve dubbed Movies of Future Past. For the inaugural foray, we imagine a universe in which George Lucas had actually acquired the rights to Flash Gordon and made that his 1977 sci-fi opus instead of Star Wars. It’s one of cinema’s most intriguing What If’s. Heck, as it stands, Lucas’ fascination with the Flash Gordon serials of the ’30s actually ended up informing so much of what Star Wars became. But that’s in this dimension, where history books have facts and whatnot. It’s far more entertaining to travel to other timelines where we’re confined only to the limits of our wild speculations!!! You should follow Brian (@Briguysalisbury), Cargill (@Massawyrm), and the show (@Junkfoodcinema). Download Episode #12 Directly

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the Empire Strikes Back

The story typically goes something like this. In the 1960s, Hollywood had weathered an economic crisis but was losing an ongoing battle with television, so it turned to youth-oriented, smaller projects and gave unprecedented freedom to envelope-pushing directors who worshipped in the churches of Bergman, Kurosawa, Hawkes. Then Jaws (huge) and Star Wars (way huge) came along in the mid-late 70s, imbuing Hollywood with a renewed focus on entertainment spectacle that has, for the most part, dominated its practice since. George Lucas’s original Star Wars without doubt had a significant role in shifting the industrial history of Hollywood toward what we recognize today. It illustrated the lucrative possibilities of mass merchandising, helped elevate B-movie genre fare to A-movie status, and contributed to the now-entrenched thinking that informs our annual movie calendars: the notion that big, expensive fun belongs on our summer movie screens. Yet despite its arguably peerless impact on popular culture in 1977, Star Wars alone resides far more comfortably alongside the film school generation of New Hollywood than the blockbuster mentality it allegedly produced. Rather, it was the film’s 1980 sequel The Empire Strikes Back that made good the changes that have since come to dominate the logic of today’s Hollywood.

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Ice Pirates

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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jeditruth-1

One of my favorite movie series of all time is the Star Wars films. Yes, even the prequels. I’m sure whatever happens with the upcoming sequels, they will make the list, too. I’m an shameless fanboy when it comes to this series, and I can forgive a lot – from Greedo shooting first to Jar Jar Binks. Since I was a child, seeing the original Star Wars at the tender age of five, I have loved the series. My youthful mind always wished I could be a Jedi Knight myself. Now, I know that’s impossible because I certainly don’t have nearly enough midi-chlorians in my blood for that. In fact, it was a relief for me to learn this plot patch when I saw The Phantom Menace because by watching the original trilogy as a child, it seemed so easy to train to be a Jedi Knight. Going back and watching that original trilogy again, it got me thinking: Just how long does it take to complete Jedi Knight training?

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Letting go of a loved one is tough, but it’s something we all must do at some point. And George Lucas is no different. He and his son, the twenty year-old Jett Lucas, recently went through a similar experience, of a father releasing his child into the world to grow and develop on its own, without that constant parental influence. The child in question, of course, isn’t Jett Lucas. It’s Star Wars: Episode VII. The younger Lucas described his father as keeping a close eye on his beloved franchise, “as any parent watching their kid going to college would.” But the Star Wars creator seems to have had a tough time staying away, and has, as it turns out, been exerting far more influence over Episode VII than previously thought. Jett Lucas (in an interview with Flicks and the City) had this to say: “He’s constantly talking to J.J. [Abrams]. Obviously J.J. was handpicked. He [Lucas] is there to guide, whenever, he’ll help where he can.” As well, the elder Lucas had actually begun work on Episode VII a year before the franchise was sold to Disney, and has created a set of “guidelines” that Abrams and the rest of the new blood will be following. With luck, it’s the Lucas responsible for the original Star Wars (and not the one responsible for the prequel trilogy) that’s currently helicopter-parenting a few feet above Episode VII.

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01-1

Where were you in ’73? August 11, 1973, to be specific? I wasn’t alive, but just because I wasn’t there on opening night doesn’t mean I can’t celebrate the 40th birthday of American Graffiti, which hit theaters on that date*. Just the same, it doesn’t matter that I can’t really answer the film’s tagline of “Where were you in ’62?” George Lucas‘s nostalgic teen movie is as classic as the cars that appear in it, and that’s because it resonates for viewers of all ages and all eras. Maybe we didn’t grow up on the same music and meet up at the same kind of hangout as Mel’s Drive-In, but we can all find something familiar in this multi-narrative feature. It’s no wonder Richard Linklater’s own nostalgic ensemble teen movie, Dazed and Confused, is so similar to Lucas’s. Teen life hadn’t changed all that much in 14 years. Nor is it all that different after 51 years. It’s kind of strange to think about how American Graffiti was set only 11 years before its release. We’re quickly nostalgic today, but that was a pretty quick turnaround for audiences to get so sentimental about the culture of a decade prior. It’d be like us getting a deeply nostalgic movie about 2002 now. Yet 1962 probably felt more like an eon ago to people in 1973. The characters in the movie haven’t been through the JFK assassination yet, let alone RFK and MLK, they haven’t seen the worst of Vietnam or the […]

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60 Cycles

Why Watch? Let’s start with Jean-Claude Labrecque, who turns 75 today. The Québécois director and cinematographer is one of the National Film Board of Canada’s most prolific documentarians, and 60 Cycles is perhaps his most successful work, winner of a slew of festival awards and a BAFTA nominee. In the summer of 1965 he followed a bike race in Québec, 2400 kilometers long. Filmed on a 1000 mm lens borrowed from NASA, 60 Cycles presents the scope of such an enormous race unlike anything that came before. It has the humor of Louis Malle’s Tour de France film, 1962’s Vive le Tour, and an extra layer of 1960s cool. It’s a hidden gem of sports cinema. Inspired by Labrecque’s work, then-student filmmaker George Lucas decided to make a short documentary about driver Pete Brock trying to qualify for a competition with a Lotus 23 race car. The title, 1:42.08, is Brock’s lap time in the trial. Shooting on 16mm and borrowing a friend’s plane, Lucas was able to capture the essence of automotive speed from above. For a young aspiring director still at USC, it’s quite the accomplishment.

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Hollywood Sign Broken

At a University of Southern California event celebrating their new Interactive Media Building, Steven Spielberg predicted that the studio system will eventually implode or face a “big meltdown” created when the right amount of giant-budget films flop all at once. Also at the event, George Lucas echoed the sentiment, and the two discussed the difficulties of bringing projects like Lincoln and Red Tails to fruition despite being two thoroughly established filmmakers. The Hollywood Reporter recorded some of Spielberg’s other insights, including the possibility of ticket price disparities in the future, but the core claim is still the most powerful. On the one hand, there’s a profundity to it. Spielberg worked hard to get to the view at the top, but it clearly hasn’t blinded him from what’s going on, and what he’s noting is no less than the fundamental alteration of a multi-billion-dollar industry. On the other, there’s also a dime store obviousness to what he’s saying. Of course Hollywood’s current model will eventually bottom out, just as all earlier models have. Sound destroyed silent films; the VCR changed the classic theater distribution model; and now studios are placing increasingly bigger bets on movies that will see global returns while home entertainment improves every minute. When there’s a single point of failure, you’re bound to hear a bubble burst eventually. When a half-dozen blockbusters bust, you’re bound to hear some film execs screaming.

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Star-Trek-Into-Darkness-trio

It’s hard to watch Star Trek Into Darkness and not think about Star Wars. Yes, J.J. Abrams is directing Episode VII and so we have that knowledge on the brain going into this. Maybe we’re even on the lookout for clues hinting at what we should expect from his take on that galaxy. This isn’t the first time the Trek franchise has had to try and prove itself in the shadow of George Lucas’s own series. Even though it originated with a TV show in the 1960s, Trek‘s cinematic resurrection a decade later was in part allowed by and somewhat influenced by the success and quality of the first Star Wars. But even regardless of the fact that Abrams is following the latest Trek with the next Wars, I often otherwise felt like I was watching one of the latter while sitting through Into Darkness. Before getting into the evidence that Abrams is a clear fan of Lucasfilm works (and not just Star Wars) and likes to sample from them, let’s take a moment to think about what all his call back references and allusions to both Wars and Trek might mean for Episode VII. Will there be too much winking and fan-service, unhidden Easter eggs and inside jokes and maybe even outright recycling the way Into Darkness is with certain prior Trek installments? Could Episode VII have a number of allusions to Trek the way Into Darkness pays obvious homage to Wars? Rather than creating new worlds of his […]

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fountain08

After taking a weekend off, the Reject Recap returns with another look at the best movie news and features of the past week. As usual, we’ve got a mix of our own content and favorite stories from around the web. If you wrote or know of something posted that’s potentially deserving of being showcased here, please email me. Even if it’s not chosen for the top ten, if I like it I’ll give it a mention of some kind. While this Saturday morning sees yet another slot filled by Star Wars and obviously devotes another to SXSW before the fest has hardly even begun, there are some other good picks for both the movie geeks (features involving The Fountain and Big Trouble in Little China, for example) and the more academically minded cinephiles (a look at Romanian cinema and a few considerations of the best music docs ever made). Also, there’s two funny mash-up videos for your enjoyment. Start your weekend right after the jump.

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Spielberg Lucas Coppola

This weekend, Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects opened to better-than-okay reviews and less-than-okay box office. With Soderbergh’s prolific output, this release would be altogether unremarkable, yet another strong if not entirely memorable entry by a director who would likely release another film six months later. However, Side Effects is notable as a quiet swan song, the proposed last theatrical film by a director who has reportedly done all he’d like to do in filmmaking. But Soderbergh is simply the latest (and on the younger side) of a group of directors that have made unofficial pronouncements towards making an exit of sorts from the business in which they made their name. George Lucas is currently in the process of overseeing the path of Star Wars’ cinematic future at Disney before officially going into retirement. This is monumental. A filmmaker known for keeping very tight reigns on his creative property is now fully embracing the potential of other directors’ and corporations’ visions toward his subject matter for film. There’s a dynamic shift here that doesn’t end with Lucas or Soderbergh either.

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yoda 2

Rumors regarding new Star Wars films have been coming in nonstop ever since the news of Disney acquiring Lucasfilm broke, and after this little piece of news, we shouldn’t expect a change anytime soon. A few weeks ago we got word of a Seven Samurai remake set in George Lucas‘s galaxy directed by Zack Snyder – who was quick to deny the story — which caused further rumblings of more solo Star Wars movies on the way. Now we can add onto that rumour pile, as Ain’t It Cool is reporting the first standalone Star Wars pic will focus on none other than Yoda. No big shocker there, although a Han Solo movie would’ve been more expected. I’m sure we’ll see that one day, along with a Bobba Fett movie or a Jabba the Hut gangster pic, the latter of which George Lucas apparently has a story for. I’m sure his idea is brilliant, of course…

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Update: Apparently in response to our find, Trevorrow tweeted the following this evening: “To clarify, there is another film we all love that I’m currently trying not to mess up. Odds I will direct Episode VII: 3720 to 1.” Also, when asked if he’s officially stating that he’s out of the running to direct Star Wars, he tweeted, “That is what I am saying.“ While we wait for an official decision on who will be directing Star Wars Episode VII, the rumors continue flowing in as to who might be up for the gig. Earlier this month, Safety Not Guaranteed helmer Colin Trevorrow was named as someone who has actually had meetings at Lucasfilm and is definitely on the list of contenders. Well, now something else has come to our attention that could be an actual confirmation that the Hollywood newcomer is following his debut with a trip to the Star Wars galaxy. Reader Lenny Crist sent us a video from way back in June of Trevorrow talking to Spencer Fornaciari of The MacGuffin podcast in which he claims his next project will involve him tackling a mythology with a substantial fanbase, part of which will likely be angry with him for landing the gig. Check out the potentially revealing interview (specifically from 21:45 to 22:24) and a transcript of what he says after the break.

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George Lucas

By at least two metrics, George Lucas is the most successful independent filmmaker of all time. He’s made other films, sure, but it was Star Wars that took everyone – including the director – by surprise. Ultimately, the largeness of that movie swept Lucas up, driving him further into his own universe, and he’s lived there for three decades. Now he’s sold the property to a company that has vowed to continue the story without him, and that comes with a promise to retire from big movies. What that means is anyone except Lucas’ guess, but it’s not hard to imagine that his next projects will be more American Graffiti than Amidala. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the man who invented and tore down your childhood.

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Ever since the surprising announcement that we have a new Star Wars on the way, just about every movie site on the web has started running lists (including us!) of who they’d love to see direct it. I’m sure Matthew Vaughn‘s name was on more than a few of those lists (as it turned on, he didn’t appear on ours), and it seems there’s a small, small chance of that dream coming true. According to (an unconfirmed rumor on) Collider, Vaughn is in discussions to direct. First of all, take this story with a grain of salt. New Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy is probably having a lot of discussions with all kinds of directors, considering how many people would die to take a crack at Star Wars. Vaughn is most likely one of those guys and on a list of hopeful prospects they have, just like their list for who they’d want to play the old, whiny Luke Skywalker.

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A strange thing happened when it was announced that Disney had purchased Lucasfilm and was intent on continuing the Star Wars franchise: people forgot how shitty Lucasfilm has been. That’s the only explanation for many of the reactions. Our friends at /Film gathered up some celebrity Twitter responses that seemed to be at best cautiously optimistic, though potentially terrified at what could be coming and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why it’s not all ewoks banging drums and fireworks in the sky before a billion tons of metal rains down on the forest moon of Endor.

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published: 12.19.2014
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published: 12.18.2014
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published: 12.17.2014
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