The Empire Strikes Back

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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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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series-7-the-contenders

It’s too bad I already recommended The Running Man this month (for post-Ender’s Game viewing), because even more than the first Hunger Games movie it really fits well with the new second installment, Catching Fire. But that’s okay, you can still add that to this week’s bunch of movies to see. I just won’t include it below. The same goes for Battle Royale, the most obvious movie to highlight for being similar to this franchise, though that one does make more sense as something to recommend after the first movie. Should Battle Royale II: Requiem take its place now that we’re talking about The Hunger Games 2? I haven’t seen it and hear it’s really terrible and it doesn’t seem to coincide plot-wise, so no. Instead I’ve got 12 other movies better worth your time as you wait for the first part of Mockingjay to hit theaters and continue the abruptly halted narrative of the Hunger Games story. As usual, the list will probably involve some spoilers if you haven’t seen Catching Fire.  

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The Empire Strikes Back

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

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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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© Lucasfilm Ltd.

Happy Star Wars Day. To celebrate this year’s May the 4th, we want to drown you in imagery from the whole first trilogy. And not just screen shots from the movie but behind the scenes production photos and concept art. Someone chose and compiled 1,138 pictures (you ought to know the significance of that number) for a gallery at IMGUR specifically for today’s occasion, and yes the usual fanboy favorites involve Princess Leia. In addition to the one above, there’s plenty of the slave outfit and, as pointed out on Reddit, apparently a formal moment (the premiere?) where you can see Carrie Fisher‘s nipple. Yeah, there’s truth to the idea that fanboys are 13 years old forever. Personally, I mostly cherish the pics that expose some of the magic of the costume and special effects but which highlight the craft and mastery of these practical elements of the making of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. It’s the stuff that makes the joke about this being a behind the scenes photo from the production of The Phantom Menace all the more hilarious (and sad). I’ve posted a few of my favorites after the jump — and sure, I’ll include a sunbathing slave Leia in there. I never said I wasn’t among those young-at-heart (and hormone) fans.

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Star Trek Into Water

If you’re starting to look at pieces of Star Trek Into Darkness just to imagine what J.J. Abrams‘s Star Wars movie will look like, the second trailer for the upcoming sequel is perfect for you. There’s a scene in which Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) are in a small ship being chased around what looks like a trench on the surface of the Death Star, and they squeeze through a tight spot reminiscent of when the Millenium Falcon eludes two TIE Fighters on a large asteroid in The Empire Strikes Back. Also, the Enterprise crew appears to venture underwater… Maybe they’re looking to recruit Jar Jar Binks?

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Reject Recap: The Best of Film School Rejects

This was a major holiday week in America, so FSR content was a bit lighter than usual. And yet you may have been too busy traveling to follow the site over the past few days anyway. If so, the most important thing you missed is our post highlighting all the things we’re thankful for this year. Among them is you, whether you’re one of the longtime loyal or one of the many who’ve just started reading us this year. Now, even though the holiday is a couple days past, we want to thank you for once again catching up with us here at the Reject Recap as we give you another rundown of our best reads from the past seven days. As always, first we remind you to check out our reviews of this week’s new releases: Life of Pi; Red Dawn; Hitchcock; Rust and Bone; and The Central Park Five. We also re-posted our Silver Linings Playbook review since the film went wider this week. Among the films, it looks like we recommend Rust and Bone and Central Park Five the most. We haven’t published a review of Rise of the Guardians yet, but we invite you to read our interview with the animated film’s director, Peter Ramsay, the introduction for which offers some critical praise. This week we also watched and commented on new trailers for Now You See Me, Parental Guidance, Admission, Chasing Ice and Jack the Giant Slayer. Watch those and all our latest Short Film […]

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Nothing more satisfying than a good solid confession, unless of course it’s your own confession – then it kind of sucks. What’s great about films is that there’s never a boring confession; no one ever spends 120 minutes of movie watching to learn that the hero was the one who accidently dented his neighbor’s car. So – here are some confessions in films that, because of the performance or the situation, stood out amongst the rest. Oh also, by definition alone the following is practically all spoilers – so heads up.

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This post is probably not what you think. There are no LOLCats, no Rage Comic stick men bellowing about the superiority of The Dark Knight and Inception. It’s not really a love letter to modernity. But it’s also not Sight & Sound‘s decennial Top Ten List. That prestigious publication has done great work since even before polling critics in 1952 to name the best movies of all time. They’ve recreated the experiment every ten years since (with filmmakers included in 1992), and their 2012 list is due out soon. However, there is certainly overlap. The FSR poll includes only 37 critics (and 4 filmmakers), but we’re young and have moxy, and none of us were even asked by Sight & Sound for our considerable opinion. That’s what’s fascinating here. The films nominated by those invited by S&S have the air of critical and social importance to them. They are, almost all, serious works done by serious filmmakers attempting to make serious statements. This list, by contrast, is the temperature of the online movie community in regards to what movies are the “greatest.” The results might be what you expect. But probably not.

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Culture Warrior

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Cabin in the Woods Carol J. Clover‘s 1992 book Men, Women, and Chainsaws was one of the rare academic books to become a hit amongst a larger, dedicated movie-going public. The book introduced the term “final girl” (the virginal “good” female who often becomes the final victim or lone survivor at during the final act of a horror film) into the zeitgeist, and it’s an idea that seems so obvious, and is so pervasive throughout the genre, that the fact that a similar term had never been popularized before was simply confounding. It’s also the central organizing conceit to Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon’s Cabin in the Woods, the most overt act of genre deconstruction to enter multiplexes in quite some time. The final girl does not emerge in Cabin as it does in its normal generic form (as a narrative inevitability, a cliché), but rather Clover’s coined conceptualization of “the final girl” encompassingly structures the film – it is the critique of generic conceit, rather than the routine employment of a generic norm, that acts as Cabin’s narrative impetus.

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The Mayans, the wise race of ancients who created hot cocoa, set December 21st, 2012 as the end date of their Calendar, which the intelligent and logical amongst us know signifies the day the world will end, presumably at 12:21:12am, Mountain Time. From now until zero date, we will explore the 50 films you need to watch before the entire world perishes. We don’t have much time, so be content, be prepared, be entertained. The Film: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) The Plot: When the Nazis threaten to find and unleash the power within the Ark of the Covenant, the US Government turns to the only place that can save them: Academia. Back in the 1930s, Professors and Archaeologists were made of a lot tougher stuff, and were far more attractive to co-eds than they are today. The manliest among them, Indiana Jones, fresh off a disastrous trip to a South American jungle, embarks on a global quest to find the Ark first.

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Boiling Point

This article has changed three times since I even started thinking about it. It began as a simple rant about prequels, but when my first example focused on Star Wars ran several hundred words, I then decided to focus on that. When that ran for over a thousand words before moving even half-way into my second point, I decided to scale that back a bit too and just focus on what I call the “timeline crunch” of the prequels. The movies are coming back to theaters in 3D, so it’s kind of topical and I’m allowed to write whatever the hell I want, so how about you spend a few minutes listening to me rant about perhaps one of the smallest flaws of the prequels, but a flaw that has bothered me to no end for years.

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Boiling Point

If you’ve been fortunate enough to avoid this news until now, I’m sorry, it’s about to get shitty. George Lucas, in a move that surprises no one but angers anyone who’s ever seen Star Wars, has excessively tinkered with the movies in the saga, taking the beloved and dropping a pile of turds on it. It’s true Lucas has been wallowing in the sewage pool after tweaking the original movies in shitty ways (Greedo shoots first, Jabba looks like ass, etc) and making three bad movies to utterly destroy the awesome coolness that was Darth Vader and irreparably rupture the continuity of the franchise. Not content to stop there though, ol’ Georgie-poo has decided to add another notch to his bulbous neck by ignoring (mostly) fan outcry and amplifying the shit we already hate. Let’s break it down.

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The Library of Congress opens up its big mystical vault once a year to toss in 25 films that it deems worthy (by stirring old clapboards into a vat of rat blood and reading the star alignment). This year was a big year that honors some of the fallen members of the community – notably Leslie Nielsen, Blake Edwards and Irvin Kershner. Safely stowed away as important cultural documents, The Empire Strikes Back, Airplane!, and The Pink Panther join 23 other films that will be forever kept in the hearts of those who care to apply for a Library of Congress library card (a three-step process that includes a photo being taken). Check the entire list (which is littered with incredible movies) below:

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It’s understandable that movie fans are in a bit of an existential crisis – trying to decide whether to watch Airplane! in memory of Leslie Nielsen or to watch The Empire Strikes Back in memory of Irvin Kershner. That’s why we always keep two televisions handy at Reject HQ. It’s also understandable that your hand would race to the E-section of your alphabetized film collection after hearing the sad news about Kershner, but he had a handful of other great films that are worth celebrating. None are quite like Empire (in every way that can be read), but if you’re a fan, you owe it to yourself to peruse his other movies to find something new to love.

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It’s too early to call this a trend, but shortly after Brian Salisbury reviewed Flash Gordon uber producer Dino De Laurentis died. Last night on RejectRadio Neil Miller revealed to the world that he only just got around to watching The Empire Strikes Back a few days ago… and this morning we wake up to the news that the director behind that film, Irvin Kershner, has passed away at the age of 87. Having just posted a column about two new Charlie Chaplin releases on Blu-ray I can only pray The Little Tramp survives to the end of the week… Irvin Kershner, as you should very well know, was the man in the director’s chair on not only the best Star Wars film but also one of the greatest films period. The Empire Strikes Back is a fantastic work of action, drama, and darkness, and it was one of the first blockbusters to show that a popcorn film can be more than just brainless entertainment. His energetic but thoughtful direction (alongside a strong script from Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan) revealed our beloved Star Wars characters as more than just simple heroes and villains.

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You’ve stumbled upon Circle of Jerks, our sporadically published, weekly feature in which we ask the questions that really matter to our writers and readers. It’s a time to take a break from our busy lives and revel in the one thing that we all share: a deep, passionate love of movies. If you have a question you’d like answered by the FSR readers and staff, send us an email at editors@filmschoolrejects.com. I heard a rumor somewhere that FSR founder and big time publisher-guy Neil Miller had never seen The Empire Strikes Back until recently. First of all, if this is true he should be beaten. Second of all, what movies have some of the rest of you never seen that you’d be embarrassed to tell your movie-loving friends? – David D.

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Every so often, a film emerges from the fray to prove its popularity and warrant a sequel. More and more, franchises are planned out in advance, but when one film turns into a franchise, a cash register sound goes off in the ears of the studio. Even though the kid stays in the picture, sometimes the director does not. Maybe the director is done working with the material. Maybe the producers want a more seasoned hand. Maybe a simple schedule conflict keeps him or her out of the chair for the next round up. But the show must go on, so the producers find another director to fill the slot – a director who ostensibly inherits all the strengths and weaknesses of a franchise birthed by someone else. Cinematic sloppy seconds that could have easily turned into sloppy sequels if it weren’t for a steady, talented director guiding the ship. Here’s a list of the ten best.

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It’s been thirty years, and I get way too personal to share with you my favorite thing about Empire and ask that you celebrate your own.

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