Unstable Entities

“Star Wars is bigger than George Lucas. This deal means his creation has finally been wrested free of his troublesome mitts.”

My first reactions to hearing the news yesterday that Disney now owns the Star Wars franchise was disbelief followed by sadness followed by anger. While I knew something like this was inevitably going to happen, and I absolutely agree that this was the decision George Lucas needed to make, I nevertheless felt sad at the passing of an era — and pissed off at how happy that would make some people.

The ‘Star Wars’ saga has been an entertainment franchise unlike any other. It was the creative vision of one man who through talent, shrewd business sense and a little luck managed to do what arguably no other artist in modern history has been able to do on such a massive scale: maintaining complete artistic, financial and legal control over a billion dollar artistic franchise. While most major film franchises are corporate “tent-poles” conceived and financed by businessmen looking to enhance the bottom line, Star Wars has been an entertainment juggernaut still run by the guy who started the whole thing in his garage. Love it or hate it, Star Wars represented a triumph of creativity and entrepreneurship at the heart of the American Dream.

And now that dream passes to Wall Street — and there are those who couldn’t be happier.

The split in Star Wars fandom that began immediately after the first film’s release in 1977 and cracked wide open in 1997 is not about what parts of the franchise are good and what parts are bad. All art is evaluated based on subjective tastes. The split is fundamentally about the issue of creative control. As I said in my post, You Are Now… MINE!, there are many fans who believe in COLLECTIVE OWNERSHIP of Star Wars: that their passion and obsession with Star Wars entitles them to have a vote on its creative content. They have invested so much of their personal worth into being fans that they go bananas when ever George Lucas makes a decision without consulting them first. They arrogantly believe that THEY know what makes a good Star Wars movie, book or TV show, not the guy who created it and made it successful.

And for years these people have dreamed of the day when Star Wars will finally be out of George Lucas’ hands. Some even speculate about the benefits of George Lucas’ death. In an interview, Michael Kaminski, creator of SaveStarWars.com, responded to a question about someday getting the unaltered theatrical versions of the 4-6 trilogy by saying:

“This will sound morbid, but possibly it will take the death of George Lucas before this happens. The entire issue boils down to his own personal vendetta, and once he is out of the way, things will change.

“Once he is out of the way…” Since he is already personally profiting from George Lucas’ work, one can speculate about Kaminski’s reaction to this news. George Lucas is finally getting out of the way so now the REAL priests of the faith can enter the temple.

What’s most galling about all this is that guys like Kaminski have framed their arguments as a noble mission to protect art –a holy war to “save” Star Wars for the good of mankind. Kaminski even suggested literally taking the film from the guy who created and owns it. Back in 2006, Kaminski, posting under his avatar “zombie84” at originaltrilogy.com, offered his “crazy proposal” for fans to violate George Lucas’ copyright and claim his work as their own. He wrote:

“So, what i am getting at is: how crazy is it for us to attempt to do our own high-resolution 2K scan of a 35mm print? This would literally preserve the film, more or less, forever. It would be so high-resolution that you could even make new 35mm prints from the data. Forget SD and HD, this is better than anything even available to consumers yet. This would place the future of the film in our hands, safe, secure, and for future releases, no longer bound to the Lucasfilm cash machine. The data could be used to make SD releases, HD releases and more and better 35mm prints. In short, we would never need Lucasfilm for the film ever again, ever. In time, people–for instance the same people that slaved over preserving the XO project–could frame-by-frame restore all the scratches and grain that would inevitably be resultant in a theatrical print. Star Wars would literally be ours for the ages.

“How crazy is it to get a fundraiser going to make Star Wars truely–and physically–ours? If everyone here contributed a hundred bucks we’d have a good start, and many people including myself would be willing to donate many more times that amount.”

Kaminski proposes that fans literally (he uses the word “physically”) steal Star Wars from George Lucas. In more recent years, Kaminski’s SaveStarWars.com site criticized Lucas for his 1988 testimony to congress about the importance of preserving films in their original form for future generations. Kaminski cherry-picks Lucas’ speech to make it seem as if a younger (and better) Lucas was advocating that films should be protected from the exact same kind of digital alteration and editing Lucas himself later did in the Special Editions. For example, Kaminski puts this quote front and center:

“People who alter or destroy works of art and our cultural heritage for profit or as an exercise of power are barbarians, and if the laws of the United States continue to condone this behavior, history will surely classify us as a barbaric society.” – George Lucas

Sounds damning, right? But what Kaminski doesn’t post on his site (or even provide a link-though he has promised he will) is the whole transcript where it’s clear Lucas is advocating for the rights of the ARTIST to have their work preserved from meddling corporations and other third parties (which includes fans). Lucas repeatedly refers to the “moral rights of ARTISTS” and says:

American artists are a national treasure, similar to our forests and our wildlife. We must exploit these resources wisely.”

“The corporations who hold many of these copyrights are unstable entities.”

But Lucas’ key argument in 1988 — and a line Kaminski omits on his site — make Lucas’ point crystal clear:

“Who better, than the person whose hard labor and unique talent created the art, to determine what is an appropriate alteration.”

“Buying a copyright does not make one an artist. The copyright owner does not suddenly become talented and creative, does not suddenly have the ability to write a novel, play music, paint pictures or make films. An artists’ creative talent is not something that can be transferred. And it is the artist’s unique vision that must be respected, that must be protected.”

What Lucas was clearly saying in 1988 is exactly what he’s been telling fans for years: that he’s the original artist, he has the moral and legal right to make and present his art as he sees fit, and that government should protect artists and their work from meddling third parties. As this article from the time shows, Lucas insists that ARTISTS should control their work. Period.

The fact that Kaminski doesn’t bother to show that quote to his readers, or post a link to the full text (he tells his readers the omissions are all “less relevant material”), combined with his “crazy proposal” to violate George Lucas’ copyright, says volumes about the “rift” in Star Wars fandom. Hateboys and their journalist allies routinely link to Kaminski’s site as evidence of their righteousness. Do a Google search for “Lucas 1988 testimony” and you’ll find that nearly every article denouncing Lucas as a hypocrite links to SaveStarWars.com as their source. When I talk about lazy journalists and “hateboys with jobs” in the media having an agenda against George Lucas, here’s your evidence. Not one of those writers passing along Kaminski’s interpretation of Lucas’ testimony does their homework to check the actual FULL transcript. Instead, they offer snark, outrage and righteous indignation that gets passed gleefully all over the Internet. Every one of those writers owes an apology to their readers and to George Lucas for not doing the most basic requirement of their jobs. How many times have YOU had hateboys slap an out of context quote from Lucas’ 1988 testimony in your face as evidence of his hackery?

It’s all bullshit.

And now hateboys couldn’t be happier. One of the “unstable entities” Lucas warned about in 1988 now controls Star Wars. A former TV weatherman is now the chairman of the galaxy far, far away. The artistic gatekeepers can be replaced at the whim of the money crunchers. Chairmen can be replaced. Artists can be fired. Companies can be sold. One bad quarter and suddenly Star Wars could be owned by Walmart or George Sorros or the Koch Brothers. Art will be conducted by committee with the bottom line goal of pleasing the shareholders. Equity bankers and other financial masters of the universe will determine Star Wars’ future.

And the keyboard priests of the holy war are no doubt delighted.

The King is dead! Long live the King!

A possible bright side, however, was mentioned to me by my lawyer friend. He says, “Lucas could have written a moral rights clause into the purchase prohibiting re-edits or re-releases of other alternative edits. If Lucas really cares about the issue, it seems like a logical option. It would be simple to put in there and the edits would have little economic value to Disney compared to the option to extend the franchise and the technology of Skywalker Ranch.” Wouldn’t that be sweet irony? The hateboys finally get their wish to have Lucas out of the way only to have Disney’s legal army ready to defend Lucas’ wishes far into the future!

“Who better, than the person whose hard labor and unique talent created the art, to determine what is an appropriate alteration.”

“And it is the artist’s unique vision that must be respected, that must be protected.” -George Lucas, 1988

Here’s hoping Lucas has walked away letting the door hit the hateboys in the ass.

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Fade to Black

The era of Star Wars as the artistic vision of one man has ended.

Star Wars now literally belongs to the public. George Lucas has sold Lucasfilm to the Walt Disney Company for over 4 billion dollars. The publicly traded company immediately announced the production of ‘Star Wars Episode 7′ and an ongoing series of films to be released every 2-3 years thereafter. The Star Wars saga will now model the James Bond franchise, turning out movies until people stop going to them.

What it also means is that the hateboys’ wildest dreams have now come true. Frustrated for years that their complaints, rants, protests and petitions have fallen on deaf ears by a filmmaker who insisted that he has the final say on what is and is not ‘Star Wars,’ hateboys now have businessmen and shareholders who will react with knee-jerk twitches every time they bark. ‘Star Wars’ can now become ‘Star Trek’ — a corporate entity they can control. Years after they boasted, “We won,” now it’s actually true. Congrats, hateboys.

Here are the words hateboys have so longed to hear:

“It’s now time for me to pass `Star Wars’ on to a new generation of filmmakers.”

What this means is that it’s now only a matter of time until the release versions of 4-6 trilogy will be released. It’s only a matter of time until ANH is revised by the corporation so that Han shoots first (the only question is whether they’ll wait until Lucas is dead before doing it). It’s only a matter of time before George Lucas’ special edition versions of the 4-6 trilogy are withdrawn from the public with an apology, the way Spielberg has done with the ‘E.T. Special Edition.’ I won’t be surprised if at some point hateboys don’t start a serious campaign to reboot the prequel trilogy with three new films that better reflect THEIR vision for how the saga should unfold.

Hateboys are no doubt rejoicing right now. They got their wish: they have gotten Star Wars away from George Lucas.

It’s also likely to mean sites like this will go away soon. I’m not messing with the Disney legal department. I’ll hang on for a while longer, but the truth is that this is a sad day for me. I understand Lucas’ decision to do it. Either he did it now in a process he could control, or it would put his heirs in a vulnerable position later down the road. We’ll learn a lot more about this deal in the days to come, but for now I can only say this: I hope Disney respects George Lucas’ vision and his art. I hope they will continue to present his work in a manner he would approve, not according to whatever the fickle internet hateboys demand. I hope ‘Star Wars’ remains the greatest saga in cinema history for centuries to come.

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Going Strong!

There are two amazing things about this article from McClatchy, It’s Going to be a Lucasfilm Fall.

First, it’s amazing that we’re getting some awesome Star Wars and Indiana Jones entertainment this fall. We have the four Indy movies in theaters and on Blu-Ray, Clone Wars season five rolling out, and “Star Wars Reads” week at libraries across the country. The girls and I went to a Star Wars library event a couple of weeks ago and we all had a blast! Star Wars just keeps going strong year after year!

Judge me by my t-shirt, you should.

Second, its amazing (and much appreciated!) that article writer Tish Wells showed that an article about Star Wars and Lucas can be written free from snark, snipes and sarcasm. Geek Media take note: it’s not that effin’ hard.

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Boo-boos

I noted in my write-up about Celebration VI that a portion of the audience booed during the screening of ‘A New Hope’ after the 7 frames of Greedo and Han shooting nearly simultaneously. It’s not the first time I’ve heard booing in a theater. As an interesting side note, Terrance Malick’s new film, ‘To the Wonder’ earned boos from an audience of critics at the Venice Film Festival this weekend. In response, film critic Guy Lodge tweeted, “Enough with the booing, people. You’re professionals. Supposedly. Shut the f–k up.”

I’m not sure what booing accomplishes except to piss off other moviegoers. It’s one thing to cheer or laugh as an expression of happiness while watching a movie, but booing seems like a pointless act of criticism — a wasted leftover from the live-stage era. There’s no filmmaker to hear the boos, and I think those doing so know that. So who do they want to hear their boos? Other moviegoers. There’s an intentional, “This sucks and we should all be unhappy about it,” purpose in the act. The goal is to spread the unhappiness and have others share the view. It’s an attempt to shape public opinion.

And then what?

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Hateboy Media Industrial Complex: 3D Edition

It should be obvious by now that when it comes to the geek media discussing Star Wars, there are only two acceptable approaches to any story: An apologetic admission of “flaws” or a full out attack. Here are two examples relaying the “news” about the release dates for ‘Attack of the Clones’ and ‘Revenge of the Sith’.

First up, we have Joblo.com.

Sigh.

What was that? You briefly had a new hope that after movie goers struck back by rewarding the release of STAR WARS: EPISODE I – THE PHANTOM MENACE 3D with a little over $100 million LucasFilm would… wait… a little over $100 million? Hardly the return of the fan we might have hoped for. George and company seem to see (justifiably) that there’s still plenty of money left to be made, and no argument or Star Wars-related puns/references from me are going to shoot first and stop it.

Okay, this is just shitty writing. Is a $100 million gross for TPM 3D good or bad? It seems to be both. It’s “hardly the return of the fan we might have hoped” but it’s also good enough to “justify” making Lucas look like a greedy SOB. I mean, kudos to writer/sandwich artist Alejandro Stepenberg for making Lucas look like a failure AND a money-sucking whore at the same time, logic be damned. But just to make sure AOTC 3D and ROTS 3D don’t make the money “we fans” hope for (pssst! Alejandro. You’re not a fan. You don’t speak for anyone but yourself, jackhole), Stepenberg notes the counter programming fans can see in the theaters instead. That way, if those other movies make only $1 more than Star Wars, Stepenberg can crow about how “fans” have rejected Star Wars again. Sigh, indeed.

Next up, we have Quint at AICN.

At Celebration, Lucasfilm announced release dates for their upcoming 3-D rereleases of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. The Phantom Menace did okay business, but made less (not even counting inflation or the 3-D surcharge) than even Return of the Jedi did upon its 97 re-release, so there was some question as to whether or not the further Star Wars movies were headed to theaters.

Okay, stop. ‘The Phantom Menace 3D’ did very respectable business considering the blu-ray (with CG Yoda) was released only six months earlier. $103m for any movie, let alone a 13-year-old one, is something most producers would kill for. It also did good considering the 13-year onslaught of negativity that made simply choosing to go see the movie seem like a crime against humanity. ‘Titanic 3D’, in comparison, made roughly the same domestic total (43.5m vs. 57.9m — both far below ‘Lion King’s 94.2m) despite glowing reviews, a fawning media and James Cameron taking a voyage to the bottom of the sea in his custom PR submersible. Yes, TPM 3D made less than ROTJ: SE in 1997, but ROTJ hadn’t been seen in theaters in 14 years and didn’t have a major video release only six months earlier. As for the “question as to whether or not the further Star Wars movies were headed to theaters”, Quint is pulling this out of his ass. What question? Lucasfilm said they were converting all the films. If TPM 3D can make $103m worldwide despite the forced perception of it being the “worst” of the series, converting the others is a no-brainer. That was obvious from its opening weekend. Quint is inventing a “question” that never existed.

Could be my bias against the prequels, but this decision smacks of “get to the good stuff” to me.

If you have a bias against the prequels, that’s your first clue to stop talking about them. That’s just what decent people do. You don’t like them. Fine. So shut your fucking pie hole! Other people DO like them and who the FUCK are you to constantly be telling them how wrong their subjective tastes are?! FUCK OFF!!! Christ, it’s simple. If you have a bias, report the “news” and MOVE THE FUCK ON so you’re not being a douche-bag to those who DON’T have your fucking bias!

They were already locked in to the Episodes 1-VI line-up and when Phantom Menace underperformed (both Titanic and Lion King outpaced it) I bet you anything the thought was “let’s get to the ones people want to see quicker” even if nobody would ever say that to Mr. Lucas.

Okay, STOP AGAIN. First Quint says TPM 3D did “okay business” but a few sentences later he says it “underperformed”? WTF? First he says there’s a “question as to whether or not the further Star Wars movies were headed to theaters” but then a few sentences later he says Lucasfilm is “already locked in to the Episodes 1-VI line-up”? How can there be a question if something is locked in?! Quint is just pulling crap out of his ass and serving it like ice cream to the hateboy sycophants on his site. He says, “I bet you anything the thought was…” Quint, I’ll take that bet because YOU DON’T KNOW! You’re just making it up. I could just as easily say, “I’ll bet anything that Quint’s thought when writing this article was ‘I wonder if I can write this whole article with one hand while simultaneously masturbating.’” That doesn’t make it true, but it’s as plausible as anything in his article. Also notice how he adds in the “even if nobody would ever say that to Mr. Lucas” snark just to underscore the fictional hateboy meme that everyone who works for Lucas is scared of him. Utter bullshit. Hateboys have just been making shit up for so long they no longer recognize whether it’s true or not.

I’ll be curious to see if the original Star Wars films can still draw bigger box office than the prequels upon their rereleases, but more from a self-vindication standpoint than anything, really.

Gee, ya think? And what’s this “self-vindication” crap? How is he “vindicated” by the originals making more box office? Is it suppose to prove that people like them better than the prequels, thereby justifying his bias? It doesn’t “vindicate” anything. TPM 3D made roughly the same money as both ‘Titanic 3D’ (57m) and ‘Beauty and the Beast’ 3D (47m). It made MORE than Toy Story 3D (30.7m). Does that prove TPM is better or worse than those movies? No. Quint is just selectively hateboy dick-measuring.

No matter what, I hope they all perform because I like the nationwide giant re-release platform and want to see more vintage cinema in real deal big outings, not just exclusive one-evening showings.

So Quint shits on the prequels and cheers for the originals to vindicate his admitted bias (for whatever good that will do), then he “hopes they all perform”??? The whole article is fucking worthless.

The more money these things make, the more likely we’ll see more of it.

So he hopes these things make money, but not so much that it invalidates his bias — or something. Besides, when Star Wars makes money, Lucas is just ‘milking the cash cow’ and greedily ‘beating a dead horse’ etc. Notice Quint makes no mention of what “originals” we are likely to see in 3D. They won’t be the original theatrical releases to be sure. Any bets on what bias Quint shows when he sees Greedo shooting first in 3D?

It’s all just an average day in the geek media.

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Celebration VI: Step into a Larger World

By now, most of you have heard the major news to come out of Star Wars Celebration VI in Orlando, including a sneak peek at Star Wars Detours, season 5 of The Clone Wars and the 2013 release dates for Ep2 and Ep3 in 3D. I was able to attend the first three days of the celebration and here are the highlights. Consider this my living room slideshow from my vacation to a galaxy far, far away.

Full size is fun size.

Day 1: Thursday
After being in Orlando for five days visiting all the Disney parks, including riding the revamped Star Tours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, day one at Celebration was family day. My wife and two daughters joined me as we took in the convention and attended a few of the panels. After walking the Exhibit floor and seeing the girls’ eyes bug out at the ultimate Star Wars toy store, our first stop was the “Inside The Clone Wars Tech” presentation with Dave Filoni and Joel Aron. Dave and Joel went through some of the upcoming goodness in season five and showed an extended clip of Embo chasing Anakin, Padme and Obi down a snowy slope. They confirmed the scene is an homage to the chase scene in “For Your Eyes Only.” Though I was hanging on Dave and Joel’s every word, the kids weren’t that into the panel. They wanted to go back to the floor and get autographs, specifically from Ashley Eckstein. We returned to the floor and watched some Jedi Training, which is always fun, and did some shopping. After lunch, we continued walking the floor and I noticed that the crowd seemed a bit thinner than at CV two years ago. This was partly due to a better floor plan that allowed for wider aisles, but also due to the fact that Thursday is a work day for many people. It was a good thing for us because it helped us keep better track of the kids as they ran from shiny object to shiny object. There were a LOT of shiny objects!

That's gotta hurt!

We then bought tickets to get autographs from Peter Mayhew and Ashley before stopping in the R2 Builders and 501st rooms. Someday I’m going to build an R2 — if I ever finish all my other projects around the house.

Don't hide what's inside.

After getting Peter Mayhew’s autograph, my wife took the girls to get Ashley’s autograph on a picture of Ahsoka and Chewie while I attended Dave Filoni’s “Telling a Star Wars Story” workshop. I was literally the last person to get into the packed room, but it was great to see Dave run through the format of Clone Wars storytelling.

The visible hand.

As the panel let out, I was passing through the narrow hallway leading out of the room when a side doorway opened right next to me. Suddenly, Dave Filoni and Joel Aron walked out and were shuffling toward the exit right next to me. Did I shake their hands? Did I say, “Hey Dave and Joel! I’m a big fan. Nice to meet you!”? Nope. I just nodded and kept walking. Here’s the thing. While I admit I am a fan, there’s also a side of me that doesn’t want to BE a fan or act like a fan. A missed opportunity? Maybe, but I’m not one to shove my hand out and get in people’s faces just because they’re famous in the entertainment world. They won’t remember me and I know it can get overwhelming to have people always trying to touch you. After about 10 feet of walking, other people noticed Dave and Joel and crushed in to get autographs or tell them their life story. I stepped aside and kept walking. That’s just how I am as a fan.

After meeting up with my wife and kids, and hearing their story about how Ashley thought my daughter’s name would make a great Star Wars character name (!), my wife took our youngest back to the hotel while my older daughter and I stayed to watch TPM in 3D. The Digital Stage at Celebration features a very good screen and the staff had it calibrated for a great 3D presentation. The movie looked far better than in any previous screening I’ve seen.

I left day one of the convention with mixed feelings. It was great to have everything more open, but I was worried that the smaller size of the crowd (at least from my perception) was a sign that maybe Star Wars fandom was waning. Most of the fans were enthusiastic and giddy (only 1 or 2 “Han shot first” t-shirts that I could see), but I did overhear a few negatives. For example, I caught a snippet of a conversation in the 501st room between an older woman working behind the counter to fans admiring a display of full-size battle droids. She told them, “Oh, I don’t watch that cartoon. I saw the prequels, but quickly erased them from my brain. I’m an OT only girl.” You know, she’s entitled to her opinion and her subjective tastes, but it’s annoying that it’s never enough to just say, “I prefer the OT.” There always has to be a snarky quip about the prequels being a virus or a brain disorder. I just don’t get why that’s necessary. Just because someone likes something about the prequels doesn’t require a “yeah, but the prequels suck” response. I just doesn’t.

Day 2: Friday
As happy as I was to share a day at Celebration with my wife and kids, I was also ready to spend the rest of the convention on my own. Leaving our families in the hands of the Disney corporation, my friend Shannon and I returned to the Orange County Convention Center ready for a day of waving our freak flags high and following our own schedules. To my surprise, the crowds were far larger, proving my fears about fan disinterest were unfounded. If anything, the crowds seemed larger than at CV.

"Hello, room service? Send up a larger room!"

Our first stop was the “Vocal Stars of The Cone Wars” panel at the Chapin Theater. The performers read a parody skit as their Clone Wars characters written by James Arnold Taylor. Lots of fun! These actors clearly are having a good time and enjoying being a part of the Star Wars phenomenon. It was also great to hear the cast talk about how the audience for The Clone Wars is 40% female and its largely attributed to Ashley. I know two little girls who liked Star Wars before Ahsoka Tano came on the scene, but LOVE it now that she’s a part of it. Go Star Wars girls!!!

The fab five.

Next, I had planned to go to the “Super Secret Star Wars” panel with Seth Green, but I opted to follow Shannon to Joel Aron’s photography and lighting workshop. In addition to being The Clone Wars visual effects master, Joel is also a passionate street photographer and he shared his tips on how to take better photos while at the convention. His presentation had virtually nothing to do with Star Wars, but it turned out to be one of my favorite experiences at the convention. After his hour long talk, Joel took about ten of us out on the exhibit floor to take photos. We watched Joel’s technique of patiently “stalking” (his word) an interesting subject and then getting the photo quickly before moving on. He also gave advice about what to wear to blend in to the background in order to get the best candid shots. This advice proved to be very useful later at the convention.

After Joel departed to shave for the Clone Wars premiere (really), I spent the next hour or so taking photos on the Exhibit floor. These aren’t my best photos, but they’re interesting.

"Once more the Sith will rule the food court."


Waka-waka.


The Star Wars Vacation Special.

Then it was time to get in line for the Clone Wars season premiere. We were herded into the holding area next to the Digital Stage where we were told we couldn’t leave until after the show — 2 hours in total. When several people protested that they couldn’t keep people from bathrooms for that long, the organizers started slowly taking people in groups of 6 at a time. Note to the organizers: humans need to pee, especially human nerds who only drink Mountain Dew.
We were then lead from the holding area past the red carpet where the Clone Wars cast and crew were conducting interviews. We were ordered not to stop and I heard some fan near me mutter, “Don’t look, Marion! Keep your eyes shut!” As I passed by I saw that Joel Aron had indeed shaved.

The carpet doesn't match the drapes.

Then it was time for the show. After watching last season’s two-part finale, the season opener began with thunderous applause. The episode has been recapped elsewhere, but I thought it was a terrific opener and very impressive. My only complaint is that the episode omits what happens between Obi and Ventress after their escape from Maul and Savage. Dave Filoni admitted at his panel discussion the next day that a scene was shot where Obi basically lets Ventress walk away, but that it was cut for time. Hopefully that scene will be restored for the blu-ray release next year. It’s seems like an important moment given their unlikely partnership at the end of season four.

The night ended with a screening of ‘Revenge of the Sith’ followed by “A New Hope’ on the Digital Stage. We watched all of ROTS, which looked great, but left halfway through ANH, which looked much grainier and dated in comparison (to be expected). I was curious to see what the reaction would be to the Han/Greedo shootout and sure enough the moment was met with a predictable round of boos. I’ll have more to say about this issue in an upcoming post, but clearly the blink-and-you-miss-it shot of Greedo and Han firing in rapid succession is still a raw nerve for a lot of fans. They simply will never ever EVER accept it. And every screening of the film from now on will feature a bunch of yahoos catcalling at the screen. Ugh.

Day 3: Saturday
I began the day by following Joel Aron’s advice about dressing appropriately for street photography. I wanted to get some better shots on the Exhibit floor and I dressed in a plain black t-shirt and jeans to better blend into the background. After arriving at the convention center, however, photos of the fans would have to wait until after Shannon and I attended Dave Filoni and Joel Aron’s Clone Wars panel at the Digital Stage.

"Kitster will NOT be in an upcoming episode. STOP ASKING!"

I took a seat on the inside aisle as close to the interview area of the stage as possible. My hope was to get some good shots of Dave and Joel without having to use my telephoto lens. After watching some amazing clips and talking about what’s in store for season 5, I knew instantly that something was up when the lights came up after a clip and host David Collins wasn’t on stage. Dave then said, “We have one of our biggest fans backstage who’d like to come out and say hello.” Since they had just been talking about Bo-Katan, with Dave even bringing a fan on stage in Bo-Katan cos play, I briefly thought he might bring Katie Sackhoff on stage. The moment I saw that familiar mane of grey hair, however, I knew this was THE surprise of the convention.

“Ladies and gentlemen, GEORGE LUCAS!”

Now here’s where Joel Aron’s street photography class proved to be the best investment of time at the whole convention. I was dressed perfectly to blend into the background. My camera strap coiled around my wrist, my finger on the trigger, I darted past everyone to the front row right in front of George and started snapping pictures. I stood right next to a videographer and just pretended like I was part of the press contingent. I was at most 10 feet in front of the stage the whole time.

George reminds Dave who's the Sheriff in town.

This is about as good as it gets for a fan: the man himself just showing up and having fun hanging out with people he clearly likes and respects.

After the panel — and about a half hour of me asking myself, “Did that really just happen?!” — it was time for the 3D preview of ‘Attack of the Clones’ with Dennis Muren and Jon Knoll.

Dennis Muren arrived in his Fred Thompson cos play.

It was great to see such legends in person and the clips of AOTC looked amazing. Muren and Knoll took great pains to emphasize that the 3D conversion process isn’t like using an Instagram filter on a photo. Each shot is painstakingly divided into layers and separated to create the steroscopic effect. Muren also pointed out that the 3D will come out out from the picture frame more than was done in TPM 3D. The speeder chase scenes look amazing, with the 3D really enhancing the sense of height and scale. Most impressive was the final troop formation shots from the end of the movie, with the rows of clones receding into the distance. They didn’t mention the release dates at the time, but everyone now knows that AOTC and ROTS will both hit theaters in the fall of 2013.

After some shopping for gifts, I then attended Ben Burtt’s session on editing. Burtt didn’t reveal many specifics about Star Wars editing, but he did show a pre-viz animatic for the Obi-Wan/Grievous chase on Utapau that was pretty outrageous. He showed the sequence to demonstrate how ideas are generated, evolve and are often discarded in the storytelling process. It was a good illustration of the freedom the artists had on the prequels to come up with ideas, contrary to the hateboy meme that George never sought out input. To be honest, the most interesting moment of the panel is when Warwick Davis just randomly walked by in the aisle. It was one of a handful of random Warwick Davis sightings throughout the weekend, often with Warwick cruising by in a flash on his Segway.

Ben and Pablo getting tingly about editing.

Following Ben Burtt, I caught another screening of the 3D footage before getting in line to attend Dave Filoni and Pablo Hidalgo’s “Unlearn what you have learned” panel. Since the line was short, I went off to take a few pictures before realizing that I never had the opportunity to meet up with some of my fellow fans who I knew would be attending. Most specifically, I had been hoping to meet Paul F. McDonald of Star Wars Heresies to thank him for his great posts. As I returned to where Shannon was holding our places in line, I told her I was bummed that I hadn’t contacted Paul to meet up. I showed her a tiny picture from Paul’s Facebook page and noted how impossible it would be to find him. I then noticed that the guy right behind us in line had glasses and dark hair sort of like the guy in the photo. On a whim I asked, “Your name isn’t Paul, is it?”

“Yyy-eah.”

“What’s your last name?”

“McDonald.”

“Paul F. McDonald?!”

“Yeah. You’re freaking me out. Who are you?!”

“Holy shit! I’m A New Hope from A Certain Point of View.net!”

“No WAY! I’m a big fan!”

“I’m YOUR big fan!”

And so forth. What are the freakin’ odds that the one guy I’d been hoping to run into was standing right behind me! Unbelievable!

Paul and I gabbed nonstop until the panel began and we later talked about his upcoming book on the scholarly analysis of Episodes I-III. Unfortunately, it was then the end of the day and Paul had to leave to return to his hotel. Shannon and I stayed to watch ‘The Empire Strikes Back.’ It was too short a visit with Paul, but my suspicions about him being one of the nicest guys on the internet were certainly proven true. Go to his site. Read his stuff. Send him a message of support.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend the fourth and final day of the convention, so I missed the “Why We Love the Prequels” panel. Next time, no cutting out early for me.

All in all, I had a blast and came away convinced Star Wars is only gaining in popularity thanks to people like Dave Filoni, Joel Aron, Ashley Eckstein and Seth Green pumping new life and energy into the franchise. I was also reminded once again of why I love this saga so much. Beyond all the complaining and whining and hateboy crapola, there is a pure feeling of happiness that comes from being a fan of this saga. I’ll leave you with this image, which for me encapsulates the magic of Star Wars and Celebration VI. It’s my favorite photo I took all weekend.

What it's all about.

Thanks for reading, and may the Force be with you all.

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Gored to death

Someone help me out here. Is the Chris Gore who interviews George Lucas in this clip on the official site the same Chris Gore from Film Threat who wrote this Gary Kurtz interview from March 2000 and this Special Edition review?

If so, I gotta ask Lucasfilm how badly does one need to shit on Lucas and his films before they’re granted an exclusive interview with the man? What’s the deal?

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Meesa Back!

I’m back from Celebration VI and I’ll update tomorrow about the sights, sounds and smells of the best Star Wars party on the planet. Lots to talk about, as LazyPadawan has been posting over at SWPAS. I’m really glad to have met some great Star Wars fans from around the world, including the esteemed Paul F. McDonald from Star Wars Heresies. Good times, good times. More soon. Nub-Nub!!!

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Why We Love the Star Wars Saga

As happy as I am that Lucasfilm is acknowledging the love many fans feel for the 1-3 trilogy (long past time to phase out the term “prequel”, at least officially) by once again offering the “Why We Love the Prequels” panel at Celebration VI, and as disappointed as I am that I’m going to miss it, I sure wish it wasn’t necessary to make a big deal of people’s love for half the Star Wars saga. I’ve long argued that the 1-3 trilogy is one of the boldest cinematic visions since the original film in 1977. For all the justifiable praise heaped on films franchises like ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Dark Knight’ trilogy, many of those franchises built upon well-established successful works by other artists. Peter Jackson didn’t invent Middle Earth or the Hobbits. Christopher Nolan didn’t conjure Bruce Wayne/Batman out of his imagination. That’s not a criticism of what they’ve done in re-telling those tales, but it’s the truth. They’re adaptations, not new creations.

George Lucas not only created the universe of ‘Star Wars’ from his own imagination, but in the 1-3 trilogy he faced the burden of telling a story most fans thought they knew (the Clone Wars, Anakin Skywalker’s fall, the rise of the Empire). What he created was something far more original and bold than is usually credited. He took risks both with the storytelling (turning the bad guys into good guys, showing cinema’s greatest villain as a cute little boy) and the technology of movie-making (pioneering digital acting, digital production and cost-saving techniques). As reader Cryogenic wisely points out, the 1-3 trilogy represents a far more personal cinematic creation than is credited.

“What people also overlook is that Lucas actually spent an entire decade of his life making the prequels (all in all, the prequels actually took longer to make than the LOTR trilogy), and he could have simply farmed the lion’s share out to someone else, just slapping his name on as producer and then being done with it. But he went above and beyond, arguably making the most personal blockbuster films in cinematic history. And what has he received for all that effort and dedication; for the sheer audacity of the undertaking? The most base of insults, time and time again. It’s hard to even fathom the blinkered thinking and double standards this far down the road.”

I often say ‘Star Wars’ is George Lucas’ story to tell because it IS. He’s earned the right, financially and creatively, to own it in every sense of the word. Peter Jackson doesn’t own ‘Lord of the Rings’, he’s the temporary custodian building upon a rich, well-established story. The same is true of Joss Whedon or JJ Abrams. Without diminishing their talents in the least, it’s true to say that in terms of their most successful work they are writers and filmmakers for hire.

What puts the entire Star Wars saga on the mantel of greatness is that it is represents a singular creative vision from an artist who time and time again put everything on the line for his art. That’s more than worthy of my cinematic love.

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Celebrating the “love” without me

ARGHH!!!! LazyPadawan at Star Wars Prequel Appreciation Society has posted that my favorite panel from the last Star Wars Celebration, “Why We Love the Prequels” will be back for CV:VI on Sunday, Aug 26th at 10:30am. Unfortunately, my flight leaves at noon and I’ll have to miss it! Damn my poor planning!!!

Man, I’d LOVE to be on that panel! I’ll need the like-minded to carry the CPOV banner for me. I expect the message to be loud and clear: Star Wars is ONE saga. The prequels ARE Star Wars because it’s George Lucas’ story. Prequel fans are entitled to like what they like in peace and we support Lucas’ right to tell HIS story HIS way. I don’t want to hear about any wimpy “we don’t like the word ‘hateboy’ because that might hurt some fans’ feelings’ crapola from the panel. Make me proud, my friends.

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