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Star Wars Tag

noconcessionsThe Force Awakens…more slowly for some than for most. Unless I write this in Mandarin, for a Chinese audience that won’t see it until the weekend, there’s no point in reviewing the new Star Wars movie–the bones have been picked clean. It’s like the first one, or the fourth one. I saw it four times on Christmas Day, two weeks ago. It’s made $1.6 billion without any mainland Chinese seeing it.  Han Solo’s

But I can update one of my more popular pieces, written almost four years ago, on the 35th anniversary of the movie I knew as Star Wars, but which my kids know as Star Wars: A New Hope. (The first one to me, the fourth one to them.) Including the deathless line: “It’s best that the show is over.”

Not hardly. Four billion forked over to George Lucas by Disney later (cheap) and here we are, one movie into a trio of sequels, with three spinoffs set to go. Director J.J. Abrams had to thread carefully

It was a three year wait to find out what happened to Han Solo, who was last seen frozen in carbonite and loaded onto Boba Fett’s spaceship. 30 years ago, on May 25, 1983, Return of the Jedi, one of the most anticipated films of my youth, finally hit theater screens.

JediBattle1I saw this movie on opening day at the Stamm Theatre in Antioch California with my friend Zant Burdine. As related in a previous article on WarGames, Zant and I went through a time when we liked to sit in the front row of the theater. For a period of about one year, our ideal movie seat was front row center. As Zant always said, “We like to get the full effect.” Call it a poor man’s IMAX if you will. We were first in line that opening day to madly scramble for two seats that no one wanted.

For my friend and I, Return of the Jedi delivered as promised — spectacular space battles, a few unexpected character revelations, plus (spoiler alert) some ominous foreshadowing regarding Han Solo and the Millennium Falcon that doesn’t come to pass. After the movie, which of course we both thought was awesome, I saw my friend Alex Baker standing in line for the next showing. He immediately covered his ears and went into full “Shields Up” anti-spoiler mode. But of course I never would have spoiled anything for him. I just smiled and moved along, much to his relief. Alex later told me that he also loved the deceptive foreshadowing.

Thirty-five years ago, on May 25, 1977, Star Wars opened. On May 26, 1977, I saw it with my family. My life changed…

Hold it, back up a minute. Time plays tricks on us. I looked it up and while Star Wars did indeed open on May 25, it only opened in a handful of theaters, on a Wednesday…and there was no way my family was going to see it on a school night. By Friday, May 27, it was playing on 43 screens–none of them the twin theaters at the Morris County Mall in New Jersey.

By June 24, it had expanded to 360 screens. I’m pretty comfortable, sort of, that we saw it that weekend.

(If you didn’t see Star Wars until Aug. 19, when it reached its peak expansion of 1,096 screens, you were a loser. By then the cool kids like me, who were soon to be awesome seventh graders, had seen it two or three times. But think about it: The Avengers is currently playing on 1,096 screens in Manhattan alone–and we already now it will be on DVD and Blu-ray on Sept. 25. Whereas a pre-“ancillary” juggernaut like Star Wars played and played until demand ceased to exist, right through at least Dec. 14, when Saturday Night Fever opened–and, no, that photo I used is not in New Jersey. )

So: Thirty-five years ago, on May 25, 1977, Star Wars opened. On June 25, 1977, I saw it with my family, I think. I recall it raining, and that we had to wait for an hour to get in, as you had to back when event pictures played on 360 screens.

My life changed forever.

Except that it didn’t.

Don’t get me wrong–we loved it. What’s not to love? A partial checklist of things I loved about

As we head into awards season, I thought it might be fun to compile an Oscar-related list of when the Academy got it flat balls-out wrong. So, with the test of time on my side, here are ten films that really should have won Best Picture. Before we begin, there are two obvious omissions from this list. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) has certainly stood the test of time, but it’s hard for me to dispute that year’s winner, The Best Years of Our Lives and its very frank portrayal of three veterans returning home from WWII. And while Saving Private Ryan (1998) seems like a film that should have taken home the top trophy, Shakespeare in Love is such a great film in its own right (with an arguably superior screenplay) that while it annoyed me initially, I did eventually calm down. Now let’s all take a deep breath and proceed.

Citizen Kane (1941)
The actual winner: How Green Was My Valley.
The other nominees: Blossoms in the Dust, Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Hold Back the Dawn, The Little Foxes, The Maltese Falcon, One Foot in Heaven, Sergeant York, Suspicion.
Listen, I love How Green Was My Valley, one of the many great movies from director John Ford, but it’s hard to argue with the fact that throughout the years, Citizen Kane repeatedly shows up as number one on many lists of the best films of all time. In addition to its non-linear storytelling, Orson Welles’s directorial debut is visually groundbreaking cinema in terms of its use of low camera angles and most importantly its use of lighting, in-camera techniques and optical printing to keep the foreground and background all in sharp focus.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
The actual winner: My Fair Lady.
The other nominees: Becket, Mary Poppins, Zorba the Greek.
It’s a crime that Stanley Kubrick never won an Oscar (other than for Visual Effects for 2001: A Space Odyssey) and this is the year it probably should have happened. One can also make a good case for A Clockwork Orange (1971) but the competition that year, namely The French Connection, was tough. Incredibly, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture, though Kubrick was nominated for Best Director that year, in which Oliver! took home the top prize. I’ll admit I’m biased because I don’t personally care much for musicals, but — getting back to 1964 — Strangelove is iconic Kubrick and one of the greatest satires of all time.