Apparently Mark Hamill has a good sense of humor about his Luke Skywalker days and isn’t afraid to crack wise and fuck up some Star Wars‘s fans’ trading cards when signing autographs.
These are pure gold:
He keeps going, after the jump…
Apparently Mark Hamill has a good sense of humor about his Luke Skywalker days and isn’t afraid to crack wise and fuck up some Star Wars‘s fans’ trading cards when signing autographs.
These are pure gold:
He keeps going, after the jump…
A couple of British farmers named Bower and Chorley invented the crop circle as an easy and fun way to spawn a generation’s worth of crazy UFO conspiracy theories. In Japan they’re more showbiz about their version of this, which is to make elaborate tableaux in rice paddies, which are mostly green as opposed to the wheaty amber of crop designs. A small town called Inakadate in Aomori Prefecture in northern Japan has an annual event that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to see its rice paddy artworks. They’ve been doing it since 1993 with no sign of letting up.
The most common variety of rice plant grows in bright green stalks, but if you plant strains of different colors in carefully selected positions, you can make lines and shapes, a bit like these awesome examples of LEGO art—including Hunter S. Thompson! In this one you can see a rice paddy mosaic with Marilyn Monroe in her famous subway grate pose from The Seven-Year Itch. It only takes about a month from planting to final fruition, but they disappear pretty quickly too.
Last month Inakadate unveiled a Star Wars design, featuring C3PO and R2D2 as well as some sort of blobby planet-shaped droid I don’t recognize. (Yes, I’m old!)
Here’s a fuller picture—“conceptual art for the final field” (click to see a larger version):
I’m calling you a cab!!!
Driving under the influence of alcohol has not always been so frowned upon as it is today. In fact, there was once a time when “too drunk to drive” referred to such a deficit of impairment, you pretty much had to be unconscious behind the wheel to even raise an eyebrow. It wasn’t actually until the late 1970s that the law started to take drunk driving more seriously, but even then the more stringent standards for sobriety were met with resistance; groups like MADD were perceived as a bunch of busybodies and spoilsports, and public opinion was slow to recognize that it took far less alcohol to compromise a motorist than previously thought. Obviously this made for a lot of goofy public service announcements!
In 1979, the United States Department of Transportation’s National Highway and Safety Administration produced this little gem, which reworked the Star Wars cantina scene (complete with music) to promote the buddy system—“friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” Of course, they weren’t able to secure any major characters, but Wookieepedia informs me that the intoxicated alien is of the Talz race, while his Durosian friend keeps him safe from harm by taking the keys(?) to his YT-1300 light freighter and driving them both home.
Hear that? That is the sound of a million nerds finding plot holes in a non-canonical space opera-themed drunk driving public service announcement!
Csillagok háborúja: A Birodalom visszavág—Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
One of the differences between the first, “good” Star Wars trilogy and the second, “bad” trilogy is that the Cold War was happening when the first three movies came out. OK, it would be a stretch to argue that the Cold War with its more limited international audiences had an influence on how these movies turned out, but the fact remains that in the mid-1970s George Lucas was primarily addressing American audiences first and foremost; given the massive cult that has arisen around the franchise, when Lucas returned to telling the story of the ragtag band of space rebels in the 1990s, it was reasonable enough for him to suppose that he would be addressing all of humankind.
By the time the third movie, Return of the Jedi, came out, it was 1983, and the Cold War officially had six more years to go. The term “Soviet bloc” perhaps disguises the extent to which the various East European countries had differing levels of autonomy vis-à-vis relations with the West. After the failed Hungarian Revolution of 1956, the country came under the control of the Soviet loyalist János Kádár, but even so, willful Hungary developed its own distinctive brand of “goulash communism” and always remained considerably less repressive than the USSR or East Germany overall.
The release dates of the three movies are an indication of how different things were then. All three movies came out in May in the United States—the first and third movies actually came out on my own 7th birthday (May 25, 1977) and 13th birthday (1983), respectively—Empire was released on May 17, 1980. Star Wars: A New Hope came out in Hungary in August of 1979, fully two years and a few months after its U.S. release. The Empire Strikes Back came out in Hungary in January 1982 and Return of the Jedi in September of 1984—so by the third movie the gap had narrowed to a mere sixteen months, still far longer than it would take today, of course.
The Rembrandt, the Michelangelo—well, let’s say the Hieronymus Bosch of Hungarian Star Wars posters is clearly one Tibor Helényi, who was also a respected painter in Hungary.
My favorite aspect of Helényi’s posters are his inclination to insert big scary lizard creatures who find no correlative in the movies—plus pretty much none of the famous characters are represented, with the obvious exception of Darth Vader, who gets the most play by far (you would think that this might be true of the U.S. posters too, but it’s really not).
Also, I don’t know if Helényi borrowed or invented that nifty notched font, but I really like it. Typographers, can we get that one into regular rotation?
Csillagok háborúja: Új remény—Star Wars: A New Hope
Csillagok háborúja: A jedi visszatér—Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
Oh yeah, here’s another Hungarian poster for Star Wars: A New Hope by an András Felvidéki, which is completely strange in a very different way.
In the late ‘70s, in the wake of the tremendous blockbuster success of Star Wars, a whole slew of Star Wars-themed records got released, proving intellectual property wasn’t quite as big of a deal back then as it is now, and that you could sell anything with the words “star” and “wars” on it.
Meco’s Star Wars and Other Galactic Funk, a hit album (and the first record I ever bought), is the most well-known of the bunch and actually went to number thirteen on the US pop chart. But there were others: notably, the singing debut of Jon Bon Jovi (credited as “John Bongiovi”, his birth name) on the track “R2-D2 We Wish You A Merry Christmas” from the Christmas In The Stars album. There was also a Star Wars themed album by electronic music pioneer Patrick Gleeson, and an ultra-shitty smooth-jazz record called Empire Jazz which actually featured respected fusion performers Ron Carter and Bob James. The shittiest knock-off/cash-in Star Wars related album is something called Living In These Star Warz by Dan Whitley and the Rebel Force Band. How bad is it? Almost as bad as the prequels? We dare you to make it all the way through in one sitting. Feel free to post your “give up” time in the comments.
The Rebel Force Band plays a variety of styles on Living in these Star Warz, ranging from R&B to disco-funk to rock—all in a very bland, MOR “sounds like a network TV show soundtrack” sort of way. There’s some possible intended humor to the whole affair, and indeed “Chewie the Rookie Wookie” (sic) got some airplay on Dr. Demento back in the day. The fact that these songs could loosely qualify as “parody” probably saved the creators from Fox’ lawyers.
In an interview on podbay.fm, Dan Whitley, the man behind the Rebel Force Band tells the story of how Living in These Star Warz came to be. Whitley was running a recording studio in 1977, when he was approached by a dentist with a song idea about a newly-released sci-fi picture. Whitley had never seen the movie, but decided to check it out when the dentist offered to pay $1000 for him to produce the song. Sometime shortly thereafter, Whitley was talking to a friend, Michael Purdy, about the track. Purdy was looking to produce an album as a “tax shelter,” according to Whitley, and suggested they do an entire record of Star Wars-themed songs. The idea of producing an album as a “tax shelter,” sounds suspiciously similar to the “tax scam labels” of 1976-78.
There’s a great interview with Aaron Milenski on shit-fi.com that explains the 1976-78 “tax scam label” phenomenon. According to Milenski:
In 1976, some record label executives discovered that it was possible to create an entire label as a subsidiary to the major label, and to write it off as a huge tax loss to help the “real” label remain profitable. The idea was that a large number of albums (for instance, Tiger Lily and Guinness released almost 100 records each in just under two years) would be on the new label, and the entire batch (ie, every copy of all of the records) would be listed as unsold. They would probably list something like 10,000 copies pressed of each record, even though it’s possible that they pressed up only a few hundred or so. The ones they pressed were never even attempted to be sold; they were sent as promos and dumped into warehouses with cutouts.
Apparently whatever loophole they discovered was closed by 1978 or so, as every one of these labels existed only in the years 1976–1978.
Whitley was running a booking service at the time and was auditioning young bands and musicians for gigs. He had come up with a list of potential song titles and threw them out to the young musicians. Some of those musicians came back with songs, and those songs ended up being the Living in These Star Warz album. A voiceover artist was hired to do the Chewbacca and Darth Vader sounds. When asked if any of it was cleared with Lucasfilm, Whitley’s response was “we didn’t even think about it.”
If you really want to hear Living in These Star Warz’,’ you’ll find it after the jump…
Because so much ink and so many pixels have been committed to the ongoing and breathtakingly stupid culture war over childhood immunizations, I’ll keep my comments brief: anti-vaxers? You are destructive fucking morons and if you die of something easily preventable I will laugh about it.
But though the numbers of anti-vax jackasses have grown dangerously out of control in the recent years since the likes of Jack Wolfson, Jenny McCarthy, and Andrew Wakefield started spewing the criminally irresponsible shit they should all be in goddamn jail for, there have always been people ignorant of the necessity for childhood vaccinations. In the late ‘70s, when Star Wars mania was at its height, the CDC obtained permission to use C-3PO and R2-D2 for an immunization education campaign. From the Nov/Dec 1979 issue of Public Health Reports:
In a continuing effort to focus public awareness on childhood immunization, the Center for Disease control has distributed to State and local health departments copies of a poster featuring the “droids” R2D2 and C3PO from the movie “Star Wars.” Special permission to print the posters was granted to CDC by Twentieth Century Fox as a public service.
The poster has proved to be so popular that it has entered its second printing. The posters have been used as a reward to individual children who complete the basic immunization series, as reminders to parents in doctors’ offices, hospitals, and pharmacies, and as attention grabbers in announcing mass immunization clinics at schools and shopping centers. The poster is also drawing increased attention to child health in conjunction with projects sponsored as part of the International Year of the Child celebration.
This television commercial from the campaign has an unusual role reversal—R2 is freaking out over bullshit and 3PO serves as the voice of reason. It seems to actually be voiced by actor Anthony Daniels, who played the droid in all six Star Wars movies, and indeed, the typically reliable Wookieepedia claims that both Daniels and R2-D2 actor Kenny Baker did in fact appear in this PSA.
UPDATE, Thu Feb 5, 2015, 8:17 A.M. EST: This post as originally published contained a significant error, which I deeply regret and have corrected in the text. I misspelled ‘Wookieepedia.’ My sincerest apologies to anyone who was misled by my negligent inaccuracy. See how that’s done, science-deniers? It’s not so difficult.
Photographer Thomas Dagg created his “Star Wars” series as a sort of homage to his childhood, a time when the films pervaded his imagination on a daily basis. As a kid, he would draw space ships onto magazine photography; this work is merely a more sophisticated version of that same sort of superimposition. It’s the subtlety of the shots that really make the pictures interesting, as if the characters and vehicles are unremarkable details in a mundane setting. Some of them you have to strain to find.
Most of the scenes feature Dagg’s own childhood toys and action figures, only two use shots from the movies. (Careful buddy, that’s the kind of thing that will get you sued!) Honestly, even before noticing the ewoks and AT-ATs, the pictures themselves are beautiful, with a use of light and contrast that creates a quiet intimacy.
More after the jump…
The Instagram feed of invader_dab is a veritable gold mine for sculptures made purely of “dabs,” a.k.a. butane hash oil and “shatter,” a sort of crystalized sheet of same (thank you, urban dictionary). For reasons unknown to me, “dabbing” is also snonymous with errl.
Invader_dab has also posted pics of LEGO men, a rubber ducky, and a video game controller—all made out of cannabis concentrates. The life span of the sculptures is expected to be limited—if indeed they are still in existence—as eventually someone will want to get totally hooted on part of Han Solo’s rickety space freighter.
Raiders of the Lost Tumblr has turned up a trove of behind-the-scenes shots of sets, models, sketches and costumes from Star Wars’ ultra seedy and memorable Mos Eisley Cantina scene. If you’re one of the very, very few living hominids who hasn’t seen the film, that scene was notable for showcasing an abundance of admirably insane character design, which served to underscore the impending over-the-rainbow life change awaiting the film’s naive farmboy hero.
The diversity of species on display even inspired a literary anthology of short stories starring characters from the scene, some of whom appear onscreen for all of two seconds. Sci-fi geeks, I doff my cap to you; you are a breed apart. The scene also boasted some darkly lunatic but indelibly catchy jazz, and served as the setting for the world’s introduction to Han Solo. No insipid “who shot first” debates here, please. It was Han. STFU, George, we have proof below.
It’s a worthwhile trivia tangent to note that a hell of a lot of these characters were designed by Ron Cobb (seriously cool design and illustration gallery at that link, I urge you not to skip it). Though he’s probably best known as an editorial cartoonist—in fact, I credit him with the creation of one of the single most powerful and durable images in the long history of that form, the man searching for a place to plug in his broken TV set in a post apocalyptic landscape, reproduced below—Cobb played a large role in the design of the films Dark Star and Alien. He’s also the creator of that wonderfully shambolic psychedelic aircraft on the cover of The Jefferson Airplane’s After Bathing at Baxter’s.
While you’re here, check out this early rough cut of the Cantina scene. This was once findable on the now long out-of-print Star Wars: Behind the Magic, a 1998 CD-ROM. Yes, CD-ROM.
Previously on Dangerous Minds
C-3PO rapping, but don’t worry, your childhood was already dead
12-hour ambient music pieces from ‘Blade Runner,’ ‘Alien,’ ‘Doctor Who,’ and ‘Star Wars’
Alec Guinness, a.k.a. Obi Wan Kenobi, kind of hated ‘Star Wars’
Behind-the-scenes photos of prototype Boba Fett costume, 1978
Before the advent of recording media, a piece of music could be quite long without its duration meriting much notice, but when the mechanical limitations of the 7” 45rpm single codified the length of a song at about 3 1/2 minutes, the pop-listening western world really adapted its musical mindset to that standard, to the point where even a massive hit like “Hey Jude” drew anxious notice from radio for being 7 minutes long. And now there’s QuickHitz (“Twice the music, all the time”), a radio format that cuts off every song at the two-minute mark, which, if it catches on in a big way—and face it, have stranger things not caught on?—will surely result in loads of pop singles being produced at under two-minute lengths.
The Residents are prophetic yet again.
But in avant-garde classical and artrock circles, songs that seem crazy long by pop radio standards are a perfectly normal part of the listening experience. After all, what impact would Oneida’s infamous 14-minute, one note song “Sheets of Easter” have had if it were three minutes long? How about Television’s “Marquee Moon?” King Crimson’s “Starless?” Flaming Lips’ 24-hour song “7 Skies H3?” And those examples are all well within the rock idiom—I haven’t even broached the New Age, noise, and ambient genres. So many of us have been acculturated to think of long pieces of music as “pretentious” or “indulgent,” products of anti-populist ivory tower navel gazers who are hostile to average listeners. Well you know what? Fuck your shitty attention span.
The Fayetteville, AR composer Cheesy Nirvosa has been making glitchy, drony compositions since the mid-oughts, and under the name “crysknife007,” he’s established a YouTube channel to disseminate conceptual pieces of lengths that could fairly be seen as downright punitive to many listeners. These are often the sorts of things that, in a LaMonte Youngish kinda way, can be more interesting to talk about than actually listen to, especially since many of these works are 12 hours in duration. “12 Hours of Pi Being Dialed on a Rotary Phone.” “Yoda Laughs for 12 Hours.” “PSY Says HANGOVER for 12 Hours.” “6 Tone Car Alarm for 12 Hours.” (I recommend city dwellers skip that last one, it’s waaaaaaaay too much like ordinary life.)
But while a few of these ideas come off as overly winking and even mildly irritating noise-artist stunts, some of them are absolutely lovely—specifically, pieces made from looped ambient sounds culled from science fiction movies. The general thrum of Ridley Scott’s dystopian future Los Angeles filtered through Rick Deckard’s apartment windows in Blade Runner? That absolutely holds up as drone music, as does the TARDIS sound effect from Doctor Who and various spaceship engine sounds from the Alien and Star Wars franchises. I endorse playing more than one of these at once, remixing them yourselves in your browser with the pause and volume controls, whatever. Knock yourself out. Maybe even, I dunno, listen to one of ‘em for 12 hours.
More after the jump…
It’s possibly the anticipation of the next Star Wars movie that’s brought this mash-up from circa 2007 back into the ether. Whatever…is generally how I feel about the series of Star Wars movies, which is maybe why I quite like this mash-up of Liam Lynch’s “United States of Whatever” with sample dialog from Star Wars.
Some of you will remember a similar mash-up between Lynch and Darth Vader’s “Noooooooooooo!” back in 2011, but this one has the edge.
It comes via Bootie Dragon, who has a variety of similar mash-ups over on Sound Cloud, along with a rather tasty mix tape that includes samples of Kraftwerk, William Burroughs, Doctor Who and The Beastie Boys all dovetailed together.
Hardware Wars is a thirteen-minute video parody of Star Wars that was released the same year as the original, 1977. Directed by Ernie Fosselius (the intro splash touts “20th Century FOSS”), the spoof, which is structured as a coming-soon preview, is essentially a MAD Magazine takedown come to life—albeit not quite as funny. The central joke is that all of the expensive sci-fi effects are replaced with cheapo footage of flying toasters, irons, and so forth. Made for a mere $8,000, it grossed, at a conservative estimate, $500,000, making it more profitable, on a percentage basis, than Star Wars itself.
George Lucas himself, who has not often expressed enthusiasm for satires of his saga, is fond of the parody, calling it “a cute little film.” According to Salon, it is “the only non-Lucasfilm product to be sold in Star Wars Insider magazine.”
The names of the characters are in the purest eye-roll spirit of MAD: “Fluke Starbucker,” “Ham Salad,” “Augie ‘Ben’ Doggie,” “Darph Nader,” “Princess Anne-Droid”—are these even jokes? No matter. The movie derives from an earlier, cruder form of parody than we’re used to today, in which invoking an entity with any kind of offbeat spin serves as the joke, regardless of whether or not it makes any sense. The conceit of Hardware Wars is to twit the big-budget techno-wizardry of Star Wars by replacing the weaponry, robots, and spacecraft with flashlights, toasters, vacuum cleaners, and the like. Big metal flashlights stand in for light sabers. Leia’s spiral braids are represented as cinnamon rolls. “Chewchilla” is portrayed by a Cookie Monster puppet painted brown.
Fascinatingly, “Fluke Starbucker” was portrayed by Scott Mathews, who later compiled an incredibly impressive resume in the music industry. He’s won several Grammies…. Wikipedia is usefully concise here:
[Mathews] has produced Elvis Costello, Roy Orbison, Rosanne Cash, Jerry Garcia, Huey Lewis, John Hiatt, Nick Lowe, Dick Dale, Sammy Hagar, Van Dyke Parks and many others. He has written songs and/or recorded with ... Barbra Streisand to John Lee Hooker, including Keith Richards, George Harrison, Mick Jagger, The Beach Boys, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Bonnie Raitt, David Bowie, Steve Perry, Johnny Cash, Todd Rundgren, Robert Cray, Ry Cooder, The Tubes, Sammy Hagar, Jefferson Starship and Raphael Saadiq. He has performed on various musical instruments with Neil Young, John Fogerty, Kid Rock, Steve Miller, Carlos Santana, Boz Scaggs, Jimmy Buffett, Zac Brown, Ringo Starr, Joe Walsh, Dwight Yoakam, Clint Black, Tom Waits, Chris Isaak and Joe Satriani
Of Hardware Wars, Mathews, who was all of 22 when the movie was made, avers, “I think a lot of the charm of that movie is the fact that we didn’t really know what we were doing. ... It was cinéma vérité at its finest. I’m sitting there spaced out and cracking up in some of those scenes.”
In 1997 Lucas began releasing the “altered” versions of the original trilogy, and Michael Wiese, who had produced Hardware Wars, decided that it was time to produce an updated version of his low-budget classic. The intense reaction of the movie’s fans, at least at the San Diego Comic-Con screening attended by Freeling, revealed levels of obsessiveness reminiscent of the fans of Star Wars.
Says Cindy Freeling, who played “Princess Anne-Droid”:
“It was unbelievable. The room was jampacked. There were people flowing out into the hall. The audience knew every single little detail of the movie. I’ve certainly seen Hardware Wars, but I don’t have every frame memorized. Whenever a ‘special defect’ would come up, the whole audience would start cheering and clapping. They knew right when it was happening.”
However, just as with Lucas’ masterpiece, the decision to clean up some of the technical shortcomings of the original was not universally well received by the diehard—in the case of Hardware Wars the decision is more ironic, given that the cheesy low-budget tactics were the central point of the movie.
“When Ernie was transferring all the old footage from the original print, they had all this amazing gear where they could embellish it. They told Ernie that they could erase the strings! They weren’t checking with him: They were telling him they would be doing that in their transfer. Ernie tried to explain it. He said: ‘No, wait. We put extra strings on there so you could see them! There’s more light shining on the strings than there is on the flying iron!’ He got a kick out of it. These were the guys that he was collaborating with to make the next phase happen. And they don’t even get the premise of the original.”
Herewith, the original cut of Hardware Wars:
Here are some behind-the-scenes photos taken in June of 1978 of either a costume fitting or screentest for badass Star Wars character Boba Fett. Apparently these images were shot at George Lucas’ home.
Interesting to see Boba Fett as all white.
Redditor RandomMovieTriviaGuy brought up this interesting Star Wars factoid I did not know:
George Lucas was so sure the original film would flop that instead of attending the premiere, he went on holiday to Hawaii with his good friend Steven Spielberg, where they came up with the idea for Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).
More images after the jump…
This video may have been uploaded to YouTube in 2011, but I’ve never seen it before. As we already know, the Internet is big and still full of amusing surprises like this “Incestual Realization Of Han Solo” video.
Apparently Luke Skywalker himself even confessed to this on Digg once, but it was yanked, probably by George Lucas. Read between the lines, people!
George Lucas has managed to fashion one of the strangest careers in all of cinema. First, he created one of the biggest (if not the biggest) movie franchises of all time. Then, he took the legacy of that phenomenon and perverted it beyond all recognition. And as if contaminating the childhoods of a million nerds wasn’t enough, he became highly litigious, threatening to sue anyone who so much as referenced Star Wars in a fan parody—he even tried to sue lobbyists during the Reagan administration over the nickname of the Strategic Defense Initiative missile program! Yes, it’s fair to say that no one quite hates George Lucas as much as Star Wars fans hate George Lucas. The guy seems like kind of a dick.
But in the spirit of goodwill towards men, I think it’s only fair that we go back to a time when Lucas was an idealistic young film student, making movies to actually emotionally engage people. Freiheit is a short Lucas made in 1966, and it’s certainly not something you’d expect from the man who brought us Jar Jar Binks. In less than three minutes, a young man (played by—get this—Randal Kleiser, the future director of Grease) attempts to dash across the border from East to West Germany. He is shot after a near escape, and he dies with a rabble of narrations on freedom.
It’s a student film in every sense of the word—dramatic and heavy-handed, and arguably overly-literal in its messaging. It’s also really impressive. The action shots show amazing instincts. The pacing builds anticipation. The editing is crisp. Even the blue tint to the film gives a cohesion to the cinematography—what would have been a busy setting is now austere and cool. It’s almost enough to make me forgive him. Almost.