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As I am sure you are all aware, this past weekend was San Diego Comic Con 2014. To all the people who were lucky enough to attend, I’d like to say on behalf of the rest of us “Screw you guys.” This sentiment definitely includes the Co-Uberfriend in Chief. Unless he brings me something back. In which case, “Screw you guys except for the Co-Uberfriend in Chief who is a hero to us all.” (more…)
When I was much younger, I used to think that Darth Maul doing a butterfly twist in Star Wars Episode 1 was the coolest thing in the world.
The Beatles seem to be the only musicians that everyone likes. Everyone’s heard of them and even if you hate everything about them you still grudgingly like Yellow Submarine. I think the closest equivalent to that in the movie world is Star Wars. Even if you haven’t seen a full movie, you know who Darth Vader is. You know what the Force is. You probably hate Jar Jar Binks on principle.
While the preceding paragraph might be a bit of an exaggeration, it won’t be for long. A couple of years ago now, Disney purchased the Star Wars franchise from Mr. George Lucas so it’s about to become a whole lot more ubiquitous. They’ve announced that they eventually want to release 1 Star Wars movie a year. Maybe a Chewbacca movie. Maybe a Boba Fett movie. Maybe Jabba The Hutt’s high school years. But the main focus is always going to be on the trilogy. Specifically, completing the trilogy of trilogies.
The first step was poaching Mr. J.J. Abrams from the Star Trek film series and giving him the director’s hat for episode 7. Now, they have to work out a story. They’ve already fired one writer, and now Mr. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan (the writer of The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Arc) are working on a new script. There are tons of rumours floating around as to what this movie could be about, and who could be in it. In fact, they’ve all but confirmed that Luke, Han and Leia will be back. What they haven’t confirmed is how big a part they will play.
The latest that I’ve heard is that they will be main characters. I can’t think of a bigger mistake than that. Look, I love those actors. They brought to life a rip roaring adventure that has captured imaginations for decades. But, that adventure ended 30 years ago. Those people have lived extensively, and have changed a lot in appearance. The audience is going to see them on screen and have to mentally fill in those last thirty years.
Harrison Ford got his ear pierced at some point in that time. Am I going to think, ‘Han must have had a midlife crisis at some point and decided to try to look cool.’ Mark Hamill has spent much of the last three decades sitting behind a microphone doing voice over work. Will the audience assume that Luke gave up on being a Jedi to sit around and levitate Twinkies into his mouth? Carrie Fisher’s drug and alcohol problems are pretty well documented- are we going to be wondering if the force Leia’s talking about is cocaine?
I don’t know about you, but I’m not terribly interested in the Skywalker’s adventures in the senior’s home. Maybe that makes me ageist, but I’d be surprised of Disney didn’t also share my concerns. I think the Star Wars movies need to be about the next generation. Sure, a cameo here and there is fine, but starring roles? I think that’s better left to the Zac Efron’s of the world. (Disclaimer: This is not an endorsement of Zac Efron being in a Star Wars movie.)
Graham Becksted is your father. Search your feelings, you know it to be true. He is also the author of Graham’s Grumbles, the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 93rd follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
In the last few months we have learned that there will be more Star Wars movies, and that the first one will be directed by Mr. J. J. Abrams. We know that these ones will take place after the original trilogy, and that it will be the first of many. I’m pretty sure Disney has said that they would like to put out at least one a year. That’s all well and good, and totally within their rights to do. I’m not going to act surprised or disappointed that a huge corporation is going to try and milk as much money as they can out of one of the most lucrative franchises in the world. I do think, though, that these movies are going to do a disservice to the most loyal Star Wars fans.
Those fans are the ones who have eaten up everything and anything branded with the Star Wars logo over the past 35 years. They bought the comics, toys, novels, video games, and t-shirts. They have kept this franchise alive as much, if not more so, than George Lucas himself. They know the characters better than their creator.
If the prequel trilogy is any indication, everything that they know about the future of the Star Wars universe is going to be ignored and disregarded. For example, the creators who worked on the novels and comic books took Boba Fett, a bounty hunter who was in less than ten minutes of the original trilogy, and turned him into the biggest bad ass in the universe. They created an interesting origin for him, and made him an integral part of the continuing story. The prequel trilogy completely disregarded everything that had already been written about him and turned him into a lame clone baby.
Now, sure, there’s definitely stuff in the expanded universe that might be best forgotten. For instance, Chewbacca getting crushed to death by a moon. But, there is also cool stuff like Grand Admiral Thrawn and the continuing adventures of Wedge Antilles and Rogue Squadron that shouldn’t just be swept away. If it is, that stuff just becomes expensive fan fiction.
What keeps me somewhat hopeful that all of that stuff doesn’t get completely forgotten is Mr. Abrams himself. In taking over the Star Trek franchise, he wanted to do his own thing. His mandate was to take the most iconic characters and make them cool again. Thanks to time travel, he managed to do that without invalidating all of the spinoffs that came before. Maybe he can do something similar with Star Wars.
I’m not suggesting he do time travel again, all I’m asking is he acknowledge all of the established continuity even if it’s just in passing. We know that the stars of the original trilogy will be popping up in some capacity, but maybe make them background characters or cameos. Let the expanded universe be their story, and have these movies be about someone new. If there are some renegade Imperials about, make one of them blue. When Luke Skywalker pops up, have him be married to a woman named Mara Jade. Little things like that could keep old fans happy while creating new content for the universe.
That’s what I think, anyway. I’m sure Star Wars will do just fine whether they take my advice or not. But, the prequel trilogy has already chiseled away a lot of the hardcore fanbase, and I think this would be a good way to avoid alienating the rest.
Graham Becksted will probably still buy a ticket no matter what. He is also the author of Graham’s Grumbles, the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 81st follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
… and it plans to make new Star Wars movies every 2 to 3 years.
Here’s what I think will happen. Sequels are rarely as good as the original when the original is unusually good. It’s hard to hit a home run twice in a row. Films like Terminator 2 and Godfather 2 are the exceptions rather than the rule. On that basis, the new Star Wars films will likely suck compared to the original. But many people will still go see it anyways and Disney will keep milking the franchise until it dies a Rock Band death.
On the other hand, maybe the new Star Wars movies won’t be so bad. Maybe Disney will be smart enough to not let the director write the entire script on his/her own. The Star Wars prequels were atrocious:
I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here everything is soft… and smooth.
Have you seen Matrix 2? Prometheus? Some directors just need help from professional writers. The new Star Wars movies might… just maybe… turn out to be half-decent.
Here’s an interview with George Lucas where he talks about the sale:
To me, it seems that George Lucas is a little tired of making movies.
Every year around this time, change is in the air. The leaves turn. Students start new classes. Summer blockbusters become autumn dramas. And, perhaps most noticeably, a new crop of TV shows hit the air. And every year, a few of them are singled out for complete media saturation. Banner ads, TV ads, movie ads, subway ads, bus ads, human ads. They scream – if you’re just going to watch one new show this year make it this one! Last year it was Terra Nova. In 2010, it was The Event.
This year, I can’t think of a single show that’s been overhyped. And maybe that’s for the best. Considering the fact that both of the shows mentioned above barely made it through a season, it’s kind of sad to think of all the money that was wasted promoting them. (Just for the record, I fully acknowledge that I could be totally wrong about this. Maybe there is a show that’s being overhyped and I’m just not being exposed to it. If so, please let me know.)
Of all of the shows that are starting up right now, there is one in particular that I think fits the mold of those overhyped shows: Revolution. It’s similar in that it has an all-star creative team (J.J. Abrams, Jon Favreau and Eric Kripke) and series defining mystery. But, it was allowed to premiere without tons of ads and magazine cover stories. Very little was revealed about it, and even less was spoiled.
By the time The Event and Terra Nova finally hit the air, most people had seen or heard enough to decide if they liked it or not. It also rendered the first episode unnecessary as you already knew exactly what was going to happen. Revolution, on the other hand, has managed to fly relatively under the radar. I watched the first episode last night and there were quite a few surprises for me.
I’m far more interested than I thought I would be in the how and why of the power going out. The western in modern times feel of it stirs up my old Firefly yearnings. And I also like the use of Star Wars character archetypes. This was mentioned by Eric Kripke in an interview in Entertainment Weekly. He made it clear that Charlie, the naive but brave protagonist, is modeled on Luke Skywalker, and Miles, her jaded uncle, is based on Han Solo. Knowing this, I spent a good chunk of the episode trying to guess who the other characters reference.
So far, I know I’ve nailed two more. Aaron is a chubby, bearded gentleman who tags along with the group. Based on that description alone you might think he’s an obvious Chewbacca. But, you’d be wrong. He’s a dead-on C-3PO! He worries and whines, but he’s loyal and follows orders. The other one is Nate. He helps them, and then turns on them, and then may end up helping them again. Sounds familiar? He’s a definite Lando.
Anyway, that’s what I’ve got for now. I hope the less bombastic approach to the promotion of this show means that it will stand a decent chance of staying on the air. Like almost all shows in their first season, it’s got some rough patches. I want to see what it’s like once those get worn down and it starts running like a well-oiled machine.
Are there any other new shows that you think I should check out?
Graham Becksted is a revolution himself. At least, that’s what he thinks people mean when they say he’s revolting. BADUM CHING! He is the author of Graham’s Grumbles the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 70th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
The other day at work, I discovered something horrifying. It all started last week during a lunch break. Somehow Ewan McGregor came up, and one of my coworkers didn’t seem to have any idea who that was. I figured she had to know him, but just didn’t know his name. I started rattling off the titles of movies he had been in that I figured she must have seen. Moulin Rouge, Trainspotting, Ghost Writer. But no, she hadn’t seen any of them. Then, the revelation that blew my mind out through the back of my head. “Star Wars?” I asked. “No,” she said. “None of them?” “No.”
When I finally stopped screaming, I decided that this woman’s movie knowledge was frighteningly deficient. In an effort to appease me, she suggested that I make a list of ten movies that she must see. I wholeheartedly accepted this challenge. But, as I devoted more and more time and energy to make this list, I realized that I was actually just making a list of ten movies I would show myself if I completely lost my memory and I needed to be re-educated.
I came up with a new plan. On Twitter, Facebook, and amongst my co-workers I proposed a simple hypothetical scenario: You meet an English speaking, Canadian adult who tells you they’ve never seen a movie before. They ask you to pick the first movie they’ll ever see. What do you choose?
I think some of the earnestness I used in person was lost online so some of the answers are probably less realistic than others. But, the full, unadulterated list will appear at the end of the column.
For now, I’m going to list the ten that I’m going to actually suggest with a brief explanation of why.
- Star Wars – Just the original trilogy. But, the whole trilogy, because that is such a part of the world now that it’s just about stopped being “pop” culture, and just regular old culture. On top of that it’s a great, imagination capturing group of movies.
- The Wizard Of Oz – Of the 29 replies I got, this is the only one that got 3 votes. That’s over 10% of the vote. How can I not include it? It’s also a charming movie that is beloved by all and, in a lot of ways, redefined what movies could be. The special effects still work really well, and the songs are catchy as hell.
- Casablanca – Often listed as one of the top movies ever made, it’s an epic romance that also has the intrigue and action of World War 2. It’s one of the few movies that everyone likes when they see it. Even Citizen Kane can’t claim that.
- The Sound Of Music – I haven’t seen it myself (gasp, shock) but it got two votes in my poll, so that’s good enough for me. At almost three hours, it’s a little long, but I’m hoping the singing nuns and Nazis can keep her attention.
- The Shawshank Redemption – Who am I to argue with the number 1 movie on the IMDB top 250? Also, it’s a great movie. It’s got triumph, tragedy, lols, and wtfs. In other words, something for everyone.
- The Princess Bride – A modern (well, 1987-era modern) take on the fairytale. A heartwarming and utterly delightful movie about love, and giants, and things that are practically inconceivable.
- Ocean’s 11 – The Soderbergh one, not the far less entertaining rat pack one. This movie takes the typical heist formula and injects a ton of razzle dazzle and pizzazz. A lot of which is delivered by an incredible all-star cast. If movie casts were an Olympic event, this movie would take the gold.
- Iron Man – I’ll concede that this is a bit of an odd ball choice, but it’s the most fun superhero movie made to date. Other films in that genre are certainly smarter, or more profound, but this one is hands down the best time you’ll have in the theatre.
- Ghost – Another movie I haven’t seen, but I want to make sure I’ve got enough stuff on here that will appeal to a more feminine audience, as that’s the audience I’m going for. I’m pretty sure it’s about Patrick Swayze’s ghost possessing Whoopi Goldberg and seducing Demi Moore. Oh, and pottery.
- Wall-E – Finally, in order to cover as many bases as I can, a film by the universally beloved Pixar studio. This is my favorite of their movies because it does what the best sci-fi movies do. It takes a modern day problem and hides it in robots, spaceships, and special effects to make it more digestible. It’s also, and I may have used this descriptor before but I can’t help it, completely and unabashedly charming.
All right, so that’s my list. Assuming she actually watches any of these, I’ll post her thoughts here in future columns. In the meantime, here is the full list of answers I got from the people I polled. Thoughts?
– Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
– Back To The Future
– The Princess Bride
– Ocean’s 11 (2)
– The Fugitive
– The Room
– Jurassic Park
– A Walk In The Clouds
– Catch Me If You Can
– The Sound Of Music (2)
– The Neverending Story
– Wizard of Oz (3)
– First Blood
– Return of the Jedi
– Three Amigos
– Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
– A New Hope
– Step Up 4
– Cannibal Holocaust
– The Great Dictator
– Cast Away
– Big Butt Sluts 3
Graham Becksted thinks my coworker better watch all of these after I’ve gone to all of this trouble. He is the author of Graham’s Grumbles the second blog by that name that is listed in Google results when you search for Graham’s Grumbles. If you would like to be his 69th follower (thank you, bots), he can be followed on Twitter @GrahamBecksted.
With all this talk of protecting copyrights, I’ve had many thoughts on the matter. This article is not entirely about the business or legal aspect of intellectual properties, and I doubt it’d be very accurate if I tried. What this article addresses is our need, as people, to create, and as you will learn in the following required viewing (Kirby Ferguson’s Everything is a Remix Part 3) to create is to copy, transform, and combine.
(be sure to watch previous episodes at: http://www.everythingisaremix.info/watch-the-series/)
Many of us grew up re-creating what we knew and enjoyed. A lot of my early drawings as a kid were Ninja Turtles. My sister’s first fan comics were of Archie and Sailor Moon. The songs we were taught on piano were all ones we know from childhood sing-alongs.
According to Kirby’s video, Hunter S Thompson re-typed The Great Gatsby, just to ‘feel’ what it should be like to write a great novel. Sounds crazy when you hear it, but in truth, many of us have attempted similar endeavors.
I was a fairly active member of the Voice Acting Alliance back in the mid 2000’s, and you know what largely took place there? Fan dubs.
People removing all the audio from selective scenes or even enter episodes of an anime, cartoon, and even feature film, and recasting all the voices with enthusiastic members, all wanting to some day be a voice actor. True, it’s a little specific to say “I want to voice act in anime and ONLY anime” but you gotta start somewhere, why not practice with what you know and like?
(one of my early ‘parody edits’ as it was long before “Abridged” became the word… and I wasn’t actually a ‘fan’ of Orguss… it sucked)
DeviantArt is a hugely popular site for seasoned pros and new artists alike. There, amongst many illustrations, comics, and photos, you can find fan art for just about every drawn or animated property enjoyed by the masses.
Whether any of these works have been sold at conventions or online, I can’t say, but for the most part, fan art is an act of tribute, and learning.
I myself have an audio series, Shaggy Reads Twilight, that originally started as a joke for a friend, but became a practice of reading a lengthy narrative out-loud, in preparation for one day to produce my own original narrative audio stories (betchya didn’t know that last part).
The problem we’re all running into is this:
Even though we don’t intend to make profit off of these projects, when we decide to share our work (usually for the need of critical response or just to give joy to others who share our interests) we enter the dangerous territory of Copyright Infringement.
Let’s return to the example from the video. Hunter S. Thompson retyped The Great Gatsby. Did he share his typed pages with his friends to read to show how good he could type? What are your thoughts if he did?
We can’t really talk about copyright infringement unless we know what it means. According to wiki’s opening line:
Copyright infringement is the unauthorized or prohibited use of works under copyright, infringing the copyright holder’s exclusive rights, such as the right to reproduce or perform the copyrighted work, or to make derivative works.
But right there we’ve already run into a problem. Every country has different laws on copyright.
Whenever YouTube users runs into trouble for having copyrighted material in their videos, they can often defend themselves under ‘fair use terms’ which legally allows the use of copyright materials in the case of commentary, criticism, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving and scholarship.
However, this is in regards to United States copyright laws, and other countries (I believe my own, Canada) aren’t as clear on when it is legal to use material for the purposes of satire and parody for example. Canadians have to be careful.
But let’s not get jumbled into the technicalities of copyright laws, let’s give these large corporations a human face, and consider why they would need to be so protective of their properties we enjoy.
Financial reasons are fairly obvious. They don’t want people reproducing and distributing their work as it’s a loss in potential profit. This is a large reason behind all the hate towards web piracy. In the case of fans generating their own work INSPIRED by these properties and selling them, the companies may likewise not be thrilled over the idea of others making money off of their characters and ideas.
But enough about money, here’s another reason: Image and product integrity.
To explain this, we have to address a truth that you may not want to hear. Ready? Here it is.
People… are stupid.
People are easily confused, they get angry over stupid things, and they complain. OH BOY if people are good at one thing it’s complaining.
Let’s take this fact and apply it to the creative works of others.
Let’s say someone makes a fairly risque fan drawing of Kitara and Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender… hell, y’know what? Let me just enter their names in Google… safe search off and HEEEEEY, I don’t believe THIS happened in the series
Now, with this image, we take a trip to Example Town.
Kid is on the computer.
Kid likes Avatar.
Kid searches for favourite characters.
This image pops up.
Parent walks in.
“Oh. My. God.”
Now, we have a problem.
These supposedly safe cartoon characters are posed in a fairly sexual context.
“They’re Nickelodeon characters you say?”
Nickelodeon gets a call.
“Why are you making porn for my child to watch?!”
“We didn’t create that work, fan art is not in our control.”
“It’s your product, you should BE in control.”
Parent groups rally.
Shame on Nickelodeon.
You get the idea.
[ SIDE NOTE: if you’re business is in children’s ANYTHING (books, toys, cartoons, video games, comics, etc) you NEVER wanna piss off the parents. Kids may be the audience, but they are NOT the market. Because who are the ones with the money that buy the Happy Meals? ]
There’s a mixture of ‘protecting image’ and ‘profit’ that lead big media companies to shun down their fans. I recall back when the Harry Potter’s film rights were acquired by Warner Bros, Warner went after HP fan sites with cease and desist orders. I think Rowling got pissed at Warner for that.
Nintendo went after SuicideGirls for someone having Metroid listed as one of their favourite games in their profile. “Family friendly Nintendo, enjoyed by people on a site where woman pose nude? GASP!”
I remember all the excitement surrounding a Chrono Trigger fan remake, built in an engine similar to the N64’s (…I think). That got shut down by Squaresoft after a while. Similar deal with that Kings Quest fan project, kept popping up and being shut down.
Fortunately, a lot of this is slowly changing as shown by the support of fans from today’s most popular shows.
Because of the internet, the creative brains behind Adventure Time and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic are in constant contact with their fan base. SO much so that many conversations and ideas become canonical (Derpy Hoves and Fiona & Cake come to mind).
True, the parent companies my not understand this and are still VERY concerned with preserving image of the products they own (as example of CN fighting anything that suggested Princess Bubblegum and Vampire Queen Marceline had a subtext lesbian relation growing, as suggest in the episode “What was Missing”.)
But generally we’re getting to the point where fandom is having a direct influence on the source material.
There are many properties that have thrived from the world of fan recreations and tributes. Star Wars has a never ending library of fan films, using just about every film and animation technique there is. Live action, Stop motions, puppets, flash animation, recaps from memory, you name it. And many of these people, who cut their teeth on a fan project or two have moved on to create their own great works.
(also watch: Star Wars Uncut: Directors Cut)
Regardless of if we know the parent company is uptight with copyright or not, the general rule of the web for posting fan work and remixes has always been: you’re probably not gonna get caught. You are just one of thousands. Why would they go after you? And if they do, take your work down.
And though YouTube has taken down anime fan dubs and abridged series in the past, for the most part, anime companies were born out of fandom for the Japanese art, and thus wouldn’t bother to take down the tribute work. In a way it’s promotion. “All news is good news” as they say.
Just, some companies don’t actually say that.
When big names like Viacom get pissy and shut down our SpongeBob music videos, we respond with: “hey, if anything, my work was promoting their show. What the hell?!”
Hmm… well, take a second and try and remember that annoying kid you had in class. He was arrogant, loud, a little sexist, maybe racist… do you want him running around yelling at everyone about how good the comic you made is, or original song you recorded, or anything you’re proud of? Do you want your work to be associated with him at all?
Let’s be realistic, sometimes people just ‘don’t need your help’. And they’re entitled to take that stance. If they believe what you think is promotion is actually hurting their image, who are you to dispute it? It’s their property. If they want to be over protective, we can’t really fault them for that.
It’s just an unfortunate relationship, really. A conflict of interest. We wanna share our joy of a property in a creative way, but they wanna protect their property from the wrong impression.
Fan works can do great things for the communities surrounding a property. But they can also confuse the ignorant and potentially tarnish a brand. Often, the studio & creators of a property are cool with the fan work, while brand owners can be weary as they want to continue the success of the property they’ve sunk so much money into.
The world of web fandom is both a wonderful & unpredictable place. All we can really do is just celebrate what we love, and hope after sharing our work, no one gets pissed off.
This is a response to Matt’s column from yesterday.
Sure, Matt – George Lucas is allowed to make changes to these movies. But why should he? They were perfect when they were initially released. I’ll admit, a lot of the changes that were made for the special editions turned out okay. But, were they necessary? No. Did they improve the movie? No.
Matt argues that since Lucas is the creator, it’s his prerogative to make whatever changes he wants. I disagree with that on the basis that he’s not really the creator. He wrote and directed the first movie, and co-wrote the next two, but does that make him the creator? Sure, he came up with a lot of cool concepts – Lightsabers, Jedi, The Force, Darth Vader, The Death Star, etc.
But, how much of those concepts were actually executed by him? He came up with the name Darth Vader, but that’s just a fancy way of saying Dark Father, which is ultimately not that cool. James Earl Jones’ voice and the costume designer made that character cool. The same can be said for the lightsaber. The concept is kind of silly when you really think about it – a glowing blue sword is an effective weapon in a world of guns – but the special effects team and Ben Burt (the sound designer) make it work. Also, I think we can all agree that Han Solo is probably the coolest part of the original trilogy and that’s all Harrison Ford.
Before he makes changes to these films he should probably consult his many collaborators and co-creators. If he had to make a director’s cut, he should have at least consulted the directors. Irvin Kershner and Richard Marquand directed Empire and Jedi respectively, and it doesn’t seem like they had much say in the changes that have been made to their films.
Speaking of director’s cuts, they’re usually released as a supplement to the theatrical cut. They very rarely completely replace the original. Lucas is releasing these new versions without offering the original cut alongside them. That’s not cool. At least with the last batch of changes he had the decency of saying that they were special editions. Now, they’re being released without any hint that they’re different from their original release.
So, two days, two opposing viewpoints. Please tell Matt how wrong he is. Thank you.
P.S. You should check out this Wikipedia list of all the changes that have been made to the Saga over the years. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_changes_in_Star_Wars_re-releases