STAR WARS REWIND! Returning to Jedi

Hosted by DAVID B. ANDERSON and DAVID LAWLER

Produced by DAVID LAWLER

Edited by DAVID LAWLER

RETURNING TO JEDI: A FAN DOCUMENTARY
Written and Directed by Jamie Benning

“Celluloid Heroes” by The Kinks
(Ray Davies)

“Celluloid Heroes” by Joan Jett
(Ray Davies)

© Frequent Wire, David Lawler and David B. Anderson copyright 2018 for all original vocal and audio content featuring David Anderson, David Lawler and selected guests each episode. This podcast, “STAR WARS REWIND” is not affiliated with Lucasfilm, Twentieth Century Fox, Walt Disney Studios, Buena Vista, George Lucas, or Bad Robot Productions. Any and all images, audio clips, and dialogue extracts are the property of their respective copyright owners. This blog and podcast was created for criticism, research, and is completely nonprofit, and should be considered Fair Use as stated in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. section 107. It is not an official product, and it should not be sold nor bought; this is intended for private use, and any public broadcast is not recommended. All television, film, and music clips appear under Fair Use as well.

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STAR WARS REWIND! Building Empire

David Anderson and David Lawler provide a running commentary for Jamie Benning’s stunning fan documentary, Building Empire.

Hosted by DAVID B. ANDERSON and DAVID LAWLER

Produced by DAVID LAWLER

Edited by DAVID LAWLER

BUILDING EMPIRE: A FAN DOCUMENTARY
Written and Directed by Jamie Benning

© Frequent Wire, David Lawler and David B. Anderson copyright 2018 for all original vocal and audio content featuring David Anderson, David Lawler and selected guests each episode. This podcast, “STAR WARS REWIND” is not affiliated with Lucasfilm, Twentieth Century Fox, Walt Disney Studios, Buena Vista, George Lucas, or Bad Robot Productions. Any and all images, audio clips, and dialogue extracts are the property of their respective copyright owners. This blog and podcast was created for criticism, research, and is completely nonprofit, and should be considered Fair Use as stated in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. section 107. It is not an official product, and it should not be sold nor bought; this is intended for private use, and any public broadcast is not recommended. All television, film, and music clips appear under Fair Use as well.

STAR WARS REWIND! Star Wars Begins

Happy Star Wars Day!  May the Fourth Be With You.  David Anderson and David Lawler provide a running commentary for Jamie Benning’s stunning fan documentary, Star Wars Begins.

Hosted by DAVID B. ANDERSON and DAVID LAWLER

Produced by DAVID LAWLER

Edited by DAVID LAWLER

STAR WARS BEGINS: A FAN DOCUMENTARY
Written and Directed by Jamie Benning

© Frequent Wire, David Lawler and David B. Anderson copyright 2018 for all original vocal and audio content featuring David Anderson, David Lawler and selected guests each episode. This podcast, “STAR WARS REWIND” is not affiliated with Lucasfilm, Twentieth Century Fox, Walt Disney Studios, Buena Vista, George Lucas, or Bad Robot Productions. Any and all images, audio clips, and dialogue extracts are the property of their respective copyright owners. This blog and podcast was created for criticism, research, and is completely nonprofit, and should be considered Fair Use as stated in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. section 107. It is not an official product, and it should not be sold nor bought; this is intended for private use, and any public broadcast is not recommended. All television, film, and music clips appear under Fair Use as well.

“Her Worshipfulness”

My friend and colleague, Mark Jeacoma, put up what is probably the most comprehensive yet concise list of notable deaths (I’m not talking about all the old soccer players who seem to drop dead of heart attacks every five hours) for the year 2016. In the last week alone, we’ve lost Zsa Zsa Gabor, George Michael, and the subject of this podcast, Carrie Fisher. It’s gotten so bad of late, we put together dead-pool lists. Who will kick the bucket next? We got our answer the very next day.

Carrie Frances Fisher (October 21, 1956 [fellow Libra] – December 27, 2016) was (oh wow, she was) an American actress, screenwriter, author, producer, and a public speaker. She was known for playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars films. Fisher was also known for her semi-autobiographical novels, including Postcards from the Edge and the screenplay for the film of the same name, as well as her autobiographical one-woman play and its nonfiction book, Wishful Drinking, based on the show.

Her other film roles included Shampoo (1975) [I remember her immortal, infamous line, “Wanna fuck?”], The Blues Brothers (1980), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) [She played the treacherous April who steals Dianne Wiest’s boyfriend played by Sam Waterston], The ‘Burbs (1989) [great movie, one of my favorites – “This is Walter!”], and When Harry Met Sally… (1989) [I only vaguely remember that movie, even though it was a big hit – I always thought of it as a rip-off of Annie Hall].

I was thinking about the role George Lucas wrote: Princess Leia. Stronger actresses like Sissy Spacek and Amy Irving read for the part – he wanted Carrie for her baby-face and Hollywood royalty currency, but it’s hard for me to say, she was a stronger actress in her youth, aside from a couple of good performances later on. Sissy Spacek and Amy Irving would’ve killed the part; they would’ve been too confident, I think. She brought a lot of strength and vulnerability to the part in the first two movies, Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back.

Mary Frances “Debbie” Reynolds (April 1, 1932 – December 28, 2016) was an American actress, singer, businesswoman, film historian, and humanitarian. Her breakout role was the portrayal of Helen Kane in the 1950 film Three Little Words, for which she was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer. However, it was her first leading role in 1952 at age 19, as Kathy Selden in Singin’ in the Rain, that set her on the path to fame. By the mid-1950s, she was a major star. Other notable successes include The Affairs of Dobie Gillis (1953), Susan Slept Here (1954), Bundle of Joy (1956 Golden Globe nomination), The Catered Affair (1956 National Board of Review Best Supporting Actress Winner), and Tammy and the Bachelor (1957), in which her rendering of the song “Tammy” reached number one on the music charts. In 1959, she released her first pop music album, entitled Debbie.

Carrie Fisher (1956-2016)
Debbie Reynolds (1932-2016)

Vintage Cable Box: Never Say Never Again, 1983

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“Never again.”

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Never Say Never Again, 1983 (Sean Connery), Warner Bros.

James Bond is not a character that exists for any particular generation; though different generations will banter back-and-forth about which actor gave the strongest performance as Great Britain’s most famous Military Intelligence operative. It’s like Coke and Pepsi. Dick York and Dick Sargent? Original or Extra Crispy? David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar? Sean Connery or Roger Moore? As a matter of fact, in Ian Fleming’s original concept for the character, he envisioned someone who bore his own resemblance. A bit of wish fulfillment, perhaps? 1983 was an unusual year for our favorite secret agent in that we had two movies, Octopussy and Never Say Never Again, made by different production companies and starring Moore and Connery. Ultimately, as box receipts indicate, there was very little difference in their respective appeal. Octopussy earned $183 million worldwide, compared to Never Say Never Again’s paltry $160 million*.

Essentially a remake of Thunderball, but updated to accommodate Connery’s advanced years, Never Say Never Again came about because Kevin McClory (one of Thunderball’s writers) retained the rights to the film after a dispute with fellow writers Jack Whittingham and creator Ian Fleming. This left Thunderball as the only existing Bond property to not be owned outright by Fleming or “Cubby” Broccoli’s Eon Productions. Bond is compelled by his employers to spend time in physical rehabilitations after failing a wargame simulation. While there, and after bedding down one of his nurses, he spies (he can’t help it) a masochistic therapist, Fatima Blush (Barbara Carrera) dispensing a little more than medicine to a US Air Force pilot (Gavan O’Herlihy), whom she is using to circumvent the President’s security clearance in order to obtain two nuclear warheads, which SPECTRE will use to wreak havoc with NATO. Bond tracks the warheads to the Bahamas, where he runs afoul of oddball villain Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer) while romancing Largo’s lover, Domino (Kim Basinger), who also happens to be O’Herlihy’s sister.

Bond beds Blush, who then betrays him to sharks while scuba diving. Thankfully, sharks don’t know how to open doors in underwater ships. Largo is a little nutty. He challenges Bond to a unusual, but interesting looking three-dimensional video game that utlizes nuclear missile to neutralize their targets. The loser donates proceeds to a children’s charity. Bond always seems to get the upper hand in these games, and he cleans Largo out. Largo captures Bond (and Domino) after Bond tells her the truth about what happened to her brother. He locks Bond in a North African dungeon and ties Domino to a post to sell her to Arabs on horseback. Like I said, he’s a little nutty. Bond escapes his binds with a laser-shooting wristwatch (how come they never frisk him?) and rescues Domino, who avenges her brother’s death (with a well-aimed harpoon) before Largo can arm his warheads.

It’s a fairly simple story, complicated by numerous distraction; those being the women in the film, who serve as impediments (if you choose to designate them as such) to Bond’s goals. Kershner (as he did with The Empire Strikes Back) emphasizes performances over action set-pieces, but his camera always finds interesting places to shoot. Connery’s Bond is more menacing, predatory, and pragmatic than Moore’s civilized charm and manners. The Blofeld character (popularized by Donald Pleasance and Telly Savalas, and more recently Christoph Waltz) is minimalized here, but played very well in this movie by Max Von Sydow. The real villains in this piece are Brandauer and Carrera. Brandauer is a curiousity. He plays his scenes with a child-like glee, keeping everybody around subtly off-balance. He looks like he’s always on the verge of snapping.

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Now we come to the inevitable comparisons. Watching both movies (Octopussy and Never Say Never Again) with my wife, she told me she preferred the Connery movie, because the story was more contained, less expansive, and less tedious than Octopussy. I disagree. While expertly photographed and edited, this is a less cultured Bond, and there seem to be fewer locations and less color than Octopussy. Indeed, the movie is even shot, edited, and paced like one of Connery’s early Bond efforts. When I tune into a James Bond film, I expect exotic locations, beautiful women, and great action sequences, and while Never Say Never Again definitely delivers those elements, it doesn’t deliver enough of them. It’s as if the producers expected only to secure Connery’s involvement and not much else, but it is interesting to speculate (based on this movie) how the Bond series would’ve continued with Connery playing the character. That being said, I’m glad Connery retired when he did. Where Moore was a bit stuffy, Connery is smug and (somewhat) unlikeable, regardless of how many creepily young women he beds in this movie. Also, the film feels naked without the signature (and trademarked) John Barry theme music and credit sequence.

* sarcasm

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month.  Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.

VINTAGE CABLE BOX: “The Big Chill”, 1983

New VCB Logo

“Amazing tradition. They throw a great party for you on the one day they know you can’t come.”

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The Big Chill , 1983 (Kevin Kline), Columbia Pictures

It’s bizarre and more than a little morose when I think about the fact that I am older than the central characters in Lawrence Kasdan’s classic coming-to-terms-with-things epic, The Big Chill. All in their mid-thirties, more than a few of them established and respected pillars of their respective communities (except rebel-boy Nick), they reunite for the weekend in South Carolina after the suicide of their friend, Alex (Kevin Costner, not appearing in this film). Kasdan made a name for himself, penning screenplays like The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark. His first film as director was the brilliant film-noir spoof, Body Heat starring William Hurt and Kathleen Turner.

The Big Chill is a movie that resonates with a different age group – that of our parents, the “Baby-Boomers”, children of the war and the “Greatest Generation”; those who turned their backs on what they perceived was a mindless emphasis on patriotism, imperialism, and consumerism (lots of -isms). As they grew into adulthood, they chose an uncomplicated path to self-destruction through drugs and the concept of free-love because they saw those same failings in themselves. A good portion of The Big Chill fixates on this idea. This is where my conflict comes in. I’m the product of a lost generation: the children of the “boomers” who don’t relate to these internalized conflicts, because we’ve nurtured apathy and despair and saw the hypocrisy in our parents long before they did. I’m sorry, this is getting preachy.

The cast of this movie is exceptional. Kevin Kline is Harold, a successful businessman. Glenn Close is his long-suffering wife, Sarah (who once had an affair with Alex). Handsome Tom Berenger is Sam, a television star. JoBeth Williams is bored housewife, Karen. William Hurt is the aforementioned rebel-boy, Nick. Jeff Goldblum is Michael, a writer for People magazine (who once published a hatchet-job on Sam), obviously a stand-in for Kasdan. Mary Kay Place is a successful attorney, unlucky in love. Meg Tilly is Alex’s much-younger girlfriend, Chloe. Shot in a real house in Beaufort, the cast lived together for several weeks before shooting commenced, which explains their unbelievably easy chemistry and mutual affection.

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Kline and Hurt’s characters are disillusioned in their adulthood. Berenger is clingy after his recent divorce. Goldblum is looking to scam his friends out of money so he can open a nightclub. Mary Kay Place wants to have a baby. JoBeth secretly loves Berenger and wants out of her dead-end marriage to boring, dependable Richard. Glenn Close is the emotional center of the group, weeping for Alex. Meg Tilly’s Chloe is the innocent; blissfully ignorant of the group’s woe.

Because these characters tend to run together with their fears and motivations, Chloe is the one truly unique person under this roof. She is sensitive and idealistic, but also lazy and giggly. Chloe is a part of her own lost generation, not quite old enough and not quite young enough. It’s only logical she connects the most with Hurt’s disaffected Nick, because he seems to be closest analog to the mysterious Alex. Alex is another matter entirely. Completely missing (even in spirit) from the film, he appears to be the glue that held this little community together, and without his gentle sway, everything falls apart.

It’s interesting in that I was eleven years old watching this movie (this is a movie explicitly not made for me) for the first time with my mother, who laughed at every joke, and cried at every somber moment, instantly identifying with these characters. The reason I enjoyed the movie had more to do with the very witty dialogue and what’s more, I appreciated the friendships, the connections, and the warmth of the performances. When I watch the movie now, I still think I’m a kid and couldn’t possibly understand the dilemmas of The Big Chill even though I’m much older than I’m younger than that now.

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month.  Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.

“May The Fourth Be With You”

May-The-Fourth-Be-With-You

Star Wars was released 38 years ago, May 24th 1977, and tonight is affectionately known as Star Wars Day, and this is hilarious, on the Wikipedia Star Wars Day is defined as … an unofficial secular
holiday in May which celebrates the Star Wars franchise created by George Lucas. It is observed by fans of the movies. Observance of the holiday spread quickly due to Internet, social media, and grassroots celebrations.

We here at BlissVille thought it only fitting to celebrate the movies, the first three, or rather the middle three – episodes IV, V, and VI, the original Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of
the Jedi. The movies are not only wildly successful science-fiction space operas filled with thrills, chills, and a half-naked Carrie Fisher, but touchstones, incredibly monstrous cultural phenomena, so
this will be a rather large, a super-sized episode.

One additional note: I thought rather than regurgitate the stories, I mean everybody knows the stories as written, performed, photographed, and edited, I wanted to talk about possible permutations and theories and ruminations of the original trilogy. Maybe next year, I’ll do the prequels. But tonight, we have Andrew La Ganke and later on, Mark Jeacoma to contribute.