Films featuring
Carrie Fisher

The Return of the Jedi

The wrap-up to the first trilogy (chronologically, not narratively) should have served as a warning of the pain we were to endure upon the release of the prequels twenty years later. All of the flaws that dogged episodes I through III were visible in Episode VI for anyone who cared to look.

Of course, back then we simply assumed that it was George Lucas unable to top the success of The Empire Strikes Back. Maybe he hired the wrong director in Richard Marquand or, as we have often seen in the case of movie trilogies, the filmmakers can’t always write an ending that lives up to the promise of what’s gone before.

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The Empire Strikes Back

Why, you stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerf herder.

While the 1977 original may have launched the Star Wars phenomenon, I would make the case that this film was responsible for creating the enduring franchise. Had The Empire Strikes Back fallen flat on its face, had it not been, in many eyes, a superior film to the original (or equal in quality at the very worst), there would have been no special editions, no prequels, no Disney sale, and no one would be talking about whether J. J. Abrams wants to direct a seventh film.

I think the strength of this film lies in one simple fact. This is Darth Vader’s movie, more than any other in the franchise. Continue reading

Star Wars

Luke's just not a farmer, Owen. He has too much of his father in him.

Looking back on it from more than 30 years, it’s hard to imagine a time when Star Wars did not permeate our culture. It informs both our popular arts as well as high-level policy debate during the Cold War. It rewrote the rules of summer movies only two years after Jaws wrote them in the first place. This one movie took merchandising from a tidy little sideline to a stratospheric cash cow for Hollywood.

In short, a little movie made for less than $10 million, of which the studio thought so little that they willingly parted with all the ancillary rights that studios normally hang on to until hell freezes over, ended up being the greatest single act of creative destruction in the history of the business since The Jazz Singer. After Star Wars, the artistically ambitious films that were a hallmark of the early-to-mid-seventies were shuffled off to the independent filmmakers, while Hollywood became a factory for blockbusters.

At this juncture, it’s pointless to review this movie like I would a “normal” film, other than to offer my conjecture on why this little movie worked like no other movie before it and few since. And yes, I’m calling it Star Wars, not Episode IV or A New Hope. The movie that hit theaters in 1977 was called Star Wars, so that is the name of the movie.

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The Aristocrats

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The Aristocrats is literally a one-joke movie, but unlike a lot of lame comedies out there, this time it’s intentional. What we have here is a 90-minute dissection of what is allegedly the world’s filthiest joke. What’s most interesting about The Joke is that it’s not really funny. At least, the punchline is a total anti-climax compared to what has gone before.

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The Blues Brothers

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Regardless of whether or not I like the movie, The Blues Brothers has something serious to answer for. This is probably the film that convinced movie producers that sketch characters from Saturday Night Live could be successfully translated into movies. Therefore “Joliet” Jake and Elwood have to shoulder part of the blame for travesties like A Night at the Roxbury and It’s Pat.

The problem is that the Blues Brothers weren’t sketch characters. They didn’t have a catch phrase and their only “schtick” was a genuine respect for the music that they covered. This gave screenwriters Dan Aykroyd and John Landis the freedom to craft an actual story around the characters. If the story is a little too slight to support two hours and thirteen minutes of running time, that doesn’t matter too much. Like their Blues Brothers appearances on SNL, this movie is mostly about the music.

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