Friday, March 27, 2015

Rattling In My Brain Pan: The Nostalgia Circuit

I've been reminiscing with Joel how, back in '77 between viewings of Star Wars, I'd mull over the little visual garnishes George Lucas and Ralph McQuarrie lavished on that movie. Like this turrety thing -- I don't think it had more than 15 seconds of screen-time, but that was more than enough to spin the wheels of a 12-year-old's imagination throughout the weeks and months that buffered visits to the cinema in the shabby end of town. What the heck was that thing? Why was one Storm Trooper in white, the other in black? Were the black Storm Troopers even more bad-ass than the regulars? Etc.

The creative relationship between Lucas and McQuarrie was long and productive (longer and more productive, alas, than George's marriage to Marcia, who was almost certainly his best editor), and did more to get bums in seats for the increasingly dismal sequels that followed. In hindsight, the movie trailers that preceded these dud spectacles are finally the most potent distillation of what the Lucas/McQuarrie collaboration did best: suggest something fabulous up ahead. Once the lines got filled in with plot and exposition, the magic disappeared.

Which leads me to this week's discovery, via Boing Boing, of this fan's hand-drawn Star Wars animation short.
With fab poster!
Artist Paul Johnson produces a stunning mash-up of '80s anime and Star Wars, which, with its attention to detail and its absence of wooden dialog, perfectly captures what's been missing from this movie franchise: the suggestion, and formative exploration, of unplumbed depths and drama.

Matters Star Trek: over at Grantland Dave Schilling wonders if Idris Elba mightn't save Star Trek 3 from self-destructing -- a question that strikes me as so wrong-headed, I hardly know where to begin addressing it. Look, Elba is a beautiful man and terrific actor -- but so is Benedict Cumberbatch, and his best efforts did little to save the second movie from its compound defects. The most accomplished actor in the world can't take a dud role and pull an entire movie up by its bootstraps. And if you think Elba is the exception to the rule, just watch his thankless turn in Prometheus.
"I'll let my flaming little buddy here do all the emoting."
I've changed my tune somewhat on this business of "saving" Star Trek (as I am prone to do). We have a bold new look, and a brave new timeline -- now's the time to launch a corresponding television series, focusing perhaps on the crew of the USS Defiant, or some other Constitution-class starship, so that personnel from the Enterprise can drop by for the occasional tie-in episode. Because doncha know: Star Trek has been, and always will be, a concept that works best as television.

Admiral Archer is ready for his close-up.
And finally, UHF -- the only Weird Al Yankovic feature-length movie ever made, turns 25 this year. The AV Club provides an epic (and how!) oral history of the film. I found it all engaging, but if it's too much for the casual reader, just skim to the (dependably entertaining) Emo Philips bits. Example:

Interviewer: How did [real-life shops teacher Joe Earley] feel about your portrayal of his . . . name?

Philips: Well, you know, how would Alexander Graham Bell have felt if he had met Don Ameche? I'm assuming very flattered.


Joel said...

I agree with you: the idea that any one celebrity actor could save Star Trek is pretty laughable. Especially when he's just being cast as the villain. The villain's main role is just to provide antagonism and conflict against which the main characters must struggle.

I could be wrong on this, but at the moment I can't think of any movies where the villain was the only redeemable thing about the movie, and the movie was still good. A good villain can increase an already good movie, but I don't think it can make a good movie from nothing.

What's more, there's nothing inherently wrong with the cast as it currently stands. They're all competent enough actors. (Some of them, like Simon Pegg, have done some really fantastic work outside of Star Trek, so we know they can act).
They just need a really good script and direction--not more famous actors.

(All that being said, Idris Elba is really cool. He won't do the series any harm, that's for sure.)

And I agree, Star Trek works best as a TV series.

Darrell Reimer said...

I'm impressed with the entire cast, frankly -- I can't think of a single weak link, and they've all done good, interesting work elsewhere. A TV show where John Cho or Anton Yelchin make the occasional brief cameo would be viewer gold. Do it with enough panache and I suspect even Simon Pegg would jump at deeper involvement.