OBSESSIVE NOTE: Last weekend The Obsessive Viewer Podcast team met in Evansville, Indiana for one of our own’s Bachelor Party. The Bachelor Party included a private screening of the original Star Wars trilogy. It was a great experience and I asked Mike and Tiny to write up their thoughts on the weekend. Read our thoughts below and be sure […]
OBSESSIVE NOTE: Last weekend The Obsessive Viewer Podcast team met in Evansville, Indiana for one of our own’s Bachelor Party. The Bachelor Party included a private screening of the original Star Wars trilogy. It was a great experience and I asked Mike and Tiny to write up their thoughts on the weekend. Read our thoughts below and be sure to follow Mike and Tiny on Twitter at @IAmMikeWhite and @ObsessiveTiny.
I’ve written about Star Wars before, and I’ve watched The Trilogy in one sitting before, but to celebrate my bachelor party last Saturday, September 14, 2013, my friends and I experienced all three original Star Wars movies in a theater. It was one of the best experiences of my life, and one of the most memorable viewings of Star Wars that I can remember (second only to my first viewing ever.)
I had no idea what to expect as the 14 of my closest friends arrived at my house on Saturday morning. I had asked one of the groomsmen, Jake, a former roommate, to be my “Evansville best man.” (My brother is the actual best man, but lives in Phoenix.) The “Evansville best man” would be in charge of the bachelor party, and making sure the Evansville wedding party members had their suits ready to go. As the 14 men piled into three cars, one of them mentioned to me that we needed to stop at CVS to pick up some snacks for the movie. Upon inquiring which movie we would be watching, I was told Insidious: Chapter 2 would be the bachelor party kick-off. This would have sufficed, and I was excited.
As soon as we entered the Showplace Cinema East, and passed the ticket taker with a nod and a wave, I knew strange things were afoot. At the door, outside of the theater, the tiny marquee indicating the movie and show time for that particular screen was blank. I knew immediately we were not going to see Insidious. I was fine with that.
Inside the theater, my friends were the only people seated, and there was a spot saved next to my brother. I sat down of course, and with a nod from Jake to the theater attendant, the lights came down. On the screen were the words in bright-glowing blue “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….” (Don’t forget the ellipses plus 1!) From behind, two (toy) lightsabers were ignited and crossed over my shoulders in front of my face. It was one of the coolest surprises I’d ever experienced. Jake turned to me and whispered, “by the way, we’re watching the whole trilogy.”
It was only the second time I’d ever watched the entire trilogy, but to guess how many times I’d watched each individual movie would be impossible. Of the things that defined my early childhood, Star Wars was not necessarily one of them. I loved the Chicago Bears and the Ninja Turtles, but my parents never introduced me to Star Wars. When I was eight, my family moved out of the city to Aurora, IL where I met a friend, Fred, whose childhood definitely was defined by Star Wars. He had three older sisters who were fantastically stranger than anyone I’d ever met, (seriously, who names a ferret Joxer?) and I spent as much time at Fred’s house as possible making myself at home in this world of sci-fi and fantasy. Fred introduced to me, first, the Star Wars trading card game. I collected for a time, but he always beat me so handily, that I had trouble enjoying the game. I eventually watched the movies; Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back at home, and Return of the Jedi with Fred.
It wasn’t truly until the Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope Special Edition was released in theaters in 1997 that I would call myself a fan. My dad took my brother and me to the local theater, and I left changed forever. I collected toys, video games, more cards and Wizard Magazines. I saw all three re-releases in theaters, and collected almost every series one figure from Episode I before the movie even hit the screen.
The list of my hobbies is almost laughably long, and definitely laughably geeky. I have way more superhero action figures than a man on the wrong side of 25 should have, and my fiancée had to give me a special place in the house for all of my comic books. Over time, to make room in my life for different hobbies, I’ve had to alter or cut back on other interests. More than anything, however, perhaps second only to the Chicago Bears, my interest in Star Wars has remained unchanged. I wouldn’t know who I was if not the first person in Corydon, IN to purchase a ticket to Revenge of the Sithback in 2005. It’s 2013, and as an adult mere weeks away from getting married, I now look forward to two very specific things. One is that J.J. Abrams will direct Star Wars Episode VII. The other is that one day I will be able to show my kids Star Wars. Don’t ask me which is more important.
I’m not sure if Jake knew the whole story, or exactly why his bachelor party surprise was so awesome. I thanked him for the good time of course, and all the other guys who came, but what he really gave me was more than that. He reminded me of how amazing the movie theater experience was. He reminded me that watching Star Wars, or any favorite movie, is always better with your closest friends. Finally, and perhaps best of all, he reminded me that a bachelor party is not about getting plastered, waking up with a tiger in the bathroom and leaving your single life behind. It’s about remembering who you were for a time and that some of the best things never change.
I recently watched the remastered versions of Star Wars with some friends. We rented out a theater for Mike White’s bachelor party and watched the whole trilogy in one sitting (Whoa, whoa, whoa one at a time, ladies!). We had to use blu-rays with the theater’s equipment, so we had no choice but to watch the remastered versions. I had only seen the remastered version of A New Hope and swore I’d never watch the others after that. So this was my first time seeing the remastered sequels.
Edward Hopper painted “Nighthawks” in 1942. This is arguably the most famous American painting of the 20th century and Edward Hopper is arguably America’s greatest painter. The picture shows patrons at a diner late at night. So imagine you walk into the Art Institute of Chicago, where the painting is kept, and make your way to where it’s located. When you finally set eyes on “Nighthawks” you notice that it has been replaced by a digital printout. When you ask the curator what the deal is, they tell you that current technology can make the painting look better, so they covered up the old canvas … yeah, you would be a little upset wouldn’t you?
The most egregious examples of these remastered scenes are the ones that actually cover-up old scenes. In particular, in Return of the Jedi there’s a scene in Jabba’s castle where some alien creature is singing a song with the band and Jabba throws his “pet” into the rancor pit. In the original film the singing alien creature and the band were detailed, life-like puppets. It was a great looking scene. The remastered version of RotJ replaces those impressively designed puppets with an all CGI band, and even a new song! Is George Lucas kidding?
Can you imagine how offended those puppeteers must be? They spent their time and creative capital to make some beautiful art for his movie, but as soon as technology allows it George Lucas covers their art up with some 1s and 0s. I’ve heard the argument “these are George Lucas’ films and he can do what he wants with them.”, which is true. However, I seriously doubt he sat down and built those puppets himself. He covered up someone else’s art; that is just wrong.
I will say, some of the added scenes I had no issue with. The extra scene where Han Solo talks to Jabba the Hut in A New Hope was a lot of fun. I realize I’m being hypocritical because some actor was giving a performance as Jabba the Hut in that scene who has now been covered up, but it would’ve ruined the continuity of the character had they left his performance in. Or, maybe I’m just a hypocrite.
I also liked some of the added celebration scenes at the end of RotJ. The falling statue of Emperor Palpatine on Coruscant was particularly fun to see. So, I don’t have an issue with enhancing older films with things like that (especially when dealing with a franchise that spanned 30 years and vast advances in film technology), but I don’t think an artist should have his/her art removed from a piece.
In the end, I had such a good time watching the trilogy with some really cool people that I didn’t necessarily care what we watched. I had always wanted to watch Star Wars with some nerds Mystery Science Theater 3000 style. I had a blast riffing and joking with Mike’s friends in the theater. Some of my questions about Star Wars were answered, and some jokes were laughed at. What more can you ask for?
We started this blog and this podcast because we love movies. People love movies for so many reasons. We love to see action heroes jump off buildings, we love being challenged by an intricate plot, we love laughing at silly jokes, and we love sharing those experiences with our pals. That’s exactly what we got last weekend, and I’ll probably never forget it … unless George Lucas tries to replace the memories in my brain, or something.
I should be upfront. If you listen to the podcast (most notably our early, audio quality compromised, Controversial Opinions episode) you’ll know that I am not a big fan of the Star Wars franchise. By all accounts, I should gravitate toward these movies. I’m a big fan of science fiction. In particular, I love space epics. The concept of space travel fascinates me and is something my mind often wanders to and romanticizes. So why don’t I like Star Wars?
My go-to reason for my lack of an attachment to the franchise that captivates a large majority of the people I know is simply due to me seeing them for the first time at an older age than most. It wasn’t until I was in high school and rented the VHS copies of the trilogy from the library that I watched them all for the first time. It’s shocking, maybe even appalling, but it is the truth. I have always felt my detachment was due to a lack of childlike wonder. By the time I saw the movies, I viewed them as films rather than experiences.
It wasn’t like I didn’t have an opportunity to see them at a young age. I had plenty of chances. In fact, one of my earliest memories is of bins filled with Star Wars toys that my mother had collected when the franchise was at its most popular. I distinctly remember listening to a cassette that presented R2D2 and C-3PO’s storyline from A New Hope in the form of a serialized radio program. I remember there being a kid’s paperback book with pictures meant to be viewed concurrently with the radio play.
I even remember my first time ever watching Episode IV. In the early 90s (when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade) my family lived in Ohio. Our neighbor was a doctor who had a profound obsession with Star Wars. Every Halloween he would dress as Darth Vadar, his house was adorned with action figures, scale models and every other kind of collectible you can imagine. Dr. Anderson was my introduction to the nerd culture I would eventually come to embrace.
My sister and I would often to spend time in the Anderson’s apartment playing with their dogs Casper and Geordi while my parent’s were at work. Their living room had a state-of-the-art (at the time) home theater system and one day Dr. Anderson introduced us to Star Wars.
That day was a milestone for me as it was the first memory I have of my mind’s absurd obsession with chronology. From the opening scroll of A New Hope, I thumbed my nose at the idea of a franchise beginning with the “4th” movie. I turned away in disappointment, wondering how anyone could be okay with coming into a series halfway through the story.
Over the years, Star Wars evaded me. I didn’t have any real desire to see it until high school and even that was partially out of a feeling of necessity. I watched it at a time when I was viewing as many movies as I could get my hands on. I watched everything from the classics of Kurosawa to Rambo and Indiana Jones. Until I finally watched Star Wars on VHS on a small TV in the middle of a school day that I was home sick on.
I eventually bought them and then soon grew to resent George Lucas for forcing Hayden Christensen into my Return of the Jedi DVD. I learned to appreciate the movies for their historical significance and importance to film, the film industry and filmmaking in general. I would watch my DVDs every now and again, I played The Phantom Menace tie-in video game on PlayStation until the disc became unplayable and I even saw Revenge of the Sith in the theater and enjoyed it. But I never felt that deep emotional connection to the story and the characters that everyone else did.
Fast forward to last Saturday. It was a very unique experience for a variety of reasons. For starters, Mike and Tiny had previously never met in person. We record the podcast over the internet using Skype and Garageband, and therefore have no need to meet in person each week. This was a big event in and of itself considering they are two of my closest friends.
The bachelor party was also a very unique and memorable experience. A group of over a dozen of Mike’s friends gathered in Evansville and celebrated the end of his bachelorhood by renting a theater and having a private screening of the original Star Wars trilogy. 15 guys, 7+ hours, several pizzas and sodas all contributed toward one of the most memorable theater experiences I’ve had in a year stacked with memorable theater experiences (2001: A Space Odyssey, Jurassic Park, Pulp Fiction to name a few).
Despite my aversion to the Force of this iconic trilogy, I was extremely excited for this day. I knew I was going to have a great time with great people regardless of how I felt about what we watched. Despite that confidence, I still made the decision not to view these movies as strictly science fiction films. It had been a while since I last watched them and this time I made a conscious effort not to hold them to one specific genre.
This time, the Star Wars trilogy was about adventure and redemption in the chaotic battle of good versus evil and the importance of true friendship. Above all, it was about the experience of seeing these iconic works (however altered they may be) on the big screen with a group of close (and some new) friends as we celebrated one of our own’s “ewok” into married life with the woman who inhabits the forest moon of his heart.
I would be lying if I said the Star Wars trilogy immediately “clicked” for me this time. Or that I immediately understood the fandom, the diehard devotion and the almost religious experience that goes hand in hand with viewing these films. But I can tell you that the trilogy, with all its themes of friendship and the triumph of good people in a universe that so needs it, has never resonated with me more than it did while honoring a dear friend and the commitment he is about to make.
I really enjoyed reading this post and the different opinions regarding Star Wars. I was a huge fan of the original Star Wars trilogy growing up and remain a fan today. I still enjoy watching the three films, mainly because they bring back a lot of nostalgia from when I was a kid. From ages 5 to 12 I was pretty much obsessed with the characters and the world and collecting all the action figures, etc. There was something truly magical about these films when I was young and along with Jurassic Park, Back to the Future, and Indiana Jones, they spawned my love of cinema and stories in general. I still find that there is a sense of fun and adventure in the original trilogy that we don’t see too often in big budget films these days, specially in the wake of The Dark Knight where everything has to be dark and gritty. Even as an adult, I am always impressed the amount of creativity and imagination that went into creating these films. They were ahead of their time in many ways.
On a side note, I liked the example using Edward Hoppers “Nighthawks.” It’s actually one of my favorite paintings and I have a copy hanging on the wall in the hallway of my apartment.
Thanks for the comment, Frank! And thanks for sharing. For me, I’ve always wondered what my life would be like if I had connected to Star Wars at a young age. For the longest time I wrote the franchise off because I thought I was too old. What Mike’s bachelor party proved was that it’s never actually too late to appreciate something great.
In addition to appreciating your thoughts in these posts, I am also wondering: how did you get permission to screen these films in a private screening in a theater? Doesn’t Lucasfilm control their distribution fairly strictly? I ask because I have been wanting to have a local event involving a private screening of one of the prequels and am not sure how to go about pursuing this.
Thanks for the comment! We simply screened the blurays one of us owned. Legally speaking, we simply paid for the space to screen them. Since we didn’t make a profit off of the screening by charging people admission, it was all on the up and up.
Hosting screenings for a paying audience is something I’m actually interested in as well. What I suggest doing is finding local venues and screenings and contact the people there with your questions. For instance, here in Indianapolis, the art museum screens movies twice a year. I’m planning on contacting them to figure out the legal side of things soon.
Thanks for reading.