I just finished watching the 2015 documentary Mifune: The Last Samurai by Oscar-winning director Steven Okazaki (streaming on Netflix). It’s very, very much worth watching. Two thumbs up.
I’m a fan of both Toshiro Mifune’s and Akira Kurosawa’s – I’ve just pulled Throne of Blood, Sanjuro, and Yojimbo from my DVD collection for rewatching – and I got a lot out of this film. But even if you’re unfamiliar with this incomparable, iconic actor, I’d recommend the documentary. It’s very accessible, and it provides great context. Without Mifune, there would have been no Magnificent Seven, no Clint Eastwood as a Man with No Name, no Star Wars.
As you may know, Mifune was George Lucas’s first choice to portray Obi-Wan Kenobi. As much as I dearly love Alec Guinness, I still ask myself, “What if?”
I’ve been thinking about indie documentaries related to Star Wars – that is, documentaries above and beyond those “making of” and “behind the scenes” documentaries available with various versions of the DVDs, my favorite of which is Empire of Dreams from 2004, or channel-specific televised specials, such as ESPN's Star Wars: Evolution of a Lightsaber Duel from 2015, which my students love – that I find enjoyable/useful.
Here are the ones that come to mind:
* Looking for Leia (in production, Kickstarter in progress)
* Elstree 1979 (in production)
* Elstree 1976 (2015)
* I Am Your Father (2015)
* The People vs. George Lucas (2010)
* A Galaxy Far, Far Away (2001)
Any recommendations for others? Thanks!
There are several discussions of Star Wars meta from different sources I want to recommend:
* On the Guardians of the Whills Rejecting the Light Side/Dark Side Discord in Their Understanding of the Force (It's canon!) Note: This also includes discussion of Qui-Gon Jinn and the so-called Gray Jedi.
* How Rogue One Subverts Asian Male Stereotypes (And Why That's Important)
* Considering Baze and Chirrut in the Context of Chinese Culture and Storytelling
Here are some of my favorite passages from the novel.
- Captain Phasma, a 5-issue comic by Delilah S. Dawson
- Leia: Princess of Alderaan, a YA novel by Claudia Gray (whose Bloodline and Lost Stars are among my favorite Star Wars novels)
- The Legends of Luke Skywalker, a novel by Ken Liu (I am most excited about this! Ken Liu? Luke Skywalker? Yes!) Ken Liu talks more about this title here. Fantastic.
I'm still having a difficult time finding the most efficient way to post images to Dreamwidth. Every option seems very clunky to me. So it goes.
Read December 2015 Reason Magazine article "Star Wars, Remixed" here.
See/hear my August 2015 Mythgard Academy guest lecture on Star Wars, "The Jedi, the Cowboy, and... Thomas Edison?" here. (This is also available via iTunes U.)
Listen to my "Looking Back on Genre History" segments on the StarShipSofa podcast about Star Wars here:
- "From Republic to Empire in Star Wars"
- "Inspirations for the Jedi in Star Wars, Part 1"
- "Inspirations for the Jedi in Star Wars, Part 2"
See my Star Wars YouTube Videos here:
- Star Wars: Does Fear Cost Us Our Liberty?
- Star Wars: Behind the History
- Star Wars: Good and Evil
Hear my interview as scholarly guest on NPR's "Talk of The Nation" national program, (May 19, 2005) here: "The End of Star Wars, But Not Its Fans
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In other news, my latest "Looking Back on Genre History" segment, which reviews five 2016 documentaries on Star Trek and Star Wars history, is up now on the latest episode of StarShipSofa. If you listen, I hope you enjoy!
But to five-year-old me, and to forty-five-year-old me, she was my first heroine.
To me, she was royalty.
I'd like to think the afterlife knows its Hamilton, and she is greeted properly:
I'm really looking forward to tackling this in my "The Force of Star Wars: Examining the Epic" course next semester. I'm expecting some great discussions with my undergrads!
I highly recommend reading the novel Catalyst by James Luceno, which is essentially the prequel to the film and directly relevant to its plot, and also the Rogue One novelization by Alexander Freed. I've quoted some of my favorite passages from the novelization that shed new light on the story here.
I also recommend the Visual Guide. My favorite revelation from the book is (mild spoilers!) that the red sash worn by both Lyra Erso and Chirrut Îmwe is known as the Red Sash of the Enlightened, marking them both as related to the Jedha sects of the Church of the Force -- not Jedi, but believers and protectors of Force knowledge in the galaxy. That fits neatly with what we already know of both characters, but I like the visual symbolism.
Last, Rebel Force Radio's brand new episode of the Star Wars Oxygen series, which explores the scores of Star Wars with music professional David W. Collins, begins an eye-opening (ear-opening?) analysis of the Rogue One score. Terrific stuff.
In other news...
Here are some interesting links I wanted to share.
- from Science Fiction Ruminations: "Three SF Short Stories Pre-1969 by Women Authors"
- from The Baltimore Sun: "Newest 'Poe Toaster' to Return for Edgar Allan Poe's Birthday Tribute"
- from The Atlantic: "The Science Fiction that Came before Science"
And in personal news..
My latest "Looking Back on Genre History" segment -- which is about Firefly, Serenity, the Frontier Thesis, and Ron Glass -- is now up here at StarShipSofa. If you listen, I hope you enjoy!
Last year I filmed some videos about Star Wars for the Learn Liberty project with the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University. Two of these went up on YouTube last year ("Star Wars: Does Fear Cost Us Our Liberty?" and "Star Wars: Behind the History"). Now the other two are available on YouTube: "Good and Evil in Star Wars" and "Warrior, Librarian, Jedi Master."
I know you.
You're wondering how I'm going to connect the topic of Star Wars Reads with Halloween. This is, after all, our Halloween countdown.
Wait for it...
Remember Cthulhu, the monstrous creation of H.P. Lovecraft first introduced in his creeptastic classic "The Call of Cthulhu" in 1928? Here is one of Lovecraft's own illustrations of his cosmic nightmare:
Fast forward fifty years from Lovecraft's "The Call of Cthulhu" in 1928 to 1978. In 1978, Alan Dean Foster published Star Wars: Splinter of the Mind's Eye, the first original full-length Star Wars novel produced after the release of the original Star Wars film, and thus one of the earliest Star Wars Expanded Universe (now Legends) works.
Guess what familiar face makes a cameo in Splinter of the Mind's Eye? I'll let you be the judge.
"A colossal statue was seated there against the dark wall. It represented a vaguely humanoid being seated on a carved throne. Leathery wings which might have been vestigial swept out in two awesome arcs to either side of the figure. Enormous claws thrust from feet and arms, the latter clinging to the ends of armrests on the throne. It had no face below slanted, accusing eyes -- only a mass of Medusian, carved tentacles."
- Alan Dean Foster, Splinter of the Mind's Eye
Here's how the statue appears in the 1996 graphic novel adaptation of Splinter of the Mind's Eye.
May this make your next session of Jedi (or Sith) meditation just a little bit more eldritch.
My stand-alone academic presentation from the con, "His Fordship in the Capitol and Big Brother in the Districts: How The Hunger Games' World of Tomorrow Builds on SF's Classic Past," is now available for free on the latest episode of StarShipSofa. If you listen, I hope you enjoy!
And here is Kaitlyn at Worldcon, her very first (but not her last!) con. Steampunk Star Wars shirt? Check. TARDIS? Check. Happy smile? Check.
Below is my schedule. I'm delighted and privileged to be on panels with some stellar folks in the SF community. Each event title links to its official description and list of participants.
Thursday, August 18
2pm: "His Fordship in the Capitol and Big Brother in the Districts: How The Hunger Games' World of Tomorrow Builds on SF's Classic Past"
This is my stand-alone academic presentation, which is part of the Campbell Conference/Academic Track.
Friday, August 19
11am: "Queer Star Wars"
This panel is part of the 40th Anniversary Star Wars Day programming.
Saturday, August 20
10am: "Alienation and Science Fiction"
I am the moderator of this panel.
12pm: "Inspiring the Creativity"
I am the moderator of this panel.
2pm: "Magazine Group Reading: Escape Artists, Inc."
8pm: The Hugo Awards
I am honored to be the official representative of Hugo nominee Tales to Terrify at this year's ceremony.
Sunday, August 21
12pm: "Criticism in Speculative Fiction"
I plan to post updates and photos on my Twitter feed.
Catch you on the flip side!
If you listen, I hope you enjoy!