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January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)" 
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Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
H.I. McDonough wrote:
^ I went through a similar shift in movie tastes starting around mid-2001 where I started getting more into 'movies of substance'... yet, like James, my ability to enjoy the prequels also remained unaffected by it. I'll admit I pretty much lived and breathed Star Wars for much of my youth, but nowadays I'd have no problem expressing my dislike for a movie. But as skeptical as I was about the prequels, I still liked them all. Go figure. :? It seems to me that along the way people seem to have forgotten that the SW saga (including the beloved originals) were essentially just glorified Buck Rogers movies, i.e. '30s/'40s serials, albeit with state-of-the-art SFX. Acting and dialogue pretty much always took a back seat to the main narrative... hey, kinda like in SW! :P And I still say that if today's technology had been available in the mid-'70s and Lucas had been able to make the 6 movies in chronological order, TPM would've still made the same sensation as ANH did. Obviously it wouldn't have been the same movie back then, but the basic story (i.e. the most important part of SW) would've still been the same. Or maybe now SW has just gotten old hat. As I've often said, movies don't change -- times (and people) do.


Same here. The fact that Lethal Weapon was my favorite movie for most of my high school years is a good indication. I did start developing a taste for movies with more depth to them in that era thanks to Pulp Fiction and Se7en. Yet it wasn't until a few years later that the change totally took hold. I like Star Wars as much as the next person. But as a writer/director it wasn't really that much of an influence.

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Tue Jan 31, 2012 11:07 am
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Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
Part two has been posted, so let's just draw a natural conclusion from this discussion:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MK6TXMsvgQg

I feel it embodies the debate perfectly.


Tue Jan 31, 2012 11:35 am
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Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
James Berardinelli wrote:
You lost me when you mentioned having watched Eps II and III on DVD. Yes, I know, that's how most future generations will watch them. But these movies shine their brightest on the big screen. They were made for theatrical viewing. There's no bigger home video advocate than me, but Lucas made these films with the "spectacle" element firmly in mind. That's not a sin; it's part and parcel of their DNA. For better or worse, STAR WARS has always been tied to special effects, all the way back to 1977.

I have seen all of the episodes multiple times in theaters and multiple times on DVD and there's really no comparison. The space battles in Eps II and III that are eye popping and awe inspiring in a gigantic auditorium are reduced to video game outtakes on TV.

So you and I are judging two completely different products. Some movies can stand the transition from theatrical to DVD and lose nothing. Special effects, big screen spectacles are not among them.


Mr. Berardinelli, I'm curious to know how your criticism of judging the STAR WARS movies based on viewing them on DVD relates to your shifting opinion of AVATAR. Since AVATAR was made for viewing on a big screen and in 3-D, is it fair for you to downgrade your opinion of it based on disappointment when seeing it on DVD in 2-D? Weren't you in that home video screening also watching a completely different product? Thanks.


Tue Jan 31, 2012 5:04 pm
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Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
sjlips wrote:
Mr. Berardinelli, I'm curious to know how your criticism of judging the STAR WARS movies based on viewing them on DVD relates to your shifting opinion of AVATAR. Since AVATAR was made for viewing on a big screen and in 3-D, is it fair for you to downgrade your opinion of it based on disappointment when seeing it on DVD in 2-D? Weren't you in that home video screening also watching a completely different product? Thanks.


Yes, but I'm not assessing AVATAR based exclusively on a DVD screening. I have seen it twice theatrically in 3-D and only once at home (the director's extended version). The change in opinion is based more on letting it marinate.


Tue Jan 31, 2012 5:13 pm
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Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
I haven't read the whole thread due to lack of time so, excuse me if this has been addressed. But I don't think using children's lack of ability to see differently levels of quality is a poor defense for the films. You didn't give Transformers 3 stars just because the kids liked it, why should it apply to Star Wars?

I also want to point out that I'm not a Star Wars fan and I only started liking them as I got older and appreciate them as films. So I agree with the sentiment that many of the flaws that were leveled at the prequels are there in the originals. But still, I disliked the prequels a lot, and I was trying to figure out why (besides the fact they were badly made). Then I saw an interview with George Lucas in one of my Akira Kurosawa dvds, and he mentions how he loves Japanese art because of their simplicity. That I think is the key to the problem with the prequels. The originals were developed under a director who was trying to emulate Kurosawa, the prequels were created by a guy trying to make a Cecil B. DeMille movie. While the originals had simple imagery like Luke standing in front of the suns, the prequels had thousands of thousands of special effects.

Then of course, they're badly made. Lucas seemed to have lost his photographic eye. There's not a single shot in the entire prequels that stood out for me. And he was lazy, relying on dialogue like he forgot the old adage of "show don't tell". Like when Yoda turns to Obi-wan and tells him Qui-Gon Jin appeared. Huh? Why didn't we see it? What was the point of that?

And about what James said about judging a movie made for the cinema, I feel if a movie can't survive TV viewing, it's not a good movie. It's certainly a shallow movie with nothing about it other than spectacle. TV is a good judge of movie character. Lawrence of Arabia can survive on TV, same with 2001: A Space Odyssey, while Gladiator can not.


Sat May 12, 2012 10:25 am
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Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
2001 loses a lot in the transition to the small screen. It's almost not worth watching if you've seen it in 70mm.

TV is a poor measure of a film's quality. It requires a faster rate of information refresh (i.e. faster cutting) and simpler, less detailed pictures (i.e. less intricate composition). The advent of television is a big reason why most movies nowadays handle their dialogue in "talking head" sequences--simply cutting from face to face to face to face to face to face, etc. It's also a big reason why so many action movies these days are borderline incoherent, although that's more an issue of filmmakers abandoning visual/editing grammar altogether. When executives and filmmakers realized that more people would be watching their stuff on TVs than in theaters, they started purposing their movies specifically for small-screen presentation, and the big-screen presentation suffered.

2001, Citizen Kane, the Rules of the Game, the Third Man... none of them would have been made the way they are in a small-screen environment.

This was already happening when Spielberg and Scorsese were on the way up, which makes them exceptions, even in their early days. The fact that Tarantino and the Coens still cling to filmmaking standards that were already deteriorating when their parents were children is downright miraculous.


Sat May 12, 2012 3:10 pm
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Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
JayBob wrote:
And about what James said about judging a movie made for the cinema, I feel if a movie can't survive TV viewing, it's not a good movie. It's certainly a shallow movie with nothing about it other than spectacle. TV is a good judge of movie character. Lawrence of Arabia can survive on TV, same with 2001: A Space Odyssey, while Gladiator can not.


A very strange argument to make. Apparently, you're not a believer in the grandeur of cinema. Whether or not a movie can "survive" on TV is largely irrelevant. Watching LAWRENCE OF ARABIA on even a 52" or 65" screen is a shallow echo of watching it in a theater. Immersion is the key.

Take ALIENS, for example. Watched on TV, it's not that great of a movie. But watched in a theater... wow! Immersion is the key difference.

The quality of the story is not relevant to whether or not a movie translates to television. Unless it was made with a TV audience in mind (as is the case with many low budget and art films), it's not a fair litmus test. When a director is making a big budget spectacle, that's first and foremost in his mind. Take AVENGERS, for example. Do you think Joss Whedon would have made the same movie if he was focused on the concept of people watching it in their living rooms? Of course not. He would have toned down the special effects and action sequences and beefed up the dialogue and character development.

I'll repeat what I said before: judging a movie made primarily for theatrical viewing based on a "home experience" is not making a judgment of what the director intended.


Mon May 14, 2012 11:05 am
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Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
James Berardinelli wrote:
Take AVENGERS, for example. Do you think Joss Whedon would have made the same movie if he was focused on the concept of people watching it in their living rooms? Of course not. He would have toned down the special effects and action sequences and beefed up the dialogue and character development.

I'll repeat what I said before: judging a movie made primarily for theatrical viewing based on a "home experience" is not making a judgment of what the director intended.


Regarding Whedon, I came out of Cabin In The Woods (I know...he wasn't directing there but he was still a creative force behind the camera) and thought that it was a suitable echo to his previous TV fare (Buffy universe). For me it felt closer to something made for TV than made for cinema (nudity and cussing notwithstanding). Avengers was a totally different animal and definitely had more of a cinema scope to it.


Mon May 14, 2012 12:26 pm
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Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
James Berardinelli wrote:
A very strange argument to make. Apparently, you're not a believer in the grandeur of cinema. Whether or not a movie can "survive" on TV is largely irrelevant. Watching LAWRENCE OF ARABIA on even a 52" or 65" screen is a shallow echo of watching it in a theater. Immersion is the key.

Take ALIENS, for example. Watched on TV, it's not that great of a movie. But watched in a theater... wow! Immersion is the key difference.

The quality of the story is not relevant to whether or not a movie translates to television. Unless it was made with a TV audience in mind (as is the case with many low budget and art films), it's not a fair litmus test. When a director is making a big budget spectacle, that's first and foremost in his mind. Take AVENGERS, for example. Do you think Joss Whedon would have made the same movie if he was focused on the concept of people watching it in their living rooms? Of course not. He would have toned down the special effects and action sequences and beefed up the dialogue and character development.

I'll repeat what I said before: judging a movie made primarily for theatrical viewing based on a "home experience" is not making a judgment of what the director intended.


You're right, I don't believe in the concept of grandeur of cinema. To me, that's just another word for spectacle. I grew up on renting ten movies for $10 and watching them all on the weekend with friends and families. And I'm also hard of hearing so I mostly watch movies over DVD with the subtitles.

But my response to your argument is this, most people have seen those movies on TV, through DVD or VHS. Those movies you mentioned have endured because there are more to them than spectacle. It is a testament to their quality. I never saw Aliens on anything but a TV. On the other hand I did watch Gladiator on the cinema and loved it, but when watching it on TV I saw what it really was - empty spectacle. If you really believe that Aliens is not that great of a movie then why didn't your Video Views review reflect that?

If it were true that quality of these movies can only be seen on the big screen, then they would have been forgotten as quickly as any epic film like Qua Vadis or something. And don't filmmakers today take into account home viewing? I recall James Cameron saying that he liked the pan and scan version of his movies because they looked better on TV, but I could be wrong about that.


Thu May 17, 2012 6:01 am
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Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
JayBob wrote:
And don't filmmakers today take into account home viewing?


Filmmakers who make "small" movies consider home viewing very carefully when assembling their productions. Filmmakers making big blockbusters generally do not. For them, home video is an ancillary market. Peter Jackson is one of the few "big movie" directors to care enough about home video to create special editions that integrated deleted scenes.

Empty spectacle tends to be tiring and of little value. But spectacle as an element of film can be invaluable. And, if you watch a movie on a small screen, the spectacle is gone. This is not the director's vision. The balance is skewed. Sure, when he makes it, he knows it's going to show up on home video at some time, but the film is being made first and foremost with the theatrical audience in mind.

As I said, many low-budget, smaller films are now seeing home video as their primary market and are being made accordingly. There's no particular reason to see something like THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL in a theater instead of at home because there are not substantial benefits to seeing it on a larger screen. When John Madden made the film, he targeted home viewing. So if you watch that film on a TV, you're still getting the full impact of his vision. Not so with THE AVENGERS. Someone who sees that movie for the first time on TV is getting an entirely different experience from someone who sees it in a theater.

To me, it's not that different from the colorization argument. Is KING KONG colorized still a good movie? Yes. Is it representative of the filmmakers' vision? No. If the only way to see KING KONG was in a colorized version, I'd recommend watching it to get a flavor of the movie, but it is in no way a worthy replacement of seeing it in the original black-and-white.


Thu May 17, 2012 11:11 am
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Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
I rue the day that "spectacle" became a euphemism for Michael Bay nonsense.


Thu May 17, 2012 12:58 pm
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Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
Quote:
Empty spectacle tends to be tiring and of little value. But spectacle as an element of film can be invaluable. And, if you watch a movie on a small screen, the spectacle is gone. This is not the director's vision. The balance is skewed. Sure, when he makes it, he knows it's going to show up on home video at some time, but the film is being made first and foremost with the theatrical audience in mind.


I am not sure how anyone can argue against this statement as it essential a fact.The theatrical medium allows you to experience a film in a way that is not possible in television.The examples that come to mind is Blade Runner where the futuristic Los Angeles is as much a character as any of the actors and Saving Private Ryan where the Omaha Beach scene would never have the kick in the stomach impact without the immerse picture and the meticulously well done sound effects.My personal favorite is John Boorman's Excalibur.That is the first time a movie's image,sounds and music knocked me off my feet and literally swept me into Boorman's Arthurian universe.Yet when I try to watch it on DVD it is just a movie and the punch is gone.


Sat May 19, 2012 6:12 am
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Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
oakenshield32 wrote:
Quote:
Empty spectacle tends to be tiring and of little value. But spectacle as an element of film can be invaluable. And, if you watch a movie on a small screen, the spectacle is gone. This is not the director's vision. The balance is skewed. Sure, when he makes it, he knows it's going to show up on home video at some time, but the film is being made first and foremost with the theatrical audience in mind.


I am not sure how anyone can argue against this statement as it essential a fact.The theatrical medium allows you to experience a film in a way that is not possible in television.The examples that come to mind is Blade Runner where the futuristic Los Angeles is as much a character as any of the actors and Saving Private Ryan where the Omaha Beach scene would never have the kick in the stomach impact without the immerse picture and the meticulously well done sound effects.My personal favorite is John Boorman's Excalibur.That is the first time a movie's image,sounds and music knocked me off my feet and literally swept me into Boorman's Arthurian universe.Yet when I try to watch it on DVD it is just a movie and the punch is gone.


By disagreeing? :P

The Bose headphones I invested in more than recreates the sound from a cinema faithfully enough. Combined with a bit of visual trickery (darkened room, positioning the screen where it's small scale cannot be noticed) and you're part of the way there!


Sat May 19, 2012 11:52 am
Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
Unfortunately, "the rest of the way there" involves the human eye's annoying habit of using subtle cues of perspective to tell the difference between a television screen a few feet away and a considerably larger movie screen at the front of a massive auditorium. The TV screen cannot replicate the movie screen for similar reasons that the "people" in Beowulf cannot replicate real actors.


Sat May 19, 2012 2:56 pm
Post Re: January 22, 2012: "By George! Defending Lucas (Part 1)"
Ken wrote:
Unfortunately, "the rest of the way there" involves the human eye's annoying habit of using subtle cues of perspective to tell the difference between a television screen a few feet away and a considerably larger movie screen at the front of a massive auditorium. The TV screen cannot replicate the movie screen for similar reasons that the "people" in Beowulf cannot replicate real actors.


Yes it's annoying, but I spent a great deal of time positioning it for just that reason. Much like you'd position a set of speakers for the best sound balance. It's not perfect but I always appreciate the money I save :P

I actually found the motion capture Beowulf to be better than watching live action along side CGI, since it seems just beyond most people to get CGI right even these days.


Sat May 19, 2012 5:31 pm
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