“Curses! Birdman Is More Powerful Than I Expected!”

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

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“How did we end up here? This place is horrible! Smells like balls” – Riggan Thomson. 

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Not exactly, but it just swooped down from nowhere, winning critics’ hearts, rallying cinema-goers back into the popcorn parlours and even revitalising ol’ Batman’s career, before flying off again with no less than four Oscars in its clutches. Grand Budapest Hotel got four as well, but this one’s haul was more prestigious.

Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is the sensational black comedy drama from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu which fully deserved the Best Picture and Best Director Oscars respectively. It stars Michael Keaton as washed-up thesp Riggan Thomson, who is famous only for all three Birdman blockbusters, but they happened twenty years ago. Desperate to produce something intellectual and more fulfilling, he produces his own unlikely adaptation of a Raymond Carver drama on Broadway.  

Having already covered superhero movies here and here, it seems only fair to cover this movie. Besides the fact that Birdman makes for a truly awesome viewing experience, it latches onto the current overwhelming fad for superhero movies, but lets off a few gripes at this inescapable blockbuster genre at the expense of more potentially artistic and cerebral cinematic fare. Most tellingly, it managed to produce something refreshingly unlike other stuff hitting our screens these days…

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“Do not go to Birdman to relax. It stars Michael Keaton, who has always behaved onscreen as if he [had] a raging mosquito bite somewhere on his person but could not quite locate it… The Bat-Mantle has rested uneasily on Keaton’s shoulders ever since” – newyorker.com/magazine/   

The script is clever enough – there were quite a few engaging one-liners and two-way spats. A clever symbolic illustration of Riggan’s mental downfall is reflected in having the deep and menacing voice of the Birdman alter ego goading the actor as he broods in his dressing room.

Special mention goes to Edward Norton, as Mike Shiner – a dependable, but conceited, oaf of an actor. Talk about wanting to get noticed – he even comes out with snazzy lil gems such as: “Popularity is the slutty little cousin of prestige,” just on the off-chance that it’ll get quoted by Bradscribe! Close, but no bold font, bud… 

Equally impressive is Emma Stone’s gutsy performance as Sam, Riggan’s daughter/PA. Particularly affecting is her wailing diatribe about her father’s need to be relevant, and the rooftop exchanges with Shiner (Norton). 

Heck, not only is Birdman a cynical retort to celebrity and comicbook movies, but it reveals a weirdly compelling soap opera set backstage in a Broadway theatre. The much-heralded “flying scene” is made extra-special with the use of Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No.2 in E Minor Op. 27. Reassuringly, it is an exuberant reminder of what modern cinema can – and should – produce.

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“And I thought the ego is a tyrant, and I thought that would be a cool thing to portray in a film” – Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.

Having departed the UK a few days after Birdman’s release on Boxing Day, shockingly it would not get released in Thailand until the beginning of February – what a dilemma!

These last few mad and delirious days have been spent in the fabulous Garden City of Singapore, where there is a greater choice of big screen delights to catch up with. You wouldn’t believe it, but on my first night, the first two cinemas checked out DID NOT show Birdman!! Come on! Where’s the respect for Oscar winners, already?! How is this Post going to get done?! Got Followers waiting – nay, crying out – for my comments on this brilliant exposition of acting and celebrity in the Facebook/Twitter Age.

It’s been good to be back in Singapore again; it is humid, hospitable, offers a more eclectic variety of movies at its numerous cineplexes… and doesn’t smell of balls… 

Apart from the costumed Birdman spouting into the camera that cinema-goers these days “crave this shit, they love blood. They love action,” it must be said that there is another demographic who crave something different and refreshing. Innaritu’s Birdman could not have come at a more opportune time. Talky? It’s well-written material, especially the jibe about Jeremy Renner and “his cape.” Depressing? We are on an uneasy ride through Riggan’s own mental turmoil. No matter how troubling these scenes may be to watch, it still makes for riveting drama. And philosophical? Nothing like a good study of general and fundamental problems as long as it’s handled properly… 

But hey, in that magic moment when Riggan clicks his fingers and all hell – literally – breaks loose, there is more marvel and mayhem than some of the top comicbook movies it digs in the ribs…

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“It is a film that has been widely hailed by the critics, despite – I am sorry to say – depicting critics as fatuous, shallow, parasitic and prejudiced” – Peter Bradshaw.  

You’ll be happy – and relieved – to learn that Birdman didn’t incite yours truly enough to go marching through Singapore’s main shopping district in just his underpants… but as you well know, Birdman does give you that buzz which only well-crafted movies can deliver.

Riggan’s heartfelt plea to try and achieve something important in his life struck a profound chord with me. This blogger happens to be on a similar mission this week, to produce something meaningful, and stay relevant in rapidly changing techno-environs. Because – let’s face it – none of us want to be afflicted with the Kate Winslet Syndrome: being famous only for something done twenty years ago. There’s more to life than wasting time making silly videos and hoping they “go viral”… 

To think Riggan – wallowing in self-pity – laments: “I’m nothing. I’m not even here.” But… you made one heck of a lasting impression here, man! Good for you! You’re a movie star, man! 

And let’s be honest: we’re going to watch this instant classic again AND AGAIN just to hear you screech! 

Couldn't leave without this priceless scene, could we?
Couldn’t leave without this priceless scene, could we?

“That’s not the first time I’ve wandered through Times Square in just my underpants. Wait… you’ve never done that?! I thought everyone had…” Michael Keaton. 

Up, up an’ away, man! 

 

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Battle Of The Boffins: Theory vs. Imitation

CONGRATULATIONS to EDDIE REDMAYNE: BEST ACTOR 2015

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“Both films offer main characters with enormous intelligence and originality… both are worth a watch, especially for a vivid narrative on an otherwise dense historical figure” – interviewmagazine.com

Two movies with so much in common, so might as well devote the same Post to them, especially now as the Academy Awards 2015 wrapped up just last night. Both are critically-acclaimed British movies about British scientific geniuses, played by top British actors who have each been nominated for several different awards. In that case, it will make a nice change to write about a couple of movies which were well-constructed and a pleasure to watch.

Although both movies have been out for over a month internationally already, they have only just been released here on my side of the world. With the 87th Academy Awards fast approaching, some emergency cinema-going had to be implemented, sharpish…

Whether they provide accurate portraits of their very real and learned subjects is open to ongoing debate, yet there is no doubt that both these movies are significant examples of powerful and emotionally-charged film-making; so, without further ado, let’s explore the astounding phenomenon that is: Beneddie Cumbermayne.

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“Oh my god, thank you, thank you… I don’t think I’m capable of articulating quite how I feel right now… I am fully aware that I am a lucky, lucky man. Erm, this Oscar- WOW!” – Eddie Redmayne.

“There should be no boundaries to human endeavour. We are all different. However bad life might seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope” – Stephen Hawking. 

Let’s begin with the movie which held greater personal appeal, and got Eddie his gong. Professor Stephen Hawking is one of this age’s greatest minds and probably the most famous living scientist on Earth. For me, he is an inspirational hero whose work is never far from my study. Primarily, it was intriguing to learn that The Theory of Everything is indeed “a masterful work of heartbreaking artistry and perfection.” 

In a truly amazing performance, Eddie Redmayne portrays a young, able-bodied, zestful atheist/cosmologist at Oxford, before the early onset of motor neuron disease. Of course, this could not be possible without sterling supporting roles, especially Eddie’s “staggering partner-in-crime”: Felicity Jones, who played the scientist’s wife: Jane; and “ferocious yet incredibly kind” direction from James Marsh. 

There was the slight possibility that Redmayne’s chances of winning would be seriously scuppered by his involvement in the staggeringly awful: Jupiter Ascending, but he was clear favourite, and had been for some time. 

Yet is this movie a fair depiction of this degenerative disease and a progressive vehicle to help instigate change in general attitudes towards the disabled? Once again, the same old sentimental cliches have been detected; therefore, some would dismiss this Theory as unconvincing…

Some cynics may scoff that playing the physically-challenged almost always ensures a fistful of gongs, but no one should besmirch Redmayne’s deserved moment of accomplishment. Among the first to congratulate the young star-in-the-making was Stephen Hawking himself. “Congratulations to Eddie Redmayne for winning an Oscar for playing me…” the Professor posted on Facebook. “Well done Eddie, I’m very proud of you.” 

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“I couldn’t stop crying, just thinking, my God, he [Alan Turing] went through this. And to get near that understanding because I’d played him for a while by then… God, it was just really upsetting” – Benedict Cumberbatch.

“One day, ladies will be walking their computers in the park and saying: ‘do you know, my little computer said a very funny thing to me this morning…’” – Alan Turing.  

The Imitation Game features the events responsible for turning the tide of the Second World War, concentrating on another real-life genius. Alan Turing was the greatest mathematician of his age, and can be credited as the pioneer of our computer age. Working at the Top Secret facility of Bletchley Park during the war, he built the machine that would crack Germany’s “unbreakable” Enigma Code. Due to the sensitivity of his work, Turing’s achievements were never recognised during his lifetime. Instead of becoming a war hero, he was disgraced; arrested because of his homosexuality in 1952 and ended up taking his own life two years later (receiving a Royal Pardon only in 2013).

From Benedict Cumberbatch there is what could be his career-defining (movie) performance; it is certainly Oscar-worthy. He portrays Turing as socially complex and incorrigibly difficult to work with, and yet manages to make the man watchable. There is a splendidly evocative recreation of 1940s England, and the drama is further enhanced by deft direction by Morten Tyldum and some distinctive supporting performances, especially Keira Knightley in the role of Joan Clarke who, ironically, seems to have been Turing’s longest and closest companion.

Special mention and congrats must go to Graham Moore who won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, accepting it with one of the more memorable speeches of the evening. The Imitation Game works because it is very much an old-fashioned biopicIt is an extraordinary movie about an extraordinary man. 

No point in toiling here over the major issues of fact-fudging which inevitably bedevil filmed biographies – not only would it be long-winded and almost as monotonous as sitting through this year’s Oscars show, it would seriously jeopardise the number of Likes/Comments this Post could muster. Rather than fret over which one of these dramas is best, it would be much more sensible to accept both of these fantastic movies on their own superlative merits – a credit to the once floundering British film industry. 

Hang on a mo, tho… 

Interestingly, Cumberbatch actually portrayed Professor Hawking in a 2004 BBC TV movie; this was obviously pre-superstardom and ineligible for the Oscars…!   

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Yay! Off-screen they are both the best of friends really. Aah, all’s well that’s fine and dandy, then. And as you can see, even ambitious bunnies get awards these days…

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So, no hard feelings, Mr. White Tuxedo? 

Well, almost none… 

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“What a lad!” claimed UK’s Daily Mirror. Down the hatch, Cumberbatch!

Cheers!

 

Jupiter Descending: What The Blazes Went Wrong?!

Who writes this rubbish…?! 

NOT INTERSTELLAR again ?!
NOT INTERSTELLAR again ?!

“We’re always looking for the range of what we see in life. That creates a tension between us and our audience because they don’t know what to expect. It makes people excited, but it can also make for frustrated consumers” – Lana Wachowski. 

Ho hum. The unfazed Wachowskis release yet another underwhelming dirge. When a big movie’s release is delayed by several months, you just know you’re gonna get lumbered with a dud. What should have been awesome has, instead – would-u-Adam-‘n-Eve it? – turned out to to be frickin’ awful. The Wachowskis’ CV (including: The Matrix Revolutions, Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas) is increasingly – and disturbingly – beginning to sound like a casualty list. 

As the chorus of critics complaining that they have lost two hours of their lives grows ever louder and more disenchanted, let’s analyse this distorted vision of the future and try and help these movie-making siblings where they have gone – hopelessly and unavoidably – wrong. Jupiter Ascending is not so much a case of having to sit through such an insipid spectacle, but sift through such utterly risible wreckage… 

Ladies and Gentlemen: it is our unenviable duty to announce – with a hefty dollop of dread – that we have found the Pluto Nash of 2015! 

NOT JURASSIC WORLD already?: Where the blazes did this thing come from?!
NOT JURASSIC WORLD already?: Where the ‘ell did this thing come from?!

I love dogs. I’ve always-” NO! My dear Followers, NO WAY should you be subjected to this tosh. NONE of this bobbins dialogue is worth typing out here! Gawd… where ‘ave me stress balls gone?!

Amid the overriding torrent of pessimism, Jupie appears to be a “spectacular visual feast” – which seems to be the only positive statement for the critical community en masse to cling to. Yet, unbelievably, unutterably, they have uncovered countless things bad, wrong, or just monumentally misjudged to dissect from this whole sorry mess of a movie.

The lavish costumes look like a (misguided) recreation of Dune’s stately opulence; the effects are superbly-crafted, but oozing with extensive CGI – too glitzy to be anything remotely special as yawn usual.

Pointy-eared Wolfboy Tatum just doesn’t ingratiate himself to my viewing sensibilities – and heck, let’s face it, never will -while Jupiter Jones herself: Mila Kunis is… my records show that she provides one of the voices on Family Guy… 

Surviving in a miserable menial existence on Earth, Jones is informed that she will, in fact, be the next Queen of the Universe – it’s basically Cinderella In Space. There are no prizes for guessing that this couple only represent archetypes rather than portray characters; and – hey! what a suprise – there is absolutely no chemistry to be had between them… whatsoever. And to think that Natalie Portman was first choice to “play” Jupiter Jones…?! Grief, this movie could have been… even worse?!

NOT EX MACHINA: Blimey Charley! Even Automata was better than this!
NOT EXACTLY EX MACHINA: Blimey Charley! Even Automata was better than this!

I play a character called Stinger. I’ve kind of got remnants of bee, or half-bee… Unfortunately, Channing’s character was in some trouble and I stood up for him, and they removed my wings” – Sean Bean. 

So, here is the last instalment of this excruciating Post. Honestly, there is a very serious matter that needs to be addressed here, and that is, quite simply: how did Eddie Redmayne get embroiled in this? We can only assume that the poor boy was dragged kicking and screaming into this nightmare. Apparently, his very first day on set involved getting: “strung up 30ft into the air with this extraordinary brace around me, flung down these wires and sent spinning… to recreate a kind of gravitational pull…” Oh, poor Eddie… 

And alas, poor Boromir. The same applies to Mr. Bean. He’s been in the business long enough to recognise a turkey when he sees one; unfortunately, none of his comments concerning this movie made the slightest bit of sense.

Last, and by all means least: how, pray, did the Wachowskis concoct the insane drivel which constitutes “dialogue” in this movie? You mean to tell me that no fraction of the humongous budget – let’s not deny it: vast acres of dosh were squandered to produce this audio/visual travesty – could be allocated to create some memorable, quotable lines? Even if they paid me to sit through this, erm… experience, there is no way you could trust me to actually go into the cinema. Not even a bribe of cheesy nachos and caramel popcorn would coax me in…

Enough is enough! No more wretched Wachowski discussion here. There’s only so much this jaded noddle can endure…

My sympathies sally forth to all you blogging friends who had (to pay) to sit through Jupiter Ascending. Just relieved that none of my time or money was spent on this rubbish…

 

NOT PROF HAWKING: "As camp as a row of bloody tents, mate"
NOT PROF HAWKING: “As camp as a row of bloody tents, mate”

Now now, Eddie-baby!

Screaming about it won’t help. All that flinging and spinning clearly did your head in, but please, go quietly into the night… Honestly, you’ve got the Oscar Nom for Theory, dearie (though after this debacle, you’re lucky you got that at all…)

Right, that’s it: going back to watch my Guardians of the Galaxy DVD again i.e. an infinitely more pleasurable experience. 

Cheers!  

Liebster Award! My Nominations And Questions

50th Post! Been Nominated For An Award!

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“Oh, what a shock! My career must be slipping. This is the first time I’ve been available to pick up an award” – Michael Caine. 

The notification came right out of the blue! Sweet Archive very kindly nominated me for a Liebster Award. This is such a great honour, and just in time to celebrate my 50th Post as well!

Thank you, Ruth! 

Blogging for just over a year; my Posts are becoming more frequent and creative; the number of Followers is steadily increasing; and Comments are always encouraging and very much appreciated. So, only too happy to continue this cool tradition of recognizing other blogger’s awesome work:

Here are the Rules: 

♦ Thank the person who nominated you and link their blog.

♦ Answer the questions given by the nominator.

♦ Nominate 11 other bloggers who have less than 200 followers, and link them.

♦ Notify all the bloggers you nominate.

♦ Create 11 new questions for your nominees to answer.

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“The great thing about winning an award is that it creates opportunities” – Kevin Bacon.

Here are the set questions, with the supplied answers:

1. What is the funniest thing that happened to you? (ever!)

– Singing my own wacky inebriated version of Queen’s We Will Rock You in a packed Karaoke Club & getting the whole audience to sing & clap along.

2. How did you come up with your blog’s name?

– Scribe is an ancient word for writer which is my true talent and reflects my passion for history; I am proud of my name – if it’s good enough for Mr Pitt, it’s good enough for me.

3. Who is your favorite actor and actress?

– James Stewart is the all-time fave – no one makes me laugh/cry more; Sigourney Weaver is the actress I talk about the most so I’ll choose her.

4. Who is your favorite singer/ band?

– Ian Curtis/Joy Division. Without a doubt.

5. If you got stuck on a deserted island, what 2 things would you rather have with you?

– My wife and a seafood dinner for two, please.

6. Of all the posts you wrote until now, which one is your least favorite and why?

– No.19: was a totally different (un-SF-related) subject to what I had been writing about before, & received the least enthusiastic response unsurprisingly.

7. What was your favorite TV show as a child?

– MONKEY!

8. What is your favorite word?

– ZARJAZ! 

9. If you had the chance to have dinner with 3 famous people, who would you choose?

– Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill & Carrie Fisher.

10. What do you like most about your country?

– The hot climate of my adopted country & the rich history/heritage of the land of my birth.

11. What inspires you?

– See No. 5.

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“Believe you can and you’re halfway there” – Theodore Roosevelt. 

It was quite a challenge to select 11 Nominees (especially under 200 Followers). The completed list included mainly book and comic reviewers, and not so many film reviewers as initially thought (so the easier movie-related questions had to be discarded!).

Anyway, without further ado… 

 

It is my pleasure to nominate:

1. Battered, Tattered, Yellowed & Creased

2. The Comic Book Reader

3. Doorway Between Worlds

4. I Blog This N That 

5. Magazines And Monsters

6. Nerd From Austria

7. The Popcorn Bandit

8. Precinct 1313

9. Sapient Chronicles

10. Schlock Value

11. The Forgotten Geek

 

My questions for you are: 

1. What is the most amazing thing you have ever done (besides starting your blog)?

2. Which one of your Blog Posts were you most proud of, and why?

3. Who is your favourite writer?

4. What is more important in a story: characterisation or dialogue?

5. If you had the chance to write the sequel to a written/graphic novel, which one would you choose?

6. What do you think is the Best Line in a SF movie?

7. What is your fave scene (in a novel or comic), and why?

8. If you could meet 2 famous writers, who would you choose?

9. Which fictional character (either from novels or comics) deserves their own movie?

10. What will be the next book you want to buy?

11. What inspired you to become a writer?

 

I look forward to reading your answers!

Critics can really get animated about this contentious issue

Cheers!

 

Yet Another Chance To Pick Up Power Converters At Tosche Station!

What a desolate place this is…  

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“We’d come a week after Jesus of Nazareth had filmed, and it just seemed so odd to be in such an antiquated environment doing something that was meant to be futuristic” – Mark Hamill.   

Before the sensational introductory glimpses of Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega) from the Star Wars VII trailer engulfed the worldwide net last November, exciting legions of fans around the world, it seemed quite obvious to me that we will be going back to Tatooine.

In our first view of Rey, there is a gaffi stick (only used by Tusken Raiders) attached to the side of her speeder. It should be said that Tatooine is one of my favourite planets in this or any other galaxy, certainly one of the more intriguing worlds belonging to the Outer Rim Territories. 

With the funny Jawas, those cumbersome Banthas, awkward Dewbacks and the in-house entertainment of the Cantina which everyone (except for George, of course) loved, at Mos Eisley spaceport, this desert planet in a binary star system made an indelible impression on many of us; it was – most likely – the first alien world we were ever transported to through the magic of cinema. 

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“The Sand People are easily startled, but they’ll be back, and in greater numbers” – Obi-Wan Kenobi.

One of the most inspirational factors of the original 1977 movie came undoubtedly in the archaic form of the Sand People, otherwise known by their more dynamic moniker: Tusken Raiders. 

Sure, loved the diminutive Jawas, same as everyone else, but these unruly nomadic ruffians of the Jundland Wastes struck such a significant chord with me. Maybe it had something to do with their creepy googly eyes and those crazy tube-things that stick out of their cheeks (please excuse the technical jargon), not to mention that blood-curdling war-cry. The amusing sight of them taking potshots at podracers was one of the ultra-rare satisfying moments from Episode I. 

When the opportunity came to select my Star Wars mask – many moons ago – the choice was instant and obvious. Also wrapped in a beige-coloured blanket from the cupboard under the stairs, and a long stick from the garden that freakishly resembled a gaffi, those unfortunate souls who dared to visit the row of shops at the top of our road would be “terrorized” by this mini-Tusken on several evenings. Ah, happy times…

Probably why that pathetic pile of pap: Episode II remains the biggest disgrace to this legendary franchise is because Anakin Skywalker slaughters a whole camp of Tuskens. Reprehensible! 

It would be really great to see them again (and in greater numbers) this December, but we‘ll just have to wait… 

and wait…

The Force Awakens seems so, er, far far away…

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“Luke, I didn’t come back to just say goodbye… I made some friends at the Academy; when our frigate leaves for one of the Central Systems, we’re going to jump ship and join the Alliance- quiet down, will ya?! You’ve got a mouth bigger than a meteor crater…” – Biggs Darklighter. 

Some of the most important plot-lines for the franchise are revealed on Tatooine, even those we never got to see. Among various accumulated SW trivia were intriguing stills of Luke with best buddy: Biggs Darklighter, the moustachioed adventurer who was going to join the Rebellion and implored Luke to come with him. It is arguably the best of the fabled deleted scenes.

When Luke cries frustratedly: “Biggs is right, I’m never going to get out of here!” in a later scene, he refers to this absent conversation, rendering this line meaningless (and yet it still made the final cut?!). When news of a Special Edition to mark the 20th Anniversary was announced, it meant only one thing: the reinstatement of that scene! Instead of savouring these prized nuggets my crestfallen senses were, inexplicably, served abhorrent splodges of shoddy CGI tampering…  

Admittedly, some of Episode IV’s deleted scenes do spoil the flow of the continuity, but the more you look at it, this one in particular was so integral to the plot. It does, however, appear in the novelization and the radio adaptation… so, George, what say you? 

One of the key distinctive lines in the original 1977 movie – taking its own hallowed pedestal in the folklore of the franchise – is Luke saying that he wanted “to go to Tosche Station to pick up some power converters.” This power distribution centre was originally intended to make a prominent appearance in the movie, but also ended up on the cutting room floor. Although Merl Tosche established the place, it was managed primarily by another of Luke’s buddies: Laze “Fixer” Loneozner, whose scenes never made it into the finished film either.

It’s amazing, isn’t it? Perhaps this goes some way to explaining the enduring appeal of Star Wars. To think that the movie so many of us (think we know so well and) love unconditionally also offers so much more to explore…  

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“If there’s a bright center to the universe, you’re on the planet that its farthest from” – Luke Skywalker.

Of course, there is a very poignant reason why any analyses of the new Episode VII  material have not featured in this blog until now. My father took me to watch the original trilogy at the cinema. Initially under the impression that he would have to sit through irritating juvenile hogwash, he was swept along just as much as the rest of us bright-eyed gawping moppets.

For the next thirty years, he would never hesitate to remark how fortunate we both were to have shared the right quality entertainment at the right time. Of course, one of this franchise’s superior aspects must surely be John Williams’ epic soundtrack, which strongly captivated us both.

This Post has been published on the Anniversary of his passing, six years ago. As a mark of remembrance, here is his all-time favourite movie scene – can still hear him whistling this even now…

Here’s to you, Dad: