Category Archives: Essays

In Honor of the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars–Top Ten Reason that it is the greatest movie ever made.

Star Wars is 40 years old today.

That makes it sound old and therefore me. But I don’t care. I love this movie.

In celebration of the 40th anniversary, this is an updated version of a post I did last summer.

Star wars came out when I was four.

According to my parents it was the first movie I ever saw in the theater. I’ll let you figure out how old I am based on that information.

And when I say Star Wars, I mean the first one, A New Hope. When I first saw it wasn’t called A New Hope, it was just Star Wars.

Star Wars is a great movie.

Star Wars became my childhood.

Star Wars became my birthday and Christmas for years.

It became visits to my grandmother. She would regularly have a new action for me. It was always wrapped in a brown paper bag.

It became playground games—lightsabers verses lightsabers.

It became card collections.

It became Halloween costumes.

Now it hangs on my Christmas tree.

The music made my four-year-old chest just stick out. I grew muscular and taller listening to opening music. Star Wars was the world I was in.

Yes.
We all know the cultural phenomenon that it has become. And the huge intellectual property that it has become to Disney.

5 Billion dollars to be exact. (That’s what Disney paid to George Lucas for the franchise.)

But it wasn’t just me. An entire generation of boys and girls, who are now middle age with children of their own who are into Star Wars. We are passing down the world to another generation of movie lovers.

But there has to be reasons why it is so good…

In honor of the 40th anniversary…

Here are the ten reasons why Star Wars is the greatest movie ever made.

1. The opening.
Beginning a movie with loud music and a title crawl was ripped directly from the Flash Gordon serials of decades previous.

But they weren’t done nearly as well as this. Then flew in the ship in. But it flew in FROM OVER HEAD! And not just one ship but two!

This is now the standard opening for all Star Wars movies, until Rogue One changed it because it technically wasn’t an episode but a Star Wars story. The crawl was borrowed from the ol’ Flash Gordon movies. Lucas brought the 40s serials style into the modern world.

2. Darth Vader.
Five minutes in we are introduced the greatest villain we have ever seen. And here is the thing, he doesn’t say one word. But you know, you need to be scared of him.

And in many ways the prequel movies took away the mystique of the character, but on the other hand we refer to him as Darth Vader and not Anakin Skywalker.

3. The Music.
Let’s face John Williams is the Master at cinematic music. There is John Williams, and then everyone else. There are John Williams concerts around the country through out the year, there was one here in my own town of Richmond, VA a few months ago. He is in his 80s and currently scoring the next Star Wars movie, talk about commitment to your craft. (There’s a lesson there as well.)

Most people copies of their favorite band releases. I have different CD copies of different releases of all the sound tracks. I have issues.

4. Lightsabers.
They were described originally as laser swords and they’re such an obvious invention, but I know of no other place before where laser swords existed in a movie.

Even if you haven’t seen the movie, you know what a lightsaber is and the sound it makes. When a new trailer comes we always look for the sight of a lightsaber being ignited.

5. Ralph McQuarrie.
The average movie watch does not know who Ralph is. The hard-core of us do. And we know that it was him who took George’s words and turned them into beautiful illustrations. For the average viewer, they’ve never heard his name. But he may have had more influence on the look of Star Wars than any other person. He designed the world.

6. The Toys.
Lucas made a seismic shift in how movies were promoted. The toys were just awesome. I got new toys every Christmas and birthday from 1977 to 1984. Have toys allowed children to replay the movie. (Remember kids, this was before DVDs.)


This is really how Lucas became a billionaire. The toys also change the contracts of all following movies. The studios released that they were really in the Intellectual Property business.

7. Sound Effects.
Without Ben Burtt there is no laser blast, no lightsaber sound, no roar of a tie fighter, no growl of Chewbacca, no rumble of the trash compactor, no explosion of the Death Star. In other words, no Star Wars.

Star Wars earned an Oscar for its sound, and rightfully so.

8. Industrial Light and Magic.
Lucas needed special effects that had never been done before. In the process he created a company that is used by most of Hollywood.

40 years later, ILM is stilling working and creating movie magic.

9. The spaceships.
The x-wing, tie-fighter, and of course the Milineum Falcon. The Falcon itself is a character in the movies. The Falcon is such a character than when I saw The Force Awakens the crowd cheered when the Falcon finally appeared on screen. Personally part of the reason that Return of the Jedi is not my favorite of the series partly because no scenes really occur in the Falcon.

In The Force Awakens, the Falcon is introduced as a character in the movie when Rey rightfully says, “The garbage will do!”

10. The Force.
Everyone wants to have the Force. The Force is the spirituality behind the story. It is with the Force that the movie goes to a different level. We all want the Force. We are all interested in that sort of power.

It’s hard to believe that it is 40 years old. But I guess that is part of getting older.

But through this movie, I can regularly visit my childhood.

That is why it is the great movie ever made.

How to dream it all up again–a lesson from U2

Rolling Stone informed me today my favorite album is 25 years old today.

Crap.  I’m officially old.

Achtung Baby is my favorite album of all time.  

I know that because of the airtime it gets in the car CD player.  I know it because any fantasy of being a rock star involves playing on a ZOO TV stage and strumming the chords from Zoo Station and Even Better Than The Real Thing. I know it’s my favorite because I keep coming back to it.

Now Achtung Baby is “Old U2”.  A phrase heard a lot over the years from U2 followers.  But in 1991 is was new.

Man was it new.

Three years before in 1988 they released Rattle and Hum.

 
In 1987 they released The Joshua Tree.  The album that shot them to super stardom.

And from The Joshua Tree they were on top of the of the rock world.  They graced Rolling Stone, Time, Newsweek, everything.  They were all over the radio.

(For those youngsters on here, the radio was where someone played music, but you couldn’t fast forward, replay, or skip.  And sometimes the jerk disc jockeys would talk over your song.  Seriously, this happened.  But I digress.)

They were on high rotation on MTV.

(See back then children, Music television played music videos.  Short movies with songs, much like you see on youtube, except only famous people got to be on MTV.  I KNOW!  HOW DID WE LIVE!?)

But instead of putting out another Joshua Tree, or an evolution on it.  Bono ended the Rattle and Hum tour by saying

 “It’s no big deal, it’s just — we have to go away and…and dream it all up again.”

Then out came Achtung Baby.  The album.

Bono himself said Achtung Baby was:

 “The sound of four men chopping down The Joshua Tree.”

So how do they follow-up their famous tour and album?

They chopped it down.

They threw it out.

And they did something completely different.

So different, they lost some fans over it.

So different though that it turned out to be amazing.

There are infinite reviews, from people much smarter than me.  So I won’t focus on the music.  I want to point out what I learned from the album.

AND this is the real reason why it is my favorite album of all time.

Sometimes you need to change.  Sometimes you need to do something completely different.

Personally I have been paid as a videographer, a youth minister, a YMCA counselor, a photographer, a third grade teacher, a first grade teacher, a fifth grade teacher, and now I write children’s books on top of that.

Life has forced me to reinvent.  And every time I am forced to reinvent, I come back to this album, and realize reinvention is a good thing.

And sometimes it’s even better than the real thing.

Achtung Y’all!