star wars and neighbours

(Welcome to The Movies That Made Star Wars, a series where we explore the films and television properties that inspired or help us better understand George Lucas’ iconic universe. In this edition: the 1952 film Neighbours.)

It’s been said that Pablo Picasso called 1952’s Neighbours the greatest film ever made. Though I wouldn’t bestow that much honor to it, it is definitely a film you need to see and holds a special place in film history and the inspiration of Star Wars. Produced by the National Film Board of Canada and directed by Norman McLaren, it won the 1953 Academy Award for Best Documentary, Short Subject. This highly political film is disguised as a loosely animated parable for the dangers of war and possession. It was shot in a style called pixilation, that was novel at the time though it seems common enough these days, where live actors appear to be animated.

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The Last Jedi and Brazil

(Welcome to The Movies That Made Star Wars, a series where we explore the films and television properties that inspired or help us better understand George Lucas’ iconic universe. In this edition: Brazil.)

The 1985 release of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil was nothing short of a miracle. The executives at Universal were so disappointed with Gilliam’s grim vision of the future that they wanted to recut it and give it a happy ending, but Gilliam refused to be beaten down by the system. He fought and fought and fought until the executives were forced to relent. Ironic that a film about trying to beat the system from within and losing (mostly) was only released because a filmmaker fought the system and actually won.

Brazil tells the story of Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) as he navigates an Orwellian hellscape with bliss until his dreams become too much. When he decides he needs to follow those dreams, the society he’s lived in with aplomb actively works to destroy him. While they might destroy his body, though, they’d never destroy his spirit.

Arguably, Brazil is Gilliam’s definitive masterpiece, evoking everything he is as a filmmaker and storyteller and boiling it into one dystopian nightmare. It’s a study in stark contrasts as well. In one particularly funny (and disturbing scene) Sam Lowry is dining with his mother (Katherine Helmond) and her rich and decadent friends when a terrorist’s bomb explodes in the background. None of the rich folks seem to notice and the restaurant staff erects accordion walls around them so they don’t have to witness the world literally falling apart around them. For as big as the film is, it’s always oppressively personal. For as funny as it is, each laugh threatens to become a sob as you realize just how bleak the universe really is.

This is Terry Gilliam’s view of the human condition, it seems, and it’s as hilarious as it is terrifying.

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This contains spoilers for the most recent issue of Darth Vader.

The final issue of Marvel’s Darth Vader comicis out, and it has a lot to say about who might be the father of Anakin Skywalker. Could Palpatine have really manipulated the Force into creating his strongest apprentice?

“There was no Father,” Shmi Skywalker confesses to Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace of her son, Anakin Skywalker. This leads the venerable Jedi Master to believe that Anakin is the one foretold to be the Chosen One as part of an ancient Jedi prophecy. When he reports this to the Jedi Council, they remain skeptical that the young boy was conceived of the midi-chlorians, which were the source of all life in the galaxy and a pathway to hear the will of the Force for those in tune with them.

But the fact remains that Anakin Skywalker has a higher midi-chlorian count than anyone they’ve ever encountered. Was he a product of the Force’s will? Or were the midi-chlorians tampered with by someone strong in the dark side of the Force? In the final issue of writer Charles Soule’s run on Darth Vader that came out last week, Darth Vader has a vision that may well lead him to believe the latter is true. But what are we left to believe?

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Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Star Wars

(Welcome to The Movies That Made Star Wars, a series where we explore the films and television properties that inspired (or in this case help us better understand) George Lucas’s iconic universe. In this edition:Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.)

Losing the screenwriter William Goldman was a blow to the world of cineastes last month. He was one of the sharpest writers ever to come to Hollywood and he had a distinct way of playing a tense scene for laughs and making giggle at how good is writing could be. 1969’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is no exception. It’s as much a comedy as it is a legitimately thrilling western film. Headlined by Paul Newman and Robert Redford, the film is charming and suspenseful in equal parts, following the (mostly) true adventures of the train robbing pair and their gang.

Goldman’s writing is as sharp as it ever would be, and under the direction of George Roy Hill, they collaborated to create a master blend of wit and western.

Though it wasn’t the first film to pair a couple of smartass outlaws, it set the standard moving forward and every line of dialogue pairing characters like that followed the mold. Star Wars was no exception.

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(Welcome to The Movies That Made Star Wars, a series where we explore the films and television properties that inspired or help us better understand George Lucas’ iconic universe. In this edition: Girl Shy.)

Among film nerds, Harold Lloyd is a household name. Saying his name instantly evokes images of the bespectacled actor dangling from a clock or in other improbable and impossibly dangerous situations. Made in 1924, Girl Shy was Harold Lloyd’s first production independent of Hal Roach and he wanted it to focus less on the stunts he’d been known for and more for his character work. That doesn’t mean Girl Shy doesn’t have its own thrilling stunts, as the climax of the film might have been the most exciting sequence Lloyd ever accomplished in his career, but the character work leading up to that sequence was the most well-developed Lloyd had pulled off. He plays a young tailor’s apprentice who wants to be an author. He’s also impossibly shy around girls and has a terrible stutter when he’s nervous. Think about that: Harold Lloyd is able to portray a verbal stutter in a silent film from 1924. He’s clumsy and shy, but that doesn’t stop him from falling in love and the climax plays out like an early version of The Graduate, with Lloyd’s character breaking up a wedding in order to reunite with the love of his life.

Though during his time making films through the ‘20s and ‘30s, Lloyd was spoken of in the same breath as Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, it was Lloyd himself that prevented his legacy from flowering as much as it should have. He controlled the rights to all of his films and very rarely allowed them to be played for a variety of reasons. Now, almost a hundred years after the peak of his popularity, Lloyd is taking his more rightful place in the history of cinema.

But how does that connect to Star Wars?

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Star Wars and Apocalypse Now

(Welcome to The Movies That Made Star Wars, a series where we explore the films and television properties that inspired or help us better understand George Lucas’ iconic universe. In this edition:Apocalypse Now.)

Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now is a frenetic look into the final days of the Vietnam war. Where other films might have looked at the war from a more classic war film perspective, Coppola brought an insanity to it that matched how many felt about the conflict. Martin Sheen stars as Captain Willard, assigned to seek out Colonel Kurtz (Marlon Brando), deep behind enemy lines. His journey is insane, like any war might be. There’s no comfort to be had there, only madness. Based loosely on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, the John Milius script and Coppola’s documentary style of filmmaking made this film an instant classic, pushing us into dark places we’d rather pretend war doesn’t take us.

There are a lot of interesting things about the making of Apocalypse Now, it’s an incredible film and was made in an incredibly unorthodox way, but maybe the most interesting thing about Apocalypse Now in the context of Star Wars was that it was originally going to be a George Lucas film.

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What Lies Beneath is a film I really didn’t like when I saw it upon its release in 2000. As a fan of Robert Zemeckis, I was looking forward to him taking on a Hitchcockian thriller with a cast top-lined by Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer. And when I left the theatre that first time, I wholly rejected it. The supernatural elements of the film turned me off, feeling like a complete betrayal of the human monsters of Alfred Hitchcock’s oeuvre. I went in expecting one thing, got another, and let that bad taste simmer in my mouth for almost twenty years.

But I think it’s time we go back and take a look at What Lies Beneath with fresh, more mature eyes and meet on a level with the intentions of the filmmaker in mind, rather than the baggage we brought to it.

This post contains spoilers.

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(Welcome to The Movies That Made Star Wars, a series where we explore the films and television properties that inspired or help us better understand George Lucas’s iconic universe. In this edition: Doctor Who.)

There’s a lot of crossover between Star Wars fans and Doctor Who fans. There’s a lot to love about both franchises, but some might not know how closely the two franchises have intertwined from the beginning. Doctor Who began in its historic run in 1963, close to fifteen years before Star Wars would ever hit the big screen. Since both franchises were filmed largely in the United Kingdom, it’s no wonder there would be some crossover in talent, but some might not realize how much crossover there really is.

For those Star Wars fans who don’t know, Doctor Who is the longest running science fiction television series of all time and it’s about a timelord who calls themselves the Doctor. They travel through all of time and space righting wrongs and saving the world. It’s exactly the sort of thing Star Wars fans might love, and after you’re done with this article, maybe you’ll love it twice as much.

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Bill George is one of the living legends of ILM. He’s been with the company since 1981 and has built some of the most iconic models in sci-fi film history, from Star Wars to Star Trek. He built the models for Ghostbusters 2 and even won an Academy Award for his work on Innerspace. In the world of Star Wars, he built the incredibly detailed models for the B-Wing, the Shuttle Tyderium and the second Death Star all at the dawn of his career.

These days, he works with Walt Disney’s Imagineering department to work on attractions at the theme parks. He worked on updating Star Tours, the incredible new vision of Pirates of the Caribbean in Shanghai Disneyland, and is currently working on Galaxy’s Edge.

You can imagine our surprise when we discovered that he’d built models for use in Star Wars Resistance, the new animated Star Wars television show that begins airing this week.

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Cool Posts From Around the Web:

The Leviathan Influenced Solo

(Welcome to The Movies That Made Star Wars, a series where we explore the films and television properties that inspired or in this case help us better understand George Lucas’s iconic universe. In this edition: The Leviathan)

Ruairí Robinson isn’t a filmmaker that’s a household name, but maybe he should be. He’s an Academy Award nominated Irish filmmaker known for his science fiction shorts. He was nominated in 2002 in the Best Short Film, Animated category with the film Fifty Percent Grey, but ended up losing out to Ralph Eggleston’s comedy short For the Birds. At one point, he was signed on to direct the live-action version of Akira, but that fell through. Most recently, he put together a short film called The Leviathan(2015)that was a proof of concept for a feature film he wanted to make.

It went viral and found itself inspiring the Star Wars universe in unexpected ways. Read More »