Letters to the Editor

"Star what?" lacked force and reason; readers loathe (and love) Lucas.

Topics: Laura Miller, J.D. Salinger, Star Wars

Star what?
BY TOBY YOUNG

(05/14/99)

I find it very sad that such revelations as “A summer
blockbuster is an act of commerce, not art,” and “Leia’s hair looks like
pastry,” and while we’re at it, “the later episodes will look older than the
first” are seen as new or worthy of repetition.

I don’t think Lucas has made any claims toward being anything but a
businessman and a storyteller. If Homer could have sold little Odyssey
figurines as he barded about, I’m sure he would have welcomed the food
brought to his table; and Lucas is no Homer. But to complain of Lucas’
lack of “art” in creating what is admittedly a piece of popular culture
revelry is petty indeed. Evil? Yes, that’s it, Toby; stand up to the big
bad movie man. A little perspective, please.

– Gregory Maupin

Toby Young’s flailing attempt to find reasons not to see “Phantom Menace” are
so inept and ridiculous that I suspect he has some sort of Swiftian purpose
in mind. The film is flawed, but it’s a problem of
structure and characterization, not Lucas’ marketing genius, hairdos or the
toy light sabre the writer broke when he was 14. As for Lucas’
responsibility for the demise of quality filmmaking — take a look at the
early movie studios’ quest for blockbusters and think again.

– Nina Berry

Los Angeles

The practice of beginning a story at the chronologically primary moment is not a prerequisite for quality by any means: Try Harold Pinter’s “Betrayal,” which starts near the end and progresses in such a way that it ends just after the beginning. Or Barry Levinson’s Baltimore trilogy. Or how about William Shakespeare, whose King Henry plays were written in this order: Henry VI, Henry IV, Henry V, and Henry VIII.

– Chad Levinson

New York

The medieval mind of George Lucas
BY JIM PAUL

(05/18/99)



Will somebody please put a stop to the incessant glorification of George Lucas? Does anyone have the guts to admit that all he makes are expensive but ultimately empty space cartoons? Instead of extolling the virtues of his computerized dictatorship, somebody needs to state the obvious; he hasn’t made a movie that anybody wants to see in nearly 20 years. And he’s never made a movie that even begins to reach the emotional or spiritual resonance of other films made by his generation of filmmakers.

What among Lucas’ creations can match Martin Scorcese’s “Taxi Driver” or “Raging Bull”? Does the “Star Wars” trilogy really match up against Francis Ford Coppola’s “Godfather” and “Apocalypse Now”? Lucas’ old buddy, Steven Spielberg, long ago realized that sharks, dinosaurs and cute aliens are not the stuff of serious, ambitious filmmaking. “Schindler’s List” and “Saving Private Ryan” are so beyond Lucas’ space babble there is no way to compare their relative merits.

– Tim Fogle

Louisville, Ky.

Bottom line on George Lucas: When I saw “Star Wars” back in ’77 I was totally awestruck. I was 16 at the time and was absolutely fascinated. I can remember the excitement I felt when
announcements of a sequel were in the making. I think George Lucas is a
master at his craft.

– Phil Leeds

It was a pleasant surprise that Jim Paul took the time to
look past the blizzard of hype about “The Phantom Menace” to suggest that the
phenomenon may actually resonate with larger issues of our time. We may be
getting exactly the movie, and the promotional campaign, we deserve. I
completely agree with Mr. Paul’s characterization of the Zeitgeist as
proto-Medieval. The distillation of a spectrum of meaning into more
boldly drawn icons is our time’s perseveration.

– Eric Davis

Chicago

Father figure
BY MICHAEL SRAGOW

(05/13/99)

Sragow is another film critic who thinks that movies are created when a director sees a bunch of his actor pals at the Ivy, somebody yells, “Hey, let’s put on a show!” and the actors just make up the dialogue as they go along. No, Michael, it wasn’t Irvin Kershner who “first gave life to [the] words” “Luke, I am your father.” Nor is it the director who “toss[es] his characters into risky dilemmas and use[s] all the tools at his disposal to explore and dramatize them.” As the Writer’s Guild line puts it, “Somebody wrote that.”

– Mitch Miller

Selling Salinger’s letters

BY LAURA MILLER

(05/13/99)

The reactionary apologia Laura Miller wrote on behalf of Joyce Maynard is
the kind of reasoning that has put feminism on life support. The portrayal
of Maynard as an “adoring young virgin,” powerless to resist Salinger’s entreats, is the kind of patronizing tripe that feminism was meant to banish, and Miller’s idea that this woman was too dimwitted to be responsible for her choice in lovers is Victorian in the worst way.

It infuriates me when intelligent, accomplished women willingly leap to
portray themselves as passive victims of male lust, so long as it secures a
lucrative book deal or garners loads of righteous sympathy. For Maynard
to use this lie as an excuse for violating Salinger’s privacy — in the
name of some vague therapeutic benefit or a quick dollar — is appalling, and
Miller’s support of it is the most virulent kind of female chauvinism.
No wonder there’s a backlash.

– Alicia R. Montgomery

Washington

Dan Quayle: Cyber guerrilla?
BY AMY REITER

(05/13/99)

Enough is enough. I’m no fan of Dan Quayle’s politics, and he has put his
foot in his mouth more than his share of times, but Amy Reiter’s column,
which manages to blame Quayle for the imperfect English of Chinese hackers
and the typos of his staffers, is uncalled for. Her column crossed the
line from gossip to mean-spiritedness.

– Amber Baum

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>