BY TOBY YOUNG
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
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
The medieval mind of George Lucas
BY JIM PAUL
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
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
BY MICHAEL SRAGOW
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
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
Dan Quayle: Cyber guerrilla?
BY AMY REITER
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