Star Wars celebrates 40 years of escapism, influence, and cultural currency today. The founding chapter of this now colossal property was released May 25, 1977, across a pittance of screens. Popularity ignited like a house on fire and before anyone could blink this thing was obliterating contemporaries like A Tale of Two Critters, Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, and Viva Knievel!. Only Smokey And The Bandit gave Star Wars any kind of run for its money, and there’s still a gap of about $180 million in domestic gross between the two. Burt Reynolds just couldn’t charm his way around Chewbacca.
There’s a documentary feel to the 1977 Star Wars which helps it resonate deeply, a framing where the audience isn’t following narrative but observing environment; the awkward broth of fantasy exposition is dismissed and we’re allowed to ferret out details as we witness events in these alien realms. This is especially true of desert planet scenes where the robots fumble along, get swooped up by the junk dealers, and are unceremoniously dumped into Luke Skywalker’s life. This fly-on-the-wall style counters so many other sci-fi films that desperately want to impress upon you their grandiose, mythical nature. Star Wars just drops you in there and lets many fantastical moments unfold nonchalantly, because these characters see lasers and blue milk every day.
Pivoting on that point, one of the best decisions George Lucas ever made was to insist this beginning Star Wars is actually the fourth installment of a who-knows-how-long saga. That let our imaginations go purple trying to fill in the priors. As incredible as the visuals and characters in Star Wars are, they suggest much more with that context. On the other side of the ewok, one of the dumbest decisions George Lucas ever made was giving in to temptation and actually filming the first three chapters, bluntly extinguishing the dreams we spun for ourselves across several decades.
Star Wars numbers four and five came before one, two, and three; there are probably those who also believe the immediate sequels—1980’s The Empire Strikes Back and 1983’s Return of The Jedi—should have never been made, allowing the 1977 film to remain the purest of entities. Foolish mortals! Star Wars made so much fucking money it was never going to be singular. Let’s just count our blessings over the miracle of The Empire Strikes Back, that rare sequel which bests its founder in pulp, artistry, and thrill. Star Wars 6 and 7 (and Rogue One) are great too, but there’s just something about the dreamy nightmare of Empire that cannot be equaled.
Of course, Star Wars at 40 is more of a conglomerate than ever, absorbed by Disney so they can have Darth Vader roaming the halls of their luxury hotels with minimal overhead. Star Wars belongs to our entire planet but it’s a U.S. invention and there’s nothing more “American” than celebrating a successful business. So rats off to maximizing profits and creating a global brand. And thanks for being so lenient with the fans who have restored and distributed the theatrical versions of the ’77 movie and its two sequels; this must be an admission of guilt or disagreement regarding “the vision” George Lucas suddenly decided he had for the original trilogy in 1997.
What else is there to say? Nanu nanu, put more Greedos in Star Wars 8.
A: My favorite movie in which Burt Reynolds appears is Boogie Nights. My favorite movie in which Burt Reynolds stars is Smokey & the Bandit, though sometimes I pretend it’s Gator just for shock value. And yes, before you even ask, when it comes to Burt on tv “Evening Shade” holds a very special place in my heart.
Just in case you missed it, here’s a link to the chat I conducted with Ernest “Raj” Thomas last month for comedy blog Splitsider.com. Topics covered include Burt Reynolds, Van Halen, Rob Zombie, and Ernest’s role in the famed 1992 Spike Lee joint Malcolm X. As Haywood Nelson might triumphantly exclaim, hey HAY hey!
Submitted for your approval: an abandoned bank in Jupiter, Florida, transformed six years ago into an all-encompassing shrine to faded heartthrob Burt Reynolds. You wanna see the canoe Burt shared with Ned Beatty in Deliverance, the boots he wore in Striptease, or the Emmy he won for “Evening Shade?” It’s all in that bank, along with posters and photos from nearly every production the Pride of Lansing was ever a part of (yes, even Cop and a Half).
I’m not sure exactly what my expectations were for the Burt Reynolds & Friends Museum, but suffice to say they were exceeded the minute I waltzed in and found the BR showroom ensconced in a fancy red theater motif. This was a classy joint, and why not? Burt himself is heavily involved, donating many of his own personal mementos and occasionally turning up to host improv classes for eager Jupiter residents looking to learn more about the art of Burting.
Per the “Friends” part of the museum’s name—there is a large wall inside the museum dedicated to photos of the various famous pals Burt has made over the years. Mickey Rooney, Adam Sandler, Whoopi Goldberg…the list goes on and on. Most have scribbled some generic platitude across their two dimensional representation, like, “Hey Burt, stay cool!” Then there’s Jane Fonda, who scrawled across her 8″x10″ the following WTFery:
I wish I knew you better.
You know, I could be dead wrong about this interpretation of “Friends” in this institution’s name, for amongst all the Burt items sits a piece of memorabilia from the beloved NBC sitcom “Friends.” It’s the frame that hung over the peephole in Monica’s(?) apartment. Is the BRM trying to hedge its bets in case people suddenly stop caring about Smokey and the Bandit? Probably not. One of the lovely ladies working the Burt Museum that day informed me one of the directors of “Friends” who donated this piece of TV history was tight with Mr. Mustache.
The employees at the BRM were pretty funny, politely cursing in earnest the names of those who had stolen awards away from Burt and lamenting the fact their hero could not attend the recent Smokey and the Bandit convention because he was filming a guest spot “Burn Notice” in Miami. I’m sure they could have wrangled Norm MacDonald to take Burt’s place.
So, yes, this palace of Reynolds was absolutely worth the three hour drive it took to get there, if only to luxuriate in some of the imagery seen below.
If it looks like I’m in a kitchenette in the final photo, it’s because I am. For some reason, that incredible rendering of Burt is tucked away in the BRM’s break room. Incredibly, I was granted access to this inner sanctum. Can you taste my giddiness as it radiates through that photograph?
Alas, the crash from my Burt Reynolds high was epic, and the past few days have been spent sleeping off one helluva cold. I’m sure Burt could have shrugged an illness like this off easy. Alas, I am no Burt.
Please pardon that hackneyed subtitle. I’m using Arm and Hammer brand deodorant, and while it keeps me dry, it’s also making me very bland.
That “Price Is Right” article proved to be the most engrossing part of the Esquire I bought yesterday (yes, even more engrossing than the Mexican beauty who dared to show a little areola in her fancy photo spread for the rag). Sadly, I was through with the article before I managed to even walk through my gate. The flight was delayed about forty-five minutes. The plane, coming from Buffalo, had some kind of issue. Probably needed grief counseling after being in Buffalo. Just kidding, one person I know from the city what gave us the Goo Goo Dolls!
It’s been twenty-four hours since I landed and the sprawling suburban paradise known as the greater Orlando area is slowly pushing my brain into a delightful, delicious coma. The cars all move…at respectable speeds! The bathrooms…are bigger than my living room back home! The people…talk to you, unprompted! I feel so funny. Is this real life? Is this going to be forever? Not unless I move into my parents’ guest toilet and work from the tub for the rest of 2010. Don’t think I’m not considering it.
Major hijinks are on the weekend horizon—plans have been made to visit the Burt Reynolds Museum a couple hours south of here in Jupiter, FL. What wonders will this shrine to Burt hold? His hat from Smokey & the Bandit? His machete from Gator? I can’t wait to find out. I hope they sell mustaches in the gift shop.
Where was I when I heard they had finally capped the Gulf oil leak? Driving my mother’s car back from the Goodwill in Orange City, two novelty t-shirts richer. One has a picture of Dracula and says, “Eat, Drink, and Be Scary!”; the other simply says, “I Only Came Here For The Beer.” One of those phrases is going on my tombstone when I die.
One more thing about that copy of Esquire: there was an interview with John C. Reilly, the second interview I’ve read with the guy where he kinda comes off like a total dick. Some kid walked by during the interview and shouted something at him, and then John C. turns to the interviewer and says, “I’ve made 50 movies, and this kid’s seen three of them.” What? Also, he doesn’t wanna talk about Dr. Steve Bruhle ever. Like Steve Bruhle is the new Tony Clifton or something. WHAVEVER, BRO, YOU WERE IN DAYS OF THUNDER.
Tonight I shall cruise the rain-soaked streets of Deltona looking for Drank and other strange, non-NYC beverages. Soda is the most dangerous game, you know.