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$49.95 for Wookiee's watching PORN? Bargain! XD 
5th-Apr-2005 11:12 pm
Owl totem
This, I'm pretty sure, was an April Fool's joke, but I had to share it with you because discussion of this gem NEVER fails to make me laugh...

DVD Review of The Star Wars Holiday Special (Platinum Edition)

by Lawrence Person

Directed by David Acomba and Steve Binder

Written by Pat Proft, Leonard Ripps, Bruce Vilanch, Rod Warren (based on characters created by George Lucas)

Starring Mickey Morton, Paul Gale, Patty Maloney, Harvey Korman, Beatrice Arthur, Art Carney, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew

If there's any doubt that Revenge of the Sith is indeed the last Star Wars picture, LucasFilm's long-delayed and never-awaited release of the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special on DVD should lay them to rest. Though the technical details of this "Platinum Edition" are excellent, the embarrassing nature of the material gives this release a reek of desperation, as though Lucas wanted to squeeze a few more shekels (at $49.95 a pop) from the franchise while alienating his long-suffering base of fans at the same time. Stick a fork in it, it's done. The fact Lucas finally agreed to let this be released is a sure sign he's finished with the entire Star Wars universe once and for all.

The background, for those unfamiliar with it: The Star Wars Holiday Special (aka "A Very Wookiee Christmas") was a TV special featuring most of the characters from the original movie, three member of Chewbacca's family, and three comic TV actors (Harvey Korman, Bea Arthur, and Art Carney ), which aired only once on CBS, on November 17, 1978. The plot involves Han Solo and Chewbacca fleeing Imperial ships in an effort to get Chewie back to his homeworld of Kashyyyk in time for "Life Day" (a wimpy ecumenical holiday every bit as vague as "The Force," but without the compensating virtue of enabling serious ass-kicking). Back on Kashyyyk, Chewie's family, wife Malla, father Itchy, and son Lumpy (somehow "Itchy" and "Lumpy" just don't seem to mesh with the rest of the Star Wars universe nomenclature), are all waiting for his return, and amuse themselves by talking on the videophone to original Star Wars cast members, cooking, building toys, and dodging Imperial Storm Troopers.

Oh, and watching pop music videos from 1978. Really, what says "Star Wars" more than a performance by The Jefferson Starship?

Actually, the musical performances are among the least painful elements of this show. It's not that they're particularly good, it's just that when they're on screen you don't have to endure wookiees seal-honking inscrutably at each other for minutes on end, or Grandpa Itchy smacking his lips lustfully over Diahann Carroll's soft-core human pseudo-porn.

I would describe more of the plot, except there really isn't any. Art Carney shows up as a rebel-friendly trader bringing Itchy his pseudo-porn. Storm troopers search the house. There's a well-regarded animated short featuring (as any Star Wars geek worth his trading cards will tell you) the first appearance of bounty hunter Boba Fett, but by today's standards the animation is crude, and Han Solo looks disturbingly like John Travolta. Han and Chewie return, kill some storm troopers, and everyone celebrates "Life Day," which seems to involve standing around lots of white lights and smiling like they've just taken a fatal overdose of Prozac.

One feels story for everyone involved in this misbegotten project. Mark Hamill is wearing enough eyeliner to play the MC in a Fire Island production of Cabaret. Art Carney alternates between painful vaudeville shtick and looking embalmed. Bea Arthur belts out a Kurt Weil-esque ditty as owner of the Mos Eisley cantina. Harvey Korman battles the script gamely in not one, not two, but three separate, equally horrid and misconceived roles. Carrie Fisher sings the Life Day theme music. (Actually, despite what you may have read, she sings it rather well (at least in comparison to Bea Arthur), except for the high notes.)

The Star Wars Holiday Special is prima facia evidence that drug use in Hollywood had gotten out of hand by the late 1970s. "Bad" doesn't even begin to describe it. Nor "awful." Think "excruciating" and you're starting to get the picture. Showing this DVD to POWs would constitute a violation of the Geneva Convention. As God is my witness, The Star Wars Holiday Special is a more painful viewing experience than Manos: The Hands of Fate.

The technical details, for anyone who might conceivably care about them: The DVD is presented in the original TV video ratio, and the sound has been remastered in Dolby Stereo (sorry for those of you who wanted to enjoy every sonic nuance of Bea Arthur in 5:1). The transfer is exceptionally clean, especially compared to all the fifth- and sixth-generation video duplicates floating around the Internet, but it only makes the dismal nature of the entire enterprise that much clearer. (In fact, many of the toy and sitcom commercials on those video dupes (which are, of course, missing from this DVD) are far more entertaining than the Special itself. Not that that's difficult.) DVD extras include original teaser commercials, thumbnail biographies of the actors unfortunate enough to appear in it, and, best of all, Joe Sponwheer's 30 minute short documentary, The Highway to Life Day: My Search for the Star Wars Holiday Special. It follows the director, a self-professed "Star Wars Fanatic," in his three year search to find a copy of the show. (His quest took place 1991-1994, before Internet file-sharing exploded.) Along the way he conducts impromptu interviews with such luminaries as Hamill (who swears the Special is an "urban legend"), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), who half-heartedly defends it ("it's not quite as bad as people make it out to be"), and even Harvey Korman, who cracks wise about the entire experience (at one point during filming, Bea Arthur tells him "That's it. I'm killing my agent."). Finally, Sponwheer trades another fan a bantha action figure for a copy, only to find it every bit as bad as people had warned him. "Sometimes," he concludes, "the journey is a lot more fun than the destination."

Despite that, the only viewers I can even remotely recommend The Star Wars Holiday Special Platinum Edition DVD to are the most fanatical Star Wars collectors, who will pick it up no matter what I say. And they will probably want to pick up the "Deluxe Collector Box Edition" of 500 ($149.95, not seen), which contains 10 action figures based on characters from the special (including all three of Harvey Korman's characters). It might also be fun to rent a copy for a do-it-yourself Mystery Science Theater 3000 party, or perhaps a drinking game. (Sip every time a wookiee speaks, chug whenever anyone says "Life Day.") But if you want to hang onto any fond childhood memories George Lucas hasn't already managed to destroy, avoid The Star Wars Holiday Special like the Crimson Plague.
5th-Apr-2005 02:22 pm (UTC) - Re: OMFGWTF!!!1111
Um, I was, like being facetious... like the whole glowy globe thing really. I thought it was funny that it showed up in both pieces.

Ah, OK. It looked like you were saying that the end of TPM was as dopey and goofy as the end of the Holiday Special because everyone was just standing around smiling.

I know Lucas just cares about the visual anyways...

I'm sorry, but I disagree. He cares about the visuals insofar as they are part of the story. It's the story overall that he cares about. You may not like the story he's told, and it may differ from how you would've told it, but he does care about it. At least, that's the impression I get from reading interviews and watching behind-the-scenes stuff.

he said if you wanted to see character development via dialog, then go to a play.

Well, in a play, all you've really got is the dialogue. In a movie, especially a movie like SW, the dialogue is but part of the whole story.

This was in query as to why so much focus was on said visuals and not so much on the characters.

And he's said from the very beginning, that the movies were essentially silent films (which he considers film in its purest form), where the story is told through the visuals -- not just the effects, but the characters' facial expressions and body language. He acknowledges the importance of the SW music, but then music played during silent films too.

For example, in AOTC, there's the scene where Palps, et al watch the ships carrying the clone armies take off from Coruscant. Bail Organa then bows his head and brings his knuckles down on the railing. That one wordless gesture speaks volumes, and the air of doom is heightened by a variation of the Imperial March playing on the soundtrack.

Interestingly, Mel Gibson (of all people) also felt that the visuals should tell the story, at least when it came to "The Passion of the Christ." He initially resisted putting subtitles in the movie because he felt that the imagery should speak for itself, and subtitles would be a distraction. Eventually he gave in to pressure to include subtitles, but still, his point was made.

I love Star Wars very much, since I saw A New Hope in the theater, yeah, I'm dating myself, but I'm only watching now, out of love for those first two films.

I'm watching now because I love all the movies. ROTJ is my least favorite of the saga, but I still love it. ESB is my favorite (so far), TPM a close second. ANH and AOTC fight it out for third.
5th-Apr-2005 03:11 pm (UTC)
At least, that's the impression I get from reading interviews and watching behind-the-scenes stuff.

I attended a Q&A at USC in 2003 on a gracious invite (I've tried to look for the first have, but I can't find it. And somewhere I have all my notes, as I wrote down every single thing they asked.) At said Q&A Lucas said what I mentioned above about the dialog vs. visuals, dialog not being a critical factor.

It was a real downer moment really because the acting which has always included dialog, whether it was spoken or on a card in front of a screen to lead people on towards the story that was unfolding has always been a part of this type of story telling.

I won't defend SW as fervently I as I used to, because i see it's flaws as well as it's milestones and breakthroughs. Also, I'm not insinuating that you are doing either.

In the end the story is what got me sucked in. The minute the visuals distracted from the story, is when I started to be dismayed and uninterested. Everything should flow, imho.

That's why I think The Holiday Special, (aka Contractual Obligation) was a good thing in hind sight. It made them work harder so that Empire wouldn't suck like the special did.

Also, I think it's what fanfic might look like if brought to the screen... then again, Joss Whedon seemed to have pulled off the fanfic to TV just fine;)

Anyhoo...I'm not as big a fan of SW as I was before... and really my ex would have the better of a debate with you on details you mention above.

And I'm glad you got that I was being silly in my initial comment.

Sorry leelastarsky for the wanky spamage.
5th-Apr-2005 04:19 pm (UTC)
I had a reply but decided to delete it because it didn't come out how I intended it to. Suffice to say I simply disagree with you in terms of the visuals distracting from the story.

And I'm glad you got that I was being silly in my initial comment.

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