27. Star Wars

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Movie: Star Wars

Release Date: May 25, 1977

Director: George Lucas

Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Alec Guiness.

Tag Lines: “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”

“Coming to your galaxy this summer.”

“Somewhere, in space, this could all be happening right now.

Relevance: I usually can’t remember what day it is or what I had for dinner the night before. I often walk into a room to do something and completely forget why I went into that room in the first place. I often look at my son and think, “What the hell is your name?” Yet with all my forgetfulness, I can without a doubt tell you that I saw ‘Star Wars’ for the first time on February 1, 1982 on HBO. I guess I only remember the really important things in life.

‘Star Wars,’ a science fiction adventure tale directed by George Lucas, was released in theaters in May of 1977. It was not expected to be a major hit in the United States so it had a very limited release. However, after receiving critical acclaim, mostly for its dazzling special effects, it slowly opened wider and became a huge blockbuster summer movie. The film would go on to receive ten Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, winning seven, all in the technical fields. It stayed in theaters worldwide through 1978 and had re-releases in 1979, 1981, 1982 and the Special Edition release in 1997. When all was said and done the film had sparked numerous sequels, prequels, spin-offs and television shows and is now listed as the second highest grossing film in the United States and the fourth highest grossing film worldwide. Not too shabby for a space movie.

During its original release, I was well aware of ‘Star Wars,’ but it was not yet known the kind of impact it would have on my life. I have written many times on this blog about the now iconic HBO Guide, one of my all-time favorite things as a child. The back of the HBO Guide always showed what was going to be premiering the following month. In January of 1982, the back of the guide showed ‘Star Wars’ and I was thrilled that I was finally going to see it the following month. The movie had already produced a sequel by that time, ‘The Empire Strikes Back,’ so I was more than anxious to catch up with the rest of the world. When the February HBO Guide arrived in the mail, I noticed that ‘Star Wars’ would be first shown on the 1st of the month at 7:30 pm. I found it odd that the start time was 7:30 as the usual start time was 8:00 pm. In retrospect, they probably programmed it that way so that the two hour movie would be watched in full by its most likely younger audience before bed time. My plan to watch it was already set.

My maternal Grandfather’s birthday was on February 1st. Every year, my mom would invite both he and my Grandmother as well as my other Grandfather to join my family for dinner and cake. The dinner was always pizza and there were usually two cakes, one homemade and one Carvel Ice Cream cake. That particular birthday celebration was on a Monday. I remember still being in my school clothes (I went to Catholic School, so I am guessing the ensemble was navy pants with a powder blue shirt, untucked), and eating pizza and singing “Happy Birthday” to my Grandpa. While everyone was still seated around the kitchen table, around 7:30 I made my way into the living room. I didn’t want to miss one second of ‘Star Wars’ so I set the channel to HBO and sat on the couch in the darkened room. I didn’t move for the next two hours.

‘Star Wars’ was a completely fascinating movie for this then ten year old boy. I was captivated by the characters, the story, the adventure and those wonderful effects. Even as my Grandparents were leaving the house, I was only able to utter out a “goodbye” from a distance. I didn’t want to take my eyes off of the screen. My dad and sister eventually joined in with watching the movie as my mom cleaned up the remnants of the birthday celebration in the kitchen. They too became entranced by the film. When it ended, I knew it would not be the last time that my family, especially me, would watch it.

The movie was played over and over on HBO that month, as was the case with most movies back then, and my family seemed to watch it all of the time. Even my mom, who was not a usually fan of that genre, fell in love with ‘Star Wars.’ The film became one of our movies “recorded on a blank VHS tape” and we watched it a lot. When ‘Star Wars’ finally became available on VHS to buy, my mom did, making it a permanent part of our movie collection. But it wasn’t only the movie that was purchased. I became obsessed with all things ‘Star Wars’ and collected everything I could with the logo on it. In fact, my most prized toy possessions were my ‘Star Wars’ figures in my Darth Vader case that I played with non-stop (my son now as ownership of that case as well as its components). I can’t tell you how many hours of my life were spent playing with miniature Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Darth Vader battling it out with guns and lightsabers. And I loved every second of it.

In the Fall of 1982, an Aunt (I think technically a distant cousin) of mine took me and her two sons to the theater to see ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ when it was re-released that November. My fever for ‘Star Wars’ only intensified and my collection of toys grew and grew. In the summer of 1983, my ‘Star Wars’ adventure continued when my mom and dad took me to see ‘Return of the Jedi’ in theaters. I remember standing in a long line that wrapped around the building with everyone excited to see what we then thought was the last of the ‘Star Wars’ movies. It was the first time that I had ever waited in a line to see a movie. The energy was palpable and I won’t ever forget that feeling of excitement.

My family loved the ‘Star Wars’ films and watched them whenever we could either on HBO or on VHS tape as they became available. I myself have owned them all on VHS, DVD and Blu-ray in every imaginable version. Up until 1997, the original ‘Star Wars’ was the only one that I did not see on the big screen. Thanks to the Special Edition version being released for a limited time, I was able to correct that flaw of my existence. I have seen all of the other films on the big screen and every time I do, I become a ten year old boy again. I can’t help but envision myself playing on the living room floor with all of my “guys” strewn about preparing for battle. Because of that, ‘Star Wars’ was more than just a movie to me, it was my childhood. I will forever be thankful to George Lucas for taking me to a galaxy far, far away, over and over again.

Today’s Thoughts: “The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.”

As soon as I hear that glorious score by John Williams begin, I get chills. Ever time. I can’t help it. ‘Star Wars’ always brings out the child in me and that was no exception today when I sat down to watch this epic space opera. ‘Episode IV – A New Hope,’ the one that started it all is one of the most fun, entertaining films of all time.

Now forty-three years old, ‘Star Wars’ is just as glorious now as it was back then. Yes, I watched the Special Edition version. Yes, some of the special effects are a tad dated. Yes, there is some awkward dialogue. But man alive, I love this movie. The now famous stars are just babies on the screen, but their chemistry is fantastic right from the start. I love how epic and adventurous the script is and I adore re-watching it now that I know where these beloved characters have all ended up. I was tempted to go to my son’s room and grab a few “guys” to watch it with me. However, I did not.

I can’t imagine there is a person over five years old on this planet that has never heard of ‘Star Wars.’ Even people who do not like the movie or have never seen it, knows of its existence. It is more than just a movie, it is a franchise, a pop culture phenomenon and a legacy all wrapped up into one. To keep the celebration of all things ‘Star Wars’ alive today I am finally going to start the Disney+ series “The Mandalorian.” I am sure it will be enjoyed. There is also one more ‘Star Wars’ movie that will be showing up on my list of most influential movies of all time. Until that time, may the force be with you.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, John Barry, Norman Reynolds, Leslie Dilley, Roger Christian (winner), Academy Award for Best Costume Design, John Mollo (winner), Academy Award for Best Sound, Don MacDougall, Ray West, Bob Minkler, Derek Ball (winner), Academy Award for Best Film Editing, Paul Hirsch, Marcia Lucas, Richard Chew (winner), Academy Award for Best Effects, Visual Effects, John Stears, John Dykstra, Richard Edlund, Grant McCune, Robert Blalack (winner), Academy Award for Best Music, Original Score, John Williams (winner), Academy Award for Special Achievement in Sound Effects, Ben Burtt (winner), Academy Award for Best Picture (nomination), Academy Award for Best Director, George Lucas (nomination), Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Alec Guinness (nomination), Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, George Lucas (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Original Score – Motion Picture, John Williams (winner), Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Director – Motion Picture, George Lucas (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Supporting Role – Motion Picture, Alec Guinness (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Film Music, John Williams (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Sound, Don MacDougall, Ray West, Bob Minkler, Derek Ball (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Film (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Costume Design, John Mollo (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Film Editing, Paul Hirsch, Marcia Lucas, Richard Chew (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Production Design/Art Direction, John Barry (nomination), Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, George Lucas (nomination), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Picture (winner), Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Music, John Williams (winner), National Board of Review Award for Top Ten Films (winner), National Film Registry (1989), Writers Guild of America Award for Best Comedy Written Directly for the Screen, George Lucas (nomination).

Ways to Watch: Disney+, Hulu, Sling TV, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, TBS, TNT, DVD Availability.

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