‘Star Wars,’ Elvis and Me

28 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Canada is the only country to secure streaming rights for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Three important things happened in the middle of 1977, each separated by a little more than a month: “Star Wars” was released, I celebrated my 11th birthday and Elvis Presley died. EIGHT months after it leaves the cinema, the force will awaken on Netflix with the highly-anticipated Star Wars movie being added to the streaming service.Not long after tickets for “Star Wars: Force Awakens” went on sale last week nationwide, two months before it will hit theaters, seats to the film’s premiere in Boston began vanishing like a lightsaber going back into its hilt. One of those things is not like the others, I know, and strictly speaking there wasn’t then and isn’t now anything beyond calendar coincidence that links them together. According to report from Variety, “the reason Netflix will be able to offer the much-anticipated movie in Canada next year — and not in the US or anywhere else — has to do with the timing of when Disney’s pay-TV distribution deals were up for grabs.” This means the latest flick in the Star Wars franchise is not included as it will be released in December this year — making it fall under Disney’s current output deal US cable channel Starz.

Curious to find out how this affects Australian Netflix subscribers, news.com.au asked our likelihood of securing the streaming rights for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Abrams, who is known for his “Star Trek” reboot and the enigmatic TV show “Lost,” is set to open in the United States and Canada on Dec. 18, with many theaters showing it a night before. But when two friends bailed on him for the opening night of the film, he turned to Craigslist to get rid of his excess tickets. “I thought I could see what I could get for these,” he said. “When I listed it, I didn’t think I would get that much.

I figured people would just see it the next day.” Nick, who didn’t want to give his last name, is selling eight seats to a showing in Woburn on Saturday, Dec. 19. Elvis, in his mid-40s at the time of his death, was for kids like me immutably the property of the old, a reminder of the moment in our parents’ youth when everything had changed. Jared Gordon, a film professor at Emerson College and longtime “Star Wars” buff, said he’s not surprised that people are willing to pay hundreds of dollars to see the film on opening night. He said people are paying for the experience, so they can be surrounded by fans with a shared passion for a cultural phenomeneon that has trascended generations. “It’s not just some ticket. This doesn’t happen too often — it’s beyond a film,” said Gordon. “This is a participatory ritual, and it’s fun to be around other people excited about the same thing as you are.”

Twenty-first century grown-ups who bemoan the hegemony of fantasy-based franchise movies — which is to say most of us, at one time or another — have only our own youthful enthusiasms to blame. But the first “Star Wars” trilogy is also credited with opening up a dazzling world of fan culture, liberating nerds and geeks from the condescension of their elders and the mockery of their classmates and placing their passions at the center of the universe.

Like rock ’n’ roll before it, this cultural dispensation may not have been immediately respectable, but it proved to be instantly profitable and endlessly renewable. Elvis made his indelible mark on baby boomer consciousness by putting a white face and an adolescent pout on a style of black Southern music that had been around a long time. In his generous, slightly patronizing New York Times review, Vincent Canby noted the movie’s evocation of “Flash Gordon” serials and “a variety of literature that is nothing if not eclectic: ‘Quo Vadis?,’ ‘Buck Rogers,’ ‘Ivanhoe,’ ‘Superman,’ ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ ‘The Gospel According to St. Matthew,’ the legend of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table.” George Lucas’s fellow cinephiles could point out his debts to John Ford and Akira Kurosawa. “Star Wars” might have looked like science fiction and played like an aerial-combat film, but it was also a western, a samurai epic and, at least when Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford were on screen together, a screwball comedy. An exemplary act of what some of us would learn, in college a few years later, to identify as the distinctive postmodern aesthetic strategy of pastiche.

There were action-adventure movies, multi-sequel science-fiction allegories, comic books that had initiated generations of fans in the pleasures of serial narration. There was “The Lord of the Rings” (the books and Ralph Bakshi’s animated movie); “Planet of the Apes” (the movie and the animated Saturday morning cartoon spinoff); “Star Trek”; Mad magazine. Here was the nascent population not yet known as Generation X, hungry for novelty, distraction, comfort, order, mythology, heroism — whatever it was that our post-’60s, recessionary moment seemed not to be supplying. I’m not sure how many times I saw “Star Wars” the year it came out, but I am certain that until the arrival of my children, a DVD player and a copy of “Toy Story 2,” there is no movie I have seen as often in such rapid succession.

The novelist Jonathan Lethem, two years older than I am, has written (in a piercing essay called “13, 21, 1977”) about seeing it 21 times, usually by himself, during an especially painful period in his life. You would be in someone’s rec room playing air hockey, or trying to pop wheelies on your bike, and you’d get bored with that and, if you hadn’t already spent your allowance, you’d head to the theater where the movie had been playing continuously since the end of the previous school year. They existed — the whole cosmos, or gestalt, or whatever it is, exists — in a realm beyond such judgments, and also beyond the ordinary operations of nostalgia. “Star Wars” is an old movie now, older now than Elvis Presley’s first records were in 1977.

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