Friday, May 25, 2018

Peter Biskind and Star Wars

In telling the story of Hollywood in the '70s in Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, Peter Biskind cannot avoid discussing Star Wars.

Alas, in doing so Biskind not only repeats the charge that Star Wars "ruin[ed] movies," "obliterating . . . aesthetic self-consciousness and critical reflection," and eliminating any possibility of other kinds of films getting made, and lengthily citing what seems like half his cast of characters to that effect--Pauline Kael and John Milius (who called it a cheap amusement park ride) and William Friedkin (who compares Star Wars to McDonald's, after which "'the taste for good food disappeared,'" "'devolution,'" "'everything going backward into a big sucking hole'") and Martin Scorsese ("'They're not subsidizing anything else . . . They're smothering everything'") and Robert Altman (looking back on a visit to the multiplex in the summer of 1997 as not offering a single "'picture that an intelligent person would want to see'"). He even cites George's then-wife Marcia, confessing that she was "disgusted" by the current state of the American film industry, that part of her thought Star Wars "'partly responsible for the direction the industry has gone in, and . . . feel[ing] badly about that.'"

Biskind also makes Lucas look foolish for even attempting to argue in Star Wars' defense. (He declared that the blockbuster revenues created a space for less commercial fare; Biskind terms it "a Reagan-era trickle-down spin on the situation," not implausibly but at the least unkindly, while sandwiching Lucas' defense between those paragraphs of denunciation.)

In fairness, Biskind's history of the period has sufficient scope and sufficient detail to make one see that the story is much larger than a single movie (or two, or three). He makes clear that Lucas was far from the only commercial-minded filmmaker in the bunch. Biskind makes as much as anyone else of the mistakes of the New Hollywood superstars that were to cost them and the bigger movement so dearly (Friedkin, and Scorsese, and a good many others getting in way over their heads, blowing big budgets on failed projects, losing their capital that way). He tells of the rise of "high concept," brought into film production by Barry Diller from TVland, and refined by his cohorts, even before Spielberg and Lucas had their hits. Still, he does not connect the dots here so illuminatingly as he might have, the New Hollywood myth winning out over the more complex facts of the situation.

Book Sale
5/18/18
Now on Google Books . . . (Star Wars in Context: Second Edition)
5/6/18
Some of What I've Been Up to Lately (NYRSF, SSRN, Star Wars in Context: Second Edition)
5/3/18
Just Out . . . The End of Science Fiction?
11/30/16
Just Out . . . (The Many Lives and Deaths of James Bond, 2nd edition)
11/12/15
Just Out. . . (James Bond's Evolution)
10/10/15
Just Out . . . (The Forgotten James Bond)
9/24/15
Just Out: After the New Wave: Science Fiction Today
7/27/15
Preview Cyberpunk, Steampunk and Wizardry
7/9/15
My Posts on Star Wars
12/16/12

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