Yesterday, a previous DSW guest left me a Facebook message: "Star Wars is a still a total waste of your time." I couldn't agree more. Because Star Wars is just that - something designed to waste our time in a fun way. However, time is precious. For the past year or so, I've debated on closing up shop on Digging Star Wars. After all, it's been a good, four-year run and maybe it's time to call it quits. It doesn't help that LucasFilm & starwars.com launched a similar Star Wars/classic film comparison blog in 2013 based on the same idea we rolled out in 2010. While "The Cinema Behind Star Wars" offers some unique insights and a few new films, it's pretty much rehashing the exact same catalog of films we explored prior. My blog is a small, mom-and-pop shop trying to compete with a big box store. It just can't be done. And, yes, I truly am excited about The Force Awakens and, yes, this may be the worse time to pull the plug on a Star Wars-themed blog and miss out on the potential web traffic I could get with the ongoing Episode VII buzz...but...it's time. I've learned never to say "never again" - so, instead of ending Digging Star Wars forever, I'm hanging up the GONE FISHIN' sign.
Digging Star Wars: Jurassic Park 3D episode guest and my son Peter (and one of his many catches).
I'm going to step away, explore some other creative opportunities, and mull over the idea of returning to (or reinventing) Digging Star Wars. Until then, I'm leaving the blog up for all to enjoy. If you're so inclined: post a comment. Tell us your favorite episode or your least favorite...and why. I always loved seeing the posts and emails come in from our listeners and followers worldwide. Most of all, thank you for reading, listening, and supporting this blog that started as a project in a Critical Pedagogy class at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Thanks for posting comments on any and every episode and especially when I made special episodes designed for other classes. I was never shy for asking for comments when a grade was on the line and you never let me down. Thanks to my many guests that brought so much to the table - not just their time and insights, but often their own studios, gear, and talents (several guests edited episodes for me or even wrote and recorded original music specifically for our audio entries). Thanks for joining in on the fun venture that was...and will remain...Digging Star Wars.
Black Friday this year brought more than bargains, as Disney
released the first trailer for the new Star Wars movie online and in select
theaters! Why pretty much everything thing that could be said about it has been said
online, I just needed to point out how happy I am that the connectivity to classic films such as TheDam Busters, Saving Private Ryan, 2001, Fort Apache and, of course, the
original Star War trilogy! See for yourself…
Yesterday, NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon – who raced the #24
Phantom Menace paint-scheme car back in 1999 – won the first race of the 2014
Chase for the Sprint Cup. I attended this race in Dover International Speedway
in Delaware donning my #24 Star Wars Episode I cap.
Little did I know, I would unravel the final thread on the 2001/Episode I connections in Dover…
Prior to the race, for the past few weeks, I’ve had my share
middle-of-the-night movie watching - thanks to my teething one-year-old. In
those sleepless nights, I’ve re-watched Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.
As many of you know, there is a delicious Easter Egg in Episode I that visually
points to 2001.
An EVA pod from 2001
lies just inside Watto’s junkyard, where Watto and Qui-Gon Jinn have a
conversation about paying for the spare parts the Jedi needs to repair Queen
Amidala’s spaceship. Here is a still from 2001 showing several pods on the left...
And here is the scene from Phantom Menace featuring the 2001 pod.
Look just to the right of Watto's flapping wings...
While there are additional scenes and nuances shared by both
films, I’d like to hone in on this whole “pod” business first. I want to stress that the 2001 spaceship is known as a POD and this is the beginning scene
that will make up an act in Episode I that climaxes with… wait for it… a
PODrace, as in Anakin will race his own PODracer to get the spare parts Qui-Gon
and company needs (and secure his own freedom from slavery). Now, when we first
see the 2001 EVA pod in the
background, we haven’t heard the term “pod” or “podrace” in Phantom Menace, but it serves as a
Sci-fi fans who had already seen 2001 prior to their first viewing of Episode I (like
me), may have thought, “Oh, that’s cool. That’s the POD from 2001.” When the term “podrace” is first
mentioned by Anakin a few minutes later in the film, we’re not thinking about
the junkyard visually – or remembering the EVA pod we saw there. And yet, we
will return to that location to secure the deal with Watto for the podrace
scene to occur. A few minutes later, before the podrace begins, Qui-Gon makes
deal with Watto. If Anakin pilots his pod to victory, Watto must release him
from slavery. In other words, Anakin will be TRANSFORMED into a new stage of
his life…to be free, to become a Jedi and, ultimately, to become Darth Vader.
In 2001, main
character and space traveler Dave Bowman is also transformed into his (and
humanity’s) next life stage when he travels in his pod into the monolith. After
steering his pod into the monolith, Dave travels across a luminous, alien
landscape that ends with his aging and transformation into a “star child.”
So, what does my trip to the NASCAR race at Dover have to do
with any of this? Well, now having attended a NASCAR race, I must say that
Lucas and crew did an excellent job creating the racing experience in the
podrace. Lucas made it very clear that he wanted the podrace in Episode I to
feel “very NASCAR.” The cast of interesting characters in the stands, the
intense sounds and visuals of the race and so many other aspects of Dover really
hit me and reminded me of the podrace scene (arguably the BEST part of Episode I).
But, after our one-time Phantom Menace driver Jeff Gordon won yesterday, I learned an interesting fact.
It’s been YEARS since Gordon won at Dover. How long?
The last time Jeff Gordon won at Dover was the calendar year 2001.
On that note, here are some other interesting similarities/coincidences
shared between 2001: A Space Odyssey
and Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace:
Early on in each film, characters take a space
flight to attend a business meeting on a space station. In 2001, Dr. Heywood R.
Floyd (William Sylvester) travels via Pan Am space plane to a circular space
In Episode I, cruiser Radiant
VII carries Qui-Gon (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) to a circular
Trade Federation space station.
A robot in plain sight eavesdrops on two mortal
characters having a life-or-death conversation. In 2001, Dr. David Bowman (Keir
Dullea) and Dr. Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood) talk in a docked EVA pod while the
HAL-9000 lip reads their conversation.
In Episode I, two Neimoidian aliens
fearfully debate who will talk to the
two Jedi. Protocol droid TC-1, who is idly standing by, is ordered to go into the conference room.
Characters “struggle” to get through circular
portals. In 2001, a Pan Am stewardess uses Velcro-slippers to navigate the
weightlessness of outer space to enter a circular portal “upside down.”
Episode I, Qui-Gon uses his lightsaber to cut through circular blast doors.
Stuart Freeborn, the man responsible for designs
of Wookies, Yoda and Jabba the Hutt – also worked on the ape-suits in the DAWN
OF MAN sequence in 2001.
Digging Star Wars is very excited to announce the first ever DIGGING STAR WARS 6-NIGHT FILM CLASS through the Downingtown Area Recreation Consortium! Here's the write-up in the DARC catalog (and please forgive the typo - we all know Ep7 is coming out in 2015):
Star Wars and Movie fans, I promise more great, classic movies and geeky conversations overflowing with delicious tidbits of trivia. So, if you will be in Chester County, PA this Fall - why not sign up? Here's an application for your convenience....
For more information on Downingtown Area Recreation Consortium, go to: www.darcinfo.com