The Empire Strikes Back was released thirty-five years ago today. Our planet seems unanimous in the belief that Empire is the best of the Star Wars films, which of course it is. Dramatic and dream-like yet so human and accessible. Breaks off a lot of the clunk from the first film, avoids the retreads of the third. And those tauntauns sure are some wacky snow-stompin’ bipeds.
Nutty two-legged space camels. Crying out with their distinctive sad gurgle. Filled with weird blue macaroni guts. Namaste, tauntauns.
Please celebrate The Empire Strikes Back’s birthday responsibly, by which I mean do not turn your customized Boba Fett helmet into a gravity bong.
I wrote this piece in 2012 when it was Dave’s 30th broadcasting anniversary. My feelings remain the same. I’ll only add: it confounds me that Dave would continue the show for so long when his posture behind the desk (especially in the past few years) has suggested the emotional investment of a death row inmate…until I remember one of my favorite Dave remarks:
“Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.”
You overdid it, Dave, and as perverse at it seems we respect you for it.
See you later.
I saw Fury Road, and it’s just as great as everyone says. The action is hard without being dour, the pace is quick without being dizzying, every character seems instantly iconic, they cram in a few sharp yuks, and in general this entry does not violate the fast n’ loose Mad Max mythos.
On that last point…
The main antagonist of Fury Road is played by Hugh Keays-Byrne, who also played the Toecutter in the inaugural Mad Max. Hugh’s got very distinct eyes and they are in fact the only bit of his face you can see in the new film. His hair is kinda the same too. Thus, it is my belief that his Fury Road character is actually the Toecutter (the same way the Humungus in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior is thought to be Max’s fallen partner from Mad Max 1). Yes, somehow the Toecutter survived being run over by that tractor trailer. Stranger things have happened.
Following this logic, Fury Road is taking place thirty years after the events of Beyond Thunderdome, in real time, and Tom Hardy is not playing the original Mad Max but Max’s son. The Rockatansky clan isn’t defeated on screen in the first movie a la the Toecutter. It looks like the bikers hit them, and then Max hears they’re dead or near death at the hospital. So again, the child, though a defenseless infant creamed by a motorcycle, could have lived.
This is why the Max of Fury Road is hesitant about giving his name—he isn’t even sure who he is. He’s still piecing it all together. This is also why the film doesn’t make any great pains to say “this is MAD MAX, the LEGEND.” He’s not. He’s Max Junior. Or Sprog, rather, as he was known in 1979.
There are holes in this theory. How could Max’s son be driving his father’s car, the legendary last of the V8 Interceptors, when it was destroyed in The Road Warrior? I don’t know. Maybe everyone in Road Warrior was mistaken about the availability of V8 Interceptors. You know, people find stuff that’s supposedly lost to history all the time. Maybe someone in the Outback hung on to this car like Obi-Wan hung onto that lightsaber on the off chance his pal’s kid would show up one day.
And what of the elder Mad Max? Does he still roam the wastelands? Sure, why not. That would make an excellent sequel. Max versus Max, father versus son. Charlize Theron’s Furiosa wouldn’t know whose side to take. Then Tina Turner could show up with fuckin’ Emil Minty and take this dirty-ass circus to a whole ‘nother level.
Mad Max²: Beyond Fury Road. That’s what I’d call it. License to print money!
My feud with Chicago is over. I had a grand time during my mostly “hey, why the hell not?” visit this week, taking in various sights (like the staircase from The Untouchables, seen above) and local delicacies (Dinkel’s cranks out a must-taste Woolworth sandwich). My jimmies were hardly rustled at all.
Like MacArthur I shall return. Three trips out there and I still haven’t seen the house from “Family Matters!” Or that big weird mirror thing!
– the first half of this doc (covering Cobain’s frenetic childhood and rise to pop culture ubiquity) is more engaging and interesting than the latter, though the back end helps humanize the Kurt who descended into tragedy (not to mention his widow Courtney Love, an immensely likable figure throughout Heck, even when discussing drug use during her pregnancy [and she was right, her kid turned out fine])
– the Scanner Darkly style animated segments, while very richly detailed and atmospheric, ultimately feel too clean (read: too Hollywood) for the rest of the film’s aesthetic (read: notebook scrawled punk rock anarchy)
– there are no revelations here concerning Kurt’s personality or approach to life; it all just reinforces how difficult the world can be for ultra altruistic and/or ultra idealistic figures, especially when they have major aspirations
– I’m enormously satisfied this prestige work includes that hilarious circa ’91 footage of Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic videotaping himself in the rest room of an airplane, joking about “this bird [goin’] down”
– it was cool at the end when they credited every person who ever passed through Nirvana equally
– the worst thing you can say about Montage Of Heck is that it gets a little repetitive and ends abruptly—of course, this simply mirrors Kurt’s final years, so maybe this entire exercise is perfectly honest and unflinching
– as sad a figure as Kurt Cobain seems this documentary does a great job proving he could be just as funny and light-hearted as anyone else; in fact, his wit seemed so quick I could easily see him holding his own on “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” next to Greg Proops and Ryan Stiles; I for one would have lovingly embraced Kurt Cobain, Improv Comic
– it’s inevitable another doc on Kurt or Nirvana will be produced someday, but after Heck it shouldn’t be (Obama can secure his legacy by making this an executive order or constitutional amendment or whatever process this country uses to legislate movies about grunge)
When it rains it pours, and this latest Skywalker squall has left me soggy and aching. What can I say? Ball Droid, fetch me a mai tai.
The new Force Awakens trailer is cool (even though Han’s collar is a little too popped for my liking). The teaser for Rogue One is cool (even though it’s the five billionth spot that insists on lifting dialogue from the original trilogy). The new Battlefront vid-juh game looks like every other Star Wars blow-’em-up that came before it, except with better graphics (which is fine; I’ve always been more of a Lego Star Wars guy).
The Star Wars emojis are very cute and I forgive their creator/”maker” for not rendering some of the more obscure characters like Bossk or Yakface.
I don’t even know what to say about that medieval document they found with the drawing of Yoda on it. “Obviously it’s not Yoda,” they keep saying, but what if it is? What if Frank Oz is a highlander?
This fandom is exhausting. And you wonder why I occasionally retreat to the barren confines of a Skatetown, U.S.A. or a Grease 2.
Like Depeche Mode, I enjoy the silence.