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!
“Nuremberg: Nazis On Trial”: Three episode docudrama focusing on the infamous post-war prosecution’s most interesting defendants: the business man who was only sort of a Nazi but still took accountability b/c he knew no one else would, the Nazi second to Hitler who claimed no knowledge of the Holocaust and was apparently very taken aback by what the trial revealed, and the Nazi who believed the Jewish people had hypnotized him into being rude to waiters and that’s why he sided with his country. Fascinating peak into this chapter of history but not the full tale. If you’re anything like me it’ll make you want to read a few books.
“The Amish: Shunned”: Can you believe we’ve had a period of culture we could call Amish sensationalism? This episode of American Experience is far from that—just an honest account of what some individuals go through as they float between strict Amish society and our modern landscape. I felt it in my heart when the one girl decides to return to Amish life but laments how much she’ll miss music.
Supermensch: Alice Cooper’s manager has had a pretty interesting life. Stumbled his way into working with several icons at once, more or less invented celebrity chefdom, is still searching for love. Mike Myers directed this doc; he definitely needs to direct a few more.
Don’t Stop Believin': Everyman’s Journey: Classic rock band needs new singer, they scour the Internet, find some kid on YouTube many worlds away. Interesting enough. I was more intrigued by the sight of Neal Schon in a Clash t-shirt. Had Joe Strummer lived would they have collaborated?
Radio Unnameable: The story of free form deejay Bob Fass, another great piece of everlasting New York City weirdness. You WILL be soothed by his dulcet vocal tones, you WILL want to live in the world of harmony and love he tries to create. Also, you WILL cringe the moment you hear Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s forgotten ode to King Kong ’76.
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!
I burned through all eight episodes of “Other Space” last night. The selling point for people in my demo (thirty-somethings who spent the nineties glued to basic cable) is the reemergence of Joel Hodgson and Trace Beaulieu as far out space nuts. Sure, it’s a thrill to watch these two spoof their “MST3K” personas, but the rest of the cast is equally great (particularly Karan Soni as the insecure boy captain). Amusing concepts, snappy dialogue, a sassy robot—what more do you want from a free program on Yahoo! Screen?
If you liked “NewsRadio” but wished it was in space and Joe Rogan wasn’t involved, stop wasting your time and go devour “Other Space.” Jimbob gives it three and a half stars. Check it out.
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.