|J.J. ABRAMSSTAR WARS 9STAR WARSFAVORITE|
Quarantined viewers tuned into Saturday’s all-day, virtual ScreenCraft Screenwriting Summit were treated to a special surprise in the evening when filmmaker and TV titan J.J. Abrams crashed the party as the surprise special guest. He arrived just after his fellow “Star Wars” scribe Tony Gilroy “Rogue One” and the upcoming Cassian Andor series finished his conversation about the craft of screenwriting.
Abrams’ Q&A touched on a range of topics, from the origins of 2015’s “The Force Awakens” to scaling “the mountain,” as he called it, of writing a screenplay, and to the Golden Age of television happening now. It’s an era Abrams helped to launch with his ABC mystery series “Lost.” “I know my role in that. I’m not talking as if I had nothing to do with this,” he said.
“It’s the Golden Age of television, as they call it, even though I don’t know what television really is anymore,” Abrams said. “That’s because huge chances are being taken. Talent that might not have gotten the chance otherwise suddenly have the opportunity. For me, when I watch a show like ‘Atlanta,’ which takes the most spectacular risks in point of view, in genre, structure, and character […] every story has been told, it’s kind of all been done before,” remarking that the FX series tells its stories in unique ways.
Abrams also praised the Emmy-winning Prime Video series “Fleabag,” created by and starring Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
“You see ‘Fleabag’ and you’re like, well, yes, the fourth wall has been broken [before], but not like that,” he said, referring to the protagonist’s tendency to face the camera and address the audience. “Yes, there have been amazing love stories, and stories of family, but not like that. What I love is the thing that makes you feel like, ‘Oh my god, this is so amazingly specific.'”
Abrams pivoted to discussing Hollywood’s place in a moment dominated by streaming content with originality that far exceeds what’s being reproduced on the big screen. “Hollywood used to be a place where something would happen, there’d be a movie where people would see it and think ‘Oh my god, that’s amazing. Here’s my answer to that,’ or ‘here’s my version,'” he said.
“Hollywood has become a place where, for the most part, studios say, ‘Oh my god, that’s amazing. Let’s do that literally again.’ And that’s OK, and I think that will continue, but I really hope that all the writers who are here and others in the guild are as excited as I am about this new opportunity with streaming platforms. How many different stories are going to be...
With The Rise of Skywalker now on home video, and with the novelization available, it seems like there is no better time to discuss some of the movie's big reveals, now that we've all had at least a little bit of time to digest them. Perhaps the biggest reveal comes, not just as the end of this movie, but the end of the whole Skywalker saga, with Rey taking on the name Skywalker. While this proved to be a controversial choice, author Rae Carson has a reasonably compelling argument to make in favor of it.
Rae Carson penned the Star Wars 9 novelization. During a recent interview, Carson discussed the whole Rey Skywalker thing and why she felt it was not only warranted, but the ultimate victory, as she describes it. Here's what Carson had to say.'When I was 18 years old, I took on the moniker of my stepfather to honor the bonds of love and trust between us. I imagine it was much the same for Rey, who wanted to honor her own chosen family. I recognize that Rey's decision proved controversial, and I look forward to discussing this with fans for years to come. But my current take is this: The entire Skywalker saga is about Palpatine turning or trying to turn Skywalkers to the dark side. He especially hopes that Rey will prove a worthy vessel for his own power and ambition and become the Skywalkers' final downfall. But in spite of all his efforts over the course of three generations, he fails. Rey rejects everything about him and takes on the Skywalker mantle and legacy. In the end, it's a Palpatine who turns to the light, thus handing the Skywalkers their ultimate victory.'
This is an argument that is easy to see both sides of. I understand that Rey's now-infamous 'Rey Skywalker' line left many fans feeling cold. I get it. But hearing Rey Carson's explanation feels compelling. Whether or not one feels the same way, it's hard not to at least see where she's coming from to some degree. We can argue about execution all day, and perhaps that's an argument for another time, but there is some emotional logic to it within the overall narrative.
J.J. Abrams directed Episode IX, having previously helmed The Force Awakens. The movie was intensely divisive amongst critics, but seemed to be less so with general audiences. Whatever the case, it wasn't the well-rounded home run Lucasfilm was looking for to round out the sequel trilogy. Still, it did bring in more than $1 billion at the global box office, making it yet another hit for the Disney era of Lucasfilm.
This did punctuate the Skywalker saga but more Star Wars movies are in the pipeline. At present, Disney has a release date locked down in December 2022. What will be there to fill that date? That is the million, or perhaps billion, dollar question right now. Whatever it ends up being, be it something in the Old Republic or something entirely new, just don't expect to see Rey Skywalker show up. This news comes to us via StarWars.com.
There’s one particularly telling and effective moment in The Skywalker Legacy, the feature-lenght documentary that’s included on the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker home release that sums up much of the ambivalence and consternation that some had with J.J. Abrams’ return to the Star Wars universe. After showing the intricate construction of a giant, practical snake monster, the doc cuts back to footage of Jabba The Hutt, that old analogue beast that slithered its way into our hearts. The sentiment is clear – we’re making movies like we used to! A celebration of practical effects, the dripping of k-y jelly to give viscosity just like the old costume days, it’s all there. There’s excitement on set, everyone talking about how amazing it looks, how lifelike, how this is how you’re supposed to do movies like this.
Cut to Visual Effects Supervisor Roger Guyett who shatters the myth, letting us know the creature was replaced by a CGI version in post.
Guyett’s resume is mighty. Having made his bones on groundbreaking films like Twister and Casper, he helped Spielberg bring the events of D-Day to screen in Saving Private Ryan, helped bring to life the best looking film in the Harry Potter series, Alfonso Cuarón’s Prisoner of Azkaban, and even made the theatrical version of Rent feel more than a stage production. Guyett has had many collaborations with Abrams – from the Star Trek Reboots through The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker he was even second unit director on the former, as well as working with George Lucas on Episode III to round off the prequels. He’s in a unique position to speak to these changing landscapes of epic filmmaking.
We spoke at length about the apparent contradictions and indulgences in making a Star Wars film, and he made the case for why nothing was wasted and all contributed to the final presentation. He was erudite and open to the discussion, making for a dream conversation with a man who quite literally has helped shape what amazes us on screen for decades.
The following has been edited for clarity and concision.
We see practical effects being championed as almost a marketing ploy with the “postquels” as a mix of nostalgia and an attempt to delineate from Lucas’ second trilogy. In some ways the love of the practically-realized snake undercuts the extraordinary CGI you and your team accomplished, and raises questions about why the need to fetishize the on-set inclusions when they’re replaced anyway. Could you talk about that ethos, that somehow doing stuff on a computer is a “cheat” while doing an effect practically is not?
I think at the end of the day we’re all trying to do the best that we can, trying to make the best, most dramatic or emotional movie we can visually. I’m coming from figuring out how do you get the most...
You may recognize Kara Hayward from Wes Anderson’s 2012 film “Moonrise Kingdom,” where she charmed as one half of the film’s star-crossed couple, Suzy Bishop. Since making her debut with one of the best filmmakers of the day, Hayward has kept the pedigree of her collaborators similarly high, landing roles in films by Kenneth Lonergan, Jim Jarmusch, and Jordan Peele. Now, she once again steps into the lead to lend her talents to Martha Stephens’ latest feature “To the Stars,” which was a crowd favorite at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and recently debuted an absorbing first trailer.
The synopsis from Sundance reads: “In a God fearing small town in 1960s Oklahoma, bespectacled and reclusive teen Iris endures the booze-induced antics of her mother and daily doses of bullying from her classmates. She finds solace in Maggie, the charismatic and enigmatic new girl at school, who hones in on Iris's untapped potential and coaxes her out of her shell. When Maggie's mysterious past can no longer be suppressed, the tiny community is thrown into a state of panic, leaving Maggie to take potentially drastic measures and inciting Iris to stand up for her friend and herself. Director Martha Stephens infuses the film with elements of the western genre to tell a deeper story, about women as outsiders in a time and place of repression and intolerance.”
“To the Stars” is the third solo feature from Stephens, whose previous micro-budget movies, “Passenger Pigeons” 2010 and “Pilgrim Song” 2012, both premiered at the SXSW Film Festival. In 2014, she worked with longtime friend Aaaron Katz “Gemini” to co-write and co-direct “Land Ho!,” which was acquired by Sony Pictures Classics and won the John Cassavetes Award at the 2015 Film Independent Spirit Awards.
Shannon Bradley-Colleary wrote the script.
Originally premiering in black and white, the trailer offers a glimpse at the 1960s small town setting in glorious vintage hues. It also teases performances by the impressive supporting cast, which includes Liana Liberato, Jordana Spiro, Shea Whigham, Malin Akerman, and Tony Hale.
Samuel Goldwyn Films will release “To the Stars” on VOD on April 24. Check out the engaging first trailer below.