The Dinglehopper

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Star Wars Saturday: The Despecialized Edition and Art Reconstruction

Recently, The Mary Sue drew my attention to Harmy’s Star Wars: Despecialized Edition v.2.5, a collective effort by certain skilled Star Wars fans to restore the original trilogy to the experience of watching it in the theater (but in HD!).

The need is pretty clear. Though there are rumors of Disney releasing a blu-ray edition of the “un-special” editions of the films, there is no official version available in HD that maintains the original cut and look of the film.

The short below shows the sources and some of the editing used to create the Despecialized Edition.

The many sources, examination of each source’s limitations and flaws, and tricks to rebuild original footage are simply fascinating to a film geek like myself. The color correction alone is worth the effort, nevermind the Greedo shooting first or digitally added Jabba. I hadn’t realized how tonally different the original color palette was and how that effected my viewing until I saw them side-by-side. That color correction also illuminates why the prequels appear so fake. The original Star Wars had a color palette that suggested grounded realism, not sci-fi fantasy.

Watching the featurette for the DE brought to mind scholars attempting to rebuild Shakespeare’s intended Hamlet. There are three different surviving versions of the text, each seemingly sourced from a different person connected to its performance at the Globe, but none are Shakespeare’s script. Scholars go word by word, line by line, attempting to rectify differences in voice, meaning, and “quality” to produce the text the public reads as Hamlet.

But it also made me think of the reconstruction work that has been done on the Mona Lisa: meticulous stripping of layers and restoration of color, hi-tech scans to see beneath the upper layers of paint.

And I honestly think this is the same. If we can’t get the original version from George and Lucasfilm/Disney, by golly, fans will make it. Their efforts are nothing short of the precision, skill, and historical and artistic understanding of restoring a da Vinci or Shakespeare. Ironically, they’re doing it with a living artist’s work, because he can’t keep from tweaking it, and they think he’s f*ed it up.

Of course, the Despecialized Edition isn’t exactly legal, though downloads are “acceptable” if that person already owns the Star Wars blu-rays. See the information on the YouTube page for more directions on how to get yours.

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Frozen Friday: An Amazing Snowman

Disney’s merchandising machine still can’t keep up close to a year after Frozen‘s release, but book publishing seems to be an exception.

Grandma brought over An Amazing Snowman, written by Barbara Jean Hicks and illustrated by Olga T. Mosqueda, for our toddler.  It’s a big book with paper pages.  Not the sort of thing I’d normally entrust to tiny probing hands, but whatever.  What good is manna from heaven if you can’t crumple it up or tear it?  Even so, I figured we’d look at it a couple times and then put it up on the high shelf with the other grow into them books.

Someday I’ll learn that the power of this film is enough to meet any challenge.  Our toddler respected the book enough to ask that we put the dust jacket away to keep it safe.  The pages are intact despite the book never yet resting on a shelf.

The critical data are these.  The book takes place after the movie.  Olaf has his personal flurry.  It has no plot.  It’s not so much a story as a fun picture book encouraging Olaf’s open heart and vivid imagination.

I like Olaf, even as I acknowledge his oversaturation due to cross gender appeal.  I’m sure they could market Elsa shirts for boys and Kristoff costumes for girls, but I don’t expect they will.  So I’m glad the universally appealing character is worth emulating, butt jokes aside.

The illustrations are simple and beautiful.  They hooked our toddler in the end leaves with line drawings of Olaf engaging in recognizable activities patterned among dandelions parachute balls.  The dandelions are a perfect image to link the summer scenes with winter snowflakes.  We spent a couple minutes just talking about what Olaf was doing and what he was playing with.  Then we turned the page to this.  There was a lot to talk about here, too.

The book mixes up images from the movie with original text and artwork.  Pictures cleverly foreshadow and repeat for some surprising moments of recognition.  And for dedicated Disney families, there are some references to other films.

Check out the author reading to a group of kids at a Barnes & Noble event:

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‘Ocean’s Eleven’ and the Structure of the Caper

oe01I adore Ocean’s Eleven. I teach it as the opening every semester of my Film Analysis class, and I love pointing out Soderbergh’s design to the students and watching their eyes get wide as they realize there’s another way to look at movies other than passively.

But ultimately I use it to exemplify a film that is plot-focused, and a caper (also known as a heist) film is a great way to do that, because they’re all about what happens next, and all of the characters are more or less just meant to have specialized skills and look cool.

So I’m going to take a couple of posts to discuss how Ocean’s Eleven fits the Caper tropes as laid out by

 Told from the criminal viewpoint, a group plans and executes an elaborate robbery. ( Caper)

Normally a film with thieves and liars in it puts them in the “villain” category, but from the very beginning, the audience of Ocean’s Eleven is rooting for Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his crew. Ocean is immediately cool and charismatic in the opening scene, where the viewer inhabits the point-of-view of his parole board, and yet the last thing we want is for Ocean to stay on the straight and narrow when he is set free from prison. The parole board leader asks her final question of the scene: “Mr. Ocean, what do you think you would do if released?” The little crinkle in Clooney’s eyes tells us all we need to know–he has a job planned. Namely, rob three casinos in Vegas that have a shared vault. These three casinos have security systems upon security systems, and robbing even a single casino has never been done before. Ocean is going to need a large and heavily skilled crew to pull this con, and even then they’re all likely to end up in jail or dead at the hand of the casinos’ owner, Terry Benedict.

The criminals are usually more rounded than the opposition, or at least more colorful.

benedictBenedict (Andy Garcia), as the antagonist of Ocean’s Eleven, is a drab, passionless man. He is pictured here looking at art. He is an efficient, ruthless business man. He is firmly in control of what happens in his casino. But, man alive, is he dull. When Tess (Julia Roberts) asks him what he thinks of the new Picasso she has procured for his collection, he responds: “I like it because you like it.” Dude, get a personality. He never does. We want Tess to drop him like an over-microwaved Hot Pocket.

On the other hand, though none of the characters are exactly round, each of the Ocean crew have a quirky trait to set them apart. Some are ruthlessly funny, like Frank and the twins. Others have funny accents like Yen and Basher. They all have some distinguishing eccentricity (Rusty is eating in every scene).

Usually contains at least one A-Team Montage or Avengers Assemble sequence.

In the case of Ocean’s Eleven, we have the Avengers Assemble trope. It plays as a montage kicked off by the “money” of the crew, Reuben, saying: “You’re going to need a crew as crazy as you are!…Who you got in mind?” Then we go member by member, giving us a short intro to the character’s quirk and skills and seeing them pulled onto the job. This ends with the whole team together at an “informational” meeting where Linus (Matt Damon), the only one on the fence, must decide to commit before getting the low-down on the plan. Then, of course, we get a second montage telling us the plan.



May be played seriously or as a comedy. In the former, there is generally a fallout among thieves after the heist, while the latter may end on a note of poetic justice.

oceans-eleven vaultOcean’s Eleven is a cool, effective comedy. The laughs range from witty banter between Danny and Rusty or Danny and Tess to slapstick between the twins. And we do end with poetic justice. Although Benedict is a seemingly up-and-up businessman, Danny wins back Tess by proving to her that Benedict is just as much of a thief as he is and more of a liar. Through the con, Tess gets proof that she is not as important to Benedict as his money–he does not truly love her. And even though he chooses his money over Tess when given the option of one or the other, he is left with nothing but millions of flyers for prostitutes and a whole-lotta egg on his face. #sadnotsad



In part II, I’ll discuss the roles of the caper and how the characters line up.



Book Review: Fool’s Assassin

TL;DR: You don’t need to catch up to fall for Robin Hobb’s Fool’s Assassin.

Tom Badgerlock has been living peaceably in the manor house at Withywoods with his beloved wife Molly these many years, the estate a reward to his family for loyal service to the crown.

But behind the facade of respectable middle-age lies a turbulent and violent past. For Tom Badgerlock is actually FitzChivalry Farseer, bastard scion of the Farseer line, convicted user of Beast-magic, and assassin. A man who has risked much for his king and lost more…

On a shelf in his den sits a triptych carved in memory stone of a man, a wolf and a fool. Once, these three were inseparable friends: Fitz, Nighteyes and the Fool. But one is long dead, and one long-missing.

Then one Winterfest night a messenger arrives to seek out Fitz, but mysteriously disappears, leaving nothing but a blood-trail. What was the message? Who was the sender? And what has happened to the messenger?

Suddenly Fitz’s violent old life erupts into the peace of his new world, and nothing and no one is safe.

Normally I’m kind of like the most obsessive reader you know turned up to eleven.  I read in publication order.  I read all of the author’s work.  If there’s short story cannon, I read it.  If chapters get anthologized before the novel, they’re close by when I open the book.

I care how prose evolves, how authors develop, and what changes are made as the story comes into being.

It’s not a rule, but it’s typical.  I don’t usually allow myself to just dip in any old where.  There are drawbacks, of course.  While I’m incredibly familiar with several authors, I also have some notable blind spots.  Robin Hobb was one of them.  One I’d been meaning to rectify for a couple years.  She presented interesting challenges regarding where to begin, so I figured I’d try going in blind for once.

Technically, the learning curve for this book could be fourteen novels long.  Like, you probably shouldn’t start here.  You’ll miss so much.  You won’t understand.  You’ll spoil some of the best work in the genre.

Don’t believe it.  The first paragraph is really the only one that matters, because Hobb takes it seriously.  And the life after service might be the rarest gem in all of fantasyland, so precious that we only get glimpses of it on the margins.

We see Badgerlock as a man, a husband, a father, and a retiree.  We get to know him and come to understand who he is.  There’s never the sense that what we’re looking at it is merely the comfortable life he’ll be pulled out of for one last job.  That’s how the ad copy reads.

But that’s not what I read.  I read a heartrending book about what it means to be human, to love, to be loved and try to accept that love.  To expect and exult and sulk and settle.  To try to do your best and find that’s not always good enough.

Fitz was clearly a hero.  He was clearly great.  He deserved respite.  But could he handle it?  Was he prepared for a quotidian life after the tumult?  Was the world?

There are questions that Fantasy doesn’t normally consider.  What is it like to watch your children grow and become adults after you finish the epic?  What are the consequences of the skills and power acquired on the quest for those around you?  Is it possible to leave the struggle behind and enjoy the boon?

Hobb is wise.  This is a mature work of fiction by a mature woman.  She’s seen life, and love, and loss, and shared it with her protagonist who, in turn, shares it with us.  Tom tries and thereby earns our trust.  He fails and thereby engenders our love.

Fool’s Assassin is well plotted and securely anchored to the eventual seventeen novel narrative The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy contributes to.  I’d say there aren’t many surprises, but that’s not entirely accurate.  The major beats are anticipated early and create a sense of tension and anticipation when they arrive.  What’s surprising is that they’re almost secondary to the lived experience of the characters.  It’s not the event that’s portentous or momentous, it’s the repercussions within.

I want to read the earlier novels not because there are dragons and wars and ancient magics, but because the people I read about remember tender moments from them.  I want to see what affected them so deeply.  What moved them to tears.

I want to read the next novel, alas, to find out what happens.  I can’t skip it.  It’s unthinkable.  She’s got me.

Recommended for readers who liked The Parish and the Hill, A Visit from the Goon Squad, and The Magician King.

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt Working With Gaiman on Film Adaptation of Sandman

joseph-gordon-levitt-covers-out-october-2013-01Man, who does not love Joseph Gordon-Levitt? Seriously, are there any hold-outs? He can act, dance, write, direct. He’s a feminist. He’s overall adorable. And here’s one more reason to join the JGL-side:

As part of DC Comics and Warner Bros.’s big push-back against Marvel’s box-office domination, JGL is working with Neil Gaiman and others from the Dark Knight crew to adapt Sandman. Still in the script stages, JGL is being set to direct (and maybe star?).

He admits that adapting Sandman is no easy task:

There’s not a script yet, we’re still kind of working it out because it’s such a complicated adaptation because “Sandman” wasn’t written as novels. “Sin City” was written as a novel. “Sandman” is 75 episodic issues. There’s a reason people have been trying and failing to adapt “Sandman” for the past 20 years. (“Joseph Gordon-Levitt on ‘Sin City 2,’ ‘Sandman,’ and a ‘Star Wars’ Cameo)

Considering the creativity of his hitRecord productions, I’m hopeful. JGL and Gaiman together can pull this off.

sandman_text1Furthermore, he has full faith in his friend Rian Johnson to deliver something great in his upcoming Star Wars film(s):

I remember when he told me about it, I felt so privileged because he told me about it before the announcement and I’m just so excited. I’m excited for two reasons: one, I’m excited for my dear friend to have this amazing opportunity, and I’m also excited that there’s going to be these movies. These are going to be such good “Star Wars” movies. He’s going to rock it.

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A Potential Treatment for the Community Movie of #sixseasonsandamovie

MW_Study_group_unitedIt seems YahooScreen! is already planning to fulfill the order put forth by Community fans for #sixseasonsandamovie.

But what should the show creators do considering how cinematic the television episodes are? How can Dan Harmon and co. expand the scope of the little show that could into a full-fledged movie-going experience?

There aren’t many previous examples of television shows going cinematic: Star Trek, of course, The X-Files, Firefly, and Veronica Mars. But what I’ve gleaned from the most successful of those (The X-Files: Fight the Future, Serenity)  is that you have to keep the show’s flavor while expanding its borders. Here’s one idea to do just that. It is free for use to Dan Harmon should he want to develop it.

First, kill two birds with one stone by bringing back Donald Glover and having him invite the study group/Save Greendale Committee on a vacation cruise. He has escaped the pirates and now seeks revenge or, alternatively, to save his beloved LeVar Burton. Not only will the movie audience welcome the return of our beloved Troy, but it also provides an expanded setting to automatically give us the widescreen landscape.

This also opens up a list of parody/homage options that the show has only been able to touch on during “Beginner Pottery” when part of the group learns to sail in the parking lot.

SuzLavaLava1Opening credits in the style of The Love Boat. Then we could transition to a Cape Fear homage, where one of the college characters, like the Dean, sneaks on to pursue the object of his attraction: Joel. During a scuffle, perhaps Abed could get hit on the head by a mast, leading to a dream-reality.

Embedded in the dream would be a parody of Fantasy Island where Luis Guizman could play Ricardo Montalban’s Mr. Roarke, Chang would be Tattoo, and all the Greendale characters appear as Fantasy Island characters using this Wizard of Oz conceit.  Imagine Starburns in one of those grass-skirt get-ups.

Back on the boat, after Abed is revived, a run-in with a shark leads to Jaws and if they procure themselves a bigger boat, they could transition into Titantic. That shipwreck could lead to a Gilligan’s Island finale, which could either be the show’s cliffhanger for season 7 or series end depending on Yahoo!Screen’s desires.

I leave the more detailed casting of parallel parts to commentors or to Mr. Harmon himself.

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Kameron Hurley: Always Fighting

Author Kameron Hurley received two Hugo Awards last weekend: Best Fan Writer and Best Related Work.  The related work was the first blog post ever to win the award, “We Have Always Fought': Challenging the ‘Women, Cattle and Slaves’ Narrative,”  So far, I haven’t read anything more deserving of recognition.

Let’s just put it this way: if you think there’s a thing – anything – women didn’t do in the past, you’re wrong.

You should read it.  Everyone should.  If you’re not into reading, which would be weird since you’re here in this untidy corner of the web, there’s a recording of Hurley reading it in her powerful, compelling voice here.

It could almost be the theme for the 2014 winners.  Women won more than half of the awards.  Mary Robinette Kowal won Best Novelette for “The Lady Astronaut of Mars.”  And Ann Leckie won Best Novel for Ancillary Justice, which I can’t just link.  I’ll share my thoughts on it soon.

Hurley’s first trilogy, The Bel Dame Apocrypha, a science fantasy noir, is maybe one of the best ways to spend your KindleUnlimited trial.

Her next novel, Mirror Empire, arrives Tuesday, though many retailers are shelving it early because of the awards.  We’ll be reviewing it as soon as we’re able.


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