The Dinglehopper

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Understanding the Influences, Craft, and Power of the Climactic Scene of ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’

death-star-runI’m coming late to the series by Julian Palmer called “The Discarded Image.” In the video series, he deeply analyzes a scene from a great film, discussing how it creates powerful effects. The final video of the series discusses the climactic scene from Star Wars: A New Hope–the trench scene and destruction of the Death Star.

While he does do some shot, sound, and editing analysis, he also looks at George Lucas’ filmmaking history prior to Star Wars, visually showing how THX-1138 and American Grafitti combine to lead directly to Star Wars. Additionally, Lucas based Star Wars on older cinematic genres, like swashbucklers and war films, to teach himself how to make a mainstream film.

Finally, Palmer discusses the great themes of the film and how it mirrors both the zeitgeist of the era and Lucas’ own filmmaking flubs with the prequels. Star Wars restored the black and white morality to the war film. The people of the Empire are marked clearly as evil. This particularly resonates with story choices in The Force Awakens where a Stormtrooper, previously shown as disposable cannon fodder, defects and becomes fully humanized and valued.

This is a deeply insightful video that any Star Wars fan will appreciate.

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The Hypothetical Star Wars Holiday Special Begs a Philosophical, Literary Question

Can one parody the already absurd?

Long before 1999’s The Phantom Menace, George Lucas totally boffed the qualities that made Star Wars a phenomenon and instead created a boring, corny, absurd television special that he’s now refusing to admit exists. But it does. YouTube’s got it right here. Michael and I tried to watch it about five years ago. We made it about 40 minutes in before giving up entirely.fodholiday

But now Funny or Die has created a parody of the horror that is the Holiday Special using the new Force Awakens characters based on rumors and conjecture from the marketing materials for the new film. And they’ve kindly thrown together a short primer for those of you unfamiliar with the original so you can see the mimicked elements.

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The Wilhelm Scream: Hollywood’s Favorite Stock Sound Effect

1427219-wilhelm_screamFor 33 years or so, my brain has thought of Star Wars when hearing a particular sound effect which I’ve now learned is called the Wilhelm Scream. But that’s just the start of its use. Here it is.


I remember it particularly from A New Hope when Luke shoots a Stormtrooper in the Death Star and he falls into a chasm and in Return of the Jedi when a hooligan from Jabba’s barge falls into the Sarlacc Pit. Then I started hearing it elsewhere just recently. I mean really hearing it. Like, hey, I know that scream. Most recently I heard it used in the final episode of Netflix’s Sense8.


Here’s a montage of the stock sound, from the first uses of it in The Charge at Feather River to Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. In fact, it appears that George Lucas should be credited for it even becoming a thing. His repeated use of it becomes a running joke over the course of his films. I suspect its use in a film like Reservoir Dogs is due to Tarantino’s love for referencing other filmmakers, just as Lucas was likely showing his own love for a previous generation’s filmmakers in his use of it.


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Star Wars Saturday: How Padme Really Died

The Revenge of the Sith seemed like a relatively worthy film compared to the other two prequels, that is until the final scene of Padme dying of a broken heart and the newly anointed Darth Vader crying out in (cheesy) agony.

How I felt after hearing the "broken heart" diagnosis.

How I felt after hearing the “broken heart” diagnosis.

Padme died of a broken heart…really?

Lame sauce, Lucas.

Well, no. She didn’t. According to Joseph Tavano on, I failed to put the pieces together to unearth the real source of her death.

Tavano argues that Palpatine killed her using a trick he learned from his master to siphon her life Force vampire-style and feed it to Anakin to allow him to live, albeit now as Darth Vader in a walking life-support suit. He goes step-by-step through the reasoning for this conclusion.

The full argument, which is worth reading for Star Wars fans who were disappointed by the hokey notion of her dying of a broken heart, can be found here.

But Tavano also comes back to defend this film as a classic, while I see the failure to make her death clear in the film just one of the ways that the prequels were confused messes of film-making.

While Tavano’s reasoning is sound, and I absolutely believe he’s right, the work he has to do to uncover this truth is outlandish. If Lucas had this source for her death in mind, it should have been a riveting emotional reveal. If we had simply gotten a few intercut shots of Palpatine concentrating and clearly siphoning her life Force out and rerouting it to Anakin, we would have been easily overwhelmed by the tension of the moment and the dramatic irony that the Jedi don’t know enough to save her PLUS the dramatic irony of Palpatine lying to Anakin that the blame for her death fell to him. Instead we’re left with the sentimental notion of dying of a broken heart and some cheesy screaming from Vader. It is an obvious mark of poor film-making, a missed opportunity for cinematic emotional impact.


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Star Wars Saturday: The Dissolve asks “Why Star Wars?”

The Dissolve is a fantastic movie critic site. They have reviews, news, features, even a movie of the week that gets deep treatment. They are serious and funny and are fans of quality cinema whether a blockbuster, a cult favorite, or from the art house.

apg_star_wars_ll_131028_16x9_9921Editorial director Keith Phipps has been writing a series called Laser Age which “examines a rich period in the history of science-fiction filmmaking that began in the late 1960s and faded away by the mid-1980s. The most recent article in the series tackles the question of why Star Wars had the impact it did.

He takes an in-depth look at the zeitgeist of 1977, attempting to figure out the components that made Star Wars more than any other science fiction film of the day. What made it become a cultural phenomenon? Phipps examines the importance of timing, the beauty of synthesis, and the in medias res nature of the narrative as all contributing to Star Wars’s popularity.

On its way toward becoming a cultural phenomenon—and altering the direction of big-screen science fiction in the process—George Lucas’ space opera went through some surprising iterations that reflected its era more closely.

If you’re a Star Wars fan, especially an old school one, this is an article you’ll want to devour.

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Star Wars Bonus: ‘The Force Awakens’ Teaser Special Edition


“You know what this moment needs? A dewback. And banthas. A herd of banthas.”

I love people sometimes. I especially love snarky, skilled, creative people. People like Michael Shanks (not the one from Stargate), self-proclaimed stupid video maker on YouTube. He has re-edited The Force Awakens teaser trailer to skewer George Lucas’s needless gumming up of the original films in their Special Editions. As the best satire is, this Special Edition is both funny and sort-of deeply painful in its truth-telling.

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Star Wars Saturday: Redlettermedia’s Critique of ‘The Phantom Menace’

phantommenaceRedlettermedia’s video review of The Phantom Menace is not new to the world, since it was uploaded to YouTube in 2012, but it is new to me, and I definitely think it’s worth sharing with anyone who has yet to experience it.

It’s no secret that I think The Phantom Menace is a waste of digital space. I have, though, not always found the words to express my disdain. Part of the problem is that I haven’t revisited it since seeing it in the theaters. I believe I saw it twice back in 1999 but have had no desire to see it since. So I have a hard time being specific in my complaints.

Redlettermedia’s now somewhat infamous critical take on The Phantom Menace is full of specificity. About character, plot, and cinematic visuals. It’s delivered as a satire of film critique. The narrator is a constructed persona with a “funny” voice and a sketchy background. He gets things like William Shakespeare’s name wrong, but the points he makes are dead-on accurate.

The full video essay is 70 minutes, so you can just imagine the level of deep criticism he offers. Part 1 deals with the character problems–no personality, no connection. Part 2 discusses the overall criticisms of the story and how it’s presented–too much stuff thrown in. Parts 3 and 4 and beyond make scene-by-scene analysis of plot and its many, many inconsistencies and holes. Part 5 takes on the characters of Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon Jinn, and Anakin Skywalker. Part 6 returns to the completely nonsensical finale. Part 7 addresses the multiplication effect of the endings of the Star Wars films and the catastrophe the cross-cutting of four tonally different scenes in the finale of The Phantom Menace.

I’m going to embed the first two parts, because they are truly spot-on analysis. The others you can seek out on your own, because unfortunately the narrator’s “comedic” persona is a violent psychopathic misogynist, and the “jokes” that are made in this arena get more pronounced and offensive starting in part 3. If that won’t bother you, forge ahead! If on the other hand, you’d prefer not to, end your fun with part 2.

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Star Wars Saturday: George Lucas Talks About What Star Wars Means

Last week, George Lucas appeared on Charlie Rose and gave a beautiful, succinct message about what Star Wars means.

campbellheroAin’t that just beautiful? And any old school fan isn’t going to be surprised by his answer. We all know how Lucas originated the story by using the ideas of Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces, seeing his heroes as a futuristic narrative to create a contemporary monomyth.

What is surprising, at least to this fan, is that after the prequels’ tax embargoes and midichlorians he still can put this forth as true. That he can say that Star Wars was always about Anakin Skywalker and still align himself with the hero’s journey. As an original recipe Star Wars fan, Luke was always the hero of this journey. Darth Vader was the death he had to face in order to learn something about himself. Vader was symbolic. He had to be for this to be mythology. Myth is all about the symbols.

But then the prequels went into production and Lucas claimed the story was really about the redemption of Anakin. Anakin was the chosen one to bring balance to the Force–except in some twisted way that meant he would wipe out the Jedi and Sith (all but two) to create that balance. And despite his use of many of the markers of the hero’s journey monomyth, I just never bought it.

Obi-Wan-Anakin-MeetingPerhaps I’m being obtuse and crotchety, but Anakin’s story is a chaotic mess. It has none of the simplicity of either mythology or Luke’s narrative arc. Sure, there’s a battle between good and evil within him, but it’s muddied and, in my opinion, not engaging.

So for whatever it might be worth, I kinda wish Lucas had been focused on the beautiful sentiment he shared with Charlie Rose back when he was writing and directing those prequels.

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Star Wars Saturday: Rough Cut Shows Han Solo Wasn’t Solo

This isn’t exactly newly found footage since it appeared as a special feature on the now inaccurately named Star Wars: The Complete Saga blu-rays, but this rough cut of A New Hope‘s Cantina Scene has recently popped up again on the internet’s radar and found its way to my computer screen. From a film-enthusiast’s perspective, seeing a rough cut of such a famous scene is intriguing. Of note are the original sound levels, where the sound is absent, and the feeling of being on set with the ambient sound. Imagining the film in black and white is also an odd fit.

But then you see that the original shoot gave Han a “sweetheart” with whom he sucks face before shoving her off to conduct his business. Now why didn’t George Lucas bring her back with the special edition like he did Jabba?

I’m kidding, that’s obvious. Han looks like a lech in this introductory scene, and Lucas has been attempting to hero-ize Han since the beginning. Plus, hey, that would sort of ruin the set-up for the romance with Leia.

Fans call her Jenny after the actress who played her. I, for one, am glad Jenny was left on the editing room floor.