View Single Post
Old February 21 2011, 11:44 PM   #1
Vice Admiral
Gaith's Avatar
Location: Washington State
Gaith Goes to Skywalker Ranch, Annoys George and Gabs with Big Jim

Hola everyone, here's a wee story I've been sitting on for about a year, putting off writing down, but here it is at last. Enjoy!

So, my mother's a member of the Screen Actor's Guild, and since we live in San Francisco (in different digs, hem, thank you), she got wind of a private, free Avatar screening/Big Jim Q&A up at Skywalker Ranch. So, what to do? We sign up.

It takes ten or fifteen minutes to find the nondescript gate off the freeway in San Rafael. We pull up to the guard-shack, whereupon I make Mom Jedi Mind-Trick him into waving us through. He laughs good-naturedly, and lies that no one's ever done that to him before... Or maybe he just meant that night?

We drive through the darkening ranch (sadly devoid of full-scale X-Wings lying about) and find the visitor's lodge. Inside is a modestly catered reception where SAG members and their guests start trickling in. I recognize ILM's John Knoll from all sorts of dvd features but can't quite recall his name. I'm pretty sure he worked on my beloved The Mummy and my far less beloved Mummy Returns, but can't think of anything interesting yet polite to ask him in that regard.

After some time, The Flanneled One himself shows up, looking even shorter than one imagines. I think, here it is: my big chance to ask The Maker something! But I'm at his house, so I don't want to be annoying, rude, or anything like that... I think furiously, then remember his interest in 3D Star Wars conversions. So, when he eventually ambles by, I make eye contact and ask:

“Mr. Lucas (“yeah?”), now that 3D is really catching on, how long do you think it'll be before Viewmasters make a comeback?”

The bespectacled man blinks. “What?” I repeat the question. “Oh, well, you know,” he mutters, “the technology – it's not quite there yet – ”

“No,” I say, baffled, “Viewmasters,” miming the slide-changing action of the 1939 toy he must have grown up with – but he's shuffled away, as if in a daze. After a long moment, with Mother looking on in equal disbelief, I discover that this encounter could hardly have gone any better: I've both confused and annoyed George himself, and without in the slightest meaning to!

Before long, Big Jim is around also, looking even taller than one imagines. He's busy talking to people, so it doesn't look as though I'll get a chance to gush. I overhear him talking about chatting on the phone with Michael Bay, who told him that it took him a good quarter-hour to get used to Avatar's 3D, but that he's nevertheless thinking of doing (only) twenty to twenty-five minutes of Transformers 3 in the same. “So, let me get this straight,” Big Jim recalls to a bemused crowd, with that quintessential “what an idiot” look of his, “you're planning on disorienting the audience and going through all that trouble for five minutes of good 3D?!”

We're presently called down to the Stag Theater to see the show. This is where lots of final cut screenings are done – T2 and Titanic were finalized here, among many other movies. The Flanneled One takes the stage and gives a rambling, semi-coherent greeting, making a mess out of his first sentence (switching around a clause or something): Mother and I shake our heads at each other once more. After a tortuous two or three minutes, the mic is passed to Big Jim, who states with admirable brevity that he doesn't intend to try to shape anyone's perception of the movie, so let's all get started.

So, we watch the film. It may not have been IMAX, but let me tell you, a free screening at the Stag Theater in Skywalker Ranch with Big Jim in attendance has to be the finest way to experience Avatar.

Following the screening, there's a Q&A session with Jon Landau. Cameron is asked about the political messages, the acting/directing process, etc. – fairly ordinary stuff. I'm mind-drafting two questions to choose from: one slagging on movie tie-in video games as dilutions of the authorial message, and another –

The moderator picks me to ask the very last question. So I ask Big Jim what he thinks about upconverting older movies to 3D in cases where the creators are no longer around to give their consent; I mention colorization.

“Well, let's be clear on one thing,” he replies, “colorization was bullshit.” Appreciative laughter and mild applause. He goes on to say that though he's prepping Titanic in 3D, he doesn't believe in upconverting movies without the express consent and, if possible, involvement, of the directors in question. More approving nods and such. The evening ends.

So, there you have it: confusing and annoying The Flanelled One out with the most innocent of intentions, asking a question of Big Jim, and Jedi Mind-Tricking a guard at Skywalker Ranch. Not a bad night's work.

Gaith is offline   Reply With Quote