Friday, February 17, 2006

Friday STAR WARS (including pics)

Harrison Ford On The Star Wars Holiday Special
We recently reported about Harrison Ford being on the Conan O'Brien show and his reaction when asked about the Star Wars Holiday Special.

Well Conan shows a clip and Harrison's reaction is priceless! Thank god for the internet because here's that clip, enjoy!


Wanted: The Next Star Wars Fan Club President!

In the spirit of the Official Star Wars Fan Club Recruiting Contest from the original Star Wars Fan Club back in the 1970s and 80s, the publisher of Star Wars Insider magazine, IDG Entertainment, is pleased to present an all-new contest for you "Rebel Recruiters".

Here's the deal... recruit more new Hyperspace / Insider subscribers than anyone else, and you'll become President of the Official Star Wars Fan Club.

Among the perks of the Presidency are:
the title of President of The Official Star Wars Fan Club for one year

an expense-paid trip to San Diego Comic-Con International in July 2006 and participation in Star Wars events at the convention (includes airfare, hotel, and full event admission) EDITORS' NOTE: I ALREADY HAVE A LOVELY TITLE...QOTD. SO LET'S FACE IT...THIS IS WHAT I'M CRUISIN FOR!

a guest-editor position for an issue of Star Wars Insider magazine EDITOR'S NOTE: OK...THIS WOULD BE NICE TOO.

a personal profile printed in Star Wars Insider magazine

VIP status on

a Star Wars collectibles gift package

and more...

Even if you don't win, you still win! Recruit five or more new Hyperspace / Insider subscribers, and you'll receive an exclusive Lucasfilm-designed limited-edition bounty hunter-themed t-shirt as walking proof you know how to bring in your bounty.

The contest kicks-off on February 21, 2006 and closes April 14, 2006, so start recruiting today!

During a recent visit to WonderCon, MovieWeb got to go one-on-one with head of Lucasfilm fan relations, Steve Sansweet, to talk about the company's plans for the upcoming Star Wars TV series in the works.

There were rumors that Kevin Smith would be attached to the Star Wars TV show. Today, he said no.
Steve Sansweet: I can say no too. Kevin's a huge Star Wars fan and it's great to have Kevin as a Star Wars partisan. He's been really nice to us, he mixed the sound of almost all his movies, including the new one, Clerks 2. So no, Kevin's a great guy, but he's not involved in any current Star Wars project. Maybe someday in the future?

Speaking of the future, you said the Star Wars TV show is years away...
Steve Sansweet: We're doing it in two phases. The first is Star Wars animation, which is CG 3-dimensional animation, like a Toy Story, that takes place during the period of the Clone Wars that takes place between Episodes 2 and 3. And that we're setting for Fall of 2007.

Preproduction is underway, we're doing animation test, people are working on initial scripts. So we're well under way on that. And George is very much taking hand and is very much part of the whole process. I know some people thought maybe he would just hey "hey, go do it," but George is Star Wars and he's always gonna be very closely involved in this.

The other project is live action, and the live action is going to take place between Episode 3 and Episode 4. We're looking at a 1 hour show and [Producer] Rick McCallum has said the ideal would be to come up with 100 hours to really get into the story line and characters, and that's the direction we're going in. So that is really targeted more towards the end of the decade.EDITOR'S NOTE: 100 HOURS GOOD. END OF DECADE???!!! SNIFFLE.

Speaking of characters, we hear it's not going to be the main characters...
Steve Sansweet: Correct. That's what George has said. For the most part, it's going to be characters you've seen a little of or seen some of, and they will be the central figures. But of course the plot lines will have to take into account what is happening in the rest of the galaxy, so you'll hear the names Luke and Han and Darth and things like that.

So we will have a core group of heros, it won't be episodic with a new hero each episode?
Steve Sansweet: I think there will probably be story arcs where we'll have some very familiar kinds of character continuity. Ya, I think you need to do that to do it like a movie. For most movies, not like Star Wars, but most movies where every movie you do it's a different group of characters. No I don't think that's what Star Wars fans want or expect.EDITOR'S NOTE: NO, NO WE DON'T. CONTINUITY IS GOD!

This sounds like possibly one of the most ambitious televisions projects EVER. How is it going to happen?
Steve Sansweet: Somebody has to buy it first, you know what I mean? You can produce lots of TV and unless it's very compelling, nobody's going to want to put it on their channel. But there's so many channels of distribution. You turn around and every 6 months there's something new. There's ipod downloads, there's premium sites, there's through-the-telephone. You just don't know what's going to be here in a couple of years. In 3 years, what's going to be the hot new way of distributing? So I think that's always a possibility. Clearly you want to do something that's going to get to as many fans as possible that's as wide as possible. EDITOR'S NOTE: AND MAYBE IN 3 YEARS THERE'LL EVEN BE A CABLE CHANNEL DEVOTED TO SCIENCE FICTION! (SNORFLE.....)

Do you think it's possible to see failure with the foundation of the Star Wars universe, the merchandise, the movies, the DVD's.
Steve Sansweet: If you're always concerned with failure, you're never going to go out there and take any risk at all. Star Wars itself was a huge risk from the very beginning. Even Empire Strikes Back. As successful as Star Wars was, the bank that was lending George money to make the movie independently cut off his credit line. Nothing is a sure thing. I think there's every indication that we're going to do things that people are going to like and there's the sort of way you head.

Would it be too early to speculate on new villains? A new Grievous/Darth Maul type?
Steve Sansweet: I think in the Clone Wars animation, I think it's possible that we're going to see villains that we already know, like Grievous. I think it's way to early to speculate what's going to happen in the TV show. I think George has an idea of what he wants to do, where he wants to go with it, what kinds of characters he wants in it, but that's something...he's working on the animation right now...that he'll explore later.

How come Jar Jar didn't die in Episode 3??? EDITOR'S NOTE: COLD, MAN. COLD.
Steve Sansweet: You shouldn't assume things... I'm not saying he did, but all kinds of things happened off screen in different areas of the universe. I didn't see him in the funeral procession for Padme. But you never know the future of Jar Jar, there's a lot of years to go into with Star Wars. You don't know what happened between 3 and 4. That's a 19 year period, lots of stuff can happen.EDITOR'S NOTE: SO JAR JAR MIGHT HAVE DIED? (NO REALLY....I CARE). OF COURSE, THESE FOLKS WOULD ONLY BE HAPPY IF HE DIED ON-SCREEN. PAINFULLY. SLOWLY.

As for the new TV show: There's so much dynamic action in the movies, can that possibly be duplicated for a TV show?
Steve Sansweet: Ya, I really think you can do that in episodic TV now. It's interesting because a lot of the techniques that Geroge used in Episode 1, for example, were things that he developed in "The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles." Some of the special fx techniques of crowd, doubling, tripling, quadrupling the size. With computer animation and storage and rendering getting faster and faster, I think you'll be able to see some of the things you see in the movies be transfered to the TV. Look at some of the shows like Galactica and some of the other shows that have amazing special Fx."

Any idea on the music?
Steve Sansweet: Of course we used John Williams music in The Clone Wars, the cartoons on Cartoon Network. I don't know if any specific decision on that has been made.

3D Star wars, what can you tell us about that? EDITOR'S NOTE: WAIT...HAVE TO WIPE THE DROOL OFF MY SHIRT.....
Steve Sansweet: Well, the technique exists. George and Rick McCallum are very excited about it, but you need to do a digital projection of the movie. That's how this system works. Look, there's like 90 screens in the US that have digital projections, the same number they had back in 1999, that's clearly not going to do it. You need at least 1,000 or a couple of thousand theaters in order to spend the kind of money it takes to convert the film to 3D. Late in 2005 and and this year, a lot of theaters are announcing that they are going to switch to digital projection. People have come up with a standard for the projection and they're coming up with schemes in order to finance it. It's just a matter of time. If there will be enough theaters by 2007 or if we'll have to wait a little bit longer. But it's going to happen, and it's going to happen in the near future.

Ya, we have James Cameron, Robert Rodreguiz...
Steve Sansweet: Ya, a lot of people are going digital. The thing with digital is, it's just a transmission method. It can look like film. You can make it do whatever you want to do. It's just an easier kind of thing to use.

Indiana Jones?
Steve Sansweet: We're all hoping. We have our fingers crossed. There's a script that's been done. We just need to get the buy-off of three very independent men: Harrison Ford, Steven Speilberg and George Lucas. And were all hoping that there is an agreement and that we can go ahead and film Indy 4 sometime this year, late this year.

Any details you can give up?
Steve Sansweet: George knows, Harrison knows and Steven knows, and they are keeping a very closed mouth about it. I don't know, that's for sure.

Any last comments you wanna throw in there?
Steve Sansweet: It's so great to see the fans out there supporting us. And they know, as we've been saying, "Star Wars is forever." We really mean it and that's because the fans have been so supportive. They want more and we're going to give them more. As long as they want it, we're going to have it for them. EDITOR'S NOTE: BLESS YOU MR. SANSWEET. CAUSE I'D HATE TO HAVE TO GET A ....SHUDDER....LIFE OR ANYTHING.

Making Mustafar
Mustafar has become one of the most spectacular sites in the galaxy. A world of jagged obsidian cut through by searing rivers of lava, the hellish landscape became the perfect setting for the tragic finale of Revenge of the Sith. It's not a world of comforts, and neither was bringing it to life at Industrial Light & Magic.

"We used a series of fairly large miniatures to create the immediate landscape," explains Visual Effects Supervisor Roger Guyett. "Outside of that, we used digital technology, using textures from the models themselves to extend them out. Then even further, we used a lot of moving 3-D matte paintings and HD footage of actual volcanoes. It's really an elaborate tapestry of pieces."

The heat blasted facility perched atop a blackened cliff face was a digital model, but the rocky landscape and much of the lava flow was captured practically. "We ended up with a 30-by-40-foot set of the seemingly uninhabitable topography of Mustafar," says Brian Gernand, Practical Model Supervisor. "It was a rock-like environment with a four-foot wide and approximately 40-foot long path of lava coming down. Included with that were tributaries, waterfalls, all kinds of other inlets and glowing hot spots around this environment."

To give the viscous lava the illusion of self-illuminating heat, the 15,000 gallons of Methylcel needed to be penetrated by a light source. The bottom of the river beds were actually transparent, with powerful lights shining through the thick goop. "I think, in the end, there was a calculation of something like 250,000 watts of light under the set that were being blasted through," says Gernand. "That's what made the stage environment such a difficult place to be -- it was about 110 degrees on that stage!" EDITOR'S NOTE: EEK.

Guyett concurs that the stage conditions for the Mustafarian lava flow miniature was hardly heavenly. "It's one of my favorite moments from working on Star Wars," he says. "The guys start shooting the model and they're all in shorts, there's smoke on the set... It's like actually working on a volcanic planet. I would just turn up for 10 minutes and say, 'Things look beautiful here.' (But) I would think, "... I'm glad I'm not doing this all day long!"

The Grand Experiment (Digital Cinema from beta-testing to finale)
With the completion of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, George Lucas and his crew have taken digital cinema from its shaky infancy to visionary heights with the Revenge of the Sith finale.

"In order to do something like Episode I, II or III, I had to create worlds in ways that I couldn't do in the old fashion way," says Lucas. "I couldn't build sets that big, I couldn't have that many extras, I couldn't create that many costumes."

During some of the earliest interviews about this trilogy, Lucas had expressed that one of his greatest concerns about the future Star Wars films was expense. "It will be unbelievably expensive," he said at the 1989 opening of the Disney/MGM Studios, where he broke the news that Star Wars would return in the '90s. "And that's one of the things holding it up. If there was a way of doing them less expensively, it could make it easier to go ahead and do more. But there are just huge, huge amounts of money involved."

The decade that followed saw huge investments of time and creativity in digital experimentation. In 2005, Lucas reiterated the concern of what it would take to bring these new Star Wars epics on the screen using traditional methods.

"Financially, I'm a little tiny company -- I'm not like these big studios here, and for me, doing a $100 million movie is a really big deal. That's as much money as I can pull together. I couldn't possibly produce a $300 million movie; it's just not possible for me to do that. So, I have to be able to create a big world for a very small price." EDITOR'S NOTE: MAYBE WE SHOULDN'T BEAT UP ON UNCLE GEORGE QUITE SO MUCH FOR ALL HIS DIGITAL STUFF. MAYBE HE'S JUST BEING FRUGAL.

It began by creating big worlds for a small screen: namely, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. Were it not for the early ventures in digital backlot, crowd replication, set extensions, and other visual tricks practiced in the critically acclaimed television series, the new Star Wars movies may not have happened. The other breakthrough was the commitment to leaving film behind and shooting entirely on HD video.

"We were designing cameras three years before Episode I, but we didn't get it finished for [principal photography]," says Lucas. "We did get it finished for shooting our delay unit, which is a two-week shoot we do a year after. We shot two weeks of it digitally with a real big, huge, funny prototype camera. It sort of looked like an old Technicolor camera with cables all over the place."

When it came time for Episode II, the digital cameras weren't finalized and delivered until just weeks before principal photography began.

"It was real Beta-testing movie making," says Lucas. "We were experimenting; we hadn't quite done this before. We were learning as we went along and made Episode II. The great thing about Episode III is that I used the same crew, same cast, same equipment, same everything and we all knew what we were doing. It took me one movie to figure it out. And we pushed it much further because on the first film we had maybe 25% digital sets; the second movie, we had maybe 50% digital sets and in Episode III, I'd say there's 85% digital sets. We were able to push the limits of what we needed and it allows you a whole different kind of flexibility from what people were used to in making movies."


Timothy Zahn: Outbound Flight Arrival

Back to the Past
Author Timothy Zahn's unique mix of espionage, political gamesmanship, and deadly interstellar combat breathes electrifying life into a Star Wars legend. The fabled Outbound Flight project, the focus (and title) of the newest Star Wars novel, is finally explored after years of speculation and rumor.

It began as the ultimate voyage of discovery -- only to become the stuff of lost Republic legend and a dark chapter in Jedi history. The Clone Wars have yet to erupt when Jedi Master Jorus C'baoth petitions the Senate for support of a singularly ambitious undertaking. Six Jedi Masters, twelve Jedi Knights, and fifty thousand men, women, and children will embark aboard a gargantuan vessel, equipped for years of travel, on a mission to contact intelligent life and colonize undiscovered worlds beyond the known galaxy. Unknown to the famed Jedi Master, the successful launch of the mission is secretly being orchestrated by an unlikely ally: the evil Sith Lord, Darth Sidious, who has his own reasons for wanting Outbound Flight to move forward... and, ultimately, to fail.

Yet Darth Sidious is not the mission's most dangerous challenge. Once underway, the starship crosses paths at the edge of Unknown Space with the forces of the alien Chiss Ascendancy and the brilliant mastermind best known as "Thrawn." Even Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi, aboard Outbound Flight with his young Padawan student, Anakin Skywalker, cannot help avert disaster. Thus what begins as a peaceful Jedi mission is violently transformed into an all-out war for survival against staggering odds and the most diabolical of adversaries.

Star Wars: Outbound Flight is now available in hardcover from Del Rey Books. Author Timothy Zahn is embarking on a booksigning tour, but for those who wish to purchase an autographed copy online, go to EDITOR'S NOTE: THIS IS A COOL DEAL. IT DOESN'T COST ANY MORE (I DON'T THINK) THAN THE REGULAR BOOK, AND YOU GET IT SIGNED.

What follows is a brief question-and-answer session with Zahn about this eagerly awaited Star Wars novel.

How did you first came up with the idea for Outbound Flight -- not the book, but the mission that's become such a legendary part of Star Wars lore? Ironically enough, Outbound Flight began life basically as a throwaway line. It was a way to confirm for the readers in Heir to the Empire that Joruus C'baoth was indeed a clone and not the original Jorus, as well as to provide another reference to Grand Admiral Thrawn's military skills. It also seemed like something Palpatine might reasonably have done: create something else to distract the Jedi and perhaps prune away some of the troublemakers in advance of his full extermination scheme.

If I'd known that I'd eventually write two books dealing with the project, I'd have definitely tried to come up with a classier name.

Though it's long been a part of the Star Wars universe, mentioned in novels by you and others, and featured in your book Survivor's Quest, it's only now that you've actually written the story of the Outbound Flight mission itself. Why did it take so long?
Actually, the original impetus came from Lucasfilm, not me. A few years ago my editor, Shelly Shapiro, informed me that Sue Rostoni had expressed interest in having Outbound Flight's story told and asked if I would be interested in writing it. It took me about three seconds to make up my mind ("I get to write another Thrawn story?! Cool!"), and I said yes.

Originally, the plan was to publish it in 2002 just before the release of Attack of the Clones, which would have put it in its proper chronological place. However, for unknown reasons all that was changed and the book ended up being rescheduled for November 2005. Throw in one more scheduling shuffle, and we arrive at January 2006.

What did it feel like to finally close this chapter in your career -- if indeed it is closed? Are there more revelations to come about Outbound Flight?
I think that between this book and Survivor's Quest, I've said pretty much all I have to say about Outbound Flight. And yes, it did rather feel like closing a chapter in Star Wars history.
And as always, it was immensely fun to play tactics with Thrawn.

Why so much time between publication of Survivor's Quest and Outbound Flight?
Again, there originally wasn't supposed to be quite this much time between the two books, but the scheduling just worked out that way.

For that matter, the books weren't originally intended to be linked at all. After I'd signed for Outbound Flight, and we'd done the scheduling change, Lucasfilm and Del Rey came to me and asked if I'd like to do a Luke/Mara book as a sort of parallel to the Han/Leia book (Tatooine Ghost) already in the works. Again, the deliberation process took all of three seconds ("I get to write another Mara Jade story?! Cool!").

It was as I was working on the outline for the story that it occurred to me that since Survivor's Quest would be coming out before Outbound Flight, I could pull the same trick George Lucas himself was doing, prequel-wise, and have Survivor's Quest tell the end of the Outbound Flight story before the readers actually got to see the beginning. It made the process a little trickier, as I was outlining two books at the same time for Del Rey and Lucasfilm, but making the books into a sort of backwards-order-and-separated-in-time duology was definitely worth the extra intricacy.

Thrawn: Servant or Master?

Your original Thrawn trilogy (Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command) is widely credited with reviving interest in Star Wars, and your name is always mentioned when fans discuss their favorite Star Wars writers. Clearly, you're doing something right! What do you think makes your work so popular?
To be honest, I really don't know. I did the best I could with those three books, of course, but then I do that with everything else I write, too. Through some combination of story and character and chemistry, it all simply came together better than anything else I've ever published. Having vibrant, well-loved characters like Luke, Han, and Leia already at hand, of course, just added that much extra to the mix.

Though you're best known for your Star Wars work, most of your published novels and stories are set in universes of your own creation. How do you decide, when you get an idea for a story or book, whether to keep it for yourself or use it in Star Wars? I don't think I've ever had a problem with that. When I'm plotting or writing a Star Wars book, I'm in that particular universe's mindset, and only come up with ideas that I think will fit into that universe. (Though of course not everyone necessarily agrees with what I think fits the Star Wars universe. Remind me to tell you sometime about the flap over Luke's hot chocolate...)

Who is your favorite among the characters you've created for Star Wars, and why?
Top places go to Mara Jade and Grand Admiral Thrawn. Mara, with her attitude and her Jedi skills, is just plain fun to write, especially when she's in opposition -- or in partnership -- with Luke. Thrawn, in contrast, provides the intellectual challenge of trying to come up with new, clever, and (hopefully) workable tactics and strategies.

Thrawn's character in Outbound Flight is surprising. He seems too smart and basically decent to become the servant of Palpatine that he later becomes.
Ah, but is he really Palpatine's servant? My sense has always been that he was manipulating Palpatine just as much as Palpatine is manipulating him. After all, he only came to the Empire so that he could gain command rank, collect all the military hardware Palpatine was willing to give him, and then get himself kicked back out to the Unknown Regions where he could start his long-term preparations for the coming war against the Yuuzhan Vong.


What is it about Jorus C'baoth's character that makes him susceptible to the dark side, and why doesn't Palpatine/Sidious turn him and use him for his own purposes, as he later does with Count Dooku?
I don't think C'baoth would be good Sith material. He wants to stretch and extend Jedi power and authority, but he hasn't rejected the overall Jedi philosophy the way the Sith have. However, his arrogance and self-confidence definitely make him someone Palpatine can manipulate and use in more subtle ways.

Are you working on anything else in the Star Wars universe?
I'm just finishing my eighth Star Wars book, Allegiance. It fits into the timeline a short time after A New Hope, which means Luke is not yet a Jedi, but Mara Jade is firmly ensconced in her position as the Emperor's Hand. EDITOR'S NOTE: YAY! MORE ZAHN, MORE STAR WARS EU, MORE CLASSIC CHARACTERS AND TIMELINE. AIN'T LIFE GRAND?!


Dark Horse has revealed details of the next chapter in their Star Wars plans post-Episode III.
According to a post on the Dark Horse message boards by Vice President of Publishing Randy Stradley and the images he posted along with it, Star Wars: Legacy will be set “100 Year Beyond Everything You Know About Star Wars”
"There have been lots of wild theories bandied about regarding the ‘secret’ project that John Ostrander and Jan Duursema (and Dan Parsons and Brad Anderson) have been cooking up,” posted Stradley. “Rumors have ranged from a new series set in the immediate aftermath of Revenge of the Sith to the miniseries focusing on Quermian society and just what those long-necked aliens are doing with that shorter second set of arms under their robes all the time. (Okay, I admit I started that second rumor. Just now.) "
Well, it's time for all of the rumors to end and for all of the wild, unsupported speculation to begin.
Legacy #0 (25¢, shipping in May) will serve as a primer of sorts for the characters and settings in the Legacy ongoing series (which begins the following month).
Writer John Ostrander later added these comments:”The setting is roughly 100 years after the upcoming Legacy of the Force books. "
Anakin Skywalker. Luke Skywalker. Leia Organa-Solo (Luke's twin sister). Ben Skywalker.
For those who're familiar with George Lucas' universal blockbuster epic, Star Wars, and especially the Expanded Universe line of comics, novels and more, those names are not unknown to the legions of Star Wars fans all over the globe.
But first, a word of caution to those who're not up to speed on all things EU: The following paragraphs contain spoilers.
In the EU, Han and Leia are married and they both have three children, twins Jaina and Jacen, and Anakin Solo (who debuted in the Dark Horse comic series, Dark Empire and is now deceased).
Ben, on the other hand, is Luke's son, from his marriage to Mara Jade.
This May, however, Dark Horse Comics will be introducing a new Skywalker in the 25-cent Star Wars: Legacy #0.
So, what's the story with Star Wars: Legacy then?
Legacy is set in the Legacy Era, approximately 140 ABY (ie After teh Battle of Yavin, a major battle of the Galactic Civil War that lead to the destruction of the first Death Star in 1977's Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
" Mainly we wanted to find a place in the Star Wars universe where we weren't mired in existing continuity, and where we could get out of the shadow of mighty Del Rey," Vice President of Publishing Randy Stradley said, referring to Del Rey's upcoming series of nine Legacy of the Force novels by Troy Denning, Aaron Allston and Karen Traviss. "They're so much larger than we are that they inevitably become the moving force in continuity, and we bob along in their wake. We thought, if we could get out in front of them, whatever footprints we might make in the continuity landscape would be obscured by their larger presence when they (eventually) reach the same spot. But, by jumping so far out in front of them, we've created a buffer zone that protects our story from the day-to-day continuity events in theirs."
For the record, Legacy will be set " 100 Years Beyond Everything You Know About Star Wars." Stradley elaborated that while the two series are not tied together "in the sense that we don't have to wait for Del Rey to establish something before we move on, and none of their original plans for the era are contradicted by what we're establishing. They are, obviously, connected by the threads of continuity common throughout the Star Wars universe. "
"To assuage fearful readers, let me assure everyone that we're working with LucasFilm and the Del Rey editors and authors to make sure we don't contradict their continuity, nor create events in our time period that will force them to change course unexpectedly," Stradley said. EDITOR'S NOTE: PHEW!
After the Yuuzhan Vong invasion and the Swarm War, Legacy will be set in an all new era with an all new Sith Order and an all new empire. The menace?
"Oh, the usual stuff -- power-hungry despots, bounty hunters, and the aforementioned new Sith order," Stradley added. "But there's also a great deal of in-fighting -- different arms of the same organization working toward different ends. It's a big, bustling galaxy, and our heroes will be discovering that yesterday's enemy can be today's ally... and vice versa."
As mentioned, Legacy features a new Skywalker in the form of a former jedi and a pirate who bears a Bloody Bones tattoo named Cade? While Stradley preferred not to reveal more about this new Skywalker and other characters such as Rav, the pirate who once took Cade as his apprentice, and the bikini-wearing Twi'lek with Darth Maul tattoos, we tracked down series artist Jan Duursema for more info [Note: Writer John Ostrander is currently away in Ireland].
"First, let me say I am very excited about this new series," the veteran artist said. "One of the things we talked about when developing Legacy was setting Star Wars in an era unfamiliar to the fans. We knew going in that we wanted to recapture the excitement we all had felt the first time we saw Star Wars: A New Hope. With that first film, Lucas took us to a place that was totally unfamiliar and unexpected, with characters we knew nothing about. The future was unknown, the fates of the characters were unknown and we wanted to know more--so we kept going back to find out! Setting Legacy way ahead of what has been done so far, gives us the opportunity to create characters who we know nothing about and can learn about as the series goes on. It is also set far enough ahead of Return of the Jedi that we can leave the fates of characters presented in New Jedi Order and Legacy of the Force untold.
"I think, at first, I was the most skeptical," she admitted. "On the message boards, I likened creating this era to standing at the edge of that very deep chasm in Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade--you know, the one with the invisible bridge? Could Star Wars be Star Wars without the Big 3? That chasm seemed awfully wide and deep, but as Randy, John and I explored what could be done with this era, I started to have faith that the bridge between eras did exist. And I began to become intrigued with the idea of a future Skywalker and future Jedi... I think there is always a fascination with 'what comes next'--and what comes next is where we are going.
"Within the series you can look for references to names and characters from comics, novels and movies--Skywalker is not the only one with a legacy--but for the most part the characters will be new characters dealing with what they have been given in a very dark galaxy." EDITOR'S NOTE: REMINDS ME OF THE FLASH-FORWARD EPISODE OF B5 WHERE YOU REALIZE THAT SO MUCH OF WHAT THE HEROES OF THE BABYLON 5 STATION FOUGHT FOR HAD ESSENTIALLY DISINTEGRATED 100 YEARS HENCE. HERE'S 100 YEARS DOWN THE PIKE IN THE STAR WARS GALAXY, AND SO MUCH OF WHAT OUR CLASSIC TRILOGY HEROES FOUGHT FOR HAS ALREADY COME TO NAUGHT. SNIFFLE.....
Also, on forums, Duursema posted the following info about the Twi'lek: "When designing the Twi'lek I was attempting to call to mind a sci-fantasy version of a female Pict warrior--tattooed and fierce in appearance. Perhaps she is someone who uses their tribal markings as their armor--as if through some 'magic' she does not need actual armor. I think clarity about this character will come when she is seen in the series and we know more about her, but for now I just needed to clear up the issue of why she is dressed the way she is. Covering the tattoos (which I did think about, but rejected) would have removed the primitive quality I wanted to instill in her."
On the new Sith Order, "We spent long hours discussing the return of the Sith Order," she posted on the Dark Horse boards. "We analysed the problem in great detail, and it is not conflict with George Lucas' vision of Star Wars. Even Lucas approved the basics of the story and he still thinks that the Expanded Universe isn't just an alternative universe which is different from his own. The Legacy series will not ruin the significance of the Prophecy and Anakin Skywalker's redemption. You really think that we didn't think about this and we missed it???"
Randy: "I've been thinking about this whole "restore balance to the Force" thing and, aside from my joke from last year about Anakin restoring the balance by killing all of the Jedi so that there were only two Sith and two Jedi, I think that I have a workable theory. Tell me what you think: "The "balance" that Anakin restored was in breaking down the impermeable borders between the light and the dark sides of the Force. Anakin was the first to ever cross completely (and seemingly iredeemably) into the dark side and return to the light side. It was Anakin's redemption that restored the balance. It wasn't that he destroyed the Sith, but that he "broke" the inescapable power of the lure of the dark side. EDITOR'S NOTE: VERRRRYYY COOL!
"Then again, we're dealing with an fuzzy, ancient prophecy that even some of the greatest Jedi Masters weren't too clear on."
For whatever it's worth, Duursema posted that " A hero is forever a hero. It is the legacy of these heroes that inspires us all."
Star Wars: Legacy #0, a handbook-style primer priced at 25 cents, is scheduled to be in stores in May, followed by issue #1 of the new ongoing series a month later.
Until then, for those who would like to find out more about each Star Wars series published by Dark Horse comics since 1991's Dark Empire, get hold of a copy of the Star Wars: The Comics Companion by Ryder Windham (The Ultimate Visual Guide, Droids: The Kalabara Adventures) and Daniel Wallace (The New Essential Chronology, The New Essential Guide to Droids). Price at $19.95, the 144-page volume is now in stores.
LEGO Renews Star Wars License
The Danish construction brick manufacturers have negotiated a license extension right through to 2011 reports
Jay Bruns, director of global licensing at LEGO, says they "are thrilled to solidify our partnership with Lucasfilm through 2011."EDITOR'S NOTE: AS WELL YOU SHOULD BE!

Exclusive Stormtrooper Cover for iPod Nano

Our Price: $24.95
StarWarsShop now has two exclusive new iPod covers to offer, including this stunning Stormtrooper edition for the Nano. With artwork by Tsuneo Sanda, this cool accessory should become standard issue for trooper enthusiasts and fans alike.

The Iconz Nano cover offer play-through control for the Click Wheel and built-in screen protection.

Exclusive Iconz iPod Video 30GB Cover Featuring Star Wars Artwork

Our Price: $29.95

StarWarsShop now has two exclusive new iPod covers to offer, including this fantastic concert edition featuring artwork by Hugh Fleming for the video iPod. Originally devised for a fan club exclusive poster in the '90s, this artwork translates perfectly to the cover of your video iPod.

Battle of Coruscant Figure Preview
Here is a full preview of the "Battle of Coruscant"-inspired line-up coming to retailers everywhere this spring. Each comes with a base and a randomly-selected bonus hologram figure.
Commander Cody leads his troopers into battle against the Separatists. Although he had long been fighting side-by-side with Obi-Wan Kenobi, once Order 66 was executed he turned against his old ally and attempted to carry out the Emperor's assassination order. Comes with blaster rifle.
Anakin Skywalker defeats Count Dooku on the bridge of the Separatists' flagship. At Chancellor Palpatine's urging, he gives in to the dark side of the Force and kills the unarmed Count, never suspecting that the Chancellor is preparing him to become his next Sith disciple. Comes with Jedi robes and lightsaber.
Jedi Master Ki-Adi-Mundi leads a team of clone troopers to fight against the Separatists on the crystalline planet of Mygeeto during the Clone Wars. He communicates with the rest of the Jedi Council on Coruscant via hologram. Comes with lightsaber.
Using his mastery of the Force, Obi-Wan is able to rescue Chancellor Palpatine from the clutches of Count Dooku with the aid of his padawan and friend, Anakin Skywalker. They successfully land on Coruscant and return home as heroes. Comes with Jedi robes and lightsaber.
This brave Talz Jedi Master desperately tries to protect Chancellor Palpatine from General Grievous along with Shaak Ti and Roron Corobb. Although he fights valiantly, he ultimately falls in battle. Comes with lightsaber.
General Grievous attempts to flee Coruscant with a kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine, but is thwarted by Jedi Knights Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi. He is able to escape to Utapau and continue to lead the Separatist forces in the war against the Republic. Comes with blaster and staff.
When Anakin Skywalker must make a dramatic crash landing on Coruscant after rescuing Chancellor Palpatine from the evil General Grievous, this brave firespeeder pilot and his crew risk their lives to put out the ship's fires and ensure the safety of the people on board. Comes with firefighting gear.
Lushros Dofine
As captain of The Invisible Hand, the flagship of the Separatist fleet, Lushros Dofine obeys General Grievous' orders to lead the Separatists forces against the Republic. Comes with starfighter command station.


Miniatures of the statues that watch over all those who enter the Jedi Temple.

A look at the landed configuration of the Imperial Theta-class shuttle used by Palpatine.

Initially, the Imperial assault on Hoth was to be carried out by tanks, since the thought was existing ground vehicles could be redressed to become Star Wars craft. Ralph McQuarrie illustrates some possible vehicles here.

Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) finds himself at the mercy of Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) aboard the Trade Federation Cruiser.

This illustration, attributed to Norman Reynolds, describes a rather nasty torture device to use against multi-limbed droids in Jabba's palace.

Director Irvin Kershner discusses a scene with Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian) while Harrison Ford (Han Solo) stands at his mark.

Joe Johnston illustrates the all-important Death Star thermal exhaust port, in this sketch dated April 19th, 1976.

Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) holds on to Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) as they quickly decide how to avoid death by elevator

Thursday, February 16, 2006

A dweeb fond Farewell


Andreas Katsulas

It is with great sadness that I pass along information that Andreas Katsulas has passed away.
He was a tremendous talent, a kind and gentle man. He and only he, could have bring the passion and spiritual capacity to the role of G'Kar. He forged a character of strength and integrity that will not be equalled.
Here is a statement by JMS on Andreas' death. He, and Babylon 5 fans everywhere, mourn the passing of an wonderful actor, a caring father and husband and steadfast friend.

Just over a year ago, Andreas Katsulas --
who loved smoking with a passion that cannot be described -- was diagnosed with lung cancer, which by then had already spread to other areas. He quit smoking at once and went on a healthy diet and vitamin program, but there was little hope of a good resolution even though the new regimen was very good for him. When we spoke about it, he laughed, and said, "Now that I'm dying I've never felt better!" His spirits were always up and positive, putting everyone at ease about his condition, because...well, that's the kind of person he was. A couple of months ago, he and his wife convened a dinner with me, Doug, and Peter Jurasik, which was filled with laughter and stories and good food. He wanted to know all the stories we never told him because, as he said, "Who am I going to tell?" So we did. Because we knew we were saying goodbye, and there would not be a second chance. Last night, in the company of his wife and family, Andreas closed his eyes and went away. He lived an amazing life...full of travel and wonder and good work...was part of the world renowned Peter Brook company...he saw the planet, loved and was loved, ate at great restaurants, smoked too many cigarettes...he lived a life some people would die for. And, sadly, due to the last part of that equation...he did. Memorial arrangements are still being worked out, but will doubtless be private. Andreas is gone...and G'Kar with him, because no one else can ever play that role, or ever will. I will miss him terribly

J. Michael Straczynski

Uncle Owen Lars from 'Star Wars' Dies
Actor Phil Brown died Thursday of pneumonia at the age of 89 in Woodland Hills, California. He was best known for playing Luke Skywalker's Uncle Owen Lars in 'Star Wars.'

The Massachusetts-born actor died at the Motion Picture and Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California on Thursday, according to his widow Ginny.

After starring in movies and TV shows in the 1940s, Brown moved to London in the 1950s after he was wrongly blacklisted during the Communist scare in the United States.

Star Wars director George Lucas cast Brown while filming scenes for the 1977 sci-fi epic in London, and his fame playing Uncle Owen in the movie led to his return to America.

Brown is survived by his widow Ginny, their son Kevin, two grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

Let the (OSCAR) games begin!


Cates chairs Oscar seating plan
By Gregg Kilday and Borys Kit
As the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences celebrated the 25th anniversary of its annual nominees luncheon Monday, producer Gil Cates unveiled a new plan for streamlining the March 5 Oscar show while ensuring nominees all have a bit of face time on TV.

Last year, Cates began to experiment with Oscar traditions by presenting some of the nominees in a lineup onstage while awarding Oscars in other categories to nominees seated inside the Kodak Theatre. The experiment, designed to eliminate long walks from the back of the auditorium to the stage, was met with a mixed reception, with some critics contending that it reduced nominees in some of the crafts categories to second-class status. EDITOR'S NOTE: MIXED RECEPTION? SO THERE WAS SOMEONE WHO THOUGHT IT WAS A GOOD IDEA?

For this year's 78th Annual Academy Awards, which also marks Cates' 13th turn as producer, he has abandoned that planEDITOR'S NOTE: AWW....(SNICKER) but is introducing a new one, which he said was "not quite as dramatic as last year."

Nominees in some categories will be led to seats in the third and fourth rows during commercial breaks so they can be seen on camera as their names are read. Nominees in other categories will be rotated into the featured seats during commercial breaks. Those in the affected categories will be notified by letter before the show. EDITOR'S NOTE: IF THEY SET IT TO MUSIC, YOU'VE GOT A HOEDOWN!

Making the annual plea that winners avoid reciting long lists of names as part of their thank-yous, Cates said it is the Oscar winners who are responsible for ensuring an exciting and memorable show.

"With this year's crop of grown-up movies, finding and keeping a large audience isn't going to be easy," he said. EDITOR'S NOTE: GOSH...I THINK HE MEANS WE'RE DUMB. AYUK AYUK AYUK. NAWWW.... THAT AIN'T WHAT HE MEANS, IS IT? (LET'S PROVE HIM WRONG. LET'S WATCH THE WHOLE THING AND NOT EVEN GET UP DURING THE COMMERCIALS!)

Academy president Sid Ganis welcomed 116 of this year's nominees to the luncheon Monday at the Beverly Hilton, noting that if it had not been for the blizzard that hit New York this weekend, the number would have been closer to 120. (The storm prevented such nominees as director Ang Lee and actor Paul Giamatti from attending.)

Ganis recalled that 25 years ago, when the tradition first started, only 45 of 136 nominees attended. Two of that first luncheon's nominees -- Steven Spielberg and editor Michael Kahn, both nominated in 1982 for "Raiders of the Lost Ark" -- attended as nominees this year for "Munich."

Ganis presented former Academy president Richard Kahn, who initiated the first lunch, a plaque recognizing him as "the progenitor" of the low-key luncheon at which nominees mingle and gather for the annual Oscar class photo.

On the way to lunch, a number of nominees also offered a few words to the press.

"I'm riding high," said Felicity Huffman, best actress nominee for "Transamerica."

"I'm not going as a seat filler, I'm not going as a caterer, I'm going as myself."George Clooney, nominated for directing and co-writing "Good Night, and Good Luck" and best supporting actor for his role in "Syriana," joked that he was bringing Vice President Dick Cheney as his guest to the Oscars. "He called me to go hunting and I asked, Why don't you come as my date?"EDITOR'S NOTE: LOVE YA, GEORGE! (HOPE HE WINS SOMETHING, SO THERE WILL BE SOME ELEMENT OF 'DANGER' TO THE THANK YOU SPEECHES!)

William Hurt mused on topics ranging from acting to the competitive nature of the American ethic. He said he relished digging deep into his part of the mobster brother in "A History of Violence." He said the day of his first scene, he went to director David Cronenberg and asked, "Do you have the afterburners on? Because I really want to turn it on."

"Pride & Prejudice" best actress nominee Keira Knightley, who has been shooting the "Pirates of the Caribbean" sequel in the Bahamas, said castmates Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom have been ribbing her since the nomination. "They've been taking the piss out of me. Every time I do a take, they say, 'Oh, is that an Oscar-nominated take?' " she said.

"Hustle & Flow" best actor nominee Terrence Howard said he has received advice from former best actor nominee Will Smith on how to handle the attention. "He said, 'For the next month, each person nominated is a winner. So enjoy it,' " Howard said. EDITOR'S NOTE: I LOVE WILL SMITH. (JUST SO'S YA KNOW).


Oscar nods for small films could kill ad buzz for show
By David Lieberman, USA TODAY

NEW YORK — Critics must be thrilled that the splashiest Oscar nominations went to high-minded yet low-budget and mostly R-rated films.

But those who follow the money gave mixed reviews to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' best-picture finalists: Brokeback Mountain; Capote; Crash; Good Night, and Good Luck; and Munich.

The films, targeted to relatively narrow audiences, might not attract lots of fans to the March 5 Oscar show on ABC with first-time host Jon Stewart.

"I don't know how they get an attraction out of this. Look at the top films and tell me who's starring in them. If I were an advertiser on the Oscars, I'd look for something else," says independent analyst Dennis McAlpine. "This is not going to give Hollywood a chance to promote the idea of going to the movies for entertainment."EDITOR'S NOTE: SPOKEN LIKE A TRUE AD GUY. HEY...I LIKE MOVIES WITH THINGS BLOWING UP MORE THAN JUST ABOUT ANYBODY. BUT TO SAY THAT THESE CLASSY FILMS AREN'T ENTERTAINMENT IS PUTTING THE BAR PRETTY DARN LOW, ISN'T IT?

That's key, because the show and the industry need to build buzz. The Oscars' 42.1 million audience last year was off 3.2% from 2004 and 9% since 2000.

Hollywood is coming off a year when box office sales fell 6.2% to $8.8 billion and home video fell about 1% to about $24 billion — the first drop ever.

Some on Wall Street say that overlooking big films with big stars — such as Tom Cruise's War of the Worlds, Johnny Depp's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's Mr. & Mrs. Smith— also risks leaving audiences yawning at the awards. The broadcast could suffer if such celebrities merely walk the red carpet or don't show up at all. EDITOR'S NOTE: SO THEY SHOULD NOMINATE....TO PUT IT AS NICELY AS POSSIBLE....LESSER LIGHTS SO AS TO APPEASE THE AD GODS (AND THE TEEMING, AND CLEARLY DIM, MASSES)?

Yet, Coca-Cola, back on the Academy Awards after seven years' hiatus, is unfazed. "We view the Oscars as destination programming and a great place to feature advertising for our brands," says spokeswoman Susan McDermott.EDITOR'S NOTE: COKE PRODUCTS WILL BE SERVED AT MY PARTY!

Others say the famously box-office-minded Academy for once might be ahead of the curve by spotlighting films about complex issues and people.

"One of the biggest complaints about 2005 was that the movies weren't that good," says Exhibitor Relations President Paul Dergarabedian. "But these movies highlight the fact that Hollywood does have something to offer."

Optimists believe the choices will build suspense for the telecast. "People will go out and see the movies, and there's something appealing about the competition having no clear favorite," says Andy Donchin, director of national broadcast for media buyer Carat.

Ticket buyers might have to get used to arty and intellectual movies aimed at upscale audiences, says Jefferies & Co. analyst Robert Routh. "There's a paradigm shift you're seeing in Hollywood. They're positioning themselves to focus on high-margin, lower-risk projects. They're not paying a 10% or 20% profit participation for Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise. And the Academy is endorsing that."EDITOR'S NOTE: THEY ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR TRENDING IN EXTREMELY SHORT-TERM PHENOMENA. BUT THE COOL THING? IT IS PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE...NAY, REQUIRED...THAT WE IGNORE ANYTHING OPINED BY SOMEONE WHO USES THE WORD 'PARADIGM' IN A SENTENCE.

Investors looking to bet on the Oscars have only one choice, he says. Independent studio Lionsgate's Crash got nods for best picture, director, screenplay, supporting actor, editing and song. Its shares fell 2.2% to $8.90, because, "The first thing people think is that they'll have to spend more (on marketing) and may not win," Routh says.

Visual Effects (The analysis)
And the winner was ...'Spider-Man 2'
Though none of its characters were fully CG like this year's Kong, pic made extensive use of digital doubles, including an extended close-up of Alfred Molina created entirely in the computer.

This year's visual effects nominations prove the Academy can be a coldhearted place.

It was the last chance to honor "Star Wars," the franchise that all but invented the modern visual effects blockbuster and helped create the modern vfx industry. But the effects branch put sentiment aside and went with "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," "King Kong" and "War of the Worlds." EDITOR'S NOTE: COLD AND UNGRATEFUL, AND DOWNRIGHT WRONGO.

This year, it seems, the branch favored films in which vfx make an emotional contribution to the story, particularly with CG characters such as Kong and the lion Aslan. Without such a character, "War of the Worlds" may be at a disadvantage, even though it emerged from the summer blockbuster season with the most buzz for its vfx work.

The clip reel shown to the effects branch at the "bake-off" was stunning, and its alien tripods are terrifying. The choice to stick close to the hero's point of view makes them even more disturbing.

"Narnia" boasts some remarkably lifelike animal animation, from the lion Aslan to the talking beavers and wolves to its fantasy beasts. The ability of those animals to hold the screen opposite live actors weighs in its favor. EDITOR'S NOTE: OK....THE BEAVERS ROCKED! I VOTE FOR THE BEAVERS!

"King Kong," though, boasts the CG performance of the year. Its eponymous star combines facial performance capture (by thesp Andy Serkis) and detailed hand animation. Kong holds his own as an actual character opposite Naomi Watts EDITOR'S NOTE: LIKE THAT'S A STRETCH? (GIGGLE..SORRY) and can bring a tear to all but the flintiest hearts. That's likely to impress the general membership.

When it comes down to the final tally, the finer points of vfx technology don't matter much. With many Academy members watching the movies on DVD, and with relatively few of them possessing an educated eye for vfx, it's more important whether the general membership likes the movie.

There's no obvious favorite among these three. "Narnia" is the biggest hit, but there's grumbling that its vfx were uneven. "Kong" is too long and didn't quite catch fire. The "War of the Worlds" story fizzles, and Tom Cruise has become a distraction.

The race will come down to whether the Acad cries for Kong. Every tear shed tips the scales his way. If their eyes are dry, "Narnia" could win on sheer likability.

The Chronicles of Narnia
Dean Wright, Bill Westenhofer, Jim Berney and Scott Farrar
Oscar pedigree: Farrar, "Cocoon" win (1985)
Current kudos: Broadcast Crix (family film win), BAFTA (noms), VES (noms)
Why it'll win: "Narnia" is the biggest hit and most likable nominee.
Why it won't: It contains very uneven vfx work, with many weak shots.

King Kong
Joe Letteri, Brian Van't Hul, Christian Rivers and Richard Taylor
Oscar pedigree: Taylor, 4 Oscars; Letteri, 2 Oscars
Current kudos: Visual Effects Society (noms), BAFTA (noms), Toronto Crix (special award for Andy Serkis)
Why it'll win: This remake has more and better dinosaurs than "Jurassic Park," a gorgeous New York and that heartbreaking ape.
Why it won't: This remake is too long and not quite the hit it was supposed to be.

War of the Worlds
Dennis Muren,EDITOR'S NOTE: AAAAHHH, A LITTLE ILM'ING, EVEN IF IT ISN'T STAR WARS Pablo Helman, Randal M. Dutra and Daniel Sudick
Oscar pedigree: Muren, 7 Oscars
Current kudos: VES (noms)
Why it'll win: Terrifying f/x are used in creative, unusual ways.
Why it won't: The vfx are better than the movie, which lacks passionate supporters.

Gentlemen, Start Your Campaigns Seven insights and observations about this year’s Oscar nominees.
By Devin Gordon

Updated: 1:35 p.m. ET Feb. 3, 2006

What a difference a few months can make. Just last autumn, one of the hot topics in Hollywood was whether anyone would go see a movie about two cowboys who fall in love. Would it ruin the careers of its handsome (and heterosexual) rising-star leading men, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal? Would Red State America reject the film as offensive? Would there be mass protests? Picket lines? Hate crimes?

Now, with the announcement of the Academy Award nominations, all of Hollywood is asking a very different question: can anything stop “Brokeback Mountain” from sweeping the Oscars and winning the best-picture statue in a walk?

There were a few minor jolts when the list of Oscar nominees was released, and we’ll get to a few of them soon. But none of them even approaches “Brokeback Mountain.” What’s the surprise? How unsurprising its eventual triumph has become.

Let’s take a look at the most remarkable things about this year’s list—or, at least, the seven most interesting things to me.
1. The movie with the best chance to beat 'Brokeback Mountain' didn’t even get nominated.

That would be “Walk the Line,” which got snubbed in the best picture, director and screenplay categories. Remember just a few weeks ago, at the Golden Globes, when “Walk the Line” won the award for best picture (in the “musical or comedy” category)? In that moment, I could see the script for an Oscar upset by “Walk the Line.” It went something like this: in an award season dominated by indie films, “Walk the Line” is a Hollywood movie made by Hollywood people, with A-list stars giving career-best performances. It’s a true story about fame, redemption and the power of love—and not just any love. It’s about boy-girl love. Plus, it’s a hit. “Walk the Line” crossed the $100-million box-office mark before the nominations were unveiled. Contrast that with “Brokeback Mountain”: a tiny movie about gay cowboys directed by a Taiwanese guy, coproduced by a former Columbia University professor and co-written by a septuagenarian who thanked his typewriter at the Golden Globes.

Like presidential elections, winning a best-picture Oscar is all about mobilizing a base of voters—and the “Walk the Line” base would’ve been the opposite of “Brokeback Mountain”'s. The “Walk the Line” base is primarily industry insiders; the “Brokeback” base is largely outsiders. But then the Academy had to go and ruin it by leaving “Walk the Line” off the list entirely. From the start, “Walk the Line” was pegged as a solid, unspectacular film propelled by two dynamite performances. And whaddya know—the two performers got nods, and that’s about it. Now get ready for a month of stories from people in my business about how “Crash” is gaining momentum with voters because it’s about Los Angeles, where most Academy voters live. But don’t get suckered in. “Brokeback” is gonna win. The media is just bored.

2. The box-office heavyweight among the five best-picture nominees is … 'Crash'?

First, a flashback. Here’s what I wrote at this time last year: “As I type this, the most profitable film among the five best picture nominees is ‘Ray,’ which has made a ‘whopping’ $73 million at the box office … [I]t’s hard to remember a year when the best picture field didn’t include a single bona fide box office hit.

In 2006, the situation is even more dire. On the day that the nominations were announced this year, the most profitable film among the five best-picture candidates was the race-relations drama “Crash,” which had made a truly whopping $53 million. To be fair, four of the films were made for pennies (“Munich” was not) and three of them—“Brokeback,” “Good Night” and “Crash”—are already enormously profitable. All five will get a box-office boost from the nominations. But the fact remains that, come March 5, the vast majority of Americans won’t have seen any of the nominated films. EDITOR'S NOTE: OF COURSE THE VAST MAJORITY OF AMERICANS....DON'T GET ME STARTED......

The big loser here is ABC. Ratings for the Oscars have been sliding for years. This year’s host—Jon Stewart—is as hot as comedians get, but he’s still a cable-TV guy whose most noteworthy contribution to the cinema canon is the stoner comedy “Half Baked.” So here’s a bold prediction: barring some unforeseen controversy, this year’s Oscar broadcast will be the lowest-rated of all time.

3. But the ratings in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China could be huge.

One of the most charming moments of the Golden Globes was a visibly nervous Ang Lee ending his best-director acceptance speech by saying “Happy New Year” in Mandarin to Asian viewers around the world. Maybe they’ll all tune in to the Oscars to watch the Taiwan-born filmmaker go down in history. If—or I should say, when—he wins the Oscar for best director this year, he will be (as many pundits have noted) the first Asian winner in the category. In fact, he’ll be the first non-white-guy, period. I don’t know about you, but that’s reason enough for me to tune in.EDITOR'S NOTE: WOW. REALLY? THE FIRST NON-WHITE-GUY? WOW. (I'M STILL ROOTING FOR CLOONEY).

4. Did you happen to notice who’s getting this year’s honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement?

I just did: it’s Robert Altman.

Oooh, this is gonna be great. Do you think he’ll boo during the retrospective montage of his own films? Will he accept the statue and then tell everyone in the audience that they’re all stupid and their movies stink? Will he be speaking live or will the Janet Jackson tape delay be in effect?

Remember, this is the guy who made “The Player,” arguably the most scathing satire of Hollywood ever made. Altman is a genius filmmaker and a beyond-deserving recipient. (Like almost every other legendary director, he has never won an Oscar.) But he’s a cantankerous S.O.B. who’s more than 80 years old and way, way, way past the point of caring what anyone thinks of him. In other words, this is almost guaranteed to be the highlight of the night. EDITOR'S NOTE: WOOHOO! SNARK AND SENILITY AND CANTANKEROUS CARPING!!!

5. So much for all those Zionist members of the Academy, huh?

Sometimes, the stereotype about all the Jews in Hollywood is played for laughs, and sometimes it comes out with a much uglier tinge. For a while, one of the lingering jokes about the Oscars was that you didn’t actually have to see any of the nominees in the documentary feature category in order to predict the winner—you just had to look at the titles. If there was a Holocaust doc in the bunch, that’s your winner. EDITOR'S NOTE: UMMMM....JUST CAUSE IT'S A STEREOTYPE, DOESN'T MEAN IT'S NOT TRUE. (IT'S HOW I ALMOST ALWAYS FILL IN MY BALLOT). All those Jews in the Academy, so the “joke” went, couldn’t resist. (Unfortunately, for a few years there, this joke had the misfortune of appearing to be true.) EDITOR'S NOTE: THIS IS WHAT I'M SAYING. OF COURSE, IT DOESN'T MEAN THESE WEREN'T THE BEST FILMS, EITHER?

This year, though, the Academy nominated a pair of films that have raised considerable ire among pro-Israel supporters, both in the film industry and in the public at large: Steven Spielberg’s “Munich” and the Palestinian foreign-language nominee “Paradise Now,” which dramatizes the thoughts, feelings and motivations of a pair of suicide bombers. “Munich” is by no means the apologia that some have labeled it, but the film does give voice to some conciliatory ideas that many Jews find discomforting, even offensive.

As for “Paradise Now,” putting a “human face” on terrorism is usually considered a cardinal sin by the terrorized. And yet in both cases, the Academy put politics aside and nominated both films on their merits.

6. DreamWorks and Disney square off for the animated feature Oscar.

Sort of.

Last year, I ripped the Academy for wasting one of this category’s precious three nominations on a pile of junk called “Shark Tale.” Order was restored when “The Incredibles” won, but the inclusion of “Shark Tale” reeked of box-office pandering. So this year, I fully expected an animated-feature showdown between DreamWorks’ god-awful “Madagascar” and Disney’s god-awfuller “Chicken Little.” And one of them would surely win, I assumed, since Pixar didn’t release a film in 2005.

Sometimes it’s nice to be wrong.

DreamWorks and Disney will indeed square off for the prize, but its their not-so-famous films that got the nods. DreamWorks’ delightful “Wallace and Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit” provided me with my best theater memory of the year: I saw the film on a Saturday night in Cambridge, Mass., with my fiancée’s family—and about 100 deliriously stoned college kids from Harvard, MIT and Boston University. Good times.

And Disney’s nominated film, “Howl’s Moving Castle,” is actually an import from Japanese auteur Hayao Miyazaki, who won the best-animated-feature Oscar in 2002 for his masterpiece “Spirited Away.” Much as in the best-picture category, Academy voters refreshingly put quality over quantity. Bravo. EDITOR'S NOTE: AND LET'S NOT FORGET "CORPSE BRIDE" WHICH IS WONDERFUL!

6a. More on the animated feature category: the unbeatable, unstoppable director of 'Wallace and Gromit'

Has anyone in Oscar history had a run like claymation king Nick Park, the codirector of “Wallace and Gromit”?

Prior to this year, Park has been nominated for an Oscar four times, and he’s only lost once, in 1989, when he beat himself. His “Creature Comforts” defeated his “A Grand Day Out with Wallace and Gromit,” the first of four adorable films about an English inventor and his much-smarter dog. Only one of his films has failed to get nominated: his equally adorable feature-film debut “Chicken Run,” which came out in 2000 and didn’t get nominated only because it came out a year before the category began. Bet on Park to win again this year.

6b. One last thought on the animated feature category: sticking it to the computers!

Last year, all three nominated films featured new-wave CGI animation. This year, none of them do. “Howl’s Moving Castle” is traditional, hand-drawn cel animation. Both “Wallace and Gromit” and “Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride,” which is a pretty charming flick in its own right, are stop-motion animation with clay figurines. All three are beautiful examples of sadly dying art forms. Enjoy this blast from the past, because it’ll probably never happen again.

7. And the award for most peculiar Oscar nomination goes to …

The Academy tends to take a beating from people in my line of work, but I think the voters did a solid job with the nominees this year, especially in the major categories. But every year, there are a few nominations that are genuine head-scratchers.

Let’s wrap up this piece with the best of the worst for 2006:

—Best visual effects, “The Chronicles of Narnia.”

Really? You mean those beavers didn’t look completely, utterly fake to you? EDITOR'S NOTE: THEY WEREN'T REAL BEAVERS? (I GUESS THE WHOLE TALKING THING SHOULD HAVE CLUED ME IN, HUH?) How about the White Witch’s palace, which looked to me like it was made out of tissue paper and vanilla frosting?

“Best” doesn’t mean “most,” does it?

I wasn’t a fan of the final “Star Wars” installment, but come on, folks. George Lucas’s visual effects were in another league. His exclusion was all about his maverick persona and general “Star Wars” fatigue, not the obvious quality of his team’s work. EDITOR'S NOTE: EXACTLY!!! THANK YOU!!

—Best adapted screenplay, Josh Olson, “A History of Violence.”

This isn’t a dig at Olson, who did first-rate work. It’s more to point out the quirks in a nominating system that occasionally acknowledges a great film while snubbing the person chiefly responsible for its greatness. I loved this funny, gruesome, bizarro-revenge fantasy, and I’m delighted for the nominations it did receive. But I’ll bet everyone involved, including Olson, would chalk up its success to its brilliant director, David Cronenberg, who was overlooked. Good for Olson, but nominating him and not Cronenberg is a bit like giving player-of-the-game honors to Lamar Odom on the night that Kobe Bryant scored 81 points.

—Best foreign-language film, “Joyeux Noel,” France.

I haven’t seen “Joyeux Noel,” but I’m told that it’s every bit as corny as its title. I’m including it here mostly to complain about the exclusion of the French-language film “Cache,” a voyeurism thriller directed by Austria’s Michael Haneke. It was the best foreign-language film I saw all year; unfortunately, it was too Austrian to be the official selection from France, and it was too French to be the official selection from Austria. (It actually was Austria’s selection, but it was disqualified for being, I kid you not, too French. According to the rules, a country’s submission has to be in its native tongue.)

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Ang Lee was the first Asian to be nominated for the best-director Oscar. In fact, two other Asian filmmakers, Akira Kurosawa and Hiroshi Teshigahara, were previously nominated in the category, though neither man won.