They Came, They Sat, They Saw
They Came, They Sat, They Saw By Mike White. Star Woids I must be out of the loop. I’ve heard discussions about the differences between “Trekkies” and “Trekkers” (the later being preferred by fans of “Star Trek while the former is somewhat derogatory”) but, until I saw Dennis Przywara’s documentary, I’d never heard of a Star Wars fan referred to as a “Star Woid...
I must be out of the loop. I’ve heard discussions about the differences between “Trekkies” and “Trekkers” (the later being preferred by fans of “Star Trek while the former is somewhat derogatory”) but, until I saw Dennis Przywara’s documentary, I’d never heard of a Star Wars fan referred to as a “Star Woid.” It’s a dumb name, but a heck of a movie.
Przywara’s film primarily focuses on two theaters in Los Angeles some forty days prior to the release of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. More specifically, the “stars” of Star Woids are the two groups of ardent fans who stood in line day and night, hoping to be the first to see The Phantom Menace. With all of the lost wages from truancy, it is a wonder why these kids didn’t fly to the East Coast to see the movie a few hours earlier!
It’s something of a misleading statement to say that these groups stood in line for more than six weeks as they worked in shifts. Stationed at Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, CA, a group from countingdown.com hosted some dozen-odd members who earned “points” for each hour they stayed in line, working these points towards a right to see the film, as well as for donations to charity. Not everything is hunky dory in this commercial commune, however. The excessive rules, paperwork, and camera equipment of the countingdown.com camp led to feelings of betrayal. Some fled for safety from this dot-com combat zone to Daniel Alter’s camp, nine miles away in front of the Mann’s Village Theater in Westwood, CA. A supergeek who is first in line for every big showing at the theater, Alter is more worried about not getting his favorite seat (P-107) than getting a seat at all.
Przywara takes breaks from the countdown clock with Star Wars-themed vignettes (reminiscent of Real People segments) such as interviews with a Star Wars merchandise collector, a girl with a car painted like Luke’s X-Wing, and the creators of Star Wars: The Musical. Utilizing strong editing that keeps the film interesting throughout its 78-minute running time, my only disappointment with Star Woids is that the film ends with participants still at fever pitch from their first exposure to The Phantom Menace. I’d have liked to see follow-up interviews with the people who thought that The Phantom Menace was “Absolutely excellent,” “Worth every second,” or “Took it to a whole nother (sic) level.” However, Star Woids is more about the experience of being in line rather than actually experiencing a movie. On “the line,” friendships formed and a spirit of camaraderie was born. Additionally, like veterans of a struggle, some might meet again to play Dungeons & Dragons together while others miss the Zen purity of waiting.
Millennium’s End: The Fandom Menace
If Star Woids deals with the hardcore fans of the Star Wars trilogy, Jeff Cioletti’s Millennium’s End: The Fandom Menace focuses far more on the “mid-level managers” of the Star Wars world-the fans who have put themselves into a different echelon as print and web-based journalists who attempt to collect and lord information over their fellow fans.
Millennium’s End may sport a funny title but that’s about the only good thing I can say about it. Otherwise, it’s diametrically opposed to Star Woids. Not only is its chronology all over the map, but also it’s an awkwardly amateurish affair. Apart from a good editing system (which wasn’t used enough) and explanatory on-screen titles (which were used too much), Cioletti’s documentary is a purely camcorder driven spectacle with abhorrent audio and flat lighting.
The majority of Millennium’s End consists of a dozen talking head interviews with web and print journalists who discuss rumors about The Phantom Menace. Far more interesting would be a documentary about the anticipation (or lack thereof) surrounding Attack of the Clones. The irony of knowing that everyone involved in this flick are destined to disappointment wears thin rather quickly.
There have been a slew of documentaries that deal with this same subject matter-Jeff Wishnow’s Tattoine or Bust, Tariq Jalil’s A Galaxy Far Far Away, and Craig E. Tonkin & Warwick Holt’s Phandom Menace come to mind. Some of them have been phenomenal (Tattoine, Galaxy) while others stink up a room (Phandom). Cioletti and Przywara’s works best demonstrates the opposite ends of this spectrum.
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