Film Right, let's talk about Star Wars too.
But first: 1978. Much of this list has worked from the rule of slotting films into the year of release as per the IMDb. But for various reasons, see next week, that simply doesn't work for Star Wars and so I'm invoking the "Stories We Tell" rule and borrowing the year when the film received its national UK release, which is the first occasion I could have seen the film. So here we are in 1978. Sorry Grease.
Except unlike most people of a certain age, I don't rightly remember the first time I saw Star Wars.
My best guestimate is at Woolton Picturehouse in 1980 during a matinee double bill with The Empire Strikes Back. I remember clearly walking to the back of the auditorium with my Dad to buy a carton of Kiora during the closing credits. This was at about six years old, so I can't really tell you how I felt about it, indeed I was probably more excited about the concentrated fruit drink which was too fruity for the crows. I loved that advert.
For years I thought I'd imagined or dreamt all this but then I discovered a quad poster at a film fair, this quad poster, which was reassuring. There are few things more disappointing than when the memories of life's milestones a revealed to be fraudulent.
Every rerelease at the cinema, ever new format and I've been there to tut at the changes whilst marvelling at the restorations. About the only version I haven't owned is the nutty non-anamorphic laserdisc transfer which appeared along with the rerelease of the "special" editions on dvd because I'd already bought first boxed set version.
I learn as I write that this is a film which was even changed significantly during the original theatrical run. Not surprised.
What draws me back to Star Wars? There's the nostalgia bullshit, the stuff we all know about. There's having something to talk about with friends because no matter which other franchise people are fans of, Star Wars exists as a kind of neutral territory we can all meet on. Star Wars is Switzerland. Plus habit. Habit is important too.
Like plenty of films of that era and in general, Star Wars is just sort of always there. Ubiquitous.
Even in childhood, even before I owned a video recorder of my own, I began the format journey with some second hand copies of the original panned and scanned CBS/FOX releases.
The occasions at primary school on strike days and near summer holidays when half the school would crowd around the institutional television to watch an off-air, or as has always been the case, off-ITV, recording of the film complete with adverts which would sometimes be fast forwarded through depending on whether the teacher was paying attention.
When visiting Germany were a relative was stationed in the RAF and hiring a video from the local newsagents. Other important hires during that holiday where many of the original 60s animated MARVEL series notably The Might Thor: "Across the rainbow bridge of Asgard to where the booming heavens roar!"
At various friends houses across the years when it was impossible not to watch all three together, usually friends who like me could quote the whole thing but would still shush each other just in case we missed some new nuance of what was being said.
I saw it twice during the epic 1997 release of the special editions. Once on the giant screen one at the Odeon London Road with friends and then again on the tiny screen five upstairs at the front of an empty auditorium before returning to screen one for Empire which was released again just a few weeks later.
Imagine that now - a twenty year old film, albeit in a new version, in general release and projected on the most important screen in most cinemas and taking massive box office.
But was I ever a fan? Not sure and when it comes to giant multimedia franchise properties, what is a fan anyway?
Essentially if you're of that certain age in the UK, science fiction fandom is dominated by this trinity, Star Wars, Star Trek and Doctor Who. I'm aware than in the US, until recently, it's been more of duopoly between the first two, but in general it seems to be you were either a fan of Wars or Trek or Who.
As we've discussed I've done Trek. I'm currently Who (just about). Before both of those it was Transformers though arguably that only really stretched to the comics and comics in general were a huge influence. There's Shakespeare too but let's not confuse everything for now.
I worked my way through a fair amount of Star Trek's spin-off novel back catalogue and Doctor Who's story runs across pretty much every artistic medium with a narrative.
Yet despite Star Wars having its own expanded universe, apart from some book and records (specifically Planet of the Hoojibs) (you can read along with me in your book) (you will know it is time to turn the page when you hear R2-D2 beep like this...), bits of the radio adaptation and having a run of the MARVEL reprint comics bought for me from Speke Market for a few years, I wasn't attracted to anything.
Which isn't to say I didn't try. I even bought a copy of Timothy Zahn's Heir to the Empire (Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy, Vol. 1). Still haven't read it (which is probably just as well now).
The only exception is some of the computer games, notably the original PC version of X-Wing which I played with friends into the night at university, someone on the joystick piloting a craft, the other at the keyboard playing R2 with laser and shield strength, which was about the only way to be successful with some levels.
Having considered this for a good ten minutes before sitting down at my laptop to type this into the Blogger box the only reason I can come up with is that I didn't see the point and that I didn't see the point because unlike Star Trek and Doctor Who, Star Wars tells its story pretty well across the three films. Once you reach the celebration at the close of whatever version of Jedi you happen to be watching, the story's done.
Now, George didn't think so, hopefully JJ's found a way out of that narrative quagmire, but ultimately, I must have subconsciously decided that however much I like these characters unlike those other television properties which were chemically designed from the off to generate stories, by hitching himself to Joseph Campbell and Valdimir Propp in telling us the story of farm boy makes good, George essentially limited his options.
Leland Chee, keeper of the holocron (such as it is now) would obviously disagree with me.
And as the superb The Clone Wars demonstrated, it is possible to engineer something within the same universe to fit a television narrative structure and I loved every minute of that. Even began to like Jar Jar a little bit especially in those episodes in which they clearly dared themselves to produce entertaining television that just featured that damned Gungan and the droids.
The anthology films are also intriguing but they're generally going to be telling known stories. Rogue One is the Star Wars equivalent of The Dambusters, telling a familiar story albeit in a fictional universe.
But the further adventures of Luke, Han and Leia and the team? Not so much, especially since the films end on such a positive note.
Does that stop me from being able to call myself a Star Wars fan? Or is this like so many other things now, a matter of self-identification not to mention cultural monogaminity as I've always assumed. As a Doctor Who fan I'm not really allowed to call myself a fan of any of these other franchises or something like that?
This is probably getting a bit silly.
Perhaps it's enough for me simply to say that Star Wars is my favourite film of 1977. Or 1978. From a certain point of view...