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1997-1998 - 1999 - 2000 - 2001 - 2002+

TPM and the Academy

The man who snubbed Hollywood has now been snubbed by Hollywood itself.

It's not every day a Star Wars movie comes out. In fact, it's been well over a dozen years since the last one did. And so, after over a decade of wait, we return to the galaxy far, far away in Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

People went to see it in droves, despite the poor reviews. We saw it over and over again, despite the bad press and the outcry from a select elite about racial stereotypes and reckless commercialization of the movie. We saw it because it was part of us, a story we've longed to know since we were children, scrambling to get seats in the crowded theater back in 1977. The story, of the boy who would become Vader.

It was created far from the glitzy backlots of Hollywood and the 'lights, camera and action' of major studios just a few hours south. There was no big production company attached to the project, it was simply created by a man with a vision and some fantastic talent.

Using funds from the re-release of the original trilogy in 1997 and the wealth from the near limitless LucasFilm empire has accumulated over the past 20 years, Mr. Lucas took one look back at what he had been trained to do, and shook his head. As he turned away from the Hollywood most would die to get a foothold in, he put his arms around his children and walked up the steps to Skywalker Ranch to make a movie. But not any movie: Star Wars.

I sit now thumbing through an older draft typewritten copy that has sat here for months, enjoying the story and envisioning it playing out again on the screen. This truly has been a wild ride in the return of Star Wars. But here's a few thoughts that helped me put things into perspective a bit, especially after many fans have expressed some amount of disappointment over only garnering 3 nominations:

It doesn't matter if it wins awards.

It doesn't matter if a few people don't like it, look at the way they treated the first ones, and now they've become part of the fabric of American society.

What matters is it's your story, and that's something we all should appreciate.

But enough of that.

We watched this story unfold through amazing worlds created mostly in the mind of the folks over at ILM and there supercomputers rivalling that of NASA. We saw creatures come alive with never before seen reality, making us grin at Jar Jar and chuckle at Watto's personality. And that's only what we did recognize as special effects, there was a ton more you will never know what was done to make it as you finally saw it on the big screen. That, in addition to amazing effects over all like the pod race and the lightsaber battles, demand nomination in the Academy Awards. And not just a nomination, but it should win the category flat out. John, Dennis (14th nomination, more in this category than anyone else), Scott, Rob and the gang, great work.

Do you remember the screaming of the pod race engines over the camera and the pulsing of Sebulba's pod as it came over your heads, around corners and then through the screen? The Phantom Menace broke new ground in many areas of the movie industry, including an entirely new sound system with another rear channel to handle the power of the audio in this film. How could it not be nominated? Hats off again to John Midgley, Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson, and Shawn Murphy amongst many others I am certain.

What exactly does an Eopie sound like? How do the towering waterfalls of Naboo sound as we pan across the peaceful planet? What in the world does a Sando Aqua Sea Monster look like -- mush less what does it sound like? All these questions were answered by Ben Burtt (10th Academy Award nomination), Tom Bellfort and their crew as they scoured the globe for the real-world sounds that would give Star Wars that believable edge. I was confident in the ability of this team from the moment I met Ben at the Denver Celebration and heard him speak. Well done, and truly masterful.

The team effort to produce George Lucas' vision onto the big screen was amazing, with staff in England, Africa, Italy and the United States all sharing in creating a piece of the puzzle. But to be honest the number of nominations didn't really surprise me. I expected there to be a backlash against George, and that TPM would receive precious few nominations. Even though I personally think the film deserved nominations for COSTUME DESIGN, ART DIRECTION and perhaps another as well, I didn't expect it to be nominated in those categories. My prediction now is that TPM will win two out of the three categories it is nominated in, or perhaps only one. I don't think it will win all three, even if it does deserve it.

But does it really matter? We've returned to the Star Wars universe for the first episode, and we're settling in for a treat with a couple more coming over the next few years, with George's vision and some of the best talent available leading the way.

4 films, 23 nominations. Not bad.

Joshua Griffin

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