Tuesday, May 20, 2014

George Lucas in Love: A Long Time Ago at USC

It was a more innocent time in the late 1990s, when we still had general faith George Lucas would not debase his signature series with three dubious prequels. Not so long ago, Shakespeare in Love had upended Saving Private Ryan (from Lucas’s good buddy Steven Spielberg) at the Oscars, largely thanks to Tom Stoppard’s droll script, which constantly dropped hints of what might have inspired the Bard’s great masterpieces. Soon after the The Phantom Menace cruelly disillusioned fans, an affectionate short film spoof started making the rounds, giving Lucas the Stoppard treatment. A hit with fans as well as its subject, Joe Nussbaum’s George Lucas in Love re-releases today on iTunes.

There is a germ of something to Lucas’s senior screenplay, but he is badly blocked trying to develop his story of a space farmer. As he ambles around the USC campus, he unknowingly observes characters that resemble many favorite Star Wars characters. So where the heck did Jar Jar come from? Guys of the 1980’s generation will also recognize generous quotes from the original trilogy, which we used to know my heart. Of course, there are no echoes of Menace, because there is nothing worth quoting from it. “Kiss your trade franchise goodbye” just doesn’t cut it.

Regardless of any lingering Lucas issues, genre buffs will find GL in Love to be a well meaning tribute to the filmmakers who come up with this stuff in the first place. Martin Hynes and Lisa Jakub are rather winning as the earnest young Lucas and the cinnamon bun coiffed Marion, his potential love interest. However, Patrick Kerr almost steals the film as George’s faculty advisor, who speaks with Yoda’s odd cadence and indirect syntax.

While just a hair over eight minutes in length, GL in Love is something of an important film. It crossed the desks and VCRs of a lot of Hollywood decision makers and directly launched Nussbaum’s career (largely consisting of teen fare, like MTV’s Awkward and the American Pie series). It certainly proves critics and viewers who ignore shorts, do so at their peril. Eventually, it would be cool to see it paired with Roger Christian’s wholly dissimilar but still tangentially Star Wars-related Black Angel, but it is nice to have Nussbaum’s film readily accessible again on its own. Recommended for all fanboys, George Lucas in Love is now available from iTunes, as of today (5/20).