DUNE: 30 Year Anniversary

I’ve always loved movies. The first movie I ever saw was DUMBO. The first movie I ever saw in a movie theater was THE CARE BEARS MOVIE. The first movie I ever bought myself on VHS was NEWSIES. The first movie I ever bought myself on DVD was WAYNE’S WORLD. The first movie I bought on BluRay was DUNE. That was in spite of already owning not one but two DVDs of DUNE. Both of which I still own in spite of also owning the BluRay. I keep the original issue DVD of DUNE not only because it is the only release on digital media to include the movie’s trailer, but also because it is fucking signed by David Lynch (I will tell you about that shortly). I keep the second DVD because it includes the bastardized ‘Extended’ Alan Smithee cut of the movie which is not included on the BluRay. I keep the BluRay because it looks so fucking good.

And because DUNE is my favorite movie of all time. Forever. Amen.

Growing up, I watched many movies, but most always under the communal approval of my family. I could escape to my best friend’s house to see movies that would otherwise be ruled out at home - either by full-out moral judgement or by such persistent and oppressive side-eye and snide remarks that I would fold and surrender the family TV set to some more acceptable mainstream media choice. In the fall of 2000 I escaped to college where I could watch whatever I wanted without having to answer ‘What’s going on? What’s that? Who’s that? Why’d they do/say that? Why are you watching this? What’s going on?’ for the duration. In the early months of 2001 I discovered a local video store in Santa Cruz, where I was living and attending school. Westside Video had an awesome collection of videos and they had an everyday deal - rent five VHS tapes for five days for five dollars. I rented hundreds of movies there over my years in school. I would often choose my five movies from five different genres or sections in the store. My primary goal was to see as many movies as possible, and the secondary goal was to see all those movies I had always wanted to see but never had. To that end, the second or third time I was in the video store, I was in the Science Fiction section, trying to decide on a movie to rent, and I saw DUNE on the shelf. I remembered seeing it in a store once, years before, and a friend telling me that it was a movie about a weird planet where you couldn’t walk around outside and everyone was sick and had super blue eyes. I didn’t read the box, I didn’t even think about it, I just picked it up and took it back to the dorms with me.

I shared a dorm room with three other people. I usually watched movies on my 13” TV/VCR combo machine and used headphones. For whatever reason, at 2:00am one morning I decided to watch DUNE and decided to do so in the dorm lounge room across the hall. I curled up in my favorite blanket, put the movie on, and my life changed forever. Years later I would have an eerily similar experience watching FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS for the first time - as I watched DUNE that night/morning, I had absolutely NO idea what the hell I was watching or what was going on (I remember mis-hearing the Guild navigator when he says right at the beginning that he wants Paul Atreides killed - I thought he said that he wanted ALL Atreides killed, just as one example), but I knew one thing absolutely - I fucking loved it.

I was bouncing and clapping with delight, I was laughing out loud, I was talking to the screen, I was repeating lines back at the movie (“Long live the fighters!”), I was falling helplessly and completely in love. I even did something that I never again did through my entire career as a Westside Video patron - I watched DUNE a second time before returning the video.

The next few years were spent madly collecting DUNE memorabilia on eBay, buying myself the VHS (and the DVD when I bought my first DVD player), reading the book (I managed to make it through to about a third of the way into God Emperor of Dune before I had to throw in the towel there), creating song videos, and generally obsessing over the movie. At one point I learned that undergraduates at UC Santa Cruz could opt to teach a class - a ‘Student Directed Seminar’. I immediately approached my favorite film professor and told her I wanted to teach a class. She said, “That’s great! What do you want to teach about?” I immediately said, “DUNE!” She laughed. I assured her that I was serious - I didn’t know how I would do it, but I would do it. She was very nice, told me that I should put together a proposal and approach the resident Sci-Fi expert professor to be my mentor. 

I put together what I had and made an appointment with the Sci-Fi expert. The meeting did not go well. Amidst personal attacks on my taste in music (“Why do you have a button of Johnny Rotten? I didn’t know anyone liked HIM anymore”), I was told, “I haven’t read or seen DUNE, but I hear it’s terrible. Why would you want to teach a class on it?” as well as, “You don’t have enough material here to teach one session, let alone an entire class.” I left the meeting, found my favorite resource center, cried for a while into a bowl of ramen noodles, and then began to formulate my plan. I went back to my favorite film professor and explained to her that I could not work with the Sci-Fi expert professor. I explained that, regardless of her expertise in the genre, this woman was an academic snob who did not see the merit in studying films that were not critical or financial successes. I explained that rather than nurturing my desire to teach and encouraging me to keep gathering material and find an angle, she had dismissed me outright. I told my favorite professor that I would do all the work, find my angle, if only she would be my mentor (I should mention that a faculty mentor was required in order to teach as a student). She agreed. About a week later, I found my angle and presented it to her: Film Adaptation Theory.

Without going into it too much, Film Adaptation Theory is, for me, the crux of film studies. I put together a syllabus in which the class watched DUNE, the extended cut, the mini-series, the CHILDREN OF DUNE mini-series (which was released to DVD the week after I started to screen it for the class, they had to watch the first portion on a bad VHS taped from TV), BLUE VELVET (to contextualize the film in David Lynch’s career), STAR WARS (Ep IV, screened from LaserDisc), and LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. We discussed the language used to discuss film adaptations (staying true to the “spirit” of the novel, etc) and proliferation (merchandising). We talked of many things. My students wrote great papers. I received glowing reviews for the class (it was called the best class they’d taken at UCSC by at least 2-3 of the 14 students). The only critique I received was from a student who wished that I had shown a Jodorowsky film instead of one of my other picks. Upon reflection, and now with the gift of hindsight, I think that he was correct. At the time, it made more sense to me to include the films I chose. 

In the eleven years that have passed since I taught that class, quite a lot has happened. DUNE-wise I mean. First of all, the proliferation of literature has blown. The fuck. Up. There are now over fifteen novels released that are set in the Dune-iverse. The Dune novel franchise is so bulky and cumbersome at this point, I just can’t even. And I don’t tend to use ‘even’ as a verb but in this case I just can’t even with this franchise. Then again, I never did get past the beginning of the fourth novel that Herbert himself wrote. I was impressed by the first novel, mildly entertained by the second, and I was so annoyed with the twins in Children of Dune the novel that I was fucking ecstatic when I saw the mini-series and they had bumped up their age. The nine year old children being fucking know it all asswipes in the book made me want to kill puppies. Then again, Alia is far and away my favorite character and I don’t mind her being a bad ass little super child. But I also didn’t particularly care for the way her story unfolded. And having caught up (via Wikipedia. Thanks, internet!) on what happens in the continuing franchise books it seems like at some point they just said ‘fuck it’ and made gholas of EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER from the original novel. I see the franchise books as glorified fan fiction, frankly. If you’re into them, awesome for you. If you’re not, I’m with you there.

The best thing to happen to me in terms of DUNE was meeting David Lynch. I worked for many years at an Apple store in a fancy pantsy mall in the East San Francisco Bay Area. One day I was walking past the Barnes and Noble and saw a flyer in the door advertising a book signing and personal appearance by David Lynch. He was promoting his book on creativity and transcendental meditation. It said on the flyer that he would only be signing the book. No movie memorabilia would be signed, they claimed. The night of the event, I worked until the time that it started. So I walked over, my DUNE DVD slip sleeve in my bag, JUST IN CASE. I arrived, stood at the back of the (rather small) crowd, and waited. A woman approached the microphone and announced that if you bought the book that day at the store, that Mr. Lynch would also sign a single piece of movie memorabilia. I congratulated myself for being prepared. David Lynch came out, told us that he would read the introduction from the book and then take questions. The introduction to the book is about a paragraph long and a short one at that. He read it. He took a few questions. The signing began. I bought the book and some kind of pastry because I was starving. I joined the line. I think there was one person behind me, I was just about the last one in line anyway. As I approached the front, a lady put my name on a sticky note so David Lynch wouldn’t have to figure out how to spell my name or whatever. When she saw that I was going in with the DUNE DVD cover, she made some kind of remark about how he wasn’t going to be stoked to see that. I approached the table, he signed my book and my DVD cover. He inscribed the book. The DVD is not inscribed. I don’t remember what I said to him, I expect I probably thanked him for being awesome or something. I do remember that he was not taking photos and so I made sure to put out my hand for a handshake. I remember having to be a bit insistent about that - he didn’t really want to shake my hand, but he did. The whole event was over in less than an hour. It was clear that David Lynch did not want to be there, did not want to be talking to the public about his book, did not want to be meeting people and signing things. I expect it was a contractual obligation kind of thing. But he was not rude, he was not particularly gracious, but I have met celebrities who were much more caustic about their desire to be doing anything other than interacting with me, and so it is a great memory. And from that night came one of my most prized possessions:

I have a DUNE DVD cover signed by David Lynch.

This past year we were lucky enough as a planet to receive a grand gift - a documentary called JODOROWSKY’S DUNE. This film fills in the gaps left in the internet snippets and film books that make allusion to the failed attempts to make DUNE into a film previous to Lynch’s film. I cannot possibly recommend this movie enough. I was warned that the film is not kind to the Lynch film - and I have never had reason to expect otherwise - but I don’t see it like that. Jodorowsky himself acknowledges that David Lynch and the cast and crew are in no way responsible for the film being, in his view (and popular view of the world at large), “terrible”. That is on the studio, the producers, the money men and the pencil pushers, and poor Raffaella de Laurentiis, caught in the middle. I can’t regret the loss of Jodorowsky’s version of DUNE because what I have is so wonderful - it’s not really David Lynch’s DUNE. David Lynch directed the footage that was assembled into the final film that is available today, but he did not have final cut. The film is not a perfect film in a technical sense, it is not a perfect film in many senses, but for me it is a perfect film because it is a perfect gateway to a much wider world of experience. I could not stop thinking about DUNE after I saw it back in college. I couldn’t stop watching it. I couldn’t stop. I still cannot stop. I had a big party on December 14, 2009 to celebrate the 25 year anniversary and just this past weekend, I had a big party spanning two days and multiple screenings to celebrate the 30 year anniversary of the film.

I’ve laughed my way through Siskel and Ebert’s review of DUNE. I have developed a great respect for Roger Ebert over the past few years, but this I think lands firmly in the realm of that elusive idea that film critics like to gloss over: “taste”. Does DUNE have long, boring parts? Too many long battle sequences? Disgusting imagery? Sure. Could it be seen a sterile, homophobic, confusing mess? Of course. Do I love the fuck out of it in spite of all this? Absofuckinglutely. I love everything about this movie, atrocities against humanity and all. DUNE has become my gold standard for movie length as well. If a movie’s runtime is over 2 hours 17 minutes and it’s not a fucking awesome movie, I have something to fucking say about that. If they could tell David Lynch that the longest the movie could ever possibly be was 2 hours 17 minutes, then that’s the longest any fucking movie should ever be. I’m willing to allow up to 2 hours 25 minutes, but beyond that, fuck you, Peter Jackson, CUT THAT SHIT DOWN. If you’re not David Lean, stop trying to be. 

I try to live in the land of the bottom line. The bottom line for me when it comes to film adaptation theory and DUNE in particular is this: I like stories. People like stories. Movies, books, action figures, story books, radio shows, audio books - these are all different versions (or visions) of a story. I like the story of Dune - I like it as a book, I like it as a movie, I like it as a mini-series. I like the posters. I like the music. I like the special features on the digital releases. I like the documentary about the film version that never happened, because that also is a variation on the story of DUNE. The last time I went to Disneyland, I found an art gallery in Downtown Disney that sells art done by various artists based on classic Disney cartoon movies and characters. I bought some postcards there - every vision of Alice in Wonderland I could find. I’ve seen every film and TV version of Alice currently available through Netflix. Fan art is proliferation, different versions of the same story are just that - different versions. I strongly disapprove of Peter Jackson’s ass rape version of The Hobbit on film. And that’s fine. It’s OK to not like things. It’s OK to like one version more than another. It’s OK to say that David Lynch’s film of DUNE is “terrible”, even if you’ve never seen it. It’s OK because in the land of the bottom line, THERE IS NO ACCOUNTING FOR TASTE. You can tell me that CHARIOTS OF FIRE is an award winning film. It can be extrapolated from that statement that the film is therefore important, worthy of watching and worthy of being studied and discussed in an academic setting. It doesn’t mean that I’m not going to fall the fuck asleep watching it because I find it be boring as hell. Calling a movie ‘great’ implies that I am under an obligation to like it. Calling a movie ‘bad’ implies that I am under an obligation to dislike it, to NOT desire to watch it. This is why people have ‘guilty’ pleasures. I have no guilty pleasures. I like what I like and fuck off if you feel the  need to either police my taste or cast judgement on me for loving a movie that you feel should be disqualified from the realm of enjoyment.

Think about the woman who told me that she had never read the novel and had never seen the movie of DUNE but that, based on what she had heard, she had judged the film unworthy of examination in an academic setting. Think about how many books and movies and television shows are out there, changing people’s lives, and the people who look down on anyone who dares to suggest that they may be worthy of note as anything other than cheap thrill or exploitation style entertainment. LAWRENCE OF ARABIA is a classic film, it won a ton of Academy Awards. It’s basically the same story as DUNE. If I had proposed teaching a class about LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, would anyone have objected? Would anyone have dared to say that they hadn’t seen it but heard it wasn’t really all that great so why would I want to teach a class on it? I love LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. But not as much as I love DUNE. I hear the objections and the criticisms of the film and I agree with many of them. I agree that the movie has some major issues. But I don’t care. I fucking love it. And I wish that David Lynch could find it in his heart to love this movie as well.

I often cite Rachel Talalay and her film TANK GIRL when discussing David Lynch’s attitude toward the DUNE released under his name. Talalay directed TANK GIRL, fighting every single step of the way. She did not have final cut. The film as released is not the film she set out to make. But listening to her commentary and interviews, she is clear that she is very proud of the film and of her victories. She discusses the fights that she lost, the regretfully lost cuts of certain scenes, the extra footage that the studio sneakily shot behind her back. But she loves the movie and she is proud of the movie. I understand that David Lynch was burned by the experience of directing DUNE. I understand it stung. It was thirty years ago. I wish he would sack the fuck up, dry his tears and make his cut of the film. Allegedly he has been offered the opportunity and has refused, saying it would be “too painful”. You know what would be more painful? If I died without seeing the best version of DUNE that he could put together from whatever is left. I would love to see the David Lynch cut of DUNE rise from the ashes of time like a glorious phoenix. I would love for him to forgive the past and move into a future in which he can accept that he made fucking awesome pictures on film and even though he didn’t like the way they got put together, I wish that he could accept that there are people like me who don’t care how badly put together his pictures might have been - WE FUCKING LOVE IT.

So that’s my wish, this 30 year anniversary of My Favorite Movie Of All Time Forever Amen: DUNE. I wish that when it comes time for me to have a big party for the 35 year anniversary in 2019 that I can screen the David Lynch cut of DUNE. It’s not going to happen, but I’ll keep dreaming. 

The points I hope that I’ve made:

- Love what you love and don’t apologize for it. There should be no such thing as a “guilty” pleasure. 

- Don’t let the petty judgements of others stop you from doing what you dream. Find a way. Find an ally. If you want to teach a class about DUNE, don’t let the swine stand in your way.

- It’s OK to not like something you’ve created or worked on, but please don’t be a dick to people who liked it.

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Elijah Wood “Sting” Sword – The Sword of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins

  • Measurements: overall length, 27 inches (68.5cm)

Heavily used by Elijah Wood in the role of Frodo Baggins throughout all three “The Lord of the Rings” films (New Line Cinema, 2001, 2002, 2003), this prop sword has a lightweight aluminum blade with acid etched Elvish inscriptions and resin handle with lacquered-over elven vine vinyl transfer. In addition to standard weathering and aging applied to the prop sword by Weta Workshop, this piece has a number of nicks visible along the edges of the blade from on-set combat and sword play. 

Residue from orc blood can also be seen pitting the blade. Easily the most iconic and recognizable weapon featured in both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. This sword was one of eight main character props featured in “The Lord of the Rings” that were given away as grand prizes in the “Win the Sword of Aragorn Sweepstakes” cross promotion between Hasbro Toys and New Line Cinema to promote the release of The Return of the King (New Line Cinema, 2003), in December 2003.

Source: Copyright © 2014 Julien’s Auction

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Legendary professional wrestler Sting issued a statement this morning saying he is “deeply, deeply sorry” for arriving in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) 13 years late for the WCW “invasion” angle.

“Traffic was terrible,” said the enigmatic star following his much-anticipated appearance at last night’s Survivor Series event.

“Better late than never, I guess. Sorry.”

Sting has attained almost mythical status for being one of the only top-tier professional wrestlers on Earth never to have performed in a WWE ring — for no other reason, it turns out, than his chronic tardiness.

Sting was disappointed when he arrived in St. Louis yesterday to discover that WCW colleagues including Hugh Morris, Lance Storm and Billy Kidman had long since given up their “Invasion” crusade, and that WCW had become little more than a fading memory in wrestling history.

“Dangit,” said Sting, “this is embarrassing.”

Sting explained that he had intended to join his WCW brethren when they “invaded” WWE in 2001, but he took a wrong turn south onto Route 41 out of Atlanta and ended up stranded in Orlando for a number of unpleasant years.