“Star Wars” may have its own beer, but is it art?

“Star Wars” may have its own beer, but is it art? (photo)

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There really is no end to what true “Star Wars” fanatics are willing to shell out for. Which can be a problem if, say, said product isn’t licensed by George Lucas, as Andrew Ainsworth recently found out the hard way.

In 1976, Ainsworth — then an industrial designer — made 50 Stormtrooper helmets, for which he got £20 each, plus approximately another £30,000 for other character equipment. Ainsworth’s total “Star Wars” earnings: about £31,000. Lucasfilm’s merchandise earnings for “Star Wars”: $10 billion plus and counting.

In 2004, it finally dawned on Ainsworth that this stuff was worth money, and he began selling Stormtrooper helmets from the original mold he’d created. Lucasfilm’s legal fury was swift: in the U.S., they soaked him for $20 million (for just 19 helmets sold, no less). Then they brought their case to the British courts; Wednesday, they lost. And why? Because the judge in the original case said it’s not art. Mr. Justice Mann said the helmets were industrial designs rather than sculptures, hence subject to 15 years of copyright protection rather than 70. The appeals court concurred: the helmet and armor were “utilitarian” rather than art.

I get what they’re saying: the helmets can be mass-manufactured rather than accruing value from their limited quantity and rarity, hence they’re no more art than, say, those plates with paintings of cats the Franklin Mint peddles. On the other hand, it’s hard not to sympathize with Lucasfilm’s British attorney Mark Owen when he says “The film is a piece of art, and all the components are part of that.” Some of us would like to think so, anyway.

But in that case: shouldn’t the designer be the artist and get the benefits? Not in the real world, perhaps — companies claim the rights to the work of their employers all the time, even if it seems morally iffy — but ideally, yes, and from that perspective it’s nice to see the pennypinching Lucasfilm lawyers get shut down definitively. (They plan to appeal the Supreme Court, natch.)

12202009_imperialstout.jpgThen again, hearing the Lucasfilm folks talk about “art” (in connection with the rare merchandising dollar they haven’t snapped up) is like listening to Pat Robertson talk about tolerance. These days they’re pimping the somewhat redundantly titled “Imperial Stout Trooper Stout,” a New England brew hitting select states next Monday or so. I mean, fine: I’ll drink it with my “Godfather” vodka. And if it’s as good as the “Monty Python’s Holy Grail Ale” I tried last weekend, then that’s fine. The reviews are good anyway, if you’re the kind of person who reads beer reviews.

[Photos: Stormtrooper helmet, from Shepperton Design Studios; Imperial Stout Trooper label, from New England Brewing Co]


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.