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Written By:

Mark Newbold
Watching Skies

There’s something distinctly familiar about the period of time between 1977 and 1985, a slice of cinematic gold that not only raked in piles and piles of cash but also inveigled its way into the hearts and minds of kids across the planet and still manages to weave its magic well over thirty years later. What was it about this golden age of pop culture that has not only continued to flourish and grow well into the 21st century but also influences brand new television like Stranger Things, Super 8 and even TV comedy like The Goldbergs. Watching Skies – Star Wars, Spielberg and Us offers us a window into the past.

Taking a personal look back at his childhood, author Mark O’Connell delves back through the years to a time when Star Wars was everything, the connective tissue between Lucas and Spielberg brought the works of Amblin and Lucasfilm under the same umbrella and a film’s arrival on VHS was a HUGE deal. Try waiting five years for your favourite film to arrive on home video in 2018 – most kids these days are hard pressed to wait five months.

Wrapped around a beautifully evocative cover, reminiscent of many Close Encounters of the Third Kind promotional images, O’Connell is deft with his words, bringing back old memories in technicolour that remind us (those of us old enough to remember anyway) just what it was that got us so invested, especially British kids raised on a diet of Doctor Who and ‘60s re-runs. Star Wars is ground zero and remains so to this day, but Close Encounters followed closely behind, Superman and John Williams stirring theme – filmed in the UK, an important link through many of these blockbusters – the Indiana Jones series beginning with the magnificent Raiders of the Lost Ark and of course E.T., Spielberg’s masterpiece, which was the perfect storm of Spielberg magic, Williams musical gold and ILM wizardry.

In 2018, it’s often tough to imagine just how HUGE these films were when they arrived. Riding the edge of a technical wave bringing visual effects to the screen that no one had ever seen before, overseen predominantly by two visionaries – Lucas and Spielberg – who opened up the world of cinema to a hungry audience of kids who were the children of the ‘40s Republic and ‘50s B-sci-fi crowd, the ‘60s influx of Irwin Allen series, Star Trek, and Ray Harryhausen. There’s never been a more perfect storm in pop culture, and O’Connell encapsulates this beautifully in a book that is a love letter to the era, and a reminder of just how lucky we were to have lived through it.


Mark Newbold

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