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Archive for May, 2024

First Review of Star Wars in the Soviet Union

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The review as it appeared in the Literary Gazette. Caption under photograph of storm trooper: This is what one of the “heroes” of the film War of the Stars looks like.

This is the first review of Star Wars published in the Soviet Union. It appeared in the Literary Gazette, a Moscow weekly, on September 7, 1977.

It is unlikely the reviewer had had an opportunity to see the film, nor would most of her readers be able to see it anytime soon. All we learn about the plot is that the main characters engage some kind of formidable tyrants in light-saber battles. The emphasis on the physical appearance of the characters suggests that posters and production stills are the primary source. Over half the text is devoted to portraying the film as a crass commercial endeavor aimed at undiscerning viewers.

The name of the film is translated as War of the Stars, a misunderstanding which was corrected in later reviews. The first month’s box office receipts appear to be overstated. The statement that a sequel will be out in a few weeks is puzzling seeing as The Empire Strikes Back was not released until May of 1980.

Mass Culture 77
Space Horror Films

By Yu. Varshavskaya

This summer American movie theaters were hit with a new wave of “movie madness”. According to the press, the film War of the Stars by American cinematographer George Lucas is breaking all box office records: $60 million profit from the first month of showings. From morning until midnight War of the Stars is shown in overflowing theaters. In order to get into the film one must either stand in line for several hours or pay a scalper a fabulous sum – 50 dollars.

And so “evil spirits”, huge disasters, and giant sharks have been replaced on the American screen by horrors of truly cosmic proportion – monstrous tyrants who terrorize our Galaxy. The battle against them is waged by the heroes of the film – a certain round-faced princess, a village youth, an elderly knight of the Round Table, an ape-man, and two robots. One of them, the enormous gilded robot Threepio, is endowed with human speech. The other, Artoo-Detoo, resembles an automobile and expresses himself in “star” beeps.

The plot of the movie, as the French weekly Express writes, is rather simplistic.

But to really frighten the locals the makers of the film have employed the most modern of weapons – a laser ray with which the heroes of the film do battle as with rapiers. Nightmarish monsters are constantly appearing on the screen: a lizard-man, gnomes without faces, a living mummy with a head with rubber tubes sticking out, fantastical animals…

At the same time as shooting of this blood curdling “masterpiece” which the cinematographer George Lucas calls “the western of the future” was going on, a number of related commercial schemes were undertaken. The publisher Ballantine released a novel under the same name. Then Marvel Comic Book [sic], a publisher which specializes in comics, signed a contract with the movie studio Fox and, having divided the script into six parts, began issuing a monthly War of the Stars comic book. The press run is a million copies. Right after that the classic accouterments of “mass culture” appeared: buttons, tee-shirts, movie posters, and soundtrack records. And the children’s toys should be in the stores in time for Christmas [literally “New Year’s”, the holiday to which the Soviets had transfered the Christmas tree and gift-giving tradition]: a miniature Artoo-Detoo which makes the very same sounds as the original, and the gilded Threepio. The biggest “find” of the film, the toy laser rapier, is not invented yet, but work has already begun.

In the next few weeks there is due to appear on the movie screens of the USA a new episode of War of the Stars which is likely to be as mediocre as it will be profitable. This is not to be wondered at. The mass audience is ready to bite at such pieces of “art” in order to, when leaving the movie theater, see that things outside are fairly quiet…

Written by David Chappell

May 23rd, 2024 at 4:08 pm

Posted in reviews,society

Double Negation

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A few years ago a user on Stack Exchange asked why the construction used in this English sentence is not considered a double negative.

If I don’t use the microphone, nobody will hear me.

This question was presumably prompted by the familiar admonition not to use a double negative. This warning refers to dialect constructions such as in this sentence:

If I don’t use no microphone, no one will hear me.

Notice that in the first clause both the verb and its direct object are negated. This is negative concord because the two negatives are intended to reinforce one another. They are in concord or agreement.

In standard English we would instead say:

If I don’t use the microphone, no one will hear me.

Leaving asside the question of whether non-standard forms of English should be used, the caution should not be understood literally. It does not mean that all uses of double negation violate the rules of formal English. A more precise statement of the rule would be: Standard English does not recognize negative concord as a valid construction.

In standard English double negatives cancel one another out to produce a positive as in mathematics. To illustrate this a teacher might ask the children to interpret the dialect sentence above as if it were standard English. The teacher guides them to this interpretation:

I must not use a microphone if I want to be heard.

This is nonsense, but it serves to illustrate an important point: double negatives are not forbidden in standard English, they simple cancel one another out. It is only an error if negative concord was intended. For example, this use of a double negative is good literary English:

Your complaints have not gone unheard.

The “not” and “un-” cancel one another out, so the sentence means:

Your complaints have been heard.

Though the emphasis is a little different. One negation serves to describe what the interlocutor fears while the second serves to indicate that it has not in fact taken place.

Now let us return to the question from Stack Exchange:

If I don’t use the microphone, nobody will hear me.

This sentence has two negations, but it does not display netagive concord. Nor do the negations cancel one another out (as in our example from literary English) since they are not in the same clause. Instead the two negations are in separate clauses joined in an if-then construct. We can simplify the sentence to this:

If no microphone, then no hearers.

We must use two negations in this sentence because the message is about two negations: negating the microphone negates the hearers.

A version of this post was originally published as an answer on Stack Exchange:

Why is, “If I don’t use the microphone, nobody will hear me,” not considered a double negative

Written by David Chappell

May 9th, 2024 at 11:08 am

Posted in english,language