Patrick Read Johnson‘s 5-25-77, a flawed nostalgia flick that was shot 13 years ago (actually between ’04 and ’06) but has never been released, screened in 32 theaters last Thursday night to honor the 40th anniversary of the opening of Star Wars. It will likely stream on Filmio before the end of the year, I’m told. A friend who caught a screening at the Laemmle Wilshire shares the following:
“It’s a sweet film, and I obviously respect Johnson’s passion and perseverance. Is it unwatchable? No. But it definitely feels amateurish at times. Like a clever home movie. The Star Wars thing is really only half the movie but the point is that Star Wars could be a stand-in for anything. Whatever you’re passionate about and makes you obsess. Ultimately, the story just isn’t there though. I enjoyed myself [as far as it went], and admire the film as a labor of love, but you didn’t miss anything.”
From a director-screenwriter friend: “Well past the expiration date, just like Kyle Newman‘s Fanboys. Rob Burnett‘s Free Enterprise already nailed this culture. A friend pointed out how the 5-25-77 protagonist’s mother pours through American Cinematographer calling people in Hollywood to get her son a job. But it should’ve been him doing the calling. Too passive a character. That’s the real problem.”
Posted on 4.15.12: “I don’t precisely know how many years ago Patrick Read Johnson began shooting 5.25.77, his autobiographical Star Wars-lore-in-suburban-Illinois film that has since been retitled ’77. The best estimate is that it was filmed between ’04 and ’06.
I know that I wrote in January 2008 (in a short piece called “Disappearing Fanboys“) that Johnson’s film “has been in post-production for three or four years without a release.” And that John Francis Daley, the guy who plays Johnson in the film, was born on 7.20.85 and was around 19 or 20 during filming.
In any event Johnson’s film, which I read in script form at least eight or nine years ago and which is mainly about how Johnson’s excitement with Star Wars and the mid ’70s fantasy fare of Steven Spielberg inspired him to make fantasy flicks of his own, has never been released. It’s been stalled so long in post it looks like up to me.
But last night Variety‘s Jeff Sneider tweeted that “at long last, it looks like Patrick Read Johnson’s Star Wars-centric pic 5-25-77 is coming out this spring on that very day.” So I immediately tweeted Johnson (whom I last spoke to some six years ago when I was at a film festival in Libertyville, Illinois) and asked him what the poop is. His reply is below.
Johnson’s film has taken eons to be cobbled into shape. It’s been beset by money problems all along. I know there was a screening at the Hamptons International Film Festival in October of 2008, and that Spoutblog‘s Karina Longworth reviewed it at the time. (But I can’t find the link.) In May 2009 Harry Knowles briefly sketched out its history, noting that he screened it “a long time ago” at the Alamo Drafthouse. That month Pajiba.com’s Dustin Rowles offered his own summary .
Teaser poster that has recently appeared on Patrick Read Johnson’s Facebook page.
However good, bad or so-so ’77 turns out to be, there are four guaranteed problems with it. One, it’s a nostalgic time-warp film that’s now wrapped inside its own time warp due to its absurd post-production history. Two, it’s a ’70s nostalgia film about the heyday of Lucas-Spielberg when JJ Abrams‘ Super 8 delivered the same emotional visitation last summer. Three, the more the culture has moved along the more discredited the reputations of Spielberg and especially Lucas have become, and so there’s something vaguely hollow-sounding about the whole magilla. And four, ’77 is a shitty title — 5.25.77 at least sounds like a reference to something momentous or semi-significant.
As I wrote four-plus years ago, “Geek culture movies always seem to run into problems.” Fanboys was the most recent example at the time. I loved Rob Burnett‘s Free Enterprise but that too had its difficulties. Others?
Sidenote: What was the coolest and most legendary thing that happened on 5.25.77, at least in terms of individual achievement? For me it wasn’t the opening of Star Wars but toymaker George Willig‘s ascent of the south tower of the World Trade Center. In August 2008 I wrote two articles about Willig’s amazing feat, which arose out of my excitement at the time with Man on Wire. Here’s an 8.9.08 post and one I ran the following day that included some great photos.