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Watching Skies: Star Wars, Spielberg and Us
Mark O'Connell didn't want to be Luke Skywalker, He wanted to be one of the mop-haired kids on the Star Wars toy commercials. And he would have done it had his parents had better pine furniture and a condo in California. Star Wars, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Superman didn't just change cinema - they made lasting highways into our childhoods, toy boxes and video stores like never before.
In Watching Skies, O'Connell pilots a gilded X-Wing flight through that shared universe of bedroom remakes of Return of the Jedi, close encounters with Christopher Reeve, sticker album swaps, the trauma of losing an entire Stars Wars figure collection and honeymooning on Amity Island.
From the author of Catching Bullets - Memoirs of a Bond Fan, Watching Skies is a timely hologram from all our memory systems. It is about how George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, a shark, two motherships, some gremlins, ghostbusters and a man of steel jumper a whole generation to hyperspace.*
*action figures sold separately.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
Mark O'Connell brings alive those wonderfully heady days when American cinema was young again - exploding with the fun, colour and imagination that illuminated our own frozen shores and fired the imaginations of children - and grown up children - everywhere. So take your mashed potato Devils Tower to the lost city of Tanis - via Krypton and, of course, a galaxy far, far away - and indulge in this fantastic personal account of one of the greatest chapters in movie history. An unmitigated delight. -- MARK GATISS (SHERLOCK, DOCTOR WHO) "Love the era of Jaws, Star Wars and Ghostbusters? This book is for you. Remember Look-In, CHiPS and the Why Don't You gang sitting awkwardly on hay bales? This book is so for you."
-- TOTAL FILM We rather liked Mark O'Connell's Bond-fan memoir Catching Bullets. Watching Skies does much the same for the likes of Star Wars, Close Encounters and E.T. reminiscing about toys, videos, sticker album swaps and so on. -- SFX I thought I was the only person obsessed with every single thing written in this book, but fortunately for the rest of us Mark O'Connell is too. This is the ideal Christmas gift, even if you're browsing at Easter. -- MARK MILLAR (X MEN, KINGSMAN, MILLARWORLD) "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... 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. "
-- STARBURST "It's a wonderful rallying point for the Star Wars generation, a book dripping with nostalgia for a genuine golden age of movies. And Superman IV." -- SFX "Watching Skies is a book full of joy, admiration and respect. It manages to both be an insightful, fascinating analysis of one of the most interesting points in American cinema and culture of the 20th century while at the same time feeling at times almost like a personalised diary, a stroll through the life and memories of a burgeoning cinephile and geek. For anyone who grew up in this era, with all its unique quirks (particularly as a Brit) and trends, Watching Skies will feel like you've been transported back to the era of Spandau Ballet, the Test Card Girl shutting you down at night, and E.T phoning home. Embrace it."
-- SET THE TAPE "O'Connell brings readers to a prequel... a prelude of enviable and commendable prose typifying the importance the films of Lucas and Spielberg held on a generation... Watching Skies is another love letter to the cinema of the Seventies/Eighties, written with O'Connell's excellent command of the English language. He writes with wit and repartee, even managing to connect Bond to Superman through the means of another writer, Tom Mankiewicz, who O'Connell highlights is "the master of cutting to the chase, affording tight exposition to otherwise sprawling capers and the barbed retort." -- WE ARE CULT "Mark O'Connell - whose first book, Catching Bullets, described his life as a James Bond superfan - revisits the other films and stories that so obsessed him during his childhood... tracing their impact not just on himself but on a whole generation of space-lovers and cinema-goers" -- RADIO TIMES "This book is a finely researched and highly informative examination of Spielberg, Lucas and their associated projects. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on Poltergeist, and despite film legend to the contrary, O' Connell puts forward a very convincing argument that the film is as much Tobe Hooper's as it is Spielberg's... Balancing the biography and film criticism with ease, Watching Skies is a warm, witty and insightful love letter to all the lonely imaginative kids out there who brought the Forest Moon of Endor to life in their back gardens; built a lightsaber out of tape and toilet rolls, and looked up at the moon hoping to catch a glimpse of Elliot and E.T riding a flying BMX into the night."
5/5 -- GEEK SYNDICATE "I couldn't put it down. It invoked feelings of nostalgia in me that I thought were long since buried. It's easily the most enjoyable book I've read in the last maybe five or even ten years." -- FILM '89 "Mark's writing about his growing up with these films has given me the insight I was missing, the ability to share this childhood experience through someone else's eyes, and I'm ever so thankful for that!" -- BEAR WORLD MAGAZINE "But what made me a lifelong fan of Mark and his wonderfully magical book down 1980s movie memory lane is that Mark gave me... the feeling of belonging." -- MOVIES OVER THE RAINBOW "This book is a terrific look at growing up geeky, with touchstones familiar to those of us of a certain age who grew up with the original Star Wars, Spielberg movies- you know. The good stuff. O'Connell encapsulates the joy of encountering all that stuff at an innocent age, and better yet, makes the case for its effect on him (and our generation) as we grew up into bigger kids. It's poignant, but also joyful. It's a cathartic look at a crazily creative time, and the author does a deep dive into the heart of geekiness." -- REVOLUTION SF