WASHINGTON — President Obama awarded Star Wars creator George Lucas the National Medal of Arts Wednesday, praising the filmmaker for the revolutionary special effects he used in the films.

“I remember when I first saw Star Wars,” Obama said. “There’s a whole generation that thinks special effects always looked like they do today. But it used to be you’d see, like, the string on the little model spaceship.”

Obama referred to the ships in the Star Wars films as “planes in space,” an awkward turn of phrase that could once again lead him to be criticized by science fiction aficionados. Obama was chastised by nerds in March when he combined the Star Trek and Star Wars realms and said, “I can’t do a Jedi mind-meld to make the Republicans do the right thing.”

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