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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 12/20/96 -- Vol. 15, No. 25
Table of Contents
Unless otherwise stated, all meetings are in the Middletown cafeteria Wednesdays at noon.
DATE TOPIC (no meetings scheduled) Outside events: The Science Fiction Association of Bergen County meets on the second Saturday of every month in Upper Saddle River; call 201-933-2724 for details. The New Jersey Science Fiction Society meets on the third Saturday of every month in Belleville; call 201-432-5965 for details.
MT Chair/Librarian: Mark Leeper MT 3E-433 908-957-5619 firstname.lastname@example.org HO Chair: John Jetzt MT 2E-530 908-957-5087 email@example.com HO Librarian: Nick Sauer HO 4F-427 908-949-7076 firstname.lastname@example.org Distinguished Heinlein Apologist: Rob Mitchell MT 2D-536 908-957-6330 email@example.com Factotum: Evelyn Leeper MT 3E-433 908-957-2070 firstname.lastname@example.org Backissues available at http://www.mt.lucent.com/~ecl/MTVOID/backissues.html or http://sf.www.lysator.liu.se/sf_archive/sf-texts/MT_Void/. All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.
URL of the week:
http://www.nctm.org. Contains a *new* solution to Euclid's problem of dividing a line segment into N equal parts using only straightedge and compass. And it was discovered by two ninth-graders! [-ecl]
This is the transcript of an ACTUAL radio conversation of a US naval ship with Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland in October, 1995. (Radio conversation released by the Chief of Naval Operations 10-10-95)
Americans: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.
Canadians: Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.
Americans: This is the Captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.
Canadians: No. I say again, you divert YOUR course.
Americans: THIS IS THE AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS MISSOURI, WE ARE A LARGE WARSHIP OF THE US NAVY. DIVERT YOUR COURSE NOW!
Canadians: This is a lighthouse. Your call.
(a film review by Mark R. Leeper):
Capsule: There are a few nice moments of MARS ATTACKS! that remind one of the creative fun and kinky sadism of the original trading cards, but mostly we have the story lost in silliness in a vain attempt to be funny. Tim Burton had a great cast and great special effects, but little understanding of the strength of the material those bubble gum cards offered. Turning the "Mars Attacks!" cards into this film may be the biggest waste of a good idea you will see in a major film this year. Rating: low 0 (-4 to +4)
This year has reeled from two major films made that are tributes to George Pal's 1953 film THE WAR OF THE WORLDS. INDEPENDENCE DAY is, of course, already one of the most financially successful films of all time. Tim Burton's MARS ATTACKS! is just now being loosed on theaters.
Following the release of WAR OF THE WORLDS, a whole generation of fantasy film fans grew up with the images from that film engraved on their memories. The images of the planet Earth being trounced by the weapons of alien super-science inspired imitations like EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS, THE MYSTERIANS, and BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE. In another medium, Topps Bubble Gum released a series of trading cards to cash in on these images. The "Mars Attacks!" cards were an updating of the gratuitous sadism of the earlier "Horrors of War" trading cards. They added a generous injection of imaginative science fictional weapons to more effectively melt the flesh from the poor victims' bones. The most memorably card shows a pet dog being turned into a skeleton. There was not a lot of plot to the story told on the back of the cards except that the Martians came and blasted away at everything, so (if I remember correctly) we Earthlings went to Mars and blew it up. Now inspired by this rather rudimentary but image-rich story Tim Burton has made a film with his own version of the story. It seems like a natural matching since Burton films specialize in being image-rich with rudimentary stories.
This is a wedge-shaped film with its highest point in a genuinely nightmarish image before the opening credits. I was tempted to feel at this point that perhaps Burton really did understand the style and kinky imagination of the "Mars Attacks!" cards and was steeling myself for harrowing and delicious film experience. This is followed by a nearly as impressive image of a vast armada of flying saucers picking up from Mars and converging on our own green planet. Good stuff so far. From there the film introduces us to several groups of characters, a sort of cross-section of America in a sort of hideous mosaic. We see a trailer park family from some prairie state. We meet a vulgar entrepreneur wanting to build a Las Vegas casino. And as a sort of first among equals we meet the over-ripe President of the United States (Jack Nicholson) and his weird entourage. Then for a half hour the script bogs down as we meet all these people and the people around them without getting to know them very well. Then for a while the story is fun again. But only for a while.
The real problem with MARS ATTACKS! is the deterioration of the script. It starts with a serious plotline, then begins treating the plot in a tongue-in-cheek manner. From there it starts adding jokes, and finally the whole plotline turns into a joke. Eventually the film is doing anything it can to milk laughs from the material in the worst traditions of THE CANNONBALL RUN. Each step is away from the imagination that made the cards exciting to adolescents and towards a sort of smirking patronization of the spirit of the source material.
The film sports a hefty cast of familiar actors, though certainly not for the challenge of the roles. Typical is to have an actor like Rod Steiger playing a high military official who yells his strategy at the President ("Kill! Kill!! Exterminate.") Nicholson is his most overripe playing a very un-Presidential President of the United States. Also on hand are Glenn Close as the First Lady, Danny DeVito, Martin Short, Tom Jones, and Michael J. Fox. One unexpectedly creative bit involves the fate of Pierce Brosnan and Sarah Jessica Parker. But on the whole we have familiar actors standing around to wait for a screaming death scene given to them compliments of the Martian invaders who turn out to be by far the most believable characters in the film.
With a little more respect for the original material, Burton could have had a wonderful little film instead of this tiresome comedy with one or two good moments. I give it a low 0 on the -4 to +4 scale. [-mrl]
Mark Leeper MT 3E-433 908-957-5619 email@example.com
Quote of the Week:
The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it. -- George Bernard Shaw