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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 01/31/97 -- Vol. 15, No. 31
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:
URL of the week: http://digipub.uk.pi.net/~neilwall/. Neil Wallman's Film & Sci-Fi Journal. There are lots of Webzines out there, but this seems like one that is better good and hasn't gotten much press. [-ecl]
We are born into this world and we are small and frail. But in the early days there is something larger than ourselves that provides for us, that loves us, that punishes us when we are bad, that demands obedience. It is the huge parent, and it is big because we are small. But are seeing the world for the first time and are formed by what we experience and we remember. In those first days the world is limitless and there is much to grasp if we can only get to it. But much of what we get is not because we can grasp it ourselves but because the huge parent gives it to us.
As we get older the parent gets smaller because we get larger. Our options get fewer. Finally we realize that different people each have a different fortune. What you have is all that you have. The realization slowly dawns that we will never surpass those who have been favored by fate. We become envious. The material world is unyielding, and as much as we would like to return to the limitless world we once saw, we see that life is essentially unbalanced and unfair. We long for the giant parent we remember form our earliest days. We want the parent to come and provide a way for us to surpass the fortunate and make ourselves the truly fortunate. But the only parent we can see is limited and too much our own size. We look for another. If God did or does not exist, this is the point we create Him out of the memories imprinted in our infancy. Whatever else it is religion is our opportunity of last resort to place ourselves among the fortunate and favored. It is our last chance to turn the tables on those we envy. And those who have the least will be among its strongest defenders. [-mrl]
Top Ten Films of 1996:
(a film article by Mark R. Leeper): I am strangely unenthusiastic about my choices for this year's top ten films. Not every year can have a SCHINDLER'S LIST, but usually I can feel there are at least two or three films I can unreservedly recommend. This year there is little on my list that I can say was a good film without adding "for the right audience." The three films that could have the widest appeal are crime films, two with a fair amount of violence, but all three are highly creative. Each is probably actually better than PULP FICTION, though it clearly paved the way for each. Most of the films on my list are made for smaller niche markets. Only TWO DAYS IN THE VALLEY played at my local multiplex. This could be seen as a good sign that art houses are becoming a more significant part of the market or a bad sign that we are getting more polarization between the art house films and what is being shown at the local neighborhood theaters. My ratings for each film on a -4 to +4 scale is in parentheses, some of which may have been revised by a half point since seeing the film.
1. RICHARD III (+3): This alternate-history story of a Fascist takeover of Britain in the 1930s, with a script by William Shakespeare, is the most amazing use of modern dress I have seen for a piece of theatrical work. It surpasses anything that Branagh has ever done to make Shakespeare actually fun. If possible see it just before you see LOOKING FOR RICHARD.
2. ANNE FRANK REMEMBERED (+3): This is the rest of what happened, a very complete story of Anne, the book she wrote expecting it would never be seen, and the many controversies surrounding hat book. This documentary does an excellent job of bringing into human terms the Holocaust. It includes the only film footage, meager though it is, known of Anne Frank.
3. BREAKING THE WAVES (low +3): This is a surprisingly complex and compelling story encompassing themes of loyalty, sex, and religion. The film's point-of-view is left deliciously ambiguous until the final sequence which nails things down somewhat heavy-handedly.
4. THE CRUCIBLE (low +3): Arthur Miller's play works as both allegory and as human drama. The story has timeless themes and the study of how power works. Miller is a great modern dramatist and in spite of some Hollywood-ish touches this film has a lot of real substance.
5. FARGO (low +3): Quirky situations and characters that you have not seen in films before highlight what is yet another approach to the crime drama. Francis McDormand plays the pregnant and perky chief of police in a tangled story set in the white hell of a Minnesota winter. In spite of some extreme violence this film is a lot of fun.
6. LONE STAR (low +3): A long-unsolved murder forms the core of this film about secrets and strained father-son relationships in a Texas border town. John Sayles takes this well beyond the murder mystery it appears to be on the surface.
7. HEAVY (high +2): This is a very unusual approach in storytelling. Almost all of the plot is advanced by the visual images rather than by the dialogue. This holds the viewer's attention on the screen much more than conventional film techniques.
8. TWO DAYS IN THE VALLEY (high +2): This is the third odd but well-crafted crime film of the year and one that is being unfairly overlooked. A very diverse set of plot threads and characters come together very enjoyably in a story of personal redemption and violent gunfights. There is as much of SHORT CUTS here as of PULP FICTION.
9. LOOKING FOR RICHARD (high +2): This film lies somewhere between a fiction film and a documentary. Al Pacino prepares a production of RICHARD III. Along the way he asks some of the world's most distinguished actors about playing Shakespeare. This could have been a much better film if Pacino had not thrown in so much that is irrelevant or self-aggrandizing.
10. MICROCOSMOS (high +2): Terrific documentary just showing the tiny world of insects and other small animals in a French meadow. Drama, comedy and some breathtaking visuals. Not a lot of depth or a lot to think about, but a real spectacle for the eye.
Other films that I enjoyed, in some cases considerably more than many of the critics were the following. I suppose some of these films should be what some critics call "guilty pleasures" but I would claim I have none and that any film I like really is a good film: INDEPENDENCE DAY (+2 though the writing fell apart toward the end). DRAGONHEART (+2), THE ENGLISH PATIENT (+2), THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (+2--in some places incredibly self-indulgent, but much more the religious allegory that H. G. Wells intended than the previous film versions), MICHAEL COLLINS (+2), SECRETS AND LIES (+2--though the first half hour seemed unbearably long, this film got a lot better was it went along).
For those who know what a Hugo award is (basically the Oscar of the science fiction world) these are my nominees for dramatic presentation:
EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU (a film review by Mark R. Leeper):
Capsule: This is an almost ghastly misfire from
Woody Allen combining his least interesting
plot ever, paper-thin characters and badly
executed musical numbers. Besides a couple of
moments of cleverness, this film turns a bad
Woody Allen comedy into a bad Woody Allen
musical comedy. I found this was the hardest
film I had to sit through this year. Rating:
-1 (-4 to +4).
New York Critics: 13 positive, 5 negative, 8 mixed
It may be partially my fault. The night before I saw my first new musical film in years I prepared myself by watching my favorite musical, Norman Jewison's FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. This would allow me to compare techniques, I told myself. Oh dear. Not only is EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU not FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, it is not much of anything. It is, in fact, a bigger disappointment than MIGHTY APHRODITE. That film, his last but for this, made fun of the conventions of the Greek Chorus in a play and this one makes fun of the traditions of the musical. Take two TV situation comedy plots, sprinkle in some fairly incompetently done musical numbers and what do you get? What I got was the obvious conclusion that Woody Allen has lost the recipe and no longer makes decent films. Can it really be true that the director who made films like LOVE AND DEATH and CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS or even BULLETS OVER BROADWAY made a film that misfires in eight directions the way this one does? Woody Allen in the past has created characters, humorous but very real at the same time, that the viewer cared about. That seems unimportant to him now. The people in EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU are paper-thin. They seem to be no more than just pieces to move around a game board of uninteresting romantic situations. Allen is seemingly so desperate for a laugh he is even stealing gags from THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW--in this case a male dancer in a wheelchair kicking his leg like a Radio City Rockette. The old Woody Allen was a font of comedic ideas and would never have needed to borrow a gag from another writer.
Steffi (played by Goldie Hawn), her previous husband Joe (Woody Allen), and her current husband Bob (Alan Alda) get along very well with each other. Steffi and Bob are sort of wealthy hippy-dippy liberals and activists for contemporary liberal causes. They all look forward to the impending marriage of Steffi's and Bob's ditzy daughter Skylar to the bland and slightly dense Holden (Edward Norton). Little do they realize that one of Steffi's causes will cause problems in their relationship. A second plot has Joe, unlucky in love, courting Von (Julia Roberts) making unfair use of information his daughter gleans from eavesdropping on Von's visits to her analyst. Allen can probably now play the luckless schmoe role in his sleep and does it what would be perfectly but for the fact that much of the audience is losing interest. There are a few faint laughs from having the super-liberal Bob have a neo- conservative son Scott (Lucas Haas), but Scott's political arguments with his father are only on the most shallow and cliched level. Allen is telling stories he can write in his sleep and writing himself roles for which he can phone in performances.
Whether it is an attempt at satire of the musical form, or whether it is just incompetence, one grows rather weary of hearing people sing who really should not be singing in public. At first it seems like it is just Edward Norton who lacked the talent, but as the film wears on there are more major characters singing when it would have been better to remain silent. Allen gets some humor from having very realistic looking people in the background suddenly joining the production number. But after a while having people singing badly, including major characters, goes a little stale. Some have found one of the musical routines, taking place in a hospital, to have some on-target humor. It did not do much for me, but a second musical number at a mortuary was for me the (not-too- high) high-point of EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU. Allen has some fun with the ridiculous things some dancers do in musical numbers in the old Busby Berkeley musicals, but the fun rarely rises above the whimsical.
EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU was a noble experiment on Woody Allen's part to try to experiment in the medium of the musical and perhaps milk some humor laughing at the conventions of the musical. In theory it might have worked, but even a musical needs a better story than the one(s) Allen wrote. I rate EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU a -1 on the -4 to +4 scale. [-mrl]
Mark Leeper MT 3E-433 908-957-5619 email@example.com
Quote of the Week:
The American Way is to seduce a man by bribery and make a prostitute of him. Or else to ignore him, starve him into submission and make a hack out of him. -- Henry Miller