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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 10/09/98 -- Vol. 17, No. 15
Table of Contents
Men, Women, etc.: Men are from Mars. Women are from Venus. Computers are from Pluto. PCs are from Xargght. [-mrl]
Maps: You may have seen McArthur's Universal Corrective Map of the World. This is the new politically correct map of the world that places the South at the top. How corrective is this politically correct map? Well it is just a standard Mercator Projection map turned upside-down. They do not correct land size like some recent maps of the world. McArthur, who claims to be correcting matters, chose to correct only the matters important to McArthur. Political correctness bothers to correct only that which is political.
And not everybody will be happy with the correction. I can name you two countries that would object to this map. First there is Canada. Canada has always known that there is no special cachet associated with being at the top of the map. They are there above the United States and you don't find people getting excited about the thrilling and romantic place that is Canada. Even most Canadians I have met have a hard time working up a lot of enthusiasm about being Canadian.
The other country that probably does not like the new map is Australia. You see the map has revealed the secret about Australia. Even most Australians may not have realized the secret of Australia. But the new map makes it painfully obvious. You see a lot of countries actually have shapes that are suggestive of things. Italy looks like a boot kicking Sicily around. This is an image that may have even appealed to Italy. They will lose that on the new map. But Australia comes out even worse. On the new politically correct map Australia looks--and you can check this out be looking at Australia upside-down on any standard map--like nothing so much as an over-fed chicken.
But what is it that makes a place seem romantic? And I don't mean amorous. I mean what does it take about a place to make the blood race when one thinks about it. United States has that something. England has that something. Canada doesn't. Italy does. Sweden has it only slightly more than Canada. So what is it? Is McArthur right and it really is how high you are on a map? And if so why is Italy so much more romantic than Sweden? OK, now I am at the point where most writers who have looked at this phenomenon turn to cheese. I have heard this question discussed before and this is where it falls dead. Most writers seem to want to just say that it is an indefinable something. And that is a load of duck tires. I can tell you what gives a country cachet. I am ready to divulge what makes a country (or a city) romantic in the eyes of the world. It has been asked by a lot of people and yet the answer is so simple people will ask why am I even bothering to say it.
What gives charisma to a region? There are two things required. You need a history of conflict. And you need an exciting literature to romanticize that conflict. The literature need not come from that country and it can include film, poetry, anything. Now this should be a simple and obvious thing to say. To capture people's imagination all that is necessary is that you capture people's imagination. Canada has been mostly peaceful and where it wasn't, nobody has written any epics to interest people in what conflict there was. We have never had a great epic film of Canadian conflict. Not much up there captures our imagination. Belgium has had the conflict, but not enough people to write about it. Switzerland has had its share of educated people but not enough conflict to enthuse anyone. England has had a fairly ordinary set of struggles for political power, probably far less than most Central American banana republics, but they have had people to make those conflicts come alive for the reader and viewer. Bingo! And what about the United States? If the truth were known our history has been pretty bland. We have had only two major threats to our country as a whole. Once was when the British burned our Capitol and once when some of the states went to war for the right to leave the Union. Beyond that we have had some minor fringe conflicts. These are small compared to most other countries. But there were Penny Dreadful writers who glamorized the minor conflicts on the Western frontier. They started a tradition so strong and entertaining that a century later Italians for gosh sake were able to get rich making films about that period in American history using those same conventions.
Growing up I was pretty bored with the French and Indian Wars. I could not imagine them very well. They could have been taking place on another planet. Now I find that I am fairly interested in that period of history. What made the difference? I saw the film THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. That did it for me. All of a sudden upper New York State is more than a woody set of suburbs. Now it is a place where tall settlers and Indians shot very long rifles at each other and clobbered each other with tomahawks. It is a place where loud cannons were lit and exploded firing over the walls of forts.
So if Canada really wants to be part of the public consciousness, the thing to do is find a good war that took place in Canada, and yes there were some, and fund some young would-be Canadian John Ford to make some gut-rattling thriller about it. I would say you could write novels, but I suspect that cinema is the medium that will capture imaginations best these days. Do it quick while you still have a dollar to do it with. [-mrl]
1998 Toronto International Film Festival: (film reviews and commentary by Mark R. Leeper) (part 1 of 10)
1. 23 (German) 2. AFTER LIFE (Japanese with subtitles) 3. ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE (United States) 4. ANTZ (United States) 5. APRIL STORY (Japanese with subtitles) 6. APT PUPIL (United States) 7. AT SACHEM FARM (United States) 8. BUTTONERS, THE (Czech, in Czech and English) 9. CASCADOR-THE AMBER CHAMBER (German) 10. CLAY PIGEONS (United States) 11. CRUISE, THE (United States) 12. CURE (Japanese with subtitles) 13. DANCING AT LUGHNASA (US/Irish) 14. DOG PARK (Canadian) 15. ELIZABETH (British-Indian) 16. EVE-OLVE (Canadian shorts) 17. EXTRAORDINARY VISITOR, THE (Canadian) 18. FINDING GRACELAND (United States) 19. FLOWERS OF SHANGHAI (Hong Kong) 20. FULL MOON (Russian, in Russian with subtitles) 21. GIRAFFE, THE (German/Swiss, In English and German with subtitles) 22. GOD SAID "HA!" (United States) 23. HOLE, THE (Taiwan/French with subtitles) 24. HOME FRIES (United States) 25. I WOKE UP EARLY THE DAY I DIED (United States) 26. IKINAI (Japanese with subtitles) 27. IMPOSTERS, THE (United States) 28. IN THE WINTER DARK (Australian) 29. J'AIMERAIS PAS CREVER UN DIMANCH (French with subtitles) 30. JEANNE AND THE PERFECT GUY (French with English Subtitles) 31. JERRY AND TOM (United States) 32. LAST NIGHT (Canadian) 33. LOVERS OF THE ARCTIC CIRCLE (Spanish with subtitles) 34. MAN WITH RAIN IN HIS SHOES, THE (United Kingdom) 35. MIGHTY PEKING MAN (Hong Kong) 36. NIGHT TRAIN (United Kingdom) 37. PERDITA DURANGO (Spanish, in English and Spanish with subtitles) 38. PLEASANTVILLE (United States) 39. RETURN TO PARADISE (United States) 40. RUSHMORE (United States) 41. SHATTERED IMAGE, THE (United States) 42. SIX-STRING SAMURAI (United States) 43. SLEEPWALKER, THE (Argentina with subtitles) 44. SMOKE SIGNALS (United States) 45. SWEETY BARRETT (Ireland) 46. THIS IS MY FATHER (Canadian/Irish) 47. TRAFFIC (Portuguese/French with subtitles) 48. TRANCE (United States) 49. VERY BAD THINGS (United States) 50. WELCOME BACK MR. MCDONALD (Japan with subtitles)
Well, I am not going to drive myself crazy this trip keeping an activity by activity log the way I do when we travel for the sake of travel. We are off to the Toronto International Film Festival. It is about 5:12 PM. So what is the story so far. This is our third major film festival, having been to the Montreal and the Edinburgh. This is one of the four largest film festivals in the world along with Venice, Cannes, and Berlin.
Members of the Leeper Expedition include Evelyn Leeper, Mark Leeper, and Kate Pott. The latter is an old friend. I will not go over the registration process in detail. Evelyn managed that and can cover it better. Suffice it to say that the Federal Expressed us their list of films and a ticket order form. We had just an evening to decide what we wanted to see. You send them back the forms Federal Express with a list of first and second choice films. They then have to make some sort of reasonable selection for us.
Last night after work we drove to Amherst, Massachusetts, and picked up Kate. Of some concern is the fact that her choice closely mirrored our own. Probably the films we chose will be popular. We may end up seeing a bunch of films from Kazakhstan. We stayed overnight with Kate.
This morning we left about 8:30, bidding a fond farewell to Kate's two longhaired cats. Kate treats the cats in a very egalitarian manner, which means each has an equal vote on the rules of the apartment. Unfortunately the cats tend to vote in a block and overrule her in matters of whether the furniture looks better intact or in ribbons. Just outside of Stockbridge I quietly spit up a small hairball into my handkerchief.
On the way we had a bit of rain. We stopped for a comfort stop next to the interstate. It had a McDonalds, a Pizza Hut, and a Mrs. Fields Cookies, but the big draw was the restrooms. Evelyn got coffee, but I didn't get anything. I thought the place seemed too touristy. We stopped for lunch in a place called Weedsport, New York. Just what is a weedsport? I had a tuna submarine sandwich. Somehow having the fish actually inside the submarine and the people on the outside feeds my sense of irony as well as my stomach.
Crossing the border they asked us where we were from and then waved us through.
We also stopped on the way to stare at Niagara Falls. I tried to explain to our group that some of the molecules going over the falls had been over many times. The elements keep shuffling and recombining molecules. Somehow it did not seem to impress them.
Well, it was just another couple of hours into Toronto. The roads into town were just a bit congested. I was passenger in the front seat reading. Evelyn slammed on the brakes and the book I was reading jumped out of my hand and ended at Evelyn's feet. She blamed me for not holding onto the book; I blamed her for not watching the car ahead of her. Yup. All systems functioning normally.
It took us a little while to get to our hotel, a Days Inn. We pulled into the parking lot and were told it was full. No, we explained, we were guests. It is full for everybody. Well, there is an overflow lot across the street. Our room is big by Japanese standards. It may be 2/3 of what you would get at a Motel 6. In the room we did our unpacking.
We got our car and went to dinner. The restaurant was Xam Yu. It happened to be near where we could find a parking space. Actually it wasn't quite that easy since we looked at three restaurants and picked the busiest. We had hot and sour soup, squid with black bean sauce, mango chicken, and fried grouper. Total cost with tip was $37 Canadian. Not a bad price since the Canadian dollar is so low. That is $8 American/person. I left stuffed. I asked the owner of the restaurant if the name of the restaurant was the three carp. I was close. It was more general. It was the three fish. I could recognize the ideogram for three and the second ideogram looked like the symbol for fish, but modified. Apparently it was not so much modified that it did not mean fish too. We talked about ideograms. Afterward we returned to the room.
Well, my day started early. Whoever was the last person in the room had left the alarm on. There are alarms that err on the side of being too gentle and risk not waking the sleeper. This is a particularly effective alarm. I am sure nobody sleeps through this one. It sounded like something you would want to warn people either of a very bad fire or of a small incoming nuclear missile. I guess most hotels have the maids check when a guest leaves to make sure that the alarm is off in their normal duties. Days Inn did not. Oh, well. It got the day off with a sort of surprise.
This will probably be a lazy sort of day. We have only one film to see. If we understood what was said that would mean we would see THE RED VIOLIN. It is not clear what the instructions were about getting tickets for their so-called Gala films. It is complicated and Evelyn and Kate are laboring over the rules like Talmudic scholars. "Depending on where you put the parentheses in that sentence...," Evelyn s----ays. The radio plays its third Strauss waltz and I do about a five-minute schtick about "Vienna bevore de Vore" and how "ve shlept till drei und drahnk bier."
People attending the festival, according to the radio, include Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep. Evelyn goes "whoop-de-doo" and swings a finger in the air. Evelyn is not much impressed by star power.
Breakfast was at an Indian-run croissant shop. I had an omelet on croissant and a cup of coffee. I almost never drink coffee at home, but I sometimes do when I travel.
We went to pick up our tickets at a building called "College Park." We had to wait about 20 minutes in line, but then we were there early and they opened about five minutes late. They returned our order form and we looked over it to see what of the films we could not get tickets for. We were pretty lucky getting about 36 of our 40 or so films. The spaces in our program we quickly looked and got films to fill them. It turned out we could not get tickets for THE RED VIOLIN after all.
Well, from there we scouted to find where the theaters were and went to bookstores. I showed a great deal of reserve and did not buy books until I got to Chapters, a local bookstore along the lines of our Barnes and Noble. They had British editions of Bernard Cornwall's Sharpe novels. I had been seeing these novels dramatized on Masterpiece Theater and enjoyed them immensely. I will probably read the novels.
We tried to find the Cumberland Theater. There was a Lumiere Theater on Cumberland, but no Cumberland. I asked directions and was pointed in a direction by a woman who said I would see the name Cumberland on the marquee. It had to be the Lumiere. Well, it turns out just starting today the theater will be called Lumiere. I guess the theater is gone, leaving a Cumberland gap.
Lunch was at a deli where I had a tuna sandwich and a Lime Rickey. Then another bookstore and back to the room. I have made a listing of each of my films and have the page numbers in the catalog.
Well, we spent an uneventful afternoon looking at what films were coming up. On the way up Yonge we scouted possible restaurants. At the Varsity things were very confused. They told Evelyn and me to line up outside for our 6:45 film and Kate to go inside for her 6:30 film. Someone inside sent Kate back out. Kate was ping- ponged in and out of the theater a couple more times. Evelyn and I are at the head of the line. Then they let us in and there is already a line that has formed for the movie inside. Clearly there are problems with crowd control.
The guy ahead of Evelyn asks her to watch his backpack and he will return. She agrees. I tell her this was not a good idea. From now on we will agree to hold the place, but the person must not leave anything behind. Just being careful.
It is a little daunting to take on the responsibility to review 46 films. I will compromise. I will make all the comments I would have made in a review, but I will not organize them or write surrounding comments. I will write just capsule and comments. Maybe some people will even prefer my reviews this way.
FULL MOON (Russian, in Russian with subtitles)
CAPSULE: This is a story-less film told in a series of vignettes. Each vignette is linked to the next as a background character becomes the main character of the next. Diverting though very little more than the sum of its parts in spite of some repeated themes. Rating: 6 (0 to 10), 1 (-4 to +4)
Leaving the theater we passed Kate who really enjoyed UNLUCKY MONKEY, a sort of Japanese action movie with a lot of violence.
We ate a late dinner at a Thai, Malaysian, and Philippine restaurant, then went to the Cineplex Odeon to see SMOKE SIGNALS. This is not included in the film festival but we have wanted to see it. This may be our last chance.
SMOKE SIGNALS (United States)
CAPSULE: An odyssey of two Indians in their early 20s going to pick up the pickup truck of one's deceased father. This is a film with good characters that makes some profound points. The dialog is very good. Rating: 9 (0 to 10), +3 (-4 to +4 scale)
Since this was at the theater just down the block from our hotel, it was just a short walk to return. That will not happen again. All of the theaters that are venues are about a 20-30 minute walk away.
Kate came back and again was very pleased with the film she saw, SPANISH FLY. It is a Spanish film about a woman who goes to Spain to investigate the myth of Machismo. I guess that is where they make it.
[to be continued] [-mrl]
Mark Leeper MT 3E-433 732-957-5619 firstname.lastname@example.org