MT VOID 11/27/98 (Vol. 17, Number 22)
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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
The Science Fiction Association of Bergen County meets on the second
Saturday of every month in Upper Saddle River; call 201-447-3652 for
details. The New Jersey Science Fiction Society meets on the third
Saturday of every month in Belleville; call 201-432-5965 for details.
Club Notice - 11/27/98 -- Vol. 17, No. 22
Table of Contents
Mark Leeper MT 3E-433 732-957-5619 email@example.com
HO Chair: John Jetzt MT 2E-530 732-957-5087 firstname.lastname@example.org
HO Librarian: Nick Sauer HO 4F-427 732-949-7076 email@example.com
Distinguished Heinlein Apologist:
Rob Mitchell MT 2E-537 732-957-6330 firstname.lastname@example.org
Factotum: Evelyn Leeper MT 3E-433 732-957-2070 email@example.com
Back issues at http://www.geocities.com/~ecl.
All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.
URL of the Week:
http://www.starwars.com. Does this really need
a description? But I will note it has the trailer. [-ecl]
(Last week we were talking about how serious Jewish holidays are
observed more than the fun ones)
Purim is another supposedly joyous holiday. You read the Book of
Esther (in Hebrew--it is your responsibility to know Hebrew so you
can enjoy the story). Kids get to play with noisemakers. You have
a special pastry, sort of a triangular prune Danish called a
Hamentashen. Up to about age seven I think I did get noisemakers.
Some day I think I may try a Hamentashen, but I have no memories of
ever eating one when I was growing up or since. Groceries carry
them now so they are available. But that should give you some idea
how the much Jews get into their joyous holidays. Even the
celebrating is awkward and frequently it is foregone altogether.
You know how there are activities like egg hunts to get kids in the
spirit of Easter? About that time we had Passover which is a happy
holiday, presumably. The festivity is really just a couple of
special rituals and a restricted set of foods. They call it a
festival but Jewish kids it was about as festive as having a doctor
put you on a special diet. As I was saying Jews just don't do
their happy holidays very well.
There is Jewish New Year. If Jews want fun celebrating a New Year,
they wait for the secular New Year. Jewish New Year is a very
serious occasion. The first two days you spend half a day praying.
Then you have seven days off and then you have the most somber day
of the year. You go from sundown to sundown fasting. And fasting
for Jews is REALLY fasting. No water, no nothing. You don't even
brush your teeth. You spend the whole day in temple where if your
mind wanders it is usually to how hungry you are. For your mouth
nothing goes in but air and little but prayers come out. Fasting
is a lot easier for me as an adult. But when you are nine and ten
years and in temple, that day lasts longer than most months. The
idea is that you spend the day atoning for sins, praising God, and
asking God to fate it that you live another year. When I was
growing up there were roughly four and a half billion non-Jews in
the world who you could count on would also be fated to live the
next year without having gone hungry and spending the day in
temple. Statistically, this Day of Atonement seemed to very little
affect the likelihood that you would live through the year.
I am told that there are some people who are trying change the
approach of the religion, but there were whole generations when the
best thing the Jewish calendar could do for you was just not have
any holidays or festive occasions for a while.
I am sure that someone will point out that a lot of these are petty
complaints. But, you know it is a serious problem. All religions
have responsibilities and also have rewards. Judaism for a long
time has stressed the responsibilities and skimped on the temporal
rewards. Then you had generations of young who were very lukewarm
on the religion and very assimilationist. Nominally they were
Jewish, but their commitment was very weak. I remember about the
time I was in grad school going to temple and hearing one of my
father's friends complain that her child was looking seriously at
Buddhism. They are looking at all kinds of exotic religions, but
not at Judaism. If they want mysticism, they can find that in
Judaism. If they want ritual, they can find that also. So why are
some, more than we like to admit, Jewish kids looking to other
religions? Why do so they want to get out? Why are they going in
for Wicca or Buddhism? And this is a question that has bothered me
for years. And I don't have the whole answer but I have I think
are pieces of an answer.
(And I will go into why next week.) [-mrl]
1998 Toronto International Film Festival:
(film reviews and
commentary by Mark R. Leeper) (part 8 of 10)
Lunch was at a Korean-Japanese restaurant called Sushi and Noodle.
I had something like a Seafood Bebimbap. I like Korean and the
names of the dishes really rock.
HOME FRIES (United States)
CAPSULE: Black comedy set in part in and around a burger restaurant
that serves French fries not Home Fries. So the title doesn't
really work and neither does the film. Drew Barrymore and
Catherine O'Hara star. Rating: 5 (0 to 10), high 0 (-4 to +4)
Minor spoilers in this review.
- Dean Parisot directs a screenplay by Vince Gilligan.
- Sally Jackson (Drew Barrymore) does not know what will become
of her. She will soon be having the baby and the father Henry
is telling her he will soon be leaving his wife, but he
clearly has little intention of doing so. Then when driving
home one night he turns up a back road and is attacked by an
army battle helicopter. The surprise kills him. The
helicopter it turns out was operated by his two stepsons angry
about Henry's philandering. But due to radio interference,
somebody at the local Burger-matic overheard the attack and
may or may not have understood what they were hearing. One of
the stepsons (Luke Wilson) gets a job at Burger-matic to find
out what people know.
- Sally's father holds whole restaurant hostage. He is
overpowered, but nothing ever comes of it. He is not
- Catherine O'Hara manipulative character makes suggestion that
her children kill people and then claims to have been
- Luke Wilson perpetually has a pained facial expression that
looks like someone is stepping on his toe. Drew Barrymore is
too much like a baby doll. There just is no chemistry between
- Exaggerated and overdone chase scene.
- Plot has not much to do with Home Fries, or even the burger
- A black comedy needs funny ideas. This one seems strained.
The timing was off or something else intangible, but the film
just did not work.
We had been planning to get over to the Japan Center to see their
display of Japanese film posters in honor of the festival. They
had posters for many of the films of the festival plus a number of
Japanese films that had been popular in the US and Canada like
TAMPOPO and A TAXING WOMAN. The also had a collection of the
classic posters of the recently deceased Akira Kurasawa like THE
SEVEN SAMURAI, YOJIMBO, SANJURO, KAGEMUSHA, and RAN. Not a big
collection but one worth seeing. Sadly, no Kaiju films.
THE IMPOSTERS (United States)
CAPSULE: Roughly 60 years after its heyday, the farce returns.
Stanley Tucci wrote, directed, and stars in a very funny movie
about two out of work actors on a boat. It is not exactly like
Laurel and Hardy, not just like the Marx Brothers, but it is in
that vein. And I did laugh, which is rare these days. Rating: 7
(0 to 10), 2 (-4 to +4)
- I first noticed Stanley Tucci in PRELUDE TO A KISS where I
thought he was very funny. Since then I have been watching
for him. But IMPOSTERS is like nothing he has made before and
like very few films made since the 40s. The only other true
farce I remember from recent year is BRAIN DONORS and that was
almost entirely taken from the Marx Brothers school.
IMPOSTERS is a new and very funny comedy team of Platt and
Tucci. It is hard to know if comedy will be funny for other
people. Currently people are laughing uproariously at THERE'S
SOMETHING ABOUT MARY which did not do very much for me. Other
films like OSCAR and THE CHEAP DETECTIVE crack me up but are
not successful comedies at the boxoffice. So take it from
whence it comes. IMPOSTERS did make me laugh very hard at
times. Not many comedies make me laugh.
- Tucci co-produced, wrote, directed, and starred in the film.
- Cast includes Oliver Platt, Stanley Tucci, Alfred Molina, Lily
Taylor, Steve Buscemi, Tony Shalhoub, Teagle, F. Bougere,
Campbell Scott, and Isabella Rossellini.
- The language and one or two modestly sexual situations are not
in the classical farce tradition.
- Out of work actors given tickets to see HAMLET with a
particularly hammy actor. When Maurice (Platt) insults the
actor they are chased hide in a packing crate and find
themselves loaded onto an ocean liner. From there a large
number of subplots start working themselves out, GRAND HOTEL
style with the help of Maurice and Arthur (Tucci).
- Steve Buscemi sings???????
- Bizarre scenes as two seem to get into a fight at an outdoor
- An unexpected and uncredited role near the beginning.
- Campbell Scott as German crewmember is very funny.
- The shooting title was SHIP OF FOOLS. I saw that it was being
filmed and expected a remake of the Catherine Anne Porter.
Uh, not quite.
Stanley Tucci and Steve Buscemi were around to answer questions
toward the end. Facts gleaned include that Tucci and Platt have
been friends for about ten years. Tucci thinks that TV killed the
farce, but that the time might be right to try it again.
NIGHT TRAIN (United Kingdom)
CAPSULE: A released ex-convict on the run from criminals rents a
flat and slowly falls in love with his middle-aged landlady. This
brings on the ire of the landlady's autocratic mother. Rating: 7
(0 to 10), low +2 (-4 to +4)
- Directed by John Lynch.
- Michael Poole (John Hurt) is released from prison and
immediately has people chasing him wanting to get back money
he embezzled from a local crime figure. Deciding very quickly
he cannot live at his flat, he rents another flat from an
elderly woman living with her daughter Alice. Alice's mother
keeps Alice around and manipulates her by claiming to be
infirm and needing her daughter.
- Poole brings with him his hobby, a model train set. Alice's
mother immediately attributes many of her pains and stiffness
to Poole's trains. When Alice expresses some interest in the
new tenant, Alice's mother determines to break up the
- This is the first feature film of John Lynch, who previously
made films for Irish television.
- Alice's mother is terrified of the trains but they are
photographed to we are captured by the charm.
- Poole's day job is in an abattoir. It is shown in disturbing
detail. Violent crime by the gangsters is also shown in
equally disturbing detail.
- Poole has empty life, but Alice's mother has hold on her
- People have to make difficult choices.
- In an odd parallel Poole removes offal from cattle, the
gangster removes similar looking balloons of drugs from Teddy
- Poole does not feel he can be honest with Alice.
CASCADEUR-THE AMBER CHAMBER (German)
CAPSULE: A decent adventure film with story line inspired by
Indiana Jones and action inspired by Jackie Chan movies. Hardy
Martins does his own impressive stunts but not much acting in a
film that is diverting and lightweight. Rating: 6 (0 to 10), 1 (-4
Kate was asleep when we got back to the room at about 2:30 AM. We
went quickly to bed.
- Fast paced, well-produced little adventure film. Since it
does not try to be much more than that, the real test is
whether it is better than the action films that show up in
their dozens on cable. It is of the same ilk, but this would
stand out as being pretty good by comparison.
- Solid action film with good pace and a little bit of humor.
- "Cascadeur" means "stunt man."
- Main character is a stuntman who has had an accident and is
now living in the Black Forest collecting pine cones.
Christin, an art student looking for the Amber Chamber teams
- The only reason it would not be seen in the US is that the
characters are all German and the McGuffin everybody is
looking for requires some understanding of German history from
the viewer. The Ark of the Covenant is meaningful to
everybody from a Jewish, Christian, or Islamic background. To
care about the Amber Chamber (which is real, by the way) you
have to know some German history. The Prussian king Friedrich
Wilhelm I gave it to Peter the Great in 1716. The Amber
Chamber was kept in the imperial Catherine Palace outside St.
Petersburg, then Leningrad, before being dismantled and
removed by German troops in 1941. The chamber, last sighted in
1945, is an assembly of ornately carved amber wall panels and
furniture. It is the most sought after of the Russian
treasures stolen by the Germans in the Second World War.
- The plot seems more sado-masochistic than a similar American
film would be.
- Main actor, Hardy Martins, is not a very expressive actor. He
looks like a taller Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Breakfast was at the Carriage House. This time Kate was with us
since we are all going to see...
PLEASANTVILLE (United States)
CAPSULE: Smug and self-congratulatory allegory introduces popular
1990s values to the world of the 1950s TV situation comedy and
causes a revolution. Two 90s teens fall into the world of a 1950s
situation comedy. Some major logic flaws. Rating: 6 (0 to 10),
high +1 (-4 to +4)
- Well-made fantasy (albeit wrongheaded) about two teenagers who
are given a magic remote control unit and are pulled into the
world of "Pleasantville," an amiable television situation
comedy. They find themselves actually in Pleasantville with
only the memory of episodes from the series to guide them.
The world is in black and white. When the teens introduce sex
and passion to a passionless world, objects and even people
start transforming to Technicolor. White male power structure
wants to stop the revolution of feelings.
- Jeff Daniels as soda jerk who wants to be a painter. Theme
bears some relation to his THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO.
- Our world of the 1990s is seen as being ridden with
unemployment, global warming, and AIDS. Pleasantville seems
to be a more pleasant place to live, but it is quickly found
not to be.
- Computer graphics to partially colorize scenes. Only those
objects (especially people) who are fulfilled are in color.
(I wonder what Roger Ebert makes of that?)
- Don Knotts as magical TV repairman.
- How can passionless people riot and remain without
- Film cannot decide if it is against 50s values or just 50s
values as seen on TV.
- Film pessimistic about AIDS but it is positive on the sexual
revolution assuming that sex brings fulfillment.
- There were some serious topic even on FATHER KNOWS BEST. This
is not an accurate view of 50s TV.
- How pleasant to see white males standing in the way of the
sexual revolution rather than being the ones who are sex-
crazed! But that is, of course, so that they are the villains
- If whole world is Pleasantville, where does pineapple come
from? Where does the gas station get its gasoline?
- Visual tribute to TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD's courtroom scene.
- First half of the film is considerably better than the second
half which is full of all sorts of self-satisfied assumptions
that 1990s have things working a lot better than the 1950s.
While claiming that no decade has things right, the film
provincially assumes that the 1990s has things a lot better
than the 1950s.
RUSHMORE (United States)
CAPSULE: Max Fischer, 15 years old, seems to have a mind of a 40-
year-old business executive who is also a playwright, but he can't
pass his classes. This is an amiable ramble through the affairs
and personality of a not very believable character. Rating: 4 (0
to 10), 0 (-4 to +4)
- Directed by Wes Anderson who directed BOTTLE ROCKET. Made for
Touchstone Pictures, though this is clearly not in the style
of a Touchstone comedy.
- Max Fischer (played by Jason Schwartzman) is a superb
organizer who talks and acts like and adult three times his
age. He founded a dozen different clubs at his school
Rushmore Academy and writes plays like a Broadway playwright.
The film follows several months of Max's life and his
strategies to win an attractive first-grade teacher (Olivia
Williams) as a lover and to befriend, then make an enemy of,
then again to befriend a local business leader (Bill Murray).
That may make the plot sound more coherent than it seemed
watching the film. In truth you usually know where the film
is, but it is hard to tell where the film is going or to
remember where it has been.
- Example Max is trying to impress a teacher who likes fish so
he hires contractors to construct a building to house an
aquarium on the school baseball diamond. He gets eight
million dollars for the project from Bill Murray, but he never
mentions it to school administrators.
- Rarely clear what Max's plan is. That could be fun, but it
never seems to be.
- Some of the appeal might be like the appeal of FORREST GUMP.
I did not care for that either but Max seems to have the same
sort of luck. He is like an intellectual Forrest Gump.
- Another Luke Wilson film, my third of the festival.
IKINAI (Japanese with subtitles)
CAPSULE: All passengers on a tour bus but one share a deadly
secret. A suicide pact will kill everybody on the bus. The
passengers live out their last days alive. Part comedy, part
drama, we see the lives of the passengers amusing themselves as
they approach death. Rating: 6 (0 to 10), high +1 (-4 to +4)
- Hiroshi Shimizu directs from a screenplay by Dankan who also
acts in the film.
- The sign says "The Sunshine Club Okinawa New Years Tour." Yet
everybody sitting on the bus seems strangely somber.
Everybody is accounted for and the bus is about to leave when
a young woman joins the group. Her uncle has been committed
to an asylum and she will use his ticket. Reluctantly the
tour manager lets her join the tour. Eventually we find out
that the passengers and tour manager all have a suicide pact
to send the bus over a cliff so the families can collect on
- In many ways similar to LAST NIGHT we get to know the various
people on the bus by their stories, what they choose to do in
their final hours, word games they play on the bus, etc.
- The film starts as a comedy, laughing at the various foibles
and personality traits of the passengers. They argue over
what to do about the woman who does not know about the
suicide. Each has to entertain at a dinner. Some show tricks
with chopsticks, one is obscene, etc. But as the suicide hour
draws close the film becomes more serious and desperate in
- Some satire of dull bus tours. Also passenger-provided
entertainment like on some tours I have been on.
- One passenger's defense of the suicide plan: "All's well that
We had dinner at a place that called itself an Asian restaurant,
but it really turned out to be Thai. I had seafood Pad Thai.
TRAFFIC (Portuguese/French with subtitles)
CAPSULE: A series of story lines told at the same time, not all of
which are connected. Each is vaguely whimsical but nothing
overwhelmingly funny. If there is a common theme it is class and
wealth. Not very entertaining and my showing had many people
walking out. Rating: 4 (0 to 10), low 0 (-4 to +4)
- Written and directed by Joao Botelho.
- Multiple stories, some connected, some not.
- Music from many different style and countries.
- Priests decide to close church and sell off the statues. Very
funny auction of the John the Baptist. Giving details of
John's life and John's virtues as selling points.
- Women with dayglow wigs status symbol.
- Woman is really unpleasant to her husband than goes back to
listening to the song she says she loves, "Stand By Your Man."
- Many lascivious middle-aged men and women.
- Extended excerpt of all female production of Shakespeare's
"Julius Caesar." Piece about intrigue. One couple gets rich
from son playing on the beach and discovering packs of money.
- Contrasts of people with old money and the newly rich.
- Sequence of junkmen reading children's stories from books
found in a landfill.
- Priests are obnoxious and thrown out of car while hitchhiking.
- Long sequence of wealthy people eating sardines. They use
white gloves and pick up sardines in hands.
- It is never clear what the film is trying to say and much
possible whimsy may have been lost in translation. It is
THE SHATTERED IMAGE (United States)
CAPSULE: Anne Parillaud and William Baldwin star in a film that has
two story lines about the same two people. In one the Parillaud is
a contract killer who meets Baldwin through her work. In the other
story line the two are on honeymoon in Jamaica and there are
mysterious threats. The viewer is watching not only to see how the
story lines work out, but what is the relation the story lines bear
to each other. Rating: 6 (0 to 10), 1 (-4 to +4)
- Directed by Rual Ruiz, screenplay by Duane Poole.
- We move back and forth between two story lines. In one story
line Jessie is an efficient emotionless assassin, In the other
she is a frail newlywed, the victim of rape and later
- Point of film is to untangle what the two story lines have to
do with each other. How can these both be the same woman.
- Graham Greene is oddly cast as Jamaican policeman.
- Dreamy photography of Jamaica.
- The ending leaves many questions unanswered.
We were going to see NIGHT TIME, a German horror film that might
have had something to do with werewolves from the description, but
Evelyn said that she wanted to call it quits for the day. She has
been suffering with a cold. To be honest, we both were dozing off
a little during SHATTERED IMAGE and the pace of the festival has
taken its toll. Also the Uptown's seats are particularly
uncomfortable and that also has taken a toll on me. To get in as
many rows of seats as possible they squeeze the legroom out of the
rows. I am relatively short and I have a problem. Someone tall
would have their legs right up against the back of the seats in
front. Anyway we walked back.
I think that the film festival was timed to correspond to an
international gathering of beggars and panhandlers. You cannot
walk very far on Yonge or Bloor without being asked for your spare
change. They go so far as to have a newspaper they sell. They
make walking a bit of a pain. Of course giving to one does not
make the others less persistent or even this one less persistent
the next day. I gave to a few, but they in general make themselves
[to be continued] [-mrl]
MT 3E-433 732-957-5619
Quote of the Week:
Some of the greatest advances in mathematics have
been due to the invention of symbols, which it
afterwards became necessary to explain; from the
minus sign proceeded the whole theory of negative
-- Aldous Huxley