MT VOID 03/12/99 (Vol. 17, Number 37)

MT VOID 03/12/99 (Vol. 17, Number 37)

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 03/12/99 -- Vol. 17, No. 37

Table of Contents

Outside events: 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.

Chair/Librarian: Mark Leeper, 732-957-5619,
Factotum: Evelyn Leeper, 732-957-2070,
Distinguished Heinlein Apologist: Rob Mitchell,
HO Chair Emeritus: John Jetzt,
HO Librarian Emeritus: Nick Sauer,
Back issues at
All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.


This is one of the rare instances when I will actually discuss sports in the MT VOID. Those of you who are longtime readers will note that I almost never discuss sports. That is because I don't actually know anything about sports and on top of that I have very few suspicions. Add to that that I don't like sport and discussing sports is generally boring and you have the whole picture in a nutshell. On the other hand I am told that most people who talk about sports are equally clueless and I have the advantage because I actually know that I don't know anything about the subject. But this issue is also about politics, a subject in which I invariably bring to bear a great deal of wisdom. And I do have a solution to the as yet unexplained problem I will raise. But I am getting ahead of myself. The problem seems to be that Native Americans seem to object to being associated with these angry and vicious images. I can see their point, after a fashion. I mean, how would you feel to hear that mothers tell their children that if they didn't eat their lima beans that (substitute your name here) would get them some dark night. And let's face it. An Indian name for a sports team is an over- worked metaphor. But then people who deal with sports are generally fairly eloquence-impaired and vocabulary-impoverished. This is why the game was great, the team was great, the opposition was great, the fans were great, the stadium was great, the weather was great, and the hot dogs were great. The only time you get any variety in sports talk is when a sportscaster has to give a lot of scores. Then you find that A trounced B, that C throttled D, that E decimated F; that G defecated on H, etc. ad nauseum.

So here is what I propose. From June 1999 to May 2049, all sports teams with Indian names give them up. Then two generations would go by without having all these negative names. These teams would then choose their names from another group who have been under- represented in the realms of sports glory. Why not have Jewish names? Hey, look, the Jews have proven they are hard to stamp out. And look at how fierce Jews were recognized to be after the Six-Day War. It's not such a big change. There are still people who think Indians are lost tribes of Jews.

How about a team called the Radnor Rabbis? No? Hey, take it from me ladies and gentlemen, rabbis can be mean. You just try speaking out of turn in Hebrew school and you will find out how mean rabbis can be. Hey, nobody doubts that nuns can be nasty, do they? Rabbis can be even worse. And who would want to be on the gridiron with the Baltimore Bal-shem-tovs? You could have the Azalia Tzadiks.

When you start thinking about these names they start rolling off your tongue. How about a game where the Galveston Golems go head- to-head with the Denver Dybbuks? Now that is a game that I wouldn't mind seeing even if I hate football. Hey, Monday night tune in to see the New Orleans Jazz square off against the Miami Maj. What about the Kansas City Chiefs against the Topeka Chief Rabbinate? The Cincinnati Bagels are playing the Boston Red Lox in Felafel Park. L.A. has the California Seraphim and the L.A. Latkes. The San Francisco Goliaths could play in Menorah Park. Of course, closer to home there are two major teams for one city, the New York Yentas and the New York Yeshiva Boys. Then there is the Philadelphia Fleisch and the Univerity of Michigan Mashuganas. And who would not think twice about facing on the gridiron the Montana Mohels? [-mrl]

ANALYZE THIS (a film review by Mark R. Leeper):

Capsule: One of the big crime bosses of New York decides he needs to see a psychiatrist. Harold Ramis gives us a comedy that has a promising beginning, but nothing original to do in the middle or the end. Once the good gags are over the film seems to have nothing to do but repeat them and tell a superficial crime story. The sub-plots of the psychiatrist and his patient, and of the gang war are both hackneyed and way, way too predictable. Even the laughs trail off in the second half of the film. Rating: 6 (0 to 10), 1 (-4 to +4)

Paul Vitti (Robert DeNiro) is the head of one of New York City's two biggest crime families. But he is losing his drive. He is beating people up less and he is feeling their pain more. For no apparent reason he will start crying. (The head of a crime family beats people up himself???? Why does this not seem very likely?) He decides he needs good psychiatric help, but he must keep it secret since seeing a psychiatrist would be seen as a sign of weakness. Through an odd chain of events he chooses analyst Ben Sobel (Billy Crystal). But the last thing Sobel wants is one of New York's most notorious criminals as a patient. Nor does Sobel know how to treat Vitti. A psychiatrist works by getting and holding the upper hand over his patient. No matter what a patient does the psychiatrist must always be in control of the situation. With Vitti he is dealing with a man who is also expert at control, even if he needs a gun to maintain it. The two of them begin a battle for control of their sessions. It is a struggle that should have been more interesting than it was.

But his doctor is not the only opponent that Vitti is battling. He is in a cold war with Primo Sindone (Chazz Palminteri), the head of New York's other major crime family. And Sobel may become a pawn in the conflict. At the most inconvenient times suddenly Sobel will be summoned to have a silly psychiatric session with Vitti. It is a gag repeated as many times as is necessary to fill out the length of the film. Writing which is very funny in the first part of the film is wasted in a film which has much sparser and less funny gags in its second and third. This film could have done more with the doctor-patient relationship, but settles for pop psychology and an instant miracle cure. It could have done more with the crime plot, but it settles for something hackneyed and overly cliched.

What is curious about the film is that the acting is way below anybody's standards. Robert DeNiro coasts along as the gangster, a part he could play in his sleep. What gives Vitti potential as a character is that he has emotional problems, but DeNiro is not used to playing emotional problems of this sort. When he cries in front of the camera it is like amateur night tryouts for the Actors' Studio. His touch at comedy is only marginally better. Billy Crystal is again the nice-guy, sincere, New York Jew he always plays, only this time he plays it as a psychiatrist. This would have been a far more engaging film if on Day One DeNiro and Crystal would have just looked at each other, said "not this role again," and then traded roles. Lisa Kudrow is capable or more but plays a bewildered third wheel in the grand tradition of Terry Garr. She should never have settled for such a tangential role. More interesting are the character roles of Joe Viterelli as the bodyguard Jelly and Chazz Palminteri is his usual riveting character.

Many of the jokes really are funny, but again most are in the first half of the film. There are also some interesting allusions to crime films, both in the dialog and visually. But the script by Ken Lonergan and Peter Tolan is not content to simply have many of the allusions, it must tell the viewer about them so that they are not missed. It sacrifices subtlety. Overall this averages out to being a decent comedy, but it was capable of being much more. I rate it a 6 on the 0 to 10 scale and a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale. [-mrl]

                                   Mark Leeper
                                   MT 3E-433 732-957-5619

Quote of the Week:

     It is one of the capital tragedies of youth--and
     youth is a time of tragedy--that the young are
     thrown mainly with adults they do not quite respect.
                                   -- H. L. Mencken