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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 12/31/99 -- Vol. 18, No. 27
Table of Contents
Chair/Librarian: Mark Leeper, 732-817-5619, firstname.lastname@example.org Factotum: Evelyn Leeper, 732-332-6218, email@example.com Distinguished Heinlein Apologist: Rob Mitchell, firstname.lastname@example.org HO Chair Emeritus: John Jetzt, email@example.com HO Librarian Emeritus: Nick Sauer, firstname.lastname@example.org Back issues at http://www.geocities.com/evelynleeper. All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.
Well, here we go. Tonight that big leading digit changes. I won't make the common mistake of saying we start a new millennium. As an intelligent and discerning person, you know that it is not true. But people will THINK it is the new millennium, and to explain why it really is not you have to talk about there never having been a year 0. Well even to the better informed among us the year 1 is ancient history. Actually there never was a year 1 either. There was a year designated as a year 1 well after the fact. Even that was not the year they wanted to be the year 1 since it was supposedly the year Christ was born and they were off by about four years. I think that many of those graduating high school these days are not even convinced that that time really existed. The age of Xena and Hercules is more real to them. But you cannot blame them too much. The history of the calendar is just full of supposedly smart people making dumb mistakes. Some time I ought to tell you about Austerlitz.
So never mind the fact we still have better than a year to run on the century, people who assume that all that makes a century is a digit in a year are flooding us with little millenniumisms. Man o' War has just been named the Horse of the Century. I suppose if there was going to be a Horse of the Century it would be for racing and winning a large Pot o' Money for its owner. Just as firmly as people are convinced that this is the new millennium starting tomorrow there are those who are convinced that the whole reason there are horses is racing them. The horse of the century would have to be a racehorse. Horses might think differently. What contributions would horses value? If they were asked I think horses would be more likely to pick a horse that had done something like figuring out how to unlock the paddock gate and let a bunch of horses go free. In general I dont think it is a good idea for one species to be choosing the best member of another species for the century. Time Magazine's choice was Albert Einstein, by the way.
The moment is coming that I have thought about pretty much all my life. I suspect I am not alone in that. From a young age I have been thinking about how old I would be when I became a person of the 2000s. Somehow I had the age number exactly right, but I am a lot younger than I thought I would be. This was the time of my life when I would become a person of both the 20th Century and a person of the 21st Century. I was going to see what the 21st Century was like, like it is going to be different from the 20th. Well the 20th Century was a lot different from the 19th. So I was expecting the 21st Century to be a lot different from the 20th. It will be, but not for a while. The beginning of the 21st Century will be a whole lot like the end of the 20th Century.
When I think of the people born in the middle part of the 19th Century who lived into the 20th Century, I don't think of them as understanding our century. They just saw an early piece of it but to my mind these people always remained artifacts of the 19th Century. Somehow I expected full-fledged membership in the 21st Century for myself. I now realize that is not the way it is going to be. People who are REALLY of the 21st century will consider us old fogies and something of an embarrassment. We may even have to take the rap for the Y2K fiasco.
If history is any sign the most important events of the 21st Century will happen after we die. Suppose that a time traveler from 100 years tried to explain to you the most important event of the 21st Century. The odds are good you would have no idea what he was talking about. Technology is moving that fast. If you had Teddy Roosevelt here how would you explain to him the modern world? I think I could almost explain the problem of nuclear proliferation, but try thinking of how you would explain the Y2K problem to Teddy Roosevelt?
I guess this is part of the human condition. We just dont live long enough so that we can really be much of a part of more than one century. Nobody lives long enough to ever really understand two different centuries. [-mrl]
GALAXY QUEST (a film review by Mark R. Leeper):
Capsule: What would happen if the cast of "Star Trek" actors was whisked into space and told they had to fight real aliens? Aliens who do not understand the concept of fiction and who believe in the crew of "Galaxy Quest" borrow the actors to help save their race. The film is consistently amusing but it never becomes any more than a one-joke film. Worth seeing once. Rating: 6 (0 to 10), +1 (-4 to +4)
The cast rivalries of "Star Trek" actors, and the conventions of "Star Trek" as well as "Star Trek" conventions, all get a fairly loving shellacking in an enjoyable comedy that asks if the cast of "Star Trek" had to fight real aliens, how well would they do.
Back in the early 1970s there was a science fiction TV show that would be immortal to its fans, "Galaxy Quest." Even today the die-hard fans want more. Let's get this part out of the way so we can proceed. Tim Allen plays Jason Nesmith who on the show played Comdr. Peter Quincy Taggart. Alan Rickman plays Alexander Dane who played Dr. Lazarus of Tev'Meck. Sigourney Weaver plays Gwen DeMarco who played Lt. Tawny Madison. Tony Shalhoub, who does not look the slightest bit Chinese, plays Fred Kwan who played Tech Sergeant Chen. And Daryl Mitchell plays Tommy Webber who played Lt. Laredo. With each but possibly Laredo, the writers were clearly thinking of a corresponding member of the "Star Trek" cast.
In spite of the fact that Galaxy Quest has been off the air for many years the cast continues to be a hot item at science fiction media conventions. Just about everyone in the cast is tired of being type-cast, but they have to contend with the fame and popularity they got from the TV show. Most tired is Alexander Dane who at one time played Richard III to raving audiences but now is reduced to repeating the tire TV show catch-phrases over and over, ad nauseum. And all are a little tire of how Jason Nesmith, who played their leader, basks in all the glory at the conventions and treats the other cast members like decoration. He behaves like a rude, ego-centric jerk. When four teens in alien costumes ask Nesmith to see their space ship and fight an alien for them he plays along with the gag. Then he finds out that they in truth are aliens, their spaceship is authentic, and their foes are all too real. Soon the whole crew is pulled involuntarily into the adventure. For once they have no script, no director, no lines, and they are in real danger.
As a story about the actors we have come to know so well from "Star Trek," this film is passable but cliched. By depending on each other they build firm relationships of mutual respect. Outward Bound probably has hundreds of stories just as moving. As a space opera adventure this film is fairly lame. That is not the point, of course, but it might have been a better movie with a little more thought about the adventure. In general the audience is a step or two ahead of the characters. The greatest value of the film is the lampooning of the "Star Trek" iconography. And in doing that it is considerably more adept than anything Mel Brooks has done for a good long time.
Nobody requires great dramatic scenes in a film like this. Tim Allen's acting was more than sufficient and his timing adequate. He might have issued one little "To infinity and beyond," if that would not have been mixing metaphors. Sigourney Weaver did not have a lot to do besides wear a tight suit well, which she still can do surprisingly nicely for a lady who recently hit the half- century mark. Alan Rickman does little with his role but act petulant. He can be a very magnetic actor but here is not. The biggest disappointment was a sort of lack-luster, half-speed performance from character actor Tony Shalhoub. He is one of the actors I tend to watch for, but not for the sort of effort he seemed to give this role. He looked like he just felt out of place.
The ideal length for this material would have been as a ten-minute skit. It is impressive that director Dean Parisot kept the chuckles coming as long as he did. This is a one-viewing film, but pleasant enough. I give it a 6 on the 0 to 10 scale and a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale. [-mrl]
CRADLE WILL ROCK (a film review by Mark R. Leeper):
Capsule: In the 1930s art and politics inextricably intertwine in this (mostly) true story of big money interests fighting the WPA's Federal Theater Project. Also retold is the tale of the disagreement between Nelson Rockefeller and Diego Rivera over the mural that Rivera painted for Rockefeller Center. Tim Robbins, who both wrote and directed captures a feel for the heady days when American talent seemed to be blossoming but when the mostly liberal sentiment of art was seen as a threat to the wealthy who strongly influenced the government. This film will certainly be in my top three films of the year. Rating: 9 (0 to 10), +3 (-4 to +4)
In the 1930S during the Great Depression massive numbers of Americans were out of work. In 1934 the number was 11 million. To cut unemployment and get people working again the Works Progress Administration was established. It eventually employed 8.5 million people to improve the infrastructure and culture of the country. Laborers built roads, bridges, parks, buildings, and airports. Artists were employed by the Federal Arts Project, The Federal Writers Project, and the Federal Theater Project. The Federal Theater Project (FTP) lasted from 1935 to 1939 when it was shut down by the House Committee on Un-American Activities for its left-leaning plays.
CRADLE WILL ROCK combines the stories of two incidents of the 1930s. In 1933 Nelson Rockefeller objected to the mural that Diego Rivera was creating for Rockefeller Center which depicted Lenin as a liberator. In 1937 Marc Blitzstein's play "The Cradle Will Rock" was to be produced under the aegis of the FTP staged by Orson Welles and John Houseman, but the government withdrew support with dramatic consequences.
The film begins with a homeless woman Olive Stanton (Emily Watson) catching some sleep behind the screen of a movie theater. The theater is showing a newsreel about the spread of Fascism in Europe, but how things are better and more optimistic in the US. Stanton clearly knows more about conditions in the US than the patrons of the theater. Chased from this shelter she looks for a job with the Federal Theater Project.
The FTP is an explosion of creative chaos presided over by the tireless Hallie Flanagan (Cherry Jones). She reads new plays, makes production assignments, and does a wealth of other jobs. We are soon introduced to Orson Welles (Angus Macfadyen), John Houseman (Cary Elwes) putting on a creatively-staged production of Marlowe's DOCTOR FAUSTUS. They are also preparing a polemical play, "The Cradle Will Rock," for the FTP.
The wealthy also mix in with a strong interest in the arts. We meet Nelson Rockefeller (John Cusack), an oil magnate more interested in art and Latin America than he is in petroleum. He has commissioned the admired Diego Rivera (Ruben Blades) to paint a mural for Rockefeller Center, the theme of which is to be "Man's Intelligence Controlling Nature."
But not everybody is happy with this flowering of creativity. Icy Hazel Huffman (Joan Cusack) and a frustrated vaudeville ventriloquist Tommy Crickshaw (Bill Murray) do not like the leftist message of many of the plays present. They are organizing to fight what they think is becoming a liberal establishment. The film chronicles their collision with the artists and playwrights they oppose.
The casting is quite good. Especially notable is the Angus Macfadyen impression of Orson Welles. Welles has now been portrayed by a number of different actors on the screen but never by someone who with so close a physical resemblance or who got the facial expressions down so well. Less familiar is John Houseman but Cary Elwes at least sounds a good deal like Houseman. Cherry Jones just sparkles as Hallie Flanagan.
Quote of the Week:
Virture has never been as respectable as money. -- Mark Twain