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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 12/01/00 -- Vol. 19, No. 22
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.
England Trip Report:
A brief trip report of the non-business part of Evelyn Leeper's recent three-week to England is available at http://www.geocities.com/evelynleeper/swin_rpt.htm. [-ecl]
Library Conversation (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
I was in the library. I walked back to the media section and was looking at their collection of book on cassettes. There was a large woman, over six feet tall, returning two CDs. She and the librarian were having a spirited argument. (Believe it or not, what follows was about the last minute of a ten-minute conversation.)
"But I only had them out two days. How can I owe you forty cents?"
This is a new phenomenon for me. It started this year and three times I have heard people making a loud uproar in a library arguing over tiny bits of money. It would be one thing if the library was wrong all the time, but they never seem to be. We have what I consider to be a particularly good library and so when I hear these arguments I tend to feel a sympathy for the librarian. She is part of a team that does a very good job and just at the moment is trying to keep her conversation quiet when an overbearing patron has no such concerns.
"I don't mind paying, but how can I owe you forty cents?"
"They are two days overdue."
"How can they be two days overdue?"
"They were due Tuesday. This is Thursday."
"But how does that make it forty cents?"
"It's ten cents a day."
"But it has been only two days."
"So that is forty cents."
"No, that's only twenty cents."
"There are two items, that makes it forty cents."
"But it was only two days."
"And there were two items."
"How much is it a day?"
"For one item or for two items?"
"For one item."
"I thought it was five cents per item."
"No it's ten cents. It's posted right here."
"But then it would be twenty cents. Ten cents per item."
"For each day. There were two days."
"But you said it was ten cents a day."
"There were two items."
"But I just took them out two days ago. They shouldn't be overdue at all."
"The records say you took them out last week."
"Well, I haven't even had a chance to hear them yet. That's why I asked to take them out again. I just took them out two days ago."
"Our records say you took them out Tuesday last week."
"But it was this week. No wait a minute. Two days ago I was at teachers' conference. But I only owe you twenty cents."
With my head pounding I felt like screaming, "Oh, lady. Tell me you aren't a teacher! You'll give me nightmares." [-mrl]
UNBREAKABLE (a film review by Mark R. Leeper):
Capsule: David Dunne is the sole survivor of a train crash that killed over 300 people. David completely escaped injury. This incident and a note asking if he has every been sick leads David to question his own interpretation of his life and his past. Elijah Price, an invalid with a strange fixation on comic books, draws David into a strange fantasy in which David is sort of a comic book character. Bringing much of the same minor key direction and imagery he brought to THE SIXTH SENSE, writer/director M. Night Shyamalan has a talent for making the familiar seem unfamiliar and foreboding. Rating: 6 (0 to 10), +1 (-4 to +4) Spoiler warning: Probably the less the viewer knows prior to seeing the film, the better. My recommendation would be to read nothing beyond the capsule until you have seen the film.
M. Night Shyamalan seems to have one style of cinematography. He keeps his scenes dark with heavy photographic filters. Frequently the viewer has to work to make out the image that he is seeing. Some of his scenes seem carved out of darkness. His writing does much the same. One needs patience to make out exactly what he is showing the viewer. When one finds out what UNBREAKABLE is really about, it becomes a sly if somewhat dry joke--a view of the familiar shown in unfamiliar terms making it almost unrecognizable.
The story begins following two plot lines. One involves a baby born in a Philadelphia hospital with two broken arms and two broken legs. It seems that Elijah Price (played as an adult by Samuel Jackson) was born with a genetic deficiency that makes his bones very easy to break. Elijah becomes a dealer in comic book art who is fixated on the possibility that there might be some people at the other end of his spectrum who would be almost impossible to harm. Another plotline involves a man who is the lone survivor of a tragic railroad accident that killed hundreds of people. David Dunne (played by Bruce Willis) is something of a misfit. His marriage to Megan Dunne (Robin Wright) is falling apart and he really does not have much to say to her. But somebody has something to say to David. An anonymous note on his windshield asks him if he has ever been sick a day in his life. Come to think of it, has he? For most people it would be an easy question to answer, but David cannot really remember ever being sick. This makes him anxious to find this person who seems to know him better than he knows himself. And this person seems to think he is unbreakable.
The great mystery is not whether David can be hurt or not, a pin could tell that in a few seconds, but where is Shyamalan going with this buildup and will it be worth it when he gets there? I suppose I was delighted that one of two or three possibilities I was expecting turned out to be the one that was true. This is a story that could be told with a lot of fun, but Shyamalan keeps the proceedings grim and emotions muted to avoid tipping his hand too soon. The photography is very much as used in Film Noir and some of his images are borrowed from comic book art. One shot is filmed between the backs of two seats on a train. To give the feel of comic book panels the camera moves back and forth to frame one face and then the other between the seats. Frequently the camera angles are strange and disorienting, more than once turning objects entirely upside-down. The people we see are cold with their emotions kept tightly bottled. The plot unfolds very slowly and deliberately. There is one chase in the film and there we are less concerned at the outcome than we are with whether the character will hurt himself.
As he did with THE SIXTH SENSE Bruce Willis gives a careful, measured performance. His marriage with the Robin Wright character seems to have died of the cold because each bottles up any emotions. It is difficult for the viewer to empathize with either. Almost all the emotion in the film is shown by Samuel Jackson and then it is over abstractions. He is, for example, angered when a valuable patron turns out to be buying comic art not for himself but for his four-year-old son.
The surprises in this film are more complex than in THE SIXTH SENSE, but they will be appreciated by a narrower audience. I would give this film a 6 on the 0 to 10 scale and a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale. [-mrl]
Quote of the Week:
A pessimist is a person who has had to listen to too many optimists. -- Don Marquis