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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 04/27/01 -- Vol. 19, No. 43
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.
Top Ten Films of the Century (Part 1):
Back at the turn of the century (gee, that sounds a lot longer ago than it really is), I compiled a list of what I thought were the top ten films of the 20th century. That might as well be a list of the top ten films of all time. Not these are not the films I enjoy the most. 1I distinguish here between the films I like the most and the films that I really consider the best. The film I like the most of any I have seen is the science fiction film QUATERMASS AND THE PIT called in the United States FIVE MILLION YEARS TO EARTH. I really like that genre and I have to admit that though I like that genre, its virtues are not necessarily the virtues that make a film great. I am choosing the films that I think were well crafted and perhaps have influenced the world. These are films that I consider to be the most important.
Now as I look at the list, I realize that while I am trying to avoid the escapism of science fiction, horror and fantasy, I have replaced it with another kind of escapism. The films I tend to admire almost with few exceptions take place in the past. They recreate for the viewer an age that I did not live through. I find it much harder to admire a film that is set in the present. I really liked THE CONTENDER, but it is too easy to visit the world of Washington politics. I don't need a film to create that world for me. I can buy a plane ticket rather than a movie ticket. Traveling to the past in a film is a form of escapism, I guess. If I were to rule out historical films from my list, I would probably start looking for films set in exotic locales. I must be interested in films mostly to get away from my own time and place.
So for the next few issues I want to list in reverse order the ten films that I consider the most important of the 20th century. There are two fantasy films mixed in, but with what I think is good reason. I will also put in an occasional honorable mention. It is a small way to cheat and talk about films that I consider outstanding but did not make the cut. The mathematician in me says that ten is ten and not twelve or fourteen.
10. INHERIT THE WIND -- This is a somewhat biased story inspired by and based on the Scopes "Monkey" Trial. It does a number of things very well, though admittedly its account of that historic event is has a number of major inaccuracies. But it is a film that is very well constructed and beautifully photographed. And more importantly it makes an important statement of what should be the balance of science and religion. That statement becomes more and more timely in a world that is becoming more involved in issues involving religious fundamentalism.
9. KING KONG (1933) -- When this film hit the screen in 1933 really nothing like it had been seen before. This was a giant leap in the representation of fantastic images on the screen. The story itself seems to be the weakest link but even there it touches on something DEEP AND psychological that continues to make the film an affecting one. KING KONG itself was a last ditch attempt to save RKO Pictures and its success meant that we could get films like CITIZEN KANE. All the great visual fantasy films particularly of the pre- STAR-WARS era owe a great deal to KING KONG.
8. STAR WARS (1977) -- This is the other fantasy film on my top ten. Much the same can be said about it as I said of KING KONG. Again the story is the weak link though it also touches on some deeply mythic themes. This is a film that affected all visual fantasy films that followed it. It had many negative effects like shifting the focus of popular filmmaking from the adult to the teenage market. This is the film that brought the age of digital graphics to visualization of images on movie screens and that has revolutionized fantasy and historical filmmaking and many other genres.
Honorable Mention: THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY (1903) -- Lists of the great films of the past are almost always biased to include more recent films. Silent films are almost always thought of as films from "before the movies got good." I have now included on my list two films that are on the list more for how they affected the film industry as for whether they give an enjoyable experience today. I would be remiss if I did not include a third, THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY. In 1903 most dramatic films were basically just illustrated tableaus from stage plays. THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY introduced parallel plot lines in different locations, it has color through tinted scenes, it has imaginative camera angles never tried before--before 1903--and it has a genuinely exciting plot line. Any list of great American films that does not even consider Edwin S. Porter's THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY is, for want of a better term, temporally provincial.
I will continue next week. [-mrl]
MEMENTO (a film review by Mark R. Leeper):
Capsule: This is a very dark film noir story about a violent incident. The viewer sees what built up to the incident in sequences in reverse chronological order. We do not remember the past and neither does the main character who suffers from short-term memory loss. The basic story is somewhat cliched and not very interesting, but the gimmick turns it on its ear and makes it a suspenseful mystery. The trick might not work a second time, but this once it creates a suspenseful puzzle. Rating: 9 (0 to 10), +3 (-4 to +4).
T. H. White wrote in THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING that Merlin lived backward in time. For him the future was an open book but the past was a complete mystery. This is much how the viewer sees the film MEMENTO. That is because, like the film BETRAYAL (1983), MEMENTO is shown in sequences in reverse chronological order. The audience knows how the story will end, but the mystery is to find out how the characters got to the violent end of the film.
We do not know how we got to the first scenes of the story, but neither does the film's main character. He is Leonard Shelby (played by Guy Pearce of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL). Shelby knows he has brain damage that results in amnesia. It has wiped out his short- term memory. He remembers some things from his distant past, but he does not know what happened yesterday. His only hint on how his world got him to this place are the notes he writes for himself on his hands, on his body, on slips of paper, and on the Polaroid pictures he snaps.
Shelby traps and kills Teddy (Joe Pantoliano). Who's Teddy? Shelby has left himself a picture of Teddy with a written warning telling him not to believe Teddy's lies. Teddy must have done something very bad to Shelby or someone Shelby knew. Teddy seems to know Shelby fairly well, but there is something a little unsavory in Teddy's manner. Natalie (Carrie-Anne Moss of THE MATRIX) gave Shelby some information about Teddy. Who's Natalie? Natalie was that woman who Shelby met in the diner and who gave Shelby a packet of information about John G. Layer by layer the film works itself backwards until we know who people are and how they fit in.
Leonard does have some long-term memory. He knows that at some time in the past he was an insurance investigator living a normal life until an intruder in his home murdered his wife and attacked him, leaving him with this amnesia. What has happened in the intervening time he is not sure, but he has his collection of Polaroid pictures with notes to remind him. He also has notes he has written on his hands and tattoos with information he does not want to ever forget. This is a very different type of mystery. We know how it will turn out. The real question is who are all these characters, what we usually learn early in a story. Shelby will never know, but we have the edge remembering at least where the story is going.
MEMENTO was written and directed by Christopher Nolan based on a story written by his younger brother Jonathan. Jonathan had taken psychology courses at Georgetown and had read of a case history of a patient whose disorder was not unlike Shelby's.
If the story of MEMENTO were told in conventional order, it would really not be a very interesting story, but Jonathan Nolan has found an intriguing way to tell this story. The gimmick makes this film unique and new, fresh to anyone no matter how many films they see. Do not see this film when you are tired. Watching MEMENTO is taxing mental exercise. Nobody goes out for popcorn in the middle of MEMENTO. I rate it 9 on the 0 to 10 scale and a +3 on the -4 to +4 scale.
Note: Much of what makes this film interesting is that it is about a brain dysfunction, how it warps the victim's view of reality, and how the victim copes and tries to live a normal life. That is really a fascinating subject. Oliver Sacks, the man who wrote the book AWAKENINGS that was the basis for the film of the same title, also wrote a book called THE MAN WHO MISTOOK HIS WIFE FOR A HAT. It is a collection of case histories of people with reality-bending brain disorders and how they manage to work around them or let them dominate their lives. If that sounds dry and clinical, ask yourself if the (admittedly inaccurate) AWAKENINGS and MEMENTO were dry and clinical. THE MAN WHO MISTOOK HIS WIFE FOR A HAT is recommended reading. [-mrl]
Here are this year's Hugo nominations. There are two lists, because the Worldcon is also awarding "Retro-Hugos" for works from 1950. The year 2000 nominations are listed first.
Novel: A STORM OF SWORDS by George R.R. Martin (Voyager; Bantam Spectra) CALCULATING GOD by Robert J. Sawyer (Tor) HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE by J.K. Rowling (Bloomsbury; Scholastic/Levine) MIDNIGHT ROBBER by Nalo Hopkinson (Warner Aspect) THE SKY ROAD by Ken MacLeod (Orbit 1999; Tor 2000) Novella: "A Roll of the Dice" by Catherine Asaro (Analog Jul/Aug 2000) "Oracle" by Greg Egan (Asimov's Jul 2000) "Radiant Green Star" by Lucius Shepard (Asimov's Aug 2000) "Seventy-Two Letters" by Ted Chiang (VANISHING ACTS: A SCIENCE FICTION ANTHOLOGY, Tor Jul 2000) "The Retrieval Artist" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Analog Jun 2000) "The Ultimate Earth" by Jack Williamson (Analog Dec 2000) Novelette: "Agape Among the Robots" by Allen Steele (Analog May 2000; IMAGINATION FULLY DILATED, Vol. 2, IFD Publishing May 2000) "Generation Gap" by Stanley Schmidt (Artemis Spring 2000) "Millennium Babies" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Asimov's Jan 2000) "On the Orion Line" by Stephen Baxter (Asimov's Oct/Nov 2000) "Redchapel" by Mike Resnick (Asimov's Dec 2000) Short Story: "Different Kinds of Darkness" by David Langford (F&SF Jan 2000) "Kaddish for the Last Survivor" by Michael A. Burstein (Analog Nov 2000) "Moon Dogs" by Michael Swanwick (Moon Dogs, NESFA Press Feb 2000; Asimov's Mar 2000) "The Elephants on Neptune" by Mike Resnick (Asimov's May 2000) "The Gravity Mine" by Stephen Baxter (Asimov's Apr 2000) Related Book: CONCORDANCE TO CORDWAINER SMITH, THIRD EDITION by Anthony R. Lewis (NESFA Press) GREETINGS FROM EARTH: THE ART OF BOB EGGLETON by Bob Eggleton, Nigel Suckling (Paper Tiger) PUTTING IT TOGETHER: TURNING SOW'S EAR DRAFTS INTO SILK PURSE STORIES by Mike Resnick (Wildside Press) ROBERT A. HEINLEIN: A READER'S COMPANION by James Gifford (Nitrosyncretic Press) TERRY PRATCHETT: GUILTY OF LITERATURE ed. by Andrew M. Butler, Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn (The Science Fiction Foundation) Dramatic Presentation: CHICKEN RUN CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON FRANK HERBERT'S DUNE FREQUENCY X-MEN Professional Editor: Ellen Datlow Gardner Dozois David G. Hartwell Stanley Schmidt Gordon Van Gelder Professional Artist: Jim Burns Bob Eggleton Frank Kelly Freas Donato Giancola Michael Whelan Semiprozine: INTERZONE edited by David Pringle LOCUS edited by Charles N. Brown NEW YORK REVIEW OF SCIENCE FICTION edited by Kathryn Cramer, David G. Hartwell, and Kevin Maroney SCIENCE FICTION CHRONICLE edited by Andrew I. Porter SPECULATIONS edited by Denise Lee and Susan Fry; published by Kent Brewster Fanzine: CHALLENGER edited by Guy Lillian III FILE 770 edited by Mike Glyer MIMOSA edited by Nicki and Richard Lynch PLOKTA edited by Alison Scott, Steve Davies and Mike Scott STET edited by Dick Smith and Leah Zeldes Smith Fan Writer: Bob Devney Mike Glyer Dave Langford Evelyn C. Leeper Steven H Silver Fan Artist: Sheryl Birkhead Brad Foster Teddy Harvia Sue Mason Taral Wayne John W. Campbell Award: James L. Cambias (1st year of eligibility) Thomas Harlan (2nd year of eligibility) Douglas Smith (2nd year of eligibility) Kristine Smith (2nd year of eligibility) Jo Walton (1st year of eligibility) Nominees for the Retro Hugo Awards: Novel: THE DYING EARTH by Jack Vance (Hillman) FARMER IN THE SKY by Robert A. Heinlein (Scribner's) FIRST LENSMAN by Edward E. Smith, Ph.D. (Fantasy Press) PEBBLE IN THE SKY by Isaac Asimov (Doubleday) THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE by C.S. Lewis (Geoffrey Bles) Novella: "...And Now You Don't" by Isaac Asimov (Astounding Science Fiction Nov 1949 - Jan 1950) "The Dreaming Jewels" by Theodore Sturgeon (Fantastic Adventures Feb 1950) "The Last Enemy" by H Beam Piper (Astounding Science Fiction Aug 1950) "The Man Who Sold the Moon" by Robert A. Heinlein (THE MAN WHO SOLD THE MOON, Shasta Publishers) "To the Stars" by L. Ron Hubbard (Astounding Science Fiction Feb-Mar 1950) Novelette: "Dear Devil" by Eric Frank Russell (Other Worlds May 1950) "Okie" by James Blish (Astounding Science Fiction Apr 1950) "Scanners Live in Vain" by Cordwainer Smith (Fantasy Book 56) "The Helping Hand" by Poul Anderson (Astounding Science Fiction May 1950) "The Little Black Bag" by C.M. Kornbluth (Astounding Science Fiction Jul 1950) Short Story: "A Subway Named Mobius" by A.J. Deutsch (Astounding Science Fiction Dec 1950) "Born of Man and Woman" by Richard Matheson (F&SF Summer 1950) "Coming Attraction" by Fritz Leiber (Galaxy Nov 50) "The Gnurrs Come from the Voodvork Out" by Reginald Bretnor (F&SF Winter-Spring 1950) "To Serve Man" by Damon Knight (Galaxy Nov 1950) Related Book: Category has been dropped due to insufficient response Dramatic Presentation: CINDERELLA DESTINATION MOON HARVEY RABBIT OF SEVILLE ROCKETSHIP X-M Professional Editor: Anthony Boucher John W. Campbell, Jr. Groff Conklin H. L. Gold J. Francis McComas Professional Artist: Hannes Bok Chesley Bonestell Edd Cartier Virgil Finlay Frank Kelly Freas Semiprozine: Category was dropped due to insufficient response Fanzine: QUANDRY SKYHOOK SPACEWARP SLANT SCIENCE FICTION NEWSLETTER THE FANSCIENT Fan Writer: Lee Hoffman Bob Silverberg Robert "Bob" Wilson Tucker James White Walt Willis Fan Artist: Jack Gaughan Lee Hoffman Ray Nelson Bill Rotsler James White
Quote of the Week:
Just because the person who criticizes you is an idiot does not make him wrong. -- Roger Rosenblatt