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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
04/04/03 -- Vol. 21, No. 40
Table of Contents
Leeperhouse Film Festival:
SEVEN DAYS IN MAY (1964) dir. by John Frankenheimer
On Thursday, April 10, at 7:30 PM, the Leeperhouse Film Festival returns with SEVEN DAYS IN MAY. Back in the 1960s John Frankenheimer made three very interesting thrillers: THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, SEVEN DAYS IN MAY, and SECONDS. These three films are the highpoints of his career and critics frequently rate the first two as the best political thrillers ever made in the United States. For SEVEN DAYS IN MAY Rod Serling adapted Fletcher Knebel's and Charles W. Bailey II's best-selling novel into a tight, tense, and very dark script. Frederic March plays the President of the United States with such integrity I have often wished he were President instead of whom we had currently. Burt Lancaster plays a MacArthur-like general and demagogue who has his own ideas how the country should be run and is prepared to take a wild gamble with the United States Constitution to achieve those ends for the country. Caught between them is Lancaster's assistant, played by Kirk Douglas. The musical score by Jerry Goldsmith is tense and powerful. Serling's dialog is sharp and taut as a drumhead. (The IMDB will frequently list one or two memorable quotes from a film. For SEVEN DAYS IN MAY the memorable quotes go on for five screens!) Though the film is most relevant to the politics of the 1960s it has lost little of its strength. Cinematography is by Ellsworth Fredericks and under Frankenheimer's direction the film has some very impressive visual layouts, well worth looking for. The cast also features Ava Gardner, Martin Balsam, Edmond O'Brien, George Macready, and Andrew Duggan. This is a good one. (On DVD.) [-mrl]
Bollywood on Turner Classic Movies (film comments):
Coincidentally, just after Mark's article on Bollywood films, Turner Classic Movies listings for June were posted, and their theme for the month is: Bollywood!
Here's what's available:
June 5: 8:00 PM Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) A young man follows the woman he loves to India to stop her arranged marriage. 192m. 11:30 PM Bombay (1995) Religious unrest threatens the marriage of a Hindu man and a Muslim woman. 102m. 2:00 AM Amar Akbar Anthony (1977) Three brothers separated at birth come together to track a kidnapper. 184m.
June 12: 8:00 PM Rangeela (1995) A young actress' rise to stardom is complicated by conflicting affections for her co-star and her childhood sweetheart. 130m. 10:30 PM Dil Chahta Hai (2001) Three friends have their lives transformed by love during one marvelous summer. 183m. 2:00 AM Sholay (1975) A vengeful police chief forces two small- time crooks to hunt down the bandit who destroyed his family. 200m.
June 19: 8:00 PM Pakeezah (1971) A free-spirited young woman refuses a prince's proposal for love of a man she only met once. 125m. 10:30 PM Junglee (1961) Young lovers defy the caste system to fight for happiness. 150m. 1:00 AM Awaara (1951) A bitter young man vows revenge on the two men who destroyed his mother's life. 193m.
June 26: 8:00 PM Mother India (1957) A family struggles to survive the machinations of an evil moneylender. 172m. 11:00 PM Do Bigha Zamin (1953) Family members risk all in a move to Calcutta to raise money and save their land. 142m. 1:30 AM Pyaasa (1957) A young poet searches the world for pure love. 146m.
Further details are available on the Turner Classic Movies web site: http://www.turnerclassicmovies.com/. (The June schedule is at http://turnerclassicmovies.com/Schedule/Print/0,,06-2003|0|,00.html) [-ecl]
Locus Pocus (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Evelyn and I subscribe to LOCUS, the newspaper of the science fiction community. This is the one that seems to win the Hugo Award in the semi-professional category just about every year. You would think that that honor would give them special respect for the real Hugo awards. But LOCUS gives out their own version of the Hugos each year in categories like "Best SF Novel," "Best Fantasy Novel," "Best Anthology," "Best Single-Author Collection," etc. That's all well and good, I suppose. But I started looking at the form that has to be filled out and I got a little shock. In order to vote, you have to fill out a little demographic information about yourself. Well so far that is fair enough.
"Are you currently:  married,  single,  formerly married,  other"
That struck me as a little odd. What are they trying to figure out? How is marriage status relevant? Do single people like one kind of science fiction? Are they trying to figure out if married people are fantasy fans?
"Do you have any children?  yes,  no"
I suppose they could be trying to find out if people with children still have time to read. Maybe if you have kids, you like fantasy better. I think William Tenn did an anthology of science fiction about children.
"Do you:  own home/condo,  live with relatives,  rent house/apartment,  share house/apartment,  other"
Oh, of course. LOCUS must be trying to figure out what sort of reading home-owners prefer. What are they driving at? What does the type of domicile have to do with anything? I suppose there might be some differences from homeowners. Unfortunately I don't think they have ever published a correlation.
"Annual family income:  $0-10,000,  $10,001-20,000, ..."
Now wait just a dang minute. Let me answer your question with a question. What the hell business is it of LOCUS what my family income is? I wanted to take your poll but not now. Take your poll and shove it!!! Or put another way... no... any other way to put it would just not be sincere. That is just about exactly how I feel.
LOCUS does not say this filling in this information is optional to vote. They don't even say thank you. They don't even say what they want the information for. They don't set any limits on for what the information will be used. And what bothers me more than the questions themselves? They don't even promise to keep any of this data private. They just imply that to take part in the LOCUS poll you have to divulge a bunch of personal financial information that just by an odd coincidence happens to be valuable to all sorts of people. And some of these people may not use it in my best interests. They already have my name address and zip code. They know what sort of a neighborhood I live in. Now they are looking to pair it with all sorts of financial information about me. And they are doing it so matter-of-factly. "What books do you like and, oh by the way, we need to know your income. And how about what your mortgage payments are?" If I were reading their poll results, I might be curious to know whether the people responding like spicy food or prefer winter to summer or what kind of movies they like. But that is not the sort of think that interests LOCUS. They want to know about science fiction tastes and what PCs people have and then they go for the wallet. In fact the go-for-the-wallet questions come first.
Americans have become very careless about giving their personal data to Internet Sites. Many of these sites have privacy statements that it would take a lawyer to understand. That is not a problem with LOCUS. There is no complex privacy statement to unwind. There is no privacy statement at all. That is the same as saying any data you send to LOCUS belongs to LOCUS to do with whatever LOCUS feels like doing. Maybe what they want the data for is purely innocent. Almost certainly it is. But possibly it isn't. LOCUS isn't saying anywhere on the form. All they are saying is "If you want to take part in the LOCUS poll, you have to pay for it by trusting us and giving us marketing data about you that could be misused. Oh, we'll send you a free magazine in return."
My suggestion when you see requests like this is to ignore them if possible. That was not always my advice. There was a time when my advice was if financial information was irrelevant as it certainly is to LOCUS reader preference polls to put in false information to confound the system. However, if you tell LOCUS a family income too low, it could conceivably affect your credit ratings. If you put in a value too high, it could be like ringing a dinner bell for marketers. You don't know where this data will go because LOCUS doesn't tell you. It is better to remain silent than to give away private personal data.
I don't mean to single out just LOCUS. The worst that they may be guilty of is the bad taste of asking questions that are more personal than they ought to be asking in a non-anonymous poll. But there are a lot of people trying to get your personal data. My recommendation to our readers is be a little paranoid. LOCUS should say ON THE FORM that personal data is optional or they should make the poll anonymous. One way or another if people trust them with valuable data LOCUS should be willing to promise in writing on the poll that data will be kept private. And participants should also be smart enough to realize that their personal financial data is not the business of LOCUS and worth is a whole lot more than a free issue of LOCUS.
Am I being paranoid? Perhaps. And perhaps paranoia is a survival trait.
At least LOCUS does not also ask for Social Security Numbers or sexual preferences.
Postscript: When asked about the questions LOCUS responded, "We don't have a privacy statement, but we don't use the data for anything except compiling the survey results, which are published later." Somehow that is not a very satisfying answer. They are promising no responsibility to protect the data or even that it will be kept private. [-mrl]
THE CORE (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: A spectacular set of disasters and a heroic expedition to save mankind. Some real science and some nonsense mix. If the film does not quite click, it is probably because we have higher standards than we had for science fiction films in their heyday of the 1950s and 1960s. THE CORE is still a good time in a movie theater for the right audience. Rating: 6 (0 to 10), high +1 (-4 to +4)
THE CORE is a disaster film and an expedition film. For those who don't know, there really is a solid core rotating at the heart of our planet. That much of the premise of this film is true. In THE CORE something has robbed the center of its angular momentum. For a while nobody has noticed anything different. That much is kind of hard to believe. Then some mysterious phenomena are being seen. It is hard to believe that there would not be a whole lot observed a lot sooner, but perhaps the core is slowing to a halt.
Dr. Josh Keyes (played by Aaron Eckhart) sees some strange behavior in nature and gets nervous. He guesses what is wrong and brings his ideas to Dr. Conrad Zimsky (Stanley Tucci), a superstar scientist who has that rare ability to see any discoveries of another scientist and make them his own. Zimsky is convinced by Keyes's work that the Earth is doomed. But there is no way to do anything about the situation. Then Zimsky remembers that a man from whom he once stole some ideas, Dr. Edward Brazzelton (Delroy Lindo), may have the technology to build a mole machine. If it can be built the machine could be used to travel into the interior of the planet and set off some bombs to start the core spinning again. The mission is planned. To pilot the craft come two shuttle astronauts played by Bruce Greenwood and Hilary Swank.
This is a film that intermixes some good science with some real balderdash. The science, while applied with large liberties, is far better than that in its most similar predecessors--films like 1951's UNKNOWN WORLD, 1959's JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, or 1965's CRACK IN THE WORLD. A lesser effort would have not thought beyond using the premise to show just a lot of earthquake effects. Where this film has class is the focus on geo-electrical disasters, a possibility that most of the public has probably never really thought about. And it does create a set of bizarre and seemingly unrelated phenomena in the early parts of the film.
The frequently intentionally funny script written by Cooper Layne and John Rogers and directed by Jon Amiel is a nonstop ride from a man having an unexplained heart attack in a Boston boardroom (yes, that is directly caused by a geological event) to the explosive finale. The film is 135 minutes long and unlike films like OUTBREAK and even TITANIC it has not padded the story with human villains. Virtually every scene in the film is about the geological crisis, which is threat enough. There are no gunfights, chases, or martial arts; the film is all science fiction. There is one chaste screen kiss. On the other hand the film could have used some good advisors to tidy up even the non-science. Every major disaster just coincidentally occurs in a major city. And I refuse to believe that even after the military knows how dangerous the situation is there is still only one general assigned to track a problem that has such global impact.
Visually the film is not all it could be. Many of the spectacular scenes of destruction have that indescribable flavor of computer graphics. Similarly when Virgil--the drill machine is named for the poet--is moving the "windshield" view is always a computer graphic. The entire craft seems to be done only as a computer graphic. To hide the graphics somewhat we never really get a good look at Virgil. It is there on the screen but as a vehicle it is rather nondescript. Viewers like to savor the contours of crafts like the Nautilus and the Enterprise, but you never see Virgil well enough to do that. Admittedly it is hard to imagine really exciting images of a machine boring through solid rock or magma. If it is completely enshrouded in opaque material as it would be, most of the time there is nothing to see.
THE CORE is not a film I have a lot of respect for or learned a lot from, but as an old CRACK IN THE WORLD fan I was looking forward to it and I did enjoy it, perhaps for many of the reasons I enjoyed EIGHT-LEGGED FREAKS. I think Paramount expected more from the film than that it be just good "drive-in movie" fun. I have affection for the film but rate it 6 on the 0 to 10 scale and a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale. Of its kind it is quite good. [-mrl]
UTOPIA by Lincoln Child (book review by Tom Russell):
Summary: Don't buy this book. Don't even read this review.
What I liked best about UTOPIA was when Lincoln Child wrote that one of the bad guys "uttered an expletive." Many authors would treat the reader to a choice four-letter word instead. For this dignity, lots of points.
UTOPIA has lots of scenes that would be good in a PG-13 movie or computer game: fire works and explosions; hidden passageways; suspicious characters in bizarre costumes; machine gun killings; wild roller coaster rides; and an assortment of robots of varying skills, smarts and cutes or uglies. (The movie producer would have the teenage daughter and a un-nerdy boyfriend be the computer-whiz heroes instead of her widowed father and his cute co-worker/girl friend?)
My problem with UTOPIA is: it offers little - no, make that nothing - new. "Utopia" is a futuristic computer-controlled "Magic Kingdom"-like park with, among other attractions, scary holographic projections of park visitors (but not the holodeck) and smart robots (but more primitive than WestWorld).
I'm glad this book is going back to the library. No sale, SFBC. [-tlr]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
Well, T. S. Eliot says that April is the cruelest month, but around here it's March. At least that's when the various library book sales start kicking in, which in turn means my stack of books to read gets high enough to be a menace if we should ever have an earthquake here.
So first there was the East Brunswick Library sale, followed by the Bryn Mawr sale (with an additional stop at Half-Price Books in Rocky Hill), followed by the Hazlet Library sale (with an additional stop at Second Hand Prose in Keyport). Luckily, we didn't find quite as much as last year. The best find was at the first, where we got an ex-library copy of Bleiler's two-volume "Supernatural Fiction Writers". The Bryn Mawr sale is strange, almost like two separate sales, where some of the books seemed quite over-priced (or at least priced for the collector), while others were more like a typical library sale, though copies of the same edition of the same Tennessee Williams play might be priced at three different prices. I picked up a few collections of essays, a few plays, and a few books of travel writing. All in all, it was worth the drive to Princeton. And the Hazlet sale, though small, was very cheap (paperbacks a quarter, five for a dollar). We even got a couple of "Goon Show" audiocassettes for fifty cents.
Oh, and a stop at Nobody Beats the Wiz for their close-out sale got us two sets of Avengers with Honor Blackman for about $21 each. I suspect they're going out of business because 1) their regular prices were higher than places like Best Buy, and this store was right across the street from a Best Buy, and 2) what kind of stupid store name is "Nobody Beats the Wiz"?!
Before retirement, we used to go on shopping trips to New York and buy lots of books at the Strand; now we go to book sales and get as many books, but cheaper. (In large part this is because most book sales start during the week, so we can now get to their best stuff on the first day.)
And I even got to some of the books already. The GRANTA BOOK OF TRAVEL is a collection of travel writing from Granta magazine (one of those magazines that looks like a trade paperback). Several of the articles were duplicated in the first issue of Granta that had been devoted to travel writing, which I bought at the same time. The stories vary from the humor of Bill Bryson to the more serious articles about coups in Africa, the "Shining Path" terrorists in Peru, and the conditions in Castro's Cuba.
Royina Grewal is an Indian woman who decided to travel through Rajasthan and write about her experiences. Since most travel writing about India is done by non-Indians, IN RAJASTHAN gives one a new and different view of that region. Grewal clearly has more access to the everyday life of the region, both in the villages (she ends up at weddings, in temples as a participant in ceremonies, etc.) and with the upper classes (she meets with the rajputs, talks to all sorts of government officials, and discusses the future of handicrafts with various artisans). She also presents what some might consider too balanced a view (for example, explaining why child marriages may not be the total evil everyone outside seems to think they are).
I had seen John Crowley's THE TRANSLATOR in a new bookstore and resolved to try the library, but when I saw a copy at Half-Price Books, I figured it was probably as good a way as any to use some of my store credit. Unlike his other books, this has no overt fantasy element, but is the rather straightforward story of an exiled Russian poet and a college student during the Cuban missile crisis. Crowley has his characters spend a lot of time not just writing poetry but explaining why they chose this word instead of that word, and how this phrase was a reference to that other quotation, and so on. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: A scholar who cherishes the love of comfort is not fit to be deemed a scholar. -- Lao Tze
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