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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 11/25/16 -- Vol. 35, No. 22, Whole Number 1938
Table of Contents
Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films, Lectures, etc. (NJ):
December 8: ENDER'S GAME (2013) and ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card, Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM December 22: COPENHAGEN by Michael Frayn, Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM January 12: 12:01PM (1990) and 12:01 (1993) and 12:01 (short story by Richard Lupoff, F&SF December 1973), Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM January 26: "The Spectre General" by Theodore R. Cogswell and "The Witches of Karres" by James H. Schmitz (both in SCIENCE FICTION HALL OF FAME 2B), Old Bridge (NJ) Public Library, 7PM February 9: GROUNDHOG DAY (1993) and "Doubled and Redoubled" (short story by Malcolm Jameson), Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM Northern New Jersey events are listed at: http://www.sfsnnj.com/news.html
My Picks for Turner Classic Movies for December (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Well, it is almost December and time for me to pick what I think are the films to watch for this month. I absolutely promise you that I will not choose *any* film that is a reworking of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." Frankly I have no idea how people can see the same story over and over and over. I will carefully avoid any films that might show signs of Christmas Spirit. There are enough films that will be doing that already. All films will be seen on Eastern Standard Time. And none will have anybody named Ebenezer.
Let's lead off with J. Lee Thompson's CAPE FEAR (1962). This is not a horror film, but it might as well be. It is as intense as a stalker film. But this film has a real stalker/killer you might see on the street. Max Cady is a pretty scary character without even without the film making him supernatural. Robert Mitchum's Cady will be hard to forget after the film is over. Cady spent eight years in prison for rape. For eight years he stewed and boiled with hatred for the prosecutor who put him there, Sam Bowden, played by Gregory Peck. Now Cady is out of prison and the first thing on his mind is how he is going to make Bowden and Bowden's family pay for those eight years behind bars. That might sound like a familiar plot, but director J. Lee Thompson puts a razor-sharp edge on the film.
To see Mitchum and Peck on the screen with a director like Thompson is a joy. You can see how scary a human can be even without hockey masks or machetes. The score is provided by Bernard Herrmann, and it fits the film so well and is so much a part of the tension that when Martin Scorsese remade CAPE FEAR in 1991 he simply had Elmer Bernstein use Hermann's original score. [Sunday, December 4 2:15 PM or Monday, December 19, 6:00 PM]
I have seen a lot of movies over the years so it has been rare that Turner can pull out of the hat one that is new to me. MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW is a film I had never heard of when it played on TCM. The title immediately sounded positive and up-beat. Boy did I get that one wrong. The situation of the film is as poignantly sad as that of BICYCLE THIEF or UMBERTO D. And like those two films the situation has to do with money problems. The two main character, husband and wife, have had a long and very affectionate life together. Then they lost their home in the Great Depression. The two have to live with their children. They cannot both go with the same child. None of the children can afford to keep both their parents. This means the old couple must separate. They will be living too far apart even to see each other again. They probably will never get together again. But they will have one last day to be together again and remember the past. They have a sort of a date, but it is one that comes at the end of their relationship rather than the beginning.
MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW is a powerful film without being manipulative. It has humor mixed with its drama, but it is in its own way one of the most powerful films ever made. Director Leo McCarey considered this his best work, beating out classics like DUCK SOUP, THE AWFUL TRUTH, RUGGLES OF RED GAP, and THE BELLS OF ST. MARY'S. [Tuesday, December 6, 8:00 PM]
Now what is there to pick for the best film of the month? The choice seems to be between CASABLANCA [Tuesday, December 27 4:15 PM] or ROBIN AND MARIAN [Saturday, December 31, 6:30 AM]. The latter seems a little more rare. I will pick ROBIN AND MARIAN with Sean Connery, Robert Shaw, and Audrey Hepburn, a film that takes a realistic look at the world of the story and which suggests what might have happened to Robin Hood after the legend is over. Good film. [-mrl]
DENIAL (film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: Jewish-American Deborah Lipstadt accuses Holocaust denier David Irving of lying about the Holocaust and is sued for libel. In spite of some very good acting the film too often fails to engage the viewer as being as emotionally gripping as its subject deserves. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
DENIAL is a docudrama of an actual case of libel. The film tells the story of Holocaust denier David Irving's (Irving played by Timothy Spall) libel case against a Jewish-American, Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz). Irving had in his books denied that there was any murdering of Jews at Auschwitz. Lipstadt publicly called Irving a liar and in return he sued her in a London court. Lipstadt has a team of lawyers led by the estimable Richard Rampton played by the equally estimable Tom Wilkinson. Spall this leaner and more commanding than he has been in previous roles.
Mick Jackson directs David Hare's adaptation of the autobiographical account by Deborah Lipstadt. To me the film ironically has the problem of not being manipulative enough. Accounts of vicious inhumanity that really took place really should incense the viewer. But DENIAL does not involve itself in the wide range of crimes against inhumanity that occurred at Auschwitz. It concerns itself only with the gas chamber murders. They were bad enough, but the film never creates for the viewer the wide range of atrocities and somehow this robs it of some of its power. This film is never as riveting as the similar film QB-VII. DENIAL was released during the Clinton-Trump campaign and can undoubtedly be seen as a commentary on that Presidential campaign. Of course it is one of several films that seem to have that interpretation.
It would have been an obvious choice for Weisz to play Lipstadt as faultless, particularly since the film is adapted from Lipstadt's own account, HISTORY ON TRIAL: MY DAY IN COURT WITH A HOLOCAUST DENIER." Instead she is played as a little foolish and naive about the British legal system. She seems to feel that as long as she has right on her side she need not worry about points of strategy. This creates a double conflict for her. She is opposing Irving, of course, but she also wants to speak and have Holocaust survivors come and bear witness to the atrocities. This gives the film an opportunity to tell the viewer about the differences between the British legal system, which does not guarantee freedom of speech, and the system she was used to in the United States. At times the discourse is even philosophical. Much of the case rests on the question of whether a falsehood the speaker truly believes really is a lie or not.
Overall the film is just a tad dry while covering such poignant issues. I rate DENIAL a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4645330/combined
What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/denial_2016
The (Negative) Power of Technology (letter of comment by Jim Susky):
In response to Mark's comments on the negative power of technology in the 11/18/16 issue of the MT VOID, Jim Susky writes:
I read today's article "The (Negative) Power of Technology" with some interest--only to find it wasn't (much) about technology and its mis-application but about Venezuela and its petroleum policy and attendant disastrous consequences.
My political biases color my perception of Venezuela's problems as institutional. I think you understated the case as being chiefly related to oil. The big issue was implied when you wrote:
"...the only thing that Venezuela really knew how to sell was petroleum"
Shorten this to "Venezuela Sells Oil" and you have a fundamentally accurate statement. Stand that next to these fundamentally incorrect statements:
"Alaska Sells Oil"
"Texas Sells Oil"
"America Sells Oil"
Alaska, Texas, and America do not "sell oil", but properly license/lease drilling privileges, tax oil production, and regulate it.
But that is only a contributing cause to the Venezuelan disaster-- by far the greater reason is that power is concentrated in their oligopoly which has no respect for property rights.
In most of the developed world, governments do not sell goods-- rather, by adopting the American Model, which has roots in the pre- Revolution British model and codified in 1789 (and refined ever since), those governments foster individual enterprise.
Respect of property rights was so much part of the American political culture that such was not explicitly mentioned in our Constitution (but perhaps was in the Common Law) except for protections codified in the 5th Amendment--and only in part under the so-called "takings clause".
You touched on the greater driver of Venezuela's woes when you wrote:
"(Venezuela's government implemented) bad economic policy, (and failed) to look ahead"
Then you offered a metaphor, American Oil Companies as Elephants who absently (unintentionally) crush Venezuela as Pygmy at the watering hole.
Better would be Chavez and his cronies as the Elephant who insist that the Pygmys (citizens) must only drink right next to the elephant or go thirsty.
(As you pointed out--some of those Pygmys have fled to drink in Colombia and Brazil.)
You and MT VOID readers may find a collection of articles about Venezuela to be far more interesting and far better-researched than my own poor efforts. Look here:
The point was not that Venezuela sells oil but Venezuela sells little but oil. Their whole economy was based on a substance whose value is decreasing. The reason is probably poor economic policy of depending on a single product. To add another metaphor, they had all their eggs in one basket. They did not realize how vulnerable their economy was until it went seriously bad. [-mrl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
GOOD-BYE TO ALL THAT by Robert Graves (ISBN 978-0-385-09330-9) is subtitled "An Autobiography", but given that he wrote it at the age of 33, before most of his career, it seems more like a "semi- autobiography" at best. On the other hand, he covers his years at public school and in the trenches during World War I, which one suspects are more interesting than the years afterwards. (And even in the trenches, his academic side was not completely subsumed; he spent time with Siegfried Sassoon, for example.)
I was a bit disappointed to find that Graves had re-edited this in 1957. Though he says in the epilogue that he merely deleted some uninteresting parts, expanded the section about T. E. Lawrence, and replaced pseudonyms with real names when the need for concealment no longer existed, I probably would prefer a "fresher" (more contemporaneous) version.
On the other hand, he does not seem to have softened his descriptions of trench warfare or other aspects of World War I, and this is the heart of the book, and the reason it is recommended.
A few weeks ago I reviewed President Grant's MEMOIRS, which led me to wonder which Presidents were consider the best writers. Naturally, there is no definitive ranking, but there is a consensus. Grant is very high, based almost entirely on his memoirs, though historians who have read his military orders and dispatches say that those were written with an admirable clarity of style.
Theodore Roosevelt is also near the top, with much more variety, writing books about his time in the Dakotas and his time exploring the Brazilian wilderness, as well as more political and sociological volumes.
Madison (for the "Federalist Papers" and other works) and Jefferson also rank high, but over time their style has come to seem more archaic and stilted.
Lincoln wrote his speeches and letters back before Presidents had speechwriters and at least some of his writings are considered masterpieces.
Some recent Presidents also made various lists: Kennedy (not for PROFILES IN COURAGE, which is generally conceded to have been ghost-written, but for his earlier book WHY ENGLAND SLEPT), Nixon, Carter, and Obama. But it is too soon to know if these will stand the test of time. Grant is still in print and is reasonably priced editions after 130 years, and Roosevelt's works as well continue to have a steady readership.
(Popular authorship among politicians is not unknown. Even before Vaclav Havel became president of Czechoslovakia, there had been heads of state also known as authors, with political opponents Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone among them, as well as Winston Churchill.) [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: Fashions have done more harm than revolutions. --Victor HugoTweet
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