MT VOID 12/13/19 -- Vol. 38, No. 24, Whole Number 2097

MT VOID 12/13/19 -- Vol. 38, No. 24, Whole Number 2097

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 12/13/19 -- Vol. 38, No. 24, Whole Number 2097

Table of Contents

      Co-Editor: Mark Leeper, Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper, Back issues at All material is copyrighted by author unless otherwise noted. All comments sent or posted will be assumed authorized for inclusion unless otherwise noted. To subscribe, send mail to To unsubscribe, send mail to

Mini Reviews, Part 1 (film reviews by Mark R. Leeper):

It is that time of year again when I vote on awards for films. This is one very nice perq of my hobby of writing film reviews and being a member of the Online Film Critic Society. Filmmakers and publicists *want* me to see their films in the hopes that they (the films, not the people) will be considered for awards. I get to see new films either on-line or I get discs. I have not yet worked out if the makers of films like ABOMINABLE really expect the critics to fall in love with their films. They offer me a chance to see their output and there always will be a few really good films.

I cannot write my usual format for every film I see, but I can write brief reviews. I do not know where these films will play. These films may play in local theaters or in Manhattan art houses. But I can let people know what to look for on Amazon Prime and/or NetFlix.

I will start with three science fiction films.

In the film IN MY ROOM Hans is a self-obsessed man who suddenly finds everyone else in the world has literally disappeared. He searches in vain to find someone else and to understand what happened to the world. The idea has been used before in THE WORLD, THE FLESH AND THE DEVIL and THE QUIET EARTH. In German with English subtitles. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4).

DEPRAVED is a low-budget reframing of FRANKENSTEIN. The setting is the 21st century for a violent envisioning with a color palette of reds and yellows. The audience sees the story unfolding and then maps the pieces into the original story. For example, in this version the character of Henry is Adam's friend and Polidori is financing the project. The creature is the product of drugs and medicine. Once the viewer gets into the story he can get into seeing this as an oddly faithful retelling of the Shelley novel. It is a downer but still fairly enjoyable on another level. Rating: low +2 (-4 to +4).

I suppose that ANYA qualifies as science fiction, though usually this is not the kind of science that science fiction is about. ANYA is about a couple who seem to be unable to have a baby without miscarrying. I suppose there is a science of fertility within biology and medicine. Marco wants to have a baby with Libby, but there seems to be something strange about Marco's ethic community. They seem to be infertile with anyone outside their community and any such mixed marriage is against the rules of the ethnic community. Such relationships are considered taboo, but nobody wants to help Marco find out why. Marco finds that the answers to his questions are far different than what he had expected. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4).


JOJO RABBIT (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: CAPSULE: Near the end of WWII a ten-year-old German boy who idolizes the German military finds he has to make some hard choices. While the film usually has high spirits, there are times when the viewer will not find the story a happy one. Directed and written by Taika Waititi. Rating: +3 (-4 to +4) or 8/10.

The time is very late World War II. The setting is a small town in Germany that luckily escaped any of the fighting. Jojo (played by Roman Griffin Davis) is ten years old and loves the war and the German warriors trying to celebrate the military. He has German propaganda posters all over his room. He has escaped the reality of his country's position. Jojo has an imaginary friend he talks to. The friend is Adolf Hitler. When Jojo has a problem he asks his friend Adolf.

Just now Jojo is particularly excited. He is joining the Deutsches Jungvolk. That is the branch of the Hitler Youth for younger boys, and something somewhere between the Boy Scouts and army war games. In the wood where they practice they look like a sea of brown shirts. They even get to use live weapons, which is a mistake for Jojo. He is too close to a hand grenade when it goes off. He breaks a leg and his face is disfigured for life. It is while he is on the mend that he starts hearing noises he cannot explain. His mother blames the noise on rats in the attic. Jojo happily goes around town defending German militarism and nationalism. And not surprisingly the topic comes to German anti-Semitism.

As strong as Jojo's relationship is with his mother (played by Scarlett Johansson), they disagree on the war. There is more to the story, but for that see the film. I rate it a +3 on the -4 to +4 scale, or 8/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:


THE AMERICANS: Six Seasons of the Best Spy Show Ever (television review by Dale Skran):

My wife and I just finished binging all six seasons of THE AMERICANS on Netflix. I'm a fan of spy shows, include ALIAS and the various NIKITAs, but THE AMERICANS stands head and shoulders above all the rest. In fact, a list on rotten tomatoes of the top 50 spy TV shows of all time places THE AMERICANS as #1, and I agree. This show is so good that the superlatives seem endless. Some of them include:

By now you may have figured out that I really liked THE AMERICANS. So, what might be wrong with the series? This is not a very long list.


THE AMERICANS, somewhat like THE SOPRANOS, does not wrap everything up in a nice bow. Here are some lose ends:

  • What happens to poor Oleg? Does he spend the rest of his life in an American jail? Oleg is the closest thing to a real hero in THE AMERICANS, and his fate is a terrible punishment for good deeds and good intentions.

  • Do Elizabeth and Phillip leave the spy business, or are they drawn into a secret civil war in the Soviet Union? Since they are already firmly established on one side, it is hard to image how they could retire and survive. But I think at this point they REALLY want to retire. And if anyone could disappear, it would be them.

  • Is Jenna a deep-cover KGB agent? FBI agent Stan Beeman ends the series looking at his live-in girlfriend sleeping, thinking about Phillip's final words of warning to him--that she might be a deep- cover agent as well.

  • And finally, and most importantly, just what does Paige do after her final scene? She decides to not follow her parents to the Soviet Union, and we last see her in the abandoned apartment of Claudia, Phillip and Elizabeth's KGB handler, in her "Canadian girl" disguise, drinking vodka shots. Unlike her brother, she was deeply involved in KGB operations, to the extent that living as Paige Jennings is not an option. She may want to look after her brother, but she is in effect now an illegal herself, and surely will be on an FBI wanted list. She certainly can't pursue her planned life as a second-generation illegal working at the State Department or go back to college as Paige Jennings. She also feels betrayed by her mother's lies about using sex to get information. Elizabeth has made it clear to Paige that "the work" requires severing all ties to friends and family. A visual parallel is drawn between scenes of Elizabeth sitting alone in her apartment in Moscow just prior to being sent to America as an illegal, and Paige sitting alone in an apartment in DC drinking Vodka shots. Paige is also a person who seeks to "make a difference" by sacrificing herself. She has been drawn to the KGB precisely because it does require sacrifice. So, what does this all mean? Paige could simply walk out the door and seek to live in America under her Canadian name. She would have to avoid drawing attention to herself, but her junior spy training seems sufficient to the task. Probably the FBI would never find her, in part because she would not be doing anything they might notice. But if this is her plan, why is she in Claudia's apartment at all? I can think of only one reason--she is waiting for Claudia's replacement to arrive, and killing time with the vodka shots. The vodka suggests her connection with Russia. Of course, she might also be waiting for the FBI to find the safe house. Perhaps she has decided that her future will be determined by who walks through the door first.

    As mentioned above, Oleg is probably the most heroic character. However, after decades of following orders and committing gruesome tasks for the KGB, both Phillip and even the always loyal Elizabeth turn on the KGB faction that is seeking to overthrow Gorbachev, with Elizabeth even killing another KGB agent. In this final unsanctioned act by Elizabeth, she may have balanced the lives she destroyed during her many operations as an illegal, since that final bullet may have prevented a new Stalin from rising to power, and all the subsequent evil that would inevitably follow, even, potentially to global war and destruction. Does Paige knowingly decide wait in Claudia's apartment simply to be, like her mother, one day the decisive fulcrum that makes a real difference? Or is she just confused Paige seeking an ideal to follow? Or confused Paige who just has no clue at all? As is often the case, THE AMERICANS provides no final answers.

    It should be noted that THE AMERICANS has a lot of realistic family drama. Few real couples are tested in the way Phillip and Elizabeth are, with their life of endless secrets, violent death around every corner, and simultaneous affairs with other people. Yet THE AMERICANS also works as a romance, as Phillip and Elizabeth, who were initially assigned to each other by the KGB, become first partners, then lovers and parents, and finally actually get married. In the end, they have shared so much that living apart is inconceivable; literally no one in the world has a clue about them except each other.

    My nomination for the saddest tale in THE AMERICANS is that of Stan Beeman. Among other things:

    I highly recommend THE AMERICANS. I am going with a +4 rating on the -4 to +4 sale. THE AMERICANS is the very best spy TV ever made. This is an R-rated show, with strong violent scenes, and a good deal of sex, and a certain amount of back nudity. There are a lot of morally ambiguous merging to evil actions by the main characters. For example, Elizabeth kills a couple in an apartment with a knife while their unknowing son watches TV in a nearby room. Although certainly not for kids in the slightest, I think mature teenagers would benefit from watching THE AMERICANS.


    Cooking (letter of comment by Jim Susky):

    In response to Evelyn's comments on "easy-to-make" veggie burgers in the 11/29/19 issue of the MT VOID, Jim Susky writes:

    Your comment on homemade veggie burgers reminded me of a bachelor kitchen adventure.

    Some time ago I watched as the wife made vanilla pudding. The "proof" thereby made me realize that in the 70s Bill Cosby was a liar regards the Jello "instant" product (or that his closed lip smile concealed a grimace).

    Later I thought I'd try my own hand in a solo effort. Out came Julia's ART OF FRENCH COOKING. Flip back to the index--Bavarian Cream! Forward to the recipe. Three pages later, I abandoned Julia and turned to "Betty" (Crocker). Much better--entire recipe on one column. One half hour later pudding was at hand (and in a bowl). [-js]

    Spicy Food (letters of comment by Peter Rubinstein and Peter Trei):

    In response to Mark's comments on wasabi in the 12/06/19 issue of the MT VOID, Peter Rubinstein writes:

    In most of the U. S. restaurants in which I have eaten, the wasabi is actually colored horseradish. Real wasabi is a completely different (better) experience. [-pr]

    Peter Trei writes:

    I think the critical insight is that birds can't taste capsaicinoids, but mammals can. You can protect your bird feeder from squirrels by adding ground chili pepper to the feed.

    The pepper wants to be eaten by a bird--the seeds pass through intact, and are distributed far in wide. Mammals do this thing called chewing, which destroys the seeds. The spice is thus a targeted defense against mammals. [-pt]

    Christmas Stories (letters of comment by Sam Long and Peter Trei):

    In response to Mark's comments on Christmas films in the 11/29/19 issue of the MT VOID, Sam Long writes:

    Ref the latest MT VOID, I direct your attention to this Wikipedia article: You'll get a chuckle out of it, I think. By the way, did you celebrate the feast of St Bibiana, patron of (sc. invoked against) hangovers, last Monday 2 December? [-sl]

    Peter Trei writes:

    Last night I watched both the Mr Magoo version, and the George C Scott 1984 rendition (*excellent*). Enjoyed both.

    Did a little second-screen reading. Some interesting points:

    * The Magoo version is quite literally the first TV holiday special ever broadcast.

    * Barbara Streisand's signature song 'People' was apparently first written for this show (for the scene where Belle breaks up with Scrooge), but didn't make it in.

    Also, apparently ACC is the most-adapted piece of literature in the Western Canon. Jim Hill did an analysis on no less than 40 adaptions back in 2006: (a.k.a. 'Scrooge U'). Oddly, he misses the 1984 George C Scott version).

    ... and that's not including the innumerable TV shows which adapted it into a Xmas special episode. [-pt]

    Evelyn responds:

    I suspect THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE has had more adaptations; Wikipedia says there have been 123 film adaptations (). [-ecl]

    This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

    HUNGRY HEARTS by Anzia Yezierska (Penguin, ISBN 978-0-14-118005-6) is about the immigrant experience. For example, the first-person narrator in "The Free Vacation House" hears about a program that will give her and her children two weeks in the country. When she expresses interest, a social worked shows up and starts asking her questions: How old is she? Where is she from? How long has she been in this country? What is her husband's name? How old is he? How long has he been in this country? What is his job? How much does he make? How much is the rent? How many children do they have? How old are they? Does anyone else live with them? She asks why all the questions, and is told that the charities want to make sure she deserves it. She doesn't want charity, but it seems there is no choice.

    Two weeks later she gets told they can go to the country the next day, and to go down to the office at 9AM. There she waits for over an hour, and then is asked the same questions: How old is she? Where is she from? How long has she been in this country? And so on. Then they are led through the street like children, and taken by train to the country, where a third person asks all the same questions, and then they are given a long set of rules about where they can go, what they can do, and so on; the people running the vacation house want to keep it looking nice in case the people paying for it come to inspect.

    Oh, and all this takes place in the 1910s, although it sounds very much like the way social programs are still implemented today.

    Many of the stories do seem more anchored in that earlier period, although when one thinks about them, there are many connections to the present. One of the biggest differences may be that the emphasis on marriage for girls back then is no longer as strong. While it is true that within many immigrant communities there is still this emphasis, the wider society has a much stronger effect on the opinions of the younger members.

    The ultimate effect is both to understand the period in which Yezierska wrote, and to understand our own a little bit better.

    There was also one story that reminded me oddly of an Agatha Christie story. "'The Fat of the Land'" is about Hannah, a woman who starts out in poverty, but her children manage to do well and eventually she is living in luxury instead of a slum apartment. But her children are ashamed of her because she still sounds and acts as though she is still in the slums, and she feels useless. So she goes to visit an old friend who is still in the slums, and finds that she [Hannah] has been spoiled by her comforts: she can't sleep on the rickety bed, the mice running across the floor keep her awake, and the place smells bad. She concludes that there is no place for her. "She had fled from the marble sepulcher of the Riverside apartment to her old home in the ghetto, but now she knew that she could not live there again. She had outgrown her past by the habits of physical comforts, and those material comforts that she could no longer do without choked and crushed the life within her."

    In Agatha Christie's "The Case of the Rich Woman". on the other hand, a rich woman goes to Parker Pyne, discontented with her wealthy life. Through a series of events, she finds herself living as a housemaid on a poor farm in a very distant part of Britain. The accommodations are basic, the food is simple, and the work is hard. Yet ultimately she chooses the farm because she is happy there. Admittedly, she is not in the desperate poverty of Hannah, but one gets the impression that Christie was never as poor as Yezierska, or even in contact with people as poor as those in Yezierska. (In fact, Christie was born into a wealthy upper- middle-class family.) It is easier to write about the nobility of poverty and hard work when one has had little or no experience of it. [-ecl]

                                              Mark Leeper
    Quote of the Week:
              He that lieth down with dogs, shall rise up with fleas. 
                                              --Benjamin Franklin

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