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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 06/18/21 -- Vol. 39, No. 51, Whole Number 2176
Table of Contents
Mini Reviews, Part 20 (film reviews by Mark R. Leeper and Evelyn C. Leeper):
Here is the twentieth--and last!--batch of mini-reviews: a couple of documentaries, a couple of musicals--basically what is left.
REBUILDING PARADISE: This covers the aftermath of the Camp Fire, which destroyed the town of Paradise, California (population 26,000 in 2010). The first ten minutes is entirely archival footage of the fire from cell phones, dash cams, and firefighting coverage. There is genuine suspense in not knowing if the people speaking during this will survive, and a real sense of relief when you hear someone on a dash cam saying, "Clear sky, guys, clear sky. We made it through," and seeing clear sky ahead of them. (Someone thought to turn around as they were leaving and take a shot of the "Welcome to Paradise" sign on fire--a very striking image.) As one firefighter understated, "We have a little bit of a fire storm here."
The rest of the film is about the period of dislocation after the fire, and about the attempts to rebuild Paradise. In addition to questions of whether one should rebuild a town in a highly dangerous area, there was also the problem of toxicity (e.g., the air and water were poisoned with benzene released by the fire). It is disheartening to see people making the same mistakes again. The evacuation was successful in the sense that of the 26,000 people, there were only 86 deaths. But the current population of Paradise is still only about 4500. Available on Hulu and Amazon Prime and on DVD. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4)
DADS: A dozen popular comedians and other celebrities give their thoughts, both comedic and serious, about fatherhood. There is nothing unexpected here, but there is extensive interview material. The Director is Ron Howard's daughter, and draws upon her family's experiences, including interviews from three generations of fathers. Released 06/19/20; available on Apple TV+. Rating: high 0 (-4 to +4)
MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM: Though this would appear at first glance to be a musical, the offstage discussion is better than the music, encompassing science topics, band politics, and more. In some sense, however, this is a feature-film-length blues song. This film is notable as Chadwick Boseman's final film. Released 11/25/20; available on Netflix.
And one review by Evelyn:
THE PROM: Based on the true story of a high school senior's fight to bring her girlfriend to the prom, this is a mix of drama (from the two girls, other students, and their families) and comedy (from the Broadway stars who see this as a PR opportunity). At the beginning, an African-American woman announces there will be no same-sex couples--but apparently interracial couples are okay-- which I find ironic. There was a reference to Ginger of GILLIGAN'S ISLAND, which was lucky; if they had picked Mary Ann, they probably would have to re-dub another name. What I found most annoying was that the stereotypically gay actor (?) spends a lot of time getting the lead all dressed up for the prom. But if part of the message is to be yourself, why try to make someone who's butch into a femme? All in all, in the subset of "acceptance musicals", it's no HAIRSPRAY. Released 11/25/20; available on Netflix. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) [-ecl]
Correction on Tom Clancy (comments by Keith F. Lynch):
Regarding Scott Dorsey's comments on Tom Clancy in the 06/04/21 issue of the MT VOID, Evelyn labeled them as pertaining to Jack Ryan:
"[Re Jack Ryan] You can take that up with Clancy. [-sd]"
But Keith F. Lynch writes:
Nobody mentioned Jack Ryan. We were discussing a different Clancy character, John Kelly a.k.a. John Clark. [-kfl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER by Octavia E. Butler (Warner Aspect, ISBN 0-446-60197-7) was published in 1993 and takes place beginning in 2024. At the time of publication, that was far in the future; now it's just around the corner. While comparing Butler's future with our (basically) present is not the point, once cannot help but do so.
For example, people keep talking about "when the country gets back on its feet and good times come back." Well, that sentiment keeps showing up after every downturn, but it seems particularly resonant now.
When Lauren says, "Most of the dead are the street poor who have nowhere to go and who don't hear the warnings until it's too late for their feet to take them to safety," it's hard not to think of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the poor of New Orleans who were told to evacuate, but given absolutely no way to do so.
She says, "In New York and New Jersey, a measles epidemic is killing people. Measles!" as if this is totally unbelievable. But in our 2019, there *was* a measles epidemic in New York.
Lauren talks of exoplanets; the first one was verified in 1992, right before the book's publication. We now know of thousands.
Other than all the predictions (failed and not), the book is basically a post-apocalyptic scenario, though it is more an apocalypse not with a bang, but with a whimper. There wasn't an atomic war, or a plague, or a big natural disaster--it's just that everything has been gradually going downhill. Butler tweaks it a bit by adding "hyperempathy syndrome"; the main character feels the pain she sees in other people. So if she shoots someone, even in self-defense, she feels it as if she had shot herself. It's an interesting idea (I have seen it done in other stories, possibly inspired by Butler), but having it just affecting one character makes it seem a bit of a gimmick. (I suppose one could argue that most people who would have it would either not survive it or be driven mad.)
There is a sequel, PARABLE OF THE TALENTS, and there was supposed to be a third, but Butler never finished it. PARABLE OF THE SOWER stands reasonably well on its own, though, so you would not be reading something that left you hanging as much as other trilogies might.
Oh, and Butler apparently assumed her readers knew what the Parable of the Sower was and did not explain it or quote the passage from Matthew 13 until the end of the book. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: If we would have new knowledge, we must get a whole world of new questions. --Susanne K. LangerTweet
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