MT VOID 07/23/99 (Vol. 18, Number 4)

MT VOID 07/23/99 (Vol. 18, Number 4)

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 07/23/99 -- Vol. 18, No. 4

Table of Contents

Outside events: The Science Fiction Association of Bergen County meets on the second Saturday of every month in Upper Saddle River; call 201-447-3652 for details.

Chair/Librarian: Mark Leeper, 732-817-5619,
Factotum: Evelyn Leeper, 732-332-6218,
Distinguished Heinlein Apologist: Rob Mitchell,
HO Chair Emeritus: John Jetzt,
HO Librarian Emeritus: Nick Sauer,
Back issues at
All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.

George "Lan" Laskowski

I was looking for something to write about in this week's notice. This was not what I wanted to write about. I have written obituaries in this notice before, but it was always for someone I had never really met. I just wanted to call attention to somebody's work and let people know who died. Few people that I really can call friends are also people closely enough associated with science fiction that I would be likely to write an obituary here. But George Laskowski was both a good friend and a major figure in science fiction fandom.

I met George when I lived in the Detroit area. We joined a science fiction discussion group that turned out to be mostly two couples. Evelyn and I were one couple and Cathy and Jack Robinson were the other. Cathy had another friend interested in science fiction. The friend was George, a quiet mathematics teacher from Cranbrook High School. We discussed science fiction and occasionally even mathematics. George knew science fiction, but he did not know that there really was an organized fandom of science fiction in the area. Our other science fiction activity at the time was attending the Wednesday night meetings of the Third Foundation, the Wayne State University. We thought George might like it and invited him to join us.

George took to science fiction fandom in a way we never had. His pleasant manner won over people whether he went. Soon he took to "fannish" ways. He went to science fiction conventions and to set himself apart he started wearing a coonskin cap (fake coon, I am sure). Because as a boy he loved Green Lantern comic books and the main character in those comics had a secret name Lan, and he took that as his fannish name. And very soon he started publishing his own fanzine, "Lan's Lantern." I wrote at least one article for him before leaving Detroit. When I came to Bell Laboratories and Evelyn and I founded the science fiction club here, and I had to write articles for the weekly notice. Lan had reprint rights to anything I had written. It was an arrangement that more than paid off for me as his fanzine became the best of the classic-style fanzines (in my opinion). My articles hobnobbed with those of some very good people. I got to discuss topics I enjoyed with some very impressive writers. Lan would take a selection of my film reviews and gave me my own regular department in the "Lantern." He did the same with Evelyn's book reviews.

EYES WIDE SHUT (a film review by Mark R. Leeper):

Capsule: What starts as an exploration of sexual mores takes a turn for the bizarre, then becomes a paranoia suspense thriller with an unexpected nod to 18th century European history. This film is probably not as erotic as people might be expecting, nor is it a deep self-contemplative piece, but it still is a surprisingly rewarding film. Rating: 7 (0 to 10), low +2 (-4 to +4). SPOILER WARNING: Following the review (and a spoiler warning) I have a historical note relevant to the plot of this film.

The way to become rich in the American entertainment industry is to give the public what it wants. Evidently what the public wants is to see Nicole Kidman nude. Last season Broadway offered NICOLE KIDMAN NUDE: THE PLAY, officially titled THE BLUE ROOM. The draw of this play was apparently from all the publicity that one got with the price of a ticket a quick look at Nicole Kidman starkers. And free with the look you got a reputedly mediocre play about sexual mores.

But most of the country could not get to Broadway to see this theatrical indelicacy. Now no less a filmmaker than the late Stanley Kubrick brings to the screen NICOLE KIDMAN NUDE: THE MOTION PICTURE, officially titles EYES WIDE SHUT. The film is not based on THE BLUE ROOM--it just happens to be another story about sexual mores. Kubrick himself is no stranger to the act of bringing heavenly bodies to the motion picture screen. But I do not remember another film that has so titillated the audience into wanting to see the body of a major character since GODZILLA. And in fact, Kidman does show off her body so frequently and so gratuitously in the early part of this film we can only conclude that she has decided she likes doing it. The irony is that her character's nudity and even her sexuality is only tangential to the main line of the plot. Most of the scenes of nudity, the first one being a good 60 seconds into the film, are added totally gratuitously.

As the film opens successful young physician William Harford (Tom Cruise) and his wife Alice (his wife Kidman), a stylish and wealthy New York couple, are preparing to go out for the evening. They are going to a Christmas party at the palatial home of the well- connected Victor Ziegler (Sydney Pollack). When they get to the party both Harfords find themselves being seduced by other guests. William is set upon by two young models, Alice by a somewhat older Hungarian Lothario (Sky Dumont) who quotes Oscar Wilde as if the wit was his own. The Harfords each resist, but the tension later causes a rift in their marriage that has them each questioning their relationship. But that disagreement is only the background for the central action, a bizarre chain of incidents sparked by a chance meeting at the party.

That evening the Harfords have a sort of sophomoric argument on sexuality that does little more than show that both William and Alice are each in their own ways naive about sex. Kubrick allows the argument, and much that follows it, to go on way too long. With 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY Kubrick started pacing his film more slowly. Going counter to the trend of films moving faster, Kubrick has made the pacing of his films more deliberate and occasionally more textured. In this pacing some points get really belabored. A few of his sequences seem to go on much too long and his storytelling is characterized by foot-dragging.

EYES WIDE SHUT is not in all ways a well-directed film in spite of the Kubrick name. Cruise's acting style seems limited to facial expression. There is little emotional impact in his performance. Kidman goes through a wider emotional range more believably, but still there is nothing impressive done here. Ironically Spartacus and Varinia in SPARTACUS make a more compelling couple than William and Alice played by an actual husband and wife in EYES WIDE SHUT. Stanley Kubrick's final film surprises the viewer with an engaging thriller plot involving a sinister forces having their roots in history. There are some surprising problems with the film but it is not without its moments of delight. I rate it a 7 on the 0 to 10 scale and a low +2 on the -4 to +4 scale.

Spoiler... Spoiler... Spoiler... Spoiler...

The society that we see portrayed in this film is almost certainly based on one that did exist, though the original probably died out in the middle 18th century. The original is popularly called the Hellfire Club (though members called themselves "The Monks of Medmenham") and it was for a time an important force in European, and particularly British, politics. Like the society that Kubrick shows us here it was a secret society; even most members may not have known who the other members were. The secret society combined satanic mysticism--either real or feigned, probably some of both-- and orgies.

The founder and leader of the secret society was Sir Francis Dashwood, an influential Member of Parliament and eventually Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is not known with any sureness who else was a "monk." One person who it is strongly rumored was a member or perhaps only an honorary member but a repeated guest was Benjamin Franklin. The Earl of Sandwich was certainly also a member. (As an aside, if his name sounds a little funny the latter was not surprisingly also an avid gambler. His unwillingness to leave the gaming table to eat caused him to invent a food concoction more portable than a plate of food. He would grasp a piece of meat in the hand between two slices of bread. And that's the origin of the "sandwich" and of its name.)

Other members of the Hellfire Club included painter William Hogarth and politician John Wilkes. The club met and had their orgies and their strange ceremonies at Medmenham Abbey. Meeting at the chapel of the abbey and at the West Wycombe caves near the Dashwood estate, the club held strange ceremonies and orgies very much like the ones we saw in the film. For more information, read [-mrl]

RUN, LOLA, RUN (a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

Capsule: This is a very high-energy German film using some experimental cinematic techniques. The film tells three alternate timelines for a woman who has twenty minutes to get 100,000 Deutsche Marks. Lola makes different decisions and different coincidences occur so the event has three very different outcomes. The film sometimes is contrived and does not play fair with the viewer, but for a low-budget film, this is worth seeing. Rating: 6 (0 to 10), high +1 (-4 to +4)

It has been suggested that history is a random walk affected by uncountably many tiny events, most too small to even notice. Chaos theory suggests that tiny changes lead to immense differences later in time. RUN, LOLA, RUN is a very clever low-budget film from Germany in which explores this idea. We see Lola (played by Franka Potente with day-glow red hair) live the same twenty or so minutes of crisis in three different ways (though each involves running a great deal). And we see how the outcome is different because of those choices.

Lola has lived with her boyfriend Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu) for about a year when the crisis takes place. Manni has a job acting as courier in a drug deal. In a moment of confusion Manni leaves a bag with 100,000 Deutsche Marks (roughly $50,000) on a subway. In a few minutes Manni will have to face his bosses. If he is without the money, he will probably be killed for his mistake. Rather than do that, Manni decides he will probably take his chances robbing a grocery. In a moment of panic he calls Lola and tells her what he is going to do in just twenty minutes. If Lola can get to him in twenty minutes with 100,000 Marks, he will abort his planned robbery. What does Lola do? In three different futures she handles the situation in three somewhat different ways and things turn out differently because of her efforts.

In the opening this film, written and directed by Tom Tykwer, talks about universal questions and suggests that this film will be driving at some answers. However any conclusions that RUN, LOLA, RUN draws are really suspect. The individual stories are contrived in many ways. Some coincidences are acceptable, but there are too many to make these three futures believable. In a cinematic version of snapshots we see the future for some of the tangential characters and it seems very different based on how Lola runs past the person. No mechanism for what is causing the differences is shown. In addition, Lola has some strange power that can only be called a "magical shriek" that has powers never explained. It makes the film a fantasy, in spite of otherwise realistic treatment of the alternate worlds. So in some senses this film is not as good as SLIDING DOORS, another film, far from perfect, on a very similar theme. And another problem is that the timing seems inconsistent between segments. If the first story took twenty minutes, they other two should have taken considerably longer. But even more serious is the fact we do not really get to know the main characters very well. Nobody's character is particularly well developed or made more comprehensible in the course of the film.

On the other hand, this film effortlessly shifts gears among film, video, and animation. The use of the different media probably allowed for some budget savings in what is clearly a low-budget film. The only time that the budget becomes an obvious problem is when the subtitles in the United States version are white on a white background making them impossible to read. The pace of even the opening credits are enough to leave the viewer panting. It seems to be an amalgam of many different cinematic styles, and the film makes that work. We learn a great deal about some of the characters by seeing them in the same situation but handling it three different ways.

RUN, LOLA, RUN is an unexpectedly provocative film that will be remembered as a curious novelty, if for no other reason. I rate it a 6 on the 0 to 10 scale and a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale. [- mrl]

                                   Mark Leeper
                                   HO 1K-644 732-817-5619

Quote of the Week:

     Democracy gives every man the right to be oppressor.
                                   -- James Russell Lowell