Mini Reviews, Part 1 (A TRIP TO INFINITY, HUSTLE, and
OPERATION SEAWOLF) (film reviews by Mark R. Leeper
and Evelyn C. Leeper)
This Week's Reading (THE SIRENS OF TITAN, BETWEEN TIME AND
TIMBUKTU) (book and film comments
by Evelyn C. Leeper)
TOPIC: Mini Reviews, Part 1 (film reviews by Mark R. Leeper and
Evelyn C. 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 (OFCS).
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 (or
used to--these seem to be on the way out).
I cannot write my usual format for every film I see, but I can
write brief reviews for many. I do not always know where these
films will play (or have played). 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, NetFlix, and other streaming
services (of which there is no end).
This year is a bit closer to a standard year, as the Academy
gradually pulls back the date of the ceremony. They used to be at
the end of February, then in 2021 (for the 2020 films) they were at
the end of April, and in 2022 (for the 2021 films) at the end of
March. In 2023, they are in the middle of March (March 12). The
OFCS will announce their choices for 2022 in mid-January of 2023,
though I expect our mini-reviews to extend well past that date.
(If that was hard to follow, skip it.)
As was true last year, these reviews are a collaboration between
Evelyn and me. [-mrl]
A TRIP TO INFINITY: A TRIP TO INFINITY uses interviews, films, and
a variety of animation styles to try to explain infinity, both as a mathematical concept an as how it relates to the universe, both in
the small and the large. For example, if we look at any piece of
matter in the universe, eventually its in pieces and if we look at
this film it is in discrete sequences of vary interesting
mathematics and physics. Some of the questions are inane ("Is
human creativity infinite?"), but on the whole this is both
worthwhile an enjoyable to watch.
Released on Netflix streaming 26 September 2022. Rating: +2 (-4 to
+4) or 7/10
HUSTLE: I rarely like sports films, but this seems to have some
serious content. Adam Sandler stars in the story of a basketball
scout (and would-be coach) for the Philadelphia 76ers who finds an
amazing player in Spain, and works against all odds to train him to
make it into the NBA. Robert Duvall (in spite of fairly high
billing) has a small part. There is also Juancho Hernangomez (an
actual professional basketball player) as the prodigy (and
reminiscent of Lock Martin as Gort in THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL
(1951)), as well as many real basketball players and personalities.
(If you are not a basketball fan, you won't recognize the players,
or even their names, and the jargon will probably confuse you as
well.) This covers the ethics of basketball management as well as
the nuances of coaching. Though it is predictable in that it
follows a well-worn sports film trajectory
it is still fairly enjoyable.
[As for the more informed viewers, a friend of ours who is a
basketball fan from Philadelphia said, "It was super-fun and well
worth the watch."]
Released on Netflix streaming: 08 June 2022. Rating: low +2 or 7/10
OPERATION SEAWOLF: The first scene of OPERATION SEAWOLF takes place
near the end of World War I (May 12, 1918), when we see a young
Hans Kessler serving on a German U-boat that is torpedoed. This is
done with a mix of English with German accents, and German with
English subtitles. Luckily, they abandon this technique early on.
Throughout they could really have used subtitles to make it
possible to understand the accents and the sometimes muffled sound,
but screeners often do not provide these. The main part of the
film is of Kessler at the end of World War II (April 27, 1945),
when he is chosen to lead an attack on the United States homeland
by using a submarine to bring a V-2 rocket within range of New York
City. (We should point out that this movie is fiction, and not
based on an historical event.)
The underwater scenes seem partly produced by showing an empty room
and smoke, and partly by simple animation. One scene appears to be
borrowed from the "Panzerlied" scene of the film THE BATTLE OF THE
Having an African American officer and crew on a submarine chaser
seemed jarring, but was actually basically accurate, except that
Captain Samuel L. Gravely, Jr., did not come aboard USS PC-1264 (as
an ensign) until after the events of the movie. (The actor, Hiram
A. Murray, bears a striking resemblance to the real Gravely.)
The film is primarily about the conflicts within the German
military towards the end of the war: some wanted to fight on even
when the result was obvious, while others felt that would be
futile. Kessler is dismissive of the crew he is assigned (he says
that are not wolves, they are boys), and this results in various
acts of implicit disobedience that form the backbone of the film.
Released theatrically 10/03/2022. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
TOPIC: This Week's Reading (book and film comments by Evelyn
Our book discussion chose THE SIRENS OF TITAN by Kurt Vonnegut
(Dial, ISBN 978-0-385-33349-8) in honor of Vonnegut's centenary
this year. I had read this back in college, but after a half
century, very little stuck with me except for the "chronosynclastic infundibulum". But this time a couple of passages struck me:
"We are disgusted by Malachi Constant,' said Winston Niles Rumfoord
up in his treetop, 'because he used the fantastic fruits of his
fantastic good luck to finance an unending demonstration that man
is a pig. He wallowed in sycophants. He wallowed in worthless
women. He wallowed in lascivious entertainments and alcohol and
drugs. He wallowed in every known form of voluptuous turpitude.
'At the height of his good luck, Malachi Constant was worth more
than the states of Utah and North Dakota combined. Yet, I daresay,
his moral worth was not that of the most corrupt little fieldmouse
in either state.
'We are angered by Malachi Constant,' said Rumfoord up in his
treetop, 'because he did nothing to deserve his billions, and
because he did nothing unselfish or imaginative with his billions.
He was as benevolent as Marie Antoinette, as creative as a
professor of cosmetology in an embalming college.
'We hate Malachi Constant,' said Rumford up in his treetop,
'because he accepted the fantastic fruits of his fantastic good
luck without a qualm, as though luck were the hand of God. To us of
the Church of God the Utterly Indifferent, there is nothing more
cruel, more dangerous, more blasphemous that a man can do than to
believe that--that luck, good or bad, is the hand of God!"
"Once upon a time on Tralfamadore there were creatures who weren't
anything like machines. They weren't dependable. They weren't
efficient. They weren't predictable. They weren't durable. And
these poor creatures were obsessed by the idea that everything that
existed had to have a purpose, and that some purposes were higher
than others. These creatures spent most of their time trying to
find out what their purpose was. And every time they found out what
seemed to be a purpose of themselves, the purpose seemed so low
that the creatures were filled with disgust and shame. And, rather
than serve such a low purpose, the creatures would make a machine
to serve it. This left the creatures free to serve higher purposes.
But whenever they found a higher purpose, the purpose still wasn't
high enough. So machines were made to serve higher purposes, too.
And the machines did everything so expertly that they were finally
given the job of finding out what the highest purpose of the
creatures could be. The machines reported in all honesty that the
creatures couldn't really be said to have any purpose at all. The
creatures thereupon began slaying each other, because they hated
purposeless things above all else. And they discovered that they
weren't even very good at slaying. So they turned that job over to
the machines, too. And the machines finished up the job in less
time than it takes to say, 'Tralfamadore.'"
Our book-and-movie group was more a movie-and-book group this
month, because the book for BETWEEN TIME AND TIMBUKTU by Kurt
Vonnegut, Jr., (Bantam Doubleday Dial, ISBN 978-0-440-00719-7) was
done after the movie (teleplay, really), and consists of the script interspersed with stills from the film. The film itself is a
compilation of ideas from several of Vonnegut's works, including
THE SIRENS OF TITAN and CAT'S CRADLE.
I have a few observations about the movie. It had way more women
in NASA Mission Control in the movie than in real life during that
era. And the Holiday Inn no longer costs $30 a night.
There were a lot of jokes about Tang. At least Tang was really
used in the astronaut program, although it was developed over a
decade earlier. The freeze-dried ice cream ("astronaut ice cream")
that we used to see in gift shops was developed *for* the space
program, but never used in it.
Vonnegut apparently likes to create fictional religions (not unlike
other science fiction writers). In CAT'S CRADLE, Bokononism is a
religion that identifies with its own falseness, "a religion of
harmless lies". (I'm sure that's a jab at all the "real"
religions, most of which have lies not so harmless.) The Church of
God the Utterly Indifferent is from THE SIRENS OF TITAN and sounds
(at me, anyway) a lot like Deism. [-ecl]