• MT VOID, 10/21/22 -- Vol. 41, No. 17, Whole Number 2246

    From evelynchimelisleeper@gmail.com@21:1/5 to All on Sun Oct 23 06:34:48 2022
    10/21/22 -- Vol. 41, No. 17, Whole Number 2246

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    TCM'S October Programming
    GATTACA (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
    PRINCE OF DARKNESS (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
    THE CAPTAIN'S DAUGHTER by Peter F. Hamilton
    (audio book review by Joe Karpierz)
    This Week's Reading (THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE)
    (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


    TOPIC: TCM'S October Programming

    Turner Classic Movies has a couple of articles about their
    programming in October:

    Star of the Month: Robots

    <https://www.tcm.com/articles/Programming%20Article/021674/ star-of-the-month-robots?lid=srfvuhjd1wxh>

    Screamin' Shelley Winters

    <https://www.tcm.com/articles/Programming%20Article/021679/ screamin-shelley-winters?lid=a7r0l0ige2fe>


    TOPIC: GATTACA (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

    [In honor of GATTACA's 25th anniversary on October 24, here is
    Mark's original review of that film.]

    Capsule: GATTACA is a cold film that frequently stretches
    credibility, but still it stands as one of the more intelligent
    science fiction films of the 90s. Anatomy truly is destiny in a
    world where almost everything about you can be determined quickly
    from a DNA sample. One man with a dream of traveling in space
    carries out a long identity deception in a world where it should be
    impossible, by using another man's DNA to fool all the detectors.
    This is also a philosophical detective story a well as a science
    fiction film that looks deeply at the implications of too much
    genetic knowledge. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4), 8 (0 to 10)

    While some pairs of identical twins lead surprisingly similar
    lives, frequently they do not and frequently they show different
    interests and potential. So there are limitations on the
    information about the adult that can be augured by a DNA
    examination. That makes it seem to be unlikely that we would ever
    get to the world as it is shown in GATTACA where everything anyone
    wants to know about you is encoded into your DNA. However, GATTACA
    assumes that the world has decided that DNA is the most reliable
    way of judging a person in spite of counter-examples like Vincent
    (played by Ethan Hawke) the main character of this story. Vincent
    has been delegated to the labor class based on his DNA. He looks
    wistfully at the rockets blasting off from the Gattaca Corporation
    and dreams of going off into space. He is highly motivated, but
    nobody notices because his DNA says that he just does not have the
    potential to be much more than a floor sweeper, permanently a part
    of the under-class. One wonders how so inaccurate a test could be
    accepted without question by a society, particularly after age of
    civil rights and civil liberties advances.

    Vincent knows he does not have a chance of being chosen by the
    Gattaca Corporation for one of their probes into space, so he
    decides to literally reinvent himself. There is a criminal element
    who are willing to match him up with a human with a much better DNA
    structure who can supply him with hairs, urine samples, blood
    samples and any other kind of sample so that all the samples that
    Gattaca takes from him will really be from Jerome (Jude Law).
    Jerome agrees to live with Vincent, providing him with sufficient
    biological specimens to give to the company and letting Vincent
    take on Jerome's name. This is a tricky process involving things
    like false finger tips filled with Jerome's blood form the ID
    machine that takes a sample. We see how Vincent is occasionally
    able to substitute Jerome's specimens for his own, but it is never
    really convincing that he could do that whenever the need arises.
    Vincent romances a fellow employee Irene Cassini (Uma Thurman) who
    gets pulled into this web of deception.

    The story moves at a languorous pace showing how the world has
    changed since the conversion to the DNA standard. Andrew M. Niccol
    who wrote and directed has given us a "not too distant future" that
    is not entirely convincing, but is still worth seeing. Loose ends
    abound, but that may be part of the point. For example, Vincent
    has taken over for Jerome and is telling the world that he is the
    same person, but Jerome has a "toffee-nosed" British accent and so
    presumably comes from an environment that would produce such an
    accent. Vincent does not have a British accent at all. Yet nobody
    seems to even care to compare Vincent to his claimed background. It
    is hard to place how far this world is in the future. Women and
    men at Gattaca dress in almost identical uniforms and women wear
    their hair in almost masculine styles. Cars make the whining sound
    of turbines, but still look a lot like the cars of today.

    The photography by Slawomir Idziak is just a bit showy, bathing
    some scenes in yellow or blue light. Particularly in the first
    half of the film it is often his camerawork that creates the mood
    in scenes devoid of any music. It gives the world a repressive,
    sterile, dry feel. Michael Nyman's score when it does kick in is
    repetitive almost to the point of being minimalist.

    GATTACA has a few places where it could have had the details better
    developed, but it is a complex story, perhaps of the complexity of
    a novel. It is told without the too common problems of science
    fiction of too much special effects replacing careful thought. If
    anything, GATTACA is a film that substitutes intelligence for
    explosions. This is about people caught up in a sort of cautionary
    dystopic world. It may not be a likely world, but it has
    well-developed character in this world. Overall I would rate
    GATTACA a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale. [-mrl]


    TOPIC: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

    [And because it is Halloween and in honor of PRINCE OF DARKNESS's
    35th anniversary on October 23, here is Mark's original review of
    that film.]

    Capsule: A very demanding and very rewarding horror film. Horror
    and science fiction combine together to make a film for real
    long-standing horror film fans only. Lots of old stuff but a lot
    that even the long-time fans have not seen before. The last
    half-hour is a let-down, but it is hard to imagine an ending
    fitting the buildup. Rating: +2

    A lot of horror films are coming out about now. Released in one
    weekend are both PRINCE OF DARKNESS and NIGHT FLYERS. Earlier this
    year Clive Barker directed and wrote HELLRAISER. BELIEVERS, based
    on a respected horror novel, came out this year. Then there were a
    number of minor pieces of the NEAR DARK ilk. Horror, I understand,
    sells well on videocassette, so it is pretty tough for a horror
    film to lose money. I was vaguely aware that the aforementioned
    PRINCE OF DARKNESS was from John Carpenter, but he has had a spotty
    career. I like his DARK STAR, HALLOWEEN, THE THING, and maybe a
    few others. His most recent, BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, was a
    good idea that went amazingly bad. But then things are not always
    what we expect. PRINCE OF DARKNESS, for example, turns out to be
    the best thing that Carpenter has ever done. It may well be the
    fantasy film I will want to remember from 1987.

    For 2000 years the Brotherhood of Sleep have kept secret what
    Christianity was *really* about--have kept secret the true nature
    of evil and of the Devil, a secret with roots far older than
    humanity. Now, 2000 years after they discovered the secret, it is
    becoming important to understand it once more. The laws of physics
    are changing and the focus of all that is happening is one small
    rundown church in Los Angeles. There a group of scientists, their
    graduate students, and a priest are trying to unravel the mystery
    of what is happening. And what is happening will tie together
    particle physics, mathematics, and orthodox Christianity.

    PRINCE OF DARKNESS has everything it needs but the payoff. The
    final third of the film is good Carpenter-style suspense, but it
    fails to live up to the promise of the first two thirds of the
    movie. If it had, this would have been an excellent science
    fiction film as well as a good horror film. As it is, PRINCE OF
    DARKNESS is rich in ideas and has some good suspense to boot, but
    doesn't quite deliver.

    I really enjoyed the film, but have to give this film a qualified recommendation. It takes a lot of effort just to understand as
    much of what is going on as the director wants to show you. There
    are many scenes that are deliberately disturbing and a lot more
    that are violent, though it has been pointed out to me that there
    is very little actual blood. If you haven't seen many horror
    films, you may not find this one worth your effort; there are a lot
    of other good films out there. If you have seen a lot of horror
    films, you will recognize little ideas here and there from (are you
    Yes, there are recognizable ideas inspired by each of these, yet
    there are so many new ideas in this horror film that the familiar
    ones are outnumbered.

    The name of the man who crafted all these ideas into a single
    screenplay is Martin Quatermass. Perhaps that is a pseudonym and
    even a film reference. Since some of the images, like the marauding
    street schizophrenics, are reminiscent of images out of Carpenter's
    conceivable that the film was written by Carpenter himself. In any
    case, it is often hard to follow exactly what is happening; the
    film makes the audience work a little. And a little knowledge of
    paradoxical 20th Century physics helps to set the atmosphere
    (that's a remarkable statement all by itself!).

    If you are tired of seeing old ideas rehashed in horror films,
    PRINCE OF DARKNESS will show you a lot you haven't seen before.
    You people (and me) who wanted to see a horror film of power in
    Clive Barker's HELLRAISER: sorry, Barker didn't deliver, but PRINCE
    OF DARKNESS is what you were expecting. I'd give it a high +2 on
    the -4 to +4 scale.

    DISCLAIMER: As might be obvious, a film that audaciously plays
    with ideas will appeal to me more than to the viewing public at
    large. A prime example is LIFEFORCE, itself a film that gave a
    science fictional alternate interpretation to traditional beliefs.


    TOPIC: THE CAPTAIN'S DAUGHTER by Peter F. Hamilton (copyright 2022,
    Tantor Audio, ASIN B09P9SS761, 9 hours and 32 minutes, narrated by
    Elizabeth Klett) (audio book review by Joe Karpierz)

    THE CAPTAIN'S DAUGHTER, second book in the audio-only YA Arkship
    Trilogy by Peter F. Hamilton, picks up where the first audio book
    in the series, A HOLE IN THE SKY, left off. Hazel and her band of
    friends, have sealed the hole in the hull of the Daedalus, through
    which air was leaking out and giving people headaches because of
    the low pressure. This act, in turn, has angered the Yi, the
    creatures that have taken over control of the Daedalus. The Yi, if
    you remember, essentially put the members of the colony ship into a
    sort of agrarian society, and have perpetrated the story that
    things are the way they are because of a mutiny that happened
    several hundred years ago. But now Hazel knows better, and is
    trying to give that information to the rest of the colonists. This
    knowledge, and much more, was given to her by a command AI she
    encountered at the front of the ship; what's more, it turns out
    she's actually the Captain's Daughter--well, she's the descendant
    of the Captain, which makes her the Captain of the Daedalus. It is
    a role she neither wants nor is ready for. But now, it's time to
    go find another command AI--at the behest of the first one--that
    can tell her more of what happened during the mutiny.
    Unfortunately, what she finds out is not very pleasant--as if what
    she's already found out isn't unpleasant enough as it is. So now,
    she must find a way to take back the ship, and with the help of
    friends and family she sets off to do just that.

    THE CAPTAIN'S DAUGHTER suffers from being the second book in a
    trilogy. It is a bridge between the setup and the finale, and
    while the information the reader learns about the Yi and the
    history of the Daedalus is important and useful, there really isn't
    that much advancement of the plot of the narrative. What Hamilton
    does in this installment is make us intensely dislike the Yi, to
    the point of being disgusted with them. If there is an advancement
    in the plot, it's to make things worse for the band of heroes that
    is out to save the colonists and the mission of getting to a colony

    That's not to say that THE CAPTAIN'S DAUGHTER is a bad book; it is
    not. But it really doesn't do much to advance the characters from
    when we first met them. If there is a fault with what goes on here,
    it's that Hazel--the titular character of the book--is continually
    bailed about by her whip-smart younger brother. If one of the
    points of the exercise in the Arkship Trilogy is to show the
    independence and leadership of its female lead character, it's not
    doing too good of a job.

    What it does do well is showcase Hamilton's skills at writing alien
    creatures, battle scenes, and inter-character dynamics. And while,
    like the first book, the storytelling is linear and more
    constrained--in a colony ship rather than out in the vastness of
    space--we see the same techniques that Hamilton uses in his
    standard "wide screen space operas". They are just muted, as the
    story dictates that they need to be.

    Readers need to remember that the Arkship Trilogy is YA, and in the
    confines of that space Hamilton does a pretty good job. No, it's
    not like his other works, but it's not intended to be. It needs to
    be read and enjoyed--or not--on its own merits for what it is.

    I see that in my review of A HOLE IN THE SKY I say that the name of
    the narrator is Elizabeth Katt. Her correct name is Elizabeth
    Klett, and my apologies go out to her. She is doing a fine job of
    narrating the Arkship Trilogy novels. I'm sure she'll do just as
    fine a job on the third one. [-jak]


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

    I recently re-watched THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE, which prompted
    me to read (re-read?) the book by Muriel Spark (Penguin, ISBN 978-0-141-18142-4). The film has a timeless theme: the charismatic
    leader who is more concerned with their own power than with what is
    right or beneficial for their followers. Miss Brodie idolizes
    Franco, Mussolini, and her own opinions, and transmits these
    beliefs to some of her students that she has picked out as "Miss
    Brodie's set". (This obviously now reminds one of "Jerry's Kids".
    perhaps a not-inapt comparison.) One suspects she chooses "her"
    girls as the ones most suggestible, or useful to her.

    And of course, she sees herself, and her girls, as not constrained
    by societal rules or morality. (Of one, she says, "She is above
    the common moral code, it does not apply to her." Miss Brodie has
    had a sequence of lovers, and sees no problem with trying to get
    one of them to take a sixteen(?)-year-old girl as his next lover.
    But they have to follow her rules; for example, she criticizes one
    girl for opening the window more than the six inches she deems
    appropriate, and another for having her sleeves rolled up.

    And of course the theme is timeless--throughout history charismatic
    egotists have manipulated people to their own ends (which made just
    be to gain a feeling of power). One might argue that the notion of
    teachers inculcating their ideas and beliefs into their students,
    independent of what the government or school administration might
    want, but the idea go back as far as Socrates, tried and executing
    for corrupting his students, the youth of Athens.

    Spark has an unusual writing style. Her narrative jumps around in
    time, not just be having flashbacks in an otherwise straight
    timeline, but by jumping forward as well as backward, and having
    these jump not in their own chronological order. She also uses a
    technique reminiscent of Homeric poetry, where she has a
    descriptive phrase that is frequently (but not always) attached to
    the various girls. For example, one girl is frequently described
    as "famous for sex" even when that is irrelevant. Another has her
    mathematical ability cited. One is a gymnast, and at one point
    Miss Brodie orders her to perform some somersaults to entertain the
    other girls--yet another example of Miss Brodie's dictatorial bent.

    (Significantly, in the book it is not any immorality on Miss
    Brodie's part that causes her downfall, but her politics.)

    The book is good (and was named one of the "Top 100
    English-Language Novels of the 20th Century" by the Modern
    Library), but the 1969 film is great. [-ecl]


    Mark Leeper

    All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling.
    --Oscar Wilde

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  • From Gary McGath@21:1/5 to eleeper@optonline.net on Mon Oct 24 05:51:11 2022
    On 10/23/22 9:34 AM, eleeper@optonline.net wrote:

    TOPIC: GATTACA (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

    [In honor of GATTACA's 25th anniversary on October 24, here is
    Mark's original review of that film.]

    One wonders how so inaccurate a test could be
    accepted without question by a society, particularly after age of
    civil rights and civil liberties advances.

    I loved the movie and don't find it difficult to believe that a future
    society would find new things to fetishize. The society portrayed there
    didn't strike me as particularly strong on civil liberties. It appeared
    very conformist.

    Gary McGath http://www.mcgath.com

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  • From Joy Beeson@21:1/5 to garym@REMOVEmcgathREMOVE.com on Sat Nov 5 20:53:26 2022
    On Mon, 24 Oct 2022 05:51:11 -0400, Gary McGath
    <garym@REMOVEmcgathREMOVE.com> wrote:

    The society portrayed there
    didn't strike me as particularly strong on civil liberties. It appeared
    very conformist.

    We are headed there in a handbasket.

    Joy (I've been off-line for a while) Beeson
    joy beeson at centurylink dot net

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