• MT VOID, 06/02/23 -- Vol. 41, No. 49, Whole Number 2278

    From evelynchimelisleeper@gmail.com@21:1/5 to All on Sun Jun 4 07:40:45 2023
    06/02/23 -- Vol. 41, No. 49, Whole Number 2278

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    THE TRUMAN SHOW (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
    Film Triangles (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)
    (letter of comment by John Purcell)
    Tree of Life Plant (letter of comment by Art Kaletsky)
    This Week's Reading ("Rabbi Ben Ezra") (book comments
    by Evelyn C. Leeper)


    TOPIC: THE TRUMAN SHOW (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

    [In honor of THE TRUMAN SHOW's 25th anniversary on June 5, here is
    Mark's original review of that film.]

    Capsule: A man lives his life not realizing that he is on
    television and an audience of millions watches his every move.
    But the game is starting to slip and Truman is beginning to guess
    that reality is not what he thinks it is. Jim Carrey stars in an
    old science fiction idea that is new to films. After several years
    Peter Weir returns to the weird. Rating: 9 (0 to 10), +3 (-4 to
    +4) SPOILER WARNING: The premise of THE TRUMAN SHOW is told in
    all of the trailers, but it is not fully revealed until well into
    the film. This review does discuss that premise.

    There was a time when Australian Peter Weir made strange and quirky
    WAVE. But Weir lost that level of creativity at some point. His
    films were more professional and perhaps more polished, but they
    were closer to Hollywood fare. At most they had just a small
    whiff of the strange his earlier films had. It has been a long
    time since Weir made a film as enthralling philosophically as THE
    TRUMAN SHOW. Weir looks at the media and what it is doing to both
    the viewer and the person under media scrutiny. The film also
    takes a playful look at the relationship between humanity and God.

    Truman Burbank (played by Jim Carrey) is now thirty and through his
    whole life he has been off-camera only in his most private
    moments. In some unspecified number of years, in the future people
    all over the world tune in to watch THE TRUMAN SHOW and track how
    his life is progressing. As sort of a cross between AN AMERICAN
    FAMILY and CANDID CAMERA, "The Truman Show" follows one character
    through his every day and even his every move. Truman has no idea
    that he is being watched. If he knew it would spoil the entire
    project. And a phenomenal investment has been put into creating
    the huge domed studio the size of a town with cameras everywhere
    to relay to the world everything that happens to Truman.

    The whole project is the brainchild of the godlike producer
    Christof (Ed Harris). No effort has been spared to build the
    unbelievable domed studio or to ingrain phobias into Truman so that
    he is afraid to stray too far from his home. As part of the
    latter effort we see a visit to a travel agent who has decorated
    her office with marvelous anti-travel posters. Christof has
    programmed nearly everything that has ever happened to Truman.
    Christof has cast the important people in Truman's life including
    his supposed parents and his wife Meryl (Laura Linney of TALES OF
    THE CITY). Meryl's responsibilities include keeping Truman in line
    and unsuspecting, delivering charming commercials for sponsors'
    products placed into Truman's world, and above all to keep
    smiling. But things are getting a little difficult for Meryl as
    Christof's production staff gets a little sloppy: lights fall from
    a clear sky and supposedly dead characters from Truman's past find
    their way back onto the show set. Truman is starting to get
    suspicious that there is something not right about his reality.

    Does Jim Carrey do a good job of playing Truman Burbank? That is a
    very difficult question to answer. At first brush it would seem
    not. Carrey is his usual weird and does his trademarked brand of
    clowning around. Is this the way someone raised on camera with
    scripted experience would behave? Probably not, but it is unclear
    how he would behave. He almost certainly would lean to some form
    of weird. Whether this is one way he could be weird is hard to
    tell. The constantly smiling Laura Linney is at first charming
    and quickly becomes grating, but again these are unusual
    circumstances. She would not behave like an actress because this
    is like almost no acting job has ever been. She would have to be
    constantly improvising and be onstage 16 to 24 hours a day, year
    in and year out. Her role would have to be her primary life.
    Perhaps her little Stepford wife is precisely what would result.
    Rounding out the major characters is Ed Harris as the de facto god
    of Truman's world. Harris takes his role in a quiet understated
    manner and does a fine job.

    I would have loved to have seen THE TRUMAN SHOW cold, having no
    idea what the film was about. Unfortunately the ads give much too
    much away. There is a slow build to where the viewer is told the
    information in the trailer. Much of the mystery of Andrew Niccol's
    script (as complex as his script for GATTACA) is lost. One of the
    big holes, however, is that this is a much less believable story if
    taken literally rather than as allegory. One must believe that
    there are thousands of actors in Truman's world who are just
    waiting months or years to be cued. There are probably parts of
    Truman's town that he never visits, but the actors have to be
    prepared if he does. Fantastic preparedness must be arranged for contingencies that probably will never occur. In addition, the
    number of cameras needed to produce THE TRUMAN SHOW must be
    literally phenomenal. At one point Christof estimates that 5000
    cameras are used to cover all the places that Truman might
    possibly go. A little back of the envelope calculation will show
    that figure has got to be orders of magnitude low without a fair
    risk of losing Truman. The town as shown must be about nine
    square miles and then Truman goes off into the woods in the course
    of the film. The logistics of setting up and running this
    pseudo-town seem more and more complex the more one thinks about
    them. But again, this is more a religious allegory than a science
    fiction story to be taken literally. Niccol has a lot of fun
    playing with the various features of the artificial sky as a
    recurrent theme in the film, but also giving the film a sort of
    medieval cosmology.

    Music is by Burkhart (von) Dallwitz and seems to consist mostly of
    easy listening and classical music on a sort of celestial, New Age
    theme. The idea for THE TRUMAN SHOW is one that has been done in
    science fiction several times previously. Then there are ideas
    borrowed from other sources like the 60s TV show THE PRISONER. I
    would rate THE TRUMAN SHOW a 9 on the 0 to 10 scale and a +3 on the
    -4 to +4 scale. This is Weir's best film since THE LAST WAVE by a
    wide margin. [-mrl]


    TOPIC: Film Triangles (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

    A couple of days ago we watched a perfect triangle of films. A
    perfect triangle of films is one in which film A and film B have
    something in common, film B and film C have something in common,
    AND film A and film C have something in common (with none of the
    commonalities applying to all three films).

    The three films were RAT FILM, AMERICAN BEAUTY, and HAIRSPRAY.

    RAT FILM and AMERICAN BEAUTY both have real estate dealings as a

    AMERICAN BEAUTY and HAIRSPRAY both have Allison Janney in the cast.

    RAT FILM and HAIRSPRAY both talk about rats in Baltimore.

    This was purely accidental. And somehow it's easier to stumble
    across these than to actually construct such a triangle. [-ecl]


    SCIENCE FICTION, 1950 TO 1985 (letter of comment by John Purcell)

    In response to Mark and Evelyn's comments on Turner Classic Movie documentaries in the 05/26/23 issue of the MT VOID, John Purcell

    Some solid comment hooks in this morning's edition of the VOID, and
    I am especially interested in all those documentaries coming up on
    TCM channel. Lots of intriguing topics, and I am a lot like Mark in
    enjoying a good documentary. The one that really stands out for me
    is the one on June 14th, "Oscar Micheaux: The Superhero of Black
    Filmmaking" (2021). When I cover the Harlem Renaissance in my
    Literature class Micheaux's name comes up in a short video I show
    in class. Obviously, this is one I plan on not only watching but
    recording as well.There are also a ton of fun sf and fantasy flicks
    listed here, and I thank you for this. My wife and I tend to forget
    about TCM's thematic broadcasting since we got our Dish service and
    usually watch assorted series that we enjoy on Hulu, Netflix,
    Amazon Prime, and others. What else can we do but check into these
    other good shows and movies on our rather extensive broadcast
    options. Decisions, decisions. This is obviously a happy situation
    to have, in my humble opinion.

    In response to Evelyn's comments on DANGEROUS VISIONS AND NEW
    WORLDS in the same issue, John writes:

    Evelyn's capsule review of DANGEROUS VISIONS AND NEW WORLDS:
    RADICAL SCIENCE FICTION, 1950 TO 1985, edited by Andrew Nette and
    Iain McIntyre, mentioned a good fan friend of ours, George "Lan"
    Laskowski, Jr. It surprises me at how long he has been gone. I know
    he died very young of cancer, and checking Fancyclopedia 3 just now
    confirmed that: Lan was only 50 years old when he passed away in
    July of 1999. His fanzine won the Hugo Award for Best Fanzine
    twice and featured great tributes to many authors. I had no idea
    that you two introduced Lan to fandom, so that's news to me. Very
    cool that this book quoted from LAN'S LANTERN regarding R. A.
    Lafferty. That tempts me to search out this book. It sounds like
    interesting reading even without the personal angle. Again, thank
    you for the heads-up on the book.

    Well, that should do it for now. Next up for me is maybe finish off
    another letter of comment and get back into working on the next
    issue of my fanzine. Having a break between semesters is always a
    good time to catch up on enjoyable creative projects. [-jp]


    TOPIC: Tree of Life Plant (letter of comment by Art Kaletsky)

    In response to something in the 05/26/23 issue of the MT VOID, Art
    Kaletsky writes:

    Tree of Life in Glasgow along with taxi parts and repairs ?

    Never mind, I’m much too old. :-( [-ak]

    Evelyn replies:

    I must be too old as well; I have no idea what you're talking
    about. [-ecl]

    Art responds:

    You may be too young!

    Larry Niven’s RINGWORLD and the rest of his "Known Universe" series
    has the Pak and their Tree of Life plant which makes them
    superheroes as central. [-ak]


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

    Grow old along with me!
    The best is yet to be,
    The last of life, for which the first was made:
    Our times are in His hand
    Who saith "A whole I planned,
    Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!"
    --Rabbi Ben Ezra

    Robert Browning wrote this when he was 52. I realize that the
    advice to "write about your own experiences" is not a hard and fast
    rule (Shakespeare was never a fourteen-year-old Veronese girl or a
    Moorish general), but it is worth at least thinking about. [-ecl]


    Mark Leeper

    No self-respecting fish would be wrapped in a Murdoch
    --Mike Royko

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