• MT VOID, 08/11/23 -- Vol. 42, No. 6, Whole Number 2288

    From evelynchimelisleeper@gmail.com@21:1/5 to All on Sun Aug 13 06:57:19 2023
    08/11/23 -- Vol. 42, No. 6, Whole Number 2288

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    Mini Reviews, Part 2 (THE MAN WITH THE MAGIC BOX,
    THE YELLOW WALLPAPER, 65) (film reviews
    by Mark R. Leeper and Evelyn C. Leeper)
    DIASPORA by Greg Egan (audio book review by Joe Karpierz)
    BARBIE (film review by Art Stadlin)
    The MT VOID (letter of comment by Guy Lillian III)
    This Week's Watching (Hugo Award Dramatic Presentation
    (Long Form) finalists) (film comments
    by Evelyn C. Leeper)


    TOPIC: Correction

    Two minutes after last week's MT VOID went out, I realized that it
    should have been "J. Robert Oppenheimer" rather than "Robert
    J. Oppenheimer". Oops. [-ecl]


    TOPIC: Mini Reviews, Part 2 (film reviews by Mark R. Leeper and
    Evelyn C. Leeper)

    This is the second batch of mini-reviews for this season, films of
    the fantastic.

    Polish film that shows influences from MEN IN BLACK, GATTACA,
    Tarkovsky, and several other sources. But it's considerably
    lower-budget. For example, the cables connecting the android are
    just red/white/yellow video cables. (The "magic box" is a time
    machine, but there's an android as well.)

    The Poles must have a different cinematic aesthetic; somehow this
    didn't work for me. [-ecl]

    Released in Poland 20 October 2017; currently available on Kanopy.
    Rating: +1 (-4 to +4), or 6/10.

    Film Credits:

    What others are saying: <https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_man_with_the_magic_box>

    like a first film, almost an amateur production, and evidence bears
    that out. In the end credits, there is a long list of people
    thanked for crowdfunding the film. Also, director K Pontuti has a
    Kevin Bacon number of infinity, meaning that no one acting in the
    film connects with people in other films in the IMDb (or at least
    that they are all in an isolated island of films in the IMDb).
    (Obviously there are connections for the author of the original
    work, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, since there are about two dozen
    films based on her 1892 short story.)

    The story seems told as a series of vignettes, rather than a
    continuous narrative. There is very little dialogue, so the
    audience feels Jane's isolation. Whether this was the plan, or
    whether the shoestring budget meant recording more dialogue would
    have been too expensive is not clear. Pontuti uses extreme Dutch
    angles to the extent that Jane sometimes looks as though she should
    slide off the bed; they also photograph her face in close-up upside

    John reminds me of Torvald in A DOLL'S HOUSE. He calls his wife by
    various animal names (e.g., "goose") and wants her to be concerned
    only with the house and the children, not with her writing. [-ecl]

    Released streaming 29 March 2022. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4), or 6/10.

    Film Credits:

    What others are saying: <https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_yellow_wallpaper_2021>

    65 (2023): 65 seems to have either gone through some major concept
    changes during production, or the right hand the left hand were not
    talking to each other. THIS IS NOT A SPOILER--what I'm about to
    tell you is told to the audience on screen in the first few minutes
    or so, but if you blink you will miss it.

    Okay, here goes: The production notes say, "After a cataclysmic
    crash on an unknown planet, pilot Mills (Adam Driver) quickly
    discovers he's actually stranded on Earth--65 million years ago."
    But under the title card (seventeen minutes in), the film says, "65
    million years ago a visitor crash landed on Earth." So which is it?

    Well, I guess sort of obviously, the title card is correct, which
    means Mills never "discovers" he is on Earth, because he doesn't
    know anything about Earth--he's an alien from a non-Earth planet
    going to another non-Earth planet who ends up on Earth. (I'll add
    that for the ending to make sense, the title card has to be the
    correct answer.)

    Mills and a young survivor have to travel to the escape pod, which
    somehow landed on top of a top near the rest of the ship. This
    gives them a lot of opportunity to be attacked by the dinosaurs of
    the Cretaceous, which seems to be the entire point of the movie.
    (There's a fairly shallow story about the two bonding over their
    respective familial losses.)

    And (okay, this may be a SPOILER) they have crashed just a couple
    of days before ... need I go on?

    A lot of the dinosaur action takes place at night or in caves, but
    I suppose as a 2020's version of a grade B 1950's monster film, it
    is an acceptable way to kill an afternoon. I do wonder why Adam
    Driver, who has been twice nominated for an Oscar, even took this
    role. (It has been noted that this was the first film in which
    Driver, an ex-Marine, got to use his weapons and combat training.)

    Released theatrically 10 March 2023. Rating: 0 (-4 to +4), or 4/10.

    Film Credits:

    What others are saying:


    TOPIC: DIASPORA by Greg Egan (copyright 1998, EOS, audiobook
    copyright 2013, Audible Studios, 11 hours and 5 minutes, ASIN:
    B00GMOI58M, narrated by Adam Epstein) (audio book review by Joe

    I listen to a couple of podcasts, read Locus Magazine and various
    blogs, and I have yet to encounter a good definition of "hard
    science fiction". Sure, rigorous science, exacting detail, long
    infodumps, and for a lot of readers all of that is
    incomprehensible. Then again, maybe I really don't mean a good
    definition. What I think I really mean is a good, consistent
    example. Long time readers of the field, those who have been
    around forever, will point to Hal Clement's MISSION OF GRAVITY as a
    prime example of hard science fiction, and I think they'd be
    correct. But I feel that a person's tolerance for the level of
    science in a book is more indicative of how the term should be
    defined. I'll be in conversations with folks who will give me an
    example of what they feel is hard science fiction, and in my mind
    I'll be thinking "What? There's hardly (sorry, no pun intended)
    any hard science in that book at all." Maybe it depends on a
    person's education, or interest in the sciences, or something else

    Ah, but everyone who has read a Greg Egan novel (hold that thought)
    can agree that he writes hard science fiction. Greg is a
    mathematician, a computer programmer, and a science fiction writer.
    I've read more of Egan's short fiction than his novels; in fact,
    DIASPORA is only the second Egan novel that I've read. I have a
    degree in computer science, have been working in IT, for all of my
    career, and telecommunications for most of the last 34 years. I'm
    not one to back away from science and technology (I guess that's
    why I read science fiction), but Greg Egan takes hard science
    fiction to another level. Egan likes inventing new types of
    physics for his novels, and they play an important part in the
    stories. DIASPORA is no different.

    The novel takes place in a posthuman society, and in fact
    transhumans are the dominant life form. Humanity has diverged into
    three separate groups: citizens, who run as disembodied computer
    software in communities called "polises", which are a sort of
    simulated reality; gleisners, software intelligences who run inside
    artificial bodies who interact with fleshers (don't worry, I'm
    getting there) in real time and live in space within the Solar
    System; and fleshers, which as you might guess are the natural
    evolving race of humans, some of whom nonetheless embrace genetic modifications such as increased intelligence or extended life span.

    The novel starts with a tale of "orphanogenesis", the birth of a
    citizen without any ancestors. This new life is Yatima, and is the
    main character of the story. The kickoff event is the collapse of
    a neutron star, which will result in such a tremendous burst of
    energy that it will cause the extinction of everyone living on
    Earth. The problem is that while the neutron star's collapse and
    burst of energy were predicted, they were also predicted not to
    occur for some seven million years. Unfortunately for humanity,
    the actual time frame was four days. The prediction was made by
    the dominant physics paradigm, call the Kozuch Theory. The
    majority of the novel is taken up with the tale of Yatima and
    others travelling throughout the universe--and eventually
    universes--to try to determine why the Kozuch Theory was wrong and
    what they can do to change it.

    And this is where I finally break down. Egan invented the Kozuch
    Theory, and the novel goes into great detail discussing the theory
    and how it affects travel and life in the universe of the novel.
    As in Egan's other novel that I read, INCANDESCENCE (from 2008), I
    got lost in the science, so much so that it was hard to keep
    focused on the book as I was listening to it. I tuned out as my
    mind wandered to other things. I pushed my way through it, hoping
    that eventually it would make some sense to me, but it never really

    Maybe another one of the reasons I tuned out was the narrator, Adam
    Epstein. I found his narration dull and, uh, monotonic (is that
    even a word?). Quite frankly, nothing in this book held my
    interest; even the opening chapter describing orphanogenesis
    started losing me early, and Epstein's narration didn't help. In
    the end, as much as I like science and hard science fiction,
    DIASPORA was not a book I cared for. Other readers will, I'm sure.

    Earlier on, I said "hold that thought" when talking about a Greg
    Egan novel. While the two novels of his that I read I found opaque
    and difficult, I find his shorter fiction (including novellas) much
    more appealing and accessible. It seems to be more character and
    plot oriented, and less interested in describing in the nitty
    gritty details of the science behind everything. I have THE BEST
    OF GREG EGAN sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read. I suspect
    I'll find that book more appealing. [-jak]


    TOPIC: BARBIE (film review by Art Stadlin)

    Saw the BARBIE movie last night. It was a heart-warming story of
    the struggle girls have as they leave the fantasy land of dolls and
    experience the harsh expectations of womanhood in the real world.
    In Barbieland, the Barbies are in charge, with the Kens taking on
    the role of the eye candy in an emasculated role to support the
    Barbies. Life is perfect for everyone in fantasy land.

    But then Ken (one of the Kens) escapes to the real world, to
    discover the privilege and dominance men have in real society. He
    realizes Kens can be more than just accessories to the Barbies. So
    he goes back to Barbieland and tries to get the Kens to assert
    their rightful patriarchy. It doesn't quite work out that way.

    Any movie that would turn the tables on the fundamental dominance
    of men is obviously woke. Even if it's only a fantasy switch, to
    help the audience more clearly see the struggle of young women,
    trying to have it all, while getting and pleasing a man.

    One small example of how woke this movie is: In Barbie's fantasy
    land, the Supreme Court is compose entirely of women (various
    Barbies). Enlightened Ken requests to be added to the Supreme
    Court. President Barbie says, flatly, no!--but your time will
    come. Role reversal here to drive a point home. But certainly an
    affront to the anti-woke culture warriors.

    This is a good movie for people of all ages. I was hooked during
    the opening scene, a play on an iconic scene in 2001: A SPACE

    I didn't play with dolls as a kid. I had plenty of model trains
    and model cars, and of course Tinker-Toys, Lincoln Logs, and
    Erector Sets. So many fantasies with those toys... [-as]


    TOPIC: The MT VOID (letter of comment by Guy Lillian III)

    In response to several issues of the MT VOID, Guy Lillian III
    writes in THE ZINE DUMP #58:

    This weekly zine of opinion on matters SFnal and related has
    apparently been going on for forty-five years, an amazing display
    of commitment and scope. The Leepers’ reviews and thoughts are
    always sharp and valuable. So much is covered I’ll have to pick
    issues at random--there’s a review of THE MOUNTAIN IN THE SEA
    almost as enthused as David Grigg’s ... John Hertz joining in a
    discussion of MOBY-DICK, not quite SFnal ... Evelyn on Peter
    Jackson’s tremendous and original WWI documentary THEY SHALL NOT
    GROW OLD ... Mark Leeper on the Quatermass films (ENEMY FROM SPACE
    really impressed the tween GHLIII) ... Gregory Frederick’s review
    of a fascinating book on physics ... Mark again on THE TRUMAN
    SHOW ... even a bit of a discussion on FINNEGANS WAKE! Exhausting
    but exhilarating. [-ghliii]


    TOPIC: This Week's Watching (film comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

    I take a break from my book comments to comment on the Hugo
    finalists for Hugo Award Dramatic Presentation (Long Form).

    another Hugo finalist sequel that introduces a blue-skinned race
    that lives in the water (at least part time). (The other is BLACK PANTHER--WAKANDA FOREVER.) And you know, a blue-skinned race that
    lives in the water is not a magic ingredient that makes a film
    great, The visuals are terrific, but the story is pretty much a
    rehash of Westerns (including THE SEARCHERS), just as the original
    AVATAR was a rehash of DANCES WITH WOLVES. And three hours plus is
    too long for a film with impressive visuals but no originality in
    plot--or for long stretches, no advancement of the plot at all. It
    is not helped by having all the characters in blue make-up; at
    times I had trouble distinguishing the hero from the villain.

    FOREVER is a finalist for the Hugo Award for Dramatic Presentation,
    Long Form, but I can't say it did much for me. I have never gotten
    that invested in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but I have seen
    BLACK PANTHER and that was reasonably good. Unfortunately the
    sequel seems to be not much more than a series of battles, with the
    addition of a blue-skinned underwater race descended from ancient
    Mayans. I realize the filmmakers had to either dump the script
    they had or make major changes to it after Chadwick Bozeman (the
    original Black Panther) died, but the result is ultimately

    EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE. It was nominated for eleven Academy
    Awards, and won seven, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best
    Original Screenplay, and three of the four acting awards. I've
    seen it three times--and I still don't understand why it is so
    popular. I realize that my coolness toward AVATAR--THE WAY OF
    ALL AT ONCE makes me an outlier in SF movie fandom, but there you
    have it. Again--it's a very visual film, although the Screenplay
    Academy Award indicates the script had something going for it. So
    maybe fancy CGI visuals are not my cup of tea.

    NOPE (2022): NOPE is the third Jordan Peele film (after GET OUT and
    US), and while it is not up to the first two, it is genuine science
    fiction (complete with an A-plot about UFOs and a B-plot about a
    psychotic chimpanzee) with a script, and a plot, and not a lot of
    CGI whizbangs. As such, it gets my vote for the Hugo this year--or
    would if I were eligible to vote.

    TURNING RED (2022): *This* was nominated for a Hugo? So far as I
    can tell, 2022 must have been a bad year for science fiction and
    fantasy films. But even if I wasn't crazy about the other
    nominees, I could understand why they were nominated. With TURNING
    RED, I have no idea. The characters also seem stereotyped,
    especially the "Tiger Mom", but also the "aunties" and for that
    matter the tweens as well.

    Not seen: SEVERANCE (Season 1)



    Mark Leeper

    TV is chewing gum for the eyes.
    --Frank Lloyd Wright

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