Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
02/19/16 -- Vol. 34, No. 34, Whole Number 1898

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Digital Backlash (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        ADMIRAL (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        "Almost" (letter of comment by Charles S. Harris)
        Charitable Investments (letter of comment 
                by Leland R. Beaumont)
        Mars Rover (letter of comment by Philip Chee)
        This Week's Reading (THE WOMAN WHO WALKED IN SUNSHINE 
                and SEVEN DAYS IN MAY) (book and film comments 
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Digital Backlash (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

As just about everybody knows, digital technology is now used more 
than traditional film technology in the movie production industry.

A very large piece of the entertainment industry has seen the 
advantages of digital recording over analog.  Major movies are now 
being shot in digital and sound is also recorded on video.   With 
digital recording a picture is broken up into very tiny pixels and 
the content of each pixel is recorded as a series of 1s and 0s.  
Those digits can easily be stored, processed, and manipulated by 
electronic means.  The adept of digital technology has a great deal 
of power and freedom in processing information stored on a computer 
and which can be sent over a telephone line.   Digital movies can 
be made very inexpensively with an advantage that the market is 
much more inviting for neophyte filmmakers and low-budget 
production companies.  Some people are even making short movies on 
their cell phones.  

The quality of digital images improves with time.  There was a time 
when it was easy to look at a film and see problems with boundaries 
of moving objects in the image and they would not look quite right.  
But the answer to image problems was in large part just to increase 
the number of digits stored.

The same revolution has hit the music industry.  I was surprised to 
see in my local bookstore a rack of vinyl records being sold again.  
And they were being sold at much higher prices than I used to pay 
for vinyl records. There are people who can hear, or think they can 
hear, imperfections in digital recordings of music that the 
original performance or an analog recording did not have.   To be 
perfectly candid, I myself cannot hear the flaws some people detect 
in digital recordings.  But I do not have a trained ear.    Now 
people who can hear the difference are going back to collecting 
recordings on vinyl. 

Now I see that Colin Trevorrow, who has been chosen to direct the 
next "Star Wars" film, says that it will be shot on film, not in 
digital.  I take it that STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS was shot 
digitally and Trevorrow thinks that digital photography just did 
not stand up to real film.  I can say I did not consciously notice 
any difference, but it will probably make for a better image.  
Digital technology no doubt will be used to create a lot of the 
visual images anyway. 

I can see some advantages for filmmakers to go back to film for a 
while longer (or for some even permanently).

1) Shooting in digital is very cost-effective and also much faster.  
But it is tempting to just do a lot of shooting and hope a few 
shots will be really good.  Shooting on film is more expensive and 
that can be a virtue.  Shooting must be more carefully planned.

2) There are already a lot of experienced craftsmen around who know 
how to use film very effectively.  Not everybody in the industry 
knows digital technology yet, but the experts do know how to 
effectively create subtle images on film.

3) Film is physical.  You can feel it in your hand.  It does not go 
away if a battery dies.   That adds a level of satisfaction.

4) Digital imagery divides an image up in discrete pixels.  That 
makes each little point of light an approximation of what it should 
be.  It can be a very close approximation, but it will never be 
precisely right.

STAR WARS: EPISODE 4 [A NEW HOPE] was the first film to really go 
heavily into digital special effects.  As Wikipedia: Digital 
Cinematography says, "In May 1999 George Lucas challenged the 
supremacy of the movie-making medium of film for the first time by 
including footage filmed with high-definition digital cameras in 
blended seamlessly with the footage shot on film and he announced 
later that year he would film its sequels entirely on hi-def 
digital video."  Now that the property belongs to Disney the next 
"Star Wars" film will be going back to being shot on film.  That is 
ironic.  [-mrl]


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

CAPSULE: This is the epic biopic of the career of Dutch naval hero 
Michiel Ruyter who fought against the English and the French in the 
second and third Anglo-Dutch wars, 1665 to 1673.  It features 
several exciting cannon battles between ships.  The filmmakers 
frequently create spectacular visual effects using CGI like it was 
meant to be used.  Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10

[The film is in Dutch, English, and French with subtitles where 
they are needed.]

I never much was interested in the French and Indian Wars when they 
taught it in school.  I suppose I could not identify with the 
people fighting or picture the conflict.  Then I saw the film THE 
LAST OF THE MOHICANS and I was hooked.  It always seemed to me that 
history should be taught at least in part on the movie screen.  
Films should be used to make historical times come alive for 
students.  The Dutch film ADMIRAL has been made in two versions.  
One is for general release and one has less sex and violence for 
showing in schools.  And I think it will work wonders to involve 
students in history. It is, after all, an exciting ride, even if it 
does not always get its history correct.  As a Hornblower fan I 
would rather see two ships from the Age of Sail battling in than 
see two superheroes fighting each other.  Particularly since along 
the way I am learning a little about real history.  Not that the 
history is necessarily 100% accurate, but one learns the issues and 
gets an idea of the times.

ADMIRAL (a.k.a. MICHIEL DE RUYTER) is the story of Dutch Admiral 
Michiel de Ruyter's career over what appears to be several months, 
but historically was several years.  The film begins and within 
minutes we are on the shore at Scheveningen watching a battle on 
the North Sea.  De Ruyter (played by Frank Lammers) proves himself 
to be an excellent commander and when Dutch Lieutenant-Admiral 
Tromp (Rutger Hauer) is killed, de Ruyter is chosen to replace him.  
We then are presented the story of de Ruyter's naval victories.  
There is a re-creation of the Four Days' Battle that is explosive 
even if it does not give a good summary of the battle.  In the real 
world the battle ended with the British retreating to the safety of 
the Thames and de Ruyter blockading the Thames for fifty-one days 
before being forced to retreat. In the ADMIRAL dramatization, de 
Ruyter simply returns home after the battle.

The reason the film gives for the wars was that the Dutch had a 
republic and the royalty of England did not want that egalitarian 
idea to spread.  Inside the Netherlands the Orangists and the 
Republicans join forces temporarily to defend the Netherlands from 
the English, but the monarchist Orangists and the Republicans were 
still tearing their own country apart in a political conflict 
verging on civil war.  Though battle scenes are featured, the film 
is as much about political strife in the Netherlands at the time.  
De Ruyter is dragged into the internal conflict of the Orangists 
who wanted a king and the Republicans who had a more democratic 

In the version I saw there is nudity and some torture is depicted.  
I assume I saw the general release version.  The dialog talks down 
a little to the viewers who are intended in large part to be school 
students, but it pays the viewer back in thrilling visual images.  
The film uses rather obvious CGI, but the complexity and intensity 
of battle could be done no other way without a much bigger budget.

The cast of the film is almost entirely Dutch and consists mostly 
of what were for me unfamiliar faces.  Two exceptions are Rutger 
Hauer as Tromp, a Dutch Naval hero, but he is on the screen for 
only a short time.  The other is Charles Dance, who does sinister 
oh-so-well, as fans of GAME OF THRONES can attest.  Dance plays 
reprobate English king Charles II, though he is much older than the 
historical Charles would have been. 

People seem to be awed just by the trailer for ADMIRAL (I know I 
was) and the film does live up to the trailer.  The trailer can be 
seen at the address below.  Though the trailer gives the impression 
that this is predominately an English language production, it is 
mostly in Dutch.  ADMIRAL will be on VOD and iTunes on February 23 
and in theaters March 11.  I rate it a high +2 on the -4 to +4 
scale or 8/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:




TOPIC: "Almost" (letter of comment by Charles S. Harris)

In response to Evelyn's comments on "The Greek Interpreter" in the 
02/12/16 issue of the MT VOID, Charles S. Harris writes:

You wrote, "I'm not sure I would call an hour and forty minutes 
'almost two hours.'"

But you also said, "'Nero Wolfe' has almost all its letters in 
common with 'Sherlock Holmes'

100/120 = .8333+
6/9 = .6666+

So there's almost a blatant inconsistency here.  [-csh]

Evelyn responds:

Do I contradict myself?  Very well, then I contradict myself, I am 
large, I contain multitudes.

Seriously, the first one doesn't *feel* like "almost" to me and the 
second one does.  [-ecl]


TOPIC: Charitable Investments (letter of comment by Leland 
R. Beaumont)

In response to Mark's comments on charitable investments in the 
02/12/16 issue of the MT VOID, Lee Beaumont writes:

A good site for researching the best place for charity giving is

They list their top charities at  [-lrb]


TOPIC: Mars Rover (letter of comment by Philip Chee)

In response to Steve Milton's comments on the Mars rover in the 
02/12/16 issue of the MT VOID, Philip Chee writes:

The NASA engineers also noticed that the Martian winds, slight as 
they are, are capable of blowing the dust off the solar panels.  
They took advantage of this by orienteering the rover to maximize 
the effect of those winds.  [-pc]


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

978-0-307-91156-8) is number sixteen in the "No. 1 Ladies' 
Detective Agency" series and it is pretty much more of the same.  
We do get to see that Mma Makutsi has matured, but that is about 
the only change.  And I am getting tired of Violet Sephotho being 
dragged in as the evil villain in every book.  Even Sir Arthur 
Conan Doyle mentioned Moriarty in only seven stories, and he was an 
active character in only two ("The Final Problem" and THE VALLEY OF 

SEVEN DAYS IN MAY by Fletcher Knebel and John Bailey (ISBN 978-0-
553-131697) was chosen for our film-and-book discussion group.  
Well, it is marginally science fiction, supposedly taking place 
about a dozen years after it was written.  In fact, it might be 
considered a proto-techno-thriller, though the "techo" level is 
pretty low.  The film hews fairly closely to the book, although it 
drops a few characters: in the book Jiggs Casey is married with a 
family, and the person involved with Scott is a friend of Eleanor 
Holbrook, not Eleanor herself.  The entire Yakutsk subplot has also 
been dropped.

A couple of items jumped out.  It is mentioned in passing that 
someone had $1500 in deductions disallowed, so owed $1000 more in 
income tax.  We forget that there used to be 67% (and higher) tax 
brackets.  Also, when Lyman is presented with some incriminating 
documents about Scott, he says, "You don't really think I'd use a 
thing like that, a man's relations with a woman, to defend my oath 
of office, do you?"

At the beginning of the film, we see two groups of demonstrators.  
The anti-Lyman "hawks" are almost entirely white men in shirts and 
ties with only a few white women.  The pro-Lyman "doves" are a much 
more diverse group, with African-Americans, Hispanics, more women, 
and more obviously working class people.

But I think in an attempt to make Senator Ray Clark a good guy 
Serling slipped in a bit of an anachronism.  I just don't think 
that a older Senator from Georgia in the early 1960s (which seems 
to be the milieu of the film) would address an African-American 
woman in the airport as "Ma'am".

Watching the rally at which General Scott was speaking, his speech 
and the crowd reactions to it reminded me strongly of a Donald 
Trump rally.

The scenes in the desert around Site Y (and some of the scenes at 
Site Y) had the feeling of a "Twilight Zone" episode.  I don't 
think it because Rod Serling did the script, because it was more a 
visual thing than based on dialogue.  It may just have been that so 
many "Twilight Zone" episodes were set in deserts.  In fact, it 
would not surprise me to find out that they were filmed in the same 
desert as SEVEN DAYS IN MAY.  [-ecl]


                                          Mark Leeper

          Some men love truth so much that they seem to be 
          in continual fear lest she should catch a cold 
          on overexposure.
                                 --Samuel Butler