Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
01/04/19 -- Vol. 37, No. 27, Whole Number 2048

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
All material is the opinion of the author and is copyrighted by the
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        Online Film Critics Society Annual Movie Awards
        Repair Needed for Something Wilde (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
        More Short Takes On New Films (MEN AND MONSTERS, MOWGLI:
                (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        THE FAVOURITE (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        AQUAMAN and MORTAL ENGINES: Or Why You Can't Trust Rotten
                Tomatoes (film reviews by Dale Skran)
        THE ADVOCATES and Median Income (letter of comment
                by Fred Lerner)
        Super Powers (letter of comment by Kip Williams)
        SPARTACUS, RED MOON, and Super Powers (letter of comment
                by John Purcell)
        This Week's Reading (BOOK GIRL) (book comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Online Film Critics Society Annual Movie Awards

Best Picture: ROMA
Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron (ROMA)
Best Actor: Ethan Hawke (FIRST REFORMED)
Best Actress: Toni Collette (HEREDITARY)
Best Supporting Actor: Michael B. Jordan BLACK PANTHER)
Best Supporting Actress: Regina King (IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK)
Best Original Screenplay: FIRST REFORMED (Paul Schrader)
Best Adapted Screenplay: IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK (Barry Jenkins)
Best Editing: MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE--FALLOUT (Eddie Hamilton)
Best Cinematography: ROMA (Alfonso Cuaron)
Best Original Score: IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK (Nicholas Britell)
Best Debut Feature: Ari Aster (HEREDITARY)
Best Film Not in the English Language: ROMA (Mexico)
Best Documentary: O.J.: WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?

Technical Achievement Awards:
- ANNIHILATION--Best Visual Effects
- BLACK PANTHER--Best Costume Design
- MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE--FALLOUT--Best Stunt Coordination
- A QUIET PLACE--Best Sound Design
- A STAR IS BORN--Best Original Songs

Lifetime Achievement Awards:
- Roger Deakins
- Spike Lee
- Rita Moreno
- Robert Redford
- Agnes Varda

Special Achievement Awards:
- To Ryan Coogler, for BLACK PANTHER's distinctive critical and box
   office appeal
- To the city of Oakland, CA, for hosting 2018's most socially and
   artistically compelling films about racism, SORRY TO BOTHER YOU

Founded in 1997, the Online Film Critics Society
( is the largest and oldest Internet-based
film journalism organization.  Over 250 members from 22 countries
voted in this year's awards.

[Mark is a member of the OFCS.]


TOPIC: Repair Needed for Something Wilde (comments by Mark
R. Leeper)

I was watching the old 1944 PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY.  You remember
that was the one where a handsome young man who had outsourced his
aging to a portrait.  He remained forever young while his image on
the portrait aged.  It was an object lesson of how the immoral may
be punished.  The book was by the gay master-writer and poet Oscar
Wilde.  It caused me to wonder how newer times would have to be
reflected in the portrait.  Many things that were considered
immoral in Wilde's time would now be considered perfectly all
right.  When homosexuality became legal I can imagine that the
painting had to somehow rush around and repair itself.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: More Short Takes On New Films (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

As I mentioned two issues back, I am seeing a lot of films as I
prepare for the voting for the Online Film Critics Society awards.
Each year, especially at this time, I get questions of where the
films I review can be found.  Unfortunately, even though I review
the films, I have no special knowledge of where the films will
play.  I have to report that while I can be helpful in tracking
down a film I cannot do anything you cannot.  Some of the films I
review may show up at film festivals in the weeks to come.  Some
may play in other parts of the country.  Some show up on Netflix.
And there are hard cases that may never show up anywhere.

Part of the filmmaker's effort to sell a new film is to get the
title and reviews in front of the public and after that to see what
sort of a public reception a film gets.  If there is not a good
reception the film may be buried or may just show up on some
marginal service.  Sadly this means that there are some films I
review that the reader may never get a chance to see.  Caveat
Emptor.  There are web sites that will trace down for you some
sources where a given film may be available.

In the meantime let me review three more films.  I will rate each
on the -4 to +4 scale.

MEN AND MONSTERS is on a theme that several different filmmakers
seem to have picked up on.  We have had in the news several films
of black teens being victimized by police.  So far the best I have
seen has been THE HATE U GIVE, though I cannot be absolutely
certain that if I had seen these films in a different order I might
not have picked another one as the favorite of the bunch.  Our main
character is a high school athlete who looks like he could have a
good career in sports ahead of him.  Then he sees an incident on
the street that leaves a black drug dealer dead.  Suddenly the
police and the black community are anxious about what he saw or
thinks he saw.  The style of the film goes all thoughtful and
contemplative wending its way to a not very satisfying conclusion.
Rating: high +1

MOWGLI: LEGEND OF THE JUNGLE is based on the popular character
Mowgli from Kipling's THE JUNGLE BOOK.  Rudyard Kipling's most
popular repeating character is a feral human child raised in the
jungle by wolves.  The boy grows to be a member of a community of
diverse animals who nonetheless can talk to each other.  With
MOWGLI: LEGEND OF THE JUNGLE, Kipling's oft-remade story has been
adapted one more time.  For decades the most familiar screen Mowgli
was Sabu.  The animals were filmed live action, but did not have
much facial expression.  Later for decades the Walt Disney animated
version was the most familiar.  But then it was a cartoon and that
is just not satisfying.  The animals had facial expression, but in
an animation that is not difficult.  The new version made for
Netflix has CGI-animated animals.  That works well.  The animals
were really textured and that made this a good application for the
power of CGI.  Once you have CGI it is not really imaginative to
use it for JUNGLE BOOK, but it does enhance the story. For me this
was the most successful adaptation of THE JUNGLE BOOK.  Rating:
high +2

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY is a revisionist account of Freddie Mercury and
the rock band Queen.  It is a somewhat cliched telling of story of
Queen, seen through the eyes of Freddy Mercury.  Inspired by
hearing music from CARMEN, they decide not to have a formula but to
have many different styles and to be constantly experimenting with
new styles, some invented ad hoc.  I cannot comment on the accuracy
of the history of Queen, though I am told it is inaccurate in many
ways.  (I don't know.  For my part, I prefer opera to rock). And as
anyone would expect the band has artistic differences and breaks
up.  In any case, to nobody's surprise you get a standard story of
one guy's ego and how it leads to the group splitting.  It may be
all that events happened in the real world (or not), but then it
was a living breathing cliche in the story here.  Rating: high +1



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

CAPSULE: Early in the 18th century two members of the court of
England's Queen Anne fight a secret war between them selves to be
the queen's favorite.  The two would-be court favorites plot and
scheme against each other and perpetually get in each other's way.
The film could have been called THE MADNESS OF QUEEN ANNE.  The
setting eventually gets claustrophobic and we rarely are more than
a few feet from the Queen's bed.  Some of the decisions of how to
present the film might make it a little hard to follow for
Americans.  The history might be a little easier for English
viewers.  Similarly, some of the humor might go over Americans'
heads.  Anglophiles may find there is plenty of period detail to
keep them busy while they enjoy the story.  Directed by Yorgos
Lanthimos; Written by Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara.  Rating: +2 (-4
to +4) or 7/10

It is the time of the reign of Queen Anne (played by Olivia
Colman).  Perhaps it might better be said that it is the time of
Queen Anne's failure to reign.  Anne lets the real ruling be done
by close friend Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) who effectively and
covertly rules in Sarah's place.  Sarah's cousin, Abigail (Emma
Stone) is homeless and comes to Anne's estate in the hopes of
finding work.  The household initially makes her a kitchen maid.
All the while she is suffering the cruel tricks and jokes of the
current staff.  It takes people a little while to realize that the
new kitchen maid is not one to trifle with.  She is a supreme
manipulator of other people.  And she does not have a forgiving
manner, even for her cousin, Lady Sarah.  Life at the court of the
queen is less a pleasure dome and more a jungle where everyone
fights for survival power games.   This is a story that should
appeal to fans of DANGEROUS LIAISONS.

Perhaps what makes this film most worthwhile is its images of 1708
Britain.  The queen does not know if her country is at war or not
and is happy just to romp with precisely 17 rabbits.  The proper
court sport is the racing of long neck ducks.  Ducks are used like
skeet for the shooting.  Period detail is lavished on the film.
Architecture, fashions, jewelry, room decor are intricately well
recreated for the period feel.

If this were a story involving Henry VIII or George III viewers
might have a better idea of who the major characters were and would
recognize the historic context of the film.  We Yanks may have a
little trouble following the politics.  It does help the viewer
that the two main characters are played by familiar actresses,
Stone and Weisz.  Even so, the narrative draws the viewer to place
the events of the film historically.  Director Lanthimos takes some
time to show the absurd fashions and occasionally what seems the
ridicules dancing of the period.  One dance seems to have been
borrowed from the film TOP SECRET.  Credits and chapter titles
appear in a font/style appropriate to the period, but they are very
hard to read.  The writing on a page will be arranged to fit in two
congruent side-by-side squares, one denser with letters and one
less.  I have seen this font and arrangement used, but I was never
sure of the reason.  Today it is almost unreadable.

For its period detail this film is well worth the effort to create
it.  I rate THE FAVOURITE +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: AQUAMAN and MORTAL ENGINES: Or Why You Can't Trust Rotten
Tomatoes (film reviews by Dale Skran)

Rotten Tomatoes is notorious for failing to provide a reliable
guide to film quality.  While a high ranking on Tomatoes usually
means the film is pretty good (but not always), a low ranking is
not a reliable indicator of badness.  Consider Peter Jackson's
recent MORTAL ENGINES--rated 27% on the Tomatometer.  Such a low
rating suggests ENGINES is a terrible film--certainly not worth
seeing in the theaters.  This is just not the case.  The film is a
beautifully envisioned steampunk adventure, marred only near the
end by an excessive similarity to the final battle in the first
"Star Wars" movie.  See it in a theater if you can, but ignore that
silly Tomatometer.

I'm rating MORTAL ENGINES a solid +1 on the -4 to +4 scale, but it
is a must-see for SF fans, with stunning visuals.  Probably too
scary for little kids since there is a lot of fighting, chasing,
and a major battle near the end of the movie.

is "fresh" on the Tomatometer with 67%, but if you fail to see this
beautiful film on the big screen, you will be missing something.
Many viewers will be unfamiliar with the comic character, but not
to worry--the film is 99% self-contained, with just one minor
reference to the Justice League movie, which clearly preceded this
film in terms of chronology.  I've seen reviewers whine that there
too many quests, but it didn't feel that way to me.  AQUAMAN is a
great entry in the "hero's journey" genre, recalling the best of
the THOR movies in its treatment of the lost civilization of
Atlantis.  Nicole Kidman does a great turn as Aquaman's mother, the
Queen of Atlantis, as does Amber Heard as his bad-ass princess love
interest, Mera.  This is not a film where the hero saves the girl,
or where she needs very much saving.  Mera's "hard-water" powers
and Atlantean strength make her more than match for most DC heroes
or villains.  The pirate "Black Manta" is well-rendered from the
comic as well, although his motivation feels copied from that of
the villain in BLACK PANTHER.  And yes, in the comics Aquaman was a
blond-haired, blue-eyed fellow, but the transition to Hawaii-born
(native Hawaiian, German, and Native American ancestry) Momoa is
seamless, and he does a great job bringing to life an imposing and
formidable hero.

AQUAMAN weighs in with a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale, as it combines a
solid story with outstanding special effects and professional
acting.  There is one scene of Aquaman drinking too much for a
mortal in a bar, a great amount of fighting with tridents, and lots
of menacing monsters, but no sex.  I've seen complaints about the
costumes Heard and Kidman wear being too form fitting, but I think
it unlikely people swimming in the water would wear baggy,
voluminous clothes.  Kidman is covered ankle-to-neck in a rather
dignified white battle suit.  There may be a bit too much cleavage
showing with Amber's costume, but by any standard these costumes
are pretty conservative.  Except for Momoa, of course, who is
frequently shirtless and showing off the results of a really large
amount of weight-lifting.  [-dls]

Mark responds:

Dale, let's keep in mind what Rotten Tomatoes is and does.  It does
NOT make any artistic judgments.  It collects and republishes film
reviews.  Each reviewer gives the review he/she is submitting a
rating what is basically a thumbs up or thumbs down.  Rotten
Tomatose publishes the reviews it is given and most importantly, it
gives the statistics it used to tell what percentage of the reviews
it received were thumbs-up.  In the case of MORTAL ENGINES it
received 112 reviews of which 42 were from writers who gave the
movie a thumbs-up and 70 were from writers who did not.  It is a
one-reviewer-one-vote system.  Your disagreement with Rotten
Tomatoes comes down saying that majority-rules systems are
notorious for making bad choices.  I just do not know how to have a
more accurate rating system without limiting yourself to reading
just my reviews.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: THE ADVOCATES and Median Income (letter of comment by Fred

In response to Mark's review of THE ADVOCATES in the 12/28/18 issue
of the MT VOID, Fred Lerner writes:

What does Mark mean when he writes "[Los Angeles is the home of
many large and profitable corporations.  But in some ways it has
more poverty than any other big city in the United States.]  When
adjusted for the cost of living the median income is $1300 a
month"? Is this per capita (including children), per adult, per
household?  Without knowing this I can't evaluate the significance
of this figure.  [-fl]

Mark responds:

It was from a quote that appeared on the TV screen.  Then when I
copied it later I missed the fact that it made no sense.  I
apologize and withdraw the statement.  I am sorry for the error and
any confusion it might have caused.  [-mrl]

Evelyn writes:

It appears this is a per-capita figure, based on what I can find
through Google regarding income in Los Angeles.  The figure was
probably given in the documentary.  [-ecl]


TOPIC: Super Powers (letter of comment by Kip Williams)

In response to comments on super powers in the 12/28/18 issue of
the MT VOID, Kip Williams writes:

When I took my first radio electronics class, the equipment
included a battery of soldering guns with heat shielded caddies.
All but one of these had grounded plugs. I discovered one day that
touching the heat shield of a grounded soldering iron and that of a
non-grounded iron resulted in a 117V shock. I quickly set my sights
on a fellow student and expressed mystification that one had been
plugged in for five minutes and the other was just plugged in, but
they felt the same. He judiciously tested them, one after the
other. I suggested touching both, and he did, with the expected
effect. Then wackiness ensued as we proceeded to reel in the rest
of the class. By the time we got the teacher, everybody was
watching discreetly. ("Rich kids," he muttered.)  [-kw]

Mark replies:

In the words of that great 20th century poet, James Bond,
"Shocking. Shocking."  [-mrl]


TOPIC: SPARTACUS, RED MOON, and Super Powers (letter of comment by
John Purcell)

In response to various comments in the 12/28/18 issue of the MT
VOID, John Purcell writes:

Happy New Year, Mark and Evelyn!  I hope 2019 will be prosperous
for you both, and full of good health.  With that salutation out of
the way, some quick comments.

I have always enjoyed the movie SPARTACUS (1960).  Besides being a
Stanley Kubrick movie that definitely is still relevant nearly
sixty years later, it followed up an earlier pairing of Kirk
Douglas and Tony Curtis, THE VIKINGS (1958), directed by Richard
Fleischer, that I also have always enjoyed.  Granted, this 1958
movie was a greatly romanticized vision of the Norse invaders'
world, but I just like the movie because of its sweeping scale (as
does SPARTACUS) and well-choreographed battle scenes, which is
again a highlight of SPARTACUS.  In fact, all of these upcoming
Thursday night lineups sound really good.  Thank you for the

Kim Stanley Robinson is one of my favorite hard-science fiction
writers these days, and he has never disappointed me in any of his
stories or novels.  He is one of those genre story-tellers who does
his absolute best to get the science right while telling an
entertaining story.  Robinson definitely, in my mind, deserves more
awards than he has.  In fact, at the 2013 Worldcon in San Antonio,
I was upset that his novel 2312 did not win the Best Novel Hugo; it
went to John Scalzi's RED SHIRTS, which was fun, but not as
sweeping nor interesting to me as 2312.  Oh, well.  The review of
RED MOON sounds like another winner to me.  Thank you for the heads
up.  Looks like I will be making another trip to Barnes & Noble
before the next semester begins.

My wife definitely has superpowers, notably impressing the heck out
of our grandchildren by knowing what they are doing not only behind
her back, but two or three rooms removed.  My superpower is the
ability to nap at any time, any place, in practically any position.
It's a gift.

With that, I think I am done here. Thank you again for the issue,
and have a splendid Happy New Year.  [-jp]


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

BOOK GIRL by Sarah Clarkson (ISBN 978-1-4964-2580-5) is to some
extent yet another book about the joys of reading.  It differs in
being aimed specifically at girls (and their mothers), and written
from and with a specifically Christian perspective.  The former
manifests itself in the majority of the books recommended having
female protagonists, the latter, in almost all the biographies
being about missionaries or other religious figures.

For what it's worth, she recommends THE LORD OF THE RINGS in
multiple chapters.  Oddly, she also recommends the "Narnia" books,
although the disposition of Susan in THE LAST BATTLE is considered
problematic by many current critics.  (She is excluded from Narnia
when all her siblings are accepted, because she became interested
in "nylons and lipstick and invitations."  Whether the problem is
her interest in these things, or her *exclusive* interest in these
things to the detriment of the "correct" spiritual life is much

Anyway, for Christian mothers of young girls (or girls old enough
to choose their own books), this contains a lot of book
recommendations, many of which are considered classics by people
across religious and gender lines (e.g., CHARLOTTE'S WEB,
MIDDLEMARCH, THE ODYSSEY).  But its narrow focus makes it less
useful to others.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           Politics are not my concern... they impressed me as
           a dog's life without a dog's decencies.
                                           --Rudyard Kipling