Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society

01/10/20 -- Vol. 38, No. 28, Whole Number 2101

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Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper, * *

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TOPIC: Online Film Critics Society Annual Movie Awards

Best Picture: PARASITE

Best Animated Feature: TOY STORY 4

Best Director: Bong Joon-ho (PARASITE)

Best Actor: Adam Driver (MARRIAGE STORY)

Best Actress: Lupita Nyong'o (US)

Best Supporting Actor: Brad Pitt (ONCE UPON A TIME ... IN


Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lopez (HUSTLERS)

Best Original Screenplay: PARASITE (Bong Joon-ho)

Best Adapted Screenplay: THE IRISHMAN (Steven Zaillian)

Best Editing: PARASITE (Jinmo Yang)

Best Cinematography: 1917 (Roger Deakins)

Best Original Score: US (Michael Abels)

Best Debut Feature: Olivia Wilde (BOOKSMART)

Best Film Not in the English Language: PARASITE (South Korea)

Best Documentary: APOLLO 11

Technical Achievement Awards

- AD ASTRA--Best Visual Effects ^

- JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 3--PARABELLUM--Best Stunt Coordination ^

- KNIVES OUT--Best Acting Ensemble ^

- 1917--Best Production Design ^

- PARASITE--Best Production Design ^

Lifetime Achievement Awards

- Julie Andrews

- Olivia de Havilland

- Roger Corman

- Martin Scorsese

- John Waters

Special Achievement Awards

- Agencia Nacional de Cinema (Brazil) for supporting art against

  the attacks from a fascist government. ^

Founded in 1997, the Online Film Critics Society

( *>) is the largest and oldest

film journalism organization.  Over 250 members from two dozen

countries voted in this year's awards.

[Mark is a member of the OFCS.]


TOPIC: KING KONG (1933) Observations (film comments by Mark

R. Leeper)

I participated in an on-line discussion of that venerable classic

film KING KONG (1933).  We watched the film and made comments.  We

participants wrote our observations.  This article is based on my


KING KONG is among my favorite films of all time.  I am not sure it

is one of the three or four best films, but it is one of the

greatest films.  The results of the filmmaking process may not have

made it one of the best films, but so much was invented and so much

imagination went into it that the result is greater than its story.

KING KONG was the STAR WARS of its day and more.  Both films may

have had hokey stories but amazing visuals, both had huge

imagination in the design, and both were big inspirations for the

next generation of filmmakers.

That said, I would also say that much of this article will be

negative.  I think we all have heard most of the good things to say

about KING KONG.  The mistakes and problems are much less commonly

noted.  It is frequently said that Willis O'Brien's stop-motion

animation in KING KONG is unsurpassed today.  No disrespect to a

film I so greatly admire, but the fledgling visual techniques have

been surpassed.  The film is full of problems with the visual

effects that you do not see in films like JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS.

For example when a screen image is made of multiple elements, they

are not well integrated.  On my most recent viewing I noticed for

the first time that when the native chieftain and some of his

followers stand at the top of the wall their image jitters left and

right with respect to the wall.  These days that is considered to

be a very bad problem.  In 1933 I doubt that most of the viewers

noticed and cared.

There are other problems that would be better handled today.

Especially there is the concern for consistency in Kong's

appearance.  O'Brien seemed to take little care to make the look of

Kong's face consistent from one model of Kong to another.  One Kong

will have large nostrils, another will have smaller ones.  The

viewer can distinguish at least three different looks for Kong's

face depending on which model is being used.  For that matter

Kong's size is not uniform either.  On the island Kong is

consistently eighteen feet tall, and O'Brien wanted to keep the

size at eighteen feet for the New York sequences.  But co-director

Merian C. Cooper wanted to adjust the size of backgrounds that

would show off Kong to best effect, so Kong's scale changed from

scene to scene.

When dinosaurs are shown in rear projection the images make them

look three or four times a realistic size.  When Denham and company

walk around the stegosaurus it is huge.  Having the actors walk a

treadmill does not really work.  The speed of the treadmill is not

well matched to the image in the background.  Later the

brontosaurus neck in the water just looks like a rigid model. Still

much of this gets lost of the excitement.

One problem with the visuals that I have always found amusing and

nobody else seems to notice: When Kong climbs onto one of the roofs

in Manhattan you see the top part of an electric sign with vertical

lettering behind him.  The sign is dark, then it flashes M; then it

flashes MA; then without taking time to light up any more letters

it goes dark ands starts over.  So even if you could see the whole

sign it would only say "Ma".

As original as KING KONG was, it was in large part a reframing of

THE LOST WORLD (1925).  The 1933 film borrowed heavily from the

plot of the 1925 film and from the book THE LOST WORLD, and it

major modifications are there because directors and producers

Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack where projecting

themselves into to the story with Carl Denham being an amalgam of

the two of them.  (Incidentally, Merian C. Cooper had a life so

amazing and exciting even a Steven Spielberg could not do justice

to it.)  The plot of Kong is really what you would get if you took

that of THE LOST WORLD and forced in a filmmaker like Cooper and


In Arthur Conan Doyle's novel THE LOST WORLD he had the expedition

bringing back a pterodactyl that gets loose in London, but is

hardly noticed.  To make it a more visual story and one with more

easily accomplished special effects the 1925 film instead had the

captured animal be a brontosaurus (now called "apatosaurus").

Willis O'Brien was more experienced at animating sauropods like the

apatosaurus.  For KONG the filmmakers made the captured and later

escaped animal a giant ape, of course.  And there were the other

obvious changes.  They changed the nature of the expedition for

KONG also.  It was not a scientific expedition but a filmmaking


Personally, I keep wondering where on Kong's island the great ape

could possibly live.  We know he lives someplace relatively near

the gate.  It does not take him very long to respond to the Kong

Gong.  It takes about thirty seconds of screen time, which seems to

mean he was impossibly close by.  On the other hand Kong seems to

get in a life-and-death fight every hour or so.  In one day he

fights three different breeds of prehistoric beasts.  He manages to

always survive because he is the biggest, meanest thing on the

island.  But if you watch the fights it is always a near thing.  He

could not survive long in this environment, and an animal of his

weight being that active would need to take in a lot of biomass

energy in his diet.  It is not clear he could ever move his body as

energetically as he does just due to square-cube law restrictions.

So for me this is no less a mystery, and no more, than the question

of where his mate and his parents are or were.  I hate to say it

but I guess the best answer to this sort of question is that it is

just a story.  If we can accept that there is just one giant ape on

this island no mates no (or perhaps one) offspring it is not so

hard to assume he Kong has found a safe place to live and enjoy

being worshipped by the natives.  They even have dances in his

honor though I have never figured out where the natives got the fur

they use for the Kong dance.

In some ways the script is contrived.  For example the natives come

to kidnap Ann.  They climb the ship's ladder and Ann is

conveniently standing right there.  It is not at all clear how they

would have nabbed her if they hadn't been so lucky.  They were not

really prepared to scour a hostile ship for her.  But Ann was just

where she would be in the most danger.  Later in New York Kong

seems to have to look in only two or three hotel rooms to find Ann.

What are the chances of that in Manhattan?

Let me switch sides and defend the film on a couple of points.  One

question I hear frequently asked is if the natives wanted to keep

Kong out of their side of the wall, why did they ever put a gate in

so wide that Kong could get out through it.  It is a smart-alecky

question and people who ask it rarely stick around for an answer. I

think it makes perfect sense.  They expect the bolt to be strong

enough to keep Kong out, but if Kong ever got over or through the

wall suddenly Mr. Wall would be no longer their friend.  Getting

Kong back to his usual side would be a hard enough task even with a

Kong-size gap in the gate.  It is all-important to avoid being

trapped on one small strip of the island with an angry ape-god.

It is frequently asked what Kong has done with his previous brides.

There has been the suggestion that he might eat them.  Gorillas are

generally assumed to be herbivores, but the truth is nobody is

certain if they really are or not.  Monkey DNA has been found in

the dung of some gorillas.  That is considered evidence that they

sometimes eat smaller animals, though that has not been observed

and is not really proof.  My opinion is that he plays with them to

death not unlike what small children will do with pets.  (Well, no.

My opinion is that it is just a story, but if I had to find a

likely explanation, that would be it.)  Remember in the 1933

version of the story Ann is in mortal peril the entire time she is

with Kong.  Unlike EVERY later version of the story, in 1933 Ann

shows absolutely no sympathy for Kong.  To her Kong is all threat.

It is surprising that she does not protest more when after several

men have been killed trying to save her from Kong, Denham turns

around and is ready to use Ann as bait to get the monster.  Later a

reporter says, "Denham's taking no chances."  Is he kidding? Denham

does nothing BUT take chances.

It is somewhat ironic that Carl Denham tries to calm the Broadway

audience by telling them the Kong's bonds are made of "chrome

steel."  Chrome steel is really stainless steel.  It looks better

than standard steel because it will not rust, but it is not as

strong.  If Carl Denham had used carbon steel instead of chrome

steel he might have ended up a millionaire.  (I guess he does end a

millionaire in SON OF KONG).

Denham's plan for entertaining a Broadway audience is to show them

Kong and then to just stand up in front of the audience and tell

the story of the capture.  Can you imagine how dull an evening that

would be--just listening to Denham talking?  I suspect that that

idea may have been left over from an earlier version of the script

that would open with the Broadway scenes, Denham would show the

audience Kong and then the whole story of the capture would be done

as a flashback so that the film audience would be seeing the story

even if the Broadway audience was not.  Interesting piece of

trivia: when you see the exteriors of the Broadway theater with

stock footage of crowds outside waiting to get in, that stock

footage was actually taken at the premier of Charlie Chaplin's 1931


There are other problems with the script.  Denham complains that

the critics say, "This film would gross twice as much if it had

love interest."  That is the whole reason that Ann is taken along.

Do you know what Denham forgot?  That it takes two people to have a

love interest.  There is nobody who is supposed to be Ann's love

interest in Denham's film.  The plan is not to have her love the

as-yet unknown Kong.  Ann asks how the island will be recognized.

She is reminded that it has a mountain that looks like a skull. She

says she forgot.  How likely is it she would forget that detail?

Also I am curious what Ann is doing while Kong is using two hands

and two feet to climb the Empire State Building.  I assume for most

she is holding on to King for dear life.  Though they forget to

show you in the film, the wind that high up on the building

averages twenty miles per hour.

The film KING KONG has become an iconic myth of American cinema and

even with all the faults I find with it, it well deserves all the

admiration it gets.

Hey, in the film Carl Denham asks for some huskies to carry his


Question: How can you tell they are Denham's huskies?

Answer: they have a Norwegian bark.



TOPIC: STAR WARS (film comments by Joe Karpierz)

Entertainment--whether it be movies, television, radio, books,

podcasts, whatever--is a funny thing.  Tastes vary widely from

person to person and from one type of entertainment to another.

What one person likes from a particular entertainment entity may be

totally different from what another person likes from the same

thing, and a third person will invariably wonder if the first two

people are seeing the same thing, and dislike that thing totally

and completely.  The key to having opinions, I think, is to be able

articulate *why* you like or dislike something, not just to say

that something is good or that something stinks.  Tell me why you

feel that way; it makes for interesting discussion.  And we must

realize that these are opinions.

You may be able to see where I'm going with this.  :-)

Last night my wife and I went to see STAR WARS THE RISE OF

SKYWALKER.  Once again, this movie has divided fans (now there's a

surprise), as has every movie in the sequel trilogy, and once again

for different reasons than the movie that came before it.  I'm

going to flat out say this: We loved the movie, thought it was

terrific, and felt that it was the perfect way to end the Skywalker


"Okay Karpierz", I hear you say, "put your money where your mouth

is.  *Why* did you love the movie, think it was terrific, and was

the perfect way to end the Skywalker saga?"

I'm glad you asked.  If you thought I've been long winded already,

you ain't seen nuthin' yet.

I liked it because it was, first and foremost, a "Star Wars" movie.

It was good vs. evil (always a "Star Wars" thing).  It was about

family (always a "Star Wars" thing).  And there's the little thing

about redemption (yeah, that's a "Star Wars" thing too).

"Yeah" I hear you say, "but it's been done before."  Okay, fair.

Then again, so what?  "Star Wars" is not meant to be some

critically successful set of art films that will win buckets and

buckets of awards; it's meant to be entertainment for the masses.

I'm not disappointed that I've seen this plot before; heck, I'd be

surprised if I hadn't (And oh yes, just to let you know, I loved

THE LAST JEDI in part because it was a departure from the norm and

in part because it made me think about what I expect out of "Star

Wars" and it made me reflect on what it's like to be, well, old.)

seen this plot before.

Let's recap: Good vs. evil (or light vs. dark.  Come on, Rey wears

white, Kylo wears black.  How much more obvious can you get?).  I

like a rollicking good vs. evil story.

Then there's the family thing.  Well, I can't go too deeply into

the family thing because, you know, spoilers.  But it's there in

multiple ways, and tugs at the heartstrings (hold that thought for

a bit).

Same thing for redemption.  Spoilers.  But it's consistent.

"Ah", you say "there's some stuff that needs explaining."  You

know, I can't argue against that.  Once again, spoilers (my guess

is that a majority of you that have stuck around this long have

probably seen the movie already, but just in case, I'll keep my

mouth shut on the spoilers).  It's a bit frustrating to me that the

movie even acknowledges that somewhat big elephant in the room but

waltzes by it.

But you know, it's "Star Wars".  [-jak]


TOPIC: Memory and MOBY-DICK (letter of comment by John Hertz)

In response to Mark's comments on memory in the 11/08/19 issue of

the MT VOID, John Hertz writes:

If not for what Mark has been reporting about his health, I'd

respond to his note on memory "What do you care what other people


My own experience leads me to believe we human beings store all

kinds of stuff in memory, maybe even to the extent some folks call

eidetic; lots of it goes into cold storage and can be hard to

retrieve; to some extent recollection can be refreshed; practically

speaking we vary widely on what comes to mind when.  Jerry

Pournelle (who was my friend; as I've said elsewhere, we met for

lunch and disagreed) was proud of his good memory.  Toward the end,

bad health interfered.  He was disheartened until, as he said, he

realized he then had the same kind of memory Niven had all Niven's


In response to Evelyn's comments on MOBY-DICK in the same issue,

John writes:

MOBY-DICK.  That Melville sure can write.  I was recently given a

copy of the Penguin Classics edition, b y which I mean the 2003

paperback based on the 1988 Northwestern University--Newberry

Library text with 1992 notes and glossary by Tom Quirk--what a name

for this.

MD is a towering example of a superb book that needs glossing.  I'm

reminded of the teaching machine in GILES GOAT-BOY (J. Barth,

Doubleday [hello, Fred Lerner] 1966; nota bene, Heinlein after

GILES likened STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND, Putnam 1961, to it) at

which while the presented a text you could push a button "gloss",

and push it again to gloss the gloss, and --

The Quirk glossary is helpful as far as it goes but its omissions

are hard to account for.  For example, starting with MD Page 1,

Quirk rightly has "hypos" and "Manhattoes", but omits Cato.

Melville thought his readers would probably know him; I submit that

if Quirk, or Penguin, thought so of their readers, he or they were

mistaken.  Evelyn's glossary based on the P Classics ed'n

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

Some Civil War sightseeing we did recently was the short version of



MANASSAS TO GETTYSBURG by Michael Weeks (Countryman Press, ISBN

978-0-88150-963-3).  Most of the tours were three or four days

long, but this one was one day (or two, if you went into the

Shenandoah Alley).  Since we wanted to see some other things during

the week we were taking, and since this covered the start of the

conflict in Virginia this seemed perfect.

The biggest problem was finding one's way from site to site.  It

would be very difficult if you used only the directions in the book

and had to read them while driving.  Even with a navigator, you

have to stick to the route.  Veer off onto a side trip, and you

might have problems finding your way back.  A GPS helps a lot, but

some sites are just plaques by the side of the road.  (The book

does give latitude and longitude.)

Supposedly this tour ends up at Manassas Battlefield, but we never

made it there.  Maybe we're just moving slower, or we spend more

time in the museums than others, or we dawdled over lunch, or

something.  It was also a problem that sunset came early (about

4:30PM).  If we were doing this in the summer, we would have had

another two or three hours.

However, we had seen Manassas Battlefield before, but not the other

sites, such as the Fairfax Museum and Blackburn's Ford.  I still

think that a first-time Civil War trip should probably stick to the

major sites, and save some of these for a later in-depth visit.

One thing that is good about these tours is that they are

chronological, following a single campaign or period.  Most people

see the sites geographically, e.g., Antietam (09/62), Harpers Ferry

(10/59), First Manassas (07/61), Second Manassas (08/62), and

Fredericksurg (12/62), which means there is no sense of the flow of

the war when you see them.

We might do the Gettysburg Tour at some point in the future, but

time will tell.  [-ecl]


                     Mark Leeper

* *

          As to the adjective, when in doubt, strike it out.

                                          --Mark Twain,

                                            PUDD'NHEAD WILSON