JJPierce

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Everything posted by JJPierce

  1. AVATAR

    It's more than funny. It's dead-on and well-researched. I hadn't known about the design team for the Na'vi and all the trouble they went to; I figured they just went for a "cute" look off the cuff, so to speak. By the way, it may not be worth a thread of its own, but I also saw THE BOOK AFTER ELI. I'd read a review about how the only salvation for the post-apocalyptic worlds is the BIBLE. Are they kidding, I wondered. Well they're not.
  2. The Charles Darwin Movie

    Looks like a refreshing alternative to Avatar and The Book of Eli (I see that's supposed to be all about how we need the Bible to save the world. I'm sure Pat Robertson will love it. By the way, the impact of evolution on traditional faith was a subtext of ANGELS AND INSECTS, an underapprecdiated movie based on a story by A.S. Byatt.
  3. Oliver Stone’s New Mini-series

    Guess Stone hasn't seen Valkyrie. Or read any history at all. I can hardly wait for him to collaborate with Noam Chomsky on a movie extolling Pol Pot.
  4. A Quantum Question

    You might try Victor J. Stenger's The Unconscious Quantum.
  5. Is Beauty Quantifiable ?

    Here's a very short analogy. Suppose you go to a nutritionist for diet advice. He could give you a lot of objective information on that basis, given the objective nature of calorie counts, the amount of protein and fats and carbohydrates in various foods, etc. He might advise you to eat more fish and less red meat, more green vegetables and less starchy root vegetables. But he'd be totally out of line to tell you that you should like, say, tilapia better than salmon -- and to assert that there's something wrong with you if you don't. The late Robert A. Heinlein once made a similar argument: which is "better" -- a chocolate malt or a strawberry malt? (I like coffee ice cream better than chocolate, but I'd be a fool to argue against the chocolate lovers!) I think it's the same with our experience of the arts -- there's a range of normal objective taste. Indeed, there is a range of normality in a lot of things. Nobody would assert that a man with an !Q of 101 is a genius and a man with an IQ of 99 is a moron. Nobody would consider heights of six feet two or five feet ten abnormal on an objective basis. Anyway, if we can have divergent tastes in food, why not in beauty? Even though we can agree that there's an objective difference between good food and rotten food, between beauty and ugliness. I'm not sure what "quantifying" it would entail: Bo Derek was touted as a 10, but there were are other women just as beautiful who didn't/don't look just like her -- consider the women of other races. Can we rate every sunset precisely on a scale of one to ten? Every painting? Every piece of music? Every poem? Every novel? It's enough for me to know when I'm experiencing beauty.
  6. AVATAR

    Did they run out bolonium and stupidium? It's like Cameron was sneering at the audience, even while trying to win it over. The most inexplicable thing in the naming of names, as opposed to the conceptions.
  7. AVATAR

    It actually gets sillier than that. At one point, we're told that the hometree is the only good source of obtainium within 200 kilometers. Like, these people have come a couple of hundred light years and they can't go the extra 200 klicks? And what the hell is obtainium good for? We're never told. But the whole movie is just the cinematic equivalent of a roman à clef -- it's supposed to be about the Indians, and Vietnam and even Iraq ("shock and awe") all rolled into one. But cinema à clef, just like roman à clef, makes it easy to stack the deck and make false analogies (The situation in District Nine, for example, was not really analogous to that of apartheid in South Africa, where white people conquered and oppressed black people who were already there.). It's possible that Avatar takes its cue from Ursula K. Le Guin's "The Word for World is Forest" (1974), not one of her best stories, which has to do with imperalist exploitation of a forest planet and its natives -- in that case, the imperialists wanted to ship lumber back to Earth across many light years in NAFAL (not as fast as light) ships. Not very plausible economically, given both the distance and the bulk. But there are other silly things about Avatar. Like the floating mountains. What keeps them up? Not only does nobody know, but nobody seems to have the slightest curiosity about it. I have a vague recollection of that idea, and the sacred tree, being used in some Japanese anime movie more than a decade ago. The rider robots certainly come from anime; they were used in one Japanese live action movie, Gunhed (1989), and Cameron adopted the idea for the climax of Aliens (1986). Other ideas in the movie do come out of genre sf -- the avatar bodies first appeared, I think, in Poul Anderson's "Call Me Joe" (1957) -- indeed, the human operator in that story is disabled. James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon) used the idea in a different way in "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" (1973). The idea of nerve taps for symbiotic relationships goes back to the Ichthyoids and the Arachnoids in Olaf Stapledon's Star Maker (1937), and was reprised by Anderson in The Rebel Worlds (1969) -- only Cameron insists on having every life form connected to every other life form in this manner. Won't work that way, unless you posit that the Great Ones from Beyond (going quantum leaps further than Le Guin's Hainish) set the whole system up. Notwithstanding all these obvious (to an sf scholar and historian like myself) criticisms, I am not unhappy to see Avatar becoming a billion dollar blockbuster. It is indeed an awesome visual spectacle and, if you can get past the ideological blindness, an appealing story of redemption. Moreover, by showing what can be done with the latest state-of-the-art CGI technology, it opens the door to more and, hopefully, better science fiction on the screen by other hands. Think of Larry Niven's puppeteers and kzinti.... --John J. Pierce, author of IMAGINATION AND EVOLUTION, an sf history now in the process of revision and updating
  8. Worst novels

    I read THE PELICAN BRIEF when the movie version came out. Wasn't impressed. Philip Margolin isn't anywhere near as well known as Grisham, but he's a better writer IMHO. His THE BURNING MAN is the best legal novel I've come across.
  9. Worst novels

    Well, it's easy to tell why she's your ex-girlfriend. As for novels, some are obviously bad and some (to me) just uninteresting. I've nodded off every time I've tried to read anything by Henry James.
  10. Kafka's Metamorphosis

    I suppose Gregor should have checked into a motel -- a Roach Motel, that is! Somebody came out with a book a year or two ago arguing that Kafka wasn't really morose, and that his surreal horror stories were actually a joke. If they were, I'm still wondering what the punch line was supposed to be.
  11. Nino Rota

    And here's a link to part of that symphony I mentioned in my lastr post: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gk3ZUYyNkYg And a 1958 score that includes an earlier version of what became the Godfather theme:
  12. Nino Rota

    You've doubtless heard of Nino Rota. He's probably best known for the Godfather theme* and sundry scores for Fellini films, But he was also a composer of classical musc in the romantic tradition. Here are a couple of examples: Concerto Soirée for Piano & Orchestrta http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-lWd3mlf4v4 Piano Concerto #1 in C Major Neither of these was recorded during Rota's lifetime; the premiere recording of the second didn't come until 1998, nearly 20 years after the composer's death. It's available at Amazon on the Chandos label, a British outfit, along with his Piano Concerto in E Minor -- that's not on YouTube, but it's beautiful. Concerto Soirée has gotten some play the last few years on WQXR in New York. * According to a featurette about Rota on the Criterion DVD of 8 1/2, the Godfather theme is a variation in a quick march he composed for an Italian film back in the fifties. The Italian producers sued him for breach of contract as a result, but couldn't FIND the contract, so the case was throw out of court. --J.J. Pierce
  13. Nino Rota

    The final movement ("Can Can") of the Concerto Soirée was actually the source of the Turkish bath scene music for Otti e Mezzo. Rota borrowed from himself a lot that way -- some of the score for THE LEOPARD was derived from his Symphony on a Love Song, and he reworked film music material into a ballet version of La Strada. He also tweaked music from other sources -- the slow waltz from La Dolce Vita is a variation on Weill's "Mack the Knife!"
  14. Vadim Perelman

    No mystery about this. He got dumped for the same reason the Mets dumped Willie Randolph. The box office failure of THE LIFE BEFORE HER EYES made him poison in Hollywood. What's really bizarre is that Angelina Jolie is quoted as saying he was never involved in the project to begin with! Guess we just imagined those announcements and interviews...
  15. Vadim Perelman

    Some of you, at least, have been following the travails of the ATLAS SHRUGGED movie project. There have been interviews with director Vadim Perelman, Michael Burns of Lionsgate, and others. It's down to one two-and-a-half hour movie, no trilogy -- too awkward and too expensive. Angelina Jolie is still on board, but shooting has been delayed by her pregnancy. It might start in September. Pittsburgh will stand in for New York. They'd like to get Russell Crowe to play Hank Rearden. My apologies if all of you already know all this. I saw THE LIFE BEHIND HER EYES recently, in part to get the measure of Pereman as a filmmaker and storyteller. The good news is that he's a great one. The bad news is that nobody else seems to think so; it looks as if the movie is tanking big time. That could sink Perelman and sink ATLAS SHRUGGED. I can't say whether that would be a tragedy or not. ATLAS SHRUGGED is a totally differemt kind of story from THE LIFE BEFORE HER EYES; maybe he isn't up to it. But I can say that, despite the bad reviews and minimal box office, LIFE is an excellent film on its own terms. I find myself unable to spell it out because, like THE USUAL SUSPECTS and THE SIXTH SENSE, it has a trick ending that makes us see everything that has gone before it in a different light. I am able to say that, once you see the ending, everything else makes sense -- elements that seemed unrealistic, confusing or pretentious all fall into place as part of an integrated whole. Thank you for your attention/patience.
  16. Vadim Perelman

    Based on both his interview and the care he took in making THE LIFE BEHIND HER EYES, I think Perelman would give ATLAS SHRUGGED his best shot. Whether that would be good enough, I can't say. But... if the box office failure of LIFE scares the Powers That Be into dropping him like a hot potato, we'll never know. And would there be any white knight who could do the job better charging in?
  17. Who the devil is Jamie Clay? I've never heard of him, and he has no previous movie credits, but IMDB says he's been cast as John Galt in the Atlas Shrugged movie. Maybe it doesn't matter. There hasn't been a peep put of the producers in more than four months -- not even about Vadim Perelman's work on the script -- and with Angelina Jolie having reportedly just gotten pregnant, the production is looking to be a non-starter. I thought Perelman had the right idea in framing the story as a "period piece" (i.e., an alternate history, but ii he can't get anyone else on board he's not going to get anywhere.
  18. Pathways of Love

    Here's another; Katrina Thurman singing "Les Mamelles de Teresias:" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c85bwCtvK2s&NR=1 Enjoy!
  19. Poulenc Plays Poulenc

    Just found this on YouTube: Francis Poulenc himself playing one of the pianos in his Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra: Must date back to around 1960 or earlier (Poulenc died in 1963). The concerto itself shows off his fascination with combining classical orchestration and motifs and the kind of pop themes that he called "l'adorable musique mauvaise." Somebody reportedly once told Stravinsky that Poulenc was eclectic, to which Stravinsky is said to have replied: "Eclectic? The man's a kleptomaniac!" Well, if it's thievery, it's also fun!
  20. Poulenc Plays Poulenc

    Here's another link to YouTube, this time for Poulenc's Concerto for Organ, Strings and Tympani. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOi_VPZmq3I I first heard this at Lincoln Center at a Stravinsky Festival back in the 60's. I think the program notes were the source of that anecdote about Stravinsky and Poulenc.
  21. Pathways of Love

    Thanks a bunch. Hadn't seen or heard that before.
  22. Poulenc Plays Poulenc

    Turns out it was recorded in 1962, just the year before he died.
  23. No Country For Old Men (2007)

    Well, the Coen brothers still have some real classics to their credit. Let's see who recognizes: "I'm not afraid of you, Marty!" "Well ma'am, if I see him, I'll sure give him the message." "Sir, we discovered you were born Nathan Huffheins." "Yeah, I changed my name. What of it?" "Can you give us an indication why?" "Would you buy furniture at a store called Unpainted Huffheins?" "One of them was kinda funny looking." "What do you mean funny looking?" "Just in a general way." "It's the Soggy Bottom Boys!"
  24. My Cousin Vinny (1992)

    It's an absolute scream. My wife and I were in hysterics from scenes as varied as the rwo kids in prison thinking Vinny was a rapist (with extremely vulgar yet brilliant innuendo) to Mona Lisa on the stand testifying about the fine points of the 1964 Buick Skylark vs. the 1963 Pontiac Tempest.
  25. Caught on Tape: Death Star Galaxy

    Something this brings to mind is that the universe -- the physical universe -- is neither malevolent nor benevolent, simply indifferent. That Death Star Galaxy isn't out to kill anyone (And there may well be sentient beings in its path), any more than our own Sun is deliberately nurturing us.