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SFFH in Film, TV, and other NonTextual Media

Monday 17 June 2002

§ The buzz is positive for Minority Report, opening Friday.

  • Roger Ebert called it a "masterpiece" in his TV review last weekend; that audio review should be posted soon on the Ebert & Roeper website. His print review will appear on the day the film opens. Meanwhile, his enthusiasm is apparent in an interview/essay already posted.
    Talking to Spielberg and his star, Tom Cruise, I found myself not an interviewer but simply a moviegoer, talking the way you do when you walk out of a movie that blindsides you with its brilliance.
    On the other hand, you have to wonder about certain remarks...
    Spielberg: I went to Scott Frank for the screenplay. He wrote "Get Shorty" and "Out of Sight." I gave him the original short story by Philip K. Dick and he said he didn't know anything about science fiction. I said, "Let me worry about the sci-fi element. Just write a terrific detective yarn. ..."
    Also, Spielberg chimes in on Attack of the Clones.
    Spielberg: I really love George's "Star Wars: Episode Two." I thought it was operatic--George's most accomplished movie. But I don't think I'll ever go to computer-generated sets like he does. I think when you build a set in the 3-D world and actors walk onto that set, they get stimulated. They get ideas. Tom Cruise got ideas about how to play [his character] John Anderton because we built his house with four walls and a ceiling--every aspect was real. He felt at home there and got ideas about Anderton's behavior. I'm sad for the day when sets will exist in cyberspace and not in real life.
  • A feature article by Rick Lyman in Sunday's New York Times contrasts Spielberg's "dark, complex, futuristic whodunit" with the usual summer fare. Again some remarks reveal the filmmakers' experience, such as it is, with the history of SF.
    Like H. G. Wells's "War of the Worlds," a science-fiction allegory about colonialism, or his "Time Machine," an allegory about class struggle, "Minority Report" uses science-fiction to try to address, in an indirect way, issues that are the subject of political debate today, Mr. Cruise said.


    Mr. Spielberg also describes "Minority Report" as his first foray into film noir. Although "Minority Report" is set in the future, Mr. Spielberg said, he does not consider the film science-fiction as much as a kind of expressionistic mystery inspired by film noir directors like John Huston and Samuel Fuller.
    A sidebar article by David Edelstein recaps the career and film treatment of Philip K. Dick...
    To call Philip K. Dick, whose 1954 story "The Minority Report" is the basis for the new Steven Spielberg movie, a science-fiction writer is to the underscore the inadequacy of the label. Dick, who died of a stroke in 1982 at 53, was fascinated by the scientific future largely as a vehicle for examining his own anxieties, longings and unstable perceptions. It would be more accurate to call him one of the most valiant psychological explorers of the 20th century.

§ The lead feature article in Sunday's NYT, by A.O. Scott, is about recent popularity of movie fantasies, with some basic analysis of their appeal.

Fantasy literature, which in the broadest sense includes modes of storytelling from novels to movies to video games, depends on patterns, motifs and archetypes. It is therefore hardly surprising that the most visible modern variants of the ancient genres of saga, romance and quest narrative are so richly crosspollinated and resemble one another. The central characters show an especially close kinship. They are, following a convention so deep it seems to be encoded in the human storytelling gene, orphans, summoned out of obscurity to undertake a journey into the heart of evil that will also be a voyage of self-discovery.

§ Getting back to Attack of the Clones, Roger Kaufman in the Los Angeles Times explains that the film

is actually a breathtaking cinematic achievement. By synthesizing epic archetypal themes with gut-churning special effects and the gay theatrical tradition of high camp, George Lucas has created a potent and disturbing commentary on our own bloated and blind American society. ...

What Turan, Goldstein and many others have failed to understand is that the style of dialogue and acting in "Attack of the Clones" is intentionally campy, a subversive mode of performance that gay people have used for centuries to express their outsider perspective on the dominant culture.

§ Salon asks, if you can't trust Hollywood to get the bird songs right, can you trust them for anything else?

§ Chris Suellentrop in Slate explains why Spider-Man, and other fantasy movie heroes, seem to have taken vows of celibacy. (With a link to where "science-fiction writer Larry Niven posits an alternative explanation for Superman's celibate lifestyle".)

§ The Onion: General Mills' Star Wars: Episode II Cereal Gets It All Wrong.

May Media Refractions

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