Sunday, May 28, 2006

June 4th discussion at Library

Hi everyone -- Just a heads-up! Next Sunday's 2 PM discussion at the library is happening at the same time as Utah Pride, which takes place at Washington/Library Squares on June 4th from 11 AM - 6 PM. So you might want to arrive a little early to find a place to park in the neighborhood. If you've never been down there when Pride is going on, it's HUGE, and parking can be a bear.

Also, just a reminder that we talked last time about meeting on the second floor by the fireplace. Maybe Barney won't find us to shush us. See you there!

del Toro's Latest Nightmare

Variety's Justin Chang on Guillermo del Toro's latest nightmare Pan's Labyrinth: "...a richly imagined and exquisitely violent fantasy...a fairy tale not even remotely intended for children, this entrancing magical-realist drama concocts a sinister spin on 'Alice in Wonderland' against the war-torn backdrop of 1940s Spain, shifting between two worlds with striking craft and discipline . With its graphic phantasmagorical elements and Spanish-language dialogue, pic will rely heavily on strong reviews and the loyalty of del Toro's fans when Picturehouse releases it Stateside in October."

Looking forward to this one!


There's hope for that long-rumored director's "final cut" edition of Blade Runner.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Pern heads to big screen

Monday, May 22, 2006

Favorite Fantasy Films?

Covered some favorite SciFi movies earlier -- so this time looking at fantasy movies. All the magic & monster flicks we grew up with (or saw recently), and still get a kick out of. It's interesting to note that 11 of the AFI's 100 Greatest Movies are scifi/fantasy films. Be sure and let us know which of your faves were left off the list!!

King Kong. (1933) What can you say about King Kong that hasn't already been said? The story & characters are still fun and engaging, 73 years later. Love Peter Jackson's film too, but there's something especially entertaining about those early SFX, where you can see Kong's fur move because the model was being manipulated, and the dinosaurs look kinda clunky and slow. Thank goodness we can now see all those scenes the censors snipped out years ago (like Kong sniffing Fay Wray's clothes, and eating and crushing those poor natives... why did the residents of Skull Island make that gate big enough for him to get through anyway??)

The Wizard of Oz. (1939) The level of detail is still amazing. When I saw a pair of the ruby slippers at the Smithsonian, I was impressed with not only how small they were but how dark they were. The extremely bright, hot Technicolor lighting made them appear that sparkly and magical. They don't look quite that intense in a glass case. The magic is in the details. Like Margaret Hamilton practically going up in flames on that second take in Munchkinland. Yikes! Also, this is one of our dog's favorite movies, which in her mind is known as The Adventures of Toto.

The Thief of Bagdad. (1940) Great film I saw when I was a kid. Of particular note is the grand, soaring score by master film composer Miklos Rozsa (who did the scores for Ben Hur, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad and many many others). It's by turns romantic, noble and mythic. And Thief's SFX are just great fun. Actor Sabu, who also played Mowgli in Jungle Book, died of a sudden heart attack at age 39.

La Belle et la Bete (Beauty and the Beast). (1946) "Once upon a time..." A fairy tale for adults: the dreamlike, surreal, gorgeous masterpiece from Jean Cocteau, the poet of film. If you've never seen it, you owe it to yourself (and your children) to rent it! Truly one of the top-100 films of the 20th century.

Miracle on 34th Street. (1947) When I was a kid, this movie was pure holiday magic: Santa, the Macy's Christmas parade, adorable Natalie Wood, and the charm of Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle. All these years later, the message of the commercialism of Christmas rings truer than ever.

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. (1958) The first really big success for movie-magic maestro Ray Harryhausen. The cyclops ranks right up there with the best all-time movie monsters. Of course, have to mention Bernard Herrmann's thrilling score -- one of his very best. Love all of Harryhausen's movies really, from Mighty Joe Young (1949) all the way up to Clash of the Titans (1981), but if I had to pick one favorite it would have to be this Sinbad tale. Well, or maybe...

Jason and the Argonauts. (1963) That other amazing bit of mythical magic from the Master. The harpies, the giant Talos, the multi-headed hydra, the golden fleece, Triton, those battling skeletons... and did you know that one of the seven skeletons was the same one used in that sword fight from 7th Voyage of Sinbad? Oh, and did I mention Bernard Herrmann?

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. (1968) If only for Benny Hill as the toymaker, the Baron and Baroness Bomburst trying to off each other, and that vile Child Catcher... "Come along kiddie-winkies!" Creeee-py. And the songs were actually quite good. No wonder they turned it into a Broadway musical, complete with a flying car.

Star Wars. (1977) So I remember sitting on the roof of the car in the heat of summer, watching this for the third time at a drive-in with a blonde teenage girl, all her hormones a-ragin'. Wanna make something outta it?? Doesn't mean I didn't still have a thing for Han Solo in the summer of '77. Or maybe even, in a freaky way, for Chewbacca.

The Empire Strikes Back. (1980) Easily the best of the whole series. When the DVDs come out of the original versions, I'll be right there in line. Forget all the CGI tweaking... I want the movies the way I first saw them. Especially this one. I remember standing in line for an hour to get into the theater, which at that time was the longest line I had ever stood in. Other than maybe to buy tickets to a Kiss concert.

Dragonslayer. (1981) It was a good day when this movie finally came out on DVD. It was one of those I had been waiting for, and it was as good as I remembered it. The 80's was a particularly good decade for fantasy films -- just look at how many showed up on this list. This dragon is still one of the coolest, together with the one from 7th Voyage of Sinbad. Difference is this one had babies...

The Dark Crystal. (1982) There is something other-worldly about Jim Henson's puppets; their ballet-like movements brought a unique charm to the story. This is definately one of those movies that has grown in stature since its release. You hear fans talk about it with a kind of hushed enthusiasm -- a reverence almost. But maybe that's just the Brian Froud fans.

Ladyhawke. (1985) A strange medieval fantasy/romance where Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer hardly have a scene together. But Matthew Broderick's "Mouse" makes up for it. If there's a flaw in this movie, it's the awful, dated score by Alan Parsons. Just imagine what Jerry Goldsmith or John Williams could have done with this one...

Legend. (1985) Speaking of Jerry Goldsmith, the restored DVD edition of Legend features the alternate soundtrack with his original score, which studio executives had replaced with the schmaltzy synth-score by Tangerine Dream after test-screenings. It's a much better movie with the original music. Oh, and don't forget Tim Curry's Frankenfurter-as-the-Devil spin!

The Princess Bride. (1987) "Have fun stormin' da castle!" "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." "Inconceivable!" "Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangement, that dweam wifin a dweam..." Easily the most quotable movie on the list. Well, maybe other than The Wizard of Oz.

Field of Dreams. (1989) One you don't think of first as a fantasy, since it's a baseball movie. Well, and a really good Kevin Costner movie. But the characters, including the dead ones, are so well fleshed out (and who out there doesn't love James Earl Jones), and baseball fan or not you feel the home run they hit at the end. A tad sentimental. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Edward Scissorhands. (1990) Vincent Price's last movie, here playing a kind of gentle "mad" scientist, who has all the best intentions. For the guy that got all wiggy in those Poe-Corman movies, the Dr. Phibes movies, and thrillers like Theatre of Blood, this was a quiet way to go out. But over the years it has seemed all the more poignant. Oh, and think Johnny Depp was in this one too.

The Nightmare Before Christmas. (1993) Can anyone say "instant classic?" Between Sandy Claws, Oogie Boogie Man, Jack Skellington & Sally -- not to mention all the memorable minor characters like the Mayor, Dr. Finkelstein, Lock Shock & Barrel, the Clown with the Tear Away Face, etc. -- and some catchy Danny Elfman songs, it became a holiday staple. Of two holidays!

Sleepy Hollow. (1999) Obviously, Tim Burton wrote the cookbook on fantasy in the 90's. Stir together Burton, Depp, Washington Irving & Christopher Walken -- fold in Miranda Richardson and Christina Ricci -- add a heavy dash of Danny Elfman, and mix well. Top off with a pinch of Christopher Lee, and, voila! a sweet dessert with a bloody filling!

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. (2000) File this one under fantasy/kung-fu/action-romance. Playing on a long tradition of fantastic martial arts movies that mix together mysticism with romance, most of which we've never seen in the West, it was an eye-opener for almost all of us upon its U.S. release. It will lead you to movies like Chinese Ghost Story, Chinese Torture Chamber, and of course House of Flying Daggers.

Spirited Away. (2001) This one had me as soon as the parents mutated into giant pigs. Love Miyazaki's other films, especially Princess Mononoke, but there's something special about Spirited Away, something hard to pinpoint. Something so foreign and yet familiar. Like a story I heard when I was a kid, but can't quite remember clearly. If that makes any sense. Gets better with each viewing.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy. (2001-03) A true landmark achievement: a film trilogy that appealed to us die-hard fans of the classic novel as well as those Hobbit-novices. Sales of the book (in all its many incarnations, including the fabulous edition illustrated by Alan Lee - conceptual designer on the movies) went through the roof with the release of these films. That has to be a good thing. One pay-off of many was when Shelob turned out to be even scarier than she was in the book. Brrrrrr.

Spider-Man 2. (2004) The ultimate comic book turned celluloid. Greater depth and character development than we had a right to expect. The first one was very, very cool, but this one upped the ante. Let's hope they can maintain the trend...

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Batman Begins, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit -- all great fantasy films that came out in 2005. I guess you call that a banner year. Wow. Does that mean the Gods are going to punish us with a dry spell of notable fantasy for the rest of the decade?

Saturday, May 20, 2006


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Banned Books

Just ran across the American Library Association's list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000. Found it interesting which scifi/fantasy titles showed up on the list, and where they ranked:

7. Harry Potter (series) - J.K. Rowling
20. Earth's Children (series) - Jean Auel
22. A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle
27. The Witches - Roald Dahl
37. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
52. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
56. James and the Giant Peach - Roald Dahl
69. Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut

I always find these kinds of lists so disturbing. Nazi book burners. Loria was just talking about that, how some folks here in Utah actually held a book burning of HP books. Freak-a-zoids. (Of course, that's not just UT -- my friend in Georgia told me how none of the kids in their neighborhood had read HP, because their parents wouldn't let them read those "devil books.")

Marissa, do you run across complaints like this at the library, asking you to actually remove titles? Does anyone have any insight as to why some of these titles are so threatening to adults? A couple of these were obvious, but what exactly is so insidious about James and the Giant Peach? Or A Wrinkle in Time? Do they have whole lists of banned books in other countries, or is it just the gun-totin' ignernt 'mericans who think like this? And what will show up on the 2000-2010 list? Da Vinci Code? Philip Pullman? Lemony Snickett??

Maybe the Book of Mormon should be considered a dangerous book... I mean, that one is actually converting people, right? ;-)

Monday, May 15, 2006

June & July '06 selections

June = Spin State

July = Kindred

Joss Whedon interview... or is it??

Check out this interview at More proof that Joss is the coolest geek out there...

Tolkien Remixed

I recently read Jacqueline Carey's Banewreaker. I was looking forward to it, ever since reading her Kushiel stories, and she'd indicated to me that she was working on something to take a different look at Tolkien's fantasies.

The problem with Tolkien is of course best pointed out by critics like David Brin. Why are the royalists, the aristocrats, the good guys? Everything we hear about is from their perspective. What if it's all propaganda?

So Banewreaker was a lot of fun to read. She's written a fantasy that is quite obviously a criticism of Tolkien, but also of Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks, David Eddings, and any other authors who've modeled their stories after The Lord of the Rings. Carey's criticism is not a spoof, not a Bord of the Rings. It's well written, fun to read, and her jabs traditional fantasy are carefully chosen. I enjoyed the book very much, and plan to read the rest of what I think is supposed to be a trilogy. Book two, Godslayer is already out.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Octavia Butler - a nice tribute

NPR Octavia Butler: Eye on the Stars, Feet on the Ground

This was a good tribute to one of our favorite authors at Be sure and listen to the All Things Considered audio.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Favorite SciFi Movies?

Your favorite thought-provoking SciFi movies, classics & guilty pleasures? List 'em here!
  • Metropolis. (1927) The mother of all scifi movies. Check out the trivia on this one. And if you haven't seen the restored Kino Video edition, you've never seen Metropolis.
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still. (1951) Gort scared me so much when I was a kid that my mom sent me to bed early. Klaatu Barada Nikto was just too much. Not to mention that ground-breaking Bernard Herrmann score featuring a theremin.
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers. (1956) Beyond the obvious metaphor of communism or right-wing fundamentalism, it's still creepy. The sequel wasn't bad either.
  • Forbidden Planet. (1956) Electronic soundscapes, Robby the Robot, an invisible monster and The Tempest - all before Lost in Space and Star Trek. As a footnote, check out the MST3K version of This Island Earth. Wacky fun with the Mu-Tants.

  • The Fly (1958 & 1986) SciFi or Horror? Who cares. Vincent Price is so cool in the original -- and that ending is still freaky. What kid having grown up on b&w TV didn't have that burned into their brain? And the remake takes it to a new level of grotesque. Gotta love it.
  • The Time Machine. (1960) Still fun. Even with the oatmeal/food coloring lava. And who wasn't really freaked out by the glowy-eyed Morlocks when you were a kid? C'mon, you know you were. And please please forget about that ghastly remake.
  • Godzilla Vs. Mothra. (1964) Also known in more sophisticated circles as Mosura tai Gojira! Guilty pleasure. A bottle of Merlot Friday-night feature. Check the higher functions at the front desk, kick back and enjoy the tiny singing native girls.
  • Planet of the Apes. (1968) Who would have thunk it? Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter and Maurice Evans in wacky ape make-up. And Chuck Heston? But it still works. Watch for the "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" scene. Not to mention all the sequels that were fun all on their own. Remember the board game??
  • Quartermass and the Pit. (1968) Hammer Horror does 60's scifi. Still worth the effort to dig this one up.

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey. (1968) I can still watch the beginning of man scenes with the apes and tapirs over and over.
  • THX 1138. (1971) 70's scifi at it's most thoughtful and Orwellian. Or was that Barbarella?
  • Fantastic Planet. (1973) Before anime was popular there was the psychedelic animation of Rene Laloux. The DVD has cool extras like his short films "The Snails" and "Monkey's Teeth."
  • Logan's Run. (1976) Still fun, and better than I remembered it. And now it's up for remake-status (not that that's necessarily a good thing).
  • Time After Time. (1979) This one has aged very well. Malcolm McDowell and Jack the Ripper. Cool twist on The Time Machine.

  • Alien. (1979) Okay, so it's really the monster in the cellar story. Still probably the best creature feature ever. I vividly remember sitting in the theater's second row on opening weekend. We had no idea what we were in for... but of course that was before all the chest-bursting parodies and imitations.
  • Quest for Fire. (1981) Rod hated it, I loved it. Okay, maybe helped that I saw it on first-release on the big screen. But it really is a whole lot more than just the discovery of the missionary position!
  • Blade Runner. (1982) SciFi as film noir. Director's cut is a must-see. Now when are they going to release that rumored 3-disc special edition??
  • Lifeforce. (1985) Vampires from outer space. Memorable beyond the whole Capt. Picard connection. And the DVD is the uncut version.
  • 12 Monkeys. (1995) Terry Gilliam at his best. Or maybe that was Brazil. Visually stunning, + Brad Pitt going all freaky-eyed. The time travel is just frosting.

  • Star Trek: First Contact. (1996) For my money, still the best Star Trek flick. Data and the Borg Queen getting it on, well sort of -- who could ask for anything more. And who among us didn't envy Data a little when he was able to switch off his emotion chip?
  • Pitch Black. (1999) Vin Diesel. Get over it. Alien redux, with Australian accents. Get over it. Scary as Hell.
  • Solaris. (2002) I know some folks prefer the very slooow Russian version. Or the Lem novel, which we read in the group. But George Clooney & Soderbergh just hit all the right notes for me.
  • Minority Report. (2002) Excellent movie, in spite of the Cruise factor. Action with some thought behind it for once.
  • Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. (2002) One of Miyazaki's masterpieces. Watch for all the Dune references.
  • Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars.(2004) Love love love Farscape, and this tied it up nicely. Helps that John Crichton is such a major hottie...
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. (2004) Okay, so maybe it's closer to 1930's radio drama than contemporary scifi, but I still got a big kick out of it. Catch all the clever classic movie references.

  • Serenity. (2005) Buffy. Angel. Firefly. Serenity. Joss Whedon = genius. 'Nuff said.

  • Okay, so what did I forget??

    What We've Read So Far

    Some great (and not so great) titles we’ve read since we started our group in 2000:

    Friday, May 12, 2006

    Overdrive up & running

    Overdrive -or- Salt Lake SciFi & Fantasy Book Group -or- How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love China Mieville!

    We get the Overdrive blog going... Looking forward to seeing everyone's musings, reviews, critiques, essays, suggestions, faves, stray thoughts, epiphanies, pics, lists, and various rants & vents. Will be a fun way for us all to stay in touch throughout the month in between discussions, and with those folks from out of town... blog away!