Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Two More Great Film Icons Gone

By now you have heard that Leslie Nielsen and Irvin Kirshner have died.

Today Leslie Nielsen is best known for portraying the bumbling detective; Frank Drebin in the Police Files TV series and Naked Gun movies. But he first came to fame as Commander Adams, Captain of the United Planets Space Cruiser C57D in the 1956 SF film Forbidden Planet. This is a must see movie for SF fans. Not only was it a prelude to Star Trek but many of the props and sets, like Robbie the Robot, were later used in such productions as The Twilight Zone. January 2, 2011 Turner Classic Movies will be airing this film at 5PM. Pull up a chair, set you DVRs, grab some popcorn and enjoy this wonderful collaboration between MGM and Disney Studios.

Irvin Kirshner was able to give us sequels that were as good as or better than the movies that preceded them. Not an easy task at a time when sequels were considered low-budget ways to make more money on a popular film. The Fly (1958 and not an Irvin Kirshner film but here as an example of what Hollywood though of sequels) was shot in color, its two sequels were both black & white knock-offs. Mr. Kirshner took the successful Star Wars franchise forward with the 1980 film The Empire Strikes Back (which many consider the best film of the franchise). Then in 1983; Never Say Never Again gave us a new look at an aging James Bond (even if the story was a recycled Thunderball). Finally in 1990 he takes Paul Verhoeven's RoboCop on another mission for OCP. While he made many films and TV episodes throughout his career, he is important for letting us know that a sequel doesn't have to be bad.

Surely, we will miss these guys.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Support a Small Press Publisher on Cyber Monday

As you will find on the OSFES website, there are several small press publishers producing material from a variety of creative minds. They do not have the advantage to being picked up and sold in the major bookstore chains throughout the country. Even small bookstores find it difficult to stock their merchandise. That leaves few avenues to get their works into your hands; one is at conventions and another is the Internet. Cyber Monday, this year November 29th, is the day for people to shop for Christmas on the Internet. So click on one of the small press publishers we have listed at: http://www.osfes.org/SmallPress.htm and find something new to read or a gem to exchange.

Some of those publishers will be offering discounts on the 29th. I have received word on one from Yard Dog Press. Here is a direct link to their Cyber Monday page. And once you have read your new book, come to the 72nd & Dodge Borders the third Tuesday of each month (except December) and talk about it with other like minds.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

I would like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. Eat well but judiciously.

If you are looking for a movie this Saturday (Nov. 27th), Turner Classic Movies will be showing the film that won Tom Baker the role of Dr. Who; THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1974) at 2 PM. This is the second of the three Sinbad films made by Ray Harryhausen and stars John Philip Law as Sinbad with Tom Baker as the evil magician, Koura. Here, enjoy the trailer:

It was his smile, the BBC couldn't resist it.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Brief Look at Some of December’s Movies.

by Jason Burns

As always in December all the last minute Oscar contenders are in limited release and we will most likely not see any of them in Omaha till February or March. Out of all them the one that I would like to see is Black Swan. It is directed by Darren Aronofsky and stars Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey and Winona Ryder. Black Swan has Ryder plays a ballerina who is being replaced for the lead in Swan Lake with
Portman and Kunis who are two dancers that are both trying for the part. I have yet to be disappointed by Darren Aronofsky as a director and Black Swan has a good cast of leading ladies so I'm hoping for good things from this film.

Also in December we have two big sequels The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and TRON: Legacy. Dawn Treader is the third in the Narnia series and the first one made after Disney dropped the series. I'm not that big of a fan of the Narnia series but I'll be watching this to see if this can top the Disney films. TRON: Legacy is a sequel that comes 28 years after the first one and one of the more interesting effects this film will have is that Jeff Bridges is playing two parts Flynn as he is now and Flynn from 28 years ago.

Then there are other two book adaptations True Grit and Gulliver's Travels. I'll start by saying that I'm a Coen Brothers fan and will give anything they produce a try. There have been a lot of complaints about this film being remade but let us look at what we got. There is the Coen Brothers they share 4 Oscars, 2 for screen writing and 1 for directing, and 6 nods and their three leading men have been nominated for best actor Oscars. Last year Jeff Bridges won best actor, Josh Brolin was the lead in No Country for Old Men which won best picture in 2009 and Matt Damon stared in two of the last decade's biggest trilogies, The Bourne and Ocean's Trilogies. If I told someone that a movie is coming out star Jeff Bridges, Josh Brolin and Matt Damon directed by the Coen Brothers many would jump at the chance to see it. But when I say it's True Grit and they grab the pitch forks and torches.

Gulliver's Travels is one of three movies for December I'm calling out as avoid at all cost, the other two are Yogi Bear and Little Fockers. All three movies are poor excuses for comedy, where True Grit is trying to be faithful Gulliver's Travels says what would happen if Gulliver was a fat lazy slacker, what is passing for comedy in Yogi Bear you will never find in the cartoon, and the third movie is called Little Fockers, enough said there.

On December 10 a new movie theater will open in Omaha, the Aksarben Cinema and with the new Narnia the Usual Suspect's Saturday Movie will been seen there. We go to the last matinee on the Saturday of the opening weekend of the film if possible. The December movies are:

December 4: Faster @ the Rave 14

December 11: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader @ Aksarben Cinema

December 18: TRON: Legacy @ Aksarben Cinema

December 25: Christmas no movie

January 1: True Grit @ Aksarben Cinema

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What Do You Want To Do At OSFest 4.0?

A little known secret is that those 'balding, white-haired men in back rooms deciding what is fun for fans' really do want your ideas. A case in point is AnimeNebrasKon. A good deal of their program items are discussed and refined on their forum. Panel ideas are suggested and talked about, improved or pruned. OSFES has had a forum since its earliest days, but not enough people to make it an active community. Now we are giving that forum a stronger commitment in the hopes that it will make OSFest an even better fan event. So drop by the forum at www.osfes.com, sign up, and give us your input. If you don't like the setup, let us know. It is a wise man who is willing to learn from his mistakes.

What do you want to do at OSFest 4.0? Under the OSFest Forum there is a Programming Ideas Forum that is just waiting for people to send us the things they would like to do. Float your trial balloon here and see what others think – you might just end up as a Program Participant next July. The Omaha Science Fiction and Fantasy Festival is your convention, it is all about the genre and activities you enjoy exploring. So I ask you again; what do you want to do at OSFest 4.0? Let's upgrade the system together.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Risk Taking Filmmaker has Died

Dino De Laurentiis died on November 11 at the age of 91. 70 of those years were spent producing movies you may or may not have attributed to him. After World War 2 he produced a string of Italian pictures until the failure of his Dinocitta studio project. He then moved to the U.S. in the 1960's and where he eventually created DEG Studios in North Carolina, which also ended in failure.

Dino De Laurentiis took chances in making films and when his big spectacular pictures failed they were still a spectacularly. Consider King Kong and Dune, granted I don't think we had the special effects techniques he wanted to pull off a remake of the big ape and he ran into studio politics, where several studios recuts that proved "He who can destroy a thing, controls a thing". Frank Herbert did not live to see the final, theatrical cut of Dune but it has been written that he had said he liked the rushes that were available to him.

You can't work in filmmaking for 70 years just making commercial failures. He did have an impressive string of hits. Conan the Barbarian (if you can find the extended version – see it. The ending works better there than the shortened theatrical release.) Flash Gordon, Ragtime, Three Days of the Condor, even Army of Darkness. Click here for a full list of his films.

It's too bad that Hollywood doesn't have men like De Laurentiis today. They need more people willing to take chances and not bring us the same old homogenized films guaranteed to return a profit on every investment. We need to get away from predictable plots that are safe for the filmmakers' bottom line.

Or maybe that will be left to tomorrow's independent filmmakers? OSFest 4.0: System Upgrade will host an Independent Film Festival for science fiction, fantasy, or horror productions. As soon as we have a list of films to be run I will bring you that list. If you are an independent filmmaker, looking for a place to screen your SF/Fantasy/Horror film, drop us a line at films@osfes.org.

Friday, November 12, 2010

ICON 35, one of the many Midwest pop culture experiences

Last weekend at the Marriott Hotel in Cedar Rapids, IA, I attended the thirty-fifth rendition of the convention that Joe built: ICON (This year: ICON 35 – A Steam Powered Convention of the Future). It was originally organized by the Science Fiction League of Iowa Students (yes, that is SFLIS – ask me about it some time. Or better yet ask Joe Haldeman). Later The Mindbridge Foundation was founded to run it and AnimeIowa. ICON, like Archon, ConQuest, Constellation, Contraception, Demicon, OSFest, Valleycon, Visioncon, and Willycon, has been a mainstay in the Midwest Science Fiction scene. AnimeNebrasKon, AnimeIowa, Nakacon, Sogen Con, and OtakuOmaha have featured the Anime side of Science Fiction. MageCon and Nuke-Con have brought great gaming to the Midwest. There is a major comic book convention in Kansas City; Planet Comicon. And in St. Louis a horror convention got its start this year: Contamination. So don't let others fool you. Science Fiction/Fantasy/Anime/Gaming/Horror conventions have been around in our area continuously since the early 1980s. They have not been missing! If you would like to see who has been doing them in Nebraska for the last thirty years, check out the OSFES history project at www.osfes.org/History.htm. Oh and if you have anything to add to it, please let me know. Remember to support your local fan run convention because without you they can never happen.

ICON 35: A Steam Powered Convention of the Future was themed for its Fan Guest of Honor, Susan Leabhart. There were several panels on Steampunk, many great costumes in the subgenre, and even a time-traveling airship (sequestered in a hotel room of course). She took us through what is Steampunk, its costuming, and what works (a steam powered computer?).

With a writer GOH like Cory Doctorow we had to get some serious discussions into the genre we love. Cory is a big blogger and he did a two-part panel on that subject, along with one looking at new media and how it affects our entertainment, he and Hugo winner Bill Johnson examined the economics of Star Trek and other future universes and finally looked at the "Black Box" phenomenon creeping into today technology.

Of course that's not to say that Dr. Who, bad (really bad) poetry, and Zombie panels didn't make an appearance, because they did. And while the number of room parties on Saturday night seemed down for this event, it was only because they had been moved to Friday night.

So overall, ICON was again a fun experience. But I am really glad they are moving their dates back a week so that I don't have to choose between ICON and AnimeNebrasKon next year like I did this year. ICON 36 will be October 28-30, 2001 and AnimeNebrasKon will be November 4-6, 2011 (but give them time to recover from their respective conventions before you demand an update of their pages). Back to back fun next year but you don't have to wait until then, OSFest 4.0 System Upgrade is July 22-24, 2011. Pre-registration prices keep your overall convention experience costs down.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Restored Version of Metropolis

In the 1920s, during the German expressionist period, classic cinema like The Cabinet of Dr, Caligari, Nosferatu, The Golem, and M brought a new usage of set design enhance the mood each film needed to tell its tale. The most famous of the films of this period was Fritz Lang's Metropolis.

Metropolis is a love story set against the backdrop of a man vs. machine and man vs. man story. Two classes exist in the post-modern world of Metropolis; the pampered ruling class and the toiling working class. The two classes must never meet! Maria, a girl from the underground working class finds her way into the Eternal Gardens of the ruling class and is noticed by Freder, a young member of the ruling class, before she can be spirited away. Freder becomes infatuated with Maria and follows her to the underbelly of his society and witnesses a tragedy kills many of the workers and no one cares about them only the machine they service. He becomes so distraught by this that he takes action to improve the workers conditions. This doesn't sit to kindly with his father, who has a robot built looking exactly like Maria to distract and discredit his son.

Metropolis is a 1927 film directed by Fritz Lang. It was produced in Germany during a stable period of the Weimar Republic (before Adolf Hitler's ascension to power), Metropolis is set in a futuristic urban dystopia and makes use of this context to explore the social crisis between workers and owners in a capitalist society. The film was produced in the Babelsberg Studios by Universum Film A.G. (UFA) and was the most expensive silent film ever made.

Metropolis was cut after it German premiere and many times after that, with much of the footage being presumed lost. After many attempts to restore the film to its original vision, a print was found in Argentina that contained 30 minutes of footage not seen in decades. The original running time was 153 minutes when it was released in 1927. The newly discovered version was announced to be missing only a few scenes but it was in deplorable condition. It currently has a running time of 149 minutes, very close to its original length, especially when you consider the hand cranking system used in the 1920s.

This newly restored version of Metropolis will be shown on Turner Classic Movies Sunday Novermber 7th at 7PM. This is probably a great way to wind down from either of the conventions that were held that weekend; AnimeNebrasKon or Icon.

OSFest is working on an independent film festival this year. I have details as soon as they are sured up.