Either your browser's javascript has been disabled or it needs an update! Please re-enable your javascript program or update your browser to view this page as designed. Nolan's Pop Culture Review 2001 Banner! Number 67 (Vol 2, No. 27).  This edition is for the week of July 2--July 8, 2001.
Happy 4th of July!    Our great nation is 225 years old July 4th, 2001. Please...while it is definitely worth celebrating civil liberty and independence, do not blow your faces and hands off while doing so!  ---Nolan       This message repeats once.
Kubrick meets Spielberg
Also: two more great losses

This past weekend saw the release of the much-speculated about, long-anticipated movie, "A.I. Artificial Intelligence." This film has been in "the works" since Stanley Kubrick first began negotiations with technical consultants over his vision of this production around a decade ago. While the critics are quasi-split over their first gut reactions to viewing the film, there's no denying "A.I." has made a significant impact on the motion picture industry. What's left to realize is its significance on motion picture history.

I say "quasi"-split because of the dichotomous nature of the film and what expectations one brings to it. Former PCR movie critic, Brandon Herring, has given the movie 3½ stars in private emails. (Brandon has retired from writing for a while to persue other interests.) Popular Chicago critics Roeper and Ebert have applauded the movie on their TV show, but with some reservations.

One of the surprises attached to the showing I attended was the inclusion of the new, extended "Lord of the Rings" trailer from the upcoming, much-debated Peter Jackson adaptation. One of the couple I attended the show with was inspired to write us about this lone feature of our experience. I am extremely honored to present his "Lord of the Rings" trailer commentary in the section immediately following this one.

Please see "This Week's Movie Review" this issue, below, for my in-depth review of "A.I. Artificial Intelligence".

Last week we said goodbye to John Lee Hooker and Carroll O'Connor. The notorious "they die in threes" superstition was riding high when the death of actor Jack Lemmon, 76, was announced late last week. Then, when we thought that was it for this time around, Chet Atkins succumbed to cancer at 77 Sunday night. I'll leave it to Mike Smith (Mike's Rant") to cover the career of Jack Lemmon, a wonderfully talented and versatile actor ("Some Like it Hot, The Odd Couple", "The China Syndrome") and Academy Award winner, who often played "everyman USA".
   The more palpable void in my life is felt by the passing of Chet Atkins, guitarist extraordinaire. Chet Atkins was indisputably a HUGE influence on me growing as a guitar player. Usually associated with country music spanning nearly 6 decades, Atkins was equally at home on classic guitar and was know to spin a mean rock lick now and then. An accomplished finger-style picker, he became one the masters to emulate, not that anyone could come close to matching him. Fortunately, he leaves us with a prolific inventory of albums and greatest hits. (Many people remember "Chester and Lester" his album with Les Paul which came out over 20 years ago.) I was collecting videotapes of his performances until the very end. The man never ceased to amaze me. He will be sorely missed.

LOTR movie trailer
A review of the extended trailer for "The Lord of the Rings"  by first-time contributor, Count Poffula

Hello, all. I'm Count Poffula, long time listener/first time caller. I just wanted to put in my two cents about something very important to me, and maybe you. The Lord of the Rings. For any crazed fan, (boy or girl) who has read Tolkien and heard that they are making a live-action film, around all three volumes of his classic trilogy, "The Lord of the Rings", it has been a concern. "What will they screw up, and how embarrassing will this be to those of us whom hold this story so close to our hearts?" (Do I sound crazed?)

Well I'm feeling better about some of that now. This past weekend, Nolan, my wife, Lauré, and I went to see "A.I." (Nolan will review that waste of cinema.) (heh heh...See "This Week's Movie Review", this issue---N) and we got to see this extended trailer.... It opens with a voice-over of Gandalf explaining the one ring and the power of Sauron. Then we see some of the main characters in flashes, as well as scenes of huge landscapes and oceans of Orc armies. Then we see the black riders, racing through the woods with swords drawn (a very powerful scene). Everything looks great, very dark and very medieval (as it should). I'm very pleased.

Gandalf looks great. At one point his face fills the whole screen as he asks Frodo in a panic, "Do you still have the ring? Where is it? Is it safe?"

There is a brief shot of Legolas, the elf, up close, and a long away shot of Mt. Doom, and you hear a voice-over of Gollum saying "My Precious," but you don't see him. You also don't see Sam, or any of the hobbits' feet (that's a shame). Aragorn looks a little young, but we shall see. I still feel apprehensive about Elijah Wood, but he does a good fake English accent (he sounds just like the Frodo in the cartoons from the 70s). There are so many flashes of characters and so much going on in so many scenes at once, it's hard to take it all in and decide who is who, but it sure looks promising.

So, all and all, the trailer was very encouraging and in my mind justified the price to get in, even if they did tack on some crappy Spielberg fluff (the feature presentation!) after the wonderful trailer.
Thank you for your time,
Poff :)

HEARD ON THE RADIO:  Gillian Anderson, "Dana Scully" of TV's X-FIles, is calling it quits for sure after this coming season. In an interview with the London Sunday Times, Anderson, 32, is quoted as saying next season's her last on "The X-FIles". She wants to spend more time with her 6-year-old daughter, Piper, and persue other interests.
   OK, so here's how it's probably gonna go: at or near the beginning of the new season, they'll introduce a new, hot-babe member to the X-Files (no, I don't think Agent Reyes is it). Doggett and Scully will object, naturally. Then, somewhere in the middle of the season, or thereabouts, Scully has another crisis of some sort (but not another alien abduction, puh-LEEEZ) and takes a leave of absence, which necessitates Agent Doggett (Robert Patrick) to accept the new partner as a likely permanent replacement. I'm assuming the new cast member will be female, to keep the legendary sexual tension the show is known for a high priority. But it certainly doesn't have to be.

A new "Battlestar Galactica"? Hats off to "Deadguy" Scott for this head's up. Yes, apparently some crazed fanboys with too much money and time on their hands are attempting to resurrect the old '70s sci-fi show, "Battlestar Galactica", and update it. Old characters will return and new ones will be created (show creators liken the relationship to the one "Star Trek: the Next Generation" had with the original series). For more info and related links, go the the link Deadguy sent me: http://scifi.ign.com/tv/7058.html. Let me know what you think.

Deadguy's Dementia
"Dead" laws. Oxygen and ozone. Suntan lotion for donkeys.
An interesting new law has appeared on the North Carolina law books. The State Senate has passed a bill which deals with the treatment of dead bodies. Apparently, there was concern over a "case" of corpses being carried in the back of an open pick-up truck to their burial sites. Lawmakers have now determined that an open pick-up truck is an indecent method of transportation for bodies. To me, it would seem that funeral directors had some say in this matter, because due to this new law, it has become basically almost impossible to transport a dead body by any means other than a hearse, which can certainly be expensive for the bereaved. The law is also aimed solely at embalmers and funeral directors. Apparently, they can lose their license unless they use a hearse to transport bodies. Beyond the transportation of the dead, there is an additional part of this law which makes it illegal to use "profanity, indecent or obscene language in the presence of a dead human body." Violation of this ALSO results in loss of license. I'm not quite certain how they intend to enforce this portion of the law, nor how important it is, but it interests me to no end that lawmakers determined that this step was necessary. Has there been a rash of foul-mouthed redneck funeral directors driving dead bodies all over town in beat-up pick-ups? Apparently this "language law" was already on the books as a law that could cause revocation of a funeral home license, but has now been extended to include language used during the transportation of corpses. So.. if a hearse driver accidentally drives into a police car and mutters "shit", the funeral home is out of business.. Is "crap" considered to be obscene or profane? Will juries be summoned one day to determine if "crap" violates the law? If a hearse driver was a disgruntled employee, he could put the funeral home out of business long before he can be fired, simply by saying "screw you" to his boss in-front of a corpse. Is that fair? Are funeral home directors required to screen their employees at regular intervals to insure that they can maintain their license? Could rival funeral homes get other homes to lose their license by "planting" fake employees there to put them out of business? How do lawmakers expect to enforce these laws? Through "he said, she said" methods, or do they plan on planting tiny transceiver bugs directly onto corpses to see if they can hear indecent language being used? If so, will an elite "Corpse Corps" burst through the doors to apprehend foul-mouthed funeral directors? Hmm.. how about a sting operation, where a beautiful naked female corpse is "planted" in a funeral home to elicit "inappropriate" comments. Or a 700-lb corpse is given a cardboard coffin to elicit "expletive curses". Is that where this is headed? In any event, the intent of laws like these is to show respect for the dead, but hasn't it occurred to anyone that if someone is cursing at the corpse, there may be a reason for it? How about mass murderer corpses, are these excluded by the law? How about the term "offensive"? I looked it up and the very first comment in my dictionary said, "Disagreeable to the senses". Excuse me, but what senses do corpses have? The next one said, "Causing anger, displeasure, resentment, or affront". Not only are those subjective phrases, but I doubt there's much you can say to a corpse that's gonna' piss it off, anyhow. What if a Corpse has an offending odor? will that cause it to lose it's permit to remain dead? Indecent means "Offensive to good taste". What the hell is "good taste" anyways, and what senses of "good taste" would be offended by statements? It's gooblygook. There's nothing there that's truly enforceable. Besides, since when has a corpse been considered to be "in good taste" anyways? Did you know that according to the dictionary, I could say that: "I'm charging you $24,000 for the personalized coffin" is an obscene remark? It's an obscene price, from my point of view, and I'm sure that many others would agree.

Does anyone remember the futuristic movies, or books, where the main character wandered into a local bar, removed his gas-mask and paid for a "swig" of air? Several fictional looks into the future have foretold that the human race would do nothing to save itself from the mess it created in the environment. The radiation emanating from the sun would be at a level where those that were unprotected would suffer burns and the air would become polluted enough that it would become poison to breath it without a filter. In these books, air was to become a commodity that would be bought and sold from questionable sources such as a local bar. Well, it would appear that the future is NOW. Luminar Leisure, England's largest chain of bars and night clubs, has signed a deal which could see oxygen sold from vending machines at more than 270 nightspots across the UK. In fact, they've already installed their first oxygen-selling machine at the "Here and Now" nightclub, and it's proven to be quite successful.

Basically, the buyer pays $5.50* (*converted to US dollars) for three sessions on the "O2 live" system which then gives them 300 liters of 40% oxygen. The machine pumps out filtered oxygen from the surrounding air, which customers inhale through hospital-like nasal wires, or masks similar to those found on airplanes. In Japan there's a booming trade for "Oxygen blasts" in many Tokyo bars. In the source for this article, Dominc Simler, the managing director of O2 Live, was quoted as saying: "The extra oxygen drives more energy into muscle tissues and that's where you get the benefits". Actually, medically speaking, the physical breakdown of our bodies considered to be a part of our natural aging process is actually helped along by Oxygen. Our bodies need Oxygen in-order to live, but too much Oxygen can actually speed-up the aging process. Nitrogen, the major component of air, is actually good for lenghtening our lifespans, and is far more beneficial than Oxygen in the long term sense. However, remove Oxygen from the air, and your strength will evaporate, and it will become difficult to do even menial tasks. Eventually, Oxygen deprevation WILL kill you. A blast of Oxygen is definately good for creating a short-term euphoric high, which is probably at least PART of the reason that you find Oxygen masks on airplanes. When the plane starts going down, if the masks are used, there aren't many folks that will be as concerned about any final landings. It also explains why this is catching-on in Japan, and expected to be a big hit over in England. In any event, It's interesting to note though, that in England, with the actual ground level being so much higher than that of most places of the US (aside from mountain ranges) the amount of oxygen in the air is less than we would normal get over here (pollution not withstanding). On one of my visits over there, I joined my cousin for a game of "football" (we call it soccer here) and I was on the field for about 5 minutes before I found myself gasping for air. At the time, I was part of a junior soccor league at home in Florida. Everyone had a good laugh at my expense, but I tell ya'.. it's a WHOLE different ballgame over there.. (pun intended, bite me). As a result, I would imagine that by buying the oxygen at the bar, they probably average out their intake of Oxygen to match a day on the farm in North Carolina, or something. However, taking doses of Oxygen like that in The States, although it would quickly become popular, it might actually create some negative side effects for users that get regular doses of the stuff. Such as a decreased lifespan. No worse than smoking though, or so I've been told.

The other related Item I wanted to briefly mention is that the worries about the ozone layer are also coming to pass. At times, especially here in Florida, where there are sudden warnings issued by the government about covering yourself when you're out in the sun. You've all also heard of skin cancer threats and stuff too. Well, if we get warnings about taking a stroll down the street, what about farm animals that spend MOST, if not ALL of their time outdoors? The "Donkey Sanctuary" in Devon, England has ordered £1,000-worth of baby sun lotion bottles for it's 3,500 donkeys. A spokewoman for the sanctuary has said that donkeys can suffer the ill-effects of too much sun, just like humans can. Their noses, ears, and eyes can become sunburned, which might lead to skin cancer in the animals. Hmm.. their eyes too? There's no word whether the lotion is intended for the donkey's eyes or not, and no indication whether or not sunglasses are being provided, though I found it strange that it would be included in her statement. Is this a case of reverse animal testing? Do the baby lotion bottles have labels on it indicating that the product was tested on humans with no significant side effects? If so, will the donkeys revolt and demand that humans be treated more humanely? Will they storm beaches and wipes the suntan lotion from our bodies? Or am I perhaps getting a little carried away here? Maws, the manufacturer of the baby sunblock lotion said that they were "delighted" when the order was placed. (hmm.. £1,000 worth of business and they were "delighted"... color me amazed). They also mentioned that in the past that they have had similar orders placed for sunblock to be applied to pigs, and even horses but that this was the first time the sunblock was ordered for use on donkeys. My only question is this: Does the need for sunblock lotion suggest that the ozone layer is now thin enough to seriously worry about the animals getting skin cancer? Or is it merely the sign of a sanctuary trying to cover it's ass? (god I slay me... )

©2001 by Michael Scott
The Deadguy's Dementia header graphic is a creation of Mike Scott
Mike's still got some Star Wars stuff for sale!

A.I. Artificial Intelligence          Movie review by Nolan B. Canova
* * * out of  * * * * stars

A.I. Cast: Haley Joel Osment, William Hurt, Frances O'Connor, Jude Law, Sam Robards, Jake Thomas, Jack Angel, Brendan Gleeson, Daveigh Chase, Ben Kingsley (narrator)
Based on the short story "Supertoys Last All Summer Long" by Brian Aldiss (originally published in Harper's Bazaar, 1969)
Directed by: Steven Spielberg, also credited as screenwriter
Haunted by: Stanley Kubrick (credited as co-producer on screen)
Rated: PG-13 for some sexual content and violent imagery
Running Time: 2hrs, 25 min.

The fashionable, oft-repeated nutshell synopsis of this story goes, "a riff on Pinocchio, as an android child wishes to become a real boy". This underserves the film, I feel, altho I think you'll feel at film's end that directer Steven Spielberg has done his damndest to club you over the head with this concept. Going over the more substantive parts of the story will serve the memory of the late Stanley Kubrick's legendary original involvement a little better.

The distant future: global warming has substantially melted the icecaps and real-looking robot servants are part of everyday life. A couple's young son is cryogenically frozen while awaiting a cure for some disease we'll never know, but the outlook for hope is grim. Told a cure may never be found, the woman is inconsolable and cannot move on with her life. The husband is trying to help, but doesn't know how. Sam Robards and Frances O'Connor play David and Monica Swinton, whose young son, Martin (Jake Thomas), is the infirm child in question.

About the time this is happening, a Professor Hobby (William Hurt) has proposed a new world concept: to create artificial children, life-like androids, to sell to barren couples or couples who have suffered a tragic loss. He builds the first child "mecha" (pronounced: meck-uh) known to this age. Based on his own late son, David (Haley Joel Osment), he is the first of his kind: programmed to love. Once the child is programmed to love by its new owners, the procedure is irreversible. David Swinton decides to surprise his wife, Monica, with a new "son" in the hopes they can start a new life. At first horrified, once Monica Swinton gets through the first very awkward stages of having a robot child, she finds it easier and easier to love David back and think of him as real. After a time, she accepts him as such. Then, something unexpected happens....but this is as far as I dare go with motivating plot details.

Suffice it to say what happens next sets up the very "Blade Runner"-ish second act as David becomes obsessed to find "The Blue Fairy" of Pinocchio legend so she can make him a "real boy" and allay human prejudice. Along the way he meets "Gigolo Joe" (Jude Law as an android lover-for-hire, himself on the run) and a few other characters in his quest (I just realized there's a healthy dose of "The Wizard of Oz" in this flick, too). But, the extremely "Spielbergian" third act is what will, no doubt, be the seed of most controversy for this film and make or break its success. I will go so far as to say I cannot believe Kubrick had this in mind when he "gave" it to Spielberg. But the ending is really...really...out there.

Steven Spielberg's direction is very good for what it is (I keep picturing him using a Kubrick-penned "Cliff's Notes" cheat sheet before every scene). The performances of all the actors are solid, particularly Haley Joel Osment, as I expected. Kubrick's ghost is more evident in the first half of the film which is a cinematic wonder-piece (I'll stop short of "masterpiece") of creative camerawork and any cerebral and envelope-pushing scripting. The special effects throughout are mind-boggling. Altho it's easy to get jaded in this day and age of CGI effects, it's a testament to the filmmakers when they can still inspire a "wow" here and there. There are plenty to be had here.

I attended "A.I" with two of my closest friends (the internet-shy "Count Poffula" and his wife "Lauré", who has written here before). They were far more enamored of the extended "Lord of the Rings" trailer (well, it IS good) that preceeded the movie than the movie itself (See Poff's write-up, this issue, above). As far as "A.I." goes, she hated every single frame and sprocket hole of it and found it shallow and predictable. He agreed with me that there were some good parts, but overall he thought it a waste of time.

While the movie has problems, is too long, confuses the contributions of Stanley Kubrick, and pontificates on a fairy tale to the point of madness, there's enough progressive movie-making happening for me to give it: RECOMMENDED.

Mike's Rant!

Hello gang! I'll keep it brief for the Holiday Issue. Shall we begin?

I hope everyone has a safe and happy Independence Day!

Wow! I no sooner mention Jack Lemmon in my piece on Carrol O'Connor and the dear man passes away. I told you before, I'm cursed. And then Chet Atkins, who many of us picked as one of our faves during the "Great Guitarist" poll from last year. I first heard of Chet Atkins while listening to a live recording of Harry Chapin. He introduces a song by saying it starts off "with a brilliant Chet Atkins lick it took me 3 hours to learn." Through Nolan and Matt, I actually got to hear his music and, as a fledgling guitar player, was blown away by his style. Nolan was MY influence when it comes to guitar, so I enjoyed hearing him discuss his. After the poll was published, we spent many nights in Instant Messages discussing his choices, and most of them came back to Chet Atkins.
   I have a couple of stories to recount about Jack Lemmon, but first, here is some history: Jack Lemmon was almost destined to be an actor. His mother was in the middle of a bridge game when she began getting labor pains and refused to leave until the game was over. Lemmon, who described himself as a shy child who often wet the bed, found acceptance at age 8 when he stepped in for a sick classmate in a Rivers Country Day school play. He muffed his second line, which caused his classmates to laugh. He milked the laughter until it became applause. Later, he recalled that moment as "the greatest day of my life." A music major at Phillips Academy, her moved to New York City to pursue his acting career, playing piano in bars to pay the rent. After his career took off, he appeared on radio and, by his own estimate, more than 500 television shows. A run on Broadway in the play "Room Service" won him a screen test in Hollywood. His first part was in the comedy "It Should Happen To You." His next role was as Ensign Pulver in "Mister Roberts," a role which earned him his first Oscar, for best supporting actor. No one played the "everyman" better than Jack Lemmon. Audiences could identify themselves with him, be it in his light comedies or in his later dramatic roles. His long time onscreen companion Walter Matthau once described him as "a choirboy with quiet hysteria seeping out of every pore." He often used his own life to bring reality to his roles. In 1999, he revealed to the audience of "Inside the Actor's Studio" that he was an alcoholic and that this had helped him with his performance in "Days of Wine and Roses." And to better understand the role of the desperate businessman in 1973s "Save the Tiger," he took a salary of the Screen Actor's Guild minimum $165 a week. During filming, he suffered a nervous breakdown, similar to that of the character he was playing. Incidentally, for his work on "Save the Tiger" Lemmon received his second Oscar, this one for Best Actor. Among my favorite Lemmon films: "Mister Roberts," "Some Like it Hot" (the first of six films he did with director Billy Wilder), "The Apartment," "Days of Wine and Roses", "The China Syndrome," "Glengarry Glen Ross" (where, in my opinion, he gave the best acting performance of the year) and the two "Grumpy Old Men" films.

I have two stories that I'd like to share. If you read my piece on Carrol O'Connor last week, you know that Jack Lemmon was a giving celebrity. When I would contact him for an item for a charity benefit I was doing, it wasn't enough for him to just send a photograph. Each year he would send something special, be it a pewter keychain with his likeness on it and autograph engraved or a signed self portrait that he sketched. And always there was a note, explaining that he was happy to help.
   My second story I am relating in the third person, as it was explained to me. In 1983, there was a film convention in Kansas City. Mr. Lemmon had been named to receive the star of the year award. My friends Ben and Marty attended this show, and had brought a couple of items for Mr. Lemmon to sign, should they be able to meet him. They caught up with him at a function and began to speak with him. Mr. Lemmon was short on time and asked them to call his hotel room later in the evening. When they did, he invited them up. Apparently the pants for his tuxedo needed to be altered, because he greeted them in boxers and socks. They spent the next 30 minutes or so chatting, as if they were lifelong friends. Of course, he signed everything they brought. Both of them told me that he was the most friendly and gracious man they had ever met. Any of us who admired his work can find that very easy to believe. God bless you, Jack. Thank you for the memories.

Musical influences, Tuesday evening my son, Phillip, and I took in a concert consisting of Ted Nugent, Deep Purple and Lynyrd Skynyrd. A great time was had by all. As "the Nuge" ripped into the opening of "Cat Scratch Fever," I thought back to the old "HATS" days. This was the first song Nolan taught me to play on guitar, and, believe it or not, was the first song I taught Phillip to play. Pretty sweet. Deep Purple was very good. I'm wasn't a huge fan, and, typically, only recognized two songs ("Smoke on the Water" and "Hush") but really enjoyed the set. As for Skynyrd...........wow! This is the 2nd time I had seen them. Still a great group, with a kick ass line up of three incredible guitarists. Lead singer Johnny Van Zandt evokes his late brother in both vocals and showmanship. If they come your way, gang, by all means see them!

Well, that's it for this week. Have a safe holiday week. Watch out for the other guy!

And a Happy 4th to you, Mike! Thanks for the kind words regarding my humble contributions to the world of guitar playing. Chet Atkins definitely had a positive influence on my playing. As for The Nuge, I can still whip out "Cat Scratch Fever" from start to finish! I look forward to jamming on that with you and Phillip someday.---Nolan

"Mike's Rant" is ©2001 by Michael A. Smith    "Deadguy's Dementia" is ©2001 by Mike Scott    The movie review of "A.I." is ©2001 by Nolan B. Canova    The PCR Spotlight this issue is ©2001 by Poff for submitting his review of the theatrical trailer for "Lord of the Rings".    All contents this page are ©2001 by Nolan B. Canova.

Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of  Nolan B. Canova, ©2001