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(hopefully not much more on) Movie Themes

At 05:52 PM 2/20/97 -0500, Paul E. Pettennude wrote:

>Movies are movies.  Some of you either don't understand this simple concept
or refuse to accept it.  If you think you won't like the movie, stay home.
If you think you might be entertained, go see it.  But, in every case judge
it on its entertainment value unless it is a nonfictional documentary.

(Just to put things into perspective: as much as I might complain about JP,
it is the only recent movie I went to see at the theatre twice.  I own the
deluxe letterbox laser disc version.  I don't say that there is nothing fun
about it.  However...)

>Pilots bitch about airplane movies.  Sailor gripe about nautical movies.
Cops reject crime/hero movies.  The list goes on.  Hollywood never gets it
right as far as every user group is concerned.  So what?  If fiction is
better than fact, go with what people want.  People want entertainment.
They want the uncommon.  For that one moment they can buy a ticket and
escape from their dull lives and be chased by a dinosaur.  Sounds pretty
neat to me.

[Rant alert! Rant alert!]

Saying that "Hollywood only caters to the lowest common demoninator", while
far too often true, is still not an excuse.  Hollywood can (and occasionally
does) prove that it can do better.  WWII-era movies about the war, with
Anglo actors faking REALLY bad Japanese accents, wouldn't fly anymore (and
rightly so).  "Cowboys and Injuns" westerns might have been BIG $$ once, but
parts of the old formula (clean cut, clean shaven, short-haired guys in
pressed shirts?; nasty, double-crossing "injuns"; all the settlers are
WASPs) don't work anymore: the public has become aware of how facile this
sort of reconstruction was, and wants better.

I'm just asking for the same for dinosaur movies.  Jurassic Park WAS leaps
and bounds superior to the old days of lizards and crocs in rubber
"falsies", being forced to kill each other while the camera rolls.  But
unless some of us point out the remaining errors, it won't get any superior.
And it could be: movies based on real events (like Apollo 13) or fanciful
ones in real settings (Casablanca, Forrest Gump) can be BIG $$, huge hits,
great entertainment, and good film all at the same time.

As some of you know, I am a big-time Science Fiction fan (incidentally, if
any of you are at JohnCon'97 tomorrow, stop by the dinosaur panel at 5 pm!).
It is part of the genre to get away with breaking (or at least bending) one
or two aspects of known science for plot reasons (as Bob & Tess pointed out,
faster-than-light travel and telepathy (and time travel) are cliche's of the
field, but there is no scientific support, and much evidence against, these
concepts).  That doesn't excuse sloppy story telling, though: within a given
framework, there should be logical consistency.

(I also have a secondary gripe with Spielberg for changing Hammond from the
greedy CEO he was in the novel, wanting to charge the maximum money from the
visitors at the Park to subsidize his REAL plans, to the friendly show man,
ex-flea circus owner, Santa-clone.  Although I can understand Speilberg's
opinion on the subject, show business is the not the be-all and end-all of
everyone's existence!)

[Whew!  Rant off!]

Okay, for those who actually made it through this, a bit of dinosaur
In my latest phylogenetic analysis, I found the following topology among the
Monolophosaurus + ((Sinraptor + Yangchuanosaurus) + (Giganotosaurus +
Acrocanthosaurus + Carcharodontosaurus + (Allosaurus + Neovenator)))

Among other features, the five-toothed premaxilla supports a monophyletic
Allosauridae containing Allosaurus and Neovenator.

The support for a monophyletic "Carcharodontosauridae", however, was not as
firm as before: it was present in some trees; in others, Giganotosaurus lay
outside either an ((Acro + Carcharo) + Allosauridae) or an (Carcharo + (Acro
+ Allosauridae)) clade.

That's it for now.  Talk to you later,

Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Vertebrate Paleontologist     Webpage: http://www.geol.umd.edu
Dept. of Geology              Email:th81@umail.umd.edu
University of Maryland        Phone:301-405-4084
College Park, MD  20742       Fax:  301-314-9661

"To trace that life in its manifold changes through past ages to the present
is a ... difficult task, but one from which modern science does not shrink.
In this wide field, every earnest effort will meet with some degree of
success; every year will add new and important facts; and every generation
will bring to light some law, in accordance with which ancient life has been
changed into life as we see it around us to-day."
        --O.C. Marsh, Vice Presidential Address, AAAS, August 30, 1877