2008 - Dreams with Sharp Teeth (movie)

The SPIDER Symposion: in-depth discussion of specific Ellison stories and works.

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Jan
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Postby Jan » Sun Aug 24, 2008 8:00 am

Harlan has every right to come here and comment and never said this is hands-off for him (SPIDER). On the contrary, he was invited to be a part of it, has helped us a lot with some stories, even supplied background information, and only withdrew silently for his own reasons without EVER saying he wouldn't occasionally check or go here if prompted, which he did. The SPIDER forums and Webderland were very much created in honor of the man, in case you didn't know.

Rich decided to post about Oppenheimer in the SPIDER forum, and Harlan was specifically looking for a discussion of Oppenheimer because he suspected somebody would agree with his points and obviously felt that would be worth his attention.

Rich did respond. (In the Pavilion.)

The previous time Harlan did NOT order Rick to ask Rich to restrict himself to the forums. Harlan BANNED him along with some others, and Rick himself decided to make an exception for Rich by not banning him from the forums - a decision some of us strongly disagreed with for various reasons.

Please let's bring this back on topic as soon as possible. I guess will post my thoughts about Erik's movie when it comes out on DVD.

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Postby Alan Coil » Sun Aug 24, 2008 8:48 am

Somebody (I'm not going to take the time to search for whom) posted at the Pavilion that Rich was making comments about what Oppenheimer said. That's probably why Harlan came looking.

As much as I disagreed with some of Rich's thoughts, he at least kept it semi-civil...until his final blast.

I saw Dreams With Sharp Teeth some time ago in Cleveland. There were several of Harlan's friends there, Barney, Tony Isabella, and Bob Ingersoll being the only names I can remember right now. (My memory is crap.) In no way did I see anything to indicate that Harlan is a self-hating Jew. Where Oppenheimer got that is open to speculation, but he didn't get it from the documentary. Review what is there. Comment on some things that might not have been there. But don't say things that have nothing to do with the movie.

Jim Davis---

Even if you honestly think that Harlan is suffering from dementia, it is hardly a polite thing to say so publicly.

Also, I don't understand the constant need of some people to always seek out the most negative thing to say about other people or about any random subject.

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David Loftus
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Postby David Loftus » Tue Aug 26, 2008 11:27 am

rich wrote:I'd have to go back and check, but every single one of my Ellison books has introductions.


I went to the shelves and checked a representative selection of mine last night (around 11 p.m., after nearly four hours of Sophocles rehearsal) and found Ellison books that not only had no introduction at all (e.g., the original 1958 printings of Rumble, most editions of Spider Kiss all the way to the 2006 Edgeworks Abbey [unless you count a single brief paragraph assuring the reader that "this is a work of fiction" as an introduction; the 1990 Armchair Detective edition is the notable exception, for adding a 4 and a half-page intro], and, most surprisingly, the first, 35-year retrospective Essential Ellison).

There are also several Ellison books whose introductions are fairly brief and have nothing particularly personal in them, just a direct statement about the contents of the book as writing, to wit: the original 1961 Regency edition of Gentleman Junkie, Alone Against Tomorrow (1971), and most of my editions of
Deathbird Stories (1975).

Many of us came to his work, or loved it best, when he was doing books that had an introduction to every single story, with plenty of personal information in them, and I think we tend to remember those most vividly, and as being very representative of his work. But, again perhaps rather surprisingly, the only story collections he did that in were Strange Wine and Shatterday.

Now, for a time in the Sixties, Ellison did something in-between, in which a collection had a general intro, and perhaps a paragraph to introduce each story, but many of the latter addressed the themes or ideas of the story directly, and had no personal content. Those books include Ellison Wonderland, Paingod (whose general introduction cheekily takes 3 pages to inform you that there is no introduction), and From the Land of Fear. If you'd like me to go back and count those that reveal personal content versus those which discuss the stories purely as vehicles of plot and ideas, I'll be glad to.

Now, there were certainly other books in which individual pieces got their own introductions, such as Partners in Wonder, where there was a justification to discuss process, or various essay collections. I don't think you could accuse Ellison of self promotion in those instances.

rich wrote:he is probably the ONLY science fiction writer that could've written an entire book on how Roddenberry fucked up his script.


He could have. But he didn't. If you didn't exaggerate so often and so readily, I'd say you had a case, rich.


rich wrote:I don't think Oppenheimer's essay was an attack on Ellison, whereas everyone else here seems to think it is.


Another exaggeration. Even if I had thought it was an attack, I never said so. If you read my comment on Oppenheimer's page, you'd see that I addressed his comments as if they had been written by a reasonable man. They were simply, as I wrote, unconvincing.


rich wrote:The point of the piece was that Ellison's work is inseparable from his life (like most writers), but he's made that symbiosis part of his performance: writing in bookshop windows, or staying in an RV for a cause, or suing AOL.


I don't see any of these examples as distinguishing him from Warren Beatty or Barbra Streisand or Paul Newman or Robert Redford, who employ their celebrity in the service of causes they believe in; or from other writers who have defended ownership of their work or tried to demystify the process. The examples you offered here are NOT examples of mere "performance."


rich wrote:I don't think that's a good or bad thing, I just think it *is*. However, in Ellison's case, I think it has hurt him, and I think even the best of his stories DO get overwhelmed by Ellison the Performer.


Again, I disagree. What hurts him is when he overreacts to people who go out of their way to irritate and annoy him -- that, I can certainly lay at his feet; though people who bait a celebrity, or just a weary old man, are rather beneath contempt, in my book -- and the endless myth-spinning by little minds who resent him for one reason or another -- which is NOT something anyone should hold him responsible for.


rich wrote:I DO accuse Ellison of keeping the stories alive 'cause that's what got him on talk shows, and gets him into the conventions at this stage of his career.


Perhaps you'll have to specify which stories, because I don't think Ellison has ever bragged about tossing a fan down an elevator, punching out a TV producer, or how many women he's bedded -- certainly not as a method of wangling an invitation to a Con or an appearance on a talk show. It's almost always other people who retail these stories or ask him about them.


rich wrote:I'm not judging anything other than the output.


Now THAT's disingenuous. After going on about the adventures and anecdotes and capers, you say you're speaking only of the work? Come on. If Ellison hadn't enjoyed celebrity but had produced the same body of work, you and everybody else would likely say, well, he's done a lot of great work -- most of it in the 60s and 70s, granted, but he's earned a pleasant retirement, just like Bradbury. Decrying an artist for all the work he or she HASN'T created is a mug's game; it's self-centered, it's ignorant, and it's simply uncalled-for, no matter how one might feel privately (about any number of people -- Kesey, Margaret Mitchell, Harper Lee, Ravel, etc., etc.).


rich wrote:I just agree with Oppenheimer that Ellison DOES want the literary kudos and he is concerned about his literary stature, and I think it's relevant to say that being Harlan Ellison, Witty Lecturer and Comedian, has impacted his career as Harlan Ellison, Writer.


I agree with all that, myself. Where you and I and Oppenheimer part is how Ellison's gone about it, and what effects it has had. I notice you haven't dicussed the Jewish factor at all, which Oppenheimer seemed to be making the centerpiece of his argument, in a way whose logic escaped me.

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FrankChurch
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Postby FrankChurch » Tue Aug 26, 2008 12:06 pm

As Harlan and I said, Oppenheimer was implying that Harlan was a self hating Jew, based on the fact that his stories are not "Jewish enough" (my quote).

[Mod. - Some repetion and now superfluous posts removed. Oct 6.]

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Postby Jan » Wed Aug 27, 2008 1:53 pm

I'm glad David wrote that response which I think takes care of most of what Rich said that Harlan didn't deal with. Rich's post wasn't entirely without substance in some areas but much too polemic and ill-informed. (BTW, as you know he has been banned from SPIDER and will certainly not comment. His opinions are on record.)

As for the movie, I hope some people who have seen it or will see it will also leave a comment or two regarding what they thought - for example if they came away with a different image of Harlan etc. Did anything surprise you? Did you learn something? Does an image from the film linger? What did the film leave out about Harlan that you think is very important? Did it affect you?

I will see the film on DVD, so that takes me out of the picture for now.

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Postby FrankChurch » Sat Jan 24, 2009 12:59 pm

I find it odd that Susan is not in the film. Why wouldn't she want to rave about her husband? Not being angry, just a simple question.

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Jan
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Postby Jan » Sun Jan 25, 2009 1:22 pm

HARLAN ELLISON - Friday, June 6 2008 11:11:47 - wrote:Well, how about "She doesn't like being on camera, moron!"

:wink:

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Postby reddragon70 » Sun Jan 25, 2009 3:03 pm

As I commented elsewhere I went to see this film at the Edinburgh Film Festival. I can honestly say I have not laughed as much at a film in my life. It was abloody great. I just trully wish it could be seen by a wider audience. The festival circuit tends to be (in my humble and not wirthwhile opinion) a load of critics, intellectual ne'er do wells and assorted other types who just love to remind me that I dont have a degree in much of anything. All I heard before the screening was a load of tripe being postulated by people so in love with the sound of their own voices they have lost track of common humanity. Namely me. Joe Bloggs man in the street.

At least the people who went to see Dreams with Sharp Teeth seemed for the most part to be Ellison fans. They were also of wildly varying ages, from late teens up to retirement age and myself stuck somewhere in between being in my late 30s. That was the most impressive thing for me. It wasnt some universtity prof rambling on about some high brow concepts. It was the love and affection all those people have for one man. That they all come from different backgrounds to celebrate a genius. Best of all though, not one of them tried to belittle me for being a mere train driver (something that has happened to me before).

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Postby Jan » Mon Jun 15, 2009 5:53 am

I watched the DVD yesterday. I think the film is an entertaining introduction to Harlan Ellison. For me, as for most of us, it's probably more interesting for showing him and his habitat rather than for its intellectual and emotional contents - we know all that from the books and so on. I think that is also why our comments about the film, here and in the Pavilion, have been limited. The question why a film was made about Harlan really doesn't present itself. Instead one is even more surprised to live in a world where there have been no documentaries about so many interesting writers. It seems like a no-brainer.
Nelson captured and re-assembled Harlan in a way that turned hours of interview material, photos and story readings into a genuine movie, one that gets a lot across in relatively little time. It's a movie we can show to people who ask who he is.
There are some things I'd have done differently. I think some of the talking heads/testimonial material wasn't necessary. Show us Harlan and we'll make up our own minds. I got the impression that some of it was included, if consiously or not, for Harlan himself. It's the eulogy thing Harlan talked about at the premiere.
The conversation with Harlan and Neil Gaiman over pizza is included as an extra feature - it seems like someone heard my cries for (more or less) unedited pure Harlan. For fans, it is as engaging as the main feature because there are stories we haven't heard, and the situation is so that Harlan doesn't put on a show. Of all the impersonations Harlan does in the film and in the bonus features, I actually like the one best that he does of the cleaning lady. But they're all great.
Preparations should begin for a direct-to-BluRay sequel. (As well as more films of the type.)

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Postby Jan » Fri Nov 06, 2009 12:59 pm

From my post in the Pavilion yesterday, so I dont' have to repeat it.
Had to fill out lots of insurance forms today and decided to watch DWST to claim my mind back. Also watched the conversation with Neil again and loved Harlan's impersonations as usual! The maid, the amateur actress in Ripcord, the Ripcord producer...
Brilliant. Blablabla...
A DVD "sequel" should be made based to a greater extent on Harlan having free-style conversations with his friends. We've been introduced to Harlan, now let's see him some more.
I hate to think Harlan is having conversations like the ones with Neil and Robin that are not being recorded. Haha.

(Note: I'm still the only one asking for a sequel. Everybody is so used to getting whatever other people decide what they should get and not get.)
There is some good and bad in the film, I love how it opens with off screen voices, in fact I love everything that's funny in the movie as well as the touching scenes about Harlan's parents. Also Harlan's observations on society and himself. I somehow don't enjoy many of the testimonies. It may be a combination of the wrong bunch of people talking (men of a certain age, fans-turned-friends, writers praising other writers etc.) and what they're being asked or saying. One could go into some of the statements in detail, but mainly it's due the fact that Harlan out-charismas all of them, he's better on camera than anybody and we get more out of him. Actually, I'm just noticing I said something similar last time.
The person in the film who says that Harlan, in order to become more known, would have to write a "full-blown work", may be right if he means a novel. However, a) novellas and short stories can be full-blown works and b) it's not what people need to hear. They need to hear they should pay more attention to shorter works. They need to be reminded of the many 19th century writers whom we remember without them having written novels. (And Harlan has written novels.) Harlan's success is based on shorter works, and if he had written more novels instead, it wouldn't have made much difference.
Originally, I was looking forward to the older clips of Harlan, but now I can't help feeling he improved much over the years. He's a better and funnier person than ever, which is how it should be. Harlan has more humility than people give him credit for, and that wasn't always the case.
Which is basically why I think a simpler sequel movie that cuts to the chase and brings some more ideas and opinions into the world, along with more fun and history, would be of great interest. An undercurrent of "form your opinion about Harlan Ellison" will no longer be needed. We believe in a lot of what he considers important and it should be put out there in a way that focuses on the messages rather than the messenger(s).

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Complex
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Re: 2008 - DREAMS WITH SHARP TEETH (movie)

Postby Complex » Fri Jan 22, 2010 9:11 am

You know during the watching of that documentary I kept thinking "Who the heck is wiping the dust off all those toys!" And I must admit seeing Harlan Ellison walking among those thousands and thousands of neatly lined toys that he remarkably reminded me of Gepetto.

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FrankChurch
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Re: 2008 - DREAMS WITH SHARP TEETH (movie)

Postby FrankChurch » Fri Jan 22, 2010 2:09 pm

Quick question: Does Harlan have a cleaning lady.

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Jan
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Postby Jan » Sat Jan 23, 2010 1:09 pm

Susan does the cleaning and wants it no other way; it's mentioned on the DVD.

(I'll delete this later (off-topic).)

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Complex
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Re: 2008 - Dreams with Sharp Teeth (movie)

Postby Complex » Mon Jan 25, 2010 6:12 pm

Well that was just a hypothetical question I presumed he has someone who cleans it. But can you imagine what would of happened if Harlan Ellison and Klaus Kinski ever met? :mrgreen:

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Re: 2008 - Dreams with Sharp Teeth (movie)

Postby Gwyneth M905 » Tue Feb 02, 2010 10:48 pm

Jan wrote:[snips] The person in the film who says that Harlan, in order to become more known, would have to write a "full-blown work", may be right if he means a novel. However, a) novellas and short stories can be full-blown works and b) it's not what people need to hear. They need to hear they should pay more attention to shorter works. They need to be reminded of the many 19th century writers whom we remember without them having written novels. (And Harlan has written novels.) Harlan's success is based on shorter works, and if he had written more novels instead, it wouldn't have made much difference.[snips]


I agree. Harlan's short stories and teleplays have influenced modern fiction to an extent greater than his word count.
For me this brings to mind the famous quote of Dostoevsky that “we all came out from under Gogol's 'Overcoat'” I think that, if anything, Harlan's greatest "work" has been the opening up of the "sci-fi" ghetto to the magical realism mainstream. In one of his introductions, Stephen King (and I'm being lazy and not rummaging through my piles of books to find the source of the quote) says that reading Harlan and then writing is like being the milk in the refrigerator -- the milk ends up tasting like whatever has more piquance on the palate.

I posit for discussion that Harlan kick-started several streams of the genre which have now gone mainstream. He foresees cyberpunk and "The Matrix" with IHNMAIMS; blew the middle-American Messianic post-apocalyptic fiction paradigm to smithereens with "A Boy and His Dog" and its "taboo" ending. It's already been proven that his scripts for "Soldier" and "Demon With A Glass Hand" were the sources for the Terminator movie franchise. Not to mention that "Avatar" is basically a rip-off of Anne McCaffrey's flying dragons with Ursula LeGuin's "The Word for World is Forest" as theme and plot background.

And those are just "of the top of my head" covert examples--overtly, Harlan, by commissioning stories for Dangerous Visions and Again, Dangerous Visions gave genre writers the freedom to experiment and have their wilder dreams read to, exposed to, a wider audience than they otherwise would have had.

Harlan is not only a fabulous writer in his own right, he is also a catalyst for, and conduit of, the work of other writers, poets, painters, artists, graphic artists, sculptors (I first heard about the "Watts Towers" through an introduction by Harlan). He has commissioned works and sponsored writers.

I mean -- the guy's got a head like, like the Great Oz in terms of his impact on the Emerald City of fiction. Tom Wolfe started to write like Harlan. Harlan was inspired by, and had a reading attended by Thomas Pynchon. I look at how "mainstream" and popular magical realism concepts have become. And that's due, in large part, to Harlan and to his unflinching gaze at what he sees around him, channels through him to his typewriter to become a story, which in turn affects the world in which it exists, by challenging and engaging the reader in both the story, and in the reality which inspired it.

So for all of that, am I willing to acknowledge that there's really just a man behind the curtain working the levers and gears and microphone frantically? Sure. But sometimes just reveling in the magic show and not asking "how" but rather "why" is the most fun part.

So a sequel for me would seem redundant. Although I do really wish I could have pizza with Harlan and Susan sometime! :D
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