Friday, March 21, 2008

Sad losses from the world of film and sci fi

Two obituaries in The NY Times March 19 recounted the lives of filmmaker Anthony Minghella and science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke.

Anthony Minghella, 54, died March 18 in London. He was the Academy Award-winning director of "The English Patient" (1996), which focused on a severely burned and disabled man who reviews his life and loves at the end of WWII. Minghella also directed the highly regarded "The Talented Mr. Ripley" and "Cold Mountain."

His debut film as a director and writer is one of my favorites, "Truly Madly Deeply" (1990). It deals with a woman (played by the fabulous Juliet Stevenson), who is so severely depressed after the death of her lover (played by the very talented Alan Rickman) that she sees him as a ghost. As she gradually re-engages with life, she meets a nice man whose job is working with developmentally disabled adults. It's truly madly poignant and really explores the depths that grief can take someone. But it is life affirming as well.

In addition to his own Oscar, he directed five actors in Academy Award-winning performances: Ralph Fiennes, Jude Law, Renée Zellweger, Juliette Binoche and Kristin Scott Thomas. He will be missed.

Arthur C. Clarke, 90, wrote "2001: A Space Odyssey," both the screen adaptation and the novel. Clarke, who was post-polio and a wheelchair user in the last years of his life, wrote about 100 science fiction novels. The NY Times obit says "Clarke was an ardent promoter of the idea that humanity’s destiny lay beyond the confines of Earth. . . .His work was also prophetic: his detailed forecast of telecommunications satellites in 1945 came more than a decade before the first orbital rocket flight."

His writings influenced scientists, the public and film and television producers. The creator of the "Star Trek" TV series, Gene Roddenberry, reported that Clarke's work inspired him to push for the sci fi series, even though it was initially opposed by TV executives.

A British citizen who had lived in Sri Lanka since 1956, Clarke was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1998.