Sunday, 28 February 2010

Hey Dubya

I know you're a sports guy, so if you're watching the olympic hockey, this is what "Mission Accomplished" really looks like.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Overheard in my head, somewhere en route to Bathurst

The new Midlake album will be most appreciated by those among you who find The Teddy Bears' Picnic to be a truly disturbing song. For with The Courage of Others, the band also ventures into the woods and and is frightened by what they see.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Five more movies

In a series....most of these could be in many categories.

Character Studies: Raging Bull. This could go anywhere, esp. in the Ultra-violence category. But not the Funny as Hell category.

Great Places to Visit: Diner. Also a contender for Funny as Hell. It's here for the vibe.

Funny as Hell: Tin Men. "You bolted outta nowhere!" (I should note that Tin Men was effectively a sequel to Diner.)

Awesome Ultra-violence: A History of Violence. There's not a lot of violence in this per se, but the way Cronenberg treats it makes it last for a long, long time.

Movies to Listen ToManhattan.  "Between the two of us I was not the immoral, psychotic promiscuous one. I hope I didn't leave out anything."

Also overheard in my head

"There I was, grooving to the overwhelming whitey-ness that is U2..."

This says something

The poop bags are biodegradable.

And vanilla-scented.

I dunno about you, but I think that when the aliens come, we're gonna have a hard time explaining ourselves.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Five movies

(With more to come.) A few posts ago I promised a List of Movies to See Before You Die. I also promised to break them out into categories. Well, here are the categories, and first of five films therein: 

Character studies: Naked. The ugly side (was there any other?) of Thatcherite Britain.

Great Places to Visit: Brotherhood of the Wolf.  Pre-Revolutionary France looks like fun, as long as you're on the right side.

Funny as Hell: Duck Soup. Either you find this funny or you don't have a pulse.

Awesome Ultra-Violence: 13 Tzameti. Not for the faint of heart. Seriously.

Movies to Listen To: The Insider. Are you a business man or are you a news man?

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Veni vidi vici

Too funny. I like this Ancelotti guy:

"Caesar's phrase comes to mind when I think of what has happened this season. I have come to England, seen what it is like and, before I leave, I want to conquer the FA Cup, the Premier League and the Champions League.
"I have not lost my sense of humour since coming here. In England it rains every day but still people sometimes tell me it is a beautiful day. That's when I tell them about Julius Caesar, who spent so much time in Britain yet, in the end, opted to move back to Italy."

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Half-baked thought after our first medal

Did Jenn Heil "win" silver or "lose" gold?

Yes, this matters. Because this is being touted as "our year." We're investing millions to "Own the Podium" and quite possibly, gloat over the results. The voice-over to the opening ceremonies was full of ominous "us vs. them." foreboding: "They come here not to celebrate us, but to defeat us."

But even a casual scan of the reader comments on most coverage this morning shows that not all Canadians have bought into this notion. A lot of comments expressed anger at reporters for asking Heil if she was "disappointed" that she had "lost gold."

Remember, though, for these Games we've chosen to play by a different set of rules. Officially, we've chosen to compete with the best, to prove ourselves the best.

But what I don't think we've grasped yet is that the multi-million dollar investment Canada has made to "Own the Podium" is just table stakes now. The competition out there is still fierce. Those dollars help us compete with the best. They don't guarantee results. On any given day, with the margins for error so slim, a gold medal is never a sure thing.

So when a focused, poised Heil puts in a near-perfect run that on any other night would win gold, yet loses out by less than half a point to her American rival, how should we respond? How should we feel?

I was disappointed as all hell for Heil at the result. It takes years of training, focus and commitment to get where she is, not to mention the wear and tear on your body (one of the TV commentators mentioned she had taken time off to have her hip bones realigned). So see her finish less than half a point shy of the country's first Olympic gold on home soil and her second in her event in as many Olympics was heartbreaking. 

And if you compared her obvious jubilation in Turin (captured so perfectly in the official "I Believe" theme song video) to her more muted expression once Kearney's results came up, it was obvious - at least for that instant - that she was heartbroken, too.

I think many are expecting reporters and by extension, other Canadians to simply celebrate our athletes' efforts and sportsmanship. To applaud the way they carry themselves, regardless of the outcome. 

That's fine. But I think if Canada continues down this path, then comments like "let's just celebrate our efforts GO CANADA" won't have the same comforting tone they did before. Thing is, for those who buy into this approach, you can't have it either way. Once you choose to be more aggressive, to be more brash - to be "more American," then you need to expect these kinds of questions.

Officially, we want to beat the world, not just hang out with it for a while. And it's exciting to see our athletes compete with the world's best and be "the ones to beat" in so many events.

But if Canada wants to continue down this path, we're going to have to redefine - at least where sports are concerned - what it means when we say we're "proud to be Canadian." And we're going to have to be ready to hear more reporters asking our athletes if they're "disappointed" to "lose gold."

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Cat out the window

Been watching enough freestyle/moguls to get the lingo down. Next up, getting the skiing part down.

Awesome writing example

From Tom Fordyce's recap of todays' France-Ireland rugby match in the Six Nations cup. If Ireland can take any comfort - however cold  - in losing to France again, at least this time Les Bleus did it legally:

Ireland had begun with fire and fury, pinching line-outs with light-fingered larceny and rumbling into rucks with relish. Before France had found their feet, Gordon D'Arcy nearly stole the lead, producing a wonderful snapping break and kick ahead, a green streak slicing through the thin blue line [...] Had the ball bounced kindly enough for him to touch down, it might have been a different match. Instead, France took control as Irish errors and indiscipline left them listing and laboured.

Wow. All I can say is Wow.

You call that sexy?

If you know me, you know I like to argue. I like lists. And, I love music. So thank you, Billboard Magazine, for your investigation into and subsequent listing of the "Ten Sexiest Songs" released between 1958 and 2010.

Here's the list:
  1. Physical, Olivia Newton-John.
  2. Tonight's The Night, Rod Stewart.
  3. I'll Make Love To You, Boyz II Men.
  4. Too Close, Next.
  5. Let's Get It On, Marvin Gaye.
  6. Hot Stuff, Donna Summer.
  7. Do That To Me One More Time, Captain and Tennille.
  8. Like A Virgin, Madonna.
  9. Kiss You All Over, Exile.
  10. Do Ya Think I'm Sexy, Rod Stewart.
See, the problem with these songs is that apart from Marvin Gaye, they're far too obvious. Not their selection, but their lyrics. But rather than argue the merits of each song and its worthiness in such an august group, I'd rather provide my own list. I don't have the brain power right now to rank them relative to each other, and I could probably do a list by genre, but for now I'm just going to pick 10 from a cursory scan of my iTunes library and one "oh yeah" bonus. Feel free to argue about these as well:
  1. Teeth, Lady Gaga
  2. Brass in Pocket, The Pretenders (bonus points for its use in Lost in Translation)
  3. This is Love, PJ Harvey 
  4. Here I Am, Al Green
  5. Nothing Can Change This Love, Sam Cooke
  6. Baby I Love You, Aretha Franklin
  7. Upgrade U, Beyonce
  8. Girls and Boys, Blur
  9. Misguided Angel, Cowboy Junkies
  10. Nothing, Dwight Yoakam
  11. Sexy Results, Death From Above 1979
Also? This? This is sexy, too:

Friday, 12 February 2010

It was 20 years ago today (or yesterday)

Nelson Mandela became a free man. And Buster Douglas KO'ed Mike Tyson. Talk about a reversal of fortune for two unstoppable forces.

Learning about Mandela was a formative event in my political education, primarily through the Specials' song, which was played a lot on CFNY back in the day. It's still a great song, but I'm glad the lyrics are so out-of-date. That he has gone from prisoner to president is one of the most powerful stories I can think of and, in my weaker moments, proof that people can still prove themselves capable of doing good things.

As if the world needed a counterpoint, this same week 20 years ago saw an equally large (and for some, an equally polarizing) figure begin an equally momentous decline in exactly the opposite direction. That "Iron" Mike Tyson was indestructible was as much a seeming certainty at the time as Mandela's life sentence. He dispatched opponents not in minutes but in seconds, making tickets to his fights - on a per-second basis, at least - the most expensive in sports. Yet there they were, interrupting the evening's sportscast: fuzzy images from the fight in Tokyo - Mike Tyson had been beaten. Not lost a decision. Not even a TKO. But Knocked Out.

As Richard O'Brien writes this week, the signs of Tyson's defeat were there if you chose to look hard enough. He calls the defeat the dividing line in Tyson's career.

We all know the repsective histories of both men since that fateful week. Mandela is one of the most respected and admired men on the planet. In a few months the country he led will play host to the world in the FIFA World Cup. Mike Tyson, to many, is a monster and a disgrace.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

A new project

I've been asked by my biggest fan to create a list of 50 Films You Should See Before You Die. And I've taken to this with relish. Given it a bit o'thought, really. Thought I could do five movies at a time. Then I went a bit further and thought I should break it down into categories - essentially the reasons why I love movies and why I re-watch them. So, here are the categories:
  1. Character Studies: Celluloid portrayals of characters amusing, horrifying and so on. Often defined by an excellent performance by a sometimes unheralded actor.
  2. Great Places to Visit: Movies that create an alternate, not necessarily parallel, world that's fun to be in for a while. Often defined by great cinematography.
  3. Funny as Hell, for whatever reason: There's a through line in my comedy tastes from Groucho Marx to the Coen Brothers, when they decide to do comedy. These will be the ones I watch to be amused.
  4. Awesome Ultra-Violence: Bring on the red mist and a bit of old Ludwig van.
  5. Movies to Listen to: These are the ones with great scripts. I put these back in the DVD player just to listen to the dialogue.
Naturally, there's gonna be overlap. Like, No Country for Old Men, say, could belong to almost all of these categories. But I think I could easily find 10 in each to get started.

Stay tuned.

Game Day = Valentine's day = footie = love

Tuesday, 9 February 2010


Hmmm...New Gil Scott-Heron vid has people w/spooky skeleton makeup. new Jay-Z video has dude w/almost exact same spooky skeleton makeup. coinkeydink?

Dunh dunh dunnnnnnnnnnnnnnnh.

Happy Happy Happy

Gil Scott-Heron has a new disc out. I'm so excited about this I can't even type.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Here they come now...

See them run now
Here they come now
Chelsea girls


Does anyone else think Facebook's "Doppleganger Week" was a cynical publicists' plot to boost the visibility of a bunch of has-been celebrities, or is that just me? See, if google searches are the new proxy for popularity, and popularity means leverage, then would sudden spike in searches for "Bob Denver" or, say "Anson Williams" mean they're hoping to make a comeback?

I know we all gotta serve somebody, but wouldn't it be great if that somebody was you?

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

And then there was Avatar

The Oscar nominations came out today and I can already feel myself thinking about what might have been. With Avatar steamrolling over the other nominees like the film’s own private army blasting away at HomeTree, what could have been a contest between a strong group of smaller-scale films is now a race to seee who gets the scraps.

Not that winning an Oscar in any category is second-rate, but with Avatar now in the mix, I think everyone connected to the other nominated films have had to seriously readjust their expectations and bookmakers their odds.

But if there’s an upside to all this bigness, suddenly the smaller awards just got a lot more interesting. Each entry in this year’s expanded field of nominees boasts something special. Now, suddenly, the sound editor’s choices in scene 45 will no doubt come under much more scrutiny. Did it evoke the right mood, or could it have attempted more? Was that the right word to use?

So. Given that Avatar is a lock for best picture (more on that below), here are my predictions for the other big categories. Keep in mind, I haven’t seen all of the films, so take these with as much salt you deem necessary, though not so much as to make you feel queasy.

Best Actor: Any claims that an Oscar is for a specific performance as opposed to a career should talk to Jeremy Irons, whose win for Reversal of Fortune was pretty much a proxy for his dual role in the challenging and unspeakably icky Dead Ringers. Hell, he even thanked David Cronenberg in his acceptance speech. So my vote is for Jeff Bridges, who’s been excellent in a string of lousy films and hasn’t won yet.

I suspect Morgan Freeman brought the right amount of dignity and gravitas to playing Nelson Mandela, the very embodiment of dignity and gravitas. But I suspect it was more impersonation than interpretation. Jeremy Renner was excellent in The Hurt Locker, too, but the real stars of that fim were the cinematography and the editing, and I don’t think the role has a broad enough appeal to win big. Then again, Adrian Brody won for the Pianist, so I could be wrong.

Best Actress: All signs point to Sandra Bullock taking this one in a landslide. I’m not going to argue, even though I’m not really a fan. Instead, I will restate my standing perpetual vote for Helen Mirren in anything, so I don’t have to see The Last Station to hope she wins.

Above: Go ahead. Tell me thinking isn't sexy. 

Supporting Actor: Maaaaaaaaaaaaaat Damon!

Ha. But no. So much about Invictus seemed to me the cinematic equivalent of a paint by numbers, with Clint comfortable to stay well within the lines. No, not Stanley Tucci, whose bug-eyed frenzy annoys the hell out of me in everything he does and no, not Woody Harrleson. Not because I don’t thnk he was good, but I’m still buzzing about what he did in Zombieland. I haven’t cried that much since Titanic. I haven’t laughed that hard since The Big Lebowski.

Seriously - does this look like best supporting actor material to you?

No. Basterds' Christolph Waltz wrapped this up in the first 20 minutes. Here are 45 seconds of those 20 minutes. The rest are hiding under a Frenchman's floorboards.

Supporting Actress: I dunno. But as soon as I saw Maggie Gyllenhaal’s name up there I couldn’t help thinking about that Family Guy scene with Maggie and her brother Jake arguing about who was more unappealing. Here it is in Spanish:

Best Director: I’ve been a Kathryn Bigelow fan since Near Dark and I’m sure there are some out there who’d love to see her win over her ex-husband, who’s dissed her on more than one occasion. But I can’t see her taking this. The Hurt Locker lost a lot of energy in the “home front” scenes and not only because we had gone from Baghdad to Vancouver standing in for somewhere in Oregon. Avatar would be an unwieldy mess – think Heaven’s Gate for a new generation - were it not for Cameron’s reputed on-set iron-hand approach to filmmaking. For that alone I think he’ll get the nod. Forget king of the world. James Cameron is now master of the universe, the fanboy dictator reigns supreme in all three dimensions. Of course, everyone expected Saving Private Ryan to win Best Picture and it lost to Shakespeare in Love, so these kinds of disconnects do happen.

Best Foreign Language Film: The White Ribbon. It’s not playing here yet, but if director Michael Haneke brings only a fraction of that Hitchcock cool and control to this film as he did to Caché (Hidden) and Funny Games he’ll be a lock. If you’ve seen Caché you know how a single motion can suck the air right out of the room.

Adapted Screenplay: I'm never sure if Nick Hornby is a serious writer who makes lightweight sound easy, or a lightweight who’s happy with his limitations. And I can’t remember a single line from District 9. So as good as An Education reputedly is, my pick is “In The Loop,” a movie based entirely on the uses and abuses of langauge. Fuckity-bye, Fetus Boy.

Best Original Screenplay: The Hurt Locker could win here, but I’m going to give it to Tarantino, whose line “I am the face of Jewish vengeance” stayed with me weeks longer than the hour-long showdown in the German pub. That it was spoken by Melanie Laurent is of no particular importance here whatsoever.

Above: Don't piss her off. She has flammable celluloid and knows how to use it.

Best Animated Feature Film: Finally, Pixar gets some serious competition. Coraline left me cold and yes, you could say all of Wes Anderson’s live-action flims are animated, the way he moves his characters around the screen like tiny figurines. But even if Up in the Air comes crashing down to earth George Clooney can still come away with another golden dude. Watch for Mr. Fox to take this one.

Best Art Direction: I’m going to vote for The Young Victoria, because having Emily Blunt on screen is all the art decoration you need.

Above: Disagree at your own risk, Fetus Boys.

Best Cinematography: Basterds might be the sentimental favorite, what with its unhinged baroqueness (is that a word?) but I think if The Hurt Locker gets on a roll it should win this one.

Best Sound Mixing/Sound Editing: Can someone please explain the difference? Not that it matters, though. The same films are nominated for each apart from one, so let’s say Basterds wins this one, just for shits & giggles.

Best Film Editing: Now, if The Hurt Locker doesn’t win this one I’ll eat my hat. Hands down. A master class on how to portray three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional screen and never lose track of where anyone is in relation to each other. And when the film you’re editing derives its energy and tension by showing soldiers at risk of being picked off by sinpers at any given time and who need to know where everyone is, you gotta get this shit right.

Now, about that Avatar thing. In any other year I think the Best Picture would come down to a thumb war between The Hurt Locker and An Education, with Up in the Air sneaking up the middle. That was before. Yes, Avatar’s dialogue was clunky and the performances adequate. None of that matters. Avatar was simply too big, to obvious, too unambiguous a phenomenon to be denied.. Avatar points to too many profitable new directions for hollywood and awarding it the big prizes will be an incentive for more films like it.

Then again, Braveheart won as well, so I could be wrong.