Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Roger Ebert Loves Spider-man 2!

Wow, this from a guy who didn't like the first one.

Bring on tomorrow night!

Are You Currently, Or Have You Ever Been, A Member Of The Communist Party?

So we have a Liberal minority government, eh? Interesting. I see Ontario can still rule this country with no regard for anyone else. Not entirely unexpected, but such is the way of things. I voted NDP, based mostly on the strength of our local candidate, Nettie Wiebe, however we got Brad Trost, and I think he'll be good. All that really matters for Saskatoon-Humboldt is that we got rid of Pankiw.

I'll also make clear that I don't think that Harper and the Conservatives are as bad as Ryan thinks. Really the parties in Canada aren't as different as they make themselves out to be, especially Conservatives and the Liberals, what with Paul "CEO for Canada" Martin and his offshore holdings in the Bahamas. Geez.

A few things we learned from this election.

1) Paul Martin has dropped the ball with regards to Quebec. What does 54 votes for the Bloc Québécois in Quebec, their best showing since their first election in 1993, shows that Martin can't convince Quebec that he has their best interests at heart.

2) Ontario rules the country. With most of the Liberal vote coming from Ontario, they have again showed that it doesn't matter what the rest of the country thinks. Win Ontario, and you win Canada.

3) The West still feels alienated. Almost all of Alberta and Saskatchewn voted Conservative, with the exception of 3 ridings. What is it about Alberta that scares Ontario so much?

3) Your vote counts. In several ridings, including my own, the polls were very close, as in a few hundred out of thousands of votes. So if you really care about democracy, get out and vote.

Well that's probably the most political post you'll get from me in a long time. I haven't really probed the complexities of my own politics and I despise labels. As a young person, I feel my opinions are still developing and I may feel differently in 4 years again.

As for personal politics, I had a run in with my boss Lori this morning which developed into an hour long conversation about Blockbuster and the way I feel about the company.

Basically, my personal beliefs about big business and corporate style of leadership makes me very angry with the way things are handled at work. I don't know how much longer I'll be there; basically we both acknowledged that with my strong convictions and inability to simply accept the leadership of the DL, I won't be there much longer.

Will be kinda sad, I've worked there for over 2 years. But I think it is time to move on. With that said, if anyone has any hot tips on a good job, let me know at the email address above.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Spider-man 2

If you're not excited about this film you're not a Spider-man fan.

Check out the trailer here and then tell me you're not excited.

Rotten Tomatoes is scoring the movie 100% so far, after the first 12 reviews! And that includes Richard Roeper and Peter Travers (Rolling Stone)!

Only four sleeps and then I'm done my class and I get to see this movie!

"You were talking during that women's entire presentation!" - Peter's teacher to Harry Osborne in Spider-man

Ryan Adams and Other Items of Interest

Please don't make the mistake of confusing talented singer/songwriter Ryan Adams with this guy.

I got a nice little birthday check from my uncle Wayne. Wayne lives in New York state, near Syracuse, and so the beauty thing is that he always sends US dollars. So I promptly cashed that baby and made a little trip down to a&b sound, the best place in Saskatoon for music and stereo equipment.

There was quite a few albums I intended to pick up, and one was something by Ryan Adams, someone whom Ewan (read Ewan's blog as The Enchanted Wizard of Rythym) constantly raves about. They didn't have what many consider his best album, Gold, but I picked up Rock N Roll blind without having heard it and man, I'm loving it.

This guy is solid rock, with a tinge of country, a bit of garage rock, pop sensibilities and solid, if somewhat tortured, lyrics. However, this music is really resonating. I can't believe that he isn't getting more airplay.

I really like this bit from "Wish You Were Here":

And everybody knows the way I walk
And knows the way I talk
And knows the way I feel about you
It's all a bunch of shit
And there's nothing to do around here
It's totally fucked up
It's totally fucked up
Wish you were here

Perhaps a little overwrought (note: this is probably the most profanity laced bit on the album for those who are adverse to that kind of thing, it's not prevalent), but who hasn't felt like that before? I know I've felt like that a lot lately (see last post for more hints).

Anyway, Ryan Adams is great surprise.

I also picked up a couple of soundtracks I'd been meaning to buy for a long time, including O Brother, Where Art Thou (really dig that old time bluegrass sound), and Trainspotting.

Also finally got around to buying City of God, which is a fantastic movie that I strongly urge everyone to see.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Annie Hall

I've never cared much for Woody Allen, then again I've never watched many Woody Allen films (I found his character in the Dreamworks animated Antz to be annoying). Plus I've always held a childish and stupid grudge against him for Annie Hall's triumph of Star Wars at the 1977 Oscars©. Very silly, I know, but such as it is.

However, finally I got around to seeing Annie Hall yesterday afternoon. It was one of those films I figured I should see, landmark of the 70s, etc., and so I sat down and low and behold...I thought it was great!

The film concerns the relationship between a neurotic geek named Alvy Singer and the title character, Annie Hall, played to perfection by Diane Keaton. Those who have described it as "the Chasing Amy or High Fidelity of the 70s" are right on the money. It's a funny, intelligent look at the relationship between two people who can't seem to get things to work out. Annie is everything a geek like Alvy could want, intelligent and beautiful, however his own insecurities and idiosyncrasies finally get in the way of their relationship. It's wonderful and bittersweet, with some laugh out loud moments and moments of reflection and contemplation.

The movie is funny, and is definitely the precursor of the "breaking-the-fourth-wall-comedies" of recent times (ala Malcolm in the Middle or High Fidelity). There are some brilliant scenes, one in which Alvy confronts a loud cinema snob in a line up by bringin in critic and theorist Marshall McLuhan to show him he doesn't know what he's talking about. Another involves what may very well be one of the first Christopher Walken Monologues™ (in his brief performance as Annie's brother Duane). The film is filled with wit and style.

However, what really got me into the film is Annie herself. Diane Keaton is a pitch perfect. I found myself falling in love with her over the course of the film, and seeing myself in Alvy and his insecurities. Diane Keaton has got to be one of my favorite actresses for this and The Godfather alone.

What I also saw in the film, and perhaps why the film struck me as it did at this time in my life, is that we all have our own Annie Hall's. That girl who is interesting, beautiful, smart, and surprisingly interested in me! Alvy says it best when he says his oft repeated joke "I could never be part of a club that would have me as a member."

Now I'm going to do a little bit of public confession (I'm new to this so bear with me). I recently (well, a month and a half ago) broke up with my girlfriend of 9 months. It was a rough time, and I was frustrated at my inability to make everything work out. Like Alvy and Annie, we've decided to stay friends and the future is unknown, but it's hard to live without that person in my life. In the end it's painful looking someone who I feel so comfortable with, whoose interests are so similar, and to have to say good bye. The break up was not any one's fault, per se; the situation her moving to Toronto to pursue graduate studies, cause emotional distancing that put an unworkable strain on our relationship. I know that doesn't say much, and I've never been one to reveal to much, but the film really resonated with me.

Hoever, like the Annie of the film, I'm happy just have got to spend time with her when I did.

Thanks for the memories, Jen.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Sleep Deprivation

I've been tired for the last week. Working until midnight at Blockbuster and then waking at 6:30 AM is taking it's toll on me. Unfortunately I don't see this trend changing for the next week or so. Plus I've read two books (The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, and In The Country of Last Things by Paul Auster) in the last three days and must read two more by next Tuesday (Mr. Sammler's Planet by Saul Bellows and Eichmann In Jerusalem by Hannah Arendt). Definitely a rewarding experience, but man I wish I could sleep.

Monday, June 21, 2004

The Terminal

For my money nobody makes better popular entertainment than Steven Spielberg. And that for me is what The Terminal is. A sweet, thoroughly enjoyable piece of entertainment.

I love Tom Hanks (is there a more likable leading man in Hollywood?), and I love airports. For me the idea of wandering around an airport for hours is great fun. I love the smell of jet fuel, the buzz of people excited to be going on vacation, and all the other excitement (for another film example of why airports are so great, see the beginning and ending of Love Actually. Hugh Grant says it better than I do).

The airport itself, JFK International Terminal in New York, is recreated so vividly that I can't believe that the set in this film isn't a real airport. It is simply one of the most astounding sets I've seen in a film in some time.

So, that's my recommendation. I say go see it. However, there are aspects of the film that I cannot discuss without spoilers, so if you don't want to be spoiled, stop here.

Alright, read on. You've been fairly warned. (I figured I better do that because I inadvertantly spoiled elements for my brother when discussing the film with The Enchanted Wizard of Rhythm last night).

The responses to the film that I've seen so far are fairly split. Some think it's a brilliant piece of intelligent, sentimental adult (in the traditional sense of the word) entertainment. Others think its a sap fest with terrible bore of a plot. I fall into the first camp.

Firstly, this is a film made by professionals at the top of their game. Steven Spielberg still consistantly makes films at an incredibly high level of skill and artistry. He can do it all, from the light and entertaining Catch Me If You Can, to the brilliant, yet misunderstood A.I. Artificial Intelligence (trust me, this film is like Blade Runner, in that 20 years from now people will begin to recognize it for its brilliance). The Terminal falls into the first category of entertainment. Spielberg's direction is tight. He knows what he wants to say and he says it. His vision is beautiful, due to the help of the wonderful Janus Kaminski. His wonderful lighting and controlled camera work is one of the highlights of the film. And finally, Tom Hanks puts in a performance that, in my opinion, rivals his work in Cast Away and Forrest Gump for brilliance. Through Hanks, the character of Victor Navorski is realized more fully than most films I've seen in several years.

Which brings me to the second thing I loved about this film: Navorski's character. One of the great things about the film is that Navorski is so well realized that after the first 30 min, we feel we know him well enough to know what is in character for him, and we begin to love him. Take for instance the scene where Dixon (the Homeland Security Liason) gives Navorski the chance to leave. "For five minutes America is 'open'." This scene sets up Navorski's character. He is tenacious. His quest will be accomplished, but he isn't willing to break the law to do it. It's been a long time since I've seen a character of such convictions in film that didn't feel fake or contrived.And for me that is one the joys of this film.

I want to mention the ending (this is the spoilers that I mentioned). I love the fact that the film doesn't fall into the romantic film clichés. Navorski doesn't get the girl, but that's ok. That wasn't his "destiny". And while one of the things about the film is the way that he touches the lives of the people he sees every day in the terminal, it's really about a man who won't be stopped in succeeding. Some people think the jazz signature plot is contrived and lame. I don't think so. As a fan of film and music, I can understand doing that for someone and what it would mean to them. And I think that's why Spielberg has it in there too.

While it's not without faults, I thoroughly enjoyed the film. I can't argue with you if you think the film is boring. If spending 2 hours in an airport terminal with some interesting characters sounds boring to you, then by all means pass this one up. All I know is that it sounds brilliant. The Terminal is a expertly crafted piece of popular entertainment that I plan to revisit again in the future.

Grade: A-

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Ownership; or, Why DVD Isn't Going Away

Me and my brother had a discussion today at lunch regarding how people feel like they have ownership of films, especially regarding films like Star Wars, etc. The genesis of the conversation being the upcoming Star Wars Trilogy DVD set, and Lucas's decision not to include the original films and only the special editions. What this led to is this fact: people today feel a much stronger ownership and personal identification of cultural artifacts than ever before.

Our discussion had some relevance to the discussion here. Essentially, the advent of affordable, quality, portable mediums, like DVD or CD, has caused people to take a more personal stance on their favorite bands, films and television shows than ever before.

For example, take the differences between a play and a film. A play is a much more communal thing. At one time films were more like plays in their social context. In 1977, if I wanted to see Star Wars, I had to make a pilgrimage to the theatre to see it with a crowd of other people. What this meant is that I didn't own Star Wars, I was merely participating in a shared cultural experience. Then then the advent of VHS rentals started to make film experiences a more private thing, but it's really been the rise of DVD and sell-through mediums, such as CDs, etc. in the last five years that have contributed to the fact that people want to own their favorite films or TV shows.

When I buy a DVD as opposed to seeing it in theatres, I say to people "I own that movie." It says something about my relationship to the film that people didn't used to feel for the medium. "I own it" says something different than "I saw it," and it sends a far different message than "I burnt it" or "I downloaded it legally/illegally" or whatever. I feel different about a burnt or copied album than I would if I purchased it. I don't care if my burnt copy of Hail to the Thief gets scratched. I would care if my Limited Edition version of that CD did.

Essentially what DVD and CD has done for movies and music, respectively, is caused them to enter the realm that books once did for people. People have been very defensive and personal about their taste in books for a long time, probably dating back to the arrival of the printing press. There's still something about having a particular book in your library, rather than borrowing or loaning from a library, that says something about you and your tastes. That's why we're sometimes embarrassed to show our book collections to people. It says something about my relationship the works of art.

DVD is now doing the same thing for film. Those of you who know me know that I'm a compulsive collector, owning literally hundreds of DVDs, CDs, comic books, etc. My DVD collection says something about me. It's a reflection of my relationship with the particular work in question. And this is why, while DVD may (will) eventually die, I don't see people switching to solid state memory devices (be it in MPEG, MP3 form) replacing truly portable mediums in which people can form a library or collection.

The Wicker Man

One of the joys of cinéphilia is discovering a film that is utterly original and wonderfully entertaining. The Wicker Man is one of those films.

I'd always meant to track it down because of an interest in seeing some more of the wonderful Christopher Lee (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars prequels) however, I didn't expect to like it so much. In fact, I've watched it twice in the last two days. The basic outline of the story is one of the pious Sgt. Howie, who travels to the remote Scottish island of Summerisle in search of a missing child. Basically, what I thought would be a fairly typical horror film becomes something a little bit more; something frightening, but not relying on cheap shocks; something that fills you with a steady sense of dread, until the horror of what is happening is revealed.

I found the portrayal of paganism in the film to be disturbing and yet fascinating at the same time. The connection of Celtic and European culture in general to its pagan roots is something interesting as well.

Definitely worth watching.

Grade: B+

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Why I Hate Garfield

It seems like such a trivial thing to start out with, but really THIS enfuriates me to no end.

Really, Jim Davis is everything that's wrong with entertainment these days.

Davis makes no attempt to conceal the crass commercial motivations behind his creation of Garfield. Davis has the soul of an adman—his first job after dropping out of Ball State, where he majored in business and art, was in advertising—and he carefully studied the marketplace when developing Garfield. The genesis of the strip was "a conscious effort to come up with a good, marketable character," Davis told Walter Shapiro in a 1982 interview in the Washington Post. "And primarily an animal. … Snoopy is very popular in licensing. Charlie Brown is not." So, Davis looked around and noticed that dogs were popular in the funny papers, but there wasn't a strip for the nation's 15 million cat owners. Then, he consciously developed a stable of recurring, repetitive jokes for the cat. He hates Mondays. He loves lasagna. He sure is fat.

Makes me pray fervently for the return of Bill Watterson...or maybe it explains why Bill left in the first place.


Online Journals. Web logs. Blogging. It seems that everyone is doing it these days. Yes, I know, it seems so cliché, but my current desire to start doing more writing and a latent interest in journaling got me thinking that a blog may not be a terrible idea. Then professor Bartley brought up the idea in class and that just capped it for me. So here it is. The first post in what...I'm not sure what shape it's going to take yet. All I know is that I have a lot of ideas to explore, and rant about things that bug me and gush about things that excite me. Maybe they'll excite and enrage you too. Who knows.

Let's get started...