Friday, December 31, 2004

New Year's Musings

It's the last day of December. New Year's Eve. Hard to believe it's been six months since I first thought of starting this blog while sitting in Professor Bartley's class back in June. It's been a blast and I want to thank all my fellow bloggers for making it a sucessful experience - Ewan and Ryan, the first two to join me on here - Caitlin and Joel, for helping form the core of this blogging community - and all the others who we've convinced or conned into joining the blogging world including Rochelle, Cara, Jessica, Luke and others. It's been fun. Let's keep it going in 2005.

This post isn't meant to imply that I'm going to stop posting or anything, but it's fun to celebrate things even arbitrary points in our journey that is life. There really isn't anything inherrently special about New Year's Eve or New Year's Day. It's merely an aribitrary marker every 365 (and sometimes 366) days, but it's a marker none-the-less. I think the passage of the year is something that we need. It interrupts the monotony of everyday life and gives us a chance to measure how far or how little we've come.

Happy New Year's!

Thursday, December 30, 2004

top ten movies...it's coming

Well, Ewan did his top ten albums of 2004 over at his blog, and due to popular demand I'm going to be doing my "Top Ten films of 2004" countdown starting on Saturday. So stay tuned.

Despite this being a slightly weaker year than some past ones (I found 2002 to be particularliy strong) - for instance there were many anticipated films this year that really dissapointed me, and suffice to say you won't find Troy or The Village on my list. Other films surprised me a lot. Some of those will make it onto the list. While there weren't as many films that I would give a super high ranking to this year, the few that made the top of the list will probably end up being favourites for years to come. In that sense the films that sucked this year, sucked. But the films that were good were very, very good. At least that's how I felt about some of these ones.

"Most of us do not consciously look at movies" - Roger Ebert

"Film lovers are sick people" - Francios Truffaut

Why I'm Not Really Pretentious (But Dodgeball Was Overrated)

Last night I in a gathering with some friends we ended up watching Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. I wasn't really too keen on seeing it, because Anton had seen it and said it wasn't that great and really he's the only critic that I can trust because we usually have the same taste in movies, but I didn't want to put a damper on everyone's spirits so I agreed and didn't say anything. "What the hell," I thought, "It could be fun." I was only partially right.

Parts of the movie were truly funny - Rip Torn is funny in just about anything and the line about "but it's sterile and I like the taste so I drink it anyway" had me in stitches - but other parts weren't so much funny as grotesque (not that I can't handle that kind of thing, but it's not really very clever to have an overweight Ben Stiller playing with his man tits). And other jokes that people thought were hilarious, I found to be really, really annoying. Ben Stiller is one of those jokes. His character was so one-note and unfunny, but everyone else was laughing their asses off at him. I sometimes like Ben Stiller, but he's been so overexposed this year that I just found him annoying. I like Vince Vaughn, and Stephen Root, but they were only so-so in this film, and Vaughn, who can handle the most scathing dialogue with a master's touch played a pretty boring generic character in this film. Too bad. I would have rather watched Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy again.

I felt kind of bad and wasn't too loud in voicing my apathy to the film - though I did mention that the line "You made me bleed...my own blood!" was stolen from The Simpsons...Season One ("Bart the General") and people did then acknowledge that it wasn't original at all. I guess I have a very different taste in comedies. I was laughing out loud at The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou on Sunday night (much to Anton's chagrin), but others in the theatre were rather quiet. It's not that I'm particularily "high brow", but at the same time I'm not going to give in to pressure and admit that something is funny when it's not. The icing on the cake was after the movie when we were watching The Daily Show with John Stewart and I laughed more at the one segment than I did at any point during the film that did it for me. As for my juvenile tastes, I love Kevin Smith movies, Jim Carrey, and the American Pie films, but I just can't get into some movies.

I had a friend of mine call me pretentious once because I didn't have a lot of comedies in my list of favourite movies. I would argue that it's not because I don't like to laugh and tell jokes (ask anyone who really knows me and they would agree that I love to goof around and make wise ass statements), but rather because comedy is really hard to do well. Anyone can get a laugh from farting, but really great comedy takes something else. Timing. Honesty. Wit. And many comedians don't have it. It's just the way I feel.

Finally, that's why my behaviour isn't "pretentious": the word assumes a "pretense", that one is putting on an act in order to appear more educated or more wise or something. In my case, that's not it. Is it pretentious for me to defend the Star Wars prequels with tooth and nail? No, on the contrary it makes me seem silly to people, but I do it anyway because I really feel that way. Same with my taste in comedies. It's not pretentious for me to say I don't really like Ben Stiller that much and that most comedies I see aren't that great, because frankly, it's really the way I feel. And the truth can't be pretentious. Can it?

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Reflections on the Rings

Yesterday, me, Anton, Danny, Justin, Scott and Ryan all sat down to finally appreciate Peter Jackson's epics in one fell swoop; A twelve-hour plus movie marathon of the Extended Editions of the three films. It took the whole day, but the only other time that I've felt as engrossed by Tolkien's creation was the time I read Fellowship of the Ring in one day.

As someone who is already a noted fan of the films, this viewing gave me a new appreciation of the films as one story. These aren't really separate films, and judging it as such isn't really fair. Like Tolkien's stories themselves, the book divisions are somewhat arbitrary and they're really meant to be read/viewed in one volume as one story. Hence you won't ever have me complaining about moving the death of Boromir to the end of FotR or Shelob to the beginning of RotK because it is all rather arbitrary, and more importantly it preserves the time frame of the books. It also gave me a new appreciation of TTT, which was my least favourite of the three films, but really has some nice moments in it.

My first thoughts on the Extended Edtion of Return of the King was that I feel that the extended versions are the better versions. Perhaps with RotK, the added scenes felt less necessary but that's probably because I felt that RotK worked the best as film on its own. However, I think RotK:EE adds a number of things that I think can be called improvements.

I'll just go through the changes in the film and say what I thought of them. I'll reference by scene number, so those of you with the DVD can check it out.

4. The Fate of Saruman - Not my favourite addition, especially Saruman's fire ball, but I like it better than just saying "Oh, well he's in his tower and can't do any harm..." It lends some closure to the Saruman figure, who really was the most visible villian in the first two films and needed to be dealt with.

5. Drinking Game at Edoras - I actually liked this part. I got some good laughs and it adds to the camaradarie between Gilmi and Legolas.

7. Eowyn's Dream - Nothing really to add. I think it's fine.

12. Gandalf describes the Decline of Gondor - Excellent addition which adds depth to Denethor and explains why the Lineage of Kings is done.

13. Cross-roads of the Fallen Kings - I liked this addition. Anyone who appreciates the history and myth that Tolkien created will like this.

16. Warning of Sam - Nothing to say really.

22. The Wizard's Pupil - Another worthy addition. This is the kind of thing that these extended versions excel at. Here we see the deeping of Faramir's character and his conflict with his father more fully fleshed out. Any chance to make Faramir a more noble character is good in my book.

25. Pippin, Soldier of Gondor - I liked this scene. Again, we get more insight into Faramir as a character and Pippin, who I love.

35. Paths of the Dead Extended - Some people didn't like the avalanche of skulls and such, but I really liked this addition. Not only did it make the Paths more creepy, but it's fun as well.

37. The Corsairs - I liked this too. Though it spoils some of the suspense of the later arrival of the Corsairs. Funny watching Peter Jackson get shot by Legolas (I suppose appeasing those who didn't like the films).

39. Merry's Simple Courage - In one sense a nice scene between Merry and Eowyn, but nitpickers might be curious to note that Eowyn removes her helmet in this scene (possibly spoiling her disguise), but I suppose with her hair in her face it might be possible.

45. Gandalf versus the Witch-King - In one sense this was necessary, as in earlier in the film the Witch King states that he will "break" Gandalf, but then nothing happens in the theatrical version. This plays up the roles of the two warriors, but the shattering of Gandalf's staff is an iffy change given the symbolic nature of the wizard's staff. I can live with it though.

56. The Houses of Healing - This is one of those scenes that is sure to please fans of the books, and I liked it. But I can't really say it's integral or seems important. As a film fan, I might say that this was unnecessary in almost every way, but the Tolkien purist in me rejoices.

60. Aragorn and the Palantir - A good addition, though one that occurs in the book at a much earlier scene.

61. Faramir and Eowyn - Nice addition that fits with what we know happens to the characters, and also explains them being together at the end of the film (which might have been confusing to none Tolkien adepts in the theatrical version).

62. Sam and Frodo with the Orcs - Nothing really bad nor good to this scene. But it does explain why they discard their Orc armor.

64. The Mouth of Sauron - I liked some parts of this addition. I liked having it here, and it adds to making this a confrontation between Aragorn and Sauron. The Mouth was a lot scarier the way I imagined him, and also, I thought it out of character for Aragorn to behead an emmisary in that way. But again, I can live with it.

So, despite a few nitpicks, I love this film and and this film series. There were moments that I had to sit back and say to myself "Wow, this is really, really amazing filmmaking." I know some people (Caitlin) dislike things like the battle sequences and oliphants, but I still think Pellenor Field might be the most exciting battle sequence ever put on film. I remember back in the spring when I watched Troy, I was bored, because really once you've seen the mighty Rohirrim battle oliphants on that scale, a bunch of guys on a beach is kind weak. On a technical and adventure scale these films are second to none.

Secondly, and I noted this on Caitlin's blog, it seems to me that some people will end up liking and disliking different things in the films. What one man loves, another man hates. I have met few people who actually like and dislike the same things. I think this is because everyone has latched onto different elements in Tolkien's books, and fair enough. There are a lot of different themes in the books and not all could be given prominence in the films. I think this is because of the problems of adaptations. These books have become so personal for people that any attempt is only going to please some and bother others. On that regard, I have to commend Peter Jackson for doing such a good job. Sure not everything was perfect (some still really need their Tom Bombadil or Scouring of the Shire), but in the end I didn't think anyone could bring Tolkien to life so convincingly and in a manner that is true to the spirit if not the specifics. When one considers the state of most other film adaptations of famous books or stories, these films are remarkably faithful and I'm thankful to have them as a fan of both the books and of grand scale filmmaking.



Sunday, December 26, 2004

Crazy Ass Boxing Day

Just a quick note to begin with; Donkey Konga for GCN is really, really annoying unless you're the one playing it. Imagine DDR, but intead of a dance pad you're given a set of bongos and have to follow songs on the screen by playing the drum or clapping. The way that Aren is currently banging on the drum causes the floor above me to shake. It's quite distracting.

What's even more distracting is the Nintendo DS that he bought. It's crazy. It's essentially a handheld Nintendo 64 or Playstation. The graphics are that good, if not better. Aren bought Super Mario 64 DS and it's great. The system also has a built in wireless internet adaptor, so if you have a wireless network you can talk to others with a sort of MSN type thing and all. It's also backwards compatible with the Gameboy. Basically, it's the best handheld system ever made. I want one, but unfortunately I want an iPod more. I'd rather have my music with me. But if I get the money...

Anyway, I worked my first Boxing Day at the mall today. Blockbuster was always pretty busy on Boxing Day, but the mall was nuts. A sea of people, and they all wanted either pop or cigarettes. And they were all mostly in a bad mood. So, I'm just thankful that I'm home now. I don't think I'm going to go Boxing Day shopping for a long time, because I don't want to contribute to that madness.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas and other Musings

Too often I complain and rant or philosophize, critique and judge, but today I just want to wish a very Merry Christmas to all who are out there reading this. This would be a futile excercise without all of you. And to those of you I know well, all my friends make this life worth living and bring me a lot of joy that I don't very often express. Merry Christmas again.

On another joyous note, I know I've complained about how the theatres here take so long to get all the films worth seeing, but it turns out I spoke in hast (surprise, surprise) but Capitol 4 is playing both The Aviator and The Life Aquatic, so that's a pleasant surprise (a surprise because they never update their online listings until the day of). I think I know what I'm doing on Boxing Day...

Again, have a great holiday and I hope to see you all soon!


"This is Paul McCartney here. I'd just like to wish you everything you wish yourselves for Christmas."

-The Beatles, "Christmas Time (Is Here Again)"

Friday, December 24, 2004

Pride and Fear on Christmas Eve

So this afternoon my mother asked me to go out and pick up a couple items at Extra Foods, because she and my dad were busy still preparing things for tonight, when our family celebration begins. We needed more egg nog (because I had drunk up the rest after lunch with some Baccardi, but it was after noon so it was ok to start), a can of plum tomatoes, and 2L of mineral water. So I ventured out into the snowblinding streets to collect the items and bring them back. Unfortunately the few minutes I had to spend at Extra Foods was really depressing. Instead of the classical Christmas choral music that was playing at our house, I was forced to endure the tinned sound of obnoxious pop holiday crooning. Strike one. Secondly, the mindless suburbanites were out and about collecting their last minute items that are integral to their Christmas celebrations. Important things like 8 2L Pepsis, nachos and tacky magazines and tabloids. The sight of these people horribly frightened me. I never ever want to become some tacky suburbanite, taking my only joy in a cheap domestic beer and football on a Sunday afternoon, or valuing my worth entirely on how nice my car is compared with my neighbors while I raise spoiled selfish brats who are likely smoking meth in Ernest Lindner park. It was a horrifying mix of fear of what one can become, and pride in one's own way of life. I quickly bought the items and hurried home to my family.

As much as I sometimes complain about my family, I really do love them and enjoy the traditions that we have built up. Our keeping of Christmas is a mix of things, my Swedish and German heritage, our love of literature and film, our religious experience, etc. Tonight we begin by going to a Christmas Eve service, then we come home to a Scandinavian-flavoured meal involving flatbread, potatoes, pickled herring, and such, similar to the ones my grandmother in Edmonton would make for the family there before Christmas Eve services. You have to remember that me and Anton love movies, so we've incorporated the viewing of film into our Christmas traditions. After the meal, and a few cups of coffee, we retire to the family room to watch the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol starring the incomparable Alastair Sim. To me, he is the quintessential Scrooge. After that, we generally open one of our gifts, in keeping with my dad's Swedish roots, and then retire to bed "while visions of sugar plums dance in our heads." Well, actually, not really. I'm not even sure what a "sugar plum" is, but either way, it's a good night and one that I look forward to all year. It gives me pride in my family, and pride in who I am, and despite my rantings earlier, I really think Christmas does give me a feeling of what humanity is capable of at least once a year.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

What Poetry Form Am I?

Joel posted a link to this over on his blog. I thought I'd post my results here, cuz I think they're amusing.

Apparently...



I'm terza rima, and I talk and smile.
Where others lock their rhymes and thoughts away
I let mine out, and chatter all the while.

I'm rarely on my own - a wasted day
Is any day that's spent without a friend,
With nothing much to do or hear or say.

I like to be with people, and depend
On company for being entertained;
Which seems a good solution, in the end.
What Poetry Form Are You?


Or, if I were not Terza Rima...



I'm the lai, with no sort
Of grave, solemn thought,
And I
Will never be caught
By miseries sought,
Nor sigh;
Where battles are fought
Or arguments brought,
I fly.




Tuesday, December 21, 2004

New Sin City Trailer!

I've raved about the early test footage for Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller's film version of Miller's Sin City - which for those who don't know was a series of graphic novels from Dark Horse Comics - before.

Now here comes the trailer. What a cast! What a look! I cannot wait to see this movie. It will rock your socks off!


Wine and Zombies

I had a good time tonight. Still another quiet night at home, but I'm getting the feeling that I'm going to be enundated with social gatherings over the next two weeks, so a solid night watching movies with a couple old friends is always a good way to have fun and keep things low key.

My good friend Luke is back in town for the Christmas break. He's currently studying animation in Mirimashi, NB, so I don't get to see too much of him usually, but it's always a good time to see him and play a little DOA3 (Hitomi is my girl!). Danny came over, because I figured he could use a break from studying for finance. We ended up watching Shaun of the Dead (for a second time), and drinking wine - well, me and Danny at any rate.

Shaun of the Dead is probably my favourite "Film from 2004 that is destined to become a cult classic." I love it. After watching it again, I realized that I'll probably have to buy the thing tomorrow, and it's safe to because I know my mom won't get it for me for Christmas cuz she hates zombie stuff. For those who haven't seen it, Shaun was advertised as the original Zom-Rom-Com, that is a Zombie Romantic Comedy. It's damn funny, in that British way (and was written and stars the folks who produced the show Spaced in the UK). I love that kind of stuff (I even bought Love Actually previously viewed the other day, cuz I dug it). But I also love zombie movies, especially the George A. Romero ones (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead). So this film was great, because it's funny, it treats its characters somewhat seriously (we actually care about Shaun and Liz and their relationship) but it also takes the zombie stuff pretty seriously (and it's pretty seriously gory too). I think that's important about it, the fact that it's not the zombies, but rather peoples reactions to the zombies, that makes it humourous. It never crosses over into camp, but is still wildly funny.

Monday, December 20, 2004

I am anxious and disturbed

While the rest of the world stresses over final exams and last minute Christmas shopping, I'm anxious for an entirely different reason - gah, I just went to pour boiling water from the kettle into the tea pot and it was actually boiling, and in motion, and spilled on the counter. That could have been bad - anyway, the tea isn't the reason for my anxiety.

I want to share this quote from Lemony Snicket Book 6 - The Ersatz Elevator (which I have not infact read, but find this quote amusing none-the-less).

The book you are holding in your two hands right now -- assuming that you are, in fact, holding this book, and that you have only two hands -- is one of two books in the world that will show you the difference between the word "nervous" and the word "anxious". The other book, of course, is the dictionary, and if I were you I would read that book instead.

Like this book, the dictionary shows you that the word "nervous" means "worried about something" -- you might feel nervous, for instance, if you were served prune ice cream for dessert, because you would be worried that it would taste awful -- whereas the word "anxious" means "troubled by disturbing suspense," which you might feel if you were served a live alligator for dessert, because you would be troubled by the disturbing suspense about whether you would eat your dessert or it would eat you. But unlike this book, the dictionary also discusses words that are far more pleasant to contemplate. The world "bubble" is in the dictionary, for instance, as is the word "peacock," the word "vacation," and the words "the" "author's" "execution" "has" "been" "canceled," which make up a sentence that is always pleasant to hear. So if you were to read the dictionary, rather than this book, you could skip the parts about "nervous" and "anxious" and read about things that wouldn't keep you up all night long, weeping and tearing out your hair.
I am infact, "anxious" about applying for Graduate school. I found out today that the deadline for McGill's program is January 15. January 15! That's less than a month away. So I anxiously sent an email to Wendy Roy at the English Department, on the advise of Ron Cooley, because Wendy did her Ph.D. at McGill. Hopefully she can help me by giving me some advise as to what kind of program would be best, and who are the good professors. Gah! I'm worried that I could screw everything up if I make the wrong choice. Perhaps it would be easier if I just became a "starving writer" next year. Anyway, that's my anxiety for today, and I need to go drink some tea.

'tis the season...to watch loads of movies

The Christmas Stanley Kubrick Festival continued last night with Barry Lyndon. We had originally intended for the festival to be more of a marathon, but work, exams and social events got in the way. So we're just spacing them out over the two week period.

So far, we've watched:

  • Lolita (1961) - I commented earlier about how this is a funny enjoyable film, with a brilliant bit by Peter Sellers, but also leaves a somewhat disquiting feeling when you recognize the creepiness of Humbert's obsession.
  • Dr. Strangelove; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) - Brilliant black comedy. One of the all time greats and probably my second favourite Kubrick after...
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) - One of the most transcendent film experiences of all time. This is the must see Kubrick film if you haven't seen it yet.
  • Paths of Glory (1957) - This was the first time I'd seen this one and I was really impressed with it. The battle sequences were remarkably intense and realistic for such an old film. Kirk Douglas is great in it, and it also has a brilliant military courtroom scene that you know films like A Few Good Men were inspired by.
  • Barry Lyndon (1975) - A fascinated exploration of one young man's journey up (and down) the social ladder in late-seventeenth century Europe. Barry's experiences range from serving in the Prussian army to being a professional "gamester" (a gambler). Kubrick's touch can still be felt in this period piece, as Barry is in many ways an character without a clear moral centre whose lessons are learned the hard way in life. Definitely worth watching.

Last night I watched A Night at the Opera, with the incomparable Marx Brothers. Groucho is the king of one liners, and Harpo's silent gags are priceless (I'm convinced that Walt Disney fashioned Dopey in Snow White after him). It really is probably one of the funniest movies ever made, because they are always on. These guys go all out in their efforts to make you laugh, and the combination of Groucho's wit with Harpo and Chico's slapstick means that it never seems one-note or repetitive. A classic.

---

"When I invite a woman to dinner I expect her to look at my face. That's the price she has to pay."
- Otis B. Driftwood (Groucho Marx), A Night at the Opera



Sunday, December 19, 2004

all gone to look for America

I'm going to first say that I do value Liberty. I value Love. I value Equality. Kinda sounds like Moulin Rouge, you know, "truth, beauty, freedom, love...Children of the Revolution" and all that. But no, it's not a hip and cynical statement but something that I do feel strongly about. Recent posts and comments, which fortunately have become clearer, made me think about America and everyone's perceptions of it. It's a complicated thing. I think we call cannont deny that we have a love/hate relationship with the country. We hate their wars and their administration, but we love their music and their movies. Their Star Trek and their Coca-Cola. It's complicated.

I just wanted to share with someone an excerpt from this commencement address I read. And yes, it's a commencement address by Bono. But seriously, as a non-American, and one who has fought his own battle with the current administration (over the African AIDS epidemic), but yet has some words that I think are very prescient.

But I don't want to make you cop to idealism, not in front of your parents, or your younger siblings. But what about Americanism? Will you cop to that at least? It's not everywhere in fashion these days, Americanism. Not very big in Europe, truth be told. No less on Ivy League college campuses. But it all depends on your definition of Americanism.

Me, I'm in love with this country called America. I'm a huge fan of America, I'm one of those annoying fans, you know the ones that read the CD notes and follow you into bathrooms and ask you all kinds of annoying questions about why you didn't live up to thatŠ.

I'm that kind of fan. I read the Declaration of Independence and I've read the Constitution of the United States, and they are some liner notes, dude. As I said yesterday I made my pilgrimage to Independence Hall, and I love America because America is not just a country, it's an idea. You see my country, Ireland, is a great country, but it's not an idea. America is an idea, but it's an idea that brings with it some baggage, like power brings responsibility. It's an idea that brings with it equality, but equality even though it's the highest calling, is the hardest to reach. The idea that anything is possible, that's one of the reasons why I'm a fan of America. It's like hey, look there's the moon up there, lets take a walk on it, bring back a piece of it. That's the kind of America that I'm a fan of.

In 1771 your founder Mr. Franklin spent three months in Ireland and Scotland to look at the relationship they had with England to see if this could be a model for America, whether America should follow their example and remain a part of the British Empire.

Franklin was deeply, deeply distressed by what he saw. In Ireland he saw how England had put a stranglehold on Irish trade, how absentee English landlords exploited Irish tenant farmers and how those farmers in Franklin's words "lived in retched hovels of mud and straw, were clothed in rags and subsisted chiefly on potatoes." Not exactly the American dream...

So instead of Ireland becoming a model for America, America became a model for Ireland in our own struggle for independence.

When the potatoes ran out, millions of Irish men, women and children packed their bags got on a boat and showed up right here. And we're still doing it. We're not even starving anymore, loads of potatoes. In fact if there's any Irish out there, I've breaking news from Dublin, the potato famine is over you can come home now. But why are we still showing up? Because we love the idea of America.

We love the crackle and the hustle, we love the spirit that gives the finger to fate, the spirit that says there's no hurdle we can't clear and no problem we can't fix. (sound of helicopter) Oh, here comes the Brits, only joking. No problem we can't fix. So what's the problem that we want to apply all this energy and intellect to?

Every era has its defining struggle and the fate of Africa is one of ours. It's not the only one, but in the history books it's easily going to make the top five, what we did or what we did not do. It's a proving ground, as I said earlier, for the idea of equality. But whether it's this or something else, I hope you'll pick a fight and get in it. Get your boots dirty, get rough, steel your courage with a final drink there at Smoky Joe's, one last primal scream and go.

Sing the melody line you hear in your own head, remember, you don't owe anybody any explanations, you don't owe your parents any explanations, you don't owe your professors any explanations. You know I used to think the future was solid or fixed, something you inherited like an old building that you move into when the previous generation moves out or gets chased out.

But it's not. The future is not fixed, it's fluid. You can build your own building, or hut or condo, whatever; this is the metaphor part of the speech by the way.

But my point is that the world is more malleable than you think and it's waiting for you to hammer it into shape. Now if I were a folksinger I'd immediately launch into "If I Had a Hammer" right now get you all singing and swaying. But as I say I come from punk rock, so I'd rather have the bloody hammer right here in my fist.

That's what this degree of yours is, a blunt instrument. So go forth and build something with it. Remember what John Adams said about Ben Franklin, "He does not hesitate at our boldest Measures but rather seems to think us too irresolute."

Well this is the time for bold measures. This is the country, and you are the generation. Thank you.

Something to think about at least.

--

Look inside America, she's alright, she's alright
Sitting out the distance
But I'm not trying to make her mine
Looking for America
With its kooky nights and suicide
Where the TV says it's alright
Coz' everybody's hung up on something or other.

- Blur, "Look Inside America"

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

I just got back from seeing Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. I dug it. I had a good time. I laughed out loud. And I loved looking at it. The production design was unreal. It appears to be set in some kind of amalgamation of modern and old world; Needless to say it's an incredible stylized world, and I love really stylized worlds (two of my favourite films for production design are Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow and Moulin Rouge! In fact, Lemony Snicket has the same PD as Sleepy Hollow. The guy does good work). Also, the storyline was appropriately dark, yet bizzare and humourous. That is, if you like dark humour, but still childlike humour. I don't know how to describe it. There is some definitely creepy (and not "horror movie" creepy, but "icky" creepy) parts to the movie, like when Count Olaf tries to force Violet to marry him. That's creepy!

A word on Count Olaf: he is great! A truly evil villian, but still hilarious. I guess this is where I admit that I like Jim Carrey. I"m a big fan. Even when the rest of the movie is mediocre I enjoy watching him. His Count Olaf is so over the top. A lot of the reviews have criticized him for this, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching Carrey ham it up. I laughed out loud numerous times at his ridiculousness. I could watch an entire movie of Jim Carrey doing weird characters. So much fun. There are several performances by other actors that are quite fun, including Billy Connelly, Meryl Streep, Timothy Spall and even Luis Guzman in a small role. Also, there is a small cameo by someone I won't mention, but I will say it's the second time this year that he's played a theatre financier.

I haven't read any of the book series, but the film made me want to. I saw them at McNally, and they look short. I might pick them up after Christmas and give them a whirl. If they are anything like the narration and quirkiness of the film, I'm sure I'll enjoy them. Anyone else familiar with the books might not have liked the film as much as I did, but all in all it was one of the most fun times I had at the theatre in a while.

Friday, December 17, 2004

déjà vu all over again

I was sitting at the computer reading my message boards (almost as bad an addiction as blogging, 3 years and counting) and checking out my daily news when I got the overwhelming feeling that I had already read those posts, read that news, that I had been sitting at the computer in the same manner, and the light was the same as it had been. Now I have this feeling that I know what today is going to be like, and that I've done all of this before. A textbook case of déjà vu.

The frightening thing is that for me, déjà vu is pretty common. I regularily get feelings that I've done something before, or felt something before when I'm positive that I actually haven't. I don't know how to describe it, but it feels like this has all happened before. I don't know why I feel this way, maybe more than others. It's a very bizzare thing because it is more than merely "not remembering". I don't remember things that I do all the time, but the fact is that I don't find it disturbing. Rather, the uncanny effect of déjà vu is that one gets a sense that one shouldn't feel a sense of familiarity or recognition. It's that strangeness attached to the feeling that separates it from simple lack of memory.

I know that as a child the idea of déjà vu really fascinated me and frightened me, much like dreams or the vastness of space. Déjà vu literally translated from French means "already seen". The textbook definition is "the uncanny feeling or illusion of having already seen or experienced something that is being experienced for the first time". People have come up with numerous ideas to explain what déjà vu is. I'm reminded of the scene in the first Matrix film when Neo sees the black cat walk by twice, and goes "Déjà vu" to which one of the others answers, that means that "they've changed something". It's fun to think of reasons why this might happen. When younger I thought about déjà vu as a possible effect of time travellers messing with time, and when they changed something we felt like we had already done certain things because, perhaps we had, in another reality.

More scientific and realistic theories that I've come across are that usually when one feels one has been or done something before, one actually has, but didn't form full memories the first time. The original experience may have even occurred minutes or seconds before. It is also possible that déjà vu is connected to chemical imbalances in the brain, and not related to any previous experience at all, but rather the neurochemical "feeling" of memory is merely triggered for one reason or another.

Memory is a fascinating thing. In once sense, it sums up what makes us human, our collective experiences and feelings that make us who we are. But memory is also so fragile, as is our view of reality. Or perhaps there is a more "metaphysical" reason for these things. All I know is that it somewhat frightens me to think that I've experienced all this before, and merely don't remember. Think about that for a moment.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Rising Star?

Anton and I went to see Blade: Trinity last night, much to Ewan and Ryan's aghast. But it's one of those things where, I thought the first one was merely "ok", and the second one was loads of fun, so despite the horrific reviews (Harry Knowles, now famous, review comparing the film to having one's privates mutilated). But I kinda just had to see it anyway. Just to finish the series, because It's clear, after seeing the film, that the series has no future. I think Guillermo del Toro was wise to move to the Hellboy films after Blade II.

One thing of note, and something that saved the film from being one of the worst of the year, was Ryan Reynolds as Hannibal King (I know, it sounds like a rediculous name, but he is an actual character from Marvel's Nightstalkers comic). Reynolds was amusing in National Lampoon's Van Wilder, a film that I didn't find all that entertaining on the whole. But here, he steals the show from all the other characters, Blade included (yeah, I know, that's not saying much knowing the state of Wesley Snipes career. But before you completely disregard the man, track down Spike Lee's Jungle Fever). Reynolds makes the character his own, and also has some of the best one liners I've heard in a long, long time (though, I should note that the writers seemed to have a facination with the word "fuck" and "dick", just a note).

After the film we were talking, and I thought that Reynolds (who incidently is marrying Alanis Morrisette. Go figure.) would be a prime candidate to get his own superhero franchise. I was thinking that he would be great as Hawkeye in an Avengers film. Anyway, funny enough, I read this morning on movies.com that Reynolds is being considered as the lead in a Flash movie. That's a good idea. I can definitely see him as Wally West, the wisecracking scarlet speedster of the JLA. I would go see that movie.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

the sweet and the sour

I hate those good news bad news kinds of things. The good news is that my dad finally ordered our new computer today. And it's a pretty nice system.

- Pentium 4 560 CPU (3.6GHz)
- 1 GB RAM
- 160 GB Hard drive
- 128 MB ATI Radeon X600 PRO PCI Express graphics card
- 17" Flat Panel Monitor
- 16X DVD+-RW/CD-RW burner

And it was a really good package deal through the Campus Computer Store.

The really shitty thing is that those 3.6GHz CPU's are really scarce right now and so we won't get it until early in January. I'm crying here. I wanted to have it to play with during the Christmas break, but likely we won't get it until the first week of school in January.

On the bright side, now I won't be tempted to buy an iPod tomorrow. I can actually save up the money I get for Christmas and buy it then.

Waiting is so hard. So painful.

Beyond Jupiter and the Great Infinite

The "Stanley Kubrick Film Festival" continued with 2001: A Space Odyssey. Honestly, what can I say about this film other than if you haven't seen it, do so. It's one of the prime film experiences of my life and it gets better and better with each subsequent viewing.

The "Dawn of Man" sequence is sheer brilliance. I've never seen early man portrayed so well. Rumour has it that when the Academy Awards nominations came out in 1967, the reason that this film didn't get the Best Make-Up award was that the Academy members didn't realize that the apes (Australopithicus from my best guess) were actually people in suits, and believed them to be actual apes. So the award went to Planet of the Apes, ironically. The whole sequence however is somewhat disquiting, as Moon Watcher encounters the monolith and is the first one to touch it through to the discovery of tools and weapons. It really resonates with me at the moment, again because of the uncanny parallels with Ronald Wright's A Brief History of Progress. Think about the 10 million or so years that mankind has been around, and for most of it, 99.5% of it, we were little more than hunter-gatherers. Kubrick's portrayal of the quantam leap that is civilization is remarkablely prescient.

Kubrick's use of music is wonderful. He choose different classical pieces as a temp track, but in the end he decided to go with those pieces as the final soundtrack. Each piece captures either the fear or wonder of the film perfectly. I cannot imagine the opening without "Thus Spake Zarathustra" or the docking on the space station without "Blue Danube."

The ending is the part that for many is the puzzling and frusterating part of the film, but for me the ending gets better and better with each viewing. The evolution of Dave Bowman into Star Child is confusing and disquieting, but it's so amazing too. I loved watching this on DVD with surround sound. For a solid 20 minutes you are purely immersed in images, colours and sounds, with no dialogue. It's one of the most experiential moments in cinema. Perhaps what some would call "Pure Cinema." At the end, when the Star Child looks at the camera, you feel as if you have experienced something.

I think 2001 is Kubrick's finest film. Easily one of the greatest films ever made, and the finest work of cinematic science fiction ever made (Star Wars is not science fiction, for the record, it is a fantasy with space elements). I'm really enjoying doing this Kubrick festival, even if the watch-it-all-in-one-sitting thing fell through, this is going to be a great week for film watching.

Next up: A Clockwork Orange.

Monday, December 13, 2004

What's that song?

For those of my friends who need more help in avoiding writing essays or studying for finals, I proudly present...

What's that song?

Damn it's fun. Try to match me on the U2 version. I got 10/10.

mineshaft gap

You know what's the worst thing about blogging? When you think of something really cool and profound to write down on the blog and then, when you finally get to your computer and are determined to write it down where it can be shared with the rest of the world for all eternity, you can't remember what exactly it was you were going to say. I hate that. I had all kinds of things to write down last night, and this afternoon too, but I didn't. And now they are lost. Shit.

Well, today we began the "Stanley Kubrick Film Festival" at our house with the black comedies and Lolita and Dr. Strangelove; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb - which incidentally is one of the greatest film titles of all time. Lolita is a disturbingly funny film. The basic plot is that James Mason plays professor Humbert Humbert, who falls in love with young Lolita, the daughter of the women who he is staying with, and then marries the woman (Shelley Winters) so that he can be close to Lolita. Insanity ensues, including the charmingly creepy Clare Quilty, played to perfection by the inequitable Peter Sellers. It's surprisingly funny, full of innuendo and sharp satire (such as the summer camp for young girls named "Camp Climax"). However, the disturbing element of the film is to realize that you've essentially spent two and half hours watching a film about a man who could be described as a pedophile. I know, I know. Lolita is probably closer to 16 or 17, so it's not unthinkably monstrous, and young Sue Lyon is very good looking, I admit, but it is really creepy anyhow. I guess it's better to look at the film as a study of sexual obsession and the lengths that some people will go to pursue, and hide, their obsessions. Again, a disturbingly hilarious film.

Perhaps its actually something about the "Black Comedy" (and no, I don't mean "African-American Comedy") but often they are strangely funny but about things that one normally shouldn't laugh about. Like Dr. Strangelove. It's a film about nuclear war. And the end of the world. And we laugh. A lot. It's really a brilliant film. And if you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. It shows how absurd mankind's desire for self-destruction really is. I'm currently reading Ronald Wright's A Brief History of Progress, which was the subject of this year's CBC Massey Lecture series, and it has some things that Dr. Strangelove echoes. I'm sure I'll get into Wright's book a little more in another post sometime, as I'm almost done reading it (an easy read, and well worth it if you have the time). Also, George C. Scott is almost as funny as Peter Sellers is in this film. His character is so over the top and I still can't get over his fear that if they allow the "Ruskies" to live that they might create a "mineshaft gap" in the aftermath of a Doomsday Device where the survivors must live underground. The term "mineshaft gap" is just so funny on so many levels. I love it.

Friday, December 10, 2004

nothing of real consequence

I went by the university to drop off my art portfolio (now I'm actually done until January), and on the way back I realized that I needed comic bags (yes, I'm obsessive about bagging and boarding) so I swung by 8th Street Comics, and bought them baggys, and also the first issue of this Star Wars mini-series, and flipped through various trade paperbacks and graphic novels, and found a new novel by Michael Chabon (who in addition to writing Wonder Boys also penned the best new novel I've read in years The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and did story duties on Spider-man 2), which I declined to buy because I figure I can wait until Christmas to buy anything other than essentials - essentials meaning I'll still be buying my weekly comics and be picking up The Return of the King: Special Extended Edition on Tues.

Also, before Anton grabs the cable modem and hooks up the X-box for some Halo 2 for the rest of the afternoon, let me just say that we're planning on going to see Ocean's Twelve tonight at the Capitol 4 at 10 pm. I'm pretty sure Sean Brandt and Danny Johnson are planning on joining us, but if anyone else wants to, including Ewan, Caitlin, Joel, Chris, etc., you're more than welcome to.

just plain, damn cool

Just finished re-watching Ocean's Eleven, the 2001 version, not the original, because Anton hadn't seen it since it first came out and wanted to rewatch it before we go to see Twelve tomorrow. I didn't complain, because to be honest, it's one of those movies I can pretty much watch all the time.

It's not a great movie. But it is damn cool. In fact, it might be one of the "coolest" movies ever. I just get a big grin from watching them pull off the heist, and it makes me want to be a theif. Seriously, my mind works very dangerously that way. After watching movies like that I always look at things differently for a few days, sizing things up, listening more, thinking to myself "I'm smart enough. I really think I could pull something like that off." I know. I know. Cocky.

Oh, and George Clooney is just damn cool too. I want to be like him.

Anyway, I'm off to go work on finishing a piece for my art portfolio which has to go in tomorrow for grading. It's almost done, just doing a finishing bit of ink wash on it. It's actually turning out better than I thought it would. I'm really enjoying my art class. I've always liked drawing anyway, so it's great to get 6 credits for it.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Looking Better All The Time

I'll probably get around to posting something more substantial later, but I just wanted to share this - the international teaser poster for Batman Begins. I really cannot wait to see this film.


nothing like a good movie to get you in the Xmas spirit

So, Ewan came over tonight to chill with me and Anton and take a break from exams, but instead of watching a movie, as was originally planned, we just ended up talking for 3+ hours. It's always a blast because we all have so much to say and you always learn something new about movies, music and stuff. I imagine, however, that it would be humourous for someone else to listen to us, because each of us always has something to say and we're always interrupting each other, not because we're rude, but rather because we're just so damn excited about what we have to say. And that's a good thing.

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After, Anton and I watched Die Hard, because we were in the mood for a good Christmas movie. I hadn't seen this since high school, and never on DVD, so it was a good time. Honestly, John McClane rules. He gets so badly beaten in this film that he would give Mel Gibson's Jesus a good run for the title. He gets bruised, blackened, shot in the shoulder, runs across glass in his bare feet, jumps off a building and gets slammed into the side (after he's been shot in the shoulder mind you), and the at the end he just goes off in the limo with his wife Holly. Now that's a hero!

Seriously though, Die Hard is one of those perfect action films. It doesn't take itself too seriously, and has plenty of memorable lines ("Yippee Kiyay Motherfucker!"), but never crosses the line into self-parody or becomes just a mess of unrelated stunt pieces. It's got some great moments and of course, no commentary would be complete without mentioning another grand performance by Hans Gruber himself, Alan Rickman (I'm sure one of my fellow blogger people can appreciate that, right rabies? Though I still don't understand what women find attractive about him? Don't think I ever will or want to). But seriously, Alan Rickman plays awesome villians, and Hans Gruber is among his best. One of the greats. I'd forgotten what a solid movie this is. I may have to pick up the Die Hard Trilogy DVDs one of these days...

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Oh, and all you Star Wars fans should be prepared. It's a moment I've long dreaded and longed for, in a sick and twisted kind of way, like seeing one's loved ones in a really bad play: The "Star Wars Holiday Special", which first aired on CBS in 1978 and was then subsequently hidden by Lucas is going to be on ZeD tomorrow night, November 9, on CBC during "The Penultimate Holiday Special" sometime after 11:25 pm. I know I'm going to be recording this trainwreck, merely for the historicity of seeing Chewie's family on Kashyyyk, Carrie Fisher's singing voice, and Bea Arthur. Also playing will be the excellent short film "George Lucas in Love" which is actually fairly clever and worthwhile seeing as well. Hopefully this isn't some cruel joke and CBC actually delivers.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Cat Stevens and Other Reflections

I'm back into listening to Cat Stevens, probably in part because I saw the LP of Cat Steven's Greatest Hits at Brad's the other night, so I dug out my CD copy and have been listening to it again. He is one of the greats of Folk Rock. The other thing that makes him great is his voice, it has this difficult to describe quality to it. He also was able to cover such a range with his music from the early pop-rock sounds of "Here Comes My Baby", which was featured in Rushmore. "Morning Has Broken" is one of the most amazing reditions of a hymn that I have ever heard. It's full of such glory that it does make you appreciate life. The quiet brilliance of "The Wind" is one of his best known songs, and for good reason. Cat Stevens is definitely one of my favourites of all time.

There's just something so enjoyable about his recordings. I'm really happy that Yusuf Islam has realized that he was wrong about his strict interpretations of Islamic law regarding the recording of non-religious music. It makes me happy, because it would have been a shame to lose him. And now there are rumours that he's going to record something new. Could be interesting.

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Also Anton wanted me to pass on that PC Dijon Mustard is really good. He's right. It's probably one of the best dijons that I've had. Just perfect to add that kick to a really good sandwich.

Speaking of Tintin...

I find it quite amusing, and fitting, that given the recent talk of Tintin on blogspot recently, that today's edition of The Globe and Mail, should feature this lighthearted article on everyone's favourite intrepid journalist. Click to read: "Ouch! Researchers tackle Tintin's traumas".


Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Yes, there was a moment of smug self-satisfaction after reading Caitlin's comments here. Before knowing the effect of my praise, last night at four am, before crawling into my cold bed, I decided to throw Amnesiac into the CD player and fall asleep to it (I love the irony of it, but one cannot live on irony alone), however, I was so tired that I didn't even make it to the end of "Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box." I didn't even feel that tired before I got home, but once my head hit the pillow...wham!

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I'm going to get back on the subject of movies right away here, because being the obsessive film fan that I am, I simply cannot go for very long without talking about movies in some way, whether an offhand allusion to a line from a favourite comedy or verbally trying to throttle a friend who has the gall to insult a Star Wars film in my pressence.

I went to see Finding Neverland this evening. Having seen 57 of the films released thus far in 2004, I can say that this is a great film that does live up to its expectations. It's not a loud obnoxious film, but rather a film full of life and imagination. Johnny Depp is, as usual, excellent as J.M. Barrie - sometimes it really bothers me that he got famous for his role in Pirates, good as he was, because people don't realize how good this guys range is. From film to film, he's never quite the same. He doesn't rely on his personae to carry a film, but rather inhabits the characters that he plays. Kate Winslet is also excellent, adding this to her role in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind earlier this year, and I'm predicting at least one Oscar nomination for her. Actually, I would be surprised if thsi film doesn't get nominated for Best Picture. In a year full of "biopics," here is film that truly stands on its own, not only with insight into a facinating life, but as story in and of itself, full of joy, sadness and imagination.

Imagination. That's really what made me love the film. All other aspects aside, this is a film that further inspires me in the belief that writing and storytelling do matter, and are of grave importance in this world. Barrie's exhortation to young Peter that he must write, whatever, be it what he does during the day or the "talking whale in your head" that is our imaginations. Writing is important, and it's something that I need to make a more conscious effort to make the time to do so.

This blog is good start. That's one of the great things about blogging, is that it's an easy way to practice writing something. Not that anything that I write on here is very good or anything, but the practice of making writing a familiar and comfortable part of life is a good one. Now I need to unlock my imagination and work some more on the ideas I have for novels, essays, comics and screenplays. All those things are in there and, with practice, I can bring them to life.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Fanboys Are Whiny Babys, Pt. 2

Here it is Caitlin. I've decided that I'm going to attempt to reply to some of the issues that you raised in your post here.

1. One of the things that made Star Wars great was the entire context that made the far, far away galaxy so rich in meanings and rich in history. There was a past that was hinted at, but not known. The fall of the old Republic and the clone wars, which we had some inkling of, but no real knowledge of, made Lucas's Star Wars Galaxy real to us. When we are step-by-step shown the history that was hinted at, it loses the mystique that made it so intriguing. Tolkein had the same trouble with Middle Earth. The Silmarillion could never succeed the same way that Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit did, not only because it was written like an academic history, but also because it was the mystical beginning that had made the novels so tangible.
Well, that's certainly true. The Prequels don't have the same "mystique" that the original trilogy had. But can one really fault the films themselves for this? This is a part of the nature of what they are, which is the back story to the other films. Like you said, The Silmarillion also suffers from this, and for that reason it will never be as popular as The Lord of the Rings. However, Silmarillion is an incomparable work of myth making, that even Tolkien's novels didn't reach the level of. For what they are, the Prequels are equally interesting. But lets face it, for the people that didn't really care to know what happened before, I guess the Prequels are that interesting. And again, this isn't really the fault of the films, but of the prior conceptions that fans brought into the films with them.

2. Another thing that made the originals great was the perfect balance between profundity and comedy. Luke's intense experience at Degoba with Yoda is offset by the comic sexual tension between Han and Leia. Han's getting frozen in carbonite is made more bearable by C-3PO's inappropriate and ridiculous chattering. The new franchise is just too damn serious. Right now, I can only think of two spots in both episode I and II when I laughed out loud. (Greg Proop's narration of Anakin's race in Episode I, and Obi Wan forcing a lowlife to make something useful of himself in a bar in Episode II)

Again, this makes your criticism somewhat different from the complaints of the "whiny fanboys." The fanboys always criticise the Prequels for being too goofy, too much slapstick, too childish. I ask myself, what about Jar Jar? Isn't he possibly the most humourous character in any of the films? I know a lot of people are going to attack me on this one, but seriously, Jar Jar is a character that fits into a long history of humour.

Many people compare Lucas's Star Wars films to Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress. Now sometimes I wonder if any of these people have even seen Hidden Fortress, because the two farmer characters who are the comic relief in the film, and have often been called the precurssors of Artoo and Threepio, are actually far more similar to Jar Jar Binks. They act totally silly, totally cowardly, and are a constance source of annoyance for the princess and samurai (Toshiro Mifune) who they are accompanying.

Also, consider the non-explicit references that Jar Jar is similar too. Jar Jar's pratfalls and clumsiness is uncannily like the work of Buster Keaton, or Danny Kaye. Check out Kaye in The Court Jester in the scene where he is fighting the soldiers in the castle, and compare it to Jar Jar battling the droids at the end of Phantom Menace. Some of this is identical, such as when Jar Jar and Kaye both accidently take out their enemies. The new Star Wars films are full of humour. It's just innocent and far removed from the snarky, cynical humour that so many of us crave. Sometimes the way the fanboys talk, they just show their own ignorance of film history.

3. Where are the swashbuckling characters? The main characters in the originals all had minor flaws so that no matter how right they were about something or how good their plans were, they were always sort of bumbling through things the best way they knew how. Frankly, Luke Skywalker gets bloody annoying in Episode VI and in the novels because he's so freakin' wise. In the new franchise, people are seemingly perfect except for some gross hamartia that is as subtle as a smack across the face with a limp cod fish. I love the characters, but I don't like them very much. Where's the charming arrogance of Han Solo? The self-important temperamentalness of Princess Leia? The ridiculous puppy dog loyalty of Luke Skywalker? The comical anger of Chewbacca?

Basically, I always respond to this criticism like this. So basically, you don't like the films because there's no Han Solo? That's pretty much the main thing. Each of the new characters has their own characteristics. Also, none of the new characters are really perfect. Anakin, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon all have faults and uniqute personalities. Sure none of them is like anyone in the original trilogy, but do we really want that? We already have that. This is a different story. I understand where this argument comes from, but it's a bit like criticising an fine red wine for not being sweet enough. That's not the nature of the beast, and to criticise it for being something it's not, seems to me, silly.

4. Who the hell made the decision to switch to presentational acting from representational? The only people who pull this off at all well in the movies are Liam Neeson and Ewan MacGregor. Most of the rest of them just look like poor actors. This isn't the case at all; Natalie Portman and Samuel L. JAckson have been brilliant in other roles, but the director made choices about their acting which did not exploit their natural talents.
Firstly, congrats for knowing that they are actually using a presentational style of acting. That alone gives you bonus points. However, I think that you're view of the acting in the original films is kind of rose coloured. Both trilogies have their stand out actors (Ford and Guiness in the originals, MacGregor and Neeson in the current trilogy), but most of the acting isn't outstanding, but nor does it have to be.

Also, let's face it. Lucas isn't an "actors-director." He never has been, and he never will be. But he has an idea of what he wants and a vision of how his film should look. You have to also realize that Lucas wanted to fashion the acting in the new trilogy after the acting in the Saturday afternoon adventure serials that he watched as a kid. And the acting in those isn't Shakespearean in quality.

5. Who the hell edited this thing? Did we need ten minutes of Anakkin nearly dying in the android factory (or whatever it was)? Yes, we get it. Nice CG. I bow down to your technical knowhow. But frankly, by the end of the sequence, I wanted Anakkin to die because I was SO fecking sick of him being almost killed.
FYI, it was edited by Ben Burt, who also did the sound design for the original trilogy as well. But I mean, this argument could be leveled against the original trilogy (the Death Star attack run is painfully drawn out). If you watch the commentary on IAttack of the Clones, Lucas remarks that this sequence was added late in production, but not because they wanted to do more CGI, but rather he felt that pacing wise, it was needed. Without the sequence, Lucas felt that the entire approach and attempt to rescue Obi-Wan was too easy, and too quick, and that their needed to be a sense of recklessness to Anakin's rescue attempt. So, that's one answer.

6. A redemption plot is in general much more appealing to a Western sensibility than a plot about a fall.

Again, see my response in one. This isn't really a fault of the audience. Anyway you cut it, the Prequels were going to be about Anakin's fall. You admit this later in your post, and that it would have been more satisfying coming before the original trilogy. Well, that's possibly true, but I know an awful lot of people who are also looking forward to Episode III precisely because they want to see Anakin fall. And fall hard!

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Also, I need to take some time to answer the critics of CGI. Yes, CGI can be used badly, but I really don't think that too much time is spent on CGI instead of traditional effects. The way some people talk, you'd think that "traditional effects" would improve story and things like that. In many ways, CGI actually frees a filmmaker up to spend more time on story and composition and things like that, rather than technical problems.

If people would watch the making of documentaries and read about the making of the original films, they'd realize how much time and effort went into just making certain things work. Story was sacrificed for the effects. It was the nature of the beast. CGI is a tool (and just that a tool) that has allowed filmmakers to do things that they couldn't before. Jackson's Lord of the Rings couldn't have been made without CGI. Spider-man wouldn't have been convincing (or would have looked as bad as Christopher Reeve against the blue screen in Superman) without CGI. What the technology does to a good director is allows them to do things that they couldn't do before.

Also, CG is used in films that most people don't even realize are. Take Master and Commander. Lots of CGI. Digital compositing. That movie wouldn't have been possible without CGI. Or even certain transitions and camera movements aren't possible without CG technology.

Anyway, if people want to know more about the FX work in the new films, I'm more than happy to talk about it and explain to people what's actually going on in different scenes. So please, before you tell me that the ships in the new trilogy look too "fake" because they're CGI, stop, because they're actually models.

on to other business

Well, I finished writing my Christmas exam for English 401, and so now I'm done until New Year's - you may all begin hating me....now. Technically, I do have to hand in my Art 112 portfolio on Friday, but that's essentially done. All that's needed is for me to date and label all the pieces, and finish up my "personal" work, basically a piece that combines what we've learned this year (value, texture, composition) as well as saaying something about my own tastes and artistic leanings.

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How would you like these guys as your fascist ditators?

Since I finished my last essay on Thurs. I was able to go by 8th Street Books & Comics and catch up on the last two weeks of issues. So I walked out with 15 titles in my bag. It was wonderful to sit down and catch up. I must give a special recommendation to the current story arc in Superman/Batman, the first two parts, issues #14 and 15, of which are currently out. Jeph Loeb writes awesome stories. I must admit, I'm first and foremost a Marvel reader. I read more Marvel books every month, and one of the things that many people like about Marvel is that their characters are more "human" and relatable. However, sometimes they become too talky. Comic books are, by definition, a visual medium and Loeb writes storylines that are big and exciting, but at the same time seem meaningful and important. Take his run on Batman with "Hush." He allowed Jim Lee to really stand out and to perhaps the most exciting artwork of his career. And with the current storyline in Superman/Batman, entitled "Absolute Power" is what I call quality, high-concept story telling. The basic premise is that someone has tampered with the timeline, and raised young Kal-El (Superman) and Bruce Wayne (Batman) to become the rulers of the world. Most of the superhumans have been eliminated and Bruce and Kal rule the world with an iron fist. The statue of Lady Liberty in Gotham Harbour has been replaced with a giant statue of the two men, in full costume, with the words "Obey or Die!" taking their place. Who is responsible for this alternate timeline, and who is going to right things? I can't wait for the next issue.

Reading comic books is something that puts me in the minority among my friends. The only other one that really reads on a regular basis is my friend Luke, but doesn't buy too many issues. I'm the only heavy collector I know, reading approx. 20-25 books a month. I guess my interest in drawing, and the graphic arts is something that led me to it. I always read comics as a kid - my dad's old Superman issues, Calvin & Hobbes, Tintin - I have a broad interest in comics as an art form, beyond superheroes or funny pages.

Anyway, I just thought I'd post something about comics, because I realize that as much as I like music, my knowledge isn't nearly as good as some of my fellow bloggers such as Caitlin, Ewan or Joel. I love music, and I know that I'm more educated than most of the "unwashed masses", but I do realize that my real areas of knowledge are more in film and comic books.

Speaking of film and comic books in the same sentence, this one is for you Ewan. I know you're not much of a comic book reader, but you've gotta get excited for next summer when you see this. (even though I think you've seen it before) Finally a film maker who understands that James Gordon is not some incompetant, overweight fool. Thank God for Christopher Nolan.


(click for larger picture)

Friday, December 03, 2004

The Eighth Wonder of the World

I just finished watching the original 1933 King Kong, starring Fay Wray and "King Kong, The Eighth Wonder of the World." It was the culmination of another long search. For some reason, certain movies are really hard to find in Saskatoon, like this one. Anton finally tracked it down at a VHQ, and we rented it and watched it. I had heard so much about the film that I wasn't sure that it would live up to the expectations, I mean it's a movie about a giant ape! But it's also the favourite film of Harry Knowles (webmaster of Ain't It Cool News) and also of Peter Jackson, who is currently filming a big budget version of Kong starring Jack Black, Adrian Brody and Naomi Watts (you can find out lots more at KongIsKing.net). So it was one of those films that I just had to see.

The truth is that it was great. It's first and foremost an adventure film in the vein of Indiana Jones or Tintin, with characters travelling around the world in a great search. The most surprising thing however, is that Kong himself is such a compelling character. Watching the stop motion animation of Willis O'Brian, you can see how they create a personality and mannerisms for Kong. He's endlessly fascinating to watch, and fortunately large chunks of the movie consist of Kong battling various preshistoric beasts on Skull Island. It's also one of those movies that influenced so many films after it. It's interesting watching what from the film would be emulated later. Really interesting stuff.

It's too bad that this film isn't available on DVD yet. It definitely deserves the special edition DVD treatment ala Citizen Kane or Casablanca, because it was one of those defining films. Fortunately, I imagine someone will put one out sometime in the next year before Jackson's new film comes out. I'm pretty excited to see Jackson's film, especially considering the reverence that he has for the original source material, and the fact that he's staying true to the original time period and plot (unlike the disasterous 70s film version starring Jeff Bridges that I had the misfortune of catchingn pieces of on Space one evening). Bring on Christmas 2005!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

take a sad song and make it better

Well, I'm almost done my essay on the triumph of character over class determinism. Fortunately I've had over 13 hours of music going in Winamp, so that keeps me company. But I'm looking for something to delay that last few paragraphs, so I thought I'd make a post.

The fun thing about making playlists is that I get to look through all my old music files (over 2000+ files) and see how bad my taste in music has been in the past, as well as discover old favourites (like "In The Meantime" by Spacehog).

I got to listening to a song that I first discovered on the High Fidelity soundtrack, "Fallen For You" by Sheila Nicholls. It's a super good song, that I absolutely love, but it's also a super depressing song about unrequited love (it's from a girl's perspective, but just change the genders and I identify). I don't know what it is about those kinds of songs but they're right up my alley. Sometimes there's something satisfying about that kind of thing, the depressing love song, which I'm sure we've all experienced. I think it has to do with that fact the kinds of emotions that they describe are universal. I know sometimes I like just listening to a really depressing record and just laying on my bed and remembering painful moments that I associate these kinds of songs with. I think I like it because when emotions are overwhelming, even sad ones, it reminds you that you're alive and that if something can matter that much, then life must be worth living.

"Fallen For You"
Sheila Nicholls


Falling for you

Did you ever see me,
Watching from periphery?
I was playing another game
I hoped you catch on all the same.

Falling from view
Did you ever touch me,
Floating through your potpourri?
I thought I felt your fingers once
After waiting all these months
But I was wrong, so wrong
That was just another song you wrote, for another girl
And I hoped the day could be
When you'd write a song for me


But it never came,
I thank you all the same,
But I'll go now, so you won't know how much I've
Fallen for you,
Pointless trying to be a man
Boy, you don't know if you can
I thought I knew you well enough
But your walls are still too tough

But I was wrong, so wrong
That was just another song you wrote, for another girl
And I hoped the day could be
When you'd write a song for me

But it never came,
I thank you all the same,
But I'll go now, so you won't know how much I
Thought about you all the time,
Walking round, the Guggenheim.
Like a rhyme, in my mind,
There you are, in my car,
But we don't drive very far.
To the beach, out of reach
Next to me... my fantasy

Falling for you
Did you ever see me,
Watching from periphery?
I was playing another game
I hoped you catch on all the same.

--

Actually, another good song that I've forgotten about and that fits with the depressing, lost love theme, is "All I Want Is You" by U2 (featured on both the soundtrack to Reality Bites, which isn't that bad a movie, and also on Rattle and Hum). Again, lay on your bed and listen to it while thinking of past loves. Guarenteed to do the trick.