Monday, January 31, 2005

What famous leader are you?

Another little quiz. I'm VERY happy with the results. Heh.

What classic movie are you?

I thought this was a fun and appropriate little online test (since everyone love these things so much).


It's a pleasent surprise when a film that is so talked about lives up to its hype. Sideways is one of those films. There was a point in the film that I thought about how much I wish I had seen it waaaayyyy earlier in the year, so that I could love it before it became "trendy" and then I could share it with other people and tell them that they should go see it. That's how I felt about the movie. I real want to share it with the people I know who love movies.

It's somewhat ironic that I've spent much of my past few posts "defending"/"extolling the virtues of" special effects and digital work, but then a film that comes along and makes me reevaluate my whole top ten comes along and, low and behold, it has nary a special effect in it. Except maybe that magical effect that two actors in front of a camera can yeild when the the right moment comes along.

The best comedies are riotously funny. Sideways is no exception. There were dozens of moments in the film where we were all laughing so hard it hurt. Thomas Hayden Church creates one of the most memorable characters of the year. His nomination was well deserved.

But the best comedies also have their serious moments. Again, Sideways is no exception. There are some of the most heart wrenchingly human moments in any film this year in Sideways. Paul Giamatti's Miles Raymond is such a remarkable character. I can see the criticism's that some people have levelled against a lot of film critics and cinéastes for loving a movie with a character who is so obviously one of us, but at the same time it is because Miles is one of us that his character carries so much weight. He is us struggling authors and artists who feel that we're never going to suceed. He is us who is so nervous around the opposite sex. He is the us that knows far too much about movies, books and wine. The fact that we know him is what allows the comedy to work so well. And it is the comedy that gives the dramatic moments their weight.

It is a crime that Paul Giamatti was ignored by the Academy. Expect me to make a big deal about this come awards night.

First Things First

A few not so random comments at this late hour.

I didn't mean for the comments here to turn into a huge debate over whether CGI is good/bad/ugly/real/, whatever. I was merely excited about the possibilities open to people who are interested in film. I don't dislike low-key pictures, or anything of that sort. I have extremely wide ranging film tastes and I do enjoy theatre. But the thing that turned me into a film fan was the original Star Wars trilogy. For that reason I will always have a love for FX, spectacle, and visuals (hence I'm also a visual artist, in the loosest sense of the word, and enjoy drawing and such). I however can be a huge paradox and love the most simple character studies, such as Before Sunset or Sideways.

Which leads me to my next post.

Friday, January 28, 2005

And for the most bizzare film trailer of the day...'s the trailer for Stephen Chow's (Shaolin Soccer) newest film, Kung Fu Hustle. Roger Ebert describes it as "a film in which Jackie Chan and Buster Keaton meet Quentin Tarantino and Bugs Bunny. Yes. That describes it nicely."

Oscar Talk - Part 1

I'll have an arcticle in the upcoming Sheaf and I'll have more accurate predictions and such after I finish seeing some more films this weekend. Still I have some things to say. Firstly lets discuss the Best Supporting Actor race.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

Alan Alda in "The Aviator"

Thomas Hadyn Church in "Sideways"

Jamie Foxx in "Collateral"

Morgan Freeman in "Million Dollar Baby"

Clive Owen in "Closer"
This is a relatively competitive category. Some people have been saying that Jamie Foxx's votes are going to be split between "Collateral" and "Ray," but I just don't see that happening. Firstly Jamie has so much momentum in the Best Actor category, and secondly there's a lot of really close competition in this category already that I don't think a significant number of voters are going to give Jamie's role in "Collateral" much thought (although I for one thought he was excellent and perhaps more accomplished in that film. It's one thing to give an award for good acting rather than being a good mimic). I think the award could go to either Clive Owen, whose performance in "Closer" was outstanding, or Thomas Hadyn Church ("Sideways"), especially seeing as how they snubbed Paul Giamatti! Alan Alda has an outside shot, but seeing as "The Aviator already has so many nominations I don't think this is one that it's going to get, but he is a beloved Hollywood character playing out of type. Morgan Freeman just doesn't have the buzz around him, so I don't see it happening. On top of that "Million Dollar Baby" is going to rack up enough stuff anyway, at least that's what I predict.

Miyazaki and Howl's Moving Castle

Talking about animation. Anyone who isn't familiar with Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki should become familiar. He is often called the "Japanese Walt Disney", which pretty much sums up the kind of influence and stature he is given in Japan and among animation circles. I don't like that term because I think Miyazaki is on par with the best Disney.

Most people know him from Mononoke Himé (Princess Mononoke), however as amazing as that film is (and it is one of my favourites of all time) it's by far the most "adult" of Miyazaki's films. I highly encourage everyone to go watch Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (Spirited Away), Majo no Takkyubin (Kiki's Delivery Service), and Tonari no Totoro (My Neighbor Totoro) because the man has a gift for creating amazingly whimsical, child-like films that at the same time are beautiful works of art.

The reason I mention Miyazaki is that his new film Huaru no ugoku shiro (Howl's Moving Castle) is set to come to N. American this year. I'm excited as Spirited Away was one of my favourite films of 2002. You can watch a preview (in Japanese) at this site here.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Oh, one other thing. I always get people asking me about my DVD collection, what I have, how many, etc. You can browse my collection, which is now up to date, here at

EDIT: For further clarification, is a rating of the disc itself (sound, picture quality, special features) and is for the feature itself. If there is no rating, either I haven't seen the film or I haven't gotten around to watching the disc yet.

Clarification and A Scanner Darkly

A few comments to clarify ideas I've been touting as I try to put some thoughts down this evening:

Firstly, the viewing of Sky Captain has really spurred my enthusiasm for the tools that are available to regular people, like myself, in film making. I actually agree Caitlin and Swambo's comment that they hope that CGI gets used in different ways from the "big budget FX extravaganza's" that, as she rightfully pointed out, often end up shite (Chronicles of Riddick anyone?).

I don't think Sky Captain is one of those films. For one, up until a few years ago Kerry Conran was just one of us; sitting at his iMac working out six minutes of test footage for his dream project. Sky Captain was born in one person's love of comic books and old pulp films rather than some studio trying to cook up the next big hit.

However, a conversation with Luke regarding animation films and Caitlin's comment on alternate uses of digital technology brings me full circle to talk a little bit about Richard Linklater's take on Phillip K. Dick's A Scanner Darkly. For those who are unfamiliar, the story is about a group of drug addicts, one of whom (Arctor, played by Keanu Reeves in the film) is an undercover cop. Of course being a Phillip K. Dick story, the twist is that Arctor suffers a schizophrenic breakdown and begins to track himself to the source of the drugs. Some screen shots have been released.

Here's Keanu Reeves...

...and Winona Ryder.

Here's an animator using digital technology to trace over the hi-def digital film using a graphics tablet and pen.

Linklater is a Indie film hero (even though I hate the term "Indie"). He works only on projects that he wants to, often on a super low budget. His films are personal yet never pretentious. A film like Before Sunset (which I highly recommend to anyone who hasn't seen it yet) is so low key and personal. It is truly a masterpiece of American independent cinema. A Scanner Darkly shows the potential that the digital era is giving to filmmakers who work apart from the big studios.

What I hope to bring to light is that there is a place for digital tools in the world of filmmaking beyond the FX heavy "epics." I'd love to hear what some of my fellow flimmakers out there have in mind.

The Limit

I played shinny (hockey for the uneducated) last night with my man Luke down on Broadway at the Victoria school rink, across from the Hose. It was tons of fun. I hadn't played hockey like that in a couple of years. Luke, who blogs here, I ran into at Blockbuster on 8th St. (where I was doing more DVD trading and picked up Collateral and Before Sunset). Later, Luke called me up and said that his mom and bunch of others who work on Broadway were playing shinny and I could come. One of the guys was a janitor or something for Victoria school, so we got to have music on the outside speakers. It was just a good ol' fashioned game of shinny and I remembered the joy of hockey.

Of course the danger of playing on ice with boots is that you fall a lot. The game is not without risks. I also shot the ball (frozen and hard) into the nose of this older lady that was playing goal on the other team. I guess I just got too into it and was trying to go top corner. Anyway, apparently they play every Wednesday night, so I may have to go back sometime.


Later last night (I know, what happened to working on the Dr. Jekyll presentation? Well that didn't happen until about midnite) we watched Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. It's just such a fun movie, I enjoyed it possibly more the second time.

I think part of my enjoyment comes from seeing someone turn their imagination into reality, sucessfully. I know some people won't dig Sky Captain, and that's ok, but for as a filmmaker it really struck home the possibilities of the new technologies. I remember back to a discussion with Caitlin and Swambo about digital technology and the dark side of CGI. Sky Captain shows me the bright side. Kerry Conran was just a regular guy like me who came with 6 minutes of footage on his Mac to show to Paramount executives. On the strength of that they gave him a $30 million budget and cast Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow. Thirty years ago that would not have happened (Ewan, I know you're reading Easy Riders right now so you know that's the truth). Digital technology has levelled the playground.

Now, the only limit is your imagination.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

More ignorance of the masses...

Caitlin writes here about listening to other people's conversations and being pissed off by their ignorance.

Unfortunately these are not isolated incidents; they occur quite regularly. And they are not always particularly serious. As a movie fan, I'm subjected to hearing people make stupid, uneducated comments about movies that I love. So, yesterday I was in Future Shop (stroke one; I guess I should have expected that kind of thing there) picking up a couple of new DVDs that arrived yesterday, those being Batman: The Animated Series - Vol. 2 (my favourite TV show of all time) and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

As I picked up my copy of Sky Captain off the display and moved over to the rest of the new release section I notice two twentysomething-year old guys wander up to the display and make the following comments.

"Man, I heard this movie is stupid."
"I don't know, I figure it might be ok if you just turn your brain off and sit back."
"Who cares? Let's see if they have it..."

My initial reaction is that they are a couple of guys who just can't enjoy the pure child-like enjoyment of Sky Captain. Then I discover what it is.

"Where's Alien vs. Predator, dude?"

Arrrrggggghhhh. This is the kind of thing that just sickens me to know end. First of all they pass judgement on one of the most creative films of the year, then they proceed to pick of a piece of trash that from all accounts is a disgrace to the rest of the respective series and nothing but underwhelming action sequences strung together with forgettable human characters.

I lament for our generation.


On a related note, why is it that every time there's a free t-shirt give away it's always so damn'd huge! I can't wear an XL t-shirt. It's like a dresss on me. Why do they just assume that everyone is some massive beast like the comic book guy? It's sad. I would actually enjoy wearning a Sky Captain shirt, but I'm not built like Harry Knowles.

"I would like to return this belt that I won at a local Star Trek convention. The average Trekker has no use for a medium-size belt." - Comic Book Guy, The Simpsons

Jury Prize

I had mentioned in one of my Top Ten posts that I was going to award a "Special Jury Prize" to a film that didn't quite make the list, but still deserves mention in some special way. That film is Shaun of the Dead.

Shaun of the Dead is such a fun movie that I'll come back to again and again. As so many people have noted, I feel redundent mentioning it, it's the combination of British humour, excellent characters and unrironic zombie-violence (I love the term "zombie-violence" because I think it's funny to be so specific about such things; even funnier is how the Blade films are rated R partly due to "vampire-violence"). It's a riot.

While many people felt Napoleon Dynamite was the "cult film" of the year, I enjoyed it, but didn't really "feel" it the way some people did. For me, Shaun of the Dead was that film.

Shaun: 'Take car. Go to mum's. Kill Phil - "Sorry." - grab Liz, go to the Winchester, have a nice cold pint, and wait for all of this to blow over. How's that for a slice of fried gold?'
Ed: 'Yeah, boyyyeee!'

Monday, January 24, 2005

1st leg - North America

U2 just announced the locations and dates for this summer's "Vertigo" tour. Unfortunately, the closest they come to Saskatoon is GM Place in Vancouver on April 28th. Now I've gotta figure a way to work this.

Oh, and of interest to Ewan at least, the Kings of Leon will be opening for U2 on the N. American leg of the tour.

"No, Mr. Wayne. That's The Law"

This started out as a comment on Caitlin's blog, but I figured I might as well make it a post. She was talking about an uncle of her's who is a judge, yet said that "his job (a judge) is about human motivations and the ideas of the greater good. He says that law doesn't seem to enter into that, and he's not particularly interested in the law." Law is one of those careers that I've always been somewhat drawn to. The fact that it's still a viable option (as Caitlin's uncle, who has a PhD in English, an attest to) is also a factor. However, whenever I think about it enough, I realize that there would be certain parts of Law that would really bug me.

This realization came to me early in life when reading a Batman graphic novel that I loved when I was younger, entitled The Untold Legend of the Batman. Essentially this is an early-80s mini-series that attempts to spin all the stories of Batman's origin into one storyline. Anyway, there is one sequence with a young Bruce Wayne that is an attempt to show why Bruce ends up going the vigilante route instead of working within the law. Bruce is at law school, and in the class his instructor is giving the students a case study (note: the following is from memory as best as I can remember it).

Professsor: Two young men steal a car and proceed to go on
a joyride. In the process the second young man decides he no longer wants to be
involved and asks to be left out of the car. Before his friend can comply they
accidently strike and kill a woman crossing the street. The question is, who is
guilty of what?

Bruce Wayne: Well I would find them both guilty of
grand theft auto, but only the first young man would be guilty of manslaughter
as the second young man had asked to be left out.

Professor: I'm afraid you're wrong, Mr. Wayne. Both boys
would be guilty of manslaughter, since they were both party to the stolen

Bruce Wayne: But sir, is that justice?

Professor: No, Mr. Wayne. That's the Law.

From that point on Bruce realized that if he were to work within the law he would always be restrained. Always handicapped.

That sort of encapsulated my feelings of the law. While I believe that laws and such are neccessary (I'm not really an anarchist), I feel that sometimes in the name of justice, the law might need to be ignored. Maybe that's just the effect of reading too many comic books about vigilante heroes, but it's still something I believe strongly.

sports stories

I just finished watching Friday Night Lights with Anton and Ryan. It's not the sort of movie that I would have thought I'd like, judging from the trailers and all that, but Aren went to see it with some friends and liked it so he bought it. It got some pretty good reviews and I do like football, so I thought it would be worth checking out.

It's actually a pretty good movie. It's not as clichéd or conventional as some of these movies sometimes are. Billy Bob Thorton is good as the coach, and Derek Luke is good as "Boobie" Miles, the hot shot star who gets injured.

However, the movie got me thinking about stuff like sports and my high school days. For me, it was nothing like it was for those boys in Odessa, Texas in 1988. I wasn't on the football team. There wasn't the pressure on me to get into a good college on a sports scholarship. My dad wasn't an alcoholic trying to live his past glory through my success. However, for some reason I still managed to convince myself that high school was living hell. In many ways experiences like high school are what you make them. I would've loved to play football, but I convinced myself I was too small. I would have liked to play hockey at a higher level (I only played "rec" and did pretty well), but I convinced myself I wasn't good enough. The fact that I didn't play high school sports is something of a regret of mine. There is something about team sports though, that you can't get anywhere else (except, I assume, the military). The comaradarie. The adrenaline. The feeling of doing a job well done. And the joy of the game.

Again, I never played football. But I did play hockey. And the movie made me think about the one year that our team went to the city finals for "rec" (I know, nothing big, but it meant something to us at the time). My dad was the coach that year, so I got to see both sides of things. I was the first line centre (despite my small size I did have speed and tenacity) and so the pressure was on me to perform and put pucks in the net.

We had made it to the finals and I remember that final game, because it was like something out of a movie. We weren't doing so hot, down 2-1 and my dad was giving us that second intermission pep talk. The team had a lot of young guys, and many of us lacked confidence (as is wont in "rec" leagues). After the intermission we were all motivated and I went out and first shift I scored a goal! Then I was forechecking in the corner and got the puck, and I went to put it in front for my winger and instead it went off the back of the goalie's leg and in. Two goals and we were ahead! Then the Raiders got one and it was 3-3. We went to overtime. In the overtime period, my dad insisted on still keeping a straight rotation. He said that he was going to be fair and give everyone equal ice time. Unfortunately, the Raiders ended up scoring against one of our weaker lines and the game was over.

After the game I was really mad at my dad for not shortening the bench and only playing our better players. In the end I got over it, and I think playing hockey was a really good experience at team building. That loss also helped me to deal with losing and how to be gracious in victory and in loss.

Anyway, that's what movies like Friday Night Lights remind me of. I think that speaks to the success of the film. It's realistic, compelling, and for all the differences between Texas Division 1 Football and Saskatoon Minor Hockey, I felt like a part of me could relate. Now I'm thinking I may end up watching the Superbowl. Funny.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Looking Forward...

After all the year end hoopla, which I finally finished with the posting of my top movies of the year, I find myself forging ahead, excited about what the new year of movies will bring. 2004 was a solid film year, but 2005 proves to be even more exciting.

It almost goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith is my most anticipated movie of the year. It's the film I've been waiting for since I was a young child and thus is the centrepiece of my movie viewing year (I've even arranged travel plans in May to make sure that I can be here in Saskatoon for the traditional midnite viewing). For those of you who have been living under a rock, and haven't seen my t-shirt and asked me about it, you can view the trailer for Episode III in Quicktime glory here.

Some other films I'm really excited for:

The Island (Michael Bay) Summer 2005 - I know who would've thought I'd ever get excited for a Michael Bay movie, but for his first project apart from Jerry Bruckheimer, Bay has put together an awesome cast and has a great premise. Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Dijmon Honsou, Steve Buscemi and Sean Bean are all on board for this story about a clone who discovers he is being kept in a utopian society to be raised for "genetic harvesting." Sounds cool to me.

Oliver Twist (Roman Polanski) Fall 2005 - Polanski's last film was a masterpiece (The Pianist) that drew it's power from his own experiences in the Holocaust and the impressive performance of Adrian Brody. This take on Dicken's classic novel should prove to be more serious than many of the adaptations out there. And Ben Kingsley stars as Fagin.

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy (Garth Jennings) May 6, 2005 - One of the funniest books ever written should become one of the funniest movies of the year. The buzz I've heard on this one is that it's respectful and in the spirit of the late-Douglas Adam's work and the cast they've assembled sounds cool. Including Martin Freeman (The Office) as Arthur Dent, Mos Def as Ford Prefect, Sam Rockwell as Zaphod Beeblebrox and Bill Nighy as Slartibartfast and Alan Rickman as the voice of Martin the Paranoid Android. You can watch the teaser trailer here.

Sin City (Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller) April 1, 2005 - Robert Rodriguez filmed a five minute short based on Miller's comic book in order to convince him that it could be done. Then he quit the DGA in order to allow Miller to be credited as co-director. Not only does this film also have a sick cast (Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Clive Owen,
Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Elijah Wood, Josh Hartnett, Nick Stahl, Benecio Del Toro, and more) but it looks almost exactly like the pages of the graphic novel have come to life. I've never seen anything as astonishing. This trailer is probably my favourite trailer of the last year. I cannot wait for April.

Elizabethtown (Cameron Crowe) - Really I don't know much about this, but the fact that it's a new film by Cameron Crowe is enough for me. Also, Crowe had the good taste to fire Ashton Kutcher from the film when he realized how bad he was. He was replaced by Orlando Bloom (it'll be interesting to see him in a non-epic). Also starring Kirsten Dunst and Susan Sarandon.

War of the Worlds (Steven Spielberg) July 4, 2005 - Spielberg. Cruise. H. G. Wells. That's enough for me. I'm excited. And the trailer which you can watch here is cool (especially the opening speech taken almost word for word from Well's novel).

A Scanner Darkly (Richard Linklater) 2005 - After giving us a excellent yet very different films in each of the past years, Linklater decides to try another genre in this adaptation of the story by Phillip K. Dick. Linklater is using the same dream-like animation process that he used in Waking Life to tell this story starring Keanu Reeves.

Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Wererabbit (Nick Park) - I love Wallace & Gromit. The Wrong Trousers is one of my favourite films and so I'm highly anticipating the first feature length Wallace & Gromit movie. The voices of Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter are featured. I cannot wait.

Batman Begins (Christopher Nolan) June 6, 2005 - Another one that almost goes without saying, but I'm saying it. I figured that Christian Bale would be an excellent Bruce Wayne/Batman long before this film went into production and I'm happy to see it happen. Nolan's past two films were excellent looks into noir and his style should be a good fit with Batman. Also starring Gary Oldman, Liam Neeson, Ken Wantanabe, Cillian Murphy, Katie Holmes, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine.

The Fountain (Darren Aronofsky) - Aronofsky's first two films showed so much promise that I've been excited about this one for a long time. This time travel film was originally set to star Brad Pitt but the filming was delayed when he jumped ship for Troy and Hugh Jackman replaced him. I have to say I'm actually happier with Jackman involved. This one has been a long time coming (5 years since Requim for a Dream) but should be worth it.

King Kong (Peter Jackson) Christmas 2005 - After Star Wars this might be my most anticipated movie of the year. I finally had the chance to see the original 1933 King Kong last year and I can see why Jackson loved that movie so much. The amazing work of WETA workshops combined with Jackson's love for the source material should make this a truly exciting movie. I love the unexpected casting of Jack Black, Adrian Brody and Naomi Watts (I love her) as the three leads. Let's hope this is truly the dream project that Jackson hopes it is.

the various intricacies of the personality type

I have taken a Myers-Briggs personality test many times before, but it's always fun to see how you score mainly for consistancy. I'm different from a lot of the people I know: I'm an ENFP.

There's a lot of interesting stuff about the ENFP individual that really seems frighteningly accurate, and yet somewhat reassuring in the context of my own life and personality. Here's a sampling of some of the relevant commentary.

ENFPs are both "idea"-people and "people"-people, who see everyone and everything as part of an often bizarre cosmic whole. They want to both help (at least, their own definition of "help") and be liked and admired by other people, on bo th an individual and a humanitarian level. They are interested in new ideas on principle, but ultimately discard most of them for one reason or another.

ENFPs have a great deal of zany charm, which can ingratiate them to the more stodgy types in spite of their unconventionality. They are outgoing, fun, and genuinely like people. As SOs/mates they are warm, affectionate, and disconcertingly spontaneous. However, attention span in relationships can be short; ENFPs are easily intrigued and distracted by new friends and acquaintances, forgetting about the older ones for long stretches at a time. Less mature E NFPs may need to feel they are the center of attention all the time, to reassure them that everyone thinks they're a wonderful and fascinating person.

ENFPs often have strong, if unconvential, convictions on various issues related to their Cosmic View. They usually try to use their social skills and contacts to persuade people gently of the rightness of these views; his sometimes results in their neglecting their nearest and dearest while flitting around trying to save the world.
Work Environment: ENFPs are pleasant, easygoing, and usually fun to work with. They come up with great ideas, and are a major asset in brainstorming sessions. Followthrough tends to be a problem, however; they tend to get bored quickly, especially if a newer, more interesting project comes along. They also tend to be procrastinators, both about meeting hard deadlines and about performing any small, uninteresting tasks that they've been assigned. ENFPs are at their most useful when working in a group w ith a J or two to take up the slack.

ENFPs hate bureaucracy, both in principle and in practice; they will always make a point of launching one of their crusades against some aspect of it.

Friday, January 21, 2005

1 & 2


Spider-man 2

127 min; Dir. Sam Raimi
Starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, J.K. Simmons and Alfred Molina


The Passion of the Christ

127 min; Dir. Mel Gibson
Starring James Caviezel, Maia Morgenstern, Rosalinda Celentano, and Monica Bellucci

For what it's worth, I wasn't looking forward to getting around to writing about the top two films on my list because in so many ways my reasons for liking the films are more personal than objective. I was aware that objections might come for two reasons: 1) the people who didn't like The Passion and insist that it's "violence pornography" and 2) people who think Spider-man 2 isn't serious enough to really be the best movie of the year. In the end I decided to write about both of them at once and that way we can have the debates in one thread of posts rather than two.

For a long period of time over the year I was wavering back and forth over what was the "number one" movie of the year. Several of the other films that I've mentioned could easily have been number one, such as The Incredibles or Eternal Sunshine. All will end up being favourites of mine for a long time. What it came down to was the two moviegoing experiences that resonated with me the most and I'll remember for the longest time.

The Passion of the Christ; What really can be said about this film that hasn't been said before? For one, it's so hard to look at the film objectively apart from the controversy it stirred ("Does it portray Jews as 'Christ-killers'? Is it too violent? Is it being abused as an evangelical tool?"). I don't meant to dismiss those questions as irrelevant; Those are all legitimit questions, but what they all have in common is that they don't really approach The Passion as a film. The value of the film as a cultural event itself can be debated over and over. Suprisingly I fall on the side that doesn't really see the film as a very good "cultural event." It caused divisions among people. It was abused as an tool of "evangelism" by some. I was disgusted to see the movie used as a tool of conversion, turning me off of much of the "Christian" discussion about the film. But what about the film as a "film"?

I enjoyed Mel Gibson's 1995 film Braveheart. I'll admit it (even if every History major I know will have a fit about that). I think he's a decent director who, ironically, puts a lot of passion into his films, even if they aren't as skilled works as others. That's what I see The Passion as. A work of devotional art that some are going to like and others aren't. It's a artistically sophisticated work, depsite what the violence-pundits will tell you, beautifully photographed and interestingly composed. Jim Caviezel does a good job of portraying Jesus in his last hours and supporting work, especially Romanian-actress Maia Morgenstern as Mary, and Rosalinda Celentaro as Satan. Some of the most effective and moving moments in the film take place at the beginning, in the garden of Gethsemane as Jesus prays and faces temptation. The lushness of the garden, coupled with the extreme emotion of the scene makes one feel completely overwhelmed by the entire scene. The ending, with (spoiler? j/k) Christ's crucifiction and death is just as emotional and compelling. There is a moment of sublime beauty when a single drop of water falls from the sky on Golgotha. Is this merely rain? Or is it the tears of God, weeping for what His own son must do?

In the end that is perhaps the greatest triumph of Gibson's film and it's greatest detractor. Film has a way of inviting people to viscerally participate in a moment in a way that few mediums do. It convinces us of its own reality and in doing so takes a certain responsibility over what it says and shows that other mediums, such as books, don't. For me, the film was a beautiful and intense look at Christ's final hours. For others the film is a Biblical-exploitation film, playing on people's personal connections with Christ for the sake of art.

I have only seen the film once, on the opening day, and that in many ways was enough. It may not become a regular part of my film viewing life, but the experience that February night is still with me nearly a year later, and I want to acknowledge that power by saying it was one of the best films of the year.

So, finally, my number one pick: Spider-man 2. It wasn't really a surprise to anyone who knows me well. I'm perhaps one of the biggest comic book fans that I know. But it was a surprise to me. I enjoyed the first Spider-man film quite a bit, but it didn't make my top ten list of 2002, and I saw a few flaws with the film as a whole. So I was looking forward to the film, but I wasn't expecting to see what has become one of my favourite films of all time.

What I experienced was the best superhero film I've ever seen. It's a film of remarkable emotion, especially prescient to my own life. And that in the end is why I love it. It shows the thrill and the challenges that Peter faces. It doesn't forget about the past film, but it also treads new ground, pushing forward the drama that is Peter's life and taking places that, for comic book fans at least, it needed to go.

A word on several of the performances. Tobey Maguire owns the Peter Parker role now. He puts so much into his Peter scenes that, as I've stated elsewhere, I could watch an entire film just about Peter. There is a scene about half-way through the film where Peter has just had the worst night of his life; at the observatory party he has just fought with his best friend, the girl he loves is engaged to another man and his job is in jeopardy. Dejected, he goes out to the balcony and reaches for a fancy drink, tilts back his head and...the drink is empty. At that moment I knew I loved the film. The way Peter reacts to that moment, the buildup of emotions and the way that they translate over to his life as a masked hero is so poignant, so wonderful. I loved it.

Alfred Molina is excellent playing a sympathetic, yet menacing villian. Kirsten Dunst (who I mentioned in my Eternal Sunshine post) is turning into one of the best young actresses out there. And J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson? Sheer perfection. The man steals every scene he's in, bringing the comic book character to life perfectly.

Also, Spider-man 2 competes with Before Sunset for having my favourite ending of the entire year. (Spoiler: for real this time!) Peter, finally able to allow MJ into his life and allowing her to take the risk that is loving him, swings off to action leaving MJ staring out the window as the evening sun settles across her beautiful face. It's a happy ending, but it's real. We know that Peter and MJ aren't going to have an easy time of it. This is the thing that Peter tried to protect her from, the dangers that his life as a hero entails, but in the end the strength of her love is that she, knowing full well those dangers, chooses to love him anyway. Powerful stuff for a "mere" comic book film. At least I think so.

In the end I decided that Spider-man 2 is my favourite film of the year for all those reasons and more. It's filled with fun moments (the "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" scene is sublime), compelling drama (Peter and MJ's confrontation on the streeet after he misses her performance, again) and intense action (the train sequence). All in all, it's film that I 'll keep coming back to over and over again. Like Star Wars, I'm going to be watching it on those rainy weekend afternoons when I need a movie that I can enjoy, yet savour, knowing that I'm watching a film that speaks to me.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The "Rock Star" of Comics

Wednesday's are a special day for me. As many of you know that's the day of the week when new comic books arrive at the stores and I collect my weekly stack spending several hours that should be devoted to school reading instead enjoying the stories of men-in-tights, barbarians and Jedi.

A bit of interesting news today is that Saskatoon resident, and 8th Street Comics regular, Tom Grummet (Teen Titans) has signed an exclusive contract with Marvel Comics. It's a great opportunity for Tom, but a bit of shame sense I first encountered his work years ago with DC Comics characters like Superboy and the Teen Titans. Still it's a big accomplishment for an underrated artist who's been a comics mainstay for over 15 years now.

The move puts Tom into company with many of the superstar artists and writers in comics today being snatched up by the Big Two (Marvel and DC). We're in the middle of what I would call a "creator driven market" at this time. There was a time you could put any old artist or writer on a popular book (like an X-men title or Superman) and you were guarenteed to sell copies. Instead we're moving to an industry where loyalties are linked to creators and it's not uncommon to see fans following a particular writer or artist rather than a character. I know this has been true for me.

The one writer that I've gotten really excited about in the last two years is Mark Millar (The Ultimates, MK: Spider-man). Millar has been called the "Rock Star" of comic books. He's upset the establishment with his over-the-top storytelling and lack of fear to do something new and different with cherished characters. Where he differs from past masters (like Alan Moore or Frank Miller) is that he never lets his desire to write "adult" comics get in the way of his sense of fun and silliness. His writing in books like The Ultimates helped coin the term "widescreen panelling" for the cinematic style of his stories and pacing. Millar loves to talk, making outrageous claims about his and others work. At comic book conventions Millar (a Scotsman who still resides in Scotland) is notorious as a party animal, adding drunken benders to the list of things that comic book fans aren't normally know for. All in all, the guy is the closest thing that comic books have to a "rock star" personality.

On top of all that he's written two of my favourite comics of the last two years. The first is The Ultimates. For anyone who isn't familiar with the concept of Marvel's "Ultimate" line, the idea is to reimagine their biggest characters in today's modern world as realistically as possible. The Ultimates is the "ultimate" version of The Avengers, complete with Captain America, Thor and Iron Man. However the Ultimates, also known as the the United States Government Super Human Initiative program, is complex and relevant look at the concept of a government super human team. In The Ultimates the team is brought together by Nick Fury (portrayed in the series as a Samuel L. Jackson-type) to face the modern threats of terrorism (in the "ultimate" world, it is Magneto and not Bin Laden who poses a threat to human kind), alien invasion and to serve as the newest arsenal in the United States military. In the series Bush (yes, he's in it) isn't afraid to weld Captain America in Iraq, but even being the most famous team in the world after saving the world from alien invasion doesn't stop the team from being criticized, from a public afraid of these superpowered beings, and even from within. Thor is a northern European environmental activist, who believes he is the Norse god of thunder and he is less than comfortable being seen as an American lacky. If this all sounds like a crazy bunch of crap, it isn't. It's compelling, nail biting drama, action and emotion. Millar balances the human elements of the characters against the fantastic and world spanning backdrop better than any Hollywood blockbuster. Ultimates is well worth the read and I'm willing to lend to the first trade paperback to anyone interested.

Secondly, and the reason I was so excited today, is Millar's creator owned and independent title, Wanted, a six-issue mini-series that is comic books equivilent to Fight Club. Imagine a world where superheroes once existed, but the villians all teamed up and destroyed them all, brainwashing the world into believing they only existed in comic books and cartoons. Then imagine one day you wake up from your dead end job, your cheating girlfriend, your bitch of a boss, only to find that you are one of the heirs to the supervillian empire. What do you do? How do you enjoy yourself in a world where you can do anything, and I mean anything? Wanted is a twisted, nihilistic, male-fantasy powertrip that pushes the boundaries of what's been allowed in a mainstream comic book and I loved it! The result is one of the most intense pieces of fantasy writing I've read in years. Some are describing Wanted as a "supervillian Watchmen" and I'll admit it is storytelling on that level of concept and execution. The final issue came out today, after a long delay, but it was worth it. It only cements Millar as one of my favourite creators in fantasy fiction today. Anyway, Millar comes highly recommended to any fans of superheroes who are interested in a new and bold twist on the genre.

The Music of the Night

So I went to see Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera last night. I'd been wanting to see it for a while, mostly because I'm a fan of Webber's musicals, not so much because I hate Joel Schumacher for what he did to the Batman franchise. All in all though, I ended up enjoying it.

It would be hard not to be purely entertained by the experience. The music is, of course, the star of this particular show. While I had grown up listening to the Original London Cast recording with Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman, but I was able to get past the differences fairly quickly. The strength of Webber's songs, particularily "Music of the Night", "All I Ask Of You" and "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again", is that they sound pretty good regardless of who sings them. In this case while I found the Phantom (played by newcomer Gerard Butler) to be somewhat underwhelming, I thought that Emmy Rossum (who is believe it or not the girl from Day After Tomorrow) was excellent as Christine. For one she is a truly gorgeous girl and she can actually sing (she apparently was trained in opera before she decided to become an actress). She is the one thing that I took away from the film as being exceptional. Patrick Wilson is a little bit bland, but perhaps that's what they were looking for as Raoul.

I've heard some complain about the use of electronic instruments in the film, but I try to remind them that they were in the original Webber production. I, for one, can't imagine hearing "The Phantom of the Opera" without the garrish electronic organ of "Duuuuh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh". If anything that's the weakness of the film. For all its oppulence and glamour (and the film does really look gorgeous, don't get me wrong), it doesn't fully embrace the over-the-topness of Webber's music and production. Nothing in Phantom is subtle. I blame Schumacher.

There is one sequence that we were discussing on the way home, the ball sequence around the song "Masquerade." Specifically we all got a kick out of this one character, a male dancer who embelished each dance step with a flourish of hand movements. Funny enough when I remarked to Anton about this guy, he knew exactly what I was talking about because the people he saw the movie with were saying the same thing. It's true scene "stealing" because it isn't about an outstanding performance, but rather a secondary or background character performing in a way that distracts or draws attention away from the main action. Still, we got a kick out of it.

Finally, I just want to say that part of the enjoyment of Phantom is the idea of giving in to that dark side of things, and it's best expressed through the Phantom's singing of "The Music of the Night." I really like the song, but I'm always astounded at the lyrics which really encapsulate so much of what the story is about. It's sounds so sweet, but it's really quite dark.

Night time sharpens
Heightens each sensation
Darkness wakes
And stirs imagination
Silently the senses
Abandon their defenses
Helpless to resist the notes I write
For I compose the music of the night

Slowly, gently
Night unfurls its splendor
Grasp it, sense it
Tremulous and tender
Turn your face away
From the garish light of day
Turn your thoughts away from cold unfeeling light And listen to the music of the night

Close your eyes
And embelish on your darkest dreams,
Purge all thoughts of the life you knew before,
Close your eyes, let your spirit start to soar
And you'll live like you've never lived before

Softly, deftly
Music shall caress you
Hear it, feel it
Secretly possess you
Open up your mind
Let your fantasies unwind
In this darkness which you know you cannot fight
The darkness of the music of the night

Let your mind start a journey through a strange new world,
leave all thoughts of the world you knew before,
let your soul take you where you long to be,
only then can you belong to me.

Floating, falling
Sweet intoxication
Touch me, trust me
Savor each sensation
Let the dream begin
Let your darker side give in
To the power of the music that I write
The power of the music of the night

You alone can make my song take flight
Help me make the music of the night

Sometimes Hollywood makes me really, really sad. It's the part of being an obsessive movie fan that is really depressing. Take these two trailers for example.

Here's the trailer for Fox's big budget Fantastic Four film. This makes me cry. The effects look retarded for one (anyone wanna tell me why Reed slips his hand under the door to open it when he could just slide underneath?), especially the ridiculous Michael-Chiklis-wearing-obviously-rubber-orange-suit (poor Chiklis, from what I've heard he's a good actor [e.g. The Shield] who doesn't deserve this humiliation). I'm just not looking forward to this at all from the casting - Jessica Alba as Sue Storm? - to the retooling of one of the greatest comic book villians of all time. It's just sad. And that ridiculous tagline "1 will be bad, 4 will be fantastic." Stan Lee wrote better stuff and his original stuff was cheezy as hell. Oh well, at least we already have a legitimately great superhero-family movie in The Incredibles.

Someone tell me who thought it would be a good idea to remake The Pink Panther without Peter Sellers? This trailer is even more disturbing than the last one because it isn't just poorly executed, it's just a flat-out bad idea that should never have been made. It makes me really, really mad to think about this movie. If you're brave enough to watch that trailer, you'll see that Steve Martin does indeed suck, and his Inspector Clouseau is a caricature of a caricature of a Frenchman. Sad, sad, sad. Even sadder that the likes of Jean Reno and Kevin Kline had to get mixed up in that pile of shit.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005



The Incredibles

Directed by Brad Bird

115 min; Featuring the voices of Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Samuel L. Jackson and Jason Lee

"Everybody is special, Dash."
"That's just another way of saying nobody is."

The truth is that I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop with Pixar’s films. I thought both of the Toy Story films, and to a lesser extent A Bug’s Life, were great. I ended up liking Monsters, Inc. even more, and Finding Nemo has become a favourite of just about everyone’s. So rare is it that a company has such success in producing films that are not merely technically brilliant, but so full of humour and heart for just about all ages.

The Incredibles keeps the magic alive. The film begins in a world where superheroes are prevalent, catching villains, stopping train wrecks, and even saving kittens. However, when a prevented suicide sues Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) for saving him when he didn’t want to be saved (“You didn’t save my life, you ruined my dead!”), anti-hero lawsuits become too much for the government and the heroes are forced into a kind of witness protection program. Mr. Incredible, and his wife Elastigirl, then find themselves 15 years later, re-christened Bob and Helen Parr, and living a suburban life, eking out living as an insurance broker and homemaker, while starting a family of superpowered kids. The problem is that Bob misses the hero days. He and his friend Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) sometimes sneak out, their wives convinced they’re bowling, to do some adventuring. But mostly Bob is frustrated by a world that holds back people’s gifts, and encourages mediocrity.

From that brief introduction, it’s clear that while children will enjoy the surface of the film, that below lurks a story with themes that are targeted quite specifically at the adults in the audience. It’s critical of a society that is rife with litigation, and a society that promotes mediocrity by forcing the special people to “blend in,” lest they offend anyone with their powers. While this may sound preachy, it’s definitely not, but rewards those who want to come away from the film with something more than just superpowered antics.

As for those, however, the film has plenty. The computer animation is bright and vibrant, and characters seem like they actually have some weight and texture. Pixar proves film after film that they have little to nothing to worry about from the competition. As a huge superhero fan, I found a lot to enjoy in the conventions of superhero drama, including the enemy – Syndrome (Jason Lee), a former fan turned Bond-villian – who warns us of the dangers of “monologuing.” When Mr. Incredible is lured back into the hero life by Syndrome, his family comes following, setting up an adventure where their special powers will be put to the test, and a family’s ability to work together is key.

Director Brad Bird (who’s last film, The Iron Giant, was a critical, if not box office, success) manages to mix all the ingredients of a successful action film, while exploring the family drama of a superhero team, not unlike the Fantastic Four. Bird also voices one of the more humorous characters in the film, the Q-like Edna Mode, who provides the superheroes with their costumes and gadgets. Pixar manages to keep their winning streak alive with one of the strongest family films of recent years, as well as exploring some prescient themes as well. All in all, The Incredibles is one of the best films of the year, for any age, animated or not.

Monday, January 17, 2005



Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Dir. Michel Gondry
108 min; Starring Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Tom Wilkinson, Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood and Kirsten Dunst

"How happy is the blameless vestal's lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray'r accepted, and each wish resign'd;"
- Alexander Pope, Eloise to Abelard

I've been begining each of my reviews with a quote from the film in question, but I wanted to begin this with the excerpt from Pope's poem, which is in the film anyway, but really it's Pope's words. As Mary says in the film, "It just seems appropriate."

I was happy to see the film get some recognition at the Golden Globe Awards last night, mostly because it truly is a fantastic film and also because so often films that are released at the beginning of the year are forgotten by the awards people (ironically this film wasn't forgotten, and even Jim Carrey was recognized for the touching and, yes, subtle performance as Joel. The only thing that I was a little bit peeved by is that the film was classified as a comedy. Yes, there is some funny parts in the film, but this isn't first and foremost a funny movie. It's a touching and challenging film about the nature of love and memory and connecting with another person. I think this is as dramatic as life gets.

I enjoyed both Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, both from screenwriter Charlie Kaufman. But I think that here Kaufman has gone beyond the cleverness of those films and created something that is clever, but also has heart and characters for whom we can feel pathos. This is an amazingly clever story, but the cleverness isn't the point. The emotions and questions are the real point. Furthermore Michel Gondry (the music video genius) directs this film with flare and excitement, but never overwhelms the material. His visual style complements everything about this film.

I don't really want to say anything about the plot, but rather I just want to watch the film again. [At this point I had to go eat supper, but after supper I went out and bought the DVD and then came home and watched it]

I cried when I watched this movie. It's a masterpiece. Again, the caveat that rankings are somewhat aribitrary. The performances in the film are uniformily masterful. Jim and Kate are wonderful. I really thought Kirstin Dunst was amazing (she's a much better actress than people realize, I think). Mark Ruffalo is always great as is Tom Wilkinson. I had forgotten that even my man David Cross has a small supporting role in the film.

In the end though, it's the emotional impact of the film that does it for me. I remember seeing it in theatres with my then girlfriend and we were both really stirred by the film. Funny enough, we're not together now, but I haven't erased her from my memory. And I'm thankful for the memories, no matter how much I might miss her. I'm reminded of a post I made back before Christmas when talking about sad love songs, "If it hurts this bad, it must have mattered." In Eternal Sunshine, the artists involved understood that aspect of life. It's not a "feel-good" film, but it's optimistic in the sense that it sends a message that life is worth living. That love is a good thing, even if it doesn't last.

I think it's been a rare year for movies where we've had several wonderful love stories put on film. This is one for the ages.

"This is it, Joel. It's going to be gone soon."
"I know."
"What do we do?"
"Enjoy it."

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Sunday Evening Business

Well, I just finished my travel proposal for the Hannon Travel Scholarship. When I first considered applying for this I thought, "Heck, if they're going to give me $5500 to go somewhere, it's worth a shot." Now after doing the research and finishing the itinerary, budget, etc. I'm really excited and hope that I get one (six are awarded this year, here's hoping).

My proposal was for a trip to London, a place I've never been, but I really want to go to. Heck, there's a part of me that would love to live in London. Every time I watch a movie that takes place there I think how cool it is. Well, at least this would let me experience London for myself. Anton got to go in 2000, and I was so jealous. I used his photos and itinerary as a guide when I planned this one out. I'm trying to convince him to come along with me again, if I go this summer. As my dad has often told me after coming back from one of his conferences (in exotic locales like Japan, Turkey, or Spain), "Travelling alone is no fun." So if Anton can't get the money, I'm hoping someone else will want to come with me. Anyone game?

Watched part of the Golden Globe Awards. I know a lot of you out there won't really care at all about it, but as I've said before, Award season is for movie fans what the playoffs are for sports fans. In the end you'll do a lot of bitching and whinging about films that win and films that don't, but that's the fun of it.

The Aviator and Sideways were the big winners tonight. I'm predicting that one of those two or Million Dollar Baby will be the big winner come Oscars. Robin Williams gave one of the best award acceptance speeches I've seen tonight when he got the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award. He is always on.

I know a lot of people don't like Coldplay and find them bland and uninspiring, but I'm listening to Parachutes right now as I write this. More specifically I'm listening to the song "Shiver" on repeat over and over and over again. I don't know what it is but I'm addicted to it. It's really a great pop rock song. It's not a happy song, but it has an energy all its own. I think the driving guitar along with the desperate lyrics gives it a certain feel, but then again, I'm not a musician, but as Joel said once, for pop music feeling is important. I'm like that with music and movies. I love atmosphere and mood. And like it or not, Coldplay creates a mood with their music.

"And it's you I see, but you don't see me.

And it's you I hear, so loud and clear.
I sing it loud and clear.
And I'll always be waiting for you,.

So I look in your direction,
But you pay me no attention,
And you know how much I need you,
But you never even seen me. "

Coldplay, "Shiver"

Friday, January 14, 2005



Kill Bill: Vol. 2

Dir. Quentin Tarantino
136 min; Starring Uma Thurman, Daryl Hannah, Michael Madsen, and David Carradine

"Looked dead, didn't I? But I wasn't. But it wasn't from lack of trying, I can tell you that. Actually, Bill's last bullet put me in a coma - A coma I was to lie in for four years. When I woke up, I went on what the movie advertisements refer to as a 'roaring rampage of revenge.' I roared. And I rampaged. And I got bloody satisfaction. I've killed a hell of a lot of people to get to this point, but I have only one more. The last one. The one I'm driving to right now. The only one left. And when I arrive at my destination, I am gonna kill Bill. "

In my review of the first Kill Bill film, I had said that the film was "the cinematic equivalent of a blow to the head." I meant that in a good way. The film was audacious, violent, stylized, exciting. It ran a mere 111 min, but felt like an epic monument to its pulp origins. Seeing it for the first time in a packed, opening-night theatre in Edmonton is one of my fondest movie going memories. You can imagine that I was excited to see the second film.

Any criticisms of the first film are in many ways addressed in the first film. Many lamented the lack of classic "Tarantino-esque" dialogue and such, but the second film gives us everything we want and more. It's not as pervasively violent as the first film (neither film is as violent as the media reported them to be). We're invited into the life and world of The Bride (Uma Thurman) and her real name, bleeped out in the first film, is finally revealed. and discover the resonance and emotion that many felt the first film lacked. And finally, we get to meet Bill. As the enigmatic title villian of the picture, David Carradine trancends his B-movie status and steals the show and earns our respect and fear.

One of the most interesting comments I've heard from Tarantino regarding his films is that they are set in what he calls his "Movie World." Films like Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown are in "Tarantino World" and films like Kill Bill, which distill all the elements of pure cinema that Tarantino loves and grew up on, are the kinds of films that characters in "Tarantino World" would watch. It's a wonderfully clever idea, and helps us to appreciate the films a little bit better. This is a form of experimental filmmaking. A test of what I like to call "pure cinema." It's a film that couldn't exist if films did not exist before it. It's a film that is made for the film junkies out there. And I love it for that.

Tarantino is so in control of his skills here. The way that he succeeds in drawing amazing performances out of actors that most have written off (such as Daryl Hannah or even David Carradine) is remarkable. His visual style, even in a film such as this which isn't as flashy as the first part, is still beautiful and knowing. The soundtrack, while some don't like it as much, I think is as good or better, showing his influences (Ennio Morricone) or highlighting the emotion of a particular scene (Malcolm Mclaren "About Her").

The more I think about it, the more I like Kill Bill: Vol. 2. I guess you might wonder why it's only ranked 5th on this list. Well, the truth is that it isn't really a complete film. This is only half a film. And while I love it, I would love it even more if I could have it reconstituted into an four hour epic. This is one of my favourite films of 2004. But both Kill Bill films together is one of my favourite films of all time.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

the mysterious powers of belief

I got home from work (which I was bored to death from because was so dead; compared the Christmas rush it seems like I didn't have any customers) and I find that my mother, and my two brothers are both already in bed with the flu or some type of severe cold. Of course, in an effort to stave off the effects of this possibly debilitating illness, I immediately set to work making a pot of Chinese Green Tea.

I'm convinced that this stuff is really good for you. This may not be the case, but the truth is that sometimes people are able to physically change their reality simply by believing something strong enough. I'm going to convince myself that if I drink this pot of tea and watch a comfort movie (something like Star Wars or Moulin Rouge) this will keep me healthy and strong. And I just might be right.

damn surveys, why are they so much fun?

Since both Caitlin and Joel have posted their answers to this survey thing, I feel compelled to do the same, since they are always such fun. Also, since they are so similar it'll be fun to see how similar I am too.

Three Names You Go By:

1) Anders
2) uh, Andrewse, Andres, Änders and other mangling's of pronunciation that I dislike
3) "Mr. Nerdstrom and Mr. Boogerstrom are also acceptable" (Good ol' Simpsons)

Three Things You Like About Yourself

1) I'm intelligent
2) I'm attractive
3) I'm a relatively good person

Three Things You Hate About Yourself

1) I'm lazy
2) I'm a bad friend
3) I'm arrogant

Three Parts of Your Heritage

1) Swedish
2) German
3) Canadian

Three Things You're Afraid Of

1) Clowns
2) Failure
3) Living a meaningless existence

Three of Your Everyday Essentials

1) A shower (or else I just don't feel right)
2) Coca-cola Classic
3) Music/Movies

Three Things Your Are Wearing Right Now

1) Glasses
2) Boxers
3) Blue Track-jacket

Three of Your Favourite Bands

1) The Beatles
2) Radiohead
3) U2

Three of Your Favourite Songs at the Present

1) "Big Sur" by The Thrills
2) "City of Blinding Lights" by U2
3) "Hyper-ballad" by Björk

Three Things You Want to Try in the Next 12 Months

1) Writing a feature-length screenplay
2) Finally learning to play my guitar
3) Travelling to Rome and London

Two Truths & A Lie

1) My DVD collection is valued at over US$ 7000
2) I'm still not over my ex-girlfriend
3) I want to stay in Saskatoon for the rest of my life

Three Things You Just Can't Do

1) Live in Saskatoon forever
2) Start working on a paper more than 2 days before it's due
3) Bring myself to like the Shrek movies

Three of Your Favourite Hobbies

1) Watching/reading-about/talking-about/writing-about film
2) Collecting/reading comic books
3) Playing Halo

Three Things You Really Want to Do Really Badly Right Now

1) Go get a cup of tea at Browsers
2) Move to New York and become a screenwriter
3) Find true love

Three Careers You're Considering

1) Writer/Director
2) Journalist
3) English professor

Three Places You Want to Go on Vacation

1) Tokyo
2) London
3) New York

Three Things You Want to Do Before You Die

1) Become an acclaimed filmmaker
2) Find true love
3) Write a truly great novel



Before Sunset

Dir. Richard Linklater
80 min; Starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy

"Memories are wonderful things, if you don't have to deal with the past. "

Before Sunset is a wonder. An hour and half jaunt through Paris with two people you know and love. Intelligent, but heartfelt; Films like this are a rarity these days. It's perhaps the smallest most intimate film on my list. It seems so real that afterwards it almost hurts to think about it.

When I heard that Richard Linklater had a new film coming out, I was ecstatic. Linklater is one of the best filmmakers working today. Last year I had his mainstream Jack Black-vehicle, School of Rock on my top ten list. The fact that another of his films has made my list this year, but with such a diffferent feel and genre is a testament to his excellence. While School of Rock made me laugh; Before Sunset made me laugh, cry, and love.

Before I went to see the film I knew that I had to see his 1995 film, Before Sunriset in which Ethan Hawke's Jessie and Julie Delpy's Celine meet on a train and on the spur of the moment decide to spend the night in Vienna together, seeing the sights and talking about life, before Jessie has to catch his plane back to America. The film ends with them agreeing that they will meet in Vienna in six months. The film was magical. The characters seemed so real. The kinds of things they talked about fascinating. The fact that I watched the film the night before going to see the second film meant that I was spared 10 years of wondering what happened to the two characters; Spared from agonizing over whether they actually ended up getting together or what.

Fortunately Linklater, Hawke and Delpy all decided that there was more to be said and they wanted to explore the characters more. The second film begins 10 year later. Jessie is in Paris on a tour for his book, detailing that magical night 10 years earlier. Who should he see standing in the back of the store but Celine. He arranges to spend the afternoon with her before catching his flight, and so we are ready to hear about what has happened to them in the meantime. Did they ever end up in Vienna that fateful Christmas? What will happen between them now? It's wonderful and painful. Full of realism and romance. And the ending of this one is perhaps the most perfect ending of the year.

It's rare to encounter a film like this one that is so real. I've only seen it once and yet I feel like Jessie and Celine are dear friends of mine and I care deeply about what happens to them. The acting and dialogue is so natural. It's astounding. They talk and act like real, intelligent people. I actually care about them.

I don't know what else to say about this film other than that you must see it. Here's hoping that in ten years Linklater, Hawke and Delpy will give us another shot at seeing what ever happened to our good friends.

Note on Top Ten lists: Top Ten lists are in many ways such an arbitrary thing. Due to the nature of such a thing, I'm forced to order these things. I just wanted to say that my top six films on this list are all such great films that I love them all. I also realized that merely doing a Top Ten wasn't enough, so after the Top Ten I'm going to have a couple of special jury prizes. So there's still more to look forward to.

Monday, January 10, 2005



The Aviator

Dir. Martin Scorsese
170 min; Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, John C. Reilly, Alec Baldwin, Alan Alda, Jude Law and Gwen Stefani

"You feel like a little adventure?" "Do your worst Mr. Hughes."

Martin Scorsese is one of those directors that I'm compelled to like everything that they've done. I really cannot think of a film of his that I didn't like. That said there are people who find his films (Gangs of New York, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Raging Bull) unsettling and disturbing, filled with violent, angry men and the worlds that they inhabit. However, on the surface The Aviator is the Scorsese film for all the people who don't like that side of his films. This one has garnered amazing critical sucess, coupled with good word of mouth. This PG-13 Scorsese picture could be the one that finally brings Marty the sucess he has been denied since Rocky beat Taxi Driver for Best Picture in 1976. Furthermore, Leonardo DiCaprio has graduated to full blown leading man, and may himself get an Oscar nod for this self-produced biopic of one of the most fascinating individuals of the twentieth century.

The surface of The Aviator is decieving. While this may seem to be a strange picture for Scorsese to be directing (supposedly he was convinced to direct the film by friend DiCaprio), but on closer examination this is a perfect Scorsese vehicle. Howard Hughes was a superstar with a dark side. His airplanes flew the globe, his movies populated the silver screen. He dated the hottest actresses and hung out at the swankiest clubs. But beneath all that Hughes was tormented by inner demons. His life long struggle with OCD drove him to the brink of madness, time and time again until he ended his life a bizzare and faded memory of his former greatness, long hair and kleenex boxes in bungalow in Los Vegas. This film doesn't cover his whole life, but rather focuses on the period between 1927 and 1947 when Hughes Aircraft and TWA dominated the airways and Hughes's Hell's Angels was the most expensive movie ever made. It's an exciting and fascinating look at a man who for all his sucess is overcome by his own mind.

DiCaprio as Hughes is a revelation. I was won over by his peformances in (which I incidently love) and Gangs of New York and Catch Me If You Can. Here the memories of the teen hearthrob from Titantic are almost entirely disappeared (he's still a boyish looking man, but you can't fault him for that). DiCaprio brings an intensity and seriousness to Hughes that I haven't seen in him before. This is a performance that is all in the eyes.

Cate Blanchett however steals the film from everyone with her portrayal of Katherine Hepburn. We all know what the real Kate Hepburn was like, and the differences in their appearance, but Blanchett is completely convincing as Hepburn. Again, her performance is all about attitude. Her ability to capture the fire and (again) intensity that the real life persona carried with her is remarkable. Blanchett studied Hepburn for months to effect the mannerism's, poise, and even her distinctive upper-class New Enland accent. If Blanchett doesn't win I'll be dissapointed. While Hollywood often loves characters who recreate real-life characters, often much of the performance is marked by make-up or dramatic physical change. But here is a perforance where an actress becomes the character, not through gimmicks and make-up, but rather with a purely brilliant performance.

This is also a brilliant looking film. Scorsese captures the Technicolor look of the films of the period and drapes his biopic in the same kind of look. The special effects are top notch, particularly a crash scene in Beverly Hills will take your breath away.

It's not a perfect film, but like Scorsese's Gangs of New York before it, it transcends its flaws (the film is a touch long for the subject matter) to be one of the most entertaining and fascinating films of the year and one of my favourites.

...gasping for air...

I hate deadlines, but I can't work without them. "Ain't that funny?"

In this past few days I've filled out a 12-page online application form, confirmed two letters of reference with professors, one of whom is on sabbatical and difficult to track down on campus, requested 2 copies of my transcripts be sent, edited an essay of mine to serve as a writing sample, compose an 800-word "Statement of Purpose", which because it serves such an important function in my application I've stressed over needlessly, managed to fit in 11 hours at work, a staff party and a trip to the movie theatre, and finally I'm done all that and now my fate rides with Canada Post. They say Express Post should only take a couple of days, but something really bothers me about having my academic future resting in their hands.

This blog is a bit of a release. Funny. Even though I've spent much of the past couple of days infront of the computer, sitting down to write that last paragraph was wonderfully liberating. Now let's just hope that McGill thinks as highly of my work.