Saturday, March 17, 2018

Seen in… February 

Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa aka Black Panther

I had hoped to watch more movies in the theme of Black History month but in the end I only saw two films in my list, but two great movies, so I guess it counts. Though after Black Panther and maybe more importantly Get Out and Jordan Peele's Oscar win or Ava DuVernay's A Wrinkle in Time, the time has come when you won't have to go out of your way to watch a film of primarily African-American characters but they'll just be some of the movies you're seeing anyway.

Bill Murray and friend in Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day
It wouldn’t be February without Groundhog Day and for some reason, perhaps because clips of the film are so often played during Groundhog Day I thought I’d revisit this beloved Bill Murray “classic”. In truth, the film holds up - although released in 1993 it really looks more like 1983 - but the music, definitely, definitely does not hold up. I don’t know why I really notice the score and soundtracks of older films immediately. Basically, if the music doesn’t stand out, it’s probably great but if you notice it, well, it’s usually for all the wrong reasons. It’s as though mediocre scores from the same year all sound exactly the same or there was a fad to use “Chicago Blues” or some flavour of pop that does not age well. My assumption is that if one film has a successful score then many others copy it, as do television shows of the day. Back when those films were current you never noticed the score then because, that was how they all sounded, but fast forward 10 or 20 years and it hits you like a brick. To recap, Murray plays an egotistical weatherman who, tired of doing small time schtick like a local Groundhog Day coverage, finds himself living the same day, over and over again. He eventually makes the best of the situation and finds time to learn a new language or to play an instrument. Eventually he finds himself falling in love with the woman he initially disregarded played by Andi MacDowell (I know right? Didn’t everybody fall in love with Andi MacDowell in the 90s?) He only escapes his unusual circumstance when he finally becomes the man he needs to be to have MacDowell fall in love with him. Lesson learned etc. I don’t know if this film was based on another story but there have been many since that have used the premise of a character being forced to relive the same day over and over again until they’ve fundamentally changed in some way. One thing I really like about Groundhog Day is that they never ever bother try explaining how this has happened to him. It just does. There’s no lightening strike or magic old man or evil witch. The fact that they never try explaining it only adds to the feeling of the premise being a metaphor for our own lives. Maybe you are stuck in a rut because you haven’t learned from your failings. Maybe actually becoming the person you aspire to be, or by merely being open to change and looking for goodness can you break out of your own existential rut.

Robin Williams and friends in Jumanji

Another mid-90s movie that I was sure was late 80s. I thought I’d watch this because I read the current release of another Jumanji movie makes reference to the 1995 version. Either way, both films are based on the same gimmick - some kids get magically pulled into a game (or the game comes to life, mysteriously) and they have to play to escape and survive such things as wild animal stampedes, giant mosquitos, quick sand and lions. The film holds up to a certain degree. It was one of many that was an early adopter of computer generated special effects after the success of Jurassic Park. Let’s just say, I remembered the effects better than they were and in all honesty I don’t know how you could’ve made such a movie without computer effects. The performances by Bonnie Hunt and Robin Williams were great though. I could see why someone in Hollywood would see the film and think “This would be great with today’s effects."
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In/Out Like a Lion 

Engraving of a lion's head

I left my hobbit hole this morning to find the ground covered in the lightest dusting of snow. It was beautiful and I hated it. March has been an unceasing extension of this endless winter. Elmore Leonard once advised writers from ever describing the weather but that’s exactly what I’m about to do. The weather of March reminds you the world is weird, mysterious and unknowable which I suppose is another way of saying it is crap. Here (and I am led to believe elsewhere) March is doing that thing when it sucker punches you right in the kisser. We’ve had warmer days in February than we’ve had in March. This of course, is unfair, but whoever said climatic conditions should be just? Seeing the sun, rare as that may be, is certainly no indication of warmth. Even a high ceiling of cloud means nothing. There may be rain. There may be snow. There may be nothing at all other than that overwhelming feeling of dread which the dingy light portends. The day before our clocks were cruelly spun ahead someone remarked on the strange blueness of the afternoon light. It was an unusual dusk which felt as if you had just donned a pair of polarized sun glasses and realized the world looks very dreary when polarized. The city had the pallor of grey meat, drained of life and appeal. This was a very March day.
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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

My Life Now 


Do I have to use the bathroom?

Yup… or, maybe?


I think not going is starting to give me a headache. That’s a thing, right? Not going can give you a headache? Everything gives me a headache these days. At least this headache is taking my mind off my knee. Man, my knee. Can everyone else hear that? It is audibly creaking, like an old loose floorboard. There it is again.
But maybe it'll go away? But just in case…

Pretty sure I have to go.

What the heck, I’ll go anyway.


Oh man… this lighting? Do there have to be this many mirrors to remind me how visible my baldpate is at every possible angle?

God. This feels good. I mean, so good. Should this simple biological act feel so triumphantly good? Who cares. Enjoy it. At least that still works.

Jaysus. How much liquid can a normal human bladder hold? I'll have to Google that later. In private mode. Wouldn't want every friggin' ad pop-up to be all "adult diapery" or "prostrate-ful". If I had an iPad right here I could look it up now… on a 56.6 dial-up modem. Should this take this long? Also look up average urination duration.


Whew. Glad I went. Surprised how much I had to go once I got in there. Though… do I have to go “more”? It’ll have to wait until I get home now. I mean, 20 minutes tops. I can make it. Sure. Going to have to now.


(Burps, then sighs)
Ugh, me old guts!

(Unlocks bike, dons helmet, mounts bike and starts pedalling)
My knee! And my back. And that ankle sprain that never really healed. Why are my elbows sore? Do my elbows go to some sort of joint fight club when I'm asleep or what?

Maybe I’ll just have a quick lie-down when I get home.

Just ’til this headache passes.

After I use the bathroom.

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Saturday, February 10, 2018

Seen in… January 

Harold Lloyd doing what he does best - creating an iconic movie moment. Image via The Movie DB.

Britain's darkest hour may have been in the spring of 1940 but for Canadians it is deep in the heart of winter. Winter can be a wonderful and magical time of year – if you are between the ages of five to ten years old. Unfortunately the rest of us have to shovel and plow our way to work and back. You wake in the bleak darkness and arrive at your place of work with what can be best described as a brightening greyness. In Toronto, winter is a time when the sky is an even and unbreakable grey. It's time to go home when you glance at the window only to see your own face staring back from the blackened glass. You wake and go home in the same unforgiving dark. It's a surprise I left the house at all, but between volunteer engagements, meetings and advocacy bike rides I did manage to get to the theatre and see a few films at home.

Gary Oldman poisoning himself.Image via The Movie DB.

Darkest Hour

This film is about the dark days of May 1940 when Nazi forces had advanced so quickly through Europe they simply shocked their foes and the majority of Britain’s army were trapped on a beach in France without any way out. Within the British government Winston Churchill had just been appointed prime minister and was being pressured to negotiate with Hitler via Italy. Churchill sees no way of winning as he rightly argues you can’t “negotiate with a tiger when your head is in its mouth.” When the near miraculous evacuation of Dunkirk offers a spark of hope Churchill delivers his famously rousing speech in the House of Commons: “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender” which led one parliamentarian to quip that Churchill had weaponized the English language. The speech led to support of Churchill and a turning point that led to the Battle of Britain. The thing about this film is, that not for one second do you think, “Wow Gary Oldman is really a lot like Winston Churchill”. You simply forget there is a Gary Oldman at all as he so completely inhabits the makeup and mannerisms of someone so iconic and renders him full of doubts, resolve and humanity. If this performance doesn’t win Oldman the Academy Award then nothing will. The film is surprisingly gripping despite being a war movie set almost entirely in smoky rooms of government offices and war rooms. Having seen Christopher Nolan’s taut rendition of the Dunkirk evacuation only heightened the urgency playing out behind large dark oak doors of the British establishment.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency Season 2

Despite bingeing through this series like a starving man at an all you can eat Mandarin buffet, it really wasn’t as profoundly quirky or holistic as season one. In a strange way it seemed almost too fantastical. I think this series works best when Dirk and the gang fall into the weird little coincidences that are too weird to be just a coincidence but at the same time might just be the only way to explain what’s going on.

I don’t feel at home in this world anymore

I watched this Netflix original about a woman who takes vigilante justice to the next level after her home was robbed, mostly because Elijah Wood appeared to be playing the same lost loner as he plays in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. He was so similar that I briefly thought this movie was a cross-over with the other show, also a Netflix original. Melanie Lynskey is Ruth who reaches a type of tepid simmer and tired of being knocked about by life sets out to take back a single iota of control. Her neighbour, Tony, played by Wood is so purposeless that he jumps at the opportunity to do anything at all. What seems at first to be perhaps a quirky mystery or buddy movie morphs into something less funny and more dangerous which is what makes the movie interesting. Beneath the humour is a menace and yet the fact that the people who are so menacing are also so pedestrian is what makes it all the more creepy. So this movie is quirky, funny and creepy… if that helps at all.
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Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Hibernator's Handbook 

This is exactly the kind of thing I want to avoid

2017 didn’t end well for me. In fact, I began the holiday season looking up from my belly and ended the year looking down at it. Less than a week before Christmas, I was riding hard, standing on the pedals, when one of my bike’s crank arms gave way beneath me. Luckily, my ribs broke my fall. I spent the entirety of Christmas trying not to move, but now more than anything I have to try to move which is a tricky business when I’ve decided under no circumstances should I go outside.

Having no bike to ride as transport and with the temperatures well in the crispy -20 to -30s I began to feel a hibernation coming on. If bears and other beasties can do it, why can’t I? I’m old enough to not be drawn out by any kind “cold shaming” that accuses you of not being Canadian if you can’t face the cold. I have nothing to prove. I recently rode a bike 30 minutes across town in -23°C just to go skating for another 30 minutes then ride another 30 minutes back again. Did I mention the temperature? Did I mention the blistering wind as violent as any shark attack? Did I mention the difficulty tying my skates after all my fingers had frozen then broken off? I ride throughout the winter devising stratagems and tactics such as doubling of socks and gloves while employing a variety of balaclavas, scarves and hats in such a combination that not even I know where my face begins or ends. No, I have nothing to prove and it now seems appropriate to withdraw from the world and enter a prolonged state of torpor.
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