Friday, January 12, 2018

Seen in… December 

This is not The Last Jedi. See what I did there? Image via The Movie DB

Finally, a month where staying in and watching TV or going to the movies was not only recommended but commendable. If it had been only slightly warmer I probably would’ve seen more films in the theatre. As it was so cold, I found it easier to burrow beneath a blanket and hit the play button. Cinemas have big screens and big sound but home has pyjamas and cocktails.

Fargo Season 1
This television adaptation of the Coen Brothers crime thriller/dark comedy delivers the same unusual twists and eccentric characters as the feature film. It does not disappoint as we follow a crime spree from one small Minnesotan city to another. The menace of Billy Bob Thornton’s character gets the ball rolling but it’s the very human foibles of the story’s many characters that keep the momentum up.

Creed. Image via The Movie DB

I have to admit that this is a good movie and is expertly sliced into the canon of “Rocky” pictures. Michael B. Jordan is great as Apollo Creed’s namesake and only son with a chip on his shoulder who seeks out an aging Rocky Balboa as a trainer when everyone else has rejected him. It’s Creed’s name that gets him his big fight but it’s his relationship with his father’s greatest opponent that makes him the man he aspires to be. Jordan is clearly a big talent and could cruise through a film on presence alone but whenever his character seems predictable he gives us some real emotion. Likewise, Sly Stallone’s latest reprisal as Balboa is probably his best work since the original Rocky (or Copland perhaps). This isn’t Raging Bull by any stretch but it is much better than the over-the-top melodramas of the Rocky series of films.

Office Christmas Party
I was very desperate to get into the holiday spirit - but not this desperate. Not even a barefooted, one-liner spouting, machine gun touting John McLane could’ve saved this Christmas movie, but it would have been fun to see. I guess this film fits into an overplayed genre of out-of-control parties where the meek become mighty fuelled by alcohol or worse and some purpose comes out of it in the end. The technical solution they peddle as the company’s saviour is ridiculously and badly explained by writers who clearly couldn’t tell a LAN connection from a landline (internet connectivity delivered over electrical cables has been possible for a very long time but you couldn’t… oh why bother).

Lady Bird. Image via The Movie DB

Lady Bird
Another “coming-of-age” film just like all the other coming-of-age films but unlike any coming-of-age films you’ve ever seen before. This is the story of an ambitious young woman, Lady Bird, who wants to study at a school beyond her family’s means but it takes time for her to realize their sacrifices and that despite how it seems, she shouldn’t be embarrassed by their rung on the American class ladder but take pride in their ability to overcome it. Lady Bird represents many teens who want nothing more than to leave home but once they have, then want nothing more than to return. This film is smartly written and directed by a talented young woman, Greta Gerwig and is smartly delivered by her celluloid counterpart, Saoirse Ronan. Laurie Metcalfe, so recognizable from years of television work is a stand out as the frustrated mother who wants her daughter to strive but not get hurt while doing it. Tracy Letts is also quietly great as the father who while struggles with his own issues is the life boat for both mother and daughter.
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Saturday, December 23, 2017

Save Travels 

Monday, December 11, 2017


I'll be home for Christmas…

Seen in… November 

Elle Fanning in The Neon Demon. Image via

I have no idea how I found time to see so much in November when every work day started at 7 or 8 AM and ended at 6 or 7 PM and I had a cargo bike full of advocacy meetings (sometimes two in one day) but I did see a lot. Some I caught on TV, binged or otherwise, and some were screening at the TIFF theatre so I sort of had to catch them in a short run or miss them entirely. Oddly, there was one film I tried and failed to see each weekend for the last month but could never get to because it was screening just out of cycling range (well, cycling range on cold wet November nights). I guess the best movies to see are the easiest ones to see.

Gunpowder, Treason and Plot

Remember, remember!
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!

Of course the later line, “A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope” is usually removed but speaks to the anti-Catholic sentiments of the time. This BBC mini series is a good a history lesson as you're likely to get. Part 1 begins when Queen Mary, Queen of Scots, a Catholic raised in exile in France returns to Scotland to challenge Queen Elizabeth I, an English Protestant. When Mary is finally cornered her son James is taken from her and raised as the King in waiting (waiting for Elizabeth to die). Part 2 of the series begins with Elizabeth’s death and Mary’s execution making James, the regent and rightful heir to the throne, the king of a united England, Scotland and Wales. I think I got that right? The series focuses on King James struggles, played with greasy anger by Robert Carlyle to be accepted as king and the machinations of Parliament to control him. Through some dubious and curious sexual harassment, James promises a prominent Catholic that under his reign, Catholicism would be tolerated but it wasn’t to be which raises the ire of those who put their faith in the hands of James. The plotters put their plan in motion but the crown’s spies soon discover their conspiracy. Yet the King wishes to let the plot fester and catch the Catholic dissenters red handed, namely Guy Fawkes (aka Guido Fawkes) played by a young Michael Fassbender. Turns out Fawkes was an angry Catholic fighting for his faith where ever the fight took him until it found him guarding 20 barrels of gunpowder. The rest is history.

The Neon Demon

This is one of those films that people either love or hate. This film about a young woman landing in LA to start a modelling career is from Nicolas Winding Refn, the director of Drive, an equally divisive movie. Elle Fanning plays Jesse the effervescent teen who after catching the eye of casting directors then ignites the jealousy of her feminine rivals. Can the innocent beauty survive the dog eat dog world of fashion? Will she lose the spark that makes her special? From that point of view, this is an incredibly simple film and the movie itself is a very obvious metaphor. The audacity of this thing is how incredibly, enticingly, beautiful the film is and it seems to me to be appropriately superficial. I suppose it is this simplicity that makes the movie open to criticism or that any acclaim might seem hyperbolic but for me it was refreshingly forward and obvious. I think that’s what I like about this director. Simple, stylish, iconic and straightforward.


This HBO documentary profile of one of the greatest American directors is an insightful look into his life and career. What is amazing to me was the company and cohort that Spielberg was part of. Spielberg ran with a madly talented group that consisted of Brian De Palma, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and George Lucas. To hear those icons of American cinema speak of a friend with respect, awe and even a bit of envy is pretty great. More interestingly to me was how Spielberg found the only other people who spoke his language: film.
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Monday, November 20, 2017

Nature's Soft Nurse 

Winsor McCay's Little Nemo always found Slumberland even if it wasn't always an easy ride.

I thought I had defeated my sleep problem but over the last few months it has crept back in like a pest you thought you had dealt with only discover it has broken into the pantry, chewed through every box and pooped everywhere. What a fool I was. I’m undeniably a night owl. My natural rhythm would be going to sleep at 2 AM and getting up after 8:30 AM with a midday nap happening sometime between dawn and dusk. Yet that isn’t how “society" works and it certainly doesn’t work that way if you want to remain employed. I’m struggling to get to work, then get through the day at work, then getting to bed early enough so I can be rested to get to work the next day. It all comes crashing down on the weekend which is something I would really like to be awake for. It’s like living in a state of near constant jet lag.

The problem is partly mine and partly work’s. I work on what my company calls “distributed teams” where team members are based in many different geographic locales as opposed to "co-located teams” where the team members work in the same location. Which means the only time to talk to anyone in India is 7 or 8 AM which would be fine if I’d gone to bed by 11 PM rather than 1 AM. I take it back. 8 AM meetings are never fine. This schedule was supposedly temporary. We had a project to be done for a certain trade show. Once that was done, we could go back to normal. Instead, it became normal. To complicate matters I was travelling more, getting regularly sick and getting regular medical treatments, which led to dropping the one thing that was keeping me alive: exercise. I never recovered. The old adage that it’s easier to stay fit than get fit has never felt truer.
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