Thursday, November 10, 2016

Seen in… October 


Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz dirty dancing in The Lobster. Image via The Movie DB

Four movies seen on a plane. A Netflix series which I pretty much Net-blitzed. One movie seen in a theatre. This is what my free time was reduced to. Please don't let my Netflix viewing activity history become my epitaph. Here is, for the public record what I saw in October.

The Lobster
Imagine a world where living single was illegal and if at some point you hadn’t found a partner, you were sent somewhere with an ultimatum: pair up successfully or be changed into the animal of your choosing. Now imagine there was also a resistance who fought for people to live single - but were equally against anyone pairing up. What would you do? What would you do if the person you found that you wanted to be with was in the resistance. Our protagonist, played with curious affectation by Colin Farrell, finds himself exactly in that situation in this weirdly quirky and slightly dark comedy. The title comes from the animal of choice Farrell’s character makes about which animal he’d like to be. As to why a lobster, he responds that he’s always loved the sea and that lobsters can have very long life spans. Yet the question remains, would you want to live a long solitary existence in the cold, dark sea? Consider the Lobster.



Keanu of the eponymously titled film. Image via The Movie DB

Keanu
Two friends, one in a stable but staid relationship, one damaged after a hard break-up, begin an adventure to retrieve one of the cutest tabby cats you’ve ever seen from a stereotypically scary drug dealer and gang leader. It’s a ridiculous and very funny film from two very funny and ridiculous comedians, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, formerly of the hit sketch comedy show Key & Peele. If you were a fan of their show, you’ll be a fan of this movie.



The really hateful part is how long this movie is. Image via The Movie DB

The Hateful Eight
This Quentin Tarantino Western is a strange, long, protracted “Mexican Standoff”. At times funny, tense, and of course, very very gory. The Ennio Morricone score is amazing. The look of the film isn’t half bad either. No matter what you think of the whole film, Tarantino is always able to create iconic cinematic moments. Whether it’s watching a figure disappear into a blizzard or an exploding head, the director shows how deftly he understands film history. There were even times when I felt this movie, which takes place mostly within a single room of a remote lodge, reminded me of the stagey and intense Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe? Unfortunately, that may also be its undoing. For me there is a kind of pointlessness that makes me feel like I wasted almost three hours. It’s not that I object to long, violent films and I’m aware how when nothing happens for a long time in a story, a certain kind of heat and tension can build to the point where it is excruciating but that didn’t happen here and it ended up being a long walk to nowhere.



The nicest of nice guys. Image via The Movie DB

The Nice Guys
I’m not sure why, but this story is set in 1970s Los Angeles and revolves around a pair of private investigators who are working two sides of the same case until they join forces to create a classic mismatched buddy-cop-movie. The pair in question are Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling and their shared case is the story of missing porn actress whose last film blows the lid on an industry cover-up. Or something. The whole plot is a more of a ploy to throw two popular actors through a series of comedic misadventures. On the whole it works but there also a handful of cringe worthy cliché scenes. Gosling plays the funny moments a little better than Crowe but both obviously enjoyed themselves. One odd thing that stood out for me was that both actors seemed to be employing a kind of traceless stock American tough guy accent. Were they both of the characters transplanted New Yorkers who had spent time in Australia? Then again, I saw this on a plane so I may have misheard half the of movie.
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Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Tribal 


I now realize I am guilty. Guilty of the worst kind of tribalism. I thought I was so clever seeing patterns and associations between politics and culture and art and commerce but in truth if you are wandering in a forest you really only see trees. And if you're wandering in a Boreal forest you will only see certain kinds of trees and never even know what other kinds of trees there are. I guess it's Plato's classic Cave Analogy all over again - which is like the Bourne Analogy where it's the same plot but without the awesome car chase. I'm just one of those fools looking at my shadow on the cave wall not even knowing there is a world outside. If you read the same papers and writers as others in your tribe, you inevitably come to the same conclusions. This is also known as the filter bubble. You'd think by now there'd be an app called the Filter Bubble Burster™ or something. Yet when you see the same movies or listen to the same music as your tribe, then all is well in the world, or at least everyone in the same tribe can agree on what's wrong in the world. But everything isn't right is it?

One theme that arose over this past year was that Globalism was bad. Very bad. Globalism, the borderless world of trade and container shipping and the financial, political and social policies that enable it was the root cause, or consequence of almost all the ills of the modern world: unemployment, resource allocation, inequity, the wealth of the 1%, the stagnation of the 99%, immigration, xenophobia, racism, misogyny, the collapse of the Arab world, the unsustainable growth of cities, war, terrorism and on and on. It was this article in The Guardian, a source of independent media I enjoy (or thought I did), that made me think, “Does The Guardian sometimes sound a little too Lefty Conspiracy Theorist for its own good?” Then another article in the Globe & Mail, a source of queasy toadyism that I don’t enjoy, that made me wonder, “If a pro-business, pro-international trade, establishment paper thinks this, maybe it’s a thing?” Their point seemed pretty reasonable: the repercussions of Globalization has led people already suspicious of impersonal institutions that run our lives to really believe that they’ve been wronged by those powerful people who benefit the most from a free movement of goods, money and resources.
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Monday, November 07, 2016

Dames on Frames 




There is something about bicycles that is immensely empowering, particularly for women. From the suffragette movement to the Ovarian-Pscyos Bicycle Brigade to the hashtag #IranianWomenLoveCycling, bikes remain an enduring symbol of female emancipation. I’m not even sure I understand it. Well, of course I don’t. I’m not a woman and I never will be (unless I’m involved in a horrible automated corn shucker accident). Thus I will never understand the sorority of a the travelling pants, by which I mean cycling shorts. I won’t understand it in the same way women can’t understand male-bonding bromances. To be sure, some men can’t wrap their heads around non-sibling, non-romantic male friendship. I point to the many snickering critics who surely would deem Frodo and Sam’s relationship in the The Lord of the Rings, as one long in-the-closet gay love fest. Admittedly, the friendship is even closer in the text without the longing looks cast in the movies, but I’d wager it was based on something J.R.R. Tolkien experienced in the actual trenches with actual mates at the battle of the Somme. This is entirely beside the point. It’s not even beside it, it has totally nothing to do with it at all. The point is, ladies and gals love cycling and it allows them to seemingly bond closer when they bike together. I’m going out on a limb here, a very treacherous limb to say when I see women riding together, it seems more fun. They really look like they are having more glorious fun.

Okay okay okay okay okay - before I am immolated upon a pyre of my own words here, this has nothing to do with whether women are able to perform sport at a high level. Obviously they can. Obviously I’ve seen plenty of women, young, old, big or small, surpass my inept hijinks to know any woman or girl can outperform this particular man. It’s just, women don’t exhibit the kind of bravado or braggadocio that men do. That’s not to say it doesn’t exist. Maybe I just don’t know the female version of braggadocio even though tennis, MMA fighting, ice hockey, rugby and soccer all have female versions of aggressive, take-no-prisoners style competition. Conversely, many male athletes also perform at a high level and exhibit the sort of fraternal respect you’d like to see in sport. For some reason rowing and curling crews come to mind.
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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Seen… in September 


Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven in Netflix's Stranger Things. Image via IGN

September is film festival time in Toronto which can be a bit overwhelming. This year didn't disappoint, I was completely overwhelmed. I still managed to see a few things, but once again this month was memorable for two excellent television series, the BBC's magical Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (like a more grown up Harry Potter) and Netflix's Stranger Things. The more compressed our time becomes the harder it is to commit to watching a two hour film, but the easier it is to watch an hour long show and if you like that show, you can wait all week to binge two or three episodes on the weekend. And binge I did.
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Sunday, September 11, 2016

On/In the Water 


The Donald D. Summerville Pool, image via BlogTO

A little known fact to those who don’t know Toronto is that the small collection of islands that shelter the harbour on Lake Ontario are inhabited and collectively, the islands are one of the best places to be on a hot summer day. As more and more Torontonians live in condos and apartments, more and more of them need a backyard. One thing Toronto has failed to do is maintain adequate green space for its citizens (which is why the idea of the so-called Rail Deck Park is so intriguing). A popular option for a lot of people living in the city who don’t have cottage-country-getaways is heading to the islands. A lot of people trying to get to the same place by limited means results in line-ups, and long line-ups for the city operated ferries are common. The water taxis on the waterfront are running constantly on the weekends and during the week, summer camps fill the islands with an almost midway like bustle.

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View of Lake Ontario and the Toronto Islands from Corus Quay

In sixteen years I think I have been to the Toronto Islands three times. When I started biking for exercise, my main route to get out of the core was along the Lakeshore. When I lived in Parkdale, I knew multiple landmarks for doing 5, 7, 8, 10 km runs along the water. Running from Liberty Village I would experience the double sunset - run eastward and you’ll see the setting sun reflected off the downtown towers; run westward and you’ll see the actual setting sun falling behind Etobicoke and shimmering on the water. Unfortunately, my desk on the 26th floor looks north towards other taller towers, but reflected in the glazing of a new tower across from my office, I see the waterfront, Billy Bishop Airport, the Toronto Islands and the Lake beyond. I’ve come to realize how much of my happiness was dependent on the view of Lake Ontario. I also realized how close I live to the water but never experience it.
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