Sunday, June 17, 2012

Seen in May

Louis CK of "Louie"

I still find I'm watching a lot more TV than films but here's a sample of what I watched in May.

Louie, Season 2
Still enjoying one of America's foremost funny men. I think, despite Louis CK not be universally loved the way say, Jerry Seinfeld is, that he speaks directly to my demographic, which is fine by me because just as you must own your own pain, you must also own your own joy.

Punch Drunk Love
I'd seen this film in the theatre when it first came out but had mostly forgotten everything but that I enjoyed it. It's a simple but compelling tale of how the power of love makes us stronger than we can know and how anger is a part of us that can be destructive or useful. It's also proof of how a marginally talented actor, Adam Sandler (who is a very funny comedian) can produce a transcendent and subtle performance probably only matched by his role in Judd Apatow's Funny People.

Marvel's The Avengers
Does Hollywood think we're so stupid we might mistake the band of superhero Avengers for a television series from the 70s & 80s that they had to tack "Marvel's" to the title? Whatever — this movie is actually better than the books because to be honest the books were pretty bad. None of the heroes really had much of their own story and their version of teamwork was bouncing a cosmic ray off of a fellow combatant's helmet. What saved this film was, in this order, Robert Downey Jr.'s witty insults and banter, Mark Ruffalo as the tightly wound Bruce Banner and seeing Scarlett Johansen in a form fitting suit of unknown but stretchy fabric, oh and the epic special effects. The movie pretty much delivers on the fireworks. The story had a couple of confused scenes but everything came together (after being blown apart earlier). I guess the thing I never liked in this fragmented storyline of Marvel's whacko universe was its cosmic grandeur and self-importance. Though less silly than DC's Justice League it still felt equally jingoistic but if you're only here for the Memorial Day / Victoria Day fireworks then I guess you should expect a little of that.

"I am Roger Brown and I'm 1.68 m [tall]". Roger Brown, it turns out, has a lot of compensating to make up for his stature. Though, I'd like to point out that I'm 1.7m so I don't know why he was considered so short (5'7" is only a couple of inches off the mean 5'9"). This Norwegian thriller pulls a classic Hitchcockian Maguffin (I think that's right) — that being a central plot point is just a mechanism to get the action going. Roger has a beautiful wife and he likes to keep her in a beautiful house and for her to have beautiful things. To pay for this lifestyle Roger has a little art theft habit. Therein lies the Maguffin. Now that you know that, buckle up because it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Gary Hustwist's third film about a particular area of design, in this case, urban design. In general, design activity can defined as objects, images, places and experiences. Urban design, as with any design discipline combines several professions such as architecture, landscape design and urban planning and this film does an admirable job of containing the immensity of urban design to just 85 minutes. TVO ran a series some time ago called E2 or something that tried to tackle urban problems from the angle of sustainability but I think, was really the only way to grasp the problems facing cities today. You really need a series to cover the issues around transportation, commerce, access to water & sanitation, neighborhoods, density and public spaces. In some respects Hustwist's other films, Helvetica and Objectified were more successful only because the topics were much more focussed and easily discussed in a documentary format whereas the issues around cities is just to large to get a handle on. Yet I still plan on purchasing a copy for Toronto mayor Rob Ford who would never get through a book by Jane Jacobs yet might be able to stay awake for 85 minutes (though at this point I'm beginning to doubt it).

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Friday, June 15, 2012


Normally this is a pretty good encapsulation of a massage visit - cartoon via The New Yorker

I can't remember her name, but she saved my life. Today I gave in and paid a masseuse to relieve some of the tension locked in my taut calves. I've noticed that the more diminutive the masseuse, the more wickedly powerful they will be. This particularly slender and small lady completely destroyed me and did so quietly, working silently without the usual chitchat. I would've confessed to terrorist acts if she'd asked, but she hardly said anything. Torturous. Marvellous. So marvellous I briefly worried I would lose bodily functions and embarrass myself beyond redemption. Fortunately, this was curtailed by a sensation that was incredibly painful. I laughed at one point as the tinkling twee piano music played softly from the CD player, while in my head and muscles I was really suppressing a riot of screams not unlike a Metallica concert (not sure why they do all the "relaxation" stuff – low lights, soft music – which is awkwardly romantic).

Unfortunately, I immediately hopped on my bike and probably undid all the good that was done. I may have to go back and ask for this tiny Sweeney Todd of muscle manipulation by name (Kristen? Kirsten?) for yet another session. It's odd to have a massage that isn't your neck, back or shoulders (though there was some of that). As I lay there, I was picturing an interview I saw years ago with cyclist Sean Kelly (or was it Greg Lemond?) He lay on his stomach as a little Mediterranean man twisted his legs. Apparently it was quite normal to get a massage following a race and to give an interview while this was being administered. I also remember, oddly, that he was naked save for a small towel and his typical cyclist's tan was fully evident.

I'm not sure why but recently, nearly every run has resulted in terrible cramping in my calves while swimming will, at some point, result in a foot cramp that feels like you just jumped on a rock the size of an apple. Usually, my regimen of stretching and laying around keep me free of muscle pain. In fact, I haven't been for a massage in about 18 months. I think my health plan allows up to $500 worth of physio a year which I typically haven't claimed. I think it's time that changed. Take me Kristen (or whatever your name is), my body is yours to do with as you will. Twist, stretch, flatten and flay me until I can take no more, all paid by my employee benefits.