Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Toronto the Meh… 

Minimalist Toronto map art by jennasuemaps via BlogTO
we live in a state of confusion and uncertainty to which the only response is ‘Oh dear’

“We live with a constant vaudeville of contradictory stories that makes it impossible for any real opposition to emerge because they can’t counter it with a coherent narrative of their own. But it means that we as individuals become ever more powerless, unable to challenge anything because we live in a state of confusion and uncertainty to which the only response is ‘Oh dear’ but that’s what they want you to say.”
Adam Curtis

I only wish I’d read this before going to a bar last week in Toronto’s Kensington Market. I was there for an event promoting a media criticism podcast called Canadaland. As such, I was surrounded by smart, engaged (apologies for the cliché), funny, Independent-minded and thoughtful people. Unfortunately, meeting people like this isn’t that common but in the last week or so, I’ve met a lot of them.

In 2014, the British documentarian Adam Curtis contributed to Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe series by discussing the strategy of some in government to employ contradictory policies and messages to create a seemingly complex and confusing state of affairs with the aim to keep critics off balance and toothless. Through such actions, the government maintains status quo by catching critics in a hypocritical quandary while appearing to be disagreeing and implicitly agreeing with them at the same time.
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Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Universe Told Me To Do It 

Juliette Binoche in Clouds of Sils Maria. Image via LA Weekly

Sunday morning I took my usually very leisurely breakfast (two runny poached eggs, toast with cheese and prosciutto, grapefruit and cafe au lait) to another level of leisure by lying on the couch and perusing some magazines I hadn’t yet read. I found myself trying to unpack this sort of obtuse and vaguely academic article about the film Clouds of Sils Maria from Cinema Scope (No. 61). Interesting. Curious. The film stars Juliette Binoche as a veteran film star revisiting the play that had been her breakthrough role 20 years before. Kristen Stewart plays her assistant in the film and something that becomes apparent is both actors are playing roles that, in many ways, reflect themselves in real life at their current stage of life. I couldn’t help but think I’d seen this film advertised somewhere recently. Netflix, iTunes, Bell On Demand? Nope. It was playing at the TIFF Lightbox that very evening. Funny coincidence. Later when I decided to clear up the breakfast dishes, I listened to the first podcast in the queue which just happened to be KCRW’s The Treatment (a podcast about film and filmmakers) with an interview with Kristen Stewart discussing her role in Clouds of Sils Maria. Okay, reading an article about a film and seeing it was playing in a local theatre isn’t too odd, but turning on a random podcast to hear an interview about the same film seems like the Universe telling me to go see it. It seems unwise to turn down such an invitation.

Similarly on Friday night, I got home and hit the couch for a nap, not thinking about going out or anything. Instead, for some reason, I noticed a book on the self that I had not looked at for some time. It’s called In the Studio and features a collection of notable comic book artists and asked them about their process and their influences. One artist was Canadian comic book artist Seth.

Clip from the NFB documentary Seth's Dominion

After setting the book aside I started thinking about supper and casually looked at my phone to see a reply to a tweet (yes, I randomly check Twitter) which said a documentary about Seth - Seth's Dominion, would be screening at the TIFF Lightbox and the artist and director would be in attendance. I looked at my watch – I had 24 minutes to get there (supper be damned). I hopped on my bike and sped down Richmond, jumped off at John, locked up my bike and ran past a throng of film goers and volunteers to the box office. I had gone to the wrong box office so I had to run to another, where they didn’t take debit but cash only. One dash to an ATM later, back to the box office, and I had a ticket in hand. I ran up the escalator and found I had a full minute to spare. I guess it was during this time I noticed the ad for Clouds of Sils Maria. Sometimes the Universe talks to you, and when it does, you should listen.

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Saturday, April 04, 2015

Seen in March

Fun fact, March is named for Mars, the Roman god of war, candy bars and the detrius & dog poo discovered beneath dirty melting snow. Which also describes the movies released in the afterburn of Hollywood's dullest production, the Oscars. I should have used this month to catch up on all the big releases but instead I guess I found other things to do. Here's what I saw when I wasn't sketching, reading or drinking or trying to stay warm.

Dan Harmon, creator of the show Community, also has a popular podcast and when he was fired from his own program he decided to take the podcast on the road as a comedy tour. This is a documentary that records the multi-city tour and gives some insight into the mind of a creative and talented but troubled (well, in truth he is a bit of a jerk) comedy writer. His live shows are uniquely funny and the off the stage scenes are revealing but it's all a bit "inside baseball" and if you aren't interested in the machinations of the writer's mind then this insn't for you.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
This new Tina Fey series follows a young woman recently released from a cult after spending 15 years living in an underground bunker. Once released she decides to remake herself and her life in New York City. The show has had mixed reviews from both critics and friends but I have to say I loved it from the opening sequence. Kimmy is naive but not stupid and every stereotype is turned inside out and parodied beyond recognition. Oddly it has been criticized as racist and sexist which indicates to me just what a crazy politically correct and idiotic world we live in - which is exactly what Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt satirizes perfectly.

Spring Breakers
Harmony Korine's surreal and atmospheric crime drama about a group of pretty college girls who are too broke to join their friends on a bacchanalian American ritual called Spring Break. Not wanting to miss the fun they rob a small town restaurant and use the earnings to head to Florida. Once there they quickly fall into trouble and the company of a small town hood. This odd dreamy drug and sex fuelled fantasy/nightmare seems like an analogy of American excess, crime and the entitlement of youth or something...

Mr. Peabody & Sherman
If I could build a time machine I would travel back to tell the producers not to ruin my childhood memories of this beloved TV short series by making this overwrought, underwhelming 3D verison. As much as I like Ty Burrell as Phil on Modern Family, his voice over work as Mr. Peabody was terrible. I don't know if I can explain it other than it was bad, don't see it, waste of everybody's time, the end.

How to Train Your Dragon 2
Another fun installment of the animated adventure of a viking boy who has learned to love and live with the dragons his people once feared and hated. There are plenty of after-school-special lessons of diversity and what not but in general this is fun time.

Robin Hood (1973)
After reading that a song in Fantastic Mr. Fox originated in this 1970s Disney animated version of Robin Hood and a recent ad campaign used by Google for Android phones also used another song from this film, I thought it might be fun to see it again. I only have faint memories of the movie but those memories were warm and fuzzy so I thought a little nostalgia wouldn't be all bad. For the most part the film holds up. Robin Hood is cast as a fox and Little John as a bear and all the other animals in the forest play their parts in a typical Disney menagerie. It would be hard to call this a classic. There are a few sequences that only just barely rank above Saturday morning cartoons of the same era and some of the comedy smacks of the sort of Hollywood camp that made Dom DeLuise a Hollywood staple of the 70s. Yet, in general I loved that sort of Xeroxed pencil line look that Disney was using then just as they had on a legitimate classic, a 101 Dalmations.

Monty Python's Life of Brian
A perfect sandal epic to see just before Easter. This is vintage Python and any attempt to talk about it quickly devolves into terrible British accents paraphrasing and quoting your favourite lines of which there are many. Absurdist humour used in the most appropriate way to satirize the most sacred subject of all - the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ. Je suis Charlie indeed.

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