Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Seen in March & April 

Hawkeye is back in town and with a new haircut. Image via the Movie DB

Some months are actually two months, which is kind of the thing that happens when you get so busy you neglect writing about the stuff you watched and you just watch it instead. While it’s the low season for high brow cinema, it’s high time for highfalutin pop culture like Captain Marvel, Hellboy and Avengers: Endgame.

This is the least offensive image from The Birth of a Nation. Image via the Movie DB

The Birth of a Nation
This is considered a cinematic classic from 1915 that informs the history of cinema from the iconic American forefather of film, D.W. Griffith. It is simultaneously a despicable fiction of the South’s motivations in the American Civil War and a viciously racist depiction of the post-Antebellum South. I found it very difficult to see the historical cinematic value of this film even as it wrote the playbook for technical and storytelling techniques of film making such as establishing shots, cross fade cuts, or fade to black transitions. It’s hard to take this film seriously partly due to the unmitigated horror show of racism on display but also because of the insanely melodramatic acting that was the norm at the time. I’m someone so use to film and television acting which aims to be as natural as possible that even seeing a live theatrical production can sometimes be off-putting (it’s something you have to get used to - the way a stage actor has to project and play to the “back of the house”). Even knowing this context it's hard to not roll your eyes at the contorted features the actors bear as they try to portray emotions such as “bemusement”, “anger” or “love”. The two stand-outs are Lillian Gish and Henry Walthall who appear to be in a parallel universe as their performances are far more nuanced than the ridiculous convulsions of their co-stars. All this being said, this is a difficult film to watch (it’s infuriatingly and unnecessarily long) but at least I can say I saw it so the next time someone mentions it as “important” I can shoot it down effectively. For context I’m also a believer that no one “genius” changes history. Not D.W. Griffith, not Edison, nor even Elon Musk, make a difference. Take for example Newton or Darwin who changed history with their work yet both were really just the first to publish (Calculus in Newton’s case and the theory of evolution in Darwin’s). Over 90% of Edison’s patents were improvements on someone else’s work. I’m not sure if Einstein hadn’t proposed relativity that someone else wouldn’t have come along later with the same idea. So that’s why I can’t really think that Griffith’s importance as an innovator was so important that we have to put up with his run of the mill racism.

Blackhawk Down
This movie depicted a failed American mission in war torn Somali when the country was in a state of anarchy due to a multi-faceted civil war. Two Blackhawk helicopters were downed by anti-aircraft guns after trying to extract individuals alleged of war crimes, which left dozens of American marines and rangers stranded and surrounded by hostile locals. The film has an incredible cast of actors who have all gone on to significant careers such that you could never assemble them again. Actors like Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore, Eric Bana, William Fichtner, Sam Shepard, Jason Isaacs, Jeremy Piven, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Tom Hardy, Orlando Bloom, Ty Burrell… you may not recognize the names but their faces have appeared as leads in everything from Pearl Harbor, Penny Dreadful, Star Wars, Kill Bill, the Hulk, Batman, the Right Stuff, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings and even sit-coms like Modern Family. The casting aside this film captures the madness and fog of war that becomes even worse when mixed with bad decisions, American bravado, and international politics. It also should illustrate that no matter how well armed or big your military is, it is meaningless in urban warfare or without a coherent strategy and strategic partnerships.

Great News Seasons 1 & 2
Where was this funny little show hiding all my life? If you like comedies like Parks and Recreation or 30 Rock then you’d like this show set in the office of a nightly cable news broadcast. If you never liked those shows, then take a pass on this one which follows the formula respectfully. On the other hand if you’re looking for a 30-minute comedy to lighten your mood, you could do worse.
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Saturday, April 27, 2019

Types of Horrible People 

Da Vinci knew a horrible person when he saw one.

Not long ago in Toronto, there was an amber alert issued for a missing child who, sadly, was found dead hours later. The Toronto Police had to issue a warning to the public to not call 911 with complaints, because there were people who actually called 911 to complain that the alert from their phones of the girl's disappearance woke them. In response to this nugget, Scott Gilmore wrote a piece in Maclean's titled, "You are horrible people." It was widely shared, no doubt because people recognized others in the post.

Yet there are many more horrible people omitted which I would like to add.
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Wednesday, April 03, 2019

I left Twitter for a week and you won’t believe what happened next 

This is what happens when you unplug yourself from a single app

After the New Zealand Mosque attack, amid thoughts and prayers and the horror and the agony and the unity there was of course the bilious spew of the Internet but in even weirder and weirder ways. For context: a young woman of colour wearing a Bernie Sanders campaign t-shirt, was recorded righteously confronting Chelsea Clinton at a memorial ceremony for those who died in New Zealand, and saying that Clinton had used the kind of language against Muslims that led to such attacks on Muslims. What were those words? Ms Clinton had “retweeted” a comment that went something like, while criticism of Israel may be valid, we most push back from any antisemitism, which was in itself a retort to the only female Muslim representative who had commented on another tweet about “it being all about the money” (paraphrasing) — “it” being the suggestion that American Jews who contributed to any lobby for a foreign country (namely Israel) was questionably close to unpatriotic behaviour (or something? This rabbit hole is deep and weird). So to recap, Clinton’s stance on antisemitism was seen as an attack on an American Muslim woman which was somehow to blame for violence against Muslims everywhere so she shouldn’t attend memorials in the names of those who perished due to her words (which, by the way she did not utter nor type but reposted as an implied agreement of sentiment). This, of course, was a colossal exaggeration and wholly unnecessary especially as Clinton is a known supporter of immigrants and immigration and women of all faiths and races. Then some people righteously, on Twitter, defended Chelsea Clinton which led others, on Twitter to fire back that it was so predictable that the perceived worst victim of a shooting of almost 50 Muslims by a racist in a foreign country was an affluent white woman in New York.

I probably did injustice to the entire fustercluck of Twitter outrage that has led to some very nasty confrontations in real life. Yet, it was this debacle that led me to delete the Twitter app on my phone. Not my account mind you, just the application on my personal phone. I’ve been on Twitter for over a decade (member since 2008). I’ve learned of the death of every major artist, entertainer or politician over that decade via Twitter. It was my second most used phone app after e-mail. Now, I’ve spent the entire week away from Twitter and this is what happened: Read more »

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