Monday, August 23, 2021

Seen in July

No Sudden Move, image via The Movie Db

Here we are, the second summer of our troubles, with theatres nearly empty and mostly void of summer movies. The streaming services, or "streamers" to some, may seem like bottomless content wells but I've been finding the pickings slim or perhaps I'm finding comfort in rewatching old favourites rather than exploring something new. There have been some surprises and summer's end is still a month away. In the meantime, I spent July hiding in a cool air-conditioned home, enjoying the Olympics (despite my claim to do otherwise) so here is what I saw. A short list for the long, lazy days of summer.

No Sudden Move
I'm not sure if this film was intended to have a theatrical release or not but this Steven Soderbergh crime drama has a pretty amazing cast for a movie with such a low profile. Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, David Harbour, Ray Liotta, Jon Hamm, Brendan Fraser (almost unrecognizable after a huge weight gain for another role), Kieran Culkin, and a Matt Damon cameo make up the cast. The story is set in late 1950s Detroit and a hot piece of auto industry tech is the central mulligan of the plot. Bank and insurance workers are blackmailed or threatened by thugs and gangsters as auto intel, bags of money, and a bookie's code book are all in play as some of the players look for a bargaining chip to pay a debt or escape retribution. It's a story of the moral versus the immoral but in the end it's the amoral that wins out.

An Almost Ordinary Summer
An odd Italian comedy finds two very different families brought together under the premise of a shared vacation property. The vacation turns out to be a ruse by two lovers planning to marry and introduce their families to each other. The twist? The couple in love are two mature, previously heterosexual, dads. One is an art dealer while the other is fisherman who owns his own fishmonger shop. Two of their adult children agree on a plan to scuttle the wedding plans but the idea only opens other divisions. The movie sort of feels like something from the late 90s rather than being current but gives a peek into the social mores of contemporary Italian society.

Another Round, image via The Movie Db.

Another Round
Four middle-aged men are friends who embark on an experiment to maintain a certain level of inebriation as an attempt to regain some youthful vitality. What begins as a bit of fun with comedic side effects grows increasingly serious. On the surface, what may appear as men and their hubris is, on closer inspection, really about how we should fight against our habits, our comforts or our everyday nuisances to remember why we love those we love, why we do the things we do and how to keep a passion for living and loving, no matter what our age. There's a terrific Danish cast, led by Mads Mikkelsen, who probably seems familiar if you've seen any film about Vikings in the last 10 years. This film also won the Oscar for foreign language film, if that interests you at all.


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Friday, August 06, 2021

The Rhythm is Going to Get You 

What's that lil' bird? I can almost hear you.

We'd had a few days of high heat which meant my windows were closed and the a/c was on, then the temperatures broke and it was quickly cooler outside than inside. This meant I could open the windows and that's when an odd thing happened. It got quiet. The roar of traffic sounded low and distant. I could hear a streetcar's air brakes breathing. The fan of a nearby building's a/c whirred. Birds were chirping and twittering busily. A slight shush of gentle rainfall was a background to it all. Then the blare of a car horn, the rise of a straining truck engine moaned, the whine of a car's brakes that needed changing and the clatter of someone moving a garbage bin all combined to end the relative quiet. Moments later the cacophony of the street quelled again. Then it returned. I soon realized the waves of sound alternating with peace was simply the traffic lights changing at Dundas (aka "The Street With No Name") and Parliament.

The pandemic meant for a brief time that the city did seem quieter but in my neighbourhood where Parliament Street is an important access to the Gardiner Expressway and the Lakeshore and with Dundas (aka "The Street With No Name") as a major route into the downtown core, traffic sounds returned to pretty much normal far earlier than other parts of the city. I've always known this is a busy and noisy area. Around midnight on Monday nights, there is commercial garbage pick-up that happens twice: once eastbound on Dundas and a second time southbound on Parliament. Both times, the noise is incredibly annoying and can last 10-15 minutes each time. I have gotten used to it in the sense that I turn the volume of my TV or music up to block it. The funny thing is that when there is a break in the general noise, it is always because for whatever reason, the traffic has subsided.

Several years ago, the TTC replaced the streetcar tracks at Dundas (aka "The Street With No Name") and Parliament. The noise was relentless and due to its high priority went as late as 11:30 PM. An unexpected bonus however was when the construction shut down on Friday of the long weekend, the intersection was impassable thus blissfully quiet for three days. It's easy to see that most (and I do mean most, as in 90% or more) of the pollution I'm exposed to (air, noise, light) is a direct result of automobile traffic. The heavy particulate seen on my window sills? From cars and street traffic. The noise is obviously from cars, garbage trucks, delivery vehicles and motorbikes fitted with penis enlarging exhausts (dear motorcyclists, adding a noise maker to your crotch rocket really just broadcasts your feelings of inferiority and in no way enhances anything). Lastly, street lights and traffic lights mostly exist for cars. If these lights were really for pedestrians, they'd be much dimmer and lower.

All of this occurred to me recently when I was passed by an electric vehicle that rolled by making no more sound than its tires rolling over the asphalt. I wondered what would it be like if every vehicle on the street were that quiet and clean. I could breath easier and open my windows more often. I'd hear birds more often. I'd hear gentle rain more often. Electrification wouldn't eliminate all the air and noise pollution but it would eliminate a lot of it. Thinking of this makes me wish that the "electrification" of our world would be a huge benefit by not only diminishing carbon and petrochemicals pollution but also noise pollution. I'm sort of hoping that electric cars will also discourage people from cranking their car stereos because it uses too much juice but let's just tackle one problem at a time, then maybe we'll still have a society to electrify.

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