Thursday, January 27, 2022

Your Magic is Basic 

These kids were so poorly educated, they formed their own study group.

Like a lot of people, over the holidays I like to revisit old favourites. Be it music, food, books and of course, movies. For the last couple of years I’ve rewatched the Harry Potter series and I’ve made some observations.

It’s the 21st century and they still use a steam train?
The professors dress like 19th century dandies.
No mobile phones?
No Internet, only owls?

This aversion to contemporary technology in the “Wizarding World” brings to mind the well known adage of science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

When they do use technology (a camera, an enchanted car, a phonograph), it looks like it came from the 1920s or a 1940s junk shop. By the time the film series concluded, “Muggle Magic” had caught up to “Magic Magic”. For example, “Luminous”, the incantation that produced a glowing wand tip evoked by magical kids is easily matched by the dumbest smart phone. Self driving cars? Tesla, the electric car maker with auto-pilot “safety features” can hardly keep up with demand, and it has GPS and satellite radio. Seeing someone’s memories? In an age of social media it’s almost impossible to not see someone’s memories, whether you want to or not. Truth serums? Too many to mention, though mostly are alcoholic in nature but as a bonus, often come with tiny novelty umbrellas. Killing someone with an unforgivable curse? Please, we’ve been coming up with ways to kill each other since Cain did in his brother. Wizards clearly don’t have dentists. One professor has never even heard of the profession and asks if it’s dangerous. Judging by the teeth of Bellatrix Lestrange and Sirius Black, Azkaban Prison didn’t even have toothbrushes, never mind any charms for dentistry. Magic moving photos in a newspaper? Animated GIFs have been annoying us for two decades now. Why would I send an owl to deliver a parchment when I can just call or text someone anywhere in the world at any time (“Hey Boo, you up?). Mobile phones plus the Internet are a Muggle’s super powers.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
– Arthur C. Clarke
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Friday, January 14, 2022

Seen in December ('21) 

The French Dispatch, image via The Movie Db.

December is a month of comforts, be it food, film, family or friends. I generally re-watch old favourites like all of the Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings series. In between the traditional seasonal fare are the titles described here. Maybe they'll become the comfort food for Christmases of the future or be amongst the shiny discarded wrappers of treats long forgotten.

The French Dispatch
Wes Anderson's pandemically delayed film, The French Dispatch (of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun) is an homage to the best of periodicals like The New Yorker or The Paris Review. The film is even structured like an issue of the New Yorker that begins with a POV essay on the seedier sides of the fictional French town Blasé-sur-Ennui, a profile of an artist, an essay on political upheaval and finally a story, ostensibly about cuisine, but becomes a crime story complete with a "ligne claire" style animated police chase. This was definitely the most Wes Anderson-y film of all the Wes Anderson films. If you do not like Wes Anderson-y films, you will not like this one. On the other hand, if you think there aren't enough Wes Anderson films, you will fall in love all over again.

The Secret of NIMH, image via The Movie Db.

The Secret of NIMH
One of my favourite animated films of my childhood. A widowed mouse seeks help from some suspiciously intelligent rats to move her home and save her sick son. Along the way, she'll meet a wise and ancient owl, clever mice and rats and somehow channel magic to save her home. It's a sweet, heartwarming and beautifully animated movie that everyone can enjoy.

Nicholas Cage plays a man who lives off the grid and subsides on a modest living by selling truffles he finds with the help of his pet pig. When his pig is abducted, he starts what is a sort of less violent, John Wick-like journey of redemption to find his beloved pet. The further he goes, the more we learn about his life before living in a cabin in the woods. Be ready for a surprisingly tender culmination.

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Thursday, January 13, 2022

The Saddest Day of the Year 

The Christmas Tree Massacre occurred on January 05, 2022. Coincidentally, this was also the same day as the Christmas Cake Abduction wherein the last of the Christmas pound cake disappeared from its last known location.

I didn't want to throw my Christmas Tree on the sidewalk like weekly trash but that's exactly how the city picks up your Christmas tree, like yard waste, in the most ignominious way possible. I'd planned on extending Christmas cheer until January 6, Epiphany, Old Christmas Day. Yet, trash pickup is on Wednesdays on my street, which was on the 5th this year and so the tree was stripped of its lights and ornaments and 86'd through the backdoor like a drunk on New Year's Eve. I suppose I could keep the Christmas spirit going by eating my weight in pound cake and chocolate, or maybe it's healthier to let the holiday go and keep Christmas in my heart instead of my gut.


Sunday, January 09, 2022

Seen in November (of 2021)

It's a mother and son reunion in Dune. Image via The Movie Db.

This just isn't my first post of 2022 but also my first post in almost two months. When I started this blog nineteen years ago, it was the only place I shared or wrote anything. Now, I keep a cartoon diary on Instagram, post on Twitter, write a newsletter once a month and sometimes post here. Additionally, in late November and early December I spend most of my time putting together the curiously verbose and Absurdly Quotidian Omnibus. Something has to give. This watch list is short but hopefully sweet.

What to say of Denis Villeneuve's adaptation of the, up until now, unfilmable Frank Herbert Sci-fi classic? I guess that he found a way to film it. Undoubtedly, some will find this film slow, uninteresting, and bloated. There are also some who would claim the film is unfaithful to the source material. Who am I to say? I never read the books. I can only judge what I saw with my own eyes. Dune is one of the few films I've seen in a theatre since March 2019 and one I've been waiting to see. The scale of the film demands to be seen on the big screen. Visually, it is utterly compelling. As to the story, this is perhaps the clearest the plot of Dune has ever been to me and the stellar cast is well employed.

For Anothy Bourdain, it was more about the people and the place than the food. Image via The Movie Db.

This is the documentary about the life and times of one of the most respected and loved restaurant and travel writers, Anthony Bourdain. The film covers his life from a line cook to head chef at a popular New York eatery to celebrity. His life of sweat, knife work and heroin addiction was left behind when one of his long and winding e-mails was forwarded to a publisher. His book, Kitchen Confidential, took him to the world of food and travel writing that began a career that saw him on the road for 250 days of the year and took him to places such as the Congo, Libya, Paris, and yes, even Newfoundland. The film tries to understand why such a successful man would take his own life, but as one friend put it, "We don't get to know."

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