Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Star Wars is 30

One of the best movie going experiences of my life was in 1986 when I went with friends to the mighty University theatre to watch a 70 mm triple bill of the Star Wars trilogy. To be able to watch the whole thing in a seven hour stretch on a massive scale in a movie palace...

When Attack of the Clones came out, I saw it in similar optimum conditions, at Mann's Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, in state-of-the-art digital projection. When the film was over it was like being released from eye-and-ear jail. I literally had to hustle down to the washroom to rinse the sting out of my eyes. I would say this would be the main comment one can make about the modern trilogy; can you imagine sitting down and watching the whole thing in one shot?

I didn't like much about the new trilogy - there was a part in The Phantom Menace where repair droids were being picked off the wings of escaping fightercraft like tin cans that had the exact zip of what's good about these films but that was only one moment. They lost me when they had that chariot race with sportscaster commentary. It depressed me to think the Star Wars universe had ESPN. And the second film had a fucking fifties diner in it - Lucas referencing American Graffiti no doubt, but the first thing I thought of was Wowsville from Ghost World. The third film was actually the place where they should have started the trilogy. But the problem with all three, beyond the fact that they take the mythology of the original films so seriously, is that they are each basically inert - soundstage-bound actors reading ponderous dialogue in front of greenscreens later to be filled in with Maxfield Parrish futureworlds. During the third film especially I would often tune out from the blather about trade tariffs and start following the paths of the little spaceships cruising through the negative space on the screen.

They've done a crap job with the original trilogy on DVD - Lucas digitally messed with them to line them up with the modern trilogy - right down to sticking Hayden Christensen next to Alec Guinness at the end of Return of the Jedi. If you want the original versions you can get them as 'bonus discs' in the messed-with versions, mastered for laserdisc in the early nineties and in a non-anamorphic state. When he acknowledges their place in film history and quits this perverse attitude towards his provenance I would pick them up - and he would get bonus points if he threw in a remastered copy of The Star Wars Holiday Special.

Favourite Characters
Han Solo - though when I saw the films again as an adult he seemed like a jock from Chicago who bullied Princess Leia into falling for him. And he was never the same after being frozen.
Lobot - whenever I see a bald guy with a bluetooth on I think of him.
Boba Fett - though I liked him better when he didn't have a Kiwi accent (Lucas had him redubbed in the special editions with the guy who played his dad in Clones).
Lando Calrissian - the black Armenian.
Darth Vader - he knew how to make an entrance.

Friday, May 25, 2007

It's Called "Bringing It On"

Perhaps you've heard of it?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Stop The War

Even Hungarian rappers are speaking out.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Back When Canada Was Cool

Dear Montreal:

Why didn't you keep the Expo 67 site going as it was? It would have been like Disneyland for the international Wallpaper* /Sharper Image demographic. A place for Daniel Liebskind to take the kids. Imagine all the lofty condo spaces the city could have developed around this vacation spot, on the waterfront. What's Moshe Safdie up to these days? You should give him a call.

Your friend,

100 Numbers

(thanks, Hubert)

La 5ème Dimension

"C'est notre fête aujourd'hui." - Renée Claude.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Friday, May 18, 2007


The Dutch had the right idea in 1969...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Pandora the Explorer

Another thing I will miss is Pandora.com, the amazing internet radio service where you could fashion entire playlists of music attuned to your specified tastes. Music mapped out like DNA and sent to you in optimized combinations for your Gladiator-esque thumbs up/down - further mapping the DNA. A fascinating listening experience which sent me in the last few months on new musical obsessions, triggered mostly by combinations of taste and chance.

I found the best way to tune the station to my taste was to only weigh in on what song came my way if it was a thumbs-down. The more you say you like, the fuzzier the selections started getting in the long-run. If I liked it, I remained neutral. Fine-tuning a station's parameters was sometimes like caring for a musical tamagotchi.

I became strangely fascinated in the random yacht rock that came down the pipes when I built a station around Eddie Money's 'Two Tickets To Paradise' - triggering a previously unimaginable interest in Kim Carnes' post-'Bette Davis Eyes' career (the tracks off 1983's 'Cafe Racers' are begging to be on a Grand Theft Auto radio). A station built around a Jobim song called 'Surfboard' introduced me to new veins of Brazilian jazz and MPB. I made a trashy metal station that kept churning up choice power ballads that made me need to know "Who the hell is this?" - the answer was almost always Dokken. And I overdosed on Spanish Reggaeton.

But most hazardous to my financial health and well-being was my heroic exposure to/fixation with what I call Dandy Rock! I built a whole station around it - called 'Dandy'!

To be a Dandy Rocker you have to be a sixties teen idol who shuns the screams of his fans to take refuge in his mansion, his Cucumber Castle if you will, where a reading room awaits supplied with bricks of hash and 17th century
nautical maps for when inspiration strikes. Found all sorts of great music this way. Amazing b-sides from the pre-'Odessa' Bee Gees, the fantastic Barry Ryan (the only rock star to go on the record as saying he was chiefly inspired by Richard Harris), Kevin Ayers (who put out an over-the-top baroque rock album called 'Joy of a Toy') and the granddaddy of them all, Scott Walker (which has in turn spun off a renewed interest in David Bowie - in particular HIS Anthony Newley fixation early on - talk about dandy rock!)

Anyway, the RIAA has imposed boa-constrictor-like rulings and fees on these internet services, and they've been bleeding money ever since. They cut off service to most of the world recently; today the taps to Canada shut off. And just when I had started buying music again!

Flies Like A Metaphor...

"My greatest competition is, well, me . . . I'm the Ali of today. I'm the Marvin Gaye of today. I'm the Bob Marley of today. I'm the Martin Luther King, or all the other greats that have come before us. And a lot of people are starting to realize that now." - R. Kelly

(thanks, Tim....)

Monday, May 14, 2007

They Shoot Gilmores, Don't They?

Tomorrow night I begin living in a post-Gilmore Girls era.

Yes, they are cancelling my favourite TV show. Gilmore Girls, the best show you never watched or assumed you wouldn't like, is going off the air after seven seasons tomorrow evening.

Being a man and saying you watch Gilmore Girls (to say nothing of having box sets) is kind of announcing that you have enrolled in a jazzercise class. Uncool. This was supposedly a TV show for teenage girls but it was actually a secret world for arcane pop-culture enthusiasts. The mother-daughter team once worried out loud that they would share the same fate as the Bouvier ladies from the Maysles' brothers' documentary Grey Gardens! A whole episode revolved around a marathon dance-off, just like They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

The scripts for every episode were about 20 pages longer than the standard for episodic TV drama - all because of the rapid-fire dialogue. And it took place in an incredibly detailed fictional hamlet in Connecticut, built on the Warner Bros backlot in Burbank where they used to film The Dukes of Hazzard and populated by characters out of a Preston Sturges film.

I did not get in on the ground floor on the show, though I was encouraged to do so, probably judging it by what it seemed to be and by its syrupy opening titles. I got into it when it hit syndication. It is not my usual practice to well up while watching television, let alone a comedy-drama series, but this show floored me several times over the years with its keen portrayal of class, feminism and the war between the generations. Some of the arguments between parents and children (and grandchildren) on the show were scorchers, like a fight out of an Arnaud Desplechin film. It amazed me that no one was devoting the time to praising the writing and performances on Gilmore as they were to, oh, The West Wing or The Sopranos. Maybe they will someday.

Friday, May 11, 2007

One Two Three

I have a soft spot for
a) films that take place in the subway
b) heist pictures
c) seventies films about New York City
d) films where Robert Shaw is up to no good
e) movies with David Shire soundtracks (All The President's Men, The Conversation, Zodiac)
f) movies where Walter Matthau comes to the rescue
Here's the trailer for a film that has it all - The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Take A Letter, Sylvie

Address it to French Pop Wednesdays...

Storm Field

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Grasshopper

"Today's child sheds no tears, has no regrets, knows no tomorrows. Today's child is Christine."

Last night I finally got a chance to see one of my cinematic Great White Whales; The Grasshopper, from 1970, with Jacqueline Bisset as Christine, a beautiful 19-year-old (from British Columbia!) who heads down to Los Angeles for love but who winds up a burned out Las Vegas prostitute at age 22.

It's like a clueless Hollywood version of Midnight Cowboy (Midnight Cowgirl?), with amazing dialogue written by Jerry (Smile) Belson and the one and only Garry Marshall (which may explain why practically every man in the film talks like Garry Marshall) that tries desperately to be "with-it", documentary footage that almost seems like the filmmakers were denied permits to film their own movie (several Vegas showgirl numbers are covered from afar and at bad angles that must have been deliberately so), and bursts of montage, several of them breathtaking. The storytelling towards the end mirrors the unraveling state of the protagonist's mind, rendered in dissolves and blackouts that increase in intensity with every bad decision she takes. By the end, when she hijacks a biplane and forces the pilot to write obscenities in the sky, you almost have to pinch yourself that you haven't fallen asleep and are now having a nightmare about the movie.

The resemblance to Verhoeven's Showgirls is uncanny, right down to a shocking rape sequence that comes out of nowhere and is guaranteed to bring the most rollicking room to a sickened hush.

So Warner Brothers, how come a movie featuring a young Jacqueline Bisset in various states of undress, written by the director of Pretty Woman, isn't on DVD yet, not even as a curiosity piece? You own the rights.

I'd buy one!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Lynch on 9/11

I saw Mulholland Drive on September 10th, 2001, at the Film Festival, which perhaps left me better prepared than most for the events of the following day...

From a Dutch documentary, here's the pompadoured chainsmoker himself with his insights on the attacks, courtesy of Colin's Lynch-A-Thon on the Popcorn blog, and I would also like to take this moment to publicly congratulate him on bringing Inland Empire to Canada - can't wait to see it for myself.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Morricone Goes Pop!

This is a clash of the titans! Which of these singers can belt out the best version of what must be an incredibly difficult song to sing: Ennio Morricone's epic 'Se Telefonando'?

I quite like this version by Iva Zanicchi I just stumbled upon in the interwoods. She is bringing it here, but it's a clear challenge for her.

Françoise Hardy does a very nice, more Phil Spector-ish version called 'Je Changerais D'Avis' - it was this version I heard first. Sorry, everyone in love with her - I only have rotting fruit for you this time.

But the best has to be this one - the original, by Mina! I believe Ennio himself orchestrated it.

Biosphere 1967

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Commedia 1973

V For Verhoeven

Leave it to Paul Verhoeven to make a big-budget, sleazy film about World War II! I'm jazzed about Black Book because it's practically a given that it will be very watchable on some level - I'm crazy for both RoboCop and Showgirls. I dismissed Starship Troopers at first but I have to admire it now on a prophetic level - it certainly helps to explain the Fox News Channel. Basic Instinct and the second half of Total Recall are just not good, but I'm not sorry I saw them.

I'm just hoping if Black Book is a bad taste spectacle, if it is Shoahgirls, then please let it be entertaining. Hollow Man had a suitably Verhoevenian low-stakes plot - scientist gets power of invisibility, becomes rapist - but it's biggest sin was being really boring. Something tells me this one won't be boring.

The Thomas Crown Corporation of Ontario