Friday, March 11

Try to push the spectre of Jumanji from your mind

Yeah, I'm kind of excited about Sin City. I've got a wait and see attitude about Episode III. I'm hoping for good things from Hitchhiker's. Cautiously optimistic, that's me. That's because it's been at least six months of total meh about the movies. Am I getting old, unable to give myself over to a childlike sense of wonder and just enjoy the hell out of the fantastick? I was starting to become very afraid at the possibility.

I don't want to just fade out like every other victim of middle age, stuck in my own past with nothing ever able to penetrate, to engage me, to shake me to my core. I want every year at the movies to be my best year ever. I sure don't want to sit around complaining that everything sucks.

That's why I am genuinely overjoyed today. Not because I saw the Star Wars trailer (which gives me enough enthusiasm that they could call the trailer A New Hope ;) but because I witnessed the opening volley in what looks like the best live action kids film since The Indian in the Cupboard - Zathura. Zathura. Zathura. Oh, I'm ready for that to be as good as the trailer.

There's a moment near the end of that thing, where Danny opens his front door and instead of his neighborhood out there, there's just outer space. Not realistic space, but OUTER SPACE, like from your childhood conception of it. It's the primal moment for me. That is the idea like no other, a visual as close to the lizard part of my brain as it gets. Oh, I'm joyful inside.

Wednesday, March 9

You're entering a world of pain here, Donny

DVD commentaries. I've listened to more than my share at this point, as I'm fast approaching the exhaustion of my entire 300 title collection. I've got about 8 more features and another half dozen kids titles and then I will have watched basically everything I own at least once. In this time I've learned a few things about the burgeoning art of running film commentary:

More is better

Having multiple voices always livens things up and takes the pressure off of any one person to provide two plus hours of riveting discourse. Very few of us, no matter our expertise are ever up to the challenge of talking non-stop for that amount of time. Being able to hand it off and come back is infinitely fresher.


As a caveat to my previous point, having those multiple participants in the same room at the same time is a big help too.

Spontaneous Combustion

As in life, the best things are unplanned. Whether it's Jim Abrahams taking a call on his cell phone or Roman Polanski eating his lunch while the film goes by, the unplanned really keys you into the experience of watching the movie with whoever's commenting, instead of just listening to a kind of ersatz film lecture.

Don't Get Cute

In the name of all that's holy, don't try to outfunny your film. Humour as a commentary motif should really be avoided. That's not to say you shouldn't share an amusing anecdote or three, by all means go ahead. But don't develop your comments as some sort of extendo-sketch. Believe me, by minute 20 this gets very old. Ancient, even. (See Simple, Blood)


Try not to make the entire commentary about just one aspect of the film. Again, variety is what works in a format this lengthy. Criterion is a good example of this: Notorious has 2 commentary tracks, one which uses a film scholar to discuss nothing except the various techniques and iconographic information being presented, the other to talk about nothing except historical anecdotes involving the production. Both are so detailed that boredom quickly sets in. Why not alternate this info, or better yet have the two commenters meet each other and discuss the film together?

Bogging down

Finally, a special plea to the issuers of all classic films on DVD; please please please, I'm begging you... stop calling Peter Bogdonavich. I've had it with him.

Monday, March 7

Sunday at the big box mall

Leah spent the day enjoying her birthday present, spa treatments at the elmwood. I spent the day trying to exhaust Max so he would be suitable company for his grandparents while we went out for Erik's birthday dinner. Random stuff:

1) Ben and Jerry's closes for the winter. What, people don't like ice cream because it's cold outside? Open up and let me at that creamy goodness, especially after I promised it to Max so he'd leave the Best Buy without a scene.

2) I will resort to bribing my son with the promise of ice cream when he is reluctant to leave a store.

3) Universal Grill really does make nice food. Dry rub ribs, yam fries, a vinagrette spinach salad with warm portobello mushrooms. Yum. Not cheap, but damn good and not crazy expensive either.

4) The Devil and Daniel Webster remains a hella good film. Incredibly expressive and creepy, it's like Citizen Kane's evil sibling. And Walter Huston, man alive what can you say? Like buttah. Not to mention perhaps the best film score ever written, a rollicking tour through copland-esque americana mixed with some of the most progressive electronic techniques available in 1941. One scene is scored using the hum that comes off of telephone wires.

5) Max is getting too heavy to carry. Isn't there some sort of built in switch that says when you get to a certain weight, you can also wake yourself up enough to walk to the car?

6) Clue jr, the board game I can play with a kid? $17. Playing hard and still having the 5 year old win? Priceless.

Sunday, March 6


Hey, here's a question; Why isn't anyone doing video game lacrosse? I got taken out Friday night to the Toronto Rock game at the ACC. The physicality of hockey, the scoring of basketball, the athleticism of soccer, the fans of wrestling. It may well be the perfect sport. Or it may be that I was slightly drunk (3 beers? what was I thinking, I can't drink 3 beers!)

Mostly it just amazes me that there is anywhere as nice to watch a sporting event as the ACC, a basically new building that already feels historic, comfortable and right. It's the little things, like real elevator operators, and those black and white banners with pictures of 1950's fans watching from the gardens. I've been in there maybe 5 times, and every time it's like coming home again.

And about that elevator operator. There's a bunch of us waiting to go up to our seats. The up light is pressed, and the doors open. The up light does not go off, leading us to believe that this car is on its way down. "No, we're going up. Get on!" says the operator. So we do. the doors close, and we promptly head down. Let's face it, folks. If you're operating an elevator these days, it doesn't take any great skill. We all manage to do it practically every day, on our own, with no special training. In fact, the entire expertise of this guy's job is just to know which way the elevator is going. And he got it wrong. Personally, I just feel bad for the guy. He's got the one skill, and he can't even get that right.

*The feeling of drudgery one takes on after prolonged attempts to comfort someone on the loss of a pet.

Friday, March 4


Cool. I just made up a word. Its meaning? It's an imaginary musical instrument that sounds like a great ape applauding a memory play.

I am going through the Memento DVD. I think partly because this week on Jeopardy's big super ultra playoff championship (something has to replace the hockey) I saw one of those annoying "guest readers" describe a keepsake as a "momento". It's nice when you're smarter than the writers of the quiz show. A little like the feeling I'd get if the answer to one of the questions was "What is a Moop, Alex?"

I'm watching Memento forwards right now. This is one of the extras you can access with special codes off of disc 2. I wasn't ever planning to do this, but then I watched the commentary, and then I decided to do it anyways. Know what? Play the movie in its regular "backwards" incarnation and it's a story about Leonard. Play it in its crazy forwards version, and Teddy turns out to be the main character. He's way easier to identify with, since he doesn't keep losing his place every minute or two. Plus his motivations are a lot clearer.

One quibble; In the forwards re-edit they didn't bother removing the scene overlaps that end every section to re-orient the audience. So scenes end, then come up from black and just repeat themselves for a second. You can argue the artistic merit of this but given that no one will ever watch this version first I would have just taken them out and edited everything without seams.

One final thought on the whole Matrix craziness: I don't know nearly enough about philosophy. If I did, I'd know that John Locke and Rousseau were both concerned (along with Hobbes) with a philosophical movement called The State of Nature. It tried to imagine "The state of man as it would be if there were no political organisation or government ... as a criterion of what man's natural condition might be and as to what extent the condition has been spoilt or corrupted by civilisation." Sound like any shows we've been watching?
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