Wednesday, December 31, 2008

HOCKEY THEME BARENAKED

The talented and fun Canadian music group The Barenaked Ladies have done a cover of Delores Claman's classic hockey theme for TSN (The Sports Network)...

http://www.thestar.com/Entertainment/article/560012

Too bad the CBC gave Claman's beautiful baby up for adoption. Some might remember that the Ceeb held a contest with a 100,000 dollar prize to any Canadian citizen who could come up with a replacement tune. Well, things did not go according to plan: Thousands of demos were sent into the network but the one picked in the end -- all as part of a televised spiel -- was lame. As a matter of fact, the final five themes picked by judges were, with one exception, all weak. I am all for empowering regular folk with a contest but with all the submissions (15,000 ?) "these are the final picks?"

Something is going on there. Why does the CBC do (almost) everything wrong? And why was Bob Rock the producer of the final five and their respective recordings? You need a classical dude in there, not a rocker. My pick would have been Michael Conway Baker.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

BERT I. GORDON

Here is filmmaker Bert I. Gordon's imdb (Internet Movie Database) listing...

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0330026/

I had forgotten that he made the 1962 fantasy film The Magic Sword. It is a fun one starring good ol' Basil Rathbone and a young Gary Lockwood.

Unlike his contemporary, Jack Arnold, it does not appear that Gordon ventured into television.

Monday, December 29, 2008

THE MIST

Grade Z filmmaker Bert I. Gordon was one of many filmmakers who were part of my childhood years. His films Village of the Giants and Earth vs the Spider were part of director Frank Darabont’s too -- it’s obvious if you’ve seen his latest flick The Mist (the B&W version/option). While infused with a requisite modern sensibility -- a take on influential fare from a guy like Gordon -- there is a no-holds-barred “this is the kinda shit I remember as a kid” drive. The Mist is low budget (although not micro budget as in what Gordon would have worked with) film and this was a smart choice from an artistic, never mind business, standpoint. Darabont knows all too well what many studio affiliated directors do not; working with minimal resources makes you work for artistic effects; a hunting and pecking that bears fruit from being kicked in the pants throughout your rather limited shooting schedule, and not from having so much money and time that dramatic potency is often circumvented and displaced by a lack of palpable impetus.

The Mist does have its thespian moments of opportunity, but what drives The Mist is what drove the kind of flicks that Bert I. Gordon made: Balls and All.

I freely admit that I have never been a Steven King fan; have never been able to get through one of his books (I have tried) but am aware his novella was the springboard for this film. Apparently King approves of Darabont‘s take. So do I.

The basic plot? People are cooped up in a grocery store and held there by various thingies: Lotsa bug thingies of various proportions but unified voracity. It is a matter of survival for the occupants -- against the immediate threat and a growing internal sect of Christian fundamentalist weirdos. Which is scarier? This is a question pondered by the stars of the show… one which makes them toss aside the dice and use logic.

Darabont directs and makes film here with a sure hand; as a kid in a candy store. (Some red Smarties, a few green, but lots of black ones.) He loves his bug movies and he reminds viewers like me -- as if I needed to be reminded.

The only weakness, at least for me, is the ending. All I thought during that pivotal last reel moment was, “No, come on, there’s going to be an ‘African Queen’ shot here. The camera will pull back to reveal… “

I guess the characters don’t or didn’t watch enough movies.

Make no mistake, I do like downer endings. And I much prefer The Mist over the director’s grossly overrated The Shawshank Redemption.

Post Script: There are two direct don’t-have-to-reach-for connections for me in The Mist. The first was that zinger Outer Limits episode titled “The Zanti Misfits” where ant-like alien creatures threaten a town and military outpost. There is a big battle. The other example is a Lost In Space episode where the Jupiter 2 (the Robinson family’s flying saucer home) is shrouded in an alien mist. As the white fog ‘rolls’ down the main viewport, a creature’s claw hangs down from above, dangling against the perspex. Professor John Robinson (dad) ties a rope around his waist and gives the other end to son Will before venturing forth. (The other family members have been disappearing one by one until just dad and son are left.)

(My guess is Frank Darabont is more than familiar with the above.)

Did Bert I. Gordon ever direct any TV? I know that Tarantula director Jack Arnold did (Gilligan’s Island).

MY K-TEL STORY

One day after a long and arduous day at high school, my one friend and I retreated back to his house to "goof around". (We used to do that back in those days.) We grabbed some beer from friend's fridge (it was his dad's) and slipped down to that abode of the young person: The Rec Room. No sooner had we stepped into the presidential palace when my buddy yelled out, "cripes (not the actual word), my dumb sister keeps playing her cheap K-Tel records on my turntable. I keep telling her not to do that... it ruins the stylus". He went on to explain -- after I calmed him down with one of his dad's beers -- that K-Tel used cheap vinyl to press their LPs. (This technical point was mentioned in the TV documentary from the other night.)

Do any readers have a K-Tel story 2-Tel?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

HOOKED ON CLASSICS

Back in 1981, one huge selling vinyl record (and cassette!) was “Hooked on Classics”, a K-Tel compilation of classical pieces of music accompanied by a continuous drum beat. The record was so successful that -- you guessed it -- follow up albums were done. Conductor Louis Clark put the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra through the paces to record an album of great accessibility for many folk.

This release happened when I was in high school. Not long before K-Tel‘s brilliant move, this little cynic said to friends something like ‘if you were to put a rock beat to classical music, only then would the average person listen‘.

Too bad I could not claim royalties.

I do not claim to have any kind of ESP; that is why I never buy lottery tickets. Certainly not the ones where I have to come up with numbers -- between 1 and 49 -- six different times. Ahhh… seventy two! Ummm… zero!

WHAT A DIFFERENCE

Two nights ago (Saturday) the CTV (Canadian Television) network ran an instalment of their public affairs/news program W5 about K-Tel, the famed mail order and distribution company from the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. Remember them? They marketed such things as the Patty Stacker, The Record Selector, fill-in-the-blank chart buster song compilation album, and pieces of other plastic and vinyl.

As described in the documentary -- featuring a voice over by SCTV alumnus Dave Thomas -- K-Tel made buckets of money. (They actually had $35 million in the bank in the early ‘80s. Can you imagine? That figure is cash, not just “what they are worth”, and translates to about $100 mill in today’s currency. How many companies today can withdraw one hundred mill-bills from their bank accounts?)

My point is -- you knew it was about time -- there was a specific segment on the ‘voice of K-Tel’, a Mr. Robert Washington. His somewhat bellicose beltings were much of the appeal of that company’s almost round-the-clock television commercials. “Star Power!” As the program went into talking about the famous voice-overs I suddenly remembered that Dave Thomas did wonderful imitations of Washington on a few SCTV skits… as “Harvey K-Tel“. After my mental memory trip, sure enough, the documentary and Thomas’s narration took us back to an SCTV ‘commercial’ with the man himself yelling out something about all the useless K-Tel, Popeil, and Ronco products sitting around your house and how to dispose of them by way of the “Crusher“. I was in stitches. Next was a clip from Saturday Night Live with Dan Aykroyd doing that show’s take on the whole thing. I did not laugh. What a difference.

40 YEARS AGO?

During my morning cruise through the Internet news, I came across this...
http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/space/12/22/apollo8.anniversary/index.html

I'm pretty obsessed by dates and anniversaries but this one I had forgotten. (Surprising considering I have a copy of "Genesis - The Story of Apollo 8" on my bookshelf; parked right beside Alan Watson's "The Germans". The irony of this book filing order is that certain Germans were instrumental in helping the U.S. achieve its rocketry goals.) Perhaps I am denying not only the aging process but its very existence.

To this little tyke of 1968, astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders were heroes.

Friday, December 26, 2008

RESTING VHS 2

Further to my previous post regarding the end of the Video Home System (VHS), I should mention a specific issue of Greg Woods' magazine ESR (The Eclectic Screening Room) which features various contributing writers' perspectives and memories of the rise and fall of the format.

ESR's "VHS R.I.P." issue can be ordered here...
http://screening-room.ca/

RESTING VHS

How many years has it been now that we have been hearing that VHS is finally dead? I came across a generally accurate article on the venerable home video recording system. Contrary to what the author of the piece says, the Video Home System format was very spectacular: When the capability of grabbing things off-air and renting/buying actual movies was introduced our movie-going and tv-watchin' lives we forever changed. Also, DVD took six years to finally eclipse VHS -- this the writer is quite correct about but he is speaking of sales, as in amount of money -- but DVDs were almost always a lot more expensive than the tape competitor. When you look at actual unit sales, it took even longer for this eclipse to happen.

Do not, for a moment, think I am some kind of Luddite -- you should see the sweet piece of technology I am using this very moment to hammer in this rambling text -- but I am always amused by propaganda, however mild.

By the way, Blu-ray is not selling at levels hoped or predicted. Nobody is sure why...

The link...
http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-vhs-tapes22-2008dec22,0,5852342.story

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

FILM MUSIC STORIES

The CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) is playing The Philadelphia Story as I write this. As the opening credits kicked up I was reminded how wonderful a film composer Franz Waxman (Wachsmann) was -- my favourite of the 'golden age' composers. Along with Bernard Herrmann and Jerry Goldsmith, Waxman proved that composing music for film could be a serious art form; a different kind of music, to be sure, but with its own occasional flashes of greatness. The marriage of image and music is something that has long held a fascination for me.

Example: Jerry Goldsmith's superb bit of scoring in Blake Edward's 1971 western, Wild Rovers... Ryan O'Neal does somersaults in the snow as he tames a horse. All joyous and lyrical. Wonderful!

STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL (HOW FITTING)

Trust Vanity Fair magazine to do a superlative story on the very un-superlative 1978 television special The Star Wars Holiday Special. Creator George Lucas has stated that he would love to take a phaser, I mean, hammer to every existing copy of the legendary... special.

There is a nasty and unsubstantiated rumour that legendary filmmaker Edward D. Wood (of Plan 9 From Outer Space fame) was one of the directors. This is possible as Wood still had a few months life force left in him when the show was produced. I doubt it, however, as Wood was known to produce some outstanding works; and you could never accuse him of making a boring film.
(I watched the SW special a few months ago: Is it really that bad? If you've seen a lot of product, like I have, your scale is set so low that even this television incident places with the bulk of them.)

OH MY - END OF THE YEAR

As the man said, "oh my". It has been a past few months of one Internet issue after another. While I have had the full capability of filing reports from my place of employment I never felt very comfortable doing that; even on my breaks. (My work provides for little break time. Hi Greg.)

To all my faithful readers (you would be surprised how many there are) who have wondered what the dickens is going on, I am back and hopefully as good as ever; if not better than ever...

... this feels good!

Monday, September 1, 2008

UP PERISCOPE!

I was asked again the other day about the status of my blog.  My computer is being fixed and hopefully will be back on my lap soon.

Something about a video card.  Yes.

Much has happened since I last posted something:  My good friend Greg Woods has gotten his blogging groove back -- so good to see.  His treatise treats are always fun to nibble on.  Greg's knowledge of off-the-path or 'obscure' cinema is impeccable.  As a matter of fact, he taped his first few installments (live-to-tape) of ESR Late Nite.  I look forward to this one.  Not since Julian Grant and Rogers Cable 10 has Toronto had a like show.  (Check out Greg's blog at www.screening-room.blogspot.com for more details.)

Another happening in my life is the fact that I have yet again another, different job; one in the video biz, but nothing exciting to write home about.  Some of us are caught endlessly in the vortex of what trivial Film & TV jobs there are in this town.  If you know what buttons to push on any given video machine then, well, there is a job for you/us.  Oh, the excitement is overpowering.  The good news is, people like Greg Woods are giving it their shot.  An attempt to break the vicious cycle of the mundane Toronto -- broken and all but non existent -- video machine.  (As Greg can tell you, it ain't what you know in this town, it's what you look like and how little you know so you do not threaten anyone.)

Hey, this feels good... have to do it more often.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A BORROWED COMPUTING DEVICE

As per my posting from mere seconds ago, my current blog comments are being keyed into a friend's lovely laptop computer. I gotta get one of these devices.

"Tim, I've been using, and very much like, yur computair sis-tem."

APOLOGIES AND EXCUSES

Hello faithful readers. Within a couple a days I received a flurry of questions asking what happened to my (highly entertaining) blog. I have a couple of good excuses: First of all, I have been busier these last few weeks than at possibly any other time in my many years on Sol 3. Also, my computer decided to go on the blink. The computer problem can be fixed by throwing money its way. As for the lack of time... here comes the TARDIS.

I hope to be up and running my blog again soon.

Monday, June 30, 2008

CLERKS II

I was not expecting much from Kevin Smith's 2006 follow up feature to his original Clerks (1994). Not that he was incapable of coming through with the goods, but rather this one felt to me like an expected more than requisite title. Until I watched it, of course.

The characters are all well drawn -- Jeff Anderson, in particular, is a standout -- and the story arc and narrative drive are silky smooth.

GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK

Brilliant!

(George Clooney's 2005 film on Edward R. Morrow's efforts to take out 'Red Scare' Senator Joseph McCarthy during the mid 1950s.)

GRINDHOUSE - PLANET TERROR

Considering that I grew up watching some 'grindhouse' pictures -- and certainly the trailers before the main event -- it took me a long time to get around to checking out one half of the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez co-pro, Grindhouse. The two filmmakers made each a film done in the style of a so-called grindhouse flick from the 1970s. The total presentation in theatres when these were released ran a little over three hours.

No need for me to regurgitate what is out there about the genesis of the two films. All I can say at this point is that Planet Terror -- Robert Rodriguez's contribution -- is a bad movie. It is fine to argue that a lot of the original flicks mimicked here were bad themselves, but you must add something to the equation or it isn't worth doing anything. The only element added to the mix is the fact that this film looks as though it was made now; references to what is happening overseas makes it clear when this movie was made. My question is, what is the point of mucking up the print to make it look like it has been around for a while?

There is a standout ingredient in this Planet: Rose McGowan. She looks and acts like she's in the right time and place. But her director couldn't follow her lead.

Rodriguez was a director with much promise. I was there when El Mariachi was first released back in 1992. This director has been a big disappointment. And Planet Terror reminded me of that loser film, From Dusk Till Dawn (1996). Why is Rodriguez so in love with boring mass zombie scenes?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

STEADY AS SHE GOES

Regular readers have noticed that I am not posting in my usual manic and obsessive way. It is a conscious decision that I post every couple of days or so, even though I am brimming with things to say; too much to say. (I have a small backlog to put up.)

At the end of any given month, a count of 15 or 16 is what I hope to see as opposed to one for every day. Yes, I do have a life. Blogging to me is a way for me to keep the pencil sharp.

Thank you, pencil sharpeners.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

TREKKIES AND TRACKIES

Attention all Trekkies and Trackies: This coming weekend, the TSO (Toronto Symphony Orchestra) will be playing selected pieces of music written for the various Star Trek incarnations. The best of the hours of background music written for this franchise thus far would be anything from the original series, the first feature film, and the frequently joyous tunes for the "one about the whales". Unfortunately, the bulk of the evening will feature pieces of interest only to the average fanatic. (I do not know what the program is highlighting, exactly.)

So, Trekkies and Trackies, set your phasers on stun, this concert is going ahead at warp factor nine!

("Trekkies" are the die-hard Star Trek fans -- as everyone knows -- and "Trackies", my own term, are those who spin their soundtrack albums somewhat obsessively with little or no regard or interest in the music as something designed to accompany a visual element... like a movie or television series.)

Monday, June 16, 2008

HISTORY OF CAT DOMESTICATION

I was reading an article this morning titled, "The History of the Cat". It talked about the history of the cat and how it became our friend.

I have my own story: Late one night, after a hard day at work, I accidentally left the kitchen door open. Half asleep, I was standing before a counter, peeling potatoes. Suddenly, I felt a warm furry thing rubbing up against my left leg. Thinking it was one of the local raccoons, without looking, I reached down to pet the late night visitor. "That's a pretty skinny little raccoon", I thought. My lazy and tired eyes decided to lock on. It was a cat. I wondered what it wanted...

To make a long story short, I pulled out the tuna and fed the animal. (The cat went squirrely when I applied the can opener to the tinned goods.)

And that is how I was domesticated.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

SOAKING WET

Last night I went to do an errand. It was about 9 p.m. when I left the house and before I flew out the door I did the dance: "Should I take the umbrella? No... maybe I should. The sky is looking pretty mean."

Finished; time to go home. I'm walking down Bloor Street when it starts to trickle rain. Yaa... I am on top of the game. As I get within about 15 minutes of my house -- I was walking -- it started to really come down. And there was thunder and lightning. The umbrella is one wonderful little instrument, even if they are designed to be replaced in short order -- how short, I was to be educated. And then some. I turned onto the street leading to my own. (This street runs east-west). In case you have not experienced a fire-crew spraying water right at you as you walk, and a film-crew blowing one of those wind machines two feet from your face, well then, you have not experienced what I did last night. Never have I been caught in such a driving, raining windstorm. The rain was attacking me in an almost horizontal plane. My umbrella was slowly but surely collapsing into a primitive form as I made my way. What should have been a three minute walk easily turned out to be double that. I was soaking wet. In case I did not understand that, I was instantly and continually reminded. My shoes became squishy from being waterlogged many times over. It was funny... I was laughing all the way. The sky was glowing with the constant flashes from lightning bolts. With the same sense of humour which kept me in good, albeit, damp spirits I periodically looked up and around at the sky, knowing that the lighting would make a nice background to a funnel cloud. There were tornado warnings for the Toronto area, and I had not forgotten. And would not been surprised if I thought I was looking at a rear projection screen from that certain scene in The Wizard of Oz.

I made it to my stoop. My umbrella had the look of a former umbrella. As the water unwrapped from my body, I stood there... watching the sky.

It was great.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

THE HOCKEY THEME

Every time I was about to post my opinion on the CBC possibly icing the The Hockey Theme, there was another update to the story and I put myself on the bench.

As most Canadians -- and a surprising number of Americans -- know, CTV ended up rescuing composer Delores Claman's iconic Hockey Night in Canada theme music. I agreed with those who said canning this song was one big bone-headed move. (How many things can the CBC fuck up?)

Everything is now resolved. The day after the CBC's main competitor grabbed the rights to Canada's second national anthem, I heard that they were playing it over and over again on their Sportsnet station the night before: Their way of rubbing the CBC's nose into the ice.

The good news for me is the CBC is running a competition for the replacement theme. The prize is 100,000 big ones.

Where are my Synsonic Drums?

(My fear is that the winning entry will be some idiotic rock song.)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

THE STANLEY CUP - DETROIT RED WINGS

The National Hockey League's Detroit Red Wings deserved to win professional sport's most beautiful trophy: The Stanley Cup. In the final game (number 6), the last couple of minutes of play was very exciting -- the Pittsburgh Penguins came within one goal of tying the game when they scored with 90 seconds left in regulation play. The Pens pulled their goalie so they had an extra man on the ice -- they were very close to scoring in the final few seconds; Chris Osgood, the Red Wings goalie, had to make a sharp arm save and moments later stopping a tight angle shot with his blocker and stick pressed to the ice, the puck then shot past the front of the goal a split second after the game ended.

This was an example of why I think there is no team sport which comes close to ice hockey for genuine excitement.

ROBERT H. JUSTMAN (1926 - 2008)

Yet another Star Trek name passes on. Robert H. Justman was one of the most important contributors to the success of the original series. His knowledge of production issues was indispensable to that series' effort to survive the battle of the budget, network (NBC), actor's egos, and so on. Not only was he in control of and understood the mechanics involved, he also possessed an uncanny ability to pick the right things; knowing what works and what doesn't and how to save money. As associate producer, then full producer, Justman was responsible for overseeing, co-ordinating, and helping guide everything from scripts, props, actors, editorial, music scoring, visual effects, and aspects in between.

I would argue he might just have been the single most important carbon-based unit involved in a show where -- like any production -- every person is a key contributor. By way of some sneaky -- and misguided -- machinations by creator Gene Roddenberry, Robert Justman was kept out of the production of the first Star Trek movie. I will continue my argument and suggest that this was one big bone-headed move. Even though I do like Star Trek: The Motion Picture more now than when I first saw it, the super production man in question would have maintained the high level of quality that the original series enjoyed. The first movie in the generally miserable Trek franchise chain had "all the money in the world" but showed what happens when you have respected people associated with mounds of cash but in the end suffers from "something's missing".

Before Star Trek, Justman was first assistant director (as he had been for years before) on the original The Outer Limits television series; so he was well trained in how to do science fiction on a television budget.

I ask, "who carries the flag for Robert H. Justman today?"

(When I watch -- sample -- current television science fiction I just see a lot of cheap-to-do vacuuformed sets, electronic effects "done on my computer", and scripts written by fanboys & girls who have been waiting for the day when anything their little geeky hearts desired can be realized... on a television budget. Where is the soul?!)

Obit in the LA Times... http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-justman1-2008jun01,0,5889199.story

Saturday, June 7, 2008

THE MAN

On the front of this past Tuesday's Globe and Mail newspaper shone the headline, "It's Obama for President". I hope he becomes president of the U.S.A. He, of all people, can permeate the White House walls with humility and humanity. He certainly can cleanse those same walls of the slime and scum excreted by the 'beep' (and his pals) currently in office.

"B" is the man, and unlike James Earl Jones' character in the fine 1972 flick, The Man, he will not become president by default or by accident.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

SYDNEY CROSBY, SUPERSTAR?

(Filed on Tuesday, June 3rd.)

One thing that has struck me during these NHL playoffs is that Pittsburgh Penguins team captain Sydney Crosby does not fit the bill of Superstar. (I also watched a few games, where he was playing, during the regular season.) There is no denying that he is a very good player -- better than average -- , but I no longer hear a lot from various quarters proclaiming Crosby as truly "the next great thing".

Sydney Crosby is inconsistent -- technique and finesse are important but one must always be dependable. Everyone falls into a slump, but eventually they come out. Crosby is under-performing in the sense that there was a certain expectation of him and is simply not fulfilling his promise as Superstar. To me, he is a "B"-Superstar.

He is young and there is time, however, for him to change his ways... and make us forget.

NHL PLAYOFFS: PITTSBURGH VS DETROIT

(Filed on Tuesday, June 3rd.)

Like many hockey fans I welcomed 1:15 a.m. this morning. The second and third periods (especially) show why ice hockey is unbeatable for sustained team sports excitement. The game was resolved in the third period of overtime -- the players and the crowd in the Joe Louis Arena were all running out of steam. Pittsburgh's game-winning goal in "sudden death" was rather unceremonious, and perhaps a relief.

I can't even remember who scored it.

THE INTERNET WAS DOWN

When the Net is down you cannot upload your latest blogs. (Important to know.) As energetic or manic as I can be, this electronic issue breeds no small amount of frustration in me. As a matter of fact, the service was down for a few days. I do not use this excuse not to write as my computer's word processing capability was strangely unaffected, allowing me to fumble the text even though is could not flash it immediately. (My previous two postings were done this way even though I am just getting around to putting this one up. Go figure.)

Here's to fumbling...

JOSEPH PEVNEY (1911 - 2008)

Two key Star Trek people passed away this past week: Composer Alexander Courage, and director Joseph Pevney. Pevney helmed 14 episodes of the classic series, including famed instalments, “The Trouble With Tribbles”, and the (brilliantly directed) “The City on the Edge of Forever”.

Pevney started in vaudville as a boy soprano and followed through as an actor in film and on Broadway. (Hey, back in the days when film and tv people actually “did things”.) He forged a career also as a director for the Broadway stage and for the big screen, directing actors such as Jeff Chandler in the 1956 VistaVision picture, Away All Boats, and James Cagney in Man of a Thousand Faces (1957).

By the 1960s, Pevney become known as a dependable and inspired director for television; working on series like Ben Casey, Wagon Train, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. On Star Trek, he was brought in after the earliest episodes had been going habitually over budget and schedule; problems which had become very serious: Something had to be done. In television series terms, the show was expensive (by its very nature), and the constant overages were threatening to bankrupt Desilu. Pevney helped forge production efficiency while still inspiring cinematic integrity on a television budget. The only chink in his formidable directing armour happened at the end of the show's first season when “The City on the Edge of Forever” ended up $60,000 over budget – which was a huge sum in those days. (The director later said that this episode was worth every dollar spent.)

“City” is one of the finest pieces of hour long dramatic series television ever done for the medium... attributable, in a major way, to Joseph Pevney; in my humble opinion.

LA Times... http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-pevney29-2008may29,0,2766431.story

EARLE HAGEN (1919 - 2008)

We remember television themes tunes through sheer repetition, although, many of them – at least those from years ago – are catchy melodies in principle. Composer Earle Hagen was a master at writing the hummable television title tune. The evidence: The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Andy Griffith Show, and the propulsive The Mod Squad.

Hagen was also an educator, and wrote the first textbook on the technique of film and television music, "Scoring for Films: A Complete Text".

Forgetting for a moment that he was long retired, in a television world today run by idiots, Mr. Hagen would have no place any longer. The tv tune has gone the way of the intelligent producer.

Info... http://www.cnn.com/2008/SHOWBIZ/TV/05/27/earle.hagen.ap/

Friday, May 30, 2008

ALEXANDER COURAGE (1919 - 2008)

I just got home from work, fired up the computer, and just received the news that Hollywood composer and orchestrator Alexander "Sandy" Courage passed away. A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece to post up but kept putting it on hold for some reason... I must have known something.

Courage was one of the truly great people to work in 'the biz'. So often we hear the term genius or great talent thrown about when referring to Hollywood types, but any such superlative term readily (and actually) applies to this man. He is known, even if not by name, for his famous Star Trek theme, and especially the 'Enterprise fanfare' -- those eight notes combined in a magically memorable sequence. However, Alexander Courage did so much more and had, in fact, been working for years before that "just another job" came along.

I will make a point to fine-tune my Alexander Courage article and put it up.

The news from the Los Angeles Times...
http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/california/la-me-courage30-2008may30,0,5756996.story

Thursday, May 29, 2008

ESR IS BACK

Greg Woods' ESR Screening Room is back. Info is on his website at http://www.screening-room.ca/ or blog at http://www.screening-room.blogspot.com/
Hope to see a lot of movie fans there.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

BOX OFFICE TABULATION MYTHS

http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/article/431289

The above link is regarding how much business Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull did over the weekend.

You cannot escape the box office scores. They are in our faces every Monday morning -- or even Sunday afternoon! Trouble is abound, however, as the average citizen does not know how to read these numbers and is almost always impressed. (This is no fault of theirs as studios do not want anyone to know how to read these scores.)

When you see that Bob's Shirt makes a "whopping" 80 million dollars over its opening weekend, that amount is not profit for the producing studios. Only about 40 percent of that big 80 actually makes it back to them -- this is the "rentals" portion. The theatre, or "exhibitor", and the distributor keep the rest. What we have now is approximately 35 million back in actual profits. Bob's Shirt cost 150 million to make (the "negative" cost), and 100 million was laid out for release prints and advertising (paid for by the distributor, which wants its money back), adding up to 250 million dollars. This so-called hit has made only 35 million, or so; 35 to be applied against the 250. (Interest accrued on the outstanding 250 million is also factored in as money-to-be-recovered.)

We all know that it's all down hill from here. Movies traditionally drop 30 percent, and often much more, in their second weekend of release. You don't have to be a mathematician to figure out that getting that 250-plus back is not an easy battle; a battle which most films ultimately lose.

Yes, movies can go on to make a lot of money on home video but, again, big costs are incurred in promoting "on DVD, next week!". It's now a whole new battle.

On Monday morning of this week, newspapers reported that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has already made its money back (as of Sunday night).

Well, no it has not...



(The Motion Picture Association of America [MPAA] claims that about 70% of all films released lose money.)




SYDNEY POLLACK (1934 - 2008)

If you have not seen any Sydney Pollack films, which might not be the case since he directed quite a few popular ones, at the very least, check out They Shoot Horses, Don't They?. Pollack, the director, and Gig Young, the actor, are at the top of their respective forms.

In my teenage years, I was familiar with Pollack simply because he was the film director with the glasses and the big hair. And he was the prodigious maker of many popular films, back in the 70s.

The obit... http://www.thestar.com/News/Obituary/article/431393

Monday, May 26, 2008

ESR MEET-UP

Yesterday (Sunday) my friend and fellow writer Greg Woods hosted a get together for contributing writers for his self published alternative film magazine "The Eclectic Screening Room". I am very familiar with the magazine -- it is superior stuff -- but knew most of the writers by name only. ESR contributors present included Dion Conflict, David Faris, Gordon Phinn, and Jonathan Culp.

Did I feel like a geek yesterday? Yes. We had a good series of conversations about the wide and wonderful world of cinema, with a strong focus (almost exclusively so) on alternative or obscure films. After a few volleys of information put forth, one realizes that someone has a copy of a film everyone else is looking for. A trade show, it was. Some promises were made to provide copies of this and that.

I felt good as I was able to tell the table that I have in fact seen Barry J. Gillis's horror feature film, Things. And that it is one of the worst films I have ever seen.

Many thanks again to Greg for hosting a fun event... and most importantly, for picking up the tab for all the food and beer consumed.

I told him afterwards that we must do this at least once a month...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

VERMIN / GET A CAT!

I sat down to watch the NHL game last night -- between the Red Wings and Penguins -- and quickly realized I turned the tube on a few minutes too early. Some quick research revealed that the game was not a 7:30 start but a 8pm one; just like the old days.

Since the big CRT was nice and warm I did not want to shut it off then fire it back up 30 minutes later, so I tuned to TVOntario. What I joined "in progress" was a National Geographic documentary on rats. A couple of people recounted their rat encounter stories: They stood in their respective spaces or habitats and talked of how they were in fact cohabiting with a certain species of rodent. As per the usual spiel today in television docs, there were little recreations showing the inter species dance.

All I was thinking while watching this interesting piece of television was, "get a cat!"

"Why am I hearing the same song and dance all the time?", I thought. "Get a cat... a real, mean cat!"

My cat, Vermin, hates rats with a passion. And in typical kitty fashion she has a special way of telling me this. (I have lots of pillow cases in the closet.)

DICK MARTIN (1922 - 2008)

Rowan & Martin's Laugh In was a weekly staple on my television back in 1970/71. I would watch that on CTV and The FBI right after. This groundbreaking comedy series is my strongest memory of comedian Dick Martin; back in the day when he was still teamed up with Dan Rowan (as he had been since 1952).

I watched Laugh In again in the summer of 1983 when CHEX Peterborough reran the series. Even then, just twelve years after I watched it on a regular basis, the show which one captured me now looked very dated. A lot had changed during that decade.

Maybe it is time to revisit Rowan & Martin's Laugh In.

News... http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/article/429763

ERIC MARGOLIS

Eric Margolis is one of those guys who speaks the truth (says things some folk do not want to hear). Of course, he is a human being and is not exempt from having a good ol' fashion opinion, but the good news is he carries an educated one. The man has been around: He has hung out with dudes that "Washington" wishes it could make disappear, and he has seen active combat. Margolis is hardly a scribe who sits in his favourite coffee shop and pontificates so.

The bad news is, certain folk hate this. They, least of all, want to hear certain truths. On this theme, Margolis recounted this neat little truth...

If the Second World War must be dredged up, a more appropriate reference would be Nazi Hermann Goering's famous formula for fascism: "All you have to do is to tell them (the people) they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

Eric Margolis... http://www.torontosun.com/News/Columnists/Margolis_Eric/2008/05/25/5663401-sun.php

Saturday, May 24, 2008

FIXING THE NHL

The finals for the Stanley Cup start tonight between the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins. It should be a good series.

As the season is almost over, it is time for some of us -- who think we know so much -- to list our ways to improve the National Hockey League game.

In no particular order is my list:

* Put goalie equipment back to its original dimensions -- like 10 inch wide goal pads, for instance. Watch a game from just 15 or 20 years ago and see how much better the goalies look. (Don't even think about making the net bigger.)
* Get rid of those ridiculous markings behind the net. Let the goal tenders play the puck again back there.
* Lose the shoot-out. This is hockey, not football (soccer).
* Let games end in ties if that is what the state of affairs is at the end of 60 minutes of play.
* Get rid of the penalties awarded to those unfortunate players who are just trying to clear the puck from their zone in a panic but end up unwittingly flying it over the glass... garnering a sometimes devastating infraction.
* Stop the fighting. You wanna raise your fists, you gonna go outta the game!
* And last but not least, make the ice surface bigger; 200 by 85 feet is too small, and has been since about 1970!
* Oh, I forgot: Eject league commissioner Gary Bettman. (He is a disease in the NHL.)

Enjoy the finals of the world's greatest team sport.

(Photo above: The great Tony Esposito in net for the Chicago Blackhawks.)

B-MOVIES?

All a "B-movie" is, or was, is a film that played on the bottom part of a double bill; back in the days where you got a pile of projected material when you went out to the movies. You got a newsreel, cartoons, a chapter of a 'serial', a B movie, and an A-picture.

Many films called B-movies are in fact, not... and never were. However, we now associate certain tropes and ropes with the kind. (B-movies were shot on low budgets, and often by using the sets left over from their A cousins.)

After all, Jaws (1975) would have been a B-movie at one time. (As New York Times film critic Vincent Canby said, "What is Jaws but a big-budget Roger Corman film?" Technically speaking, Corman's movies were not B as he made them specifically as 'drive-in' fare; eventually these movies would be made knowing they would be bundled into a double bill.) The joke is that yesterday's B-movies are now the A-movies. And somewhere down the line, the spirit and fun has been all but wrung out.

THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN'T DIE

I am the official supplier of "b/z movie" product to my friend Jim... Jim of 23; of movie sponge; of open mind; student of The Bard (Shakespeare, not me). He has gone through titles such as Robot Monster, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Journey to the Far Side of the Sun, Starship Invasions, The Wild Angels, and The Brain That Wouldn't Die.

Over a coffee, yesterday, Jim said he just knocked off Brain...

BARRY: So, what did you think?

JIM: Fann-tass-tic!

You are so wise and open-minded, and at such a young age. Good boy.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

JACK DUFFY (1926 - 2008)

Like my friend who was doing a Space: 1999 festival just before he heard that actor Barry Morse had passed away, I was reading up on Party Game last evening only to wake up to the news that Canadian actor/comedian "Captain" Jack Duffy had died at Toronto General Hospital last night.

For many Canadians, Duffy was known by way of a little game show by the name of Party Game. This game of charades was produced at CHCH television out of Hamilton, Ontario. It was as simple as you could get: Two couches and four gamers. "Captain" Jack, as he was known -- and identified as such by Party Game's host, Bill Walker -- was a regular. He might have been in every episode of the long running show which was produced between 1970 and 1980 (and ran and ran).

Don't think (Canadians) that Jack Duffy was someone who never made it outside of this country. As a matter of fact, he was a regular on The Perry Como Show from 1961 to 1963. An alcoholic, Duffy was forced to leave Perry Como after the bottle all but wiped him out.

He is one of those Canadian personalities who was known to a kid like me. And, yes, I watched Party Game quite a bit.

http://www.thestar.com/News/Obituary/article/427513

Monday, May 19, 2008

THE INVADERS IS COMING

Quinn Martin's 1960s super-cool sci-fi paranoia television series, The Invaders, is coming to DVD next Tuesday (May 27th). It was released overseas some time ago, but is only now landing here in North America.

The Invaders has one of the all time great opening narrations for a television series:

"The Invaders, alien beings from a dying planet. Their destination: the Earth. Their purpose: to make it their world. David Vincent has seen them. For him, it began one lost night on a lonely country road, looking for a shortcut that he never found. It began with a closed deserted diner, and a man too long without sleep to continue his journey. It began with the landing of a craft from another galaxy. Now David Vincent knows that the Invaders are here, that they have taken human form. Somehow he must convince a disbelieving world that the nightmare has already begun."

In motion... http://youtube.com/watch?v=uOLGrXOtuwQ

Sunday, May 18, 2008

BOBBY ORR - A CLASS MAN

Earlier today, I was watching an old NHL ice hockey game on the NHL-N channel with my brother. This particular game was from April 3rd, 1971 and featured the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins. The game was a blowout in the end (the Leafs lose in history too; they are consistent). I'm sure I saw this contest when it first aired.

What struck me about the game, however, was a special morsel-like moment. Toronto scored a goal. A pulse before the puck traveled past Bruins goaltender Eddie Johnson, team mate Bobby Orr fell to the ice right in front of the goal crease. Orr did not get up right away; he sat on this butt as Maple Leaf Norm Ullman hunched over him. The famous Leaf player looked like he was asking Orr if he was okay. This went on for a few seconds. The legendary Bruins defence man then nodded and appeared to say "I'm okay". He then flipped his hockey stick lightly against Ullman's shin pads.

I turned to my brother, after witnessing this, and said, "what a gentleman player... you sure don't see that anymore".

(Hockey commentator, and Bruins/Orr coach, Don Cherry thinks Bobby Orr is the greatest NHL'er of all time. My brother and I would agree.)

Saturday, May 17, 2008

THE BIG RED ONE

Samuel Fuller made his 1980 film The Big Red One for a fairly small amount of cash. This allowed him, or made him, concentrate on his characters. There is a lot of characterization in this one, especially for veteran actor Lee Marvin. (Take that, Hollywood today: You can take your CGI and flush it down a very real toilet.)

I understand the original release was all but ignored by the public. This might have something to do with the ad campaign, which I remember as being low key -- a kind of existentialist film was what we would see should we have plopped our money down at the box office.

Last night I watched the 2004 "reconstruction". This is a 162 minute version, expanding on the truncated 116 minute original. Roger Ebert said it best when he wrote "the often dubious directors' cuts". What we are talking about with The Big Red One is not a director's cut, per se, as Mr. Fuller died in 1997 but it can reek of "too much" at times.

Whatever its name, this cut left me a little cold. I could not lose myself in the film, although the best part is the last twenty or so minutes, The Big Red One finds its legs here.

Film critic Richard Schickel supervised the reconstruction. He does a runnng commentary on the DVD -- I will listen, watch anew, and keep an open mind.

Friday, May 16, 2008

CITIZEN'S BAND ON TVO

Jonathan Demme's 1977 fun-flick Citizen's Band is on tomorrow night (Saturday, May 17th) on TVO's "Saturday Night at the Movies". The announced start time is 10 pm.

As Mogwai Gizmo once said, "fun!"


TVO... http://www.tvo.org/TVOsites/WebObjects/TvoMicrosite.woa?snam

Thursday, May 15, 2008

JOHN PHILLIP LAW (1937 - 2008)

John Phillip Law became known to me through the 1968 cult classic, Barbarella. He was really the male eye candy version of Jane Fonda, with his wings and very little else. Law also played Sinbad the man, or sailor, in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. He was good as the famed ship's captain even if the film was a little lacking (compared with the franchise high points).

Like many actors, John Phillip Law worked in episodic television in between feature film gigs, thereby keeping busy over the years. He was one of those actors who went to Europe, not to appear in American films shot on location there, but indigenous product (as Barbarella was); ultimately working in countries such as Italy, Germany, and Spain. While some end up overseas when their careers are more or less over in the States, Law journeyed back and forth throughout his career.

I just can't get over how much better he looks wearing little more than wings... than I do.

The news... http://www.cnn.com/2008/SHOWBIZ/Movies/05/15/obit.law.ap/index.html

FALL TV SCHEDULE

I'm taking a break from my work; decided to check out http://www.imdb.com/. The headline in the 'Breaking News' box just made my day:

Fall TV Watch
The networks are announcing their fall schedules this week.

This exciting and highly anticipated news is overpowering. Just how can I go back to my work?!

This is how: "Click."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

BEST CANADIAN FILM

There is a joke that goes something like, 'you can't have a best Canadian film as it is an oxymoron'.

Only self-loathing Canadians (some Canadians are) say things like that. For the sake of streamlining my argument, I am going to count English-speaking cinema only. Besides, it ain't fair; on average, Quebec movies are way ahead of their Anglo cousins -- so my first pick would be Don Shebib's 1969 super flick, Goin' Down the Road.

Hold on a moment: Goin' Down the Road is not the best Canadian movie ever made. The best Canadian movie ever made is Starship Invasions.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

CAUSTIC BARRY

I get into a foul mood sometimes; it does not help that I consume way too much coffee before I write.

Keep in mind that my initials are "B.S." And my middle name is Frank...

Monday, May 12, 2008

RAKING LEAVES

The Toronto Maple Leafs hockey club is in the midst of reorganising the organisation. They have already let coach Paul Maurice go. (He was the least of their problems.) What they have to do, and I am not alone is feeling this way, is break the entire outfit down (fire everybody from top to bottom), rebuild (with new names, not related past or present) and start fresh.

Unfortunately, as thinking members of the Leafs Nation know all too well, this is not going to happen. Being who they are and, more importantly, what they represent, the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to frak it up.

They can't do anything right!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

WOODSTOCK TAKING STOCK

Even though I am old enough to have remembered the infamous 1969 concert love-in, Woodstock, two things conspired against me: I was living in Europe at the time and I would have been turned away a the gate had I sought admission. I was a little kid although -- as I recently discovered when I came across some photos taken of me back then -- I looked good in my beads, straw hat, and dyed shirt. An opportunity missed, it was.

A friend lent me his DVD of Woodstock, the documentary. It's every bit as good as I remember -- even more so due to my advancing age, and the nostalgia which kicks in more and more with each passing year. (Everybody looks so young!)

If I had not gone into blogging as a career, my expertise would undoubtedly be one of social scientist. Outside of the richness of pop music acts, Woodstock is a stamp of the time: Embossed, nailed, and bronzed. While I don't claim to a be a documentarian or archivist of popular music, I do... "reach".

From my admitted distance to pop or rock music, I can still see that the state of affairs today is... well... pretty abysmal.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

GET CREATIVE LOVE

A certain friend of mine, and a very creative one at that, has not produced a certain blog. My nature is such that I support people's creative endeavours; even those I do not know. Life without creativity of some kind is not living.

I really wish this friend of mine would "Get Christie Love!".

SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE MOVIES (TONIGHT)

I know this is late notice -- maybe a couple of people will tune in here -- but I wanted to announce that TVO's Saturday night staple, "Saturday Night at the Movies", is playing some terrific pics: Tonight.

First up, at 8 pm, is Vittorio De Sica's 1948 classic The Bicycle Thief, and at 10:40 is Woody Allen's 1979 masterpiece, Manhattan. Two beautiful movies, back-to-back. TVO caps it off with the 1976's sleeper hit, The Omen. In my books, this horror classic is no less entertaining than The Bicycle Thief or Manhattan... it is beautiful in its own way (and showcases why Jerry Goldsmith is considered by many to be the greatest film composer of all time).

THE HABS ARE GONE, FOR NOW

I watched the first two periods of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers match-up last night in NHL action. The Penguins will probably take the series if not the Stanley Cup (that beautiful trophy), but the Flyers cannot be ruled out altogether. They displayed moments of that "let's get 'em" prowess they all too readily subjected my beloved Montreal Canadiens (Les Habitants) to, effectively eliminating them.
The Flyers deserved to beat the Habs. And they might be ready to show the hockey world a few more surprises.

Having said all that, the Canadiens are a very young team. Management must keep the party pack together as much as possible. These guys will be a formidable force in the next few years. Casey Price is a great goalie -- and one of twenty years of age -- and he has greatness ahead. (Ice hockey goal keepers tend to peak in their late twenties to early thirties.)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

WYLE E. CLINTON

Hilary Clinton did not have the night she hoped in the Indiana and, especially, North Carolina primaries. The big news is she vows to go to the end. Ms. Clinton is reminding me of Warner Brothers cartoon character Wyle E. Coyote.

CATCHING UP

I have been learning some new art software, recently, at the expense of maintaining my blog. Thank you all for reading on a regular or semi-regular basis. One friend of mine, Chris, told me recently he reads 'Barry' on his lunch break.

Yes, Chris, you need a little Barry Smight to help those tuna sandwiches go down. I've been known to bring them back up, too -- so be careful.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

OBAMA, PLEASE

As much as I would love to see a woman in the White House, I don't want to see Hilary Clinton there.

Barack Obama is the one for U.S. president... I hope. (Look at that guy; presidential perfection.)

BROKEN POTS

It was nice and sunny yesterday. I decided to relax in the sun on my deck. As what normally happens is I take a book with me and a few minutes after planting my fat rear end down on the cot, I come-to with the book on my chest, its UV-coated cover taking in some UV rays.

Today, however, I managed to review somewhat, my book on grammar (which I will discuss in a series of coming postings).

After reading for a while I happened to notice the effects of the winter: A cracked clay planter. (A nice photo will be attached once the uploader function works on my camera again.)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

THE DESTRUCTION OF TIME

Sports television efficiently wipes out hours of the day. (So too does regular tv watching but sports is a special animal.) I find that I'm scheduling my workload around specific NHL hockey games. They are exciting this year and I find myself strangely drawn toward them.

I remember seeing a documentary or news magazine program on "the tube" a few years ago -- it might have been ABC's 20/20 program. Camera crews recorded blokes who were addicted to NFL football games. Their Sunday afternoons, in effect, consisted of sitting in front of the box and not moving (other than locomotion-ing to the ice box or bathroom). There was one sequence where a father and husband was neither a father and husband, just by ignoring his wife and kid. This guy's little boy just wanted to "play truck" with his dear old dad. Daddy was a jerk.

Can you imagine being so wrapped up in a sporting event that nothing else, or no one else, matters? It happens all over.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

ZAP 2 IT.COM

I am not a big "tv" person, and am not necessarily proud of this other than the fact that all this free (freed up) time allows me to pursue other... pursuits. However, I do like to know what is going to be on in any given week. The Globe and Mail newspaper has a good tv guide. (It used to be in the Saturday paper, like most are, but they got smart and put it in the Friday edition. I'm happy since I'm such a cheap bastard, and putting the guide in a $1.25 paper, rather than the $2.75 Saturday one, makes economic sense.)

When I want listings past midnight, or just need more information, I tap into the excellent online tv guide, http://www.zap2it.com/. Once there you can key in your postal or zip code, if you happen to know what it is, and viola!

Just for fun, key in the postal or zip code to some other place: A city, town village where you are curious as to what someone there might be watching on Thursday nights at nine. Want to know what's playing tonight in Tillsonburg, Ontario? And what stations they get? Well! Type in "N4G 3S3", for example. Your cousin lives in Marshalltown, Iowa, and you want to know why he always says he can't visit you for some reason? Maybe he's watching television. Type in "50158"!

There is your answer.

I'M ENVIOUS - U.S.S. OLYMPIA

Recently, an old friend of mine went on a short trip with his wife to Philadelphia. Fine. He came back and e-mailed me some pictures from his all-too-brief stay in the "city of Brotherly Love".

Most of the photos were of interest to me, including his visit to a American Civil War reenactment; one aspect of the trip was not photographed...

John paid a visit to a paid-off U.S. warship -- one by the name of U.S.S. Olympia. This ship originates from smack-dab-in-the-middle of my favourite period in warship development.

I am envious... (and, of course, am quite capable of journeying myself to Philadelphia!). My friend's visit was done with great haste as he and his wife had to get to the airport. I had to pull the attached picture off the Net.

The goods... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Olympia_(C-6)

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

TOO MUCH TO DO / HELLO NHL

It would appear that the more any one of us has to do, the more we distract ourselves. Okay, I'll cut to the chase: I watched the second and third period of the Montreal Canadians - Philadelphia Flyers match-up tonight on the CBC. The 'Broad Street Bullies' ended up winning against my beloved Habs. But they deserved to when Canadien player Steve Begin took an idiotic penalty with five about minutes left in the game. And this after Montreal did a beautiful job of tying the score just minutes before with two quick goals (within 38 seconds of play). It was a darn shame... if you are a Habs fan.

I agreed with Don "Grapes" Cherry, when he said after the game that Begin's penalty was a stupid one; it was not a question of whether the 'hit' was late or not. It was unnecessary. As a player on a team which had to battle back after what seemed to be an insurmountable deficit, you must be very careful.

It's funny how a valiant effort can be wiped out with one stupid move.

The good news, or up-side of all this, is that we Habs fans suffer not like the Leafs Nation.

MICHAEL POLLAN (x2)

I saw "In Defence of Food: An Eater's Manifesto" author Michael Pollan on CBC's The Hour tonight. While he was being chatted up by that most useless host (George somebody) I flipped over to TVO's The Agenda... and there was Michael Pollan being interviewed by an outstanding host (Steve Paikin). This time the writer was on the show's studio view-screen in a satellite feed from Berkeley, California, U.S.A.

I have not investigated as of yet -- my first guess is one show is live and the other a repeat -- but this makes the question fun: Has Michael Pollan been reproduced (cross-pollanated) via genetic engineering? One is the real thing and the other a pod person?

Monday, April 28, 2008

SID CROSBY AND THE PENGUINS

The title of this piece sounds like a forgotten '50s rock and roll band. I am cheering for the Montreal Canadians in this year's NHL playoffs -- as I always do -- but I also a realist: As a friend of mine said yesterday, the Pittsburgh Penguins are going to go all the way and win the Stanley Cup.

NHL RINK SIZE MATTERS

Getting back into watching the odd period of NHL ice hockey reminds me that the league must increase the ice surface size. The current standard is one of 200 feet long by 85 feet wide. These have been the dimensions for years, which only reminds me that I was saying the same thing in the early 1970s! I'm not suggesting the playing area should be increased to Olympic or International specifications (200' x 98.5') but I think an extra five to seven feet in the width measurement is essential.

Back in the 1970s, the Pittsburg Penguins were playing at home on a 210 by 90 foot ice surface (if I remember correctly). That was nice ice.

THE STUDIO SUITS

Filmport, Toronto's new super-studio opens officially in a few days. As of this moment, there are no bookings -- no takers. This is not good. The answer to this curious phenomena is quite clear: This impressive little studio complex was built years too late. The Canadian Dollar continues to be strong, and there are now too many other Torontos.

In a similar fashion to what was suggested in Woody Allen's brilliant science fiction movie premise from years ago, what Toronto film workers are left standing would be smart to go into "the pants business".

Saturday, April 26, 2008

FIVE YEARS?! NO... CAN'T BE!

I'm surprised the five year anniversary of the U.S. (Bush and Cheney and idiots) invasion of Iraq went by me. Me?! I said those five whole years ago (before the invasion), "you watch, this crap will be going on five years from now!"

A genius? Brilliant? Clairvoyant? Am I? No. I just know bullshit when I hear it. And bullshit is what we heard from certain mouthpieces in the run-up to the big day; over five years ago. When I heard how small the invasion force was going to be, I laughed out loud and said, "that's hilarious... try 400,000 troops!" (Invading is one thing, 'securing', quite another.)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

IN CORPORATE TTC STATIONS

The Toronto Star has this food-for-thought story in today's edition...
http://www.thestar.com/News/GTA/article/417766

The question is whether it is a good idea to rename some Toronto Transit Commission subway stations after companies; rather, corporations. That is the polite way to put the issue. The TTC could raise some much needed cash this way.

The business side of me thinks it's a great idea. Something is bothering me about this, however.

... Imagine the subway train guard/conductor having to call out, "next stop, McDonald's... McDonald's station is next".

I can imagine a funny editorial cartoon where we see a bunch of obese people clamoring to get off the car at "McDonald's" station.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

ACTORNAUTS / HOLLYWOOD HAS A PROBLEM

After watching the end of the ice hockey game on television this past Saturday, I flipped over to TVO's "Saturday Night at the Movies" to see what movie they were playing. My answer was Ron Howard's 1995 picture, Apollo 13, which was based on the famous almost-disaster for the U.S. manned space program.

As a general rule I do not prejudice a movie before seeing it. Apollo 13 was an exception since I well remember the incident. My attitude at the time of this pic's release was that I could not buy Tom Hanks as an astronaut, never mind Jim Lovell.

On Saturday night I watched Apollo 13 to the end (there was about a half-hour to go when I tuned in). Real paint-by-numbers stuff. Oh, oh... here comes James Horner's typical stamped music, complete with choir practice.

And annover fing: I do not see James Lovell, Fred Haise, or Jack Swigert.

I just see a bunch of poncey actors.

NEW BEN HUR

One of my favourite movies -- certainly of the biblical epics -- is William Wylers 1959 masterpiece, Ben Hur. Even with its high stature I do realize it is not exempt from being "remade". (Look at Psycho.) I read the news somewhere recently that a 'Ben Hur for television' has been green-lit.

I was reading a newsgroup and message board on the weekend when I came across some commenter's smark, "geez... I cannot wait to see the CG chariot race!"

I did an unscheduled load of laundry.

In all seriousness, my only question would be, "what about the music?" Miklos Rozsa's score for the Wyler version is one of the best of all time. (Even my dad had the Deluxe Stereophonic Edition vinyl from the original release, filed with his classical music LPs. One of the very few film scores you can listen to on its own as pure music. They are meant to be "laid up with picture".)

I can't hardly wait!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

HAZEL COURT (1926 - 2008)

Hazel Court was one of many actresses who were more or less caught in the cycle of "B" movies, which led to them being known as "B Movie Queens" or "Scream Queens". I have never liked this moniker even if it is fairly accurate. It is not the status I take offence to but rather the fact that these lovely ladies were looked down upon by the establishment which would never take them as serious actors. As a matter of fact, some were very serious about their craft.

Court was in such classics as The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Premature Burial (1962), and The Masque of the Red Death (1964), in addition to a lot of series television work.

It's all about breaks in this business, but a little less sexism would be nice.

Monday, April 21, 2008

ECONOMIC NEWS

I did my usual routine when I got up a few minutes ago: Got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head. Turned on the computer, http://www.msnbc.com/ came up, and on the bottom right part of the monitor screen was the headline, "More economists are forecasting a recession". Suddenly, the whole page started to go south. At first I was confused then quickly realized one of those really big ads was growing from the top part of my screen.

The ad was for "Cadillac".

There's a joke in there somewhere.

The more important of the two news items...
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24228456/