Friday, February 29, 2008


This is scary:

Evangelist takes credit for film crackdown
Christian crusader says he pressured cabinet ministers and PMO officials to deny tax credits to productions deemed too offensive

From Friday's Globe and Mail
February 29, 2008

OTTAWA, TORONTO — A well-known evangelical crusader is claiming credit for the federal government's move to deny tax credits to TV and film productions that contain graphic sex and violence or other offensive content...

What is pathetic, is we get told the same line over and over that our troops are in Afghanistan, and Iraq, to help protect our freedoms and democracy...

... sorry, I was on the ground laughing uncontrollably after keying in that last sentence.

Of course, our troops are really there to protect our 'interests' in the region; namely oil. The official line we get over and over again is all a big lie. I am not the first to say it and I will not be the last.

Western, or "free world" (... I'm laughing again!), military forces are there, and here, to make money for a lot of rich white men.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Back in December, I saw Gummo (1997). Tonight, I saw Julien Donkey-Boy (1999). These two films are perfect bookends for filmmaker Harmony Korine. They are very much the same blend of coffee. Perhaps one is a little darker than the other -- maybe there is more cream in that cup -- but the aroma and aftertaste are the same.

Voyeuristic films these are. As a viewer, you are not sure you want to be witnessing every scene. Discomfort would be felt by some viewers. Gummo and Julien Donkey-Boy are not for all tastes. All I will say about the latter is that Werner Herzog is memorable and reminds some of us that he made a not dissimilar film back in 1970, titled, Even Dwarfs Started Small (Auch Zwerge haben klein angefangen); which had an obvious influence on Korine.

I recommend checking out either Gummo or Julien Donkey-Boy but especially, Even Dwarfs Started Small.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Back on October 15th of last, I talked about my reintroduction to the 1982 - 83 television series, Square Pegs, which was playing on one of those nostalgia tv channels. Read the news today on that the short lived show is coming to DVD on May 20th.

Time to get excited, for those who remember seeing Square Pegs in its original run; time to get interested, if you have not seen a cool show very much of its time.

It is worth checking out...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


It was bound to happen. Friend Jim (of 23 years old) recently lent me his copy of Plan 9 From Outer Space. I watched it, love it again; next day pulled out Robot Monster (1953) from my "50 Movie Pack - SciFi Classics DVD Collection" boxed set. I explained the film to Jim after I realized he had not heard of the other atrocious but entertaining classic. After describing the actual monster to him, Jim said, "oh, that one".

A few days later, he came to me and rather enthusiastically claimed to have liked it very much. But before returning my disc, Jim said he wanted to see it again. He showed me the screen on his laptop computer... with all the icons denoting the various files of Shakespeare's great works. The real pride and joy however was the background image. Jim had frame captured a scene where Ro-Man is carrying the girl Alice, played by Claudia Barrett.

I watched Robot Monster again late tonight for the first time since the summer of 1995 when my then friend Steve and I laughed uproariously at all the wrong times... and right times. One thing I noticed this time around, or was pleasantly reminded, there are a few moments in Robot Monster that were clearly designed to elicit laughter from the audience. My favourite is when Ro-Man carries Barrett to the entrance to the cave (where he also keeps all his sensitive communications gear) and tries to get it on with her. First, he grabs the girl's hands and holds them to his chest to convince her that he is quite the Hu-Man's ladies man. Now, some women like hairy chests, but not one attached to an all conquering, but inept, ape sporting a astro helmet. Barrett would probably like it if Ro-Man could at least do that well -- conquering. Just when he thinks that he can force himself on her the phone rings: The communication screen. First, it's some of the girl's buddies calling. (Ro-Man says something that put me on the floor.) The call ends and he goes back to the girl to pick up where he left off; which was nowhere. Again, the phone rings. This time it's his boss. Of all the times...

Some days you can't make love to a Hu-Man Wo-Man!

Ro-Man spends an awful lot of time "calculating". Granted, he must get rid of those pesky Hu-Mans, but to me he is too fixated on whether five survive or six survive; or seven or eight. This seems rather trivial. (After all, the last of the humans will eventually die off.) It's like the Ro-Man saying to the humans, "yesterday, you were wearing checkered pants... today, you are wearing plain ones".

That trivial.

The score was written by one Elmer Bernstein -- yes, that Elmer Bernstein; who would just three years later write the music to The Ten Commandments. As my friend Jim said, "the score was so huge for this".

Great stuff.

(Final note: Robot Monster was shot in 3-D. The print which has been circulating for years is 2-D.)

Monday, February 25, 2008


It was one of those nights where I had so much to do that I thought I would deal with none and just sit down and watch a movie. Went through my unwatched VHS dubs... Tales from the Gimli Hospital. Sounds like a good pick for tonight; Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin's 1988 feature. His first feature film.

After watching it tonight for the first time in a few years, I am sure it is his still his best feature film. As Maddin said years ago, Gimli feels like a film that was found in some permafrost after being forgotten or lost for years. Specifically, it is a film which would have been made, or appears to have been made, during the sound transition era: Those are for all intents and purposes the years 1928 - 1930. Indeed, to this viewer who admits having a fondness for the 'big changeover' aesthetic, Tales from the Gimli Hospital looks and sounds like the genuine article.

Maddin nailed it, as it were. For all this authenticity, the director has made an original film... with touches made by a man who is looking back in nostalgia. He has stated that this period in cinema is a favourite of his, even with, or because of, the technical and artistic problems inherent in the beast -- at least with the more conventional directors: Static camera work, primitive and often rudimentary audio mixing, and so forth. Maddin's affection and fondness of the source material shows.

Gimli was shot over a period of eighteen months; typical of very low budget filmmaking. The first cut came out to approximately 50 minutes: Too short to be a feature and too long to call a short. Maddin secured 'arts council' money to beef up the running time.

Tales from the Gimli Hospital, like almost all films which eventually claim cult status, did not explode onto the scene, but rather crept along as word of mouth spread, eventually snagging viewers like yours truly.

The first time I heard of Guy Maddin, his Gimli, and the Winnipeg Film Group, was in an article I read in the Toronto Star newspaper back in the summer of 1990.

This film group and their films sounded so exciting to me.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


I have never seen the Oscar awards broadcast. Sure, I've seen tiny pieces over the years but I am proud of the fact that I have never wasted my time sitting down for the whole snooze fest. Back in elementary school, my teacher asked how many of us in the class "watched the Oscars last night". He went onto explain how the ceremony is organized and presented. All I thought after he asked the question was, "was I supposed to watch them?" (This would have been 1974, the year The Sting was all the rage.)

The Oscars are a joke. You can list people "who have never won, or never did win, an Oscar", and films which ran in a stream of euphoria, winning a pile of gold statuettes and probably never deserved to. (This is all subjective, of course.)

Actor James Stewart dropped the ball years ago when he admitted that he never checked off any boxes in the actors' categories -- every year he would pass his ballot to his wife.

I know... the Oscars broadcast doesn't really mean anything, they are meant to be fun. Very true, what else would explain Titanic's 11 count? Ben Hur (1959) deserved them but not the grossly overrated flick from ten years ago.

And that Titanic song. The pain; the pain.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

THE MUMMY (1932)

As part of my 're watch movies I have not seen in years' program, I sat down last week to view the 1932, Karl Freund production of The Mummy. Last time I saw this one -- the movie, not the mummy -- was the summer of 1985. I was in film school, I was younger, happier, talked less...

Okay, then.

I was a little surprised at how mellow the film was, even based on what I know about the Universal horror pictures from that era. On those terms The Mummy played a laid back game. It really is a love story more than horrific thrills... thrills which are there at the very beginning -- the first reel -- but which dovetail to a romance, of sorts. All played with skill by Boris Karloff.

Director Freund is German cameraman Freund; shooter of great films as The Last Laugh (1924), Variety (1925), and Metropolis (1927). That background shows in his directing, and he wasn't just a technician -- he cared about a story.

Friday, February 22, 2008


The film and television field in Toronto is in trouble. Notice I did not say 'business'. Actually, there is not much of a field here so it's hard for it to be in trouble. The fact is there are threads or remnants of film and television events in this town. It was big, sorta, artificially, but it was never a big deal. Too many folk got into it for all the wrong reasons. Now they are paying the price, with mortgages and an unsustainable lifestyle... but no work.

I received an interesting e-mail from a friend of mine earlier this week. He has worked at the same film and television company for years. This employer has continued to scale back, eventually getting to the point where my friend is doing the equivalent workload of two or three other people, just to keep them above water. They are not alone in this regard. What were once prospering production companies have degraded to skeletal form or to non existence.

The employment situation in this area is tough. As this friend capped off his e-mail he said something to the effect of increasing your chances of upward mobility by being of a certain 'type'. It is pretty pathetic.

Another friend of mine has worked steadily since 1994 in production. We talked at length today and agreed that he has to reorganize, retool, reset, and redefine himself. He has not worked in the career of his choice now for about three months.

As for me? Well, I just got the beep out of the Toronto film and television field. It is a joke: Staffed by fools, incompetents, and non-talents... for the most part. There are very talented people out there -- I know some of them -- but even they find it difficult to get work sometimes. Talent has very little, if anything at all, to do with being employable "in this business".

Yes, it is that bad.

I consider myself to be a realist, so here it goes: The film and television production scene in Toronto is Mickey Fucking Mouse! (Pardon my profanity. I did not originate the application of these certain words in this argument. I am merely repeating what I have heard said many times.)

Sure I sound or come across as bitter, and perhaps I am; but there is no other way to state the truth.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Like many Torontonians, I woke up to the news yesterday that a fire was raging on Queen Street, near Bathurst. More details came out as the day progressed. Then the news that Suspect Video and Culture burned to the ground.

While I rarely went to this location (since I live near the Markham Street store), and never to rent or buy but generally to meet someone, this unfortunate event does hit home. The owner, Luis, is one of those 'super nice guys' you occasionally meet from time to time. As a matter of fact, I bumped into him the day before the fire. Luis is always so cordial and friendly -- we joked about some title that he has been meaning to pull in for me. He is that type. (I have been going to the Markham Street location for 16 years now. It is one of my favourite shops of any kind anywhere in Toronto.)

My best wishes go to Luis and the gang.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Excuse me while I go and watch the 1959 (but shot in 1956) horror-chiller-scifi-thriller, Plan 9 From Outer Space. I will be back with a full report on it...

... wonderfully entertaining movie. Even more so than I remember it being. Whoever said "no matter what time of the day you watch Plan 9, it always feels like 3 o'clock in the morning", was absolutely right.

You could see that Edward D. Wood was so sincere in his storytelling; he believed everything he was saying. The ineptitude is still there and has not changed an iota since my last screening. Deadly earnest characters and actors in an insane asylum.

One thing I really noticed this time 'round -- an incongruity, an oddity: The scene at the Pentagon between General Roberts (played by veteran character actor Lyle Talbot) and Col. Tom Edwards (Tom Keene) is out-of-place in this contraption. These particular few minutes are resonably competent and dare I say, polished. The dialogue is clear and believable -- within the absurd premise -- with the actors doing their thing well. (Good actors. Maybe Eddie was away that day. Maybe someone else went over the dialogue for this one piece.) If the whole film could have been this way... nooo! Do not ruin the magic!

What I did find pretty funny within this scene is the moment the General asks the Colonel if he believes in flying saucers. Weird question considering that Col. Edwards is "in charge of Flying Saucer Field Activity"! An appointment no doubt decided by "army brass". Just what did the General think that Edwards imagined firing at earlier? Flying Winnebagos?!

As author Daniel Peary wrote in his essay on Plan 9 in the wonderful book, "Cult Movies", there are some truly effective moments such as the images of Vampira and Police Inspector Dan Clay (Tor Johnson) walking zombie-like through the eerie graveyard. Peary is correct also when he points out and reasons the matter of Plan 9 containing a philosophy from Wood. Like Doctor Zaius did in a very similar way to Charleton Heston, near the end of the 1968 classic, Planet of the Apes, Eros gives a rant about the violent nature of the human species. It's one of those moments that you say, "right on, Eros! My man!"

See this movie if you have not.

(I should note that my friend Jim lent me his DVD of Plan 9. Jim is 23 years of age and is an English Literature major at the University of Toronto. Just so you know... )

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Well, it finally happened. Two consumer high definition formats of the disc type could not survive together in the same space. Of course, both were never designed to exist in the same time and space. They both knew that only one could rise up victorious and reign in the consumer kingdom.

Toshiba's "HD-DVD" and Sony's "Blu-ray" duked it out for a while, if in a low-key way. It was not a battle really, more allegiances; what studio or retailer was going to side with which format.

Toshiba, by announcing officially today that they were gracefully pulling out of the race, conceeded defeat.

Personally, I was rooting for HD-DVD but it does not matter in the end.

Nothing really matters because Blu-ray won't be around in a few years, anyway. It will be back to square one. Not as in hitting the reset button, but as part of the always nebulous and ongoing metamorphosis of technological progress.

Some upstart will kick Sony's ass -- soon enough.

Monday, February 18, 2008


Juno sounds Canadian. 'Juno Beach' was the code name for the stretch of coast line in Normandy where the Canadian Army landed in June of 1944 as part of the D-Day landings. The Juno Award is the name of Canada's 'Grammy'.

Now that these Canadian Facts (CanFax) are out there we can get to the heart of the debate: Apparently, there are those in the Genie's (Canada's 'Oscar') who feel that the new and apparently wonderful -- I am planning to see this soon -- movie Juno, directed by Jason Reitman and starring Ellen Page, is not "Canadian-enough".

Let me get this right... the director is Canadian born, and considers himself to be a Canadian at heart, even if he makes his living in Los Angeles; the lead actors, they being Ellen Page and Michael Cera are bonafide fellow country-people, the film was shot in Vancouver, which the last I checked was in the beautiful country of Canada, but for some reason, Juno is not a Canadian-enough picture. Granted, the screenplay was written by an American, and the production was funded by Americans, but in my eyes, and many others, this should not subtract from its Genie eligibility.

To tell you the truth, I don't like awards. They are phony, political, and just plain unnecessary, but that doesn't mean I do not have an opinion here.

At the end of the day, I don't care what country made the movie. I just like movies.

I want to see Juno.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


The Pilot is a little known film from 1980 directed by and starring Cliff Robertson. This was a pet project of the actor's as he is a pilot himself, having owned several vintage aircraft over the years including two WW2 Supermarine 'Spitfires'.

I caught this film one weekend afternoon (on CFTO, Channel 9, Toronto) back in the summer of 1991. I enjoyed it, as I like flying machines myself. Robertson plays airline pilot and alchoholic, Mike Hagan. This pilot continues to fly while hiding his habit... quite literally in fact. While not a crushing downer in the end, as was the excellent 1977 made-for-tv movie, A Sensitive, Passionate Man (starring David Janssen and Angie Dickinson), The Pilot effectively tells the story of a man and the career he loves, being ruined, slowly but surely, by the bottle.

Director Robertson illustrates his love of flying through his use of the camera and actor Robertson tells a story verbally about how he first fell in love with flying and his subsequent training by an old Canadian WW1 fighter pilot.

The flying scenes featuring the famed four-engine passenger airliner, the DC-8, are emphasized. Robertson has no problem as director showcasing this beautiful machine. And that includes a well staged set piece of a landing aircraft with one of its turbofans flaming.

One memorable scene in The Pilot depicts a DC-8 (named the "Toronto" in this case) flying over the desert as Hagan gives a tour for the passengers' edification; this is accompanied by composer John Addison's glorious 'Americana' music done in the tradition of Aaron Copeland or Elmer Bernstein, conveying the thrill of flying for Robertson and his Hagan.

Such a scene does not a great movie make, but it does remind me that you don't see this done much anymore... many films today lack any sort of grace. Such is the power of cinema that you can have a moment which on the surface might seem almost throwaway but really amounts to more in the grand statement.

The Pilot is nice to look at -- if you like flying machines -- but at its core is a heartfelt story of a man and his love for his chosen profession.

I would recommend checking this one out; if it can even be found!

Saturday, February 16, 2008


We think of famous directors as being in total control and understanding of all facets of filmmaking. A guy like Stanley Kubrick had a sharp pencil in all departments, but most of them are lacking comprehension in the area of music scoring; that thing you stick on in 'post', is how most of them would think about what should be one of the most considered part of the filmmaking process. One of the worst in this regard, I have heard, is director Ridley Scott. Apparently, he is nothing short of unconscious during this phase.

The great Alfred Hitchcock got many a great score from his composers -- especially Bernard Herrmann. Hitch was not sure he wanted music to accompany the shower scene in Psycho (1960). Hermann suggested to the director that it might just work with a little knife music. The result was not only a classic movie moment but what is perhaps the most well known musical phrase of all film, if not all time -- the screeching violins.

Earlier in his career, Hitchcock, like many a director, was exploring the use of music and sound in cinema. For Lifeboat (1944), he was concerned that music would not make a lot of sense or fit in to the story. Who, afterall, would hear music in a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean? "Where is the music coming from?", asked Hitch. Film composer David Raksin caught wind of this remark and asked, "ask Mr. Hitchcock where the camera's coming from".

Hugo Friedhofer eventually supplied 'music to float in a lifeboat by'.

Friday, February 15, 2008


All us movie fans go to the website of the Internet Movie Database ( when we want to look something up regarding -- movies, or television. I went there today and noticed the trivia question of the day. It asked: This was the last film that Bernard Herrmann scored for Alfred Hitchcock. Their answer? Marnie (1964).

That is incorrect. The real answer should be Torn Curtain (1966).

Herrmann wrote a score and it was recorded. Hitchcock said he wanted a upbeat score. The studio wanted the same. Herrmann balked, his score was dropped, and a replacement was written by British composer John Addison. (There is some debate regarding the details of Herrmann's rejection. Some think that Hitchcock was spineless and bowed to pressure from Universal to replace the original score.)

Goes to show you that you have to be careful what you read, even on the 'imdb'.

Mistakes are pretty easy to make. I know I'm good at making them.


While I do like certain things, like the original Star Trek, with a degree of affection, I hardly fall into the domain of a fanatic (fan). My good friend Tim, however, is what you would call a Trekkie. Walk into his house, and just inside the front door is a shelf supporting Andorian, Tellarite, and other Trek alien figures. That is only the introduction. Wait 'till you get further into the house.

During one of my visits, Tim played a video that he had shot at one of the recent Toronto Trek conventions. Several of the actors from various incarnations of Trek were on stage in the hosting Hotel's ballroom, doing their speeches and acts (James Doohan was very funny, a real talent), but overall this was fairly mundane stuff to me. What was of interest were some of the cutaways that Tim had edited into the footage. The best of these was his slow pan of the Trekkie audience: A sea of pot-bellied people.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Back in the early 'nineties when I worked in the film biz, I freelanced at a company where we had this character of an employee by the name of Chuck. Chuck had an odd personality but he was a great human being. When he spoke it was with sharp diction and unique cadence.

One day I was talking with Chuck about something and the subject of (the original) Star Trek came up. What happened next is I dispensed a piece of trivia about the show which in Chuck's eyes was done with too much authority... "You're a geek! You are too; you're a wierdo geek!", shot the critic. In an adjacent room was Bob, fellow employee, who could not help but overhear this admonition. Bob supplied an out-of-control giggley laugh as Chuck laid into me.

"Excuse me, Chuck. I find those remarks to be extremely caustic and insensitive!", was my only response.

Just as quickly as this incident flared up, it settled down. Chuck added with diplomatic skill, "I'm just teasin' ya. I watched those things way to much myself. I just think that people take it way too far when they know the actual episode titles."

Oh shit...

(Pardon the picture of me. It's the best I have.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


A comment posted to my blog entry, WHO FURTHER, made me investigate further. I checked out major Who fan site, and read a few reviews written by major Who fans; I realized that a lot of them absolutely love "Galaxy"; and that other horrible Sylvester McCoy era episode, "The Curse of Fenric". These 'reviews' wax on the quality -- scripting and otherwise -- apparently contained within these two stories.

I read these and all I thought was, "what the... did you see a different version?"

Maybe "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy" and "The Curse of Fenric" play better in the PAL television system. It is the only thing that explains it. These are the two McCoy stories I have seen. Lucky me.

To this old Trekker, it is the direct equivalent of me raving about "Spock's Brain" and "And the Children Shall Lead". (Yes, I admit I know the names of individual episodes... funny story later on that point.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


"Why should you be afraid to die? Your soul has been dead for a long time."

Sometimes we need our faith in cinema renewed, even if the film that accomplishes this is from 1964. I have seen The Masque of the Red Death before -- at Toronto's "B-Movie Festival" back in 1991. I liked it very much then even if the screening was done with a 16 mm television print (4 x 3 ratio). The image was nice but a lot of the frame was missing since Masque was shot in anamorphic widescreen (2.35 : 1).

What I watched tonight was a nice widescreen image courtesy of DVD. Now I think this is a great film. Director Roger Corman and lighting cameraman Nicolas Roeg created a feast for the eyes, shooting Masque back in the day when compromising the framing for later television showings was not in the cards... they composed for the full widescreen. The use of colour is well integrated with the story.

The cast: Well, how do I put this? Vincent Price makes much of the already well drawn character of Prince Prospero. And a very sadistic character at that. After witnessing a case of the Red Death in a peasant's village, he first orders it to be burned to the ground then takes local noble folk into his castle to protect them from the plague. His protection goes as far as ordering the deaths of those who try to enter his real estate -- the story inside these walls is beautifully told. Price is class, and so is the whole cast.

Corman proves here that he is an outstanding filmmaker. This fact was displayed also in his feature film, The Intruder, two years earlier. Masque shows off the Bergman in him.

Masque displays class in many of the filmmaking disciplines but I should make note of Daniel Haller's excellent sets (and use of the scene dock), and composer David Lee's impressive score which comes across as Igor Stravinsky by-way-of William Walton. His music scoring for a certain dream sequence is of demonstration quality.

I would have no problem watching The Masque of the Red Death again, very soon. I cannot boast that too often.

... Sumptuous.

Monday, February 11, 2008


Yesterday, I posted WHICH WHO? where I mentioned my favourite version of the Doctor (from the British SF television series, Doctor Who). I casually remarked that Sylvester McCoy is liked by those who watched him in their formative years, even though in the eyes of many, this Doctor was in the poorest (albeit, last) seasons of Doctor Who.

Commenter 'Neil' chimed in with a point about it not being a case, in his opinion, of McCoy being the problem but more the level of scripting and production inherent in those seasons. I agree with this and did think about mentioning this technicality while writing but decided in the interests of brevity -- not a notable quality of mine -- to keep the piece simple.

The episode that Neil refers to is "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy". I'm surprised the producers of Who stopped there and did not just claim "the Universe". This episode is what I would call a video taped train wreck. So much so that I have considered screening it again (as I have a DVD-R copy).

After a post viewing dissertation of "Galaxy" I conjectured that it was a 'bottle' show of some kind; or a make-work project. The Doctor Who production team was exhausted and they had to kill some weeks.

I agree with Neil that Colin Baker was the worst Doctor -- although this was probably due more to the 'character background' written up for him.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


I recently spoke with a friend of mine who you could classify as a Doctor Who fan. The discussion of favourite 'Doctor' came up; it is the all time question for Who Fans, or Whovians: "Who is your favourite Doctor?"

My own favourite would have to be the good Doctor as portrayed by Jon Pertwee (pictured above). He is the one I grew up watching although I had seen some episodes of William Hartnell -- the first actor to play the role -- when I was a little one. Pertwee was third in the chain. Patrick Troughton was the one before him.

I understand that your favourite Doctor depends, generally, on which one you watched as a child. There are those out there who will pick Sylvester McCoy as their favourite... as odd as this might be for some of us to believe. (I've seen only a couple episodes of this guy and they were bad. Very bad.)

It's all nostalgia for me now. I tried watching the newest version of Doctor Who (2005 - ) and it left me cold.

Saturday, February 9, 2008


Look at that beautiful thing (piece of graphic design). This original Vancouver Canucks logo -- designed by artist Joe Borovich and called the 'Stick-in-Rink' -- is greatly in favour these days. It was not always that way: I remember October of 1970... yes I do, and I am serious. On television, one Saturday evening, played a CBC's Hockey Night in Canada broadcast; a game with the Canucks visiting the Toronto Maple Leafs in Maple Leaf Gardens. Before the contest started, the Canadian national anthem played ("Oh, Canada"; neat, eh?). The television camera panned across the Vancouver Canucks hockey team as they stood to attention in their bench. My mother's voice took over the living room. "Look at those ridiculous uniforms." I had no opinion at the time as my brain was just a few years old.

Now I look at this logo with some reverence... as a piece of graphic art. I remember when the Canucks dropped this symbol for the 'big V' in 1978. No, "V" is not for "vasectomy", although the result was probably the same. Inpotence no doubt influenced the change from this logo to another. (The Canucks have gone through more corporate identities than I have socks.)

I was watching an NHL game a couple of years ago where the Canucks were playing, and noticed the sweet hockey stick logo as patches on the players' jerseys. Last hockey season I brought the issue up with a 'Sens' (Ottawa Senators) fan friend of mine and we agreed that the Canucks should adopt the original as their main jersey. (They use it as the alternative one at this time. As of this hockey season, 2007/2008, the logo has been given a slight modification. I knew this would happen: the 'stick' is now angled a little to look more like a "V"... for 'Vancouver'.)

My Sens fan friend says that, as much as he likes the original, the Canucks won't adopt it as their primary logo.

I say they must -- if they know what's good for them.

The Stick-in-Rink must look real nice on a crisp white T-shirt.


"Buddy... you're rushing that tempo a bit. Ain't ya?"

The Buddy Holly Story is a favourite film of mine. It was released in 1978 to okay business. Gary Busey plays and sings for real in the title role... Charles Martin Smith and Don Stroud also play their own instruments -- the double bass and drums, respectively -- and this gives the film a natural feeling. You are never distracted by off-timing in the mimickery, or obvious air playing.

This is a fine, fine film. I've seen it before on television, and have been meaning to pop in that VHS that I must have bought a good six or seven years ago.

Director Steve Rash does a commendable job with Buddy, although with no stretching of film technique. A detractor might offer that this film was shot in a boring style. It is certainly straightforward and does not draw attention to itself.

You don't have to be a big fan to enjoy The Buddy Holly Story. Outside of the fact that in my mid teens I went through a late fifties/early sixties rock & roll music phase, I hardly consider myself to be a fanatic. The songs are great and that is all it takes to grab your attention. The band is allowed to play onscreen and this helps the story telling -- nothing is rushed. This is not a music video, there is drama, but you get a chance to see Buddy Holly and the Crickets doing their thing.

I understand that the filmmakers played with history in this one but I never felt it took away from the enjoyment of the story. (Watch the film first, then read up on the liberties taken.)

Friday, February 8, 2008


Director Roger Corman was on a roll by 1962, making horror films based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe: In 1960, he produced and directed House of Usher, and the next year, the superb Pit and the Pendulum. The key word is 'based' as the various scriptwriters on these productions, including Richard Matheson and Charles Griffith, played fast and loose with the source material.

In 1962, American International Pictures (AIP) released Corman's Premature Burial. I had never seen this one before last night. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. Burial has Daniel Haller's quality and atmospheric sets, polished cinematography from Floyd Crosby, ASC, rich and very effective music scoring from Ronald Stein, and good all round performances. Ray Milland plays the lead role of medical student Guy Carrell, a man who, for various legitimate reasons, in his eyes at least, has a horrific fear of being buried alive. The plot details the measures taken by Carrell to circumvent him being laid to rest before his body is ready, and those of some shenanigans going on which support and build on his immovable phobia.

In my opinion, this is all constructed very well by the filmmakers: The story moves and twists in a fairly simple and uncomplicated manner expected of good matinee fare.

My trouble started when I consulted my Leonard Maltin reference book afterwards and found that he -- or one of his editors -- was not overly impressed. Same case when I checked my other reference guide. (Checking these guides is only a curiosity. I like what I like.)

I liked Premature Burial and was satisfied with the film's conclusion... it all come together rather nicely, and explained what the other characters were up to behind Milland's back.

It was fun.


Here is a link to a very interesting and timely story done back in 1996 by the CBC and one knitted with their usual high journalistic standards. Titled, appropriately enough, "Battle at the Box Office", this 26 minute piece deals with the problems we Canadians have faced in trying to see our own movies in our own movie houses. It is more complicated than that and this video file will interest those who care...

And no surprise, nothing has really changed since this story was first aired. The only real (or reel) difference is that the Internet has exploded in the interim, thereby opening up some alternatives to traditional film distribution.

I agree with a lot of what producer Ivan Reitman says. Canadian-ness comes through in many Hollywood movies for the simple reason that many directors, script writers, and other production personnel grew up in Canada. Of course, this is not news but it is perhaps a more persuasive argument than what is usually gleaned on the surface. (Filmmaker Norman Jewison has said many times that his Canadian background allowed him to attack the issues presented in the 1967 film, In The Heat of the Night, from a different perspective and allowed more depth to the subject matter than what would have probably been the case had an American directed.)

Journalist and film critic Geoff Pevere also nails some fine points home.

The other interesting point brought up is how 'Canadian' some very successful Hollywood films are. One of my favourite examples is Wayne's World. Right after seeing it I argued that this film could, or should, have been made in Canada. Viewing the picture as a Canadian, it was so obvious where this story took place. (Comedian Mike Myers is from you-know-where.) Admittedly, Wayne's World, the feature film, needed the fact that it originated on an American television show, Saturday Night Live, in order to sell itself. (I had never been an SNL viewer so I was taking this film on its own terms.)

Yes, Saturday Night Live; created by Lorne Michaels, a Canadian who learned his craft in Canada! My brain hurts!

... one for the super-computer.

Thursday, February 7, 2008


The movie which introduced Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin to me was Tales from the Gimli Hospital (1988). (I almost keyed in Tales of the Gold Monkey.) I saw it at the Bloor Cinema around 1993... it was the second of two movies that evening. As soon as the screen lit up with Gimli, there was a title card of a 'four-stacker' (early 20th Century ocean liner) done like an old movie studio logo. My feeling then was, "this is going to be a good movie". At that very early point of the film, some people got up and left. Some people are so biased: "Looks like an old movie so I am going to get out of my seat and leave."

Just a minute or two in was enough to convince those of us who decided to give the film a chance, at least, that this was not like the typical Hollywood job. To make a long story short, I loved Tales from the Gimli Hospital. (And I cannot remember the feature played just before. Points for Maddin!)

A couple of years later I saw Careful (1992). Liked it too but not near as much.

The most recent film I saw of Maddin's was The Saddest Music in the World. Great first half hour... then down hill a little. (This is common with his films, I find. He depends so much on various techniques that I feel let down by the lack of focus. Make no mistake, I like Maddin very much. He is a true original and gives Canada a good name. But he occasionally comes across as someone who is looking for a style as opposed to having one of his own. Of course, I am talking through my hat. One could argue that is his style.)

On tonight's big screen (at home) was Maddin's 2002 flicker, Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary. I need more time to think about this one. At first blush, my impression is of a fairly straightforward story (at least, in Maddin terms) coupled with fine music and dancing. Dracula held my interest. The usual mix of styles expected of this filmmaker. Not to all tastes, to put it mildly, but worth checking out.

Here is a set of terrific short videos on the Maddin in question...

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


I have found it too easy to pop a movie in the player these last few days. Tonight it was Richard Linklater's 1993 feature, Dazed and Confused. My first screening, in 1993, consisted of a packed Bloor Cinema. It really is a crowd film. And it appealed to my own sense of nostalgia: While I did not spend May of 1976 in Texas, and did not enjoy the ritualistic pleasures of a coming-of-age paddy wacking, Dazed was a look back to that time for me. I would have been the age of the younger kids; hence my keen insight into a lack of paddles on my end.

I saw Dazed again about three years ago. For some reason what was a rear view mirror to me back in February of '93, didn't sustain any longer. In its purest form, the film did provide some kick but now I was looking at a broader picture -- an inconsequential plot.

Well, somewhat like my experience rewatching True Stories last night, Dazed and Confused again felt pretty perfect. I'm three years older since my previous look at this picture; maybe I'm clawing at my youth with more desperation.

I laughed a lot.

The cast is terrific. And that Matthew McConaughey has one of the film's best lines (which earned an explosive laugh from the crowd at the Bloor Cinema): "That's what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, and they stay the same age."

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


There is an interesting bit on page A2 of today's Globe and Mail newspaper...

Scary stuff!

Reading a piece like this makes you feel good all over if you come out of it having known all along that Charles Dickens was a real guy. A writer of some repute, I think.

I thought that Britney Spears and Simon Cowell were fictitious characters. (I was hoping they were fictitious characters -- a big difference.)


Last night I pulled out -- from my box of archived VHS movies that I dubbed and never watched -- the 1986 David Byrne feature film, True Stories. I saw it with my film school buddy Mike when it came out. He figured I would want to see it since the year before, he and I saw together the great music film about the group Talking Heads (of which Byrne was its main member), Stop Making Sense, and Mike remembered how much I was impressed. He seemed to lap up my enthusiasm as we left the theatre -- I went on about how much I liked the film.

I did not like True Stories in its first release. Maybe I was not in the mood for a disconnected story; one not of the typical story structure.

Cut to last night: I really liked True Stories. Mr. Byrne had a vision. It was obvious. This was a picture of little pictures... vignettes. All were interesting and all rang true. I suppose this is the way life is, more than the stock stories told in your typical or average Hollywood movie. This is where European filmmakers excel. They show the heart of someone's experiences.

David Bryne made a very European or, more importantly, non American film. He was ahead of me and my (self proclaimed) broad tastes in cinema.

Monday, February 4, 2008


The TSO (Toronto Symphony Orchestra) announced today that they will be staging one of those alternative audience grabber concerts on June 20th and 21st. A TSO Star Wars concert happened three years ago and was a success. This time it is Star Trek's turn. As much as I love the music of Prokofiev, Beethoven, and Mozart, I'm the first to say that concerts of the tie-in type are not a bad idea.

Like many organized symphony orchestras, the TSO is forever battling the budget: They must think of creative ways of enticing those who would not normally see an orchestra, to enter through Roy Thompson Hall's main doors.

Outside of musical themes mentioned in the article linked below, I don't know what is being played but I doubt the fans will care... so long as they can imagine the Starship Enterprise floating by; or that space station floating around, from that show with the space station.

The story...

BARRY MORSE (1918 - 2008)

I was not surprised when I heard the news this morning that veteran British/Canadian actor Barry Morse passed away on Saturday. The fact is his name had come up in a couple of conversations with friends this past week. Isn't this always a sign of an impending death?

Barry Morse was known to many in this country as a Canadian actor simply because he constantly worked here; having moved to Canada in 1951. He become well known to American viewers with his portrayal of David Janssen's man-of-the-law nemesis Lt. Gerard, in the ABC dramatic series, The Fugitive. As this show was photographed in black & white (except for the final season which was shot in colour... sorry, color), most young folk have not seen it at all. How some of us were introduced to Mr. Morse was through his portrayal of the humanist scientist Victor Bergman, in the first season of Space: 1999. His character was a shot of much needed warmth in that frosty special season. (Morse declined the second season of Space; something about his agent not coming to terms with that series' producers.)

In his very long career, Morse worked in radio, film, television and theatre. He was made director of the 1966 Shaw Festival here in Canada.

My own connection with Barry Morse was made in the summer of 1988 when I was leafing through a book in the Yorkville Library (a branch of the Toronto Library system): I stood before a shelf which was up against the wall. My attention was split enough to look over at a figure who was approaching from the left. In the purest Hal Roach sense, I gave a double take. Mr. Morse saw this and kinda looked past me as he walked by. Hey, I would look past me too. He ended up around the bookshelf behind me and started talking. That for sure is Barry Morse's voice.

(For some reason I forgot about this moment when I wrote my blog "Just a Walkin' Down the Street", from last September 9th.)

I told a friend of mine this incident later and he said, "you should have whispered through the shelf, 'hey I know a man by the name of David Kimble'."

Sunday, February 3, 2008


This evening I watched my first Super Bowl, ever. Like most at the party I went to, my viewing was loose and casual. I was amused at the seriousness that the broadcasting network takes all this; with the film-style promos, interviews with players, bios, etc. It was so over-the-top it was funny.

It's just a game, after all... and it is not ice hockey. That I realized half way through the game. There is not that excitement you get when watching a battle between two teams in the NHL playoff finals. Two guys visiting from England were at the party and one of them blurted out towards the end of the game -- before there was some interest generated through some dramatic scoring by the NY Giants -- something about sitting for a couple of hours and "watching nothing". (Overseas people care not for the game.)

Sitting with this happy and fun crowd made me realize that I'm not alone in not understanding a lot of what makes North American football run. There were quite a few questions thrown out for others to answer about how some scoring is calculated and what a "tight end" is exactly.

What is amazing to me is how big this day is to many (but not all) Americans. The rumours were true. Super Bowl Sunday and the game itself are terribly anti climactic and not particularly exciting. It really is an issue of selling -- constant selling.

And then I read this morning that this game has been called, in some quarters, "the greatest Super Bowl ever".

What?! Really?!

That is the bar?!

How some people are happy with so little. It's no wonder the game is all but unknown outside of North America. (The truth about the ratings is that very few outside of NA watch the Super Bowl. It is a myth that one billion people, from all over the world, watch the game.)

It would appear to me as if the Super Bowl is not so super, after all: Full of sound and fury, signifying... not a heck of a lot.

(But does my friend Chris know how to throw a party! He and his girlfriend were great hosts. I particularly liked all the food that was passed around.)

Saturday, February 2, 2008

10 OF PI

During a recent discussion with a friend (who wanted to borrow Zontar, The Thing from Venus from me) about certain b-movies, there were some titles brought forth which classified not as 'so bad they're great' but more as good or great. One of these was the 1998 Darren Aronofsky low budget black & white flick, Pi. I first heard about this film while watching a news magazine piece (probably 48 Hours on CBS) on that year's Sundance film fest and the independent movies entered. Pi sounded most intriguing and this program covered the director's efforts in the editing room to make the deadline.

I saw Pi when it hit theatres in its limited run back in 1998 and loved it.

Last evening I decided to go into my VHS library and pull out a copy I knew I had made four years ago from a tape I rented but didn't get around to watching before it was due back at the video store (Suspect Video here in Toronto).

Watching Pi again last night reassured me that it is every bit as good as I remembered it being. And I noticed some things this time around that eluded me the first viewing; a sign of a good movie.

The plot is driven: Max Cohen (Sean Gullette), a mathematician, is obsessed with explaining everything through numbers. His drive to find patterns and relationships in these numbers gets him into trying to explain the stock market -- trouble starts. Intrigue follows. We get inside Max's head in addition to the external happenings. His battle with chronic headaches succeeds in torturing him as they add to the figurative headache of his quest, or rather, obsession, to make sense of certain numbers and their sequences.

Pi is not for all tastes -- it is what it is: A fine example of making a film to fit the (very small) budget and limited technical resources contained within, and doing so in exemplary fashion. Aronofsky used the contrasty -- this film was shot on Tri-X reversal film -- image to suit the story. (Reversal film is more 'rigid' and has to be exposed carefully as there is not a lot of latitude.) High contrast imagery such as newspapers, black grease pencils applied on these newspapers, and white cream dispensed into coffee fuses beautifully with the dramatics. Pi is about symbols, numerals in particular, shapes, so the cinematography emphasizes them.

The audio is, at times, a multi track affair with varied volumes and shock chords to great effect... all to tell this story.

Aronofsky understands the tools of the trade. Requiem for a Dream, made by the director in 2000, is indicative of the Pi style, and it too is terrific.

Friday, February 1, 2008


Here we go; the first sign of trouble... or doomnation. The Toronto Sun newspaper has reported that the CBC's new shows, jPod, and MVP: The Secret Lives of Hockey Wives are trading places. As I have read too much over the years about television and certain historical examples of time changes, I think I can safely say the Ceeb is panicking too soon. Or at least picking the wrong time slots.

This rings a bell.

jPod currently airs on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. while its network pal, MVP, plays Friday nights at 9 p.m. The CBC is making this uncomplicated. Just a switcheroo. "Abracapocus".

I'm sure the feeling is jPod will find an audience of young people who have stayed home expressly to enjoy the latest installment of this venerable show.

Now where have I heard of this before? A fragment of a memory about some show which had a plum weekday night slot and was moved to Friday night only to have dissappeared forever. I must be imagining this.

The news...