Wednesday, April 30, 2008


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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


The Toronto Star has this food-for-thought story in today's edition...

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


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.


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


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, 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...

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Congrats to 'Indy' race car driver Danica Patrick for her winning of the Indy Japan 300 event. Back in the early 'seventies I was a huge race car enthusiast. Guys like A.J. Foyt, Johnny Rutherford, and Bobby Unser were part of the lexicon and my youth. I collected racing magazines and never missed the Indianapolis 500 or the Daytona 500 on television. (Sorry, there was no "Fireball 500" auto race.)

Is Danica Patrick ever looking cute to me...


Since I am an old Titanic nut -- as in I know way too much about the ship -- this item caught my eye...

I've said for years, especially after reading Dr. Charles Pellegino's superb book, "Her Name, Titanic", the fabled ship was supposed to sink... to be fabled.

It was a sick ship. There was a constant list that was never fully rectified. And it rattled badly. In ocean liner terms, vibration is considered not to be optimal. With the Titanic, it was not so obvious just by hanging around the decks and so forth. This problem was noticeable, for example, when one was taking a bath and rested their head back on the tub.

The Titanic's sister ship, Olympic, was a grande ol' lady, serving for years as a magnet for the rich and famous.

Friday, April 18, 2008


Robert Rodriquez's 1992 breakout feature film, El Mariachi, is as good as ever. With the backlog of pictures I have to see, I will occasionally look back at those I have seen twice, thrice, or more. Impulsively I picked out Mariachi from the shelf at Suspect Video here in Toronto -- the packaging said something about Special Edition, which often means 'nothing edition', but I thought I would take a chance.

I was right, the only thing special about the DVD in question is that the transfer is gorgeous. The packing did proclaim this edition was taken from the original film negative. It shows. This leap in image quality gives El Mariachi even more class. The whole story about Rodriguez deciding to make a feature film for the Spanish-speaking video rental market because he was amazed how poor the stock example was, is one of the most inspiring "first time director" moments I have ever witnessed.

Soon after seeing El Mariachi in the theatres upon its release, I bought the book penned by the director himself... "Rebel Without a Crew".

Those citizens who would love to 'break out' into movies themselves but have never done much other than talk (talk), would be wise to watch El Mariachi and read "Rebel Without a Crew". If they can't get up the gumption to pick up a camera and give it a shot after scanning the film and book, then nothing will help them.

It is highly debatable whether director Robert Rodriguez has lived up to his potential, but one thing is for sure: He started with a bang!


Just a few minutes after I woke up this morning (at 5:30) I felt a very recognizable shift in the earth. An earthquake, I thought. I got up and after firing up the Internet, there was the news story, right on there was an earth quake in the St. Louis, Missouri area. And the time was 5:35 or so. I was not imagining the earth move.

I checked periodically with the Toronto newspaper websites to see if there were any reports of other Torontonians feeling a disturbance. It took a while but eventually there was a blurb about the quake being felt in Kitchener, Ontario.

Maybe there is a fault line running through my house.

Time to rent Crack in the World again. That is a fun movie. There is the answer as to why we get the occasional tremor in Toronto.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Commenter Greg Woods smarked a response to my previous posting, GEOFF PEVERE, COMEDIAN, by stating that he has the utmost respect for the critic. I must clarify that I too hold Pevere in the highest esteem. He always approaches film criticism from more than one angle (more than the usual Toronto film critic). Pevere puts his analysis in a cultural context: This is very important in critiquing of any kind but is all too rare here, certainly amongst his peers. How many times do we see, read, or hear some critic, in a most bozonian way, raving about or trashing his or her subject and not understanding, or making us understand, from when he or she is speaking?

To top it all off, and in connection with my earlier piece, Geoff Pevere was interviewed recently on Saturday Night at the Movies about the American Western, and he encapsulated in perhaps the most eloquent and efficient way the root power and mythology of the movie type that this writer has ever witnessed. It was outstanding!

I wish I had a transcription of it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


I was going to open up this piece by saying that there is some controversy happening here in Canada regarding Ice Hockey fisticuffs. A recent minor league hockey game featured a prize-winning fight involving the son of Montreal Canadians great (goaltender) Patrick Roy. The problem with my introduction would be by simple fact that every year there is renewed argument about that important part of the world's greatest team sport.

I'm tired of watching an NHL (National Hockey League) game -- and I do not watch many of them -- and before you can say "what's up, Doc?", there is a match of knuckles between two players. (It would be like sitting down to watch an episode of The White Shadow, and Battlestar Galactica comes on, instead.) I say, throw the bums out of the game! As soon as they start goin' at it, chuck 'em! Or just eject the instigator if need be.

Can you imagine two NFL or NBA players duking it out, and then seeing them allowed back into the game after a yardage or possession penalty?

... exactly!

Monday, April 14, 2008


There is a television commercial in its thirteen-week rotation. It is for Desjardins General Insurance. As I tune out when commercials come on I did not know what this ad -- with its depictions of Zeppelins -- was for when I saw it before... two times. Well, today I decided to make a mental note as to what its purpose was.

The problem is the copywriters, or whatever they call themselves, missed the boat on this one. They make it look as though riding in large airships would be grueling. The ad does not work for this reason alone. (The people who wrote this ad probably don't know their "beeps" from a hole in the ground. And I doubt they know the difference between helium and hydrogen.)

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Just when I thought that Toronto Star critic, and star critic, Geoff Pevere fit the usual dry film critic bill, he surprised me with this during last night's interview installment of TVO's Saturday Night at the Movies: Pevere is talking of 1955's MGM feature film, Bad Day at Black Rock, when he postulates, "can you imagine a worse place to step off a train than somewhere where Ernest Borgnine, Lee Marvin, and Robert Ryan are just hanging around? I mean, that's gotta be the worst town in the world to find oneself in".

Saturday, April 12, 2008


It is rare that I am able to judge a recent show with any educated opinion, but Corner Gas is a show I have seen ten to twelve episodes of. I was forced to watch a bunch of video tapes of the show as part of a project. I say "forced" lightly... as part of a job description.

As the end credits ended (on the tenth or twelfth episode) I realized that I did not "get it". Of course, I could see what the Corner Gas producers were trying to do, but, to me, it fell limply and horribly flat.

One thing is for sure, it ain't no Green Acres.

Friday, April 11, 2008


It is always dangerous to project or predict what could happen in the future ("for that's where you and I will spend the rest of our lives").

So here it goes: Boeing is asking for trouble. They have yet again postponed deliveries of their new 787 series aircraft. The Model 787, or "Dreamliner", is fast becoming just that, a dream. (In the eyes of its designers.)

Boeing has real experience on the issue of revolutionary aircraft types. The B-29, or "Superfortress", was a new generation of flying machine back in the early-mid 1940s; not only was it large, but it incorporated the latest advances in electronics and manufacturing techniques, in addition to some new ones like getting an aircraft from paper to flying status in a short amount of time.

This is where the fun begins: The Superfortress had many, many teething problems; from the engines to mechanical issues which had to be ironed out before it could fulfill its potential -- that of new and improved and revolutionary Superbomber. It has been said that more aircrew were killed on B-29s through mechanical failure than by enemy gunfire. As WW2 was an actual war, getting bugs resolved while flying the machine in combat was an accepted reality.

Boeing has tried to do too much with just one passenger aircraft model... they should have phased in new technologies through a series of models or 787 sub-types.

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is in for some rough flying.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


I popped open Toronto's finest newspaper today and came across this article...

My posting today will consist, essentially, of a reply I made to a passionate e-mail a friend of mine sent me:

The article is very interesting, indeed. I think cable should be kept around for the simple reason it promotes some accountability on the part of the big all consuming cable operators. The whole industry is hardly grassroots anymore, as the article points out: It is an eating machine and having to produce, in-house, television operations, only affects their bottom line. To use business parlance, "it cuts into potential profits".

I too obtained valuable experience in community cable tv operations. Cable 8 in Small City, Ontario, Canada (later to become Cable 10 to align it with other services across the province) had a small studio on Main Street, complete with two Sony B&W cameras, a new Colour camera (these were all "Vidicon" tube cameras, of course), and a newly arrived Sony '2850' editing console (which excited us in its technological-ness and the fact that it cut accurately within two frames). This was 1977; the year my training began.

Times have changed, to be sure. But there is every reason to have that lab situation where young people, or any people, can access a television operation they probably pay for every month in one of those bone-crunching cable television bills.

I am not a member of cable television -- I really only watch TVO and the CBC on a regular basis -- but this only makes me more passionate about "Community Access Television".

Historically, the CRTC makes bone-headed rulings. They must decide one day to use a modicum of good or common sense.

... Don't get me going about 'Toronto 1 Television' and the Case of the Licence Peddler! (If anything or anyone should be shut down it should be the bulk of the CRTC's staff.)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


I thought I would have dinner in a local diner this evening... I'm glad I did. Not only was the bowl of Cheesies really good, but someone had left today's (Wednesday, April 9th) Toronto Star newspaper lying around: When I turned to page three, I saw the previous owner's graffiti...

Very funny.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


I always liked Charlton Heston, even considering his political leanings, and his attachment -- quite literally -- to the firearm. If you have been seeing, listening to, or reading reminiscences of Mr. Heston, you no doubt understand he was a larger-than-life personality on the big screen for many years and many epics.

One of the great screen-presences passed away this past Saturday at the age of 83.

My dad took me to see the 1962 epic extravaganza El Cid in a re-release in the late 60s. As I lived in Europe at the time, surrounded by antiquity of all kinds, the experience of this film was accentuated for this pint sized, popcorn munching movie enthusiast. The imagery was potent; helped by Charlton Heston's towering self on the over sized cinema screen.

In 1973 I watched 1968's Planet of the Apes on television with my friend Dennis and his brother John (who told us the ending at the film's beginning).

One quality of Heston's that I like is he seemed to be a friendly chap -- even to documentary filmmaker Michael Moore. In a behind-the-scenes DVD of the Planet of the Apes films, Heston talks with great authority and detail about the production of the film. He carries a smile throughout: A smile to show he was more than an actor for hire.

He seemed to genuinely enjoy what he did.

Monday, April 7, 2008


My good friend Neil has corrected me on his upcoming blog's name. (See my posting from this past Wednesday)...

"Oh, and the address is actually, and not"

Like "it is worth the drive to Acton", it is worth the wait for Neil's blog...


Last Saturday, the Montreal Canadiens hockey club walloped the Toronto Maple Leafs in NHL hockey action. (These run-up-to-the-playoffs are exciting.)

As my favourite team is the Canadiens and my least favourite is the Leafs, watching last night's game was my own version of the "whips and chains".

Saturday, April 5, 2008


I used to work at a film company that had its own personal copy of Ralph Bakshi's 1978 animated feature film, The Lord of the Rings. Up on a shelf were a row of hexagonal metal film cans; the kind that tend to harbour motion picture release prints. I asked my boss (and owner) how they came in possession of this movie. He explained something about it being left and forgotten.

Being the curious little bugger I can be -- and with a little help from "down time" -- I took a can, popped it open and extracted a reel. I then carefully wound out several feet of film on a 'rewind bench'. After some detailed analysis, I realized that this print was in very fine shape.

Now that I think about it, I cannot believe that I did not borrow the cans... with my boss's permission, of course. Little did I know that e-bay would explode and I would be able to offer -- illegally -- a good quality print of "the animated Lord of the Rings movie".

Thursday, April 3, 2008


You are forgiven if you think I am speaking of our own Earth when I title this piece, "Fantastic Planet". What I am in fact referring to is the 1973 animated fantasy film directed by Rene Laloux and produced in Czechoslovakia. I first saw this jewel back in 1977 on late night television. My admiration for Fantastic Planet started then and has continued unabated. A few years ago it was released on DVD in wide screen format. It was nice to see the film the way it would have played in theatres. On this particular DVD were both the North American dubbed release (as brought over by Roger Corman and his New World Pictures outfit) and the original French language version, La Planete sauvage. Even though language translation over-dubbing of movies is often nothing short of noxious, I admit that it is well done in this case -- animated film, maybe? (There are some recognizable voices, too.)

Much of Planet's success comes from the pen and paintbrush of French surrealist Roland Topor. He essentially produces a graphic nightmare; or at least the kind of dream you might have after downing a bad Big Mac before hitting the hay.

My "public domain" VHS copy got a play last night and... my opinion has not changed. Time to get the DVD wide-screen copy. I am not an avid collector of DVDs since I would rather save the money and rent, instead. But Fantastic Planet is one of those few which is exempt: I could watch it more than enough times it would take to pay off the DVD purchase price.

Here is the North American release trailer for Fantastic Planet...

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


A friend of mine is ready to fire up his own blog...

I eagerly await his always funny take on all things film/television and pop culture. Make sure you check out the link from time to time.

Again, I eagerly await... or is it "await eagerly"?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


I went into the main Toronto HMV store (downtown) last evening. My Lordy, is that place expensive. Now that Sam the Record Man is safely gone...

I knew that would happen. It does not take a rocket scientist to see where the price indexing was going at HMV. In all fairness, they have a few good deals on feature films; but the 'TV on DVD' pricing is out of this world! If you want to buy old or new series television on the shiny disc, check out Bay Street Video before you venture into HMV -- if you have to at all. There are some good chains down near HMV which offer better pricing.

Now I know why I rarely visit that place.

Bay Street Video website...