Monday, March 30, 2009


Composer Maurice Jarre conducts a suite of his music from David Lean's 1965 film Dr. Zhivago...


Two nights ago I was leafing through my book on David Lean ("David Lean", written by historian Kevin Brownlow) and read a passage on composer Maurice Jarre. Mr. Jarre wrote very memorable and classic scores for the director, including Lawrence of Arabia and Dr. Zhivago. "Lara's Theme" from the latter film became a huge international hit.

It was bound to happen. You think or read about someone and within hours or a few days you hear they have just died.

Maurice Jarre was not as consistent as some, so he was not reintroduced to the public the way someone like John Williams is (although this is more due to repetition and Spielberg therefore duplication). But, as Jarre said, there are not the filmmakers today who understand film scoring like those of yesteryear: David Lean and the composer enjoyed a fruitful relationship because the director allowed Jarre to breathe, often bringing him in earlier in the production to work on the score. Very often it's about who you team up with, what the particular project is, and what the mood in film scoring happens to be at the time.

I also understand that trackies* tend to not like Maurice Jarre as a lot of his scores don't constantly smack you over the head when you are just listening to them on their own, away from the movie (picture).

Mr. Jarre was also a prolific composer for the concert hall.

(* Trackies: Those who listen to film scores somewhat obsessively away from the film with little or no interest to how the music relates to the visual element.)

Toronto Star obit...

Saturday, March 28, 2009


As reported by Bill Harris of the Toronto Sun, the CBC has cancelled the always iffy series Sophie. I agree with the writer when he says that actress Natalie Brown is a talented and attractive star who was not supported by the material. This is very typical, however, and it is not a Canadian thing. Look at how many times the U.S. television networks have known they possess someone of special note and support them by placing and replacing the actor in question into one series after another until something (hopefully) floats.

I remember when Canadian actor Art Hindle was called 'the king of the unsold pilots'.

The story...

Friday, March 27, 2009


Faced with a large budget shortfall, the CBC is doing what any corporation would do: Make cuts across the board. However this must be done with some thought and certainly not slapdash. It looks as though the Ceeb is getting a little carried away as evidenced in cuts to current affairs series such as The Fifth Estate and Marketplace. (There are more but I feel that those two programs show the very corruption of reason in the 'company'.) First of all such fare is relatively cheap to produce compared to the drama shows, like Little Mosque on the Prairie and Being Erica, which are, granted, being forced to trim the number of episodes produced, but the CBC, again, demonstrates how they do so little correctly.

And what, just what, is The Hour still doing on the air?!


Globe and Mail story...


Peter Howell, of the Toronto Star, wrote this interesting bit today...

Monday, March 23, 2009


What the dickens is going on with the movie Watchmen? It has made only 98 million dollars in total and was fifth in ranking this past weekend. (It's a list, I know.)

That 98 million translates to about 45 bills being returned to the producing studio. Folks, this is bad news as the reality is movies like Watchmen are supposed to be the 'tent-pole' pictures; the money gatherers so smaller and riskier films can be made. To tell you the truth, whoever thought that Watchmen was a sure fire winner needs their head examined. Iconic branding is so important in any calculation of potential or expected box office receipts.

Let's face it, Ma and Pa Kettle would say Superman, yes; Batman, yes; Watchmen... who is he?

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Further to my post below, here is my friend's priceless response to my e-mail...

"I must concur. In the animation industry there's groups of guys who work their collective asses off to make a short animated film...and they look great BUT it's always battling-robots!"

Saturday, March 21, 2009


A friend of mine sent this link my way...

It is a short film done for $500, or so claim the Canadian producers, titled Escape from City 17.

As I replied to my friend via e-mail, "Very impressive, technically. My only issue is the filmmakers, like so many out there, are just copying what they have seen many times before. And what we have all seen many times before. If they were smart, they would have done something more 'original'. There is no voice; no vision".

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Many folk are incensed that American insurance company AIG accepted over 170 billion dollars in bailout money only to turn around and award a total of 165 million in green bills as bonuses to fools within. There is humour in this story, however: Apparently, the corporation formerly known as American International Group, Inc (AIG), now stands for "Arrogance, Incompetence, and Greed".

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


It was one of those junky "news" headlines that permeate the Internet. This one caught my eye: "Britney Spears Forced to Read the Bible Every Day."

After I clicked on the link and read the piece in great detail, I realized that a certain nasty rumour going around was not even mentioned... Britney Spears cannot read so she will be listening to the 'Bible on Audio-tape' version read by Slim Pickens.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Is it just me or is comedian Rick Mercer not funny?! Yes, I know his CBC show The Rick Mercer Report is consistently a ratings winner with over one million viewers each week (which are very impressive numbers for the Mother Corp). But he is not funny. Facts are facts. I remember saying, almost in passing, to a friend over the phone a couple of years ago, "That guy (Mercer) is not funny". All I heard over the phone in response to my bold opinion was, "Thank you... thank you... thank you". I had struck a nerve.

I do admit I like Mercer's political rant; the one where he starts at the end of an alley, gesticulating as he propels with some speed down it's length, and back again. The very idea of mocking some Canadian politician, or incongruity within the Canadian political system, does carry much merit. But other than that, I do not find the man the least bit humorous.

Sorry, sitting strategically naked on a rock is not inherently funny.

... Unless you're Woody Allen.

(Caption for above photo: "Barry Smight doesn't think I'm funny. I'm finished!")


While the link I provided below, to a certain clip on Youtube, is no secret, watching it again made me realize this notorious sports flub only confirms that ice hockey is the world's most exciting team sport; even if this is not something you would see in every game...


I watched the television animated series Clone Wars tonight... one episode, at least. While I have seen an installment or two before on tape, this was the first time my attention was engaged; must be the watching-live thing.

What a total waste of time. As Globe and Mail writer John Doyle might say, "Crap!". The animation is terribly uninteresting, with surfaces, including skin, metal, plastic, and sand, all coming across with a super-matte finish. Where is the glossy enamel look? Isn't R2-D2 a little shiny in places? It's as though everything is painted using flat colours and then given a once over with Krylon [TM] matte spray. Clone Wars is an ugly looking show with a narrative about as interesting as one of Fred Flintstone's home movies.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009


George Lucas is beginning to cast his Star Wars live action television series. Since I am fluent in "Smitese", I should get my agent to toss my name the creator's way.

National Post story...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


I have a question for the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation): With The Hour getting such abysmal ratings -- 30,000 viewers per show nationwide (eek) -- why do you refuse to do some important retooling? For one, get rid of George Stroumboulopoulos and replace him with someone else. I could offer some names of my own, but this is a good time to audition. Re-tooling worked on your 'afternoon show' when you replaced The Gil Deacon Show with Steven and Chris. Gil Deacon was bad, primarily because the titular host was not comfortable in front of a camera... "Not a natural" is how a friend of mine put it. You kept the same basic idea but changed hosts. Even though I do not watch the show -- I have seen bits -- it is clear that Steven and Chris are a huge improvement.

Stroumbo does not always look comfortable interviewing guests. He appears to struggle in order to keep up with some of them, especially the more "intellectual" types, and, at times, he just embarrasses himself.

Make a move!

Monday, March 9, 2009


The CBC is showing Neil Simon's The Goodbye Girl (1977) as I write this. Two interesting things about this movie: It does not feel like a play. I got the impression way back that every time I turned around a movie was struck from a play from either Neil Simon or Bernard Slade, and more often than not the celluloid version betrayed the source. If you've seen 1981's Only When I Laugh, you will know what I mean. The other interesting thing is everybody looks so young. Richard Dreyfuss, Marsha Mason, and Paul Benedict. I checked the Internet Movie Database (imdb) just to see when these jokers entered this world. The entry for Paul Benedict gave a date of death as December 1, 2008. I did not realize he had died.

It's a shame that we remember him most for his role as the British neighbour to The Jeffersons, for he is memorable in The Goodbye Girl.

Internet Movie Database entry for Paul Benedict...

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Last week I watched a small feature film from 2000 by the name of George Washington. It was an interesting film but was nothing new then or now; and certainly not for all tastes. The cast was very good, and natural. A friend of mine told me that he fell asleep after about an hour. (He missed the last half hour.)

I finally got around to seeing Juno last night. A fine, fine film. And deserving of the accolades it received when it was released in late 2007.

What I liked is that Juno -- the film -- did not get too "sweetie-pie" on us. Films of this nature have a tendency, I find, to fall victim to that malady. Only in the very last shot did this almost happen: 'two characters' play their guitars and sing to one another; they finish and kiss; and the track team runs by. A certifiable Sweetie-pie moment... almost.


I recently saw an advert for the new made-for-tv CBC movie Diverted. To be honest, it came across as one of those mock-ads that SCTV used to do so well.

The full length version runs on the CBC at 8 p.m. tonight. Hopefully it does not come across as classic SCTV.

Friday, March 6, 2009


Daylight Savings Time is back on this coming weekend. When I heard the news I thought, "already?". And it's 16 degrees (Celsius or 60 Fahrenheit) in Toronto today as I write this.

Just heard the news that unemployment has reached 8.1% in the U.S. with over 600,000 jobs being lost last month alone. Geez, I guess there really is a recession. I understand some economists are thinking of pulling the "D" word out of the barn. The latch is being greased...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Television columnists can be the worst. If I were paid a nickel for every time I read -- from one of these jokers -- the words "cheesy" and "smart", often used as key words in critiquing, I would be a rich dude. Unfortunately, this moderately intelligent reader does not garner much from the liberal use of those words in a 'review'.

Even though I still have not seen the new CBC show Being Erica, this review and analysis, by Mr. Bill Harris of the Toronto Sun, rings true in addition to being balanced about the state of affairs with television drama in general...


I awoke this morning to the news that three more Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan. No surprise. The story is the Taliban (if it's them) are refocusing and modifying their plans. Oh, really? The way you have to look at it is that the Taliban (or whoever it is) could be looking at this like it's a big game; fun, in fact. Why wouldn't they? It's their game to play. They call the shots.

What's unfortunate in the end run -- and that's what it is, an endless run -- is that these soldiers' deaths are all for nothing: Our troops and those of other nations, stationed in Afghanistan, are accomplishing a big... fat... nothing!

Oh, and don't forget to watch Don Cherry tear up on Hockey Night in Canada this coming Saturday evening.

Monday, March 2, 2009


Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated during an interview on CNN that the war against the Taliban and insurgents in Afghanistan is not a winnable war. He is right. Mr. Harper basically admitted he was in error to believe the opposite for so long. Good for him. He also said during this television interview that he has been reading up on history in that country, which has helped educate him as to the complexities involved, not to mention the British and Soviets trying to gain and maintain control to great and spectacular failure.

I scanned the (very right wing) Toronto Sun newspaper today and could not find one iota of text on this sobering admission from Canada's conservative leader.

Why am I not surprised?

I just read that Canada's 'opposition' parties are giving Stephen Harper a hard time for his about-face. Why?! Need the Prime Minister apologize?!


Here is a good article covering the demise of VHS and the film 'catalogue' it sustained...

When VHS (and Betamax) came out in the mid 1970s the excitement it generated started a crash program of dumping just about everything to the format. Very often, 16mm projection prints were pulled out of their cans and transferred on a simple telecine chain so as to be releasable in order to quell the insatiable appetite for "movies, movies, movies". (Projection prints are optimized to be placed in front of a film projector's xenon lamp, not a low-power telecine machine bulb.) The bigger studio films generally got a better transfer via a Flying-Spot Scanner off of 35mm elements since the extra cost was well warranted due to their anticipated performance in the marketplace, but the public, certainly all the new and old movie fans, also wanted older pictures and more obscure ones. Many smaller or micro distributors -- like Toronto based Admit One -- popped up and made a living releasing so-called cult titles. It was a good time.

What is happening now, and this is discussed in the story I linked above, is a lot (read: Shit load) of movies released during the 'great dumping over to video tape period', have not got the same treatment for the DVD format. Certainly things have gotten better over the years, and a welcome swing away from the seemingly exclusive (relatively recent) mainstream-crap-only stream, but the fact is a huge chunk of titles will never see the light of the shiny disc, a format, I might add which is in its last few years of existence as the big thing. (Blu-ray sales have leveled off to rather unimpressive numbers but something will give, sometime.) It costs a fair bit to properly master something for DVD or Blu-ray; and in the latter's case, unless a particular film survives in excellent condition in order to work as a Hi-Def performance piece then, as that major studio piggy once said, "That's all folks!".

Sunday, March 1, 2009


As much as I like Barack Obama, I questioned his speech detailing the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Details are important and columnist Eric Margolis -- expert on the 'region' -- shows them for what they are: Revealing.

Margolis also covers the issue of bringing those responsible for starting the war (invasion and occupation) to justice.

The story...