Thursday, February 11, 2016

The (New) Shame List

The original "shame list" was written back in April 2008, detailing the many classic (or at least notable) films that I'd somehow never seen, despite my self-professed status as the King Of Cinema.  It was a pretty lengthy list, and after almost eight years of trying...uh, well, it's still pretty long. 

In fact, in eight years, the list has only been shortened by eight movies: Aliens, Godfather 2, The Hustler, North by Northwest, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Rocky IV, Say Anything, Sunset Boulevard.  I have to credit my pal Kyle for his help in cutting this total down, as he's always kept that old shame list post in the back of his mind, so whenever I make my annual visit to his place, our tradition is to watch one or two movies from this list.  Just a couple of weeks ago, I got to cross off Aliens and Rocky IV.

The other problem with the 'shame list' is that by its very nature, it's bound to keep growing.  So I have not only the movies from the vintage list that I've still yet to see, I also have another secondary list of 'to-watch' films on a text file on my computer.  So at this rate, I'll be wrapped up with this project by the time the 22nd century rolls around.  Here's both the original and the new lists, and feel free to drop your mouth open in shock at how I've somehow gone my entire life letting some of these movies clip through the cracks. 

The African Queen, Amadeus, The Apartment, Apocalypse Now, The Bad News Bears (the original)
Ben-Hur, The Breakfast Club, Bridge on the River Kwai, Bull Durham, Cool Hand Luke, Das Boot
Dog Day Afternoon, The English Patient, The Exorcist, Godfather Part III, Gone With The Wind, The Goonies, The Great Dictator, Hamlet (the Olivier version and the Mel Gibson version), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Rocky II, Rocky III, Schindler's List, The Sound of Music, Stand By Me, Toy Story II

Glengarry Glen Ross, King Of Kong, The English Patient, Crying Game, Atlantic City, My Favourite Year, Paths Of Glory, Spanish Prisoner, Kicking and Screaming, Rebecca, Thin Man, Cache, Zodiac, Modern Romance, Primer, Dead Again, The Iron Giant, Not Fade Away, The Long Goodbye, Cassandra's Dream, Hot Rod, The Limey, Before Sunrise trilogy, Worricker Trilogy, I Saw The Devil, Barton Fink, Murder By Death, Tales Of The Script, MASH

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Random Nonsense


I spent a few minutes thinking about how old Tilda Swinton is, made my guess, looked it up, and was off by 10 years.

**************

The Broncos have won about 10 games this year by keeping the score close, counting on their great defense, and getting just enough out of their craptastic offense to pull out a sloppy victory.  If you look at the Super Bowl winners carried by great defenses, this year’s Broncos are certainly a cut below the ’86 Bears, 2000 Ravens, 2014 Seahawks, the 70’s Steelers — but they might be the equal or better of the 2002 Buccaneers or the 2003 Patriots.

So the question is, are the Panthers better than the 2002 Raiders or the 2003, uh, Panthers?  I have to say clearly yes, since those teams didn’t have a singular weapon like Cam Newton.  Let’s not overlook the fact that Carolina is a whopping 17-1, and they’ve really had only a few games that were even close.  On paper, this seems like it could be a blowout, and it’s not hard to imagine Peyton Manning being as shellshocked by Carolina’s defense (no slouches themselves) just as Carson Palmer was two weeks ago, or as Russell Wilson was in the first half three weeks ago.  Never forget, Peyton Manning is a mediocre-to-lousy postseason quarterback, and that was when he was at the peak of his powers.  Shell-of-himself Peyton has been playing with house money for two weeks and it could come crashing down against the Panthers as it did against the Seahawks in Super Bowl 48.

Since Denver keeps it close even in the worst of times, I have to predict a close game, but ultimately it’s still a Panthers victory.  Call it a 25-14 score for Carolina.

****************

I really ran quite the gamut of emotions watching the “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies” trailer.  My first, third, and fifth thoughts were, “wait, they’re taking this seriously?”  My second thought was that seeing Charles Dance play an actual supportive father is even more off-putting than seeing the zombies.  My fourth thought was that apparently Jane Austen’s original novel actually included a big zombie attack subplot, but William Goldman convinced her to just focus on the love story.

**************

Vulture’s list of the most influential jokes in history is pretty solid, if with a few notable omissions.  I mean, if you’re citing numerous sitcoms already, how do you leave off “as god as witness, I thought turkeys could fly?”  And nothing at all, not even one of Norm’s one-liners, from Cheers?

If you had to include only one Simpsons joke, however, Homer’s two falls into Springfield Gorge is the best possible choice.  The first time I ever saw that episode, at 10 or 11 years old, stands as one of the single hardest laughs of my life.  I’m honestly not sure I’ve ever laughed more at anything.  That said, if I had to pick the best Simpsons joke based on sheer cleverness…. 



Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Arrivederci, John

With a certain foodie friend recently visiting Toronto, we were in need of a good place to eat.  My first instinct was to….suggest a chain restaurant that I had a gift card for, since I’m cheap.  But my second instinct was to suggest my old standby of John’s Italian Caffe, a quaint little Italian place in Baldwin Village that’s arguably my favourite Toronto restaurant.

Since my friend Jo (also coming to dinner) has food allergies, I went online to send her the menu to look it over.  It was then that I discovered that John’s has been closed (!) for almost a year (!!), in a complete whaaaaaaaaaat?! moment.  So okay, fair point that if it was really my “favourite Toronto restaurant,” I probably should’ve been going more than once a year.  Still, I thought I had time!  I never expected it would be a Homer-doesn’t-meet-Mr. T-at-the-mall situation. 

My last visit to John’s took place in the summer of 2014 when I had lunch with my friend Lori, which ended up unwittingly putting a thematic bow on my John’s experience since Lori was the one who introduced me to the restaurant in the first place.  Since then, I think I’ve been there with pretty much all of my Toronto crew at one time or another.  Hell, I even took my mom there when she and her retired teacher friends made their annual trip to the city on the first day of school (a.k.a. the “Ha Ha, We’re Retired, We Get To Avoid The Madness, Suckers!” trip).

If pressed to name something truly special about John’s, I’d say what made the place unique was that it simply delivered on every element, rather than have one clear drawing point.  Nice location, very nice patio, not too big a restaurant yet also not too small, a general “this looks like pretty much every Italian restaurant ever” decor, fine menu and GREAT pizza.  That quickly became my go-to order pretty much every time I went to the place, though still, from what others told me, you couldn’t go wrong with much else on the menu.  Maybe the generic “John’s” name really said it all — this was no-frills but man, was it ever good.

So with a tip of the cap to John’s, I’m now in need of another favourite Toronto restaurant.  I’m open to suggestions, with the current leading candidate being the Swiss Chalet up near Bloor and Sherbourne.  I’m, uh, not a varied eater.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Classics

This is awesome on many levels, especially for a former piano student like me.  Grade 8 and first two theory levels, baby!  This is so well-structured that the addition of the few modern/semi-pop numbers generated legit laughter from me.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Cineplex Snowman


Since I go to the movies as often as I have hot meals, I’ve seen Cineplex’s pre-movie “Lily & The Snowman” commercial roughly 3828 times in the last two months.  In fact, not only have I had the ad itself burned into my brain, I’ve also seen the “making of” clip they’ve aired during the preshow commercials in January.  Cineplex can’t stop patting itself on the back for this ad…this monstrous monstrous ad.

So, this little girl creates a snowman that comes to life.  The icing on the cake of this already-insane miracle is that the snowman can somehow project incredibly lifelike films using only its hands and reflected light.  In order to keep this creature alive, Lily stashes him away inside the freezer in her parents’ garage.  Now, this is a practical measure since, y’know, the snowman is a snowman, but by all appearances Lily then leaves him in there, assuming that he doesn’t require any sustenance or interpersonal interaction.  (Then again, for all I know, the snowman can communicate with the frost caked on the inside of the freezer.  How would I know, this is a phenomenon beyond the limits of human experience, I’m grasping at straws here.)

Lily does visit the snowman again, and while the montage implies that she only lets him out once per year, I’m willing to believe that she’s releasing him more often than that.  Of course, Lily apparently has neglectful parents that somehow don’t realize that their young daughter is spending all-nighters in the backyard in the freezing cold.  Hell, for that matter, it’s pretty implausible that neither parent ever goes to the icebox even once over the years and notices the goddamn living snowman, but sure, whatever.  Maybe the unwritten message here is that Lily is watching her movies to escape a living hell of a home life —- while she frolics with her snowman buddy, her alcoholic dad is in a drunken stupor on the couch, leaving the TV on and thus creating the light that leads to the snowman’s projections in the first place.

So eventually, Lily starts to ignore her snowman, as shown as the universally-recognized anti-millennial trope of a teenager gabbing away on her phone.  Teenagers can be blasé about many things, granted, but keep in mind that she’s now ignoring a LIVING FILM PROJECTOR OF A SNOWMAN IN HER FREEZER. 

The years go by and the commercial involves into true horror — Lily just straight-up leaves the snowman in there to rot for years and years.  How long, exactly?  I’d guess a bare minimum of six years for “phone Lily” to become “harried working mother” Lily and that would be presuming that she was already pregnant during her phone call (“omigod, you’ll never guess what, I’m late!”) and her own daughter is six years old.  I’m guesstimating six since Lily’s daughter looks roughly the same age as Lily was when her godless abomination of a snowman first arose to tragic life.  So that’s six years minimum, but man, you could easily argue it’s anywhere within the 10-20 year range. 

By the time frazzled Work Lily spills her coffee, she’s apparently completely forgotten about the MIRACLE OF CREATION AND EVIDENCE OF MAGIC THROUGHOUT THE UNIVERSE living in her icebox.  Again, maybe, just maaaaaybe I could buy that Lily’s gotten a bit tired of the experience.  I mean, maybe the snowman’s films aren’t very good.  Are we supposed to believe these are originals?  You’d have to think so, since it would be hilarious if Cineplex was advertising the idea of pirating movies.  In any case, maybe the snowman’s films are aimed at younger audiences and as Lily grows up, she has the uncomfortable realization that these movies are pretty weak.  It’s essentially the same reaction I had a few years back when I caught an old G.I. Joe episode on Teletoon. 

Even if Lily has outgrown the movies, however, that’s really no excuse for blithely forgetting the snowman’s existence altogether.  For instance, when she finally goes to release the creature, she moves a bunch of stuff out of the way to get to the icebox.  Now, I’m extrapolating from this that Lily bought her parents’ old house and is living there herself now, as evidenced by the montage of junk piling up in the garage over the years — had new owners moved in, that garage would’ve been cleaned.  Since Lily was taking over the house herself, her deadbeat parents probably didn’t even bother cleaning their junk out beforehand.  Or, another theory: the deadbeat parents are dead of alcohol poisoning and/or liver failure and Lily received the house in the will to raise her child from a possible teenage pregnancy.  Again, this commercial is supposed to be a feel-good Christmas ad.  My point is that since we see stuff get piled up in front of the icebox, Lily really should’ve clued in and thought of the snowman AT SOME POINT in all the years of his entombment.  I mean, she’s been in the garage within the 6-20 year span, right?  She may have been so self-involved as to ignore the snowman once on the phone but that kept on going for as many as two decades?! 

The Geneva Convention should come down on Lily like a ton of bricks.  And the worst part is, when Lily finally releases him, he SMILES in a classic case of Stockholm Syndrome.  This poor creature may not have had the cognizant awareness to realize what was happening to it.  I suppose if you left a dog alone for years and then returned to it, the animal could still recognize you and be friendly.  Of course, if you left a dog in your goddamn fridge for years, you’d be rightfully thrown in jail for wanton animal cruelty.  Again, this commercial is supposed to be a feel-good Christmas ad!  Replace the snowman with a dog and this is the most horrific thing Cineplex has ever shown on its screens, and that includes all of the Saw movies, the Paranormal Activity movies and Mark Wahlberg’s “The Gambler.”

This poor snowman then returns to its captive state, showing movies to Lily and her daughter like nothing had happened.  If these movies are original creations, I wonder if the snowman ever included plots about a hero being trapped in captivity for years and years, leading Lily to nervously tug on her collar.

So, this was Cineplex’s heartwarming Christmas message.  The movies are all about forcing a miracle to do your bidding, or how it’s cool to keep a sentient being locked away for years with no repercussions.  The message is also apparently about how fun it is to enjoy movies at your house and not at a theatre, so Cineplex is apparently endorsing Netflix.  Oops.  Maybe the new slang term for spending a night in to watch movies provided by your miraculous living snowman is "Cineplex & Chill"

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Mark And The Amazing Toque-Nicolour...

Big news in the world of my head, as I recently purchased a Raptors toque.  My collection of toques is now up to seven, which means that if I wanted to (and you better BELIEVE I want to), I could wear a different toque on each day of the week.  A rotation of haberdashery, if you will.

Also, I seem to have unintentionally created a rainbow of headwear for myself.  I now own a....

* red toque (Raptors)
* blue toque (Blue Jays)
* green toque (Packers)
* mostly yellow toque (Packers)
* yellow-green-white toque (Packers...I should note that these Green Bay toques were all Christmas gifts, as even I would find it excessive to buy three different toques in support of the same team.)
* black toque (my 'winter is coming' Game Of Thrones hat)
* grey toque (my plain hat that looks not unlike the kind worn by the Edge, which was intentional)

I'm only a few colours away from being a regular Roy G. Biv.  I guess I could get a purple toque in honour of my alma mater, though Western's taken so much of my money that I'm hesitant to give them another dime.  (Donation letters and e-mails make me laugh and laugh and laugh.)  Not sure what chain of events would lead me to buying an orange toque.  I do like orange juice, at least.  That would actually be a pretty hilarious answer to hear from somebody about their clothing choices:

"Nice orange toque."
"Thanks!  I love orange juice."

Why a Raptors toque, you may ask?  Well, it looked kinda cool.  Drake and I do share a birthday, and all.  My grandma attended a Raptors preseason game years ago and the team's PR staff really went out of their way to show her a good time; moved her seats closer to the floor, got her pictures and autographs with several players, etc.  If this team is so kind to my grandmother, the least I can do is buy a toque out of appreciation.  This isn't to say that all of my toques were purchased due to some family association.  House Stark has never done anything for my grandma --- she wasn't even invited to Robb's wedding.  (Wait...)

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Packers Postmortem

The COIN didn’t FLIP.

You know, it’s no secret that I wasn’t expecting much from the Packers in this game.  I didn’t even expect them to beat Washington last week, nor (realistically) did I really expect that much from the 2015-16 campaign the moment that Jordy Nelson blew out his knee in the preseason.  So really, just the fact that they got to the second round of the playoffs is awfully impressive.

That being said….ugggghhhhhhhhh.  Are you kidding me?  I would’ve much rather Green Bay just lost by 20 points and gotten the misery over with than suffer yet another excruciating overtime playoff loss.  And the way this one ended, my god, the roller-coaster.  Going from the literally unreal ecstasy of that improbable Hail Mary (the Packers’ second Hail Mary TD in two months!) to the idiocy of the non-flipping coin to the defense’s inexplicable decision to not double-cover LARRY BY GOD FITZGERALD….it was too much.  I was texting multiple friends throughout the game and my phone’s battery died just as overtime began.  By the time I got home and got it charged again, I had 4-5 messages wondering if I wasn’t responding to texts because I’d thrown my phone against a wall in anger, or perhaps if I’d simply spontaneously combusted.  (In either case, really, not sure why they’d be expecting a return text.)

The Hail Mary underlined just how winnable a game this seemed to be for Green Bay, since a few things were revealed about the Cardinals.  Firstly, Carson Palmer has had so little playoff exposure over his long career that I think people may have just assumed he’d be his usual self in the biggest games; with some of the off-target passes he threw on Saturday, that may well not be the case.  Secondly, losing the Honey Badger has thrown a much bigger wrench than anticipated into Arizona’s defense.  (Not that this mattered too much for the Packers, as once Randall Cobb got injured, their receiving corps was down to the practice squad and maybe a few guys from the stands.  Having Patrick Peterson cover James Jones was like using a rocket launcher on a mosquito.)  You can certainly argue that the Pack were lucky in the closing seconds, yet the Cardinals weren’t any less fortunate to manage their go-ahead touchdown on a lucky bounce.

Now, I realize I may not be the most impartial source on this given that my team has had back-to-back gut-punch overtime playoff losses on the first possession.  But really, NFL, why not adjust the rule so that both teams get a possession in overtime?  You’ve already gone halfway with the “game ends on a TD but not a field goal” adjustment, so why not so the whole nine yards?  The league tweaks its rules to help offense every season, yet when it comes to deciding games, they’re content to have a partial sudden-death system that allows teams (or star quarterbacks) to see their seasons end without ever getting a chance with the ball.  It makes zero sense.  It would be like if tennis decided tiebreakers by only giving one player a chance to serve.  It would be like if MLB decided extra innings by saying a game could end on a homer in the top of the 10th, but if a team only scored a regular run, it would go to the bottom of the 10th.  It would be like if the NFL ended overtime games with only one team getting a possession if they scored a TD….that’s right, this rule is so dumb that it’s its own absurd analogy!

Of course, the Packers may well have won that coin toss had it not been for the fact that the referee somehow managed to flip a coin without flipping it.  The Packers won the unflipped call, yet since the damn thing didn’t make even a single rotation in the air (how is this possible?), it had to be re-flipped and the Cardinals got possession.  Right then and there, you knew karma had turned back on Arizona’s side.  If there was ever a doubt that NFL referees don’t know what they’re doing, that about sums it up.  Who would’ve thought the refs in this State Farm ad wouldn’t be the most incompetent crew Aaron Rodgers would encounter this season?

Two big take-aways from this game…
* Green Bay needs to heavily invest in wide receivers this offseason.  Davonte Adams should be cut.  Jones should be cut.  If Cobb’s struggles this year weren’t due to injury, you might even explore cutting him too.  The Packers only seem to invest in a big free agent once per decade, though if the Lions end up cutting Calvin Johnson, I would be all over that like stink on a hog.  Perhaps playing for a real franchise would re-ignite Johnson’s love of the game and keep him from retiring.

* Arizona is suddenly looking kind of shaky rather than looking like a Super Bowl contender.  Squeaked by the Packers here and blown out by the Seahawks in Week 17…that doesn’t bode too well for them facing the Panthers or Seattle again next week, or even facing New England/Pittsburgh/Denver in the Super Bowl.

And finally, there’s one bright side to this Packers defeat.  Next week, I’l be making my annual trip up to visit my buddy Kyle and his family.  For each of the last THREE YEARS, this trip has coincided with my watching the Packers get eliminated from the playoffs from the comfort of Kyle’s living room.  Since I wouldn’t have been bullish on Green Bay’s chances next week against Seattle or Carolina, there was a solid chance that this hellish streak of bad luck at Kyle’s place could’ve continued for a Bills-esque fourth year.  I did joke with Kyle that if it happened again, I’d burn his house to the ground, so it’s fortunate for all that that was avoided (since I wasn’t joking). 

Friday, January 15, 2016

(Unexpected) NFL Playoff Picks

* Arizona over Green Bay
Well, here’s a post I didn’t plan on writing.  As I said last week, I’d predict the rounds of the NFL playoffs as long as the Packers were involved, fully expecting them to lose to Washington.  Instead, Green Bay played its best overall game in months, laying the smack down on Washington and advancing to Arizona.  Even the first quarter and half was the same stultifying Packers offense we’ve become sadly used to in recent weeks until they seemed to just flip a switch and suddenly looked like the smoothly-run offense of old.  I’m not complaining at all, I’m just surprised.

Well, maybe complaining a *bit* since a first-round exit might’ve gotten Mike McCarthy closer to fired, but c’est la vie.  I’m certainly not expecting another upset this week.  Whereas Washington was a pretty flawed team, the Cardinals have been destroying teams all season, including the Packers themselves in Week 16.  A rested, prepared Arizona club should have little trouble dispatching the Packers, and right now, the Cards are my pick to take the Super Bowl.

* Carolina over Seattle
That’s right, I’m continuing to disrespect the Panthers by already having Arizona take the NFC, so tough break, 15-1 team.  At least I’m giving Carolina the duke over Seattle when seemingly everyone is expecting the Panthers to fold.  It seems a little too simple to just assume the Seahawks have gone into kill-mode and will roll through the Panthers, especially since it’ll be Seattle’s third road game in as many weeks, they played in Arctic conditions last week in Minnesota, and (not to be ignored) they barely won that game.  I’m not ready to crown the Seahawks just yet, especially when Carolina has been so good all year.

* New England over Kansas City

Man, part of me reaaaaalllly wants me to take the Chiefs here.  When you have a random Team A who’s won 11 straight games facing a Team B who’s been decimated by injuries, I think most would take the former…but here, Team A is coached by Andy Reid and Team B is the dynasty of the 21st century.  I feel like New England’s defense might keep KC enough in check that it won’t completely matter that Gronkowski, Edelman, literally every offensive lineman and even Brady himself are all some degree of banged up.  Then again, predicting something like a 14-10 game is also difficult since if it’s low-scoring, the Chiefs could just as easily come out on top.  Arghhhhh

* Denver over Pittsburgh

I’m chickening out and just taking the home teams in every matchup, looks like.  Boo to me for my lack of intestinal fortitude.  I would’ve certainly considered Pittsburgh had a) Antonio Brown been playing or b) if Roethlisberger wasn’t the walking wounded.  Even if it comes down to a Manning vs. Roethlisberger battle of who’s in worse shape, I’ll take Osweiler over Landry Jones in a battle of the backups if it comes to that.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Oscar Nomination Reactions

It’s another eight-movie field for Best Picture, as the Academy’s weird and byzantine voting procedures that guarantee “between five and 10” Picture nominees have again rolled a snowman.  Still, at least we can take solace in the fact that this year’s field is streets ahead of last year’s disappointing octet.  Birdman was an excellent movie and deserving winner but overall, the 2014 Best Picture field was a stinkeroo.

Not the case this year.  Some thoughts on the Oscar nominees….

* I haven’t seen the Revenant yet and Bridge Of Spies was a wholly disappointing bore.  The other six Best Picture nominees, however, all range from very good to great.  If Revenant is as good as others seem to believe it is, this is one of the stronger BP fields in recent memory.

* And “Mad Max: Fury Road” was nominated!  Despite all the critics’ awards and recognition the film received, part of me still feared the Academy would snub it since it’s SO not an “Academy movie.”  Highly well-deserved honour for George Miller and company.

* The question now is whether Mad Max has a shot at actually winning, and I’m tending to think no.  Best Picture is probably a three-horse race between Spotlight, Revenant and the Big Short, since while the Academy liked ‘Room,’ it strikes me as too small a film to actually win.  (I’m probably safe in writing off the chances of Brooklyn, Bridge Of Spies and the Martian since those films didn’t rack up the usually all-important corresponding Best Director nomination.)  That being said, MM:FR clearly has a ton of popular support behind it since it’s made it this far, so what the hell, why not think big and hope it can go all the way.  If there’s a significant “science fiction/action movie/genre picture” voting bloc within the Academy, they can mobilize their votes behind MM:FR now that Martian or Star Wars aren’t factors.

* I’m still not sure if Spotlight is the new “Up In The Air” (the assumed favourite that just fades away as the Oscar season goes on and other movies step up) or if it’s the quiet consensus favourite that everyone likes and will hold its position the whole way.  The film missed a couple of key precursor awards in the leadup to the Oscar nominations yet it scored big across the board with the Academy — the editing nomination was a good sign, as were the nominations for McAdams and Ruffalo within hard-to-figure supporting categories.  I also still have to laugh that this generation’s best movie about committed journalism was directed by the guy who played Scott Templeton, one of TV’s worst-ever journalists.

* It was a nice of mix of up-and-comers (Brie Larson, Alicia Vikander) and old-timers (Charlotte Rampling, Bryan Cranston, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mark Rylance) amongst the first-time nominees.  Also not really fitting into either category are Tom Hardy and Rachel McAdams, both of whom were well-deserved.  It’s a wee bit surprising that Hardy hadn’t gotten one already given how many acclaimed films he’s appeared in in recent years.

* It’s another kick at the can for Thomas Newman, who’s now been nominated 13 times in the music categories and is still looking for his first victory.  Nothing against Newman but I’m hoping he loses again since ENNIO FREAKING MORRICONE is in the category.  Morricone has never won a competitive Oscar, so the Academy can right a long-time wrong this year.

* Everything that carried Adam McKay’s personal brand on SNL (i.e. his digital shorts or when he appeared on the show himself as the audience heckler) was notably terrible.  Watching SNL at the time, I kept wondering why the hell this guy got any screen time, not realizing he was the show’s head writer or that he was the brainchild behind countless classic Will Ferrell sketches.  Fast-forward about 20 years and here he is, Best Director nominee and a good chance at being a Best Director winner.

* I saw several variations of this line on Twitter, but the Best Supporting Actor category consists of little old Mark Rylance against Rocky, Batman, Bane and the Hulk.  It’s also crazy that you have Sly Stallone in an acting competition against heavyweights like Rylance, Bale, Ruffalo and Hardy, yet Stallone would be a completely deserving winner.  (Frankly, I thought his performance was the best of the bunch.)

* My favourite nominations….Anomalisa as Best Animated Film, Morricone, Inside Out for Best Original Screenplay, anything from Mad Max.

* My least-favourite nominations…anything from Bridge Of Spies, Michael Fassbender’s poor man’s Josh Lyman impression as Best Actor, Straight Outta Compton for screenplay (that cliched pile of Dre/Ice Cube hagiography was the worst part of the movie), the category fraud of Vikander and Rooney Mara somehow being categorized as ’supporting’ performances. 

* And now, onto the snubs!  The big ones were Ridley Scott not getting a best director nod and Carol not getting into Best Picture, though don’t sleep on Idris Elba being left out of the supporting actor field and thus creating another #OscarsSoWhite scenario.  Supporting Actor was such an odd category this year that I thought Elba actually had a strong chance had he gotten the nomination — Stallone and Rylance seem to be the two consistent favourites in most precursors, though who knows how the Academy could’ve swung.  Had the voters done their jobs and nominated Mara in Best Actress (ousting Jennifer Lawrence), that could’ve opened the door for another good supporting actress candidate like Kristen Stewart or Julie Walters.  I’m ok with Vikander’s nomination since I’ll just pretend it was really for her also-deserving work in ‘Ex Machina.’

* And here’s a sentence I never thought I’d write….Wiz Khalifa was robbed of an Oscar nomination.  “See You Again” didn’t get into the original song category, and am I wrong in thinking that the least the Academy could do is get Wiz and Charlie Puth to perform it at the ceremony over the In Memoriam list?  I guess it might be weird to have a song so associated with Paul Walker linked with various other deceased film notables, but still.

Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie

They say the music that’s popular when you’re in high school will always be the music that you think is “best,” a saying that has some merit but has proven to be demonstrably untrue throughout my life.  Still, I think it’s fair to say that the music released from 1995-2000 did, in many ways, sort of form a fixed point for me in how I perceived certain artists.  Artists who were big in that era always “seemed” pretty big for years afterwards, despite how they were clearly just the one-hit wonders or jokes of their era, in the way that many bands who were big just a few years before my musical prime seemed impossibly dated.

To wit, David Bowie released the Earthling record in 1997, which featured the “Little Wonder” and “I’m Afraid Of Americans” singles.  Both songs were, and are, pretty weird.  To my musically-uneducated ears, they didn’t sound appreciatively different from some of the other electronica or dance music of the era, i.e. the Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim, etc.  I knew who David Bowie was, of course, though my knowledge of his music didn’t extend too much beyond “here’s this guy who’s a legend trying to appropriate modern sounds.”

Little did I know then, however, that this was basically what Bowie had done this entire career.  Minus his self-admitted sellout periods throughout the 80’s, Bowie was a guy who never seemed satisfied unless he was zigging (or literally Ziggy-ing) when others were zagging.  Even once he’d carved out his own niche as to what a “David Bowie song” was, he could’ve comfortably mined that corner for years but he kept changing things up.

In my own case, I think I was just on the periphery of getting into a full-on Bowie deep dive.  Within the last few years, I have…
a) watched ‘Labyrinth’ for, somehow, the first time
b) adopted ‘Modern Love’ as one of my all-time favourite songs.  (Two excellent uses of the track in Sleeping With Other People and Frances Ha have contributed heavily to this designation)
c) put not only ‘Modern Love’ but ‘Under Pressure’ on an iTunes playlist tentatively titled “My Favourite Songs Ever” that I’ll somehow burn onto a CD when I finally feel satisfied with the tracklist in 25-30 years.

RIP