Thursday, June 30, 2011

The (New) Worst Street In Toronto

Two years ago, I reverse hailed St. Clair West as the worst street in Toronto. Time to give back the belt, St. Clair. In hindsight it was hasty of me to drop this (dis)honour on a street that was undergoing massive construction. Right now, for instance, the actual worst street in Toronto is Dundas West between Bathurst and Bloor, since it's being torn asunder by construction and is a nightmare to drive or even walk down. But, calling poor Dundas West out on the carpet would be as unfair as citing Stephen Hawking as the world's worst jogger.

So yeah, even though St. Clair on its best day is still not a great driving route, it's not 'the' worst. That title has now been passed to the little pocket of evil known as Dufferin Road between King Street and the CNE. Now, some might argue that this is also an odd bit of road to single out since it's so short; start to finish, this whole stretch of road is barely 600 metres. Plus, even on such a short street, bad traffic can be evaded by dodging onto one of two side street options, either Springhurst Ave or Liberty Street. The only downside is the preponderance of goddamn cyclists on Liberty, as the Liberty Village is one of the six or seven most hipster-soaked areas in Toronto.

Dufferin South, as I'll call this stretch of road, is indeed small, but perhaps that's what makes it truly a bitch to drive. Driving down St. Clair, okay, it can get aggravating because you've potentially got a long way to go. Driving on Dufferin South, however, is STILL just as aggravating because even though it takes only a minute or two to complete, it's still a "tough minute," as Jerry Seinfeld would say.

The major reason is the absolute shit quality of the road itself. Even when Dufferin South is completely free of traffic, you're still gritting your teeth on the drive since it sounds like the combination of cracked pavement and streetcar tracks are tearing apart your car's undercarriage. With traffic added, it's even worse. Then you almost get the feeling of hanging on for dear life as you're trying to keep your vehicle steady and not swerve into the oncoming lane. Driving Dufferin South without traffic is like Indy and Short Round trying to ride that rickety mining trolley in Temple Of Doom --- a difficult prospect in itself, and adding traffic is like having having having to deal with both directing the cart and having Thuggee warriors chasing you and shooting arrows. By the time you reach either King Street or the CNE, you feel like Mola Ram should tear your heart out.

And the traffic, oh wow, the traffic. It's a unique little mixture on Dufferin South as it's one of the rare Toronto streets that gets a high volume of transport trucks. They're trying to reach the highway, you see, and trying to get there by cutting through the CNE grounds to hit the Gardiner Expressway. So it's not uncommon to have to negotiate your way behind a big-ass truck down this tiny road. Plus, as noted, there are streetcar tracks because (surprise!) a streetcar also goes down that road to make the stop at Springhurst. To top it all off, buses go down that road too. So you can be driving down your one lane (because of course, the second lane is blocked off by people who have parked their cars) and have to deal with a truck, a streetcar and a bus all at once. May god have mercy on your soul.

During the writing of this post, I've continually misspelled 'Dufferin' as 'Duffering.' It's an odd typo but a fitting one, since you can't drive Dufferin South without suffering.

.....oh yeah, in that other post I also made mention of a 'best street in Toronto.' I guess I should end this one on a similarly positive note. Let's say....uh....Woodbine, south of Queen and leading down to Lakeshore. Never had any problems with that drive and, best of all, you get to look at all the lovely multi-coloured condos as you go. Damn, I need to spend more time in the Beaches.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

UFC 132 Picks

* Ryan Bader over Tito Ortiz, decision
I can't believe I'm still writing about Tito Ortiz fights in the year 2011. This is just Tito's fifth bout in the last five calendar years and he hasn't won any. In fact, his last win over a non-Ken Shamrock opponent (so, not a total joke) was his narrow-ass split decision over Forrest Griffin in spring 2006. THIS IS OVER FIVE YEARS AGO. NO WINS IN FIVE YEARS. Put it this way, if Bader doesn't win this fight, he should retire from the sport himself.

* Chris Leben over Wanderlei Silva, knockout, round 2
To that end, I can't believe I'm still writing about Wanderlei Silva fights in 2011. This is Silva's first match since February 2010, when he beat Michael Bisping (in rather an unimpressive decision) in his middleweight debut. The long layoff has been due to both injuries and Silva's stated desire to wait for either Yoshihiro Akiyama or Leben since Silva figured both would be crowd-pleasing opponents. You'd think a guy who theoretically wants one more title shot before retirement would look for someone higher up the middleweight food chain but hey, this is Wanderlei, he does what he wants. In short, I have no idea what kind of Wanderlei Silva we'll see on Saturday but sadly, it'll probably be the same guy whose legendary jaw has been cracked by years of knockouts. Even at a lower weight class it's probably too easy for a strong striker like Leben to land one that puts Silva out. Now, Leben himself has taken more than a few knockouts himself, but when in doubt, go with the guy who isn't coming off the 17-month layoff.

* Dennis Siver over Matt Wiman, decision
Hell, let's continue the trend --- I can't believe I'm writing about Dennis Siver/Matt Wiman as a match with legitimate title implications. The winner will have four straight wins and will probably earn themselves a bout with the Guillard/Roller winner on the undercard, with the winner of THAT...well, not getting a title shot, but probably earning themselves at least a #1 contender's bout. Ah, the ladder of contention. This one could easily go either way and I'm picking Siver because his last win (over George Sotiropoulos) was a more impressive scalp than anyone "Handsome Matt" has ever beaten. Also, I may be biased against ever picking a fighter with such a dumbass nickname as 'Handsome.'

* Dong Hyun Kim over Carlos Condit, decision
Speaking of unlikely title eliminators, here you go. The Dong is unbeaten in his career, though this has the twin asterisks of a 2007 draw while fighting in Japan and his no contest with Karo Parisyan from 2009 (Karo won the fight but then failed a drug test afterwards). While Kim's unbeaten, Condit would certainly be the biggest name on his resume and an impressive finish might be enough to net Kim a title fight (or at least a #1 contender's match). What I'm guessing happens, however, is a rather uninteresting decision since that's Kim's style. Condit has never struck me as a top-tier kind of fighter. If you can only fight the likes of Martin Kampmann or Jake Ellenberger to virtual draws, you're not going to cut it against the top welterweights, and while I have my reservations that Kim is one such welter, I'm still not sure Condit has enough to take him.

* Urijah Faber over Dominick Cruz, submission, round four
Faber as bantamweight champ gives the UFC another marketable face for American fans, and Cruz as bantamweight champ gives the UFC another marketable face for Hispanic fans. So it's a no-lose situation from a marketing perspective and obviously it's a no-lose situation as well for those of us fans who don't give a crap about where a guy is from and just want to see good fights. Cruz is 17-1 in his career and the one loss.....was to Faber, a first-round tapout in 2007. Since then, Cruz has been largely decisioning everything in sight and he became the WEC bantamweight champ before the belt was absorbed into the UFC. Now, Faber has dropped down in search of another title. This is another fight that could easily go either way and perhaps I'm naive in thinking that Faber has the magic ticket for beating Cruz just because he knocked him off over four years ago. Cruz is a better fighter now and 135 is his natural weight class, so Faber is on Cruz's turf, not vice versa. Maybe I'm still on a sugar high from years of drinking the WEC's "Faber is the man" Kool-aid, but I think Faber gets the win. Either way, it should be a terrific main event and one that hopefully isn't canceled on Saturday due to one of the fighters not being cleared due to testosterone replacement. coughcoughMarquardtcough

Undercard.....
* Jeff Hougland over Donny Walker, decision
* Anthony Njokuani over Andre Winner, KO, R1
* Brad Tavares over Aaron Simpson, decision
* George Sotiropoulos over Rafael dos Anjos, decision
* Melvin Guillard over Shane Roller, KO, R2
* Brian Bowles over Takeya Mizugaki, KO, R3

Monday, June 27, 2011

Hot! Live! Music!

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, "If I Should Fall Behind"
Next to Bruce himself, Clarence Clemons was the iconic figure of the E Street Band. Why? Seriously? Look at the guy --- you literally couldn't draw up a better image of a bad-ass saxophonist if you tried. In addition to the sax, the Big Man did some backing vocals on a number of Boss songs (and had a hit single himself with Jackson Browne) but rarely had an elongated vocal part with the E Streeters until this special live version of "If I Should Fall Behind." Interestingly enough, the song was originally from the Lucky Town album, one of two simultaneously-released discs that Bruce released without the E Street Band backing him up, so it's nice to see that the tune (pretty much the only one from those records that still appears in Springsteen concerts) has been recast as a paean to band unity. The only thing that would've made this better is if the entire E Street Band had contributed a verse, but whatever, the world probably doesn't need to hear Max Weinberg's singing voice. Lord knows weird things always happened when he talked on Conan's show. RIP, Big Man.




Gordon Lightfoot, If You Could Read My Mind
Canada Day is this weekend, so, yeah. He's SEVENTY TWO. And STILL TOURING. And still apparently rocking a mullet as of 2009! Gordon Lightfoot is awesome.




Scissor Sisters, "Running Out
Also, happy Pride weekend, everyone besides Rob Ford! I've got to say, I'm a bit let down by the show here. I expected Scissor Sisters to bust out some really elaborate nonsense for a festival performance, but I guess Glastonbury saves the big light shows/special effects for the headliner acts at night. If you perform during the day, well, no light show can compete with the sun. Fun fact: I only just realized the chick in Scissor Sisters is actually a chick. I've been under the impression for years that "Ana Matronic" was a guy in drag who just had a high voice, or possibly a transsexual. But, nope, joke's on me, Ms. Matronic, if that is her real name, is all woman. This may be a commentary on either my lack of observational skills or on her looks, but since I'm a nice fellow, I'll presume it's the former.




R.E.M., "Nightswimming"
I've often considered the album version of this track to be either the best bad song ever or the worst good song ever. The piano part is just so simple and so pretty, but on the record, Stipe just bellows out the vocal and, at that volume, makes the melody sound almost tuneless. I almost feel like another of R.E.M's hits, Electrolite, was an attempt at making a 'proper' version of Nightswimming. Like, on that one the band was like, "Hey Michael, we have another pretty piano melody here, but this time could you actually sing something that actually compliments it?" But whatever, this is Hot LIVE Music, not Discussing Album Tracks 101. This live version of Nightswimming is oodles better because Stipe just lowers his voice an octave and sings about 85% quieter than he does on the album.




The Snipes, Silicon Wreck
So amidst rock legends like the E Street Band, Gordon Lightfoot and R.E.M, there seems to be no better place to insert this live track from my buddy Aron's band. It's only a matter of time before the Snipes are mentioned in the same breath as those other acts. I'm not sure who this song was written about --- maybe Aron also thought Ana Matronic was a transsexual and he was imagining that it might be like if he/she pursued breast implants to fully swing the pendulum over to the woman side. Actually, wait, 'swing the pendulum' may have a double meaning in the transsexual community.




U2 "Please/Where The Streets Have No Name"
U2 are being (quite rightly) hailed for their great set at Glastonbury this year, which is a little like hailing Michael Jordan for hitting a jump shot, but even still, it's always nice to see the band get a bit more acknowledgment that they're the best live act ever. The question is, within all of U2's great live shows, what moments stand out as *the* top moments? For my money, U2's top live moment was the transition between "Please" (one of their top five live songs) and "Where The Streets Have No Name" (their greatest live song). Talk about an absolute perfect flow from one song to the other. U2 hasn't played much of 'Please' live over the years but man, would it ever be an awesome idea to bring it back. If they wanted to get it polished off by, oh, say, the July 11 concert in Toronto, that would be cool. Someone I know will be at the show! Some guy named Mark!




Talking Heads, "Making Flippy Floppy"
These Hot Live Music posts are pretty infrequent, so the attempt to include every single track from Stop Making Sense is still making gradual progress. We've got through all of the great ones (10 tracks!) and now we've gotten to the ones that are merely very good. Again, greatest concert film of all time. There is no counterargument. If you suggest the Justin Bieber movie, you will be punched in the mouth.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Random Nonsense



I'm not above reusing jokes around different people, but a major setback to this practice is Facebook's latest tweak of threaded messaging. Rather than several different sets of messages you sent to one person, now they're all threaded together in one long message so you can look back at your entire history of correspondence with the person, dating back sometimes years. This is all well and good and convenient, except for the fact that for chronic joke-reusers like myself, my lack of originality is revealed for all the world to see. I'm going to actually come up with a fresh joke rather than re-using a pun from 2008 and hoping the other person has forgotten it. Dammit.

Another odd note about this: I seem to have a habit of starting messages by writing the person's name and punctuating it with an exclamation point, i.e. "Joe Smith!" or "Jane Jones!" I'm wondering if I sent an e-mail to Michael Schur at some point in the last few years and thus indirectly became the inspiration for Rob Lowe's character on Parks & Recreation.

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My friend Ryan works for Google and thus by default is my favourite Google employee. But besides him, my favourite Google employees are the folks who come up with the modified event-specific logos. You can peruse the entire collection at this link, which showcases logos from both the North American Google page and all around the world. Personal favourites: the recent guitar-string logo celebrating Les Paul's birthday or the short film on April 16 for Charlie Chaplin's birthday.

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Well, this damned, U2 album-postponing Spider-Man musical has finally officially opened. Whoopee. The only upside is that it led to Sesame Street producing this spoof, and if even Grover is scoring points off you, it's probably a sign that your play is a piece of crap. I'm just wondering why the Sesame Streetified Bono is a giant orange monster. I also wonder why the blue bald guy hasn't had a nervous breakdown for all the nonsense Grover has subjected him to over the years. The guy only wanted some soup that didn't have insects floating in it, is that so much to ask?



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Rory McIlroy's win at the US Open was awesome and everything, but come on. After his victory, Yahoo Sports has a poll up asking how many majors McIlroy would end up winning his career, and 51 percent of respondents said he'd win seven or more majors. Seven or more! To recap, the only men in golf history who have cracked the seven-major plateau are Nicklaus, Woods, Hagen, Player, Hogan, Watson, Palmer, Snead, Sarazen, Jones and Vardon. So after just one win, people already think McIlroy is up there with these guys?

I know the golf world is dying for a new headline star to replace Tiger Woods, but this is a bit ridiculous. Since McIlroy is just 22, people presume he has time to do things like make a run at Jack Nicklaus' record just like Tiger did, except....Tiger is a once-in-a-generation star. The odds we see another singularly dominant force like Tiger in the world of golf is quite rare, especially with the game's international scope being as wide as it is today. There's no reason McIlroy can't become the new face of pro golf, but let's not be beating up on the guy in a few years if he has *only* this one US Open to his name.

That said, anyone who doesn't pick McIlroy in their fantasy golf leagues for the Open Championship is nuts. Doesn't EVERYONE play in a fantasy golf league? It's so cool! I know I certainly don't weep with shame whenever I log into the page.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The 30-Day Movie Challenge, Part 5

After the first four parts, we now bring you the fifth and final installment.

24. Movie That Blew Your Mind -- Memento
I've seen a lot of movies that have engendered a "whoa" reaction, but only one generated a 45-minute "what did we just see?!?!" discussion in the stairwell of the old Westmount Mall Famous Players theatre between myself and my friend Dave. 'Memento' is a film that doesn't just require, but demands multiple viewings. It's one of the best mysteries ever made. I was so inspired by this movie that I wrote an essay in second-year English class using 'Memento' to illustrate the philosophies of John Locke (the real John Locke, not the LOST guy). It was arguably the best paper I ever wrote in university, and I received a well-earned....79?! Goddamn grading curve.


25. Your Favourite Disney Movie -- Mary Poppins
Logically I should go with one of the Pixar films here, but when I think 'Disney Movie,' I go back to my childhood. My first-ever movie in a theatre was, to the best of my recollection, 'Pinocchio' at the old Westmount Mews in London. I remember both the film and spilling my popcorn -- the former a wonder, the latter an unspeakable tragedy.

I'm not picking Pinocchio, however, but rather another Disney classic. I've always wondered why I'm an anglophile, and it just dawned on me that the reason may be because I watched 'Mary Poppins' roughly 200 times as a child and thus subconsciously developed a love for 1910 England. It also explains why whenever I try to use a British dialect, it inevitably devolves into some awful cockney stew a la Dick Van Dyke.

Two more points. 1. Mary Poppins also came very close to unseating Singin' In The Rain for the best musical title, given that all the songs in MP are pretty tight and the film lacks any look-at-your-watch sequences like the "Gotta Dance" number in Singin' In The Rain. 2. Guys, am I crazy, or is Julie Andrews a total fox in this movie? Did I just make things really weird by bringing this up while discussing a beloved childhood favourite? I should move on...though, if Mary and Bert were just platonic friends, I'll eat my hat.

(Honourable mention to Robin Hood, Alice In Wonderland, The Incredibles and Bedknobs & Broomsticks)


26. Favourite Movie Based On A Book/Comic -- To Kill A Mockingbird
I went with the 'book' option over the 'comic' option due to one indelible moment. Back in tenth grade English class, we were assigned to read TKAM and I just loved it. The feeling didn't seem to be mutual amongst most of my classmates, however, until we saw the film version in class. As you'd perhaps expect, this movie from 1962 didn't really draw much steam from a class of 15-year-olds until that legendary scene of Atticus Finch's final summation to the jury. Gregory Peck delivers one of the great monologues in film history, managing to convey justified, righteous rage at the sheer indignity of the case brought against his client Tom Robinson, yet still keeping Atticus from totally breaking out of his usual restrained manner. By the conclusion of this scene, this classroom full of mostly-bored teenagers broke out in applause. Now THAT was a scene. You have to believe that scene along cliched Peck the Oscar that year.

(If I'd gone with the comic book option, then yeah, Dark Knight.)


27. Best Action Movie -- Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade
Another category with a lot of terrific candidates. When you think 'action movie,' perhaps you inherently think of a lesser film since the genre has been dulled by dozens of mediocre shoot-em-ups made by your Van Dammes, your Stallones and basically most of the Expendables. The Indiana Jones series, though, are totally action movies -- you just don't automatically think of them as such since to my generation, they're put up on a pedestal as THE INDIANA JONES MOVIES.

So let's go by process of elimination. Temple Of Doom, to be honest, has always dragged *just* a bit for me, so it's out. There was no fourth movie, so such a hypothetical film that absolutely positively didn't exist and tarnish the whole series surely doesn't qualify. It comes down to Raiders and Crusade, and man alive, this is a tough call. Indy retrieving the idol from the Peruvian jungle vs. the 'Young Indy' sequence and River Phoenix's incredible impression of Harrison Ford. The boat race through the Venice canals vs. the brawl in Marion's bar. The Cairo bazaar fight vs. the escape from the Nazi castle. The motorcycle chase scene vs. the incredible attack on the tank-led German convoy. "No ticket" vs. Indy just shooting the swordfighter. These are all brilliant sequences, but in the end, I have to give Crusade the slight edge simply because as the third picture in the series, the expectations were higher and Spielberg & co. had to work harder to wow the audience. Plus, Sean Connery was involved. Nuff said.

I love, love, love this movie. Just writing this entry makes me want to watch it right now.

(Honourable mention: Terminator 2, Kill Bill Volume 1, The Protector, The Rock)


28. Best Remake -- Ocean's Eleven
I felt the best way to decide this category was to stick to cases where I'd seen both the original and the remake. Thus, worthy nominees like The Departed and 3:10 To Yuma were eliminated from contention. Also struck from the record were 'reboots,' which are specifically different from remakes, so that took out Batman Begins.

So this left us with the compulsively rewatchable Ocean's Eleven. Soderbergh took the original's basic idea of "Vegas heist flick with an all-star cast" and scrubbed everything else, since the original is one of the dullest movies ever made. I caught it on cable a few years back thinking, "Oh, the original Ocean's 11, this should be cool." No, no, no. You'd think Sinatra and the Rat Pack could carry a film on sheer charisma alone, but my god was that film ever boring. And the original was severely lacking in pint-sized Chinese gymnasts.


29. Favourite Actor and Actress -- Bill Murray and Marion Cotillard
I was really into Ghostbusters as a child. Like, overpoweringly into Ghostbusters. This obsession stemmed not from the movie, but entirely from the 'Real Ghostbusters' cartoon show, arguably the best cartoon ever made and THE staple of my after-school viewing. With this obsession in my mind, you can imagine my shock when, while wandering through the old Oakridge Mall K-Mart with my mom, I paused in front of the audio-visual section to ogle a strangely familiar live-action movie playing on one of the TVs. You see, the K-Mart was advertising a wild new invention known as 'VHS tapes,' and (get this) you could actually rent or even BUY your favourite films and watch them in the comfort of your own home, and to demonstrate, they had a VHS movie set up.

And yeah, it was 'Ghostbusters.' My six-year-old self was standing there thinking "Hmm, there are four guys here, one of them is wearing glasses, another is a black guy....hey, that logo on their jumpsuits....the proton packs....HOLY SMOKES, THIS IS A LIVE-ACTION GHOSTBUSTERS MOVIE!!!!!!!!!!!!"

This is my long-winded way of saying that Bill Murray was probably the first actor I was consciously aware existed. 'Ghostbusters' is in no way an appropriate movie for your average six-year-old, but my parents (perhaps realizing they'd be fighting a losing battle) taped it during an airing on City TV, which I proceeded to just about wear out by watching roughly a zillion times. Murray stood out to me because, as I mentioned, my previous frame of reference were the cartoons. So while cartoon Ray, Egon and Winston were roughly akin to Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson's film counterparts, the Lorenzo Music-voiced Peter Venkman of the cartoons bore only a slight sarcastic resemblance to Bill Murray, since you *can't* duplicate Bill Murray. Even at a young age I recognized that this guy was playing Peter in a different, yet even more hilarious, manner.

And from that moment on, Bill Murray has been the man. I was almost surely the only 10-year-old in the world who saw 'Groundhog Day' in theatres on its opening night. I marveled at the ingenuity of the bank robbery in 'Quick Change,' a heist that would put the Ocean's Eleven guys to shame. I howled at Big Ern McCracken in 'Kingpin,' a role Murray played while ad-libbing almost all of his own dialogue. I laughed in shock as Murray made one of the best cameos ever in a film I'm not even going to name lest I spoil the surprise for you. His batting average is certainly not 100 percent, but it's fair to say that every movie is improved by having Bill Murray in the cast.

Now, some might point out the irony in picking Bill Murray as my favourite 'actor,' when his acting is usually limited to variations on the general Bill Murray persona. To this I say, fuck you. This man was in "Lost In Translation," a.k.a the single greatest one-man carry job of a film I've ever seen. He made a Sofia Coppola movie GOOD, folks. And, not only that, he carried Scarlett Johansson to a watchable performance. This is Herculean.

So, after picking a favourite actor who's been a favourite for most of my life, I'm going in a totally different direction to pick a favourite actress who I've only been aware of for the last few years. Marion Cotillard has quickly shot to the top of my list due to the simple fact that she is pretty much always the best part of any film in which she appears. She is the bright spot in mediocre films (Public Enemies, Nine) or the highlight of very good films (Midnight In Paris, Inception).

Perhaps the most incredible compliment I can pay Cotillard is that she's my favourite current actress....and I've never seen her greatest role. That's right, I've never seen "La Vie En Rose," which only won her the Oscar and just about every other acting award under the sun in 2007. I feel like this is akin to saying you're a huge fan of microwaved popcorn without knowing who Orville Redenbacher is, and yet, in a way, it's a good sign that Cotillard is a massive talent who isn't just a one-film wonder. She has *it*.


31. Top Five Movies Of All Time -- Pulp Fiction, A Fish Called Wanda, Back To The Future, Citizen Kane, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
I've already covered a couple of these, so let's focus on the ones I haven't yet discussed. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" is Charlie Kaufman's (to date) masterpiece of being full of ideas and his signature uniqueness while still being understandable to mainstream audiences. To that, I credit the great performances of Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey of having you sincerely give a shit about Clementine and Joel's relationship in the midst of all the sci-fi elements, off-beat plot structure and whipass visual effects.

"Back To The Future" is simply one of the most perfect movies ever made. It's funny, it's dramatic, it's perfectly cast, it has a great movie and it stands up as both a stand-alone film and as the first part of the trilogy. Also, if this movie doesn't happen, Chuck Berry's music career might never have gotten off the ground. Food for thought.

You know I'm a real film nerd when 'Citizen Kane' is legitimately part of my top-five list but I can watch this movie all day. Like Pulp Fiction, the movie is structured in such depth that even though I've seen both films a dozen times each, I'm always vaguely surprised in a "oh yeah, this happens" sense when I'm watching the story unfold yet again. If you're trying to figure out who was the most pound-for-pound talented guy in movie history was*, Orson Welles is a good place to start. Groundbreaking director, he co-wrote Kane's script and oh by the way, he also delivers one of the greatest performances ever. And Welles was TWENTY-SIX when he made 'Citizen Kane.' If that doesn't make you feel really bad about your life, nothing will....uh, provided you're not younger than 26. If you are younger, there's still time!

* = ok, to clarify, most talented guy of the SOUND film era. Chaplin and Keaton probably have Welles beat in the overall.

And this brings the 30-Day Film Challenge to an end! I hope you've enjoyed this cinematic trip down memory lane as much as I have. If you've been inspired to watch just one of these films (well, except Week-End) just based on my recommendation, I'm humbled. Wait, no, that's not right, what's the opposite of humbled? I'm MORE CONVINCED IN MY GOOD TASTE THAN EVER BEFORE!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Go The F**k To Sleep (Jackson & Herzog)

Pop quiz: who has the better rendition of Go The Fuck To Sleep? Samuel L. Jackson, for whom the F-bomb is an art form, or Werner Herzog, the man who can recite anything and make it sound awesome? This is truly a head-scratcher. When I actually do have a child, this is going to the top of list for bedtime stories.



Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Marks & Procreation, a.k.a. The List Of Baby Names

For some reason, several of my friends were really horny in late September/early October 2010. In the last month alone, no fewer than nine of my friends have brought magical little bundles of joy (babies, not Cadbury eggs) into the world. My birthday is in late October so that couldn't have been the reason, which is kind of a relief since that's a weird gift. My theory is that my peer group is of the age when we're beginning to attend our 10-year high school reunions. Thus, after a night of getting together with your old gang, you're going back to your significant other and doing the nasty because a) your old high school nemesis' life has gone to shit and you're feeling really superior or b) you're thinking about how good your high school crush will looks. Or, because of true love, whatever.

This spate of babies has got me thinking about becoming a father myself. Not the actual parenting or raising of the child, of course, but naming it. It's like being in a band --- the actual playing, rehearsing, setting up your gear, etc. is a real pain in the ass, but coming up with a name is tons of fun. Hopefully when/if I actually do procreate, my interest in the child will actually continue on past the naming process, or else I'd just be a real deadbeat.

With this in mind, here's the proposed method of how my future babymama and I will decide upon a name. We'll each submit a list of potential handles and if there's any crossover, those names will go on the shortlist. The shortlist will then be whittled down via further arguing, which in a worst-case scenario may result in tears and/or openly shared regrets about why we're even having this child in the first place. But geez, let's hope it doesn't come to THAT. Hopefully we'll both have one name that is an immediate favourite and the decision will take five seconds. If not, we'll both compromise by saddling our child with a name that neither of us wants, like 'Llywelyn' or 'Bertha.' Sure, our child may be the victim in this scenario, but....well, perhaps it's good that my child-rearing days are still a ways away. Also, if you're reading this and your name is actually Lywelyn or Bertha, I'm not even going to apologize. Those are terrible names. Why haven't you changed them?

We'll alternate between male and female names and we'll just stick to alphabetical order instead of listing them by actual preference, since that would require extra thought on my part. Also, um, there are 22 names each. I simply cannot do anything without being long-winded. Babymama, you're just going to have to get used to this about me.

Also, if you're my friend and are secretly offended that I'm not naming my child after you, chill out. In my mind, you've already used that name up. For instance, my buddy Trev is the ultimate 'Trevor,' so bringing another important Trevor into my life would be too confusing. It would be like if the Isaiah Thomas who plays for Washington went on to play his pro basketball with the Detroit Pistons. Also, I don't want to get into a game of naming a kid after one friend and then having the other friends get all offended that they weren't honoured in a similar way. For one, I don't want to have a dozen kids to cover everyone. Secondly, these offended friends could name their future kids 'Mark Sucks' in revenge, which isn't fair to either me or their child. Now, a few friends DO have their names show on the list, but it's not in any specific tribute to you, I just dig your name. Capiche?

(If my parents are reading this, relax Mom and Dad, this is all theoretical. I'm picturing my mother sitting down at her laptop with a cup of tea, noticing that her son has a post called 'Baby Names' and spit-taking all over the screen.)


Calvin -- Yup, it's largely because of "Calvin & Hobbes." There are worse things than naming your son after the greatest comic strip of all time. It's not like I'd be naming him 'Hobbes' or "Calvin's Dad,' since those would be a stretch. But, Calvin is an awesome name. I feel it's due for a revival. You can either go with the short form of Cal, or branch out and go by 'Vin.'

Andrea -- Overall solid option here. I feel like I know a few Andreas, but not too many, so it's a common name but not overused. For instance, 'Lindsay' and all of its variations are right out. Sorry, all 683 Lindseys/Lindsays/Lyndseys/Linseys I know.

Casper -- This one is low on the list simply because of the pop culture baggage. I feel like that damn Bill Pullman Casper movie ruined this name for another generation. Also, given that it'd be my son, there's a very high probability he'll end up being bald and pale, so he'll actually look like Casper the Friendly Ghost in human form. It will probably take until at least 2025 until parents can safely name their boys Casper again, which is too bad since it's a thoroughly solid name.

Ashley -- Another low entry on the girls' list. It might be a bit 'too' commonplace. I have a friend who was named Ashley but her parents decided, like, five minutes after the birth certificate was signed that they preferred the middle name instead, so they just called her by her middle name for the rest of her life. Ashley isn't a BAD name or anything, but c'mon, surely I can come up with something more creative than that. At the very least, I could shorten is to Ash in a living tribute to Bruce Campbell.

Charles -- Obviously shortened to Charlie or possibly Chuck.

Christy -- This is the first of a few instances where I'd insist on a specific spelling of a name. I'm not wild about Christie, but I do enjoy Christy. "Mark, are you insisting on this spelling due to that deaf girl from Survivor?" No, of course not. "Mark, are you insisting on this spelling due to Christy Mathewson?" Uh, well, yes. Moving on...

Clark -- I'll get to the logistics of naming a child after yourself later, but a rhyming name has similar pratfalls. I won't lie, Clark may be on here in large part because of Superman. Honestly, after reading Secret Identity, I may have to be talked out giving him Kent as a middle name just on the off-chance that he randomly develops superpowers.

Colleen -- Here we go, a good solid girls' name. It's easy to imagine a Prime Minster Colleen, or a Dr. Colleen. You rarely find hookers or strippers named Colleen, at least according to that census I sent to the brothel.

Daniel -- He'd go by Dan or Danny, the latter only if Aaron Sorkin ends up narrating his life.

Dana -- Interestingly, Dana was also a tough cut from the list of boys' names. Yes, that's right, this list of 44 fucking names had a previous round of cuts. As I said, I overthink things.

Darren -- Good name, decent name, solid name. Get outta here with your Daryn or Daren spellings. Uh, except for one guy I know whose name is actually Daren...well great, now I've offended someone.

Grace -- Big-time candidate here. I'd have the birth song all set, a lifetime of 'Say goodnight, Gracie' jokes and it's just a lovely name all-around.

Desmond -- I suspect my temporary infatuation with this name will fade the longer LOST is off the air. Hey, give me a break, it's not like I'm naming my kid Eko or Smoke Monster. Fun story: my friend Jo and her boyfriend have been watching the show and, in a separate conversation, mentioned they already have their future kids' names picked out as James and Kate. So of course, I chime in about Sawyer and Kate from LOST and their eyes just widened. Now, James and Kate are both common enough that I think my mind wouldn't have jumped there had we not just been discussing LOST, but even still, it's probably bad mojo to name a brother and sister after two characters who have had sex in a cage on a jungle island.

Gwen -- Aha, here's one that is NOT a pop culture reference. Gwen Stacy was way before my time as a Spider-Man reader, I just like the name. I have some vague recollection that I had a dream once where I had a daughter named Gwen. This was not, I should note, my legendary dream about the lesbian wedding between my daughter and my buddy Trev's daughter. There's another reason why I can't name my son after Trev; he'll take on even greater importance in my life if he's going to be my daughter's future father-in-law.

Eddie -- This one is not a top choice, but I respect how this name can be adjusted throughout one's life. When you're a kid, you're Little Eddie! Then you can either stick with Eddie throughout your life if you're laid-back, or you can move to the more professional Edward. Then, once you hit 60, you're legally obligated to switch to Ed since that's just a perfect old guy name. Note: if you go with Edward as a teenager or when you're in your 20s, you're a douchebag, a vampire or a douchey vampire.

Heather -- Fun fact: did you know there's a short form for Heather? I have a friend named Heather known as 'The Heaz.' While this theoretically makes no sense, 'Chaz' doesn't make much sense as a short form for Charles either, so I'll roll with it.

Grant -- Probably my best friend up until age 11 was my pal Grant, who I kind of lost touch with when his family moved until we've connected in recent years thanks to the wonders of Facebook and e-mail. I even had the pleasure of attending his wedding last year. So, while I just like the name overall, this is probably the one that comes closest to breaking the 'name after someone else' rule.

Ingrid -- Surprisingly, not an Ingrid Bergman reference. I don't have anything against Ingrid Bergman, of course, but it's just a cool name. It's kind of incredible that after all these years, Ingrid Bergman is still by far the most famous Ingrid going. If you think about it through the Casablanca lens, she's still the most famous Ingrid and Bogart is still the most famous Humphrey. Of course, Humphrey is a terrible name; why do you think people refer to him almost solely by his last name or as Bogey?

Joe -- Big favourite on the boys' side here. Cup of Joe. A regular Joe. Good ol' Joe. You can't go wrong with a thoroughly solid name like this. And I will not name him Joey Joe Joe Junior Shabadoo, so put your mind at ease.

Ivy -- Yeah, I know, this one edges dangerously close to Stripper Name territory and as a father, I know my primary role is to keep her off the pole. It's not *high* on my daughter name list, but it's at least an option. Of course, people could be like, "Oh, you went to Western and named your daughter after the Richard Ivey School Of Business," which would disgust me. Maybe this is a bad idea. The cons may outweight the pros of my daughter having a built-in theme song.

John (Jon, Johnston) -- A few different options. You can either have the traditional John, or the no-H version which I kind of like for brevity, or you can give the boy the name of Johnston to be more formal. It's actually my mother's maiden name, so that'd be a nice shoutout to her side of the family. Then again, I wonder if Johnston is a fitting name for anyone that isn't a butler or some type of upper-crust high society type. I'm not sure if I can handle my son having a membership with a yacht club.

Lily -- I had a noticeable stutter as a child and it still manifests itself with certain letters or letter combinations. For example, words with multiple M's, N's or L's give me issues from time to time. (It took me roughly five minutes to complete the "get thee to a nunnery" line from Hamlet when we were reading the play aloud in high school English class. That's right, I got to read as Hamlet. Be jealous.) So, while it may be impractical to give your daughter a name that you can't pronounce, you'd figure I'd eventually break my problem after constant repetition. And yeah, the name idea is from "How I Met Your Mother." I like it enough that I'm willing to turn the naming of my child into a glorified speech therapy session.

Laszlo -- Holy crap, another Casablanca-inspired name. Aside from cheering for Ukraine during the World Cup, I don't embrace my Eastern European roots all that much, so Laszlo is not a top option. Though, if he grew up to be a pro wrestler, his finishing move could be the Laszlo Pana-suplex.

Lynne -- Not Lynn or Lyn, but specifically Lynne with the 'E' on the end. This is not debatable. Jeff Lynne may be the forgotten man in the Traveling Wilburys, but he won't be forgotten here! (Note: I'm not actually naming a child after Jeff Lynne.)

Mark Jr. -- Very low on the list. A few of my friends actually intend to go with the 'Junior' route, which I find surprising. I like my name, but not all that much. I think I'd only make my son a Junior if my babymama really loves my name, which may explain why she slept with me in the first place. Also, the other kids can call him MarJu!

Margaret -- Unique entry here since while this isn't a contender for a first name, Margaret is the favourite for a middle name since it's a name that has been in my family for generations. (My mom and grandma are both Margarets, for example). Hmm, maybe I should be thinking more about middle names. There's a list for next week!

Nathan -- Another solid name. One of the favourites on the male side even though I don't have much to really say about it, it's just a good name for a guy. Either Nathan or Nate is fine by me.

Marquette -- I've made so many jokes about "hey, that's my future daughter's name" when picking Marquette in March Madness brackets that I feel obligated to at least put this on the list. But, don't worry, it's highly doubtful I'd actually pull the trigger and make this the name. Wouldn't my daughter feel obligated to attend Marquette? Or, at the least, be forced to answer questions throughout her life about why her parents named her after a school they didn't attend?

Parker -- As much as I enjoy Spider-Man, this one is not a top contender. It just sounds a smidge too preppy. One summer I worked at Storybook Gardens amusement park in London and was bemused to learn all of the preppy names that young parents were giving their kids. Hunter, Jaden, about 100 Madisons....yeesh. Then again, I'm the same guy who just talked about potentially naming his daughter after a semi-obscure Big East Jesuit university.

Melanie -- Why Melanie over Melissa? I feel like Melissa has taken the lead in the great race of female names beginning with Mel-, so I wanted to even the score a little bit.

Peter -- Aha! Parker didn't do the trick, but Peter, that's the ticket. The name has gone a bit out of fashion in recent years, but everyone knows one person named Pete, and that person is almost always a good dude. I'm hard-pressed to think of even one Peter that isn't a quality fellow. Ok, well, I guess Peter Kent. And Peter Griffin is a douchebag. But those mightn't count, since one is a cartoon character and the other is on Family Guy.

Paige -- Another high-quality name, if one that has been growing a bit in popularity. I don't want to join in on some naming trend, I want to start one. It would be terrible if some sarcastic train operator at Storybook Gardens rolls his eyes at my daughter's name and thinks, "Pfft, just another kid name Paige. Typical yuppie jerk parent."

Ray -- You'll notice that I have Peter and Ray here, but not Egon and Winston, so don't worry, I'm not using the Ghostbusters as a resource for names. Ray is a thoroughly excellent name that might be the favourite, had I not grown up in London, Ontario. You see, there's a car dealer in town named Ray Cullen whose famous advertising jingle goes 'Ray, Ray, RAY/Ray Cullen Chevrolet/Call Ray, Ray, RAY/Today!' That damn jingle pops into my head whenever I encounter the name Ray, and I'd hate to continue this for the rest of my life.

Pamela -- If you thought the Ray Cullen thing was an odd roadblock, try this one on for size. There's a bikini model by the name of 'Pamela Paulshock,' which is wickedly close to my actual name. Now, it's not like this chick is overly famous or anything, but still, I'd rather not have my daughter associated with some bikini-clad harlot. By the way, there is a 100 percent chance that every guy reading this post on a non-work computer is now Googling 'Pamela Paulshock' (not a euphemism).

Rich -- I have a long-standing belief that people named Richard have a greater propensity for evil than people with other names. My theory is that because they've been teased about the 'Dick' thing for all of their lives, they grow resentful and then, in fact, become dicks. Just look at Richard III or Dick Cheney. 'Rich' is the only acceptable variant but even then, there's a drawback. My son will forever be saddled with the nickname of Richie Rich since my plan is to eventually become extraordinarily wealthy. I *guess* could forego amassing a giant fortune if it'll help.....sigh, fine. The things I do for my kids.

Penny -- Technically, 'Penelope,' but certainly we'll go with the Penny route. And hey, if the government ever gets off its ass and abolishes the one-cent coin, then suddenly my daughter's name is delightfully retro. This is the only instance where naming your child after currency is acceptable. "Hi, here's my son, Quarter Smith." "This is my baby daughter, Sacagawea Dollar Jones." "Here are my twins, Loonie and Twonie."

Tim -- Hopefully by the time my son hits schooling age, 'South Park' will have faded from the public consciousness enough that "TIMM-EH!" jokes will have gone by the wayside. But yeah, Tim is a thoroughly good name. One of the top picks.

Stacy -- Here's a case where my daughter wouldn't feel the reflected pop culture backlash of a name, but my babymama would. Damn you, Fountains of Wayne. Sure, it's complimentary to anyone with a daughter named Stacy, but one would get sick of the joke after the first 600 times it's brought up. Particularly since I'd make the joke myself at least 400 of those times.

Tom -- The family that lived in my childhood home before we moved in had a little boy named Tom, whose room happened to be the one that I adopted as my own. One of his room decorations were big felt letters spelling out his name that were pasted to the closet door, and I dunno what kind of space-age glue his parents used, but years later, you can still see the T-O-M imprint on the door. Ergo, it's possible the reason I like this name so much is that I was subconsciously subjected to it for well over 20 years. Then again, I've also had a Green Bay Packers banner for years and you don't see me trying to name my kid Packer....hey wait a second....

Svetlana -- Same issue as with 'Laszlo.' Naming my daughter Svetlana announces to the world I'm way more Eastern European than I want to be. My grandparents got out of there for a reason -- sure, Stalin may not be in power NOW, but who knows when his zombie corpse might rise from the grave and reclaim power over the Soviet Bloc? Trust me, this would happen about five minutes after I landed in Kiev on a vacation to show Svetlana around the city and explore her Uke roots. Still, pretty name though.

Tyler -- I feel like there's more room for creativity with girls' names, which is why you'll notice that several of my girls' names aren't that common, whereas I'm sticking with rather normal options like Tyler for my future son. Perhaps it's because I know first-hand all the various and unique ways that boys' names can be modified into taunts, whereas with women, well, I don't know anything about women. (Hence why this list of baby names is just theoretical and not in any danger of being used anytime soon.)

Theresa -- Another 'just with this spelling' entry. Teresa is right out, but Theresa is perfect. This way there's a decent chance her friends will refer to her as 'The Resa' and eventually, 'The RZA.' And thus my master plan to organically develop a Wu-Tang nickname for my children will be complete.

Will -- Just Will, not William or Bill or Billy or Willy or Liam or ILL, if my babymama is a big Beastie Boys fan or something. The name may be a loose shoutout to Shakespeare and less of an eye-rolling one than naming your kid 'Cordelia' or something. Also, there's a chance his friends would eventually start calling him Ghostface Willah....okay, I'll stop. Fun fact: until about two years ago, my brother had no idea that 'Bill' was a short form for William.

Zoe -- And we end things off with a name destined to be at the end of many a list in her lifetime, Zoe. The Big Z. Question, do kids named Zoe or Zack or other Z-names eventually rebel against their parents by adopting the opposite pronunciation of however their parents pronounce the letter Z? Like, in the UK and Canada, would a rebellious young Zoe refer themselves as the Big Zee, rather than as the Big Zed, to invoke their parents' ire? I can't believe I used my worst joke in the last entry, talk about ending on a sour note.


Now, a word of warning. I may or may not be laying claim to all 44 of these names. I don't want this to be some George Costanza/Seven situation where any of you having children soon start thinking, "Hmm, you know, Ivy would be an interesting name for a girl...." and steal all my ideas. I'm not above naming my child Vengeance (or Vendetta, if it's a girl) and training them from birth to eventually destroy you. Though, in fairness, I'll let you have Marquette.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The 30-Day Movie Challenge, Part 4

After the first three parts, the list continues forth with the...uh, fourth entry.


17. A Movie You Hate -- Week End
I have a song! It's set to the tune of Bon Jovi's "You Give Love A Bad Name." Here it goes...

JEAN-LUC GODARD
YOU'RE TO BLAME
YOU GIVE ART FILMS
A BAD NAME

If you thought that was terrible, well, now you know what I felt sitting through 'Week End.' Full disclosure, I liked Godard's film 'Contempt' and I have a general appreciation for 'Breathless.' But overall, Godard is one of those directors who likes to Make Statements and Reveal Truths in his movies, rather than looking to, y'know, actually make a good movie. "Week End" is one of his worst, an abstract satire poking fun at French bourgeois culture. The film was made in 1967, so perhaps I'm seeing it through dated eyes, but its broad theme of "rich people are jerks" is pretty uninteresting in this day and age.

I saw 'Week End' as part of a film class, and I was horrified to learn that I was apparently the only one in the course who didn't think the film was a masterpiece. I'm sitting there listening to the prof and my fellow students just go on and on about how great this picture was and it felt like I was losing my mind. Am I so out of touch? No....it's the children who are wrong.


18. Movie With The Worst Acting From Normally Good Actors -- The Good Shepherd
This category was originally "The Movie With The Worst Actors" but Chris altered to its current form since otherwise, we'd all just pick some schlocky horror movie or something. This new category is a bit more intriguing, since it's always fun to see which projects are so turgid they can suck the life out of even our best actors.

Case in point, 'The Good Shepherd.' Robert De Niro directing a drama about the early days of the CIA -- sounds good, right? N.O. Three hours of the most boring shit you've ever seen. And the cast, my god, the cast. Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, Alec Baldwin, Michael Gambon, William Hurt, John Turturro, Billy Crudup, Joe Pesci, Timothy Hutton, Lee Pace and De Niro himself. All those fine actors and not an interesting performance among them.

Is it fair to wonder if De Niro had a 30-year pact with the devil that ran out about a decade ago? His last good film was 'The Score,' a pretty good heist movie with Ed Norton and Marlon Brando, and that came out in 2001. And even still, that movie was just 'pretty good.' Between his sad recent filmography and his terrible SNL hosting gigs, De Niro's status on the all-time acting list is dropping like a rock.


19. A Movie You Want To See -- The Dark Knight Rises
Is it too early to buy tickets to opening night? I realize it won't be out for another year or so, but damn, is there any way this film won't be yet another Christopher Nolan masterpiece? Like, just LOOK at how badass Tom Hardy looks as Bane. Now that Ledger has broken the seal, it wouldn't shock me to see Hardy or Anne (Catwoman) Hathaway get supporting Oscar nominations and/or Oscars themselves for their roles. Though, they may have to die in the interim, and nobody wants to see that.


20. The Funniest Movie You've Ever Seen -- The Big Lebowski
Julianne Moore's movie-long Katherine Hepburn impression, the Dude's landlord's impressionist dancing performance, Maude's giggly hipster friend ("Who the fuck IS this guy?!"), Jackie Treehorn randomly drawing pornographic doodles, the spreading of the ashes, all of David Huddleston's line readings, Donny being out of his element, "This is what happens when you fuck another man in the ass!!!", nihilists whose only apparent attachment to nihilism is that it gives them the right to walk around saying "Ve are nihilists, ya, ve believe in nothing," Jesus the cocky pederast bowler, Jesus' potbellied schlub of a bowling partner, Donny confusing John Lennon with V.I. Lenin, the Dude getting thrown out of a cab because he hates the Eagles, the Dude's Creedence tapes, and finally, literally everything John Goodman says and does. What a hilarious movie.


21. Movie That Scared You The Most -- Carrie
"Carrie" is a movie I haven't seen for many years, which I'm sort of torn about. On the one hand, I'd love to experience again at my current age and see if it really was as effective as I remember. (Plus, I find it hard to believe that Brian De Palma actually directed a good movie.) On the other hand, part of me wants to retain the memory of 'Carrie' being terrifying since it did instill genuine fear in me at age twelve. That's right, age 12. My film-viewing tastes were quite mature from an early age, but even still, TWELVE. Damn you, late-night showing on the Drambuie Showcase Revue. Honestly, that was too young to even get understand simple concepts like periods. I was like, "Oh no, why is Carrie bleeding everywhere?!" Fortunately, now that I'm older and wiser, I have a a positive attitude towards menstruation.


22. Movie You Wish More People Had Seen -- A Fish Called Wanda
This isn't exactly the most obscure choice, given that it's an Oscar winner (Kevin Kline, best supporting actor, arguably the most deserving Oscar of the last 25 years) and those who do know the movie absolutely love it. But, AFCW is arguably my favourite movie. It's the film that is in a constant struggle with Pulp Fiction for #1 overall, and since everyone's seen Pulp Fiction, I've basically turned into AFCW's unpaid publicist over the years. For instance, I've had several variations of this conversation....

Person: "So what your favourite movie?"

Me: "Tough call. Probably either Pulp Fiction or A Fish Called Wanda."

Person: "What's A Fish Called Wanda?"

Me: "GASP! Oh man, it's the FUNNIEST movie. You MUST see it. You'll absolutely LOVE it! It's so, so, SO, hilarious!"

Person: *backs away slowly*

So, in short, if you all see the film, then it'll save me (less) social awkwardness. It really is just about the funniest movie. If Monty Python were the Beatles, then AFCW is John Cleese's Plastic Ono Band record.


23. Movie With The Most Surprising Ending -- Unbreakable
Don't worry, I'm not actually going to give the ending away. So many movies with "twist endings" put all their eggs in the basket of that ending that, if the twist isn't successful, it ruins the entire picture. Or, in the case of something like The Usual Suspects, the twist is so effective that it almost makes the rest of the movie irrelevant.

In Unbreakable's case, though, the ending is almost a bonus. If the film had just ended with Dunn reconciling with his wife the 'morning after' his first big crimefighting gig, that would have been acceptable. BUT, then we get the added twist at the end that doesn't undermine that we've seen beforehand and only adds another level to it. Like, for instance, M. Night Shyamalan's first film "Sixth Sense" still holds up even if you know the twist going into it (as I did, unfortunately). It's a good thing I went into Unbreakable unspoiled, so I was able to enjoy Shyamalan's next twist in its full impact. It also helped that since this was just Shyamalan's second movie, the concept of "SHYAMALAN = TWIST ENDING" wasn't yet ingrained into our heads, so the audience didn't spend the first 100 minutes just waiting to get to the proverbial fireworks factory.

And now, if I may, what the hell happened to Shyamalan? 'Unbreakable' was awesome. 'Sixth Sense' was very good, and I might've found it awesome had I not known the twist beforehand. Even 'Signs' was pretty decent. Why in the world has every film ol' M. Night has made since been increasingly dreadful? I crack jokes at the guy's expense myself, but it's a pity, since Shyamalan in his prime was a very talented filmmaker.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Out-Of-Context Texts In My Phone Inbox, Volume XVI

My last random texts posts was less than two weeks ago, but my texting has picked up lately due to the fact that I've joined the year 2008 and purchased a BlackBerry. I figure that Jim Balsille is bummed that True North brought an NHL team back to Canada before he did, so I thought I'd cheer ol' Jim up by picking up one of his smartphones. He could use the cash. Anyway, let's all pour one one out for my old-ass ex-cellphone, now destined to spend the rest of its life sitting in a box. RIP Old Phone 2006-2011.


"Yay! BBM is life-changing!"

"I am now free all day Sunday. My grandma's building is under quarantine."

"Closer to 20 than you are, old man!"

"Sweet! p.s. I found the original script to 'The Big Kahuna' today."

"Right on."

"I'm going to be free all Wednesday afternoon, bro. Let's chill."

"And you have tickets?"

"Thought you may be inspired to return."

"It was one of those 3-1 games where the score didn't even remotely reflect how one-sided it was. Madness."

"Alright dude, no problemo. See you soon."

"When you arrive I'll meet you downstairs. Then can we go to Kinko's?"

"Blackberry! I'm looking forward to seeing you tomorrow. We got bro time all day."

"Friend. T and I are coming to Toronto tomorrow for the game. You in?"

"Saw your tweets. Scary."

"lol, alright you selfish bastard. NO MORE MID-FIGHT INVITES FOR YOU!!"

"Hii. Would, but I'm in NY til Monday....hang soon though?"

"Incredible."

"Gotta play it by ear but I think so re: sisters. Totally free tomorrow, though."

"You watching this?"

"Sigh....he wasn't hired to be a podcaster!"

"I'm at work til 11. I wish I could hit a patio."

"I just realized I never got back to you about tomorrow. I can't do it. I have to go to Oshawa for a lunch family birthday shindig."

"It's okay, though.....I found a public transit option."

"p.s. Bring DL to trivia tomorrow!!"

"No comparison to Susan, Mr. Film Critic. :) By the way do you have your BBM set up yet?"

"1:30 for a late lunch?"

"How about at the corner of College and Manning?"

" *get "

"A few of us are going over to Clinton's for motown and britpop at 1030. Msg me if you care to join."

"H'fuck you!"

"Keegan Bradley = Steve Shelby"

"What the fuck! Oh, you're working, right?"

"Anyone up for watching the basketball game someplace sporty or beery? Holla back!"

"Excellent! Who's the third?"

"Ok....you're new."

"I noticed you added an extra 'C.' North American soccer has seeped into your subconscious."

"This is where they are. C'mon!"

"Working the game today? I'll be 13 rows from the field."

"Dude, next Monday you're coming to a pub trivia night with D and me."

"Really hope you're not working this game."

"Just me 'n a couple of pals, we're gonna stay put"

"Rice cookers on sale for $10 at xscargo"

"Yes, I will pass that to T and we'll make it work. I'll let you know if we get more people."

"It's gonna take more than Hart this time around."

"And get back to fucking work. Christ on the cross..."

"There would be....remuneration"

"Have to delay. Raincheck. Mtg late. Sorry."

"8"

"We were there tonight. Most teams were 5 or 6 people but there was just two of us. We did okay. There were a few questions that you would have known for jokes."

"Hey man. I'm at the Jays game that won't end."

"Sorry buddy, Robyn concert! Sometime soon though!"

"Dying to see it! I'll see you soon!"

"Coupon till July."

"Want to go to a stage production of Thelma and Louise on Tuesday night? Not a play, it is an onstage actors studio like interview with Sarandon and Davis."

"Let me know if ur coming bc we might move locations"

"We're at the Madison watching the fights. The over here."

"Indefensible that Simmons didn't do a Finals preview. He is a sportswriter, right?"

"What's the matter? Didn't want to run out to the car to answer?"

"It's all coming up Milhouse!"

"Sorry, I suck."

"Your text skills are improving."

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Grand Rapids 'American Pie'

I'm a sucker for lip-dub videos, particularly awesome, CITY-WIDE lip-dub videos like this. Basically, the entire city of Grand Rapids, Michigan got together to produce this video as an FU to Newsweek, which listed Grand Rapids as one of "America's dying cities." The level of coordination and prep that went into this video is something to behold. Keep an eye out for Waldo in the opening 20 seconds.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The 30-Day Movie Challenge, Part 3

The list continues!

12. Favourite Director(s) -- Joel & Ethan Coen
There are a lot of strong contenders for this title, but with apologies to Christopher Nolan, Steven Spielberg, Akira Kurosawa, Billy Wilder, Charlie Chaplin, Quentin Tarantino (the runner-up), Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman, Pedro Almodovar, it's the Coens who take the prize.*

Why the Coens over all these other great filmmakers? The fact that they write their own material plays a role, but the title here is 'director,' so I'm not faulting the likes of Spielberg because usually works off others' scripts. I'm also not going strictly by the percentages since there are a few Coen films I don't care for (Blood Simple, Hudsucker Proxy) whereas I've enjoyed every film Tarantino or Nolan have ever made.

What clinches it for Joel and Ethan, however, is the sheer variety and creativity of their filmography. These are guys who can and have worked in virtually every genre, succeed by playing by the rules of that genre, yet also make films that are both distinctly 'Coen' and wholly original. My friend Jordan has a rule where he basically requires himself to watch a Coen brothers film twice before really properly reviewing it, since on your first viewing, there's just SO MUCH on the screen it takes time to digest. For instance, in watching "The Big Lebowski" again recently, it only just dawned on me that Donny's bowling shirts don't actually have his name on them. As if Donny's life wasn't sad enough.

To clear up a crediting issue, the Coens have always co-directed and co-produced their films, but the credit was split (Joel directing, Ethan producing) for years due to some kind of guild regulation, I believe. This is why I'm not singling out Joel Coen specifically, since it's widely acknowledged that the Coens work as a unit. The brothers have been properly credited as co-directors for their last several movies.

* = though if you ask me tomorrow, I might pick Tarantino, or Kurosawa, or some other filmmaker whose name I'm inexplicably forgetting at the moment, like Alfred Hitchcock or someone. Hey, wait, actually...


13. Favourite Cartoon Movie Character -- Buzz Lightyear
Say what you will about Tim Allen's one-note comedy act and alleged massive real-life ego, but the guy has very shrewdly parlayed that ego into two fantastic roles. First, you have his Shatner-esque character in the very underrated and awesome "Galaxy Quest," a must-see for any sci-fi geek, and then you have Buzz Lightyear. Buzz is so wonderfully deluded in the first Toy Story movie and while he eventually gets a hint that he's really a toy, that inherent blowhard nature never quite goes away in the other two films in the series. Between Allen and Tom Hanks, the voice casting could not have been better for Buzz and Woody, reason #676 why the Toy Story movies are awesome.


14. Favourite Film Villain -- Harry Lime (played by Orson Welles in "The Third Man")
Most of the villains on my short list were either real pieces of human garbage (John Huston's character in Chinatown, Captain Vidal from Pan's Labyrinth, Amon Goth from Schindler's List), force-of-nature sociopaths or unthinking entities (Biff Tannen, The T-1000, Big Ern McCracken, The Joker, Anton Chigurh, The Nothing from Neverending Story, Tajomaru from Rashomon) or creepily charismatic malevolent forces (Ursula, Colonel Hans Landa, Lotso Bear). This was arguably the hardest category of them all to pick, so I decided to pick the character that combined all three traits, namely Harry Lime.

Firstly, you have Lime stealing penicillin and selling it on the black market. Quite a dick move in and of itself, but Lime tops himself by diluting the medicine to keep his buyers coming back for more. As for being a sociopath, there's Lime's famous "would you hate it if one of those dots stopped moving?" speech to his friend Holly. And as for being charismatic, well, Harry Lime was played by Orson Welles. Nuff said. Any actor studying the craft, and specifically studying two-hander scenes, needs to watch the scene between Welles and Joseph Cotton on the gondola. Just tremendous stuff.


15. Favourite Guilty Pleasure Film -- Fever Pitch
Just so we're clear on the terminology, a "guilty pleasure" is a film that you openly realize is terrible but you love it anyway. It can't be a movie that you think is actually good, nor can be it be a film that is sort of an accepted guilty pleasure ('Roadhouse' or 'Big Trouble In Little China' are perfect examples of this). Nope, a guilty pleasure film has to be a movie that is straight-up bad, but you just can't stop yourself from throwing into the DVD player or watching whenever it's on TV. This is the kind of film that, if your significant other found it on your DVD shelf, they'd raise an eyebrow and ask "Seriously??" while their respect for you is lowered by about 10 percent.

With all this being said, yes, I did legitimately enjoy Fever Pitch. Not the Colin Firth original about soccer....the Jimmy Fallon/Drew Barrymore joint. Sigh. Is it tomorrow yet so I can talk about a different film?


16. Favourite Movie Soundtrack -- Help!
This is one of those "forehead slap" categories. I made this big list of film soundtracks (including the likes of American Graffiti, Once, South Park, Stop Making Sense and about a dozen other candidates) before reading my buddy Mario's concurrent 30-Day Challenge posts and seeing his entry of A Hard Day's Night. "Oh man, how did I forget about this BEATLES soundtracks?!" *forehead slap*

Now, I'm not actually going with A Hard Day's Night, but rather "Help!", which is arguably my favourite Beatles album. To be fair, I should note that "Help!" isn't a pure soundtrack, as only half the songs actually appeared in the movie and a couple others were left on the cutting-room floor. The rest of the songs were other tunes that the Beatles wrote around the same time --- you know, a few throw-aways like It's Only Love, I've Just Seen A Face and Yesterday. Taking a non-pure soundtrack album may be a bit against the spirit of this challenge, but screw it, I've Just Seen A Face is my favourite Beatles song. "Help!" it is.