Friday, December 16, 2011

The weight of choice

Perhaps it's the overload of information on the web or the ease of communication. The upcoming generations' greatest challenge will be filtering the sheer mass of possibilities. Many will feel immobile, scared stiff of taking a step in the wrong direction, caught in a web of choices that each lead toward a promised prize.

I've had a number of conversations recently, with many who are unhappy with their choices in life. Wishing for greener pastures, assured that their life was the wrong one, their missed opportunities irrecoverably ruining their potential for something greater. What does one say? Left squirming in a precarious position a number of times, I now keep my mouth firmly shut.

Why?

Simple. Blame. There is an expiry date when children can blame their parents, when wives or husbands can point fingers at one another, when you can stomp and whine and generally be a pain in the ass to everyone around you.

The answer? Just try. Think. Plan. Attempt. The very worst you can do is fail, and so long as you did things in moderation, all that you've lost was a little bit of pride, time, and hopefully not too much money.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Wrap up

The end of the year can be a terrible time. Seeing family you wish to avoid, summing up your mishaps and mistakes, emptiness, loneliness, and the deflated void you're left with, come January 2nd.

2012 promises to be quite an interesting year. For some, they believe it'll be the end of the earth itself, for those in the east, it's the lucky Chinese year of the dragon, but for most, it's just one more year that we have to worry about work, money, relationships, and health.

This April- May Michael Apted's acclaimed Up series documentary will return with 56 Up. An intriguing glimpse of varied English individuals, their struggles and triumphs as they age every seven years. It's a slow, almost surreal memory of a world that's been muffled by twitter, tabloids, new gadgets, media, advertising, and facebook.

If you ever feel old, and wish you were a decade younger, appreciate this... the freedom most of us experienced is rapidly vanishing for the next generation, and should not be taken lightly. Even if you can't see the light at the end of the tunnel, nothing lasts forever... eventually your day in the sun will come.

What did Steve Jobs say? Stay hungry, stay foolish.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Face lift

Movies are dead. Words that no studio exec wants to hear. Is it true? Not sure.. all I hear around me is: "There's nothing worth seeing right now. I'd rather just watch a few re-runs at home." Sad isn't it?

The LINE UP of Fall 2011, 2012, 2013

Sandal flicks and the 300 look.
Immortals? Clash of the Titans? Prince of Persia? B-O-R-I-N-G! Heroes that are perfect, not funny.. I can't relate to them... at all. So why did 300 work? Well Gerald Butler doesn't look like them, he was married, was walking toward his death, and it was the FIRST of it's kind. Slow motion shots feel like a parody now. It's old.

Superheroes are dull
Unless they are drunk, cocky, brash, arrogant pricks. Which is why Iron man, Batman, and Thor are cool.

Aliens and Robots
Skyline, Battle L.A., Cowboys and Aliens, Rise of the Apes. Will I remember them later? Nope.
So what makes Avatar, and soon to be Prometheus and Robopocalypse buzz worthy? The director. Period.

Fairy dust
Hoping to sprinkle a little bit of magic dust from Alice and Wonderland, Hollywood is tapping into the huge vault of long dead writers of the past. Both versions of Snow White are a little obnoxious. Julia Roberts as the evil queen? Idiotic. The twilight girl battling horsemen? Stupid.

Right now I want to step back into history layered in reality. Which is why Anonymous, Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy, and A Dangerous Method are on my list.

What would I like to see?
I must admit Noah's Ark could be interesting... Devil in the White City is fascinating.. a dark version of Atlantis? Arabian Nights from the view of the jaded pissed off genie? Whatever it is be different (ie no cheesy action slow mo shots), be personal, be worth $12.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sherlock Returns

Benedict Cumberbatch (Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) and Martin Freeman (The Hobbit) will finally return to the small screen as our dear neurotic but undeniably brilliant Sherlock in early 2012 on BBC.

If you can't wait, you can always discover old gems such as "State of Play" (and I don't mean the Russel Crowe version) in 2003. Directed by David Yates starring familiar faces such as Bill Nighy, James McAvoy, and Kelly Macdonald. John Simm shines as Cal McCaffrey in this six part series.

There's also the spectacularly popular second season of "Downton Abbey", the original sci-fi series "Torchwood", Matthew Macfadyen (Pride and Prejudice) in "Spooks", or the cancelled two season romp, "Life" starring Damien Lewis.

Lately television has proven to be more original, interesting and imaginative than most multi-million dollar movies. Tired of vampires and zombies? Angels are the new Vampire. Immortal, beautiful and dangerous, what else? Look for biblical huge epics in the next few years. Noah's Ark, the teen Angel trilogy Mortal Instruments, and Milton's Paradise Lost are just a few upcoming stories to grace the big screen.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Listening Library Presents..

Not many audiobooks have the depth and quality of a full cast and production, however a great reader truly does make the difference.

Lately I've been hunting through audible.com. It's a difficult hunt, a book that doesn't require 100% concentration to follow, that can capture your imagination without difficulty. Some may love the dry informative reads such as Outliers, Lost city of Z or Devil in the White City. I however avoid them like the plague. Action, drama, mixed with a good amount of comedy is essential for any listener, especially a novice.

So far? This is not necessarily a criticism of the writing nor the reader, but sometimes the stories just need to be read on paper. Often, light fluff makes for the best campfire stories...

5 stars
BBC Lord of the Rings
George Orwell, War of the Worlds
Harry Potter series
The Other Boleyn Girl
The Hunger Games
Neverwhere
Agatha Christie series with full cast and production value Radio 4 (Murder on the Orient Express, Death in the Clouds, Thirteen at Dinner)
Bridget Jones Diary

4 stars
The Night Circus
Tigana
The Ring of Solomon
Discovery of Witches
American Gods
City of Embers by
Gideon the Cutpurse
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Spy Who came out from the Cold

3 stars
Robopocalypse: A Novel
Bartimeaus Trilogy
The Pale King
The Alchemyst
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell
Pride and Prejudice & Zombies
Neuromancer
Bossypants
Blood Meridian
Year of the Flood (best to read...)
The Road

2 stars
George R. R. Martin series Song of Ice and Fire: DON'T BOTHER, his books are a great READ, but the dense storyline and vast group of characters can easily lose any attentive listener.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Falling into old habits

24 hours just isn't enough. I often fall into the whole "work, life, balance" water cooler conversation. Why? Because it's bullshit. 12 hours a day, 60 hours a week and I still go home feeling guilty that I'm not a "team player", working the weekend like all the other keener newbies in the office.

Fortunately the fall season has begun and I'm about to deluge my brain with television, weird indie dramas, and rush seats to random plays or exhibits. Continuing my boycott on all gyms, which only serve to make me feel like I'm either a) wasting money for not going b)shitty for my old sweats and dirty sneakers and c) irritated when some ***hole is taking too long on the machines in front of me. Eat less and cut out sugar. Gave me the same result after years of running like a hamster on the treadmill.

Great finds...

11 Flowers (above): One of the best films to debut at TIFF, made by the celebrated filmmaker Wang Xiaoshuai (Beijing Bicycle). A personal, quality film that reminded me of Stand by Me (although very different). An 11 year old boy becomes entangled in a local crime during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

We Need to Talk about Kevin: Tilda Swinton's oscar calibre role in Lionel Shriver's raw, haunting tale of a mother's love for her murderous son.

Drive: Ryan Gosling continues his winning streak with this moody action flick.

Most anticipated flick of the year? Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.. only annoy aspect of the film is the name.

TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) has turned into a bit of an over-bloated greedy pig ($22 for a BLOODY TICKET??? WTF is that?) with the line ups, hiked prices for flicks that come out in theatres in a few weeks, and annoying fans. The best part? The foreign selection that most never get access to and energetic vibrant hum of the audience.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

The kindness of evasion

I find it odd and rather insensitive when I watch others get interrogated with intrusive questions during events. Every crowd has one or two individuals who constantly aim for the soft spot. "Have you gained a few pounds?" "Any children, when are you going to have children?" "Dating anyone yet?" "Married yet?" "What do you do?" "Grandkids?" "How old are you?" "How much money do you make?" "Did you find a job yet?" The list goes on and on. A friend of mine detests the question "What do you do?" the most.

Every question is a loaded one. All of it applies to societal pressures and living inside the box.

Judgement. What everyone does, but shouldn't do. Because in the end, we don't know what the next day will bring, and it's nobody's business but their own.

Silence is golden.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Scavenger hunts for adults

A group of overheated teammates pounding the concrete through the scorching hot midday sun passed us by today. With matching t-shirts and large numbers plastered on their backside, I almost thought I was watching the Amazing Race. The Great Urban Race was passing through and next week it'll cross over to Madison.

It's a great way to really test a relationship as you navigate through the urban jungle hunting for random clues.

Click on the website to see if it's heading toward you.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Return of the Prodigal

Netflix has struck gold.. well.. they'll be shelling out the gold but they will likely see it pouring back... and hopefully with a profit. Rumour has it that Dave Chappelle is working on another comedy show. One season .. two seasons... whatever.. I'll take what I can get.

lame

Well Vancouver lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals, boo-hoo. I was pretty impressed they made it to the end in the first place, most Canadians wish the Leafs, Habs or Oilers could get so far.

It's a weird town, I've seen photos from so many onlookers, posting images of cars burning and horrifyingly... a few people getting beaten to a pulp. Toronto Star posted a live viral of a good samaritan protecting a shop front. First I thought, who was this ass**** filming it rather than helping the guy when the lynch mob struck him, and second, what the hell?

Over a game? Destroying a city when Japan survived a horrific earthquake with quiet dignity, and Syria riots for their freedom? Some blame it on only a select few, but from the scores of photos and now... videos posted, it's apparent that a few thousand of Vancouver Canuck fans are nothing more than playground bullies. Goading on others with their chanting and watching others get hurt in the process.

A poor woman reported that as she was trying to get to her car an angry fan jumped on her roof smashing it down. She was quickly engulfed into the crowd when she tried to pull him off.

Surprised? If you've lived in Vancouver, you wouldn't be. Vancouver has a large downtown area that closely resembles "Children of Men" ... is a city with a large prostitution ring (especially considering the small size of the city), and has such an overinflated housing market (jacked up prices by the non-resident wealthy foreign money), that locals can't afford a decent home. The Olympics may have created a beautiful veil of serene calm, but in reality the city is no better (or worse) than any other North American town.

Think small, become small.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Gone but not forgotten

A friend has been blathering on about the cancelled LIFE series starring the talented Damian Lewis, and indeed, it was worth the time. The first few years can make or break great quality material, and in many cases, at no fault toward the creators, it doesn't survive.

Here are a few gems in the rough.

Despite Fox's bad rep, they have a pretty impressive record for quality shows (Firefly, Wonderfalls, Undeclared), unfortunately couch potato America didn't think so.

What more can I say? It's worth every dime.

I didn't even hear much about this until it was already off the air. Pity.

Why do people even care about Lara Flynn Boyle? This is why... David Lynch's masterpiece.

Before the Social Network, Aaron Sorkin's biting dialogue walked the perfect line between humour and drama.

I don't know if it was the writers strike that gave the final blow to this artistic endeavor, however it will be sorely missed.

For all those angst ridden young teens that detest the Twilight crowd, this show will provide a much needed change of scenery.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bigger and better

As much as I enjoyed X-men First Class, or quietly waiting in anticipation for David Fincher's remake of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, their success will continue the trend of franchise material. With a great deal of bandwagon jumpers joining the buzz surrounding HBO's Game of Thrones or AMC's Danish remade series: The Killing, my interest has slowly ebbed and I've been sniffing the air for something new.

It's a dangerous road attempting a well loved classic, most remakes flourish when the original's shadow has long faded. There will be another Wizard of Oz, a few Snow White interpretations, numerous Vampire spinoffs, and invariably a flood of zombie pictures (Walking Dead, World War Z, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies...). The more that people feel out of control, the greater the need for a way to escape.

If Hollywood wanted to attempt a comic/anime translation, why not veer toward the lesser known? Darker than Black, Mushi-shi, Baccano!, Fullmetal Alchemist, or Samurai Champloo all have in-depth story lines (Not to mention some of them do not feature Japanese protagonists). Taking a cue from the break out success of Game of Thrones there is the impeccable twin novel epic adventure by Guy Gavriel Kay, The Sarantine Mosaic. Or perhaps the lesser Disney spun tales such as Rumpelstiltskin or even Robert Munsch's Paper Bag Princess? For now, we'll have to be content with board games ... wholly original storyline and famous in name only.



Sunday, May 22, 2011

Quirks of art

In many ways.. you can create an impressive collection of just about anything. With the right display cases and thorough research for the strange and extraordinary, anything can be of value.

There are many alternative travel guides across America or Europe, for those who cringe at the sight of galleries or museums there's certainly something for all walks of life...

Here are a few odd ones...

Antique Medical Equipment

Perhaps it doesn't sound strange when it's only medicine bottles, syringes and vials... but when one sees the saws, bone chisels etc... your imagination can't help but runaway with you. (More info on museum of quackery... I'd also say the Museum of antique handcuffs run under this strange peccadillo)

Air Sickness bags

A few years ago Virgin Airlines hosted the "Design for Chunks" design competition that showcased 20 winners who had their artwork appear on sickbags on Virgin Atlantic flights throughout the world.

Ship beer bottles: Who would've thought all those things you toss out in the dumpster would be treasured art?

In Europe...

The Labyrinth of Buda Castle, Budapest, Hungary
The Leprosy Museum, Bergen, Norway
Cern Abbas Giant, England
Frog Museum, The Hague, Netherlands
Museum of the Souls of the Dead, Rome, Italy
The Absinthe Museum, Paris, France
Museum of Miniatures, Andorra, Ordino

Doors Open

Toronto's Doors Open event will be returning this May 28 and 29! About 150 buildings of architectural, historic, cultural or social significance open their doors to the public for free! From Black Creek Pioneer Village, High Park Club... to the famed Gooderham "Flatiron Building", visitors can step into a world normally restricted to members only.

Buildings of note:
Casa Loma
Citytv & OMNI Television Rogers Studios
Design Exchange
Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre Centre
Gladstone Hotel
Mackenzie House
Native Child and Family Services Toronto
Old City Hall

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Shaken not stirred

NBC, the once juggernaut powerhouse of the small screen has been slowly driven into the ditch for the past few years, but if the 10 newly released trailers are any sign, the shake up from the top could be the beginning of a new era. Showtime's previous head Robert Greenblatt has shed quite a few old (maybe a bit moldy) peacock feathers and the next few years will prove whether NBC will see another sunrise.

The great part is when you hit dirt bottom there's nowhere to go but up.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Split down the middle

Canada has voted and our right wing Conservatives have won the majority long sought after. Half right, half left, and nothing left in the middle. If things continue, we'll have a two tier medical system, a non-regulated banking system, and repeat the housing disaster of 2008.

Why am I surprised, most Canucks were more preoccupied with what Kate Middleton was wearing at the wedding. Oh... and now we're expected to foot the bill when they come and visit? You must be kidding me.

I'll just crawl back in my hole and read a book.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Count down

Low and behold. George R. R. Martin has completed his next book to the epic series Song of Ice and Fire. A Dance with Dragons, and the published date is REAL. July 12, 2011.
Who will be in it? To be honest I've forgotten a great deal of the subplots, and have given my copies away to the Library... (not an insult.. I always give away all popular books to the library as a donation.. Harry Potter, Neil Gaiman... ) Share and share alike.

If I recall rightly, Arya, Jaime, Cersei, and Samwell were the main POVs in A Feast for Crows... we have yet to hear from Tyrion and Daenerys. I'm not certain if the author really did slice this segment of the story in half, one hopes not. It would be painful to wait another few years to hear from Arya's world again.

Fortunately the HBO series seems to be getting better, but as always, film can rarely match the written word.

Déjà vu

According to Deadline Hollywood Jeremy Renner will take the reigns of the Bourne Saga for Universal (he's also rumoured to be the next MI:4 agent) ... as well as a main role for the upcoming Avengers. A great pity. Overexposure is poison for any actor, and frankly it looks as though Mr. Renner will be the next Natalie Portman if these films are released far too close to one another.

For the next few years we have Green Lantern, Avengers, Thor, Captain America, Spiderman whatever number it is, Superman, and ... Batman ... THREE. Not to mention Cars 2, Transformers 3, Fast Five, Die Hard 5, Mission Impossible 4, Fantastic 4 Reborn, X-men: First Class, Wolverine 2, and Avatar 2 & 3.

If it isn't a superhero, there's the remake group. Total Recall, Godzilla, Cleopatra, My Fair Lady, Great Gatsby, and the Three Musketeers. Not to mention the Americanization (or bastardization) of three Japanese classics, Akira, Death Note, and Ghost in the Shell.

It's all business, it's simple math, it's a sure thing... or is it?

For now.. I'm boycotting most of these factory spun films with little thought, and even less artistic merit. Fortunately there are still a few pictures to look forward to: War Horse, Life of Pi, World War Z, Forever War, Monopoly, A Brave New World, Legend of Cain, Cowboys and Aliens, heck even Hunger Games offers something original.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Winter is coming...

After seeing the much hyped HBO debut of Game of Thrones, I must say it was .. okay. The sets, costumes, and superb cast saved what could have been a very disappointing opening.

Am I asking for too much? A great deal of the episode was shot high and static, with little camera experimentation and rather over-lit lighting. I expected slicker editing, pushed saturation on the final render, and especially... especially more humour entwined into the writing. If I were a newbie, I would have been lost in the first five minutes. Most fantasy sagas always begin with a voice over to explain the world that you are about to enter. With Lord of the Rings it was Galadriel's monologue, with Star Wars it was the written words disappearing into space, and even with Harry Potter, Hagrid's choppy explanation of the magical world hidden from everyday "muggles".

Perhaps a drunken minstrel singing a short history of their world? Or Eddard Stark telling Arya or Bran a story of his days when he helped Robert Baratheon capture the throne from the dragon loving Targaryens? All of this would have helped, a short, sweet, yet vital explanation of who is who and what is what.

For television, I was most surprised with the lack of occasional tight framing and the omission of low angles. I expected a POV from Bran, Jon, or Arya's perspective when the King's guard first entered Winterfell, adding a much needed feeling of unease. A few scenes of Arya's close relationship with Jon, a meaningful glance between Eddard's bastard son Jon and himself when they found the direwolves pups. All the loyalty, pain, and ties that are essential to establish for future episodes.

There was none of it.

It's probably too early to judge, most shows take a while to warm up, here's hoping...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Lazy days

As HBO's Game of Thrones cuts through the competition tomorrow, I've turned back to young adult literature for the time being. After Cormac McCarthy's The Road and Ian McEwan's Atonement, sometimes I need a light escape.

Newest find? Alan Bradley's The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Ten pages in, the promising start gives me hope that it won't repeat my disappointment after reading The Discovery of Witches. A rather nauseating tale of a beautiful (oblivious to her allure... of course), intelligent, talented, heroine and her vampire lover. I have officially OD'd on vampires. The only thing I've "discovered" is that a perfect protagonist produces little empathy and even less charm. Another reason for George R.R. Martin's appeal to the masses, imperfection is human nature.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Last Call

Great news! The final season (13) of Poirot has been ordered for 2011! According to UK Express, the resurgence of interest in period fare has ignited after the huge success of ITV 1's Downton Abbey.

The final six stories? Off the top of my head: Elephants Can Remember, Dead Man's Folly, The Big Four (a very early story), Black Coffee, Curtain... and ??? Hopefully we will see the old gang back, his ever faithful Captain Arthur Hastings (Hugh Frasier), Miss Lemon (Pauline Moran), Chief Inspector Japp (Philip Jackson), George (David Yelland), and Ariadne Oliver (Zoe Wanamaker) in Dead Man's Folly.

Look for the air dates later this fall.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bloody Sunday

I first stumbled on this notorious family when I was reading up on the Devil in the White City's infamous serial killer Dr. H.H. Holmes. Similar to the powerful Medici family of the Renaissance, The Borgias (also known as the Borjas or Bourghesse), mirror our modern day dramas, with their rumoured tales of intrigue and corruption as they rose to power.

Showtimes The Borgias is fortunately available online.. here (for now.. it's still up and running...)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Spring cleaning

According to collector friends, Church sales are the ultimate goldmine for finding valuable wonders. If you have the patience, and moreover the knowledge, the possibilities are endless. With the elderly individuals downsizing to condos, estate sales, or just plain carelessness; collectors have managed to get their hands on items for fraction of the value.

Every spring I try to donate anything that I haven't used for a few years. From electronics to clothing, it's always amazing to discover how easily things pile up. I've joined the ranks of the online shopper. Checking at the store, noting sizes, and then going home to see if there are cheaper options for my purchase. It's all about mulling things over... do you REALLY need it? Penny pinching goes a long way.

For Canucks, even though our loonie is above par to the buck, we're still paying an extra 20% markup from the days that our dollar was at 66 cents to the US dollar. On books, clothing, computers, software... the list goes on and on. If you buy from the US, I always check WHO is shipping. Fedex is great, but UPS will slap all Canucks with the biggest awful bill at the end, keeping your package in limbo until you pay the extra duty. Thinking green requires holding off on buying a new cellphone, ipad, laptop and generally reducing any compulsion to keep up with the neighbour. Reduce, reuse and mostly.. rethink.

I guess the Antique Roadshow will be next on my to do list.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Miss Marple's Face lift

According to Deadline Hollywood, Agatha Christie's crotchety old spinster will be getting a Hollywood makeover. Mark Frost is scripting a Miss Marple version where she's in her prime mid 30s or 40s. St. Mary's Mead will likely be sex-ed up, with a great deal more scandal and perhaps a love interest or two? The deal has been signed with Disney (isn't that a bit odd?)... can you imagine a "Miss Marple ride" or her face plastered on some weird English Tea set?


Monday, March 14, 2011

Who knows you

"It's all about who you know..." or so they say. I say it's about "who knows you", and moreover, what they think about you. Business, music, film, medicine, it's all about politics. Water cooler talk, golf course chit chat, and yes, often what you look like.

Right now part of the world is in chaos, another devastating earthquake off the coast in Japan with thousands left homeless, grieving after their missing loved ones. Vancouver, Seattle, L.A., San Francisco, Portland, have watched in horror as their mirror reflection across the pond continues to crumble. Chile, New Zealand, Japan...

One can't help but ask: Are we next?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Golden Sunday

When did the Oscars become irrelevant?

Friends and colleague just laugh now about the award ceremony that will air this Sunday night. More interested in the movie stars frocks and their telecast reactions after a devastating loss. Does having an oscar mean anything? For best picture it means more money, but when you think of the best directors, best actors/actresses in history, most have never walked home with the golden man.

FAMOUS & EMBARRASSING OMISSIONS

Director
Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Tim Burton, Jean-Luc Godard, Norman Jewison, Akira Kurosawa, Fritz Lang, Spike Lee, Robert Altman, Cecil B. De Mille, James Ivory, Ridley Scott, David Lynch, David Cronenberg, Sydney Lumet etc.. etc..

Actor
Donald Sutherland, Albert Finney, Richard Harris, Peter O'Toole, Paul Giamatti, Alan Arkin, Montgomery Clift, Richard Burton...

Actress
Annette Benning (who will likely be passed over AGAIN), Helena Bonham Carter, Glenn Close, Deborah Kerr, Angela Lansbury, Lauren Bacall, Barbara Stanwyck, Thelma Ritter, Rosalind Russell, Kristen Scott Thomas, Julianne Moore, Toni Collete, Molly Parker, Christina Ricci, Sigourney Weaver..

Perhaps quality is indicated in the company you keep. Then I guess it's far better to walk out empty handed...

This is the first year that I've ever seen every single film nominated or over hyped. Tonight is the Oscars, and I will be tuning out. For the past ten years most of the "winners" have left me dumbstruck. Sandra Bullock? Reese Witherspoon? Julia Roberts? Gwyneth Paltrow? REALLY??? I never grew up in an American high school where homecoming queens and kings are crowned victorious, but this seems like a grown up version of prom night. What are you wearing? You look lovely!

Toy Story 3 was great, but it was ... number three. Unfortunately their competition is a disappointing yet visual appealing Illusionist, and the fun but formulaic How to train your dragon. I was horrified that they ignored the sleeper hit Despicable Me, a far more original story with plenty of artistic merit.

Best Actress
My favourite performances of the year? Perhaps Jennifer Lawrence in The Winter's Bone if it can't be Lesley Manville in Another Year.

Best Actor
Colin Firth's portrayal in The King's Speech really has stood above the rest, however, I do wish the academy at least acknowledged Paul Giamatti's stellar role in Barney's Version.

Best Director
Tricky, tricky. If it's a matter of: "we should give the award to someone who has a fantastic body of work," then David Fincher by all means.

Best Picture
It's a moot point. There's nothing that I really really loved this year so what can I say? Er.. the King's Speech? Am I suppose to pity a wealthy, aristocrat who can't speak properly? Social Network... when I've never given a flying horse shit about facebook? It even had Justin Timberlake so it loses a few points there. The Fighter, an okay boxing film, with some really loud loud characters. Inception, which never fully felt like a dream? Black Swan, an over the top soap opera that made me laugh rather than care about Nina? Maybe Winter's Bone, but who actually saw it? Oh and I forgot about True Grit. I guess that's the problem.

In the end, frankly, I just don't give a damn.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Strange and the vivid

Nobody does it better than Japan when it applies to background painting. This exceptional series: Mushishi, created by Artland (spanning 26 episodes) is an animated series based off the manga by Yuki Urushibara. There is also a live-action version directed by Katsuhira Otomo (Akira).

Devoid of violence or nudity, it is still not recommended for children. With eerie and supernatural concepts of reality, the storyline follows Ginko, a Mushi master travelling across the land investigating strange cases involving "mushi"; ghost-like creatures that co-exist in our world. The format is similar to many North American series formats (Sherlock, X-Files, CSI), each episode serves a self-contained dilemma where the protagonist digs beneath the surface, discovering both answers and more questions.

I've recently found a few episodes online:

Episode 1 : The Green Seat
Episode 2: The Light of the Eyelid (this one really can creep out kids)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

New & old

Historical fantasy is often plagued with melodramatic story lines, two dimensional characters, and horrible dialogue... fortunately there are a few exceptions.

Although I look forward to seeing HBO's Game of Thrones, I must admit I wish Guy Gavriel Kay's novels were adapted to the silver screen, perhaps more so. Partially because he doesn't leave you starving for years on end, delivering a juicy tale of intrigue and romance with one healthy serving. Like many authors, usually their sophomore years prove to be the most successful. Quite a few of my friends agree, it wasn't until after Tigana that Kay hit his stride. Looking for something to tide you over while you wait for Game of Thrones? There are plenty of options...

Best of the best:
The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay
Sailing for Sarantium & Lord of Emperors by Guy Gavriel Kay
Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Monday, February 14, 2011

Drought


When you're ambushed with a chaotic amount of work it's always great to have a way to deflate. My job is filled with closet alcoholics, drug addicts, and.. ehem... many other vices. It's always surprising, since it's a job about youth and nothing sucks the life out of you faster than boozing, smoking, and snorting.

Fortunately I've managed to find a great book or two, and to my utter surprise the only upcoming films I'm interested are on television. I've seen five films recently, that's right FIVE awful pieces of sh*t films in a row. For the next five months I can't truly pick out one film that I'm interested in.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Inside Game Of Thrones - Extended Version (HBO)


Sean Bean is a good start, however the future of Game of Thrones lies heavily on the actors playing the children. This extended version by HBO is a great introduction into the complicated world of George. R.R. Martin's epic drama. I does look a bit "clean" for my taste, however you can't tell until the final transfer.

The Borgias Sneak Peek [HQ]

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Inside and Out


If you aren't sick of them already, the Actor's Studio sheds light on the growing pains of many of the most successful talents in Hollywood. I've always remembered that the most acclaimed actors are not necessarily the most talented, but perhaps the most fortunate. The right place, right time, where they were given the opportunity to catapult themselves into fame.

Would you say that Donald Sutherland, Gary Oldman, Maria Bello, Christina Ricci, Alan Rickman, Sam Rockwell, John Malkovich, Angela Bassett, Richard E. Grant, Robert Downy Jr., Catherine Keener, Edward Norton, Toni Collette, or Paul Giamatti... aren't GREAT actors simply because they manage to seamlessly melt into their characters and are often overlooked during the Oscars? Even then.. they are still well known. Many cities have a number of phenomenal talents that perform on stage, working tirelessly on their craft... never to have their mugs plastered on cheap tabloid rags or selling cosmetics on a billboard.

The most entertaining... or ... insightful (additional parts will be shown on the link)

Simpsons cast (maybe the funniest) part 1
Kevin Spacey part 1
Tom Hanks part 1
Johnny Depp part 1
Robert Downey Jr. part 1
Dave Chappelle part 1
Jodie Foster part 1
Meryl Streep part 1
Hugh Laurie part 1
Paul Newman & Joanne Woodward part 1
Conan O'Brien part 1
Ricky Gervais part 1
Steven Spielberg (on of the hardest to find and one of the longest interviews 4 hours... clip)

Who I wish they had on their show? More directors and especially screenwriters.. but then again.. it wouldn't be the actors studio then.
Tim Burton, Ang Lee, Ian Holm, Maggie Smith, Emma Thompson (diary during filming... hilarious), Daniel Day Lewis, Jon Stewart, Tom Stoppard, Alan Rickman...

Still hunting for (since they have interviewed them) William Goldman, Norman Jewison, Arthur Miller, Sydney Pollack on youtube.

Lipton's classic questions, based on Bernard Pivot after the Proust Questionairre:
  1. What is your favorite word?
  2. What is your least favorite word?
  3. What turns you on?
  4. What turns you off?
  5. What sound or noise do you love?
  6. What sound or noise do you hate?
  7. What is your favorite curse word?
  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
  9. What profession would you not like to do?
  10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Brain freeze

Many wealthy (or on credit...) Canucks fly down south of the border to skip the harsh winters every year... laughing at us poor schmucks who are stuck up north. But sometimes they miss some of the best events that Canada has to offer.

1. It's painfully cold this year, but it's also been a very long time since I've seen people skate along the pond, the canal... or even a man-made backyard skating rink. Ottawa's Winterlude features the world longest ice rink, ice sculptures, and concerts.

2. Sugaring. The Eastern provinces of Canada offer something that the west can't... Maplefest.
Maple syrup on pancakes, bacon, sausages... heck, they even pour it on snow! Kids hopped up on sugar, as they enjoy horse-drawn hay rides, live music, tree tapping...


3. Skiing.. whether it's Quebec, Alberta, or British Columbia. This winter will have phenomenal slopes.

4. The underground. Want to know where the locals are... they're twenty feet under. Montreal and Toronto have vast underground connection offerings, giving businessmen/women the option of never taking one step outside. Grocery stores, movie theatres, shops, restaurants, shoe shining, drycleaners, book stores, and transit. What snow?

5. Quebec Ice Hotel (Hotel de Glace) Rebuilt every year, their doors open in January until the beginning of April. Remember James Bond: Die Another Day... could be cozy.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Winter blues

Did you ever love to hunt for treasure? As a child, I especially relished the annual Easter Egg hunt, or the survival games arranged by camp during middle school. The days of trying to figure out maps and compasses are gone, Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played by Indiana Jones lovers across the globe. Played with kids, families, and friends... a less stressful version of the "Amazing Race" but no less satisfying.

Geocaching

Quick study

Evidently there was an alternative version of the Sherlock remake? A Study in Pink. This is the first legit online version I've found for those that have been dying to see this show.. who aren't in the United Kingdom.

Part 1 of 12 link here

Making of Sherlock: Unlocking Sherlock.. part 1 here

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Trimmings

What the hell is this?

I never would've stumbled upon this if it weren't for the casting of Alan Rickman, Richard E. Grant, Pete Postlethwaite, and Hugh Laurie...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mystery overseas

Shinzanmono is a modern day crime drama that is sure to please for many Poirot and Sherlock fans. Ten episodes centre on ONE murder, as each episode/segment peels back the lies and motives of the people in Nihonbashi, Tokyo through deduction and logic.

Although Korean and South American television and cinema have been on an upward climb in both quality and originality, I've found Japan's recent releases to be lacking. (Yes.. yes... Departures was great.. but that's ONE in a particular year, and I haven't seen a Studio Ghibli picture in years).

Japan normally specializes in a large array of horror, animation, scientific dramas and popular psychological contests of will (Liar Game, Death Note) adapted from manga. Shinzanmono has a subtler touch, with the occasional strange cultural differences in humour and technique from its Western counterparts.

"In the Ningyo-cho area of Nihonbashi, Tokyo – a woman was murdered. Detective Kaga Kyoichiro, who just transferred to the Nihonbashi police precinct, is placed in charge of the murder case. With virtually the entire residents of Ningyo-cho’s shopping street emerging as suspects, Detective Kaga must use his keen sense of deductive reasoning to uncover the truth … ."

Part 1 here

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Fast and furious

Ever watch the Thin Man series? The sharp, witty, quick dialogue that leaves your mind spinning? Not a surprise that Johnny Depp is reported to be interested in a remake of the classic series. What the Tourist failed to do, the Thin Man delivers in spades.

The Thin Man: Art of Murder link here

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Building Foundations

A new approach to BBC? Perhaps after seeing the excellent King's Speech I've been itching to see other well done period dramas.

Similar to the modern reboot of Sherlock, BBC has been testing the waters with only a few 90 minute episodes. I loved Gosford Park, and recently discovered Upstairs, Downstairs (Trailer), the remake of the incredibly popular series in the 70s. Starring Eileen Aikins, Keeley Hawes, Ed Stoppard, Anne Reid, Clair Foy, Adrian Scarborough, ARt Malik, Ellie Kendrick, and Nico Mirallegro.

A few other shows that have escaped my notice.
2008: Merlin (Reminds me of Jonathan Rhys-Meyers in Gormenghast)

Created by Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park) starring Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith, Elizabeth McGovern etc...