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July 31, 2003

Survey Says...

80% of British men don't know what "foreplay" is, mistaking it for a sport, a computer game, or item of clothing. 70% of British men gave themselves a 9/10 on technique after they found out what it was, (or, I don't know, maybe they were still under the impression it was a video game when they did this). The women gave them 6/10, and rated themselves lower, at 5.

Let me say again: 80% of British men don't know what "foreplay" is. Should Blair not be on tv right now offering a compelling explanation for this? I mean, imagine how you'd feel if this was your country?!! If a few dozen Sars cases and one mad cow can cripple the whole of Canada, I don't want to think about where Britain's headed at the moment.

And the saddest part is, as a Brit there's little you can do to distinguish yourself from your sorry country, short of 'turning gay' or becoming an accountant.

Or blaming Thatcher always works.

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July 23, 2003

The Try To Shut Me Up Tour

Avril's named her tour the "Try To Shut Me Up Tour".

Does this not seem dangerous?

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Half-kidding plot-line 2, July 23rd

To be filmed seven years from now.

Julia Roberts is neurotic, old, abrasively insecure. Richard Gere's business adversaries denigrate him until he can't live with their merciless whore-jokes anymore. He files for divorce. It's never made clear to Julia (or us) how he tricked her into the pre nup. While expelling her from his life, he carefully side-steps any awareness of her addiction to painkillers and fashion.

End of Act 1.

New Pretty Woman, played by Reese Witherspoon (or someone younger), has just landed a job as his co-worker's secretary. They hit it off nicely, but when she learns of his twenty year dalliance with a ho it upsets her puritanical values and sends her packing.

By the film's end, however, Richard has worked his magic, convincing both her and her Amish Daddy it was just a phase he went through.

They get married.

On their honeymoon, he convinces her to try anal sex.

The End.

(This sets us up for number 3, when Gere turns 80 and the vagaries of the Sunset Strip beckon again.)

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July 22, 2003

Republican Streamlining

It's often pointed out we're becoming more Roman by the minute.

So we're going in this direction. So be it. Fine. But I think: If this is the way it's really going to be, then why not bring back vomitoriums already?

I get so lonely wretching by myself.

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Wedding Ring Bells

Mini-Me Ties The Knot

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July 21, 2003

Half-kidding plot-outline, July 21st

Deputy Liberal leader Sandra Pupatello's Windsor riding is up in arms about dwarf-tossing in their hood which they feel is 'setting us back generations'. I don't know anything about this, and I agree that dwarves who whore themselves out in the tossing-trade may not be doing their best to de-stigmatize their peeps, but let's be clear: this isn't the real issue. Nor is it anything about being in harm's way. We let athletes provide enough successive concussions to render each other unconscious in boxing rings; let people take corners at 200 miles an hour-- again, for the sake of spectacle-- and we expect on occasion to watch people die doing this. Whether they die on the job or not, we admire their bravery and panache. So, if anything, this is really about our own discomfort with a visible minority being thrown about in public. It's about the legitimacy of our right to question their willing participant-status. Anyone who seriously asks 'but what if he likes it?' probably beats his wife, the thinking goes, and I generally agree.

But what about this analogy: the stuntman. On some level, both are nothing more than calculated risk-takers, no? I would bet a lot of adrenaline-loving dwarves could jump out of an exploding helicopter and parachute into a glacier or whatever stunt was necessary on that day, if only more leading-men were open and honest about how tall they were. As it is, stuntmen are generally well-built men of the six-foot variety, and no one ever accuses them of disgracing anyone when they risk life and limb for some sack of shit, sucky-sucky shit-suck action movie. No, they're brave men, manly as mountain-climbers, and if dwarves want any part of that action, they're basically hooped.

In order to say anything about this, I actually felt I had to do research. Like make some phone calls and go to Windsor, so I could see firsthand what all the fuss is about. How far are they thrown?; how are they 'padded'?; how much do they make?; what happens if/when they are seriously hurt?; how often are they seriously hurt?; can they be insured?; what does it sound like when they land-- no, not just the sound of the landing itself, but the sound of the crowd-- what does the crowd sound like? I'd like to know.

Then I read this whole event in Windsor was the brainchild of a bunch of guys operating a strip joint, and my research felt superfluous. There's no insurance, and the sound of the crowd is probably more menacing than I care to think about. Yet weirdly, I'm thinking about it. I'm looking for meaning in it. Am I being callous here? Wouldn't this be a good tv movie? No one would care to watch it, and therefore no one would care to fund it, until you think of setting it in a strip club. Then I think it might be possible, and a good idea even. Stir up some debate here. I want to know what's at issue. There's something so goddamn poignant in the life of a little person that I didn't feel in the Austin Powers movies or Willow, or Time Bandits or David Lynch or Living in Oblivion. I might have seen it in Diane Arbus photos, felt hints of it in a Harmony Korine scene or two, or that U2/Wim Wenders circus-rock video was pretty ok at the time... but to my knowledge, Dwarf Tossing hasn't yet received the artistic treatment it deserves.

I did see somewhere recently, in my online travels, that someone has just made a movie on the subject, and it looked stupid. I'd find it again, but I can't be bothered-- you'll have to trust me. And I wondered: How come this film about the ritualized beatings of minorities looks so dumb? Isn't that interesting subject-matter? And then I thought: don't you just hate people who can't stop thinking of everything as subject-matter? Don't you want to punch these subject-matter-scavengers in the face? (I do; it's the subject of a screenplay I'm working on.)

And what about Our Guy, eh? What about Tripod? Working in a strip-joint. Agreeing to get tossed for a meagre price - there'd have to be solid reasons for his financial motivation. Buddies with his stripper co-workers. Those friendships are all gold. His relationship with the customers, stellar. I think there's something there. Some romance, perhaps, some love that's requited. His friends are his family, his parents are dead, maybe his less-adventurous dwarf-brother is looking for more sensible work, something simple like that. The way we handle the tossing scenes is pure Raging Bull, of course. Our stuntman will be a dwarf, and we'll illustrate the whole above-point, paying him a real wage and insuring him up the ying-yang. And hopefully he won't die that day.

I'm sorry to keep thinking of it: a man's body hurtling through the air, sensitive respiratory system in tow, all bundled up, a little man flying a great distance, a bone-breaking distance, from the arms of some muscular fat-man, flying with real velocity, with shitloads of adrenaline, with fear, and with the certain knowledge of impending pain: are you gonna tell me there isn't skill in making that landing? Or that, in spite of the local yahoos who are laughing at-and-not-with him, in spite of whatever he thinks of them, of the various tossers, and commentators (there has to be a couple of those, doesn't there?) and all the peters from the joint who've come out to watch, are you gonna tell me there isn't a measure of pride in knowing it's a career with a pay-cheque and work-friends? That it isn't, ultimately - as they say - a living?

Maybe you'd say 'sure, for your kid, but not for mine', and you'd have me, but that's it, that why there's drama there, no? And it feels right. Champion the death-defying stunt, jackass-up the Western World with extreme sports and nasty details, and why not already with the dwarves as well?

All aboard!

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July 15, 2003

Fevered Criticism

Got knocked up with The Sars last week. Here are some movie reviews:

COMEDY

Old School
I wanted mindless entertainment and got it in the jugular. Will Ferrell kills me. Four Stars!

Jackass
This visceral attack on the senses is the bravest comedy of our time. God bless you Spike Jonze! Four Stars!

Human Nature
A straight up masterpiece 'from the mind of Charlie Kauffman,' a phrase rightly equated with greatness these days. I should add that this wasn't a DVD, and I missed the first ten minutes, (which will generally make me love a movie a whole lot more). Four Stars!

PSEUDO INTELLECTUAL CRAP

Full Frontal
Someone find boy-wonder his leash already. He calls Full Frontal one of his most provocative films when plainly, it's his worst. Why is The Limey in this movie? Are film-students supposed to write about why? Is anyone supposed to care? Flatter than the sequel to Week-end At Bernie's and hardly redeemed with its oh-so-dated-and-far-from-risque discourse about the representation of The Black Man in Cinema. Watch the inane improvised character "interviews" to see why screenplays are necessary. Or better yet, don't!

Talk To Her
Well acted, stylistically impressive, thematically cohesive, yet somehow this story about a man who loves his women comatose fell short for me. I wanted it to be more about the female bull-fighters, please.

SPELLBIRD

Catch Me If You Can
It may have been the fever, but I liked it. I don't want to say anything good about it, because it's part of the 'you have to expect it to stink to enjoy it' phenomenon sweeping the nation of late. At 141 minutes, it's the best utterly-bloated Spielberg movie so far, most notable for its up-tempo pacing and the fun in fantasizing about being a disenfranchised 16 year old con-man airline pilot in the late 1960s.

COP MOVIES

Dark Blue
What I don't get is why the guy who wrote Bull Durham would decide to direct a screenplay by the guy who wrote U-571. Dark Blue is apparently based on an Ellroy story, who I always hear great things about, but by the time the hardened racist cop starts about-facing (in dramatic-courtroom-scene-fashion) all I felt was annoyed. It's not only unbelievable and stupid, it's a lie I'm sick of hearing. (Maybe if he was visited by three ghosts in the night or something.)

Narc
Otherwise known as Rush ll. Jason Patric's good at being that conflicted narcotics officer who goes in with good intentions, then loses himself to heroin addiction, all the while being so cool with his smoker's voice, five o'clock shadow, and that whole 'you don't know who I am' attitude so appealing to adolescent boys. Ray Liotta's fat in his role, but he's too much of a nice guy to be Joe-Pesci. It starts and ends impressively well, and plays with your expectations like you'd expect in between. Like an R-rated episode of 'Law & Order: Criminal Intent' with lots of slick crack-using flash-back scenes and brutal stabbings for an image system. Still, on that alleged 'grand scale', I'd have to say it was above average.

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July 10, 2003

New Pornographers at the Phoenix

Overheard backstage at New Pornographer's show:

Girl #1 From 'The Organ' (NP's Opening Act): I hate googling because all I ever find are those, what are they, like on-line web-diaries?
BLAINE: Web-logs - blogs.
Girl From 'The Organ'2: And they're always so terrible!
BLAINE: Those are people who aren't even qualified to write.
Girl From 'The Organ'1: And they trash people!
Girl From 'The Organ'2: They totally do!
Girl From 'The Organ'1: You can get really low self-esteem from that kind of thing.
CARL: You can get low self-esteem from anything.

I've been the cruel prick them Organ girls were referring to, and I don't wanna be one no mo'.

New Pornographers live makes it clear I've been missing the point of everything so far's they're concerned. Their show is too much fun to analyze, and I always take the act of listening to their cds way too seriously. In fairness, I only do this because one of their song-writers is a religious experience for me, while the other, I tend to think is kind'a - eh. Carl's written great stuff though, and he played a whole bunch of Dan-songs, (Testament to Youth a Verse, Breakin' The Law, Execution Day - all outstanding!) Nico's got the pipes, Kurt's a wicked-ass drummer, Todd Fancy came up with some awful fine hooks, and the bantering was frequently funny, (if occasionally tense: Carl's "who's your favourite pornographer?" prompted Nico's "they're not here to listen to us talk" - which gave way to - you guessed it! - more rock!).

I was very glad to have gone.

Check out Blaine's video, for The Laws Have Changed if you care to. I'm eagerly awaiting his follow up to the excellent Low Self Esteem Girl, Male Fantasy, which will star the one and only Sir Robert Dayton. Everyone who's seen it so far has said they can't tell if it's a masterpiece or the creepiest thing they've ever laid eyes on. So... sounds promising then. (Expect to see it at TIFF, or VIFF-of-the-curiously-hideous-website, in the coming months).

Ah, what a talented lot they is.

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July 08, 2003

Trampoline Hall

Sheila Heti's venture to bring back the Salons of yesteryear sure can make for a great night out.

There were three speakers last night at Clinton's, and the only rule about being a speaker is that you can't lecture about your chosen area of expertise. Arianne Robinson kicked things off with a speech about the travails of going to a nude beach, which somehow wasn't as involving as it could have been, but brave nonetheless, I s'pose. Second, Ian Morfitt talked about The Ranters, who lived during Shakespeare's time, and had getting naked, getting drunk, and having sex as the corner stone of their religion. All surviving information about 'the hippies of the 16th Century' was written by their detractors. Morfitt had a passion for his subject, but because he was not (and technically couldn't have been) a historian, he left me with plenty of questions - not at all a bad thing.

Bobby Hsu, the night's final speaker, stole the show with his "on the art of ducking," in which he outlined all the reasons he regularly ducks people, from a failure to hand in a term paper (which resulted in his transferring schools out of a fear he'd run into his kindly prof,) to the jazz artist he recorded for who he now ducks regularly because he's afraid of having to answer the question 'how did you think our session turned out?'. Hilariously, he postulated that ducking was an art-form alive and well in the margins, precisely because it had not yet come to be thought of as such. At his lecture's end, the evening's host, Misha Glouberman, read from a scrap of paper in Hsu's breast pocket the phrase 'you are completely pathetic', something Hsu anticipated he'd be hearing from a member of the audience. But the crowd adored him, understood completely what he was talking about, and gave him by far the night's biggest round of applause.

The great thing about this event is how drunk everyone gets as the evening progresses. The question and answer period following each individual lecture reflects an increasing inhibition, as the audience pokes around in the belief system of the lecturer. Though this isn't necessary unique, the overall effect of Trampoline Hall is a novel one: it's a roomful of people coming together to drink, smoke, and share in the experience of being human by interracting openly with each other, riffing on the themes developed by the various speakers. (Forgive me for using the word "riffing".)

They're taking their show on the road (NYC on July 30th?), but promise to keep up with their monthly session [normally at The Cameron House], and I might just be hooked.

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July 07, 2003

Bush at The Head Start Center

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July 04, 2003

Carney on Woody

I watched Wild Man Blues last night - or part of it anyway - and was reminded how much I like Woody Allen, in spite of the fact he's been slumping lately. Even in his prime, my hero of the moment, Ray Carney has argued (I think successfully), his films represent his hermetically sealed nature - his fear of delving into the deep, dark unknown.

My friend D said he'd elaborate on his dislike for Carney, then told me he wouldn't bother, which is too bad. So I'm hoping at some point (perhaps after he takes time to lovingly review A Woman Under The Influence,) he'll take a second to read this:

Everything you ever wanted to know about why Woody Allen movies aren't all they could be, but were afraid to ask.

Then I hope to get around to his "severe problems with the terms independent, difficult, art, personal vision, and soul," some of my favourite words!

I don't know why, but blogging seems most fun when it's in the threads. The whole "Guess what I've been thinking lately?" aspect of posting has been wearing on me a bit of late - not sure why.

Could just be that what I've been thinking hasn't been all that interesting, or when it is, it hasn't been writable - which sucks.

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July 03, 2003

Unfaithful, the DVD

(Spoilers abound)

Nine 1/2 Weeks, Fatal Attraction, Indecent Proposal, Lolita, and the intriguingly abated Unfaithful, all from the mind of Adrian Lyne - the reigning master of the Hollywood sexual-thriller.

The DVD for his most recent offering is rewarding in its way. I love how Olivier Martinez talks about his family, for instance. They're much loved and famous - a long line of boxers who are heros in his home town. Eventually, in one of his many tirades about boxing, he explains an injury prevented him from turning pro and following in their footsteps. Instead he took up acting, he says, which saved him from becoming a mechanic and a nobody like the rest of his family.

Quantifiably more is said about being 'unfaithful' in this single moment than Lyne's entire film manages, because you get a tangible sense of the arrogance in a person who would hold up his own family so lovingly one minute, only to write them off mercilessly the next.

The unfaithfulness in Unfaithful, on the other hand, is an accident of nature - apparently having more to do with wind than behaviour. Lyne's refusal to part with this dubious notion reduces his characters to caricatures, in spite of some solid work by his cast.

Diane Lane is quite good, excelling in scenes where she has no dialogue at all (her train ride home from her first adulterous afternoon whip-lashes powerfully back and forth between the thrill of sexual gratification and the reality of her shame). Richard Gere (in a part written for Michael Douglas and Harrison Ford,) is also convincing as an uxorious tight-ass who gets hurt beyond all recognition in spite of being so darned principled.

The weakest link is Olivier, for the simple reason that it's hard - if not impossible - to buy him as a 'book-dealer', or anything other than a boxer/mechanic cum male model. Even with his token 5000 square foot loft and bedroom eyes, he's threatening mainly in his proximity to being a pretentious goof.

Real pain (such as that of a silver-haired man who learns his trophy wife has been making it with a young buck) is not something mainstream cinema allows its protagonists (or audiences) to feel - it's just not something people pay for. So I was curious to see how Unfaithful would diminish the pain of its premise. Partially, the sheer artificiality of the set-up does the trick - it's so damn decipherable at every turn you "read" instead of "view" the first five scenes. The opening image of a child's bike blowing over in the wind speaks to us about what is to come - more second-rate symbolism. Gere runs a "security" company - protecting assets is his thing - Get it? Lane goes to art auctions, and is herself a work of art that has been acquired by a wealthy man - Get it? Their kid - a poorly handled child actor featured like WAY TOO MUCH - is obsessed with violent video games, the byproduct of his parents' subtle lack of communion. The wind storm - our aforementioned accident of nature - literally forces Lane and Olivier to collide, and naturally (as is par for the course by this point) it's also a collision of objects. Hers are fruit, which symbolize yadda, Olivier's are books, because he is a man of yadda. And when she falls in the mud, he puts a band-aid on her wound, because he is but a band-aid solution to some deeper problem. Get it?

We "get" everything, but feel little.

And the big problem appears to be that, like Gere's character, Lyne is too ill-at-ease with the reasons behind the affair to face them. So, the minute our loving hubby learns of the indiscretion, all the tension about unfaithfulness is supplanted by the tension of how to get rid of the young stud's corpse. Essentially, it's the same thing we've seen 100 times before. The elevator's stuck; the trunk won't close; there's blood on his shirt; the cops are onto them - standardized suspense much more manageable than the tension developed in the film's first half. And Gere is so obviously the good guy in all of this, the victim of both his cheating wife and his own innocent-little-crime-of-passion, that the thesis becomes: See! Women can also have mid-life crises and run off with young bubble-headed babes, ruining the lives of their kids for the sake of a novel lay!

It feels vindictive on this level.

Yet I'd still somehow recommend it, if it weren't - like this review - way too long. Its closing frame, which succeeds at being comprehensively "ambiguous", feels like it's showing us what should have been left to our imagination 40 minutes ago.

When I say anything about Lyne - as I am wont to do - people rise to his defense to remind me Jacob's Ladder was ok. I haven't seen that movie since it came out, so I don't know. But I know it's the only film he's made that hasn't purported to offer insight into that menacing world of female sexuality, something Lyne seems every bit as obsessed with as he is in the dark about.

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