17 December 2010

TIFF at the Bell Lightbox - The Essential 100 Films

How many of these films have you seen? "This list represents the merging of one 100 film list as determined by an expert panel of TIFF curators with one 100 film list as determined by TIFF stakeholders." We are so lucky to have that place

Roger Ebert admits he's only seen 92. I'm afraid I've only seen 48. How many have you seen?

Ok, just on a personal note, isn't it The Bicycle Thief and WTF is bloody Amélie doing on the list?

Here's the list

1 THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC (Carl Theodor Dreyer)
2 CITIZEN KANE (Orson Welles)
3 L'AVVENTURA (Michaelangelo Antonioni)
4 THE GODFATHER (Francis Ford Coppola)
5 PICKPOCKET (Robert Bresson)
6 SEVEN SAMURAI (Akira Kurosawa)
7 PATHER PANCHALI (Satyajit Ray)
8 CASABLANCA (Michael Curtiz)
10 BICYCLE THIEVES (Vittorio De Sica)
11 ALI: FEAR EATS THE SOUL (Rainer Werner Fassbinder)
12 8 ½ (Federico Fellini)
13 BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN (Sergei Eisenstein)
14 RASHOMON (Akira Kurosawa)
15 TOKYO STORY (Yasujiro Ozu)
16 THE 400 BLOWS (François Truffaut)
17 UGETSU (Kenji Mizoguchi)
18 BREATHLESS (Jean-Luc Godard)
19 L'ATALANTE (Jean Vigo)
20 CINEMA PARADISO (Giuseppe Tornatore)
23 PERSONA (Ingmar Bergman)
24 GONE WITH THE WIND (Victor Fleming)
25 SUNRISE (F.W. Murnau)
26 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (Stanley Kubrick)
27 VOYAGE IN ITALY (Roberto Rossellini)
28 AMÉLIE (Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
29 CITY LIGHTS (Charlie Chaplin)
30 STAR WARS (George Lucas)
31 SHERLOCK JR. (Buster Keaton)
32 RULES OF THE GAME (Jean Renoir)
33 THE LEOPARD (Luchino Visconti)
34 LA DOLCE VITA (Federico Fellini)
35 L’ARRIVÉE D’UN TRAIN À LA CIOTAT (Frères LumiereLouis Lumière and Auguste Lumière)
36 THE WIZARD OF OZ (Victor Fleming)
37 LA JETÉE (Chris Marker)
38 VERTIGO (Alfred Hitchcock)
39 NIGHT AND FOG (Alain Resnais)
40 PULP FICTION (Quentin Tarantino)
41 THE SEARCHERS (John Ford)
43 THE CONFORMIST (Bernardo Bertolucci)
44 CITY OF GOD (Fernando Meirelles)
45 TAXI DRIVER (Martin Scorsese)
46 APOCALYPSE NOW (Francis Ford Coppola)
47 SALÓ, OR THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM (Pier Paolo Pasolini)
48 THE SEVENTH SEAL (Ingmar Bergma)
49 LE VOYAGE DANS LA LUNE (Georges Méliès)
50 METROPOLIS (Fritz Lang)
51 THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS (Gillo Pontecorvo)
52 IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (Wong Kar Wai)
53 VIRIDIANA (Luis Buñuel)
54 LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL (Roberto Benigni)
55 THE SORROW AND THE PITY (Marcel Ophüls)
56 PAN'S LABYRINTH (Guillermo del Toro)
58 BLADE RUNNER (Ridley Scott)
59 THROUGH THE OLIVE TREES (Abbas Kiarostami)
61 BRINGING UP BABY (Howard Hawks)
62 SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (Stanley Donen)
63 JOHNNY GUITAR (Nicholas Ray)
64 A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (Stanley Kubrick)
66 M (Fritz Lang)
67 SCORPIO RISING (Kenneth Anger)
68 PSYCHO (Alfred Hitchcock)
69 DUST IN THE WIND (Hou Hsiao-Hsien)
70 SCHINDLER’S LIST (Steven Spielberg)
71 NASHVILLE (Robert Altman)
73 WAVELENGTH (Michael Snow)
74 JULES ET JIM (François Truffaut)
75 CHRONIQUE D’UN ÉTÉ (Edgar Morin and Jean Rouch)
76 THE LIVES OF OTHERS (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck)
77 GREED (Erich von Stroheim)
78 SOME LIKE IT HOT (Billy Wilder)
79 JAWS (Steven Spielberg)
80 ANNIE HALL (Woody Allen)
81 THE BIRTH OF A NATION (D.W. Griffith)
83 LA NOIRE DE… (Ousmane Sembene)
84 RAGING BULL (Martin Scorsese)
86 CHINATOWN (Roman Polanski)
87 ANDREI RUBLEV (Andrei Tarkovsky)
88 WINGS OF DESIRE (Wim Wenders)
89 VIDEODROME (David Cronenberg)
90 WRITTEN ON THE WIND (Douglas Sirk)
91 THE THIRD MAN (Carol Reed)
92 BLUE VELVET (David Lynch)
94 BREAKING THE WAVES (Lars von Trier)
95 A NOS AMOURS (Maurice Pialat)
96 CLEO DE 5 A 7 (Agnès Varda)
97 ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER (Pedro Almodóvar)
98 EARTH (Aleksandr Dovzhenko)
99 OLDBOY (Park Chan-wook)
100 PLAYTIME (Jacques Tati)

10 December 2010

Xmas music and film - Day Three

No Room in the Inn
Today's discovery thanks to Sam. A beautiful gospel Christmas song.

Pippi Goes on Board
What's Christmas without Pippi? I grew watching Pippi in French and much prefer the dubbing in la langue de Molière but Pippi's spirit transcends all language barriers.

09 December 2010

Xmas music and film - Day Two

Are you ready for Badder Santa?

It's easier for me to give my mother a list of books and DVDs to buy so I don't get ten boxes of chocolates or a gift card to a store I would never be caught dead being seen in. So, I few years ago, mom and her friends went Christmas shopping and when they saw that mom's daughter wanted Badder Santa, they ALL thought, what a great idea, let's ALL buy Badder Santa. When I learned of this, caught between delight at the DVD I had just unwrapped and the sense that I might have coronary any second now, I just put the DVD aside and tried not to think about it too much.

If you're not in the know, know this: Badder Santa is very, very rude. In every conceivable way. That being said, if you can bear rudeness, this will surely become one of your favourite Christmas movies. The comedic genius in this film stems not from its depravity but from the intelligence in its treatment of it. Any concession to propriety here would diminish the film. 

The film is dedicated to John Ritter who passed shortly after the making of this film. It is the best performance of his life. Within a couple of years, the comic world would also lose Bernie Mac who renders a pitch perfect performance in "Badder Santa". "Pitch perfect" is a term that is overused these days in describing performance, but it is the proper phrase here, Mac makes you believe in every breath he takes on camera and every pore of his being is in character. This is quite a feat when one consider that his character has little naturalism to it, but is a rather mannered, fanciful conception.

If you see Badder Santa and laugh, I will have earned my stars for Christmas.

"Happy Kwanza!"

Do I really need to say WARNING: explicit content. Don't get Bad Santa which was censored by our charming friends over at the MPAA, get Badder Santa.

Badder Santa
Terry Zwigoff

Ok, this may be not the greatest song but I loved it as a kid

Barefoot Santa Claus
Sonny James

08 December 2010

Xmas music and film - Day One

Wild Billy Childish & The Musicians Of The British Empire

A Poundland Christmas

Without Billy Childish, it wouldn't be a punk rock Christmas

Whit Stillman

One of the best Christmas movies of all time.

29 November 2010

Christopher Hitchens and Tony Blair Munk Debates, part two

Continuing the Munk Debate clips. Parts six to nine.

Part Six

Part Seven

Part Eight

Part Nine

Christopher Hitchens and Tony Blair Munk Debates, part one

Journalist and atheist Christopher Hitchens debates UK ex-PM Tony Blair a recent Catholic convert on  the motion that religion is a force for good. This Munk Debate took place at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto last Friday.

The debate was made public by the organisers in nine parts which I am embedding below starting with parts two to five. The debate begins somewhere in the middle of the second clip. Parts six to nine will appear in a later post.

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

25 November 2010


My mother never allowed Xmas decorations in the house until 8 December which marks the Catholic holiday of the Immaculate Conception... hmmm, so the baby was born on the 25th and the immaculate conception was... Never mind. This is Religion and it doesn't invite Logic to its parties.
Traditions need not have meaning and I find the date useful because from Immaculate Conception to the Epiphany — Magi and the cake with the hidden bean, I dig — from 8 December to 6 January, is 30 days. One month of greed and excess.
To me, it's an important month. Christmas is comprised of the things I love most in life all put together.
Holidays are peopled. Family people, friend people, work people. A few of them are bound to get drunk and tell me they really, really love me. People just don't seem to tell me they love me nearly as much when they are sober.
I pack it in. I live in Canada. C-A-N-A-D-A. The land of animals with blubber. Why? Because fat protects you from the cold. It is my duty to eat so I when I get the flu or a cold it doesn't turn into pneumonia and I don't waste away and die. Wasting away would be most unkind to the taxpayer who pay for my UNIVERSAL healthcare (raspberry to Americans) or to the aforementioned people who love me and who are going to be grief stricken and in turn be less immune to disease and disaster. 
Food excess is easier than booze in the sense that the buffer zone between excess and the need for a vomitorium allows for a Gargantuesque margin of error. The only reason I’m not worried about booze now is because I’m older and mature and I’ve learned. The hard way.
Bad people prefer water. Look at Noah's Flood. Yes, I'm an atheist, but this a religious month, so Bible lessons count. 
Let it flow. The mulled wine. The eggnog (ew) without the egg (yum). The sparkling wine. The cocktails. 'Tis the season for my famous French onion soup drenched in beef broth and white wine. Rum balls. Brandy sauce on everything.
Yes, I won the lottery of the womb. Not only do I live in the land that invented universal healthcare but our Christmases are white. Don’t talk to me about Scandinavia, Canada is better for me. I’m not interested in being tall and blonde and perfect about everything all the time and be light years ahead of the rest of humanity socially and in every other conceivable way. Just last week, I read that women in Sweden are the happiest because there is no sexism to speak of there. Fuck Sweden and their perfect world. My Christmas includes homeless people down the street and that makes me sad (I’m sure they are sadder) but I wouldn’t want to live in Perfect Scandinavian Land because I am far, far, far from being perfect and would stick out like a sore thumb. Hmm. Where was I?
Everything’s Lit Up
I have no time for environmentalists from the 8th to the 6th. Ok, that’s not true. I have LED Christmas lights and I continue recycling but I switch the lights on at sundown (around 4 pm) and leave them on until I go to bed. I also purchase a real Christmas tree every year because they smell so good and artificial trees are just as bad for the environment it turns out. I live north and in the darkest nights I need lights and the evergreen to remind me that, one day, Spring will come and the earth will be reborn. At least, that my story.
People buy me books at Christmas. Thank you Jesus!
Concerts/Shows/ Carols
Relatives take you to see The Nutcracker ten years in row until you have a Nutckracker melt down and you tell the mothership that Aunt Marianne can go fuck herself, I am (I mean you are) NOT going to see the Nutcracker EVER AGAIN, that freak who covered you in your cousin's mink coat and took you to the opera from the time you were seven — ok, that was kinda cool and kinda scary, but mostly cool. 
Thing is, it was time. “You” needed to detach from both the nest and the extended nest and go to nightclubs and maybe screw around which, oddly enough, isn't as soul crushing an experience to go through between the Immaculate Conception and the Epiphany. A bit like screwing around on holiday, it's like it doesn't really count. 
And then you grow up and don't froth at the mouth as much when a friend drags you to church. And those carols are really, really lovely. And then you drag a friend, or, heck, a family member, a cousin, to see Twelth Night. And you go to hear The Messiah. You go out to see concerts and shows more because your mind gently blocks out that heart attack you're going to have come the Visa and Mastercard bills late January and right now the plastic cards inside your wallet are magic. Christmas magic.
I love making lists. All these things I'm going to do, I am such a busy little bee. An industrious ant who needs a planning committee to get everything in my social butterfly life done.  
Lists. Christmas is so satisfying that way. List of people who get Christmas cards. Actually three Xmas card lists (bliss!), the list that'll require Canadian stamps, the US list and the international stamps list. List of recipes to make for parties. List of food and booze to buy for parties. List of gifts to buy. Christmas list for the mothership and those who have learned long ago not to "surprise" me with a book I likely have already. List of movies to watch.
And we come, finally (sorry, was I rambling?) to the point of this blog. 
Every year, I list 30 movies for the 8th to the 6th. I never get to watch them all but it something to strive for. The list has a three year rotation after two years... and this blog is too long already and the list so complex and in need of fine tuning so I'll explain soon and we can have fun make lists together!

24 November 2010

From the New Yorker, airport security-related cartoons

By Frank Cotham, February 24, 1997

And many more great cartoons here.

Handel Messiah flash mob

Thank you to FB friend Stacey for posting this flash mob vid. Shot in Ontario this year at a Welland shopping centre.

10 November 2010

Hmm... this is a tough one

Who to hate most, Henry Rollins or hipsters?

03 November 2010

Acting masterclass

I'm afraid I find myself compelled to share this vid every year. Theatre and female friendship. This French and Saunders skit hits all the right notes without making you feel ill-ease on a Ricky-Gervais-humour scale. Comedy at its best.

14 October 2010

Tories to women: become strippers and prostitutes

"The Conservative government wants to help unemployed Canadians find careers as strippers and for-hire escorts." reports the Toronto Star in this article.

This what the Tories think of women. Become a stripper or a prostitute. Has anybody told these stellar minds of the Conservative Partyhow many stripper need to be off their heads on drugs in order to do their jobs and the social consequences and costs attributable to such jobs and drug use? Do they know about the rape rate amongst strippers and prostitutes? And what about exposing "escorts" to HIV?

13 October 2010

Sassy Gay Friend with a Message for Depressed Gay Teens

Comrade Bingo loves Sassy Gay Friend's comedy. And here he is again with a message about being a gay teenager. His message: it gets better!

Comrade Bingo loves gay teens and wants them to stick around. Don't leave us alone with all the boring hets. Please.

11 October 2010

Joan Sutherland dies

Joan Sutherland passed away today. I'm afraid I thought she was long gone already. 

HTML5: the end of online privacy.

HTML 5 is coming and it is going to make it easier to track you and in great detail: "The new Web language and its additional features present more tracking opportunities because the technology uses a process in which large amounts of data can be collected and stored on the user’s hard drive while online. Because of that process, advertisers and others could, experts say, see weeks or even months of personal data. That could include a user’s location, time zone, photographs, text from blogs, shopping cart contents, e-mails and a history of the Web pages visited."

30 September 2010

R.I.P. Tony Curtis

Tony Curtis died as a result of a chronic respiratory disease. The man had a good run. You can read more about it here.

I love him in Some Like It Hot and that salacious scene with Laurence Olivier in Spartacus that was banned for decades.

Watch the "Oysters and Snails" scene here

23 September 2010

Jane Austen's Fight Club

Not stellar but very cute.

31 August 2010

WaPo Video review of Jonathan Franzen's Freedom

If you think I'm wrong when I say that Freedom by Jonathan Franzen is released today, it's because you've been hearing far too much about it already. Somebody's marketing department needs to learn about over-hype and literary fatigue. The backlash has started already. But, seriously, today is only the beginning.

I don't just dislike Franzen's novels, I dislike the man. It's not that he spurned Oprah. It's that he said ok to being her book selection so he could sell millions of copies but then refused to be on the show. If you don't like the whiff of mainstream popularity, don't steal its money and head for the hills. Also, I'm just not in the mood to read another book about middle-class white men and their existential crises. Poor white men, my heart aches for them.

Below is a mixed review which sounds about right. Sounds very much like The Corrections.

See ya. I've got some fun books to read.

26 August 2010

The Winston Churchill Quiz

So many online quiz are ridiculously inadequate, too easy or the questions have little to do with knowledge. This is a decent one from the New Yorker.

I got 12 out of 14, I'm a Canuck and I've never even read a book about the man.

Good luck!

Winston Churchill: The Quiz

24 August 2010

Amazon.co.uk, one of the best bargains on the intertubes

Not all Amazons are alike. When I started Amazon shopping all those years ago, I preferred the American version. That was before our mighty mouse of a Canadian asserted itself worldwide and particularly against the U.S. dollar although I suspect some shenanigans making .com less attractive.

(aside: To have your currency be strong: wonderful. To see the faces of American tourists having to pay more than a U.S. dollar for a loonie: priceless)

Even when our dollar was worth, say, eighty cents American, and one didn't benefit from the free shipping, amazon.com proved cheaper ten times out of ten. Then amazon.com started saying, hey, you're from Canada, why don't you order from amazon.ca? And then, hey, you're from Canada, why don't we charge you ten bucks for shipping and handling per book? I wailed about this and got amazon.com to cut the shipping costs a few times, but it became clear they wanted to make it financially unfeasible for northlanders to order from them.

I'm not one to be bullied, so for two years (2007-ish to 2009), I basically haven't been buying books. Bravo, amazon, bravo.

Enter amazon.co.uk. Yes, the shipping fees are horrendous... but the books are cheaper so it balances things off, sometimes. Another important note: amazon.co.uk prices include the morbidly obese VAT which is included in the sticker price and taken off when you check out and .co.uk realises it is shipping to Canuckland.

But, to me, .co,uk isn't about the books. One day, I must have wondered off to the site after seeing the ridiculous North American prices on UK TV shows on DVD. I'm a lifelong fan of UK television. I seem to remember my first eureka moment came after looking up Inspector Morse and here the evidence is still clear today.

Inspector Morse Complete Collection

amazon.ca  $384.30
amazon.com $448.99
amazon.co.uk £43.47 (71.33) minus VAT %21 =) $57.07

Ok, I cheated. The North American version is a wooden box set and the UK version is just a run-of-the-mill ordinary DVD set. But both sets have the same complete Inspector More series in there. That's a lot of dough for a wooden box.

This also works with American series:

Deadwood complete series (same DVD set)

amazon.ca  $152.49
amazon.com $139.99
amazon.co.uk £28.47 (46.71 minus VAT %21 =) $37.37

The Sopranos, complete series (same DVD set)

amazon.ca  $279.99
amazon.com $170.00
amazon.co.uk £69.99 (114.82) minus VAT %21 =) $91.86

and so on.

Of course, you say, what about the region restrictions? Well, it is perfectly legal for one to own a multi-region DVD player. I picked up mine in Chinatown for fifty dollars. Major brands don't make them or if they do I didn't find them easily. So my DVD player looks like a puny Mattel toy but it's been reliable and playing perfectly well for eight months now. I christened it with my purchase of a 12 season Poirot set and the player paid for itself in one go. Also, .co.uk hasn't caught on to the fact that fifty dvds weigh more than one book and, as it stands, shipping and handling on DVD sets is a mere 3 pounds.

And you can pick up movies for a pittance. I paid three pounds for In the Loop and Life is Sweet.

Happy UK (and U.S.) TV watching!

23 July 2010

Salt: a new female kick ass agent franchise is Bourne

The trailers before the movie

The Town: again. Like Affleck and Hamm and I'm always interested in films about Southies but the trailer gives too much away so I will skip it.

The Social Network: again. Can I say I hate Zuckerberg almost as much as I hate Nazis? No, I guess not. Nazis killed 6 millions of Jews. Zuckerberg is only mildly damaging and exposing 500 million souls. Anyway, I can tell this film is just going to be an orgasmic experience for me. But don't you just love how they used Radiohead's Creep as a soundtrack to the trailer? CANNOT WAIT!!!!

The TRON Legacy: Stupid sequel title. Without betraying the look of the original, the art/FX departments seem to have spruced things up with imagery reminiscent of Lady Gaga videos. Intriguing.

The main feature

The low down, no spoilers: I'm going to recommend this as a leave-your-brain-at-home action movie. Leave-your-brain-at-home because a good action movie need not have so many holes in it as Salt does. 

If you'd rather stay home this weekend and haven't seen the Matt Damon franchise yet, rent The Bourne Identity followed by The Bourne Supremacy instead. If you've seen the first two Bourne films and don't mind something in the same vein, go see Salt.

Also, the film is somewhat derivative of the 1987 film No Way Out and if you remember the ending, Salt isn't going to surprise you. 

And, yes, as an action film, Inception is superior.

SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! This is for those who've seen the movie already or really don't care about knowing what happens.

First of all, I'd like to congratulate the diminutive K-9 (who isn't listed on imdb and I can't even remember his name as a character, my apologies) who was able to land a part in a film where he isn't killed by a stalker in a thriller or horror film or in a film where his arc goes nowhere. Ok, his arc goes nowhere here except the pooch gets a scene in which his considerate guardian (Evelyn Salt herself) takes him to the neighbours to be looked after whilst she away. Hold up your paws high and sing "We shall overcome, We shall overcome...". This is an improvement. Actor of African descent Chiwetel Ejiofor isn't so lucky and again winds up being cast as a secondary character when he is in fact leading man material. When the deal with Tom Cruise as Salt fell through did anybody think of Ejiofor? Low box office draw? That's what spending other people's money is for: taking chances.

On my way to the theatre, I was thinking about how Jolie leaves me cold as an actress, a pattern she succeeded in reinforcing today. Yes, it's true, she's supposed to be a cold-blooded killer, only this franchise reminded me of Bourne and Matt Damon made me care about his character. That made for a better franchise because I didn't want harm to come to him. Don't get me wrong, on the whole, Jolie does a good job. The stunts are spectacular although part of the problem is that the movie instructs us from the get-go to see Salt as utterly invincible. I never once thought she was in real danger. For what it's worth, the Bourne invincibility got old by the time the third instalment rolled in.

We are meant to get our jollies in witnessing how ingenuous she is at using her invincibility. Salt has her style. Of course, she knows kung-fu like all action heroes but her specialty is to jump off moving vehicles onto ground, onto the ledge of a building, the ledges of an elevator shaft, into the sea (with a lacerated face — ouch!), and onto other moving vehicles. 

Perhaps we were meant to feel a distance with Salt, seeing as she's the bad guy. Except we know from the beginning that she isn't. It's just not how Hollywood movies work. The truly bad guys are never the heroes and they don't have their dogs babysat. Since I knew it wouldn't last, I enjoyed watching Evelyn Salt being bad until she became good.

After she has "assassinated" the Russian president who is speaking in NYC at the funeral of the U.S. vice-president, there's a nice shot of Salt, all Siberian glamour with furs and cashmere, on a ferry retreating away from the Statue of Liberty. Is she going back to her home in Russia where she was switched in order to assume the identity of an American girl and infiltrate American society? No, she's off to a barge where a dozen KGB agents are waiting for her only to execute her husband before her eyes. She wasn't supposed to get married, you see. Salt maimed and perhaps killed dozens only to get him back. Now, she has nothing to lose. The baddies are worst than her and that makes her good. We know Salt has empathy, German arachnologists, dogs, one government agent. Yet, the flashbacks to her relationship and love for her husband failed to grab me.

The action scenes are fun if ludicrous and the head of the make-up department should win an Oscar just for one scene in which Jolie is disguised as a male NATO envoy. 

I'm not sure whether I'm comforted or annoyed by yet another script that contorts itself to make Soviet Russia relevant and a real threat to the world of action movies. On the one hand, it's like wearing old slippers, on the other, this Soviet nonsense should have ended with The Russia House. Oh, cold war, quand tu nous tiens...

Screenwriter Kurt Wimmer can't do jokes although I'm not sure he even tries. The script doesn't really up the ante action wise. The actions scenes don't have the newness of The Bourne Identity or The Matrix when released. Or the impact of Inception for that matter. There is not one moment of levity. 


Liev Schreiber is as amazing as ever as Salt's co-worker, co-hunter and co-..., as soon as the film started and a so-called defector accused Salt of being a Russian agent, I thought of No Way Out and suspected Schreiber (who plays Ted Winter and Tarkovsky — nice thought) right away.

I liked that the Secret Service use the code word Geronimo for the President.

CB Film Club

Trying something new: I know that in these Netflix days, folks are not as likely to pop in to the video store and it is more difficult to schedule specific movies to see on a specific day, but we'll try this anyway. The idea is to watch a movie over the weekend and talk about it the following Monday. The Friday entry will be scarce on detail. I, for one, hate to know anything about a film I've never seen before. If you are like me, skip the premise. Monday blogs will assume you have seen the film and be ridden with spoilers.

We begin with a screwball comedy.

Born Yesterday (1950)

Director: George Cukor

Screenplay: Albert Mannheimer

Based on a play by: Garson Kanin

Premise: With his mistress Billie Dawn in tow, nouveau riche tycoon Harry Brock is in Washington D.C. to purchase the votes of the capital's politicians. Brock hires a journalist, Paul Verrall, to brush up the education of a tell-it-like-it-is Dawn.

Judy Holliday as Billie Dawn won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

Next week:
There Will Be Blood (2007)

Tell us about the ads

During the Toronto Fringe, my monetised blog swiftly was decorated with Mirvish and Stratford ads and.... offers of travel to Israel????

I'm glad all those appeared but I know that friends in the Maritimes didn't get those ads, they got ads for pickup trucks instead. The ads you see on my site are at least in part targeted for your area.

And this is where you come in.

I haven't written about THAT oil company which is having a good go at destroying the Gulf of Mexico forever, but I have heard that bloggers have seen ads by THAT oil company appear after mentioning it. TMZ for instance had that same problem and were able to get Google (or whoever automatically generates ads to remove them) to remove them. Now, we know, Comrade Bingo is no TMZ but please let us know if you see ads by THAT oil company on our pages.

Thank you!

20 July 2010

Revamping Comrade Bingo

We will be implementing changes to the blog which should be relatively seamless. We at Comrade Bingo are far too interested in the world at large to focus on one topic for a blog. At the same time, we understand that readers who are interested in Comrade Bingo for our take on specific topics might feel a bit lost with our Renaissance wo/man approach.

Tentatively, Comrade Bingo will implement the following regimen:

New CB

Monday: film discussion of the previous Friday's recommended DVD.
Tuesday: various topics
Wednesday: various topics
Thursday: New to the Family (diary about getting a new dog)
Friday: Spoiler free DVD recommendation to be followed by discussion on Mondays. AND new film review*

*The new film review will depend on Comrade Bingo's ability to get invited to advance screenings.

One day we hope to add a member to the team and post seven days a week, at which point we will surely have a local Toronto day, and a theatre review day.

We agree with you, Comrade Bingo isn't very aesthetically pleasing. Such are the limitations of Blogger. We do yearn to break free and will, one day, have our on site.

Thank you and we hope you will be able to pop in on your chosen days and enjoy the blog even more.

19 July 2010

Inception: Deception of the Supposedly Thought-Provoking Film

this article contains major spoilers 

Recently, I read the phrase "the medium is the medium" in reference to social networking and how fitting that I was treated to a trailer about that Facebook movie whilst I waited for Inception to begin. I'll get back to that. Given that there will be thousands of online reviews about the film, I'm going to offer some thoughts on one aspect of the film (and reaction to the film) which vexes me.

First, some quick impressions: 

• I liked the internationalist aspects of the film, Japan, Paris, Mombasa, Los Angeles, some rocky, snow-capped mountains; it this respect the film has been compared to James Bond movies, my favourite part of James Bond movies. The bit in Kenya had that post-colonial yet colonial feel, white men doing shady deals in a exotic and dangerous locus. No, it's not politically correct but I would have been fine with the film spending most of its time in Africa. More Hollywood action films should be shot there.

• No character was written to fulfill a stereotypical role (like comic relief or the best friend) except for the crazy wife who had to played be a French actress. But even then the idea is sufficiently understated to pass muster. Ellen Page is not only luminous but you can see her think about what a character had just told her. I was not familiar with actor Tom Hardy. Good find. The entire cast is great.

• Fisher Jr. having his subconscious trained against extraction. I love it when a movie is honest about setting me up for something, makes me forget it and then surprises me with it again later. Advantage Nolan.

• With so many levels of reality, what's at stake for the characters is watered down. Hitchcock could build scenes of almost unbearable tension with the simplest of ideas. When ideas get too complicated and a same life can be lost to limbo in three different levels of dreams, the effect nullifies itself.

• Also, limbo did feel like enough of a threat for me to feel a sense of urgency and danger. So many abstractions in the film gave you the notion from the get go (a notion confirmed in the last scene) that the entire thing could all be in the mind, thus reducing, if not obliterating, a sense of danger.

• I realise Nolan doesn't do sex, but are we to believe that men have such tame dreams?  Doesn't anybody realise that aside from Mal, the only woman that appears is a projection of Eames? But the dreams in Inception aren't dreams, are they? This made up world belongs to the world of gaming with a designer, different levels to complete, car chases and everything exploding all the time.

• I have a bone to pick with some of Inception's action scenes. It's clear that if any of us were to find ourselves witness to an epic battle or a car chase in real life, we would be so overwhelmed and confused, we would find ourselves unable to give the police anything like a complete description of what went down. Films have for a long time given us an objective view of such scenes, and even when the camera is positioned to make us feel as though we were in the scene ourselves, we are always given enough overall P.O.V.  to understand/verify that the stunt people and stunt designers have done a sound job. We are shown that what we saw makes cinematographic sense.  This contract between filmmakers and audience, that an action scene should make some empirical sense as understood within Hollywood suspension of disbelief, is breaking down fast. Now, under the guise of reality (I'm guessing) we are too often given the reality of what would be a partial view. We are given a camera P.O.V. of the shocked and the sense of being overwhelmed by fighters, gunfires, car explosing, glass shattering all around us. This  "more" realistic sense of disorientation is not entirely dissatisfying, I just hope filmmakers realise we know they are cheating and, in some ways, dampening our enjoyment. The satisfaction of a good fighting scene or a car chase is to see the artistry that went into making such complicated scenes make sense. Compare the eighteen-wheeler scene in Terminator 2 with the very confusing car chase scene in the second Matrix movie. Actions scenes don't need to make any geophysical (or for that matter scientific sense) anymore. I believe that is a pity. Inception is not the greatest offender in this but it is worth noting.

Mental masturbation cannot be intellectually fertile

So, I come to the aspect of Inception which bothers me on many levels (hahaha). Simple: the idea that Inception is a thought-provoking film offends me. In my view, it's anything but. This matters to me because summer is still young and I've got BBQs and all manner of social events to go to and when Inception comes out on DVD before Christmas, it will be just in time for another very social season. This means roughly six months of listening to people, mostly guys, argue the minutia of Inception like they are participating in a truly philosophical discussion. They will argue about whose dream is whose, the implications thereof, is the entire film a dream, are our lives just about dreaming. Philip K. Dick and then Ridley Scott got there decades ago with Blade Runner and it was hardly a philosophical question then. Books and movies about solipsistic notions are attractive and it's easy to understand why. For the artist, it affords the ability to toy with boundaries of reality and to the young or geeky readers, it gives them the hope that their actual lives may be much better than the one they are entrapped in right now.

Solipsism is a seductive idea, but a circular one that doesn't lead anywhere. I believe this is why certain types are so enamoured with it. A movie like Inception derived from vaguely solipsistic ideas will give rise to thousands of discussions everyday because to talk about ambiguity in the film gives pretence to complexity of thought. 

Inception is only the latest fetish object in a long string of cultural items in a collection of subjects for a certain type of geeks. Trekkies have been around since the sixties and have always been deemed innocuous. It is however the elevation of geekdom which has brought obsession upon the mundane into the mainstream. It became cute to dedicate one's every spare moment, or one's every moment in life to the dismantling of every aspect of a TV show, scifi book or film. The advent of the internet and social networking allowed disparate geeks to "meet" and grow and validate each other. Asperger has become a desirable condition, one that many geeks satisfactorily brandish proudly upon self-diagnosis.

Asperger is a mild form of autism and one hallmark of this terrible disease is the inability and difficulty to bond. Autism is in part the difficulty to understand the human condition and to have empathy. A person with Asperger or autism may be able to recognise patterns, identify weak signs the rest of us would overlook but that maybe due to a lack of interference from the understanding of certain complexities.

We are talking about different types of complexities and ambiguities when we discuss, for example, David Lean's A Passage to India based on the novel  by E.M. Forster rather than Inception. When we engage in a discussion about whether or not a Muslim Indian man raped a white British woman, we plunge into far more challenging grounds. A conversation about ambiguity that touches upon real life and real life concerns can lead to enlightenment, self-knowledge and greater knowledge of the other. A conversation about details of Inception will likely be pornographic. Obsessed with meaningless detail and circular. Such forensics amount to mental masturbation and mental masturbation can never be intellectually fertile.

I'm not saying people shouldn't talk about Inception, I am saying that we should stop pretending the film is thought-provoking and that discussions about it have value.

In a sense, I'm as guilty as anyone else, for we speak and type words endlessly these days without putting much meaning in them. Whether it is in blogs, social networks, or on the mobile phone, we waste words every day. Inception proved effective to me on one level (ha...), it was a gigantic, hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars Hollywood hammer. Only a few minutes into the movie, I dreaded how Nolan, as one of our realm's major architects, had made the world outside just a bit more artificial with rooms across the world filled with masturbatory discussions about his film.