Thursday, August 18, 2011

MLPFIM: Beyond the TV

It's amazing how the My Little Pony Friendship is Magic series can envelope one's interest so completely.

That can be easily shown by all the fan works about it by the adult fans who take the basic premise and characters and run with them like creative track stars.

For instance, I have been enjoying a new fanfic series of crossover stories with the TV series, Stargate SG-1: Stargate Equestria.  I know, that sounds like an impossible combination, but the writer makes it work far better than you'd ever expect with a real understanding of both media properties.  Just the scene of where the hotshot pegasus Rainbow Dash learns the real responsibilities of being an provisional Captain of the US Air Force when Col. O'Neil dresses her down for disobeying his orders shows a special understanding to mix the aesops of MLP with the hardheaded military realism of SG to amazing effect.

Then there are flights of fancy where the fans' imagination takes them to all sorts of places.  For instance, there the stuff they do with this popular sequence with the season finale's big musical number, "At the Gala":

Such as making a male version of the piece:

Not mention what some clever editing can do such with as the theme song for the classic superhero comedy animated series, Freakazoid:

And then they really get creative after that:

Ah, media addiction; the all encompassing thing to enjoy where you least expect it.  Now, I'm finding if Big Bang Theory get do it itself and Stargate SG-1 can it again.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

London Riots and Uglier Public Reactions

Seeing the whole ugliness of the London riots, I can't help but see a much more sickening reaction to it by too much of the mass media and authorities.

For instance, reading about British PM David Cameron's tirade saying that the expansion of human rights as being a cause of the social disturbances is truly disturbing in and of itself.  Now, he is taking in this as a pretext to attack the basic laws to designed to further those rights and twist them for his own ends, with a sop to social services to cover

Likewise, it seems that too much of the media can only focus on the looting and various crimes incurred while paying only lip service to the police shooting that sparked the protests that admittedly gotten out of hand.  As usual, my favourite paper, The Toronto Star at least has some articles explaining the larger problems that sparked this violence, such as the widening gap of the rich and poor.

Otherwise, it seems that wiser heads need to fight to get their voices heard with fury and give real perspective to these incidents like this man did on BBC TV:

I just hope others like in London, Ontario itself can realize that properly supported public libraries and similar public services for the underprivileged to make them feel some hope and connection to society can do more to prevent these incidents than any amount of police intimidation or simplistic political gamesmanship can ever do.

Even so, for real solutions, that can only be a start...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Film Adaptations of the Strangest Kind

Sometimes one can look at the state of Hollywood films and your jaw can drop at what they are willing to use for story material for movies.

For me, the nadir has got to be the idiotic idea adapting the kiddie board game, Candy Land, for a film.  The worst part about that is that the idea that much more feasible with a film adaptation of the guessing game, Battleship is about to open.

If they have to adapt board games, why can't they use ones with more story potential like Scotland Yard;  the idea of young detectives chasing Mr. X around London feels like there might work.  See this 1980s commercial and you'll understand the idea:

At the same time, the recent announcement of Eddie Murphy starring in a film adaptation of the old Hanna-Barbera animated series, Hong Kong Phooey, sounds much better to me than most people think. The series was shackled with a typical prohibition concerning violence for SAT-AM and seeing the character finally cut loose in battle could definitely work with a Jackie Chan like tone.  Just see Jackie's scenes in this commercial for his North American breakthrough film, substituting HKP for him, and you can see how this could work:

Failing that, they can use the inspiration from this little indulgence from 10 years ago.

Hey, it beats a Candy Land film any day.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Seeing the economic turmoil because of the Tea Party nutcases' moronic obstinacy in the US Congress, the whole tempest over Nycole Turmel as interim leader of the NDP is even more petty and repellent here.

After all, was one of the insiders of Brian Mulroney's federal cabinet before the Meech Lake Accord debacle and how is Steven Harper's former vow to put a "firewall around Alberta" any different in trying to divide the country than any of the antics the PQ has ever done in Quebec? 

As Claude Denis points out in today's Toronto Star's article about Turmel and the NDP, the PQ and BQ have dominated the leftwing Quebec for decades.  Therefore, if you are of a progressive orientation in that province, you pretty much have to align with them to some degree to have a real chance to achieve your political goals.

What the federal NDP has done is co-opt many of the supporters of the BQ and redirected them to a leftwing party with a clear federalist priority, their reckless Clarity Act stand notwithstanding.  Instead of being praised for that, the media just mindlessly follows Steven Harper's self-serving wedge issue manipulation and refuses to see the bigger picture as when it sneered at the NDP's young new MPs when it should have been a moment of celebration of Canada's political renewal.

Really, when the world economy is being battered by a few fanatic American rightwing Congressional hardasses who are greedy, blind and immature to accept the need for a functioning nation state depends on compromise, Nycole Turmel's rise should be seen as the bridge building opportunity for our country while the US is schisming needlessly.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Confessions of a Self-discovered Brony

Coming to the library today, I was expecting to have a startingly personal confession, but I'm apparently late for the party as usual as noted by today's National Post story.  Namely, I discovered this week that I'm a Brony, a fan of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

If someone told me that I would find this old Hasbro toy property appealing in any form, I would have said that they were insane. Yet seeing this fandom, I finally got past the first episode's cutsie prologue to discover  this incredible series.  That's what happens when a series is created by an genius like Lauren Faust who cared enough to make something was once a coldly created and sexist piece of merchandizing tripe into a engaging surprise of television animation.

How did she do it? By injecting an infectious sense of humour that playfully sets you up for the usual cutsie drival like in the old 1980s animated versions, and then gloriously subverts it with the kind of intelligent gags that are not afraid to cast a jaundiced eye to the cliches. That quality is then combined with unexpectedly complex characters who will appeal to you deeply as they reveal the enthralling complexity of their personalities.

No one more exemplifies this than the Pinkie Pie character. In lesser hands, she would be simply an annoying hyperactive ditz with the squeaky voice, but the writers understand the same humour as Gracie Allen did of a character who is not stupid, but is an intelligent freespirit who sees the world in her own completely unique way and is unafraid to joyously express it. For as much as she takes getting used to in the beginning, she will enthrall you as one of a brilliant facet of this animated mosiac.

Yet, the focus heroine, Twilight Sparkle, is the perfect anchor for this series. A quiet bookish intellectual, she is the exact same appeal of Hiccup in How to Train Your Dragon who rises to any occasion and crisis when called upon.  Yet the writers are unafraid to avoid this genre crippling sense of delicateness and joyfully put her  through the gauntlet of outrageous slapstick character driven comedy in the finest tradition of Looney Tunes.  Meanwhile, her companion, Spike the Dragon, is the perfect straight man for this odd series as the only recurring male character, viewing the antics around him with his own childish perspective that molds the whole show into a stunner.

With this writing, there is that beautiful flash animation that creates the brightly coloured fantasy world of MLP that is magical, but never overpowering in its intensity.  Meanwhile the music is deftly inspired with a dose of knowing confidence, especially when the songs get gleefully subverted for gutbusting laughs that know no age maximum.While the series doesn't always succeed in maintaining the crossover appeal, even the occasional exclusive kidvid shtick displayed have a special warmth to see adult viewers through until the series' sophistication returns.
In short, this series is a family show in the best sense, much like Sesame Street in its glory years where all walks of life can enjoy this magic. The Hub network certainly seems to understand as their marketing is even playing to the adult audience, eager to build their audience share with the power of the peripheral demographic.

This is the sampling:

And this is the real thing.  Get through the prologue and you'll see where this series will take you:

While Faust's departure from the series as a producer is a worrisome development, I'm hoping that the sheer audacity of this new fandom and the network's delight in profiting from this new pop culture cache will be enough to keep it going for some time to come.

And that is why I am a Brony.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

US debt and infectious frustrations

Well, the odds say that the USA will not be going into default, but it also means that the Tea Party Republican fanatics in the US Congress have gotten their way in an infuriating game of political chicken. Now, there will be a horrific slashjob of government services because of a deficit that was resolved during Bill Clinton's administration.  What changed was that George W. Bush undid that fiscal prudence with his Iraq invasion he justified with WMD lies and then was idiotic to push for tax cuts for the rich during a time of war.

I also fault President Obama in this considering that people like Bill Clinton were calling on him to invoke the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution  to nullify the whole debt ceiling and preempt this artificial immediate crisis.  It seems like this guy is so determined to be a conciliator that he refuses to see that his opponents are out for his political blood.  For instance, he had the perfect opportunity to bypass Congress to get rid of the US Military's intolerable Don't Ask Don't Tell by simply conceding to the courts' ruling against it, yet he still had the Attorney General continue to fight to keep it.

Now, the US government is going to get eviscerated against the US public's opinions because too many of the privileged in the USA are too greedy and immature to accept that taxes are the price of civilization. I shudder at what inspiration Stephen Harper might take from this debacle and inflict on Canada.  After all, when someone like him is so determined to "get tough on crime" when crime rates are going down, he clearly has no use for reality.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thoughts on Captain America The First Avenger

Seeing Captain America The First Avenger was a wonderful experience made possible by filmmakers who respect the original material with enough practicality to make it work for the movies.

My only disappointment is the film moving up the time of the story until after the US entered World War II in 1942.  In the comics, Steve Rogers became Captain America in 1941 months before the Pearl Harbor Attack, motivated by a pure idealism that was competing with both larger public indifference and/or isolationist sympathy for the Nazis. Putting into the war itself makes Rogers' ideals a bit less heroic as he rides a larger patriotic fervor in 1942. As it is, the original setting obviously didn't preclude the existence of Project Rebirth anymore than the development of the Rocketeer's jetpack in 1938 in that movie;  both can be justified as the US government's precautionary efforts to create secret weapons for a possible war.

Aside from that, this film was a joy watch to see Captain America done right compared to the unwatchable 1990 film embarrassment, although I found the 1970s live action TV attempts decent ones for the realities of the medium at that time. Just the hidden references to Marvel Comics things like the Original Human Torch, The Invaders and The Howling Commandos are lots of fun to spot.  Furthermore, Chris Evans gives the title character just the right feel of idealism and humanity as he, portrayed in a sickly body that makes Woody Allen look studly, shows how Rogers has all the inner qualities that would make Captain America.  Furthermore, Hugo Weaving is deliciously bad as the Red Skull, a Marvel villain movie adaptation rivaled only by Alfred Molina's Dr. Octopus in Spider-Man 2.  After, the 1990 movie inexplicably made the character Italian, it was awe inspiring to see such a memorable villain done right.

With all that said and with the film being such a big success, it's time to think of sequels and there are over 40 years of just the character's post-revival comic book stories since the 1960s to consider for adaptations as Cap:
  • The major plot arcs of when Rogers temporarily gave up being Cap in the 1970s and 1980s to become Nomad and The Captain respectively could be easily combined into one story.  For instance, Rogers could feel compelled to give it up in a period of patriotic disillusionment, only to realize that he could still be Cap and fight for the higher ideals of America without blindly supporting his government or public sentiments.  Furthermore, the requisite action can be supplied also by the struggles of John Walker trying to be his replacement only to be pushed over the brink and needs to be rescued by Rogers.  On the other hand, the film could go more black and while by the US government creating Nuke who is the subject of a later attempt to imitate Project Rebirth, only to become an irretrievably insane supervillain Rogers must bring down.
  • The discovery and revival of the 1950s version of Captain America and Bucky, who used a flawed Nazi copy of the Super Soldier Serum and became violently racist and paranoid  and Rogers needs the help of a new friend, Frank Wilson aka The Falcon, to help bring them down. However, Rogers must confront the frightening similarities and fate of his counterpart as he struggles to realize why he is truly better than them.
  • The fight against the Serpent Society, a team of repitlain themed supervillains who are so well organized and slippery that Cap is really frustrated trying to bring them down.
  • The Red Skull's Sleepers, giant robots designed to automatically devastate the world in the event of the Third Reich's defeat.
  • The rise of The Winter Soldier, who is revealed to be Bucky who was captured, modified, preserved and controlled by Soviets for decades and all the emotional baggage coming from that discovery.
So you see there's a wealth of story material to work with it's fun to imagine where this great film series can go.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Life without Jack

Sorry, I missed a post last Thursday, but I write my blog at the library and walking home at noon on the hottest day of the year was too intimidating a thing to do.

It's the day after the leader of my party, Jack Layton, announced that he's taking a leave of absence due to health issues.  To experience this, hopefully temporary loss, is a disheartening development. Yet, all non-partisan well wishing is nicely Canadian in a world where a Norwegian imitates Mark LePine as a murdering lunatic who is but an extreme example of a larger malignancy while US President Obama has to play rhetorical chicken against rightoid ideological  nutcases in the US Congress to prevent a worldwide economic body blow.

At the same time, at least Jack is doing this at the beginning of a very long 4-5 years of Federal Tory majority.  That way, my NDP will have time to adjust and regroup while all the new MPs have their opportunity to come up to speed fully with all the experience they need.  Certainly, Ms. Nycole Turmel has the organizational experience to help protest the wrecking rampage to come with a practiced rhetoric. She's going to need all of that kind of skill against a bunch of ideological hardcases who don't like to be inconvenienced with the facts.

As it is, she seems better than Ontario NDP leader, Andrea Horwath, who appears to be promising slightly less than the moon for the upcoming provincial election, albeit with a more rational platform than that Harrisite Tim Hudak.  To be honest, for all complaints about Dalton McGuinty, at least his current promises seem more reasonable at least in concept and I've had few complaints about his performance compared to the horrors of Mike Harris.  Sure, the HST is pain and all the tax cuts are self-evidently destructive in the long run for Ontario as a caring community, but there is at least a glimmer of responsibility and vision as with the green energy initiatives.

Ultimately, I likely will be volunteering for the NDP in the upcoming campaign yet again, but it will be harder if Jack isn't able to return to public life soon.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Western Space Grounding

As of now, Shuttle Atlantis has disengaged from the International Space Station and is preparing for re-entry and landing.  With that, NASA's space shuttle program comes to an end after 30 years, which also means the end of manned US space missions for the foreseeable future.  Now, the Russian space program is going to have to carry the whole load to maintain the ISS and it seems like big Western space dreams are grounded for now.

The hard part about this is that I've read the arguments against the usefulness of manned space flights and they have some merits.  For instance, the Shuttle program was supposed to be a low cost delivery system get people into space and that has never been the case with massive cost overruns with a vehicle that was an economy design compromise from the beginning. After all, wouldn't it have made more sense for the Shuttle to be able to have powered atmospheric flight when coming down, instead of being the super expensive glider it is on the return trip? 

Even worse, when NASA tried to maintain the kind of schedule to justify the program in the 1980s, that led to a bureaucratic mentality that led them to ignore safety problems that led to the Challenger explosion. The whole age and the fragility of the vehicles that led to the destruction of the Columbia because its heat shield tiles were damaged; obviously if a space vehicle requires a life-or-death EVA examination of its integrity on every trip, then it is simply not acceptable. What I do fault NASA for is that they should have been working on a successor vehicle for the Shuttles decades ago and thus have a viable replacement ready to go.  As much as I am aware about budgetary realities, the tragedy of not acting on that kind of basic foresight is obvious. I just wish the secondary benefits of NASA's operation like new inventions like teflon being just the most obvious could be played up more to see how space exploration can be worth it in other and more subtle ways.

Furthermore, I've read that even the ISS is not that useful as a scientific research complex.  The sheer constant vibrations the thing makes with its essential systems apparently is a major pain for astronomical observations and other experiments.  On the other hand, the use of remote probes like Pathfinder and Opportunity have gotten great results in exploration with far more economy to say nothing about the Hubble Telescope's spectacular visuals (albeit at least after the shuttle mission to fix its lens defects). 

The problem is that manned missions are inspiring and in the long run necessary for the future of the human species, but it would be easier to think that way if there can be some definite short term advantage to having human crews while we're at it.  For instance, if there had something valuable on the Moon like some precious and/or useful mineral that would be worth going there regularly, then we'd obviously have a Moon base there by now. That said, the old premise from Space: 1999 of using it as a nuclear waste dump would seem broadly logical before economic and safety realities (which does NOT include the dumps exploding and deorbiting the satellite) come to mind.

I just hope that China might be able to embarrass the US to take their own space program seriously such as a successful manned moon mission for instance.  I certainly don't have much faith that the proposed private sector space operations will come to anything since they obviously can't indulge in the grand visions that NASA had in its glory years. As it, any new US moon mission has the problem that the vehicles were built with contracted aerospace companies, many of which are long gone. This has led to the jawdropping fact that NASA simply does not have the complete schematics of their own vehicles, such as the Saturn V Rocket so it would have to practically start from scratch as far as equipment goes.  I shake my head at such lack of vision to that can lead an organization of such smart people to come to that situation.

So here we are, effectively grounded from outer space on this hemisphere of a planet, waiting for someone to dream the dreams of the Final Frontier and to push to reach for a destiny that is still there for us to take.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I prefer it on my radio

It's remarkable how dramatically your tastes can change over the years.

For instance, there was a time when I simply watched too much TV to the consternation of my parents. In fact my earliest memories include coming home from kindergarten and making a beeline to see Sesame Street every day.  When my parents wanted to punish me, the most memorable penalties were weeks long TV bans, which were agony in their own way.  In fact, one of the most memorable things in my life was watching Magic Shadows on TVO on Friday nights in the 1980s when the classic Republic Pictures serials like The Adventures of Captain Marvel were played and eating a personal pan pizza my mother cooked by hand that night.

Yet, now my TV is unplugged most of the time and disconnected my cable subscription 2 years ago and I don't miss it all that much. Instead, I listen to CBC radio and various podcasts instead. In fact, the biggest treat when I have Saturday mornings free is for that rare opportunity to listen to CBC Radio One's shows.  Any video I want to see is more likely than not available online and DVD and I feel happier about that situation than I ever thought I would be 20 years ago. I do know that I mentioned this state of affairs to my parents, they looked at me as if I had gone insane at doing something so out of character in their eyes.

As for reasons, I don't need hindsight to tell me why.  For instance, my first move was when I heard about the story of Ronald Reagan's press secretary congratualating a major TV news show for a negative story on him, gloating that since the visual footage was flattering, no one was going to listen to the truth they were saying about him.  At that moment, I vowed I would largely avoid TV news and get my news from the radio so I would focus on what is being said and I have largely kept to that ever to my benefit.

Furthermore, I've found that radio as a broadcast medium is simply more convinient;  it's a medium that allows me largely to do any number of things while I am listening, although reading is a challenge with the divided attention. For instance, I can walk or work outside with my MP3 player's radio function going and I can keep going just fine. By contrast, TV demands you stay in one place and focus all your attention to the screen; for many things, that is a shackling I will not have. Furthermore, I grew tired of comforming my life to a TV broadcast schedule and even with recording tech, I've let the recordings pile up.  In that case, online video I could access at will has become far more to my taste and even DVDs seem to be becoming more and more a bother in themselves.

Also there is the fact that CBC Radio One provides largely all of what I want in broadcasting such as news like Ontario Morning and The Current and entertainment like the Vinyl Cafe, Vinyl Tap and Afghanada. It's gotten to the point where their summer replacement shows are the chief things I look forward to in the summer and the fact that I can have all this without commercials is wonderful in itself.  While I enjoy other podcasts, they are a separate medium in my mind to some extent, much like audiobooks; there is a certain delay to them while radio has an immediacy that is compelling itself.

That makes the upcoming budget review developments in Ottawa matter of foreboding with Tony Clemente with his treasury axe with a deficit pretext to bury any protest.  The Conservatives' loathing for the CBC has been obvious for years and its disheartening to read/hear ignorant rightoids screach about it being "biased" when those blatherings seem usually the result of a bullying arrogance that can't stand seeing their views being challenged even in a fair forum. Any radio network perported to be "leftist" and yet have a notorious rightwing reporter like Barbara Frum be one of their top journalists while her son David and even Preston Manning have hosted CBC's marquee current affairs radio show, The Current, occassionally is more fair than they want to admit.

That said, Harper and his cronies aren't all that interested in realties when their self-serving ideologies say otherwise. After all, if they acted like really rational beings they would have left the long form census alone knowing that killing a essential form of societal research because of a handful complaints is nonsensical. Now with a majority government, I don't know what is going to happen next, but I hope the lobby group I've contributed to, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, might be able to protect the CBC, or at least the radio portion from people who can't hear a bigger picture.

In any case, I will enjoy it while it lasts.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sunfest thoughts

It was great to hear that Sunfest 2011 has proven a rousing success with over 200,000 visitors and I have no doubts it has become London's supreme cultural event. I just hope the city groundskeepers can find a way to keep the grass alive with all those events with Home County and Rib Fest coming up.

My only regret that yet again, there is no dealer in alternative books as there used to be with Marginal Distribution before they went out of business and that smaller stand that used to be there for the last two years. That was always something special about that festival that I could get something to read that would typically be difficult to get in downtown London and then get my chair in the shadow of the Victoria Park bandshell for some serious reading. On other hand, I really put my Sony Ebook Reader really through its paces some great Watchmen fanfics.

 The other thing is the food booths are getting really expensive like a typical food combo deal is $8.  I realize this probably partially because of the high rents Sunfest and other festivals have to charge since they cannot charge admission, but it still stings. To that end, I can partially sympathize with the idea that Home County Folk Festival is going to really and essentially push $5 "We Gave" stickers to visitors to help with financing; his complaint that all the free festivals are devaluing live music performances has real merit to it and the arts in this city are having a tough time as it is.  The fact that there is a great arts center like the The Arts Project is downtown and even the patrons of the Palace Theatre predominately won't go there.

It was also great to see Mark Konrad with his human rights petition booth, although I wish he could work more with the separate Amnesty International local chapter booth.  Oh well, just telling him of the CBC Radio One summer show, Know Your Rights, was a thrill in itself if only to give him the resource he needs to know about his rights as a new Canadian citizen.

Anyways, July is a vibrant month for this city and for all the compromises necessary for these kinds of arts events, I should enjoy while I know they are still here.  With the Harper majority in Ottawa and the probable Tim Hudak government in Queens Park this fall and Fontana's idiotic tax freeze for this city, all these events have an uncertain future to varying degrees.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

It's amazing how one book can enflame an interest and put things in a magical perspective, I finally have to write about a film history book which is simply the best book of its kind I have ever read, actually listened to as an audiobook, Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood by Mark Harris.

I have listened to this book over and over again and I have never experienced an art history tale with such entrancing details in every possible way. 

For instance, reading about Robert Benton and David Newman's obsession with French new wave movies and the lengths they went to experience them puts a whole new perspective on there was a whole different feel of being a moviegoer then, decades before home video.  Seeing movies for them, in the big urban centers at least, was like a treasure hunt that was opening up a new whole way of appreciating films with other intellectuals face to face in discussions about their message and artistry where arguments had to be carefully thought out ahead of time to avoid looking ridiculous.

That was certainly would have been better that what I got going to the Huron County Museum's Chaplin film series in 1989 where every attempt at a discussion about the films after screenings was brushed off by everyone while they nattered on irrelevancies. Back then, serious filmgoing sounded more precious if only because you had so little opportunity to see them at your convenience.  However, their story gives the whole cinematic experience of a whole different level of enjoyment for me, just trying to imagine something doing that for myself, and having a job relaxed enough that could allow for such pursuits.  Just their entry into movies as screenwriters was inspiring enough to see them struggle, learn about the screenwriting craft the hard way and ultimately succeed against such long odds.

However, the book has so much more than that with a wealth of concurrent stories such as the struggles of Sidney Poitier to be more than the token black actor in Hollywood even while he was so conscious of wanting to be a good example to change White America's mind about black actors.  At the same time, there is Dustin Hoffman's story of a struggling actor who couldn't get work at all until a series of chance encounters led to his big break in The Graduate that would blow the doors off that were shutting out actors who didn't resemble WASP paragons.

There is the sad story of Stanley Kramer, a man with lofty ideals of cinema as social commentary, only to have his greatest commercial success with Guess Who's Coming to Dinner being undermined by the fact that it was a creaky production with condescending assumptions and embarrassing stereotypes and inhuman ciphers for characters. Just hearing him trying to lecture college student and finding that they had no common interest with him is a powerful moment of a changing time that would make Kramer irrelevant.

On the lighter side, there is Doctor Dolittle, a literary true life farce of a cinematic debacle with an obnoxious lead with Rex Harrison in a troubled production of rife with ridiculous procrastination by a deadbeat writer being just the first stumble in the string of incompetence by the whole crew with the most idiotic mistakes until their preview screening finally drove the whole blunder home.  Furthermore, that was capped off by even more stupid errors that led to a multi-million dollar lawsuit because of a error the screenwriter should have avoided in beginning and the racism of the original books that should have been a red flag for the studio to stay away from the property in the first place.

Yet, there also stories of triumph such as film artists finally standing up to the tyrannical production code, 14 years after the US Supreme Court's Miracle Decision finally gave film the Freedom of Speech after so long.  First there was The Pawnbroker and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf successfully forcing the code to bend until MGM outright defied it to release Blowup that gave it the final deathblow as a credible Hollywood institution. For all the current complaints about the MPAA's rating system and the notorious failure of Paul Verhouven's Showgirls to loosen it up, it still is heartening to learn of a time when a tyrannical censorship was defied after so long.

Even explorations of the technical sides of the films is fascinating such as in In the Heat of the Night when the lighting head created welcome innovations such realizing that Black actors needed differently arranged lighting to be photographed well, or the blistering montages and other cinematic elements of Bonnie and Clyde which took French ideas and gave them a uniquely American style.

However, the most exciting part of the book is seeing how the North American film audience, at least for a while, became at least partially more sophisticated and there was an eagerness to see challenging films beyond the Oscar season. 

I have listened to this book at least 5 times in its entirety and I can't get enough about this book about a time when American film was invaded by people who wanted to stretch the medium and eventually won for their time.  It would be great if it could happen again, even if feature animation has that experience to some degree now.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

When I read my news sites each morning, primarily The Toronto Star, the local news on the London Free Press and a quick scan of among others, I try to save time by skipping celebrity fluff and apolitical crime stories beyond occasionally glancing at the headline links.

Unfortunately concerning the former, that has proven easier to do of late. While I am sure that Prince William and Lady Kate of Cambridge are very nice people and so far have been less embarrassing than Prince Harry for instance, I just don't want all this attention at the expense of more important news. For instance, the Canadian ship's attempt to run the blockade of Gaza is easily more important the LFP's CanadaWorld section's front page than seeing those two on a Dragon Boat or Will piloting a Sea King Helicopter, although the latter is practically an act of heroism considering the state of those military choppers today.

It was really galling that I was looking forward to listening to Cross Country Checkup last Sunday and hearing that the royal couple will be the subject of discussion, even if the host was being apologetic about it as a backdoor tactic to start a debate about the monarchy in Canada. As it is, I agree with Jiam Ghomeshi opening monologue's on Q calling for the big media to pull on the lapdog treatment of the royals. At least the fact that they are British royalty at least gives them some shade of relevance to Canada than any Hollywood celebrity any day. Just all that idiotic obsession with Paris Hilton's arrest years ago was as repellent an example as anything I'm referring to; I just hope that female TV anchor who literally burning the sheet about it on air got a promotion for it. I just hope that CCC can deal with something more substantive as it should. I know this is hardly some radical opinion, but I can't stay quiet either, even if I should do the same for any number of more important subjects.

At least, most of the rest of CBC Radio's programming at least has more integrity than that such as The Current which were discussing the Gaza blockade and a reporter's interview with a Khmer Rouge big shot while the summer programming is as fascinating as always like today's Out of Their Minds about eccentric scientists and inventors and Strange Animal, a fun show exploring elements of human nature. That is something I need and I hope I can do the same someday.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

For all the hoopla at about Transformers: Dark of the Moon, there is a slight undertone of desperation about its 3D presentation. 

Apparently, there is a feeling that if this film does not get a significantly large portion of its box office from 3D presentation, that would be a fatal hammer blow to that "enhancement" to the moviegoing experience. That almost feels halfway believable considering that apparently the box office influence of 3D projection has been on a real decline with the movies.  After all, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides , Kung Fu Panda 2 and Green Lantern apparently have had a shrinking portion of 3D in their grosses and it's impossible to say how many moviegoers chose not to bother seeing a film simply because it's too expensive because of that.  I know, while I reasonably enjoyed Green Lantern as a comic fan, I don't feel an overwhelming urge to see Transformers in all its high budget cheesiness yet again at a more expensive price.

As for the causes, I agree with Jeffery Katzenberg that much of the blame lies with film companies getting cheap and greedy with the gimmick.  That especially goes for the schlocky retrofit 3D processing on regularly shot films, especially bombs like The Last Airbender and Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore.  All that seems to accomplish is to create a pointlessly more expensive film for a glorified optical illusion that you eventually and subconsciously ignore long before the film is over, provided you don't get eyestrain while you're at it. Of course, that doesn't include the filmmakers willing to produce 3D films from the ground up like DreamWorks Animation and James Cameron with his Avatar.  With them, their films like the brilliant How to Train Your Dragon use the projection process with a real artistic purpose and the results can be spellbinding.

That said, I don't appreciate not having the choice to seeing these films "flat" (no 3D) and the fact that they projected with appallingly low light levels is even more unacceptable. After all, I don't go to films because of the presentation gimmicks, I usually go to them for the stories and that's all that matters in the end. Of course, that criteria is a frustratingly elusive quality for film companies to rely on, so you can understand to a degree why they were hoping for something more reliable to get people to see their movies before they can on their widescreen Hi-Def TVs. But that is not enough in the end, not at the preminium they are forcing the cinemas to charge.

For me, I favour making the cinema going experience more like a grander one that makes the trip worthwhile.  To achieve that, bringing back the film short programming of the 1930s as a regular part of the programming schedule would be wonderful, it would give a fun sense of variety where you are getting more for your money.  Also taking off the premium off 3D films would help ease people's reticence to see film in the theatre, although I highly doubt any cinema companies would touch that option. There can be the option of selling cheap DVDs of the film's special features in its upcoming regular release would be fun;  imagine documentary featurettes for historical dramas, or behind-the-scenes looks at visual effect heavy films that you can enjoy when you get home.  Of course, given all the complaints about rude behaviour with people in theatres, a stricter enforcement of the rule would be welcome, such as that Texan cinema chain, The Alamo Drafthouse, who threw out that obnoxious woman for using her cell phone in the auditorium after repeated warnings and even used the ensuing irate phone call in their advertising.

Most of all, the move to digital projection in movie theatres is nonsensical to the point of being suicidal;  if people go to see something that is practically the norm in their own homes on their TVs, there is that much more reason to stay home in the first place.  Instead, Roger Ebert has the better idea of expanding use of the Maxivision film format; if you improve the viewing experience of movies projected on filmstock, you will provide a reason to see something that videorecording and/or digital project cannot provide.

As it is, as much as I value the option of home video, nothing truly beats the immersive quality of seeing films in a theatre.  There, you are in a darkened room and all your attention is focused on the big screen with a group involvement to share the emotional experience.  While at home, you have all the distraction like books and computers, the movie theatre offers something magical instead.

While that should be enough, I just hope the cinema industry can get it together to give real reasons for people to come, maybe with the measures I suggest above, or perhaps something really creative instead.  Either way, I want my movie theatres and I will mourn the tragedy if they are gone.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Well, Canada Post is back in operation again thanks to the government blunt instrument known as Back to Work legislation.

Let me get this straight, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers pulls a labor action and tries to do it this time with a delicate touch with rotating strikes in an effort to make their point without inconveniencing the citizenry too much and it's Canada Post is portrayed as the victim here even after they killed all service in a lockout, leaving the union to be punished for all this?

Granted, postal service usage is on the serious decline for at least a decade and CUPW is definitely not in a strong bargaining position considering the industry's long term prospects.  After all, the internet is a game changer so obvious that even mentioning it now feels redundant from the first syllable I put down on this matter. Furthermore, the argument that the strike is going to likely accelerate postal service's usage decline has merit as online methods become ever more dominate.  That said, if we want to make that transition as smooth as possible, we are going to have to do a major online connection initiative on the scale of South Korea's efforts, with twenty times the total land mass.  To say that would be expensive would the most obvious of understatements, unless WI-FI connection can gain the equivalent range of terrestrial radio broadcasts.  Until then, there are still rural areas, small businesses and people who want items shipped with a reasonable price with some appropriate patience which need a public postal service.

However, such hard realities do not excuse the Canadian government from blatantly interfering with specific bargaining terms and arbitration methods in the back to work order.  Doing this is the mark of an outrageous arrogance of Stephen Harper more fitting of a dictator.  Given that such tightfisted control of his cabinet is exactly his style of governing, it seems obvious that he now is giving his best shot to apply it to every element of the Canadian government.  Furthermore, big businesses will be emboldened  to really shaft workers with a reasonable shot of getting the same partiality from Harper with an appeal for the "greater good" of the economy while the corporate heads give themselves the mega-salaries they hardly deserve outside of their own minds.

As much as the New Democratic Party of Canada tried to do its best with its filibuster to delay this measure, it became a futile gesture when Canada Post and CUPW walked away from bargaining to try to head off the imposed settlement.  Still, it was at least a symbolic move that had to be made and it's more backbone on the left than I have seen in some time to fight for the working class. That's enough for me to say I am proud to be among their number for the rough times ahead.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

With the upcoming premiere of Cars 2, the saying "Everyone has their price" appears to have been justified again. For Pixar, that price apparently is $5 Billion in movie merchandising alone for the original Cars.

Now, I wonder if Pixar realizes the bigger price they are paying now; Cars 2 currently has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 45%, the lowest critical rating for the company of all time. Before this artistic debacle (for them), Pixar had a largely unblemished reputation for artistic excellence unmatched by any major film production house in North American in recent decades with their films typically hovering in the high 90%s. Cars was the major exception with only 74% and it was beaten out by Happy Feet for the 2006 Best Animated Feature Oscar. I know Monsters Inc. lost against Shrek in 2001, but that was more for DreamWorks Animation surpassing all expectations that year with their film putting them in the animation big leagues at last.

Now if the Pixar company head, John Lasseter, really went by his motto, "Quality is the Best Business Plan," he would have conceded that Cars was below his company's standards and take the experience as a lesson to see how they can avoid such relative failures in the future. However, for the sole believable reason that this film made a killing in merchandising that they decided to throw away their hard won artistic integrity to the wolves for the craven cash-in this film is seemingly proving itself to be.

I will just love to see if Lasseter will make the mealy mouth excuse that this film is necessary to fund more artistically daring projects, like the upcoming film, Brave. Namely, that would be a bald faced lie considering their previous films like Ratatouille, Wall-E and Up surpassed all the dismissals to become smash hits and classics of American animation. This is a studio with nothing to prove and a shining example of the best of what Western animation could strive for. Now they have thrown away this cherish reputation for the sake of mere money when they have shot for higher ideals and made blockbuster profits.

At Walt Disney himself had the excuse in the 1940s when he had to make his cheapie animated anthology
films like Melody Time and Make Mine Music because his company was hanging by a financial thread above bankruptcy after his best films like Pinocchio, Fantasia and Bambi bombed earlier in the decade. Pixar has no such excuse with it being one of the all time most successful film companies in the world and that makes the very existence of Cars 2 all the more unacceptable.

What I do that is that Jeffery Katzenberg is likely savoring this moment. He walked away from Disney to help create DreamWorks out of spite and through hook or by crook made the first major animation house to rival Walt Disney Pictures by producing a sustain line of animated feature films and ushered in a golden age for the art. Now, his film have artistically been largely relegated in the shadows of Pixar's kudos outside of his Shrek series. Now, with his studio really hitting its stride with more mature talents really creating masterworks like the Kung Fu Panda series and How To Train Your Dragon, he has now proven his company can match them at their best. Now that Pixar has artistically stumbled with this newest film, the face of American feature animation be in for a profound change, at least for a year.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Just as I suspected, Joe Fontana has put this city in a situation where he would likely have to contemplate selling off the marquee public jewels of the city like Museum London, the Covent Garden Market, the London Convention Centre etc., or admit that his tax freeze policy is impractical.

The city simply mustn't do some glorified garage sale for quick cash.  While an argument can be made for privatizing the public golf courses (an issue which I fully admit my sports indifference), this move would impoverish the city in a more profound way that would hurt long after the money is exhausted.  For instance, Museum London is supposed to be this public resource to celebrate London's arts and history and privatizing the institution would kill that public mandate. 

Fontana is certainly not getting the thousands of jobs he said he would get to compensate for the revenue lost, Bell Canada's arbitrary move of relocating over 100 to Toronto this month makes that obvious.  Even the big train locomotive manufacturer plant is getting under pressure against the company's American plants with the Canadian Dollar being $1.02 to the USD.

Being a former MP for the Federal Liberal Party of Canada, ie. the Party of Slightly Idealized Political Expediency, I would hope that Fontana will simply be able to face reality and recognize his tax freeze is not going to work in the long run.  In lieu of that forlorn hope, I just hope that more City Councillors will realize that same truth and protect what is best for this city.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I was just listening to The Current on CBC Radio One, I just had a dramatic reminder of the threat of the pending Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) that has been neogiated in secret by Canada and numerous countries around the world.

Imagine an international treaty that essentially mandates ISPs to spy on your online activities to detect anything that could be simply alleged to be a copyright infringement, and distribute their finding internationally for any complaining copyright owner while you don't have a legal recourse to defend yourself. Furthermore, this treaty proposes that any electronic device such as your laptop, MP3 player etc. can be searched at will at any international border for infringing material by customs personnel, coming or going.

Worst of all, this treaty threatens our sovereignty as it practically mandates tougher copyright law and public opinion while opposition can simply be overruled on the matter because of an international treaty that was deliberately kept secret from the public in the first place. As much as Harper and his cronies are certainly cheerleaders to continue this intellectual property assault on the public good, this means they can be made capable of passing draconian and unfair legislation with the old excuse "We have no choice." This is called policy laundering and it's a fundamental attack on the basic tenet of democracy for the public to have open access and a say on our own legislative process. Furthermore, the treaty has backdoor clauses that can allow it to be modified to be even more draconian, and we the public will have little that the powers that be would consider worthy to contribute in such matters.

If there is any other reason you need to be suspicious of this treaty, it's very secrecy is enough of a red flag. For instance, The University of Ottawa's Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic filed an access to information request but received only a document stating the title of the agreement and everything else was blacked out. That alone is damning about the risks of ACTA if they have to hide its content that completely.

You're free to read up about this yourself. I just thought I should to remember and act on the advice that it's always the quiet activities that can be the most dangerous.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I never thought I would agree 100% with anything the London Free Press says in their editorials, but their support for the decriminalization of prostitution in the light of the current legal challenge is more on the money than I've ever expected from the paper.

It is the world's oldest profession for a reason and even British Empire in the Victorian era had a booming business despite the notorious prudery of the era.  Like the whole pointless drug wars, especially against marijuana, the only benefits would appear to be politicians going for the easy political score and the law enforcement and corrections personnel who have secure livelihoods keeping this sisyphean struggle going.  After all, the US alcohol prohibition of the 1920s and 30s achieved little than to enrich gangsters like Al Capone and the bootlegging trade was largely killed off when it was lifted.

So, it seems basic common sense that if we cannot stamp it out what appears to be nominally a voluntary action like the sex trade, why not put it out of the open where it can be taxed and regulated. At the same time, I am listening with to a Q interview about a Ukrainian woman crusading against de facto government and business encouraged sex tourism in her country and I know the human trafficking problem as well as the anti-social behaviours, like narcotics and vandalism, reported around prostitution in Canada the laws were in flux in the 1970s. 

Yet, I suspect that kind of behaviour is encouraged when the base activity is stigmatized.  After all, if a person is engaging in some frowned upon activity as it is, they could easy conclude that they might as well transgress in other ways while they are at it. So, if we can bring prostitution into the mainstream and remove the stigma, perhaps we can better encourage and enforce reasonable standards of conduct, much like how the Netherlands appear to have done with managing their vice situations. Yes, I know that there is currently a conservative backlash there against these policies, but that does not mean that that country is not handling the situation better than our own country.

The key problem there is not so much prostitution, but the exploitation of women and the poor where they would have no choice to but to go down these paths for survival. While dealing with that larger problem would be a grander public initiative than Harper and his cronies would ever want to undertake, for both fiscal and ideological reasons, we could still reduce the danger if decriminalization can encourage those labourers to seek help from the authorities without fear of being arrested themselves.

As much as this is a partial solution at best, and I don't partake in it any more than I drink or smoke, it seems that we are not accomplishing any more with this prohibition than what the attempts against alcohol have achieved. So, why not put it out in the open like smoking and regulate and tax it so it might achieve a social good in a roundabout way?

In other words, how about we face reality and make the best of it to curb the worst?

Thursday, June 09, 2011

As much as this might be getting old, Brigette DePape, the rebel Canadian parliamentary page has been given her own chance to explain her reasons for her political gesture in today's Toronto Star, in her own article.

While her audacious breaking of decorum in the House of Commons would seem inappropriate and the it hardly conveys a comprehensive political statement, all the lambasting for her showing "contempt of parliament" for her gesture is as hypocritical as all the editorial dismissal at the many new young NDP MPs in the new parliament.

After all, it was the Harper Government that was formally censured for Contempt of Parliament making a mockery of its pledges of transparency and simple accountability with such incidents like with the Afghan prisoner detainee documents (which it still has not divulged after all this time) and the slashing of the budget of their own finance overseer for the temerity of doing his job that happens to contradict the government's fantasy land budget projections. Those are more serious misdeeds that are bound to get worse now that that fearless Canadian Auditor General Sheila Fraser has retired and bound to be replaced with someone more "tractable."

The treatment of the new NDP MPs is even more repellent in the media with all the sneering at their youth and inexperience. People have been worried about the disengagement of youth from politics for years, but now when we have young people who have shown such commitment to their ideals and their country, they are treated as a collective joke. Yes, Ruth Ellen Brosseau, the young Quebec MP who went vacationing in Las Vegas during the election and has little grasp of French, is an embarrassment, but by and large, this youthful group should be celebrated as a beacon of hope of newcomers from various walks of life to invigorate what our Parliament should be. For instance, Pierre-Luc Dusseault, the youngest MP ever elected to the Canadian Parliament, seems tremendously promising as an applied politics student now having an apprenticeship beyond anything he ever dreamed.

Instead of all the dismissal, let us celebrate the discovery of these young people who care so much for their country while realizing that politics is one realm that be the best expression of that commitment.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Well, the Federal Canadian budget has been tabled and the false vague promises and real clear threats Harper and his cronies have made in the last election are coming to pass.

As threatened, they are abolishing the vote subsidy to parties, blatantly giving Tories the advantage in fund raising with a blatant tilt of the playing field and allowing big money to have that much more influence on the reins of power again. 

Furthermore, they want to speed up balancing the budget with obvious plans to eviscerate public services while they are still blindly determined to undermine their own revenues with their ideologically driven tax cuts.  Even worse, the F-35 fighters jets, bought without even a competitive bid and the prison boom they want are mooing all the louder as sacred cows. All the while, our environmental problems just something for them to deny completely while our economy's productivity problem is ignored altogether.

The sum total is the willful rightoid creation of our own social underclass with nothing sufficient for them but the prisons to hold them as the scapegoats they will be.

The biggest surprise, that's also a holdover from the original version, is the small budget boost for the CBC for "quality programming." That is surely a setup for saying later that the CBC failed to deliver and then slash it up using that pretext to say it is worthless.

All in all, Harper's real agenda is coming into sharper focus and Canada's soul as a livable caring nation is going to suffer along with the rest of us.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

My Post-viewing Film Fun

Sorry if this all my blog seems to center around film, but while I try to get some discipline into writing this blog, I have to write what I know and love.

Unlike other people, I cannot turn my mind off after seeing a film and I want more to my experience after I leave the theater.  So as soon as I can get back online, I have a few regular movie relate sites I always go.
  •  Wikipedia: I always go here to see what the film's page has about the work and how they describe the plot as well any information about the details about it.  If I see there isn't enough, then that's a opportunity I treasure to fill in details with the surpreme prize of writing up the plot summary and then step back to see how it will be edited.
  • The Internet Movie Database: This site is often has more opportunities with fun info holes to fill like the plot outline, plot summary and the plot keywords.  The only drawback with this is that edits have to approved by the site management so there is a delay in changes being posted, except for the more wiki oriented content advisory and FAQ sections.  Here, since this site is the definitive online info source for film and TV, adding stuff here feels more substantial and worthwhile. Its message boards are fun as well where I can enjoy reasonably intelligent discussion about the wor
  • TV Tropes: This page is amazingly addictive as a fascinating area where the elements of fiction are catalogued for any work .  Furthermore, since there is no pretense made about objectivity to a certain degree or notability, your personal opinions can play a role in your entries.
  • Review pages: While I consult Rotten Tomatoes for general opinions, I like to read reviews in detail afterward such as the great Roger Ebert, whom while I don't always agree, he is always fascinating to read. There is also Screen-It, a parental oriented review where content elements of a film are listed in intriguing detail without being judgemental.  Finally there is Common Sense Media which has its own take on media including film, but also adds the opinions of parents and kids about them as well.
  • Fan For particular genre films, there is even more imagination possible when the really good stuff inspires fandom to explore the narrative possibilities on their own and create their own magic.
 Furthermore, this can be only the start of the exploration.  For instance, for Kung Fu Panda 2, there is the book, The Art of Kung Fu Panda 2 where I can really explore its creation.

This might be obsessive, but I want more for my movies and I get it through these sources away that mindless watching would never make possible.

Monday, May 30, 2011

As much as this can be seen as making a mountain out of a molehill to most people, but the performance of Kung Fu Panda 2 against The Hangover Part II this last weekend was a dispiriting moment for a film and animation lover as myself.

I hate it when an artistic production gets such a success it does not deserve if the Hangover's Tomatometer of only 35% on Rotten Tomatoes is any indication while KFP2 has 80%. Whether it is inadequate marketing (how can a campaign that includes a kick ass Super Bowl commercial be considered "inadequate"?) or the public turning against 3D presentation is to blame, I fear that DreamWorks may draw the wrong lessons from this incident and not strive to make as good a film as they can for the next sequel, provided there is one.

I know I shouldn't be so hasty; the film got an A with CinemaScore's audience survey, which indicates it's connecting with audiences and thus has a good potential for good legs as word of mouth gets around. Furthermore, the film is going like gangbusters internationally, especially in China, with the promise of much more when the film is fully opened up in other countries. That alone is proving a big factor for big moneymaking films and hopefully DW might feel the upcoming Kung Fu Panda TV series may go a long way to further develop the audience for Part 3. As it is, I try to remember what John Grant said, "Quality always pays off in the end"

Alas for the short term, a film starting out slow in the summer movie season has a much greater challenge to make it big than in other seasons. After all, How to Train Your Dragon had a clear field in spring 2010 with more than a month of no major animated or family films as competition to become such a sustained hit. KFP2 on the other hand has to withstand the premieres of X-Men: First Class, Super 8 and Green Lantern as big family friendly headliners in each of the following weeks to contend with until Pixar's comes out with their own sell out sequel, Cars 2, to close the window.

As I said above, I know this is trivial, but I deeply enjoy the KFP series and I would like it get the full accolades deserves. After all, I was volunteering for my national political party in the last federal election and having done my bit in something really important, I was hoping for a little more substantial good news in some other area.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Well, it's the opening day of Kung Fu Panda, and the Rotten Tomatoes suspense I mentioned earlier did not disappoint.

The film's tally started with one bad review (0%), to include 2 good ones (80%) to (91%) with more praise until 4 bad reviews knocked it down to 69%.  Now, the general rating is wavering around the mid 70s while the Top Critic section gives it 83%.  The frustrating thing is that for major film releases, RT usually would have amassed sufficient reviews for a consensus statement by now and it seems that it is updating KFP2's page in a maddening trickle.  I know that might be because of the film opening on a Thursday and there might be publications that have a schedule so rigid that we'll have to wait until tomorrow, but it hardly makes the wait any more tolerable.

This kind of anticipation for a number may seem anal and pointless, but to me it gives the filmgoing experience a fuller feel of involvement that goes beyond simply seeing the film.  I read my favourite film history book, Pictures at a Revolution: Five Films and the Birth of the New Hollywood and I can only envy the rich film culture that sophisticates by Robert Benton and David Newman of Esquire Magazine had in early 1960s France and New York City got to enjoy with parties where debates about films and their meaning had such zest, atmosphere and immediacy that participating on an online forum cannot match. So, what I do here is the closest thing I can seem to do for an introvert as myself to.  Maybe the introduction of home video made the experience more insular since you beforehand had to see films either by waiting a TV station to deign to present it, or go to film societies where seeing their screenings was an event.  That's a subject I'll go into later, but I will have my post viewing experience to describe later.

Anyways, it's under two hours before KFP2 screens at my downtown cinema and it's a experience that I am dearly looking forward to.  I just wish I had the option of seeing without the 3D, but at least I know DreamWorks Animation is one of the few productions companies who make it worthwhile at least to some degree.

Either way, I've waited for this and I hope to enjoy it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Now that Harold Camping is doing the usual Apocalypse prophet excuses and Oprah has had her send off for her talk show, the way seems clear enough for Kung Fu Panda to get its fair share of media attention this week.

However, I've discovered that for films I'm looking forward to, there is a drama to them that begins long before they are screened.  That happens when you follow the film's status on the movie review aggregator site, Rotten Tomatoes, in the days leading up to its release.

It's hard to believe that seeing the updates of a percentage number can be so suspenseful, but each film is an artistic crapshoot and that even the greatest filmmakers have created their share of bombs.  Thus, as the release date approaches, the regular updating of the film's Tomatometer rating becomes a roller coaster ride as you wait to see where the critics are leaning.  That especially goes for the films hovering around the vital 60% that marks it as Fresh or Rotten as you endure the rise and dip as the opinions mount.  There's even a finish line to this challenge when the tally is clear enough for a consensus statement to be issued as the final word, except when it isn't when a late shift comes dramatically enough to force a rewrite.

So, however much criticism of RT deserves of reducing film reviews to a vote tally, the fact remains that the site provides a unique thrill to the filmgoing experience that is supposed to consciously defy the hype. Instead, I can know the hopefully well considered opinions of critic who simply want to say if a film is any good. When that happens, I'm sold in a way that beats glossy trailers or commercials any day.

As it is, Kung Fu Panda has 83% so far with only 6 reviews, so the ride to Thursday is just beginning with a hopeful start.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The more I see all the stupidity about Harold Camping's  self-grandizing "prophesy" about the Rapture supposed to happen on May 21, 2011, the more I know why atheism is the only "spiritual philosophy" that makes logical and moral sense to me.

After all, if Jesus said in Matthew 24:36 "“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father," then who does Camping think he is to claim that he does?

For me, I'm looking forward not for this unBiblical non-event, but a true second coming: The general North American theatrical release of Kung Fu Panda 2 on May 26th, 2011.

Why, you might ask?  Well, there are a number of things:

  1. I know there is clear authoritative and verifiable evidence it is going to happen
  2. There are no arrogant self serving propagandists lying through their teeth (to themselves if no one else) trying to scare people into giving up their life savings to promote this coming.  DreamWorks Animation certainly has sufficient funds to do this by themselves.
  3. Po and the gang's second cinema coming, if the early reviews are credible, promises to provide intelligent laughter, thrills and moving drama as a spiritual parable to people around the world like their previous film.
  4. It is the result of something closer to a true international brotherhood demonstrated by filmmakers who are creating excellent stories set in another land and culture that the natives of those lands find both impressive and flattering.
  5. Finally, the film features a humble furry hero whose search in part for the truth and peace about his past is ironically more desirable a vision of a real humanity than Camping and his minions can ever display in my eyes.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I forgot to mention that I am a local theatrical and film critic in my city, writing for Theatre in London ( and The Beat ( for each medium respectively, as well as for gratis and for pay in the same way.

Since writing means tooting your own horn for your very career future, I'll be posting my links to my reviews, beginning with my latest:

How I Learned to Drive by Paul Vogel and performed by The Verve Theatre company

It's a challenging play about abusive families and the difficult emotional complexities that thrive in them.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

In a world of 70 millions blogs, and one that still likes that old trailer chestnut, I finally stake my place in the blogosphere.

While I’m may not yet be in the league of greats like TV/comics writer Mark Evanier ( or parenting columnist Lenore Skenazy (, online silence is not golden. For a guy who was told that writing is my greatest strength, I’ve been slouching down this technological path when I should be running. As it is, it’s long past time to pick up my pace.

I haven’t done it sooner because I didn’t feel I had anything to say meaningful and regularly. Yet, I’ve had this growing urge to speak out more. I’ve put my oar in the public waterway with sporadic newspaper letters to the editor, but I’m through waiting each month to write to the London Free Press about about the right issue and hope I get printed.

I intend to cover mainly Canadian politics and media issues as well as popular arts like film, comics and animation, hopefully like Jian Ghomeshi’s opening monologues on CBC Radio’s Q, at least until a more specific topic inspires me. In an effort not to be like 80% of Americans, I try to seriously follow the news each weekday with multiple sources like the CBC, Toronto Star,, London Free Press, Ain’t It Cool News, New York Times Magazine, The Walrus and This Magazine. I just hope I can comment about the world with some humanity as opposed to brainlessly regurgitating news. If that makes me “biased,” then who am I to argue with Stephen Colbert’s observation, “Reality has a liberal bias”?

If you’re game, then I invite you on this personal journey as I hope to do my bit adding to the Net’s contextual cacophony and hopefully I’ll strike a good note.