Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Seth Rogen as the Voice of the TTC?

The news is out that actor and comedian Seth Rogen is being courted by the Toronto Transit Commission to voice their announcements.

They are in error.

The right person is obvious.

Douglas Rain. (Imagine the HAL 9000 'eye' distributed throughout the system: subway platforms, streetcars, trains, buses....)


Doug Ford Makes the Washington Post

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has done it again: this time he makes the Washington Post.

Doug Ford brings the American culture wars to Canada

"... Ford has brought a dangerous populist politics of cultural resentment and revenge to Ontario."

Indeed.

Ford's idea of governing is to run around his school room and kick over building blocks.


Gene Roddenberry on Waging War, or Not

The strength of a civilization is not measured by its ability to fight wars, but rather by its ability to prevent them.

And the human race goes from strength to strength....


Monday, July 30, 2018

Irwin Allen on the Secret of His Success

Me, if I can't blow up the world in the first ten seconds, the show is a flop.

That formula, or attitude, worked for his spectacular motion pictures: Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961), The Poseidon Adventure (1972), and The Towering Inferno (1974). Irwin Allen was a genuine showman.


Stanley Kubrick Quote on Modern Art

In Cocteau's film Orpheus, the poet asks what he should do. "Astonish me", he is told. Very little of modern art does that -- certainly not in the sense that a great work of art can make you wonder how its creation was accomplished by a mere mortal.

I have that feeling with the cantata Carmina Burana. "A Human composed that?" (A mere mortal by the name of Carl Orff .)


Sunday, July 29, 2018

Notes from a Dependent Brat: Thunder & Lightning

When I arrived back in Canada after an RCAF dependent's tour of duty in then West Germany I noticed some things were missing. Not in whole but in part: wasps, June bugs, and thunder & lightning.

Part One: Thunder & Lightning

Perhaps it's due to a more temperate climate that Germany gets bigger storms than we do here in southern Ontario, Canada. Our German landlord more than once had to replace roof tiles on our Iffezheim apartment building. The wind was something. The thunder & lightning was something else. I remember my pals and I being dropped off one day by the school bus right into a lightning storm. For some reason the atmospheric tumultuousness encouraged me to run for it -- friends called from behind. Off I went, my six or seven year old legs a blur, propelling me at warp speed down the sidewalk. Not long after my sudden acceleration everything became a bright white. A super flash. I mean everything in my field of vision; there were no shades of gray. The first thing that crossed my mind: I was missed by that much. Now I've modified it to: I almost met Big Sparky himself.

(Something about after school storms.)

Cut to a year or two later.

After a long day at CFB Baden-Soellingen my sister and I departed the school bus at the usual place, right near Iffezheim's Roman Catholic church, and we made our uneventful way home. Suddenly the lightning started, quickly followed by the thunder. As we reached our apartment door, CRACK! My normally sedate sister emitted an awful scream. ("It's just thunder!") The scream was probably more a Penny Robinson scream than one as chilling as what I perceived at the time, but the point was made.

We came back to Canada and the thunder & lightning seemed less energetic. In a way, I missed Germany.


Saturday, July 28, 2018

Space Odyssey on Paper and Film

On Monday I wrote a piece about the 2018 book "Space Odyssey - Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece". Writer Michael Benson tells an absorbing tale of how one of the greatest motion pictures came to be -- its birth and life, and continuing life. Kubrick's masterpiece refuses to give easy answers. For me, thinking about 2001: A Space Odyssey is as pleasurable and natural as watching and listening to it.

2001 is magnificent, something I've 'known' since I first saw it at the age of ten. That screening is perhaps the most profound movie-going experience of my life to this point in time and space. (From what I can gather, there are no threats on the horizon). And it resonated with me to such a degree that it stayed with me for weeks; months. Of course being so young did not exactly help me understand the film from a thematic perspective. I saw the flick at CFB Borden's Terra Theatre with my next door neighbour and friend, Glen. We were shuttled home by his older brother who gave us the rundown as to what we had just seen and not entirely understood. Our chauffeur had read Arthur C. Clarke's book version, which functioned, and still does, as published footnotes for 2001 the movie. (A few months later I grabbed the book from the Ontario Science Centre bookstore during a school trip. So eager was I to assimilate the code-book that I started reading it on the bus ride back to the base.)

Every screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey renews my love and respect for one of my favourite pictures (a picture of art). And more is revealed.

Mr Benson's "Space Odyssey" gave me a much greater understanding of how the cosmic mind work was conceived, developed, and constructed: a special universe built by many talented people. That story is a page turner.


Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Emotions Like Regret

"As you get older one of the strongest emotions is regret."

That line could be attributed to many folk.

There are big regrets and small. Mine tend to fall into the latter. Sample....

During one of my trips to England I took a day trip to the east coast seaside town of Felixstowe. It was a pilgrimage, or sorts, to a place of a strong memory from my childhood. One such strong: At that time the Royal Navy had a base at the nearby coastal town of Harwich. As I sat on the beach one day a RN nuclear submarine sat still on the surface; I was fascinated by this sight. The day was clear and sunny, rendering the boat more as a silhouette on the horizon than anything of textured details. Sailors walked about the deck, and this naval action grabbed my attention in bits and pieces as I built my sand castle. Then it was gone, much like the crab that I had enclosed in a fortress wall. Those pesky buggers. Cunning, aren't they all?

Back, or forward, to 1990. I strolled the beach's length hoping to see some sea traffic. There was none that day -- at least not during the hours I was there. Another beautiful sunny day; just the way I had remembered Felixstowe.

As I walked about the town's streets on my circuitous way back to the railway station I happened upon a fetching poster. "Ron Goodwin conducts his movie themes!" Tonight! Felixstowe? I had left my stuff in a London bed and breakfast. Logistics. Why not call the owner, a super nice guy, and ask him to store my travel belongings for the night?

"You should have called me. I would have stored your stuff in the back room."


Monday, July 23, 2018

From a Vinyl Detective to a Space Odyssey

Yesterday I posted a review of writer Andrew Cartmel's terrific book The Vinyl Detective - Written in Dead Wax. After I finished reading a fictional account of a special detective I almost immediately picked up a non-fiction book about a certain great movie. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), for me, is one of the best ever, if not the best -- an example of how good the motion picture form can be.

Space Odyssey - Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece was written by Michael Benson and it's an addictive read. At times I have to force myself to put it down.

While reading about the genesis of 2001: A Space Odyssey I'm becoming convinced the film is a great work of art.


Sunday, July 22, 2018

It Is Written - In Dead Wax

One thing led to another last week and I picked up the book The Vinyl Detective - Written in Dead Wax. Writer Andrew Cartmel is a name I learned from my interest in television writing: he was the script editor for Doctor Who during the Sylvester McCoy years -- 1987 to 1989. While I had long before those dates stopped watching the British science fiction television program, and television in general, I was familiar with McCoy's "Doctor". That era of DW was fraught with problems: a reduced budget (actually, "static budget", nibbled by constant inflation); disinterest in the program from the BBC's sixth floor; and the passing of many years since DW's first era. (To put things in perspective, and to call out the Beeb on its then disregard for a show that was once a British Institution, my British mother told me when I was a child that whenever Doctor Who was on, the streets were barren of children.)

Andrew Cartmel survived those years with some grace and style and decided eventually to pen a 'personal' novel. He's interested in coffee, cats, collecting records, and a few other things. His mate, and peer, and former collaborator on Who, Ben Aaronovitch, encouraged him to take his interests and put them to good use (paper).

From the publisher, Titan Books:

He is a record collector — a connoisseur of vinyl, hunting out rare and elusive LPs. His business card describes him as the “Vinyl Detective” and some people take this more literally than others. Like the beautiful, mysterious woman who wants to pay him a large sum of money to find a priceless lost recording — on behalf of an extremely wealthy (and rather sinister) shadowy client. Given that he’s just about to run out of cat biscuits, this gets our hero’s full attention. So begins a painful and dangerous odyssey in search of the rarest jazz record of them all…


Enjoyable reading. I too love cats, coffee, and a few other things. I don't collect anything in particular, not in the traditional sense, but I appreciate those who do. And I like most things music: Cartmel laces his book with not only intrigue, but names: Gil Mellé, Russell Garcia, Bernard Herrmann, and a few of special note and more familiar to the average reader.

What I also responded to was the humour ("I suppose the fifteen thousand albums of show tunes he owned might have been a clue"), not "writers' room" one-liners affixed to any character just to get a laugh, but jokes from within and around. The story plotting carries some serious and dramatic weight, and the humour, as in most good humour, flicks from a few unfunny situations. However, there are those interpersonal barbs which we can all appreciate. A portion of Vinyl's comedy comes from the protagonist's two cats, Turk and Fanny. It's obvious the author knows and understands the beast. (Cats: those mini mirrors of our big oaf selves.)

I just blew through the book. The Vinyl Detective - Written in Dead Wax is recommended, certainly to those readers who like cats, coffee, and collecting things. And a well thought out and entertaining story. A nice blend.


"The next morning I made real coffee. I'd discovered the trick for enjoying this every day. On waking you have a cup of instant to give yourself the energy to embark on the ordeal of making the real stuff."

I'm sitting in my local coffee shop: now for my second cup....


Saturday, July 21, 2018

Special Guest Director

During a lunch date this week with my old friend Greg, the name Val Guest came up. The late British film and television director had a long and successful career, producing some fine work along the way: my two favourite pictures of his are The Quatermass Xperiment (1955) and The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961). As our conversation revealed, my friend has seen much more of Guest's feature film work than have I.

I had to end the subject with a joke:

Greg is a bit of a Space: 1999 fan. The British-produced series ran for two years, 1975 - 1977, and utilized a few directors of note, including Charles Crichton; who had been a noted Ealing Studios comedy force and would later helm A Fish Called Wanda (1988).

I reminded Greg that Guest directed a few episodes, including "one of my favourites from the series when it first ran"....

ME
(holding up three fingers from right hand)
The one with the three trees....The Rules of Luton.

Greg rolls his eyes and shakes his head gently from side to side....

GREG
(softly)
No, no, no, no, no....


Friday, July 20, 2018

Two Big Movie Television Adverts of 1970

The summer of 1970 was big for me in the movie television adverts department: Airport and Tora! Tora! Tora! were hitting theatres and you had better know it!

I don't think I've ever seen movies advertised on television as much as those two were. (Both movies feature aeroplanes.)

Airport was directed by George Seaton and it flew a very large cast of name actors. A terminal soap opera. But one that made a lot of money.

Tora! Tora! Tora! was a war epic when epic movies really were epic. It's all there, folks! No funny computer picture stuff! The reel deal! The monster of a movie was directed by veteran helmer Richard Fleisher (with Toshio Masuda and Kinji Fukasaku covering the Japanese side of the story), and it's not bad; or better than it might have been considering there's a lot of story, lots of details to cover, which is not easy to do in a one-off feature film. Of course, the ending is powerful.

Skyscraper?! Who the (heck) cares?!


Thursday, July 19, 2018

Explaining My Close Encounters of Yesterday

My yesterday posting covered my closing early the cover of the Close Encounters of the Third Kind tie-in novelization. "Close Encounters" was directed by Steven Spielberg and originally released theatrically in 1977. The first version; a version of a film which to me was lacking.

The last two reels were very good, as was the opening, but the middle act was a long section that seemingly missed the Movieola/flatbed.  What worked for me was Vilmos Zsigmond's cinematography, Douglas Trumbull's visual effects, and Johnny Williams' Holst-influenced score.

In February a friend and fan of CE3K explained to me the more recent versions. I've seen the original theatrical release and the "World Television Premiere". Since then Spielberg has made efforts to improve the film. As my authoritative buddy explained, the director greatly improved those (to me) poor middle reels. This version is available on home video. So too are the earlier cuts.

My comparison yesterday was of the novelization to the original release. I was speaking of Close Encounters as an overall film. Perhaps it's time I check out the most recent version.


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Show Tell: Close Encounters Novelization Abandoned

While discussing abandoned books with a friend today, my example was the Close Encounters of the Third Kind tie-in novelization.

I started digging in in late 1979, and in November of that year I packed it in. The real part of this story is the fact that for almost thirty-nine years the bookmark was exactly where I left it: Chapter 10.

The book was unremarkable, like most of that kind, and added nothing to what to me was an unremarkable movie -- sans a few show pieces.




The bookmark: "Half Back - The Ontario Rebate Program that turns old Wintario tickets into discounts", valid from May 1 - September 30, 1979.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Trump At The Post

While reading the Washington Post this morning I was reminded that U.S. president Donald J. Trump considers himself a "stable genius".

Sorry, Mr. Trump.

Horses are much smarter, and: they actually have horseshoes.


Monday, July 16, 2018

Football Fight Music

Speaking of the 2018 World Cup: While watching the Croatia vs. France match yesterday I noticed a television commercial, a form of which I normally ignore, for IKEA. I remember this one from its first run of a few years ago: It borrows music from the Star Trek episode "Amok Time". I don't know if it's a sampling of the original, or a re-recording mimicking those memorable bars of "Star Trek Fight Music".

I wrote about composer Gerald Fried on March 3rd:

Film and Television Composer Gerald Fried


When I hear that music I want to kick a football down the pitch towards an opponent's goal net, and 'challenge' some of their players on the way there....


Post 2018 World Cup

Croatia did not win the grand prize but they were definitely the story. And what a story it is. (I sense a book and lots of articles.)

Here in Canada, CTV's coverage was okay but it could not match the work done in previous World Cups by the CBC. For one thing: Having four, five, six analysts in the television studio was not needed.

Next: 2022 World Cup football.


Sunday, July 15, 2018

A Found Stanley Kubrick Lost Screenplay

This Kubrick fan first thought this news as "Fake news! Fake! Fake!".

From The Guardian newspaper:

Lost Stanley Kubrick screenplay, Burning Secret, is found 60 years on


I wonder what the master filmmaker would think of Donald J. Trump if he were alive today. (Kubrick did not like intellectual laziness.)


Saturday, July 14, 2018

T-Minus 16 hours to 2018 World Cup Final

France will battle Croatia tomorrow for World Cup dominance. I support both teams, if that's possible.

Croatia: for their terrific and inspiring rise to the final match.

France: well, they're France. I remember Zinedine Zidane's wonderful effort against Brazil in the 1998 World Cup final. It was this match, probably more than any other, that got me into football.

By about 1pm tomorrow, Toronto time, one side of me will be really pleased.


Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Most Beautiful Game - Match Point!

Having watched about ten matches of the 2018 World Cup has convinced me that football is indeed "the world's most beautiful game". Ice hockey, as much as I love it, is, unfortunately, represented by the NHL here in North America. To me, the National Hockey League has too many problems; including but not limited to: too many teams, and representation in soft-ice markets -- ice hockey in the southern U.S.? (Gary Bettman knows! He always knows!)

International ice hockey I much prefer, mainly because of the larger, therefore more proper, ice surface.

The World Cup match yesterday between England and Croatia was bloody exciting!

This coming Sunday: The deciding cup match between France and Croatia.


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Films of Influence on Me

Film director Martin Scorsese has teamed up with Steven Spielberg and Universal Studios to help preserve some early American motion pictures which exist only on (highly unstable) nitrate-based film.

In this article Scorsese talks about films that have influenced him; his big three: On the Waterfront; Citizen Kane; and Shadows.

This non-working filmmaker, if I were a working filmmaker, too would pick Orson Welles' Kane and John Cassevetes' Shadows as two that have influenced me. Mr Scorsese's picks got me thinking:

Metropolis (1927)
Battle of Britain (1969)
Five (1951)
The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933)
Der Schweigende Stern (1960)
Bicycle Thieves (1948)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Dr. Strangelove (1964)


There are more, no doubt.

Television I grew up with would also be a big influence: a later post.


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Notes from a Dependent Brat: Out of Gas!

My dad and I were driving back to Iffezheim from the base, CFB Baden-Soellingen. We had passed Hügelsheim and were on our speedy way when the Austin suddenly began to hiccup and hesitate. My dad laughed and said "we're out of gas". (I thought it odd that he did not refill before we left the base; there was an Esso station right near the gate.)

He pulled the famished vehicle over to the side of the road. We were waiting for no more than a few minutes when a car pulled off and parked just a few feet ahead of us. The car sported an oval "CDN" sticker. A servicewoman got out to see why fellow Canadians were stalled to the side -- it was our CDN that did the trick.

She went off and returned minutes later with a gallon of fuel.

Brothers and sisters of the Canadian Armed Forces!



Monday, July 9, 2018

My Prediction for 2018 World Cup Winner

France.


Croatia vs. England on Wednesday

I know what I'll be doing this coming Wednesday at 2pm. Something involving the 2018 World Cup.

Who will I support? Since I'm part Brit, the obvious choice may greet me right before the match. Nineteen-ninety was a long time ago.



Saturday, July 7, 2018

Military Terms

"NCO" (Non-commissioned officer)

"WO" (Warrant Officer)

Military terms. I was trading some with a guy today who's learning them. He knew the above.

"Stand-down." This former brat remembers these: my dad would come home early some summer days because it was too hot to work. "We had a stand-down."

"MP" (Hint: these guys and girls show up for work -- unlike Ottawa MPs.)


Friday, July 6, 2018

A Look Back at Horst, the Germany Fan

On September the 9th of last year I wrote about Horst, a German football fan.

With 2018 World Cup action happening as I write this it's time to look back:

Horst, the Germany Fan

I was walking down the sidewalk on my street. A older man cut in front; he was wearing a Tirolerhut, just the kind of hat sported in a place like Bavaria. Two German flags shot up proudly from each side. He must be a Germany fan. After all, the 2014 World Cup of Soccer is playing out.

At an intersection I caught up to the man and asked him if he was heading to a bar to meet other Germans and Germany fans.

With a heavy accent, the kind I can do an imitation vocally but not so much in text form, he said:

"Hi, I'm Horst." Yes, he was heading to where the action was.

I was off to another destination, so I could not join him, but he was the kind of guy I wanted to have a beer with. German beer! Talk Germany.

Germany won the cup. I was more than happy.


Thursday, July 5, 2018

Shades of Gray

An old friend flew into town recently to attend a function, and to visit me -- it's been five years. After we linked up outside the railway station he looked at me and made what I perceived to be a casual observation:

"You're looking good. Do you keep a certain painting in your basement?"

Yeah, and every so often I repaint it using pigments from Max Factor.


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Cheapo Johnny Cracker Orchestral Theme No.

A few weeks ago I wrote about U.S. science fiction television series' that I watched on French television during my formative years. One such show, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, was bookended by a terrific theme tune: Composed by Paul Sawtell, "The Seaview Theme" painted an aural picture of seafaring adventure (even if that adventure was at times ridiculous).

It is often said that television has entered a new "golden age" *, fine (I'll stick with my paper books), but one thing missing is the title theme; that piece of music that encapsulates the show's idea -- its heart and soul. The answer is academic: running times for one-hour programs now are short and a one-minute theme tune and title sequence eats into the story to be told. In addition, binge-watching is common, and having the opening theme play every 40 minutes is not needed given the context.

The common default today of using songs in dramatic television is cheap. Indeed, having at least the "Cheapo Johnny Cracker Orchestral Theme" play about would be something. Anything.


* TV addicts say that.


Missing Intermissions

These days when a film is well over two hours long, and many are way too long, you sit through the whole film in one go. I remember something different, from a different time:

"Intermission"

A chance to go to the washroom, and get more food and drink. These opportunities came to me while taking in pictures such as Battle of Britain, El Cid, Those Magnificent Men and Their Flying Machines, and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Hey, I'm not cynical. Give me an intermission today so I can make an early escape from over-length 'pictures' such as....

I could have used an intermission for Forrest Gump and Avatar, to name just a few.


The Fourth of July, 2018

Today is Independence Day in the United States of America. It's a country in turmoil. But history says it will survive.

For all of Trump's bluster that he will build a wall on the Mexican border, he is actually building a wall within his own country....which he claims he loves.

Canada, the target of much of the U.S. president's hate, will remain a good neighbour.

To our neighbour: Happy Fourth of July!


Monday, July 2, 2018

The A.C.C. is the Air Canada Centre

Yesterday the A.C.C. was officially renamed "Scotiabank Arena".

It's so official that it'll remain "the A.C.C." to most Torontonians. Much in the same way the SkyDome is still "the SkyDome".