Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The NHL's Lack of Sense of Drama

In order to align itself with the National Football League, a real sports league, the National Hockey League's brains felt, some years ago, that when a play is reviewed the referee must open a mic and address the crowd; what I witnessed just now while watching game two between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Nashville Predators:

The Pens scored and "it" was noticed, protested. The play leading up to the goal looked like an offside. The ref went to the booth, looked at the tablet and watched the play. After reviewing the video material he turned and skated to the center face-off circle. The mic: "After review, the play was offside. No goal."

Actually: no need. The referee just needed to turn, puff his whistle and point to the face-off circle at the Nashville blue line. Drama.

The National Football League adopted the officials' on-field announcements for a big reason: That league's rules are so thick and convoluted. (For some strange reason, few souls, if any, know the NFL rule book's full thickness.)

Ice hockey plays to a much more basic rule book, which is why it's a beautiful game. Just not the NHL's version....

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Star Wars: A Book of Celebration

How Star Wars Conquered the Universe
- The Past, Present, and Future
of a Multibillion Dollar Franchise
(Chris Taylor - Basic Books - 2014)

My continuing Star Wars celebration took a turn this weekend when I stumbled upon a book that I never knew existed. It's a good read so far even though there are the expected factual errors within the pages; well, about the thirty pages I've absorbed thus far. For instance, production on the movie serials -- from companies like Universal, Columbia, and Republic -- was not "stopped" during World War 2. (Eventually the serials became victims of ever increasing production inflation. And when television took hold in the early 1950s, its own regular series' provided the same thing for free at home.)

The good news for me is that I am hardly a Star Wars fanatic, so any errors in details of franchise arcanum will no doubt zoom by me like a rebel blockade runner.....

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Star Wars: The Lull Before the Storm

"... It's called Star Wars. One set alone cost twelve million dollars."

That is how I first heard of Star Wars. It was the spring of 1977. I had the Grundig stereo on in the living room and as I walked from the kitchen into the dining room I heard an on-air host from Toronto radio station CKFM say the magic words. My reaction to the announced set cost must have been one of awe -- I later learned that the movie cost about ten million dollars to make -- but it was the name of this mysterious new flick that really intrigued me.

Over the next few days I will tell, in serial form, the story from my perspective of how Star Wars hit not only the marketplace, but entered our culture....

That could have been the opening crawl to my series recounting my introduction to Star Wars. It all started for me when I heard that radio piece. But everyone has a different story. And already I've read a few online.

In the pre-Internet age, it was a different game.

After learning of a new and anticipated movie going into production, one had to sometimes dig to learn more than what was readily available from the mainstream media outlets. For most pictures the wait was, more often than not, off our radars.

However, do not think for a moment that pre-release or pre-production hype used by the major film studios is a recently developed tool. Films from the 1970s were following an old model but with new tricks. Promotional featurettes, shot on 16mm film, were taken to a refined state during those years. Major studio productions like The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, and King Kong were promoted heavily while they were still in production. In the case of Kong the casting of the new beauty was covered in local and national newscasts. I remember watching Buffalo television station WKBW late one evening and seeing newsfilm of Jessica Lange on stage holding a bouquet of flowers (it was a press conference).

Who could forget watching the excellent and dynamic promotional film showing the production crew of The Towering Inferno doing their magic? Irwin Allen directing over John Guillerman's head by using a megaphone was exciting and memorable. ("Mister Newman!") Accompanied by an authoritative but not staid voice over, bulldozers dug down into a sound stage floor in order to give the already voluminous space even more fly. These promotional shorts were nothing less than recruitment films. "I want to do that!"

By the time big pictures such as PoseidonInferno, Kong, Earthquake, and The Hindenburg hit the screens, an educated, of sorts, audience was awaiting. And I was a member of that audience, in all five examples.

There was none of that for Star Wars. It just snuck up on us....

Friday, May 26, 2017

Star Wars: My Favourite Film of 1977 Was....

A former coworker of mine -- we worked together in "opticals" at Film Effects Toronto -- read my posting from Wednesday and then contacted me with an unmasked threat: If I "reveal" that I think Annie Hall to be the "better film" of 1977, he'll "be mad".

His choice of the word "reveal" suggests that he knows that Woody Allen's masterpiece is my personal award winner of that year. I could have a lot of fun with this. Actually, I stated back on February 25th what my favourite picture of 1977 was and still is.

Imagine a lowbrow like me possessing the temerity to dare proclaim the best film of 1977 to be....

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Star Wars is a 40-year-old Bouncing Baby Boy

Yesterday I wrote an introduction to my personal look back, to be posted here over the next few days, at how Star Wars came into my world.

It was forty years ago today that the picture exploded on movie screens -- just a few at first, but in less than twelve parsecs, film projectors wide entertained millions.

I'll come clean right now: The movie did not "change my life", simply because I was sixteen years of age in the summer of 1977. (People I know who are a few years younger than me often have a different story to tell.) Having said that, I do have fond memories of the time. Star Wars was a nice surprise; it was different, no kidding, and it appealed to this fan of the old Republic movie serials.

Like an old movie serial, my story of Star Wars will be serialized....

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Star Wars of 40 Years Ago

"... It's called Star Wars. One set alone cost twelve million dollars."

That is how I first heard of Star Wars. It was the spring of 1977. I had the Grundig stereo on in the living room and as I walked from the kitchen into the dining room I heard an on-air host from Toronto radio station CKFM say the magic words. My reaction to the announced set cost must have been one of awe -- I later learned that the movie cost about ten million dollars to make -- but it was the name of this mysterious new flick that really intrigued me.

Over the next few days I will tell, in serial form, the story from my perspective of how Star Wars hit not only the marketplace, but entered our culture.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Last Film Was What?!....

"Movies are almost always better watched with an audience" has long been a line of mine. Watching flicks at home is fine, but like many movie fans I feel that one is missing the communal experience. But, as anyone knows, technology has allowed for a "big house" viewing experience in the living room. Why go to a movie-plex where many of the patrons are there to act as though they are watching the movie in their own living rooms? The phone rings? Pick it up! Fire up the display screeens; you don't want to miss an email or text message.

Something has to explain why the last first-run narrative film I saw in a movie theatre was James Cameron's overrated turnip, Avatar. That was March of 2010, at the super-sexy Scotiabank Theatre here in Toronto.

This past week in my home movie theatre: The Honeymoon Killers; Empire of the Air - The Men Who Made Radio; Ai Weiwei - Never Sorry; Lies My Father Told Me; Mon oncle Antoine; Claude Jutra - an Unfinished Story. And I didn't even talk during the movies; even to myself.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Notes from a Dependent Brat: Fireworks

It's Victoria Day here in Canada (It's Queen Victoria's birthday). This special celebration, which I've never been able to peg to a date, made me think of fireworks.

CFB Baden-Soellingen, West Germany, late 1960s or early 1970s: The family and I gathered, along with many other military families, on the base's airfield to partake one evening in a display of fireworks. The actual igniting part fell to the men and women of Canada's finest service -- they know about explosives for some reason. (My dad knew a lot about explosives; a future posting.)

The image I remember most from the spectacular aerial powder display is of one lonely expired charge that fell just metres from us as we sat prone on the grass. The guys sitting on top of the parked crash-tender near us did not seem to react; I took that to be a sort of clean bill of health.

The red still-burning charge fizzled and my attention went back to the heavens....

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Coming this Summer to an Electronic Device Near You

Stay tuned to this blog for the latest news about The Barrie Allandale Show.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Witch Which Hunt is Witch?

Donald J. Trump, President of the United States of America, tweeted minutes ago his response to the appointment of a special counsel to oversee the inquiry of a possible Trump-Russia connection. Former FBI director and prosecutor Robert S. Mueller III will head a committee that no doubt will be, in the Uber-Prez's eyes at least, a "disaster".

Trump's unique tweet:

"This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!"

I'm surprised he managed to wrestle the difference between "witch" and "which".

It's obvious that Trump does not know American History.

Richard Nixon (the obvious example of a "witch hunt")
James Buchanan
Andrew Johnson
Bill Clinton ("I've never heard of him!")
Ulysses S. Grant (surely Trump has heard of him)

Those are just a few examples.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Trump's Favourite Word May Be His Moniker: Disaster

Once the dust settled after the last U.S. presidential election the predictions came out:

"Trump won't last a term"; "He'll have a meltdown before long";

and my favourite, one dispensed by a few friends of mine, "Within a year he'll be impeached".


"Without question."

Donald J. Trump's fate as President of the United States of America as predicted by the Oracles of Ontario.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Film is my Minor; my Major is:

I had an interesting discussion recently with an old friend. He loves movies. So do I. But after chatting back and forth, some 'technical' issues regarding formats and screen ratios, I realized that while I love films ("movies", if you prefer) I don't obsess over them. They're just movies, after all. That's all.

There are more important and more interesting things in the world.

For me:

Ships and Shipping (not Shops and Shopping)
Fine Art
Cats (animals in general)
Ice Hockey (not the NHL)
Football (not Gridiron Football)
Space Flight (especially that of the Soviet Union)
Reading (funny how this gets lost in our movies and television world)
Humour (it's out there and hopefully it's takin' over)

I must be missing something.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

What Films Made You Cry?

Peter Howell, a film critic with the Toronto Star newspaper, has a piece in today's issue about movies that have made him cry. This story is but one in a series of articles by different Star writers; it's his turn to admit: The movies that make me cry: Howell

One movie has made me cry: Cinema Paradiso

But many movies have made me cry for making me kiss my hard-earned money goodbye....

The first time I saw Cinema Paradiso was on an Air Canada flight but I did not enjoy it, probably because I was enjoying a headache. (It must have been the bitter I consumed in London, England, shortly before the flight.)

Weeks later the Bloor Cinema here in Toronto played Paradiso. I gave it a better shot. For some reason the picture resonated with me. By about two-thirds the way in I was blubbering like a baby. "What is happening to me? I am a Vulcan. I am in control of my emotions!"

A friend of mine kidded me minutes after we saw The Joy Luck Club. The party of people I was with all said they cried during the film. My friend Donald had one answer to explain my malady: "You're a cold fish, Si."

Maybe I am.

As the end credits began to roll on my tear duct tickler, I decided to make a move for the exit. Figures. A young woman about ten years my junior was standing there. As I floated past she gave me a look of: "Looks like that guy enjoyed the movie." What was she doing standing there?

Otherwise I don't cry at movies. However, I may well up....

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Relaying Delaying

Two articles of mine that are awaiting 'part 2' postings:

From September 12th of 2015:
Interview With RCAF "Yukon" Pilot Larry Byrne

From February 8th:
Article Sample: "Yukon Crews" - Part One

The above admissions of omissions will hopefully lead to part twos for each.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

A Canadian Film Discussion Channelled

"Have you seen (the Canadian film)______?" somehow made it out repeatedly between fork-loads of delicious fattening breakfast. Meeting with an old friend in order to take in platefuls of food and fine discussion face-to-face, not via Facebook or some such human-contact-avoidance program, is always a welcome break from the rigours of life.

One thing we both agreed on is that it would be nice to have a cable channel devoted to Canadian films. Such an initiative has been proposed before by some known Canadian filmmakers including David Cronenberg. Most welcome would be homegrown television drama, and, I can't believe I'm saying this, sitcoms.

Sign me up. And Greg, too. Especially if the network programs the classic feature films Mon oncle Antoine and Face Off, and the television dramas Seeing Things and Wojeck.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Words of Warning From OECA / TVO

A friend sent me a link to a video that he worked on and he asked that I "do not distribute".

Afterwards I remembered something that the Ontario Educational Communications Authority or TVOntario (as it was later renamed) would do many years ago whenever they showed an old film or serial chapter on its programs Saturday Night at the Movies or Magic Shadows. Seconds after the film material would start to roll, up came a superimposition of white lettering: "THIS FILM NOT TO BE COPIED."

On one occasion my dad editorialized: "Big deal." If I remember correctly, he said that at the beginning of a Republic serial chapter; maybe G-Men vs. the Black Dragon.

"We copy that, OECA."

Monday, May 8, 2017

There Is Another....

Some of you who are familiar with this blog will know that I've worked in film and television here in Toronto for years as a cameraman, designer, optical cameraman, director, video tech, etc.

However, I'm not the only one of the brood who has forged or etched a career in the biz. Brother Peter has done some fine work as a writer, director, composer, and more. Some TV shows he has written for include Come Dine With Me Canada and Weird or What?. (He has written words to be spoken on camera by William Shatner. Am I envious?....maybe.)

In addition to working for others in various roles, Peter and I have both produced our own film/vid projects. We also share the same sense of humour and much the same temperament.

The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) listing for Peter St. Laurent.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Stephen Fry Investigated For What?....

My Sunday morning online newspaper reading involves paying a visit to The Guardian. Soon after the site's top-page loaded I saw something bizarre:

Stephen Fry investigated by Irish police for alleged blasphemy

What? Then I read the piece. Disturbing stuff.

I began to wonder, do I have the year right? So I uploaded this blog posting in order to check what year this is: Yep, 2017.

Yes, I realize that my methodology makes no sense. Just like something else....

Two Toho Studios Monster Fans

The combination of Godzilla and Toho film studios makes for a formidable tag team. The famous Japanese production complex is so synonymous with the rubber-made monster that it's hard to believe that it actually has produced non monster movies.

However, the purpose of this piece is to go for the studio's biggest star: Godzilla.

In the late summer of 1988 I became friends with a chap who had been living in the same building as me for four years. We hit it off right away once we decided to converse with one another. He, Richard, was in the midst of his physics master's degree program at the University of Toronto, and I, a recent film-school graduate, was working very occassionally as a designer on films and television commercials.

How tickled I was when he told me that he was a big fan of the Godzilla pictures.

A pot of tea, a bowl of unhealthy potato chips, two geeks in front of a VCR-powered television set: Godzilla; Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster; Godzilla vs. Mothra; King Kong vs. Godzilla; Destroy All Monsters; Godzilla, 1985; you get the picture.

Richard earned his PhD, and I stomped around in the film and television business.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Yes, But....

As I stated yesterday with my heavy-handed pen I find Man's abuse of animals abhorrent.

As with most people of conscience and pre-heated air, yours truly is full of contradiction:

While I hate animal abuse I have no problem with animal testing. Animal testing is a good thing. When I buy a cat from a pet store I expect it to work properly.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Anita Krajnc Speaks of Violence Towards Animals

I heard the good news today that Canadian animal rights activist Anita Krajnc will not spend time in jail (?!) for giving water to pigs stuffed into a death transport.

Torturing pigs, cows, and chickens while they are on their way to a house-of-horror is unacceptable. Most bizarre is the fact that the industry makes no effort to give even a modicum of comfort to its most valuable asset. (Don't expect any applied intelligence.) To deny water to these living beings is unconscionable.

What Ms. Krajnc's act illustrates is that the Rule of Law has no rules when it comes to the protection of animals. Perhaps she'll become a folk hero to those humans who care about animals and their rights.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

May the Fourth and a Life Be WIth You

There was no drum roll. Until minutes ago I had not realized today was May the 4th. These last few days has seen me post a few pieces on Star Wars, the first (actually the fourth) and best, in my opinion, of the Star Wars film franchise. (I admit freely that I have not seen the two most recent bumps in that universe.)

Two days ago I watched Francois Truffaut's super-fine 1973 picture Day for Night. That is more my kind of movie -- a different kind of movie, of course. There is no explosion at the end, even if Truffaut's on-screen director character had so many reasons to explode. He took the mayhem of trying to make a movie, and maintain some semblance of a 'vision', in stride.

My "May the Fourth" celebration today? Do something constructive. I hope....

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Cheers! Welcome to England, Mates!

My first trip to England as an adult happened in April of 1990. After my Air Canada Boeing 747 landed at Heathrow, and I had been processed at customs, I made the necessary trip down the airport's moving walkway to the exit doors: to be ejected into British society.

My stand on the walkway was the introduction part. A newly arrived Canadian needed a good taste of that 'angry Brit' behaviour -- that stereotypical behaviour.

I heard a fast-approaching voice behind me. "Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me...." A young woman, with hands up, was pleasantly pushing her way past the standing crowd, obviously in a rush to get somewhere, like the end of the moving walkway. Another voice caught my attention; I looked over to see a scruffy-looking gentleman, a guy who looked like he could have been a grumpy brother of film director Stanley Kubrick.

"Ah, what makes you so privileged?" The happy vaulter answered: "Just making my way through." Like a schoolmaster who had to educate his Canadian students (tourists) he addressed us with a sweep of his saucer-like eyes: "She must be from Birmingham!"

All I could come up with was: "Welcome to England!" -- to myself.