I was bleary eyed, still plenty tired, but I knew what my mother was trying to tell me through my bedroom door.
"My cat" had done something bad, so I wasted no time in waking up to face the challenge of extracting a cute little bat. There it lay, dead, a poor unfortunate victim of a wayward pussy cat, on the floor outside my bedroom. ("A present? For me?! Thanks so much, Willie.")
Training in expired-bat removal was not something I had taken formally, but I knew that in the back room hung the Runkko "Bat Extractor": Two tennis rackets. (Of course I did not use my own lemon-yellow racket.)
The next day my mother explained to all what she had witnessed: "He would run to the top of the stairs with the bat in his mouth. He would then spit it out and bat it with his paw to the bottom of the stairs. Then he would run to the bottom, grab the bat with his teeth, run to the top of the stairs...."
Last evening I posted about my favourite movie title. There is another, a close second:
The Brain from Planet Arous
In 1957 few kids could resist something like that. I remember when I was 8 or 9 years of age and seeing a showbill in the front display case of the CFB Baden-Soellingen movie theatre: First Spaceship on Venus
Now that I think about it, there may be another. Back in the mid 1980s a friend told me one day that he was happy since he had found a special title on VHS: in a discount bin was a copy of The Twilight People.
Who needs Citizen Kane when you have access to genuine cinematic masterpieces? (Welles was, at best, a flash in the pan.)
I don't know what it was trying to be. Script deficiencies would seem to be the culprit. The show must have gone to camera before important issues were ironed out: the characters are cut-outs; sets and settings lack character; and the dialogue is rubbish.
The behind-the-scenes problems may have been reported accurately. What a space mess.
Discovery's key crew members probably had no idea what was going on. (There was a high turnover of personnel.) The home opener was poorly shot, designed, and scored. The actors looked bewildered at times. The script felt "first draft".
As I told a friend recently, my ritual with the Trek television shows is to watch the first two episodes then go back to my life. My life came back this time after just sixty minutes; at 9:48 last night.
I am plotting an article for an online film magazine a friend of mine is firing up. He suggested I write a review of Multiple Maniacs, John Waters' second feature-length film. Back in March, Criterion released a DVD and Blu-ray and the impressive image quality on the 1970 super-low-budget 16mm epic helps elevate the movie as a whole, popping it into a form of legitimacy. As for content, Maniacs still feels fresh today. It's so audaciously bad-ass, it's goodness.
Working on the article at this time gave my head a shake: Multiple Maniacs is a textbook example of production with vision. Star Trek: Discovery is lacking vision. And that cheapness is more glaring.
This Kubrick fan had never seen the brilliant filmmaker's first feature film until last evening. Fear and Desire is not bad. And certainly not as bad as Kubrick thought it to be.
While his next feature film, Killer's Kiss, is a big leap up, and establishes the Kubrick we know today, Fear is an attempt to have some smarts along its 61 minutes. Philosophical meanderings from young people, make no mistake, but ideas are already at the core of a philosopher who went on to make Dr. Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The front-and-center score for Fear and Desire was composed by Gerald Fried. I could imagine watching the film upon its release in 1953 and thinking, "this composer is going to go somewhere". (He did just that. And he worked with Kubrick until Paths of Glory. Until his friend decided to go, for the most part, with existing music.)
As I said to a friend this morning, with Fear and Desire I suspect that Stanley Kubrick "got all of his Super-8 films out of the way".
Recently I read television and film producer Norman Lear's autobiography Even This I Get to Experience. It was an easy read and informative.
Lear had a conflicted and complicated relationship with his father, Hyman ("Herman"), but he has some fond memories of his upbringing. One such memory is how his father would get up in the morning and savour his cup of coffee. (Herman loved life and lived it to the fullest -- including a few years in prison when Norman was a child.)
Many people are forever looking for the secret to a happier life. Maybe part of the answer is on the table in front of them.
Last month I posted several of my favourite movie endings; the last few feet of the final reel that stick with you; moving, sometimes disturbing, at times funny.
Looking through coffee-time notes I scratched on a film theme, I came across a partial listing of movies that, in my opinion, have the best scores. To simplify the list I stuck with "American" films.
In no particular order:
3. Star Wars
5. King Kong (1933)
6. Ben Hur (1959)
7. Planet of the Apes (1968)
8. Star Trek: The Motion Picture
9. Doctor Death: Seeker of Souls
10. The Omen (1976)
11. On The Waterfront
12. Bride of Frankenstein
13. Forbidden Planet
14. The Adventures of Robin Hood
15. Wild Rovers
16. The Searchers
17. Shaft (1971)
18. Gone With the Wind
20. Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)
I need more coffee....
John Waters dispensed that piece of advice last year when he was interviewed by IndieWire journalist Dana Harris. He outlined his other careers besides making films (which he has not done in over ten years): Art shows, articles, books, and speaking tours.
Yesterday I wrote about an award I came up with in the summer of 1979 after seeing the aviation movie masterwork Concorde . . . Airport '79.
Not long after I posted the piece a friend asked me if I paid to see a 'certain' picture at its premiere. Yes I did, and it would take the ultimate prize, but my issue with such an awarding is due to the fact that the flick was produced on a very low budget.
Squirrelly Hollywood movies that miss the mark by a great margin are more deserving.
I could hear air escaping from the tank. But it was not a pressure bottle of any kind; it was my Brit friend Paul.
He invited me over to watch some episodes of an old British show that he loved as a youth: Hammer House of Horror. Paul had picked up the VHS complete-series set from Sam the Record Man in downtown Toronto. I whipped over with some enthusiasm since not only was I aware of Hammer House but my mate had spoken a few times about how the one-hour 1980 series was his "appointment television" every week when he was fourteen years of age.
"Ssssssssss...." I knew what that sound signified....
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.
It's "Labour Day" again. How much has changed after all these years? Some "things" here in Ontario, Canada, have picked up.
From September 5, 2016: Happy Labour Day; Ontario Style
Today's special significance reminds me of how pay has not kept up with inflation.
Here's my story: After I finished high school I scored a nice job at Canadian General Electric. I say "nice" as the pay was eight dollars per hour; my dad laughed when I told him the rate of remuneration. Even though I long had plans to go on to post secondary education, the idea of getting a good paying job the summer after graduating from high school was appealing to me. (I should note that that pay rate was for a relief worker, which is what I was to CGE.)
Here's the rub. I checked the Bank of Canada's 'cost of living' website and used its onboard conversion calculator. That eight dollars in 1981 is the equivalent of twenty dollars in today's currency.
Now, where am I going with this?
Next time you chat with a recent high school graduate, ask them what kind of pay they've been offered in their quest for a summer job; if they can even get a summer job. I'm amazed at how many young people I meet who cannot get work for the summer. They have to take volunteer work just so they have something for the resume. (Volunteer work is valued, of course, but paid gigs are nice, especially in anticipation of moving on to university or community college.)
My first summer here in Toronto was in 1985, and jobs were aplenty back then. I had two offers; I just took the first one that came along.
Just as insidious are the "staffing agencies". Companies pay them about
17/18 dollars per hour, per person, and the agency turns around and pays the worker minimum
wage. (The adult rate in Ontario is $11.25 per hour. Do the math.)
It's all about keeping people poor. It's also artificial and unnecessary. These companies have to be regulated and bound with restrictions as to how much they can "skim". (Governments won't make a move because they don't care about the working poor.)
Yes, Labour Day. We have a long way to go, baby; or, even better, we have a long way to go back. Baby.
The change I touched upon at the top. Positive change:
From July 20, 2017: Employing a Question of Labour
Some parties here in Ontario, Canada, are whining about a proposal by the Kathleen Wynne government to raise the minimum wage from $11.40 to $15 per hour.
It's not just small businesses that are worried about the admittedly substantial in an all but one-shot increase, but big ones too.
In 1981, while I whistled while I worked at CGE (Canadian General Electric) my efforts were rewarded with a rate of $8 per hour ($20 today). In 1984, as I did some last minute saving-up for school, the Radio Shack warehouse paid me over $6 per 60 minutes. (In both cases I was not 'union'. It's a brain-busting case, I know.)
Dirty little secret: Today, 2017, many if not most companies of industry pay "staffing" agencies 17 - 19, sometimes more, dollars an hour per employee. These middlemen turn around and pay workers our now gorgeous minimum wage.
On August 29th I wrote a shout-out for fellow blogger John Kenneth Muir and his call to his interested readers to list and submit their top 20 favourite Star Trek episodes. This week he will post the contributions: The blog of John Kenneth Muir
Due to my schedule I failed to submit anything. Built into my excuse is the fact that I have seen very few episodes in the last couple of decades. Three months ago I bought the complete series Blu-ray set. (I've owned a few DVDs and VHS tapes over the years but I donated/sold those a while ago.)
Besides: I've seen the episodes 87.61 times each. And as my dad said to my siblings and I one day after popping open the rec room door (he was curious as to why the house was so quite): "Jesus Christ! How many times have you seen these goddamn things?!" (He laughed. No doubt he recognized one of the many character actors that guest starred in the series. Simulation: "Didn't I see Anthony Caruso in this before?")
My week was so busy I was unable to submit something as described here.
As I state in the linked piece I have not seen those episodes in years. In addition, by filing a best-of list I run the risk of some folk thinking that I maintain an obelisk-like shrine in my home. (I do have one for Roseanne, but that's a tale for another time.)