Sunday, March 31, 2019

Will & Mist to Return Here Soon

"Will & Mist", the first batch:







A National Post Newspaper in Actual Paper Form

On Thursday last week I picked up a National Post newspaper. Two big surprises awaited me when I took the paper to the clerk:

* The price: $2.50
* The slight paper weight, tied in with the purchase price; which prompted the following after I later unfurled the newsprint: "Two dollars and fifty cents, for this?"

I was a little surprised at the lack of anti-Trudeau print that day. That's right. Postmedia has designated the bulk of its anti-Trudeau fish & chips ink for its certified rag, the Toronto Sun.

How much does the Sun charge at the newsstand?....

(Fit to print: The above all because the newsagent didn't carry the Globe and Mail.)

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Atom Egoyan on the Smaller Budget

"When you're working with a smaller budget I suppose one of the things that has to be in your mind when you are writing is that you have to keep the characters down to a minimum."

Indeed. It's funny how often and so easily those simple initial scribbles turn into a complicated epic.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Atom Egoyan on His Film (and Television) Career

"Right now my career is totally schizophrenic, because when an American production like Hitchcock Presents asks to see my work I would never dream of showing them my independent films."

A few years ago I watched some episodes of the 1980s "Alfred Hitchcock Presents". One was directed by Egoyan and it had a special something. It popped out from the pack.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Film Opticals of Canada Logbook Sample

Above is a half page sample from a logbook I kept when I was an optical printer cameraman/operator at Film Opticals of Canada.

Some details....

"Wetgate S-16": a blow-up from Super 16 to 35mm; in this case, the original camera negative is re-photographed to Kodak Vision 5244 intermediate stock (as an Interpositive, or "I.P.").

"Pack": filters of 5 cyan, 20 magenta, and 70 neutral density ("N.D."). This is the filtration decided upon by earlier "CX" (Cinex) colour testing.

"Cam B/U": Camera blow-up.

"L": Lens at micrometre position 1450
"C": Camera (body) at position 0835
"-20 ND comp": remove 20 worth of Neutral Density filter as compensation for the blow-up position (since the value of the light intensity is lower than it would be at a "normal" one-to-one position).

Of course, any such post-production work is now done on a computer.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Rip It Up and Start Again (Book)

A Forever Question: The Dullest Season

"Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born, I have awaited a question."

Sir. What happened to the NHL (National Hockey League)?

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The: Pictures; Movies; Flicks....

What one calls "going to see a motion picture in a movie theatre":

Going to a....

* "movie"
* "flick"
* "film"
* "picture"

I would have guessed that the designation used would have depended on where one lived -- a regional thing.

Recently I watched an interview with filmmaker Richard Linklater. He made a point to say: "... not, going to 'the movies', but 'the show'." That is how my film-going buddies and I referred to seeing a motion picture at the Terra or Astral theatre.

CFB Borden, Ontario, and "a small town in Texas" are many miles apart but, in the 1970s at least, young denizens of those two towns shared a particular term.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

I Know That Western Theme Tune

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The memorable tune emanates from someone's phone.

On that theme: a western movie tune for a phone in waiting.

Pick one (even if there are many more that I am missing).

The Searchers (Steiner)
High Noon (Tiomkin)
Wild Rovers (Goldsmith)
Rio Conchos (Goldsmith)
Once Upon a Time in the West (Morricone)
and, not to forget,
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (same guy)

Friday, March 22, 2019

William Shatner Turns 88 Today

Never has there been a more perfect piece of casting: William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk. Today the Canadian thespian turns 88. He was born on March 22, 1931, in Montreal.

A Response of Note to My Political Pieces of Late

On Wednesday I posted two pieces (one, two) about the state of politics here in Canada, both federally and provincially. My focus was on the behaviour of the Conservatives at those two levels of government. An old liberal friend of mine -- liberals since high school -- sent me a charged email, aimed more at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberals.

After I read the email I realized it would be a shame to let it stop at my inbox. And. My friend had a career in politics. He has the inside scoop.

With permission from the author....

"Justin fell into the trap that there are anti corruption rules and “rules”. The rules eg: you can’t give bags full of cash to elected and non elected government officials since they are already well compensated and we understand that open bribery undermines democracy. These are the rules that you can not break in Canada, the US, Europe etc where the laws are normally respected.

As for places like Libya, where the SNC affair is centred, don’t really have much in the way of rule of law. The CBC reporter Neil Macdonald wrote a good article explaining how as a reporter you have to bribe every official that you meet to travel anywhere in the Middle East or get anything done at all. The bribe is expected as part of the cost of doing business. To us, it is morally wrong and disgustingly crooked.  That is how Justin’s former Justice minister Jody (a lot of “J’s” being used) saw the SNC dealings with Libyan officials.

Canada, like all true democracies, has the anti bribery laws on the books for corporations. When caught, a deal is usually reached to settle matters out of court. Pay a fine, say sorry and move on. Especially when thousands of jobs in Canada are involved :)

Justin wanted the usual plea bargain, she did not. Well, what do you do?! Enforce the letter of the law like the former Justice minister wanted, after all she was a former Crown prosecutor, or cut a deal and make it all go away.

Every other democracy turns the old blind eye to these when dealing with countries in the Mid East where corruption is part of the daily culture. If she followed the true parliamentary tradition she should have quit cabinet in the first place.

Cabinet solidarity means that if you can’t or won’t back up the PM publicly on an issue, then you must resign cabinet and sit as a backbencher giving up the extra pay and perks.  She only walked when Justin shuffled her out of Justice and she got angry.

Justin now realizes that Prime Ministers can’t always be the nice guy and get everything they want. We both know Pierre knew that :)  I think Justin will learn a lot from this experience and he will be a better leader for it.

As for Queens Park...we lived through this train wreck 20 years ago with Harris and it took ten years after he left office to clean up the mess that he left from all of his wasteful cuts and free handouts to big business."

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Left a Message

A year ago today I posted a piece recounting a special telephone answering machine message. It's time for another playback.

From March 21, 2018:

Leaving a Message

Many years ago my roommate at the time and I decided to have some fun: we recorded a message for answering machine which could be best described as "daring".

Dave had a four-track audio recorder; it used cassette tape, the kind of tape used as the 'outgoing' message on my Panasonic answering machine. Inspiration hit the two of us fast and hard. We wrote the script quickly and prepared to record the message. In my music collection I have a CD titled "Hollywood's Greatest Hits Volume Two". On one track Dave and I laid down Elmer Bernstein's theme from the 1956 opus The Ten Commandments, specifically, the pastoral passage right after the bombast proper -- the background music we hear playing under the voice of God.

Next: Dave's recording of the voice of God. His voice was better than my nasally own for this important document. After we had the two tracks down it was a matter of giving the commanding orator some reverb. (A dry voice track would inspire no one, no matter how persuasive the text.)

We were very happy with our effort.

As the British would say, "the show went out".

The reaction was much greater than what we were expecting. Callers who got the outgoing message thought it was very funny, hilarious. What happened was the word quickly got around about our answering machine commandments. People would call just to hear the message, and since Dave and I were busy guys, chances were that callers would get the machine.

A mutual friend went into hysterics when we gave him a live playback, but after he regained his composure, he told us his concern that some folk might not find our commandments humorous.

After some time Dave and I pulled the work. Unfortunately it's gone; we know not where.

Here is a reasonable facsimile:

"Luuuke. I mean....Mosesss. Thou shalt leave a message at the tone. Leave thy name and numberrr... (at this point Dave's voice speeds into a 'Maxwell Smart') ... And when I get a chance, I'll call you back!"

Queen Video on Bloor is About to Close Its Doors

Late last evening I heard the news that Queen Video, on Bloor Street here in Toronto, is closing its doors. It was a matter of time. I admit I've been in there perhaps a half dozen times at most, even if it is just a fairly short walk from where I live. (I patronized Suspect Video and Culture but my membership vapourized when the Markham Street store closed in January 2017.)

Rents on that strip of Bloor are insane. One shop owner admitted to me that he made the practical decision to close when his rent was increased to $14,000 a month. (Is that a typo?) That's a lot of soups just to hit the house nut.

"Sale starts Friday."

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Today's Conservatives of Ontario, Canada

This morning I wrote a piece about the infantile behaviour displayed yesterday from both the provincial and federal Conservative parties. Two chambers of children. (That's not fair to children, most of whom are more developed emotionally, and perhaps intellectually, than certain adults of Canadian government.)

The reaction was swift: one friend of mine saying he finds today's Conservatives repugnant; and he misses Joe Clark. "Joe Who", you ask? A Canadian Conservative politician of some heft....emotionally and intellectually. (Mr Clark was not given a chance.)

It's the International Day of Happiness

That's awesome. Let's multiply it by the number 365.

Happiness over Hate.

How Not to Win My Vote

Queen's Park - Toronto
Ontario Premier Doug Ford and his Conservative hipsters "clapped out" questions from the opposition yesterday. (What? Ford showed up?)

Parliament Hill - Ottawa
Conservative Party of Canada leader Andrew Scheer and his house mates yelled and drowned out Liberal finance minister Bill Morneau's presentation of the new federal budget.

Such behaviour is unacceptable in a representative democracy.

This patriotic Canadian claims nothing. I'm just repeating what I've heard.

Monday, March 18, 2019

The Making of Space: 1999 (Book)

A Forever Question: That Toronto Season

"Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born, I have awaited a question."

Sir. Why is a Toronto spring more like a trip?

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Book on How an F/A-18 "Hornet" Works

"This event has ended"

At Toronto's Revue Cinema last night played Edward D. Wood's "best of": Glen or Glenda (1953) and Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959).

I did not know this show was going on until it was going on: a certain tweet.

No worry. I saw both pictures at the Bloor Cinema back in the 1980s. Not only did I get my essential fix but I hit that rite of passage: seeing Wood flicks on the big screen with an audience.

It would have been nice to attend. Not only was there a panel discussion, there was a drag show. A drag show? I have no idea why such a display would take place at an event where Glen or Glenda is screened.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Me On Statistics, and More Statistics

"Statistics are always part of more statistics."

A statistic by itself, removed from context, is but a naked number.

Illustrated Directory of Fighting Aircraft of WWII

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Boeing - An Aircraft Album No. 4

In about the year 1977 I officially earned my aviation-geek wings when I bought the above book at Coles Bookstore. More specifically, I got my multi-engine rating that day.

The Boeing 737 is in the news due to the recent tragic loss of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 - an advanced version of the type. The Model 737 had been flying commercially for just five years when this book was published in 1972 by Arco Publishing Company, Inc.

(Click on pic to enlarge.)

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

A Twist of Commercial Aviation Fate

With much of the Boeing 737 Max 8 fleet ordered to stand down for the time being due to two hull-losses seemingly attributable to the same malady, I was reminded of a similar incident from the mid 1950s.

The British de Havilland DH-106 "Comet" was the world's first operational commercial jetliner. It had entered service in 1952 with BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation, now British Airways) and things looked good for the revolutionary aircraft. Unfortunately, between May of 1953 and April of 1954, three machines were lost to apparent metal fatigue: two from BOAC and one from South African Airways. The entire Comet fleet was grounded for what turned out to be four years.

What happened in the interval was that William Boeing's company was able to get its own Model 707 jetliner up to speed. Commercial aviation history had been changed.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Ontario Will Ban Cellphones in the Classroom

It's about time.

Three years ago I visited a teacher friend's classroom. I was taken aback by the number of students who stood at the room's outer limits to stare off their phones.

A counteracting student body clustered about the teacher at the front as he demonstrated a lighting setup. Good for them. As they were film production students who were paying for their college education, it made perfect sense that they would make a postured effort to learn.

As for the phone stare bears, they were off tending to more important business.

(Note: The ban will take place starting next year in public schools. Those paying good money to not learn in post-secondary institutions have no need to worry.)

Monday, March 11, 2019

TIFF's 10 Best Canadian Films

From the Toronto International Film Festival's most recent ranking, from 2015:

1. Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (2001)
2. Mon Oncle Antoine (1971)
3. The Sweet Hereafter (1997)
4. Jésus de Montréal (1989)
5. Léolo (1992)
6. Goin' Down the Road (1970)
7. Dead Ringers (1988)
8. C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005)
9. My Winnipeg (2007)
10. (tie) Stories We Tell (2012)
10. (tie) Les Ordres (1974)

Fine. Dandy.

However, I can't take the list seriously with its two serious omissions:

Starship Invasions (1977)
The Mystery of the Million Dollar Hockey Puck (1975)

A Forever Question: How Fake is "Fake"?

"Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born, I have awaited a question."

Sir. Why is "fake news" not fake news when convenient?

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Niagara Falls: Models

Sunday Fun: The White Shadow Opening

Not only did I enjoy watching The White Shadow almost every week from 1978 to 1981, but it ended up the last dramatic television series that I made a point to catch.

Ken Howard played high school basketball coach Ken Reeves, a Caucasian lead to a supporting cast of mostly black and Hispanic actors. This mix helped make for some outstanding television. No hollow praise, no "best show ever!" rubbish, none needed, the episodes ran proof week-to-week of how the box can supply not just entertainment but social commentary.

The character interplay was part of the fun of The White Shadow. Understandably there was no profanity, but the subject manner was often bold; especially for the time.

Sunday Fun fact: three of the basketball-playing actors went on to have successful careers as directors: Thomas Carter (Swing Kids); Kevin Hooks (Prison Break); and Timothy Van Patten (Boardwalk Empire).

Friday, March 8, 2019

Look Familiar?

They'll soon be back, to the coming green grasses of Toronto, Ontario. (As I was preparing this photograph of a friendly Canada Goose, I noticed it has an I.D. band on its right leg.)

Thursday, March 7, 2019

American Movie, Twenty Years On

American Movie (1999) is one of the great American movies. It's a documentary, but its characters are classic. Perhaps it's not much of an exaggeration to claim that no narrative film scripter could come up with such an absorbing storyline, forge equal pathos, and, again, render a stellar variety of characters in one go.

The picture also acts as a social document, time and place not important. The film's title is part geographic guide. As much as Mark Borchardt, the man who must make a film, alcohol money be damned, speaks of the American dream and its fulfillment, he realizes if not fully accepts its artificiality and irrepressible elusiveness. There's really nothing all-American about American Movie. To achieve artistic recognition is simply a common romantic notion without borders and not one tied specifically to American dreamers. It's a story about people....of Everytown of Anyplace. Borchardt's drive and ultimate prize, that of getting his film finished and exhibited, are a mark of his character, not of geography. After all, beer is available all over.

The labour-intensiveness of making motion pictures is such that those without a modicum of confidence and drive could more easily sit in the easy chair to watch someone else's filmmaking.

Borchardt finishes his film and presents it to a seemingly enthusiastic audience. He did it.

Much credit to American Movie's success must go to filmmakers Chris Smith and Sarah Price for being there for the man with a plan; the story was told whether someone was there to capture it on film or not. How many Borchardts, Mike Schanks, and Uncle Bills were lucky, or unlucky, enough to have been recorded for the big and small screen, not to mention the public record? Smith and Price had to assemble their footage, seventy hours worth according to them, but the selection of scenes and the reveals within show storytelling prowess. Perhaps the storyline here was inevitable. The documentary filmmakers just had to chip away at the marble. It really was a case of showing up.

American Movie is a precious document.

A question to wrap: With the ubiquitous digital filmmaking tools of today, are there even more Mark Borchardts? (Perseverance and dedication are digital-free.)

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Looking Backward to the Cold Outside

As I walked home about an hour ago I could not help but notice the ice-cold wind. It's March 6th. At this time of year it should be about 3 or 4 degrees Celsius above freezing, here in Toronto. It's minus 9, not counting the wind chill.

Looking back to February 13, 2016:

"It's Cold Outside, Really Cold"

The newsreader on 680 News (CFTR, Toronto) just wrote my headline for me. Yes, it is cold out there, indeed. The base temperature -- sans "wind chill" -- right now is minus 23 degrees Celsius. That is cold, all right.

When I was a young one, and would complain about how cold it was outside, my father would say: "You think that's cold... you haven't been to Alert."

The "Alert" he was referring to was the Alert Wireless Station (known as Canadian Forces Station Alert, after unification in 1968). Built in 1957 as part of the Distant Early Warning Line, the so-called "Dew line', the facility is located in Alert, Nunavut – way, way up at the top end of Ellesmere Island.

Back in the late 1950s, servicemen would have been transported to and from the base on a Canadair North Star. When aircraft park up there, shrouds are thrown over the engines and heaters supply warm air through ducts to the four idle blocks of metal -- otherwise, your ride home isn't going to happen.

I have not been to Alert but my feeling is Toronto, this day, is a reasonable approximation.

Post Script: Alert popped into the news back in November of 1991 after a CC-130E "Hercules" crashed while on approach to the base's landing strip. A year later film cameras started rolling on Ordeal in the Arctic, a made-for-television flick recounting the story. While the completed telefilm was entertaining enough, two things read as odd to me:

* Richard Chamberlain, as fine an actor as he is, was too old to be playing the pilot, John Couch. "Herc Drivers" are much younger.

* For the Herc interior, the film's sound effects guys chose to mix in the drone of piston engines. (My guess is they got their audio track from an old sound effects LP record.) During flight the "cabin" of a Hercules is loud; especially on takeoff. As Douglas Adams might have said: "It is loud. Really loud. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly loud it is. I mean, you may think it's noisy riding in a Volkswagen Beetle, but that's just peanuts to a Hercules."  In Ordeal the actors are chatting to one another as though they are sitting in a coffee shop.

Those Allison turboprops are magnificent: a future blog posting....

The Magic of the Movies: Music and Picture Aped

Jerry Goldsmith's brilliant score for the 1968 classic SF motion picture, Planet of the Apes, was performed live-to-picture in London in 2015. A friend of mine flew there for a few days to take in the performance. He was impressed with the attention to detail. As parts of the orchestra that day: Brazilian cuíca drum; slide whistle; shofar; and steel mixing bowls (you heard that right).

My jet-setting friend said the performance was authentic and exciting. Even better than he thought it would be.

Since I hadn't been able to take a seat next to my film score mate, he alerted me recently to the above video. It is from a concert by the Danish National Symphony Orchestra from June of 2017 televised by the Danish Broadcasting Corporation. (I wish the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation would do programming like that instead of running and rerunning rubbish like Schitt's Creek.)

Program notes: the music cue is for the sequence where Taylor (Charlton Heston) escapes from captivity only to be chased about Ape City by the gorilla forces. The piece, "No Escape", climaxes right after the human fugitive ends up in a large net and growls in frustration to his captors: "Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!" That small 'pause' in the music before the crescendo is there so Heston can do his thing. Classic picture and sound.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

A Special DVD Edition at Bay Street Video in Toronto

Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things scared me when I saw it at the Terra Theatre in CFB Borden.

That was the first half of a double feature.

Part two was my second screening of Doctor Death: Seeker of Souls, which spooked me when I saw it at the base's Astral Theatre. I had to sit through it again?

That was quite the fright night.

Monday, March 4, 2019

A Forever Question: The Force Continues In Name

"Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born, I have awaited a question."

Sir. Why did George Lucas sell Lucasfilm and let Disney make Star Wars movies?

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Sunday Fun: UFO Opening Titles

The 1970 - 1971 television season was exciting for this then child: Gerry and Silvia Anderson's first live-action series, UFO, was the flagship.

The CTV (Canadian Television) network ran the series here in Canada, and the network's flagship station, CFTO, in Toronto, was where the dial turned to on our Zenith Colour television set. My parents watched, too. It was what we would now refer to as "appointment television".

UFO was what now would be considered to be very adult material for that time. For some reason the Brits were ahead of us in some departments on this side of the pond. They would not be afraid to address matters such as a death in the family, or family dysfunction (like a marriage falling apart). Wait a's called "UFO". There was the space stuff, of course, and the show's premise of a hostile alien force attacking us could be exciting, but the best episodes were not space-based -- believe it or not. "Sub-Smash", "A Question of Priorities", and "Confetti Check A-O.K." are standouts. (A few years ago I watched those three episodes, along with a few others, for the first time in decades, and was convinced.)

Unfortunately for the fans, UFO lasted just one season; totalling 26 stories.

Things went downhill after that for the Andersons; not only for their marriage, but their careers. Their later interstellar effort, Space: 1999 (1975 - 1977), was a big step down -- mainly in the characterization, acting, and scripting departments -- from what they had achieved with UFO.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Not Lost on Lefty Liberals

Newspapers dispense fakery ("fake news!") and media is an enemy of the people.


The Globe and Mail, Canada's star paper, broke the news of the SNC-Lavalin affair. Justin Trudeau, Canada's prime minister, is embroiled in a scandal that some think will cost him and the Liberals the election in October. It's hard to say right now since that date is a full seven months away. (Important note: Nothing has been proven at this point.)

Back to the real story: "Media", a "leftist" newspaper -- which the Globe clearly is not -- broke the story that many on the right are eating up.

But, isn't it "fake news"?....

To give some of my readers some perspective on the newspaper makeup here in Toronto, Canada, here is how our papers stack up:

Globe and Mail (the tops)
Toronto Star (top stuff)
National Post (editorially a bit of a joke, but with a few good columnists)
Toronto Sun (a total joke, bottom of the barrel, and shedding for the printers' scrapheap.)

Friday, March 1, 2019

What a Guy!

Guy Maddin is one of my favourite filmmakers. When he hosted a week-long retrospective of his work at the University of Toronto's "Innis Town Hall" in January of 2010, I was there every evening. The highlight for me was Maddin's live narration of his then most recent feature-length film, My Winnipeg.

On that Friday, after My Winnipeg Live, I made a point to approach the fascinating and special director. I told him how I first saw Tales from the Gimli Hospital at Toronto's Bloor Cinema and loved it. He said, "thank you". I finished by saying: "As soon as I saw that three-stacker (an ocean liner with three funnels) I knew it was going to be a good movie." He laughed as he took a swig from his water bottle.

Maddin's Magic Three:

Tales from the Gimli Hospital (1988)
Archangel (1990)
Careful (1992)

To rub it in:

My Winnipeg (2007)