Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Donald Trump, Meet Archie Bunker

“Look, Archie Bunker ain’t no bigot! I’m the first to say it ain’t your fault you’re coloured.”

“This here’s a copy of the Apollo 14 insignia. That’s what separates the U.S. of A. from the Red Chinks and all them other losers.”

-- Archie Bunker
All in the Family (CBS, 1971 - 1979)

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Best Film Scores Omissions

On Saturday I reposted a piece from two years ago about great film scores.

On October 27th of 2017 I posted a piece making up for some intolerable omissions:

How Could I Not List Benny?

Back on September 20th I listed some of my favourite film scores. It was a pop-up list, and because of that, I missed some titles.

What I realized recently is the fact I made a serious omission: Scores from the late great movie composer Bernard Herrmann.

Quick. In order of release:

1. The Day the Earth Stood Still
2. Vertigo
3. The 7th Voyage of Sinbad
4. Psycho
5. Taxi Driver

Try to imagine those films without their respective scores.

Monday, July 29, 2019

George Lucas on Young Filmmakers

“One of the biggest problems young filmmakers have is that they think everything [they make] is monumental.”

Too many think they're the next George Lucas, or Stanley Kubrick, but don't consider the 'environmental' factors important to the making of an artist.

A Forever Question: Of Olives

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

Sir. Who said olives are an acquired taste?

Sunday, July 28, 2019

A List of CV Things: Reloaded July 2019

So you, the reader, know what it is you're getting into when you come here, I thought it was time I post my latest CV. And here it is, in "dust jacket bio" point form:

hospital photographer (public relations, general, haematology, surgery)
hospital A/V tech (live streaming, teleconferencing)
brewery worker (Molson Brewery: line and maintenance)
factory/warehouse worker
lighting cameraman (short film, music video, video production)
television studio camera operator
designer (feature film, television commercial, short film, web-series, exhibit)
optical camera operator (feature film, television film, television series)
set construction & prop building (feature film, TV commercial, independent production)
writer (print, short film, video production)
consultant (television commercial, 'process' screen, historical aviation screenplay)
researcher (film/television history, aviation, Soviet space program, general history, etc.)
producer / director (independent film & video production)
film programmer (Toronto Public Library)
* manager (self-storage; video duplication)
projectionist (film, digital; T.I.F.F.)
film festival technical director (R.P.F.F.)
instructor (film & video production; L.I.F.T.)
video tech (duplication, film-to-tape transfer)
web design
archivist (film/television)
baseball umpire (Ontario Baseball Association)
* ice hockey player - forward & goaltender (B.B.M.H.A.)
ice hockey coach - Bantam (Knights of Columbus)
football (soccer) player (B.B.M.S.A.)
siding installer & general construction
* sales agent / customer service

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Re Movie Music of Memory

And I still do need more coffee....

From September 20, 2017:

Movie Music of Memory

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:

1. Bananas [Hamlisch]
2. Papillon [Goldsmith]
3. Star Wars [Williams]
4. Patton [Goldsmith]
5. King Kong (1933) [Steiner]
6. Ben Hur (1959) [Rózsa]
7. Planet of the Apes (1968) [Goldsmith]
8. Star Trek: The Motion Picture [Goldsmith]
9. Doctor Death: Seeker of Souls [LaSalle]
10. The Omen (1976) [Goldsmith]
11. On The Waterfront [L. Bernstein]
12. Bride of Frankenstein [Waxman]
13. Forbidden Planet [L. & B. Barron]
14. The Adventures of Robin Hood [Korngold]
15. Wild Rovers [Goldsmith]
16. The Searchers [Steiner]
17. Shaft (1971) [Hayes]
18. Gone With the Wind [Steiner]
19. Chinatown [Goldsmith]
20. Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) [Kaper]

I need more coffee....

Mister Wood Has Final Cut

It was a long distance telephone chat with an old friend….an editor by trade.

One brief discussion was about “fan edits”. These wishful versions of films always run at a deficit since the source footage is from a final cut. Unless one has access to raw footage such endeavours stay the domain of the hobbyist. If you're not a Kevin Brownlow, chances are you’re not going to get access to a movie’s original film/digital elements.

I asked my friend: “If there is only one film that needs not one frame changed, what would it be?” (It’s absolutely perfect the way it is.)

He missed not a beat: “Plan Nine from Outer Space.”

Only an editor would know the correct answer.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Re Film Design: Matte Painting Shot - Development

A couple of hours ago I posted a piece on a matte painting concept and shoot I did years ago (Film Design: Matte Painting Shot - Almost Final). Above are sketches as part of my search for the right look.

Tomorrow: More "Film Design", but a little flesh. It's been a week of towers, tanks, buildings and machines.

Re Film Design: Matte Painting Shot - Almost Final

There's an interesting place here in Toronto, north of the city's beautiful "Annex" area. "Sir Winston Churchill Park" surfaces one of the city's reservoirs and provides for an interesting filming location. Years ago, with a few friends, I took an Arriflex 35mm camera and shot some "plates". Our intention was to optically composite (on an optical printer) the live action footage with a matte painting. Due to the cost of hiring an optical house to composite the footage we did not finish the composite. By the way, to make the plate footage more interesting and to avoid a single "look-off" shot, my friends and I shot a little action scene.

Not long after this shoot I started working as an optical camera operator; I could have composited this bit of business for no charge. My respective bosses, George and John Furniotis at Film Effects Toronto, and Mike Smith at Film Opticals of Canada, no doubt would have let me do this by tagging it onto a "job" (rolls of 35mm motion picture film that were going to the lab as part of normal contracts).

My next posting will show the development of an idea: the optical matte painting and its composite.

Note for above concept illustration: The bottom quarter is the live action, and the rest, the matte painting.


The above article was first posted on November 29, 2017

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Re Prop Design: Portable Cylinder Recorder

I designed the above prop for a low budget feature film titled Johnny Shortwave. The world depicted in the black and white epic has an almost steampunk aesthetic, with audio recording happening not on linear magnetic tape, but on cylinders; Edison style.

In addition to the above I designed two table-top models. The idea I had there was that those were older machines. The rationale for the portable recorder was that miniaturization was producing more compact devices -- like a cylinder recorder. A character in Shortwave carries the machine around by slinging the carrying strap over his shoulder.

John Gajdecki built the prop from my plans. I told him that he could run with the design. He did a beautiful job, I think.

Soon I will post the original plans.


The above piece was originally posted on November 5, 2017

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Admiral Scheer Has No Ship

Conservative Party of Canada leader Andrew Scheer is almost unrelenting in his tweets attacking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The worst part is the contents of his tweets, more often than not, are positively dishonest. For starters, Canada's economy is in pretty good shape, and unemployment numbers are the lowest they've been in decades. One doesn't have to like our PM, but criticize with factual information.

As the headline says: Admiral Scheer has no ship.

Simu Liu Is Shang-Chi

I've been critical in these pages about the CBC sitcom Kim's Convenience. I do feel the cast is fine even if the show's writers don't produce sufficiently fine material.

The news came in on Monday: Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu has been cast to play superhero Shang-Chi in the Marvel Cinematic Universe film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (scheduled for release in 2021). Mr Liu currently plays "Jung", the son in Kim's.

My first reaction after the "congratulations!" was "isn't he a little short to be playing a superhero?" (not short but not exactly tall). I admit I don't know much about such stuff, but, I do know it's about time we see more non-white comic book heroes on the big screen.

I'm sure Simu Liu will leap with aplomb into the role of Shang-Chi. Kim's Convenience will miss him.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Re Important Life Preservation Equipment

It's swimming and boating season, and there are lots of media stories about the importance of life preservers.

From May 21, 2018:

Missing Life Preservation

Sad news on the weekend about those two young women who fell into the waters of Lake Couchiching (in Orillia, Ontario) after their canoe capsized. One managed to swim to shore but the other did not make it. Neither was wearing a life jacket.

When I was twenty years of age I went canoeing with friends in an overloaded canoe -- four of us. And we were not wearing life jackets as we took the canoe up the Nottawasaga River here in Ontario. The trip was eventful enough in that there were a few portages to hop. The bad news came about when we paddled around a hairpin turn. We rolled like the SMS Blücher. The canoe's crew fell into the river. Instinct takes over during moments like that, as anyone could tell you who's been thrown into such distress.

My own instinct combined with my ability to swim -- my mother was a swim coach -- to guide me to that waiting marker on the river bank. Feet paddled as the rest of me front-crawled, propelling me to safety. All four of us thankfully made it to shore.

I'm not trying to impress anyone with my swimming skills. Really. More impressive: We got lucky. Any bad luck, like getting bonked on the head by a capsizing canoe, got swept down the river.

As an epidemiologist friend said to me a few years ago: "There's no such thing as an accident."

Monday, July 22, 2019

The Campgrounds Are Closed For the Season

Okay, folks. Of Ontario, Canada.

“For the People” was a big lie. And hardly one cloaked in the last provincial election. The mindless slogan even then reeked of barbecue sauce and belched of beer.

Pull out your buns!

A Forever Question: A Flour for Robin

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

Sir. If Robin Hood never existed then why was a flour named after him?

Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Art of the Possible

Last evening I caught a documentary on TV Ontario with the enticing title, The Art of the Possible (1978). Filmmakers followed then Ontario Premier William "Bill" Davis as he prepared to make some big decisions: details in the province's budget, text of the throne speech, and demands to be made during the First Ministers Conference (with special guest stars including then Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau).

My biggest takeaway, which I formulated at about the one-minute mark of the documentary, was the overall balance of civility; even in the "question period" -- make no mistake, it was still fiery.

Mr Davis spoke at my high school when I was a "minor niner" (grade 9 student). I remember his gentlemanly manner and sharp articulation....which last night I compared to our current premier, Doug Ford (a bully and a simpleton).

"My approach has always been to listen to both sides of the discussion, because I discovered very early that once I stated a point of view, then others who held a contrary point of view would be reluctant to express it... you just see the heads go up and down, et cetera. And I've tried to avoid that because I want to get a very frank discussion of the views of my colleagues."

-- William Davis

The Art of the Possible is available for viewing on TVO's website, here.

Watch for: Then Toronto Sun "Queen's Park" columnist Claire Hoy is interviewed; he almost angrily criticizes Bill Davis and his Progressive Conservatives' out-of-control spending. (A twist in time and space.)

Saturday, July 20, 2019

The Eagle Landed 50 Years Ago Today

Man's magnificent achievement: two astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, land and step foot on Earth's moon. (Command module pilot Michael Collins stayed in moon orbit.)

I remember the night very well. My family was living in then West Germany and we watched the Apollo 11 coverage on German television. The audio of Armstrong stating "the Eagle has landed" was all we had to hear to know that history had been made.

That was a special time.

The Toronto Sun's Clothes Line

Lorrie Goldstein, one of the many blitz-fibber columnists at the exemplary Toronto Sun 'newspaper', wrote this recently:

"The Liberals have always campaigned on the basis that the Conservatives are not only wrong, but evil."

As we all know, the Conservatives would never resort to that.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Re Film Design: "Graveyard Shift" Graveyard Sketch

Yesterday [November 26, 2017] I posted another piece on the 1987 Canadian horror feature film Graveyard Shift. Included was a photograph I took of the completed graveyard set.

After I more or less nailed-down the mausoleum design, I sketched out my concept for the graveyard set.

Re Behind the Irwin Allen Panel on "Hyper-Reality"

If you've seen the old Irwin Allen television shows Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space, or Time Tunnel, you probably remember what I refer to as "The Irwin Allen Panel". In the early 1960s the 20th Century Fox studios prop department bought surplus U.S. Air Force equipment and made some modifications, including taking the indicator lights and hooking them up to a series of chaser-boxes, thereby producing sequenced blinking lights.

The equipment was already "old" but that did not stop producer Irwin Allen from utilizing them for his futuristic television programs. (Makes sense; 1960s aliens in silver face paint no doubt would operate 1950s Earth equipment.)

By the way, the panels appeared in the television series Lost. My guess is they are still available for rent.

When designing my (as of yet uncompleted) short film Hyper-Reality I used the panels in question as a guide. The story requires a retro look.

The photo affixed above features a crew member operating a piece of projection equipment.


This piece was originally posted on December 6, 2017

Re Prop Design: "Code Card" Thumbnails

[Minutes ago] I posted some colour renderings of a prop I designed for the 1996 Canadian feature-length film Johnny Shortwave. Above are some early thumbnail sketches I produced in my search for the final card design. At first I tried various formats of card, eventually settling on a credit-card type.

Re Prop Design Code Card

For the 1996 Canadian dramatic feature film Johnny Shortwave I designed a "code card", a special identification card used by citizens of a totalitarian state. I based it on a common credit card of today, figuring the dimensions and format will be around any time and any place.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Apollo 11 Launched 50 Years Ago Today

Fifty years ago today?! That can't be right. I mean, that means I'm old enough to remember the Apollo 11 mission of putting two men down onto the moon's surface.

"The Eagle has landed" on July 20th; fifty years ago from that upcoming date....

Monday, July 15, 2019

A Forever Question: Not on the Books

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

Sir. Why is an argument so often predicated on emotion rather than knowledge?

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Time for Thought: Time Again

Time's greatest gift is its healing power.

Time for Thought: Time

Time's greatest curse is its locomotive power.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Is This The Ruling Council?

Early this afternoon I posted a picture taken of Canada's premiers at the meeting this past week of the Council of the Federation. There is a stunning, and embarrassing, lack of diversity in that council.

I do find some humour in this, however.

Nobody will mistake that federation for the United Federation of Planets.

The Merry White Man Band

The above photo is from an official release showing Canada's premiers during the Council of the Federation meeting held this past week in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The image is sad in its illustrative power: thirteen premiers in Canada in 2019.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Cheap Rental

“My friends.”

On Monday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford went before the media’s mics for the first time since he dismissed his chief of staff Dean French. (It had come to light that Mr French had personal connections with two government appointees.)

Reporters asked the premier some simple and straightforward questions regarding the issue. No surprise that Ford claimed only the media cares about any such controversy, the general public does not. (Interesting that I do care very much.)

“My friends.”

Mr Ford more and more sounds like a low-rent Criswell.

Maxime Bernier Must Be In Election Mode

Maxime Bernier, rejected member of the Conservative Party of Canada, and now leader of his People's Party of Canada, is clearly in election mode: "YOU LIBERALS ARE THE HATERS."

That HATE was tweeted out by Mr B yesterday. He goes on to say that the Liberals "hate" Canada; its people, history, and identity.

Of course they do!

I love intellect.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Leonard Bernstein Was Larger Than Life

This week I watched a fascinating documentary film on the late and great American conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein.

Leonard Bernstein: Larger than Life manages to pack a lot of information into its 52-minute length. The maestro managed to accomplish much in his 72 years: conducting, composing, and educating. He was truly larger than life.

Two years ago I watched the equally fine 1978 documentary Leonard Bernstein Reflections.

From July 9, 2017:

Bernstein, Wagner, and Me

This past weekend I watched a fine documentary on the late, great American conductor Leonard Bernstein; this flick, Leonard Bernstein Reflections, reminded me of an experience of mine from years ago:

Years ago I worked at an "optical house" where I was the afternoon shift camera guy. This entailed frequently working into the wee hours of the morning; using the technical side of your brain when it would rather be in sleep mode.

My coworker -- the day cameraman -- would leave the radio on for me after we discussed what it was I had to shoot and how I could shoot it. Unfortunately the radio station was one of the moronic pop stations, which only served to annoy me as I tried to shoot opticals. After a few days of annoyance I decided it would be best for my sanity if I were to change the station to a classical one. Great: I could shoot film while dancing to Schumann's Symphony No 3. (Known to fantasy movie fans as the theme to the 1988 crappic, Willow.)

One night the classical station's host played a little Richard Wagner but before he started rolling the music track he talked a bit about conductor Leonard Bernstein. The maestro was quoted giving his feelings on Wagner. Bernstein despised the Uber composer on solid grounds: Wagner was a racist, an anti-Semite, and so on: "I hate Wagner, but I hate him on my knees!"

After I heard that, I was on my knees!....

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Re TV Trek to a High-Definition Format

Classic television programs have been released to home video over the years, with a recent push to the high-definition "Blu-ray" format. Not counting recent Star Trek shows, which were produced wholly in Hi-Def, the process is actually made easier when transferring old(er) programmes as those were often produced on film.

"Oldies but Goodies" is preferred.

From August 6, 2017:

Trek to Possible Blu-rays

Yesterday I wrote about not looking for but finding the Battlestar Galactica miniseries on a heavily discounted DVD set:

BSG Miniseries from the Discount Bin

Today, while listening to the radio, I heard a brief story which mentioned that Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered thirty years ago next month. Thirty years ago. I remember that night well. Two friends came over and we watched the horrible two-hour opener, "Encounter at Farpoint".

I doubt I will have the spunk required to generate a 'ST:TNG, 30 years celebration' piece when the proper time comes.

This all reminded me that when I was reading a media magazine a few months ago, I happened upon a piece about Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fans demanding a Blu-ray up-rate job -- just like what Next Generation had received. Because that series was post-produced electronically on video (in order to save money overall and to allow for more visual effects, and at a lower cost than what the original series had been saddled with), the drawback was that in order to release the series on a high-definition format, all the camera rolls, of visual effects and general live action material, had to be re-transferred --- this time around to HD instead of the original production's 1-inch or Betacam "standard def" process. To boot, the visual effects elements all had to be re-composited. Keep in mind that there are seven years-worth of episodes.

The decision to 'reprocess' Next Generation for high-definition cost Paramount's home entertainment division a lot of money; man-hours and time. As the reader can imagine, even for those who don't know an original camera-negative from a Panaflex, it was quite the effort.

The article about DS9's hoped-for Blu-ray release stated that sales of ST:TNG's Blu-ray set have been "underwhelming". (The fact that it's not a very good series might have something to do with it. Fans-only.) Deep Space Nine's fan base, however rabid, is too small to warrant a whole series up-convert. (A friend of mine loves that series, but he admitted to me recently that his DS9 DVD set is most sufficient.)

My guess is Paramount will not discuss the issue of further archival Star Trek Blu-ray releases. It's a numbers game. And a certain precedent will close the tables.

Picturing: The Hospital for Sick Children - Toronto

Monday, July 8, 2019

A Forever Question: Who's Busy?

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

Sir. We know the expression “busy as a beaver”, but would it not read better as “busy as a house cat”?

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Looking Back at Fighting Forward!

Real talent can be scary to those who are easily 'frightened'.

From October 10, 2017:

Fight Forward! (Not Backward)

"Fight forward!"

A talented and hard-working friend falls into the pit of self-doubt. He worked for years in film and television, and after getting turfed from the business he so loved, it came time to try his hand at self-employment.

The hardest-working man I know.

A multi-talented friend: short films in a top film festival; a feature-length film as producer and shooter; a writer; a designer and artist. He's not of the "I work in the film and television business" kind -- there are certainly enough of those -- but he's a guy who intimidates some, certainly the "I work in the film and television business" kind.

A bump in the road, there will be many, but he will push forth.

"Fight forward!" Not backward. They put you down because you can do more than one thing, and well.

Nettie Konigsberg on Motivation

"Don't waste time!"

Otherwise, one may waste away.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Commander Leonard

Kawhi Leonard is now a former cool Torontonian.

For me, the NBA is just an acronym since I know next to nothing about that league, but even I 'knew' the star basketball player would go back to his home city of Los Angeles.

The LA Clippers have a new helmsman; but I doubt the Toronto Raptors will be rudderless....

Friday, July 5, 2019

The Trump Tank

In a few years, when the Republicans next take the top office, a new tank will be approved for use by the U.S. Army: The "Trump".

It’ll be an ‘unexpected’ failure. While heavily armoured, the Trump will have undersized tracks, and, even more disappointing, it’ll pack a small punch with its disproportionately undersized cannon.

The Trump is such a failure that the type is quickly passed down to National Guard units, some of which elect to paint the tanks' turrets a bright orange. But the worst indignation is this: The Trump is referred to by its crews as “The Peashooter”.

(Pardon me!)

Thursday, July 4, 2019

A Show of Intellectual Might

U.S. President Donald J. Trump is exhilarating his plans for today's Fourth of July celebrations in the nation's capital.

"... and we’re going to have planes going overhead, the best fighter jets in the world; and other planes too.”

I doubt Mr Trump knows what those "other" planes are.

Tanks will be there, too.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

What’s a “Bro Code”?

I’m hearing that term a lot these days.

My most recent experience with the “Bro Code” was on the weekend when I was chatting on the telephone with a friend. There was a lead-up and a pleasant discussion that was resolved with the following:

I wouldn’t steal your girl. That’s not right.

Why not?

It’s the Bro Code, man.

Good code!