Saturday, February 29, 2020

Back to the Peaks (1990 - 1991)

Two years ago a friend bought me the television series Twin Peaks on DVD figuring I might want to check it out. He was right. And it was very kind of him. I quickly knocked off the first six episodes. Unfortunately, from about episode four and on, I felt I was watching a soap opera. The celebrated cult series was feeling a little too rhythmic for my tastes. (The repetitive music scoring didn't help.)

Time for me to get back on the trail, even if I at first did not care too much to find out who killed Laura Palmer.

Yesterday I posted a piece concerning my inability to pick a movie or television series to watch even after spending some time combing various streaming services. I now remember seeing Twin Peaks listed. But of course I will pull out the DVD set since I would not be able to decide, otherwise.

The major concern I have is inadvertently hearing who killed Laura Palmer before I get to the series' end....

Friday, February 28, 2020

The Video Store Effect (Sitting at 7.5)

Why is it that one can have multiple streaming services and still end up watching nothing after an hour-long peruse?

Suspect Video and Culture, a former top-notch home video rental store here in Toronto, would sometimes fail to make me exit the premises carrying a title or two. Don't get me wrong, I rented many videos from "Suspect", but occasionally the large selection ended up a curse more than a rental.

Streaming services carry the flag.

Maybe if I add Netflix to the mix.... (Yeah, right.)

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Lynch and the B-36 "Peacemaker"

Three weeks ago I watched a fine documentary on one of cinema's most highly regarded filmmakers. David Lynch: The Art Life reveals something interesting, at least to me: David Lynch appears to have an affection for the Convair B-36 "Peacemaker". This historical aircraft has long been a favourite of mine.

My introduction to Strategic Air Command's long-range heavy bomber happened in early 1977 when I watched 1955's Strategic Air Command on late night television. No doubt I had known of the machine before that viewing, but it was the VistaVision (on NTSC television) picture that took me up high.

In The Art Life we see a few instances, and versions, of the B-36: A tiny wooden or pewter model sitting on a windowsill; a Lynch painting, albeit one where he eschewed the plane's six propellers (and four jet engines); and Lynch himself holding a large model.

This attachment by the director would make sense as he was born in 1946, and the Peacemaker was in operational service with the USAF between 1948 and 1959. Perhaps David Lynch saw Strategic Air Command when it hit theatres.

Film directors often are aviation fans. Stanley Kubrick was one; George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have also expressed affection for flying machines.

Where does that put me?....At a much lower altitude.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Lunch on a Dime

"She wasn't kidding!"

The waitress had warned me that the Poutine now came in a much smaller serving. In fact, as she said it, she used her hands to illustrate the cutback in bowl size. When I ordered my dish with my lunch buddy I mentioned that I'd not been at that pub since last summer and had the same plate then. Good for her. She was a professional. Her update was not done to slag her employer, just to stop me from saying: "Wait a minute....something's different!"

It would not be much of an exaggeration to say that the entire serving could have been served on a plate the size of a dime.

While I occasionally meet my old friend for lunch at this establishment, my experience there today might end up sending us back to the Patrician Grill just a few doors down.

During my brief subway ride home I noticed something interesting: a young guy sitting across from me was reading a book that caught my eye. "How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime" is a fun and informative read if one is into one of the great American film producers, Roger Corman. "A god!" is how Canadian producer Greg Klymkiw once put it in an interview.

I have the original imprint, which I read when it hit the market in 1990.

Today I was tickled by a young person knowing and caring about who Roger Corman is and what he's done for that town and the film business in general.

I'm hungry again....

Picturing: Broken Snow with Sky in Toronto

Monday, February 24, 2020

Sometimes (Friends) Say the Funniest Things

Many years ago, when I had roommates, I was kidded about something and it did not offend me at all, simply because there was a kernel of truth. I laughed.

"Oh, Simon and his big Russian music."

This humorous roommate of mine was a musician, and a very fine one at that. I have a couple of his albums.

My musical tastes are somewhat broad, but when one plays jazz music nice and loud, "Oh, Simon and his jazz music" just doesn't sound funny.

A Forever Question: A Shooting Party

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

Sir. At a turkey shoot will turkeys sometimes shoot?

... Before Social Media Came Along

I don't spend much time on Twitter but perhaps I spend way too much time on Twitter. My biggest takeaway: the amount of intense hatred and anger from Canada's Conservatives. It's almost always irrational, but that doesn't matter to them.

"One must be compassionate. Since 2015 every day is the worst day for a Conservative. It was renewed and 'enhanced' last October. The question is: How did Cons spit their perpetual anger before social media came along? Stapled mimeographs?...."

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Slo-Mo (Replay) Leafs

They Leafs are playing right now. The game's just starting.

Turn on the TV, tune to the CBC.

The Carolina Hurricanes are visiting the Toronto Maple Leafs and it does not look good for the hometown team. The Canes had a powerplay and it was one of the most perfect powerplays I've seen.

The Leafs look lost, even on their own version of a man-advantage. Wow.

Do I really want to see them not make the playoffs in slow motion?....

Another useless Leafs powerplay. Wow.

Friday, February 21, 2020

A Question Perhaps Best Not Pondered

Is the Human Race doomed?

The Mummy Returns on VHS

As part of a downsizing project eight years ago I purged most of my pre-recorded VHS tape collection. I've never been a big collector of movies -- my DVD library is fairly small -- but the fact is I had accumulated around 70 tapes: 

The Mummy (1932). A wonderfully creepy, but romantic, horror film that has long been a favourite of mine. I first saw it on late night television when I was in my teens. Before I parted with this particular VHS tape I watched it again and my affections were reaffirmed. The Mummy is more melancholy than I remembered it being but it still contains one of cinema's most chilling scenes.


The above piece first appeared as "My VHS Purge: The Mummy" on January 15, 2017.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Strategic Air Command on Home Video

As part of a downsizing project eight years ago I purged most of my pre-recorded VHS tape collection. I've never been a big collector of movies -- my DVD library is fairly small -- but the fact is I had accumulated around 70 tapes: 

Strategic Air Command (1955) Shot in VistaVision, and starring Jimmy Stewart, it is very much a film of its time. But, although born during McCarthyism, this picture avoids glorifying "Strategic Air Command" outright. The men and women have a job to do. No serviceman comes across as blood-thirsty or rings in any way of "I wanna get those Russkies". There is a conscience within the film, a quality all but absent in most films of this type produced today.

Mention must be made of Jimmy Stewart's service on bombers during WWII. His piloting of the Convair B-36 and, later in the film, a Boeing B-47 feels right. 

Strategic Air Command is not a great film, I don't think, but it entertains in an almost sombre manner. And the sugar bowl-sweetness between Stewart and onscreen wife June Allyson is not to be missed. The highlights, for aviation fans certainly, are anything involving SAC bombers flying high above the clouds. In particular the B-36 is lovingly photographed as it soars. Victor Young's beautiful score elevates these sequences, making them almost poetic. Now that is something you do not get anymore. (What's a tune?)

I liked Strategic Air Command when I first watched it on late night television in late 1976 and I still like it.


The above piece first appeared as "My VHS Purge: Strategic Air Command" on January 29, 2017.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

A Night to Remember

As part of a downsizing project eight years ago I purged most of my pre-recorded VHS tape collection. I've never been a big collector of movies -- my DVD library is fairly small -- but the fact is I had accumulated around 70 tapes: 

A Night to Remember (1958) This "Titanic" nut considers the British film classic to be the finest of all the feature length dramatic films made about the famous disaster at sea. I first read Walter Lord's outstanding and absorbing book of the same name when I was 11 or 12 years of age. Seeing the motion picture adaptation a year or two later on television was a visceral experience for me, effectively cementing my interest in the R.M.S. Titanic.

The real story is not so much about a machine, but humanity. A culture of arrogance and vanity (along with bad luck) contributed greatly to the ship's sinking, resulting in the loss of many of its passengers and crew. A Night to Remember is almost documentary-like in its depiction of this tragic event.


The above piece was first posted as "My VHS Purge: A Night to Remember" on January 21, 2017.

Superliners are Super in National Geographic Video

As part of a downsizing project eight years ago I purged most of my pre-recorded VHS tape collection. I've never been a big collector of movies -- my DVD library is fairly small -- but the fact is I had accumulated around 70 tapes: 

The Superliners: Twilight of an Era (1980) What a morsel of sweet goodness this is to an ocean liner fanatic. Narrated by Alexander Scourby, the best of the National Geographic voices, Superliners tells the tale of the great liners that plied the North Atlantic between the Old and New worlds. The Queen Elizabeth 2 is filmed during a voyage between Southampton and New York City in 1979. This footage functions as a framing, and contrasting, device as it's intercut with archival film, photographs, and interviews with experts and seafarers of all sorts.

Lyn Murray's musical score sets a tone of nostalgia and longing. "Longing" in that the business of moving people across thousands of miles of water was all but superseded years ago by jetliners.

I watched The Superliners: Twilight of an Era when it first aired on PBS in 1980. Years later, seeing the VHS tape for sale made for a quick sail.


The above piece was first posted as "My VHS Purge: Superliners: Twilight of an Era" on February 11. 2017.

Monday, February 17, 2020

"The Blue Max" (1966) Has Merit

As part of a downsizing project eight years ago I purged most of my pre-recorded VHS tapes. I've never been a big collector of movies -- my DVD library is fairly small -- but the fact is I had accumulated around 70 tapes:

The Blue Max (1966) An underrated epic. Three or four years ago I rewatched it after a prompt from a friend who had himself reappraised the film. He was right. The screenplay is superior, not typical of a 'roadshow' picture, I find. There is the brand of spectacle usually found in the form -- in this case fabulous flying and combat scenes -- but also present is a lot of human-based machinations, the kind that might have impressed the Bard. These finely wrought narrative streams roll to a satisfying climax.

Star George Peppard, while much too old at the time to be playing a fighter pilot (those guys were in their early to mid twenties), is believable as a man who will stop at nothing to get the big prize: The Blue Max, the "Pour le Mérite". Ursula Andress, James Mason, Jeremy Kemp, and Karl Michael Vogler give fine support. As for tech credits, cinematographer Douglas Slocombe and composer Jerry Goldsmith fly high. (What is typical of a blockbuster film is the staffing of top people, in front of and behind the camera. More often than not this loading of talent does not translate into a great movie, or an okay one, even if the individual contributions can be spotlighted and raved about.)

Some of the film's highlights: The balloon-busting sequence; a game of "chicken", with contributions from a bridge; Peppard and Andress; the clash of Allied and German soldiers, complete with visceral hand-to-hand combat (which film critics had somehow not known about when they raved about Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan); and James Mason's 'big stamp' (it packs a punch).

The Blue Max deserves a spin on DVD or Blu-ray....


The above was first posted as "My VHS Purge: The Blue Max" on March 4, 2017.

True, Believers and Non-Believers

Here is a real conversation between and believer and a non-believer....

Believer: "We don't celebrate that?"

Non-Believer: "Really?"

Believer: "We only do what the bible says? We follow the bible....what's written in the text."

Non-Believer: "What, 'printed in Hong Kong'?"

A Forever Question: Constitution Class

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

Sir. Why is a Constitution forgotten when inconvenient?

Sunday, February 16, 2020

"Battle of Britain" in VHS and Big Screen Form

As part of a downsizing project eight years ago I purged most of my pre-recorded VHS tapes. I've never been a big collector of movies -- my DVD library is fairly small -- but the fact is I had accumulated around 70 tapes:

Battle of Britain (1969) A troubled production complete with massive cost overruns and a shoot that seemed to have no end, this historical aviation epic provides some satisfaction for those movie fans who want to see a breed of filmmaking that will never be seen again. No film company today could afford to make a film like Battle of Britain, at least not one using exclusively the same production methods -- much of it would be done using fake CG fakery, by people who've never taken the time to see how an aircraft, like a Spitfire or Heinkel, twists and turns in the sky. (Try YouTube.) As far as the film as a film goes: It depends on whether the viewer can enjoy a 132-minute story about a critical moment of history. The Royal Air Force's warding off of the mighty German Luftwaffe during the summer of 1940.

What one sees are grand air battles and an abundance of name-actors (at that time, of course). Christopher Plummer, Susannah York, Laurence Olivier, Michael Caine, Curt Jurgens, Robert Shaw, and Trevor Howard are a few of those stars who play historical characters or 'average people' swept up in that pesky thing we humans almost never ask for but often get: War. In this case World War II.

A highlight of many: The Battle in the Air. It makes me a firm believer in cinema's capabilities.

Kudos must go to director Guy Hamilton (1922 - 2016) for giving a somewhat unwieldy story, one with necessary density, some personality; and for remembering the people, who are so often forgotten in these epics.

My dad took me to see Battle of Britain when it hit the CFB Baden-Soelligen movie theatre. Tomorrow I will post a sort of 'VHS extras' piece....


The above post was first published as "My VHS Purge: Battle of Britain" on March 5, 2017.

"Battle of Britain" Special Feature

Yesterday (March 5th) I posted a piece on the 1969 movie Battle of Britain as part of my "VHS Purge" series. My initial draft was too lengthy but I decided to hold the personal experiences part of the article over for a separate story of its own:

My dad took me to see Battle of Britain when it hit the CFB Baden-Soellingen movie theatre. We were living in then West Germany, specifically in a small town, surrounded by Germans, which somehow enhanced my movie-going experience. Not only do I love the sound of that language but in this movie the Germans actually speak Deutsche.

To illustrate how big of a deal this movie was at the time, there was a live-from-London television special one evening celebrating its premiere. German television network ARD or ZDF (I can't remember which) picked up the live feed: There were searchlights and men dressed in vintage uniforms manning an ack-ack gun placement. I could hardly wait to see the movie.

Unfortunately, producing-studio and distributor United Artists lost a lot of money on Battle of Britain. The film did not 'travel' much outside of Europe (read: the USA), which it had to do in order to make back the investment. As a tie-in documentary hosted by actor Michael Caine outlined most effectively, regular folk, including those on the Isles, could tell you next to nothing about the battle. And this was less than thirty years after the events. The idea of an ignorance of one's own history as being an 'American' thing is a false one. (Author Clive Cussler recounts a sobering personal experience in his non-fiction book The Sea Hunters where he was taken aback by some of his fellow Americans -- politicians in this case -- not knowing, or, more importantly, not even caring, about their own history.)

Director Guy Hamilton, guiding light of Battle of Britain, claimed that United Artists lost ten million dollars (late 1960s currency) on the deal.

As a child what I liked was Battle's spectacle: The wide-screen; the colour; the music; the you-are-there vibe.

The now-defunct "Festival Theatres" repertory chain here in Toronto would screen the film every few years, and I would be there with interested friends.

As I've told people over the years, "Battle of Britain was my Star Wars".


The above piece was first posted as " 'Battle of Britain' VHS Purge Special Feature" on March 6, 2017.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

National Geographic Search for Battleship Bismarck

As part of a downsizing project eight years ago I purged most of my pre-recorded VHS tape collection. I've never been a big collector of movies -- my DVD library is fairly small -- but the fact is I had accumulated around 70 tapes:

Search for Battleship Bismarck (1989) Dr Robert Ballard searches for the lost World War II German warship. The pursuit and sinking of the Bismarck is a grand tale of a sea battle between two great naval forces: Britain's Royal Navy and Germany's Kriegsmarine. Search for Battleship Bismarck plays the straight documentary form: Archival footage from the war and battle; interviews with historians, and with men who fought on both sides. The stories are at times moving. One in particular is recounted by former Royal Navy seaman and author Ludovic Kennedy as he reads from his book Pursuit: The Chase and Sinking of the Bismarck: The HMS Dorsetshire's rescuing of German sailors from oil slicked water is abandoned after a lookout spots what appears to be a U-Boat's periscope. Perhaps the most sobering story told in the film is that of a German sailor whose arms had been blown off in the final battle. He tries desperately to stay afloat and to clench a lifeline with his teeth.

Motion picture film shot from the deck of a Royal Navy warship showing the Bismarck in its death throes may be the most potent and 'truthful' footage of the documentary.

Many documentaries have been made about the sinking of the Bismarck, but Search for Battleship Bismarck carries the National Geographic mark of quality.


The above was first posted on February 12, 2017, as "My VHS Purge: Search for Battleship Bismarck".

Picturing: Toronto's Broken Winter Scene

Picturing: Toronto's Broken Winter

Friday, February 14, 2020

Harlan Ellison on CBC's "90 Minutes Live" (1978)

When I was a teen I would watch a short-lived series titled 90 Minutes Live. On the 10-inch Sony television upstairs I would tune in to the CBC, specifically CBLT, Toronto. I joined the live-to-air programme very early in its run, which began in early 1976.

Writer Harlan Ellison died in 2018 but he lives on in many video segments on YouTube. (ThankYube.) The above show I did not see when it aired.

Host Peter Gzowski keeps Ellison on his toes. The pipe-smoking scribe was very opinionated and he was not afraid to lob incendiary material.

On Close Encounters of the Third Kind: "Well, it's a nice little nineteen-fifties flying saucer flick."

He explains why he was not enamoured of the hit flick. The good-natured host points out his guest's downplaying of CE3K and gets an answer emitting more sparks:

"I don't dislike it quite as much as Star Wars, which is the pits." (Cue a few people in the audience.)

Ellison elaborates on what his beef is:

"We spend ninety percent of our day in an incredible lemming-like pursuit of entertainment."

Gzowski: "But I watch Starsky and Hutch." (I laughed out loud.)

The two men seem to be having a lot of fun. And it's fun to watch.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Admiral Scheer Leaves Leaky Ships

Minutes ago I read that former Conservative cabinet minister John Baird has declined to run in the pressing race to pick the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada.

He's one of a few who were favoured candidates to lead the rudderless party, but decided, perhaps wisely, to pack it in while they were ahead. Current MP Pierre Poilievre and interim leader Rona Ambrose had already ditched their Top-Siders.

This leaves Peter MacKay and Erin O'Toole, two exciting deck stars who are sure to wow anyone centre-left.

Is that the sound of a ship's foghorn? That's a busy turning basin.

There's a side of me that wants to say: "Open the seacocks!"

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Regret is Strong in This One

"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."


The above was first posted on July 25, 2018, as "Emotions Like Regret".

Monday, February 10, 2020

This Popular Posts Counter Has 7 Days

Minutes ago I set the "Popular Posts" counter to register pageviews from the last seven days. Set previously to order counts from the past month, the posts would not fluctuate to any great degree.

Important stuff, I know.

The Toronto Sun's Excellent Online Polls (Parasite)

The Toronto Sun is precious. In today's online edition is the following poll:

"Did the South Korean movie 'Parasite' deserve the Oscar for best picture?"

I checked the results, knowing full well what the leaning would be. No, I did not vote since I've not yet seen Parasite.

The result at this time is roughly 75 percent for "No", and, needless to say, 25 percent for "Yes". (Just over 300 votes have been cast.)

No doubt the vast majority of the voters have not even seen the film. But why the overwhelming "No"? The Toronto Sun knows full well....


This morning I heard the news that the South Korean film Parasite won "Best Picture" at last night's Oscars. While I have no interest in that awards ceremony I was happy that a non-English-language film won the big prize. (This was a first.)

Parasite is in the queue.

I've not seen a complete Oscars show. (I'm not joking.)

A Forever Question: So Soft

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

Sir. Why are cats so soft-spoken?

Friday, February 7, 2020

David Letterman on CBC's "90 Minutes Live" (1978)

When I was a teen I would watch a short-lived series titled 90 Minutes Live. On the 10-inch Sony television upstairs I would tune in to the CBC, specifically CBLT, Toronto. I joined the live-to-air programme very early in its run, which began in early 1976.

It's possible I saw the above segment -- broadcast on April 14, 1978 -- but I have no memory of it.

Dave Letterman is moderately funny here. Best guesses at the time probably marked him as a promising future success. One never knows.

By the way, the series' regular host was veteran broadcaster Peter Gzowski. He was eventually replaced by Paul Soles, who had provided the voice of Spider-Man for that animated series which ran from 1967 to 1970. It is Mr Soles who interviews David Letterman.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Kirk Douglas (1916 - 2020)

Hearing the news yesterday of veteran actor Kirk Douglas' passing gave me a flashback to: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)*; Ulysses (1955); Paths of Glory (1957)*; Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957); The Vikings (1958); Spartacus (1960)*; Lonely Are the Brave (1962); The List of Adrian Messenger (1963); Seven Days in May (1964); In Harm's Way (1965); Is Paris Burning? (1966); The Light at the Edge of the World (1971)*; Saturn 3 (1980)*; and The Final Countdown (1980)*.

(* Denotes pics I saw on the big screen.)

Kirk Douglas was a real movie star.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Rebekah Wise & Carousels

My talented niece, Rebekah, has entered a new song in this year's CBC Searchlight Competition.

One may vote for "Carousels" here.

Monday, February 3, 2020

A Forever Question: Scrambled

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

Sir. Why are there no egg cubes?

Sunday, February 2, 2020

From the Super Ego: Number Ten (Bottomed Out)

I’ve seen a few lists regarding ‘best of’ from last year. This helped me look inward, towards this blog. What are the postings that gave me the most pleasure, whether due to a later re-read, which I almost never do, and feedback, either through comments or hit-counts? (All those hits make writing and posting rewarding.)

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.


The above piece first appeared as "Admiral Scheer Has No Ship" on July 24.