Tuesday, December 7, 2021

A Trek Forty-Two Years Ago Today

Last evening I was reminded by a tweet that Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released forty-two years ago today. How could I have forgotten? It was a memorable night.

Picture a dozen teenagers meeting at the big picture house to see one of the most anticipated pictures ever. Try and imagine our disappointment when the end credits rolled: not that we wanted the show to go on, but more a case of "that was it?"; or as friend Mike said after he turned to me from the seat to my left: "I thought it would be better than that."

The next morning I shuffled to the living room, where siblings were watching "Wink of an Eye". Is this some sort of joke? An editorial on what I saw last night? You thought this episode was bad? Last night's event flick made "Wink of an Eye" look like a masterpiece?

The passage of time has been kind to ST:TMP.


Monday, December 6, 2021

A Double Feature Challenge (Rescreening)

Watching a home-programmed double feature of Steven Spielberg and J.J. Abrams movies is easy. We know what we're getting.

On the weekend I went random, self-programming two disparate, in time and place (and style), narrative feature films.

Beyond the Time Barrier (1960 - Edgar Ulmer)
True Stories (1986 - David Byrne)


The first picture I saw a few times in my childhood as it played often on television and at least once at my local movie theatre (the Astral in CFB Borden, Ontario). Watching it as an adult makes one appreciate its themes. For a child it was more about the interesting visual stylings, and chills. (Those horrific mutants.) The environmental theme is up front: testing of nuclear weapons 'back' in the early 1970s led to a horrible plague, all but decommissioning the human race. The survivors moved underground; the human birthrate eventually dropped to zero. There's more, all leading to a memorable ending -- I remembered it for decades. This time, Beyond was better overall than I had remembered it being. The passage of time helped. By the way, the X-80 rocket plane, which flies star Robert Clarke to the astounding year 2024, is in fact a Convair F-102 Delta Dagger.

In the mid 1980s I was a bit of a fan of the band Talking Heads, so it made sense that when band leader David Byrne released his True Stories I would arrive at Toronto's (now gone) Uptown Theatre with bells on. I left slightly disappointed. About a dozen years ago I gave the film another shot, this time on VHS. The loosely connected stories about the quirky but human inhabitants of a fictitious Texas town called Virgil resonated more with this viewer that time around. Spinning the Criterion 2018 DVD release made me appreciate True Stories even more. And there're those always cool Talking Heads tunes.

After my double feature finished I realized that both flicks were filmed in Texas. True Story.


PS: What's next? Maybe Aguirre, the Wrath of God and The Endless Summer.


A Forever Question: Key

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

Sir. Is there a passcode to enter the afterlife?



Sunday, December 5, 2021

CD: The Definitive Benny Goodman



The Definitive Benny Goodman

Sony Music Entertainment Inc.
2000

CD: Music from the Hammer Films (TPO)



Music from the Hammer Films
- James Bernard, Christopher Gunning, David Whitaker -

The Philharmonia Orchestra
conducted by
Neil Richardson

Silva Screen Records Ltd.
1989

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Book: The Brothers Grimm (Grimm)



The Brothers Grimm
- 101 Fairy Tales -

Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm

Canterbury Classics
2012

Book: Last Stop, The Twilight Zone (Engel)



Last Stop, The Twilight Zone
- The Biography of Rod Serling -

Written by Joel Engel

Antenna Books
(this version)
2019

Book: John Cassavetes Interviews (Oldham)



John Cassavetes
- Interviews -

Edited by
Gabriella Oldham

University Press of Mississippi
2016

Picturing: Pigeons' Obsession



By the time I managed to pull out my camera quite a few pigeons had left the scene. I'm not sure why they were going so squirrelly for this patch of soil. They made a lot of noise.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Film Design: Science Laboratory - Earliest Sketches (Repeat)



Yesterday I posted a piece about my search for a set flat painted pattern. Film Design: Set Wall Panel Patterns featured some of my sketches for a television pilot/demo I independently produced a few years ago.

Affixed above is a very early set sketch for the same show and illustrates how the flats would be positioned in the studio. The flats at this point "floated" and were not interconnected -- that came later. Over pints of beer with a friend (and production partner) I recounted the Time Tunnel set from the old, and very bad, Irwin Allen television series The Time Tunnel.  I liked the idea of a laboratory accessed by some sort of bridge or walkway, which informed my first approach.


My Time Tunnel sketch (click to enlarge)....



And the science laboratory idea from my own project....

Monday, November 29, 2021

A Forever Question: Pomp and Circumstance

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

Sir. In the animal world, are cats royalty?



Sunday, November 28, 2021

Documentary on Elwy Yost is Now Streaming



Last night TVOntario premiered its one-hour documentary Magic Shadows, Elwy Yost: A Life in Movies. It was good, the subject matter helped, but it could have been twenty or thirty minutes longer. While I very much like the one-hour doc format -- it works for many subjects -- it can suffer from a broken and fragmented structure when trying to cover a lot of ground.

But, it's definitely worth watching. For those of us who watched faithfully the OECA/TVO programmes Magic Shadows and Saturday Night at the Movies, the memory circuits flooded and oozed last night.

Sunday Fun: Toronto's Got Snow!


This reminded me that last winter Toronto did not get a lot of snow. There were no snowstorms... and no cold snaps, outside of the odd cold day. Apparently, this year we are targeted for more of the white stuff and ice stuff.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

A Special Documentary to Air This Coming Saturday



Magic Shadows, Elwy Yost: A Life in Movies is to air on Saturday, November the 27th. And I'm to sit in front of my "tube" tuned to TVOntario at 8pm Toronto time (ET).

Two weeks ago I wrote a little piece on this hot doc. 

Monday, November 22, 2021

Scanning: Theatre Books Book Marker



Theatre Books was a pretty wonderful go-to place for those of us who worked in "the arts" here in this great city. When I moved to Toronto in 1984 someone alerted me to this bookstore. Trying not to spend too much money there was the hard part. I was in film school, after all, and that was priority, but I did lay down some mid-eighties currency to grab those books which I considered essential and relevant to my studies, like: the American Cinematographer Manual.

In 1992 Theatre Books moved a short distance, to a grand house on St. Thomas Street, where it stayed for years. Spadina Avenue, just north of King Street, became home in 2012. I visited, but the digs were much more conservative, the booklist much tighter. One day while doing some business down in that area, I decided to pop by and it was gone. A couple of pleasant young gents who ran a clothing store next door told me that Theatre Books had closed down suddenly, but the rumour was it would resurface somewhere else. That never happened.

One day last week I pulled a book from one of my bookshelves and a certain marker brought back memories. By the way, the layout on that book marker is pretty rough... this I noticed while preparing the scan.


Postscript: Toronto Star article on Theatre Books' closing....

A Forever Question: On the Wrist

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

Sir. Would a watch be best called a "glance"?



Sunday, November 21, 2021

Sunday Fun: It's the World We Live in Now

I was at my laptop. I had the device plugged into some a/c (alternating current).

As it had been plugged in since early this morning I thought I should check to see where the recharge was at....

I swear it said: "Fully vaxxed (100%)"



Saturday, November 20, 2021

Toronto Sun Letters Comment of the Day

Many of us let the Toronto Sun twist and fizzle in its grief. While these meltdowns at Toronto's simplest 'newspaper' play out, we enjoy the letters editor's comments on a daily basis.

My favourite today:

"(He’s unserious and has already done so much damage to our country and will continue to do so as long as he is in office)"

I must be living somewhere else....



Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Russia Tests a New Anti-Satellite Missile



Did you read that bold headline the way I did?


My ideas for a better headline....

Recording captures the moment ISS crew scramble to escape-pods

Recording captures the moment ISS crew scramble to 'escape pods'

Recording captures the moment ISS crew scramble to Escape Pods

Book: Fighting Aircraft of World War II (Gunston)



The Illustrated Directory of
Fighting Aircraft of World War II

Written by
Bill Gunston

Salamander Books Ltd.
1988

Monday, November 15, 2021

A Forever Question: It's Sad

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

Sir. Is saddism bad?



Friday, November 12, 2021

Short: Adam Ant's Real Name

This afternoon I had BBC Radio 2 cooking while I worked. They played an Adam Ant song. I've known about the New Wave singer since high school.

Today I learned that Mr Ant's real name is Stuart Leslie Goddard.



Thursday, November 11, 2021

Book: Fitzgerald's Storm (MacInnis)



Fitzgerald's Storm
- The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald -

Written by
Dr. Joseph MacInnis

Macmillan Canada
1997

Remembrance at Native Canadian Centre of Toronto

Book: The Eighth Passenger (Tripp)



The Eighth Passenger
- A documentary account of a World War 2 bomber crew -

Written by
Miles Tripp

Papermac
1985 (reissue)

Why One Goes to War (Repeat Post)

Last night I watched a fine feature length documentary on WWII. Produced by the National Geographic Channel, "Inside WWII" overviews, in the hyper-speed mode so typical of info-dump docs made these days, the 20th century's largest conflict.

Some of the interview subjects explain why they joined the war. I remember the day in 1984 when I finally got around to asking my own father why he enlisted and why he chose RAF Bomber Command:

"I was pissed off. I was doing poorly in school and my mind was on the war overseas."

His rationale for joining the bomber force as a gunner was expedient:

"You got overseas quickly that way . . . It was an eight-week air gunners' course in Montreal."

(He knew that flying as "aircrew" in Bomber Command was dangerous work. Many young men, men too young, got "The Chop".)

As was the norm at the time in this neck of the woods my dad was sent to the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition) grounds for dispersal. From that famous Canadian site began the process of getting "shipped overseas", but as this was wartime it wasn't quite that easy. German U-boats roamed the North Atlantic in search of prey, and a steamer loaded with fresh faces was a prime and highly-prized target.

I will stop here: The above bits and pieces are stressful enough, never mind the few combat stories my dad did let out over the years. (While on one of my trips to England, as part of my ongoing research on RAF Bomber Command I spoke with historian Martin Middlebrook and he gave me some sage advice which I understood too well: "Don't ask your father. He won't tell you anything.")

A few years after the war ended he joined the RCAF and enjoyed a long career with Canada's finest service.

I left the best for last; the big "and" part of my dad's explanation for wanting to see action overseas:

"... And I wanted to get the Germans."

(A childhood friend did not come home; he died when his bomber was shot down over France. Kinda sobering, ain't it?)

Passions of the time, those were.

My father loved Germany and the Germans. We moved to West Germany in October of 1966, just twenty-one years after he flew in a Lancaster bomber doing a job he felt he must do.


Royal Air Force No. 626 Squadron - May 1945

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Magic Shadows, Elwy Yost: A Life in Movies



When I first heard that TVO was working on a feature length documentary about legendary, at least in these parts, movie-lover Elwy Yost, I had flashbacks to all the movies he programmed over the decades... and all the "film people" that he interviewed, not just actors but interesting creatives and techs of all kinds.

I had all but forgotten about, what is to me, one of the most anticipated docs of recent years.

This proud TVO Supporter decided to open that envelope, the one mailed to me a few days ago, the one which contained the latest issue of TVO Impact magazine, sitting unloved on my desk.

As soon as I pulled out the folded mag from the hastily-torn envelope, I 'knew it'. "That's Elwy!"

Magic Shadows, Elwy Yost: A Life in Movies premieres on Saturday, November 27th, at 8pm.


click on

Book: Digital Babylon (Roman)



Digital Babylon
- Hollywood, Indiewood & Dogma 95 -

Written by
Shari Roman

Lone Eagle Publishing Company
2001

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Blu-ray: Jonny Quest - The Complete Original Series



Jonny Quest
- The Complete Original Series -

Warner Archive
2019

Monday, November 8, 2021

A Forever Question: Screwy

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

Sir. If one wants to screw someone over, what's best, clockwise or counterclockwise?



Sunday, November 7, 2021

Sunday Fun: How Much Do I Love Cats? This Much....



There are lots of cute 'enhanced' comedy shorts on YouTube, but Jurassic Park But With a Cat may be the funniest I've stumbled upon. It certainly is much better than the film it draws from.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Two Toho Studios Monster Fans - Godzilla Day!

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

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

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

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

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

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



Michael Coren on Tonight's Edition of The Agenda


I'm in the process of reading Rev. Michael Coren's latest book, "The Rebel Christ", and I can say that I'm enjoying its breezy and accessible writing style, with its ideas conveyed in convincing logic -- even to this atheist.

Tonight at 8pm, and repeated at 11pm, is an interview with the book's author. Steve Paikin, host of TVOntario's outstanding public affairs programme The Agenda, no doubt will ask the big questions.

One must always have an open mind....

Monday, November 1, 2021

A Forever Question: The Pain, The Pain

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

Sir. Would "stubbing one's toe" be better expressed as "agonizing one's body"?



Sunday, October 31, 2021

Happy Halloween! Monster from "Hyper-Reality" (Repeat)



On Sunday [October 29, 2017] I posted another piece about my uncompleted 35mm short film epic, Hyper-Reality. It's Halloween today and I thought I would post an on-set photograph of the film's monster.

Actor Mike Garr rehearses a fight scene with the monster -- actually a guy [my brother] in a costume that I designed and built (with some valued assistance from Erminia Diamantopoulos).

When the fight choreographer first saw the costume, she said: "I find that really disturbing."

Charles Bukowski on Cats

"Having a bunch of cats around is good. If you're feeling bad, you just look at the cats, you'll feel better because they know that everything is just as it is. There's nothing to get excited about. They just know. They're saviours."

Cats know.



Charles Bukowski on The Cat

"A cat is only itself, representative of the strong forces of life that won't let go."

The cat knows.



Andrew Cartmel Writes Again

One of my favourite active writers is Andrew Cartmel. His fiction and non-fiction works have me waiting for the next in line.

His blog, Narrative Drive, is a series of thoughts on books and movies, old and new. The Brit's infectious enthusiasm is apparent in the various postings, with the recent bits on a number of pulp crime novels making me want to explore the genre beyond the book covers....which are fab!

The "Vinyl Detective" series is now five strong, with the latest book scheduled to be released later this year. I've read the first two in the chain, and have reviewed them ("Written in Dead Wax"", "The Run-Out Groove"), with the third ("Victory Disc") sitting on the reading table waiting to be enjoyed -- Turk and Fanny await their biscuits, so get on with it, mate!

Script Doctor: The Inside Story of Doctor Who 1986-1989 is an absorbing non-fiction work about Cartmel's tenure on Doctor Who, just as that long-running British science fiction series was winding down -- though they did not know it at the time, of course. (I rarely, if not barely, mention the new "Who". It does not offend me; it just bores me. I tried watching a few eps recently.) The show's encumbrance by a static budget, with a BBC "sixth floor" in stasis, makes one who is interested in TV production appreciate what DW's new script editor had to deal with when producing product. These television makers weren't the first to experience "if it's not one thing, it's another", so much a part of any production, big or small, and their tasking of reinvigorating and maintaining a series that BBC controller Michael Grade so vocally despised, albeit not always without reason, should make one realize that what went-out to your telly was often a simple reduction and compression of uncontrollable chaos. (Sitting in a pub till late at night instead of working on that special makeup might not sit well with those who hoped for more; even considering the restrictive budget. And in the control room, that televised cricket match may very well be more interesting than what's playing on the in-studio monitors.)

Script Doctor is outstanding. The fact that Cartmel drew much of the book's source material from a diary that he kept during Who's writing and production phases, makes for full-spectrum authenticity. I'm working on a review, with the initial draft coming fast: the piece opens with a background story on my relationship with the classic series. But I soon realized that I want to watch a few more stories from the so-called "Cartmel Masterplan" era before I publish the book review. Thank you, Britbox! They're all there.

The story's in process. I just need a little more time and space....



Saturday, October 30, 2021

Isaac Asimov on Education

"Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is."

... and then Facebook came along.



The Space Probe Golden Film Record (Repeat)

You may pick just one feature film to be included in the Golden Record on the next interstellar space probe. It must represent what mankind is capable of doing in the motion picture form; which is why Forrest Gump cannot, or should not, hitch a ride on a vehicle that may go on its forever journey -- eventually to be found by another race of beings. (Now that I think about it, Forrest Gump himself might be a prime candidate for the trip to somewhere, some millennium, never to be seen again; at least not by humans.)

Back to the probe: My own pick might just be:

Metropolis, Fritz Lang's 1927 epic. The imagery is so forever, the film as a whole, so quoted and referred to, that, to me, there is no better representative feature-length motion picture.

A few years ago I got into a discussion with a friend about the matter and he said his pick would be 2001: A Space Odyssey, another "forever" piece of film art.

As much as I like Annie Hall, Bicycle Thieves, and Patton, I don't feel they best represent the 'bandwidth' possible in the art form.

What? Plan 9 from Outer Space? I had forgotten about that one....


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Book: The Rebel Christ (Coren)



The Rebel Christ

Written by
Michael Coren

Dundurn Press
2021

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

The Toronto Maple Leafs Lost Last Night

“Obviously losing sucks, especially when you lose a couple in a row."

... so stated mathematically-challenged Leafs player Auston Matthews after a fourth straight loss; this time to the Carolina Hurricanes.

Well, Mr Matthews, welcome to playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs. I've been following them since the 1970/71 NHL season. And following them has been easy simply because they are easy to keep up with -- even in my slippers....



Monday, October 25, 2021

A Forever Question: Poverty Row

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

Sir. Why is life close in spirit to a B movie?



Picturing: Fresh Broccoli Stem

Sunday, October 24, 2021

What A Match! (MUN vs LIV)



I took the above snap seconds after Liverpool FC forward Mohamed Salah netted a hat trick; each of his three goals a beauty.

History was made today in Premier League football.

The play-by-play announcer noted that, before today's match, Manchester United had never gone into half-time while down by four goals to nil.

I'm Anarkyvist: Time Warp Television - CKVR - Adverts and Bumpers (Repeat)

 


In early 2011 I felt it was time to start digitizing my VHS collection of over 200 tapes. To YouTube I went and signed up under the improbable and somewhat mysterious name of "Anarkyvist". The project got off to a good start, but after the initial volley, I seemed to lose interest while gaining other convenient distractions. It.'s time to go back to those VHS boxes and the conversion process, but for now I will take a look back here on this blog....

"While in the process of digitizing a mass of VHS tapes, I came across some material that I recorded off of CKVR television in 1991-92. Back in the day when they used to be a great station, "VR" ran a framework concept titled "Time Warp Television" which showcased old television classics such as "Gilligan's Island", "All In The Family", "WKRP in Cincinnati", "Star Trek", "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea", "Lost in Space", and (the less classic) "Land of the Giants". I popped together this little clip of bumpers, adverts, and promotions. There might be a Part Two...."

I will correct the recording period specified in my YouTube intro: it should read as "1992-93". The "Time Warp Television" framework programme started in the 1991-1992 television year with an offbeat host by the name of Nabu Perini (spelling?). Unfortunately for regular viewers, he, and his Elvis bust, left after Time Warp's premiere season. On the tape that I pulled the above clips from he is nowhere to be found doing his "streeter" thing. However, in one of the clips he can be seen walking ('behind' William Shatner) with a Super-8 movie camera.

Yes: Voyage, to the Bottom, of the Sea!

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Ron Hobbs: Storyboard Artist and Artist in Toronto

Note: I know Ron, and have for years -- occasionally we get together to talk all things film -- but I am not his agent, so I present the following artwork simply out of respect for his talents.

I'll let the artwork speak for itself:







"Mama"






"Hemlock"















A Short Graphic Story Based on the Screenplay Called: