Friday, March 31, 2023

With the Driving Cold Rain Lately Comes a Memory

I went to do an errand one night. It was about 9 p.m. when I left the house, and before I flew out the door, I did the dance: "Should I take the umbrella? No... maybe I should. The sky is looking pretty mean."

Finished; time to go home. I was walking down Bloor Street when it started to trickle rain. Yah!... I was on top of my game. As I got within about 15 minutes of my house ― I was walking ― it started to really come down. And there was thunder and lightning. The umbrella is one wonderful little instrument, even if they are designed to be replaced in short order ― how short, I was to be educated. And then some. I turned onto the street leading to my own. (This street runs east-west). In case you have not faced a fire-crew spraying water right at you as you walk, and a film-crew blowing one of those wind machines two feet from your face, well then, you have not experienced what I experienced that dark night. Never have I been caught in such a driving, raining windstorm. The rain was attacking me in an almost horizontal plane. As I made my way, my umbrella was slowly but surely collapsing into a primitive form. What should have been a three-minute walk easily turned out to be double that. I was soaking wet. In case I did not understand how wet, I was continually reminded. My shoes became squishy from being waterlogged many times over. It was funny... I was laughing all the way. The sky was glowing with constant flashes from lightning bolts. With the same sense of humour which kept me in good, albeit damp, spirits, I periodically looked up and around at the sky, knowing that lighting would make a fabulous and fantastic background to a funnel cloud ― there were tornado warnings for the Toronto area, which kept me sharp and on the lookout. This rain-soaked bloke would not have been surprised if he thought he was looking at a certain rear-screen-projection from the classic 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz.

I made it to my stoop. My umbrella had the look of a former umbrella. As the water unwrapped from my body, I stood there... watching the sky.

It was great.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

The Funnel Screening at TIFF Theatre 4

In January of 2017 I attended a screening dedicated to Toronto's The Funnel Experimental Film Theatre. Held in TIFF Theatre 4 and hosted by Mike Hoolboom and Chris Kennedy, "Underground: The Funnel Experimental Film Co-op 1977-1988" was a trip back for this former Funnel patron. My visits fell into the 1984/85 season. As expected my schooling began to take over and, I hate to admit, that was it for my twice-weekly streetcar rides to 507 King Street East.

The film lineup in Theatre 4: 

Ville-quelle ville? (Midi Onodera / 1984 / 4 mins / Super 8 on digital)
DP2 (Peter Dudar / 2014 / 16 mins / digital)
The Iconography of Venus (Annette Mangaard / 1987 / 5 mins / 16mm)
Eye of the Mask [excerpt] (Judith Doyle / 1985 / 27 mins / 16mm)
Canada Mini-Notes (Jim Anderson / 1974 / 15 mins / 16mm) 

Ville-quelle ville? and The Iconography of Venus, especially, sent me back to 1984/85. For one thing, there is something about the Kodachrome "look". Its rich colour palette and the translucency of a 'reversal' stock are perfect mates to an experimental filmmaker. I'm not suggesting that its favouring by experimentalists somehow implies that Kodachrome was born of imperfect imaging technologies ― far from it. I've shot lots of that emulsion myself: Exposed properly, it could produce an image of veritable gorgeousness. (Reversal looked best when exposed about 1/3 of a stop 'under'.)

In essential terms Midi Onodera's Ville-quelle ville? is about "memory", and because it was made over thirty years ago, it too is memory; perhaps more accurately, "memories". This very well could be why this film was my single favourite of the evening.

Yes, it's all about memories. Indeed.

We, my schoolmates and I who attended the Funnel screenings, were the cool guys hanging out with the cool crowd ― so we may have thought at the time. How did we hear about The Funnel? I don't remember specifically, but as I told Mike Hoolboom after he asked me this very question during a brief chat, it was probably a case of someone at the school (Humber College) telling us about an experimental film theatre downtown. Hearing this bit of fine intelligence no doubt would have been all we needed. When you're that age (young!) you are a sponge; ready to soak it all up. "Keep it coming!" is the mentality. It seems few subjects are of no use to the up-and-coming artist.

All good and experimental things must come to an end: The Funnel ran into financial difficulties and closed its doors in 1988.

After the pictures finished rolling at "Underground" a few of the filmmakers took to the stage to speak about their experiences at the co-op, in addition to making their films.

A bonus was the free copy of Mike Hoolboom's latest book, "Underground - the Untold Story of the Funnel Film Collective".

Guy Maddin, Filmmaker

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)

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Book: Destination: Moonbase Alpha (Wood)

Destination: Moonbase Alpha
- The Unofficial and Unauthorized Guide to Space: 1999 -

Robert E. Wood

Telos Publishing Limited

Monday, March 27, 2023

A Forever Question: That Dirty Rat!

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

Sir. Can Monday be paid to get lost?

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Leonard Nimoy Would Have Been 92 Today

Actor Leonard Nimoy, best known for playing "Mister Spock" in Star Trek (1966 - 1969), would have been ninety-two today. His involvement in that classic dramatic television series started from day one... a day in November of 1964, when principal photography started on "The Cage", Star Trek's first pilot show.

The above picture is from "Miri", an episode from season one.

Below, is a frame from Mr Spock's first onscreen appearance, though this wasn't the first time viewers would have seen him, since "The Cage" didn't air (until 1988). We see him here with Captain Pike himself, as played by Jeffrey Hunter.

Sunday Fun: Whatcha Talkin' 'bout, Human?

Periodically I'll check my Instagram account to check out the latest... cat videos. That is the default. Instagram must know something about me.

Someone posted a video clip about "cat facts", things we probably didn't know about cat behaviour. (We will never know; we'll understand, but never know.)

* Cats developed meows in order to communicate with us humans.

Cats noticed we never stop talking.

Practical creatures, they are.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Book: The Making of Space: 1999 (Heald)

The Making of Space: 1999
- A Gerry Anderson Production -

Tim Heald

Ballantine Books

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

William Shatner Turns 92

Canadian actor and author William Shatner is, quite simply, the coolest man in this galaxy. Happy Birthday to a fellow Montrealer.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Earworm: Miss Marple Theme (Goodwin)

A good part of my day today was me humming, or 'hearing', Ron Goodwin's "Miss Marple Theme". Written in 1963 for Murder at the Gallop, the second in MGM's "Marple" series, this tune is almost sure to stick once one hears it.

Goodwin could write a tune, as evidenced in his brilliant, and catchy, themes for the motion pictures 633 Squadron (1964), Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965), Where Eagles Dare (1968), and  Battle of Britain (1969). It was through Battle that I took note of the British composer.

Oh, who started this earworm? Someone I follow on Twitter mentioned the tune. Writing this post is effectively the 'endless repeat' button.

A Forever Question: The Week That Is

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

Sir. Why does Friday come after Monday?

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Book: Music for Prime Time (Burlingame)

Music for Prime Time
- A History of American Television Themes and Scoring -

Jon Burlingame

Oxford University Press

Thursday, March 16, 2023

A Forever Question: Tethers

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

Sir. Why can't some people let you go?

Monday, March 13, 2023

Apollo/Soyuz/Me 1975!

The "Americans" again have a man-rated rocket to take astronauts into Earth orbit. It's been a while. For years NASA depended on Russian Soyuz boosters to maintain their manned spaceflight rating. The U.S. space shuttle was retired in 2011.

This then space cadet got up early one day in the summer of 1981 to witness the launch of the first shuttle launch. It was pretty exciting stuff at the time.

Perhaps the single most exciting "blast off" for me was that of Soyuz 19, the Soviet side of the "Apollo-Soyuz Test Project" of 1975. The Soyuz launch vehicle and spacecraft were somewhat mysterious entities to those of us in the west ― civilians in the west. Photographs had been released by the Soviets, some officially and others unofficially, so we knew what the machine looked like at launch ― it looked super cool, that's what it looked ― but there were no motion picture images and nothing substantial in the way of data and specifications. (Like the Vostok and Voskhod rockets the Soyuz was an outgrowth of the brilliant R-7A Semyorka, itself an upgrade of the earlier R-7 Semyorka.)

July 15, 1975: The day of Soviet and 'American' launch vehicles. I had great interest in seeing the Saturn 1B rocket lift the Apollo space vehicle, but the big draw for me, and many others, no doubt, was witnessing the launch of the Soviet machine. I sat in front of the colour Zenith television set. There was an anticipatory tension, an almost drum roll, as we waited for the scheduled launch time. When the final countdown rolled we scrutinized every piece of visual data ― there was no audio of the launch. That great Soyuz Roar would not be heard by me for many more years.

The rocket lifted; it was beautiful.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Film Design: A Designer Checks His Set Plans

Me, a very young me, in October of 1985 working on a set build in the Graveyard Shift workshop. It's really a matter of holding the architectural ruler against the blueprint to make sure the calculations are right.

That gig was a lot of fun. And I learned a lot. It's true: You make it work. There's never enough time and money, but somehow it all comes together.

Terrific shop crew: Dave Fiacconi, Chris Leger, and Mark Lang.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Book: My Uncle Oswald (Dahl)

My Uncle Oswald

Roald Dahl

Penguin Books

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Star Trek: The Motion Picture Music 2-CD Set

If one is really into film scores, he or she probably knows Jerry Goldsmith's brilliant music for 1979's science fiction epic, Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

The production itself was fraught with problems, the primary and underlying one being that the original script was to be the blueprint for a 2-hour telefilm ― actual running time, about 95 minutes. Instead, the core idea stretched out unnaturally to a 142 minute theatrical length. Even with the new extended running time, there did not seem to be enough time for great character scenes and bits, which were the major identifying marks of the original television series; a series with a few outstanding markings, including superb and memorable music scoring. ("Tunes, man! Tunes!")

As much as I'm into the art and craft of film scoring, I appreciate film music most when it's played with the movie (picture and sound) it was designed to accompany. However, some scores do work very well as standalone works ― Goldsmith's stellar work for ST:TMP is one of them.

In January of 1980, one month after the flick's release, the original soundtrack album LP hit store shelves in my town. And I hit Records on Wheels. But just before I did, a fellow teenaged geek invited me over to premiere his unit of that particular piece of vinyl. His audio system was high-end, and when the music kicked up, at a beefy volume, I felt as though I was listening to something cosmically beautiful. That beautiful.

In 2012, La La Land Records released an "all-in" 3-CD set. I never acquired that boxed set, but I understand that all its versions, variations, and alternate cues, worked well ― certainly for completists.

In February of last year, La La Land released a new-new boxed set, this one of 2 CDs.

Some sonic samples....

The "overture" (beautiful piece)

Meet V'Ger (the composer gave an all-but inanimate object some dimension and personality)

A Good Start (the Enterprise flies off) (If you heard this on its own you could be forgiven for thinking you just missed a good movie ― you did not.)

Final note: In the "Meet V'Ger" sample piece one can really hear a pipe organ. The instrument heard here is housed at the 20th Century Fox Studios Scoring Stage (now the "Newman Scoring Stage"). Composer Goldsmith wanted to utilize this special instrument, so he recorded his score at Fox, even though ST:TMP was a Paramount picture. The subsequent original-batch Trekkie feature films all had their respective scores recorded at Paramount's "Stage M", a music stage with a history in that most of the original Star Trek television series' music was recorded there. (Stage M was closed in 2006.)

I've not bought the 2-CD set. I'm just too cheap, I guess.

Monday, March 6, 2023

It's in the Code, Bro!

I remember the first time I heard the term, "Bro Code". ("What's that?")

My first conversation about the “Code” took place a few years ago while I was chatting on the telephone with a good friend. A pleasant discussion broke out, and minutes later it was resolved with the following exchange:

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

Why not?

It’s the Bro Code, man.

Good code!

A Forever Question: Not Enough

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

Sir. Why do some politicians try too hard?