Thursday, December 16, 2010

Weirdie Beans At? & How the Internet is Killing the TV

Oh, TV. How I cherish you so. I've invested so much time and effort into our relationship. And you always find a way to repay me.

Like the day I stumbled across an episode of the 1-season wonder, "Mission Hill". A humble animated series that provided this gem of a scene between main character Andy, his little brother Kevin, and Kevin's would-be girlfriend Eunice Eulmeyer - also referred to as "Weirdie" by Andy behind her back... until now:

That classic phrase "Weirdie Beans At?" was repeated endlessly by my friends and I for a year or so. It became such a popular response to anything out of the ordinary, that I once remember overhearing someone in our local university haunt use it over a game of pool. I had never met this person before, and it was obvious he had never seen the show.

In the age of the YouTube, I'm not sure this kind of customized pop culture internalization is as resonant as it was back in the age of the plain ol' tube.

I absolutely love how I'm now able to call up this clip whenever I want. But maybe that convenience eliminates any need for us to make these little gems our own - like me and my friends did with the "Weirdie Beans" moment. The ease of accessibility gives way to a disposable relationship with this stuff. It used to be freaking hard work finding interesting stuff on television. Now we're sent links to amazing videos nearly every day. Videos that would've reverberated through us for way longer in the TV era.

It's an interesting to think about this, especially at the end of a year when we'll be inundated with lists of the year's "best internet memes" and "most watched viral videos", and so on. I'd be curious to look at those lists from 2007, 2009, or whenever and see how much we access or relate to those formerly ubiquitous clips now. I'm guessing we'd barely be able to make it to the end of the progress bar on most of them.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Keeping up with "The Joneses"

From Wikipedia:
"[The Joneses] had a limited release on April 16, 2010 & was released on DVD & Blu-Ray On August 10, 2010."


I guess it's no longer unusual for a movie to be released on video a mere four months after its theatrical release. However, when that limited release involves an invisible marketing campaign, but still boasts an A(minus)-list cast of Demi Moore and David Duchovny, it seems like something strange is going on behind the scenes. Especially when it turns out that it isn't an entirely horrible movie.

Not horrible, The Joneses has a catchy premise and for the most part is a moderately interesting failure. (Try using that quote to sell Blu-Ray discs!) But I wonder if the fact that it skewers American consumer culture so thoroughly might be the reason for its fleeting North American theatrical run.

But that conspiratorial take doesn't quite make sense since the movie effectively promotes the consumer lifestyle as much as it satirizes it. The film takes some dark turns, but it's glossy aesthetic comes pretty close to fetishizing its stars and their wealth. And then it gives up on any kind of critical stance with its (spoiler alert) tacked on happy ending.

Does somebody smell test audience interference? Well, that makes a little more sense when I stumbled upon a comment on the IMDb message boards from somebody who saw it in France where the film ends on a more somber (and fitting) note. I guess North Americans can't handle the heavy shit like the French can, them being all existential and whatnot.

It makes for an interesting comparison of how a film is received, or more accurately, how films are perceived to be received in different countries/cultures.

The film's promotional posters betray the different angles of The Joneses versus La Famille Jones:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sine Your Pity on the Runny Kine!

It's a bit of a funeral march walking through the aisles of a closing video rental store. This twisted reenactment of a lost ritual of youth is so common these days that it won't last for long - since there's not many stores left to shut their doors.

Growing up, I probably spent more time in my local and now defunct Video 99 than any other store besides Consumer's Distributing (especially if you include the catalog in the hour count). But if there's one upside of the demise of the video rental store, it's the chance to pick up great deals on out-of-print or hard-to-find movies*.

For example, the forgotten classic Pootie Tang. Yes, I'm in love with Pootie - not unlike the women in the film who can't resist the charms of the heroic 70s throwback, crime fighting lothario. Yes, I was one of the 8 people there on opening night in June of 2001 to check out this hilarious and confusing mess of a comedy. And yes, I finally tracked down a DVD copy of it at a Movie Gallery closing sale in Barrington Passage, Nova Scotia.

I watched it again last night for the first time, and noticed a few things (which you might have also noticed in the above unreleased trailer for the movie).

1. Written and directed by Louis CK, it bares very little resemblance to his stand-up routine or his recent sitcom work. Besides a like-minded worldview that defends the little guy and roots for the working class.

2. In a deleted scene featured in the credits, a very young Veronica Mars Kristen Bell plays possibly the only girl on earth who can resist Pootie's charms.

3. Pootie Tang features two characters from "The Wire". Reg E. Cathey/Norman Wilson as Dirty Dee and J.D. Williams/Preston 'Bodie' Broadus as Froggy. The two are criminal comrades in the movie and I don't know if they share a single scene in the Wire. I wonder if the casting director for "The Wire" could repeat that fact.

*I should emphasize that I have zero sympathy/nostalgia for the death of the Blockbuster juggernaut. The chain's own arrogance led to their decline and bankruptcy. Not Netflix, not Itunes, and not illegal downloading. Blockbuster's tragic flaw was they sucked.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Nude Creature Double Feature

Seems like all the neo-psychedelic electro-pop bands have Alf fever these days.

Here are two pretty, sappy songs from Yeasayer and MGMT, both featuring music videos with sickly beige mutants on the cusp of expiration. Is this a sign of things to come? A new trend perhaps that will have us squirming for the 201os?

Either way, these will get you suffiently grossed/blissed out for the time being.

MGMT: "Congratulations"

Yeasayer: "Mad Hatter"

Friday, November 05, 2010

Best Canadian TV Shows of Ever

On Tuesday November 2nd, I attended one of the Industry Galas that made up the 25th Annual Gemini Awards. If you don't already know, the Geminis are the Canadian equivalent of the Emmy's, honouring achievement in television broadcasting from best visual effects to best documentary series.

And besides giving me a chance to creep around minor Canadian celebrities (are there any other kind!?), it got me thinking about what Canadian TV stands out for me. And I realized quickly, that the shows I think of as my favourites have a few things in common: (1) they're off the air (2) they're mostly comedic (3) they're mostly "for kids".

But without further rationalizing the subjectivity of this subjective list, here are the best Canadian television shows ever...

10) Reboot
This is more of a representative pick because there's just so many great cartoons to pick from. And of course, I couldn't bear giving a shout-out to The Raccoons or The Smoggies. Plus, being the first completely computer animated TV series has to got to count for something.

9) Kenny Vs Spenny
Brilliant both in its simplicity and stupidity, KVP is almost always entertaining. No genre? No problem.

8) The Newsroom
Consistently funny and smart (without being smug) the Newsroom is probably the most pleasantly surprising comedy CBC ever aired.

7) You Can't Do That On Television
This kids sketch comedy show not only gave little Alanis Morissette her first big break, but it was so irreverent and fun that it later bolstered the ratings of the then fledgling Nickelodeon network in the US.

6) The New Music
Canadian TV's answer to Rolling Stone Magazine, the show was ground breaking when it started in 1979 and managed to stay relevant until its cancellation in 2008.

5) The Kids in the Hall
Canadians have this comedy shit on lock. The Brits have punk rock, we have sketch shows.

4) Mr. Dressup
Next to the Simpsons and Seinfeld, I've probably watched more hours of Mr. Dressup than anything else. Please don't confuse it with the creepier, American Mr. Rogers.

3) Degrassi Jr. High
I think being a teenager was a lot easier for me since I got to see it all go down when I was still just a little kid. Teen melodrama never looked this ugly (that's a good thing).

2) Fraggle Rock
Who doesn't love the Fraggles? The music, the characters, the concept - they're all "rock" solid. Add in the fact that the left-field Canadian poet bpNichol wrote on several episodes, and you get an idea of the homespun brilliance that was FR.

Second City Television was unendingly hilarious and innovative. Crap, what else can I say? Pound for pound, funnier than Saturday Night Live.

Honorable Mentions:
Today's Special, Dear Aunt Agnes, The Rick Mercer Report, My Secret Identity, Mantracker, Nanalan, Fashion Television, Kidstreet, The Wedge, Wok with Yan!, King of Kensington, Catwalk

And if I was looking to make a list of dramatic series, I'd probably include stuff like:
Intelligence, Slings & Arrows, Street Legal, Traders, DaVinci's Inquest

What I miss?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

How To Beat The Lakers... Train a Dragon!

It's hard, but I try to keep basketball references to a minimum here. However painful the truth is, I understand that most people don't share the same affection for the painful minutiae of the Toronto Raptors franchise or Manu Ginobili's latest heroics.

This analogy though, I couldn't resist. It came to be like a (tiny) bolt of lighting. If you think of the Los Angeles Lakers as the NBA's dominant, invulnerable dragons, then the Phoenix Suns just might be the workmanlike dragon slaying vikings! Steve Nash is Hiccup... and Kobe Bryant (The Black Mamba) just might be his Night Fury!

Confused? Have you seen How to Train Your Dragon? Well, if you haven't, trust me. The basic underdog plot transposes nearly perfectly to the Western Conference Finals between the Lakers and Suns.

My apologies.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Ambling Kid

Check out this little hybrid ditty I edited together:

Not unlike my last attempt at a movie/song mash-up, except this one is a bit more literal. "Ambling Alp" really has that inspirational thing going for it. And what movie is more inspirational than The Karate Kid ?

Hope I don't offend any Joe "Bean" Esposito fans. You guys are the best.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Diada de Sant Jordi

Suck it Valentine's Day!

Today is Sant Jordi Day in Catalonia (or St. George's Day in England and elsewhere). It's the day that sees La Rambla in Barcelona packed with merchants selling books and roses to tens of thousands of people looking to honour their friends and lovers in a tradition which honours their Patron Saint, and has been for the last 575 years.

As Wikipedia puts it:
The main event is the exchange of gifts between sweethearts, loved ones and respected ones. Historically, men gave women roses, and women gave men a book to celebrate the occasion—"a rose for love and a book forever." In modern times, the mutual exchange of books is customary. Roses have been associated with this day since medieval times, but the giving of books is a more recent tradition originating in 1923 when a bookseller started to promote the holiday as a way to commemorate the nearly simultaneous deaths of Miguel Cervantes and William Shakespeare on April 23, 1616.
Today something like 20 million Euros worth of books and 5 million flowers will be sold, so it's definitely a commercialized holiday. But still, compare the exchange of items so simple as a rose and book to the vortex of commercialism on Valentine's Day in North America (see we even make sure to drop the "Saint" as much as we can). As much as Sant Jordi day reflects tradition and promotes a communal experience, Valentine's Day promotes disposable consumerism and empty gestures.

So from here on in, I officially transition my allegiances from the spurious Saint Valentine to the heroic Sant Jordi. I suggest you do the same. Or perhaps you celebrate Love Day with the Simpsons. That's fine by me too.

If you want to read more and can read Catalan (or Castilian), check out today's coverage in El Periódico de Catalunya: Sant Jordi, de gom a gom.

And you can also follow the action via Twitter:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bring the Take 5 to Canada

From Wikipedia:
Take 5 is a pretzel, caramel, peanut and peanut butter-filled, milk chocolate coated candy bar released by The Hershey Company in December 2004.

The "5" in the name refers the combination of five ingredients: milk chocolate, peanuts, caramel, peanut butter, and pretzels.
And if you haven't tried it yet, do it. It comes in two nuggets, not unlike a Twix bar, except in its superiority. But none of this goodness is available to Canadians... well, it used to be. For a while, but not any more it seems, the Take 5 was known as Max 5 in Canada.

So why the heck did Hershey stop making them for the Canadian candy bar audience? Was the lack of maple syrup too much of an affront on our taste buds?

And why the name change in the first place? Is "taking 5" not in our national character? Too aggressive, too assertive? "Okay, you can have 5 flavors buddy - that's the maximum... alright?!"

Well, I'm standing up against this chocolately-pretzel-enforced-obedience and I demand my right to Take 5s.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Friday, March 26, 2010

The End of French Films

Featuring (down from L to R): Viridiana, Le Salaire de la Peur, Rififi, Quai des Orfèvres, Le Plaisir, Le Million, L'Année Dernière à Marienbad, Jeux Interdits, Hiroshima Mon Amour, Les Diaboliques, Le Corbeau, Week-End, Les Quatre Cent Coups (maybe my favorite End Title of all time).

Inspired by Bad Banana's The End of Westerns

More stunning End (and Start) title cards at one of the most awesome websites dans le monde: the Movie Title Stills Collection

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Akira Kurosawa: Best Director Ever?

Who you got - Fellini? Welles? Hitchcock? Cassavetes? Godard? Cameron? Shyamalan?

Either way, Happy 100th Birthday to Kurosawa... so let's dance!

Guardian Blog has got a good retrospective of 10 of his essential films: link.

Even Google gives props.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

NBA Jam: It's Baaaack...

For Wii in December 2010.

EA Sports in Vancouver, Canada is developing the game and they're letting fans vote online for which players they want to see in the game. You can still vote here.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Goodmorning Plumber, Goodmorning Magic Elf

Came across this advertisement in a Captain America comic book from 1988.

Never tried it myself, but I can imagine how amazing it must have been to start your day with a bowl of Nintendo Cereal System and then head over to the NES for a sugar-induced zombie-gamer trance.

Thanks for making me puke Mario.

Apparently you might also have a chance to relive the deliciousness for a cool $100: gameSniped. Like a fine wine, it only gets better with age.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Talking at the Movies: A Criminal Offense

It's the worst. And it's never going to stop.

It especially sucks because it puts all the pressure on the shusher since the talker obviously doesn't give a flying funk if they ruin someone else's movie-going experience.

Linda Holmes at NPR gets into it in her article: "The Shusher And The Shushed: Why It Matters When You Talk During Movies"

Don't act like you don't know the contract. There are rules. You don't get mad at kids making kid-noises in the middle of The Princess And The Frog, but you do in the middle of Inglourious Basterds. Everybody's got expectations, and in some movies, in some theaters, in some moments, you're not going to bother anybody by pulling focus from the movie, because you're at a crowd-participation movie.

But you must, must, must know your moments, and if you don't, then you can't go to the movies

Here's a few ideas of how to deal with it when you do come up against as a contract-breaking jerksnake:

So yeah, there's really no easy recourse for the shusher. And if you decide to go tell the usher you're likely to get stabbed in the neck with a meat thermometer. Yes that happened just a few weeks ago. LA Times: "Moviegoer is stabbed after complaining about cellphone user". And it's happened before (and before) and will happen again.

But it's not just unruly teenage punks who talk during movies. It's just as annoying when it's an elderly couple summarizing every piece of mundane plot info. Or my personal fav - some hoity-toity hepcats laughing cynically where there are no jokes, just so they can make like they're smarter than the movie. Believe it or not, I want no part of your detachment, so laugh in your head smart guy.

All that said, there's nothing better than going to a movie that invites crowd participation with a lively, vocal crowd. So pick your spots. And hey, if you liked the movie, it's okay to clap when the credits roll.

Best in Film: 2009

Sorry to make you wait, but the Poppies arrive later than most best-of lists because I like to wait until the Academy Awards winners are announced. It's a nice reminder of how little stock to put in the Oscars since they're so stiff and Biz-centric.

More to the point, I like to wait so I can catch up on things I missed that pop up on other year-end lists. Although the more you try to catch up with, the more it seems like you haven't seen. So of course, there's no such thing as a complete list, but here's my best guesstimation of what moved, shook, and took me in 2009.

To refresh your memory, last year The Dark Knight was the big winner (and in 2007 it was There Will Be Blood).

10 Best Films of 2009

10) Watchmen (d. Zack Snyder)
Alan Moore's iconic comic book is given life on the big screen. A slavish adaptation yes, but the claustrophobic style is suitably grotesque and Snyder's ending is much neater than Moore's. Maybe not so slavish afterall. The opening credit sequence's ridiculous revisionism is worth the price of admission alone.

9) Carcasses (d. Denis Côté)
This documentary/fantasy suspense film is best seen with zero expectations or knowledge of the plot. So all I'll say is that it was the best film I saw at the Toronto film festival in '09. See it if you can.

8) Goodbye Solo (d. Ramin Bahrani)
Charming and restrained as its two leads, this film is from the director of Man Push Cart and Chop Shop. It tells the story of a young Senegalese cab driver and his old, grumpy fare. And here, Bahrani makes another new American classic - touching and cliche-free.

7) Where the Wild Things Are (d. Spike Jonze)
The fact that this got made the way it did is worth kudos enough. Old school puppetry and animatronics give this film a timeless feel to match its source material. I was never a big fan of the book, but I am a big fan of the movie.

6) Inglourious Basterds (d.
Quentin Tarantino)
What a bounce back from the mediocrity of Death Proof! Nice work Quentin. Forget about that Kill Bill prequel and keep making these historical epic genre remixes.

5) The Hurt Locker (d. Kathryn Bigelow)
Bigelow finally gets props from the mainstream for being the epic filmmaker she's always been. Although not as pulpy as Near Dark or Point Break, this movie is crammed with excitement to go along with its detailed character sketches. Anthony Mackie is awesome in his supporting role.

4) Pontypool (d. Bruce McDonald)
I love you Pontypool. You had me from the opening credits until the very end. For my money, one of the best horror/zombie movies of the last ten years.

3) Anvil! The Story of Anvil (d. Sacha Gervasi)
Realizing half-way through the film that one of the main characters lives in my old neighbourhood, only added to the relateability factor for me. One of the most poignant films on aging and relentlessness that I've seen.

2) Avatar (d. James Cameron)
I have to admit this is a bit of contrarian move to put this so high on this list, because this movie certainly has many flaws (as many have already pointed out). But I can't deny the pure action-adventure excitement I got from it when I first saw it. Michelle Rodriguez as the new Ripley - I love it!

1) Sugar (d. Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck)
As they showed with Half Nelson, Boden and Fleck have such a knack for creating stories we've all seen/heard before, but then re-framing them in subtle and profound ways. At the end of the movie, I walked out of the theater more satisfied and engaged than any other time in 2009.