Saturday, February 28, 2015

Leonard Nimoy, 1931-2015

Dr. Hibbert: You do have friends, don't you?
Comic Book Guy: Well ... the Super-Friends.

It's curious to grieve a man who played a beloved role. I'm trying to sift through "what it all means," suspecting that someone somewhere has already done a better job of it. If I write it, I'll post; if I find it, I'll link. In the meantime, I am exceedingly grateful for this man who invested in and truly created one of the best super-friends a boy could possibly want.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The 87th Academy Awards

I haven't seen so much as a single minute. I did, however, see about seven or eight minutes of the red carpet -- just long enough to catch this supremely awkward "family moment" between Melanie Griffith and daughter Dakota Johnson. The movie in question is Fifty Shades Of Gray, and it is a rare mother who would express enthusiasm for watching her daughter enact a too-tart-to-be-vanilla sexual-coming-of-age story. But then Griffith is a rare mother for having taken similar risks and roles back when she was her daughter's age, in Body Double and Something Wild. Has Ms. Johnson troubled herself with either of those movies, I wonder?
Mother and daughter fled the interviewer, and I the television, opting instead for my usual Sunday night old duffs' hockey game. The fire in the hearth was tempting, but resistible. Had I stayed, I'd likely have had too much wine, to counteract the gnawing existential dread spurred on by the glowing flat-screen. As it was, the evening yielded no goals, but two assists, and some accomplished defense, followed by a hot shower and a good night's sleep. More than reward enough.

Something else I haven't seen: American Sniper. I'm lukewarm-to-cool on most Clint Eastwood movies. The last movie of his I saw on the big screen was Unforgiven, and ever since then I've adopted a Wait-For-The-Video policy. But even sight unseen it's safe to say this latest flick is something of a phenom. In Michael Moore's words, it's bringing out The Passion Of The Christ crowd. Speaking of Moore, I'm generally lukewarm-to-cool on his agitprop, but he does give a good interview. As for Eastwood's movie, I figure any flick that gets people talking this much about what a movie does is a good thing, for everyone.

That last link (again) is from the Roger Ebert website, and man, do I ever miss him after last night. I would have loved to hear his reaction to Selma, and the Academy's non-reaction to it. Matt Zoller Seitz stands in for Roger and makes the case for Selma. True to form, however, the Academy instead awarded the movie about show-biz. For a peek behind the votes, here is one Academy member's brutally honest evaluation of the ballot.

But to close with Roger Ebert, every once in a while someone in the biz shows up on the site to plug their favorite Ebert piece. This is mine. He had other observations about his Calcutta trip, all worth reading (type "calcutta" into the site search engine). With the exception of, and just prior to, his illness and debilitation, his time at the Calcutta Film Festival changed his writing more than any other life event.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

On Hearing Jimmy Greene

And what did you come here to see?

A wilderness chorus
 hands joined
 voices lifted

     hearts scourged
       of expectation

An echo

The reed


    despite the silence:

Friday, February 13, 2015


I've got some words piled and filed, but they need a little more attention than I can give them right now (ringette tournament, doncha know). All apologies. I'll be back.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Guilty Pleasures: Yoda, Carnivàle

Mark Dery’s plea to “put the guilt back into guilty pleasures” is getting a lot of link-love, which I happily (and entirely without guilt) add to.

As I near the finishing line of my 50th year, I’m finding there are fewer and fewer pleasures that don’t come with at least some residual guilt. I’m running out of time. I always was, of course, but I’m also running lower on snap and vim and all the qualities one needs to get worthwhile things done. Is this really how I want to spend it?

For instance: I recently recommended, sight unseen, a novel about Yoda. Wow, do I ever regret that. I’m about two-thirds through it, and the book now hurts my eyes. It’s not bad, exactly, but it’s definitely not Sean Stewart at his best. And that’s because it’s a Franchise Novel, and Stewart soars when he’s in his own defiantly non-franchise territory.

So now I’ve got this book I feel obligated to finish, even though I reflexively roll my eyes every time I encounter the name “Dooku,” and of course eye-rolling slows down the speed-reading, so the reading never gets done.

Maybe I'll just play Grim Fandango...
You want guilt? I’m guilty of recommending it, I feel guilty reading it -- guilt compounded by what I could be reading instead -- but will feel greater guilt if I don’t finish. What’s more, I’m hooked: I want to see how Stewart plays it out. I am even, yes, enjoying the book. Guilty pleasure.
"A second time? Sure you wanna do this, sport?"
The younger daughter was after me about Carnivàle. That’s 24 episodes, which I’d already seen, so I’d be committing one more of my disappearing days to an enterprise I’d already given a “Welllll . . . better than meh” to. But I knew she’d dig it in a big way, so of course I finally queued it up.

Wouldn't you know it, I enjoyed it more this second time around? The first time I'd been completely ignorant of avatar folklore. Now that I was all caught up and knew where everything was heading, I had no impatience with the leisurely pace Knauf & Co. took exploring the various characters at play in the carnival, much of which contributed absolutely nothing of significance to the developing story arc of two avatars fated to confront each other. 

It's just fartin' around, exploration for exploration's sake. And why not? A carnival with supernatural goings-on, travelling through the dust-bowl of the '30s has fabulous potential for writerly breadth, depth and texture -- keeping the storyline too lean and mean would be a crying shame.

Ironically, the material that now struck me as overindulgent was run as an integral element of the second season. The writers were keen to cultivate Jonesy's sweet-natured cluelessness around women for greater viewer empathy, the better to maximise the emotional pay-off of the season's conclusion. I get it, but man oh man: as the travails of his love-life played from one episode to the next, I found myself restlessly wondering what the Siamese Twins or the Lizard Man were up to.

"I'm an interesting guy: why no storyline for me?"
Just to compound my time-expenditure, I returned to the AV Club’s episode-by-episode breakdown, and discovered this two-part interview with creator Daniel Knauf. It’s curious to hear him talk about where he’d hoped to go with the concept. “Five Years Later” strikes me as quite a promising launching point, but of course there is a barrier that keeps it grounded: HBO has the rights locked-down. Knauf says they received death-threats when they shut down the show. Well then, c’mon, HBO: release the rights so Knauf can pen his novel/comic book/what-have-you. Truly, all will be forgiven.

Anyway. Twenty-four hours, spent with my wife and kid. All pleasure, no guilt. Next?