japh
the marc pease experience

if someone even remotely hints at the idea of watching the marc pease experience just say no. otherwise you'll spend 84 agonizing minutes waiting for comedy that doesn't manifest in any shape or form.

[03/02/10]
wild combination: a portrait of arthur russell

wild combination: a portrait of arthur russell is a joy to watch, despite the sadness of the content. his unfettered artistic vision and his early demise render the film poignant without being schmaltzy.

russell's life is a remarkable one, yet he's one of those many figures that lurk around the edges of any given arts scene. you hear about the allen ginsberg and the philip glass types, but the arthur russells of the world don't break through into the public consciousness in quite the same way. his work is challenging, uncompromising, and yet strangely accessible and intimate.

you walk away with the feeling that more people should know his story and be influenced by his creative drive. the world needs a few more of his type.

[02/25/10]
musicophilia / this is your brain on music

oliver sacks' musicophilia is worth reading for chapter 15 especially, which is on clive wearing and his anterograde amnesia. i'd like to see the doc made on wearing, sounds fascinating.

what a peculiar life sacks has, bouncing around and attempting to understand the most interesting folks.

a more technical look at the way the brain deals with music is daniel levitin's this is your brain on music. sometimes his attempts at humour fall flat and his personal narratives go on too long (beyond the point where they entirely relate to the story at hand and end up feeling like they belong in an autobio), but his ability to synthesize (har har) fairly technical information (to a neophyte like myself) and convey it so that you feel amazed and educated all at once is admirable. well worth a read if you, say, like music.

[02/25/10]
somers town

somers town is such fun. after the intensity of this is england i was a little worried. what i mean is that you want to be in the right headspace when you jump into a film like that. but thomas turgoose is so good at playing the smarmy little shit that you want to watch him in anything. i really hope he grows into a well-rounded actor.

it's so wonderful when a coming of age type story isn't all sacharine and soppy. meadows has too keen an eye and ear to let that happen, certainly. the love story is thin, but that's all it should be. these are boys with a crush, struggling to define themselves and find a place in the world. tomo is lost in life beyond measure and marek (played equally well by piotr jagiello) is a polish immigrant still understanding what it is to be british.

i'm not sure the decision to go b&w was necessary to the story, although it does tie it visually to truffaut's the 400 blows. at the least it isn't distracting. it doesn't necessarily make the piece feel more timeless, as the setting is clearly modern london, but it does play with the sense that the real somers town is so tied to its history - something meadows points out in interview.

a short film that turned into a well-edited feature length film, it's a must watch bit of social commentary.

[02/01/10]
pete mccormack: facing ali

by chance i ended up sitting in front of pete mccormack on the greyhound last month. my two year old was busy spitting on him and his partner while playing hide and seek, and they didn't seem to mind in the least. we wound up having a lovely chat, talking about writing and life and a bit about his new documentary, facing ali. it's not just a good documentary, it's a fantastic documentary, so after i finally had a chance to sit down with it i sent pete a note telling him so - rather than write a new review i'll simply paste some of my gushing email here.

your dp did a fantastic job - those tight shots really give the same feeling of being in a fight, where the world disappears except for the person in front of you. beautiful. i always think of color in terms of how delicious it is and your film was damn tasty.

i recall you talking before about george chuvalo's interview, and i now know what you mean. devastating. what a brutal life, but what an incredible guy.

the humanity you brought out of those guys in the interviews was impressive and i can't imagine how the film could have been any better. honestly. i almost wish i had something bad to say about the film just because i always like to give critical (but constructive) feedback to people & their creative projects. but i can't. for what you set out to do it really felt like a perfect film.

i'll stop there, i could go on and on - you've probably heard so much praise for this film so far that you've had sunshine coming out of your mouth for months.

[02/01/10]
father's day

i received the best father's day gift - our son (20 mos) finally recognized my existence by referring to me as "papa" with intent. he had said it some time ago, a random word among the others, but then suddenly, and inexplicably, refused to utter it again - instead preferring to monologue periodically about "mama" "key" "car" "vrmm" throughout the day.

now i'm a person again, a reference point with meaning. this also means some of the annoying grunts and whining has disappeared (cute, but, like anything, annoying when repeated x100). he can now say things like "papa. papa. papa. nana" instead. which i'll take over "nnng. nnng. nnnnnng. mmmnngg" (pointing to counter).

he's unleashing his word hoard with a new-found speed and determination, and i'm glad to be included in the growing list of things he feels it essential to talk about.

[06/25/09]
stereolab hiatus

fleeting thought: i wonder if stereolab's hiatus and eventual return will be anything like portishead's? in that i mean will they take on even further risks and new directions? yes, please. two helpings.

[05/08/09]
mike leigh: happy-go-lucky

john cleese recently made a comment about how difficult it is for a writer to strike a balance between character and plot. he notes that mike leigh's early dramas suffered from this, and it is one of the more interesting dynamics of his filmmaking. when i watch a mike leigh film i really don't expect much to happen. i don't think back to life is sweet, naked, all or nothing or secrets and lies and think about the plot. i think about the absolutely brilliant acting and the way leigh makes you care about the film you are watching. his characters breathe their dialogue so effortlessly it is a joy to watch. timothy spall's character, phil, in all or nothing is still one of my all time favourites. so sad and pathetic, so stuck, yet unbelievably compelling. there is more emotional truth in a mike leigh film than in a dozen hollywood flicks.

happy-go-lucky does not let us down. sally hawkins is genius as poppy, the outwardly-bubbly school teacher bringing a bit of happiness to the world around her. it is not the kind of over-simplified and dialogue-vacant film one would expect out of the lalaland machine, of course, and poppy's kindness causes her to veer towards the edge of danger on more than one occasion. it is this balancing act that hawkins manages with the character that is so watchable. although she initially seems absurd as a character, the way hawkins and leigh flesh her out is remarkable. in the end you cannot help but wish the world had a few more like her.

although i've never enjoyed live theatre (i can't manage the suspension of disbelief), i think some of the most enjoyable fiction is in the form a play and the some of the best directors come from the theatre (leigh, fassbinder and mamet are the only ones that jump to mind, although i'm sure there are many others). they bring a depth of character development that is rare to come by. perhaps it is that they understand the workshop idea of building the character collaboratively. whatever it is, i can't wait for leigh's next characters.

[05/08/09]
pulp fiction

i haven't seen pulp fiction since it played in the theatre back in 94, but it appeared on cbc this weekend and i found myself sucked in. watching movies on tv is dreadful stuff, what with the bad aspect ratio, the commercials and bleeping of "fuck", and all its magical variants, but i hung in there. i couldn't look away for some reason. perhaps i was shocked at how the movie didn't quite live up to my memory of it.

when pulp fiction first hit the screen i was excited beyond words. after being blown away by reservoir dogs i couldn't help but be filled with anticipation at what tarantino would come up with next. the instant dick dale's "misirlou" blasted out and that giant candy-coloured title rolled up i was in love. this was shaking up contemporary film, or at least my conception of it, with its expletive-filled dialogue and over the top violence. it wasn't a straight up crime film, a thriller or any other genre flick. it was everything all at once.

fifteen years later it feels much imitated and not at all as clever and innovative as it did back when it came out. maybe i've seen too many films in those in-between years. the pacing now feels too slow, the dialogue thinner than i remember. granted, there's still some hilarious bits that i had forgotten about. like samuel jackson's "bad motherfucker" wallet. overall, though, it is clever bordering on pretentious and unecessarily long. most of this can probably be written off to history and all the imitations that have come since. and my over-enthusastic 19 year old brain.

pulp fiction was transgressive - still is in some ways - and that's what i think grabbed me the most about it at the time. did tarantino continue to evolve as a filmmaker after this? i've seen those efforts and i seriously can't recall. they all have that trademarked slickness of script/acting/sound/cinematography/film-reference. they seemed good at the time. maybe one day i'll stumble upon them again and find out.

[05/04/09]
twitter

although i'm keen to work with new ideas online, i've long (in internet terms) avoided twitter. it struck me as idiotic and pointless. who cares what you ate for breakfast?

it clearly has uses and probably more fans than detractors. a twitter page is the new blog, since few people are literate enough anymore to sustain a thought for more than 140 characters. i'm likely one of these people.

what struck me about the character limitation of twitter was that it could be a great parametre. since i often impose parametres and rules on my writing style, i figured this might be an interesting way to use the site. i mean, who really gives a shit about random thoughts completely pulled out of context? wait, that's what my writing is like. oh well. the only difference is that i'm using twitter for fiction. or is that what everyone else is using it for as well? i wonder.

here's my twitter page.

update: clearly the uses of this tool have been discovered and utilized to good aim, as recent events in iran would illustrate. i suspect ongoing skepticism towards, and ridicule of, the tool will now drop permanently to the wayside.

[04/30/09]