September 27, 2010

Bogart's Last Words

"I should never have switched from scotch to martinis."

July 07, 2010

Dazed and Confused

Those (few) who read this blog regularly are probably sick of me quoting New York Times movie critic A.O. Scott, so I won't do it again here. But suffice it to say, we appreciate similar things in our cinema. I've come to look forward to Friday mornings when he posts a Critic's Picks video looking back at classic or iconic films that have, for one reason or another, stood the test of time and, more importantly, stand up under multiple viewings. He goes a step further than most critics, looking at the ways the film has influenced popular culture or, just as often, defined a moment in time.

A couple of weeks ago it was one of my all-time favourite films, Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused. I still find it hard to explain why this film resonates with me. It chronicles the last day of school for the generation that was ahead of me. But as a boy, we looked up to the kinds of guys and girls that are its protagonists and antagonists. There are many stand-out performances, particularly Matthew McConaughey as Wooderson, the old guy who still hangs out with high-school kids, and an early role for Ben Affleck as O'Bannion, the recently graduated bully who's holding on to his glory days with both fists.

One word of caution, if you're going to rent this DVD, look beyond the cover art, which is hideous and misleading, (unless it's the Criterion Collection edition, in which case it's passable).

June 23, 2010

Toy Story 3 - in 3D

By way of follow-up on an earlier post regarding Hollywood's mad rush toward 3D ubiquity, I saw Toy Story 3 in 3D on Saturday afternoon. And I have to say, Roger Ebert got it right. He and I hate 3D for the same reasons. Okay, hate might be putting too fine a point on it. But as I sat there, wearing a pair of disposable 3D glasses over my glasses I realised that the picture looked kind of dark - the brilliant colours I had come to expect from the previous Toy Story movies were muted by the 3D lenses. Not a big deal, I guess. Then, about half-an-hour in, I realized that I wasn't getting that initial "Wow!" anymore. I had gotten used to the effect of being pulled into the screen, or having things leap out at me, and it basically became what amounted to a normal viewing experience. Except I was still wearing a cheap pair of sunglasses over my glasses.

Having said all that, I loved Toy Story 3. It's a wonderful, whimsical adventure story that explores relationships, the meaning of friendship, the journey of growing up and growing old. It's surprisingly profound for a cartoon, and was an outright joy to experience. Mostly because it's a good story, well told.

It was, incidentally, our little Birdy's first feature film in a theatre. At two-hours it was a bit long, loud and overwhelming for her, and she suffered a mini-breakdown in the parkade afterwards. But by the next morning she was already excitedly recounting her highlights.

Also worth mentioning is the time-honoured Pixar tradition of playing an animated short before the feature presentation. For Toy Story 3 it's Day & Night which would have been worth the price of admission all on its own.

June 09, 2010


I love watching movie trailers. When I go to the theatre (a rarity these days) I anticipate the new trailers (once known as previews) almost as much as the feature presentation. Luckily, there's the Internet. Not the same, but still, I check iTunes Movie Trailers regularly. But I noticed something a couple of weeks ago... every time there's a new clip added to the site it's lauded as 'exclusive'. Exclusive to whom? Only those special enough to have broadband Internet connection?

Anyway, the new Groovin' With Ken! spot for the upcoming Toy Story 3 is worth checking out.

May 04, 2010

Roger Ebert on 3-D

One of cinema's foremost critics weighs in on Hollywood's current headlong rush toward all things 3-D in a Newsweek article entitled Why I Hate 3-D (And You Should Too):

"3-D is a waste of a perfectly good dimension. Hollywood's current crazy stampede toward it is suicidal. It adds nothing essential to the moviegoing experience. For some, it is an annoying distraction. For others, it creates nausea and headaches. It is driven largely to sell expensive projection equipment and add a $5 to $7.50 surcharge on already expensive movie tickets. Its image is noticeably darker than standard 2-D. It is unsuitable for grown-up films of any seriousness. It limits the freedom of directors to make films as they choose. For moviegoers in the PG-13 and R ranges, it only rarely provides an experience worth paying a premium for."

May 01, 2010

Random Big Lebowski Quote

I'm a big fan of The Big Lebowski. Like most episodes of Seinfeld, I've seen The Big Lebowski so many times that quotes pop into my mind at random.

Here's today's:

"...some burgers... some beers... a few laughs. Our f*#&in' troubles are over, Dude."

April 08, 2010

Whistling Lawyer Trailer

Here's a trailer for the Whistling doc I've been working on intermittently for the last year or so:

The Whistling Lawyer - Trailer from Lank Beach Productions on Vimeo.

March 25, 2010

Criterion ran a nice piece about The Criterion Collection:

"No other video-distribution company commands the same veneration as the Criterion Collection, which produces lavishly packaged editions of many of the best movies ever made."

Here's why, (from elsewhere in the article):

"Though very much a boutique operation, Criterion invests considerable resources in archival and restoration work on vintage titles. Creating supplemental materials may require months of work and research. Due to the modest size of the operation, Criterion can only do five or six releases a month. Their products may cost two or three times as much as discs of current Hollywood hits, a fact that intimidates some consumers."

I don't own many dvds, but there are a few Criterion Collection titles in my meagre collection. I only feel the need to own films I'll see over and over again as my appreciation for them grows over the years. Which is why I think the extra money for the Criterion version, if available, is well worth it.

The first Criterion title added to my meagre collection was The Royal Tenenbaums, a Christmas gift. The beautiful packaging alone makes you want to take it off the shelf. My most recent purchase was Wings of Desire - I've probably spent about as much money renting this movie as I just did buying it. And my next purchase from the collection will most likely be the recently added Dazed and Confused.

March 09, 2010

Oscar's Identity Crisis

Had an over-the-fence chat with my neighbour yesterday. He was appalled that The Hurt Locker had beat out Avatar for Best Picture at the Oscars the night before. And even though I was delighted with the result, I had to agree. How can a film that has just barely made back its budget be considered the Best Picture of the year against the highest grossing film of all time ($1.8 billion and counting) that's still selling out theatres twelve weeks after its release? Shouldn't the Best Picture of the year be the one that the most people like?

An article in this morning's NYTimes called The Academy Smiles With Both Faces addressed this glaring incongruity:

This year the entertainment industry woke up to a clear if troubling realization: the Oscars telecast exposed an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in full-fledged identity crisis. Almost everything about the ceremony was big and commercial; almost everything about the winners was small and arty.

Later in the same article an explanation:

Over the last decade the voting membership of the Academy has skewed increasingly toward indie- and foreign-based filmmakers. That is because revised admissions rules strongly favor Oscar nominees over the kind of Hollywood old hands who were once a shoo-in for admission. As smaller films got a footing in the awards over the last few years, those who made and appeared in them became voters, increasing the tilt toward little movies.

It's an interesting paradox, those who vote for the winners (the members of the Academy) are not the people the television show itself is catering to (you and me). Which, now that I think about it, actually gets back to the whole reason for the awards in the first place - a night for the entertainment industry to pat itself on the back. The fact that the general audiences interests aren't represented shouldn't come as much of a surprise.

February 22, 2010

Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker is about a team of American Explosive Ordinance Disposal experts working to make the streets of Baghdad safe for both their compatriots and local civilians by disarming and disposing of bombs. It's a standout film in a bevvy of poorly-received hit-and-miss war movies in recent years.

Much like Slumdog Millionaire did last year, The Hurt Locker sweeping all of the awards leading up to the Oscars. It's nominated for 9 awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, even Best Actor for Jeremy Renner (Jeremy who now?) Looks like not even box-office slayer Avatar can beat it. The David and Goliath story here is how director Kathryn Bigelow keeps stealing trophies from former husband James Cameron, even though he seems to be getting all the press for his tech-pioneering 3-D effort.