Saturday, November 27, 2010
Friday, November 26, 2010
For a few years, I flogged the proposal to various publishers but many were worried that there were too many people from different backgrounds (e.g. Margaret Atwood sitting alongside Oliver Stone). Another publisher curiously chose to reject it because, to them, it appeared to be a book about me promoting my interviews (as if I was trying to be a low-rent Larry King) rather than seeing it as a commentary on the decade through the eyes of the guests. All told, the book soon faded away and I turned to other projects. However, when recently uncovering the original proposal and sample interviews, I felt that maybe some of them could find a new life on Critics at Large.
Talking Out of Turn had one section devoted to critics who ran against the current of popular thinking in the eighties. That chapter included discussions with film critic Vito Russo (The Celluloid Closet) who wrote a book about gay cinema before the horror of AIDS changed the landscape; also Jay Scott, who would later die from AIDS, spoke about how, despite being one of Canada's sharpest and wittiest writers on movies, he was initially a reluctant critic; and author Margaret Atwood who turned to literary criticism in her 1986 book Second Words. She discussed -- from an author's perspective -- the value of criticism and how it was changing for the worst during this decade.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
The Madman and The Butcher is basically a double biography, with contrasting chapters, about the relationship between Sam Hughes, Canada's War Minister during the first 2 1/2 years of WWI, and Arthur Currie, the Canadian Corp commander who was recognized as a great general, one who doggedly sought to solve the challenges of fighting trench warfare. With deft precision, Cook compares the conflict between Hughes (the madman) and Currie (the butcher) while leading up to one of the most famous libel trials in Canadian history. Where Hughes was brash and outspoken, attacking Currie's reputation, Currie was quiet, thoughtful and traumatized by what he witnessed. After the war, Hughes accused Currie of being a butcher of his own men and he took the full brunt of Hughes's accusations despite being a superior tactical officer.
While talking to Tim Cook at the King Edward Hotel in Toronto, I wanted to first understand what drew him to these two vastly different personalities.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
|Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway|
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Two weeks ago, Misfits began its much anticipated second season. When the show premiered last fall in the UK on Channel 4, it was nothing short of a phenomenon. This past June Misfits surprised everyone, including the show’s young stars, when it won the BAFTA for Best Drama, beating out BBC favourites Spooks (aka MI-5 in North America), Being Human, and Jimmy McGovern’s exquisitely powerful The Street. Part teen drama, part science fiction, part inner-city portrait, the premise of the show is deceptively familiar: five young delinquents suddenly find themselves with superpowers. We’ve all seen comparable stories before, be it on Smallville, Heroes, The X-Men, or more recently, this season’s No Ordinary Family on ABC. And while on paper Misfits might bear a passing resemblance to these more conventional offerings it has very little in common with any of them. The series is intelligent, darkly comic, intensely suspenseful, and always extraordinarily fun. Think of it as Heroes meets The Breakfast Club, with a large dash of Trainspotting.
Monday, November 22, 2010
We have been very fortunate with Harry Potter on the big screen. The closest to bad that the series got was Chris Columbus' Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), and that was partially because it was based on the weakest book in the series. With this second novel, Rowling didn't seem to have a strong handle on the story, or where she was going with it, so both versions meandered and only found their respective legs during the finale. No offence to Columbus, but he's a hack. I will always have respect for him on one level – his choice of the three leads was inspired – but he lacks visual inventiveness and can be quite sloppy.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
“I’ve always been slightly jealous of the world for having had more time with my father than I did” – Sean Lennon
Sean Lennon makes a valid point considering that he was just 5 years old when his father died. Consequently, our own memories of John Lennon resonate differently. But, in considering the music, we have to take into account Lennon’s relationship with his family and his openly political activities. This is especially true when you examine his entire body of work, as collected in the recently released Signature Box Set. Remastered by the same team that did the excellent work on The Beatles’ mono and stereo box sets from last year, this collection reflects the same standard of audio excellence. The set features Lennon’s singles, demos and completed albums, including a brochure of essays from Yoko Ono, Julian Lennon and his half-brother, Sean. The set also includes a book examining Lennon’s short life and a print of one of his ink illustrations. I took the time to listen to these albums once again in chronological order just as they were intended.