Saturday, June 11, 2011
Initially they do seize on a compelling dramatic idea. In the fictional town of Lillian, Ohio, in the late seventies, a group of young friends gather to make a Super 8 zombie movie. Living in their small industrial town, the only cultural feeding ground for these kids is the playground of pop music, television and horror films. There is a shaggy dog thrill they get from testing their loyalties and smarts (not to mention, their raging hormones) by acting them out in their low-budget monster extravaganza.(I also spent my teenage years in the small industrial city of Oshawa, Ontario, doing super 8 horror films with my friends.).
When they attempt to get 'production values' on the cheap by shooting a love scene one night at an abandoned train station, these budding artists get more than they bargained for when they witness – and film – a train derailment. They also discover that it was no ordinary train wreck. But rather than going on to explore how these eager filmmakers use their amateur craft to uncover a possible military conspiracy, Abrams takes leave for his own cultural feeding ground: Spielbergland. In creating a tribute to his film idol, Abrams ends up however denying himself an identity.
Friday, June 10, 2011
Thursday, June 9, 2011
For a few years, I flogged the proposal to various publishers but many were worried that there were too many people from different backgrounds (i.e. 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.
|Tom Fulton of On the Arts.|
Before her leadership was challenged by reformists like Camille Paglia, Katie Roiphe and Christina Hoff Summers, though, Gloria Steinem was still the most outspoken feminist to be heard in the eighties. Steinem had earlier been a columnist for New York magazine and co-founded Ms. magazine in 1972. Her first piece of significant writing had come three years earlier with her article, "After Black Power, Women's Liberation," which first brought her and the modern feminist movement to national attention.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
When Gil Scott-Heron died last week at age 62, he left behind a planet on which revolutions inevitably will be televised. They’re already being televised, you-tubed, texted, Facebooked and Tweeted in places like Iran, Bahrain, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria and Yemen. To freedom-seeking residents of the Middle East and North Africa, information carried by the media and every social network brings comfort in the knowledge that the whole world is watching.
But even though the whole world was watching Chicago police beat up unarmed protestors at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, perhaps TV seemed like an enemy without much redeeming value back in 1971. That’s the the year the singer-songwriter released his most famous composition, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” The spoken-word piece, from his debut Small Talk at 125th and Lenox album, targeted the distractions and manipulations of advertising that promised to “put a tiger in your tank” or “fight germs that may cause bad breath.” He also ridiculed what passed for entertainment four decades ago. But nightly news coverage of the Vietnam War, the black liberation movement, inner city turmoil and the villainous Nixon administration presented additional fodder for his withering scrutiny.
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Disclaimer: I fell asleep during this movie. Granted, it was the late movie on a Tuesday night after a full day of work, a softball game, and endless errands. It’s also not the first time I’ve turned the cinema into my personal napping studio. But still, after Super Size Me (2004), I had grand expectations for Spurlock’s next documentary. I’m not a cinephile or a film connoisseur. I’m just an ordinary moviegoer hoping to learn something and be diverted for a few hours. Super Size Me confronted us and demanded that we reconsider the consequences of every empty calorie we consume. I hoped for a similar challenge with POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. I expected Spurlock to ask the tough questions about product placement, selling-out and the effect advertising has on rampant consumerism.
I received no such challenge. The film was essentially a poorly-edited and loosely-connected series of meetings that Spurlock arranged in an attempt to secure sponsorships for his film. One reviewer pointed out that this is cleverly “very meta.” Fair enough, but it would also be “very meta” to catalog a book about the Dewey Decimal system – and equally as dull. Many of us spend our lives attending meetings and can think of nothing more monotonous that watching someone else do the same thing for two hours with no comic or cunning interpretation. It’s this interpretive twist that makes the mundane mischievous. Consider the TV show The Office: who would have thought it would be entertaining to watch pedestrian clerical workers all day? Yet the result is wildly amusing, an acute depiction of the ridiculousness of office life. Spurlock had the same potential with this movie, but missed the mark.
Monday, June 6, 2011
|Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Photo by Manuel de los Galanes)|
Took a tumble down the rabbit hole on Saturday night, courtesy the National Ballet of Canada’s vivid presentation of the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and what a wonderful experience it was. Bumped into the most delightful creatures, a lot of them born of your own imagination – the white rabbit, the nasty queen of hearts, the grinning Cheshire cat, and, of course, Alice, dear sweet Alice, who fell first down the dizzying spiral towards that veritable garden of visual delights punctuating the journey.
Your marvellous book, Alice in Wonderland, was the inspiration behind it all, and who knew such a literary classic would lend itself so delightfully to both a balletic translation and original score?Composer Joby Talbot has created a brilliant, bubbling, boisterous piece of music that readily captures the kaleidoscopic character of own multi-tone prose-style and verse.
Sunday, June 5, 2011
The actress, who would have been 85-years-old back on June 1st, is still a cultural icon all these years after her untimely passing on August 5th, 1962. From her Andy Warhol portrait to the unforgettable scene in 1955’s The Seven Year Itch (where she stood over a subway grate and her white dress blew all around her), Marilyn Monroe is recognized today even by those who were not even born during the star’s lifetime. Her image remains an emblem for beauty, femininity and sexuality.