Saturday, October 8, 2011
Friday, October 7, 2011
“I’m all goosbumpy about this guy,” admits Ryan Gosling as Stephen Myers, an idealistic press secretary working for an inspirational candidate.
“He will let you down sooner or later,” predicts Ida Horowicz, a crafty New York Times reporter played by Marisa Tomei. This comment is reminiscent of what Shakespeare had a soothsayer tell Julius Caesar about the danger inherent in a certain date. The Ides of March, a new film that borrows its title from the mystical line written by the Bard in 1599, suggests that we should beware politicians of every stripe and their minions.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Metals starts with the heavy beat of a drum kit who’s heart is alive and well in Feist's world, as we're carried into the finer points of a relationship on the opening cut, "The Bad In Each Other." It's a song in 6/8 that immediately grabs your attention because of its pulse and a horn section supplemented by a string quartet. It's a big sound because it's a big album that wants to be noticed.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Why doesn’t filmmaker Steven Spielberg get the acclaim he deserves? Arguably, he’s the best known director in Hollywood, one whom the average, casual film-goer can identify by name and face. And while he’s doesn't yet have a word in the English language that encapsulates his work (like Hitchcockian, denoting a certain type of horror/suspense movie; or Felliniesque, describing a specific hyper-realistic style of film), Spielberg has, perhaps, influenced more directors than anyone else in the history of the movies, including as a producer of Spielberg-like movies such as Cowboys & Aliens and Real Steel. From Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future) to Joe Dante (Gremlins), James Cameron (Avatar) to JJ Abrams (Super 8), there is no shortage of filmmakers whose style, content and tone have been borrowed, to one degree or another, from Spielberg’s oeuvre and not always in a good way. James Cameron’s movies, by comparison, lack the appealing warmth of Spielberg’s best work, while Super 8, which Spielberg produced, played out more like an ersatz Spielberg flick, a pale copy of E.T.: The Extraterrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind without any original personality of its own. (Not coincidentally, I think, he also produced most of Zemeckis's and Dante's films including such standouts as Used Cars and Gremlins 2.)
Yet even when Spielberg departs from his familiar fantasy films to tackle decidedly realistic endeavours (Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, Munich ), there are those who carp about the supposed softness of the material, or decry its sentimentality. While admittedly some sentimentality does indeed run through his work, he's rarely given any credit for the sheer talent on display, or for the sheer brilliance with which he animates his movies. This is something I will be examining in my forthcoming course, The Paradox of Steven Spielberg, at the LIFE Institute – Ryerson University. The simple truth is that, like the late comedian Rodney Dangerfield, he can’t get any respect.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
|Tom Fulton of CJRT-FM's On the Arts|
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.
Monday, October 3, 2011
On January 30, 2010, Randy Bachman (formerly of Guess Who and BTO) offered a live, on-stage version of Randy’s Vinyl Tap, the weekly show he does for CBC Radio. On the show, called Guitarology, he talked about the use of guitar in the history of rock’n’roll, playing tracks by the appropriate artists. Then for three consecutive nights in the intimate Glenn Gould Theatre in downtown Toronto, Bachman and his band played live, simulating the original recordings by using the same guitars the original artists used.
This year, Randy has published a collection of stories from the radio show in book form. He has included some of the Guitarology material, as well as other tales gleaned from a lifetime on the road, and in studios.
At the concert, he kicked things off with the Fender Telecaster: playing authentic renditions of Dale Hawkins’ “Susie Q” and Buck Owens’ “Buckaroo”. On “Message in a Bottle” from The Police, Randy said, “this is Andy Summers’ hardest song. [This riff is comprised of] stacked 5ths. Try doing that for 4 minutes!” Well, he managed to do it, and then, even more impressive, Bachman managed to take on “We’ve Ended As Lovers” and sound just like Jeff Beck!
|Bachman's guitars at Glenn Gould Theatre|
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Danny Boyle's Frankenstein); the other was to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II. It's not that I've stopped watching movies – I continue to build my extensive DVD collection, though that avenue, as I outlined here, may have reached the end of the line – it's just that most of the movies I pick up aren't necessarily new. (I recently bought Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1974) and John Boorman's The Tailor of Panama (2001) for less than $5 each.) With the demise of the 'director as god' in film-making, the creative energies that excited me so much in the movie theatres of the '70s and '80s are, with a few exceptions each year, gone.
Mad Men, Battlestar Galatica, The Walking Dead, The Republic of Doyle, Flashpoint, Invasion, Boomtown, Deadwood, The Tudors, The Borgias, Rescue Me, Game of Thrones, Endgame, Damages and, from what everybody tells me though I've yet to catch up to it, Breaking Bad. There have also been miniseries, such as John Adams, Band of Brothers and From the Earth to the Moon that have floated my boat. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. So, it was with great anticipation that I awaited the start of this season. One American show, Pan Am, showed a great deal of promise in its debut episode last Sunday, but two Canadian productions, one a made-for-TV movie, John A: Birth of a Country, and the other a new series from the people behind The Tudors, Camelot, have mostly got the season off to a great start.