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Dear Ron Howard: I Need You! WE Need You!!

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The Fonz (Henry Winkler) and Richie (Ron Howard)

Dear Mr. Howard…. may I call you Ron (not Opie or Richie, I get it)?

I’ve admired you since childhood …

Your ability to circumnavigate the pressures and stresses of Hollywood life as a child actor in the Andy Griffith Show and later as an adult actor (American Graffiti), director, and screenwriter is a testament to your level-headedness and composure.

You’ve always shown us a friendly face and a gosh-darn charm that is nearly impossible to find in the world in which you live.

I find it particularly commendable that you’ve mastered the challenges of directing… what an achievement to wrangle hundreds of people (and egos) into making a coherent and tight production.

In the world of superb movie directors I believe you’ve been overlooked as one of the greats.

A mere few of your directorial achievements are: A Beautiful Mind, Apollo13, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Willow, Cocoon, Cinderella Man, Splash, Parenthood, Frost/Nixon, The Da Vinci Code.

Finding the right director is critical to the success of a flick… I’ve personally had the experience of working with a music recording producer who tried to re-shape me – an unabashed folkie-style singer/songwriter – into a “rocker”… ok, it was fun, but not a good fit.

I don’t know beans about filmmaking but I’m pretty sure that finding the right directorial “fit” is a big part of a film production.

I’m coming at you today because I have a brilliant idea for a film or TV show…

… and given your experiences in directing and writing a variety of movie styles – notable ones that I think relate directly to my idea are Willow and How The Grinch Stole Christmas – I believe you are the best choice to bring my concept to life.

Here, let me run this past you for your thoughts.

It’s a riff on the early 1990’s Jim Henson-inspired TV show DINOSAURS.

Dinosaurs was a raucous and extremely clever satire on late 20th century human existence acted out by a charming family of, yes, animatronic dinosaurs.

Father Earl Sinclair and mother Fran’s son and youngest child is a Megalosaurus.

Baby Sinclair is the clear star of the series.

Baby is sarcastic. Baby is wisecracking. His favourite thing to do is hit Earl on the head with a frying pan while calling out his catch phrases such as “I’m the baby. Gotta love me.”, “Again!” and “Not the mama!“.

Although Dinosaurs is targeted at a family audience, the show touched upon multiple topical issues which included environmental, endangered species, women’s rights, sexual harassment, LGBTQ rights, objectification of women, censorship, civil rights, body image, steroid use, drug abuse, peer pressure, indigenous peoples, corporate crime, and racism.

The true beauty of the show was that any topic could be addressed and lampooned when the characters are merely ridiculous dinosaurs. We don’t take our own foibles personally when the characters don’t resemble us… it’s THEM not YOU!

OK, so here it is Ron. The meat. The place where YOU enter.

My idea is to bring back and update a very similar TV/movie scenario but in the form of political comedy with the dinosaurs loosely (but very clearly) resembling in tone the characters of the Trump White House… a true political satire.

I laugh just thinking about it. Donald and Melania, Ivanka and Eric, Don Jr. and Kaylee, Pompeo and Kellyanne, Barr and the rest of the comedy troupe … ALL dinosaurs wandering the White House hallways!

Just imagine if you will, an orange-tinted dinosaur (shall we call him TRUMPOSAURUS?) who :

  • treats his sick minion-dinosaurs to bleach cocktails…
  • holds Dino-Bibles upside-down…
  • thinks origins is pronounced “oranges”…
  • says: ““I was down there, and I watched our police and our firemen, down on 7-Eleven, down at the World Trade Center, right after it came down”
  • or: “I’m a shallow person. That’s one of my strengths. I never pretend to be anything else.”
  • or: “Never had a drink. That’s one of my good things. Never had a drink, and I never had a cigarette. Other than that, I’m a disaster.”
  • or: “I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will have Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”
  • or: “[he’s] … not a war hero. He’s a war hero – he’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, OK, I hate to tell you.”
  • or: “She does have a very nice figure… If [she] weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”
  • or: “I’m the least racist person you have ever interviewed.
  • Or finally… “That’s why I am running: to end the decades of bitter failure and to offer the American people a new future of honesty, justice, and opportunity. A future where America, and its people, always – and I mean always – come first.”

Great comedy material, right?

Please… I need you Ron Howard… we all need you… WHY?

The world needs to hear and see a pack of crazy, silly dinosaurs saying these lunatic, incomprehensible things so we don’t plunge back into the same primordial mess once again.

Isn’t the world suffering enough?

I implore you … It’s either you Ron, or a reset with another big asteroid strike.

Prehistorically yours… Larry

Cool School

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Did you see Steven Spielberg’s version of West Side Story this year? It was cool.

So was the song COOL in the movie… the one below is from the original 1961 screenplay…

Yup, finger-snapping cool.

I really really wanted to be cool in the 1960’s. Movies were Cool School.

Saturday 50¢ cent matinees at the Palace or Capitol Theatre in Hamilton, Ontario were MY Cool School.

The 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde enthralled me. Best opening credits ever and an explosive, emotional killer of a final scene.

I wanted to grow up to be Clyde Barrow… or Bonnie Parker… didn’t matter that she was a woman, she was young and sexy and fun. She made lipstick seem sensuous and pornographic.

They were both cool.

Actually, I think I really wanted to be Warren Beatty playing Clyde because he was just as young as Faye Dunaway (Bonnie) but even more sexy and more fun, plus he chopped some toes off in prison just so he didn’t have to do chain gang duty… is anything more sexy or fun than chopping off your toes to get a week off work? So much more cool than COVID.

And, have you ever seen Beatty’s smile? Who wouldn’t want to be him?

He was cool.

And if I couldn’t be Warren Beatty playing Clyde or Faye Dunaway playing Bonnie, then I’d have settled for Steve McQueen as a detective in Bullitt.

McQueen was so stoic and unemotional (in the movie and in real life). Stoic is cool.

More importantly, he drove a screaming fast 1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT 2+2 Fastback that could fly over San Francisco hills like it was a jet setting off into California’s skies before landing with a big crash-bang on the asphalt. (He drove that Mustang like he rode the motorcycle in The Great Escape).

He was so cool.

Wait? Maybe it was actually Paul Newman as Butch Cassidy or Robert Redford as the Sundance Kid that I wanted to be… they both had blue eyes and deadly smiles.

Butch could kick other big guys in the balls and Sundance could 6-shooter 10 men dead in 5 seconds like a Tesla hits 60 miles per hour in 5 seconds.

Oh man, they were cool.

Interior of Hamilton’s Capitol Theatre where I spent many childhood matinee hours

Flash forward 50 years…

In today’s 10 screen Multiplex movie world, I’d suppose I’d gobble my popcorn and dream of being sexily sardonic Ryan Reynolds playing Deadpool… he is today’s COOL. Hi Blake Honey, I’m home. Good Twitter comeback at me today!

Alas, my dreams of being cool like all these actors… or for that matter, my other dream of becoming a rock star like Elton John never happened. If I ever had any chances… well… they slipped through my fingers like sand in an egg-timer.

Here I sit at this point in life – broken-hearted and broken-bodied *Boo-Hoo*– and I’ve accepted my Cool School dreams will never be actualized. Dreams CAN be enough.

But isn’t West Side Story’s Tony (Ansel Elgort) pretty cool?

OSCARS Amber Alert! Hooray for MovieWood

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Film as dream, film as music.

No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.”
― Ingmar Bergman

They’re BACK!

Tinsel-town is a’glitter again… the OSCARS are back and with a real live, in-person, COVID-vaccinated audience.

Impossibly beautiful people seductively strutting up red carpets, pressed tuxedos, spike heels, grand flowing dresses, glitter-sparkled white teeth.

Buff bodies and billboard breasts on display like shiny gems encased in Tiffany showcases. Feels like old times, nostalgic.

And I used to care about OSCAR.

But like many others, I care less than I once did.

Oscar night was an annual highlight like the lighting of the Rockefeller Plaza tree, like the Grey Cup (Super Bowl or World Cup for non-Canucks!), like firecrackers on Queen Victoria’s birthday (for an Ontario-raised lad).

Movies hold a magic key… a mystical wonder that feels like a Christmas present wrapped in a heavy red velour curtain rising with a grand flourish.

But the magic flame is melting away as the world travels through cataclysmic changes in all areas.

Movies were a mainstay in entertainment of the masses for near-on 100 years.

Entertainment means a hundred things now.

People still watch movies but in different ways and from a plethora of platforms. Theatre watching is just one small part of cinema today.

In days past, movies were glamour, movies were spectacle, movies were escapism… movies created their own world of laughter and horror, wonder and fascination.

Importantly, there was a scarcity to movies that made them all the more appealing.

There is no longer a need to wait weeks for a movie to come to your local theatre or make it to the TV screen in 4 or 5 years.

Hell, Gone With The Wind used to be recycled back to the movie theatres every 5 to 10 years bringing in crowds of viewers with each reappearance. Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, and Olivia deHavilland were forever Civil War gorgeous.

Today, most people see GWTW as an anachronistic, melodramatic celebration of ugly institutional racism. So much for holding up well over decades and centuries like a classic novel.

Movie watching in 2022 is available 24/7 everywhere you are. Bedrooms, subways, airports, doctor’s offices… we all dream of movie screams on our tiny screens.

Any resource that becomes abundantly available loses some of its magical lustre.

Don’t we all love a shiny bauble for the first 10 minutes we possess it before the shine begins to tarnish. It’s common psychological warfare that our brains play on us. Ubiquity scrubs away the lustre of specialness.

On another front, I can only imagine what movie viewing looked like for people of colour, varied ethnicities, or non-traditional male/female genders in decades past. They didn’t exist in the cinema world. Option #1 (of 1 option): White, WASP, patriarchal, and heterosexual. Your choice.

Despite the dwindling of allure of an awards ceremony (this is far more widespread than just the Oscars), many – but of course not all – movies today are as good or better as anything ever produced.

The overall quantity of films produced has exploded (like so many car chase scenes). It becomes ever more challenging for us to sift out the gold in the manure pile, but the Mother Lode still exists, and better still, it exists for more people than ever.

In today’s best works, the writing quality, the cinematography, the depth of emotion portrayed, the creativity and range of story lines, the acting skills – all are sensational.

I don’t like the idea of “understanding” a film. I don’t believe that rational understanding is an essential element in the reception of any work of art. Either a film has something to say to you or it hasn’t. If you are moved by it, you don’t need it explained to you. If not, no explanation can make you moved by it.”
― Federico Fellini

The scope of stories covering many different cultures and races, the equality of women, and gender differences has come a huge way.

Representations of peoples from around the world are gaining exposure, an exposure that educates and enriches us all, just as the recent availability of international ingredients and spices give us a huge palate of foods to enjoy.

I’ll likely dip my toes into the Oscars this Sunday because of my historic connection and fond reminiscence of films and filmmaking, but it will be a decidedly lacklustre, less engrossing viewing… one that will definitely be lacking, *hallelujah*, songs about “Movie Boobs”.

Or… maybe I’ll just watch a good movie instead… rumour has it there are some good ones out there, with or without an Oscar nomination!

Welcome back OSCAR… Hooray for MOVIEWOOD!

Are We BC, AC or PC? 8 Movies or TV Shows I’ll Watch Again While I Wait To Find Out

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Like ancient dinosaurs, we’re passing into a new epoch…

… and while summer has arrived, and the livin’ is easy – this COVID era continues to transform many homes into workplaces, and makes social activities challenging.

Today I’ll reflect a bit on the blessings and the curses of this time. Yup, sweet and sour.

A mere two summers ago we were living in the BC (BEFORECOVID) period, although we didn’t know it at the time; this is the way of Black Swans. I doubt the dinosaurs saw the asteroid approaching.

Yes, life in this BC era was maybe simpler and… maybe more predictable (or not, depending on how you view BC life).

Then last summer, the fear and intense reality of COVID transmission were gearing up for a tidal wave surge that would leave a tense trail of sickness, death, and long-haul destruction in its wake.

This was/is the AC period – the AMIDCOVID Period. Lots of infections and no vaccines or clearly effective treatments (bleach injection anyone?).

Here we are today, we’re in this No Man’s Land of AC, but the tide is turning…

Soon’ish, we’ll enter the PC period (POSTCOVID).

Or will we? We’re standing at the doorstep, and not quite sure if the door will swing open wide or snap shut like a malicious mousetrap.

We’re still a few anxious breaths away from truly transitioning into a new BC era… becoming who we were before March 2020.

………….

It would smack of first-world arrogance if I didn’t add that we’re still a long way from a PC era in most poorer countries where vaccines have barely seen an arm yet.

African, South American, and some Asian populations are stifling in increased poverty and sickness as COVID spreads wildly, sucking away livelihoods for the most oppressed.

Please, the world is small, let’s not any of us forget our neighbours from other countries and continents.

………….

Back here in the privileged countries, COVID has changed every one of our lives in a myriad of ways… some stuff from BC we’ll return to like nothing ever happened, while other things we’ll question and ponder deeply about.

Do we really hanker to be the same person we were in the BC times? Introspecting R US…

Until we know where we are in this uncharted period of time, many of us will continue to semi-cocoon for a while longer like Groundhogs who have seen their shadows.

OK, now for one of the blessings.

BC, I had 10 different and diverse activities on my plate each week.

I was stimulated on so many fronts, but many have fallen off and so I find myself returning to the “comfort food” of the movies and TV shows I’ve seen before but have a tremendous affection for still.

Typically, I don’t usually like a return to what I’ve seen before. I crave the new and novel.

As TV character Ally McBeal would say when entering the stall of her workplace bathroom – “I prefer a fresh bowl“.

I agree with Ally, but… to push this very strange analogy even further, I’d add “… if it’s yellow let it mellow… if it’s brown, flush it down“.

Sometimes I just like the comforting warmth of the known and recognizable (I guess that’s the yellow in my above analogy!).

For some unknown length of time, a lot of us will continue to absorb our popular culture through the strong list of streaming choices our era of technology has gifted us when we want some diversion or relaxation, entertainment or provocation.

Until the day when COVID is undoubtedly in the rearview mirror, I’ll harken back to my short list of 8 shows or movies that I am happy to boomerang around to a 2nd or even 3rd time. Comfort food on the tube.

I won’t spell out all of my specific reasons of why I’ve made these choices, other than to say that in these shows I see and hear a combination of intellect, wit, profound thought, outrageous humour, deep sadness or boundless joy which leave me deeply affected in one or more directions.

Any cultural or artistic product – at its best – should leave us somehow moved, hopefully even changed for the better.

So, in no particular order, here I go:

  1. West Wing
  2. The Newsroom
  3. Of Mice and Men
  4. Seinfeld
  5. When Harry Met Sally
  6. Schindler’s List
  7. Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid
  8. Bohemian Rhapsody
  9. BONUS: The Eagles – Hell Freezes Over Concert

Reviewing my own list, I can see – in the writers and actors of each – a sense of the artistic gifts I personally admire and seek out for myself: Aaron Sorkin, John Steinbeck, Jerry Seinfeld, Nora Ephron, Steven Spielberg, William Goldman, Freddie Mercury, Don Henley/Glenn Frey.

Maybe you too can see yourself reflected in the choices you would make on your list as you await the return of BC.

Or perhaps PC will bring on a different you… Introspecting R US!

BC + AC = PC

And Now For Something Deliciously Different…

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You gotta eat… right?

OK, well, other than Karen Carpenter… What? Too soon?!

Food for me is like the rest of my existence… it’s an ADHD kind of thing…

I detest mealtime rehashes (at least in the short term).

Every meal, every night… better be something very different from last night or the night before or the …

And something else… you could be forgiven for thinking that as a former lab guy, I would be extremely precise and scientific in my cooking adventures.

That I’d follow recipes to the T like some Julia Child or Child of Julia… BUT, sadly… you would be wrong.

Perhaps I was born to be a lab researcher because I’m constantly tinkering with food preparations… add some turmeric here… more tomato paste there… definitely another teaspoon (although WHO uses an actual teaspoon?) of cinnamon…. less cumin today but let’s throw in some fenugreek leaves.

………….

A man who measures life, never knows his own measure”… from Today’s Special (movie)

………….

And of course the magic ingredient to any dish – savoury or sweet – is a smidgen of sugar.

There’s still more lucky magic for this spoiled late-model westerner…

… beyond my early-life acquaintance with WASPy European cuisinery styles, I’ve been exposed to a hodgepodge of ethnic approaches to cooking through neighbours, friends and relatives…

… but also from various journeys afar to play in the kitchens of cooks from San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua to Havana, Cuba, from Marrakesh, Morocco to Udaipur, India, from Cusco, Peru to Xian, China.

Guinea pig (cuy) in Cusco, Peru
Curry preps in Udaipur, India
Chicken Tajine making in Marrakesh, Morocco

But this COVID era has metaphorically abducted the frying pan from my hands, so I thought I’d review and reflect on some of my favourite “victuals” movies … food flix are a socially acceptable form of sensual porn, don’t you think?

Just this morning, after deciding to write about this topic, I shockingly realized that I’ve missed out on a cornucopia of delectable comestible cinema… why have I missed so many of these yummy selections?

Sure, I’ve absorbed Ratatouille, Fried Green Tomatoes, Chocolat, The Hundred Foot Journey, Julie and Julia… plus most of TV’s Anthony Bourdain, Stanley Tucci in Italy, and The Great British/Canadian Baking Shows… sorry Gordon Ramsay… your food porn is too much like a sexual assault to make it onto my food-lovin’ playlist.

Today, for fun, I thought I’d list a mere few of the movies for you to consider watching that different sites and reviewers think are the Best of the Best, Most Delicious of the Delectables, Chewiest of the Chows.… with a helpful international cuisine guidepost so you can pick your favourite dish from a country of your choosing.

So, here goes… some wonderful calorie-free cinematic morsels for you to chew on and digest:

FRENCH

Babette’s Feast

Julie and Julia

Chocolat

Burnt

Ratatouille

ITALIAN

Big Night

Dinner Rush

MEXICAN

Like Water For Chocolate

Tortilla Soup

CHINESE

Eat Drink Man Woman

BBQ

Fried Green Tomatoes

Uncorked

INDIAN

The Lunchbox

The Hundred Foot Journey (French/Indian)

Maacher Jhol

Nina’s Heavenly Delights

Today’s Special

KOREAN

Always Be My Maybe

Antique

CUBAN

Chef

JAPANESE

Tampopo

The Ramen Girl

Sweet Bean

GERMAN

Mostly Martha

• And finally… to finish off this culinary erotic expedition… a movie about PIE!!

WAITRESS… who could go wrong while sampling these classics… MARSHMELLOW MERMAID PIE, FALLING IN LOVE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE PIE, NAUGHTY PUMPKIN PIE, OLD JOE’S HORNY PIE

… try feasting your palate on some of these cooking movies… a lusty love story in every bite.

SUMMERLAND – The Song

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I wonder if I should have my testosterone levels checked?

I’m just a sentimental Summerland sap.

There is a lovely, poignant movie recently released on Prime Video that swept me up and embraced me with its tender story. (Aside: if you’ve ever seen the heart-rending movie Summer of ’42, you’ll find some similarities here)

I guess you could call it a consequences of war movie – it’s set in the British countryside of World War 2 as London is being bombed mercilessly by the German Luftwaffe – with an underlying LGBTQ storyline that is understated but clear in its societal message.

For eons too long, those who stand outside the mainstream heterosexual realm have been sidelined and chastised and humiliated. And like a pernicious virus, too many human sorrows and tragedies lie crushed in the wake.

I believe we all need to see and be exposed to gentle messages of inclusion to rub away the sandpaper-cruel roughness from this world. The movie takes us down a bumpy road before finding some smoother ground in the end.

The title of the movie is SUMMERLAND… yes, the same name as the little town where I’ve lived and raised a family over the past 33 years.

The film comes with an unexpected twist near the end that has the nature of deliciously fine wine with a serene aftertaste that lingers.

The beautiful cinematography of English rural life combined with the movie’s eponymous title inspired me in my songwriting this week… how could it not? Summerland, whether in England or in the mountain-ringed orchards and vineyards of British Columbia cries out for poetry.

………………..

One tiny thing this movie taught me was the phenomenon of FATA MORGANA… “Summerland” was a fata morgana in the movie – “heaven” to the Vikings.

Wikipedia says:

A Fata Morgana is a form of mirage that can be seen in a narrow band right above the horizon. It is an Italian term named after the Arthurian sorceress, Morgan le Fay, from a belief that these mirages… were fairy castles in the air or false land created by her witchcraft to lure sailors to their deaths.

Fata Morgana mirages significantly distort the object or objects on which they are based, often such that the object is completely unrecognizable. A Fata Morgana may be seen on land or at sea, in polar regions, or in deserts. It may involve almost any kind of distant object, including boats, islands, and the coastline.

The optical phenomenon occurs because rays of light are bent when they pass through air layers of different temperatures in a steep thermal inversion where an atmospheric duct has formed.

………………..

And so, in this context of my town of Summerland and a cinematic’s scenic panorama, I’ve put together a short song lyric that combines two stories/ideas into one (yup, it’s Idea Sex again!)…

… a local landscape inhabited by historic characters living an aching internal war with the secret of their forbidden love, in a time of true physical war.

SUMMERLAND

by Larry Green

Giant’s Head climbs a wintry horizon

windswept skeletons of Ambrosia

outstretched arms of Cabernet

your windswept nut-brown hair lashes

chilly shoals lining cliffsides of clay

.

Flames kiss the moon in the sky

Sweet smiling eyes reflect lovers’ shine

sun diamonds dance on the lake

each Monet frame makes a painting

at sunrise before her heartbreak

.

CHORUS

Song of seclusion

Hint of allusion

Fata morgana

drifts over Summerland shores

.

Salish sunflowers upon Ponderosa pine

call out the new season’s coming

through the sage’s turn to sadness

cage of love’s play and maternal desire

burned to ash in the grasses

.

BRIDGE

Take off your sweater

in this hot summer sun

Shed suffocation of expectation

that withered away

your twins of desire and hope

.

CHORUS

Song of seclusion

Hint of allusion

Fata morgana

drifts over Summerland shores

.


My EXTRA EXTRA Dream…

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Holy Jesus, the roaring sound is deafening, black-grey smoke surrounds me; large clods of dirt, mud and rock pummel down like hell’s hailstones from above.

The writhing guy scrunched next to me in the trench lies soaked in blood, lacking a good portion of the right side of his body. The rub of wet, itchy wool on my skin is barely noticeable in the mayhem…

CUT!!!

The director calls out loudly through a megaphone (not a MAGAphone!).

“Torn bloody body” guy next to me smiles, then stands up and leisurely stretches.

That was a totally fictional scenario (based on very real occurrences) I imagined in my sleep last night.

I had been hired as a soldier extra in the movie 1917, the barbarous story of British soldiers on the front-lines of World War I.

There are scads of TV and movie productions (yes, even now in COVID world) that require bodies of men, women, and children… extras as they’re known… voiceless ordinary people who make a story appear genuine by merely walking on streets, drinking in bars, or even shooting rifles in war scenes.

I’ve never been an extra, and I get it that I’ll never be a featured actor in ANY film scene… my acting chops were chopped during the gene edits in utero.

However, as an appreciator of cinematic creation, I’d love to have the experience to prance before the camera and have a Walter Mitty’ish experience: “Bond… James Bond”, I’d say in my deepest Sean Connery voice.

OK… no speaking parts, but… as I ponder the notion and scenes in my head, I wonder to myself, what are the preferred productions that would be most appealing… the most relevant and fun for me?

Which show(s) would I like to be cast as an extra? How about you, do you have a scripted opus out there that might be improved with your face lurking in the background?

And BTW, if you live in Vancouver or Toronto, here are 2 links that could make you a part of my screen viewing enjoyment sometime in the future:

Vancouver: http://bcfcasting.com/extras/home.html

Toronto: https://torontofilmextras.com/

I love the idea and fun of dress-up, so many of my choices revolve around “period” pieces where I would get to live for a few short hours in another world and time. But not The Walking Dead, or “Boy Car Crash” movies, not for me. For women, could you see yourself marching in pairs in a Handmaid’s red and white outfit?

Let’s get to it… here are some shows, or scenes that I would have liked to have shared my immense “extra” talents within:

  1. WHEN HARRY MET SALLY – The Deli/Orgasm scene. Hell, I don’t mind sitting in a restaurant, eating smoked meat sandwiches and listening to a cute woman fake an orgasm… this might be the first recorded episode of FAKE NEWS to a man (any man) who will likely never know it’s fake, right? Thanks for robbing us of our manhood Meg!
  2. DEADPOOL – Super-hero movies would usually be out for me, but this movie enterprise is so campy and crazy, I would happily stand on a Vancouver street (where it’s filmed) while Ryan Reynolds eviscerates the bad guys.
  3. SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION – I (usually) enjoy Stephen King’s fertile imagination, so becoming a part of his fictional world and life inside a prison yard would be a vicarious experience I would hope never to experience in real life.
  4. ELF – it’s an adult child’s world with vivid colours, a ton of sugar topped with syrupy sweetness; the perfect chance to release my inner child.
  5. BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID– one of my all-time favourite movies, and yes, an opportunity to throw on chaps, a 10-gallon hat, ride a horse and carry a 6-shooter on my hip, all the while humming Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head. Maybe I’d have even glimpsed Paul Newman’s blue eyes close-up.
  6. SAVING PRIVATE RYAN– a chance to be near my director hero Steven Spielberg… the opening 23 minutes of the movie with the landing of troops in Normandy during World War II is about as terrifyingly dramatic a war scene that could be made and not be real. It scared the shit out of me to watch and should be required viewing for any young person who thinks that war has a romantic side to it. I would cry for 3 nights after being an extra, but it would be worth it.
  7. TITANIC – the heart pounding drama of the “sinking” scenes would likely terrify even an extra to the core. The systemic injustice of the class system and who would be saved and who would cling to the ship until it plunged into the icy Atlantic would make me an angry “extra”.
  8. MY AMERICAN COUSIN – how often do small town folks have a quality film produced in their own backyard, and the story is actually all about their backyard? Director Sandy Wilson put together a lovely recollection of the 1950’s, beach fun in Penticton, and a teenage girl’s crush on an older American cousin. A local version of…
  9. GREASE – slick back my hair to bunny hop and jive with bobby-socked cuties like Olivia Newton-John? Sign me up Casting Director!
  10. MONTY PYTHON anything – similar to Deadpool, the slapstick humour would make it a challenge for me to NOT giggle non-stop in the background. My silly walk would look normal to these guys!

.

and finally, another musical interlude, based on lyrics I wrote and posted here on July 19th.

It’s a rule-breaking piece of songwriting – the long song – that has been used by other far greater songwriters than myself eg. Bob Dylan, Harry Chapin, Don McLean, Arlo Guthrie. I haven’t yet absorbed Hemingway’s advice on brevity in writing…

Each Glass of Romance (THEO’s Song) is a song of young romance, desire, and even some sexual tension playing out in the Greek restaurant (THEO’s) where I bartended for 4 summer seasons post-retirement.

Just over 6 minutes long, it doesn’t hit its first chorus until the 2:34 mark, interminable by pop song standards.

I don’t know if it’s a hit or a miss, you will have to be the judge. Maybe “EXTRA” work will be my salvation! Thanks for listening.

Elton vs Freddie

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freddy vs jason.jpg

I know the title sounds gruesome, like the name of a horror pic… weird white masks, long claws and blood-dripping knives … but … no.

Horror ain’t my genre (CNN is close enough!) …

But music is.

This past year has brought us two highly-hailed musical icon biopics, although inexplicably neither the (Failing) New York Times nor The Globe and Mail contacted me for my reviews.

Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman.

Freddie Mercury and Elton John.

Elton and Freddie

By modern musical standards, both Brits are brilliant at the craft of songwriting and music production.

Interesting similarities … British, gay (or bi-sexual), piano players, ultra-flamboyant performers, the same manager for a period of time.

There are a lot of reviews of each of the flicks that dispute the honesty and full-disclosure and timelines of the stories – but you know what? I don’t really care.

Every life is a sh*tshow of interpretation and false-memory and all the bad and good put into a blender of individual perspective (kinda like history in general).

Besides, books do a far better job of relating the nitty-gritty details of a life… movies capture highlights, usually entertain … and in these particular cases, highlight the discography of the musicians. And that’s enough.

I knew of these two artists in the 70’s, and in looking back over time to my formative years … I was all agog over Elton … his Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album was a masterpiece encompassing many musical genres.

At the same time, I knew and enjoyed some Queen tunes but Mercury never quite caught me in the same way that John did.

I was Elton’s slave where pop and rock music was concerned. Just to be clear, we never had sex (it never occurred to either of us, go figure).

That was then. This is now.

Today, I’ve switched allegiances somewhat. I haven’t lost my sense of awe in the songwriting of John … but …

… years of listening to the complex orchestral and harmonic brilliance of Bohemian Rhapsody (and to a slightly lesser extent, the larger Queen repertoire) has elevated and shifted my joy of their songs.

But back to the movies themselves.

The flicks took a different approach to the era from which they both emerged… the in-your-face sex and drugs of Rocketman contrasted against the more scratch-the-artist-surface storytelling of Bohemian Rhapsody.

None of us is so naive to believe these were musical angels in disguise … no doubt the sexual encounters and hazy miasma of drugs were large parts of the life and creative existence of both, but brought to the screen far more graphically in the telling of John’s life.

Fantasy scenarios and telling his story through the medium of his songs was a cool and innovative approach for the Elton movie, but somehow it couldn’t draw me in to its narrative in the same way the Mercury one did.

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Ultimately, I think the reason I came away enthralled from Bohemian Rhapsody and not from Rocketman comes down to the main actors.

Elton John’s portrayer, Taron Egerton was always a person, an actor, playing Elton John … he never inhabited the role of Elton. He was Taron singing Elton.

But when I watched Rami Malek … I was taken in, absorbed … and believed that he WAS Freddie Mercury … from his actions, to his voice, to his vulnerabilities.

The movie battle of the musical icons is over in my mind …  Elton vs Freddie brought Freddie as the clear and easy winner. Hail Freddie and Bohemian Rhapsody.

… but …

Oh, I’ve finally decided my future lies … in going back to my (long gone) vinyl collection and enjoying the REAL Rocketman, Elton John.

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Oscar and The Side Effects That Might Make You A Better Person

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Frankly Scarlett, it’s almost Oscar time again.

I can’t wait to tear up during the In Memorium section. I love the melancholy, the bittersweet.

I’ve seen slightly more than half the 2019 Best Picture nominees so far, and it’s a rich crop this time around the sun.

But which movie made me a better person?

Aside from the sheer entertainment value of watching a great movie, what are the lingering side effects?

Over the years, I’ve learned not to eat a sandwich in a New York restaurant next to Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal. I’ve learned that to escape the claws of police after a bank heist, one needs only race across the next State border (why a Canadian should know this is another question) in a depression-era Model T Ford. I’ve learned that a chance encounter with a famous drunken country rocker can lead to untold fame and wealth (but ultimate sorrow).

But should movies have side effects? Not hangovers and tummy aches but … positive side effects?

Of course they should. We pay money to see these artistic creations. There’s gotta be more than awe and catharsis and greasy popcorn fingers.

We often read books with the conscious notion of becoming more intelligent, rounded, complete people. We grow and become better people with each chapter consumed.

Should movies be any different?

Most films are like reading a trashy novel on the beach. Tawdry and easily defecated out the back door of the theatre as we leave.

But … some … some movies are epic and long-lasting, unforgettable, priceless and timeless in their message and format. Like a great song, they get inside your head and linger like the aroma of a beautiful bolognese sauce simmering on the stove.

A couple of positive side effects? Examples?

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I watched A Star is Born where Bradley Cooper (Jackson Maine) knocks Lady Gaga (Ally) out of her sleepy repose:

Look, talent comes everywhere, but having something to say and a way to say it so that people listen to it, that’s a whole other bag. And unless you get out and you try to do it, you’ll never know. That’s just the truth. And there’s one reason we’re supposed to be here is to say something so people want to hear. So you got to grab it, and you don’t apologize, and you don’t worry about why they’re listening, or how long they’re going to be listening for, you just tell them what you want to say.

That is a reminder, a reinforcement of a life lesson. The raw ingredients … talent, ability, intelligence are only the first steps to making a statement. Delivering that statement with confidence and balls, courage and sustained effort is what is needed.

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Green Book is a Shakespearean adventure where the “Fool” Bronx-born Tony Lip learns lessons of the world from his “colored” employer Dr. Don Shirley. In turn, Tony reflects back some unconventional teaching moments that inform the life of an “educated” man:

Dr. Don Shirley: Pull over.
Tony Lip: What?
Dr. Don Shirley: Pull over.
Tony Lip: I ain’t pulling over!
Dr. Don Shirley: Stop the car, Tony!
[Tony stops the car and Don gets out and starts walking in the rain]
Tony Lip: What? What are you doing?! Doc? Doc, what the hell are you doing? Doc, get back in the car!
Dr. Don Shirley: Yes, I live in a castle! Tony. Alone! And rich white people pay me to play piano for them, because it makes them feel cultured. But as soon as I step off that stage, I go right back to being just another n****r to them. Because that is their true culture. And I suffer that slight alone, because I’m not accepted by my own people, because I’m not like them either! So if I’m not black enough, and if I’m not white enough, and if I’m not man enough, then tell me Tony, what am I?!

Classic.

The side effect message? To make something special, something great, we have to accept the possibility of setting ourselves apart from our comfortable world. There is a bitter price to be paid for the exceptional.

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How about the flamboyant Freddie Mercury? Bohemian Rhapsody?

Filmmaker Bryan Singer presents Mercury’s father as having been disappointed with his son’s penchant for nightlife and theatricality, urging him over and over again to get serious about his life and follow his refrain:

Good thought, good word, good deed.

Mercury ends up living by his dad’s words, but in his own way. In one scene, the mercurial singer tells a potential manager that Queen is the champion of the oddball: “We’re misfits who don’t belong together, playing for the other misfits. The outcasts. The ones right at the back of the room. Who are pretty sure they don’t belong either. We belong to them.” His good thought, word and deed, in other words, is for them — the stigmatized, marginalized and misunderstood.

Finally, eventually, Mercury’s father seems to recognize that his son has lived up to his expectations in their last interaction on screen. Mercury goes home to introduce his family to his boyfriend, Jim Hutton, who remained his partner until the singer’s death from AIDS-related complications at 45, and tell them about his plans to perform in a charity concert (Live Aid) to raise money for famine relief in Africa.

Good thought, good word, good deed.

Just like you taught me, Papa.”

The resulting theme from each of these flicks? The life lesson? The side effect that can make you better?

It’s simple. Occam’s razor simple.

No matter the “size” of one’s existence, greatness is a Herculean struggle. To be better tomorrow than you are today takes effort and strain and pain.

It takes a sizable tub of popcorn to impart these side effects into my brain, because…

… Frankly dear, I do give a damn!

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Our Inner Psychopath

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She felt the warm, wet mascara running down her cheeks.

Wondering to herself why she ever slipped into this narrow black alley at 1:30 in the morning… wondering why she left her friends at the curb as they climbed into a UBER outside the club … wondering how much alcohol she had consumed, how much weed smoked … wondering what gave her the courage, the stupidity, in a blinding snowstorm … to seek out …. eek…. it doesn’t matter what she’s looking for when a heavy quilt-shadow silently creeps up behind her…

Cue the blood spatters and curdled screams… zoom in closely on dark rivers of viscous inky fluid slowly spreading in cloudy storm patterns through the slushy snow on the ground.

And … CUT!

How many people will die on your TV screen tonight? At the local Cineplex?

How much blood and guts will be splashed via XBox or PlayStation by 10 year-olds on a basement couch?

We’re mostly wonderful people and yet, in the books we read, the movies and TV we watch, many feel the strange urge, the inner fascination that draws us with magnetic attraction towards death … frequent, violent, often gruesome.

We know that murder is bad. BAD BAD BAD!!

Irrevocably awful, terrifying and so hard to understand. We know not to do it and we know we’re meant to be really scared of it. Most of us see death as a complicated concept to try and come to terms with at the best of times, but murder?

Is there something wrong that this “entertains” many of us?

It’s the season of love and warm tidings and yet one of the most acclaimed Christmas movies, Die Hard, accumulates a body total of 23 victims by the time the end credits roll. HO HO HO! (maybe one day I’ll actually watch it following It’s A Wonderful Life … Sweet and Sour on the menu)

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It’s confusing because we all know the same results flashing across our TV screens from a war zone in Afghanistan or a mall shooting in Topeka is usually met with our horror, revulsion, and cries of anguish.

So, are we beasts?…. is it simple Schadenfreude…. an inner need to see others’ suffer so that we feel better about ourselves? A similar tale to why we can nastily gossip about the person who just left the room with whom we just smiled and joked?

Do we have an inner psychopath lingering in the deep recesses?

Is it an addictive need for adrenaline, like riding a rollercoaster?

It can’t be a gender thing because women appear to watch and read murder stories in numbers that equal (some studies suggest exceed) men’s fascination.

We are contradictory people, we humans.

We abhor violence, murder, rape, abuse in all its forms … and yet … here we soak up the crime shows, the murder mysteries, the Fifty Shades of BDSM Abusive Behaviour.

We are mostly able to detach and go along for the wild ride with no apparent ill effect. Not totally of course. I still harbour nightmares about the little red-coated girl from Schindler’s List.

It may just come down to the desire for guilty pleasure… the wondrous high of a sweet cinnamon bun, the juiced sensation of diving from an airplane, the taboo notion of being bound and taken advantage of sexually.

I spend my days in a cycle of bemused wonder at the complexity and contradictions of myself and the souls that surround me.

Each day we live adds another perplexing question to the immense wall that will never be totally built.

Even Alex Trebek doesn’t know the answers to ALL the questions.

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