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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.

Queen - Bohemian.jpg

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.

Yellow Brick Road.jpg

 

 

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

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AStarisBornBlackKKlansmanBohemianRhapsody

BlackPantherGreenBookRoma

TheFavouriteVice

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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?

A Star is Born.jpg

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.

Bohemain rhapsody

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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Heath Ledger- Joker.jpg

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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Lights… Action… Kiss

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Butch and Sundance1.jpg

Bolivia.

Sundance: What’s Bolivia?

Butch: Bolivia. That’s a country, stupid! In Central or South America, one or the other.

From a rock cliff high above, an armed lookout signals to Butch.

Butch and Sundance saunter forward on horseback into Hole-In-The-Wall – rugged Wyoming canyons – where turn of the 20th century US robbers and criminals hid away from the law.

The two are the perfect pair: Butch, an independent, unconventional thinker, has the brains and is a quick-witted visionary, disrespectful of both the law and the establishment… Sundance provides the strong, quick-draw, traditional Western hero.

Sundance has heard Butch’s fanciful dreams before, such as his bright idea that Bolivia has better pickings with its silver, tin, and gold mines… and easy-to-rob-banks.

Paul Newman and Robert Redford were the perfect pair that lit up the silver screen in the 1969 bromance Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. 

Even more than The Sound of Music, it was a romance that captured my movie heart in a deeply visceral way.

Since then, I’ve sat in the darkness of a theatre hundreds of times, gazing up at the cinematic products of countless directors and actors, consuming truckloads of grease-laden popcorn (in a future life, I may return as a movie maker, or failing that, a movie popcorn critic).

There was no on-screen kiss between Newman and Redford (what mainstream audience in 1969 was ready for the kind of on-screen love that Brokeback Mountain unveiled later) but there was a love connection that even Katharine Ross (Redford’s female romantic interest in the film) couldn’t come between.

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When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” ~ When Harry Met Sally

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Movie romance is as common as cheesy love songs in the 1950’s and ’60’s, but just how often do we succumb to their charms?

Most romantic actor combos are sloppy, cliched furballs made from a mixture of lard and lemonade… anything with Matthew McConaughey, Seth Rogen, Jennifer Aniston or Cameron Diaz is a non-starter (I don’t care how good looking they are… and yeah, leave Seth Rogen off that list too!))

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On the other hand, I’ve been charmed by movie romances of a dozen kinds … deliciously sensual pairings such as :

  • Bonnie and Clyde – Warren Beatty & Faye Dunaway
  • Benny & Joon – Johnny Depp & Mary Stuart Masterson
  • When Harry Met Sally – Billy Crystal & Meg Ryan
  • Silver Linings Playbook –  Bradley Cooper & Jennifer Lawrence
  • Reds – Warren Beatty & Diane Keaton
  • Brokeback Mountain – Heath Ledger & Jake Gyllenhaal
  • The Notebook – Ryan Gosling & Rachel McAdam
  • Thelma & Louise – Susan Sarandon & Geena Davis
  • Leaving Las Vegas – Nicholas Cage & Elisabeth Shue
  • And most recently, A Star Is Born – Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga

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I’ve come to the conclusion that you could blend Jennifer Lawrence or Bradley Cooper with any actor sporting a modicum of acting chops and come out with beautiful chemical burns.

Those chemical bonds that spark a romance between actors channel some vulnerable and magical territory. If it was easy to do, we’d be flooded with a tsunami of unforgettable love stories. Smouldering romance takes great writing and actors tuned to each others’ frequency.

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I wish I knew how to quit you.” ~ Brokeback Mountain

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Most of these flicks have left an indelible impression on me because of their balance, the humour mixed with an underlying sadness or trial that infiltrates and takes up residence.

Movie romance needs to be coddled along with enough tension between the “potentials” that you want to scream out, “oh for God’s sake, just admit to her/him that you love her/him“… that unbearable tension needs to be real and believable, delivered with the possibility that the two may never be together in the end…

The Ending

The flirtation finish, like the final taste of wine in the back of your throat, is critical.

So many movies make it to the final 15 minutes in great shape and then collapse into themselves.

I would have added An Officer and A Gentleman (Richard Gere & Debra Winger) to my list of winners above had the screenwriter not blasted it apart with a corny, cliched carry-the-girl-off-to-co-workers’-applause-into-eternal-bliss-from-her-hell-hole-of-a-life ending. BLAH!!

Titanic lost its sensual sizzle when Kate Winslet couldn’t find a way to share her floating door with Leo DiCaprio. Come on Kate… show us YOU own the Heart of the Ocean.

Blessed catharsis

A smile or a tear explodes inside us when we’ve plumbed the depths of human experience… when Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton finally come together on the train platform in Reds, when Benny and Joon make grilled cheese sandwiches on an ironing board, when Butch and Sundance, or Thelma and Louise plunge forward to their deaths.

When the screen dims … when the theatre lights go up… there should be a lingering silence … a moment or two for the actors, the crew, the audience to absorb, reflect, internalize and feel.

Off in the distance, we finally hear a faint echo from the director, “CUT!”

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I’ve Got A Peaceful Easy Feeling…

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Never won a lottery. NOPE!

Never been to Vegas. Never been asked out by a Victoria’s Secret lingerie model.

So how do I know I’m one of the luckiest guys ever in human existence? Well, lots of reasons but near the top, a mere stone’s throw from the hoodoo peak?

I’ve never once been asked … or tempted… or coerced… to go to WAR.

Never had to defend my home or wife or children with a weapon, other than a flyswatter.

NOT. ONCE. EVER.

In the thousands of years of humanity insanity, how many men can say this? They could almost fit into a historic-timeline broom closet (if the closet was as big as Vancouver Island).

My Ontario childhood was idyllic – riding my banana seat bike with the high handlebars through sprinklers, playing with bugs in the cool grass beneath a huge leafy chestnut tree, licking the drips from orange and grape popsicles, slipping folded newspapers beneath my pant legs for shin protection on the backyard hockey rink my Mom stayed up late to make.

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Armed conflict was a hazy cloud in the rearview mirror… but the memory of recent European battles played a part in my juvenile play.

Yes, I played war with my little buddies. We’d fashion guns out of broken hockey sticks and broom handles to run and shoot and hide… Bang bang, you’re dead (… no I’m not, you missed me!).

GI Joe was a toy superhero.

But I never heard the heart-stopping pounding of exploding mortar shells, the sight of goose-stepping soldiers on my city’s streets, saw the tears of a classmate whose family had just received a telegram from the War Office.

In my earliest youth, war was entertainment.

I’ve watched TV, gone to movie theatres where I’ve munched popcorn, viewing countless masses slaughtered senselessly. Brave, heroic actors shooting pretend guns.

Much of this was what we label “entertainment”.

How is killing others entertainment?

Two of my favourite movies of all time are Schindler’s List and Platoon. Gruesome, vivid stories of World War II and Vietnam. 

Beautiful cinematography, powerful narratives, filled with intense scenes that show me the emotional terror and panic everyday people endured.

Both scared the shit out of me.

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That’s what “real” war movies should do.

War isn’t really John Wayne romantic. War is horror. War kills literally and figuratively (how many vets return home dead inside?).

These were horror movies far scarier than Freddie Kruger and Hannibal Lecter and Chucky combined, because they were (reasonably) accurate portrayals of the misery and wretched fear we naturally feel when confronted with our blood and brains splattered, bowels hanging loose from a belly opened wide like a peeled orange. Screams of pain and cries for Mommy.

When I watch a real war movie, I don’t do it for two hours of fun leisure time like I usually do at the theatre.

I do it as a reminder of the harsh cruelty we are capable of inflicting on one another.

I do it as a time of internal reflection on what armed conflict does to children and families and towns and countries. Orphans and refugees.

I do it as a mental prompt of the efficiency of weaponry and how it shreds a fragile human body like a meat grinder.

I do it as a message to myself to vote for stolid politicians who have the mature judgment and intelligence to work towards peace. One of my most important jobs, to secure the future for the faces of the generations that will follow me, is to select wisely with foresight.

I’ve perhaps not been more aware of my lifetime good fortune than since I began tutoring a young Syrian man. Forced to flee with his family from his home and homeland, his life has suffered huge turmoil. And still he smiles. He’s a gentle man.

He did nothing to deserve the upheaval that came his way. He merely made the mistake of being born in a chaotic region of the world, whereas I made the unintended happy blunder of taking my first breath in a Shangri-la.

War has been his experience, no movie scenes needed for him to feel the terror.

My eyes are open but I have hope.

The peace dividend paid to me in my life has been the greatest ROI (Return on Investment) to which I never had to contribute a cent of my personal fortune.

Simply put, this peace dividend will only increase over time as education standards rise worldwide and women have more power and influence in the running of the world.

Shorter term blips of worry occur the same as they do in stock markets, but the long term trend is always promising.

It’s often said that children are our future. Yes, true. But my firm belief is that women are really our future. Decision-making by women is and will make this planet a safer place.

I don’t buy lottery tickets. No Victoria’s Secret model will ever ask me out. Yada yada yada…

I’m just a lucky guy who still harbours a peaceful easy feeling.

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I’m In The Mood For A Little TeeHee…

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Love to laugh

… I love to laugh …

Remember that little ditty from Mary Poopins?teehee… I mean Poppins

Some people laugh through their noses
Sounding something like this, dreadful
Some people laugh through their teeth goodness sake
Hissing and fizzing like snakes
Not at all attractive to my way of thinking

I love to laugh
Loud and long and clear
I love to laugh
It’s getting worse every year

When was the last time I laughed so hard that I shot a nostrilful of milk across the table?

I’ll bet my Grade 13 lunch mates at Sir Wilfrid Laurier School in Hamilton still remember…

Probably the only thing worse than being vomited on (I g-g-gag just thinking…)…. is having recycled cow squeezings snorted over you in a misty white shower while trying to wolf back an egg salad sandwich that your Mom so lovingly prepared.

Hmmmm…. and I wonder why my old buddies Larry or Renato won’t befriend me on FB…. oh yeah, the milk snort shower.

The world has been a shadowy, humourless place in the last 14 or 15 months with DJT (Da Jaundiced Twerp) running our planetary schoolyard. Maybe Orange(head) truly is the New Black.

Ha ha… AR-15’s. Ha ha… #MeToo marches. Ha ha Nuclear threats.  Ha ha Slow WiFi… where is the laughter?

First world problem

Another great Third world problem…

OMG, a great vacuum has sucked up the milk snorting Teehee’s.

Of course I can’t grouse too much because I can’t tell a joke (at least a funny one) if my life depends on it. My punchlines need some IV-administered Viagra…

Yes, it’s difficult sometimes to unearth a good laugh when living in the current version of the dark ages…. I wonder how many standup comedians traipsed the countryside during the Black Death Plague (courtesy of my old Microbiology lab friend Yersinia pestis) that ravaged Europe for 4 years in the 1300’s? So… do all curses come in 4 year stints?

Could Jerry Seinfeld, Tina Fey or Rita Rudner have made a livelihood while surrounded by the stench of rotting bodies in the streets? It’s hard to hear the giggles over the corpse crowd, the dead silence …”Smoking will kill you… Bacon will kill you… But smoking bacon will cure it.” Cue laughter.

It’s crucial to find humour in the dingy, dreariest of times. Haven’t most of us laughed through our tears at a funeral or at the bedside of a dying loved one as a way to cope with the inner anguish?

I have to find humour in any place that isn’t a mirror ’cause it’s so damned hard to laugh through the crevasses and white hair that accost me like a time thief when I see THAT reflection. All I can say is, “Thank God my eye colour hasn’t changed.

FUN FUN FUN… today I’ll risk my foolish pride by telling you the longest, best bout of laughter I’ve had in 2018 was at the local movie theatre watching…

Peter Rabbit.

Yup, a kids’ cartoon.

I laughed and snorted the whole way through.

I hope the couple sitting in front of me didn’t mind picking semi-chewed specks of popcorn out of their hair when they arrived home after the flick. Hey, it isn’t milk snort!

Peter Rabbit… a beautifully computer-animated version of the classic Beatrix Potter story with some not-so-classic silly voices of Peter, and his triplet sisters Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail (aka James Corden, Daisy Ridley, Margot Robbie, and Elizabeth Debicki).

 

It was clever, and irreverent, often silly but never totally jumped the garden fence into slapstick. It had drama and heartwarming moments, terrific animation, and a gentle love story to complete a great screenplay.

Benjamin Bunny: I’m still so out of shape.

Peter Rabbit: How’s it working with the putting the dressing on the side?

Benjamin Bunny: Good. But, I don’t understand why it’s healthier to drink it all at once.

OK, maybe it was the mood I was in.

Yes, our mood.

I recall gasping in laughter watching Woody Allen’s neurotic-laced Annie Hall the first time through.

On second viewing a few years later, I shook my head, wondering if I was watching the same movie. Where was the incredible humour that had me rolling in the aisle the first time?

Decades back I peed myself through the triad of Monty Python movies (Monty Python and The Holy Grail, The Life of Brian, and The Meaning of Life). I can watch them today and come away with contradictory sensations of laughter and absurdity.

Yes, our mood.

Humour isn’t always what is given to us in the moment. Laughter affects our taste buds differently with each serving.

Often, it’s what we bring to the moment in our own mood… where is our tipping point? Today, is our funny bone right at the surface or deeply submerged?

I love it that I can watch CNN in 2018 and shake my head in laughter more often than I frown. Absurdity is such great comedy.

Perhaps the next time I view Peter Rabbit, my mood may be different. I’ll wonder what the hell was so funny.

But today I’m still giggling the same way I did when I was 7 years old and good ole Mary Poppins gave me that first spoonful of sugar laughter….

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