Friday, September 26, 2008

On the campaign trail

Suprisingly, we are less than enthused about the upcoming Canadian election and it is taking real effort on our part to stay interested and informed. The Conservative Party's campaign slogans, "Dion - he's not worth the risk" seem to acknowledge implicitly that Harper himself is no catch, but is at least marginally better than Dion. Dion, for his part, is generating all of the ideas in the campaign, something ideally, ought to indicate that he should win - if, Canadians agree. Layton, meanwhile, appears to be tarred with fallout over Tony Blair, even though the two superficially have nothing to do with each other. However, Layton, like Blair, we suppose, is seen as a vigourous and well-spoken leader who's modern style is at odds with the blue-collar roots of his party, and after Blair, that is generating significant doubts. 

"Modern style" is an interesting term to crop up in the campaign as well. All three of the major leaders are from the same social generation and have many of the same foundational views on things, unlike a certain other presidential campaign south of the border. This is mostly a problem for Layton, as the world has changed and the NDP have yet to find a new position as a true left alternative (whatever that may mean, and it's clear that NDP doesn't know).

Who will win? Harper is fear-mongering in a time of economic uncertainty. Dion is suggesting solutions. How afraid of the future Canadians actually are will determine the winner. 

Monday, September 15, 2008

Tweet of the day

Twitter user ParisLemon offers a brilliant summary of the news worth knowing today:

"Stock market is crashing, but the new kings of leon album sounds good."

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Music Update

Just a quick summary of some of the things that we've been listening to over the past few weeks. The new Michael Franti & Spearhead album, All Rebel Rockers, really took us by surprise at it's overall danceability - kinda like when Chumbawamba released Tubthumping and everyone wondered at the disappearance of the politics, subsumed as they were in the background. Speaking of good feelings, Montreal's Hexes and Ohs appear to us to have inherited Sassy Magazine's Cute Band Alert mantle. Don't believe us, check out this video for "H-H-High School" from their new album Bedroom Madness.

Finally Portland, Oregon's Jaguar Love have grown on us substantially. Their album, Take Me To The Sea, is filled with classic metal moves, but with a freedom and reckless abandon akin to The Bronx.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Best of Summer Movies, L'Enfant

We watch a lot of movies in our office; typically once a day someone shows something, either after the coffee buzz has worn down and everyone has entered that mental no man's land of three o'clock, or else late into the evening when folks are too wired to go home. Our tally for the summer stands at seventy-three films.

The two most noteworthy are perhaps David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises (2007), and a Belgian film entitled, L'Enfant (2005). Eastern Promises, is filled with all the tension and edgieness that one expects from a director like Cronenberg who is capable of arguing that filmed car crashes can be high art. Further, as his second time working with actor Viggo Mortensen, he is able to coax out perhaps one of Mortensen's most nuanced performances. Concerned with the migration of Eastern Europeans into the West (specifically London), the film looks at the descent of some of these travellers into the world of organized crime and human traffically. A visually stunning, and not just for the extensive tatoos of the Russian mob characters (including Viggo), it left us awed.

If Eastern Promises captivated with it's stunning intensity, L'Enfant was something else entirely. Filmed in a cinema veritie style, it had none of the production value of Cronenberg's studio/art house movie. One never forgot that Eastern Promises was entertainment. L'Enfant, on the otherhand was different. The film explores the struggle of a young couple who have just had a baby. We never really find out their ages, but a rough estimate is that he is perhaps twenty, and she sixteen or seventeen. He, Bruno, is a neighbourhood hoodlum, having roped two local grade school boys into his "crew", and the threesome commit all manners of petty crimes. The film begins when she, Sonia, returns home from the hospital with the baby and finds that Bruno has sublet her flat, and is currently living down by the riverbank. She is upset at the fact that Bruno appears unconcerned, and Bruno slowly begins to realize that his lifestyle must change. 

The baby presents several challenges that neither Bruno or Sonia are capable of dealing with, likely owing to their youth and absence of family network. Despite the added financial burden of a baby, Bruno demonstrates little understanding of money, using his ill-gotten proceeds to by clothes, rent cars, even a baby seat for said car, only to sell or barter the goods away hours later for a fraction of their cost. When Sonia, in a bout of post-partum despair that she wished the baby had never come, Bruno takes that as a sign to contect his fence and arranges to have the baby sold. From there, the film is on, through many twists and turns. At no point is it "entertaining" but just as much, never let's the viewer go. At times, one feels like Alex the Droog being forced to watch the images of violence accompanied by Beethoven's Fifth.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Watchmen Addendum, Part II

While The Watchmen's opening negation always stuck with us, clearly linked to it's cause, the other memory we had of The Watchmen lay dormant for a long time. Well over a decade later, after reading the The Watchmen, we came across an interview with Jimi Hendrix in which he claimed "I don't want to be a clown anymore", referring to the fact that he felt people expected pyrotechnics and not musicianship from his performances. Something about the remark struck us with half-filled rememberances of existential angst. Re-reading The Watchmen, we came across it:

"Man goes to see a doctor. Says he's depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says 'Treatment is simple. Great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up.'

Man bursts into tears. Says, 'But doctor . . .

. . . I am Pagliacci.'"

Watchmen Addendum, Part I

One of the key moments in The Watchmen that resonated with us for years, was in fact the opening lines:

"The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout "Save us!" . . .

". . . and I'll look down, and whisper "No.""

Obviously the film makers charged with editting the trailer for the movie were struck with it as well.

Years later, when reading Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged (soon to be it's own movie, with Angelina Jolie), and found ourselves disagreeing with the celebrated Rand over how her protanganists' own "No" played out, it was perhaps because we were still hung up on The Watchmen and looking for something a little more dramatic, with a touch more nihilism.

We Watch The Watchmen

A few weeks ago we found ourselves hanging out, across the street from a bookstore, aimlessly watching people stroll along the boulevard. Over coffee we watched people coming and going, and eventually noticed a steady stream of customers entering and exiting the bookstore. We noticed that single men paid the store little attention, but it was the men walking with significant others that caught our eye, as it appeared that something in the window caught theirs. From where we were sitting we couldn't make out what it was in the window that was causing the causal commotion, but after investigating further, we found that the store and setup a display of of The Watchmen trade paperback. A twelve part comic book miniseries when we were younger, the book was stunning - unlike anything else we had read. It seemed to turn the entire notion of superherodom on its' head. Good guys were bad guys, and bad guys were . . . well, everyone was bad. It had swearing and nudity, and the guys behind the counters wouldn't sell it to you if you weren't old enough. Borrowed copies circulated through our grade six class like wildfire.

All of the men walking past the display, seemed like us, to have been right around thirty, too young to have past the "cool test" when the Watchmen came out the first time and were now picking up the trade paperback to make up for lost time. Without thinking, a few of us picked up copies, and we all felt like we were apart of some kind of generational moment, simultaneously, we also felt kind of lame, as if we were trying to make up for our lack of cool some twenty years ago.

Obvisouly, we are eagerly awaiting the Warner Brothers' film adaptation slated to appear this fall (though apparently a lawsuit from 20th Century Fox is threatening to delay it).