Monday, September 25, 2017

That Was No Trek Last Night

Re: Premiere episode of Star Trek: Discovery.

I don't know what it was trying to be. Script deficiencies would seem to be the culprit. The show must have gone to camera before important issues were ironed out: characters were cut-outs; sets and settings lacked character; and the dialogue was rubbish.

The behind-the-scenes problems may have been reported accurately. What a space mess.

Discovery's key crew members probably had no idea what was going on. (There was a high turnover of personnel.) It was poorly shot, designed, and scored. The actors looked bewildered at times. The script felt "first draft".

As I was telling a friend, my ritual with the Trek television shows is to watch the first two episodes then go back to my life. My life came back this time after just sixty minutes; at 9:48 last night.


I am plotting an article for an online film magazine a friend of mine is firing up. He suggested I write a review of Multiple Maniacs, John Waters' second feature-length film. Back in March, Criterion released a DVD and Blu-ray and the impressive image quality on the 1970 super-low-budget 16mm epic helps elevate the movie as a whole, popping it into a form of legitimacy. As for content, Maniacs still feels fresh today. It's so audaciously bad-ass, it's goodness.

Working on the article at this time gave my head a shake: Multiple Maniacs is a textbook example of production with vision. Star Trek: Discovery is lacking vision. And that cheapness is more glaring.

I know what ST:D needs. Lobstora!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

"Star Trek: Discovery" on CTV Tonight

While composing my previous piece minutes ago I was interrupted by an advert on CTV (Canadian Television). I had almost forgotten that ST:D's Canadian premiere is tonight at 8:30.

With the exception of the original series, I watched the premiere episodes of the various Treks. It's in the name of research, if not curiosity, so I may find the time tonight to check it out.

Now that I think about it, I hope that Alexander Courage's fanfare is in there. From what I gathered from the trailer, Discovery will need some personality....

National Punctuation Day

Today was a celebration of many marks: commas, periods, colons, and their brothers and sisters.

Proper punctuation is always desirable, even in tweets. (Check out Donald Trump's tweets for a lesson in proper punctuation. "Boring game yes, ... ")

Let's not give a Master Grammarian an excuse to launch punitive action. It would be known as "The Punctuation Wars".

Toronto Hit 33.3 Celsius Today

Or, for you Fahrenheit folk, 92.

Yesterday was steamy hot. As was the day before....

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Stanley Kubrick's Fear and Desire

This Kubrick fan had never seen the brilliant filmmaker's first feature film until last evening. Fear and Desire is not bad. And certainly not as bad as Kubrick thought it to be.

While his next feature film, Killer's Kiss, is a big leap up, and establishes the Kubrick we know today, Fear is an attempt to have some smarts along its 61 minutes. Philosophical meanderings from young people, make no mistake, but ideas are already at the core of a philosopher who went on to make Dr. Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The front-and-center score for Fear and Desire was composed by Gerald Fried. I could imagine watching the film upon its release in 1953 and thinking, "this composer is going to go somewhere". (He did just that. And he worked with Kubrick until Paths of Glory. Until his friend decided to go, for the most part, with existing music.)

As I said to a friend this morning, with Fear and Desire I suspect that Stanley Kubrick "got all of his Super-8 films out of the way".

Friday, September 22, 2017

Coffee Cakes

Recently I read television and film producer Norman Lear's autobiography Even This I Get to Experience. It was an easy read and informative.

Lear had a conflicted and complicated relationship with his father, Hyman ("Herman"), but he has some fond memories of his upbringing. One such memory is how his father would get up in the morning and savour his cup of coffee. (Herman loved life and lived it to the fullest -- including a few years in prison when Norman was a child.)

Many people are forever looking for the secret to a happier life. Maybe part of the answer is on the table in front of them.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Missed Movie Music Titles

Yesterday I posted a list of movies that, I think, have outstanding music scores. During my transcription from my handwritten notes I somehow missed Jaws. How could I not notice it missing?

Here are more titles; again, listed in no particular order:

1. Jaws
2. Super Fly
3. The Sand Pebbles
4. The Ten Commandments (1956)
5. The Swimmer
6. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
7. Superman (1978)
8. Rocky
9. The Right Stuff
10. Islands in the Stream

Many are missing, but that's enough. I had a hard time coming up with more recent titles. The state of film scoring today is pathetic, and has been for years.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Poem: the Cynics' Right

Junky spirituality
supported by popsicle sticks

soggy in frozen treat
for long discarded
all when done

some thought it made life neat
until the next fix
came a long....


Simon St. Laurent

Movie Music of Memory

Last month I posted several of my favourite movie endings; the last few feet of the final reel that stick with you; moving, sometimes disturbing, at times funny.

Looking through coffee-time notes I scratched on a film theme, I came across a partial listing of movies that, in my opinion, have the best scores. To simplify the list I stuck with "American" films.

In no particular order:

1. Bananas
2. Papillon
3. Star Wars
4. Patton
5. King Kong (1933)
6. Ben Hur (1959)
7. Planet of the Apes (1968)
8. Star Trek: The Motion Picture
9. Doctor Death: Seeker of Souls
10. The Omen (1976)
11. On The Waterfront
12. Bride of Frankenstein
13. Forbidden Planet
14. The Adventures of Robin Hood
15. Wild Rovers
16. The Searchers
17. Shaft (1971)
18. Gone With the Wind
19. Chinatown
20. Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)

I need more coffee....

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Other Career Option(s)

Don't I know this:

"You should always have backup careers."

John Waters dispensed that piece of advice last year when he was interviewed by IndieWire journalist Dana Harris. He outlined his other careers besides making films (which he has not done in over ten years): Art shows, articles, books, and speaking tours.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Post Awards Ceremony

Yesterday I wrote about an award I came up with in the summer of 1979 after seeing the aviation movie masterwork Concorde . . . Airport '79.

Not long after I posted the piece a friend asked me if I paid to see a 'certain' picture at its premiere. Yes I did, and it would take the ultimate prize, but my issue with such an awarding is due to the fact that the flick was produced on a very low budget.

Squirrelly Hollywood movies that miss the mark by a great margin are more deserving.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

... And the Award Goes to....

Summer 1979.


The Roxy movie theatre in Barrie, Ontario, Canada.

The movie: Concorde . . . Airport '79

My friends and I sat in silence, unsure at first, but building with assurance as the film unreeled.

George Kennedy said: "They don't call it the cockpit for nothing...."

Three teenage jaws dropped.

It (the film) ended and we departed.

I came up with an award name: "The Worst Movie I've Ever Paid to See" Award.

Bird on a Wire Document

For a few months a friend recommended to this Leonard Cohen fan that I check out the 1974 documentary Bird on a Wire. I did just that last night; the first hour at least. Distractions aplenty.

When I get a chance I'll check out the remaining forty-five minutes, but I know enough already to say that Bird is a terrific document.

Leonard Cohen was just so cool -- and a genuine man's man.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

My Revisiting of Hammer House of Horror

As I wrote earlier today, I watched the 1980 British one-hour television series Hammer House of Horror for the first time back in 1999. I thought the series "okay".

Last week I started my first rewatch; two episodes in thus far, the first two in the original broadcast order: "Witching Time" and "The Thirteenth Reunion."

All those terrific British character actors and filming locations.....

Hammer House of Horror Revisited 1999

I could hear air escaping from the tank. But it was not a pressure bottle of any kind; it was my Brit friend Paul.

He invited me over to watch some episodes of an old British show that he loved as a youth: Hammer House of Horror. Paul had picked up the VHS complete-series set from Sam the Record Man in downtown Toronto. I whipped over with some enthusiasm since not only was I aware of Hammer House but my mate had spoken a few times about how the one-hour 1980 series was his "appointment television" every week when he was fourteen years of age.

"Ssssssssss...." I knew what that sound signified....

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Louis St. Laurent - Canada's 12th Prime Minister

The man served as this great country's leader from 1948 to 1957.

When I was a little kid, school teachers would say, "oh, like our former Prime Minister".

Of course, Louis' Liberal reign was then just ten years in the past.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Horst, the Germany Fan

I was walking down the sidewalk on my street. A older man cut in front; he was wearing a Tirolerhut, just the kind of hat sported in a place like Bavaria. Two German flags shot up proudly from each side. He must be a Germany fan. After all, the 2014 World Cup of Soccer is playing out.

At an intersection I caught up to the man and asked him if he was heading to a bar to meet other Germans and Germany fans.

With a heavy accent, the kind I can do an imitation vocally but not so much in text form, he said:

"Hi, I'm Horst." Yes, he was heading to where the action was.

I was off to another distination, so I could not join him, but he was the kind of guy I wanted to have a beer with. German beer! Talk Germany.

Germany won the cup. I was more than happy.

"I Do Not Suffer Writer's Block"

That's what I've claimed many times when the question arises. To me there is no such thing. The taps are always open. Put the cup under the one appropriate for the moment.

The hard part just might be which tap to pick. What is the moment? Know the question.

That may be the key to solving any writer's blockage.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Race Over Racism

Recently I've posted a few quotes by filmmaker and writer John Waters. With the subject of "hate" taking up some bandwidth these days I'm reminded of more Watersonian perspective:

"Once you've travelled you can't be a racist."

Athot for the Days

The worst kind of dispiriting is that of the heart.