Friday, October 20, 2017

"Sheppard West" TTC Subway Station Satellite



... Formerly "Downsview" Station.

Thugs of Canada Geese



Take a trip to the northern areas of Toronto and observe Canada Geese. "Canada Bastards" might be a better name; I've been hissed at a few times. These guys didn't seem to mind as I hovered about with my camera for a couple of minutes back in the Spring.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Picture Me in "Graveyard Shift" Workshop


Subject: A very grubbily-dressed me poses with set in construction.
Date: October 1985
Place: Set construction workshop, just south of King Street, Toronto
Photo: Dave Fiacconi

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

They're Dropping Like Frames (Flies)

Through changes in imaging technologies, including the shift to "I can do that on my computer now", film and television post production houses have been closing their doors these past few years.

This week I found out that a "post house" I worked for here in Toronto closed its doors two years ago. A similar company I worked for previous to that as a tech, and later as a sales rep, has also gone post production.

Things are settling down. The power is now in the hands of the "amateur".


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Writers' Note

Writer William S. Burrows (1914 - 1997) said this:

"You can only write what you know, even if you don't know that you know it."


Monday, October 16, 2017

Peter Biskind's Next Book?

If you know the writer's book list you may have an idea what the subject of his next book might be.

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls and Down and Dirty Pictures were interesting reads, but there's no way I could stomach a book about Harvey Weinstein now.


Ontario Public College Faculty Now on Strike

As of this school morning more than 12,000 faculty members of Ontario's Community Colleges are on strike.

I remember September of 1984: The same thing happened. I had been a student for a few weeks when suddenly, but not without warning, I had the day off. That strike went on for four weeks.

The concern at the time was that our school year would have to be extended in order to make up for lost time. The May finish would drop us students late into the summer job pool. Things worked out for me, but it was a bit of a stressful time.

When you're paying money for school you don't want any complications.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

You Know What?

What does it matter?

It matters not.

That's what!


The Space Probe Golden Film Record

You may pick just one feature film to be included in the Golden Record on the next interstellar space probe. It must represent what mankind is capable of doing in the motion picture form; which is why Forrest Gump cannot, or should not, hitch a ride on a vehicle that may go on its forever journey -- eventually to be found by another race of beings. (Now that I think about it, Forrest Gump himself might be a prime candidate for the trip to somewhere, some millennium, never to be seen again; at least not by humans.)

Back to the probe: My own pick might just be:

Metropolis, Fritz Lang's 1927 epic. The imagery is so forever, the film as a whole, so quoted and referred to, that, to me, there is no better representative feature-length motion picture.

A few years ago I got into a discussion with a friend about the matter and he said his pick would be 2001: A Space Odyssey, another "forever" piece of film art.

As much as I like Annie Hall, Bicycle Thieves, and Patton, I don't feel they best represent the 'bandwidth' possible in the art form.

What? Plan 9 from Outer Space? I had forgotten about that one....


Saturday, October 14, 2017

An All-Purpose Saying?

My late father had a list of handy sayings. Some of them were pretty funny.

Perhaps my favourite of the bunch is this:

"Of course not. Why would it?"


That may be where I got my cynicism from. Or I already had it and sayings like that one just played right into my cynical side.


We'll Meet Again?

It was a year ago, this week
that we last met...

under that ship's
crane as it unloaded
a shipment of cheap
products from the "orient"

however, as you remember, but
perhaps you don't
that crane did drop its
   swinging
 load

right

on

us!

...

And with that bad luck,
my sweet
it's not possible for
you and I to ever meet

under that crane, or
anything else again.


Friday, October 13, 2017

A Situation of Satiation

I am not a nutritionist. But I am aware of my own gastronomic and gastric requirements. Vegan dishes are regarded by some as lacking in essential ingredients: meat. Three years ago I met a young vegan lady through a mutual friend. Little did I know when I was introduced to Jennifer that she would almost change my dinner plate.

It was bound to happen. After she slipped me some publications on the wonderful world of veganism I decided to give the culinary component a shot -- with her guidance, of course.  Jennifer cooked up a storm, and during the event, she gave me notes on what it was she was doing with what food items and ingredients, and what each and every one contributed to the nutritional indexes.

What a fabulous meal that was; quite possibly the greatest I've ever experienced. This was the best part: When I awoke the next morning I was not compelled to run for an emergency food source. My metabolism is such that even if I chow down on something based around meat the night before, by the next morning I am more than a little peckish. Jennifer's vegan plate somehow convinced my brain that I was not starving, even hours later.

After I recounted the story to another vegan friend he told me why I had felt so satiated: "She probably packed it with nutrients."

For some reason I've not been able to go off meat completely, even if it continues to be a small portion of my dinner plate. The issue of animal abuse is something that bothers me. What will it take to convince me to go over? No doubt I'm not alone in facing that dilemma.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Muskoka Drive-In

Last Friday I posted a piece on the 1975 Canadian exploitation treat, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS. The focus of my blog posting is friend Chris and his father venturing off to see it together at the Astral Theatre in CFB Borden (Ontario, Canada).

Chris emailed me to say he loved the story; however, he corrected me on the venue. He and his dad saw it at the Muskoka Drive-In in Gravenhurst. Chris also informed me that its screen is alive and well!


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Poem: Scanning Between the Lines

The Lines are out of Raster
The Raster is out of Lines

Is gone the picture tube
information in pictures
might reassemble

someplace eclectic
a placement of ideas
and thoughts electric

to home base time correction
no Minow needs
correcting for no reason

but what we
see on
the flat screen

___

2017
Simon St. Laurent


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Fight Forward! (Not Backward)

"Fight forward!"

A talented and hard-working friend falls into the pit of self-doubt. He worked for years in film and television, and after getting turfed from the business he so loved, it came time to try his hand at self-employment.

The hardest-working man I know.

A multi-talented friend: short films in a top film festival; a feature-length film as producer and shooter; a writer; a designer and artist. He's not of the "I work in the film and television business" kind -- there are certainly enough of those -- but he's a guy who intimidates some, certainly the "I work in the film and television business" kind.

A bump in the road, there will be many, but he will push forth.

"Fight forward!" Not backward. They put you down because you can do more than one thing, and well.


Monday, October 9, 2017

What Happened to "A Place to Stand"?

"Give us a place to stand
And a place to grow
And call this land On-tario . . ."

That was a fine song from my youth. It was not only eminently singable, but memorable, too.

And it's been retuned for a new generation; or something like that.

There is a new ad campaign extolling the virtues of Ontario, Canada, and being a citizen within. The move to update "A Place to Stand" is fine, to be expected, of course, and it is designed for Ontario's and Canada's 150th birthday celebrations, but to strip away what made the song work in the first place is all too typical. The original was a breathy chorus, a proud and exuberant call to this province. Now it's a tiny, but hip (man), little bitty that carries no memory. It's not even a noble attempt to reboot the song, but rather, a lesson in how not to arrange a song that originally enjoyed a marvellous tune. The tune is now gone. Composer Delores Claman is probably wondering where her song went.

This reminds me of something a friend of mine will dispense from time to time; and especially at a time like this:

"Why do they strip away the very things that made it work in the first place?"

Neil is right.


Friday, October 6, 2017

Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, at the Drive-In

In yesterday's posting I mentioned the 1975 film Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS. A Canadian production, the film played a lot at the Astral Theatre in CFB Borden (Ontario, Canada) when I lived there. Surprisingly enough, this history buff has to this day never seen the film.

My friend Chris has. He dragged his father off to see Ilsa when it ran at the Muskoka Drive-In. Chris told me the story a couple of years later, and when he did, I laughed. Knowing his father, a super nice man, by the way, I could picture the two of them sitting in their car, watching this piece of pure exploitation.

Chris explained:

"My dad kept wanting to leave and I said 'no, no, let's stay! I wanna see what happens!'"


***

Correction, October 14th: I made adjustments to reflect information given to me by "Chris". On Thursday, October 12th, I wrote a new piece using that appreciated intelligence. (The original title of this posting was "Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, at the Astral".)



Thursday, October 5, 2017

Some Cool Movie Titles

Back on September 26th I posted a piece about my favourite movie title of all. That inspired me to pencil more titles into my notebook.

Here's a quick and unfiltered list:

American Graffiti
Silent Running
The Little Shop of Horrors
The Fast and the Furious
Not of This Earth
Plan 9 From Outer Space
Manhattan
Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
Shaft
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS
Hercules




Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A Memorable Quote About War

On Monday I posted about a day of violence. In the BBC documentary I watched, a World War II Russian soldier spoke about the very present threat of death. He was part of a special force in Stalingrad that was responsible for clearing out buildings of German soldiers. It was very dangerous work:

"Every step in Stalingrad meant death. Death was in our pockets. Death was walking with us."



Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Open Letter Re: Bloor Street Bike Lanes

I live near Bloor Street, right in the Annex, and I think the lanes are a great idea. The number of bikes in those lanes is impressive. However, several business owners on Bloor are complaining that foot traffic has plummeted since the lanes were 'built' and they fear that continued operation of these routes will force them to shutter their stores.

Foot traffic is generated from people like me. Also, there are parking lots in that area, which, I should add, is where friends of mine from out of town park their cars when they visit for our Bloor hang.

The bigger concern is the ridiculous business rents down that strip. One of my favourite 'Asian' restaurants went under last year; the owner told me that her rent skyrocketed to $13,000 per month. She simply could not afford that number as the 'nut'. That is the real story here.

There are many factors in lack of store patronage. The stunning fact is lots of shops on that bit of Bloor were going under before the bike lanes were marked out. Two tea shops, for instance, sprouted and died within two or three years of opening. Funny thing, that, since I often find myself caught in major foot traffic.



Monday, October 2, 2017

A Day of Violence

There was a terrible act of violence today in Las Vegas. A lone gunman opened fire on a large gathering of people who were taking in a music festival. A peaceful crowd in a time of peace.

This week I've been making my way through a documentary from 1999 titled BBC history of WW II - War of the Century, When Hitler Fought Stalin. The subject matter being what it is there is an overload of onscreen violence: lots of weapons firing; especially automatic weapons firing. Tonight I watched another episode. (This history buff thinks he's totally immune to the affects of seeing and hearing onscreen carnage in archival documentary footage.)

In video and audio clips from today we heard lots of automatic weapons firing. I didn't know there was a war going on.


 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Process Screen

This evening I saw a couple of television adverts for upcoming science fiction films.

One such picture is called Geostorm. If the TV spot is any indication there are some live-action elements in there somewhere, and maybe a story of some kind, too. The overpowering ingredient is Special Visual Effects. Of course a lot of it is done "in the computer" which only ends up making the movie look non-immersive.

I swear, I could almost smell the green screen material.


Saturday, September 30, 2017

Poem: See You In September?

I did not see you in September.

Did you get caught in August?

Or

were you hiding in July?

Oh,

January denied you entry.

___

2017
Simon St. Laurent


Friday, September 29, 2017

Cats and Bats

"Your bloody cat brought a bat into the house!"

I was bleary eyed, still plenty tired, but I knew what my mother was trying to tell me through my bedroom door.

"My cat" had done something bad, so I wasted no time in waking up to face the challenge of extracting a cute little bat. There it lay, dead, a poor unfortunate victim of a wayward pussy cat, on the floor outside my bedroom. ("A present? For me?! Thanks so much, Willie.")

Training in expired-bat removal was not something I had taken formally, but I knew that in the back room hung the Runkko "Bat Extractor": Two tennis rackets. (Of course I did not use my own lemon-yellow racket.)

The next day my mother explained to all what she had witnessed: "He would run to the top of the stairs with the bat in his mouth. He would then spit it out and bat it with his paw to the bottom of the stairs. Then he would run to the bottom, grab the bat with his teeth, run to the top of the stairs...."

Willie was a nice cat. Great personality.





Thursday, September 28, 2017

Woody Allen's Three Tops

For the first time in many years I watched Woody Allen's 1989 masterwork Crimes and Misdemeanors. "Masterwork" I confirmed last night.

I thought highly of Crimes when I first saw it way back but now I put it right up with my favourite Allen pictures: Annie Hall and Manhattan.

The filmmaking is impressive; the way that two story lines are streamed, intermixed, and resolved. Resolutions sitting comfortably in realism. Yes, what is morality? Its malleability is troubling.

However, Allen finds the funny moments that sprinkle life. It's not all bad, right?

When Woody Allen is performing at artistic peaks he is all but untouchable.





Wednesday, September 27, 2017

There is Another Fave Movie TItle

Last evening I posted about my favourite movie title. There is another, a close second:

The Brain from Planet Arous

In 1957 few kids could resist something like that. I remember when I was 8 or 9 years of age and seeing a showbill in the front display case of the CFB Baden-Soellingen movie theatre:

First Spaceship on Venus

My sister and I witnessed that mission.


Movies from the Bins

Last evening I posted a quick bit about a certain great movie title.

Now that I think about it, there may be another. Back in the mid 1980s a friend told me one day that he was happy since he had found a special title on VHS: in a discount bin was a copy of The Twilight People.

Who needs Citizen Kane when you have access to genuine cinematic masterpieces? (Welles was, at best, a flash in the pan.)


Heat Warning in Southern Ontario Cancelled

That may be the meteorological equivalent of a school bus cancellation. We'll see if this coming winter invites school bus cancellations. (Last winter, Toronto had little snow.)


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Two Movie Mates in Conversation

His response after I revealed to him today that my favourite movie title of all time may be The Monster That Challenged the World:

"It should have been titled 'The Monster That Challenged Two People'."


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: the characters are cut-outs; sets and settings lack character; and the dialogue is 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.) The home opener was poorly shot, designed, and scored. The actors looked bewildered at times. The script felt "first draft".

As I told a friend recently, 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.

Good.

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.


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....

___

2017
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.

August.

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.


Another Athot for the Day

When a cat smiles, is it planning?


("It"?! Indeed!)