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!)


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Athot for the Day

If cats could talk, would they lie?


Monday, September 4, 2017

Day of the Labour

It's "Labour Day" again. How much has changed after all these years? Some "things" here in Ontario, Canada, have picked up.


From September 5, 2016:
Happy Labour Day; Ontario Style

Today's special significance reminds me of how pay has not kept up with inflation.

Here's my story: After I finished high school I scored a nice job at Canadian General Electric. I say "nice" as the pay was eight dollars per hour; my dad laughed when I told him the rate of remuneration. Even though I long had plans to go on to post secondary education, the idea of getting a good paying job the summer after graduating from high school was appealing to me. (I should note that that pay rate was for a relief worker, which is what I was to CGE.)

Here's the rub. I checked the Bank of Canada's 'cost of living' website and used its onboard conversion calculator. That eight dollars in 1981 is the equivalent of twenty dollars in today's currency.

Now, where am I going with this?

Next time you chat with a recent high school graduate, ask them what kind of pay they've been offered in their quest for a summer job; if they can even get a summer job. I'm amazed at how many young people I meet who cannot get work for the summer. They have to take volunteer work just so they have something for the resume. (Volunteer work is valued, of course, but paid gigs are nice, especially in anticipation of moving on to university or community college.)

My first summer here in Toronto was in 1985, and jobs were aplenty back then. I had two offers; I just took the first one that came along.

Just as insidious are the "staffing agencies". Companies pay them about 17/18 dollars per hour, per person, and the agency turns around and pays the worker minimum wage. (The adult rate in Ontario is $11.25 per hour. Do the math.)

It's all about keeping people poor. It's also artificial and unnecessary. These companies have to be regulated and bound with restrictions as to how much they can "skim". (Governments won't make a move because they don't care about the working poor.)

Yes, Labour Day. We have a long way to go, baby; or, even better, we have a long way to go back. Baby.

___

The change I touched upon at the top. Positive change:


From July 20, 2017:
Employing a Question of Labour

Some parties here in Ontario, Canada, are whining about a proposal by the Kathleen Wynne government to raise the minimum wage from $11.40 to $15 per hour.

It's not just small businesses that are worried about the admittedly substantial in an all but one-shot increase, but big ones too.

What? Why?

How?

In 1981, while I whistled while I worked at CGE (Canadian General Electric) my efforts were rewarded with a rate of $8 per hour ($20 today). In 1984, as I did some last minute saving-up for school, the Radio Shack warehouse paid me over $6 per 60 minutes. (In both cases I was not 'union'. It's a brain-busting case, I know.)

Dirty little secret: Today, 2017, many if not most companies of industry pay "staffing" agencies 17 - 19, sometimes more, dollars an hour per employee. These middlemen turn around and pay workers our now gorgeous minimum wage.

Go figure it out.


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Some Folks List Their Favourite Treks This Week

On August 29th I wrote a shout-out for fellow blogger John Kenneth Muir and his call to his interested readers to list and submit their top 20 favourite Star Trek episodes. This week he will post the contributions: The blog of John Kenneth Muir

Due to my schedule I failed to submit anything. Built into my excuse is the fact that I have seen very few episodes in the last couple of decades. Three months ago I bought the complete series Blu-ray set. (I've owned a few DVDs and VHS tapes over the years but I donated/sold those a while ago.)

Besides: I've seen the episodes 87.61 times each. And as my dad said to my siblings and I one day after popping open the rec room door (he was curious as to why the house was so quite): "Jesus Christ! How many times have you seen these goddamn things?!" (He laughed. No doubt he recognized one of the many character actors that guest starred in the series. Simulation: "Didn't I see Anthony Caruso in this before?")


Saturday, September 2, 2017

Did I Just Hear a Jet?

The 2017 CNE (Canadian National Exhibition) Air Show must be starting.

Wow! That was close!....


No List to Trek To

My week was so busy I was unable to submit something as described here.

As I state in the linked piece I have not seen those episodes in years. In addition, by filing a best-of list I run the risk of some folk thinking that I maintain an obelisk-like shrine in my home. (I do have one for Roseanne, but that's a tale for another time.)