Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Slumming It

I love movies. I love India. Frieda Pinto is a knockout. Danny Boyle is a wicked stylish director who knows how to put great tunes and great colours together on screen.

I loved Slumdog Millionaire. I really did. It was the quintessence of "a good time at the movies".

And having not seen any other movies nominated for Best Picture this year I am probably under-qualified to vote. But it made me very sad to think that as good as this Mumbai slum film was that it was the best the world had to offer this year. Is it too much to ask that all movies be entertaining and touching and pretty to look at with good music and be pulled together with snappy editing? This is what now qualifies for special mention? This dominates the awards scene?

Now of course I understand the awards are a result of savvy campaigning and the general whimsy of an academy of artists. But still.

Nothing of particularly innovative or novel nature happened this year? Really? If not, then boo movies; if yes, then boo academy.

Maybe this weekend I'll rent Shakespeare in Love and see how that's aging.

It is just another step down in the process of my decreasing interest in films and those who produce them; there is a reason that television serials have essentially replaced movies in my house. And that's all I have to say about that.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Book Review - Bel Canto, Ann Patchett

You know that you are reading a Book Club book when there is an appendix of special features including, "How to Fall In Love With Opera" and a series of suggested topics for further discussion.

Middlebrow is the word that kept springing to mind as I read it. It's certainly not "chick-lit" (there are zero shopping sprees and very little in the way of heaving chests) but with writing like this, it is not really deserving of serious consideration either.

While certainly lyrical enough (believe me the musical allusions are not tough to find), it is rife with purple passages that include the "drinking in" of various peoples souls and so on. "Gen's head was filled with Carmen" is the kind of stuff that makes my teeth ache.

The passages about music are worse. Which, to be fair, writing about music is really difficult - witness how even the most knowledgeable reviewers are prone to near meaningless cliches in their critique. The media simply don't lend well to each other and Ms. Patchett at least infuses Opera with a romantic enthusiasm. It's just that it's all, well, over-zealous.

Like here where a young boy sings in public for the first time after listening raptly (with bursting pants, no less) to the soprano in captivity:
He didn't seem to hear them laughing. His gaze was unfocused.
He was singing to no one in particular. It wasn't that he was mocking her
so much as he was just trying to fill up the space where she should have
been. It would have been mocking if it had only been her gestures he
was repeating, but it wasn't. It was her voice. The legendary
voice of Roxane Coss. He held his notes long and clear. He
reached down into the depths of his lungs for power, the volume he had not
allowed himself when singing alone under his breath. He was singing
now, a par that was too high for him and yet he jumped up and grabbed
onto the edge of the note. He pulled himself up and held it.

Is it a good story? Sure. Is it romantic? Absolutely. But as much as she is a good story teller and holds readers' attention with passable, even cinematic character development, there is a sneaking suspicion one gains early on that the power of music is going to save the day.

Does it? Not really. The ending is, in fact both well-earned and surprising. Which is cool, especially since I only had to groan through 315 pages to get there.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What is a Mustache?

Alex peered at his face in the mirror and considered his mustache. There seemed to be a little gray creeping into the bristle. Maybe it was time to lose it.

Maybe that's why Saturday Night Live hadn't called. At heart, SNL is a young people's show and if there is anything young people don't like, it's probably old guys with mustaches.

Certainly he was funny enough. And it's common knowledge that every episode of Jeopardy! features a free form questioning period of the contestants where his dry wit was often on display. No doubt about his ability to improvise in front of a live audience.
It must be the mustache, he thought to himself.
Bob Barker had been asked, though apparently declined. Something about being uncomfortable maintaining his tan to specification outside of California. Regis practically lives at Rockefeller Center. Shit even Richard Dawson had even made an appearance on the show once, though it was Alex's understanding that he had been too drunk to remember any of his lines.
They have had loads of Canadians on the show, so that couldn't be it. Come to think of it, American sketch comedy is literally teeming with Canadians. His flat accent and love of the absurd should be an asset more than anything else.
Shoot, there was even a recurring Jeopardy! skit on the show! How ironic would it be if he played, say superstar comedian Will Farrell as a celebrity contestant. Man, he would turn the tables right on that big oaf! Would that be just too insouciant? Probably less so without the mustache.
As far as technique goes, it was going to take some planning to get it off. When you're in television and traffic in your image (plus: your wit! don't forget that you're clever!) it's important to make these drastic changes with considerable forethought. But as soon as he got dressed and finished his hot yoga, he would call his agent directly.
A smooth lipped man, popular with the ladies, admired by men of all sizes, and able to deliver a chalky smooth punchline. Who is the next host of Saturday Night Live? Who is Alex Trebek?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Items of Which The First Is Incredibly Good And The Second Not Nearly So And In Fact A Bit Of A Letdown On The Whole

Pizza, Slice of

Egg McMuffin, with Sausage

The Matrix, film

Waterski, session of

Pint of brown ale, Smithicks comes to mind

Service, in tennis

Shampoo, Rinse and...

Coffee, cup of

Underpants, pair of

Shave, session of