23 February 2013

Beautiful Features

Okay, this time we really get to see how I'm not a professional reviewer, just a shallow viewer with certain things that will draw his attention and make him happy. And then, bending with the wind, putting it all back into question when it seems like his friends didn't like the film he thought he liked when the credits were rolling by. And then reasserting his simple lack of depth in getting back to what he liked. And not a single little nap during the film, at least not by me! Brace yourself, this should be a roller coaster!

I have a weakness for supernatural powers. Not the god kind, but probably more the magic kind. I don't particularly believe in either of them, but I enjoy the magic kind in a movie. This movie has that in spades, or at least in vines and storms. Oh, and home decorating! But we'll come back to that.

It also has one of my other favourite things: attractive young men. Well, at least one, and one who seems to have wandered in from a fifties or early sixties high school/college comedy or drama. A little "aw shucks"-y, a little innocent, but also on the verge of losing that innocence in an entirely willing way. I might become a stalker of Alden Ehrenreich, or at least of his movies.

Heading downhill now… One of my friends, who is given to insightful deconstruction of the dramatic elements of theatre and cinema, observed that all the women characters were evil. I wouldn't be able to contradict that statement, and it started making me feel less positive about the movie. Damn you, Alden Ehrenreich! I should have noticed that on my own, if you hadn't absorbed all of my attention!

I also spend a great deal of the movie trying to place Jeremy Irons. The moment his character appeared I thought there was something familiar about him, but couldn't for the life of me figure it out. Seeing his name in the credits reminded me that I had grown so familiar with him in the role of the pope in The Borgias. Dark casters both, I would have to say.

Upside coming! The inside of that dilapidated southern plantation house was fabulous. A giant curving staircase that would be the nightmare of a safety expert (no sides or handrails) in such a stark setting as to allow for its magical (in both senses) transformation from one scene to the next. I loved it with all the energy I usually reserve for opera sets and am ready to move in at a moment's notice. The binding spell around it might also come in handy in lieu of an alarm, too.

So apart from the magic, the boy and the house, what appeal? The story, I would have to admit, was a little light on content. Outsider girl irresistible to popular boy, struggling with a terrible secret and a heart-rending choice, loved ones sacrificing themselves for others' happiness. All a bit predictable. And then the worst and probably most predictable part of all for an American film: crazy twist at the end making us feel like it might have a happy ending after all.

As the coaster slows and pulls into the station, I have to say that I would have been happier with the uncertainty that seemed like it would be the end.

20 February 2013

Force majeure

If you have read a lot of my blog entries, you might be familiar with a little ritual I have when I go to Paris. (Yeah, that sounds like I go there all the time, but I really don't.) I do realize that the time I shared the whole story here it was the French version, so I will give you the short version in English now.

I was in Paris for the first time and had a day and a half free after the meetings I had been there to participate in. As it turns out, the full day part of that was the day the museums are closed, so it really didn't make much sense to me to try to see the Louvre in a half day. Instead, I decided to make a memory for myself and set out on a kooky task that had me knitting in front of many of the great landmarks of Paris, much to the amusement of many a tourist.

I started at the Place de la Concorde. Dickens readers will recognize this as the spot where the gentry lost their heads in the French Revolution, under the watchful gaze of a knitting Madame de Farge. (Now you know where the knitting part comes in.) I continued, meticulously noting which rows I knit where, until casting off in front of the Assemblée nationale and retiring back to the Café Very in the Jardin des Tuileries for a refreshing drink and a breather to write my memorial note for my first friend to have died of AIDS.

I went on to the Pont Neuf, down the stairs to the Quai des Orfèvres, and I tied it to a ring under the bridge, "wrapping" the Pont Neuf just like Christo and Jeanne-Claude, if on a rather smaller scale. Now, whenever I find myself in Paris, I make a point to return to that spot and tie a red ribbon onto that ring in memory of my friend.

This time I met an obstacle that was insurmountable, and I was distressed by that, but adapted my ritual to the circumstances beyond my control.

The problem is that the Seine was extremely high, and in fact covered the Quai des Orfèvres where I would need to walk to get to my ring. There was current on the Quai, so there was no way I could conceive of venturing forth without risking my own life. I like to think I am smarter, or at least more practical, than that, so I adapted my remembrance for this time.

Back up the stairs to a point from which the ring was visible, if not in my photos, to my eye.

And again, Garry, there is no inappropriate time or manner in which to pay homage to one's friends.

19 February 2013


We were in meetings for two days in Pantin. On the ground floor. While listening to the discussion and contributing where appropriate, certain images still draw one's attention.

For me it was the lanky youth hovering around in the alley – more of a lane really – between the office tower on whose ground floor we were meeting and what seems like a social housing project of some sort next door. The next door building has nets suspended above the sidewalk like the anti-suicide nets of a Chinese factory, apparently because there have been problems in the past with people in the building throwing things onto the sidewalk below. This always gives me pause when I walk there.

The lanky youth. Sometimes sauntering, looking around frequently, sometimes actually running, but away from or toward…impossible to say. I was intrigued and compelled to construct a whole story that revolved around some kind of gang activity or drug dealing. Funny how a mind can wander into that territory.

Cut to a late evening finding something to eat in the near vicinity. Waking up from an overly long nap can be troublesome and challenging. The little empty neighbourhood pizza and sandwich place I find will do. And while I'm waiting for my pizza and my Coke Zero (had to repeat that, as I didn't call it a "coca" like the locals), who should pop into the restaurant but Mr. Hoodie and another young guy. They didn't actually come all the way in, just inside the door, and gave a few coins to the guy behind the counter, as if repaying a small loan or making good on a promise to pay later for food consumed earlier. And then they were gone.

I'm finished with my pizza and my coca and I continue to be puzzled by the culture of tipping in Paris, so I deposit my change in the collection box for the muslim school that is at the cash (that's worth a chuckle). Outside, I stop at a little bakery that is still open this late for a couple of little treats: chocolatine and a cone-shaped nut filled dessert that hearkens to one middle eastern culture or another. (Epilogue: these were lovely.) Walk back to the hotel, past the building, under the nets.

I see them ahead of me and my mind starts racing. Hoodie is looking into some car window and I don't know whether there was anyone in the car or not. I was focused on being aware of where everyone else was. Hoodie's friend was on the steps of the building. My mind has now gone to the place where I get accosted or worse, thinking how naïve I am to believe that there really aren't dangerous places to walk around here, at least not for a man my size.

As I proceed down the sidewalk, stride unbroken, Hoodie heads back from the car toward his friend on the steps and we almost run into each other. He looks at me sheepishly and mumbles a "Bonsoir" in the voice of a teen, steeped in innocence.

I have to laugh at the myriad of assumptions and possibilities I had managed to assemble in my head and how they can be so quickly undone in a word and a tone.

16 February 2013

Lukewarm Bodies

It's a funny thing to see the familiar sights of your own city on the screen. Warm Bodies was shot in Montréal (and our old white elephant of an international airport terminal that didn't stand the test of time, far off in the north), but things were rearranged for the sake of the plot…er…the look of the movie.

Am I suggesting there was no plot? Surely not! It was a classic "girl and friends go outside the protective wall looking for medications for the besieged city, get attacked by zombies, girl is saved by zombie boy, love brings him (and a cast of thousands) back to life and into an alliance with the people who used to aim for their heads" story. Not a classic? Well, maybe if I expressed it as irredeemable boy brought back to redemption by his attraction to the girl. Yes, that works.

Or, as they say in the movie, he is exhumed by his love of her, and thereby all of humanity is exhumed. The unfortunate misuse of the word is explained by the inevitable loss of vocabulary when one dies.

There are several of those cute moments in the movie, including the scene where the saved (or kidnapped) girl finds a Zombie DVD and holds it up to him to compare, and plenty of other instances that show how easy it is to fool zombies with a little decaying body fluid smeared on one's face and a jerky walk – but don't exaggerate this last thing!

Back to the setting. Olympic Stadium transported to the centre of downtown, running down a corridor in one familiar place and that leading to another familiar building that is in fact quite far away and not attached by a corridor. When the city is familiar, you probably waste a bit of time trying to identify what is being shown in your own context, rather than in the context of the film.

I also can't believe that I missed seeing my friend's daughter in a fleeting glimpse of her "extra" role, but my friend has very sharp eyes where her children are concerned and saw it clearly. I'm going to have to watch this again, at least in part, after it comes out in extra-cinematic form.

Best scares are reserved for the "bonies" – zombies who are apparently irretrievably decayed and surprisingly quick on their feet. In retrospect, they were a bit crude as monsters go, but they gave me a good fright anyway.

This one can wait until you don't have to pay cinema prices to see it. When my friend's daughter plays a credited role in a movie, I will make you go see it in the cinema!

11 February 2013


So, Benedict XVI has announced his resignation from what we all thought was the original end-dead job, the papacy.

The optimist in me would hope this is some kind of act of contrition for any number of things, like the child sexual abuse cover-up scandals or his and his institution's role in the spread of HIV/AIDS through the condemnation of condom use.

The pessimist (or is it the conspiracy theorist?) in me thinks he has probably found some extremely conservative possible successor who didn't want to wait too long.

Time will tell which of these might be true (bet on #2).

Protocol question for those of us in Montréal: does the cross on Mount Royal turn purple when the resignation takes effect and until the new pope is selected, just like when one dies?

And a final question: could we have a domino effect of resignation of the men in the above picture?

09 February 2013

Identity Thief

This isn't your "fabulous work of cinema" experience, but we did laugh a lot. Sometimes after a series of heavy films, something mindless is just what you need.

Just one other thing to add. Why is Melissa McCarthy so very funny in the movies (this, Bridesmaids…) and yet falls a little flat in her current signature television show? Is it really all about the writers, or maybe there's something constricting about having to sustain a character over the long term. She's fun in this one, but I stopped watching the TV show shortly after I started.

02 February 2013

Wine, Cheese and Gourmandise

No movie this week, as I am out of town for a meeting. Luckily for me, my meeting is in Paris, so I thought I would share what I did with my companion on Friday afternoon…

My companion and colleague had done some research before we left Montréal and found a printable free pass for two to the 6e Salon Mer & Vigne et Gastronomie. So we ventured forth! We were to get a shuttle from the Château de Vincennes metro and we thought we would test the lovely new tram that actually stops right behind our hotel in Pantin and arcs around the periphery of Paris, at least to the place we needed to go! A little walking…okay, a lot of walking…and we were at our destination, waiting for the shuttle in the rain!

A little local humour, as the information guy outside the metro station pointed to the shuttle pulling away (as we arrived) and tried to say there wouldn't be another for two hours. He couldn't keep a straight face, though, so we didn't lose a lot of time fretting over that one.

The exposition centre was in the Parc Floral de Paris. You might imagine that this is not the best time of year for flowers but no worries: we were there for wine…and cheese…and other such goodies! In the exhibition room next door was a sport fishing exhibit that we didn't go to, although we did notice the booth of a Gaspé salmon fishing guide (home will follow you anywhere). On the inside of the thing we were going to there was another Québec-based exhibitor, but we didn't spend our time tasting any of the products we take for granted at home.

For me, largely a story of chocolate and cheese, with just enough wine tasting to make me feel a bit tipsy! We were not classy enough to use the spittoon as we tasted, so there was a cumulative effect. I ended up buying a bottle of rosé and something else that needs a paragraph to itself, and my companion bought two reds. My chocolate purchases were not highly remarkable, but they are going to be very tasty and this is all you get of them. ;-) Note also the little set of sauces (pistou and such) that I am not even mentioning, so you can imagine how much I will share those, too.

My other bottled purchase. A cute and very flirty boy having us taste his aperitifs…one flavour after another. Each had a slang name that was rather racy, so he did get me revved up enough to buy the one that finishes with a chocolate taste. This one was named La turlutte au chocolat, which he informed us was another word for a blowjob. For all the flirtiness, he sort of lacked in perception, mistaking my companion and I for a couple, when he ought to have noticed my drooling and her disinterest.

Likewise the guy who sold me the monk's head cheese. Sounds awful, but it's a delightful cheese, and I got a nifty device that skims a thin layer of cheese from the top of it, leaving me with a cheese flower. This guy, also not very perceptive, offered the cheese flower to my companion, leaving me to whimper about his not having a flower for me. Nope, he wasn't going there.

Our final cheese experience was at the insistence of my companion, and it was served up by a lovely young woman (quelle surprise!). She told us some lovely stories about the very specific cattle breed that seems to have grudgingly given a little bit of milk to make a limited quantity of cheese. It's usually a meat cow, don't you know. So a giant slice from one of the huge special wheels for my companion, and a quarter round of a lovely soft cheese for me.

And with that, we were off. I pushed us into the metro (instead of repeating that long walk) and I got off at the right place to catch the tramway back to the hotel while my companion went further in the metro in order to have a good walk back. Lovely outing.