September 12, 2018

The Moving Picture Rewrites

I've decided to make one last try at reinaugurating The Moving Picture Writes, which disappeared years ago in a malware hack and briefly returned in an uncongenial format, here on Facebook on the page that was originally meant simply to link to posts from the page. Here is the inaugural column.
The Moving Picture Writes
With this column I inaugurate a movie/tv appreciation website. Under the above title I'll be offering, from time to time, memoirs of my encounters over the years with film and, increasingly, tv. Under other headings I'll be doing film reviews, background studies, film commentary reviews (the first of these for The Ruling Class, since I planned when I was writing the review to comment on the Criterion Edition Extras, but discovered that, besides making the piece of unwieldy length (particularly for an online essay), it combined two pieces that might best be considered in tandem (independently of each other). I took the same approach with Performance, discussing the principals' reactions to the film and its place in their careers under the heading 'Background', tackling the film in the mimetic, synergistic style I hope soon to be famous for in a second short essay, 'All the Way'.)
My colleague Andrew Tibbetts (who I hope will soon be joining in with some of his own erudite commentaries) contends that tv is currently much ahead of movies as a medium of artistic expression. Limiting the argument to North America as he does, I think it's pretty much incontestable; every serious two hour feature made in the U.S. in the past fifteen years (such as The Usual Suspects, Twelve Monkeys (why isn't anyone trying to line up Terry Gilliam for at least a mini-series? His currently on-again project, Don Quixote, certainly would make more sense within a wider frame) The Gangs of New York, Being John Malkovich) can be matched by at least one mini-series or extended series on television of comparable ambition (and the most innovative work by Suspects director Bryan Singer since Apt Pupil has been as producer of the series House): Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Oz, The Sopranos, In Treatment, Breaking Bad--not to mention fascinating torsos, cut off in their prime by premature cancellation like My So-Called Life. The only films that can potentially sustain a narrative in the same way as an extended series are the roman numeral franchises, and they tend less to delve deeper film by film into character and theme (if any) than to repeat, with as minimal variation as possible, what's gone before--and I think any art form's in trouble when its most sympathetic reviewers find themselves relentlessly parsing minute differences of style, energy and emphasis in the applied art of blowing things up real good. (Anyway who's ever going to top the killing of the serpent demon by luring it into Sunnydale High School, mined throughout with dynamite, setting it off and simultaneously blowing both school and demon sky-high?)
TV's been a mature artistic force in Great Britain almost from the inception of the BBC. Great films like Black Narcissus, Odd Man Out, O Lucky Man! and the two I mentioned above have been comparative rareties at all times in England, whereas from the sixties on, television as radical and powerful as Steptoe and Son, Culloden, Pennies from Heaven, Grievous Bodily Harm, Our Friends in the North, Absolutely Fabulous, North Court, Jekyll and Coupling has turned up with almost alarming frequency on the Beeb and, latterly, Granada (Peter Barnes' final masterpiece Babies) and ITV.
So I've no movie vs tv bias, and hope to give about equal attention to both media once I get a reliable substitute for the Toshiba wand I've been using on our DVD player, which stopped doing anything but basic start up and turn off when I switched the batteries--apparently you need to reprogramme it when you switch batteries, which you need the manual for and where is the manual? Where is the manual I ask you and well I might ask you since your guess is probably as good as mine. Should really get another wand, ideally a Panasonic to match our tv so it doesn't need fresh cuing every time I change the batteries for crying out loud! Once that deficiency's corrected I'll be able to see more than one episode in four per disc on my Buffy and Angel season sets and I can start telling you what I think of them--ideally after first having thought something. I hate it when people skip that all-important initial step.
Overviews will figure prominently: of particular artists (which I'll link to subsequent reviews of individual works); of series (which I'll link to reviews of individual seasons or sequences of episodes). Interviews, profiles? In time that too is possible. With any luck it'll be awesome. We'll talk.
We'll talk, and the pictures will move. I'll aim to post about once a week, working from previous material mostly for a while.

March 31, 2018


"53% of Ontarians like Wynne's daycare plan, while 56% would prefer a balanced budget." Do you see why I don't reflexively believe the numbers I encounter in surveys and polls?

March 24, 2018

Dumb As

The only answer to a bad guy with a gun is a classroom of kids with a bunch of rocks. Wouldn't they have to keep individual samples in their desks to be able to reach them in time? Wouldn't they need practice (at least a period a day) to enhance their throwing skills? Wouldn't a David-style slingshot at least be advisable as a delivery system? I'm not sure this idea has been thought out.

"If you have a 5-gallon bucket full of river stones, and we have 25 students and a teacher, it will serve as a deterrent."

November 9, 2016

Coffee Break


Well, quite a few of my friends voted for him, especially those who don’t have a job and maybe I soon won’t as well, they’re thinning the herds—people working for half what they used to because of outsourcing and weak unions giving way to avoid outsourcing, slightly less than’ll put food on the table, do you blame them for being discontented? I sure don’t, but who do you elect logically as your champion if you want to fight the elite, the 1% who everybody you’re likely to see on a ballot with odds of a win will belong to or obediently serve? A man who’s honoured fewer contracts than he’s violated, a man with minimum skills in business who barely managed to boost his inheritance by the amount it would have increased with ordinary interest, whose towers topple into bankruptcy like dominoes leaving others to pick through the rubble and pay off the debt, very much including stiffed employees whose wages were never paid because there wasn’t money to cover them after more highly approved, less indigent creditors were satisfied, a man who said he’d invite states to a competition which could lower the minimum wage most? Reg voted for him, because he’s making nine dollars an hour at a dead end job, no hope of realizing the pension his company pissed away in its own bankruptcy proceedings (though the funds are likely in a bank in Switzerland, Panama or the Caymans), and he thinks DJT has a magic wand that’ll pouf! make jobs appear whichReg and others like him can step into as easily as a pair of workman’s boots. Nine dollars an hour? Wait’ll you’re making four fifty an hour with our new president’s blessing.
            A man who. . . that’s maybe the key point in his favour for testosterone America, much as it shames me to admit it in this day and age. The woman running against him was no prize, deep in the pockets of the self-satisfied hoarders who may be ready any day now to turn this republic into an out-and-out unabashed plutocracy, but she was considerably outmatched for duplicity, outright lying and behavior on the borderland between criminality and gaming of the law with its many loopholes for the wealthy by the man who now says he’ll close all those loopholes so the wealthy will be unable to act as cockily and irresponsibly as he has all his life. Believe that and I’ve got a castle in the air I can get you at a very reasonable price, tremendous castle, stupendous air, you’ll be very impressed by the size of the castle and the low down payment.
I asked a friend, you want his finger near the red button? and he said better that than my wife’s pussy, he wouldn’t like that much, he’s used to higher grade. Seriously though, it’s time the U.S. built up its nuclear deterrent again, we’re lagging behind the Russians. Pig’s eye we are! We’ve got a stockpile still functional that more than doubles Putin’s, and if we had half the weapons they do would a sane foreign leader attack us? It’d be more than enough, still, to wipe out any nation that tried it.
The smartest among them will be wondering what they were thinking soon enough, and repent at leisure as the saying goes.
What if only one of the felony charges hanging over him results in conviction once he’s sworn in, as it’s likely more than one will? An administration run from behind prison bars? Sure it’s happened in a third world country or two, but I don’t think America’s ready for that yet. His vice P.’s almost as much of a horror, but he might have to step into the breach.  How far down the chain of command would you have to go to find an acceptable server who’d do a not too shabby job? Maybe one of the janitors that cleans up after the honourable members.

And on top of all that, you know what? This company issued coffee is just as lousy as it’s been for the last thirty years. Wouldn’t you think I’d know better by now and bring a thermos of the good stuff from home?

July 25, 2016

Vancouver (i) Oligarchic Punditry

"The rulers and the ruled are increasingly out of touch with each other."
                                                         Rex Murphy, July 23, National Post

This is the topic sentence of an opinion piece, quoted above it as a cut line, by Rex Murphy on Rob Ford, Brexit and the current surge of popularity for the baroque, elitist politics of Donald Trump, and how flummoxed all these phenomena have left the opining class. I disagree with the thrust of Rex's argument on many levels, but what distresses and offends me deeply about it is that it describes politics in Canada, Great Britain and the United States as if nothing could be more natural than to think of democracy in language that suavely assumes it isn't, nor should be, anything but a mask over an innately oligarchic system. It's obvious enough what tendencies, decades a-building, in social and commercial life have thrown so much weight on the side of a rarefied elite whose ascendancy is not at all intellectual, rather plutocratic, but have we really gone so far down that road that the ultimate seat of power in a democracy can be casually dismissed as 'the ruled' even by pundits claiming to write out of the deepest sympathy for the vastly ignored, inarticulate mass? The short answer, of course, is yes, and if we want to restore the political health of our democracies, we'll need something more than a reflexive contempt for the idea of citizenship as an active, engaged intelligence which guides public policy from the ground up in an effective democracy. Murphy's right in thinking the elite media and policy makers in our government are out of touch with the thought of common people (compare the far from favourable view in polls of the U.S. populace with the jingoistic norm of commentary in the press when it came to both wars in Iraq and the ancillary one in Afghanistan), but he's quite mistaken if he thinks the shabbily-masked elitism of the late Rob Ford and the newly coined candidate Trump is any kind of real articulation of the popular will. There is so little articulation of that in mainstream media that it's left to fictional tv series and the political analysis of comedians like John Oliver, Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah, Rick Mercer, Cathy Jones, Mary Walsh to give us any sense of it.  Meantime it's possible for pundits to gratulate themselves for evoking with sympathy the buried aspirations of people they refer to with blunt affection as 'the ruled'. Aux armes, citoyens.

February 19, 2016

Comparative Pestitude

A columnist in Toronto's Metro accuses mosquitoes worldwide of exceeding even humans in their 'jerkitude' toward human populations, citing infections in the hundreds of millions (over what period unspecified) and 725,000 deaths  on average every year.

I don't think the judgment's well thought-out here. You know what they'd call a year in which only 725,000 humans were killed by other humans? A year of near-miraculous global harmony, possibly the harmony of true world concord at last. A year of unexampled prosperity across every sector of the population as well, considering the huge death toll each year from malnutrition and poverty-borne illnesses of every description: wipe those out as completely as possible if you want human-sponsored human death tolls to sink anywhere near those attributable to mosquitoes.

Bear in mind that mosquitoes have  no special reason for valuing human life, perhaps no awareness that they threaten it. People do have a special interest, as members of the same species, but that concern seems rarely to slow down very much our prolific murder of each other. When our rate of collective suicide comes down to manageable proportions, we can start presenting bills of indictment against other noxious species perhaps; not before.