Symphonies 3-5 (2011) by H.W. Henze, performed by Rundfunk-Sinfoniorchester Berlin, conducted by Marek Janowski

Categories: 2011 and Music.

This is an excellent set of three of Henze’s symphonies, showing him at perhaps his most radical stage. This is the kind of modernist “classical” that I just love; bonkers writing and bonkers arrangements. Henze’s third symphony starts off on a decidedly pastoral note, before sounding an ominous foreboding about 15 seconds in. Though the first notes might have convinced us this is something light and fluffy, we’re utterly relieved of that so quickly, it’s almost impossible to believed. In fact, the first movement ends up sounding more like a horror movie soundtrack than traditional classical music. I suspect that Read More

Symphonies Nos. 7-8 (2009) by H.W. Henze, performed by Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Berlin, conducted by Marek Janowski

Categories: 2009 and Music.

This set pairs two of Henze’s later symphonies, from a time which he had embarked on a more conservative path. Though the performances are excellent (as far as I know), I find these symphonies to be less interesting than his earlier work. Henze’s first symphony in twenty years, the seventh, is a markedly more traditional piece (and admittedly so, apparently, as Henze claimed he was trying to write in the tradition of Beethoven). The work is is very pleasing and, as these things go, is something I enjoy listening to, but I cannot shake the conservativeness of it. Certainly it Read More

American Promise (2013, Joe Brewster, Michele Stephenson)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

This a films that seems to want to be the Hoop Dreams of education. It takes the premise and applies it to two black kids going to a white private school. It is at times moving and at times frustrating. It has a massive, massive problem: I believe one of the central premises of the film is how our educational institutions influence our children. And that’s all well and good – it’s a correct thesis. However, it’s kind of ridiculous to make a documentary about how that happens when the film itself is obviously having a huge affect on these Read More

The American Scream (2012, Michael Stephenson)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

This is a fascinating movie about three families (really three men) who convert their houses into Haunted Houses every Halloween in Fairhaven, Mass. I don’t know if there are places in Toronto, but I have never seen anything like in person, outside of professional Haunted Houses. I also had no idea that this was such a thing in the US, or that there were conventions – did you know there’s a convention??? – and now I kind of want to look for one here. The film isn’t a great movie, but it’s fascinating and I had no idea about any Read More

All That Heaven Allows (1955, Douglas Sirk)

Categories: 1955 and Movies.

Sometimes I feel like Sirk is the Norman Rockwell of old Hollywood: everything is so hyper-idealized. But I guess Winslow Homer is a better comparison, everything looks good, but things are lurking. The colors are all so intense and lightning is so dramatic. I know some people love Sirk for his sets and costumes and stuff. I’ve never been into that. I’m much more into the satire though, which is perhaps as as on display here as in any of Sirk’s films. But it’s kind of over the top, and honestly, things have changed so much since the ’50s that Read More

Does Shawn Marion Belong in the Basketball Hall of Fame?

Categories: Hall of Fame, Hockey, and Sports.

Shawn Marion is retiring apparently. So, does he belong in the Hall of Fame? As usual, all data from Basketball Reference. Career: 16 seasons, 13 quality 34.5MPG 17,700 points, 10,101 boards (24th all time in defensive rebounds), 2,198 assists, 1,759 steals (19th all-time), 1,233 blocks 40,097 minutes over 1,163 games Per 36 minutes: 15.9P, 9.1R, 2A, 1.6S, 1.1B .484 FG%, .331 3P%, .81 FT%, .542 TS% 18.8 PER, 14.3 TRB%, 124.9 WS, .150 WS per 48, 52.1 VORP Playoffs: 35.2 MPG 1,519 points, 939 boards, 158 assists, 128 steals, 127 blocks in 3,837 minutes over 109 games Per 36: 14.3P, Read More

Workingman’s Dead (1970) by the Grateful Dead

Categories: 1970 and Music.

If you had been aware of the Dead in Spring 1970 but you didn’t live in San Francisco, you would have no way of knowing the band was birthed by a folk band in the mid ’60s. If you caught them live, you would have been familiar with how they were the first ever jam band (though the name may not have existed yet) or if you listened to their albums, you would think they were by far the weirdest psychedelic band to emerge from San Francisco (unless you only heard their debut). You certainly wouldn’t have guess they had Read More

Tonight’s the Night (1973, 1975) by Neil Young

Categories: 1975 and Music.

Neil Young was a star for the first time in 1973. And yet even though he was star, and he was expected to pump out further “Heart of Gold” style hits, his life was a mess. Whether or not he may acknowledge it now, he had drug issues. And within a rather short span of time, the rhythm guitarist for one of his bands died, and then a roadie died, both of heroin overdoses. And he was expected to keep playing “Heart of Gold” and writing more stuff like it. Instead he made this record. I can’t remember why it Read More

Emotional Rescue (1980) by the Rolling Stones

Categories: 1980 and Music.

I don’t know what to do with my first impressions.I’ve learned to distrust them. I give every album I review a minimum of three listens in order to defeat my initial prejudice. I adopted this approach, I think, because I wanted to be fair, but also because sometimes my initial impression did not jive with a review I read or a recommendation I received. And it’s served me well, mostly. I would have never become a prog rock fan without the method, and that means I probably wouldn’t have found my way to jazz and much of the other esoteric Read More

All Good Things (2010, Andrew Jarecki)

Categories: 2010 and Movies.

Now that The Jinx exists, and I unfortunately know of the relationship between that show and this movie, it’s kind of hard to think about this in isolation, but I will try. The film is very well acted: this is another one of those Gosling roles that he handles so well, even if, by this point, he’s sort of been type cast as the conflicted, silent type; Dunst is also excellent. And the supporting cast is fine. The film feels a bit too clinical for much of its run, and frankly I blame Jarecki, who seems to think it’s a Read More

NBA Finals MVP Bull Shit

Categories: Basketball, Playoffs, and Sports.

In hockey, there is a rare but time-tested tradition of awarding the playoff* MVP to the best player on the team that loses the finals if he excels so much that the Professional Hockey Writers Association thinks he deserves it, i.e. he drags a team to the finals. (*In the NHL, the award is for the playoffs, not for the finals, as with the other major North American sports.) This is aparently not so in basketball, where only one man has ever won the Finals MVP from the losing side, Jerry West, the man known as Mr. Clutch, one of Read More

All Fall Down (1962, John Frankenheimer)

Categories: 1962 and Movies.

This film is one of those over-baked Tennessee Williams-esque portraits of a family barely keeping it together, with an over-bearing mother (naturally), a drunk father (naturally) and a golden boy who isn’t quite so golden (naturally). We’ve seen this before, even if the story isn’t quite the same. Beatty seems to be doing a James Dean impersonation (well, maybe that’s not fair), Angela Lansbury is in full blown mother mode (though not at The Manchurian Candidate level, and in this case she’s got a drunk husband that makes her much more sympathetic) and Karl Malden is doing a thing that Read More

Does Kimmo Timonen Belong in the Hockey Hall of Fame?

Categories: Hall of Fame, Hockey, and Sports.

Based on the assumption that Timonen is retiring after his Cup win, I’m asking my usual question. In this case the answer is pretty obvious, but I enjoy asking the question anyway. Career: 16 seasons, 15 quality 117G, 454A for 571P, +35 in 1108 games (6th Finn), 101.4 PS (4th Finn) 82-game average: 9G, 34A for 43P, +3, 22:19 ATOI 3-year peak (’03-’07): 13G, 40A for 52P, +3; 22:42 ATOI Playoffs: 4G, 31A for 35P, +5 in 105 games, 21:40 ATOI Adjusted: 136G, 504A for 640P Adjusted 82-game average: 10G, 37A for 47A Accomplishments: Never an offensive start Top 5 Read More

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010, Michael Apted)

Categories: 2010 and Movies.

Apted’s surer hand makes this possibly the best entry in the series – it’s obvious from the opening shot that a better director is involved. The movie is plagued by its usual problems with the source material – nobody is ever at risk – but things move so much more swiftly (this one is under 2 hours!!!) and some of the annoying things from the second movie (such as the bizarre accents) are missing. The problem for me, this time around, is the choice to go Pirate. As usual, I cannot know whether or not that was in the source Read More

The Alchemy Index: Volume II – Water (2007) by Thrice

Categories: 2007 and Music.

Unfortunately I have not been able to hear Volume I so this review is only of Volume II. It’s a tough call though, because ostensibly, a lot of the appeal of this, and the reason the discs are separate even though they don’t have to be, is for stylistic reasons. So without hearing Volume I, I cannot comment as to how Volume II diverges. And that’s a problem, because Volume II is basically just somewhat commercial Post Hardcore. It’s hard to get excited about it. When reviewing another one of these bands a few years ago, I worried that Post Read More

The Alchemy Index: Volume III and Volume IV – Air and Earth (2007) by Thrice

Categories: 2007 and Music.

Unfortunately Volume III takes the brief moments of Volume II that alluded to a sort of Post Grunge / “Modern” rock style and takes them to the logical conclusion. I guess some people would consider these songs “stronger” – they’re certainly catchier – by why neuter what your band does well? At least the rhythm section is way better than your standard everyday rock band. It’s certainly a bit of a departure from what I thought this band sounded like, and I guess that’s fine if you like ballads and stuff. I feel like I’m being too hard on it. Read More

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005, Andrew Adamson)

Categories: 2005 and Movies.

I “saw” this a number of years ago on TV. Like many movies I saw in parts on TV when I was younger, I rated it without watching the entire thing. So I guess I’m making up for that. This was the only fantasy book I “read” as a child. (It was read to me, as I was that young.) Perhaps this explains my dislike of most fantasy. I experienced so little as a child that, as a teen and an adult, I found so much of it ridiculous because I wasn’t raised on it. Anyway, to the movie itself Read More

Watchmen (2009, Zack Snyder)

Categories: 2009 and Movies.

This is an admirable, ambitious attempt to adapt what is, for many people, The Greatest Comic of All Time. (I know others prefer some other comics, but I know that this was the first comic given serious treatment as literature by non-comic book fans.) I was mostly impressed by the attempts at fidelity and the attempts at balancing the film medium with a story that is perhaps just a little too complex for a feature. Two major things that I think didn’t work well enough: First, is Snyder himself. Unsurprisingly, he tries to make some scenes resemble the actual panels Read More

Amelie (2001, Jean-Pierre Jeunet)

Categories: 2001 and Movies.

I don’t know why it took me so long to see this movie. I’m a pretty big Jeunet fan, but whatever interest I had in seeing it at the time soon waned. No idea why. For some reason I anticipated I wouldn’t like it, which seems odd to me. It’s way less out there than Delicatessen (still my favourite) or The City of Lost Children, and significantly more accessible, but what it lacks in utter uniqueness it makes up in charm. It reminds me of Leolo to a great extent, but a little zanier if that’s possible. This is how Read More

The Worldly Philosophers (1953, 1992) by Robert L. Heilbroner

Categories: 1953, Books, and Fiction.

This is an impressive and engaging summary of the lives and ideas of the major economists from Adam Smith through Joseph Schumpeter, covering both the people you would expect (Ricardo, Keynes) and some people you would not. Heilbroner is a refreshing guide because he both has a historical sense of economics and he is not a free market nazi. Moreover, as he makes clear in the final chapter, he shares my doubts about economics as a Science. Now, I can’t speak to how thoroughly he captures all of these authors’ ideas – though he does an excellent job with the Read More

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008, Andrew Adamson)

Categories: 2008 and Movies.

I don’t know whether it’s CS Lewis’ fault or the adapters, but despite an apparently bigger budget, this is somehow weaker than the first. The basic plotting is all wrong: people who should do things do the opposite: for example the man who didn’t know Narnians existed knows more than the Kings and Queens do about Narnia; time definitely shifts depending on where we are during the climactic scenes; there are apparently all these citizens of whatever the hell the human city is called, but they are shown twice, and the first time is 80 minutes into the movie; etc. Read More

An Open Letter to His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston

Categories: Politics and Society.

Your Excellency, I don’t need to tell you that as the Queen’s representative in Canada you are essentially our Head of State. Regardless of the massive changes that have occurred since the position of Governor General was created, you remain in a position of actual authority even if the weight of the office has diminished over the years. As the de facto Head of State of Canada, you have a responsibility to the country as a whole and individual Canadians to safeguard the nation’s customs and laws. This responsibility should be above that of any allegiance you think you owe Read More

Beware of Mr. Baker (2012, Jay Bulger)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

This movie starts off on the wrong foot. I hate when filmmakers involve themselves in their subjects when they themselves are not who we are interested in. But once Bulger gets to Baker’s house, he gets out of the way almost entirely. Baker is such a character – and his story and his family’s story is so compelling – that you quickly forget about how Bulger involved himself in the early parts of the film. The animation is pointless in my mind but otherwise the film is structured chronologically which is so refreshing given the desire of so many documentaries Read More

Alice Adams (1935, George Stevens)

Categories: 1935 and Movies.

I haven’t read this particular Tarkington novel but I’ve read another and I can’t say I liked it. If the book was effective, the filmmakers messed up. Alice and her family certainly doesn’t look poor: they have a large house (which she says is small) and what looks like nice things. I guess they sort of sound lower in the classes, but barely. They certainly aren’t poor. And it doesn’t help that they cast Hepburn, who of course looks wonderful. The comedy is really mild and sporadic. Seemingly placed in the film just to give the audience something other than Read More

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006, Jonathan Levine)

Categories: 2006 and Movies.

I watched the first 30-35 minutes of this maybe a year ago (in pieces) while someone else was watching it. I figured I should watch it all the way through, even given my reservations. My reservations were a few: I didn’t go to a school like this. I guess there were one or two girls as attractive as Amber Heard, but did the boys really behave this way around her? Maybe, I don’t think so. Not being cool, I didn’t go to parties or go to weekends away, but was everyone this sex obsessed? I mean, it wasn’t even this Read More

House of Secrets (2004) by Otep

Categories: 2004 and Music.

Not having heard the initial album, where she apparently rapped, I can’t say what exactly about this is supposed to be nu metal (though I’m hardly a nu metal expert). To me it sounds more like what I might call emo metal, way to metal to be emo, but way to artsy fartsy to be straight up metal. Also, it’s signicantly more hardcore (or rather metalcore, yuk yuk yuk) than most nu metal I’ve heard.The relatively straight-forward metal is made less enjoyable by the sheer ponderousness and pretention of the concept, which makes me wish that some people just weren’t Read More

RIP Ornette Coleman

Categories: 2015 and Music.

I am not the man to write an obituary about Ornette Coleman, but what the hell, I’ll try to tell you what he meant to me anyway. If you don’t know him, Ornette Coleman ostensibly invented free jazz, that is the style of jazz that abandoned the previous rules of jazz and embraced free improvisation (i.e. doing whatever you want). Initially, this was just in the solos, deviating from the conventions of the genre which said you had to stay in certain ranges and keys during your solo. Coleman’s early quartet, fearturing him on alto (a plastic one!), Don Cherry Read More

Alexandra (2007, Aleksander Sokurov)

Categories: 2007 and Movies.

The director of the infamous Russian Ark returns with a far less audacious film, this one about a grandmother visiting her grandson during a war in Chechnya. It’s a simple film, with a very simple story. I have heard this film called both “beautiful” and “difficult” and frankly I find it neither. I can’t really understand the acclaim. Sure, it’s a very different approach to a film about war, but that in and of itself doesn’t make it great. Some people just love simple stories I guess. the grandmother visits, makes everyone happy and leaves. That’s enough for some people Read More

Albert Nobbs (2011, Rodrigo Garcia)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

This is an interesting film centered on a bravura performance from Glenn Close. It’s not only that she plays a woman playing a man, but how she plays him. For most of the film Nobbs is all coiled up, as you might expect a woman playing a man to be. And you can feel her daily terror. I’ve never quite seen anything like it. Close is so good that the film around her kind of pales. And this is a movie that gets more things right than it gets wrong, but I just feel like it’s a one man, excuse Read More

Brothers in Arms (1985) by Dire Straits

Categories: 1985 and Music.

Ten years ago I wrote the following: This might not be so bad if they had actually hired a producer.  It’s like Knopfler put a big stamp on this record saying “This album was recorded in the ’80s!”  Knopfler’s production is the aural equivalent of those ’50s sci-fi films that imagined the “futuristic” ’70s and now make us laugh…oh how silly they were to think that’s what the future would look like, te he he.  They tried to make this sound “modern” and hear what happened.  His songs aren’t all mediocre.  “Money for Nothing,” aside from having one of the Read More