30 for 30: Silly Little Game (2010, Lucas Jansen, Adam Kurland)

Categories: 2010 and TV.

This is a very goofy film about the creators of “fantasy” (that is, rotisserie) baseball; how they created it out of the blue, how they turned it into a fad, and how they failed to make money on it. It’s pretty enjoyable and interesting, though I stress this is a very goofy movie that is not for all tastes. The reenactments should come across as phony, but because the entire thing is so damn goofy, they do not. I feel embarrassed that I had never thought of where fantasy sports came from before. Also, I agree with the one guy Read More

The Paris Symphonies (1989) by Joseph Haydn, performed by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment conducted by Sigiswald Kuijken

Categories: 1989 and Music.

This is a collection of all six of Haydn’s “Paris” symphonies and is probably as close as one can get to a definitive collection of Haydn’s music on two discs, as he wrote so many damn shymphonies (104 I believe). The first symphony, No. 82 (aka “The Bear”), was apparently written last. And that seems relatively apparent. The opening movement is rather striking . But it’s the finale where Haydn really goes crazy: there’s a drone, a drone! A DRONNNNNNNNNE!!! It’s not much of one compared to, say, what you would find in Indian music of the time, but then Read More

The Best of James (1998)

Categories: 1998 and Music.

I’m not going to go into how I got my hands on this, but let’s just say it wasn’t a deliberate decision; it literally fell into my lap.And I had no idea who James was until I heard that hit single I remembered from my youth (“Laid”) and I was like “Oh, these guys.” And I wondered aloud about why I was bothering with them.But, funnily enough, after listening to it my requisite three times, I found myself enjoying a lot of it – not all of it, mind you, especially the sub-Smiths stuff – and being pleasantly surprised by Read More

Symphonies Nos. 44, 88 and 104 (1989) by Joseph Haydn, performed by Capella Istropolitana conducted by Barry Wordsworth

Categories: 1989 and Music.

This is a pretty arbitrary collection of three of Haydn’s symphonies, one from the middle period, and two from the end of his career, including his famous final symphony, the “London”. I have heard both 88 and 104 before. The performances are fine. The “Trauer” is pretty good. The first movement doesn’t really fit the symphony’s nickname but is interesting and engaging. The second movement is where it gets interesting, with almost like a concerto gross type effect, only with a split between the strings and with the group playing off the beat (or whatever you call that in Classical). Read More

Noah (2014, Darren Aronofsky)

Categories: 2014 and Movies.

I have long been a fan of Aronofsky’s, even of his misses (though I have yet to see The Fountain) because he has always made me think. His films provoke thought and discussion, and are also usually full of inventive direction and cinematography. I am not sure I can think of another example of a Great or near-Great director exceeding his grasp like Aronofsky does here. (Though, again, I have not seen The Fountain.) This is a film that is so overdone, so self-serious and so unsubtle in its allegory (while at the same time, confused) that whatever neat little Read More

All is Not Lost (2011) by Cody Allen

Categories: 2011 and Music.

On the first track, at least, Allen seems to be going for some kind of slightly more country, slightly more commercial version of Elliott Brood’s take on alt country (horribly named, by them, “death country”), with a little less energy. (Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?) And the album proceeds like that, where you can tick off various bands the tracks seem to aspire to. (Though some of the other tracks are less rootsy, and only sound rootsy because they are played by acoustic instruments.) Allen’s voice has been labelled “distinctive” by the Canadian music press, but it isn’t any more gravelly Read More

30 for 30: Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. the New York Knicks (2010, Dan Klores)

Categories: 2010 and TV.

This was the first ever 30 for 30 I ever saw, years ago now, but I don’t think I watched the whole thing so I decided to watch it again. It’s about a perfect summary as I can think of as a sports rivalry that seemed absolutely epic at the time, but which historically isn’t really important. Everything is outsized: Miller’s and Lee’s personalities, the press reactions, the relative importance of the games to the city of New York and the state of Indiana, and so on. The film makes us forget that neither of these teams were truly great Read More

30 for 30: The Guru of Go (2010, Bill Couterie)

Categories: 2010 and TV.

This is an interesting if overly episodic and too brief documentary about both an interest coach who bucked trends and a terrible tragedy. The problem for me, is that the terrible tragedy could have been the entire 50 minute film, it could have been more than that. I think this is a missed opportunity and I almost feel like there are two different stories here and the filmmakers picked the slightly less interesting one. Honestly, there’s enough material here for two separate movies, at minimum, and most of the various narrative strands that could have been explored are not. On Read More

30 for 30: No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson (2010, Steve James)

Categories: 2010 and TV.

Steve James remains one of the few filmmakers I am aware of who can involve themselves to a great extent in a documentary and yet still give that film a feeling of journalistic integrity. Since I was 11 when this happened, I was completely unaware of this. But really hard for an outsider to me to understand how people could think Iverson was absolutely, without doubt, guilty, given the evidence or lack thereof. But the film is much more interesting than just allowing me to learn about an incident in the life of a famous, trouble athlete and its legacy Read More

Lucky Jim (1954) by Kingsley Amis

Categories: 1954, Books, and Fiction.

This is a laugh-out-loud novel about what it’s like to feel like a fraud teaching at a university (something I can sort of relate to) while you hate your (sort of girlfriend), hate your boss, hate your subject matter and generally hate your life – and that hate manifests itself in you screwing everything up. There are a whole bunch of passages that made me laugh out loud and or at least chuckle, especially the ridiculous climax. Someone’s made a movie out of it and I want to see it (though I’m a little worried that, because it was made Read More

Dirk Nowitzki Changed Basketball

Categories: Basketball, Hall of Fame, and Sports.

As you may know, the other day Dirk Nowitzki becamse the only player in NBA history to reach 25,000 points, 10,000 boards, 1,000 blocks and 1,000 made 3-pointers. As others have noted, there have been good-shooting bigs before, but since the 3-point line was introduced, there has never been a player to combine size, scoring, counting stat “defense” and outside shooting like Dirk. Given this milestone, I wanted to see who else possibly compared. So, I did a little digging. Players with the points, boards blocks but not the 3s: There is literally only one other player in NBA history Read More

Symphonies Nos. 45, 46, 47 (1994) by Joseph Haydn, performed by Tafelmusik conducted by Bruno Weill

Categories: 1994 and Music.

This disc collects three of Haydn’s “middle” symphonies, at a time when Haydn was getting more and “romantic” for lack of a beter word. Like all Tafelmusik recordings, they are played on period instruments. The “Farewell” symphony is just an incredible thing. The opening is out there for the time period (at least to my ears though apparently it is a pretty traditional form otherwise). And the middle parts are pretty traditional. But the finale is bonkers: it’s slow, for one thing, but it also features a gradual dimunition of instruments, till it’s down to just the violins. On stage, Read More

20 Feet from Stardom (2013, Morgan Neville)

Categories: 2013 and Movies.

This is an interesting and affecting, if oddly structured, documentary about what it’s like to be a backup singer. I say oddly structured because it starts out seemingly to be a history of the backing vocalist in rock music, but then it turns out to be the personal stories of a few of the pioneering backing vocalists, as well as one current one. And I guess the choices just feel a little arbitrary, though I understand they had to be made. (I mean, there have been thousands of backing vocalists, I would assume.) Some of the interviews are quite revealing Read More

The Universe: Cosmology Quest (2004, Randall Meyers)

Categories: 2004 and Movies.

Full disclosure: I never once took physics in high school and I certainly never took physics after that. My math background is so far in my past that I cannot rely on it. So you have to take everything I have to say about the physics of this film with a grain of salt. But before I get to the nature of the content, let me just say that this is a poorly made film: the narrator is brutal (his voice is given some kind of effect to make him sound like he’s from “Deep Space” and the script is Read More

The Campaign to Fire Dave Nonis: Casey Bailey

Categories: Hockey, Sports, and The Campaign to Fire Brian Burke.

The Leafs are continuing to sign amateur / international pro prospects to dry and find a diamond in the rough. Maple Leafs get: Casey Bailey, 23, RW: Entry level contract, which will last two years past this season because he is going to play now; 45G, 35A for 80P in 96 NCAA games; Led Penn State in points this season. The Leafs have gone back to the old, Burkean practice of signing college free agents with Bailey. There is nothing to oppose here, as the guy wants to try to make the pros and he comes cheap (I assume). There Read More

The Campaign to Fire Dave Nonis: Nikita Soshnikov

Categories: Hockey, Sports, and The Campaign to Fire Brian Burke.

The Leafs have signed 21-year-old Russian forward Nikita Soshnikov to a three-year entry level contract. This is reminiscent of the March signings of US college free agents that Burke helped pioneer a number of years ago (and that left the Leafs with Tyler Bozak) only Soshnikov is playing in the pros. Leafs get: Nikita Soshnikov, 21, LW/RW: Salary unknown; 16G, 21A for 37P, +1 in 90 KHL games 4th in scoring on Moscow Oblast Atlant this season 4th in scoring in the KHL this year for players under 24-years-old I like this flyer. From some videos I’ve seen, he looks talented. Read More

Does Steve Nash belong in the Basketball Hall of Fame?

Categories: Basketball, Hall of Fame, and Sports.

Obviously the title of this post is redundant, as they often are when discussing the legacy of star players. Anyway, what do you say about the greatest Canadian basketball player of all time? Career: 18 seasons, 14 quality; 31.3 MPG 17,387 points, 10,335 assists (3rd all-time), 899 steals, 3,642 boards and 102 blocks in 38,069 minutes over 1,217 games played; Per 36 minutes: 16.4P, 9.8A, 0.9S, 3.4R, 0.1B 10th all-time in APG, and 3rd all-time in assist percentage .490 FG%, .428 3P% (9th all-time), .904 FT% (1st all-time) 20 PER, .605 TS% (15th all-time), 129.7 Win Shares (36th), .164 WS/48 Read More

30 for 30: I Hate Christan Laettner (2015, Rory Karpf)

Categories: 2015 and TV.

This is an interesting documentary that feels like it kind of skirts around the deeper issues it could have probed. I mean, it discusses race, for example, but it sort of walks around it, just frivolously talks about “urban vs. suburbs” and hip hop was cooler. And it doesn’t wholly connect to other characters in sports in a way I sort of supposed it would. It’s worth watching, but there is something missing that I can’t quite but my finger on. That narration script is pretty cliche-ridden. 7/10 Read More

Die Schopfung (1798, 1997) by Joseph Haydn, performed by The Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists, Conducted by John Eliot Gardiner

Categories: 1790s, 1997, and Music.

This appears to move the great oratorios or Handel into the classical era. The immensity of this is on par with his music but there’s no escaping how much more modern this work sounds in comparison. I thought I had a distaste for the classical era, but Haydn’s music is making a huge impression on me so far. It’s a lot more complicated than I would have thought, given the era’s reputation for relative simplicity. This is an incredible work – I would (will?) be shocked to discover a greater classical-era oratorio. 10/10 Read More

Symphonies Nos. 104, 88, 101 by Joseph Haydn (2011) performed by Philharmonia Baroque conducted by Nicholas McGegan

Categories: 2011 and Music.

The so-called “London” symphony starts off with such a modern opening I almost thought I was listening to the wrong work – it’s practically Romantic. But the music soon settles in to what we would expect. Still, as first experiences with “The Father of the Symphony” go, it was quite shocking. Otherwise I guess it’s just a “High Classical” symphony, albeit a stellar example of that, but that intro is something special. The 88th symphony is exactly what I was expecting from a Classical era symphony. I guess that’s both a good thing and a bad thing. I’m sure it’s Read More

An Affair to Remember (1957, Leo McCarey)

Categories: 1957 and Movies.

This is one of those “classic” bantery Hollywood rom coms with a Cary Grant-type (this time played by Cary Grant, here paired with one of his regular sparring partners, Deborah Kerr). It’s one of those movies where two unbelievably rich and self-assured people throw witticisms at each other (with a little tiny bit of slapstick) and we are supposed to think this is the Height of Comedy, and if we don’t I guess there’s something wrong with us. (At least we’ve mostly lost that generation of film critics who used to insist that there was nothing funnier than Wit and Read More

Green Zone (2010, Paul Greengrass)

Categories: 2010 and Movies.

This movie means well, I think. It’s trying to make the the giant fuck up with the (second? third?) Gulf War into an entertaining conspiracy/action movie starring everyone’s favourite Action Hero of the Moment, Matt Damon. The rest of this review contains mild SPOILERS! The problem is that this isn’t based in reality; rather it’s based in a really, really broadly fictionalized version of what happened, which is so ridiculous that it has US soldiers shooting each other. (It’s all too obvious that the writers have not based on this on a real story well before the US soldiers start Read More

Spring Breakers (2012, Harmony Korine)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

This is the first Korine-directed film I have gotten around to, which is probably the worst way to introduce myself to his oeuvre. I have of course seen Kids, though I was rather young at the time (and rather underwhelmed too). But Korine has a reputation for at least being shocking and I guess that’s my first clue that I should have measured my expectations going into something like this. Because I have seen things like Sweet Movie and Island of Death and what some people consider shocking is, well, probably not that shocking to me. It’s also reasonable to Read More

Frank (2014, Lenny Abrahamson)

Categories: 2014 and Movies.

Frank has a premise like so many other recent indie dramedies: the premise is just a touch too whacky for belief and everyone is just a touch too eccentric. There has been a rash of these films in the last 15 years or so, and I have to say I’m getting sick of them. But Frank transcends its genre in a number of ways: having an outsider (to the eccentrics) as the character the audience focuses on makes everything a little less zany; they are musicians, which we expect to be eccentric, and so they are easier to believe as Read More

The Interview (2014, Ethan Goldberg, Seth Rogen)

Categories: 2014 and Movies.

I always have the same experience with bombs: when I see them I always wonder why everyone hated the movie so much. This happened to me with Gigli, with John Carter, and with numerous other movies. I think hype, both positive and negative, feeds back on itself. And people get carried away. This is not a terrible movie by any means. It is a moderately funny movie that also happens to be a fairly large missed opportunity. To put it mildly Goldberg and Rogen are absolutely not Parker and Stone. But that doesn’t mean the film is terrible; I laughed Read More

L’affaire Farewell (2009, Christian Carion)

Categories: 2009 and Movies.

This is an interesting attempt at making a “real” spy movie, one where the spies behave like real spies, without car chases, without shoot-outs, without super-intense interrogation scenes. For the most part it works, but there are enough problems with the finished product that I can’t quite recommend it. Like Argo, it takes liberties with the truth but unlike Argo, it is not quite suspenseful enough. I bring up Argo only because I think it serves as a good comparison of a more successful film of a similar type. The biggest problem with this film, I think, is that it’s Read More

End of Watch (2012, David Ayer)

Categories: 2012 and Movies.

This is a found footage film mixed with a cop drama that is regularly ready to abandon its found-footage conceit (a good thing and a bad thing in these types of movies) and which appears to treat serving in the LA PD as serving in the military. (Gyllenhaal appears to be playing a variation of his Jarhead character.) It’s certainly unconventional as these things go – at least as cop movies go – but it would be far more effective if it didn’t need some kind of stupid plot contrivance. I don’t normally think too much about social context when Read More

House of Cards (2013)

Categories: 2013 and TV.

The following review contains major SPOILERS!!! Do not read it if you haven’t finished Season 3. Even after I had watched only a few episodes of the American version of House of Cards, I told myself I wouldn’t watch a fourth season if they made one. I made that resolution because of a particular phobia I have with shows that run too long. This comes from two beloved shows that were ruined by running too long: the original The Prisoner (not the bizarre remake) and Twin Peaks. Both were limited ideas that were expanded because of ratings (i.e. money) and Read More

White Chalk (2007) by PJ Harvey

Categories: 2007 and Music.

The (lady) balls that it takes to make such a drastic about face in one’s sound is absolutely incredible. I am blown away.I have no idea when she made this change, to be honest, as I haven’t heard anything she made (beyond one song) between the mid nineties and this release, but this is crazy.Not only has she dropped her signature electric guitar (on which she had a rather unique style) for piano and other instruments, but she is singing in a different range. I mean, what? Who does that? The balls.I love when an artist pushes herself into new Read More