Month: April 2015

2015, Movies

Hell Runs on Gasoline (2015, Martin Bureau)

This is an extraordinary 7 minute film about something I was utterly unaware of: the absolutely insane, free-for-all racing in Saint-Felicien, Quebec. I cannot begin to describe how nuts this race is, or how well this short captures the chaos. Basically, I practically wanted to go for one of these races by the time the …

2015, Movies

Speed Sisters (2015, Amber Fares)

This is an entertaining and captivating documentary about the Palestinian women’s car racing team, who supply their own cars, who race against men (and each other) and who practice in empty parkling lots and on local streets. Racing in Palestine is (I believe) unlike anything else in the world, as the races have to be …

Basketball, Sports

Raptors Best Draft Picks

Earlier this season, a click-baity article was published on TSN about the “best” Raptors draft picks of all time, given that this was their 20th season and all. They were, according to the author: Bosh Mighty Mouse Mo Pete DeRozan T Mac No explanation was given for why Mo Pete is considered to be better …

1992, Music

Classic Trumpet Concerti of Haydn/Hummel (1992) by Gerard Schwarz, Y Chamber Symphony of New York

The trumpet has always been a jazz instrument for me. I guess that’s in part because I came to jazz before I came to concertos and solo pieces from the classical repertoire and because there really aren’t many trumpet pieces out there. It’s an under-utilized instrument, for sure. The trumpet always sounds regal or martial …

Basketball, Sports

Your 2014-15 Toronto Raptors

Last year, as the Raptors neared setting a record for regular season wins in a season, I wondered which was the best Raptors team ever. A weeks later I concluded last year’s edition ranked among the best. But at the beginning of this calendar year, I was optimistic that we were seeing the best team …

1995, Music

Franz Joseph Haydn: Keyboard Works 1773-1779 (1995) by Lola Odiaga

This is a collection of six of Haydn’s keyboard sonatas (played on piano) ostensibly written between 1883 and 1779. (However, there appears to be some debate.) The sonatas are Nos. 39, 40, 41, 48, 49 and 51, which seems an arbitrary selection. However, the alernative cataloguing of Haydn’s works (really, the standard catalogue) suggests that …

2014, Movies

War of Lies (2014, Mathias Bittner)

Let’s get this out of the way: This is a student film. The director freely admitted last night that he made this as his graduation “project” for film school.  When he said that before the movie, my expectations lowered considerably. I am always wary of first time directors. And there are definitely signs that this …

1760s, 1780s, 2003, 2010, Music

Haydn: Cello Concertos; Pereira: Concertino for Cello (2010) by Antonio Meneses, Northern Sinfonia

This is an odd collection that pairs Haydn’s two most famous (and likely sole surviving) cello concerti with a totally unrelated piece of music by the 20th century composer Clovis Pereira. Grumble. Haydn’s first cello concerto is a fine piece of music but it strikes me as typical of the era (though I don’t really …

2000, Books, Fiction

Super-Cannes (2000) by J.G. Ballard

This is a provocative page turner that raises lots of questions about where late 20th century capitalism is headed. FYI, it’s also the first Ballard novel I’ve read, but I have seen both of the films that were adapted from his books. I found it entertaining and mostly provocative, but I did have a few …

2015, Movies

The 414s (2015, Michael T. Vollmann)

Most of the short films I have seen in my life have been fictional. The documentary shorts I have seen have either been borderline features or so arty as to not really qualify as documentary.  And I guess now I know the reason. This is a fine short about the “original” hackers – teenagers who, …

2015, Movies

Thought Crimes (2015, Erin Lee Carr)

This is a provocative and morally ambiguous film about the so-called “Cannibal Cop”, the NYPD police officer who was charged and convicted of conspiracy to kidnap women, without kidnapping any women, and certainly without eating anyone. The film is not the best technically made film you will ever seen. The pacing isn’t perfect and some …

2015, Hockey, Sports

Your 2014-15 Toronto Maple Leafs

[So I accidentally published this before I was done. Um, oops. This is now the complete version.] I watched as little of the Leafs this year as I have since I was 16, more than half my life ago. I did this becuse Burke and then Nonis killed my passion for the team after JFJ …

2010, Music

Haydn: London Symphonies (2010) by Les Musiciens du Louvre conducted by Marc Minkowski

This is an excellent collection of Haydn’s final symphonies, the “London symphonies”. The first (93rd overall) begins with a downright Romantic movement and that first movement plays around with tonality a little bit more than the average classical symphony. A later movement plays with the theme. Very interesting. One of the better of the bunch. …

1980, Music

Heaven and Hell (1980) by Black Sabbath

I’m struggling here, really struggling. I honestly don’t know Sabbath post 1971. I’ve never gotten around to listening to those records because…well, there’s a lot of music in the world. And I’ve been happy enough to listen to the first few albums. So I don’t know what happened to Sabbath in the late seventies. Certainly …

1980, Music

Iron Maiden (1980)

My knowledge of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal has been confined to Motorhead and the genre’s influences (primarily Thrash) for most of my metal-listening life. I was aware of its importance but never really had the time to give it much of a chance.The joke in the older metal camp is that Maiden …

1980, Music

British Steel (1980) by Judas Priest

I have heard that this was sort of the Black Album of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal – the genre’s more popular and most accessible record to date. I don’t know Judas Priest, and I have no idea how much of a departure this was from earlier Priest albums, but it’s certainly sginificantly …

1980, Music

Los Angeles (1980) by X

In 2010 I wrote the following: On the whole this is a pretty great record and Xene is pretty damn alluring. There is a little too much Manzarek here for my liking. From the liner notes it sounds like the Doors cover and, perhaps, by extension, his involvement, was somehow a condition of the release, …

2008, Music

Haydn: Piano Concertos in D / F (2008) by Ralf Gothoni, Finlandia Sinfonietta

This is a hodgepodge of the 2nd, 6th and 11th concertos for keyboard, all played on a piano (shock horor). (In case you are not a classical music snob and have no idea what I’m joking about: pianos were invented well before this music was written but weren’t very common until shortly after the 11th …

1920, Books, Fiction

The Age of Innocence (1920) by Edith Wharton

Scorsese’s version of this book is, in my opinion, one of his very best films and on the short list of films I would recommend to anyone wanting to understand good direction. This despite Michelle Pfeiffer’s supposedly miscast as the female lead. Perhaps my love for the film version is what made me initially kind …

2010, TV

30 for 30: The Two Escobars (2010, Jeff Zimbalist, Michael Zimbalist)

This is a fascinating, if a little scattershot, documentary about the infamous Pablo Escobar and the almost as infamous killing of a Colombia soccer player. The film mostly deftly balances the drug and violence problem in Colombia that coincided with (and funded!) the Golden Age of Colombian Football. The only real problem I have with …

2010, TV

30 for 30: The 16th Man (2010, Cliff Bestall)

This is not a perfect sports documentary: despite having Freeman as narrator and despite the power of the subject matter, the film feels little too much like your typical talking heads/archival footage documentary. But the subject matter is so powerful that you stop caring about the conventional, paint-by-numbers nature of the documentary. If you have …

2010, TV

30 for 30: Straight Outta L.A. (2010, Ice Cube)

This is an interesting story that I was unaware of (like totally unaware of) but unfortunately it’s made by a rapper who doesn’t know how to direct a movie. Ice Cube has clearly seen a bunch of sports docs he really likes, and he tries his hardest to emulate those films, but he really misses …

1894, Books, Fiction

The Prisoner of Zenda (1894) by Anthony Hope

I thought I was completely unfamiliar with this story as I had not seen the movie nor did I know anything about the book. However, it turns out that I have indeed seen a smilar movie, Dave! It turns out that story has been used over and over again by various people. I don’t know …

1930, Movies

L’age d’or (1930, Luis Bunel)

I am an optimistic guy (albeit with a realistic streak, I like to think). I tend to believe that, more often than not a (slim) majority of people will do “the right thing” (as I see it, anyway) and humanity will persist despite our flaws. But every so often I counter behaviour or historical evidence …

Basketball, Playoffs, Sports

Terrible NBA Playoff Predictions 2015

Here are my terrible NBA Playoff Predictions for this year: East 1st Round: Atlanta 4 – Brooklyn 1 Toronto 4 – Washington 3 (swear I’m not a homer) Chicago 4 – Milwaukee 2 Cleveland 4 – Boston 1 2nd Round: Atlanta 4 – Raptors 2 (see!) Cleveland 4 – Chicago 2 3rd Round: Cleveland 4 …

1888, Books, Fiction

King Solomon’s Mines (1888) by H. Rider Haggard

I was only familiar with this story from the ’80s Hollywood version, which I had been told was drastically different from the book. Sure enough, it absolutely was. So much of it is utterly different as to be (nearly) a different story. But anyway… Putting aside the problems we may find in Victorian literature with …

Hall of Fame, Hockey, Sports

Is Alex Ovechkin the Greatest Pure Goal Scorer of All Time?

A few weeks ago, Alex Ovechkin joined some elite company, he became only the fifth player in NHL history to score 30 goals per season in his first 10 seasons. More recently, he joined even more elite company, he became only the sixth player in NHL history to score 50 goals six times. Now while …

1997, Books, Fiction

The Partner (1997) by John Grisham

I only know Grisham from the old days when his novels were constantly turned into “event movies” (or the closest thing we had to those back in the ’90s). I watched many of them, though not every one, and, at least as a teenager, thoroughly enjoyed a couple of them, particularly A Time to Kill …

1989, Books, Non-Fiction

Summer of 49 (1989) by David Halberstam

I am not a Yankees fan or a Sox fan but I am a fan of The Breaks of the Game, probably the best book I have ever read about sports. This book is not on that level, but, for someone like me who was not alive during the summer of 1949, and who was …