Recurring (1991) by Spacemen 3

Categories: 1991 and Music.

I understand why people like this stuff and I understand why it’s trailblazing. (Though I’m not exactly sure why some people consider this shoegaze, though that is a different story…) But I have two problems with this record that keep me from giving it the respect a lot of people think it deserves. The first problem is that for something considered “neo-psychedelia” it’s pretty samey throughout. There’s not a lot of variation even between the two band member’s sounds. I mean, there’s some, but it’s relative and very much “on style.” (On a related note: I find it lacking a Read More

King of America (1986) by The Costello Show featuring the Attractions and Confederates

Categories: 1986 and Music.

Costello embraces American roots music and it mostly works. Costello’s songs are strong (though the cover of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” is entirely unnecessary) – stronger, in fact, than most of the bands embracing roots at the same time. But the album is hampered a bit by the ’80s production which occasionally intrudes (and which is in direct contrast to his performance at times). And, much like U2 (though, needless to say, this sounds nothing like U2), Costello’s embrace of American roots music feels a little bit like a suit of clothes he’s put on. That being said, it’s Read More

Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980, Rainer Werner Fassbinder)

Categories: 1980, Movies, and TV.

In 1980, there was no real way for for North American audiences to digest non-English language television. So, on occasions when multiple-episode television programs made there way over to North America, they were screened at film festivals as “films.” A number of European “art house” films from the ’70s and ’80s are actually made-for-tv. It is a testament to the quality of some European television that their mini-series could pass for “art house” films in The United States and Canada. One of these films is Fassbinder’s 900 minute adaptation of Berlin Alexanderplatz, a novel I haven’t read but one of Read More

Triple Doubles

Categories: 2016, Basketball, and Sports.

Draymond Green is two blocks away from being the first player in NBA history to record 1000 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists, 100 steals and 100 blocks in a single season, since steals and blocks were recorded. That’s big news. But I’m fascinated by how close he’s been this year to a triple double: 13.8PPG, 9.7RPG, 7.5APG. I mean, that’s just bonkers. Provided he keeps it up, only Wilt, Oscar, Bird, Grant Hill, Magic, Havlicek and Fat Lever have ever done that before. (Green is, unsurprisingly, the lowest scoring of all of those guys.) Famously, Oscar Robertson is the only Read More

RIP Garry Shandling

Categories: RIP.

Shandling was responsible for one of the truly great comedic TV shows, The Larry Sanders Show, which is on the shortlist of the very, very best, with The Flying Circus, SCTV, KITH, Seinfeld, The Simpsons and South Park. I’ve never seen his first show, It’s the Gary Shandling Show, but that was also apparently quite good. The Larry Sanders Show, in addition to being hilarious, is among the most influential shows of its era, as it helped birth the “awkward” comedy (at least in the US) that has come to dominate so much of what we see as funny these Read More

Best of Enemies (Robert Gordon, Morgan Neville)

Categories: 1968, 2015, and Movies.

When I was younger, I used to long for the days when US news shows were just the news, and when talk shows had actual intellectuals on, on occasion, to debate. I remember once seeing a clip many years ago where Gore Vidal (whom I have a love/hate relationship with) and Norman Mailer (who I don’t know beyond one novel) had a debate…on Dick Cavett. The tone of the debate, and the substance (despite a few insults), was so different than now. But this fantastic film shows the downside of what I idealized. I had never seen the famous Buckley-Vidal Read More

A History of Rome – Second Edition (1991, 1994, 1996, 2001) by Marcel Le Glay, Jean-Louis Voisin, Yann Le Bohec, David Cherry

Categories: 1991, 1994, 1996, 2001, Books, and Non-Fiction.

This is a general history of Rome meant, I believe, for use in schools as a textbook. It’s written that way anyway, so it’s rather dry. The strength of the book is in the early going when it provides a great deal of pre-history to the empire, pretty much all of which I was unfamiliar with. Another strength is that the authors mostly refuse to speculate, so this is likely an accurate, not one that thrives on biased ancient accounts or on inventing motives for historical actors. But the book has two major weaknesses, even though it has been updated Read More

Better This World (2011, Kelly Duane, Katie Galloway)

Categories: 2011, Movies, Politics, and Society.

This is an important film that is really, really worth your time. What starts off seemingly as a portrait of some well-intentioned youths that got into some bad shit (and feels, perhaps, like an apology for such behaviour) soon reveals itself to be the story of something so much worse. Though it’s weird to say this about a documentary, I’ll do it anyway. If you haven’t read the plot description or heard about this movie, SPOILER ALERT Read More

Does Brenden Morrow Belong in the Hockey Hall of Fame?

Categories: 2016, Hockey, and Sports.

The answer is ‘no,’ obviously, but I like to spend a little time celebrating players I either liked or had a few stellar moments in their careers, even if their careers were not great.   Career 265G, 310A for 575P, +107 in 991 games Drafted 25th overall in 1997; 5th in Goals and Points, 7th in Assists, 4th in Plus/Minus, 8th in Games Played in his class 82-game average: 22G, 25A for 48P, +9 Possession*: 48.9 CF%, -2.4 CF%Rel, 48.6 FF%, -2.6 FF%Rel Playoffs: 19G, 27A for 46P, 0 in 118 games Playoffs Possession*: 47 CF%, -3.5 CF%Rel, 48.3 FF%, Read More

Killers (1981) by Iron Maiden

Categories: 1981 and Music.

I like this record, I do. But I can’t escape the feeling that I’ve heard this all before. This record sounds a lot better than their debut and that is great. But it’s no surprise to learn a lot of the music was written earlier and didn’t make the cut of the debut. It’s like their Strange Days – the band sounds more self-assured, everything is better produced, but the material just isn’t quite as good. 8/10 Read More

Mad Men (2007)

Categories: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and TV.

I watched Mad Men over an even longer period than most of you, so my memory of the individual episodes is not perfect. I know there were some weaker ones in there, and there even parts of seasons (perhaps even whole ones) that I didn’t enjoy on the level of the best parts of the show. But I want to talk about the show as a whole, and not dwell on its occasional missteps or the fact that it ran on too long (like most other American TV shows…). Read More

Destroyer (1976) by KISS

Categories: 1976 and Music.

I think you can regard Bob Ezrin as the “Phil Spector of the ’70s”; a man who focused on creating a dense wall of sound. And, though I don’t like this production style, I think it suits certain things. When Ezrin’s style matches the artist’s material, it works wonders (see, for instance, Berlin or The Wall). But when it doesn’t match the material, well…we get something like this. I don’t know what anyone involved was thinking here. I don’t know KISS beyond the singles  (this is the first album of theirs I’ve heard) but, beyond Ezrin’s work with Alice Cooper Read More

Grupo Irakere (1978)

Categories: 1976, 1978, and Music.

So much of what I’ve read about this band focuses on their Grammy-winning North American breakthrough, as if the first time North Americans heard this music was the first time it was really vital and worth listening to. And I do understand that distribution was a different beast in the ’70s, but still, it’s a little rich to tell everyone that the first album Columbia released by this band is their “best.” Anyway, I bring this up because, in searching for their North American debut, I found, instead, this gem, their second release. (Their North American debut was either their Read More

Bellflower (2011, Evan Glodell)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

First of all, it’s really, really hard to like a movie when you don’t like any of the characters. (And I mean any.) And it’s hard to like a movie when you don’t understand why anyone does anything. These people drink all day and spend money. (And do some drugs too.) One of them appears to have a part time job, but the rest of them just appear to be living off…uh, I don’t know what they’re living off of. Every single one of these people is a person I would avoid if I met them. Every. Single. One. What’s Read More

Epitaph by Charles Mingus, conducted by Gunther Schuller, Live at Walt Disney Concert Hall, May 16, 2007

Categories: 1957, 1958, 1959, 1962, 2007, and Music.

What the hell do we do with Epitaph? Epitaph is a “jazz symphony” Mingus assembled in the late ’50s and attempted (and failed) to perform in 1962. I say ‘assembled’ because it contains multiple other Mingus compositions that he recorded individually multiple times (and performed numerous times) and because it contains music inspired by and quoting other composers’ music. And one of the reasons he failed to successfully perform it in 1962 is because the piece is monumental (that’s usually the word used to describe it): 4,235 measures long, which sounds like an awful lot. (I’ve also read somewhere that Read More

Through Darkness Into Light (2015) by The Visit

Categories: 2015 and Music.

This is some pretty spectacular stuff: a huge range of sounds created by just a cello and voice. The range of musical influences is rather broad, with various “eastern” musical ideas complementing more traditional (and not so traditional – I heard the influence of minimalism and even metal…seriously) western ideas, all presented as what we might call progressive folk. Really, really cool. 9/10 Read More

A Better Life (2011, Christopher Weitz)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

This is an affecting movie that does a good job of avoiding cliches. Given the immigration status of the father, and the bad crowd the kid is falling in with, there’s a lot that could go wrong here. But the filmmakers wisely take the less predictable (probably more realistic) option of telling a simple story, instead of working up to some big Hollywood climax. I have seen at least one fairly shitty Hollywood film about the illegal immigration situation in the States so it’s nice to see an effective family drama set within it instead. No beating you over the Read More

The Just by Albert Camus, live at the Michael Young Theatre, March 9, 2016

Categories: 1949 and 2016.

This is a new translation of Les Justes that appears to have been written in light of what’s currently going on in the Middle East. Though I thought I had read nearly everything Camus published in his lifetime, I don’t remember this play, so I guess I missed it. Like a lot of Camus’ work, it is about the viability of rebellion, the consequences of murder and the problem of living for ideas instead of people. It’s one of those plays that features characters as the mouthpieces for various belief systems, which can be tiring at times, but Camus was Read More

RIP George Martin

Categories: 2016 and Music.

George Martin was the most innovative producer of the 1960s and, given what happened in the 1960s, perhaps the most innovative producer in the history of rock music. As someone who grew up with The Beatles (long story), his music had a massive impact on my life. Martin is, of course, most known for producing The Beatles albums that irrevocably changed music history, though he had a much longer career, than just those seven and a half years. But whether Martin was some kind of genius producer who took The Beatles to heights they may not have reached themselves, or Read More

Best Worst Movie (2009, Michael Stephenson)

Categories: 1990, 2009, and Movies.

This film is ostensibly about Troll 2, which some consider the worst movie ever made at(at one point it had a 0% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes  and was once the worst movie on IMDB). At this point I should mention I have never seen Troll 2. Surprised, aren’t you? I should. But I don’t know if it will ever beat Island of Death. Nothing will ever beat Island of Death.* But it’s really about what happened to the cast, and the cult that formed and the film, and the tour the film’s main actors took the film on in Read More

Bestiaire (2012, Denis Cote)

Categories: 2012.

This is a Frederick Wiseman-style documentary about animal and human interaction (though, if Wiseman made it, it would be 3-4 times as long0. It’s ostensibly about animals and humans observing each other, but I thought it was more about animals in captivity (and a bit about taxidermy). The problem (or the great thing) about fly-on-the-wall documentaries is you bring more of yourself to them. So I may think it’s more about captivity, but critics (presumably instructed by a released from the distributor) think it’s about animals looking at people. Anyway, whatever it’s about, it’s a little too obscure in its Read More

Beowulf and Grendel (2005, Sturla Gunnarsson)

Categories: 2005 and Movies.

Note: I have never read anything more than a child’s abridged version of Beowulf. This appears to be an attempt to make a more “realistic” and revisionist Beowulf: Grendel is presented as humanoid, there is a lot of focus on Grendel’s reasons for terrorizing the Danes, there’s focus on the coming Christian conversion, and Beowulf is ambivalent about the whole thing. I think there’s probably something worthwhile in this. Unfortunately: the budget is lacking (this is, unsurprisingly, a Canadian film) and that is even more in relief in part because of the knowledge of the big Hollywood version from a Read More


Categories: 2016 and Movies.

I hate most movie trailers nowadays. The teasers are more along the lines of what good trailers should be like, but those teasers are released months, sometimes years, before the movie comes out and, inevitably, trailers that follow reveal the vast majority of the plot. Why can’t trailers give us just the basic gist of the film (style of film with these famous people) and nothing more? If, for example, you were into the idea of a new Star Wars film, wouldn’t just the teaser be enough to get you to see it? Remember the teaser for The Phantom Menace? Read More

Black Sheep aka Oveja Negra (2009, Humberto Hinojosa Ozcariz)

Categories: 2009 and Movies.

This is a movie that tries to tell a relatively simple story using complicated narrative techniques. The movie is told in flashback, almost entirely, but the reason for use of flashback is not revealed until the film’s reveal and, until that moment, it’s hard to know why exactly the film is told in flashback because it’s handled rather clumsily both in the way it’s done – at points with, essentially, flashbacks within the flashback – and because the flashback device is forgotten at times and suffers from a Saving Private Ryan problem, where the narrator was not present for much Read More

Deadpool (2016, Tim Miller)

Categories: 2016 and Movies.

I think it’s safe to say that this is the best Marvel film outside of one or two of the X-Men sequels (the recent ones have been shockingly good). This film is funny – it’s not just mildly amusing, like Guardians of the Galaxy – and it manages to preserve the rather elliptical nature of (this particular) comic storytelling rather intact – i.e. it feels more like a comic book movie than a Hollywood blockbuster (and I mean that as praise).  The short version is that it’s entertaining in ways that (most of) the massive Marvel blockbusters of recent years Read More

Bernie (2011, Richard Linklater)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

This is one of those films that is played so straight you aren’t sure whether or not it’s a comedy. It’s also rather unique in the sense that, though it is a fictionalized version of a true story, it’s not only partially told as if it was a documentary, but it features interviews with numerous real people. It’s a daring approach, and it’s a testament to both the skill of Linklater and the performance of Jack Black that it works. (This may be the best performance of Black’s career.) The story is a rather weird one, of the kind that’s Read More

Spectre (2015, Sam Mendes)

Categories: 2015 and Movies.

Watching a James Bond on a plane is probably not the greatest idea. Alas, I did. The return to pseudo-realism that Casino Royale supposedly heralded seems to have completely gone for the later Craig Bond films. Spectre is as go-for-broke spectacle as Skyfall though it is, on the most part, less absurdly epic. The rest of the film feels vaguely in the vein of the recent Mission Impossible (I can’t remember which one) where everyone has turned on our hero (and, in this case, heroes). Some of the stunts work well, some are too ridiculous. As with all Bond villain Read More

Riley Goes to Colombia Day 13 – February 22, 2016

Categories: 2016, Personal, and Travel.

It was cool again this morning, probably as cool as the day before (so, relatively cool). The hotel had a large breakfast buffet, probably the biggest we’d seen. It was quite nice, although it wasn’t particularly Colombian. We took a cab and got to the airport relatively quickly, despite it being a weekday. I looked for a Botero mug at the airport but no such luck. Tons of other mugs, just no Botero. We had to get exit visas to leave the country, which appeared to be a complete formality. Our flight to Panama was quick and then we had Read More

Case 39 (2009, Christian Alvart)

Categories: 2009.

Renee Zellwegger, Ian McShane, Bradley Cooper and Callum Keith Cennie star in this film. Why have you never heard of it? Well, the reason is because this film is awwwful and my guess is that it was dropped at some point when nobody would pay attention to it. It is awful in so many ways: the characterizations are awful (Zellwegger is the world’s worst social worker, or close to it, McShane is supposedly competent until he is utterly incompetent, Cooper is a better social worker than Zellwegger but that is damning with faint praise); the script is awful (it’s transparent, Read More