Thursday, March 11, 2010

Scorsese, Dicaprio & Shutter Island

It's a real treat to have a movie like Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island right now- I highly doubt there will be a better Hollywood movie for the time to come. Why am I giving it such praise? Because it's made by a man that believes in repeated viewings & you will likely need it for this one, which has a twist that demands to be studied and reviewed when the credits roll & -unlike other surprise endings- actually makes sense in its context. What Scorsese has done is a Horror picture that pays tribute to some of Horror's legendary people, there's a bit of Val lewton's The Seventh Victim & almost every seminal Hitchcock is payed tribute to: There's a mountain scene reminiscent of North By Northwest, there's a lighthouse reminiscent of Vertigo & there's a window sequence reminiscent of? Actually you get my drift- and add some influence on Kubrick's The Shining. I've already heard complaints about the picture not being up to par with even his more recent work such as Gangs Of New York & The Departed, I highly digress and even insist its the most rewarding picture he's made for repeat viewings since..well since I can remember.

It's all in the fun. & what fun ! I think people are taking the picture a bit too seriously, this is Scorsese's Valentine to horror & has moments of pure joy and ridiculousness- which is how it meant it to be. I'm kind of reminded of Sam Raimi's Drag Me To Hell, which didn't take itself too seriously and was brilliant because of that. If you haven't heard about the plot- Leo Dicaprio (extraordinarily reliable) plays a Federal Marshall whom along with his partner -played by Mark Ruffalo- goes to an Asylum for the Insane -called Shutter Island- to investigate a missing patient. That's all I'm gonna say but watch out for those horrific dreams Leo has about his dead wife and his experience as an American soldier discovering Nazi concentration camps in WWII. & don't pay too much attention to the missing person case, it's a trap for a more nuanced and revelatory outcome near the end.

I guess you can say I liked the picture & the supporting cast is just great (starring with Patricia Clarkson, Ben Kingsley & Jackie Earle Haley). The film was supposed to come out last year but got postponed due to 'production issues'. If it came out last year it would have surely been one of my very favourites. Seek it out- it's rare to find an auteured movie in mainstream cinema today and this is surely an Auteured movie if there ever was one.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hootenanny @ The Wheel

With its unique look and simple setting, The Wheel located on the corner of Cavendish and Sherbrooke is a one of a kind marvel for music aficionados- especially those in love with the 40’s, 50’s & 60’s. There are long extended tables & chairs filled with a baby boomer to gold aged filled audience. There are also curiosity seeking teenagers in attendance, especially Lex Gil, a Concordia political science student that was brought a year ago by a friend and has been there ‘frequently’ ever since. ‘The music rocks’ Gil says as she listens to a man belt out Johnny Cash’s Ring Of Fire with an expert band that knows their country repertoire quite deeply.

There is a lap steel guitar, upright bass, acoustic guitar & violin- They play every song given to them and kick start the show with a hell of a rendition of Eck Robertson’s Ragtime Annie. Because of the instrumentation and song selection, it is clear that we are in the characteristics of country territory and in the presence of country fans from many generations. Other heartbreaking melodies played include The Tennessee Waltz & I’m so Lonesome I Could

Connie Hoffman, a mother of 10, regularly shows on Monday nights, bringing her acoustic guitar and deciding to get up on stage and sing a few country tunes. Her voice is squeaky and her rhythm guitar playing just good enough but her heart is in the right place & her love for country music very clear. It is that very dedication to music from its artists and audience that makes The Wheel a one of a kind experience. As the audience of about 50 clapped, sighed, country danced and reacted to an abundance of rich music, I couldn’t help but feel the same hootenanny and joy- even if I didn’t know half the songs.

As the dancing and drinking continues, there is a man that goes from table to table. I begin to wonder what that man can possibly be giving out to the audience and once he comes to our table I am surprised and highly amused by his treat, ‘Liquorice, Liquorice, anybody want Liquorice’, I turn to my friend and say ‘this must be the only bar in the world that gives out Liquorice’.

It only added to the fun as the country music was pouring down on us from the stage, its acoustics not very clear and not very loud from the get go, I was trying to figure out why the entire night and came to the conclusion that it must be from a lack of speakers on stage. All flaws aside, the music functioned as a mix of things; as dancing, listening &background music for all involved.

It’s that time of the night, time when ‘Hillbilly Night’ founder Bob Fuller gets up on stage –gut gushing out, cowboy hat intact- & plays a few songs for an audience he has built up for close to 44 years ago as a way to keep country music alive and well through its downward spiral because of the mainstreamed ‘Nashville sound’ that came out after Rockabilly became big in the 50’s . His finance of the event is the running motor for what is now a highly unconventional style of music for the masses, one that –judging by the crowd tonight- has its following and are highly thankful for Fuller’s dedicative efforts to keep it alive.

He arranges his cowboy hat and nods for the band to start, gently strumming his guitar, the song begins and the audience has quieted down a tiny bit- as if the man performing on stage has garnered their respect and admiration & it’s not hard to see why. He has a presence that demands attention & a presence that is very well known in this community of old school country diehards. He gets into a beautiful version of Bury me under the Weeping Willow by the Carter family, his acoustic slowly strumming and the fiddle slowly weeping away the carters’ heartbreaking chords.

The audience has quieted down and he sings with a western voice that slowly evaporates into the night- meanwhile people are slow dancing, people are drinking, people are whispering, liquorice is still being given out and middle aged men and women are weeping at the thought of this kind of music ceasing to exist. Visiting The Wheel on a Monday night might make you think otherwise, in fact for the 3 hours I was there it was only that music that mattered most in the world.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Stupid decision

If you haven't heard, longtime film critic Todd McCarthy was let go by Variety just a few hours ago. This is a real shock to me- being a man that has always looked for work in the industry as a film writer. This is yet another blow to Film Criticism as a whole, which is starting to look more and more like a dying breed (let us not get into that today) To think that in the past few years, some of my favourites film writers have lost their jobs in -what are- essential and important publications. McCarthy leaving Variety is in fact the Publication's loss- He was one of the few @ that place that actually had the cred and experience to back up his opinions on Film. I've been reading the guy's stuff since the 90's and have read archival writings of his all the way up to the 80's. If you guys haven't heard about another controversial move Variety has been in the last few days, here's another scathing EXAMPLE.

Before I EMO myself to oblivion..

I'd like offer my sincerest apologies for not updating the blog as much as I should- the last few weeks have been pretty damn hectic but I plan on coming back on my usual routine of updating it daily (It will happen sooner than you think). & no I don't have much to say about that snooze fest called the Oscars which happened last night in La La land. In fact- I ended up watching a hockey game instead and only tuned to the last half an hour when the serious stuff was happening aka no flying ballerinas w/enya music and commemorative honors. It's no surprise that it's like this every year and that the show only seems to be getting worse- especially the choosing of hosts which last night might have reached the pinnacle of bad.

In other news I'm gonna be watching Shutter Island tomorrow and will give my full report whenever I find the time (hopefully the day of..) & I will hopefully be catching Audiard's Un Prophete, which is getting ridiculously good reviews from New York and LA's press. Stay tuned for that & hope to hear from my fellow followers in the days to come-

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