It will probably come as no shock to you that I am fairly proud of Mamo. Actually you would not be far out of line to describe me as obscenely, rapturously in love with our little food-baby, who is turning seven years old this summer - ! - which, in podcast years, is close to four hundred and fifty. These things do not last, be they non-monetized web enterprises, or agreements between friends, or attempts to put on a serialized production of any great length, or some combination of the three. As has been described ad nauseum on the show and off, we - Mr. Price and myself - did not enter into the Mamo verbal contract with a specific end-date in mind… but we certainly did not have infinity in mind, either. We thought we’d get, perhaps, sixty shows out of the thing. I did sixty shows of moviesTO back in the day, and the effort damn near killed me. For that show, sixty felt like enough, and a round number, and a full body of work. Mamo recently quadrupled that watermark, and like The Simpsons, is unlikely to stop before death or irrelevance, or both.
Our somewhat live Oscar podcast, 2012! We recorded our thoughts in staccato bursts throughout Billy Crystal’s triumphantly comfortable return to the microphone to preside over the Kodak Theatre Battle 2012, The Artist vs. Hugo. Now all eleven segments are joined together a single downloadable episode, for your nostalgic pleasure. Remember, kids, going to the movies is great.
Such things aren’t quantifiable, of course. But with the Oscars closing in on us, formally putting a close on the “best of 2011” conversation, I’ve been thinking more and more about my selection for the worst film of the year. In my year-end blog, I called 2011 a stationkeeping year. 2009 and 2010 were notable because the cream of their crops were some genuinely awe-inspiring, genre-challenging work (I mean, at this time last year, the conversation was about movies like The Social Network, Black Swan and True Grit, all examples of the kind of filmmaking for which I would readily kill right now, in the midst of all these conversations about The Descendents, The Artist, and even Hugo). The most innovative and challenging film of 2011, Bellflower, has slipped quietly into the wayside, and the remainder of the year was marked for me by a kind of “safe baseball,” of the type catalogued (safely) in Moneyball: get players into scoring position, and forget about the home runs.
For the worst film of 2011, I named Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, but here I was being coy. It’s hardly the worst film of the year, though it could probably take that crown in better years of cinema. Mostly, I just wanted to pound on Rob Marshall again (and again), because I enjoy doing that nearly as much as I despise his directorial toolkit. But to a larger degree, it was because I didn’t want to open up the box on how really awful 2011 was capable of being, in all the end-of-year rush and general not-caring-ness. But by my belated count, there were five films in 2011 that were not only significantly worse than Stranger Tides, but are contenders for my list of the worst films of all time. They were, from best to worst (with links to my reviews):
There’s an abacus in a demon’s claw somewhere well below us, which figures out how many wanna-badass fanboys on crystal meth will go see a sequel to a franchise that never quite took off but never exactly died either.
"I do not believe that anyone likes anything deeply for innocent reasons, and by innocent I simply mean nobody is gaga over Star Trek, Lisbeth Salender or The Wire just because.”
"And so when the Doctor tells one person after another after another that nobody is ever really gone, not really, and when The Doctor himself dies and Amy Pond literally remembers him back to life…well, I could barely swallow.”
"Despite being about 900, he’s a hyperactive, fashionable loon with great hair."
"Since Steven Moffat took over the franchise… the Doctor has shared his adventures with the feckless, insanely brave Rory and his wife Amy Pond, who is the key to the continued existence of the universes. (Why aim low? the Moffat rule of thumb.)"
"…River Song, vivaciously played by Alex Kingston as a sort of uber-MILF in Prada complete with her own sardonically endgame-based tagline (“Spoilers!”)…"
"If she wasn’t such a fun/hot knock-about, River Song would be unbearably tragic."
"As The Doctor refuses to deny his faith he becomes an avatar for people with a hungry sort of closeted agnosticism."
In the latest short from the Film Lab, we go in search of elevator guts for my film, Who Remembers How It Ends?. Kept trying to work a Room of Requirement joke in once we got to Lock Up Props, but no joy.
In the annals of movies that are way better than they are generally given credit for, Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood is not terribly significant, because although the critical (and popular) response to the film held that it was mediocre at best, it has slipped into comfortable triviality in the two years since its release. It’s not a movie anyone takes much time to hate - why would they? Robin Hood came and went in 2010, and the most interesting pop cultural outcome of its release was a brief, semi-sordid, examination of how Cyrus Voris and Ethan Reif’s original script for a Robin Hood project - called Nottingham, and focusing on a Sherlock Holmes-style Sheriff of Nottingham investigating the crimes of an antagonistic Robin Hood - was torturously morphed over three years into Scott’s Robin Hood film, which positions itself as an “origin story” for the legendary bandit.
"…as plate after plate of fluffy poached eggs, cartilaginous peameal, and lakes of sunshiney goo continued to pile up over time, I realized that if I don’t start catalogueing these excursions in some formal manner, a great field of human knowledge would be lost. Hence, the Benedict Chronicles…"
Watched: Videodrome, One Wonderful Sunday, Carnage, The Wire, I Killed Einstein Gentlemen
“As a historian, you are a complete failure.”
Don’t tell me a motherflippin’ thing about Breaking Bad. I am finally trying to catch up. After not hearing word one about the plot of this show for four years - until a month ago, I thought it was about crime scene investigators - now I can’t walk into a room anywhere in the city without someone trying to tell me why this show is so great and what happened to who in the what. Save it. I will talk to you soon.
The other night was Videodrome – I’ve skipped ahead on my intended Cronenberg backfill. Videodrome left me curious, if uninvolved, throughout its run and afterwards, but by the next day the collective punch of its image system whalloped me one and now I think I understand a bit more about the idea of inventing images, of Werner Herzog’s things about the human race needing new images and not having them. The pulsating VHS cassette actually made me jump. I may have to look at that film again - a few times. Included on the Criterion disk is the short film Camera, which simply must be the best film Cronenberg ever made.
The Phantom Menace came out in 1999 and our podcast started in 2005, so we never really got a chance to examine its seismic impact on the world of filmmaking – to say nothing of the world of Star Wars. With the film back in theatres (in threeeeee deeeeee!) we take the opportunity to put a pin in all things Lucas, and somehow manage to escape the entire procedure without once following the word “Jar” with a second instance of the word “Jar.”
"Dancing" Ken jumps into my arms in front of a whole lot of people. Photo from the Globe and Mail.
I was one of the people who lined up for two weeks to see Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Don’t worry, I’m not doing it this time. (Worry a little, though, because I’m also one of those people who liked the movie, and is going to see it again.)
When I tell people about the Episode I lineup, it pretty much scares the shit out of them. This, for whatever reasons (and I’m sure there are many of them) is the Line We Do Not Cross in civilized society, apparently. Most workaday folk going about their business want - need - to believe that “those people,” who stood outside movie theatres all over the world for a couple of weeks in 1999, were something a lot farther away from them than I am. Images of socially ineloquent twentysomething basement-dwellers; of pods of social reprobates who populated the stage crew workshops at their high school and, mentally anyway, “never left”; of every Simpsons or Family Guy caricature of “person who does not have the ability to be part of normal human society.” Hey, we had those too, but for the sake of smoothing your inner class system, I must insist that you consider me one of them.