Stop The Madness!! - TIFF ‘14 prework

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Here we go again for the first time, for the last time. Cracking the book and there’s that smell - because only the TIFF book smells like that. Last book? Could be. I was a few pages into the Masters, sitting on a park bench, when I was approached by a delightful woman who has been attending the Toronto International Film Festival since 1985 - and doing 50 films a year until just a few years ago. We reminisced. Yes, it’s changed. No, it’s not like it used to be. No, neither are we. Yes, we’re still going.

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Watched: McCabe, Mrs. Miller, and the end of all things

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"I got poetry in me, dammit."

I don’t think I’ll ever watch McCabe & Mrs. Miller again. This isn’t anything to do with the film. I think it’s wonderful; I think it’s one of my favourites. I’ve written papers about it. I’ve seen it, I think, three times straight through, and a handful of other times, other ways. I saw it again at the Lightbox last week, on real 35mm, and man, it looked amazing. And it really got to me, too, you know? That stupid, ineffectual man. That absolutely castrated male ego. All the things that means. All the things that, in a frontier setting,  points towards. America. Manhood. Me.

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Filmmaking: It’s Fantastic.

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So Mark and I used to say in our heyday, which is now - hey! - around twenty years ago. Well, no matter. Filmmaking is still fantastic.

Here’s what I like about it: it’s three-dimensional problem solving in real time. And it’s not the irritating-as-fuck non-solution problem solving that follows me around at my day job like dryer lint; it’s tactile, and practical, and real, and it has immediate, visible results. You start any given day of any given shoot with a series of problems that need to be solved: logistical, conceptual, creative. And you take them, one by one, till you get to the end. Some days, you solve all of ‘em; some days, you solve none of ‘em. But you piece out, one step at a time, taking each specific challenge in turn until you arrive at the moment of truth. And when it’s done you have a Result. If you’re on your shit, that result is a movie.

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How I learned about sanity

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At some point in 1984, my father was attempting to describe the plot of Amadeus to our friend Susanne, whose command of English was not, at that point, very good - which required him to demonstrate the meaning of the word “suicide,” in explaining the first scene in the film, by drawing his thumb across the white flesh of his throat. This, I remember. I was eight years old - Amadeus was released on my 8th birthday, so I could not have been anything less than 8 years old - and we were in the dining room at my parents’ house.

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A Month of Thursdays

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Thursday, somewhat arbitrarily, used to be my favourite day of the week. (Thursday is, after all, Thor’s Day.) Thursdays have a smell, a flavour; something about them that reminds me of the leaves in September and crushes on girls in high school. They almost always meant the week was almost over, and that was almost always a good thing.

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Watched: Lucy, Shorts Aren’t Pants Eleven

Lucy is atrocious. In its first fifteen minutes I was on a familiar contact high - finally, some fucking cinema! - as Luc Besson delivered beat after beat (after beat after beat after beat) of gorgeous, liquid imagemaking, the sort of go-for-broke, tell-it-with-moving-pictures filmmaking that hasn’t been seen in these parts since the first half hour of The Lone Ranger. (Best bit? Choi Min-Sik walks into a room, into full close up. His face and glasses are lightly spattered with blood. We hold for a beat to register this - and then, he reaches his hands into frame to remove his glasses, and they are dripping with blood. As villain introductions can go, it’s the best I’ve seen since The Raid.)

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Flight of the V-Wing

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The Alpha-3 Nimbus-class V-wing starfighter, often simply known as the V-wing starfighter or Nimbus fighter, was a short-ranged starfighter deployed late in the Clone Wars by the Galactic Republic. V-wings were later succeeded by the Imperial TIE Fighter and the Rebel A-wing interceptor, all of which incorporated aspects of the V-wing into their designs.

When I was a child, the A-Wing starfighter was my favourite. No real idea why - the X-Wing was more central to the heroes of the trilogy, and the B-Wing, let’s face it, is far and away the more badass design. But A-Wings just made a kind of weird sense to me - squat, purposeful, and an A-Wing kamikaze strike took out the Super Star Destroyer - and in the prequel era I spent a lot of time (and money, of course) tracing the A-Wing design back down through its design DNA, to the Republic era.

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Untitled

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8:49 a.m. The air cooled significantly overnight and I woke to a morning grey and placid. Last night I killed a monstrous spider who had made the verandah his home and was systematically coating it in thick, stringy webs; webs so thick they pulled against you, and made their crinkling noise, and snapped in your hand like birthday ribbons. I doused the spider – fat, arrogant, bottle-brown – in RAID and watched him scurry away before tearing down all his cathedrals. This morning, I climbed the steps to the cottage to find the verandah overrun – by mayflies, mosquitoes, and all other things. The king of the spiders was dead. A new king had set up shop on the tent house, as I found when I emerged, entombing the door in his traps, and shrinkwrapping the rest in arch after arch of his finest filigree. I haven’t found him yet.

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Watched: The batshit insanity of Hemlock Grove, Season 1

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OK, so define a “good” show. I know, I know, we don’t truck with that kind of talk around here. But even in the annals of subjectivity and whimsical pleasures and not needing movies to be good, Hemlock Grove is a bad fucking show. Like, really bad. Like super awful holy-shit-was-this-written-by-12-year-olds bad.

And yet. And yet.

I guess I don’t need TV shows to be good, either. Hemlock Grove's first season really does feel like it was written in crayon on the back of an 8th-grader's paper bag lunch, and is so slapdash in its execution that if you told me a bunch of film students made it on a weekend in Thunder Bay with whatever they had lying around, I'd believe you. (There is a key wig in the last three episodes that looks, without hyperbole, like it was bought at Shoppers Drug Mart four days after Hallowe'en.)

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The Terror of Titles

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Everything begins with a title, or at least, it does for me; while I certainly can draft something without a title in place, it never feels right, like climbing through the kitchen window when I’ve locked my keys in the house. Sometimes the practice gets away from me. I’ve thought up some hum-dinger titles for Destroy All Monsters over the past year and have discovered (usually about exactly an hour past too-late on the night before the column is due) that there’s no “there” there, when I’ve gone to try and write the thing. (And this, probably, after a week or two of thinking to myself, “don’t worry about the column, I’ve got the column,” thanks to my too-clever title.)

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