Thursday, May 24, 2007

Well...it's done. The End.

So now it's all over, and Jeff has made good on his bet. His Maple Leafs jersey, a prize possession of his, has been desecrated. He has had a reasonably good showing as a belly dancer on the corner of Thurston and Conroy. He has had his head shaved and a Senators logo painted on it. All facets of this bet have been satiated, and it's over. For the rest of us, this means that (barring a few angry calls we're sure to get tomorrow) the whole jersey controversy is behind us, and it's time to move on. For Jeff, it means that until Ottawa wins the Stanley Cup, he will have a bizarre bright red mohawk, a Senators logo on his head, and the distinct possibility that he will be forced to wear all this while he belly dances in our upcoming Stanley Cup parade. Good luck to Ottawa. Bad news for Jeff.

Well...it's done. Part two.

Jeff was on his way in when I arrived at work at 5:30. He was going to stop by Scotiabank Place to check out the lineup of people who were waiting for Senators tickets. At the last second he thought better of actually talking to them, and moved on toward the station. Jeff lives in Carleton Place, and at that time of the morning, he should have made fairly good time. Of course, he didn't make it in until 7:20 for some bizarre reason. I wonder why. Now, yesterday he managed to do something only Jeff (or maybe myself) would ever do. He forgot the keys to his office at home and had to turn around. Then he got home, and realized he had locked himself out of his house. So he came back to work to get the keys to his house. Out of his office. Which was locked.

Anyway, today, he still did not have the keys to that office, and that meant that oops! Couldn't get that Leafs jersey. But he DID arrive in a Doug Gilmour jersey. From the Montreal Canadiens. That he had clearly purchased yesterday afternoon. Although he attempted to confuse the issue, our promo people are adept at getting into even the most carefully locked offices, and the Leafs jersey was eventually produced. In the meantime, the phones were ringing off the hook with people calling Jeff a bonehead, a tool, an idiot, and many other things unfit for either print or radio. Which made us happy. Of course, had he chosen a Gilmour St. Louis Blues jersey, or EVEN a Flames jersey, he would have been OK. But instead, he chose the only other team with an enormous fan base right here in Ottawa, and incensed the only remaining hockey fans who, up to this point had been neutral on the whole thing. Bonehead, indeed.

But it was a short-lived moment of hope for him, as we pulled the jersey out of the car and placed it in the urinal. Of course, there was a lot that went into the event ahead of time. Jen The Barber shaved his head into a mighty mohawk, dyed it red, and basically made it look like one of those Roman centurian helmets. Jen The Barber is a great name for this, but really it sounds like some serial killer or a dictator who's gone off his nut and perpetrated genocide on his people. Ivan the Terrible, Attilla the Hun, Jen the Barber. In fact, Jen is a gorgeous young hairdresser at Le Look hair studios, beside the Broadway in Barrhaven where I drink. Go in now for your very own Jeff Brown cut.

There was also a fantastic face-painting job done by a woman from Par-T-Perfect. ONly really, it was a head-painting job. She was a perfectionist, and it was well worth it, since the Senators logo came out looking fantastic on one side of his beautifully shaved head. But because of that perfectionism, the head was only half done when Jeff went out to belly dance. Carly had brought in a belly dancing costume from home, apparently the one she uses when she belly dances in front of the mirror to George Michael albums. Jeff was none too happy about it. There were bells, a veil, and two skirts to choose from. He was, however, allowed to keep his Canadiens jersey on. Which was OK. After all, it's his favourite.

This was the reason Jeff had made this bet to begin with. He was so worried about belly dancing at the corner of Thurston and Conroy, that he went "double-or-nothing" on his original bet, and ended up paying a hefty price. We had some quality middle eastern music pumped out onto the grass, and he acquitted himself fairly well. Not as well as I did, I must say, when I was a belly dancer for a brief time during our Tour of the Neighbourhood, but well enough for someone who had had no lessons.

During this time, we had determined that enough money had NOT been raised to save that Leafs jersey that was sitting in the urinal. We had also discovered that no one was willing to be the first to go in and defile that jersey. I wasn't planning on doing it, because as far as I'm concerned, I didn't care at all. I don't hate the Maple Leafs or Jeff Brown enough to want to do this, but we figured SOMEONE would. Nope. Jen the Barber stepped up, but caved in when Jeff offered some extra money to CHEO, and stepped out. Hiding behind the kids again.

Finally though, after about thirty minutes of milling around, and about seven minutes before the dancing was done and the thing was over, a guy comes running up, leaving his car still running, throws 20 bucks into the CHEO donation jar, runs into the port-a-potty and lets loose. As quickly as he got there, he runs out of the outhouse, leaps back into his car, and speeds away. Hilarious. Jeff's face was just priceless. He really thought (as did I at that time) that the Gilmour shirt would be spared. And no one who had been milling about would have done it. They could see how much it would crush Mr. Brown's fragile spirit. But not someone who was in his car. It was basically a drive-by urination, and it's the only way it could have happened.

In the end, there was but one person who went on the jersey, and there's a good chance Jeff can still get the thing dry-cleaned and it'll be OK. And he can relax. The debt is paid.

Well...it's done. Part one.

It's over. Now, but one day left to talk of the aftermath of Jeff Brown and his giant mouth and his stupid bet and his pee-stained Leafs jersey. I was fairly angry with Doc yesterday. All this time I have been telling everyone who will listen that a bet's a bet, and that whatever he said, he must honour and so forth. A ton of people were upset, but I thought they had all missed the point. Everyone was making suggestions - give up the jersey! Auction it off for CHEO! So on and so forth. Garbage! I said. Just because money goes to the kids at CHEO does not mean you can hide behind "the kids" in order to get out of something unpleasant! No, you must go ahead and make good. Under no circumstances will we bend our rules or break our word to satisfy a few squeaky wheels! We have our convictions!

Apparently not. We do NOT have our convictions. We are bush league and second rate, and we will bow down under pressure from a few upset people. Leafs fans, mostly. Doc caved in and put up a challenge to the Leaf fans who were upset about the jersey, saying if they could raise 1,500 dollars by 8:00 this morning, the jersey would be spared. Blasphemy! Now, the twelve very vocal complainers would be satisfied, but Doc will have to deal with the seven thousand people who think a bet is a bet. THEY will complain louder, I am sure.

As it turns out, Doc was right, and I had nothing to worry about. As of 8:00 this morning, we had raised $541.00 for CHEO. Leafs fans and angry anti-jersey-urinators were all talk. I really thought 1,500 was way too small a number. I mean, that's actually ATTAINABLE, and people were so upset about this I figured they would come through in droves. But apparently no one was upset enough to donate. They were only upset enough to send emails and make phone calls. Too bad. My biggest chagrin now is not my adamant stance against the whole plan, but my belief that Doc would be wrong. I was absolutely convinced, but he seemed to know all along. he said we would get 625 dollars. Even he overshot. So, the jersey was to be peed upon. But no one really wanted to do it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth

Because I have only so much space in which to discuss a movie on cynical cinema, I felt that I should go on a little about Pan's Labyrinth, a movie which deserves a lot more space and time than I can provide with a simple movie review. This is one of the best movies I've seen in years. Pan's Labyrinth, The Departed, and Children of Men are the three movies from last year everyone should see. I rented it, then I bought it. And I am delighted with it for a couple of reasons.

Every movie seems to come out in two formats - widescreen and "full screen". Full screen means that the movie will be cut in half so that it fits your whole TV. This is for the people who want to feel as though every pixel on their TV screen is in use, and that way they're getting their money's worth. Or perhaps for people with a 6 inch TV. I hear people every now and then get sour with the "stupid bars on the top and bottom of the screen". Is that really distracting you? Then don't watch movies. If your attention is distracted by a movie being in it's true format, then you won't ever be able to watch one while your furnace is going, or your window is open, or your dog is lying down or your pants are fitting especially well today. Widescreen is the only way to view a quality movie, since it is the only way the movie was meant to be seen. Pan's Labyrinth doesn't give the viewer the option. It's in widescreen. Deal with it.

There are also lots of people who complain about subtitles. You mean I have to READ to enjoy this movie? This makes sense if you are functionally illiterate. But if you are, then you won't understand the movie anyway. I know, it seems like a LOT of work. Reading AND watching? Poor you. Once again, Pan's Labyrinth does it the way it should. Subtitles. It's in Spanish. Shut up. I can't imagine how lousy this film would be were it to cave in to the almighty dollar that would come with making an English-dubbed version for the DVD. But the people who need to see it like that don't deserve to see the movie. Deal with it.

Although it's technically a fantasy movie, most of it takes part in the real world, in the aftermath of the Spanish revolution. And although it's fantasy, it's not like Lord of the Rings or Labyrinth in that it's not for kids. I think people get too worked up about what their kids can and can't watch. Swearing in a movie? Do you really believe that your children have not heard those words already? And without getting into a whole George Carlin thing, who decides what words are "bad" and what are "good"? I'd much rather my girlfriend's kids say the F-word than say things like "pushing the envelope". Her seven-year-old has taken to saying "oh snap!" It's cute, but it kills me. I'd much rather he use every one of the seven Carlin words, frankly. With that in mind, there are boundaries. Like, they probably shouldn't watch South Park or REservoir Dogs.

Violence is another one. There is more violence in kids' movies than there is in 90 percent of the stuff I watch. Well, 10 percent of the stuff I watch...but somehow the fact that it's a cartoon makes it OK. One character can do everything in his power to murder the other, but as long as the characters are armadillos and iguanas, no problem. Violence seems to be a better reason to censor certain movies from kids. Like Braveheart and, again, Reservoir Dogs.

Finally, sexual content. The big taboo of the MPAA, this is the one that ruins most movies in terms of ratings. A movie where characters kiss "passionately" can't be seen by kids. The reasoning here is that if they see two characters kiss in a real and loving way as a five-year-old, there's no obvious path in life for them to follow except that of a depraved sexual deviant who will only want to escalate that kissing business to...intercourse...by the time he or she is twenty. Disgusting! No, what's better here is to have the characters give each other pecks on the cheek or occasionally the lips. This is what kissing really is, you see. And by that logic, children will be conditioned from an early age to think of sex as nothing but a robotic bodily function, and one they will want nothing to do with until after they are married. And certainly not gay or lesbian kissing! That might make them think same-sex affairs are OK, and they will do everything in their power to become gay. Hedonism will reign!

OK. Anyway, what I'm saying is the real reason not to show a kid a movie is if that kid might have nightmares as a result. When I was five, I had never in my life seen TV or a movie. Not once. I went to Megan McLeod's birthday party, where we watched a Raggedy Ann cartoon movie. There was an orange monster who lived in a lake and was misunderstood. There was also a robot who threw pies. I was TERRIFIED. I couldn't sleep properly for weeks. The SECOND time I ever saw TV was at another birthday, and this time we watched Ghostbusters. Again, weeks of nightmares. I just hadn't been conditioned to understand anything at all about movies or TV. So, those were movies I shouldn't have seen.

Recently, my girlfriend tried to watch The Descent with her 12-year-old. He got thirty minutes in, and she had to shut it off. Watching the whole thing would have kept him up for days. He's a kid who can't handle that stuff. Jaws scared him for months. Yet he can watch Freddy vs. Jason, Alien vs. Predator, and such like without ever being the least bit frightened. He keeps wanting to watch "the scariest movie I've ever seen", but I just don't think it's a good idea yet. Texas Chainsaw, The Changeling, Hallowe'en, The Exorcist...he may be a few years away from that stuff. In fact, I got a little mad at my girlfriend about the Descent thing. I didn't want to be wakened up in the middle of the night by a scared kid. I told her she crossed the line of "bad parent" and leapt straight to "big jerk" for trying to force that one on him. But I'm mostly kidding, since you never know until you show them, right?

Anyway, I've just been typing and typing because I have keyboard diarrhea, and I better stop. I don't want to ramble on with more boring stuff...so. Pan's Labyrinth. Watch it, it's sensational. Visually, one of the best ever. But it is not for kids. They will have nightmares. Mostly about the real life stuff, though. The Spanish civil was rather unpleasant, and there are graphic examples of just how unpleasant in the film. And the creatures in the Labyrinth itself are actually quite creepy and weird, and could scare some of the young'uns. Wait until they're fifteen or sixteen. But buy it now, widescreen, subtitles and all. Deal with it.

An amendment.

I need to amend an earlier post I made. I recently accused Disney of perpetrating the "princess ethos" of today's young girls, and suggested that this is a horrible thing to do. I still agree with my earlier statement, but I now think it may not have been harsh enough or broad enough. First of all, it's not just Disney. And secondly, it isn't just the princess idea of being as pretty as possible, finding the right guy, and never thinking again. Even that is preferable to what I see. Yesterday I watched Arthur and the Invisibles, (which sucked a substantial amount, by the way), and there was of course a princess character. She managed to hook up with the hero, of course. But at first, she was different. She was tough, and wanted to be a hero herself. But as soon as that dream died, it's full steam ahead with the rest of the myth. I'm not the hero any more. So...Arthur! Find a way out of here, help me escape from the bad guys, I'll just be along for the ride, and then I'll bat my eyelashes at you when it's all over. Deal?

And here's what really got me. The whole idea behind being a princess is that some day you will become a queen, no? That's why they call it a princess. So why aren't there a pile of young girls clamoring to be a queen? Well, there's a good reason, and that is responsibility. Queens have to DO stuff. They have to DECIDE things. Sure, most of it's pretty sweet, hanging out and eating grapes and having Cleopatra-Anne Boleyn-style orgies. But every now and then you're called upon to put your seal on something, or make an official appearance. And that means you have to get up. You have to put on ceremonial clothes. You have to act superior, keep your nose up. Maybe you have to order the execution of some minion who hasn't really done anything wrong, just to keep your iron-fisted control over the people.

Princesses don't have to deal with that stuff. They just brush their hair, from what I understand. In fact, the really lucky ones have hair-brushing minions. Just like most rappers today with big posses. But rappers have to DO stuff to get a hair-brusher or a corn-row-straightener or whatever. They have to rap. And make appearances. And get up. With the possible exception of Snoop Dogg, who seems to be able to make music, movies, porn, computer games, software, macaroni and pop-up books for children without ever getting out of bed. But he also smokes more weed than the average princess. No, even Snoop has to make it look like he's working. And he had to ACTUALLY work to get where he is now.

Not a princess. She merely has to be born, or be the ultimate gold-digger and marry a prince. Seems easy - that Charles guy was none too picky, was he? And then what? Princess Diana was famous for doing some serious charity work. Well, she had nothing else to do, did she? She may well have done more than 500 hours in charity work a year! But what did she do with the other 8,260 hours in the year? Bought shoes, had pedicures, got her hair brushed and ate grapes, I assume. And the royal family really didn't want her to do that much charity stuff. If people see you, they might realize how little they see US! Here, have more grapes. I realize equating grapes with the lap of luxury may seem odd, but I come from humble beginnings.

And that's not all that ticked me off about this stupid Arthur and the Invisibles movie. This film is the straw that broke the camel's back for me. Camel? Donkey? Walrus? Whatever. I now realize that unless you have a budget of 700 million dollars, as well as ten of the top voice talents and three hundred thousand of the world's best animators working on a kids' movie, it will suck. It is now apparent to me that every director who makes the leap to kids' films (Robert Rodriguez, I'm looking at you, and Spy Kids...3-D?) is doing a cash grab. You can write anything, you can hire any actor, you can spend eight bucks on the whole movie and kids will enjoy it. So you will make your money. But kids also like peanut butter and cheese sandwiches dipped in Slushies, and America's Funniest Videos. They are not qualified to judge the good from the suck.

I do feel bad bashing kids' movies, in a way. Especially when my girlfriend's kids are watching them with me. Questions like "Eric, why are you laughing? That was awesome!" are awkward. How do you tell a seven-year-old that the movie he is enjoying is a rip-off of Rashomon, makes numerous references to the Maltese Falcon, lifts a speech right out of From Here To Eternity, and does it in such a way that I have never seen anything so smarmy and irritating in my life? And that it's SO smarmy that I can't help but laugh out loud at the fact that something that doesn't involve Steven Seagal can be this stupid? You don't. It's like when he draws a picture. It might look like nothing. Or like a silo. And he tells you it's a beaver or a super nova, and you say "wow! That's even better than the picture you drew of the chicken fighting the Space Needle...even though it looks identical to me..." it's the same way with movies. You don't tell a seven-year-old he has lousy taste in movies. Of course he does. He's seven.

But I can write about it, and I clearly have held this in too long, since I am now writing a complete novel. Telling an adult director of say, Arthur and the Invisibles that he just phoned in his stupid kids' movie is OK. A grown-up SHOULD be able to draw a picture of a chicken fighting the Space Needle, and make it look different than their picture of a walrus princess on a rocking chair.