Friday, February 8, 2008

But I'm too big for a bath!

Getting the kids to take a bath or a shower is a struggle. The older one just doesn't like the idea of getting up from the computer or his movie or whatever it might be we're doing. It would involve walking and climbing stairs...lots of effort. The younger one feels that it is a massive waste of his time - the six minutes he might spend in the shower are six minutes where he could be PLAYING. And that book or that lego or Guitar Hero or the Sorry board may well disappear before tomorrow. Or within six minutes. As a child, I believe I had a similar distaste for the bath. It was only when I discovered that girls are less likely to make out with the smelly guy that I began to take regular showers. I was twenty-six. But I don't think I have had an actual bath more than three times in the last fifteen years. (All three times were right after one of the 24 Hours of Homelessness event for Operation Go Home.) But yesterday I had to take a bath for my weird gross injury. The idea was I was to fill the tub with water and Epson Salts, and soak the wound, open it up and make sure I got salt inside.

That seemed awful to me at first, and it certainly did sting and cause me pain, at least for a while. But the worst part was that I am now too large (possibly too fat) for the tub! I filled it with water. I sat down. The water didn't reach my waist where the wound was. I lay down on my back. Still, the water didn't reach the open sore. I tried filling it up more, but that little drain that makes sure the water doesn't get too high kept draining it right back out. Finally, I had to uncomfortably turn onto my stomach so I could soak properly, open this thing up and get salt into it. I need to lose some weight. My plan has been to do that through excercise, but since I got this thing, I have been unable to excercise (or even shovel snow). It feels like some kind of catch-22 at this point.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Out Tuesday - Becoming Jane (****4/10)

Becoming Jane is ostensibly the story of Jane Austen, considered by many to be the greatest female novelist of all time. Of course, we have to put the qualifier "female" in front of "novelist", because it's such a ... well ... novelty. Like "male stripper". Never mind the fact that the Bronte sisters, George Eliot, Margaret Laurence, Mary Shelley and Alice Walker have written some of the most enduring classics in literature, they are still "female authors". And in Jane Austen's time, being a "female author" was a pretty big deal. George Eliot clearly had to operate under a pseudonym (I actually have no idea what her real name was) because women couldn't write stuff! Women cleaned and cooked and made babies! (It was a different time.) Now, as a big fan of Jane Austen and her novels, I know a good deal about her life. Enough to know how Becoming Jane ends. (I won't tell you, in case you end up watching this film. And I hope you don't.)

Becoming Jane, the DVD from Alliance Atlantis that comes out today, comes with a free coupon for Pennington's. If you purchase 100 bucks worth of clothes, you get a 20 dollar credit - free! This should indicate something about the target audience for this film. Young women who just don't know any better, apparently. Jane Austen, one of the towering literary figures in history, gets the Hollywood "bio-pic" treatment here. And like everything else in Hollywood, no great historical tale can possibly be told without cramming in a love story. No one in history was interesting unless they were in love with someone. Think Titanic, Pearl Harbor, and so forth. Jane Austen's life was interesting only because of her love story, it turns out. You see, her family is trying to force her to marry a young, rich man so that they can have money and she'll be happy, because marrying rich is a must, if it is possible. But Jane (played by Anne Hathaway here) has a MIND of her OWN, and SHE wants to marry for LOVE.

Wait...this is familiar. So Jane Austen had a life that almost perfectly mirrored that of several other movies I have seen? Movies like Titanic, The Notebook, The Princess Bride, My Man Godfrey, Van Wilder, Wedding Crashers, Sweet Home Alabama, Clerks II, and four hundred others I won't bother listing? Of course she did! It's a little known fact that Kevin Smith based his Dante character in Clerks II on the life of Jane Austen. OK, I made that up. All these movies have something in common. Or many things. The girl doesn't want to be forced into a match, because she's rebellious and independant and she has a mind of her own! The man she is being pressured to marry has money and property and wealth, but is either a complete jerk and cad no girl would ever like, or a simpering sissy no girl would ever want. Becoming Jane goes the "simpering sissy" route. The heroine then meets a lower-class, poor working man. Possibly a brutish sort who fights and drinks and doesn't bathe or shave, but God help him he's his OWN MAN! They hate each other straight away, but that hate quickly turns to love.

An aside - this is actually how I got together with my girlfriend. I didn't bathe for weeks, I fought with everyone I met while in her presence, every time she saw me I was falling down drunk, and I called her many horrible names. I ran over her dog so we could start out on terms of "hate", but I knew that that always leads to love, because I watch a lot of movies. Worked like a charm! At the end of most of these movies, the heroine of course marries for love. But we're worried about her! How can she live so poor? She's pretty, and pretty girls can't be poor! So the guy usually ends up being incredibly rich, inheriting some money or winning the lottery or inventing a hilarious talking fish that proves to be lucrative. Now, she has the best of BOTH worlds! Thank God. She would really have regretted that whole "love" thing if she had to work for a living the rest of her days. She will be a princess after all.

These movies also suppose two things. First, that rich, high-class people are incapable of being fun and exciting without also being callous and evil. And poor people can never be intelligent and interesting unless they are also very good looking. In Becoming Jane, this interesting good-looking lower class peasant is played by James McEvoy (Last King of Scotland). The script wants us to know, constantly, that we are talking about JANE AUSTEN here, and so it makes Anne Hathaway into a rather irritating screen character. She speaks in gigantic words all the time, and is so condescending to everyone outside her immediate family that one takes an immediate disliking to her. It's supposed to show her "rebellious, girl with a mind" nature, really it makes her officious and annoying. The seduction scenes between her and McEvoy are painful in their attempts to be dialogue-clever. I promis, Jane Austen did not talk like this in real life. And I wasn't even there.

In the end, Becoming Jane is a movie every one of us has seen hundreds, maybe thousands of times (many of them with Anne Hathaway). It's the oldest story in movies, and to pretend you're talking about a real human being, a literary titan such as Jane Austen, is insulting to the viewer. And to Jane Austen. Are we to believe this romance shaped her entire life and gave us all her books? That she never existed outside the framework of this relationship? Remember - she's a real person, we KNOW how this ends. Far more interesting would have been watching her attempt to become a writer! She is a woman, it's 1795 - it's going to be tough to get people to read her stuff, to publish her, to use her name, a female name, on the books! That would have been far more interesting than just taking the easiest story in Hollywood and trying to make a real person fit that story. Don't watch this movie. Just read Persuasion and Mansfield Park and enjoy those.

Out Tuesday - Martian Child. (*****5/10)



Martian Child is coming out Tuesday on DVD from Alliance Atlantis. It's worth watching with your kids, if your kids are having a tough time adjusting at school, or if they are just plain really weird. But as an adult, it is just plain not worth watching. It starts out with a laudable premise, and then degenerates into the sort of movie sentimentality that would make John Wayne beat the living crap out of Hugh Grant and John Cusack were he still alive, God rest his violent macho soul. I now feel confident that this review will break new ground, as it is sure to be the only review of Martian Child that mentions The Duke. So, on with the review. Martian Child is a movie along very similar lines to K-Pax, the Kevin Spacey movie where Spacey plays a man who may or may not be from outer space. Although K-Pax was not that good, it is still far better than Martian Child. John Cusack is a single father (a fantasy writer) who adopts a boy who believes he comes from Mars. This movie obviously wants us to wonder, at least for a time...is he? Isn't he? Where does he come from? Maybe, just maybe, he is from Mars.

K-Pax did the same thing. And not that either plot is within the realm of likelihood or believability. But if you want to make the case that someone is from outer space, possibly an alien being, then choose K-Pax. Not Mars. We have heard of Mars. We know where it is. We can see it with our naked eyes on certain days. It is the most familiar planet to all of us. We know that there is no life on Mars, and certainly no small-child-shaped life. Pictures like the one above notwithstanding. Therefore, we know the answer right away, and even if we were to suspend our disbelief for the sake of the story, we would have a hard time buying in. There are scenes that try to convince us otherwise. A baseball scene, a traffic light scene, a scene with some M&Ms, that are basically red herrings in a movie that cries out for no red herrings.

In the end, the movie is about John Cusack's relationship with his adopted son, and it gets this mostly right. When he adpots the boy, he believes very strongly that he is from Mars. (The boy does. Not John Cusack. Or us.) The kid is extremely weird, and Cusack tries to cope as best he can, using sappy talk like never, never, never, never, ever give up and such like. Their relationship seems to hit a breakthrough, and the kid goes (extremely suddenly) from barely ever speaking to laughing and joking and having a good time. We believe that Cusack cares, we believe the boy likes him, and then the Children's Aid people show up. These people have just given the child to Cusack. They know he believes he is from Mars. And now they want to review his case, because they may have to take the child away. There has to be some kind of huge problem like this at this point in every movie. The review is taking place maybe six weeks after Cusack gets the boy to begin with. And if he still believes he is from Mars, he will be removed from the home. OK...here's a kid with obvious problems, serious social and mental issues, and if you, the foster parent, can't cure him of those problems completely within six weeks, he's gone.

There may well be some super-parent out there who could have effected this change that quickly. But I have not met that super-parent, nor, I wager, has anyone else. But, that is the conflict that must arise at the one hour and ten minute mark of the movie, so arise it does. Other characters populate the movie, including Olvier Platt, who is obnoxious, Joan Cusack, who is in every John Cusack movie so that she gets work playing - go figure - his sister, who is irritating and looks as though she went on the no-food-plus-lots-of-heroin diet to weigh in at a feisty 49 pounds, and Anjelica Huston. Huston plays Cusack's publisher and delivers the one, painful line that drops this movie off the cliff of heartwarming into the sludge of Hollywood sentimentality and schmaltz: "Why can't you just be what we want you to be?" COME ON! This leads, inexorably and annoyingly, to a final scene straight out of the worst Hitchcock imitator's reject pile, a chase and a confrontation on top of an observatory.

John Cusack is a very likeable guy. It is tough not to LIKE his character in this movie. When the kid finally comes out of his Martian shell a little bit, it is tough not to like him as well. But there isn't one other character in the film that is easy to like, and whatever points the movie scores with us in terms of a connection between the man and the boy are destroyed and wasted as soon as Anjelica Huston says "why can't you be what we want you to be" and Cusack has an epiphany and runs home from his big gala event to tell the boy that all is forgiven and...whatever. A movie with high ideals such as this one can't be crammed into that Hollywood cookie-cutter of "this happens here. This sets off that". It's like you're Rembrandt. And you have this great idea for a painting called Belshazzar's Feast. And you start to paint it, but your boss tells you that paintings have only three people in them, tops, and crowns don't go on top of Turbans, and you'll have to make that writing on the wall English so the people reading it can understand. Would you still paint the picture? I'm guessing not.

Margot at the Wedding. February 19th. (*******7/10)

Margot At The Wedding is about a woman named Margot who goes to a wedding. It comes out from Alliance Atlantis on Tuesday the 19th of February and it's sort-of worthwhile. Margot is played by Nicole Kidman, who is a very uptight, scathingly bitter-tongued ice queen. She drags her son along with her to her sister's (Jennifer Jason Leigh) wedding to unemployed musician Jack Black. The dialogue is very smart, the acting is terrific, and the family is believable. The big problem with the movie is the lack of likeable characters. Kidman gets to her sister's place, and immediately makes herself unlikeable as she attacks everything around her, questioning her sister's choice in a husband, exacerbating the war between her sister and her neighbours, and visiting the man with whom she is having an affair. Jennifer Jason Leigh has just figured out she is pregnant, but hasn't told anyone yet. She tells Kidman, who then tells her son, who then tells his cousin, who then asks her mom about it. The whole family harbours intense bitterness and hard feelings toward each other, much of which is not fully explained in the film.

A lot of scenes ring very true, especially in the little details. My favourite little detail is when Jason-Leigh's young daughter tells Jack Black he has to hide his King Crimson album. It is the In The Court Of The Crimson King album (shown below), and I have had to do the same thing myself. It was initially up on the wall with the rest of my favourite vinyl albums. Welcome To My Nightmare, The Kids Are Alright, Johnny Cash at San Quentin, Over-Nite Sensation, The Melodians Rivers of Babylon, and King Crimson. But I had to take it down, because my wall of albums is in the area downstairs where the kids play, and it really freaked out our 8-year-old. I can certainly understand why. This is just one in the many small details in Margot At the Wedding that ring so very true. Which is an indication of the intelligence of the movie. And some of these scenes are very funny, especially the Jack Black scenes. This is the kind of movie that suits him best. Where he is not the centre of attention, where he does not have to carry the comedy all on his own, but where he can add understated fat-sloppy-guy comedy to understated prim-proper-people type scenes. Think of the scene in High Fidelity where he laments the fact that the customer does not own Blonde On Blonde.

But Margot at the Wedding can only go so far on wit and intelligence and fine performances. For most movies, that should be enough. But the one adult character who is actually likeable is John Turturro, as Kidman's husband, and he shows up for about two minutes of screen time. So by the end, the movie's message is a decent one - no matter how lousy things get, or how lousy life is, you always have family to count on. But after watching the whole thing, you think "not THIS family!" These poor kids! Jennifer Jason Leigh is a space case, Nicole Kidman is a passive aggressive, unfaithful, clingy jerk of a mother, and Jack Black is a slovenly, childish, out of control deviant. (Which is funny, but not exactly laudable.) You wouldn't wish this family on anyone, and you end up feeling pretty sorry for the kids. With more Turturro, this movie could have potentially been a 9/10. As it stands, it is very smart, but tough to watch in parts. And it jsut feels like a standard, well-written, indie dark comedy with nothing new to say.

The Brave One. Out now. (***3/10)

When I was a kid, I was convinced that the most dangerous person on Earth was Angela Lansbury. Not because I had seen her crazy-scary performance in The Machurian Candidate, but because everywhere she went, a murder was committed. Usually someone close to her. Don't go on that cruise, Jessica Fletcher! People will DIE. That role has now been taken up by Jodie Foster in The Brave One. This movie almost definitely has the worst movie title of all time. The Brave One? Who would ever watch something called that? Unless it's a bunch of kids, and The Brave One is the title of a Nickelodeon after-school special where a young man finally learns to stand up to bullies. But the title here is meant to be slightly ironic, which would be fine if it wasn't so lousy. Jodie Foster plays a radio DJ who has gone her entire life never finding any trouble, about to get married to her boyfriend, until the couple is mugged and her boyfriend is killed. Then, all of a sudden, she becomes an absolute magnet for trouble. Murders are committed in front of her, tough guys harass and attack her. I guess violence is much like breaking the seal when you drink. Once it happens once, it will happen every six minutes for the rest of your life until you stop.

Of course, with all this fear, she purchases a gun. And when violence finds her now, she is ready to respond with more violence of her own. Which escalates into vigilante justice, Charles Bronson with a pretty face and an awful haircut. She kills muggers, murderers, you name it. Terrence Howard plays a cop who is on the trail of the vigilante killer and who is also sort-of involved with Foster. He is one of those amazing movie cops who can make enormous leaps in logic to come to the exact right conclusion with no help from the other officers or from actual reasoning. He is also one of those amazing movie cops who are completely oblivious of the most obvious things that are right under his nose. Example: He spends the whole movie hanging out with the killer he is pursuing. She says weird things, knows too much about some stuff, seems jumpy at the mention of other stuff. But only when he hears an elevator door bing while he's talking to her on the phone, and then hours later finds a dead body that's merely a few thousand yards from some elevators, does he maybe start to clue in. EVERY dead body will be within a few thousand yards of some elevators. It's a CITY.

The end makes no sense. I know real police work is not like CSI, but I know enough about powder burns and gunshot residue and the analysis of ballistics to know that the scenario that plays out would never work in a million years. Nor should it. The ethical dilemma faced by Howard at the end is akin to the one at the end of the Charles Bronson classic Death Wish. And, basically this is the same movie. But it tries so hard to be something more, and sadly this ruins Jodie Foster. Jodie Foster is one of the top five actresses in the world in terms of talent, and yet, shockingly, she is the worst part of this movie! She looks so sketchy and freaky that anyone would immediately think "killer" when looking at her, the emotions she is called upon to produce never once ring true, and her connection with Howard feels so forced and unnatural that we really don't care about either of them in the end. This movie really wants to have a message, and deliver that message they have. Here it is: "Don't rent me".

Gone Baby Gone. Out Tuesday the 12th. (*********9/10)

Until now, I was convinced that Ben Affleck wouldn't know a good script if it walked up to him and kicked him in the stones. Now, I am not so sure. Either he just doesn't care, as long as he's acting, or he is such a bad actor that he will ruin any script by himself. But there is a third option. Perhaps the script to Gone Baby Gone not only walked up to him and kicked him in the stones, it also bit him in the face, chewed off part of his nose, ripped out his nipple ring, stabbed him twice and then gave him the people's elbow. Or maybe it's a combination, because Ben Affleck's wisest decision as a director in Gone Baby Gone was not to cast Ben Affleck in any role in his movie. How many directors can competently direct themselves? Clint Eastwood and...yeah. Maybe just Clint. So that was good decision number one. A questionable decision was to cast his younger brother Casey in the starring role. Casey Affleck, as far as I was aware, existed only in movies that starred Ben, and even then he played some minor throw-away role. How good could he actually be?

Well, the answer, it turns out, is VERY good. Casey Affleck plays a private investigator who looks as though he is thirteen. This is great casting, because Casey Affleck does indeed look as though he is thirteen. And when the situation calls for him to act the tough guy, it somehow really works. Not only do we not expect it, neither do the bad guys. And it's pretty convincing intimidation when this young, babyfaced guy all of a sudden gets Dirty Harry tough. Everyone is taken aback, realiztically so. It's a great job by Affleck of handling the character. Somehow, with that Good Will Hunting Boston accent, you get the sense that this guy is a lot tougher than he looks. His wife is played admirably by Michelle Monaghan, an actress who is rising to the top of the heap of late with roles in movies like this one and North Country. The best performance in the movie, however, is turned in by Amy Ryan, who plays the mother of an abducted little girl. She is a coke-head, a drug mule, a drunk, in short, one of the worst mothers imaginable for a sweet young child.

Affleck and Monaghan are hired by the little girl's aunt to help find her. They are joined in their pursuit by a pair of cops, played by the excellent Ed Harris and John Ashton, and their search takes them through the seedy underbelly of Boston, dealing with drug dealers (some good and some bad) and general thugs who cause problems at every turn. Every time the movie seems to be reaching a certain conclusion, the script throws a twist into the plot, and all of a sudden Affleck and Monaghan are careening toward a different outcome. By the end of the film, the whole story becomes clear, and there is a final "showdown" that presents a Sophie's Choice kind of ending, although not nearly so dramatic. This is the only minor quibble I have with the ending. The decision reached by the characters, the course of action they choose to take, seems like a massive moral decision that would cause most of us to really wonder what we would do in that situation. But a closer examination of that choice makes it seem obvious that there is really only one choice that could be made there, the choice Affleck eventually does make. I won't tell you the details, I haven't really revealed anything here, but you'll have to watch the movie yourself. It is being released by Alliance Atlantis on Tuesday, and really needs to be watched to be understood. Watch this movie.

"Close" only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades and hospitals. If only hospitals got that.

I woke up yesterday morning in considerable pain and in a pool of blood. For a time, I really thought there was a chance I had been stabbed. You know, when you're dreaming about O.J. and then you wake up in a pool of blood...your mind does weird things. But I had not been stabbed or shot or injured by the hand of another. What happened (without going into too much gory detail) was that this weird growth thing that I had on me right near my waistband had burst. Causing massive pain and lots of blood. So I bandaged it up as best I could, and went to the hospital after work. I have not yet replaced my health card since I lost it a few years ago, so I can't go to a clinic. At least the hospitals can figure out the OHIP number for me. So I drove to the Queensway-Carleton, figuring the only thing to do was to go to Emergency. So I followed the signs to Emergency, which stood to reason in my mind. However, when I pulled into the Emergency area, the signs all said parking was just for five minutes, tops. I turned around and drove to the parking lot, took my ticket, and walked the one kilometre back to Emergency.

So this is what I gathered. If you are dropping a patient off at Emergency, you can park right in front of the door. But if you are getting yourself to Emergency, you must park several miles away and walk. OK. If I'm just dropping someone off there, I don't need to park. I will pull up out front, they will get out, and I will drive away. If they are unconscious and need my assistance to get inside, if I have to carry that person, running and screaming for help while blood flies everywhere like in the movies, then I am still not going to park. Speed will be the key thing for me, and I will pull up to the curb of Emergency with the tires squealing and the back end fishtailing and the horn going, just like in those same movies. You know how the handicapped parking spaces are right in front of the Zellers or the Liquor Store? That's because it is more difficult for the handicapped to get around, and they should not have to walk so far. But some of those handicapped people have motorized wheelchairs. So they don't need to be closer. But they need to have wider spots in order to get into those wheelchairs. So those are provided for my shopping - what gives with the hospital?

I wasn't so badly off. All I had was a bleeding open sore near my waistband and I could walk OK as long as I kept the waistband of my pants off my skin. Not so much the guy who followed me out of the parking lot to Emergency, who had blood spurting out of his foot. He came in about three minutes after I did, and that must have been a hell of a walk for him. Once I got inside, a very nice young woman took my information, checked my blood pressure. She remarked on my Heart and Stroke Foundation T-Shirt (another freebie). I told her I only wore it to smoke. She said I should find a family doctor and I should keep my blood pressure down and I should probably get a health card. I said "duh" to all three. I then settled myself in for what I knew would be an interminable wait at the emergency room. I had the latest issue of the Randall Moore book-of-the-week club with me, Mordecai Richler's "Barney's Version". I put my feet up, got comfortable, rested my arms and I began to read.

But then - what? I was being called in already! I got sent to one of those small rooms, where I waited less than ten minutes before a nice young nurse came in and gave me a gown. I had to take off my shirt and put on this gown. I tried to explain that the gown was actually going to make it tougher to see my injury than my shirt would, but she had already gone. I figured it was some sort of hospital thing. Like, the gown identifies me as a patient, but if I was wearing my shirt and pants, I might just be a courier taking a break in a hospital room. I put on the gown. It was freezing as I waited there. For three more hours. How did I get into this room so fast, and then wait so long? I had been comfortable reading Barney's Version in the waiting room, with arm rests and my feet up. In this little room, I sat on the uncomfortable bed, the uncomfortable stool, I tried to stand and lean against the wall, nothing worked. Finally, I could not sit in any way without feeling pain from my waistband, so I took off my pants. I figured when the doctor got there I would just pretend that I thought I was supposed to do that.

When he finally did get there, he took a look at my open wound, and said he thought he knew what it was. He squeezed it between his fingers, opened it wide, and jammed a gigantic Q-Tip about a foot into my stomach. I actually made a screaming sound and may have sworn a lot. I asked him why he did that without warning. It would have been nice to hear "brace yourself. This will be the most painful moment of your life." Or even "This may sting. Brace yourself." But no, he decided that the element of surprise was best. Perhaps he really likes looking at the faces that are screwed up in agony. Maybe my picture was being taken by some hidden camera in the room, later to be featured on the Fox TV show "Faces Of Agony: Tales From Emergency". He might have been in my room for one and a half minutes. He said "you have an abcess. It looks like it might be infected. Here's a prescription." And like that - whoosh - he's gone. I sat there for a bit, not sure if my time at the hospital was over, and then finally, I put my shirt back on, left the robe on the gurney, and sort of confusedly made my way toward the exit.

I went to three pharmacies. The first one had absolutely no parking available, the second had gone out of business, and the third was a long walk that I ended up having to undertake. Today, I apparently have to take a bath with something called Epson Salts, and open the wound up myself with my fingers in order to make sure as much salt as possible gets inside. Intentionally salting a wound seems like bad medicine to me, but then, I am no doctor or health care professional. Or parking lot designer.

I may well be the king of romance.

The guys were giving me a hard time on Tuesday. We had received a package of stuff from the Heart and Stroke foundation - healthy stuff, you know. Stuff to help your heart and prevent a stroke. Doc was portioning the stuff out to us, and I took all the food products. There was also one of those big inflatable excercise balls that I guess you sit on to do stuff. I took that too, because my girlfriend has wanted one of those for a while. We have been unable to purchase one, since we are on a strictly enforced budget at the moment due to some gas-company-related belt tightening. So it was ideal! I can take this ball to her, she can lose the three and a half pounds she insists she should drop, and I can give her the All-Bran cereal with the big heart on the box! And Valentine's Day is coming up, it is ideal all around. Of course Doc had to jump all over me, trying to "save me from myself". He felt that I would have the worst Valentine's Day ever, that I would lose my girlfriend and he wanted to save me the anguish by trying to dissuade me early on.

I tried to explain that I have a terrific girlfriend. She is exactly what a guy would want in a girlfriend, in that she understands my aversion to Valentine's Day and is happy when I remember it at all. Of course, she still loves the day, so we compromise and I do something small but inexpensive, and she doesn't hit me. Everybody wins! But by now, I was clearly going to have to do something that very day. She would have heard by now what my plans were, after all, they were all over the radio. So I took the bus to her work, picked up a small potted plant and a sympathy card, and wrote a Valentine's Day message inside with the Sharpie that was in my pocket, and delivered the whole bundle to her work. The excecise ball, the All-Bran in heart shapes - romantic heart shapes - a potted plant, the card, and a can of broccoli soup, also from the Heart and Stroke foundation. And guess what? She was thrilled. That was exactly what she wanted. An excercise ball we would otherwise have to wait to purchase. That's it! I'm done for Valentine's Day! The element of surprise was there, since it was ten days early, and the desired product was there as well. Success. Take that, Doc and the Naysayers. There's a good name for a band...

But I ruined my credit, because by the time I got to her work on the bus, there were still three hours left before she was done. I was in considerable pain from this weird growth I had recently developed, and so I didn't want to drive home only to turn around and come back to drive her home. So I went to the bar. And by the time she got off work, full of warm fuzzy romantic thoughts, she found me tipsy and talkative, and whatever brownie points I may have earned were out the window. On the plus side, I broke even. Had I not done the card and the plant and the excercise ball and the cereal and the broccoli soup thing, I would have ended up behind with the bar thing. I consider breaking even AND having beer to be a win. However, when I woke up yesterday morning, I thought there was a chance my girlfriend had stabbed me while I slept. But that's another story for another time. Like...the next post.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

This is what is wrong with the Junos.

Celine Dion. After that, what? Here's the main problem. The Junos are mired in self-congratulation, honouring the only people and groups they've heard of, which is several steps behind the rest of the world. Here is a short list:

Celine Dion: 6 nominations.
Michael Buble: 5 nominations.
Avril Lavigne: 5 nominations.
Finger Eleven: 3 nominations.
Bon Jovi, Fergie, Timbaland, Josh Groban, and Rihanna: 1 nomination each.

Michael Buble is a faux-Sinatra, singing standards and old-school classics in a Sinatra style, with slightly better production. This is a man who is breaking new ground all over the place! Or, at the very least, breaking old ground, again, several years later. Avril Lavigne is a woman who sings pre-fab pop songs with no hard edge, but she provides the hard edge by flipping the finger to paparazzi and getting drunk sometimes. Also breaking new ground! She's like Courtney Love singing Anne Murray songs! So relevant. Finger Eleven (formerly known as the Rainbow Butt Monkeys) are a group of friends who record some of the most run-of-the-mill pop-rock songs that get their edge with tattoos and silly hair. Slightly better than Nickelback. Slightly. And Bon Jovi, Fergie, Timbaland, Josh Groban and Rihanna? Not Canadian. They are nominated for Best International Artist in a year where even the lousy Grammys are recognizing the excellence of Bruce Springsteen's new album and The Foo Fighters new album and John Fogerty's album and Wilco's album. Yet we Canadians choose five of the worst artists working today for our "who's not Canadian and might get people to watch the Junos" award.

So who are the Canadian artists who whould be honoured? Those who broke new ground and became huge in the world this year? Well, Feist. Now, to be fair, she did get five award nominations. Artist, single, album, songwriter and pop album of the year. This is great. Maybe the Junos are headed in the right direction. But this "pop album" category gives me pause. I assume that this means "album of the year" is actually "good album of the year" category, and "pop album" actually means "irrelevant album" of the year. So, the nominees for album of the year should be good, and the pop nominees should be...pop, right? Here are the nominees for album of the year: Michael Buble. Celine Dion. Avril Lavigne. Celine Dion again. And Feist. Ummm...could that get any more pop? Where is the number one Canadian act of the year here? Arcade Fire's Neon Bible has been chosen as one of the top five albums of the year by Rolling Stone, Spin, Blender, and dozens of other respected music publications. Arcade Fire are without a doubt the single most musically relevant musicians from Canada this year, and possibly in the entire world. Let's examine their nominations.

Arcade Fire: Alternative Album of the Year. (On the Junos website, theirs is the only nomination that comes without explanation or bio. http://www.junoawards.ca/08_nominees.php to see their non-entry.) They are up against Holy F*ck, Wintersleep, and Patrick Watson...all of whom are names decidedly unfamiliar to me. Nomination number two: Group of the year. Up against Blue Rodeo, Finger Eleven, Hedley and something called Kain. Still no bio. And that's it. Two nominations for the band universally recognized as the best Canada has to offer, and bonus - a band that music fans in Canada may have actually heard of! But no. There is another bonus - Neil Young released the excellent Chrome Dreams II album this year! People have heard of Neil Young, and he (remarkably) remains musically relevant! Nominate him for something? Sure - he is up for one award. Best Adult Contemporary recording, for Chrome Dreams II. Maybe the definition of Adult Contemporary has changed in the last few years, and I have been completely out of the loop.

Last year, the Junos lost the ratings battle to everything else that was on TV at the time. More people watched Jim Cramer's Mad Money than watched the Junos. They even lost to another Canadian TV program - a Miss Marple mystery on CBC! It's not like they were up against hockey or anything. If you are celebrating all that is Canadian on your program, you better at least be the highest rated show on Canadian TV. Otherwise, you are doing something dreadfully wrong. And this is what is dreadfully wrong about the Junos. They honour only those artists and people they know. Nobody actually listens to any Canadian music to determine who deserves a nomination, they just read the charts and pick the top five. That's why even when the Tragically Hip release the worst album of their lives (and by that I mean Music At Work), they still get seventeen nominations. Celine Dion's album this year was bad, even by her standards. And six nominations? The acts that should be chosen are not, and what ends up happening is that you watch a category come up, and you have heard of ONE of the five nominees, and of course that one you've heard of wins, but you don't care at all because that one is Michael Buble.

So that's what the Junos is. Acts you haven't ever heard of versus acts you HAVE heard of but don't care about. All of that surrounded by a ceremony that looks as though it was staged by Miss Fitzhenry's third-grade drama class, with Canadian presenters who generally think they are much funnier than they are, hosts who seem chosen at random by asking eleven-year-old boys who they'd like to see - Pamela Anderson! Nelly Furtado! Shania Twain! Who cares if they can barely string together two words, they'll wear stuff and be hot! At least now they're going with comedians, but they choose the Just For Laughs Canadian guys instead of the big guys. It's better than Pamela Anderson. Then they stick Ben Mulroney on their "red carpet", and he interviews such luminaries as Shawn Majumder for interminable lengths of time before the Junos begin. The only people who watch this farce are either bedridden without a remote, or those Canadians who feel as though it is their duty to watch the Junos because they are supporting Canada. Well, if any of those people are reading this, I hereby absolve you of that obligation. Watching the Junos is not necessary, and in point of fact, watching the show actually HURTS Canada. If this year the Weather Channel gets better ratings than the Junos, they might actually fix it. It's your involvement that gives them license to suck. Just like the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

What a quick response!

The Conservatives are responding! Quickly! With the downturn in the American economy, it seems likely this will hit us Canadians quite soon. So, without waiting for the budget to be announced, our government is fast-tracking a 1 billion dollar program to boost our economy now, before it is too late! How fast, how efficient, how timely. This way, we won't be waiting for the budget, and we won't hang in the balance over whether the other parties decide to endorse said budget, and we won't be worried about the fact that the only way to get this economic boost is to sign off on the budget as a whole, even if the rest of it is awful...good news. Now, why can they do this when it comes to the economy? Why is timeliness and speed and alacrity of paramount importance when it comes to our money, and we just can't do this with...anything else? Hey, the environment is important. We need to do something right now. It would be better if it were done yesterday. What is required here is timeliness, speed, alacrity! So they plan to get to it in what - sixty to eighty years? Nice job.

For all you who missed it.

People were complaining that they had to SCROLL DOWN to find that Sarah Silverman video yesterday. I apologize. Here it is again, for all of you who were too lazy to actually look yesterday:

http://www.dlisted.com/node/22744

Enjoy, complainers.

More hazards to add to driving.

I was on my way home from work yesterday on the Queensway. I had just entered the fast lane, and pulled up close to a big box truck, when ice chunks the size of my lawn blew off his roof and landed on the hood of my car. I managed to keep going in a straight line, there was no damage to my car, but I backed off. And for the next four exits on the Queensway, there were still massive chunks of ice blowing off the roof of this truck. I stayed back a safe distance, until he got off the highway, then continued forward in the fast lane. At the same time, as I was giving this guy a wide berth, the cars behind me started tailgating insistently. Like, you're not going fast enough in the fast lane for my liking, get out of my way. Had there been room in the next lane over, I would gladly have moved aside and allowed those other cars to take glaciers on the windshield. But there wasn't, and I held my ground until I could safely speed up again.

then I thought "man, what if that had hit my windshield?" But I truly thought that would have been dangerous only because I might lose control of the car with a sheet of ice obstructing my view. It couldn't possibly SMASH a windshiled, could it? The ice is big, but it's light and breaks easily...then I read a story in this morning's paper. Where ice came off the roof of a truck and smashed right through the windshield of a woman's car near the Nicholas off-ramp. So, you CAN have your windshield smashed by this. And someone DID. So WHY don't cops go after these people? I know, it's a pain in the butt to climb up to the top of the truck and shovel it off, but in the interests of safety, perhaps these drivers could do that? For the rest of us? Seems only considerate.

The Last Crossing - fantastic read.

Some people follow Oprah and her book club religiously, reading the weird self-help books and inspirational stories and classics she chooses. I have read three books on Oprah's list. "Anna Karenina", Sidney Poitier's excellent autobiography "The Measure of a Man", and "The Road". I read Anna Karenina because a friend let me borrow it. It's one of those books that if I had purchased it myself, it would have sat on my book shelf for a long time before I got to it. Those 2,500-page books are daunting, and it takes me a while before I have steeled myself enough to tackle them. The Poitier book I picked up at Shoppers Drug Mart on a whim. And Cormac McCarthy's The Road came to me through a different book club. The Randall Moore book club. A club which has but two members, myself and Doc. A book club which is, as I understand, an offshoot of the dildo book club which meets at the Elmdale. You see, those guys at the Elmdale recommend a book to Randall. He purchases that book, and then if it is really good, he will lend it to me. I read it and then he passes it on to Doc. In return, Randall and Doc are the two lone members of the Eric The Intern movie-of-the-week club, which works basically the same, only with DVDs.

It is a fine co-operative system, and one from which Woody is excluded. Not because we don't like Woody, but because Woody does not read books. And apparently, he does not watch DVDs either, because he still has at least three (and possibly more) of my movies sitting around in his house that he has yet to watch. I would have thought he may have watched them by now, he HAS had two and a half years to do so. Should he return these things, we may consider him for membership in our small but influential hippy commune of books and movies. But as long as he hangs on to my movies, in particular my copy of Knocked Up, he will be barred from membership. Besides, anyone who has yet to see Knocked Up or A History Of Violence can't be part of a proper cultural hippy commune anyway.

The newest book Randall passed on to me was The Last Crossing, which is just a wonderful book by Canadian author Guy Vanderhaeghe. It tells the tale of the Gaunt family, a rich, aristocratic family in England in the late nineteenth century. There are three brothers, Addington the oldest, and twins named Charles and Simon. Simon goes on a sort of missionary pilgrimage to the Western U.S. and Canada, and disappears. Addington and Charles set out after him, to find him and bring him back to England for their father. Along the way, they meet dozens of colourful characters. Custis Straw, the town drunk and horse trader, Aloysius Dooley, a tavern owner, Lucy Stoveall, a pretty prairie woman whose husband has run off leaving her to care for her sister Madge, and the most interesting character in the book, Jerry Potts, who is half Blackfoot native and half white. Potts is hired on as the leader of the search party, because he is the only man who knows the land and the people well enough to find anything in the wilderness.

The Last Crossing tells it's story in both the first person, narrated by each of the characters in turn, and also in the third person, as though there is some entity that oversees the entire story. This is effective, because it lets us know how each character thinks about the events that occur differently than the others. Vanderhaeghe also adds to the story with back stories, some of which occur long before the action in the novel itself. This gives a lot of insight into the behaviour of the people we meet. Some brilliant flashbacks in here, especially Custis Straw remembering his part in the American civil war. There are many biblical references, especially Moses and the story of him leading his people out of Egypt and across the Red Sea. There are several battle scenes, not just the civil war scene but an impressive tale of a battle between Blackfoot and Cree warriors. And the book constantly ruminates on the nature of fathers and father figures. Jerry Potts has two sort-of fathers, neither of which is his actual dad. He has a melancholy yet powerful encounter with his own son near the end of the book. And the three Gaunt brothers are all affected in very different ways by the spectre of their own father, who is rarely seen in the book, but whose influence is felt and mentioned even all the way across the world.

There is no perfect character in The Last Crossing. Custis Straw, while admirable, is a drunk who can't let go of the woman he loves. Charles Gaunt, while mostly sensible and honest, is a push-over and lets his brother lead him around by the nose. Lucy Stoveall is smart and stalwart, but too single-minded in her pursuit of revenge. Even Simon Gaunt, the subject of the search, seems to be idealistic and straightfoward, but his "mission" to come to the west and convert the natives to Christianity is pretty misguided and self-important. And there are virtually no characters that are bad all the way through, although Addington Gaunt and Titus Kelso come awfully close. As the search party progresses, Addington Gaunt reminds me more and more of Richard Harris in Unforgiven. The kind of guy in the old west who is so full of himself and tells so many tall tales that he manages to get a biographer to follow him around and write down all of his exploits. In the Last Crossing, however, Addington is an even more sinister character than English Bob. His sickness is revealed early on, and goes far beyond ignoring the search for his brother in a desire to kill a grizzly bear.

I could not put down this book. I was about to close it for bed last night upon finishing a chapter, and right before the chapter ended, I clued in to what was going on, that perhaps what I had been led to believe was not true, and that something else was possible...and I had to read until I found out. In the end, I was three hours late for bed because I just stayed up finishing the novel. The Last Crossing is one of the best books I have read in a very long time. If Cormac McCarthy is the best author working today, then Guy Vanderhaeghe is close behind. Pick this book up! But give yourself some time - you will not be able to put it down. This is the kind of novel you see people reading in their cars during rush hour on the Queensway. And we don't want any more of that.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Super Bowl...mixed emotions...a new year.

I have mixed emotions when it comes to the Super Bowl every year. Every year, it means I will not be able to follow football until the CFL training camps start up, and my Sunday ritual is finished for the season. But, at the same time, the whole year is culminating in such a massive event that one can't possibly look away. For me, Super Bowl Hangover Monday is the actual New Years' day. Calendars may be useful to some, but to me "January 1st" is meaningless. "No more football" or "opening day" has far more meaning. But this is my feeling every year. This year, I had far more mixed emotions going into the game. My Packers had come so close, only to lose in overtime to the Giants and break my heart. So with them NOT in the Super Bowl, I found I had a hard time caring about either team. It's different if Green Bay doesn't make the playoffs, or gets knocked out early. But when they came within three points of the big game, it removed some of the lustre for me.

So I decided to cheer for the Giants. If they knocked out my Packers, I would heartily cheer for them, especially since it was a lost cause anyway. I bet on the Giants. (To cover the spread, not to win outright - I'm no idiot!) And I truly did want them to win. Imagine that story - a FIFTH place team coming into the biggest game in the world and knocking off the greatest football team ever assembled? Perhaps the greatest team in the history of sports in general? The '27 Yankees, the '71 Lakers, the '95 Bulls, the '77 Habs - none of them were unbeaten. Even the '72 undefeated Dolphins won only 17 games that year. No, this would be an amazing story were the Giants to pull off the upset. And make no mistake - it WOULD be the biggest Super Bowl upset of all time. A 5th seed knocking off an unbeaten team? Yeah. Biggest ever. Even Broadway Joe Namath wouldn't have had the balls to guarantee something like that. Although Plaxico Burress somehow did.

So as I'm watching the game, and I'm cheering my heart out for New York, and I am getting excited at the amazing defensive presence of the Giants and the pressure they are putting on Tom Brady, the Greatest Quarterback Of All Time (at least, he will be when he wins this, his fourth Super Bowl). I am impressed by Eli Manning and his refusal to buckle under pressure, his coolness and his presence, even after throwing that first half interception. At the half, it's 7-3, and I can taste a fine finish, where the Giants will at least be able to make a game of it. Tom Petty comes on. I am enjoying it. The girls with me complain, because Tom Petty is old and lame and they could have at least got the Black Eyed Peas or Kanye West or someone who's actually big in music. I say "you're wearing a Coldplay shirt. Don't talk music to me ever." and go back to enjoying Tom Petty.

Then the second half. The Giants take the lead! Wait a minute, is this thing even possible? Could this massive upset really be in the cards? Oh wait...no. Tom Brady, on cue, marches the Patriots down the field and scores the go-ahead TD with two minutes left. As with the Ravens game earlier in the year, as with the San Diego game two weeks ago, as with the Giants game to close out the season, there is a sense of inevitability that one feels while watching New England. No matter what the situation, if they are within one score toward the end of the game, they will win it. And now they have taken the lead, and although Manning is playing much better in the fourth quarter, he is too inconsistent and inexperienced to lead that last-minute, two-minute-drill drive to take down a team like New England. If only Brett Favre were in this game. It's third-and-ten. Manning throws a bullet down the middle, into excellent coverage. My heart sinks, as I am certain this will be an interception that ends the game. But then...what? David Tyree pulls the ball down! That might have been the single greatest catch in the history of the Super Bowl. The single greatest play, because it led to...a touchdown. A Giants touchdown. They were back in front.

But am I the only one out there who looked at the clock and thought "uh-oh. They left too much time on there"? That was the first thought I had. 35 seconds, with three time outs left, could be an eternity for Brady and Moss. All the Pats needed to do was to get into field goal range. That's three 15-yard passes down the middle, and a final time out, and a kick. We've seen them do it every single time they had the chance this season, and I sensed, once again, the tragic inevitability that faced the Giants. Even though New York looked to be in control, the Patriots can't be beaten. Not this year. But then - I'm wrong again! The Giants sack Brady in a big, massive way, and set up fourth and twenty from deep in their own end. Now even a hail mary can't reach the end zone! It's over! And I find myself with mixed emotions again. The team I have been rooting for has won. They have pulled out the biggest upset I have seen in sports in my life. There's this, then there's Belarus beating Sweden in Olympic hockey, and there's that nine-year-old girl who beat Roger Federer at Wimbledon. And yet...I feel bad! I feel almost downcast! Why? Because I am seeing a Patriots team that didn't deserve this!

And by that I mean they don't deserve this stigma that will follow them around the rest of their lives. They did deserve to lose the game. They were outplayed. But they don't deserve to fall asleep tonight to dream about the sounds of corks popping all over Miami and Csonka revelling in their failure. They don't deserve to be known as the team that looked like the most unstoppable force in sports history, only to fall apart in that final game. The look on Randy Moss' face will stay with me for a long time. There are a few faces I remember in sports. There is Andy Van Slyke, in Game 7 of the 1991 NLCS, fielding the Francisco Cabrera line drive on two hops in centre field and firing it to the plate with that rocket arm of his, a split second too slow to catch Sid Bream, chugging his way around from second base with the winning run in the bottom of the ninth for Atlanta. And Van Slyke, with the momentum of that throw, lost his balance and fell to the field. And he watched, from a seated position as the Braves celebrated in the infield. And the victors were interviewed, and champagne flowed, and the cameras went back outside. And Van Slyke was still sitting in the same spot. I was 13, and his face is etched into my brain, I will not forget it as long as I live. And I'm sure there are 13-year-olds out there right now, who just watched the Super Bowl, who will remember the face on Randy Moss as long as they live.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Everything's Cool. Oh, no wait. I mean, Everything isn't Cool. (*********9/10)

Everything is not cool. By everything, I of course mean the world. But we know that. We ALL know that. Sure there are the climate chage "deniers" out there, the poor misguided future architects of their own demise. The fact that climate change and global warming is even a political issue, or a controversy at all, is due in large part to the Bush administration in the U.S. and the media. I mean, seriously, if the U.S. and Bush and the rest of the Republican party elite took global warming seriously, and put policies into effect to reduce emissions and save civilization, do you really think the Conservative government in Canada would be resisting science as much as they do? That they would be ignoring the environment the way they are? I'm going to say no. If the Americans took it seriously, and had signed on to Kyoto or put strict regulations in place, we (and Harper's Conservatives) would be right there one step behind them, doing the same things. I think we can safely say there is no doubt about this.

But these are the people who have the most power to effect change. Every administration in every government in every country in the world is concerned about their legacy. And think about the legacy of some of our recent leaders. At the moment, Jean Chretien is best remembered for the sponsorship scandal, but fifty years from now, what will be his legacy? I think it will be NOT sending Canadians to Iraq. Saying "no" to the Bush government. That is what he will be most remembered for fifty years down the road. And Bush? What will be his legacy? At the moment it looks like the complete screw-up that is Iraq will be the lasting memory of Bush. But, again, fifty years from now, when people look back on it, that may not be his legacy at all. The destruction of a country, it's people, the creation of enormous amounts of terrorists all over the world, disastrous foreign policy and heavy-handed top-down control of the government, the downward spiral and possible future crash of the American economy, and the invasion of American freedom with the Patriot Act and other measures. Legacy? Maybe. But all of those things, fifty years from now, may pale in comparison to one thing. Inaction on the environment. If, fifty years from now, the United States are largely uninhabitable, the number one scapegoat will be Bush and his cronies.

"Everything's Cool" takes a look at the "backlash" against global warming. It examines the American attitude toward the crisis, which largely has been "what crisis? Really?" Hundreds, maybe thousands, of scientists have presented reports to the American government saying global warming is happening. Now. It is helping to create all the crazy weather and bizarre climate happenings of the last few years. It is here, it is now, it is incontrovertable. There is no doubt. The government takes these reports and edits them. In editing them, they remove words like "is" and replace them with words like "may be". Well, "the world IS in crisis" and "the world MAY BE in crisis" are two very different statements. What big oil and the Bush government want to create is controversy. They don't want to win - they can't possibly win, they are arguing against facts and science. So what they want to do is muddy the issue as much as possible. As long as people continue thinking there is a "controversy" about global warming, they have succeeded, and they can say things like "it needs more research". Balls!

But what "Everything's Cool" is saying is that the main reason the environmentallists have failed in persuading governments that we are running out of time is that they are going about it the wrong way. When you show people melting ice, and a lonely polar bear on an ice floe, and pictures of Hurricane Katrina, it is effective for some people. But not for most. Most people will say "oh, that's too bad. Someone should do something." But then they have more important concerns. They are out of a job because the economy is crumbling. They can't afford to pay their property taxes, they need to find health care or a family doctor...these things are far more important to the average person than a polar bear on an ice floe. Therefore, no one is really seeing the big picture, mostly because they don't want to. If people are given two options to believe, they will more often than not choose to believe the one that is more convenient for them. So...the solution the Bushies have is - give them two options! Even if one does not exist.

But global warming is not Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny or Sasquatch or UFOs. It is not something you can either "believe in" or not. They call it "theory" because that makes it easier to ignore. Well, evolution is called a "theory". Why? Because then hardcore right-wing extremist religious fanatics can ignore it. After all, it's just a theory. For them, it's inconvenient for them to believe in evolution. If it were inconvenient for people to believe in the "theory" of gravity, there would be newspaper columns and millions of websites and right-wing radio host nutjobs doing their very best to "disprove" gravity. And "Everything's Cool" offers (somewhat) a solution. Don't tell people all this negative stuff, like "you're about to die". A person will understand that. People will tune it out. It's too upsetting. So, here's what you do. You prove to people what these same scientists have been saying for years. Ending our dependence on foreign oil, converting to clean alternative energy sources, and cutting emissions drastically can be good. Not just for the environment, but for the economy! For YOUR wallet! Environmentallists have not gone this route up until now, because they figured the polar bear on the ice floe would move people more. And yes, it certainly should. But it doesn't. Giving them the positive news will actually spur people into action.

This is certainly possible, and I think it's high time we try. After all, the old methods are clearly not working. We need to start fixing this yesterday, and it's already tomorrow, and we have page upon page upon volumes of reports, and a lot of gum flapping and talk in the very places where action needs to begin. For more information about this excellent movie and about global warming and about what you can do, go to:

http://www.everythingscool.org/

The Ten. Ironically, it is not perfect. (******6/10)

I was struggling on Saturday night. Struggling to watch the Sens-Leafs in HD, while my girlfriend had her friend over. While Jen is usually pretty good about hockey, especially Senators games. But Ashley was extremely insistent upon watching whatever was on MTV. MTV! I decided that the best thing to do was to compromise in some way, and that was to find a movie that was not the hockey game, but that HAD to be better than whatever was on MTV. The girls seem to like documentaries - the last time Ashley was over I made sure she never shopped at Wal-Mart again by showing her Wal-Mart: The High Cost Of Low Price. This time, I thought I would put on the new documentary "Everything's Cool", an insightful look at Global Warming. But there were previews. And the girls decided, on the fourth preview, that the movie being previewed looked far better than the documentary I had suggested. The movie was called The Ten, a humourous look at the ten commandments. So, grudgingly, I switched the DVDs. And put on The Ten. As that movie started, the girls saw another preview that caught their attention, and asked if I had THAT movie, maybe we should watch that one. (THAT movie? It was "Everything's Cool"!)

I put my foot down. I am not putting the DVD I just took off back on because you saw a preview for the one movie on the other disc, because then I would be switching discs all night and perhaps end up creating some kind of sci-fi situation where I am stuck there, in my living room, going from one DVD menu to another for the rest of eternity. So I skipped the rest of the previews and just pressed play. And we watched The Ten. Which is OK. But not fantastic. Just a little bonkers and kinda funny. Some of the hottest women alive are in this movie - Jessica Alba, who I really don't think is that hot (kind of cabbagepatch kiddy, as far as I'm concerned) but who seems to be the #1 Hottest Chick Alive according to the rest of the world. And also my personal favourite, Famke Janssen, who I really think is the hottest woman on Earth. In a cougar-ific kinda way. (Check out Deep Rising. Horrible film, hottest wet-T-shirt Famke Janssen scene ever.)

The movie is basically ten short vignettes about each of the ten commandments. Paul Rudd (who was fantastic in Knocked Up) oversees the vignettes, introduces them and runs his own little bizarre drama as we move from one to another. Famke Janssen is his wife, and he is cheating on her with Jessica Alba. Some really cool actors show up in the film as well - Liev Schreiber, Adam Brody, Rob Corddry, Janeane Garofolo, and Winona Ryder in some inspired casting. (She appears in the Thou-Shalt-Not-Steal vignette. Get it?) Each vignette gets more and more bonkers, as they connect to each other in a bizarre sort of way. There are three really excellent ones. The Thou-Shalt-Not-Steal one is great, as Winona Ryder falls in love with a ventriloquist's dummy, and steals it...it's insane. So too is the Schreiber bit where two neighbours keep trying to one-up each other by buying more and more catscan machines. Totally demented. But very little is as demented as the animated "Lying Rhino" sequence, narrated by a bunch of junkies, done in full, almost-X-rated, Felick The Cat style animation.

There are a couple of duds as well, but overall each segment is pretty watchable if not excellent. This film is not for the squeamish, as my girlfriend squirmed uncomfortably for the entire duration of the "Covet thy Neighbour's Wife" segment, where Rob Corddry and Ken Marino converse very seriously and intensely about rape in prison, and how if you are one man's prison wife, there is an assumption that you will not let yourself be raped by others...it's definitely an over-the-top scene, but it made me laugh. Most of this film did, and it is definitely worth renting. (In the end, if you have to make a choice, as I did, between this one and Everything's Cool, choose the latter. But if you can watch both, do it.)