Thursday, June 19, 2008

As promised.

I know no one really wanted to read this, but I did say this morning that I would break down my Tori Spelling - Paris Hilton theory on my blog. So here it is, in a nutshell. Both became "famous" as a result of having rich parents. Paris Hilton's parents are madly rich hotel owners. As a result, she became rich herself, was able to appear at tons of parties, flash her bits to paparazzi, get drunk and sleep with everyone, and somehow become tabloid fodder. She then, through a certain amount of effort and a substantial amount of public fascination with idiocy, parlayed sluttiness, irritating behaviour, and a certain amount of attractiveness into a TV career, and subsequently a singing career and a movie career. All this despite her lack of talent. And we hear about her puppy. Like it's news.

Tori Spelling, on the other hand, did it the other way. HER rich father is Aaron Spelling, the TV mogul who was can't-miss in the 80s and 90s with programs like Beverly Hills 90210. And because he was so rich and so powerful, he could dictate the terms of such shows. And one of those terms was that his daughter got a starring role. So despite her lack of talent, she became something of a star, with her own TV show and subsequent movie roles. She also had a certain amount of attractiveness (although on 90210, beside all the other hot chicks, she was just the horse-faced friend). And she managed to parlay these film and TV-movie roles into a certain amount of stature, and as a result managed to become tabloid fodder. To the point where we actually hear about her puppy. Like it's news.

So there, whether you wanted to read it or not, is the breakdown. Paris Hilton and Tori Spelling are actually the same person, only in reverse. Also similar are Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson. For a complete comparison, check out the Cynical Cinema page later today, as I review The Hottie And The Nottie, Paris Hilton's latest "star" vehicle, and Blonde Ambition, Jessica Simpson's latest "star" vehicle. You see, I had an extremely masochitic morning, and watched both. I now want to poke out both my eyes.


I watched The Onion Movie on Tuesday and I have had a hard time sleeping since. There is something I just can't wrap my head around, and I really don't know how to take this. Well, first of all, here it is:

And it's not just the trailer. Steven Seagal appears in this movie more than once, and each time - he is making fun of himself! Here is my Cynical Cinema review of the film:

Now, for years I have absolutely loved Steven Seagal. As many of you already know. I was about to call it an on-again, off-again love affair, but who am I kidding? Ever since I saw Under Seige at a young age, it has been ON! But the very reason I enjoy this man is the same reason the Onion Movie is bothering me. I have always believed, very firmly so, that Seagal is a man who is incapable of laughing at himself. That he has created his mystical wisdom spewing faux kung-fu prophet persona because on some level, that's exactly who he believes himself to be. And the idiocy of his movies is great when you take him at face value. He really thinks like this! He doesn't know he's a terrible actor! He is unaware that his movie is preposterous and makes no sense! He thought the film needed that bizarre Lao-Tzu dream sequence!

Now, I don't know what to think. Does he really understand? Has he always understood? Has he endeavoured to become ridiculous? Or is the Onion movie merely the moment where we, the public, get let in on his late-career William Shatneresque epiphany, where he all of a sudden actually went back and watched Black Dawn and came to the realization that he is a cartoon? I certainly hope the latter is the case, but who knows? Maybe I now have to go back and re-examine some films for evidence of tongues in cheeks. Here are the movies I now must watch once more:

Pistol Whipped
Urban Justice
Flight of Fury
Shadow Man
Attack Force
Today You Die
Mercenary For Justice
Into The Sun
Black Dawn
Out of Reach
Belly of the Beast
The Foreigner
Out For A Kill

And that's a lot of Seagal.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Glenn Anderson. Really? Glenn Anderson?

When it comes to the Hockey Hall of Fame, there are things I get and things I don't. I have been there a few times, and it's always a very cool experience each time. You really need more than a day to take in everything, and the feeling of history and nostalgia and awe that you get walking in is palpable. You can see the coolest artifacts, like the scoring leaders sheet from when Gretzky was nine or something, playing with 13-year-olds, and he has 391 goals and the second place kid has 41. That kind of stuff really is cool, and awe-inspiring. But as you walk around, from plaque to plaque, that awe comes and goes. There's Bobby Orr, and Bobby Hull, and Guy Lafleur and Mario Lemieux. Bossy and Tretiak and Potvin and Dionne. Each of these names can fill you with a sense of wonder, whether you go as a small child or an adult. Then you see Joe Mullen. And Bernie Federko. And Larry Murphy. And you go...oh, right. Them.

All good players, don't get me wrong. Terrific talents, a joy to watch, I remember them all well from my childhood. But Hall Of Fame? Good players, but not great. Not the kind of players I will remember when I'm 50. Oh, you should have seen Joe Mullen play! He was...with...the Flames? I think? And now Glenn Anderson. Again, a good player. In fact, a very good player. But a great one? Hardly. And this now seems to be the standard - which slips a little lower every year - he was pretty good, right? Won some Cups? OK, push 'im on through. Igor Larionov, who also made it this year, is deserving. At one point, in his Red Army days, he may well have been one of the top three players in the world, if not the very best. Yes, put him in the Hall of Fame.

But Anderson? Now, I like Glenn Anderson. As a kid, he was one of my favourite players, along with Dale Hawerchuk. But what makes him special? What puts him above all the other really good players who played at the same time? He was never, at any point in his career, one of the top five players in hockey. A case could be made that he was never even one of the top five players on his own team. But I guess the others - Gretzky, Messier, Coffey, Kurri, Fuhr - are all in the Hall. And Anderson did win five cups. And he did score 30 goals nine times. But then, Dave Semenko scored 12 goals playing with that Oilers team. Pat Hughes scored 27 in 1983. Mike Krushelnyski scored 43 in 1984. Esa Tikkanen, Craig Simpson, Jimmy Carson, Ken Linseman, Dave Lumley, Blair McDonald, Stan Weir, Petr Klima...they all had 30+ goals with that team.

And Stanley Cups? Does this mean that Craig MacTavish, Charlie Huddy, and Esa Tikkanen should be in? Shall we be making a case for Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, and Darren McCarty? I don't get it. When the year is thin for NHLers, there are always other categories. I mean - a linesman and a builder both made it this year. With Ray Scapinello enshrined into the linesman wing, which is a tremendous honour that comes with a plaque which people can pass by without looking on their way to the Gordie Howe exhibit, and Ed Chynoweth enshrined in the "builder" category for the people who are tremendously interested in the history of hockey, and Larionov put in for his overall international excellence, why do they need another guy?

Of course, the same can be said for most other Halls of Fame as well - George Kelly, Dave Bancroft, Lloyd Waner, Ray Schalk, Harry Hooper, Goose Goslin and Ross Youngs in Cooperstown? Come on. The Lovin' Spoonful and The Bee Gees in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Please. The problem here is that each year the idea is no longer to honour the mightiest hockey players, baseball players, and rock stars, and recognize them for their brilliance. It is to make an announcement, garner some attention, and move on to next year. Next year, when a deserving class of player becomes eligible. Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, and Luc Robitaille. And just to inflame those of you who are already irritated with me - one last word. I think a better case could have been made for Pavel Bure to make the hall this year than Anderson. Although I don't think he should have made it either.

Things I would prefer to watching the NHL draft...

Randall and I got into it yesterday a little. The contentious issue was the NHL draft, Randall saying that it was as big as the Cup finals. Which may well be true for actual NHL general managers and scouts and executives. And certainly, it's bigger for all those kids who are draft-eligible this year. And their friends and family. But for the rest of us? As big as the Cup finals? Come on. I just don't see Senators fans sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for that 18th pick to come around so our team can select a defenseman or a left-winger that virtually none of us have ever heard mentioned before. After the top ten selections, there are likely no more players that the average fan of NHL hockey would know. So, after an hour on Friday, then we just wait for it all to end...and it's nice that the draft is held here in Ottawa, and that it's sold out. It looks like the players being drafted have big families and lots of friends. And that there are quite a few hockey-mad maniacs like Randall.

But the rest of us, as average fans, are not quite as excited as we were for the Cup finals. As I said to the hockey mom who called me an idiot yesterday, it's only hockey moms with a vested interest who truly care about this event. Imagine this for a moment - and the tickets are free, so you could have gone to do this had you wanted to and had you planned it early enough - you go to Scotiabank Place on Friday. You are a giant hockey fan, and all the biggest names in hockey are there, in the same arena you are! Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Clarke, Brian Burke! Oh, there aren't many current players, because they find the draft staggeringly boring and will wait to find out who their new team-mates are. Ottawa might trade for Ollie Jokinen, but he isn't there when we do. He doesn't walk over and put on that Senators sweater and pose for pictures. He lounges on a golf course in Florida and gets informed by blackberry.

So you're seeing the biggest stars of yesteryear who are still involved with their organization in some way. Steve Yzerman, and so forth. Not watching them play hockey, mind you, but watching them sit at a table. You're in the nosebleed section, and from there you can just make out the back of Yzerman's head as he enters into a deep discussion with Mike Babcock about who their team might pick with the twenty-eighth overall choice. And then - wait - is that Pat Verbeek himself walking over to the table? I don't know, it's a guy in a suit...wait, is that Yzerman at all? Is that even Babcock? Is that the Red Wings table? Maybe it's Gretzky...oh, I wish they had their numbers on the back of those suits...after a nine-minute discussion, they announce that they are in fact the Red Wings, and a fourth guy you haven't even seen before makes the announcement that they select some guy you might have seen in passing during one of those junior hockey mega-brawls that actually made it to Sportscentre.

At the end of day one, your team may have traded twice. They may even have made two picks in the opening round. And there may be four new players on your roster. Now, it's not like you're going to acquire Joe Sakic or Jarome Iginla on draft day. You might get Ollie Jokinen or Gary Roberts. Which is fine, but it isn't earth-shattering. Every now and then, there is one, or maybe there are two players, who are so highly-touted that everyone knows who they are and fans are excited at the prospect of drafting high so they can pick up those players who could change their team. The last one to come along was Sidney Crosby. Not exactly a tense scene on draft day when Pittsburgh picked him up, was it? The one before that - Alexander Daigle. Ottawa's best player for the last ten years, and still today, is Daniel Alfredsson. He went 133rd overall, in the sixth round, in 1994. I don't recall anyone standing up and cheering for that selection at the time - we didn't know he was going to make the team, let alone be a massive star, at the time. We had to wait until he started, you know, playing some hockey. (The Senators have been good in the later rounds - they took Pavol Demitra #227 in 1993.)

Whew! Thank goodness the draft is televised, so those of us who couldn't get into the Scotiabank Place to watch this thrill-ride live can still watch from the comfort of our own homes! The only way to make draft day actually exciting would be to put all the draft-eligible players into a hat, and pull them out one at a time with each team picking a name out. Then, maybe, you could sit on the edge of your seat hoping the Senators get this year's Sidney Crosby (Steven Stamkos? I guess?). Or this year's Brian Lawton or Alexander Daigle. Who knows? So why bother sitting through draft day with anticipation and held breath when you won't have any idea whether you achieved actual success until three, four years from now? Here are some things I would rather do on Friday and Saturday, instead of watching the interminable 91 hours of draft-day TV coverage.

Mowing my lawn
Pulling my weeds
Taking up knitting
Learning needlepoint
Listening to Quiet Riot
Reading Valerie Bertinelli's book
Watching The View
Collecting spiders
Fighting off armed assailants
Watching a house get painted, watching the workers pack up their brushes and ladders, and then watching that paint dry
Watching my flowers grow in my backyard, taping the process so I can speed up the tape later and make it look like they're really growing, but faster.

So on Saturday, I will be re-watching the best DVD to come out this week, the best biopic of the past decade, "Control". It's the story of Ian Curtis, lead singer of Joy Division in the late 70s, and it's magnificent. If you're going to be in the house, do this. And leave the draft day watching to Randall and the hockey moms.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Greatest Open Ever.

I feel bad for golf announcers. Not on Thursday and Friday when there are dozens of story lines and pictures to paint and golfers to follow and smarminess to exude. No, I feel for them on Sunday, when there are really only three guys they are seriously following, and it takes a hole-in-one or a Phil Mickelson nine on the thirteenth to give them something to discuss. And even worse is today. Monday, the 18-hole playoff in the U.S. Open, and only two guys. Two guys to talk about, two guys to analyze, two guys to extoll and deify and exalt, and only two stories to tug at the collective heartstrings of the viewing public. I noticed that the poor ESPN announcers in the morning were really thin on material when they played an interview with Rocco Mediate, clearly saw that there was no sound at the beginning, and let the interview continue for another three minutes. With no sound. Whew, at least we don't have to talk any more!

I was afraid, too. These announcers, by the end of the day Sunday, were comparing Tiger Woods' performance in the U.S. Open with a sore knee to Kirk Gibson hitting his Game One pinch-hit homer in the 1988 World Series. As the day wore on, the comparisons grew more and more complimentary and beatific. Bobby Baun in Game 7 on a broken leg! I was afraid that by the end of the day today, they would be comparing him to the toughest sports stars, like Brett Favre and Scott Stevens, and eventually prison camp survivors like John McCain, war heroes like Audie Murphy, and torture victims like Jesus Christ. Through it all, I was going to become progressively mroe irritated, until I screamed at the TV - come ON! It's golf! It may be a little tougher with a sore knee, but give me a break. Furthermore, it's an individual sport. There is no team depending on you for the win. If you don't think you can do it, then you just go home. No harm no foul. It's golf.

And that is what we would have had to listen to, all day, had Tiger Woods taken off on Mediate and run up an eight-stroke lead. But thank God (and torture-victim Jesus) he didn't. Instead, we got to see what has to be the greatest 18-hole playoff of all time, following one of the greatest Opens of all time. Going into the 18th hole, Tiger is down. He is actually being beaten, in a playoff in a major, through seventeen holes! The bionic golfer, the robot, the unflappable monster, could actually lose. Then again, did any of us think he would? That he would get at least a birdie on 18 was a given. And then - after an opening day pairing of Woods and Mickelson, Mickelson exploding on Saturday, Woods' unbelievable comeback on Saturday evening, Mediate coming out of nowhere to provide the best sound bites in golf (when NBC has the sound on) and one of the most compelling contenders in recent memory, altogether one of the best majors in history, followed by the greatest playoff I have ever seen, we get more golf! More bonus holes, more time in front of the TV, more bitten nails and bums on the edges of seats. (I know, I know, it's golf. But every now and then, like today, it is actually edge-of-your-seat excitement. Stop laughing.)

In the end, we got 91 holes of golf. 91 holes of Tiger Woods overcoming incredible physical pain and personal odds to climb to the summit of golfing immortality. Rocco Mediate, who would have been the oldest player ever to win the U.S. Open, overcoming a terrible amount of adversity (which apparently involved him not winning very much for quite a while) to achieve a memorable charge toward the pinnacle of...OK. I don't think I feel sorry for golf announcers any more. I think I hate them. I've been watching them all weekend and now I'm typing weird.

Weekend recap

It has been a busy weekend, and I have not had a chance to sit down and blog, so I figure I'll make up for it now. Thursday I was out at a golf tournament at Loch March for the Jewish Community Centre, a tournament where they managed to raise a staggering $58,000.00 for the day. Best day of the year so far for golf, and my foursome was actually a threesome that finished at a solid 6-under-par for the day despite the fact that I was holding us back a good portion of the day. Irv and John, two insurance brokers, were my playing partners, and had we not bogeyed a couple of holes, we could possibly have won. A great, well set up tournament where the highlight was the food. Some of the best food I've ever seen at a golf tournament, and it never stopped. How these JCC guys aren't all six hundred pounds, I'll never know. I was especially excited, because on Thursday night, after the first round of the US Open, at minus-6, WE could have been leading! Yep, the three of us together are better than Tiger Woods. And I stand by that.

I watched a good portion of the Open on the weekend, the highlight of course being Saturday evening when Tiger Woods made that incredible charge to finish at 3-under with the eagle putt on 18. Well, no. The real highlight was watching Phil Mickelson do something that I could do - shoot a nine on the par-four 13th, as three shots in a row came right back to where he hit the ball. You gotta feel for Mickelson - his home course, the whole crowd pulling for him, and he's paired with Tiger and blows up on that one hole. I also felt for Rocco Mediate, who played very well the whole weekend, only to miss his birdie attempt at 18, leaving the door open for Tiger to do what we all knew he was going to do - drain that birdie putt and force a playoff. I'm cheering for Rocco tomorrow, I love this guy. No one else seems to be having as much fun out there as he is. I'm glad there's one more day of golf too, because hopefully Tiger will continue to be as wild off the tee as he has been. That makes for some entertaining golf, because it means that whenever the ball lands in the crowd, the entire crowd rushes over like a swarm of bees to crowd around the golf ball. This is a Tiger ball, you see. And therefore looking at it, lying there in the gallery, is so important that you would knock over your grandmother to do so. Or something.

Friday I got a chance to watch my short film, The Funeral...Again, as the director Matt West dropped off a DVD copy of it for me here at the station during the show. I had missed the big theatrical premiere at the World Exchange Plaza because I was hosting the golf tournament, but Doc and Woody both attended in my place. They said they enjoyed it, and that I was decent, but I have trouble watching myself in a movie. I either feel like a second-rate Seth Rogen, or I feel like they're just filming me going about my daily business. The film is cute and charming though, and only eleven minutes, so I didn't have to watch myself very long.

Friday night, we took the kids out to the drive-in at Port Elmsley to watch the new Indiana Jones and Iron Man. The new Indy is almost exactly what you would expect, ridiculous escapes, booby-trapped temples and hot-and-cold romance with Karen Allen. It does the job. But Iron Man is amazing. One of the best movies of the year. Reviews for both movies will be posted on the Cynical Cinema page on Wednesday. And the kids loved both, which was great too. Coincidentally, I saw Bree, the makeup artist on my short film, at the drive-in with her husband, and she said the screening on Thursday was a success.

On Saturday, I took our youngest out to the Abbeyhill garage sale, an annual event in our old neighbourhood where everyone brings all the crap out of their house that no one uses, and sells it, mostly to their neighbours. Then they take the money they've made selling their crap over to the other houses, and spend it on their crap. And the next year, you see the same crap at the same garage sale, only now in front of different houses. A good chance to see the old neighbours though. The main reason our eight-year-old wanted to go, I am convinced, is that he wanted to make sure Grandma wasn't selling any of his old toys. He rescued a yo-yo that was up on the block. It was his favourite yo-yo, you see...but rather than bring it home, he wanted to keep it at Grandma's house so he could be sure it would be there next time he visited. It's comforting to know your favourite yo-yo is still around at Grandma's.

On Sunday, the kids got me golf shoes for Father's Day! And I'm not even their Dad! And I sent my dad an email. And he really IS my Dad. Which means either I am a terrible son, or my apathy toward contrived holidays and special occasions has not rubbed off on the kids. After all, I did suggest, on this very blog, just a month ago, that I was not going to do anything for my girlfriend on mother's day. After all, she isn't MY mother...looks like I'm digging myself a hole here, and I'm gonna stop.

Later on Sunday, I attempted to take our youngest out to Westfest, but the skies opened up while we were about a block away, we got caught in a torrential downpour, and with the lightning and the thunder and the inability to see where we were driving, he thought it best that we turn around and return home, rather than risking being excluded from the ark and drowning with the excess wildebeests. So slowly, we meandered our way home, just in time for the storm to hit there. Our oldest, who had been at a friend's house and was actually planning to walk home for once, ended up getting a ride, and we weathered the storm from the comfort of the house while watching The Spiderwick Chronicles. Then I watched the Lakers beat the Celtics to force Game 6, went to bed, and here I am. And that, ladies and gentlemen, gets me caught up from the weekend.