From the archives: September 2003

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Apple Corps finally Let It Be

Thursday, 18 September 2003 — 9:19am | Music

Now this Associated Press article has really got me going now:

New Version of Beatles’ ‘Let It Be’ Coming

LONDON – A new version of The Beatles’ album “Let It Be” will be released in November, the group’s company Apple Corps announced Thursday.

“Let It Be…Naked” strips the 1969 album of Phil Spector’s lavish production effects, returning to Sir Paul McCartney (news)’s original idea for the recording. “This is the noise we made in the studio,” McCartney said of the new version. “It’s exactly as it was in the room. You’re right there now.”

“Let It Be…Naked” mostly keeps the same track listing as the original album, which featured songs Let It Be, The Long and Winding Road, Get Back and Across the Universe.

Background dialogue, Dig It and Maggie Mae have been taken off the album, and Don’t Let Me Down has been added, Apple Corps said.

That’s right, folks. “The Long and Winding Road” without the overdone orchestration that got in the way of such a beautiful convergence of lyrical and musical sentimentality. Read the rest of the story here.

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Scrabylon to screen in Calgary

Wednesday, 17 September 2003 — 8:38pm | Film, Scrabble

I am now officially torn.

Given that I’m missing this year’s Grant Davy’s in-house debate tournament because of the Western Canadian Scrabble Championships, I guess it’s only fair that I give up something Scrabble-related for debate. This looks to happen, as the Scott Petersen documentary Scrabylon is screening at the Calgary International Film Festival on Saturday, 27 September – and that’s when UADS is running the Lois Hole high school tournament.

If you are down in Calgary, please go see this film and tell me how it is. I just know I’m missing out here.

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Smoke me a kipper

Tuesday, 16 September 2003 — 9:58pm | Television

Considering that we’ve had about a total of fourteen episodes in the past decade due to the work on the movie, you’d think that Red Dwarf would be well under its smegging way by now. But according to Danny “The Cat” John-Jules in his interview with Sci-Fi Online, we have a ways to wait yet. Shooting does not commence until next year.

Although it does not appear that Rob Grant is involved in the production, from the early promotional material it seems that Doug Naylor took more than a few cues from Grant’s novel Backwards, particularly with the inclusion of the simulants in a post-extinction-of-the-human-race scenario. Of course, I have no idea how this will fit into the Series VIII continuity of a re-created Dwarf where Captain Hollister and a thousand others were brought back to life. But we’ll see.

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There are two kinds of men…

Monday, 15 September 2003 — 10:31pm | Film, Full reviews

Those with loaded guns, and those who dig – dig a certain movie, that is.

Yes, I know. I’m behind on my movie reviews. I usually don’t move ahead until I’m all caught up but tonight’s cinematic experience cannot go that long without comment. Here’s my capsule attempt to catch up on what I’ve seen in theatres lately: Seabiscuit is very much worth your time; Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life is not worth your time at all, but at least it’s a real movie, unlike its eyesore of a predecessor; Whale Rider was a refreshing break from multiplex fare; and American Splendor, albeit imperfect, is in many ways a shining example of what a comic book movie should be.

Good. Now let’s move on.

One of Edmonton’s redeeming qualities – in fact, one so redeeming that it can be said to be clearly to the city’s credit – is a little place called the Metro Cinema down at the Citadel. After missing the screenings earlier this weekend for various reasons, I finally straightened out my priorities and decided that no degree of homework or studying could justify missing a theatrical absorption of Sergio Leone’s masterpiece Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo – better known as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

I see little need to speak of the film itself. It is the best Western of all time, period. Some will point to The Searchers, the first two films in the Man With No Name trilogy or Unforgiven, and those claims are not without merit; but it was The Good, the Bad and the Ugly that served as the pinnacle of the genre, the one Western that became a historical epic. Certainly it lacks Unforgiven‘s emotional depth, but one should consider that Eastwood’s tribute to the genre that made him was directly spawned from his earlier work in the spaghettis. Leone’s film is the genre’s seminal exploration of immorality and greed, and if you haven’t seen it, drop what you are doing and see it right now. In the meantime, I will elaborate on tonight’s screening itself.

For the most part, the transfer was almost as pristine as the DVD, full of that high-contrast Technicolor look and all the vibrance it brings. The print quality was not always consistent, and degradation was noticeable in some shots, but aside from that minor complaint the experience was immersive. There really is nothing like seeing Clint Eastwood’s trademark Man With No Name trudge through the desert, a broken man on the edge of death, sunburnt and blistered to all hell, in the context of a big screen and an audience full of fellow film lovers such as myself who knew every shot in the piece, but never quite so intimately. The scene where Blondie and Tuco take on Angel Eyes’ goons amidst the shelling of an abandoned town is a magnified thrill. In a darkened theatre, the final shootout has an aura of suspense much greater than how it looks on a television set. As it cuts from eyes to holster to holster to eyes, it holds the audience captive. There are no distractions from Leone’s patient strokes, so effective in the face of the paradigm of rapidity that envelops today’s action flicks.

But there’s more.

When I went to the cinema tonight, what I didn’t know was that they were showing the three-hour Extended English Edition that I had only heard about in rumours about a reissued DVD.

As the first of the re-inserted scenes appeared – Tuco talking to a dead chicken before he rounds up the gang with which he takes on Blondie in the inn – the audience was in shock. There are some other transitional sequences, including a critical one that shows how Angel Eyes found out about the prison camp on his search for Bill Carson. This, and some of the other scenes, are present on the current DVD but only with the Italian dialogue track. There are others that are not – not just entire scenes, but little nuances here and there that were never in the original. The best one is a lengthier sequence that shows how the One-Armed Man identified Tuco and stalked him, as the latter readied a bath – a welcome prelude to the classic “Shoot, don’t talk” scene.

However, the Extended cut in its current state is a far cry from being a permanent and definitive replacement for the theatrical version to which we are all used, unlike similar extended incarnations of films such as Almost Famous, Blade Runner and The Fellowship of the Ring. The reason is that the re-inserted scenes lack a certain polish. It is most evident in the ADR work; simply put, a good number of the English dubs are poorly done and make the scenes look out of place with the rest of the movie.

The most intrusive of the lot is Tuco, who has most of the lines in the added sequences. Eli Wallach re-dubbed his lines himself, but his voice has aged considerably, and is significantly croakier than how Tuco sounds in the rest of the movie. A more rigorous sound editing process might have ironed it out, and I hope that is done before this cut sees a Region 1 DVD release. Eastwood fares a little better; he has few new lines, but only a handful of them have the gruffer sound of the Eastwood of today. As for the other voice actors who dubbed over the Italian, there are some major synchronization issues that were never present in the original film despite its having Italian extras dubbed over as well.

Despite the fact that some of the restored sequences do not fit into the movie as well as they could, watching this film in a cinema setting was something to be glad about. Unfortunately, today was its last day at the Metro; however, if it ever pops up anywhere accessible, do not miss it by any means.

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Speak softly, and carry a beagle

Wednesday, 10 September 2003 — 10:40pm

In another random fit of nostalgia, I tried some of the trivia quizzes on the Peanuts website today and found the vast majority of the questions to be way too easy, excepting those founded on 1990s material – which I largely missed out on due to the strip’s mysterious lack of syndication in The Calgary Herald. The lack of Peanuts was and still is a major problem of that newspaper’s.

But lo and behold, the Internet is always so eager to provide a solution. This brings me to my honourable mention of Timothy Chow’s Peanuts Trivia Quizzes.

There are exactly two things about that website that scare me. The first is that I can actually answer a good portion of the obscurer questions. The second is that I find myself stumped by equally as many. Granted, I remember such characters as Eudora, Lila, 5, Truffles, Thibault and “Shut up and leave me alone” – if you have no idea who these are, go read some of the older anthologies – but then I encountered such questions as, “What proposed explanation for banning The Six Bunny-Wunnies Freak Out from the school library led Sally to quip, ‘In that case, they should also ban my math book!’?”

A completely unrelated news item: today marked the season-opening session of the University of Alberta Debate Society. It’s like returning to a second home.

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