As zambonis sweep the defective ice of Toshiba

Wednesday, 17 November 2004 — 11:25pm | Adaptations, Debate, Film

Call this a transitory intermission. The original intention was that the next post in line would be one of a series on The Incredibles, but circumstances of all creeds have united to prevent me from carrying it out. The number of aborted attempts to update this blog over the past week is now up to at least three, each due to a different technical issue. Here, then, is one of those catch-all posts to affirm that my complete umbilical detachment from cyberspace has thankfully been met with limited success.

October civic election candidate Jung-Suk Ryu is, according to his campaign website (which is due to be phased out at some point in the future, the same future in which DemocracyNow might finally publish The Independent), “an award-winning public speaker that has won national awards at the high-school and university levels. He has won awards in Mock Trials competitions, Model Legislature competitions, and parliamentary-style debates.”

Next time he runs for office, that claim will have a touch more substantiation. Last weekend I debated alongside Mr. Ryu at the Hugill Cup, the U of A Debate Society‘s annual British Parliamentary (Worlds Style) tournament, and we sneaked into the semi-finals after a grueling comeback involving consecutive first-place victories that catapulted us from the bins to the break. He now has an engraved silver plate to show for it. That said, we were doing just fine until we tried to convince the house that the World Health Organization should quarantine countries that are unwilling to isolate their own epidemics. See, they can’t actually do that.

In movie news, Tom Hanks may be playing Robert Langdon in Ron Howard’s adaptation of The Da Vinci Code, the book I find the most enjoyment in subjecting to relentless mockery (though Geoff Pullum does it better, much better). Mr. Hanks is, in my mind, one of the finest thespians of this generation of cinema, but even someone of his talent has quite the challenge ahead of him. Even by airport pop-lit standards, Langdon is one of the most thoroughly boring characters I have had the misfortune to encounter. All he does is wear a tweed suit and a Mickey Mouse watch, freeze time in the heat of the action to deliver extemporaneous lectures on the ubiquity of the sacred feminine, and convulse in a claustrophobic shiver whenever it be convenient to remind the audience of his dislike of confined spaces (in the book, this comes to about twice). As a protagonist, he is as dull as the flat-ended prism of a fresh, unsharpened pencil.

Regardless, it still remains interesting to see what the Howard-Hanks collaboration does with a book that has always struck me as more of a first-draft screenplay treatment than a standalone work of literature. After all, this is the same duo that took Jim Lovell’s autobiography and transformed it into a Best Picture winner of a gripping docu-drama where Houston, they had a problem. With the right visual liberties, even the intellectual vacuity of something as dry as Dan Brown can be infused with substance.

Those of you who care have probably already seen the new Phantom trailer, and perhaps this “Angel of Music” clip. In brief, I like what I’m seeing – lavish sets, colourful and dynamic photography, traditional orchestration, that restorative transition from the auction to the opera house at the height of its glory. Speaking of which, seeing the chandelier light up and rise as the whole establishment goes back in time makes me wonder about the extent to which these elements characteristic of the stage setting of the Broadway original will be preserved.

One of the things that had to grow on me with respect to the otherwise wonderful Chicago was that it surprised me with how like its cousin Cabaret, it relegated the musical numbers to the stage, and distilled the showtunes from the narrative reality itself. Phantom isn’t doing this, which is good, because I can’t stress enough how much this needs to be a self-contained period epic like Oliver! or Fiddler on the Roof in order to work. So far, so good, but the chandelier is that dangling question mark just waiting to drop on our heads.

Ever-reliable David Poland is already calling Phantom 2004’s Oscar champ – as it well should be, if it does justice to its source material. That’s not to downplay my anticipation for both Alexander and The Aviator, though – or, for that matter, my admiration for The Incredibles. Oscar-wise, though, don’t count on The Incredibles to pull a Beauty and the Beast. It didn’t happen to Nemo (curse you, aqua scum!), and it won’t happen here.

I am seriously thinking about submitting a paper for The Witching Hour, a Harry Potter symposium taking place in Salem, Massachusetts next October. That time of the year tends to conflict with the Western Canadian Scrabble Championship (speaking of which, I heard Dan Lazin’s story finally ran in the Post; please confirm or deny), and to a lesser extent, school. It’s a pity that to my knowledge, there is nothing next year akin to Convention Alley which was held in Ottawa in the summer – perfect for me in any other year, though I had to miss it on account of New Orleans.

My Nintendo DS is now on pre-order, to be picked up on Sunday. More on that when I get my grubby hands on it.

Oh, and if anyone from CompuSmart reads this – get your act together and hurry up already.

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