From the archives: February 2008

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Lukes, I’m not your father

Thursday, 28 February 2008 — 7:46pm | Studentpolitik

This blog has been quoted on a Students’ Union executive candidate’s election campaign materials. I am complete.

As someone who has dipped into the deep, dark wading pool of bona fide published film criticism, I’ve been mentally prepared for this moment for some time now. I always imagined that it would go something like this:

Hoot is the kind of film that critics hate to hate, an abortive marriage of the well intentioned and the patently ridiculous.

How it sustains a façade of social importance for 90 minutes without presenting its characters with a single challenging decision is a mystery better answered by scholars of ineffective propaganda.”

— Nicholas Tam, “Film forgets to tell us why we should give a Hoot and not pollute” (4 May 2006)

“‘Challenging!’ (Vue Weekly)”

Hoot, promotional materials

Instead, it went something like this:

“Wow. I’m not sure what to say. I knew my elementary-school busmate Bryant Lukes was throwing himself on the hot coals crotch-first without any pants on, and I suspected he would deliver the standard speech about how having no SU experience is an asset because he’s a fresh face with an outside voice (there’s one every year). Fine—that kind of error is usually remedied by a crushing loss in the election followed by a disillusioning year or two on Students’ Council.

But when he started blithering about, well, virtually everything outside the VPA portfolio up to and including the survival of the human species, and did so with utter seriousness and conviction, his speech gravitated beyond the surreal and into the domain of the legendary. Identifying his primary credential as being a Dion delegate at the Liberal leadership convention was the icing on the cake. I feel sorry for the guy: The Gateway is going to eat him alive.”

— Nicholas Tam, “Vote like Nick and win: SU Elections 2007” (5 March 2007)

“‘… his (Lukes’) speech gravitated beyond the surreal and into the domain of the legendary.’ — Nick Tam blogger”

— “What others are saying”, 2008 campaign brochures, Bryant Lukes for Vice-President (Academic)

When I write about the Myer Horowitz election forum on Monday, could somebody remind me to set my ambiguity to “stun”?

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A checkmate in Casablanca

Tuesday, 12 February 2008 — 3:36am | Board games, Casablanca, Film

With the anniversary of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre on the horizon, it seems highly appropriate to invoke Blaine’s Theorem and in doing so, say a few words about love, chess, and the greatest motion picture of all time and all time yet to come.

Casablanca is one of those films that nobody really falls in love with the first time through, even if they think otherwise. Most of its enduring power emanates from multiple viewings, when the film truly demonstrates its uncanny ability to resonate with almost every conceivable romantic trauma, especially those of a triangular geometry (which is to say, practically all of them). You go through life-as-such and every time, there’s always a handful of scenes that you’ll never look at in the same way again.

I haven’t watched the film in months—I only pull it out once a year as a routine, emergencies notwithstanding—but I already expect to encounter these transformative moments with respect to two scenes in particular: a) when Victor Laszlo leads Rick’s Café in a stirring rendition of “La Marseillaise” (for reasons I’m not even going to bother explaining), and b) the first time we see Rick, brooding over a chessboard by himself.

So here’s the mystery du jour: why is Rick playing chess?

Continued »

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The long dark tea-time of the cel

Friday, 1 February 2008 — 2:32am | Animation, Film

If your exposure to animation is limited to feature-length releases from the major studios, then I feel especially obligated to point you to The Pearce Sisters, a ten-minute short directed by Luis Cook and imbued with a unique aesthetic that it can truly call its own. Although it’s an Aardman production, it isn’t anything like the house style you might have come to expect from Wallace & Gromit or Creature Comforts, with those wide-mouthed Claymation caricatures that speak in the most wonderfully exaggerated vowels. No, this is something special: on the 2D plane the film progresses from one frame to the next with the gentle pace and meticulous composition that works so well in Samurai Jack (to grasp at a very approximate comparison), but it also draws on the sense of depth that you only get when you think in 3D space.

How did they do it? The director explains his technique in a video on the film’s website. Once you’re there, be sure to read the Production Notes for more. I can’t explain it as well as the website does, but what they effectively did was draw a 2D film over a 3D sketch. I’m always glad to see films actually explore the possibilities that CG provides; one of the reasons I’ve been fascinated with Glen Keane’s Rapunzel from the moment it was announced is its promise to bring a fresh, painterly 3D aesthetic to mainstream audiences. Hopefully that pans out.

Naturally, the technical side of animation only goes as far as what it produces in terms of story. In that respect, The Pearce Sisters is full of the same darkly comical grotesquerie as Terry Gilliam’s Tideland (for the none of you who saw it), only much shorter and without the really freaky bits. Think William Faulkner—lonely old women rotting among corpses in a quasi-Gothic dustbowl, and so on. But perhaps I’ve said too much. Watch the film.

As always, I thank Cartoon Brew for the recommendation.

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