Ant-Man

   19 April 2016, late afternoon

Ant-Man was an enjoyable comic book film. I think Marvel has got pretty good at churning those out at this point. This one was funnier than most, probably in part due to Edgar Wrights script and early role in making the film. (I’d be curious to see what the whole film would have been like had he stayed on to direct.) The film stars Paul Rudd, Evagaline Lilly — hells yes — and Michael Douglas. The later plays the original Ant-Man Hank Pym, who hires Paul Rudd playing Scott Lang to help him do a big heist to make sure the Ant-Man technology doesn’t get into the hands of super villain arms dealers. You know how it is. It’s a fun film. It’s a bit goofy. All the shrinking stuff is done really well. The final fight scene feels right out of Wright film, and pokes fun at the big explosions and spectacle of most action movies. It’s probably on better than average when you compare it to the other Marvel films.

The official Ant Man website.

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Fire in Babylon

   19 April 2016, late afternoon

I put a hold on Fire in Babylon at the library right after watching the trailer. A film about how the West Indies kicked colonial ass at cricket? That’s a movie for me. The film tracks the rise of the West Indies from so-called “calypso cricketers” to the team that totally dominated the sport for the later half of the 70s and all of the 80s. The film begins with their embarrassing loss to Australia in 1974, the victims of Australia’s vicious pace bowling. Their captain Clive Loyd builds a team around his own pace bowlers and the rest is history. The film is basically scene after scene of serious comeuppance. It’s euphoric to watch. Near everyone involved in the team is interviewed for the film. It’s a serious feel good movie, and should be of interest to anyone, whether you like cricket or not.

The official Fire in Babylon website.

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Zootopia

   10 April 2016, lunch time

I watched most of Zootopia in between taking Mythilli in and out of the movie theatre when she got too scared to watch the film. The movie is about bunny rabbit who becomes the first bunny rabbit to join the police force in Zootopia, a giant animal metropolis. The films plot mostly revolves around her trying to find a missing otter while people don’t take her seriously. The rest of the film is about stereotypes and racism. On the whole this film is pretty fantastic. It’s a great film for children—who aren’t scared of movies, anyway. A great message and discussion on a difficult subject: animals make everything easier I suppose.

The official Zootopia website.

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Inside Out

    3 April 2016, evening time

Shima and I watched Inside Out last night—without Mythilli. Much of the film takes place inside a little girls head. Her feelings are the stars of the film: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger. At the start of the movie the girl and her family pack up and move to San Fransisco. This coincides with two of her feelings getting lost inside her mind. This is how Pixar explains the bad mood the little girl ends up in, as the rest of her feelings try and figure out how to keep her happy, and fail. The movie’s explanation for how people work and feel is very imaginative. This is a really good Pixar film. It’s all about our memories, and relationships, and how we become who we are as people. The film has some heart. I don’t have an absolute order of all Pixar films in my head—well besides knowing Wall-E is the best—but I liked this one a lot.

The official Inside Out website.

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10 Cloverfield Lane

    3 April 2016, evening time

10 Cloverfield Lane film is a thriller. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays a women who gets into a bad car accident and wakes up in a bunker chained to a wall. John Goodman plays the man whose brought her there. The story unfolds at a brisk pace, with twist after twist. It’s a fun film. 10 Cloverfield Lane is a strange followup to Cloverfield. In many ways it feels completely different. The action takes place almost entirely inside a bunker, rather than the sprawling city of New York. There are basically 3 characters of note in the whole film. The man on the scene documentary film style of the first film is gone. I’m not even sure i’d call it a spiritual successor, but suffice it to say the name isn’t completely arbitrary. I’m not sure which of the two I enjoy more. They are both great films. This one probably could have ended a 10 minutes earlier and been a better movie, but I still liked it all the same. It’s worth checking out.

The official 10 Cloverfield Lane website.

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The Witch

    7 March 2016, early evening

The Witch is a slow atmospheric film. The costuming and dialogue transport you back to 1600s crapsack New England. The movie begins with a family of puritans leaving the plantation they live on to move out into the wilderness: the father has some undisclosed dispute with the people of the town and their leadership. He builds a house and small farm out in the middle of nowhere: it’s all downhill from there. The movie is creepy rather than scary. There is a sense of dread that permeates the whole film. All of the actors in the film do a great job, even the little children! This was a solid piece of film making. It’s so thoroughly immersive.

The official The Witch website.

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Meet the Patels

    5 March 2016, late afternoon

As a brown person whose family talks about marriage and arranged marriages all the time, Meet the Patels was god damn amazing. Ravi Patel is a comedian and an actor. (I saw him most recently in Master of None.) The film is shot by his sister, who he mocks for her terrible cinematography, and features his family heavily. The film opens with Ravi letting you know that he has just ended his relationship with his girlfriend of two years, prior to travelling with his family on a vacation to India. While in India he (eventually) agrees to let them set him up for an arranged marriage. The film then proceeds to walk the audience through all the logistics of getting an arranged marriage in 2015. The film is funny and at times very sweet. It’s refreshing to see arranged marriages presented in a very human way. His parents relationship is probably one of the most positive depictions of an arranged marriage i’ve seen in cinema. (They are also hilarious.) I don’t want to spoil the movie for you, but the film is probably as much about arranged marriages as it is about telling your Brown parents about your secret girlfriend. I found so much of the movie so thoroughly relatable, which might be why I enjoyed it so much. My unmarried cousins will screen calls from relatives or put off going back to Scarborough to avoid talking about why they aren’t married. It’s hilarious to know that from the top of India, in Gujarat, all the way down to Sri Lanka, the conversations and the attitudes around marriage are so similar. I wonder if they’ll do a follow up movie.

The official Meet the Patels website

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Her

    5 March 2016, late afternoon

Her was quiet lovely. A subtle science fiction film set in the near future. All the gadgets and gizmos presented are things available today tweaked ever so slightly. Joaquin Phoenix’s character, a lonely man dealing with the aftermath of a separation and divorce slowly falls in love with the operating system that powers his digital devices. This is the only piece of science fiction that feels very fictional. The AI is voiced by (the turbo-fox) Scarlett Johansson. (The other leads in the film are Amy Adams—who is always great—and Rooney Mara. That’s some solid casting.) Spike Jonez has made a really interesting film about intimacy and trust and love. It’s shot beautifully, as well. This film is definitely worth watching.

The official Her website.

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World War Z

    5 March 2016, late afternoon

I watched World War Z over three sittings on Netflix, usually in the middle of the night while snacking on something. This is probably not the best way to watch a film, but it likely reflects on how compelling I found the film. The movie stars Brad Pitt as a dude trying to figure out what the deal is with all these zombies that are talking over the world like a plague. The film is more or less a series of interest action sequences. I’d say they are all well done. People are dying all over the place, because of all the zombies. I wouldn’t rush out to watch this film, but if it’s playing on a flight you’re on you should watch it.

I’ve heard the book is great, though.

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My countrymen impressed me, simply, as being, on the whole, the emptiest and most unattractive people in the world. It seemed a great waste of one’s only lifetime to be condemned to their chattering, vicious, pathetic, hysterically dishonest company. There other things to do, other people to see, there was another way to live! I had seen it, after all, and I knew. But I also knew that what I had seen, I had seen from a distance, a distance determined by my history. I was part of these people, no matter how bitterly I judged them. I would never be able to leave this country. I could leave it briefly, like a drowning man coming up for air. I had the choice of perishing with these doomed people, or of fleeing them, denying them, and in that effort perishing. It was a very cunning trap, and a very bitter joke. For these people would not change: the very word caused their eyes to unfocused, their lips to loosen or tighten, and sent them scurrying to their various bomb-shelters.
— James Baldwin in Tell Me How Long the Trains Been Gone

Elysium

    4 February 2016, terribly early in the morning

Elysium was a bit too on the nose. South African director Neill Blomkamp presents another dystopian science fiction future, where the rich live in a giant space station orbiting crap-sack Earth. Earthlings try and sneak onto the space station Elysium so they can use their fancy hospital pods and basically live less crap lives. Matt Damon plays one such person. He ends up in robotic exo-skeleton, and has to fight crazy jacked-up South African mercenaries. That stuff is all pretty cool. Jodie Foster plays a jerk politician with a bizarre vaguely colonial accent. That was also fun. On the whole though, the film seems a bit weak.

Reviews of Elysium on Rotten Tomatoes.

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Kick-Ass 2

   26 January 2016, late afternoon

I watched the sequel to Kick-Ass over the weekend. (I started watching it at 1:00 AM, while eating some toast and nutella, and just never stopped.) The film carries on where the first one left off, but loses a lot of what made the first one amazing. There are only a handful of action sequences, and none of them really live up to the action sequences in the first film. (As such, there is far less excessive violence.) Each of the stories that ran through the movie felt weak. Matthew Vaughn, the director of the first film was simply the producer of this second one, which might explain why the sequel felt like it missed the mark. I’d skip this movie.

Kick-ass 2 on Netflix.

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Books in 2015

   19 January 2016, late afternoon

I stopped listening to podcasts during my commute and started reading again. I used to read far more often, and had wanted to get back into the habit. My goal was to read 24 books before the year was done, which I almost managed to do. If you count graphic novels—and why shouldn’t you?—I did manage to cross 24, having read the trade paperbacks for: The Manhattan Projects volume 5, Prophet volume 4, Saga volumes 4 & 5, and Hawkeye volume 4. (All of these series are amazing, by the way. Hawkeye just finished it’s run and is the best super hero comic i’ve read in ages.)

  1. The Road – Cormac McCarthy
  2. Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel
  3. The Wise Man’s Fear – Patrick Rothfuss
  4. Dune – Frank Herbert
  5. The Stealer of Souls – Michael Moorcock
  6. Annihilation – Jeff VanderMeer
  7. Authority – Jeff VanderMeer
  8. Acceptance – Jeff VanderMeer
  9. The Dying Earth – Jack Vance
  10. The Eyes of the Overworld – Jack Vance
  11. Cugel’s Saga – Jack Vance
  12. Rhialto the Marvellous – Jack Vance
  13. The Martian – Andy Weir
  14. Flood of Fire – Amitav Ghosh
  15. The Burried Giant – Kazuo Ishiguro
  16. Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy
  17. The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  18. The Crystal Shard – R.A. Salvatore
  19. A Maze of Death – Philip K. Dick
  20. Valis – Philip K. Dick
  21. The Divine Invasion – Philip K. Dick
  22. False Readings – Patrick Stuart

The Little Prince was incredible. I have no idea why I waited 35 years to read it. Truly a superlative book. The writing is so great. The story is so lovely. If you also have managed to live your life without reading it you really should.

Both Cormac McCarthy books were hard reads, and felt like mirrors of each other. The Road is about a father and son travelling through a post-apocalyptic world. Blood Meridian takes place in the wild west, and seems to be a story about the sorts of people the protagonists in The Road are constantly fleeing from. They are dark books. The Road in particular is so bleak—especially if you have children.

I made an effort to read more fantasy this year. Jack Vance is really worth reading if you aren’t that big a fan of your typical fantasy novel. The world his Dying Earth novels take place is in bizarre and fantastic in a way that isn’t elves and dwarves and other trappings of Tolkien. The Eyes of the Overworld and Cugel’s Saga are also really funny. His command of the English language is also amazing. The books are so well written.

I enjoyed most everything I read. From the list above the only book I really regret reading was The Crystal Shard, which I clearly should have read when I was 12 years old. It’s cheesy D&D fantasy.

I just finished reading The Grace of Kings. So 2016 is off to a good start.

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Tig

    3 January 2016, late afternoon

Shima and I watched Tig late one night over the break. It’s a documentary about Tig Notaro produced by Netflix. Notaro had some amount of fame and success before being catapulted into some new stratosphere of fame and success after she performed a stand up set about her very recent diagnosis with cancer: which came after she broke up with her girlfriend, her mom dying, and her surviving the abdominal disease c-diff. The film looks at that time in her life, and then how she tries to follow up on such a bizarre way to end up famous. It’s a well done documentary if you want to learn about her and her story. I didn’t think there was a larger or more interesting message to it, though.

Watch Tig on Netflix.

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Mad Men

   31 December 2015, late evening

Shima and I finally finished watching Mad Men tonight. It feels like a good show to end a year with. We watched the last seven episodes over the last couple days. A strange ending, but I didn’t expect a normal one, I suppose. The show ends strong. These last few episodes are filled with so much emotion. My favourite scene in the show is probably still from an early season: Don visiting Peggy in the hospital. If you’ve seen the show, you know what i’m talking about. But Mad Men is a show filled with so many moments like that. If you haven’t watched Mad Men you should. The writing is solid. The acting is solid. Every shot looks like a photograph. Mad Men is certainly one of the best televisions shows made.

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Dredd

   28 December 2015, late evening

Dredd suffers from not being The Raid, but is a fantastic film in its own right. Both films take place in high rises, with a couple cops versus super corrupt gangsters. Both films are very violent. I had thought Dredd was a Hollywood copy of The Raid, but apparently that’s not the case. Dredd was in production before The Raid started filming. Dredd has a solid cast, and Karl Urban is excellent in the title role. I really enjoyed the film.

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens

   28 December 2015, late evening

I liked the film. I have lots to say, but will wait to say it. You should watch this movie. The new cast of characters are fantastic. It’s amazing how much you can get done in a film when your stars are charming and have great chemistry. The film looks great as well. There is something to be said for practical effects. The contrast between this film and the prequels is so stark. This movie feels like a continuation of the original films, something the prequels never really did. I’m looking forward to the next one.

The official Star Wars: The Force Awakens website.

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Star Wars Battlefront

   17 November 2015, early evening

I bought a PS4. (One of the more decadent purchases I have made in a long time.) I wanted to play this crazy Star Wars game too much. I didn’t realize to play multiplayer Sony now charges you monthly, like Microsoft—break my heart! I suppose I should have seen that coming. For now I’ve been playing the various solo levels they included to basically train you for the online multiplayer game. It is crazy how far video games have come now. This game is unreal. It’s like the movies in video game form. I have died so many times crashing my speeder bike. Time do it some more.

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Master of None

   10 November 2015, early evening

Aziz Ansari’s new show on Netflix, Master of None, is fantastic. There are 10 half hour episodes in total, each focused on a particular topic: from relationships, to immigrant parents, to the portrayal of Indian people in TV and movies. Shima and I watched it over the weekend while Mythilli was asleep: it’s an easy show to binge watch.

The show is sitcom, and there is some amount of continuity from show to show, but really the show feels very much like a vehicle for him to make some very specific points about (his) life. While I found the show quite funny, it also deals with a lot of serious issues. One episode looks at sexism, and the sorts of things women deal with in their day to day lives. One is a look at the blatant racism of film industry in America. I particularly enjoyed the penultimate episode of the show, which was more or less a whirlwind tour through the ups and downs of a relationship. I find television usually does a poor job portraying relationships. (Perhaps Six Feet Under is the only other exception here?) It was weird to see a relationship done so well on a sitcom by Ansari, a pretty goofy comedian.

Ansari is South Indian—in real life and the show—so it was doubly awesome seeing people talking about papadum, mixture, and dropping dope-ass Tamil names like Dr. Ramaswami into conversation. (The fact his character’s name on the show is Dev seems a bit incongruous: that’s not really a Tamil name.) Aziz’s parents on the show are played by his actual parents and they are hilarious. It’s fun watching a show where you can relate to so many of the jokes and situations. (Not introducing girls to your parents! Hells yes. Shima and I were dating for half a year before I told my parents we were. And I would have held out longer, but they asked me straight up!) I guess this is what it’s like to be White and watch television all the time. Ha!

The soundtrack to the show is incredible. I also thought the show was shot wonderfully. The cinematography is on point.

Watch this show: I loved it.

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LAL and Zaki Ibrahim @ Tattoo

    5 November 2015, early evening

I met Fathima to go see a 10:00 show on a Wednesday night. First off: no concert starts on time; second: I’m probably too old to go see late night concerts on a Wednesday night. Dinner at Banu, always a good start to an evening, and we were off to go see LAL and Zaki Ibrahim play.

I’m not sure how Fathima heard about this show. Twitter? It was in Tattoo on Queen. Busy, but not too busy. Normally when I go to a show I am the odd one out amongst a sea of White people. At this show I was so thoroughly pedestrian. It felt like Fathima knew every other person from political activism, social work, or some such thing. There were big posses intersectional people. A refreshing change of pace to the usual concert scene. Everyone seemed really cool, but that’s par for the course now that I’m firmly in my thirties.

LAL still perform together? The last time I saw them was for Wavelength 250 at Cinecycle.. That was over 10 years ago. And they had already been playing together for years by then. LAL have shed some members, down to the singer and the fellow who produces their beats and music. Maybe that was always their group? They performed brand new material. We were the first audience to hear this stuff. It was much more pounding techno than the older stuff I remember. Their set was solid: really good. I’m looking forward to their album.

Zaki Ibrahim was around midnight. She was apparently flying out to Cape Town that night, or in a few hours. The set was varied musically. A bit more R&B than her previous stuff. Also a fair bit more retro sounding. Her backing band were in white suits Don Johnson’d up, with bright white sun visors on. That also probably contributed to the retro vibe. She’s a great singer and performer. Her material was also brand new. It’s fun trying to guess what songs will become singles. I have some good hunches.

We were out by 1:00. The TTC was still running. The weather was nice. What a night.

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Canada Votes 2015

   20 October 2015, early morning

What an election. The Liberal’s swept Atlantic Canada early in the night, and that wave never really let up. Toronto is now 100% Red, something it hasn’t been in a very long time. Lots of shitty Conservative MPs got shown the door. Of course, Toronto lost a lot of good MPs. My riding lost our MP Andrew Cash. Parkdale lost Peggy Nash. The NDP are back to the numbers I grew up with. So it goes.

Harper didn’t announce his resignation during his concession speech. His aides let reporters know. I think that about sums up his time in office.

Trudeau’s victory speech was pretty great. I’m expecting decriminalized weed and electoral reform. The later will be the real first test of his party. It’s always easy to talk about electoral reform when you are on the losing side of first past the post.

By my count this is the third election the NDP has fucked up by trying to chase the mushy middle. Horwath lost the party the election in Ontario, giving up most of the seats in Toronto to the Liberals to capture some seats up North via some pretty lame pandering. Chow lost the mayorship trying to chase voters she was never going to get. Finally we arrive at Mulcair, running the election he was clearly put in charge of the party to run. I like Mulcair a lot, but this is a big loss for him.

The end of 10 years of Harper is bittersweet for myself, but I am quite hopeful for the next few years. Let’s see how it goes: the Liberals are great at disappointing. Trudeau is quite charming, though.

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Ixcanul

   29 September 2015, terribly early in the morning

The last film I saw at TIFF was Ixcanul, a proper art film from Guatemala. The film is about a Mayan girl whose parents work a coffee plantation. It’s a coming of age story, that touches on the conflict and hardship Kaqchikel-speaking people face. The film was also an interesting glimpse into a world I was completely unaware of. The movie is slow going, slowly ratcheting up the tension as some of the choices the protagonist makes come back to haunt her. Ultimately it’s a film about a lack of choices. This is the sort of film I really only watch at TIFF.

Ixcanul at TIFF 2015

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SPL II: A Time for Consequences

   28 September 2015, early evening

SPL II: A Time for Consequences was a proper-ass HK action film. A thematic sequel to Sah Po Lang, the film carries over some of the cast from the original, and some of the themes and mood. Simon Yam once again plays a hard boiled HK detective. I’m always down to see Yam play a hard as nails cop. Wu Jing plays his nephew, a cop in deep cover, who also knows some serious ass martial arts. New to the series, Tony Ja plays a prison guard who also inexplicably can kick ass like a mother fucker. Basically everyone in this film happens to also know how to kick ass like a mother fucker. There are some great action sequences through out the film. Of particular note is the prison riot. There is a lot to like in this film, though it’s punctuated by a lot of melodrama. The original was gritty crime drama, which I’d say I prefer. This film was still quite compelling, and well worth checking out. Again, I wish I saw it at midnight.

SPL II: A Time for Consequences at TIFF 2015

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Much Loved

   28 September 2015, late afternoon

After Southbound we had a quick dinner and headed back to Paramount to watch Much Loved. This film from Morocco by Nabil Ayouch is about sex workers in Marrakesh. Much Loved looks at the lives of four women, earning money from European tourists and rich Saudis and Emiratis. Ayouch interviewed hundreds of women researching the movie. The contents of the film feel so real. Some scenes are tough to watch. There is a lot of sadness, throughout. Some great performances, but Loubna Abidar, the star of the film, was particularly amazing. The film was apparently mired by controversy: it’s depiction of sex, sexism, homosexuality, etc, is probably a bit too frank for much of the Middle East. I was glad to have seen it at TIFF. My only disappoint was the director wasn’t around to do a QA. This is an excellent film. You should try and watch it.

Much Loved at TIFF 2015.

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Southbound

   28 September 2015, mid-afternoon

My friend Mezan picked all the films I watched at TIFF this year, starting with Southbound. The film is a horror movie anthology. There are 4 stories, each thematically linked. They also make some attempt for the various stories to flow into one another, so it’s not so disjoint. The stories are all over the place in terms of their mood and aesthetic. My favourite was the middle story, about the fellow who runs over a girl, but they were all quite enjoyable. The films are all about purgatory, dealing with guilt, etc. The film was part of the Midnight Madness program, and would have been fun to watch at midnight with that crowd. Seeing it after work on a Friday wasn’t quite the same. Still, it’s a fun bit of grind house cinema.

Southbound at the TIFF 2015.

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