A painting of me

1917

   21 June 2021, early morning

I bought a new TV a little while ago, to go with the PlayStation 5 I bought a little while ago. Now I can watch things in 4K and HDR and all that fancy stuff. I bought a few movies to see what all the fuss is about. One of the films was Sam Medes’s 1917, something I had wanted to see for some time. Man, why did I wait to watch this? Sam Mendes, the director, has really made something memorable here. The movie follows two fellows trying to get a message to another battalion at the tail end of the First World War. It’s a really good war movie, about one of the most futile and pointless wars people have fought. Lots of famous British actors you will recognize littered throughout the film. I wasn’t familiar with the two leads, but they were both great. It is such an incredible film. One of the best films I’ve ever seen? Certainly one of the most technically brilliant: the film is presented as one continuous shot. Roger Deakins was the cinematographer on the movie and certainly deserves the Oscar he won. There are some impressive sequences I want to watch again already. Shima and I watched all the documentaries on the disc about making the film, we were so enthralled with the film. If you haven’t seen this movie go see it out.

The trailer for 1917.

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Burnt

   19 April 2021, terribly early in the morning

I used to write about every movie I watched, and then stopped, probably because there is just too much friction. A shame, it’s sometimes nice to look back and review what films I’ve seen and what I thought at the time. I watch YouTube clips and Gordon Ramsay and Marco Pierre White enough that the great algorithm started funnelling me towards clips from a 2015 film, Burnt. Seeing as this is as close I will get to get to Michelin star dining for some time I decided to watch it yesterday, and it certainly scratched that itch. I’ve seen lots of documentaries about Michelin star chefs and the experience of chasing that star. (Boiling Point about Gordon Ramsay is excellent if you are looking for one. Apparently as part of getting ready for the film Bradley Cooper worked in Ramsay’s restaurant.) The film stars Cooper as a chef returning to the world of fine dining after destroying his career through addiction. He gets his band back together, so to speak, and starts a new restaurant with the hopes of getting 3 stars. The movie features all the French brigade system yelling you’d expect. There is a small love story between Cooper and Miller, but it’s not central to the film. I enjoyed it a lot. It made me so hungry.

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Sicario (and its Sequel)

   20 September 2020, late morning

This past weekend I was back at home in Scarborough, which seemed as good a time as any to watch films Shima has zero interest in watching. So it came to pass that I watched Sicario late Friday night, and its sequel early Saturday morning. Sicario is excellent. Emily Blunt plays an idealistic FBI agent who stumbles upon a house full of cartel murder victims in the opening minutes of the film. She then gets sucked into the world of two mysterious government agents who are pursuing the cartels much more aggressively and seemingly less by the book, played by Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro. The film is a look at the war on drugs and how messy it all is. Denis Villeneuve directs, his frequent partner Jóhann Jóhannsson scores the film, and Roger Deakins is behind the camera. That’s a pretty stellar movie-making posse. Each actor plays their part so perfectly. Del Toro is really incredible in this film. From start to finish it’s well executed film.

The sequel is … not as good. In some ways it feels like a well made 80s action film. Strangely xenophobic, perhaps? The movie involves Brolin and Del Toro’s characters orchestrating some dramatics in Mexico in response to a bombing the US feels is linked to the cartels. It’s a ridiculous story for a ridiculous film. Still, I can’t not like a movie with helicopters and machine guns. And Del Toro is still great in this movie.

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Flickr Still Lives

    9 September 2020, early morning

Yoga Mythilli

I started posting photographs on Flickr again. I have years of photographs just sitting on hard disks doing nothing. Never mind the film in my fridge. I should put them all somewhere.

Flickr is a strange beast nowadays. Smugmug has bought it, but will it survive? I assume there must be enough people who pay for Pro accounts because they are emotionally attached to the service. Or have so many years of photos and albums they want to preserve. Is that enough to keep the thing chugging along?

Such a shame Yahoo did so little with the service. They hoovered up so many classic Internet properties and then did nothing with them. There is an alternative time line where Flickr is the preeminent social media platform, and the world is good.

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Hereditary

   23 August 2020, early morning

I have become lax when it comes to writing about the movies I’ve seen. (Did you know I saw Parasite at the TIFF, before it won and Oscar and blew up all over the place. Well, I did!) Last night, with Mythilli visiting my parents, Shima and I decided to watch something scary: Hereditary. I had heard the film was good, and it did not disappoint. What a thoroughly creepy film, and a very impressive directorial debut for Ari Aster. Hereditary is part horror movie, part tragedy. We begin with a mother dealing with the death of her estranged (and perhaps creepy) mother, and move on from there quite quickly into more grief and trauma. I knew nothing about the film, and that’s probably the best way to enjoy any cinema, but in particular a film such as this. The actors are all great. Toni Collette has some fucking fantastic moment. This is well worth watching.

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10 Years of Work

   23 August 2020, early morning

I wrote what follows for a work newsletter. Our office manager wanted me to comment on my impending 10th year of working at Security Compass, an anniversary that passes today. It feels old fashioned to work at a place for 10 years. Really old fashioned. It is easy to be cynical about work, especially now, when the world feels like a real capitalist hell scape. No work place is perfect—I have read enough Marx to know that. But it is with no cynicism that I say I have enjoyed the last 10 years.

Read the rest of this post. (1187 words)

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John Wick

   15 March 2020, lunch time

John Wick feels like a film made by people growing up on Hong Kong action films from the 90s. If you judged a film based on how many guns it has—and you should—John Wick is coming out ahead. The premise is simple. John Wick is an ex-mob hitman who is out for revenge and the loser son of his old boss kills the dog his wife bought him right before she died. The film takes place is a some what surreal version of NYC where there are assassins all over the place. Lots of memorable faces throughout, including Freeman and the Captain from the Wire. An enjoyable film, and now I get to watch two more.

The official John Wick website.

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Boiling Point

    4 January 2020, lunch time

I love documentaries about chef’s. Boiling Point is about Gordon Ramsey’s quest for his 3rd Michelin Star. The film opens with him leaving Aubergine to start his own restaurant. I had always thought the Hell’s Kitchen persona was a bit of an act, especially after seeing his older British shows where he’s a lot more patient and friendly. Apparently I was wrong. The guy is even meaner to his own staff. He’s intense and abusive. People get fired all the time. I can’t imagine working for him, but people do. When he left Aubergine the kitchen staff all went with him. That’s something. He’s pushing everyone around him to be perfect. My heart rate is up after watching the movie. You can watch it on YouTube yourself.

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Frozen II

    3 January 2020, late afternoon

Back at the movies with Mythilli and Shima. We trekked back out to the Queensway to watch Frozen II_—in 3D! I hate watching films in 3D: the colours are dull, the effect often so subtle to be pointless, and wearing the glasses on top of my glasses is an uncomfortable pain in the ass. _Frozen II follows Anna and Elsa as they try and unravel the mystery of Elsa’s magic, and the history of their homeland. The main storyline is really about repatriation of indigenous lands. This being a Disney film, they figure out how to do it so that everyone gets to keep their homes. I never saw the original Frozen. Mythilli claims this one is better. Maybe? It’s a nice enough film, as children’s films go.

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The Rise of Skywalker

   31 December 2019, mid-morning

I watched The Rise of Skywalker with Shima, Mythilli and Riadh. Shima has almost zero interest in Star Wars, but she came anyway: what a good mom! Mythilli has enjoyed the new trilogy, and she was a fan of this last entry. I think for Star Wars, maybe that’s all you should ask for. This film moves at what feels like a frantic pace. I suspect JJ could and maybe should have made the whole trilogy, he seems to have had enough ideas and some sense of what he wanted to do. Like The Last Jedi, this movie throws away a lot of stuff Johnson set up. Kylo rebuilds his helmet! This new trilogy really feels like each movie was made in isolation without much thought to how the films should all work together. If you’re making a trilogy, that’s not great. This last film feels a bit cold, like it was made by a committee to please fans. There is so much fan service. This movie has a lot of really enjoyable moments, fight scenes, etc. The actors are all still really great. It just feels much weaker than both proceeding films. I suspect it’s a near insurmountable task to produce the concluding film in a beloved trilogy. These films are all far better than the prequels. This movie was fun to watch, and it was really fun to watch it with Mythilli. Rey is my favourite Jedi.

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The Last Jedi

   31 December 2019, mid-morning

I watched The Last Jedi on Christmas Day the year it came out. I didn’t write about it at the time, because I have become much lazier about keeping this site up to date with the movies I have watched. Something I should address in 2020, perhaps. I watched the film again with Mythilli a couple days ago, in preparation for watching the final film in the new trilogy. A lot of Star Wars fanboys dislike Rian Johnson’s entry in the new trilogy, but I think it’s easily the best of the three new movies. The Last Jedi continues the story started in the Force Awakens, and opens with the resistance doing a bombing run against a fleet of Star Destroyers. This opening sequence is shot beautifully. There are a lot of really lovely shots in this film. (Something I think all the movies have done a good job with.) The Last Jedi feels like a fresh entry in the series, and doesn’t feel like a retrod of The Empire Strikes Back. (Unlike The Force Awakes, which feels very much like a reboot of A New Hope.) Johnson throws away a lot of JJ’s “mysteries”, which I think rubbed people the wrong way. I’d argue his reveals in this film are much punchier than what Abraham’s ended up giving us. Still, this movie feels like it exists as a ‘fuck you’ to the previous movie, which isn’t what you want from a sequel. There are two things I dislike about the film: much of the movie is a chase in slow motion. I think you could likely tell the story in a way that didn’t feel a bit silly. The casino sequence feels like a strange non-sequitur. A criticism of capitalism in cowboys in space movie for children. The actors continue to be super charming, which will get you quite far anyway. I’m looking forward to Johnson getting his own Star Wars trilogy to direct. I suspect he’ll produce something really compelling.

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"I'm T-S-motherfuckin'-A."

    1 July 2019, late afternoon

I finally watched Get Out. I knew one of the bigger reveals in the film, but for the most part had no real idea what the movie was about. The movie opens with a black dude being knocked out and kidnapped, so you’re on edge from that point on. So, little happens to start, but it’s all so god damn creepy. The film is a really well executed horror film. It’s also an interesting commentary on race and racism and all the good stuff. You should watch this movie. I hope you already have.

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Avengers: Infinity War

   21 May 2019, early morning

Finally watched Avengers … Infinity War. Everyone is talking about End Game so I thought it was about time I got a bit more caught up. The film begins wrapping up all the various threads they have littered throughout all the various Marvel movies, with Thanos finally showing up to fuck things up. The film starts in medias res with Thanos attacking the ship Thor and Loki are on to steal one of the Infinity Stones, the one inside the Tesseract. The rest of the film is him slowly trying to collect the remaining stones. (One is in Vision’s head, one hangs around Dr. Strange’s neck, etc.) It’s an enjoyable enough Marvel film. It’s clearly their Empire Strikes Back. I still thought it weaker than the first Avenger’s movie, but far better than Age of Ultron. Captain America is back with a beard, so that was cool.

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Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

   15 May 2019, terribly early in the morning

Mythilli wanted to watch Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. I don’t recall why it was on her mind. The film is surprisingly good. A film about excess and waste. About being yourself. Family. So much stuff! James Caan plays the lead characters father, and he is wonderful in the role. It’s nice to see someone other than Pixar can make a solid cartoon.

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Black Panther

   15 May 2019, terribly early in the morning

I finally watched Black Panther. I’m almost ready to watch whatever the hell the next movie happens to be. Infinity War? I am a bit burned out on these films. I would have never imagined this would be the case 20 years ago. But, this film is great. Coolger has made a superhero film that stands out amongst the sameness that is much of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film is so Black I love it. There are so many great performances in this film. Michael B. Jordan is a fantastic villain. The conceit of the film is interesting, and his arc through the film is central to that. The fight scene in the casino is done so well. A memorable film. Worth watching.

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Nighthawks

    4 March 2019, early morning

Collin Geddes, who used to run Midnight Madness at TIFF, now runs a monthly program at the Lightbox called KinoVortex. His last screen was an 80s cop film called Nighthawks, starring Sylvester Stallone early in his career. The film felt very much like a strange slice of 80s film making. Billy Dee Williams plays his partner. Rutger Hauer plays a suave European super-terrorist. (This was Hauer’s debut in Hollywood.) I don’t know if you can call the film good, but it’s certainly something. It’s likely worth watching just to see the films end, which is really something else. The movie also has an amazing score.

Read more about Nighthawks at TIFF.

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The Breaker Uppers

    4 March 2019, early morning

As romantic comedies go The Breaker Uppers was pretty great. The two leads, Madeleine Nalini Sami and Jackie van Beek, are women who both dated the same man, who was cheating on them both with each other. Cynical about love they start this firm to help others get out of their bad relationships. It’s a weird charming film. The leads also are the films writers and directors. Impressive. Like all good romantic comedies it touches on all the different sorts of love that exist in the world. The two leads are really hilarious. I’ll have to keep an eye out for them elsewhere.

Watch the trailer for The Breaker Uppers.

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Cold War

   28 January 2019, early evening

The trailer for Burning was Cold War. A polish film about the complicated and tumultuous relationship between a pianist and composer played by Tomasz Kot, and a fiery singer and dancer played by Joanna Kulig. The movie starts in 1949, ends in 1964, following their relationship from Poland to France and back again. It’s a beautiful film, shot in Black and White, and in what looked like 4:3—what a throw back. The music is incredible. The song playing in the trailer is beautiful, and apparently sung by the actress. What!

Read more about Cold War at TIFF.

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Burning

   28 January 2019, early evening

I watched Burning at TIFF before the holidays. My last film of 2018. Burning opens with Jong-su (Yoo Ah-in) bumping into a girl he knows from his small town, Hae-mi (Jun Jong-seo). He doesn’t recognize her, she’s beautiful now. They begin a relationship of sorts, when a new fellow enters the picture. Someone rich and handsome. And so we have a love triangle. A strange film. Far more sinister than I had expected. Ambiguous. The actors are all superb. I really liked it.

Read more about Burning at TIFF.

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Shoplifters

   17 December 2018, early morning

A posse of us went to the members’ premier of Shoplifters at the TIFF Lightbox last week. This is the latest film by Hirokazu Kore-eda, who made Nobody Knows. I haven’t seen any of his other movies, but now feel like tracking them all down. The premise of the film is simple enough. A family of petty criminals find a girl seemingly abandoned by her abusive parents. They take her home and start raising her as one of their own children. The movie moves on from there. It’s an incredible film. Such a sweet sad film. The acting is so great. It’s playing at TIFF still, you should watch it while you can.

More about Shoplifters at TIFF.

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She-Ra

    2 December 2018, terribly early in the morning

She-Ra Netflix Poster

Finished watching the new She-Ra with my daughter. It’s really well done. Noelle Stevenson—of Nimona and Lumberjanes fame—has done a great job here. There is a clear vision and arc for the whole thing, all about friendship and junk like that. The show doesn’t completely repudiate the origin story of the original, but it’s doing its own thing. This first season is about Adora learning she’s She-Ra, working to unite all the princesses of power so they can all be part of a rebellion against the horde. They also give She-Ra and Catra a deeper relationship, and a lot of the show is about each of them realizing they have grown apart. But also it’s a show for like 7 year olds so keep that in mind when you’re watching it. It’s aesthetic is closer to anime I’d say. I don’t think it’s a bold statement to say it’s better than the original.

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Roma

    1 December 2018, evening time

I ended up with a free membership to TIFF. My first film as a member was Roma, the latest film by Alfonso Cuarón. When I watched Children of Men I said, “Children of Men is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Holy shit that was good.” I know I am quick to throw superlatives around when it comes to cinema, but Roma was fucking fantastic. It’s one of the best movies i’ve seen in my entire life. The film is clearly autobiographical. There is so much detail and specificity in the 1970s Mexico the film shows us. The movie’s protagonist is Cleo, the servant of a rich family in Mexico city. The film is slow, sometimes funny, sometimes tense. There are two scenes in the movie, one in a hospital, and one on a beach, that are so masterfully put together they make the whole film worthwhile all by themselves. And they are just two scenes. You must watch this film. If you’re in Toronto you’re lucky enough to be able to watch it at the Lightbox: you should do that.

Read the Guardian’s review of Roma.

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Go Back to China

   31 October 2018, early morning

“Go back to China,” some old man yells at some old lady at Lansdowne station. I am walking in to the station, while he is leaving. We come to the same shitty Presto turnstile.

You often wonder what you’ll do or say when you bump up against stuff like this. It’s been so long since I have heard some proper-ass racism in the city. (Has it? I can’t recall, anyway.)

“What the fuck did you say?” So I guess that’s what I am doing.

I stop him from leaving because I want to hear him say something, but he mumbles and pushes past me. The moment is over in seconds. I realize I wasn’t going to get anything worth hearing.

So I turn and yell at the two men working in the operator booth, dealing with the women who was told to go back to China. She’s agitated as well. “What are you even doing when this shit is happening right in front of you?” None of us our white. I bet this old brown dude I am now talking to has seen some shit.

“This happens all the time. Some people are crazy. You just got to ignore them.” Now I am the crazy person he needs to calm down.

I tell him nothing changes if no one says anything as I walk away, but I suspect he is the one that’s right.

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Demons in Paradise

   18 October 2018, terribly early in the morning

It turned out Demons in Paradise was a documentary. I’m not sure why I thought it was going to be a fictional retelling of the war in Sri Lanka. No matter, it was an interesting film all the same. Directed by Jude Ratnam, the film is a look at the violence of the civil war through the lens of his family’s experience with the war. The movie’s narrative seems to move from violence inflicted on the Tamil community to violence inflicted by the Tamil community (upon themselves). The movie opens in Colombo, discussing Sinhalese violence. The movie ends in Jaffna, discussing Tamil violence. In between is a brief coda in Kandy, that feels a bit out of place except that it separates these two chunks of the film. Ratnam managed to get people to be quite candid about their experiences. An ex-LTTE fighter talks about the TELO massacre. People from other groups talk about the random violence they committed. The film also asks the question (but doesn’t answer) why the civilian population was so blasé about the violence being committed in their name. I liked the film. My friend Fathima (who shuttered her blog!) thought it was muddled and poorly executed. We are a complicated peoples.

I saw Demons in Paradie at Jackman Hall as part of the Rendezvous With Madness Festival.

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Walking Home

   21 August 2018, terribly early in the morning

Walking home along Bloor at night a stranger turns to me and says, “I interviewed for a job and they offered it to me.” She was so excited she wanted to tell someone, I suppose. We chatted briefly as we walked. I asked her where she was going to work. What she was going to be doing. And then she was on her way.

I had a very long day, but that was a good conclusion.

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