Pick your movie of the week: Newspapers! (Feb 25-Mar 3/18)

The Post is up for best picture, a movie about The Washington Post. I enjoy movies about journalists at a paper working on a big world-changing story. Which of the following newspaper films would you choose as movie of the week?

All the President’s Men (1976)

The Paper (1994)

Spotlight (2015)


The countries I didn’t know about

Sometimes when watching the Olympics you look at the screen and say, “Who’s that? Germany vs who?” You can’t figure out the three-letter abbreviation and the tiny flag is unrecognizable. Here are some you may or may not have realized were competing in PyeongChang this year:

Eritrea — A nation in northeast Africa, it’s about the size of Newfoundland (not incl Labrador) and has a population of almost 5 million. Their name is derived from the Red Sea, they separated themselves from Ethiopia in 1958, and the temperature stays within 17-26 degrees celsius all year round. They have one olympian this time around: a male alpine skier.

So, how does an African become an Alpine skier? Well, his parents had fled Eritrea in the 80’s when there was political unrest there and moved to Alberta where their son, Shannon-Ogbani Abeda, was born. Right here in Canada he learned how to ski and would go on to represent his homeland in South Korea as we speak.

Tonga — Actually, you have heard of Tonga, because their flag bearer for the 2016 Olympiad got everyone’s attention. He was ripped, handsome, and oily. Yes, NOW you remember. They had 7 athletes then, and Pita Taufatofua was one of them: the Taekwondo competitor covered in coconut oil. Well, this time around he’s the only one competing, only this time as a cross-country skier. All the best to you Pita!

Image result for chinese taipei flagChinese Taipei — So we already know that Hong Kong is kinda-sorta a country. They are a part of China who has given them a tremendous amount of autonomy. Anyone from there (incl. the one living in my house) does not like to be identified with China. Now we might assume Chinese Taipei is simply Taiwan, since its capital city is Taipei. However, from what I’ve read, it represents a more broad term known as The Republic of China, which exists within China (The People’s Republic of China). So China recognizes them as a separate country in the Olympics only, and they take on a flag and anthem completely void of any meaning connected to China. They have one male luge athlete, two male speed skaters and one female speed skater.

Togo — Just a tad larger than Nova Scotia with a population closer to Quebec’s, it sits in the northwest end of Africa, about 4 blocks over from Sierra Leone. They have 1 female athlete in the category of cross-country skiing: Mathilde-Amivi Petitjean. She moved to France with her family when she was 4, took interest in skiing at 7, and came to excel in the sport as a teenager. Her home country actually called her and asked her to compete. She said, “I don’t know how they found me and at first I thought it was a joke. I spoke about it with my parents… As far as I was concerned, the time had come for me to do something for Togo.”

Korea — We all know Korea and saw the athletes from both North and South all march in together, hand-in-hand, during the opening ceremonies. And they have 35 athletes competing together under one unified flag; however, that represents only one sport: women’s ice hockey. 23 of them are from South Korea, 12 of them from North Korea. All of the other athletes are competing for either North (10 athletes) or South (122 athletes).

And you’ll be glad to know that after 30 years Jamaica still has a bobsleigh team!

Congratulations Cool Runnings. Not only is this your 25th anniversary, this is also your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Patricia Clarkson as Patti Brooks in Miracle.

Best Actor: Kurt Russell as Herb Brooks in Miracle. It’s actually one of my favourite performances.

Best Quote:  Derice Bannock:Sanka, you dead?Sanka Coffie: “Ya mon.” — Cool Runnings.

This year’s Olympic mascot is Soohorang. He represents a white tiger (though he has teddy bear ears) and his name is a combination of Sooho, meaning protection, and Rang, which has two meanings. Rang is short for tiger in Korean and is also part of the title of a favourite/famous folk song of the region where the games are being played. So, Soohorang is to be the protector of the athletes, spectators, and other participants in the Olympics. As for me though, I think I’d rather call on Kung Fu Panda than this guy. Does he look like he could protect much?


Tribute to the Hitch

I love this director, one of the most influential ones of all time. Here are some little trivia facts about Alfred Hitchcock that you may or may not know:

  • He once planned to shoot a scene in Disneyland, but Disney refused him because they didn’t approve of Psycho. They described it as “that disgusting movie.”
  • He’d never tasted eggs in his life. He thought they looked sickening. He said, “Have you ever seen anything more revolting than an egg yolk breaking and spilling its yellow liquid? Blood is jolly, red. But egg yolk is yellow, revolting.
  • He directed the very first British “talkie.”
  • He started out in the movie business as a title card designer. These are the cards that help narrate (for lack of a better term) in silent movies as well as list credits.
  • His first successful movie, The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog, was highly influential in shaping the thriller genre.
  • His parents were in the food business and they did well for themselves. Young Alfred was first hit with the reality of classes and “haves/have-nots” was when on vacation observing the difference between tourists and locals.
  • He doesn’t ever remember having a playmate as a child.
  • His father had a policeman lock him in a jail cell to show him what they did to “naughty boys.” Ever since he’d had a paralyzing fear of policemen and refused to even drive a car for fear of the possibility of a parking ticket.
  • His wife, Alma, converted from Protestantism to Catholicism by being baptized a year after their wedding… at the insistence of Hitchcock’s mother.
  • She was also a very close collaborator with Hitchcock. One film critic remarked, “The Hitchcock touch had four hands. And two were Alma’s.”
  • His movie The 39 Steps is considered one of the first to use the “MacGuffin” plot device, which is an object or a goal that the protagonist of a film is pursuing (e.g. the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the one ring in The Lord of the Rings, Doug in The Hangover, etc).
  • In 1945 he was a part of a team that produced a documentary on the liberation of Holocaust concentration camps. It was intended to show to the people of Germany but was considered too shocking for people who’d just come out of such a terrible war. It was put in a vault and stayed there until 1985. In 2014 it was fully restored by scholars at the Imperial War Museum in London.
  • The famous caricature silhouette of Hitchcock that was used in the opening of his TV show Alfred Hitchcock Presents was made up of only 9 strokes, and was drawn by Hitchcock himself.
  • When he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Film Institute, he joked with his friends about the name of the award and that he must be due to die soon. Then he died a year later.

Congratulations Rear Window. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: My favourite is Grace Kelly, but I think Kim Novak should get it for Vertigo.

Best Actor: James Stewart as John Ferguson in Vertigo AND as L.B. ‘Jeff’ Jefferies in Rear Window.

Best Quote:I didn’t realize you were an art collector. I thought you just collected corpses.” — Cary Grant as Roger Thornhill in North By Northwest.

Here’s how I would rank the Hitchcock movies I’ve seen to date:

  1. Rebecca (1940)
  2. Rope (1948)
  3. Strangers on a Train (1951)
  4. North By Northwest (1959)
  5. Dial M for Murder (1954)
  6. Rear Window (1954)
  7. Vertigo (1958)
  8. Psycho (1960)

The pen is mightier, unless the sword kills you mid-sentence

Who can forget the sword fight between Inigo Montoya and the masked man  in The Princess Bride? Equally as spectacular and visually satisfying is the one in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. And, likely the most famous are the duels between Luke and Vader. Even though it’s impressive to watch masterful gunslingers like John Wick, Han Solo, Doc Holliday, the Sundance Kid, and Clint Eastwood’s “man with no name,” I’m not sure even their best of scenes can compete with that of cinematic sword fighters.

When I was a kid my friend and I would create swords and go on quests just about every weekend. True, if I pretended I had a gun I did feel pretty bad-ass, but when I had a sword I felt like a hero. With a gun you have to have good aim, a steady hand, and a grimacing face. The sword requires more. Just like the Bride in Kill Bill, Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass, and Eowyn in The Return of the King, the wielder of one must be quick, steady, fluid, strong, reaching… or whatever the split nanosecond of a moment calls for. You can’t simply move your finger and have a small chunk of metal do your dirty work. No, you’re required to pull together your reflexes, your muscles, your brain, and even your dance moves to operate. And in that way, you become the lethal weapon, not the weapon itself.

I could sing the praises of the bow and arrow, the whip, the bow staff, or even in the case of Shaun of the Dead, the cricket bat. But for me, the clear winner in the category of kick-ass weapons is the saber.

Congratulations Kill Bill, Volume I. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road. I’ve said for years now that my favourite actress is Scarlett Johansson, but I think since Fury Road’s release that Theron has become my #1.

Best Actor: Nicholas Cage as Big Daddy in Kick-Ass.

Best Quote: “Excuse me. I have a sword. Please accept it.” — Dominic Monaghan as Merry in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

My favourite swordsmen in movies:

10. Monte Cristo (The Count of Monte Cristo, 2002)

9. The nameless Samuari (Yojimbo, 1961)

8. Zorro (The Mask of Zorro, 1998)

7. Shu Lien (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2000)

6. The Bride (Kill Bill, Vol 1, 2003)

5. Darth Maul (Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, 1999)

4. Maximus (Gladiator, 2000)

3. Hit-Girl (Kick-Ass, 2010)

2. Inigo Montoya (The Princess Bride, 1987)

1. Luke Skywalker (Star Wars: Episodes 4-6, 1977-83)

Pick your movie of the week: Kick-A$$ Female Leads (Feb 4-10/18)

Ok, so there’s no question in my mind that the most kick a$$ female lead in the history of movies would be Ellen Ripley in the Alien series, played by Sigourney Weaver. There are other great ones to consider, such as Wonder Woman in the movie of the same name played by Gal Gadot, and Hermoine Granger in the Harry Potter series, played by Emma Watson. But the following nominees are right up there with the greats as well. Which of these listed would you choose as your movie (or heroine?) of the week?

Kill Bill: Vol. 1
(2003, The Bride)

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
(2003, Eowyn)

(2010, Hit-Girl)

Mad Max: Fury Road
(2015, Imperator Furiosa)