And this week’s (Sept 27-Oct 3, 2013) movie of the week is… No Country for Old Men!

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Ever watch a movie and when the credits roll you say to yourself, “That’s it?” Usually this happens when one of two things (or both) happen while watching a movie:

1) The story didn’t go in a direction that we had expected it to, and therefore in our own mind has an unsatisfactory ending. What? She dies?? I hate this movie!

2) There are unresolved questions that we think should’ve been resolved. Ummm… so is he the killer or not? And what was with that thing on the table they kept focusing on? They didn’t explain that. I hate this movie!

No Country for Old Men was this type of movie for me. That’s not to say I didn’t like it. In fact, one of my favourite movies of all time had this effect on me. But, in my old age, I’ve gotten a little more thoughtful and patient, even with movies. If it leaves me wondering, “What was that all about?” then I decide to take on the challenge of trying to find the answer to that question. Sometimes I read what others are saying about it. Sometimes I try to pick out recurring elements in the movie to hopefully find a theme or emphasis. Sometimes I pick those scenes that keep running through my brain and I ask myself why those scenes float to the top of my memory bank. I find this fun. Needless to say, I enjoyed doing this with No Country for Old Men.
I must admit, I don’t have this story, nor this film, figured out. Like some of you who commented, I did love the acting and the cinematography. My friend Josh, who is very knowledgeable about film, pointed out how good the writing was (something I tend to miss) and the capturing of the time period (VERY well done), and the value of it being multi-layered. This is a characteristic of movies that often goes over our heads–especially mine–and takes the average person more than one viewing to really appreciate.

I really should point out as well that the acting, as is true with all classics, is first-rate. Javier Bardem had me convinced that he was a scary psycho killer better than any other actor in any other movie. I was genuinely scared each time he got close to someone he was sneaking up on. Tommy Lee Jones was his usual awesome self, and so was Josh Brolin. I had never heard of Kelly MacDonald before this movie, but her final scene was one of those memorable scenes for me that kept showing up in my brain begging to be mulled over and chewed on continuously. All the actors made the movie so real. By the way, did you see The Hurt Locker? Of those who have, many found it frustrating because they weren’t sure where the story was going, and in the end, where it went. But one thing anyone who watches the movie can all agree on, you are on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. No Country has a similar (though different) effect on viewers. Once again, it’s one of those movies that makes you think. It makes you think about so many things. And think more. And more…

Congratulations No Country for Old Men. This is your week.

Hotel Rwanda… that movie left its stamp on me for a long time. It’s unbelievable that this could happen, and I am a firm believer in having those stories told–no avoided because they are “depressing” or not applicable to our own country or culture. I like Don Cheadle a lot, and he shines in this movie, proving that he can totally pull off a lead role.

And Bourne! Is there a better good guy? His near supernatural abilities and seeming omniscience makes you both adore and respect the character. You forget it’s Matt Damon and you are wrapped up in who is Jason Bourne. This movie has one of the best chase scenes that goes through a village, complete with jumping from building to building. If I was going to be in a dangerous place and could pick anyone I want for a bodyguard, I believe I would pick Jason Bourne even over Liam Neeson’s Bryan Mills in Taken. Of course, these choices are second only to Roddy Piper. I mean, of course I would pick Hotrod first. Who wouldn’t?

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actor: Josh Brolin. I know I’ve seen excellent acting when I forget who the actor is. I just said this about Matt Damon in BU, but the same can be said of Cheadle, Bardem, Jones, and many others represented in these movies. I just think Brolin nailed this especially well in this movie.
Best Actress: Tie between Kelly MacDonald and Julia Stiles. When I first saw that Stiles was in BU, I was hesitant. I had just seen her in a teen movie where she’s a dancer and wasn’t convinced she was serious-action-film material. Well, she was.
Best quote: “There will be no rescue, no intervention force. We can only save ourselves. Many of you know influential people abroad, you must call these people. You must tell them what will happen to us… say goodbye. But when you say goodbye, say it as though you are reaching through the phone and holding their hand. Let them know that if they let go of that hand, you will die. We must shame them into sending help.”

In closing, let’s not forget that the psycho guy’s creepy hairstyle is one of the Maritimes’ few claims to fame in the world of movies. That’s right–it was a New Brunswick hair stylist who was behind the most unmistakable trademark of the movie. His name is Paul Leblanc. Man, can you get a more New Brunswick name than that? It would have been far cooler to have this province represented in John Travolta’s hair in Grease, Bo Derek’s cornrows in 10, Princess Leia’s giant-headphones look, or even Nicholas Cage’s mullet in Con Air. But we’ll take it.

And this week’s (Sept 20-26, 2013) movie of the week is… Rain Man!

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Once again we have a tight race, but the Wapner-watching and Kmart underwear wearing math whiz won the contest just as he won a pile of money in Vegas. This movie is special to me in a lot of ways, and perhaps it’s special to you in a variety of ways as well. But so many of us collectively, whether or not we realize or remember, there is something extra special about Rain Man. For most people, this movie is the first time we heard about autism. Like me, you probably had that embarrassing moment when someone said to you something like, “Did you know that so-and-so’s son is autistic?” and before you could stop yourself you blurted out, “Yeah? So he’s really good at math?” Thankfully we all know much more than we did before about this disorder, and hopefully even more as time goes on. Even though our preconceived notions may have come from this movie, maybe it was in watching it that we also realized our ignorance to Autism when Cruise’s character Charlie yells out, “He’s capable of a lot more than you know!”

In the original script, Raymond was supposed to be mentally handicapped with an outgoing and friendly disposition, but it was Hoffman who suggested the character be autistic and withdrawn. He was very involved in the development of this character–and as a result the movie itself–which brings me to that extra something that makes this movie stand out amongst the rest. For this film, I believe it’s Dustin Hoffman’s performance. I mean, we definitely have a solid and highly compelling story along with both hilarious and heart-wrenching adventures throughout, but Hoffman’s Raymond is the special ingredient.

This movie marks the very first time I can ever remember an actor’s performance making such an impact on me. After watching Rain Man I wanted to see more. Tootsie, Kramer vs Kramer, Midnight Cowboy, The Graduate: Dustin Hoffman owns each character and therefore, each movie. And his character in this case, Raymond, is one of his absolute best. Watching him rock back and forth, repeat sentences (97X. BAM! The future of rock ‘n’ roll), point out minute and seemingly unimportant details (maple syrup is supposed to be on the table before the pancakes), rattle off trivial information (QANTAS has never crashed), and express strong attachment to routine (three minutes to Wapner), I felt like I could watch him act like this for hours on end. He made it believable. Engaging. Fascinating. He made you want to know more about Raymond. As much as I love this movie in its entirety, it is DH’s performance that made it one of my favourites, and it might even be the reason it made it to IMDb’s top 250.

Congratulations Rain Man. This is your week.

Amadeus and Stand By Me are such great movies, it’s hard to believe that they’re actually runners up. A good friend of mine introduced me to Amadeus and I went in hesitant. All I knew of it was that it was nominated for a bunch of Oscars and the trailer looked boring. Turns out I couldn’t get enough of it. Everything from Mozart’s hyena laugh to Salieri’s creepy and devious plot to take the prodigy down, the movie captures you and keeps you thinking about it long after the end credits roll. And Stand By Me comes from Stephen King, perhaps the greatest storyteller since Tolkien. The plot is magnetic: Who doesn’t want to know about what happened to a group of kids who went on a trip into the woods to try and find a dead body? The leech scene and the pie scene both still haunt me to this day.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best actor: Um… Dustin Hoffman. Duh! Although I think my brother came up with a great nomination: Gordy Lachance. You don’t hear much about him now, but he was the main character, Wil Wheaton, in Stand By Me.
Best actress: Elizabeth Berridge. She played Constanze, Mozart’s wife. I remember thinking she was really cute, but she also did a great job in her role.
Best quote:
[In a telephone booth with the door closed]
Raymond: Uh oh fart. Uh oh fart.
Charlie: Did you fart, Ray? Did you #&%@$ fart?
Raymond: Fart
Charlie: How can you stand that?
Raymond: I don’t mind it.
Charlie: How can you stand it?
Raymond. Ten minutes to Wapner. We’re definitely locked in this box with no TV.

And an honourable mention from Stand By Me: “If I could only have one food for the rest of my life? That’s easy. Pez. Cherry-flavoured Pez. No question about it.”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The 80’s was the greatest decade. It even beats out the 40’s with the “builder generation” beating the Nazi’s and inventing duct tape. Why? Because of the A-Team, Tears for Fears, Atari, and movies like this.

And this week’s (Sept 13-Sept 19, 2013) movie of the week is… Star Wars! AND TEACHERS!


Gee, who didn’t see that one coming? But actually our runners up, American History X and The Matrix did fairly well going up against this cinematic behemoth. Seeing as Star Wars has been written about and discussed as often as Bill Murray repeats February 2 in Punxsutawney, I’ve decided to switch things up a bit. This week’s nominees were chosen not out of a certain decade, but in honour of teachers. I would like to take a moment and share about those teachers who made an impact on my life. I realize how self-serving this sounds, but for those of you who choose to stick around and read on, I promise you that the teachers mentioned herein deserve it:

My first favourite teacher was Mrs. Gerard in grade 2 (Attention American readers: I know that you say “second grade.” And yes I know that “grade 2” sounds strange to you. Can we not talk about this anymore?). Then again, any kids who went to Mountain View School at the time that I went (and for MANY years later) would say the same. Adults knew she was very skilled in getting students to grasp new ideas and skills, but in the eyes of the child, she was great for other reasons. The biggest one for me was her calm, confident approach. In my previous year of school–which was also my first since I didn’t go to kindergarten–I had a teacher who raised her voice and had little patience. Now that I think of it, I had that in grade 3 as well. Mrs. Gerard listened to children and didn’t freak out over things that don’t matter. Thanks Mrs. Gerard.

Another teacher that comes to my mind is Mr. Hay. He was my Scout Leader in a boy’s program at my church growing up. He was the first adult I can remember who believed in me and communicated to me that he did. There were many adults I looked up to and respected when I was a child, but Mr. Hay was the one of the few who made me feel like he felt the same way about me. This inspired me to be a good person and to strive for great things in life. Thanks Mr. Hay.

Mrs. White was my history teacher in grade 8. I was scared to death to have her as a teacher. I heard she was stern, and boy did she look it! She seemed to have a scowl all the time. But it was just a few days into her class that fall of 1986 that she did what I thought was impossible: she got me interested in history. I’ve always loved that subject ever since. Honestly, I can’t remember how she did it; nothing stands out in my mind. But seeing as this was a subject I had always struggled with, even in college and seminary, my interest in it has kept me afloat. Thanks Mrs. White.

I really liked taking French. In my last year of high school I wasn’t required to take it, but I took it because I enjoyed it and, more importantly, did well in it. And my teacher? Mrs. White! ..but yeah this was a different one. I guess White is a common name amoung educators. Where Mr. Hay communicated respect to me, Mrs. White communicated this to the entire class. She showed genuine interest in us, what our interests were (I did a speech in French on Rowdy Roddy Piper!), what our struggles were. This was even true of the students who gave her a hard time. As a result, her class is the one I remember conversations most from. Her kindness and vulnerability was endearing and something we could all depend on and benefit from. Thanks Mrs. White #2.

I will never forget Chuck. On the course selection guide online he was “Dr. Killian,” but he was ok with everyone calling him Chuck. He was teaching us seminarians the fine art of storytelling. This course was by far the most influential to me than any other I’d taken in my life. He did funny things like ask us to bring markers, scissors and glue with us to class, tell us a story and not explain what it meant, sit in silence for an extended amount of time, and figure out our life story just by hearing a story we wrote and asking us questions. His is the only class I can remember being in where for years later I would still think about things he said or stories he told. I wish I could tell stories like he does. Thanks Chuck.

And thanks to so many others: Richard Starks for teaching me how to install stuff in the house, to Mike Hamilton who taught me how to paint cars and dye furniture, to Darin Squire for teaching me tolerance and patience with those who are not tolerant, to Marlayne-the-girl-from-Newfoundland-now-living-in-BC-who-is-just-visiting who taught me how to kiss when I was a teenager, to my brother for teaching me to read when I was struggling with it as a six-year-old, to my wife for teaching me to be patient and loving, and to my kids who have taught me more than I can write about right now.

Congratulations teachers (and Star Wars), this is your week.

And this week’s (Sept 6-Sept 12, 2013) movie of the week is… Singin’ in the Rain!


As much as I love movies, there are only a select few that I can honestly say amazed me. They are the kind of movies stay with you all the way home from the theater and make you glad you took the time and money to see it. “Wow, I had no idea it was that good!” This was my experience with Singin’ in the Rain. My friend from North Carolina–I have a few of them–told me that as a movie lover I just had to watch it, so we planned a night where he and I and our wives would watch it together. We did this with Citizen Kane and North by Northwest as well. I was fine with the idea, but I wasn’t prepared for how good the dancing, comedy, and unforgettable moments were going to be. Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor performing together is something everyone must see whether or not they enjoy movies or musicals.

Let’s just take a moment and address musicals. I have always had a love/hate relationship with them. On the one hand, I don’t see the point in stopping a story to have two characters sing to each other as if it’s a normal thing to do. And sometimes the timing can be terrible. A man is about to kiss a woman and she breaks out in song. A hero is about to attack and win over the villain when he stops to sing a song and bounce around his tippy toes. What?! Most of the time I roll my eyes and say, “Again?? You just finished a song!” But on the other hand, there are so many great musicals that I have thoroughly enjoyed from beginning to end. I’ll admit that, yes, I do like The Sound of Music and that I was impressed and moved by 2012’s Les Miserables. I share this to bring out a very important point addressed those of you who don’t like musicals: I feel your pain, but there are some musicals that you simply must see. Singin’ is one of them.

There. I’m glad I got that off my chest.

Who would have thought that a simply swing around a lamppost would become so iconic. Kelly’s performance of the title song makes you wish it was raining out so you could go out and play in it. It’s a wonder that O’Connor’s wall-climbing flips during “Make ‘Em Laugh” didn’t make such a lasting impact. Maybe it will when you see it. So go watch it! If you are not satisfied, message me and I will send you a lengthy, heartfelt apology. But that won’t be happening–you’ll love it.

Congratulations Singin’ in the Rain. This is your week.

Ben Hur was a tough contender this week. This movie rolled into theatres with a bang leaving a record breaking amount of Oscar nominations in its wake. A record that wouldn’t be matched until over four decades later when Titanic was dominating the box office. Like Wizard of Oz, it too has an urban legend attached to it. No one died in the making of the movie. It sure does look like it, though. Ben Hur (starring Charlton Heston who, believe it or not, does not wield a single gun in the entire movie) raised the bar for movies when it came to realism and special effects. There is a chariot race that is simply spectacular. I don’t even think The Phantom Menace’s pod race compares!

Roman Holiday I just saw for the first time a few weeks ago. Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn are always so likeable and both seem to have the power to cause you to hang on their every word and move. It’s a fun movie with a great plot and a lot of charm.

And the award goes to…
Actress: Audrey Hepburn.
Actor: Gene Kelly
And the winning quote comes to us from Ben Hur: “Bonehead! Give me those reins! You think you can treat my horses like animals?”

The 50’s was an awesome era. I wasn’t there, but anyone can appreciate the music, the dances, the trends (especially the clothing), the jukeboxes and the lighthearted movies of this “simpler time.” Back in 1952, Singin’ in the Rain was a great way to start off such a decade. Remembering it this week made my time fixing a bumper in the rain a little bit more enjoyable than it normally would be.

But I DIDN’T break out into song.