Pick your movie of the week: Oh Canada! (July 3-9/15)

July 3-9-15

This week all four movies star great Canadian actors. Pick away, and happy Canada Day!

1. Midnight in Paris (2011 – RACHEL McADAMS)

2. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997 – MIKE MYERS)

3. Juno (2007 – ELLEN PAGE)

4. The Italian Job (2003 – DONALD SUTHERLAND)


Five valuable lessons I’ve learned from my eleven-year-old son


Seeing as this week’s nominations are a tribute to Luke, and seeing as this week’s movie is School of Rock, it’s only fitting that I share the top 5 of many many things that boy has taught me.

1. The early bird doesn’t get the worm. The determined one does. For the past decade, Luke has been the most persistent and resolute person I know. If something looks awesome, he wants to try it—and failure doesn’t scare him away. At the age of six he taught himself to do do a standing backflip on his bed. Just recently he virtually taught himself to solve the rubik’s cube. You could see the frustration on his face when he was trying to figure it out by watching Youtube videos or trying out what a friend of his told him and still not getting it. But he worked at it to the point of borderline obsession until he mastered it. He did the same thing with learning to ride a bike when he was five. Learning to ski at ten was so exciting to him that they couldn’t get him off the hill. His determination and belief in himself has inspired me in my new business venture these past three years.

2. Don’t let the hangups and opinions of others get you down. This is something he’s really good at. For example, Luke has never given much concern about things that are supposed to be gender-specific. He doesn’t care if the cup he’s drinking out of happens to be pink. He’ll very matter-of-factly tell you that his best friend is female. Sure he likes snakes, fishing, lizards, The Dark Knight and wrestling, but for Luke these aren’t badges of honour that prove to him and others that he’s a manchild. He just likes those things. End of story. When people teased me about girls when I was a kid I got embarrassed and annoyed. He definitely doesn’t get embarrassed, and he’s only annoyed because they’ve already asked him. “So how many girlfriends do you have Luke? Huh? Huh?” The first time he’ll answer either “none” or “one” or whatever his answer is at the time. The next time they ask it’s like, “Haven’t you already asked me that like fifteen times already? What’s with you??” The hangup remains with them. The dude is like teflon.

3. Play! No one can match Luke’s aptitude for playing. He is outside so much that Joy and I never complain about him playing video games. (Not only are we past the whole “video games rot your brain” notion, but by the time he sits down to play, he’s pretty much earned it.) Luke complains about being bored just like every other kid his age, but for the most part he keeps his life busy by enjoying it. He dives in. If he can’t swim, he goes with the flow til it comes to him. He gets all he can get out of every day. If life is a dessert, he licks the plate. I’ll never forget when he looked out the window a few years ago and seeing that the sun was quickly setting exclaimed, “Aw man!! This day was SO tiny!” I guess it was that good of a day.

4. Be open and honest. I’ve always known these to be virtues, but they’ve never been so tangibly displayed for me like it is in Luke. He tells you how he feels and doesn’t try to hide. And when I say he calls a spade a spade, it’s not that he’s brash. He’s not at all. But he doesn’t try and frame things nor spin them in the direction he wants. He simply observes and shares. And makes it look easy.

5. Jack Black is freaking hilarious! As I mentioned, his third favourite movie is Nacho Libre, but I left it out so that there was more variety (Napoleon Dynamite is his fourth favourite. And both of us would gladly pay the fee to enrol in Rex Kwan Do.). Luke and I can watch both this and School of Rock and laugh at just about every line, and definitely every scene. Gulliver’s Travels? Sure, we’d agree that it’s not a great movie. But Black didn’t disappoint. He even made Shallow Hal bearable. I think Luke and I could spend a good hour quoting just his two favourite Jack Black films.

Congratulations School of Rock. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel in The Dark Knight. I adore her acting, and I can’t believe what I read about her recently: she was not given a role because she was “too old” to play a love interest to a man who was older than her to begin with. It is, of course, ridiculous; but, it’s also absurd in the sense that she’s just that good. Who could possibly not cast her when she fits a role even slightly? One of the best in my books.

Best Actor: Black’s already gotten lots of praise in this post, so I’d give this week’s honour to Christian Bale. Like Gyllenhaal, he’s one of the very best today.

Best Quote: “What the flip was Grandma doing at the sand dunes?” — Jon Heder in Napoleon Dynamite. (VERY hard to pick just one quote this week.)

And here’s a top ten list of my favourite school-themed movies (not incl School of Rock and Napoleon Dynamite):

10. Can’t Buy Me Love (1987)
9. Donnie Darko (2001)
8. Dead Poet’s Society (1989)
7. Lean On Me (1989)
6. Better Off Dead (1985)
5. American Graffiti (1973)
4. Rushmore (1998)
3. The Breakfast Club (1985)
2. Back to the Future (1985)
1. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)


Pick your movie of the week: Lukey’s Favs! (June 26-July 2/15)


In honour of my son who turns 11 for this week’s movie period, the nominees are selected from his list of favourite movies of all time. They are listed below in order with his favourite as #1. His #3 is actually Nacho Libre, but since there is already a Jack Black movie nominated, we rely on good ol’ Napoleon.

1. School of Rock (2003)

2. The Dark Knight (2008)

3. Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

The Day I Finally Danced

Dance and I have a long bloody history. We never got along, and would scorn each other openly. It all started in grade 1. Each week we took time in class to sing songs like “All Around the Kitchen Cocka-Doodle-Doodle-Do,” “Octopus’s Garden,” and other kid-friendly songs.

Ok, I need to pause the story of my and Dance’s unnerving feud because “kid-friendly songs at school” just came up. This is important to share…

You see, sometimes I really questioned the judgment of my elementary school teachers when it came to the songs they picked for us to sing together in class. In the second grade I remember my teacher playing “Turkey in the Straw” for us. I’m sure you know it, and maybe are thinking to yourself, Ah I remember that little classic. Harmless, light-hearted jingle. Well, your mind will change it’s tone when you hear this: One of the lines we’d sing together AS CHILDREN was “Well, I had a little chicky but she wouldn’t lay an egg, so I poured hot water up and down her leg.” Yeah that’s right! We sang that. As little kids. But it gets worse: “Well, the little chicky cried and the little chicky begged, and the gosh-darned chicky laid a hard-boiled egg!”

Whoa! So this is what we’re saying “ha ha ha” to in this song? A chicken begging for the torture to stop while the oppressor laughs and dreams of having an egg? Like, is cereal out of the question here? Oh, but it gets even better. Then, in grade 4 we all strummed on our newly assigned ukuleles singing, “Lay down your head Tom Dooley. Lay down your head and cryyyyyy. Lay down your head Tom Dooley, for you’re about to diiieeee!” And if you thought that was bad, here’s another gem from that little ditty: “I met her on the mountain. There I took her liiiiiife. Met her on the mountain. Stabbed her with my kniiiiife.” I promise you I am not making this up! Yes, dear reader, my teachers in my elementary school years were one sadistic bunch. I can only imagine what that group of now retired educators have been up to lately.

But I guess I turned out ok, so whatever.

Back to me and Dance. When I was in grade 1, we were not only introduced to singing in class, but also to square dancing in the gymnasium. For my friends and I this terrible ordeal seemed like hours, and my words would not suffice to describe our agony. I would gladly have been a gosh darned chicky getting hot hater on my leg than to swing my partner and doe-see-doe in place of glorious dodgeball. I was always embarrassed to be dancing with a girl. I was young and didn’t like girls. But ironically, it was WAY worse when there was a shortage of females in the class and I was paired with a fellow boy. I hated those times so much that in the third grade I asked my teacher if I could sit out for religious reasons. I told her my church didn’t allow dancing. And it worked!

Around the same time I was invited to a birthday party. It was my best friend’s cousin’s twelfth and when we arrived, her mother told us to go into the living room with the others. The entryway into said living room, however, had a blanket hanging down so you couldn’t see in. My friend and I were both nervous. We knew that beyond the blanket were peers of ours—boys and girls. And music would playing with the expectation of dancing. We hated dancing! We were embarrassed by it! And now all eyes would be on us when we entered. But we mustered up the courage, walked in, and sure enough: all eyes were on us. All the lights and alarms in the little amygdala part of my brain were going off like crazy. Run for the hills! Get out of there! Don’t let the friend’s-cousin’s-mother find you! Forget the cake. RUN! For a solid hour we kids stood with backs against the wall looking at each other. On my way home all I could think was I can’t believe I was at a dance! I wondered what my Sunday school teacher would think. I imagined pleading with him, “Honestly, I thought it was just a birthday party!”

There are other incidents and accidents involving Dance and me, of which I shall refrain from telling as I neither want to bore nor terrify you. I will say, however, that our disdain for each other resulted in my not attending my own prom. That and I was as cheap as my Scottish name and heritage would suggest, and tickets were $40 each. $40!! That’s where they getcha!

But I did finally come to terms with my dreaded arch enemy. I was well into my thirties and was enjoying a fancy meal with my wife in Greece. We were there with other Pampered Chef consultants and their spouses (a business franchise in which my wife is a director) and we had a big celebratory meal together on the last day of our visit to this beautiful Mediterranean country. After the dinner there was a dance. For the first time in my life I saw people dancing, having the time of their lives and thought to myself, “That looks like fun.” Up to that point, the best I could do is look sideways at Dance and sneer, or make fun of him with some mocking MJ or Los Del Rio moves. But now, it looked fun. And my wife looked beautiful. “Wanna dance?” I asked her. She was surprised, unsure, and even blushed a little. Neither of us knew how to dance. Neither of us would have much confidence in our abilities amoungst the other happy, dancing couples. But we got up, danced like fools and had a wonderful time.

Congratulations Footloose. This is your week.

And Happy 11th Birthday Luke!

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Sigourney Weaver in Ghostbusters. She’s one of the all time greats in the actress category. She’s played a variety of roles, and though I haven’t seen her in a ton of movies, I’ve never seen her not excel.

Best Actor: Sean Astin in The Goonies. Love that movie! Though a second favourite would be Jonathan Ke Quan. He seemed to be typecasted in this movie just as he does in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, but he’s awesome in both.

Best Quote: “We came, we saw, we kicked its ass!” — Bill Murray as Dr. Peter Venkman in Ghostbusters. Though it’s worth repeating the one submitted by James: “Hey, that salmon came all the way from Nova Scotia, Canada.” — Rick Moranis as Louis Tully in the same movie.

And I’d like to add that my favourite dancer in movies isn’t Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Gray, John Travolta, or even PeeWee Herman. It is Gene Kelly, the master of rug cutting in Singin’ in the Rain. If you haven’t seen this movie, I promise you’ll love it, or at least really really like it. If you don’t, I will personally buy you any movie of your choice. Scout’s honour. I may even dance for you.

Poor Unfortunate Souls!

I am not an expert on economics, sociology or anything related to these. Few of us are. Yet the ones who genuinely are experts seem to disagree so much with each other on these subjects. So the following, I admit, are mere observations made by yours truly taken from my experience (as limited and myopic as it may be) in life and the work force.

Misconceptions about poverty:

Most poor people abuse the system and are dependent on government handouts. I do not think for a second that poor people don’t abuse the system. Nor do I believe it’s not a problem. However, I’m pretty sure the rich also abuse the system. Real sure. In fact, their abuses hurt the poor much more than the poor’s abuses hurt the rich. So why is it that we talk about the former more than the latter? It is simply unfair to pin this offense on the poor in our society. Many depend on government handouts, yes. But I can attest to what it’s like to be in that position. For a span of three months I was unable to support myself and I relied on employment insurance: a government “handout.” It is a discomforting pride-swallowing ordeal. I wasn’t crazy about asking for a handout, but neither was I impressed with the amount.

The gov’t pays out a ton of my hard earned money to people who don’t deserve it. First of all, every human being deserves to be helped out when in need. Yes, there are those who are positions they’ve put themselves in and/or are happy to live in squalor because they’re lazy. But for the most part, we all want to move ahead in our lives. Furthermore—and trust me on this one—though the government takes a huge chunk of your hard-earned cash, a very small percentage would actually make its way to the hands of the poor. I mean come on, we’re talking politicians giving up money to make people’s lives better. How much could they possibly be willing to part with?

I’m poor. I know what it’s like to have my back against the wall to the point where you feel like you’re bolted there. I know what it’s like to not know where the money is going to come from to pay for something that is of upmost importance. But I’m not poor. If you’re reading this, chances are very good that you aren’t either.

Poor people in Canada and the US are rich compared to the poor in third world countries. When I say that we are not poor, I’m not suggesting that no one living in Canada or the US is poor. In every province and state in North America there is poverty that would shock us. It is true that some countries measure poverty by calorie intake where we measure it in how much money you make. But that shouldn’t belittle the plight of the poor in our own homeland.

Poor people have no money. A lot of people living in poverty are able to get money, but either addictions and/or a terrible incompetence in money management keeps them poor. But hey, let’s not vilify them for this. It’s difficult to understand another person’s struggle. Addictions and ineptitude can be severely debilitating. Perhaps we could get over or disgust and try and correct this problem in our world. Besides, judging someone without knowing their whole story is not only difficult to do, it is pretty much impossible. Not to mention unwise.

As opposed to the US, wealth is spread out nicely in Canada. — Americans tend to say Canada is too socialist in its governance. We are proud of the fact that people across the economic spectrum get free healthcare and access to help when in time of need. However, consider that in 2007 80% of the US’s wealth is controlled by 20% of the population. So, if we really are better than that, how much different would you think we are. Here’s the ice-cold reality: In the same year in Canada, almost 70% of the country’s wealth is controlled by 20% of the population. Better hold off on those bragging rights.

Ask anyone what they know of Robin Hood and the first thing said by most would be that he stole from the rich and gave to the poor. But the moral of the Robin Hood story isn’t to start stealing from the rich. I think what you get from the story (be it in movie, comic book, TV show, book form, et al) is that amid the terrible corruption and inequality, they found a way. A movement grew from the roots and fought back with goodness.

Congratulations Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Olivia de Havilland. I’d never heard of her before watching The Adventures of Robin Hood, but I have to say that she left more of an impression on me than Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio in Prince of Thieves.

Best Actor: Sorry Morgan Freeman. This is Alan Rickman’s time. He’s such a great villain (nod to Die Hard‘s Hans Gruber), and in this movie he’s also very funny.

Best Quote: “Oh, he’s so handsome. Just like his reward posters.” – Sis in Disney’s Robin Hood.

Prince of Thieves would have been my pick too. Even though Costner was lacking in the British accent department and Robin shows off his butt, which seems to have tan-lines from a speedo, this movie was such a great summer blockbuster in 1991. And of course, where would be be without the “carve your heart out with a spoon” scenes?


Pick your movie of the week: June 12-18/15 (Theme: Robin Hood)

June 12-18-15

It’s a great story and has been retold many times throughout the years in movies, books, plays, comic books, cartoons, and more. But which is your favourite Robin Hood movie?

1. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938, Errol Flynn)

2. Robin Hood (1973, Disney animated feature)

3. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991, Kevin Costner)

4. Robin Hood (2010, Russell Crowe)