The Original Sin of Count Olaf

I’m not sure if Lemony meant this parallel or not, but I find the characters of Count Olaf and the young Baudelaire children illustrate a tug of war that goes on inside of everyone of us. And please understand this is just observation and reflection (an exercise I’ve learned from my friend Richard—both how to do it and how tremendously valuable it is). It is not an effort to preach at you or to wax eloquent in the area of psychology or film criticism. I should also add that this is a pretty spoiler free write-up if you haven’t seen A Series of Unfortunate Events yet.

Let’s start with the children. They are smart, creative, innovative, hard working, and each has their own special talents. They suffer, but when that happens they do the right things: ask for help, come up with a plan, work hard, and persevere. I think that is what most of us can say we aspire to. We want to be both known and remembered for these characteristics. We do and say things to prove to ourselves and others that they are a part of who we are. And it’s true! But then there’s Olaf.

Olaf is looking out for himself. He wants things he can’t have and tricks people into getting what he wants. He doesn’t simply do good things in a way to remind himself that he can be, and is, a good person. He does and says things in a way that is blatantly selfish. He is either explicitly doing/saying something that is wrong so as to get what he wants, or he deceives people into thinking positive things about him and his plans, even to the extent of disguising himself as a different person. He wants wonderful things in life, just as the Baudelaire’s do. Just as we all do. But his underhandedness is despicable and enraging.

Now, this is not to say that this is what we are all like, but inside our hearts there is this id, this Count Olaf. There is a desire to get want you want a little quicker. To take shortcuts and forget about other people. Sometimes we do things that are mean, deceptive, hurtful, selfish, even “crazy.” Any characteristic you see in someone that you find to be annoying (at best) or evil (at worst)—you are capable of them all. Every one of us is.

I find it helpful for me to see people in this light. I may be angry, bothered, hurt, or even completely disgusted by someone, but that’s Count Olaf getting through. He’s winning at the moment. That person is not my enemy. I know the Baudelaire children are in there. And they need help.

Ok, yes this does sound preachy. But please understand this is what I have in my mind and heart. It’s as real to me as oscillating fan that is cooling me off right now as I type. I’m not sure I want to lash out at Olaf; however, I do know I want to find those children and help them escape his grasp. After all, it is what goes on inside me, too.

Congratulations, A Series of Unfortunate Events. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Catherine O’Hara. She makes me laugh out loud in almost every movie, TV show, skit, cameo, etc. that I’ve ever seen her in.

Best Actor: Jim Carrey as Count Olaf. No one can make a character as quotable as Jim Carrey does. I love him as Olaf, as the Grinch, as Lloyd Christmas, and as any character he has taken on.

Best Quote:If you’re ever buying a shampoo sink go right to the Dutch. The French know nothing about shampooing.” — Michael McKean as Stefan Vanderhoof in Best in Show.

My top 10 favourite Catherine O’Hara movies:

  1. Where the Wild Things Are (2009)
  2. Beetlejuice (1988)
  3. Chicken Little (2005)
  4. A Mighty Wind (2003)
  5. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
  6. Waiting for Guffman (1996)
  7. A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)
  8. Home Alone 2 (1992)
  9. Best in Show (2000)
  10. Home Alone (1990)

Pick your movie of the week: Catherine O’Hara! (July 1-7/18)

Next week we celebrate Canada Day, so it’s appropriate that we focus on a celebrated Canadian actress whose comedic performances I’ve always appreciated: Catherine O’Hara. Which of these movies of hers would you pick for this week’s movie?

Beetlejuice (1988)

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Best in Show (2000)

A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)

The Pathetic Apathetic

It feels good. When there’s a big fiasco—a kerfuffle, if you will—and we’re not a part of it. When we can watch the squabbling from the outside looking in and shake our heads at how worked up people can get. For most of us, talking about the latest headlines at the water cooler can be interesting, but we’d rather not engage on much of a deeper level than “Man… Weird stuff, eh?” This is especially true when it comes to national and international politics. It feels better to just shrug and say, “Yeah, I don’t concern myself too much when it comes to that stuff.”

But do we resort to this kind of socially acceptable aloofness a little too often? Are there events going on with cultural and historical importance that we’re simply shrugging off as drama?

Honestly, I believe we should be holding each other more accountable on this. I mean, when it comes to the national budget, party leader races, trade issues, and other such subjects, I suppose we can be given a pass. We should care, but it’s ok if we’re not vocal about these things or if they don’t take up much thinking space in our brains..But what about when people’s welfare, rights, or their very lives are at stake? Do you speak up?

Here in Canada I think we’re having a big problem with this. For years we have condemned the actions of people in the southern US who had treated minorities as second class citizens at best, and as animals or property at worst. Yet in our own very recent history similar atrocities have been done by Canadian men and women against indigenous people. So recent that people my own age are telling horror stories from their childhood of mistreatment by the government, school, church, or other such institutions. But do we even care? When is the last time you’ve talked about this with someone? Doesn’t it sound like something that we should not only be vocal about, but be very vocal about?

And do you think it’d be any different for you if it was people your same skin colour, language, etc. who endured such things?

I wonder how I’ll answer a young person thirty years from now who says, “I can’t imagine living in a world where that behaviour is tolerated” and follows that up with, “They say many Canadians did nothing about this. What did you do back then?”

So, at times, go ahead and say it. “I’m not political.” But then there are times when we don’t get to do that and still claim to be decent, honest, and loving people. No. We don’t get that privilege. Either you care about your fellow countrymen and your fellow human beings, or you don’t.

And most importantly, I have to insist that this is not a scolding from me to you, the reader. It is a self-reflection and a soul-searching being fleshed out on (electronic) paper. I’ve weighed myself on the scales and been found wanting. I have a voice and need to make it heard more often. Maybe it’s in a letter to an MP, maybe it’s in a conversation with a neighbour.

No more standing on the outside looking in when people’s welfare is at stake. No more avoiding discussions about things that matter greatly to people who are different than I am. I may not be able to solve the world’s problems, but I do have a voice.

And everyone’s voice matters.

Congratulations Mississippi Burning. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King in Selma.

Best Actor: Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson in 42. And yes, that’s Black Panther.

Best Quote:It is unacceptable that they use their power to keep us voiceless.” — David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma.

I would love it if you would take a few minutes to click on this link and scroll down to the heading “Resources on Reconciliation” on the third page. You can choose not to, though I hope it’s because you have another source from where to start. If, on the other hand, you don’t care, please be honest and real about it and do not complain about any unfairness you may have experienced from the government, school, church, or any such institutions.

Pick your movie of the week: Segregation (June 24-30/18)

Segregation is an embarrassing reality in the  recent past of western culture, and we’re still dealing with the ramifications of it today. I don’t believe in ignoring evils of the past as a way of dealing with them, so in that spirit, let’s acknowledge great films that deal with this part of history.

I felt like The Help (2011) would be too easy of a win, though the following are excellent movies for us to pick from. Which one would be your pick?

A Soldier’s Story (1984)

Mississippi Burning (1988)

42 (2013)

Selma (2014)

I’ll make you a blog post you can’t refuse…

This week I have 4 top ten lists having to do with movie dads. Any you think should be added (or left off) of any list?

Top 10 Greatest Movie Dads

  1. Dr. Henry Jones (Sean Connery, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, 1989)
  2. Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams, Mrs. Doubtfire, 1993)
  3. Rev. Graham Hess (Mel Gibson, Signs, 2002)
  4. Mason’s dad (Ethan Hawke, Boyhood, 2014)
  5. Chris Gardner (Will Smith, Pursuit of Happyness, 2006)
  6. Mufasa (James Earl Jones, The Lion King, 1994)
  7. Marlin (Albert Brooks, Finding Nemo, 2003)
  8. Guido (Roberto Benigni, Life is Beautiful, 1997)
  9. Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck, To Kill A Mockingbird, 1962)
  10. Bryan Mills (Taken)

(Honourable mentions: Tevye (Topol, Fiddler on the Roof, 1971), and Ben (Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic, 2016)

Top 10 Worst Movie Dads

  1. Dracula (Adam Sandler, Hotel Transylvania series, 2012-18)
  2. All the dads of the high school kids (The Breakfast Club, 1985)
  3. Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase, the Vacation series, 1983-97)
  4. Mr. Bueller (Lyman Ward, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, 1986)
  5. Wayne Szalinsk (Rick Moranis, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, 1989)
  6. Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid, the Vacation series, 1983-97)
  7. Vernon Dursley (Richard Griffiths, the Harry Potter series, 2001-11)
  8. Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood, 2007)
  9. Dr. Evil (Mike Myers, Austin Powers series, 1997-02)
  10. Jack Torrence (Jack Nicholson, The Shining, 1980)

Honourable mentions: Dr. Leo Marvin (Richard Dreyfuss, What About Bob?, 1991) and Homer Simpson (Dan Castellaneta, The Simpsons Movie, 2007)

Top 10 movie dads who made a turn-around

  1. Walter (James Caan, Elf, 2003)
  2. Richard Hoover (Greg Kinnear, 2006)
  3. Logan (Hugh Jackman, Logan, 2017)
  4. Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music, 1965)
  5. George McFly (Crispin Glover, Back to the Future, 1985)
  6. Theoden (Bernard Hill, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, 2001-03)
  7. King Triton (Kenneth Mars, The Little Mermaid, 1989)
  8. Peter Banning (Robin Williams, Hook, 1991)
  9. Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise, Jerry Maguire, 1996)
  10. Darth Vader (a bunch of guys, the Star Wars series, 1977-83)

Top 10 surrogate fathers in the movies (Not the dad, but they stepped up…)

  1. The Terminator 2 (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terminator 2, 1991)
  2. Alfred (Michael Caine, the Dark Knight series, 2005-12)
  3. Juan (Mahershala Ali, Moonlight, 2016)
  4. Grant (Sam Neill, Jurassic Park, 1993)
  5. Léon (Jean Reno, Léon: The Professional, 1994)
  6. Spaccafico, (Enzo Cannavale, Cinema Paradiso, 1988)
  7. Sean (Robin Williams, Good Will Hunting, 1997)
  8. Will Freeman (Hugh Grant, About a Boy, 2002)
  9. A tramp (Charlie Chaplin, The Kid, 1921)
  10. Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita, The Karate Kid, 1984)

You’ll notice I don’t have Vito Corleone listed here from The Godfather (1972). I find it tough to put him in a category. If we judge him by what he does for a living, he’s a bad father. But judging by how much he loves his family and the respect he models (and fosters in others), he’s a good father. I guess the best thing to do is watch the movie and judge for yourself.

Congratulations The Godfather. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Kate Winslet as Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Best Actor: Humphrey Bogart as Dobbs in Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

Best Quote:I don’t like violence, Tom. I’m a businessman; blood is a big expense.” — Al Lettieri as Sollozzo in The Godfather.

Happy Father’s Day everyone!

Pick your movie of the week: Father’s Day! (June 17-23/18)

In one week it will be Father’s Day, so I thought it would be a cool idea to choose this week’s nominees from films released the years that mark the births of my paternal grandfather, my father, me, and my son. Which one would be your pick for this week’s movie?

The Immigrant (1917)

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

The Godfather (1972)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

*NOTE: I was going to also include a movie from the birth year of my maternal grandfather, but it was tough finding movies released in 1911.  🙂

Who doesn’t love a good bad guy?

When I was a teenager I not only loved watching wrestling, I also enjoyed buying its paraphernalia like action figures, magazines, and bubble gum cards. I remember reading the back of a Roddy Piper card that claimed he was the wrestler “people love to hate.” It was the first time I’d ever heard the phrase and I wasn’t sure what to make of it. At that time Piper was already a favourite of mine, but I thought about the wrestlers I really did despise, like Adrian Adonis and Greg “the Hammer” Valentine. I didn’t think it was possible that I actually enjoyed hating them. I just hated them, period. But it became clear to me over time what was happening. These villains wanted me to hate them. Why? Because it meant money.

The only thing any of us love more than a good hero is seeing a villain get what’s coming to them. Maybe I wouldn’t pay a cent to see Bad News Brown scowl at me and call me a nasty name. But to see him in a fight against Jake the Snake? Heck yes! I would want to see Jake humble that loudmouth with a devastating DDT! (Oh man… I feel like jumping up and cheering just thinking about it.) And, yes, that sells tickets.

Similarly, we have favourite heroes in movies, but they are usually heroes because they are overcoming terrible people and terrible situations that we find threatening. Ellen Ripley facing off against a deadly and horrifying alien creature. Indiana Jones fighting off heavily armed Nazis. Luke Skywalker confronting Darth Vader. We do love to hate bad guys. Without them our heroes are just plain ol’ people in cool costumes.

There is a big red flag to be raised here, however. As fun as this can be, sometimes we blur the lines between entertainment and reality. Even in real life, we can tend to love to hate bad guys. The guy in that reality TV show is such a jerk. The CEO of that big company is a crook. The person who cut you off in traffic is an idiot. It’s easy to hate them because like the characters in a book, a movie, or a wrestling match, we really don’t know them. We just see them as a picture of what is wrong and evil.

This gets especially scary when it comes to how we discuss crime, punishment, and the law. We hear of a crime and we’re enraged that the convicted felon didn’t get more time in prison. Don’t get me wrong—I know that feeling all too well, and I agree that often the sentence seems too light. However, most of us who say someone should have gotten a longer sentence 1) have no training in law or social work and 2) have never faced a sentence, let alone spent any time in prison. If someone needed an appropriate punishment for what they’d done, I’d rather the decision be made by a group of trained professionals who deal with these issues on a daily basis than by someone who doesn’t have the capacity to do so.

And then there are the instances where the aggressor’s lawyer pleads with the court that his/her client was mentally ill or insane. Many of us cry foul. The’re just trying to get an easier sentence! They’re faking it! The ironic thing is that we also have no problem saying, “What a sicko!” or “He’s crazy!” when we learn of the crime committed. We’re only fine with “sick” or “mental” being used in our outrage toward them, but not in understanding them as human beings or understanding its significance to the situation.

If we want true justice and prevention of crime, understanding people and their contexts is essential. Loving to hate people is never helpful. We should save that for the movies.

And wrestling, of course.

Congratulations The Wrestler. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence as Veronica in Mother. Joy and I just saw this one. Very weird movie, but the more you read about it and talk about it, it grows on you.

Best Actor: Jared Leto as Harry Goldfarb in Requiem for a Dream.

Best Quote:You know what I’m thinkin’? Two words… RE – MATCH.” — Wass Stevens as Nick Volpe in The Wrestler.

This movie was very well received amoungst actual pro wrestlers. Mick Foley (aka Mankind, aka Cactus Jack) wrote an article on how good it was. And I just read today that when Roddy Piper viewed it, he was so moved he sat and sobbed when the movie was over. There’s no question: it’s a powerful story. Not for the faint of heart, though.


Joy and Me in Bed

There’s no question. For Joy and me, our favourite place in the world is our bed. Every morning we get out of it we can’t wait until we get back in it. It’s our 23rd anniversary tomorrow and to celebrate, we’re heading to bed. Now, please, don’t make all those Three’s Company-esque assumptions. There’s more to us than that.

Every night when we get snuggled in, we watch an episode of whatever show we’re into at present. This week it is Safe and The Office (US edition). We watch whatever amount we can before Joy falls asleep. She’s always found it easy to fall asleep fast. I do too, but only since I turned 40. Every year gets easier.

And in the morning, there’s nothing like getting up just long enough to grab a coffee (and for me a bowl of Mini-Wheats) and climb back in to our foam and fabric sanctuary and read, or waste time on a screen, or whatever. I could stay there all morning!

All this time in bed in bad on my back, though. And we’re kind of hard on our bed. It tends to get worn down faster than most because of all the pouncing and bumping that it… Ok, seriously guys… Mind out of the gutter please! Luke and I use it as a wrestling ring! Why does your mind always go there instead? Geez.

Anyway, after 23 years I can honestly say that given the choice to be in Disneyland, a tropical beach, a luxurious castle in Scotland, or in my bed with Joy, I would choose the last option with no hesitation. Though I’m sure I’d ask if there’s a way we can buy in one of the other trips. Kind of hate to pass them up. But yeah. Joy in bed is the best!

Oh stop!

Congratulations Little Miss Sunshine. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine. I love her reaction to the phone message on the answering machine.

Best Actor: Gary Oldman as Joe Orton in Prick Up Your Ears. I haven’t seen it, but I’d like to. Watching Oldman is always a treat.

Best Quote:It’s called a sense of humor – you should get one – they’re nice.” — Jon Cryer as Duckie in Pretty in Pink.

Any guesses on what we’re planning on doing to celebrate??

Oh for the love of Grandpa Frank… A MOVIE! We’re going out for a movie! Honestly people!