Pick your movie of the week: Football (Feb 3-9/19)

The big game is coming up, and though I’m not a fan of the sport I appreciate the tradition and history behind it. Plus, even those who hate the sport can admit there’s been some pretty awesome movies based on it. And here are three examples: which one do you pick to win the cinematic superbowl?

Jerry Maguire (1996)

Remember the Titans (2000)

The Blind Side (2009)

Um… waiter?

Imagine you’re sitting in a restaurant enjoying a good soup and sandwich when you make a disturbing discovery. There in the soup that you’ve taken several spoonfuls of already is a hair. A long one. By its colour you know it’s not yours. It’s so disgusting, which… Hold on… You’d made this discovery after taking a bite of BLT. You’ve been chewing for several seconds and now you feel like there’s a hair in that part of your meal as well. And not in the uneaten part. You can feel that hair between your teeth! What do you do?

I’m pretty sure I know the answer that any and all of you would give: Tell the waiter and expect 1) an apology, 2) a new sandwich and bowl of soup, and 3) a free meal. And you can be sure that the staff at that particular restaurant will be falling all over themselves apologizing for the follicle fall-out. (Good one eh?)

I’ll get back to the meal, but for now, let’s take a look at the movie Big (1988). In it we find a young teenage boy experiencing a completely different perspective: overnight he becomes a grown adult man. None of us could possibly know what that would be like, but Penny Marshall, Tom Hanks, and others used their wild imaginations to show us what it might be like. And in real life, to understand each other we need to use our imaginations too. We can’t know what it would be like to step into the shoes of someone different from ourselves, but we can try.

Just one more rabbit trail and I’ll come back to the hair in the soup. For a second let’s consider people who are activists. For some reason, most of us do not like the word “activist.” We might even be afraid of the word. We don’t want to be called one, and we tend to think those who do consider themselves as such to be a little (or in some cases, a lot) on the whacky side. Let’s consider a few. The Black Lives Matter movement. Those activists are claiming that police are killing black people, especially their young men. They’re saying that the problem of racism has not gone away and something must be done. Feminism and the Me Too movement. They are saying that “toxic masculinity” is still a problem and it impinges on the happiness and success of women everywhere. The environmentalists. They are saying our bad habits are slowly destroying our planet and that it will be millions of innocent people generations from now who will suffer the most from it. Now, considering our aversion to the word activism, we would probably rather acknowledge there is “some truth” to what each is saying. However, we might add that “Not all policemen are racist.” “There’s nothing wrong with masculinity. Not all men are like that.” “Yes, let’s try to not be so wasteful, but I’m not a tree-hugger. People lose their minds about this stuff!”

Well, maybe we can try understanding them. We all know that’s not the most comfortable thing to do, but we can use that Penny Marshall brain of ours and step into their shoes. Which brings me back to the soup and sandwich story.

I don’t have to convince any of you reading this that finding hair in your meal at a restaurant is unsettling, regardless of how harmless it may be. So we find the first hair floating in the minestrone. Then the second in our bite of BLT. We call on the waiter and he says, “Um, just pull the hairs out of your food,” and walks away. You ask to see the manager. She shows up and after hearing your complaint she rolls her eyes and says, “Look at your soup. That hair is laying at the very top. Most of the soup hasn’t even touched it.”

“I don’t care,” you protest. “I want a new bowl of soup!” She sits down and looks you in the eyes. “Hey, just because one part of your soup had a hair in it doesn’t mean the whole bowl is bad. And your sandwich is fine. You’ve spit out what was in your mouth into a napkin, and now the problem is gone. You act like your whole sandwich is ruined now. Let’s not get fanatical.”

She takes you to the kitchen and shows you the big soup pot. She reaches down to the bottom with a pair of tongs and pulls up enough hair to make a wig. You feel like throwing up, but she thinks you’re overreacting. “It’s all at the bottom! The rest is fine you entitled crybaby!”

We can say all we want that the police are mostly all the finest people in our society—and they are—but if there’s a small percentage that are racist and/or unnecessarily violent, we can’t be ok with that. And the same goes for the other groups. Maybe they aren’t just sensitive. Maybe having just a bit of sexists or racists or irresponsible people is worse than finding hair in our food. And maybe our reaction to those problems should at least be bigger than our reaction to hair in our food.

Congratulations Penny Marshall and Big. This is your week. You and everyone else we lost in 2018 will be missed greatly.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Margot Kidder as Lois Lane in Superman.

Best Actor: Burt Reynolds as Lewis in Deliverance.

Best Quote: “Mini Me? Where are you? Could someone put a fricken bell on him or something?” — Mike Myers as Dr. Evil in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.

It’s Oscar season everyone! I’ve watched 4 of the 8 best picture nominees and hoping to see the other 4 before the awards take place. I’m not sure I’ll make it, but it’s fun trying!

Movie Trivia Time!

I think we’re long due for a good movie trivia binge. Let’s get right to it. Did you know…

  • In Lilo and Stitch (2002), the voice of Stitch is Chris Sanders, the movie’s writer. He also wrote Mulan (1998), The Croods (2013), and How to Train Your Dragon (2010).
  • Demi Moore was supposed to be in A League of Their Own (1992) but had to bow out because of being too far along in her pregnancy of her second daughter.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio has described his experience playing Hugh Glass in 2015’s The Revenant the most difficult of his career. No wonder considering he had to 1) learn two Native American languages, 2) learn to shoot a musket, 3) study with a doctor who specializes in ancient healing techniques, and 4) eat a raw slab of bison’s liver (he chose to do this one).
  • In the filming of A Few Good Men, Rob Reiner said that getting Jack Nicholson was like landing Babe Ruth for a baseball team. Also, Gene Hackman turned down the role of Col. Jessup, Nicholson’s character in the film, because during that time he would be working on playing Sherriff Daggett in Unforgiven. Turned out that both he and Nicholson were nominated for their respective roles with Hackman winning the best supporting actor Oscar.
  • Producers of Batman Returns (1992) flew King Penguins in from a bird sanctuary in the deep countryside of England (the only place where they could get that particular kind of penguin). The birds were given their own refrigerated trailer, swimming pool with half a ton of fresh ice every day, a 24-hour bodyguard, and had fresh fish delivered daily straight from the docks. The temperature outside where they were filming was consistently 90-100° F, but the entire set was refrigerated down to 35° F. They must have enjoyed the experience: following their stint in Hollywood, most of them had mated and produced eggs, the sure sign of a contented penguin.
  • In the 90’s Robert Downey, Jr. famously struggled with addictions, violence, and stints in jail and rehab. One of the incidents he was arrested for was wandering into a house he thought was his own while he was drunk. He was found passed out on a child’s bed. Now imagine being that child or their parent today and having that story under your belt?!
  • Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling were born in the same hospital, St. Joseph’s in London, ON. Gosling was born 2 years and 2 days later than McAdams.
  • If you’ve seen The Cat in the Hat (2003) you’ll remember that there is a lot of adult humour in it. Those types of jokes were intended for How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) but director Ron Howard cut it out. He was wise to do that considering that after seeing this film, Suess’s widow, Audrey Geisel, was so appalled that she took legal action to make sure there would not be another live-action adaptation made in Hollywood of any of her late husband’s books. That’s why since then there have only been animated Dr. Suess movies.
  • Tom Hanks often meets children who don’t understand how he can be Woody from Toy Story. Apparently Hanks will make them close their eyes, perform for them, and their faces light up.
  • During the filming of Man on Fire (2004) Denzel Washington was so impressed with young Dakota Fanning’s acting abilities that he would watch her and frequently forget he was in the scene.
  • Will Smith has said he based his character Cpt Steve Hiller in Independence Day (1996) on his favourite movie hero: Harrison Ford. He drew especially from his Han Solo performances.
  • If you’re not a follower of Broadway theatre, you may not know that Natalie Portman (Black Swan, ) played Anne Frank in “The Diary of Anne Frank” in 1997. She would often break down and cry offstage because of her personal connections to the events in the play. Her grandparents lost most of their family in the Holocaust, including her great grandparents on her father’s side who were killed at the Auschwitz concentration camp.
  • Zooey Deschanel has ADHD and takes medication for it.
  • During filming of Traffic (2000) James Brolin went to his car to find two young people trying to break in to it. He was still in  his costume, which was a general’s uniform. He used that to scare them away. Also, Michael Douglas chased down a purse snatcher while they were filming in Cincinnati. He held him down until police arrived.
  • Marion Cotillard had her screen debut in the Canadian TV series Highlander. And get this: she’s never had her ears pierced!
  • Inception (2010) could be a bit confusing to watch. For this reason, when the movie was shown on TV in Japan they included text in the upper left corner to remind viewers which level of dreams in which the scene takes place.
  • In Clash of the Titans (2010) Sam Worthington couldn’t wear sandals because of the stunts he had to perform. To address this problem the costume department prepared for him sneakers with toes painted on them.
  • If you were a fan of The Odd Couple TV show, you might find it interesting that both leads, John Klugman and Tony Randall, auditioned for the movie it was based on.
  • The Odd Couple (1968) was the second movie that paired Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. They have appeared in 10 movies together total.

Congratulations The Odd Couple. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Tina Fey as Kate Ellis in Sisters. I didn’t find this to be the greatest movie, but I love these two together!

Best Actor: Chris Farley as Tommy Callahan in Tommy Boy.

Best Quote: “What’d ya do?!” — Chris Farley as Tommy in Tommy Boy.


Thinking about people being paired together who are different, I was hit with a realization. In the past 5 years or so I have made friends who were Syrian, Russian, Indian, Brazilian, Chinese, Phillipino, and Korean. That’s just in 5 years. Yet when I look back at the past 40+ years, the number of friends of I have made with anyone who is Inuit, Métis, or First Nations. I mean… that is weird, right? We could take into consideration that I have been involved in an English tutoring program here in Sussex, so it would stand to reason that I’d make friends from around the world. That and there were fewer opportunities in my life to make friendships with indigenous people. But that’s weird too, isn’t it? These are people who live right here in my own home country. I do think we have a problem here in Canada. I don’t have the answer, but I’m troubled. Any ideas are welcome.

Pick your movie of the week: Comedy Duos! (Jan 20-26/19)

Currently Holmes and Watson is playing in theatres, starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. They are one of many comedy duos who have starred in multiple movies together. Pick according to movie or according to duo. Up to you…

The Odd Couple 
(1968, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau)

Stir Crazy 
(1980, Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder)

Tommy Boy 
(1995, Chris Farley and David Spade)

(2015, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler)

The Girls on the Train

There are two women I’d seen on the subway train in Toronto. One made me wish I’d used my camera, the other that I’d recorded some audio. Let’s call them Emily and Rachel.

Emily. She had come up the elevator to the west-bound platform where some fifty people and I were standing. As soon as the glass door slid open you could hear her naturally magnified voice. Despite her volume she was holding that little mic attached halfway down her earbud wires right up to her lips. Her eyes were on fire. Apparently someone had been “talking shit” about her and she was calling to give them the business. It was so funny how loud she was uttering these threats and obscenities while the rest of us tried our best to keep our subway travel poker faces. And even better, the connection in there was dodgy at best. She would turn on a dime from being Jules Winnfield on his worst day to a very calm, “Can you hear me? Can  you hear me now?” Then right back to spitting obscenities and death threats. Eventually the train came, she hung up, and I boarded a different car. Goodbye, Emily. You won’t soon be forgotten. For at least some fifty people.

Rachel. I’d stepped on and took a good look. I love riding subways and public buses when they are full. There are always people representing different ages, nationalities, styles, temperaments, etc. and the atmosphere is so much better than it is when you’re flying. On an airplane, you have to follow so many little rules and so much protocol before you can settle. Then you must strap in and your neighbours consist of someone to the right and someone to the left. Now you just have to figure out what to do to pass the time. In a subway train, you simply step on. The rules you follow are more etiquette and courtesy, not a regulation. You can sit or stand, being safe is expected of you, not relegated to you. Most of us are all facing each other. It was two minutes into the ride that I noticed two passengers watching a young woman sitting next to them. One man looked at the other and said, “Heh, no one has a clue.” They  were watching her draw. She was looking up at people on the train and drawing them. She was fast, and really good. I wished I’d had that skill. I thought of taking a pic of her doing this and then thought maybe it might be a tad intrusive. Which is a bit ironic now that I think of it. But this woman’s quietness, acumen, and bold confidence was pleasant to observe. Even encouraging in some way.

I find it interesting to compare and contrast these two strangers I had the privilege of witnessing. Even though I got a kick out of Emily, I do hope I become more and more like Rachel in my life. There are times when you need to stand up for yourself, but the way you regard your fellow woman and man really affects your happiness in life. Rather than making a scene and tearing another down (no matter how deserving they may be), I want to look around, observe and appreciate the art of uniqueness in all of us. Take little mental snapshots or mental sketches and enjoy the moment.

Congratulations The Girl on the Train. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Well, Blunt really deserves the designation in all three movies, but I think Rebecca Ferguson (Anna in The Girl on the Train) deserves recognition. She’s starred in some impressive movies in the past five years and may be a big star to watch.

Best Actor: Benicio Del Toro as Alejandro in Sicario. The first time I remember watching him was in Traffic (2000) and shortly thereafter in The Usual Suspects. He is such a great actor!

Best Quote: “Hey Mate! I think there’s something wrong with your suit, There’s a dead guy in it.” — Jonas Armstrong as Skinner in Edge of Tomorrow.

My Favourite Female Performances of 2018:

10. Constance Wu as Rachel Chu in Crazy Rich Asians
9. Maggie Gyllenhaal as Lisa Spinelli in The Kindergarten Teacher
8. Danai Gurira as Okoye in Black Panther
7. Laura Harrier as Patrice Dumas in BlacKkKlansman
6. Kate McKinnon as Morgan in The Spy Who Dumped Me
5. Zazie Beetz as Domino in Deadpool 2
4. Millicent Simmonds as Regan Abbott in A Quiet Place (If you saw the movie, she’s the daughter.)
3. Lady Gaga as Ali in A Star is Born
2. Rachel McAdams as Annie in Game Night
1. Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo in Roma

My Favourite Male Performances of 2018:

10. Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca in Solo: A Star Wars Story
9. Kurt Russell as Santa Claus in The Christmas Chronicles (mainly for one scene)
8. Jesse Plemons as Gary in Game Night
7. Chadwick Bosemon as Black Panther in Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War
6. Topher Grace as David Duke in BlacKkKlansman
5. Tom Waits as Prospector in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
4. Jason Bateman as Max in Game Night
3. Michael B. Jordan as Kilmonger in Black Panther
2. Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool in Deadpool 2
1. Adam Driver as Flip Zimmerman in BlacKkKlansman