Why did he never release an album called Bega is Better?

There’s a lot going on in the world.

Don’t expect a trenchant essay after that general statement. It’s more justification for me blabbing on about assorted unrelated miscellanea. I’ve been fairly housebound over the past week. A little bit o’ stir crazy was always gonna be part of the proceedings. By the way, did anyone else think the “Mambo No. 5” lyrics were “a little bit of Mardi Gras in my life”? As a child I just thought Bega was a party animal. I guess I wasn’t wrong. How exactly did Pitbull corner his market when ol’ Lou dawg has bangers like this up his sleeve? At least old white people still lose their shit over him.

Anyway, there’s a lot more going on too. Did you hear, by chance, of how the U.S. Government is prosecuting asylum seekers as criminals and separating them from their children? This article is a massive, heavy eye opener. Some are merely infants. These kids are all being held in a detention centre with no fucking idea what’s going on. It’s an inhumane action by a heartless government. Trump’s response? ‘This is really the Democrats’ fault since they wouldn’t let me have my wall.’ Right, so if you aren’t able to forcibly impose your xenophobia with a large structure, you’re gonna do it by taking your impotent aggression out on hundreds of families? Super presidential. I wonder how many ardent Right Wingers are re-enacting That Mitchell and Webb skit right now… Or more likely, doing phenomenal contortionist acts in order to justify their continuing support for this administration. How badly must you hate other cultures in order to think that this is the right thing to do? Even if you wanted to stem the influx of migrants, surely you’d rather them be turned around at the border rather than incarcerated, separated and have state funds going towards these camps? How can this be seen as remotely okay by anyone?

In other news, New Zealand continues to push the boundaries of what quality journalism is capable of. Take, for instance, this investigative report into the suspicious erection of two Countdown supermarkets across the road from one another. How? Why? What is it that Big Countdown doesn’t want us to know? They’re asking all the hard questions. Journalism for the people, by the people.

I’m seeing The Incredibles 2 tonight and I’m quite excited. How excited? Incredibly, naturally. It’s been 14 years since the initial film and since then, super heroes are one of the most pop culturally pervasive media juggernauts in existence. The first one preceded all this MCU nonsense and took an interesting tack. The family dynamics and golden day yearnings made it a fantastic blockbuster that lovingly squeezed its subject to bits. All the tropes skewered, but never nastily. A decade and a half later, there’s so much more to work with. Super hero material is (yes) incredibly fertile ground. Times have changed in terms of diversity and representation and it’d be a (sigh) marvel if they could harness that momentum within the film. Honestly, I haven’t been reading up on it ’cause I want to go in blind, but early reviews have been glowing.

I wonder what Lou Bega thinks about the U.S. immigration policies…

Advertisements

If Paddington got a girlfriend, would she be called Lady Marmalade?

News flash folks, Paddington was fucking delightful.

I’ve been harping on about this for some time, so it probably serves to give a token amount of backstory. I remember seeing the trailer for Paddington years ago. I thought nothing much of it. I’d watched the show as a kid. I remembered it being enjoyable enough, but that was about it. He had a hat? Liked marmalade? I think he wore Wellington boots? I had no idea of his personality or the artifice that made Paddington anything more than generic kid’s tv. So when I watched the trailer I thought I guess they’re desperately fishing for the dollars of those parents who loved it as kids. The concept of “it’s not for me and that’s fine” came to mind. I remembered something about delays in bringing it to the screen, but that was the last of it. I ignored the franchise and went on with my life.

Then came Paddington 2. It arrived not with a whimper, but with a roar. Upon hearing of it I was all set to immediately dismiss it. So I did. Then the critical reception came and it was mind-blowing. 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, B+ or A reviews from actual legitimate film sources (remember kids, Rotten Tomatoes is an aggregate rating of whether or not a film is terrible. 100% on RT could mean that everyone rated it 6/10). What was going on? How had this harmless but insubstantial film become the darling of the cinematic reviewer society?

I immediately assumed something was afoot. Lady Bird I understood getting a 100% rating. Paddington 2, a sequel no less? It was some kind of joke. A bizarre hoax. This was some Berenstein Bears sort of shit. I already knew we were in some insane parallel universe after the one two punch of Brexit and Trump. The rise and rise of Paddington 2, however, was the icing on a peanut butter and rubber cake. What in sweet fucks was going on? There was no way it was that great. I didn’t have any desire to watch the film, but I’m also incurably curious. So I told myself I’d see it, but when the time came I couldn’t pull that trigger. It was never right. I was never bored enough or in the right mood.

Then I fractured my wrist and had time.

My girlfriend and I had just watched Annihilation. We needed a palette cleanser after the outstanding film shat itself in the last third. I’d been jokingly trying to get my girlfriend on the Paddington train (no pun intended, honestly) for a while and I think she flat out didn’t care enough to dissent. She resolved that if it was shit she could sleep or play on her phone. Within the first minute, we were both hooked. The setting was fun and vibrant. The world they’d explored with these technologically competent bears was goofy and neat. By the time the action got to London, we were already in love with the little guy. The cast was fantastically well rounded, featuring Julie Walters, Sally Hawkins, Nicole Kidman and Peter Capaldi. The Brown family members were all intriguing in their own fashion and Kidman was a gloriously ruthless villain.

The plot made sense and it was a riot getting there. With one of the central tenets being Paddington as some walking disaster, they set up a myriad of Rube Goldberg style scenarios for him to create havoc. The movie was heartfelt without being saccharine. It was genuinely enjoyable to watch without so much as a sagging scene. Some gorgeous large scale set pieces to see, aided by helpful (and not gratuitous) CGI.

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m legitimately excited to watch Paddington 2.

Why question my sovereignty? Sometimes pride rocks.

This update coming to you LIVE from the floor of a tiny alcove outside 21 Wellington Street, London. Notable only because we’re 13th and 14th in line for Lion King day tickets. As an aside, I thought it was pretty cool that rather than type “Lyceum Theatre” into Google Maps I typed “Lion King” and Google Maps was all “I got you bro.” Thanks Google Maps. I wish Cambridge Analytica had my back that hard. I don’t see them helping me out with handy instructions. Instead they just tell Wish, Online Shopping that I must want a plethora of wetlook catsuits and fancy lingerie. So I guess they’re more like “I got you bra.” Credit where credit’s due

Oh wait, I was talking about being in line for Lion King. Line King? My girlfriend and I hummed and hawed about whether to rush line Lion King or The Ferryman. We’ve heard fantastic things about the latter, that it’s a moving theatre experience. On the other hand, we were both children of the 90s, so y’know. That. Truthfully, while I’m not a massive musical theatre person, I’ve been low key jiving to see this show for 10+ years now. For ages (and I’m not sure if this is still the case) it wasn’t running in New Zealand. The only way to get tickets was to buy them for Australia, then fly on over. Still cheaper than a ticket to Hamilton, I guess.  Unless we’re talking New Zealand’s Hamilton. “Hamiltron, City of the Future”, Hamilhole or The Tron, as it’s otherwise affectionately known. I don’t know if their politically aware historical rap is quite as up to snuff, being the City of the Future and all.

Oh shit, I digressed again. Though that’s probably contingent on the fallacy that I have any idea where I’m going with this. Part of the day ticket line is standing around doing nothing. We got here at 9.30am (for an 11am Box Office opening). I’ve got time to kill and since I’m going nowhere, I’m gonna see where this goes. So often while I travel it becomes this kind of “Last Time, on The Leon King” recap bollocks. I mean, that’s fine and all, but anything gets trite if it’s done too much. Sometimes it’s nice to ramble on, sing my song and find the queen of all my dreams, right? So I’m sitting in line for The Lion King at the moment. I’m not blowing anyone’s mind by saying that The Lion King was a formative part of my youth. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned how much. I remember seeing it in the cinema multiple times, as we all did back then. In those days it took a lot longer for any kind of large pop cultural product to reach New Zealand en masse. Like, we’d get films a few months after America instead of day and date like it is now.

You can imagine then, how mindblowing it was for my mum’s friend in the US to send us over a VHS copy of the film to borrow not too long after its NZ cinematic release. I remember being so amazed that it was in NTSC, rather than our local PAL format. In those days, when I had the insane fishy memory of a pre-pre-teen, I’d watch it on repeat ad infinitum. I must’ve seen it 30 odd times over a two week period. Some days I’d watch, rewind and watch again. I identified with Simba and reckoned with his struggle. I dunno, I was a dumb little kid and it may have been as simple as “he’s a lion, my name is Leon and that means lion. We’re basically identical.” I also 100% had the hots for Nala. I honestly don’t know how I never became a furry. I thought Scar was a dingus, loved the hyenas, got a kick out of Timon and Pumba doing the hula and knew all the songs by heart. I also earned my stripes dying hundreds of times playing the Stampede Level in the Mega Drive game. In the 90s we didn’t quite have complex gender and sexual identities to unpack, the Stampede Level was our struggle.

I guess what I’m saying is, if there’s a stampede scene in this musical, I may have ‘Nam style shellshock. Worth it, if it means we get tickets. Wish us luck!

No more Ace in the hole.

Ace Ventura re-he-heally has not aged well.

Let me preface this by triple underlining what a massive Ace Ventura fan I was as a kid. After seeing The Mask, I thought Jim Carrey was a literal embodiment of God among men. For a long time in my life I refused to watch anything that either a) wasn’t a cartoon b) didn’t have puppets or c) wasn’t super hero oriented. The fact that I was willing at all to give Ace and his fine feathered friends a go was a big coup for me. While watching, I realised that Ace Ventura was a cartoon, just depicted by a flesh and blood human. I was in. Ace was goofy, talked through his butt and had so many animal friends. He was my kind of dude. I watched Pet Detective, I watched When Nature Calls, I watched an absurd amount of the Pet Detective cartoon on Saturday mornings. Big fan.

Watching at age 31 in 2018, things have changed. Credit where credit is due, Jim Carrey overcommits to an Olympic extent in every single scene. His neck is always protruding, jaw janked in some odd direction. He’s tossing out a silly voice or doing an imitation maybe 80% of his time onscreen. I don’t know how one directs Jim Carrey because it seems like he’s constantly doing bits. I don’t know how one writes for Jim Carrey because all evidence points to him improvising half of his scenes. I feel like the script is mostly exposition and [Jim will insert something funny here]. The whole film is basically a setup of scenarios in which he can do some kind of impression. His brand of physical comedy is still bloody impressive to watch 24 years later. He’s a talented dude, no doubt.

Egads though, the movie is one big clusterfuck of gay panic, transphobia and obnoxious male posturing. Given how much society has shifted, it’s hard to just turn your brain off and let things slide. The most egregious example is of course the central plot revolving around someone transitioning. The punch line in the climactic scene is not only the gay panic induced vomiting by the entire police squad, but the second beat of her promiscuity. Har har. Also for a character as fey as Ace Ventura, they do a remarkable amount of work to try and fit him in a comfortable box for red blooded American males. He’s still a rough and tumble dude who doesn’t think twice about getting into a physical altercation. He can do car stunts, and LOVES sex. There’s even a scene where he takes a blow job from a busty client in lieu of payment, the punchline being a fourth wall breaking “well, could you say no?” or something of the like. I feel like comedy didn’t have to try as hard back in the 90s. They have to put in SO MUCH WORK to make him a “palatable” representation of masculinity. Stuff that as a kid I probably lapped right up. Ace was the coolest.

In 2018, Ace isn’t quite so cool.

You know what else hasn’t aged gracefully? Sixteen Candles. Holy shit does it ever smack of being a film written about a woman by a man. It’s broad strokes of character all the way through, but really it’s more about the central male characters. If Ace Ventura was egregious, Sixteen Candles is a relic. She’s basically lusting over The Coolest Guy in School, who’s a Sensitive Jock type. But he’s with The Hottest Girl In School (we know this, because we get a naked shower scene that shows basically everything). The Geekiest Dude in School is lusting after her. So what’s the resolution? The Geekiest Dude sexually assaults her a bunch of times. She’s like “ugh. You’re not a bad dude, but that was embarrassing”. The resolution? The Coolest Guy just gives The Geekiest Dude The Hottest Girl as if she’s chattel. She’s drunk out of her skull and the Coolest Guy is all “here, thanks for hooking me up with Molly Ringwald, now go fuck my drunk ex-girlfriend in a parking lot or something.” It’s woeful. Times have changed and thank fuck for that.

I wonder how Blazing Saddles plays in 2018…

What does She do? Well She does Ra a lot. Is that a verb?

I was listening to my theme song playlist this morning. Why do I have a playlist featuring four or five hours of TV themes (also consider just how many theme songs that consists of. How long are most? 60-80 seconds)? Because when I left home for the Great North, I had a Comic Con themed leaving party. I thought, in my infinite wisdom, that it’d be neat to have background music composed entirely of TV themes. In practice it was silly and underwhelming. The tracks all varied in quality and volume. Some were obnoxiously loud and others far too quiet. I’d hoped the playlist would stimulate discussion, but that was mostly a wash. Every now and again a friend would comment on some theme song and that was enough for me. One large booster shot of ego validation. Considering the party revolved around me, it was like I was double dipping into narcissistic territory. Could you blame me?

Listening this morning was all kinds of choice. First up, it was an IV drip of nostalgia straight to my cerebral cortex. I got to relive all my Saturday Morning Cartoons. I even got to relive all the Saturday Morning Cartoons my parents watched. Years of animation binging meant my tastes spanned decades before my birth. Thanks Cartoon Network. It made waiting for a bus in the heart of Canadian winter mildly more pleasant. Anyway, here are some thoughts.

I miss the convention of TV themes that blatantly explain the plot so kids can plug in at any time. Not only is this Fantastic Four intro fabulously campy, but it tells me precisely what I need to know: Reed Richards is elastic, Sue can fade from sight, Johnny is The Human Torch, The Thing just loves to fight. I’m sold. Count me in. Or what about the She Ra theme? Not only does it explicitly get into the nitty gritty, but She Ra has a bizarrely antediluvian voice. Why does she sound like she’s 200 years old? Is that just a holdover from old timey radio dramas and whatever the US equivalent of Received Pronunciation was?

Other songs reminded me just how great some of our shows were. Samurai Pizza Cats was righteous. This isn’t just me being needlessly nostalgic. Filled with madcap quick-witted writing and stuffed to the brim with pop culture references, I’m sure certain elements haven’t aged well, but it’s a great little time capsule. One of the coolest thing about this little gem was how they basically had to reconstruct a ton of it from scratch. Back in the pre-internet days of 1991, translations weren’t as comprehensive as they could’ve been. The writers, then, had to make do with what made either made sense or dipped into total irreverence. I remember Lupin III being rather similar. The English version had to be contextualised, because the humour in the original was so culturally resonant. Thus you got references to Halle Berry and other Western cultural artifacts in the US one. Nifty.

If I can’t turn back time and be a kid again, I might as well engage in a little bit of mental time travel.

It’s their fault I can’t look at corn without imagining a typewriter.

I talk about rewatching movies all the time. No doubt because I endlessly scour the internet and live in a cosy bubble of nostalgia. I’m a colossal child (both in scale and mass. If I were actually a child in this body it’d be some André the Giant shit) and the notion of getting back in touch with the media that influenced and informed my adult persona holds a certain allure. The ratio, however, of talking about it and delivering on it is notoriously one-sided. So much of my viewing is mood dependent. Hell, sometimes I just can’t bring myself to engage with a narrative. If I’m not paying attention to what I’m watching, why watch it at all?

What I’m saying is, last night I watched Space Jam with a group of friends.

You know what? I’m willing to go on record and say it held up. Not as landmark cinematic genius. Everything it did, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? did better a decade earlier. It wasn’t a phenomenal film or anything, but I wasn’t viewing it as I did as a kid. I was peering at it with adult eyes and looking for how it would’ve appealed to children. Shitting on a kids’ film as an adult is a certain amount of unnecessary roughness (says the guy who recorded a podcast series about the Airbud Cinematic Universe) that leaves us all as lesser. Space Jam didn’t have the most coherent plot (as evidenced in this accurate nine minute song). It was obviously a cynical attempt to capitalise on late game Michael Jordan’s popularity and to keep the Looney Tunes relevant for another generation. Jordan is absurdly lionised throughout. He’s not the best actor, but to his credit he looks like he’s having fun. There’s a spectacular montage of Charles Barkley et al dealing with their lost talent. The film has a buttload of jokes for kids and a bunch that’re pitched way over their heads. It has all those characters you love, more cameos than episode of Entourage (oh yeah), plus Bill Murray shows up to save the day at the end. A silly but entirely defensible way to spend 88 minutes.

My biggest takeaway from the whole endeavour was how great Looney Tunes have always been. I guess I just forgot. Do you realise just how many conventions were drilled into your head by the adventures of Bugs and co? When Lola Bunny was introduced in Space Jam, Bugs swoons and there’s this small musical sting of sexy jazz. It’s so familiar to us now as a sort of language, but those conventions needed to be created somewhere. Cast your mind back to the original Looney Tunes. How instrumental was it in the formation of these tropes? You can see how necessary they’d be, right? These zany (never thought I’d see the day I used that word unironically) cartoons had out there plots, and the more shorthand they could use to instantly convey meaning, the better. I rewatched The Rabbit of Seville and it’s astoundingly creative. Animation unhinged these creators from the need to obey formal logic, so they created their own sense of it. It’s a clever play on an opera that would go way over the heads of kids, but still relates to them on their own level.

Not only were the cartoons clever as fuck, well animated and spectacularly voiced (thanks Mel), but the characters were so diverse and interesting. Can you imagine Bugs being a protagonist these days? He’s a cruel, manipulative sociopath, but we all love him. Daffy Duck is a total narcissist. The Sylvester and Tweety dynamic is a one note joke that somehow spawned years worth of scenarios. Most everyone is at each other’s throat, just trying to get the best for themselves. Loose, unscrupulous morals all over the show. In other words, they’re a total blast to watch.

What’re you still doing here? Go and Tune in already.

After all those puns, who wouldn’t consider me a lunatic?

First review in a while. As always once it goes up on the mothership, I’ll change this entry to a link.

Get yourself a band that can send you to the moon. Failing that, get yourself a band that can bring the moon to you. July Talk, in a stellar Massey Hall show, did just that. Their debut performance at the beloved Toronto venue managed to be both special and spatial. Flanked by a planetary backdrop and massive floating moon balloon, they brought an otherworldly spectacle to an adoring crowd.

Did that come off as too cute? Blame the band, whose charismatic leads bring a sultry energy to their live sets. The vocal interplay between Peter Dreimanis’ gravelly bourbon and Leah Fay’s smoky punch forms their iconic sound, which shines on the stage. The two bring together Nick Cave swagger and bratty spunk, complemented by a talented band. There’s a stylish anachronism to the nine piece ensemble, which features Motown style backup singers, two full drum kits, dirty rock guitar and an abundance of keys. In short, it’s one hell of a show.

There was a dynamic energy throughout. The stage was a constant blur of movement and crowd engagement. Peter and Leah would sink down and sing directly to the front row or grasp their hands tightly. Whether it was a rollicking rock number or a somber ballad, the band’s intensity never wavered. They gave themselves to the sound and the audience lapped it up.

So often performances will be defined by one memorable moment. July Talk kept those moments coming. There was Dreimanis thanking his 92 year old grandmother for coming to see him perform (prompting crowd chants of “grandma, grandma, grandma”), or Fay walking through the crowd to serenade a concertgoer face to face. A surprise guest performance by Toronto singer-songwriter Jason Collett (of Broken Social Scene fame), or the tender Leonard Cohen cover “If It Be Your Will” with (five month pregnant) guest vocalist Elisapie.

As Leah brought down the floating moon in their final song, “The Garden”, there was a sense that we’d arrived. Equal parts ascension and send off, it was a charming way to say farewell to a good night.