Why do they keep making Oscars even though D2: The Mighty Ducks already exists?

In less than 24 hours, the movers and shakers of Hollywood’s cultural elite will come together to bestow the finest honours upon filmmakers and actors alike for their cinematic achievements over the past year. I ask you now, why? Why do we continue to celebrate the film industry’s output year after year, when the critically underrated 1994 masterpiece D2: The Mighty Ducks already exists?

The story of Team USA’s journey to the Junior Goodwill Games, D2, is a rich tapestry of overcoming adversity through the trials and tribulations of high level competitive sports. A film so emotionally compelling and well acted that Entertainment Weekly mentions it “now includes token members representing both sexes as well as major races, religions, and regions.” Wow!

Sure, Moonlight may have brought a tear to your eyes with its inspired use of Barbara Lewis’ “Hello Stranger” in the diner scene, but For Your Consideration, could anything match the raw emotional catharsis of Emilio et al singing Queen’s “We Are The Champions” around a campfire? I didn’t think so. And with all the hubbub about the Academy Awards’ lack of diversity (anyone remember #OscarsSoWhite?) what could’ve been more diverse than bringing together team members from as far away as Minnesota and Illinois? Heartwarming!

The Oscars have always been a forum for celebrating the truest love stories in cinematic history. Really though, while the budding romance between Jack and Rose in 1997’s indie darling Titanic may have captured our hearts (and The Oscars’ eponymous golden statue), does it really hold a candle to Coach Gordon Bombay rediscovering his enduring love of the game? Or his fiery romance with the steadfastly Icelandic Marria? Or his fatherly affection for star player Charlie Conway? When you actually think about it, it’s a downright travesty that The Academy never brought itself to gild what is unquestionably the greatest love story of our time.

At the end of the day, The Academy Awards were created to shine a light on the films that inspire passion, to make us aspire to reach for the stars. Sure, William Wallace’s “Freedom” speech was enough to lead the Scots against the English in the face of almost certain death, but could it have helped them defeat the juggernauts of ice hockey; Team Iceland? Not on your life, son! Just think, if Coach Bombay had been there to teach them that “ducks fly together”, maybe things would’ve turned out differently. Maybe Brexit never would’ve happened. That’s not only the power to change lives, but to change history! If that kind of time travel capability isn’t Oscar worthy, then maybe I just don’t know what is.

Look, I’m not trying to be controversial here. All I’m saying is that if The Oscars really cared about celebrating the best that cinema has to offer, they would’ve seen the futility of subsequent ceremonies from the moment the knuckle puck graced the silver screen.

Well if you can take anything from this Oscar rant, it’s that I’m a grouch.

Went on an unprovoked Facebook rant after seeing a bunch of everything is fucked if La La Land wins Best Picture articles. A friend of mine commented that she didn’t get why the film was being so hyped. I got very Ranty McRantface. Here we go:

To be honest, I really liked the film. From the opening scene right to the end I found myself captivated visually and audibly. The colour palette and shot composition was beautiful. I enjoyed the dialogue and structure. It was funny and stirring when it needed to be. I thought the two leads had great chemistry. It felt like a massive experience and when I’m spending time in a theatre, that means a lot to me.

I think La La Land is a great film. I think Moonlight is too. At the same time, I feel like most of the backlash is Tall Poppy Syndrome due to some bizarre idea that the whole Oscars Industrial Complex has anything to do with rewarding merit and not just a chance for Hollywood to alley-oop itself and get more promotion for its films.
Why the fuck did they expand the Best Picture nomination section to ten films? Because money. Because then ten films can put “Academy Award Nominated” on their posters in an attempt to make them more appealing to film goers.
Do people think that La La Land was actually a terrible film? If they do, cool. Movies appeal to different people in an assortment of ways. Really though, are they shitting on it because it was poorly made? Or because they have an issue with the fact that Moonlight (an excellent, beautiful film, you’ve got no argument from me. Except maybe about the shaky camera technique that meant I couldn’t physically watch most of the film without feeling nauseous. Not the film’s fault, my body is weird) isn’t getting the respect that it deserves *because* of La La Land? If the Oscars didn’t exist, would people even care? Or would they both be independently enjoyable films?
People can think piece all they like about how The Oscars are failing society by not rewarding diversity or shining a light on films that represent social inequalities and struggles ignored by the mainstream, but the truth is that The Oscars don’t give a shit about people or non-mainstream views. They always have and likely always will be about the (predominantly rich/white, let’s not kid ourselves here) “cultural elite” patting themselves on the back with one hand while jerking themselves off with the other. Not until their ratings (advertising dollars) or major cinematic attendance suffered would they start to care about championing diversity. Even then, they wouldn’t care about people, just their money and the impact it has on them. The whole ceremony is a big joke that people take very seriously.
TL;DR – I think Moonlight should win too, but that doesn’t make La La Land remotely terrible. The Oscars aren’t a true gauge of a film’s value, that’s something you create for yourself. Also Mia not using BCC is 2016’s Kelly Rowland texting Nelly in excel.

Sunshine doesn’t carry the same amount of critical acclaim. Blame Cliff Curtis.

This one may be up a little late (as if anyone is that litigious about these things). I’ve got my suspicions and we’ll see if they’re confirmed. I’m expecting that my girlfriend is trying to throw a surprise birthday party. I had my “birthday party” two weeks early of my actual birthday. At the same time I hadn’t had an actual Toronto birthday. I feel like something was up. She mentioned a night cooking together at home alone (which could’ve been any other night of the week). Then she checked whether or not I’d seen her Facebook page. After which, the super big clue, when she told me I’d be missing out by not drinking over a weekend because of Call of Cthulhu. She rarely turns away my decision to not drink. It’s not like we were lacking for spare time. It’s a Saturday and I’ve had a full day out. Original plans were to play another round of Call of Cthulhu, our RPG campaign held by our game master extraordinaire. Either he tends to overstuff his campaigns or we ask too many questions, in any case, one shot campaigns usually end up taking two or three sessions instead. Because we’re trying to mobilise six people altogether, instead of being weekly, we do what we can. Which is a nice way of saying that it’s often months.

In any case, our game master had to work double overnights and our game was cancelled. So my girlfriend and I hit the movies. Plural. After catching Moonlight we snuck into Manchester By The Sea. Sorry not sorry. Two VERY different movies. Moonlight was fantastic, harrowing, inspiring, gorgeous and filled with shaky camera work. Within minutes I felt nauseous, and considerably ill by the end of it. Which is a major pity, cause there really was some stunning character work and cinematography. I loved what I saw when the camera was still, and when it wasn’t I just looked at the floor. Regardless, many tears were shed. Especially with a couple of the musical cues.
***
Okay, so admittedly I’m seven hours into a “surprise” party  that I expected. People have come and gone. I had mass amounts of love around me, buoyed by onesies and booze and puns. I can’t imagine anything more Leon than that. Just for good measure, I threw on some Neil Cicieraga. I have a lot of people here in Toronto who love me. A number who enrich my existence, who with no exaggerations make my life worth living. That could also be very much my drunkenness typing. There were good humans here tonight, which was a testament to Toronto denizens.
Despite the long day. Despite the two movies (the second of which I’ve barely talked about), I’ve had a day where I’ve dealt with the amazing humanity around me. I’m a lucky guy, and luckier still to have a girlfriend who not only knows best, but cares.

I guess that Point Break came after her breaking point.

It takes a long time to fly half way around the world. With four hours left of my third flight in a row, my bum can sure testify to that. My tailbone in particular is furious. Real “I am Jack’s raging tailbone” kind of stuff. My body has decided to cramp and groan all over, so sitting in my seat feels more like writhing in discomfort. I wonder if United wants to adopt that as their new slogan. I don’t know if the phrase “familiarity breeds contempt” was coined for insomnia purposes, but after upping the ante and taking two melatonin pills, I’ve had a hard time getting much more than 20 minutes sleep per hour. I did just have the inimitable pleasure of shitting through turbulence. No typo. I love turbulence. I have enough faith in statistics to assume we’re gonna be perfectly safe and on the odd chance that we’re not, I won’t have very long to worry about it. When you’re sitting on the bog, bouncing up and down while holding on to an assistance rail, it just seems more adventurous. I don’t want to say that the one downside to riding a horse is not being able to shit on the go (without being bucked off), but if you’d ever been craving that unique experience, shitting through turbulence must be pretty damn close.

It’s been a peculiar day, as surely only an entire day navigating through transit and transit hubs can be. I guess expecting too much out of airports would be… hubris? To be honest, they haven’t been that lousy. Overinflated prices for sure. I’m not even gonna think about how much that bento cost. Still, San Francisco was nice, with bouncy horizontal travellators and the always enticing opportunity to eat Boston style clam chowder from a bread bowl (your quality and mileage may vary). After grabbing Japanese for dinner, we quickly found some seats and discarded plastic champagne flutes to do our Toronto New Years countdown/kiss. We made our duty free stop all of ten minutes before our flight was due to board, but weren’t allowed to carry our duty free to the gate (where we were directly heading). Instead we had to go to the gate and wait for the DFS service staff to deliver our goods at said gate. It’s the first time my alcohol has ever had an entourage. OH YEEEAH!

To be honest, the flights themselves have been fine. No real issue with food, decent entertainment, friendly staff, they don’t charge for blankets (which may indicate how low the bar is set for air transit these days. Thanks WestJet). The first flight, after an unusual 40 minute taxi, was smooth and a mere hour long. I spent the entire time listening to an old Harmontown episode. There was a sublime moment with a mom and daughter, both with long blonde hair. Sitting across the aisle from one another, entirely unprompted, pulled out hair ties and pulled their flowing locks into buns. The elderly woman sitting across from us was the oldest woman I’ve ever seen in my life. Not necessarily in age, but in mannerisms. She started ripping articles from the in flight magazine to save from later. She then began writing short emails to friends and family with strange capitalisation. 20 minutes before the flight ended she stated using the in-flight entertainment app, spent 15 minutes deciding what to watch and, with five minutes remaining in transit, settled on the Point Break remake.

The second flight, five hours in duration, went by pretty quickly thanks to the aforementioned in-flight entertainment. I’d heard great things about Your Name, a 2016 anime. The movie was about a guy and gal who began randomly finding themselves in each other’s bodies as they awoke. It sounds a lot more gimmicky than the touching, compelling film it turned out to be. A couple of twists and turns accompanied by stunning visuals and an emotionally manipulative score meant I basically spent most of my flight alternating between laughing and sobbing inconsolably. Especially after the next film I watched, Captain Fantastic. A quirky but earnest film about a father being left to raise his (six or seven. I lost count) children alone in the bush after their mother passes away. The film is a hell of a lot more layered than that, but I’d hate to give too much away. Viggo (can’t spell his last name) is in the titular rule (I guess. Nobody explicitly calls him Captain Fantastic, but it’s sort of implied), with a tremendous cast of young talents. I once again cried many times, but an equal ratio of happy to sad cries. A truly wonderful film.

But then the sound jack on my 12.5 hour flight was fucked and I couldn’t really watch stuff. So here we are. Anyway, I need to go. I’ve got a well sized turd waiting in the wings. Fingers crossed for turbulence.

Less a knowing nod and more a knowing wave.

As part of our Jewish Christmas yesterday, we saw Disney’s Moana. Fantastically done, it was a classic hero’s journey story with a Polynesian backdrop. Coupled with Zootopia from earlier in the year, it’s a solid sign that Disney’s really buckled down and focusing on the quality of their output. There’s been a recent push (likely from armchair internet commentators) towards diversity and three dimensional characters. From this standpoint, Moana excels. Of course it’s a film for a broad audience and it’s casting a wide net of pan-Pacific cultural influence, so it’s not gonna get everything right. I really can’t speak for the personally affected cultures, but as someone who grew up on the Maui legends of Maori origin, seeing that onscreen held a deep resonance for me.

The story of Maui, as far as I understand it, varies between Polynesian cultures. The Maui I was raised with was a cunning trickster and shapeshifter as depicted in the film. In lieu of a magic fish hook, he was armed with his grandmother’s magical jawbone. I remember fondly the tales of Maui calling together his friends to slow down the sun or fishing up the North Island. I guess they left out the part where he, in a quest to make mankind immortal shapeshifted into a worm and crawled up the sleeping goddess of death’s vagina. A hero being crushed by vagina dentata wouldn’t really belong in the Disney Vault.

Seeing Maui perform a brief haka before charging into battle and Moana embracing a character with a Hongi gave me chills. Having the ocean personified as such a central character was great and, much like Life of Pi, its unforgiving and beautiful nature shone through. The songs were catchy, with some slick writing from Lin-Manuel Miranda and others. Moana’s literal/emotional journey were inspiring and her relationship with her grandmother was one of the film’s cornerstones. It was also nice to see some knowing winks at Disney clichés. The lack of a romantic subplot was an awesome touch in an industry where it’s so often shoehorned in. Romance is great when it fits, but not all stories have to be all things.

On a technical side, the film looked fantastic. Hair has always been such a benchmark of animation quality and they’ve nailed it here. I remember thinking back when Final Fantasy VIII was released that things couldn’t get better. The years have happily conspired to prove me wrong. The ocean being such a central character, is gorgeously rendered in a brilliant blue. The colour palette is lush and visually eye-catching, screens filled with background details. There’s a well cultivated sense of physics (even in a film about gods and demigods) that really comes to life in the action scenes. The film is simply a joy to watch.

Your viewing might be different than mine, but for me it felt very close to home. A home that’s only five days away! See you soon NZ.

Is nutmeg the silly seasoning?

I’m not convinced I didn’t just go to work to drink. It’s the end of the year and we’d worked so far ahead that my physical presence in the office was pretty unnecessary. That didn’t preclude me from coming to imbibe Christmas spirits and spread holiday cheers (not a typo). I got to work, left to do some LCBO Christmas shopping, shared a bottle of Bailey’s with my co-workers, toured The Rapture of our floor (with most having left for the year yesterday), went down the slide, then stood around shooting the shit with the team. I did maybe ten minutes of work altogether.

I listened to Local Business Comedy’s annual Christmas album, this year a parody of cherished “Now That’s What I Call Music” pop compilations. Wrecking Ball, Panda, Can’t Stop the feeling and more got the festive treatment. As always, solid production values and respect for the pre-existing songs made the parodies shine bright. Chance the Rapper dropped a Christmas mixtape yesterday, bringing up the quota of excellent holiday tunes. One more collection to rotate with Kreezus and LCD Soundsystem’s “Christmas Will Break Your Heart”. I’ve been trying hard to shirk my Grinchhood. Bordering on 30, in control of my life in a way I couldn’t be as a child, being a Christmas curmudgeon no longer serves me. It really doesn’t have much to do with religion and there’s nothing to rebel against. It’s just a time of year when people are in a good mood. Why shit on that?

Maybe there’s it’s the intentionality to my mood, but I’ve found it hard to feel anything but festive. Listening to my audio book (and you can get your own free trial at audibletrial.com/PAWD – gotta be a hustler) on the commute, things seemed blissfully uneventful. With people having left Toronto for the holidays, a layer of stress peeled off. There was no pushing, no need to squeeze in or contort your body to some uncomfortable Tetris piece. Commuters smiled, relaxed. Even retail staff, during what should be busy last minute chaos, seem to be riding the same wave. Every interaction I’ve had has been friendly, pleasant. Yet again, who’s to know if that can be attributed to a general energy or the demeanour I’m putting out? Whatever it is, I’m on board.

As for the next few days, I’ve left them pretty unplanned. It’s nice to lie back into whimsy and take life as it comes. Movies, editing, games, quiet workouts, food, drinks, friends and intimacy both emotional and physical. So basically Eat Play Love. Sounds like the opposite of work. A true Christmas Miracle.

Yippee Ki Yay, Melon Farmer.

Today in unnecessary proclamations: Die Hard is goddamn marvellous. I say this because, having seen it for only the second time, I marvelled throughout at how well composed it was. I wasn’t sober and for some reason this really made me hone in on structure. Die Hard has long been revered as The Best Christmas Movie (a title I’ll argue it shares with Gremlins and, depending on sobriety, Jingle All the Way) with good reason. The film is dynamite to watch, it crackles with personality and wit, has a strong set up and repeated pay-offs.

It’s amazing that Die Hard never feels crushed between the weight of its scale. It takes a while to realise, but there are a ton of characters. The first half hour widely introduces the stage, players and stakes without feeling cumbersome. We’ve got the variety of office staff, McClane and wife Holly, Hans Gruber and his terrorist team, Argyle the limo driver and the various police staff. Characters feel lived in and most of all, fun. Gruber is a fantastic villain. He’s clever and witty. Development and backstory are littered throughout the film. Whether it’s his meticulous note-keeping, awareness and ability to take advantage of John’s barefoot predicament or the neat little character note of his love of taking things apart to better understand every piece. Holly has conviction and wit beyond merely being a damsel in distress. The henchmen all have their own little quirks, whether it’s the blonde dude’s lavish movement or computer dude’s unflappable nature.

It’s rad to see how the film stands as a sign of the times. Action movies now are sleek, stylised and hyper-violent. If a lead character doesn’t know wushu, what the fuck is he doing tangling with henchmen? McClane fights his way through a tower of enemies, but it’s not dismissal with ease. He struggles and scrapes by with a combination of cunning and pure luck. It’s a cat and mouse game with the tables turning over and over. Willis looks baby-faced, but unlike modern heroes he’s not a chiselled tower of muscle. He’s fit, but not excessively so. Permanently cool calm and collected he ain’t. When something unexpected happens he’s momentarily startled or briefly panics. He has great quips, but more accurately he’s Popeye made flesh. Mumbling to himself constantly, throwing out silly one liners left right and centre.

It’s easy to understand why Die Hard has become a holiday tradition, why people watch it year after year as an emblem of the season. In short, classics are classics for a reason and this one is a fucking blast.

Now who wants to watch Jingle All the Way?