Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Choose Your Pain

Freedom was just moments away. Sean careened down the final passage, boots slamming against concrete as sirens wailed and the emergency lights painted the steel walls red. He rounded the last corner and -

 - stopped in his tracks as a barricade slammed shut in front of him, cutting off his escape.

Sean cursed, his internal rage meter pegged at maximum, metaphorical steam ready to boil from his flushed ears. An instant later, a rectangle flipped open at the centre of the barricade, and atop it rested several snacks:

  • A large barrel of pork rinds
  • A 1 kg bag of "Goodies" brand liquorice allsorts
  • A 24-count box of full-size Big Turk candy bars
  • A 12-count box of Cherry Blossom chocolate cherry candies
  • A 24-count box of Bounty candy bars
  • A 48-count box of Nose Candy
  • A 36-count box of black liquorice cigars
  • A 500 g bag of generic Halloween molasses taffy
  • A 500 g bag of Halloween candy corn
  • 5 generous servings of rice pudding with raisins
A disembodied voice boomed from above: 

"NAES! You have foiled my plans yet again, but this time I shall take my revenge. I can't stop you from escaping...but I can make your escape miserable. This barricade will open when, and only when, you have consumed the full amount any three of the snack items before you." 

"You monster!" Sean scowled, his stomach turning already. But he knew he had no choice. He fumed and deliberated, until at last his hands reached out...

*   *   * 

WHICH combination of vile snacks will Sean choose? Leave your answers in the comments! 

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Spazio 1975

What a wonderful toy this was, and remains. It's a circa-1975 Space: 1999 Eagle Freighter, made by Dinky. Mom and Dad bought it for me in Leaf Rapids in the mid-1970s, and I had many adventures with it alongside my friend Kelvin Bear, who had the Eagle Transport model. For a toy only a few years younger than I am, it's in great shape, missing just a few stickers, the tow rope that once raised and lowered the nuclear waste barrels, and some small plastic bits. This is one item I don't think I'll ever depart with. 

Monday, January 20, 2020

Soil & Vinegar

Tonight I discovered that if you pour leftover oil and vinegar salad dressing into your toilet, it creates a spectacular and authentic diarrhea effect. A great gag to play on your significant other! 

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Blue Moon

Damien Chazelle's First Man (2018) can be summed up in just a few words:

Sad astronaut goes to the Moon and sighs.

What a disappointment. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Once Upon a Time...on The Earliad


Once Upon a Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino, 2019) is Tarantino at his gentlest and most reflective, tapping the incredible power of nostalgia and transforming it into some of his most sumptuous imagery. HIs vision of 1960s Hollywood is almost painfully vibrant, colours jumping from the screen as if to scream "This is how beautiful the world can be!"

As Sharon Tate, Margot Robbie is magical, an avatar of the world's beauty, and also of shameless, innocent delight, a woman who loves life, loves people, and loves the world around her with breathtaking sincerity. Tarantino's decision to alter history and therefore preserve Tate seems a determined effort to push psychopathic evil back into Pandora's box, to create a less violent world, paradoxically, by brutally violent means in the hands of the film's two leads, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt as actor Rick Dalton and stuntman Cliff Booth, two men chasing the Hollywood dream before they're too old and worn out to truly seize it. In the better world Tarantino envisions, it seems as though they'll capture those dreams after all, at the 11th hour, just before all hope is lost...just like in the movies.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Fertile Seed

In Demon Seed (Donald Cammell, 1977), newly minted artificial intelligence Proteus has monstrous impulses, and yet his (its?) brutal drive to achieve first, freedom, and second, failing that, immortality through childbirth, is at least comprehensible to our relatively feeble human minds. Proteus violates his creator's wife, Susan Harris, repeatedly, abusing her physically, mentally, and emotionally. Proteus murders a scientist in one of the most grotesque ways possible, and he declares he would kill ten thousand children to ensure the birth of his own. Proteus is unquestionably a demon.

And yet, he cures leukemia and seems to promise, sincerely, that humanity will benefit unimaginably from the birth of his child. There's no question Proteus is an antagonist, but, like Susan Harris, by the end of the film the audience is nearly sick from trying to make the right choice: allow the demon seed to take root and grow, or destroy it?

Claustrophobic, fast-paced, and downright weird--with one particularly amazing prop that is still effectively menacing today--Demon Seed has some of the best qualities of 1970s science fiction, one of the genre's most interesting eras--a time of ideas and exploration.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Ad Astra Exasperata

Ad Astra (James Gray, 2019) is sumptuously gorgeous, with incredible production design and breathtaking interplanetary vistas. Its music is understated and effective, and Brad Pitt's vulnerable, melancholic performance is touching.

But on a story level, Ad Astra fails.

First, because grounded science fiction stories like this demand fidelity to real-world science, or at the very least, the issues presented must be hand-waved with some kind of plausible explanation. Audiences who recall their grade school physics and astronomy lessons will be pulled out of the film throughout its running time. This fault alone sinks the film.

Second, the father-son dynamic here is unnecessary and uncompelling--even distracting.

Third, the film's fundamental premise - that humanity would spend gazillions of dollars searching for extraterrestrial life - simply isn't believable as presented. While I would love to know the answer to the question of "Are we alone?", it beggars belief that any human society would invest in spaceships that look like they're worth more than Earth's entire current GDP. No, in order for me to believe that we would pursue this endeavor, we need to know more about how civilization on Earth has progressed. Having the luxury of answering the question at such vast expense would have to mean that Earth is, essentially a utopia, and that we've solved the majority of Earth's problems: climate change, disease, poverty, human rights. Had the filmmakers presented this quest as humanity's last great mission, I could have believed it. But we barely see Earth at all in this film, and what we see of human culture seems somewhat paranoid and invasive.

I wanted to love this film, but it collapses under the weight of its own implausibility. It's too bad, because the film almost becomes interesting in the final moments, when we learn that humanity is, in fact, alone. (Though how would we ever know for sure?)

Our collective response to the answer to the question "Are we alone?" is fascinating to imagine, and Pitt's response is, at the very least, interesting and believable.

In a better film, it might even be profound. 

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Dad on the Left

Here are two recently rediscovered photos of Dad, on the left in both images. The boy on the right is George Wells. This would have been shot in Nipawin, Saskatchewan, sometime in the early 1940s; maybe 1944, assuming Dad is two years old in these images.