Sunday, November 27, 2016

Lazy Sunday # 446: Johanna Under The Ice

It's cold here today. That kind of damp cold that just pierces you to the core. 

So I decide to stay inside and surf the net, finding a spectacular book of photographs entitled "The Last Days of the Arctic" by photographer Ragnar Axelsson. Sampled above and available from Amazon here which chills me even further.

I hate cold weather. 

I grew up in one of the coldest inhabited places on the planet (Saskatchewan) where you can go 40 or 50 days in Winter where the temperature doesn't get above minus 40 or 50. 

And it's supposed to make you hardy and resourceful and resilient and all those other positive character traits, which I'm sure it does. But it also left me feeling like, "Okay, I've done that. Can we move on? Maybe to somewhere warmer?".

So now I live where it doesn't snow, you only scrape the car windows a couple of times during the dark months and wait for Global warming to finally live up to David Suzuki's dire predictions.

But then guys such as Axelsson come along to remind you of just how freaking pretty frigid can be. 

So, like one of those guys who's afraid of heights but still has to lean over the roof railing of a tall building and look down, I went in search of a cold related video and found what follows...

Not long ago, Finish bicycle racer Johanna Nordblad crashed, badly breaking her leg. Her recovery regimen included cold water therapy which led her to a new sport, cold water free-diving, for which she holds the world record. And that led her to British Filmmaker Ian Derry and a truly remarkable film.

It's cold. And not a dry cold. But it's worth it.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Johanna Under The Ice - NOWNESS from NOWNESS on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Lazy Sunday # 445: The First Men

Last night somebody on my block turned on their Christmas lights for the first time. Despite the fact that Costco has been selling Christmas stuff for more than a month and all week the nice man from Canada Post has been dropping off Christmas catalogs and flyers, it still seemed too soon.

But it's not. So once again I have to suck it up and do one of the things I most don't enjoy doing -- shopping.

Don't misunderstand. I'm not opposed to commerce, spending money or even having to cope with crowds. I just don't enjoy malls that much.

Something about them just -- unsettles -- me. I'm not exactly sure why.

Maybe it's that the bookstores are getting fewer and smaller and with way more books about Cats.

Maybe it's that the record store doesn't have listening stations anymore but they have lots of movie loot like "Superman" Cookie Jars and "Star Wars" Alarm Clocks. How did the people who used to sell music decide that the same people looking for tunes by "Aerosmith" or "21 Pilots" would be suckers for "Ghostbusters" T-shirts?

Come to think of it -- maybe that's what unsettles me. That you're no longer a customer with needs and desires, you're just somebody who buys stuff. Any stuff. Even stuff at places like "Lids". Somebody who'll buy whatever they put on the shelf because -- well, because what else are you going to do with your time and money...?

Food courts particularly unsettle me. Food courts are where you always meet people you know. You'll engage in 2 minutes of small talk and then they'll invariably say, "So, you're at the mall" -- pointedly observing that you clearly don't have anything better to do with your time and money -- or perhaps your life.

Filmmaker Ben Keegan perfectly captures my dread of malls in a terrific short film, "The First Men", based on an even darker short story by Stacey Richter which you can read here.

It might even convince you to avoid the mall.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

The First Men from Benjamin Kegan on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Lazy Sunday # 444: Leon Russell

I first became aware of Leon Russell sometime in 1970 or 71 by way of one of the best Rock documentaries ever made, "Mad Dogs & Englishmen". Only later did I learn I'd been listening to him for more than a decade.

The story behind the film is that Cocker, fresh off the success of "Woodstock" and his first two Platinum albums, had just completed a gruelling months long tour of the United States. Arriving in LA, thoroughly burned out and intending to rest through the Summer and maybe recruit a new band for his next LP, Cocker dropped by his agent's office.

There he learned that said agent had booked him on a 52 city tour slated to depart the next week. When Cocker balked, he was told the Musician's Union, Immigration Officers and Concert Promoters would not reacte kindly to his desire to get some rest and he might not be allowed back into the country.

Luckily his friend, well-known session musician Leon Russell, came to his aid; quickly rounding up an assemblage of talent that could not only make Cocker sound better than he ever had before, but offer enough of their own material so the worn out bill topper wouldn't have to carry the load alone.

The result made Rock 'n Roll history and brought Russell to the forefront of American music.

A laid back, easy going and soft-spoken Oklahoman, Leon Russell had begun his career playing nightclubs at age 14 and had played on virtually every Top 40 single recorded in LA through the 50's and 60's, 

Over the years, even repeated bouts of Pneumonia, Brain surgery and a heart attack could not slow his astonishing musical output.

Leon Russell died this morning at the age of 74 leaving an award winning legacy of music across the genres of Rock, Country, Jazz, Bluegrass, Gospel and Blues not to mention a more important one of kindness and concern for his friends.

Here's a taste of "Mad Dogs", Russell's induction into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame and his biggest hit single.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Lazy Sunday # 443: Loose Ends

There's nothing that gives screenwriters nightmares more than the idea that they've left something unresolved.

The process of writing, no matter how organized, plot-mapped, index carded, character studied you are, is always chaotic. Ways to enhance or improve the twists and turns of plot and character you intended constantly spring to mind. 

As the tale unfolds, you inevitably find better ways to tell it. And then when you're done, you go back over the pages time after time, making sure everything tracks, it all makes sense and no one will ever question the logic of the fiction.

And you inevitably miss something.

As a junior member of the writing team on my first TV series, I remember waking up in a cold sweat one morning, realizing that the scene we were shooting that day left something important hanging. Something that needed to be fixed or the entire story would collapse like the house of cards it probably was.

It wasn't a script I'd written. But it was one I'd read a dozen times and a plot hole so big you could drive a truck through it. I raced to work, finding the senior story editor, an experienced Hollywood icon with credits on almost every show I'd ever heard of, calmly perusing the call sheet as he lit a smoke and reeled off the ponies he was picking to his bookie over the phone.

When he finally hung up, I spilled out the problem, my concern increasing because I still didn't have a clue how to fix the problem.

He squinted at me through the cigarette smoke and smiled, "No big deal, kid. Refrigerator moment."

That day I learned that if audiences are caught up in a story, they more often than not don't see the errors and omissions that drive we so-called professionals crazy.

A refrigerator moment is one where a guy watches the show, goes to get a beer while the credits roll, senses something was left out -- and then just drinks his beer and finds something else to watch and/or worry about.

A more nuances version of this is the "hot tub moment", where the guy gets his beer, settles in the hot tub and while recalling the leading lady's cleavage suddenly blurts out "Hey, wait a minute...".

For most people, watching movies and TV shows is just Chinatown -- "Forget it, Jake. It's only a movie." The experience is over. They got their money's worth. Time to move on.

But for us, the nightmare remains. Someday, some Comic Con asshole is going to raise his hand, ask about an episode of some TV series you don't even recall working on and reveal a plot hole so massive it'll be trending on Google and Twitter for weeks designating you as the irresponsible idiot who let it happen.

We've all got 'em. How long did Indiana Jones have to hold his breath to get where that submarine was going? Will Toto still have to be put down now that Dorothy is back in Kansas? Can you really escape the Nazis in Casablanca just by having a piece of paper?

I'm reminded of the refrigerator moment that annoys me the most every time I watch my favorite James Bond film "Skyfall". The entire film is set in motion by the search for a missing file that could reveal the names of every MI5 and NATO agent. But halfway through the film, nobody cares about that anymore because they've got a psycho-killer to worry about.

And maybe that old Hollywood hack whose pony picks I interrupted had the right idea. Maybe showing the audience a good time and giving them their money's worth is a laudable feat in itself. If they want accuracy, they can watch the Weather Channel.

Enjoy Your Sunday.