MADDOX WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE

For those of you that have kind of spent your net lives going to typical Web 2.0 sites like Facebook or GMail daily but don’t have a great site to see what real misanthropic, over-the-top, funny-as-hell posts on life. Maddox’s been around for a long time, but if you haven’t gone to his site, you have to check it out.

I could try doing an impression of his style. Here’s a go.

I’m sitting in a cafe right now with James Blunt playing. Oh man, I hate James Blunt music. I really do. I still can’t understand how anyone in this world could possibly like this guy’s music. It’s like listening to a second-year undergraduate sing lame poetry in a coffee house. It’s so earnest and self-aware you want to take a .45 and blast the speakers out. Are people really this desperate for music that “touches them” on some level that they’re willing to embrace stereophonic vomit?

So many people have such incredibly bad taste or are so afraid of being different they’ll embrace whatever is spoon-fed to them by Oprah. God, get some backbones. Who cares what the average person cares about your taste in culture? Challenge yourself to grow and do different things, not the same old, same old.

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JESSE JAMES AND ACROSS THE UNIVERSE

I saw a couple of films yesterday in a series of what is quickly becoming a season of movie greatness: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Across The Universe. Both films are stunning, lush films that go along at leisurely paces, but in this case, that’s a very good thing.

First up, Jesse James.

I have to say, while I’ve always respected Brad Pitt’s choices in films (seriously, has he ever done anything bad? Well, okay, The Mexican was pretty bad), Jesse James is one of his finest works yet. Pitt plays James as an anti-hero with a menacing quality only hinted at in previous roles Pitt has done. His work is so good that it would be a shame to see him lose out on an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in several months time.

The real find of this film is Casey Affleck, who gives the performance of his career as the doomed Robert Ford. Ford is kind of pathetic from the get-go as a wannabe gunslinger, a star-struck kid unable to get past the mythology of Jesse James. Ford begins to descend into a pit of despair and anguish as he sees James for what he really is: a violent, manipulative killer with very human qualities of arrogance and paranoia.

The best part of Jesse James, however, is the cinematography – this is one of the best shot films I’ve seen in a long time. I love westerns with a passion, but Jesse James is so well-shot, so lovingly embracing of sunsets, horizons and vistas, it almost demands a second viewing to take it all in again.

On a deeper level, Jesse James is a very modern parable about the toxic celebrity culture we live in today. The pattern is alarmingly familiar to anyone bearing witness to the freak show of Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and other attention-seeking folk: the myth of a celebrity is both seductive and horribly destructive. James is haunted by his celebrity across the world and the toll it has taken on his life, and Ford’s expectations of James are shrouded in comic books and legends. In the end, it destroys them both.

This is a terrific movie – go see it, it’s one of the year’s best works.

Across The Universe, while not a western, is just as epic in scope and compelling in character as Jesse James.

Directed by Ken Russell-heiress Julie Taymor (Titus, Frida), this is a very trippy, 60’s era music set to Beatles’ music from 1963 to 1969.

There’s a lot to like about this musical. Unlike Hairspray, which, while fun and deliberately gaudy, Across the Universe is willing to dive right into some heavy stuff (the Vietnam War, Detroit Race Riots, drugs, political assassinations, student protests) during America’s most turbulent decade (until now, I might add) with aplomb. The Beatles tracks have been effectively re-worked and sound great – particularly the rock-out versions of Helter Skelter and Revolution. Not so good is Bono (with a peculiar American accent, no less) singing I Am The Walrus. This is the only cringe-inducing moment in the whole film. Bono redeems himself with Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, but Walrus isn’t his shining moment.

The whole film feels distinctly of another era – it has the 70s surrealism of Russell’s Tommy and guest-stars coming out of the woodwork (Joe Cocker and Eddie Izzard are both welcome additions). There’s some crazy visuals in the whole exercise of Taymor-esque proportions (the induction center U.S. military guys are a real trip) that go a bit too far here and there, however.

But the real stars are Evan Rachel Wood and Jim Sturgess, star-crossed lovers who really nail their songs and characters well. Wood in particular, who normally seems like the ultimate femme fatale, is great in a much more vulnerable role for her than usual.

All in all, these two films are definitely worth the money. It’s turning out to be a great fall for movies.

BLOGGING, V 2.0

Well, it’s time for a change. Welcome to my new WordPress blog!

This is very much a work-in-progress blog, but there will be more changes in the weeks ahead. My archives are fully searchable from the old blog.

VIRGIN FESTS AND THE POLITICS OF ONTARIO

So the last week and a bit have been pretty crazy times. I went to the Virgin Festival on the Toronto Islands on Saturday – it was terrific. M.I.A. completely blew everyone away, the Arctic Monkeys were terrific, Princess Superstar spun some great tracks in the Bacardi B-Live tent (dancing in a sweaty, cramped tent that feels like a sauna is actually more fun than you think – hearing PS scream over a microphone, not so much!) and Bjork… well, she was pretty incredible. That’s all you have to say. Interpol was good, if not kind of bored in that detached rocker sort of way.

ONTARIO ELECTION: So the next provincial election in Ontario is in a month and a bit and the candidates are all out there in full force now. I never thought I’d get to the point where I’m actively against the Liberals and Conservatives both being elected to a majority government. But that’s where I am. I’m supporting the Green Party this election.

Which, of course, also lends some insight into my perspective on MMP. I’ll be actively supporting this proposition and hope everyone else does too – Ontario will be better off with a more representative democracy instead of the antiquated first-past-the-post system that’s slowly destroying any interest in parliamentary politics the under-35 set has.

LUCIANO, I ALREADY MISS YOU

It’s taken a few hours to fully digest that he’s gone. I’m still not quite believing Luciano Pavarotti, arguably the greatest tenor that’s ever lived in the era of mass culture, died at his home in Modena today with his wife and children by his side. The man was only 71.

You have to understand: Pavarotti’s music has had a huge impact on me and my life. My mom was a big opera and classical music fan for years when I was growing up and I used to hear Pavarotti’s music circulating around my house all the time when I was little. I watched religiously the Three Tenors concerts during the World Cups of 1990, 1994, 1998 and 2002. His performance at the Turin Winter Olympics’ Opening Ceremony will go down as one of the great moments in Olympic history.

And, of course, there’s that song – Nessun Dorma, which is just such a beautiful aria that it almost brings you to tears hearing it.

Rest in peace, Luciano. I’m already missing you.

IMAGINE THIS WORLD

Have you ever wondered when and how this digital revolution is going to begin its final push towards ending the domination of print as the written word’s medium of choice? Well, if Arthur Schulzberger, publisher of the New York Times, has his way, it could be coming soon – a lot sooner than you think.

While I can’t recall the exact place I read this (I think it was the new edition of the Walrus), the NY Times may, in five years, depending on circulation and ad revenues, stop printing a newsprint-based paper (i.e. treeware) altogether and focus exclusively on the web and .PDF version of the paper available for download. How, exactly, this will generate the revenues required to run the NY Times is anyone’s guess, but given how profitable and cheap online advertising has become, who knows what the online ad market will be like by 2012.

This is a big move, given that the Times is the standard by which all other North American newspapers are judged by in terms of innovation, content and influence.

If the Times goes entirely digital, does that mean the Globe and other “papers of record” are headed this way too? Given that a lot of Baby Boomers would probably have a tough time with this adjustment, I suspect it won’t happen here in Canada for awhile yet. We’ll have to see.