Oh My Dog: An Untitled Work of Fiction

Many months ago I started writing some fiction. It follows the horizontal line below. I didn’t know:

  • what I was doing;
  • actually, that’s it. I guess I didn’t need a list.

DISCLAIMER:

You might recognize commonalities between the text and my own life- that is intentional and very much a tribute to Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried”. It’s one of my very favourite novels. The fact remains, however, that like TTTC this is a work of fiction. 

I choose to write about what I know. If the characters weren’t inspired by people I know or knew, they wouldn’t be inspiring to read. Nonetheless, the characters are fictional. Sorry for knowing me.


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Chapter 1:

Six feet cracked the frost beneath, Camus gasped like a tired, corroded engine as he pulled on his lead and Matt Berninger’s baritone humdrum bellowed in my ears. Camus was willing me forward, steering me from the suburban sidewalk and into the frost of the fields despite headwinds drawing his eyes shut and the taut nylon that choked at his marble marbled neck. He was bounding, shivering frantic. His eyes reddening, his ears listening, his every muscle twitching to go. Wilde Jagd.

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TLDNW: La La Land

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We’re all aware of the phrase TLDNR (Too Long, Did Not Read) for posts on the Internet. This is a segment called TLDNW (Too Long, Did Not Watch). It’s for people that just don’t have time to go to the movies. Now, I work pretty hard every year to see the entire list of films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. You probably won’t get to all of them, because I assume you have a social life. Luckily for you, it is my goal in the following weeks to post reviews of the 2017 Oscar-nominated best pictures so that you can be caught up before the big night.

However, I know even reading a whole review is time-consuming and not for everyone. Many people just look at the star rating and don’t bother with the rest of the review. Even now you’re probably bored of this introduction.

So I’ll make it short and sweet. For every movie I review, I’ll include three sections: 1) A 1-word review, because frankly most people are lazy.  2) A 20-word review so you have things to say about the film when your friends ask if you saw it. 3) An in-depth 500-word review.

TLDNW: 1 Word

4/4

Alive

TLDNW: 20 Words

★★★★/★★★★

Earnest. Sentimental. White. Bright. Emma Stone as alive and vibrant as she’s ever been. AND SHE’S ALWAYS BEEN VIBRANT.

TLDNW: 500 Words

Four out of Four Stars

Hey. Shut the fuck up and listen. Do you not like fun? Is that it? Do you have some compulsion to hate things that other people like? Is that it? Do you just love to hate what people love? HUH?! IS IT COOL TO BE AWFUL?! Why do you hate this movie? Guess what idiot, you can like Moonlight and La La Land and no one will call you a racist or say you have a bad taste in movies. This is why I don’t like comparing movies on a ordinal scale – it deters from the idea that film can be equal in different ways. Moonlight is a gol-dang masterpiece and SO IS La La Land. You’re ALLOWED to like both of them. Do you think you’re COOL because you hate love and beauty? YOU AIN’T.

So just shut up about it already.

Yes, I admit that the film is pretty lacking in diversity of any kind and that a white guy trying to save jazz does not sound great as a sound bite – but I don’t care because this film was a passion project and it came to fruition in such a beautiful way.

So we cut to Damien Chazelle, the director of masterpiece and academy award winning film Whiplash. Whiplash was a relatively cheap film to make and proved that Chazelle knew how to direct. This film gave Chazelle the backing he needed to make a project he’s been working on for years and years. This is his baby. He is a lover of old cinema, and a director with heart and vision – something severe. ly lacking in Hollywood today – and made his dream come true.

So imagine being Damien Chazelle. Imagine working on a project for years and years and writing and directing and casting this piece you’ve been working on forever. Imagine hiring your college roommate to write the music and then having it PAY OFF. Imagine.

Okay, let’s talk about the movie. In a world filled with shitty remakes and reboots and film studios grabbing for money pandering to “sentimentality” or “nostalgia” La La Land succeeds. I’m talking Ghostbusters, Jurassic World, Trolls, Rogue One, Force Awakens, Finding Dory, The Jungle Book, and any other awful blockbuster franchise that is so prevalent today. Not to say these movies aren’t FUN or ENTERTAINING, but they are JUST movies.

La La Land is not JUST a movie. It, unlike many musicals from the 30’s and 40’s (from which the film draws much of its inspiration), roots itself into reality. If you saw the clip of Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) having dinner and placed it into a full drama you would believe it was a drama. The film does such a good job of pivoting from reality to fantasy – which I think is where the film succeeds. No one can say that Emma Stone was a bad ACTRESS in the film. Some argue she’s not a great singer (to which I say – listen to The Fools Who Dream a couple times and then a couple times more) but no one can argue that she absolutely crushes as an actor.

On top of the acting the film is a technical marvel. The editing is so perfect. The editors had to deal with giant musical numbers on freeways and tiny scenes set at an apartment piano. The challenge of making both scenes seem believable in this world is incredible. AND THE MUSIC. Writing a deeply realistic song set into the real world of the film and also a huge piano piece for dancing through the sky. It is perfect.

Others have criticizing for just copying old movies. To those people may I direct your attention to the tone-deaf and overly showy film Allied which copies the same formula (half of it takes place in Casablanca for f’s sake) and falls absolutely flat.

Anyway, all I’m saying is that we need to not see this film as whitewashing the Oscars (Moonlight was nominated for 8 Oscars) but as an artist’s vision. His vision was realized fully and perfectly.

Also, if you want to challenge me at the Oscar’s tonight just sign into the website with your Facebook! http://challenge.oscar.com/

TLDNW: Arrival

ARRIVAL-5.pngWe’re all aware of the phrase TLDNR (Too Long, Did Not Read) for posts on the Internet. This is a segment called TLDNW (Too Long, Did Not Watch). It’s for people that just don’t have time to go to the movies. Now, I work pretty hard every year to see the entire list of films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. You probably won’t get to all of them, because I assume you have a social life. Luckily for you, it is my goal in the following weeks to post reviews of the 2017 Oscar-nominated best pictures so that you can be caught up before the big night.

However, I know even reading a whole review is time-consuming and not for everyone. Many people just look at the star rating and don’t bother with the rest of the review. Even now you’re probably bored of this introduction.

So I’ll make it short and sweet. For every movie I review, I’ll include three sections: 1) A 1-word review, because frankly most people are lazy.  2) A 20-word review so you have things to say about the film when your friends ask if you saw it. 3) An in-depth 500-word review.

TLDNW: 1 Word

4/4

Human

TLDNW: 20 Words

★★★★/★★★★

Inception horns. Lost in Translation… in SPACE! Jeremy Renner and Amy Adams’ best work since American Hustle! (woof)

TLDNW: 500 Words

Four out of Four Stars

People keep asking me if I liked Moonlight or La La Land better. Which film should win best picture? It’s the Batman Vs. Superman of the Oscars this year. Well my favourite is Arrival. While others are fighting over Batman verses Superman I’m amped about Wonder Woman. (Read Batman as La La Land, Moonlight as Superman and Wonder Woman as Arrival if you need a map to THAT metaphor).

And that is exactly what Arrival is – wonderful. I’m nervous about it though. I’m nervous that the point of the film has been missed. I’m nervous that it will, in history, be remembered as a flashy science fiction film and not a film about humanity. Moonlight and La La Land will be remembered for their humanity but Arrival will be remember for a great twist and a great score and a great cast but for its sci-fi-ness and not for its deeply affecting message about humanity. Not to say the film isn’t flashy. It has one of the best wide pans I’ve ever seen. Using the Jaws principal we don’t get to see the alien spacecraft until Villeneuve wants us to see it.

Well I’m here to help remedy that. This is also means there are spoilers ahead (like ending of the movie spoilers, so tread with caution if you haven’t seen this one yet).

Okay now that we’ve gotten rid of those LOSERS let’s get into it.

Arrival takes place in a not so distant future where twelve alien spaceships have landed on earth and for one hour a day they invite humans inside to speak with them. Enter Amy Adams’ Louise Banks, a linguist and loner, who must help decipher what the aliens want on earth. It is slowly revealed that understanding of the alien language also helps humans learn that time is non-linear and grants them a view at their own past and future. The whole time you’re watching the film you know there’s going to be a twist. You know there’s information that you don’t give you but Denis Villeneuve decides exactly when he wants you to know what’s going on. He is a master of the cinematic tease. But here’s the thing – the twist is a distraction. It distracted me and it’s certainly distracting others. The movie is better and bigger than the twist.

The film is about unity. The code that the aliens deliver to earth is split into twelve parts. The nations of the world have to combine their knowledge to understand the message. There is a particularly tense sequence (and might I say Villeneuve is the master of suspense even in a non-horror movie) where the Chinese government cuts contact with the rest of the world and other leaders follow suit and the realization washes over the audience that independent nations CAN’T do it alone.

In a time when the world is decisively divided this type of film is important. It asks the question, “what if our division is our downfall?” It places our uncertainty about the future of earth into such an extreme circumstance that it highlights important aspects of our nature as people. It says that we NEED each other.

As for the ending which people are upset about – a little “deus ex machina” for some – wouldn’t it make sense that the Chinese General also has an understanding of the language and can see the future and would see how it works out? This only strengthens the idea of humanity and empathy.

It is funny that a film with giant aliens is perhaps the most human of the year.

Trades Address Major Needs for the Toronto Raptors

The NBA’s trade season is officially over, and with that comes a renewed sense of optimism surrounding the Toronto Raptors. After a hot start to the season, a brutal stretch beginning in January has the team closer to the middle of the pack than the front in the Eastern Conference playoff race. During this time, it had become increasingly clear from the team’s play that something had gone stale – a concerning turn of events for a group that not long ago sat within striking distance of the Cleveland Cavaliers. For a franchise that has enjoyed its greatest prolonged stretch of success in recent years, the sense of concern among fans and players alike was palpable heading into All-Star Weekend.

With these struggles in mind, Masai Ujiri and his Blackberry Passport tapped into the trade market and came away with some goodies. With last week’s trade for Serge Ibaka, and this afternoon’s buzzer-beating addition of P.J. Tucker, the Raptors front office came away with an enviable haul at a reasonable cost. Let’s take a look at the changes, and how they’ll theoretically affect the remainder of the season.

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TLDNW: Hell or High Water

We’re all aware of the phrase TLDNR (Too Long, Did Not Read) for posts on the Internet. This is a segment called TLDNW (Too Long, Did Not Watch). It’s for people that just don’t have time to go to the movies. Now, I work pretty hard every year to see the entire list of films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. You probably won’t get to all of them, because I assume you have a social life. Luckily for you, it is my goal in the following weeks to post reviews of the 2017 Oscar-nominated best pictures so that you can be caught up before the big night.

However, I know even reading a whole review is time-consuming and not for everyone. Many people just look at the star rating and don’t bother with the rest of the review. Even now you’re probably bored of this introduction.

So I’ll make it short and sweet. For every movie I review, I’ll include three sections: 1) A 1-word review, because frankly most people are lazy.  2) A 20-word review so you have things to say about the film when your friends ask if you saw it. 3) An in-depth 500-word review.

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TLDNW: 1 Word

2½/4

Stark

TLDNW: 20 Words

★★½/★★★★

Ben Foster is underrated. Chris Pine is adequately rated. There is a scene with a waitress that might be the best scene of the year.

 

TLDNW: 500 Words

Two and a Half out of Four Stars

When I’m listing the best picture nominees Hell or High Water is always the one I forget. That is perhaps an indication of its prowess as a best picture nominee. Okay, I have some weird stuff I want to talk about with best picture nominees. From 1931-1943 there were up to ten best picture nominees and in 1944 they switched over to having only five nominees. This five-picture mentality stuck until 2009 when the academy decided to up the nominees to ten best picture nominees. Now if you’re going to switch things over 2009 is the year to do it. The nominees included: The Hurt Locker, Avatar, District 9, Inglorious Basterds, Precious, Up, Up in the Air (to name the best). Then for a few years there were ten, and then there were nine for a while, and then for the past little while they’ve only nominated eight. I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE SAYING. YOU’RE SAYING SPENCER WHY THIS IS BORING. STOP.

Well this is my only platform so shuuuuut up. Here’s my main point. This year the academy switched back to nine nominees- why include this one? What was it about Hell or High Water that made the academy say “this year it’s nine guys!”? It seems a shame that films like Loving or Silence or the foreign masterpiece Elle would be excluded for a deeply forgettable film like Hell or High Water. Why break the trend to include nine, but not a tenth? It seems weird to stretch for this film but not others. I dunno, I’m cranky and they should just make up their minds. Either go down to 5 or nominate ten every year. PICK A NUMBER PEOPLE. Am I rambling? I’m rambling.

Anyway, Hell or High Water follows two brothers (Chris Pine, Ben Foster) who rob banks or whatever and are followed by an aging/racist police officer (Jeff Bridges), I guess. It’s sort of feels like No Country for Old Man but isn’t nearly as slick. It feels like a weird extension of Crazy Heart but isn’t as heartfelt. It tries to be a bunch of other movies and isn’t very good on its own.

Okay, it has merit. It’s not a mess and it’s a lot more enjoyable than Fences and it’s not nearly as tone deaf as Hacksaw Ridge. It’s really well shot and Ben Foster gives a career best. The bleak Texas backdrop provides ample opportunity for symbolism and is there is a stark quietness to much of the film. There is a particular scene in a diner where a server accosts Jeff Bridges and his partner. It is one of the best scenes of the year. Margaret Bowman steals the whole movie. You can watch this scene here:

As great as this scene is- what does it say about your film when a scene stolen by a bit character outshines the whole thing?

Jeff Bridges does a great job as an old man (I guess the cowboy hat fits). It is strange to me, however, that there is Oscar buzz for him. There is one moving scene that he gives, but other than that it’s a pretty run of the mill performance. If anything Michael Shannon (who plays a very similar character) is closer to dethroning Mahershala Ali than anyone else.

Hell or High Water is not terrible, but it’s not great, and what’s worse is that it is deeply and unceremoniously forgettable. I left the theatre saying, “hey! That was pretty good!” and then immediately forgot about it. Which is one of the worst things a best picture nominee can be.

TLDNW: Manchester by the Sea

We’re all aware of the phrase TLDNR (Too Long, Did Not Read) for posts on the Internet. This is a segment called TLDNW (Too Long, Did Not Watch). It’s for people that just don’t have time to go to the movies. Now, I work pretty hard every year to see the entire list of films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. You probably won’t get to all of them, because I assume you have a social life. Luckily for you, it is my goal in the following weeks to post reviews of the 2017 Oscar-nominated best pictures so that you can be caught up before the big night.

However, I know even reading a whole review is time-consuming and not for everyone. Many people just look at the star rating and don’t bother with the rest of the review. Even now you’re probably bored of this introduction.

So I’ll make it short and sweet. For every movie I review, I’ll include three sections: 1) A 1-word review, because frankly most people are lazy.  2) A 20-word review so you have things to say about the film when your friends ask if you saw it. 3) An in-depth 500-word review.

manchester2

TLDNW: 1 Word

4/4

Real

TLDNW: 20 Words

★★★★/★★★★

Lucas Hedges should win every award. Casey Affleck should cool it. Wait. Is that Matthew Broderick? What the hell is he doing here?

TLDNW: 500 Words

Four out of Four Stars

Manchester by the Sea tells the story of Lee, quiet and solemn, working in Boston as a custodian for a large apartment block. His brother, Joe, dies suddenly leaving Lee the only guardian for Patrick, Joe’s son. The rest of the film unfolds as the audience discovers Lee’s tragic past, and Patrick’s uncertain future. Patrick is played by the incredible Lucas Hedges who is so believable and funny as 16 year old Patrick.

Okay, okay, I know – Casey Affleck is a creep. He is fighting some major sexual assault allegations and rightfully so- he sexually assaulted someone. So I’m going to say this off the hop. I’m going to remove art from artist in order to write this review. I want to be able to write openly about a movie that I really liked – it’s just tough when the main actor is super gross.

The biggest thing is that I do think Casey Affleck deserves the Oscar. He is fantastic in this movie. He’s subtle and quiet (a trait I think is lost on the academy) and does such incredible justice to the script. However, I think the fact that he sexually assaulted a number of people should stop him from winning the Oscar. It happened to Nate Parker, and it should happen to Casey. Unfortunately he’s white so he’ll win anyway.

Okay, back to separating art from artist. Manchester by the Sea is a masterpiece. The acting is impeccable, the story is devastating and it’s one of the best scripts I’ve ever heard. That last point is what I want to focus on in this review. The script is beautiful. More than clever or funny (of which it is both), it is so real. Kenneth Lonergan (writer/director) captured domestic life in New England and builds tension and tragedy in such a perfectly real-to-life way.

The film is long, almost 2 and a half hours, but never feels like it. The script unfolds in a very slow way, but never feels dragged. I found myself sitting and watching and thinking, “why am I watching these scene? Why is this happening here? And now?” Many of the scenes are not plot based. They are character based. I think one of the things we need to start focusing on in film (and this is contradictory to my review of Lion but I can believe two things) is using script to develop character on their own and not tie it so deeply into plot. In fact I kept waiting in Manchester for something to happen. I kept saying, okay what’s going to be the climax of this film. Spoiler alert- there isn’t really one. Yes, things happen, and yes most of those things are sad, but plot wise it doesn’t move very far.

But what Lonergan does is so remarkable. He develops characters through plot. He uses plot points (owning a boat, losing your virginity, joining a band, getting a job, seeing you ex-wife pregnant) as catalysts for characters to change and learn. He uses story as a means, not an end. The end result, then, is a beautiful look at how we deal with grief and family. It’s beautiful. It’s funny. It’s just too bad Casey Affleck is an abuser.

TLDNW: Lion

We’re all aware of the phrase TLDNR (Too Long, Did Not Read) for posts on the Internet. This is a segment called TLDNW (Too Long, Did Not Watch). It’s for people that just don’t have time to go to the movies. Now, I work pretty hard every year to see the entire list of films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. You probably won’t get to all of them, because I assume you have a social life. Luckily for you, it is my goal in the following weeks to post reviews of the 2017 Oscar-nominated best pictures so that you can be caught up before the big night.

However, I know even reading a whole review is time-consuming and not for everyone. Many people just look at the star rating and don’t bother with the rest of the review. Even now you’re probably bored of this introduction.

So I’ll make it short and sweet. For every movie I review, I’ll include three sections: 1) A 1-word review, because frankly most people are lazy.  2) A 20-word review so you have things to say about the film when your friends ask if you saw it. 3) An in-depth 500-word review.

lion-movie-2016

TLDNW: 1 Word

3/4

Foreign

TLDNW: 20 Words

★★★/★★★★

Dev Patel crying over maps and … is hot? They finally let Nicole Kidman be Australian. The tiniest, cutest Indian boy. Rooney Mara dancing in the street???

TLDNW: 500 Words

Three out of Four Stars

There is something so beautiful about a foreign film. Something so beautifully un-American about how foreign films look and feel. They don’t have to answer to anyone. Lion is almost a foreign film. I mean technically it was produced by the Weinstein company and there’s no way this tiny film would have gotten any notice without being backed by Harvey himself. However, the film feels so foreign and it is a beautiful change of pace.

Lion follows a young Indian boy named Saroo who becomes lost in India and accidentally rides a train for miles and miles. He isn’t pronouncing his hometown’s name correctly so no one can help him and he ultimately ends up in an orphanage. This action, the following Saroo around India, is almost completely devoid of dialogue. Garth Davis, the director, said that he drew inspiration from Wall-e in watching a single character struggle in near silence. This too, adds to the feeling of foreignness. So few Blockbusters would dare spend that much time in silence. (UNLESS YOU’RE THE MOVIE SILENCE BADA-BOOM-BADA-BING, my life is lonely). Just over half way through the movie Saroo is adopted by a couple from Tasmania and the rest of the movie tracks Saroo’s search from home using the, at the time, recent technology of Google Maps. It’s a true story and it’s pretty incredible.

I was skeptical, like many of you I’m sure, about Dev Patel’s supporting actor nomination but it is true- he is in less than half of the film. Although he is the main character it is the adorable Sunny Pawar who plays Saroo for the majority of the film. Dev Patel is fantastic and it is no surprise that he was nominated for the supporting actor category. Nicole Kidman is also excellent and generally steals the show for the second half of the movie. Rooney Mara, who is usually so consistently good, is terrible. Her character is like a weird extension of her character in The Social Network (remember when she was in that?). Her character sits in the awful realm of being just a bland, flat, attempt at a love story. She should never play a normal character. He work in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is unparalleled, but keep her away from playing “the girlfriend”.

The thing I think I liked most about Lion, which is lost in lots of big movies, is that it focuses on the story. It doesn’t need to show excellent acting, or big effects, or a really overly clever script. Lion wants to tell you this incredible story. It wants you to cry and, although sometimes it tries a little hard, it succeeds. It’s the reason why the story isn’t told in flashbacks (kill me). It’s told in two parts. It doesn’t care how much screen time Dev Patel or Nicole Kidman get, because it wants to focus on telling you the story.

It’s also beautifully shot. It was nominated for cinematography, which it deserved, and some of the slow beautiful shots of impoverished India are fantastic. Anyway, it won’t win best picture and a lot of people probably won’t like it or dismiss it as schmaltzy – but I don’t really care.