The Thin Blue Line

The last of our Hot Docs selections was The Thin Blue Line (hot docs | imdb | rotten tomatoes), part of the Errol Morris Retrospective. I’ve wanted to see this movie for years, and was happy to find out that it would soon be released on DVD…but then I heard that it was coming to Hot Docs (along with Morris himself), and so I made sure that this made the short list.

Even knowing the impact that the film had, and the results it produced in overturning the conviction of Randall Adams, it was still captivating to watch. The style that Morris essentially created with this film was unlike most documentaries of the time, filled with re-enactments and repetitive imagery — “fetishistic”, as he put it — to the point where some questioned whether it was still a documentary. But as he said last night, it uses the real people to tell a real story, and it provoked a real result in a real man’s life.

We’ve found that in many cases the best moments at Hot Docs come afterward, in the Q&A session. This might have been more true last night than ever before; Morris shared all manner or stories about how the film was made, pieces he left out, and so on, often diverging wildly from one story to another until he’d give five answers for every question. There were many such insights, but two stick out:

  1. He’d made the movie quite by accident, having met the psychiatrist (“Dr. Death”) and reviewing old case files, we happened upon Randall Adams on death row and pursued the story for three years.
  2. Randall Adams actually sued Errol Morris after his release. Adams and his attorneys figured that Morris must be getting rich off the feature film, which is nearly impossible for a documentary, especially in the 80s, especially when Harvey Weinstein has hold of the financial reins. Morris recounted a quote from his wife: “Just because you’re a victim doesn’t mean you’re not as asshole.”

Throughout the film I was struck by the number of similarities to the case of the West Memphis Three: the violent crime, the public hunger for an arrest and the shoddy, rushed police work in an attempt to quickly convict, the reliance on extremely suspect witnesses, the overlooking of an obvious suspect, and the subsequent public outrage after exposure by the media (read Mara Leveritt’s Devil’s Knot or watch the documentary Paradise Lost by the same folks who brought you Some Kind Of Monster). If you haven’t seen The Thin Blue Line or you haven’t learned about the West Memphis Three, I urge you to do both. There is a terrifying chance of history not repeating itself.

111487807204588725

An EKOS poll result shown in today’s Toronto Star (pdf) suggest that Conservative support is greatest:

  • in Alberta
  • among males
  • among those aged 45-64
  • among high-school (but not college or university) graduates
  • among those earning more than $100,000/year

So the Conservative target demographic is a rich middle-aged man living in Alberta. Ladies and gentlemen, I believe we have found the least surprising poll result in history.

Here's the sun, it's alright

Right. It’s been almost 24 hours and I’m still a little hopped up from the Arcade Fire show, so I’m going to have to do this point form. Nothing eloquent here. Let’s get to it. Kick it, as it were.

Hype

  • There’s little point in giving you the background on this site. If you read this blog then you already know all about them, and know the buzz surrounding their music (from Pitchfork and every 2004 top ten list in indie creation, mine included), their live shows — especially their pass through Lee’s Palace a few months back, which Chromewaves wrote up so well — and from this very blog.
  • Add to all that the comments I’d read on stillepost (note: at the time of this writing the site is down, probably because of this very topic), and I was ready to see me some life-altering concert.

Prep

  • M2 and I arrive at Broadview station at about 8. I know there’ll be a line leading up to the entrance of the Danforth Music Hall, but…
  • …I’m not expecting a lineup of film festival proportions. We get in line about 15 people beyond where it turns the corner onto Broadview. Son of a…
  • We actually move fairly quickly, and get in around 8:25. Our seats are very near the top, but in the middle so we actually have a pretty good view.Five minutes after we sit down they drop the lights.

Final Fantasy

  • Neither of us know much about Final Fantasy. I figure out quickly that Owen is also in AF, but I suspect we’re the only two who didn’t already know that. Anyway, when he walks on stage he’s dressed head to toe in tight white clothing. M2 announces, “Here’s Dieter.”
  • Three minutes into the set we’re blown away. He’s playing a violin, but he’s got a pedal-controlled tape looper so he’s recording segments of his own play, then looping it back and playing over top while he records and then loops it back and plays…and so on. By the end of each song it sounds like there’s a string section on the stage, and it’s pretty impressive stuff. We give each other the “holy crap” look as the crescendo of one piece reaches Thurston Moore proportions.
  • There’s also a woman standing behind the drum riser playing about with an overhead projector. This seems to be a trendy little addition to shows now, ever since Feist got boatloads of hipster approval when she incorporated it into her Mod Club show last year or whenever. It’s cute, and it probably helped Owen relax a bit knowing that everyone was looking at the little dinosaur cutouts kiss and play in houses, but…yeah. Hooray.
  • Goofy dinosaurs or no, this guy is kicking our ass. Best song, I think, is “This Is The Dream Of Win And Regine”. At this point I think M2 feels sheepish about calling him “Dieter”, if he remembers anything about what was happening ten minutes ago.
  • Early on, we take notice of the requisite drunk annoying ass in the crowd. He’s just to our left, and he’s the kind of guy who can’t wait to yell witty things at the band ’cause, you know, he’s just their fucking brand of cool. [Much to my satisfaction, the next morning the message boards were full of nasty comments about “the annoying drunk guy”]
  • At some point, Win Butler walks past us, talks to some guy in the aisle, and walks back past us. I identify him to M2, who’s surprised by how the singer for this indie band is built like a bouncer.
  • Owen closes the set by bringing out two members of the AF and Gentleman Reg (of the Hidden Cameras, etc.) to help him play a cover: Mariah Carey‘s “Fantasy”. No foolin’. I love this as a way to end a set. Kick our ass, make us want to run out and buy (or at least download) your CD, and then make us laugh and chatter about what the hell just happened long enough to sustain our patience for the next opener. Well done.

Wolf Parade

  • Another band riding the Montreal wave, but I had little fear. These guys have a prety solid rep, and I’ve heard one or two of their songs already. They kick in at 9:15 sharp.
  • So how do you follow an act like that? Unless Mariah Carey walks out and plays a bunch of Final Fantasy songs, it’s pretty hard to top what we just saw. But Wolf Parade, to their credit, don’t try; they just rock with a purpose, and get us from “gawp” to “fist pump” with all possible speed. It’s not complicated or groundbreaking, but it does the job and I like most of it.
  • Pretty much as soon as they start, a girl stands up to dance. Win jumps off the stage next to her to watch the band; thus begins the great rush to the front. Within minutes the front of the stage is crammed with people (including Drunk Annoying Ass), and the first few rows of seats become standing room.
  • Wolfie says they’ve been told to keep it short, so they burn through their set. Again, good job; you’ve fired up the crowd without any chance of upstaging the main event.

The Arcade Fire

  • 10:00. They start. Weird; they came out and tuned their own instruments, prepped their own gear before the set started.
  • There are lots of other sources out there covering what they played and didn’t play, including Chromewaves and the stillepost message boards, should the site ever come back online. The consensus seems to be that they appeared hesitant at first, that it wasn’t quite as magical as the Lee’s Palace show of last year, and that it ended differently (and earlier) than the previous night’s show. More on that later.
  • I also don’t need to point out all the crazy antics on stage: the guys in helmets, drumming on whatever they can reach, attacking each other, dancing crazily, bellowing along to every song. But I will say this: despite being fully aware of it going in, it still blows me directly the fuck away. The theatrics are entertaining. That they’re able to employ the theatrics without compromising the music is baffling. But it’s natural, I suppose; this music’s not for standing still. I regret that Toronto, and myself, are so passive during a show like this. A very large part of me feels like leaping on to the chair and screaming, “We think about our parents…whatever happened to them??!?!”, but that part rarely wins.
  • I like that they slip up a couple of times, like when Win just seems to miss his guitar for a measure or two, or when they almost stop right before the big kick to “Crown Of Love”, though I think that’s planned. It’s a bit too perfect to be random.
  • Also, at one point, Win has to stop the crowd from clapping along with a quiet section because crows can’t fucking keep time. This is a pet peeve of mine, especially since I was one a drummer. Five or more people with no musical talent will, without fail, speed up when clapping. It is an absolute, irrefutable law of nature. So I love how Win shuts them up when it starts to screw up the song. Go Win go.
  • They also seem a little irritated (a notion seconded by the message boards); is it because the crowds at their shows are becoming less informed indie fans and more yobs intent on hitching a ride on the latest coolest thing? For an example of such a yob, see Drunk Annoying Ass.
  • Anyway…highlights, for me: all of it, really and truly. But specifically: the extended ending on “Haiti”, “Neighbourhood #1 (Tunnels)” and “Rebellion (Lies)”. “Haiti”, probably my least favourite song on Funeral, but the endy-part is just killer, especially with little Regine letting fly at the mic. The latter two give me chills.
  • There is only one encore. The band pulls half the audience onto the stage and plays “Wake Up”. White light everywhere, and watching them all scream along is something to behold, like marooned shipwreck survivors begging to be left on their island.
  • Drunk Annoying Ass is thrown out. My faith in humanity is faring almost as well as my faith in rock and roll tonight.
  • The band, rather than walk out through the audience and into the street (as they usually do) just finished the song and walks off. They actually have to send Owen out to say, “No, really, we’re done.” No one wants to leave; we’re expecting another encore, and are all crushed by the idea of it being over.
  • Best concert in a long time, especially value for the dollar terms. Ranks right up there with the Trail Of Dead shows or Bob Mould. Plus, profits go to a Haitian hospital, so that pushes the value up even more.
  • M2 says on the subway ride home, it’s good that this kind of music is out there. People will remember this music, this concert, in ten, twenty, thirty years.
  • I get home by 11:30. I want to post, but I can’t. I crawl into bed. Everything I’ve just seen, it’s sinking in. Taking hold. I’m so happy that I’m nearly in tears. I fall asleep humming Neighbourhood #4. Tea kettles whistle as I fall off.

111460469751139908

This sucks. My friend who sits next to me at work is going to be gone for 2-3 months. She was my source of daily entertainment, so it’s gonna be a quiet spring. As far as the other two people with whom I’ll share a pod (as of Monday), one is on vacation in Pakistan/Dubai and the other only works part time in this office, so it’ll be a tomb in here next week.

First Stanzi deserts me, and now T-Bone. Was it something I said?