"This rock has been waiting for me my entire life."

[BEWARE: INCREDIBLY OBVIOUS SPOILERS BELOW]

Because it was such a famous story I knew — just like everyone does — what I’d be seeing when we watched 127 Hours (imdb | rotten tomatoes) last night. The whole world heard about Aron Ralston seven years ago. Still, I couldn’t pass up the chance to see the story as told by Danny Boyle, especially when it’s been garnering such good reviews.

It was, not surprisingly, really good. I thought the film might get boring when it spent an hour in the canyon; it didn’t. I didn’t think Boyle could bring much flare to the proceedings; he did. The pivotal scene was, as advertised, very intense. So much so that I thought one of the guys in front of me (who wouldn’t shut up, by the way) was going to vom. But he didn’t, and kept talking. Like the douchecopter he is.

I could tell Boyle (and James Franco) were successful in telling the story when Ralston finally saw other hikers, and I realized he’d be safe. It wasn’t a surprise, obviously. The key was that they managed to make me feel a tiny, microscopic bit of his ordeal, and when I knew it was over I felt relieved.

Yet another win for Danny Boyle. Apart from The Beach and A Life Less Ordinary I’m not sure the guy’s ever taken a wrong step.

If wild my breast and sore my pride

This past Saturday started a little differently than most: a police officer and detective knocking on the door.

Sorry, I should have specified: different than most for us.

They asked to come in, and did. They asked a couple of questions, about whether we noticed anything unusual that morning. I mentioned that I’d heard a strange noise that morning, around 6AM or so, that came from outside. It sounded like a noise on the balcony, like something falling over or maybe a screen door banging, but more of a thump. I didn’t recognize the sound, but I didn’t think much of it. It’s a big concrete balcony, there’s only so much that can happen out there. But the officer’s questions made me wonder whether someone had tried to get into people’s apartment’s by climbing between balconies.

He then asked to check out my balcony. I let him out, and followed him out myself. Inside the detective was explaining to Nellie what had happened, but I had now figured it out too — the officer was leaning over my balcony.

I looked down. There was a tarp on the ground. With a hand sticking out.

Someone had fallen.

The detective asked for our help identifying the person, given a description, but we weren’t much help. When we went downstairs there were at least a dozen police officers in our lobby, questioning everyone who came and went, looking for information. Given the lack of news vans outside we assumed it must have been suicide; by the afternoon the police and cordon were gone, which pretty much confirmed it.

We found out later that someone had jumped from the 36th floor. I’ll never understand suicide. How can things get that desperate? Not to question that they can; I just can’t even fathom being at that point. Even if they do, how does one summon the wherewithal (I can’t bring myself to call it courage) to climb over a 36th-floor balcony?

I hope whoever it was is at peace, and hasn’t left hurt and turmoil in their wake.

"F-f-f-…fornication?"

All of the Oscar buzz surrounding The King’s Speech (imdb | rotten tomatoes) meant I couldn’t pass it up. Obviously I knew what I was in for: light drama surrounding an historical figure who overcomes great odds to be a great leader / musician / athlete. And that’s precisely what I got. Colin Firth was good, essentially playing himself with a stammer. Geoffrey Rush was fine as well. Helena Bonham Carter alone was sublime, but then I expect no less of her.

I’m not trying to put the film down; it’s a very entertaining and inspirational story. I was just slightly disappointed that there was nothing new here. Not a thing. Well done though it may be, I find it rather unseemly when a film so obviously gussies itself up for an award.

I’ll put it another way: I could recommend this movie to anybody — regardless of their preferred film genre — but it was gone from my head ten minutes after we left the theatre.

Ten best films of 2010

One month ago I lamented my slim chances of watching all the major Oscar-contending films before the ceremony itself. While we have knocked a few off the list, I figure I can’t wait any longer to lay out what I see as the best films of 2010, even though I still haven’t seen 127 Hours, Black Swan, Blue Valentine, Buried, Exit Through The Gift Shop, The Fighter, Get Low, Incendies, Inside Job, The King’s Speech, Restrepo, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, A Single Man, Somewhere or The Tillman Story. Alas. Here’s the early list:

  1. Inception
  2. The Social Network
  3. True Grit
  4. Winter’s Bone
  5. 13 Assassins
  6. Let Me In
  7. The Town
  8. Easy A
  9. Kick-Ass
  10. Toy Story 3

No surprise with the top three, I think. The bottom of that list is clearly where things got light, but Easy A, Kick-Ass and Toy Story 3 were all comedies with depth, so they make the list.

Honorable mentions: Rush: Beyond The Lighted Stage, The Kids Are All Right, Trust and Confessions.

"Grandpa said, 'No…but I served in a company of heroes.'"

Anyone who has watched the HBO miniseries Band Of Brothers knows the name Dick Winters. He was the lieutenant played by Damien Lewis, and the central figure of the series. He led Easy Company and rose to the rank of major by the end of the war. He fought in Normandy (where he won the Distinguished Service Cross), Holland and Bastogne. Ten hours of television isn’t enough to give the true measure of a man, but by the end of the series all who watched it felt inspired by Dick Winters.

And so, it saddened me to learn that Dick Winters passed away last week. From what little I learned of him by watching the DVDs and reading a few recent interviews, his quiet passing, lacking all fanfare, would be just how he would have wanted it.

If you haven’t seen Band Of Brothers, I beg you…rent it, buy it, download it, steal it…but  watch it. Learn about Easy Company and the men who fought in it, especially the extraordinary ones like Dick Winters.

At last: winter

Snow drifting on our balcony
Snow drifting on our balcony

After not having much of a winter last year I suspect we’re in for a rough one this time around. Yesterday was cold and messy and made for slow driving, but it’s been so long in coming that people seemed to enjoy it. It was actually quite beautiful for a few hours, until the exhaust had at it.

The next time I’m in a howling February snowstorm I’m sure I’ll forget ever saying this, but I like winter. I like having snow on the ground, even if I have to walk through it, and miss it when there’s none about on December 25th. The feeling of still sub-zero air is one of my favourites, especially when I’m in the woods of my family’s farm or in the Rockies or standing in a downtown Toronto plaza, deserted on a weekend.

Obviously I can see the appeal of living in a place with no cold weather, but I think I’d miss it pretty quickly. I’d miss the variety it provides in the year, and the feeling of sheer joy we all get when spring arrives. Most Canadians with no tolerance for snow just move south to Florida or Arizona, but there’s not enough sunshine in the world to make me move to a state so monumentally damaged. Case in point.

"He's the master of space and time. He knows about black holes and shit."

Over the past few weeks I’ve watched a bunch of movies and just forgotten to talk about them…UNTIL NOW!!!!!1!!

  • The Town (imdb | rotten tomatoes), exhibit two in the case for Ben Affleck being an excellent director and the great Pete Postlethwaite’s final curtain call.
  • Toy Story 3 (imdb | rotten tomatoes) which — as with most Pixar films — I liked, but clearly not as much as most people.
  • She’s Out Of My League (imdb | rotten tomatoes) which was funnier than I expected from a stupid, formulaic movie…though that was due almost entirely to the excellent Jay Baruchel.
  • Unthinkable (imdb | rotten tomatoes), a TV movie (I think?) about the moral conundrum of using torture to stop a bomb. Formulaic and often dopey, but entertaining.
  • Hot Tub Time Machine (imdb | rotten tomatoes) was pretty much as stupid as I thought it would be.

"Fill your hands, you sons of bitches."

Ever since seeing the trailer for the Coen Brothers’ remake of True Grit (imdb | rotten tomatoes) I’ve been giddy with excitement. Surprising, maybe, since I’ve never seen the original. But I’ll see anything the Coen Brothers make, and the idea of seeing a grizzled Dude yelling “I mean to kill ya today!!” had me hooked. So yesterday we went to see it.

How was it? Well, I want to go see it again RIGHT NOW, so that should give you a hint. Of course, there are too many other Oscar-contending movies we still haven’t seen so it’ll have to wait, but I daresay I’ll be buying this one when it’s out on Blu-Ray.

When we left the theatre I kind of wanted to see the original, but after watching this I’m not so sure.