Cover photo by Craig Duffy, used under Creative Commons license

“Know your place. Keep your place. Be a shoe.”

A few more movies I forgot to mention:

Snowpiercer (imdb | rotten tomatoes) started off incredibly well: dystopian claustrophobia, hurtling metaphors for class struggle, et cet. It got increasingly weird and metaboring and man-behind-the-curtain toward the end, to its detriment. It was good, but I was ready to like it even more. Except Tilda Swinton. I’m not sure I could like her any more than I liked her here. Gawds, those teeth.

The Sweeney (imdb | rotten tomatoes) was crap. Apparently it was a BBC show in the 70s; remind me never to watch that. Also, memo to Ray Winstone: just because you’re a producer doesn’t mean you should make someone write in sex scenes with Hayley Atwell. It strained credulity.


Cover photo by Craig Duffy, used under Creative Commons license

Cover photo by Global Panorama, used under Creative Commons license

“I’m kind of thinking it’s the other way around, you know, like the moment seizes us.”

Finally watched Boyhood (imdb | rotten tomatoes) last night, and it was…it was really something. It started slowly, and at first it was difficult to imagine sitting through nearly three hours of this. By the end, though, I was wishing I could watch more*. The most jarring thing was when I went to Letterboxd immediately after watching the film to log it, and saw the poster of the little boy we’d just watched grow up.

What an epic undertaking for Linklater, and for all the actors. All the accolades are well deserved. Everyone should watch this film. Everyone.

* I’m already hoping that we’ll get to watch Manhood in twelve years. Maybe Fatherhood twelve years after that. ‘Cause, you know, the 9-year cycle between the Before SunriseBefore SunsetBefore Midnight films wasn’t ambitious enough.


Cover photo by Global Panorama, used under Creative Commons license

Cover photo by Razas Bovinas de Colombia, used under Creative Commons license

Still the champ

Thursday night I made a believer out of several more skeptics: people who didn’t quite believe me that Jacob’s & Co. is the best steakhouse in Toronto. Look on our works, ye mighty, and despair:

  • Appetizers:
    • white cheddar pop-overs
    • four Caesar salads, prepared table-side
  • Steaks, shared among the table (there were nine of us):
    • Canadian Piedmont/Angus 40oz porterhouse, aged 30 days (Fergus, ON)
    • Snake River Farms Wagyu 10oz tenderloin (Boise, ID)
    • A5 Black Tajima Wagyu 20oz ribeye (Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan)
  • Sides, shared among the table:
    • sautéed spinach
    • beefsteak tomato
    • duck fat french fried potatoes
    • mashed potatoes
  • Wine:
    • Ridge Estates 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon
    • Hidden Bench 2010 La Brunante
  • Dessert:
    • petit fours
    • Port, Sauternes, Whisky, etc.
    • coffee/espresso

I’m still full.



Cover photo by Razas Bovinas de Colombia, used under Creative Commons license

Cover photo by Earthworth, used under Creative Commons license

Economic theory

Sometimes it’s obvious why an actor gets nominated for an Oscar. Like Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night (imdb | rotten tomatoes): obvious. It’s a master class.

The premise is set up in the first few minutes: while she’s away her co-workers are told to vote: Sandra (Cotillard) can keep her job only if the other 16 forego their bonus. They vote for their bonuses. She has the weekend to change their minds one by one, and the camera barely leaves her for a moment. There’s no melodrama or pity-wallowing. It’s stark, and eerily real: the actors, the Belgian suburbs, the corporate ruthlessness. The only disarming thing about it is that, try as you might, you can make Marion Cotillard look only so plain and working class. She’s just too stunning.

But that’s a minor quibble. This film deserves the (still too scarce) accolades it’s collected, even if it isn’t exactly subtle about the societal points it’s trying to make. And I’d very much love to see Marion Cotillard get an Oscar for it. She may be one of the most underrated actresses working today, and part of that underestimation may come from just how beautiful she is.

Side note: while the TIFF Bell Lightbox is a superb film venue (especially for members with access to the lounge) it’s hard to enjoy a film in any theatre when the two idiots behind you won’t shut the fuck up. Nellie shushed them 60 seconds into the film, but they just started up again, especially toward the end. Didn’t matter how many times we shushed them, or gave them angry looks. Blah blah blah de blah blah wank. I wasn’t there, but when they first sat down behind us another gentleman — already seated in the row — recognized them, and got up and moved as far away as he could. I just wish he’d issued a general warning to the rest of us.

Anyway, we took note so as not to fall into the same trap next time, and left the Lightbox in search of food. We found it in round, flat form at Pizzeria Libretto, already a (pretty much) local favourite. I had a sausage pizza with a Dieu du Ciel Moralité IPA and a Flying Monkeys oatmeal stout; Nellie had Chardonnay and Primitivo with her prosciutto pizza. Love it there.

[2014 movie update] On Saturday night we watched Blue Ruin (imdb | rotten tomatoes) and it was AMAZING. I love movies that can pull off grand themes with, by the look of it, almost no budget. Savage and serene all at once. Watch it.


Cover photo by Earthworth, used under Creative Commons license

Cover photo by Rob Nguyen, used under Creative Commons license

Rocky Mountain Horseshit

As you might have seen in previous posts, we spent a lot of time at the Air Canada Centre between Christmas and last Monday. We watched about a dozen World Jr games there, which means we saw the same people, watched the same between-periods entertainment, and heard the same terrible in-arena songs. It also means we had no options for good beer.

I’ve never understood the need that some people have to drink beer while watching sports. I mean, if it’s good beer, or even moderately decent beer, then yeah, great. But I can’t imagine what madness seizes the brains of the people who paid $15.25 for a glass of Coors Light, Molson Canadian, or MGD. I mean, maybe a Creemore (which cost $17), but those weren’t even very easy to find. I’d wait and drink real beer at Cork’s between games, like Black Oak Nut Brown or Great Lakes Winter Ale. Bonus: I didn’t spend 20 minutes lining up to piss.

It’s not like the ACC is the only Toronto arena serving shitty macro beer though. Skydome Rogers Centre has taken flack for not serving any craft beer at Jays games after severing ties with Steam Whistle — which brews their beer literally next door. That practice led to Toronto being rated near the bottom of all MLB teams by the Washington Post, and from what I can tell saved from being dead-last only because the Post gives them a better uniqueness score than other teams, presumably because other teams don’t carry Keith’s.

But back to the ACC: given all the beer nearby, and in province, and in Canada, it’s inexcusable that they’re still serving the mass produced foreign-owned (or half-foreign-owned) crap. The Canucks now serve craft beer at their games. Nashville has an annual craft beer festival for Predators fans. Nashville, fer chrissakes. We may not be in Quebec (speaking of which: get on it, Canadiens, you have world-class beer on your doorstep) but we do have breweries like Beau’s, Muskoka, Nickel Brook, Sawdust City, and Wellington in Ontario and the likes of Bellwoods, Black Oak, Great Lakes, Left Field, and Steam Whistle right here in the GTA.

All I’m saying is that it would have been nice to drink a real Canadian craft beer while watching Canada win gold. Who knows, maybe when the tournament returns in two year it’ll happen. Hey, the beer store monopoly appears to be in the midst of death throes, so anything’s possible, right?


Cover photo by Rob Nguyen, used under Creative Commons license

Cover photo by anthonyfmiller, used under Creative Commons license

“It’s just an ordinary pen. Looks like a pen, writes like a pen, and listens like a pen.”

Our blitz to watch the best movies of 2014 continues. Or did, at least, until we returned to work earlier this week.

  • Willow Creek (imdb | rotten tomatoes) was scarier than any movie about Bigfoot deserved to be. Straight-up Blair Witch rip-off, but really effective. Certainly the scariest scene from inside a tent since Blair Witch.
  • We knew nothing about The Babadook (imdb | rotten tomatoes) before we started watching it, other than that it had a dumb name. But it was one of the more effective horror movies I’ve seen in years. Almost impossible to believe that they made it for $30,000.
  • Starred Up (imdb | rotten tomatoes) is a great example of a simple story gaining weight with a lot of amazing performances, especially Jack O’Connell. Holy cow. Prison, emotional breakthroughs, family…simple themes are sometimes the best ones, if they’re done right.
  • A Most Wanted Man (imdb | rotten tomatoes) made me sad that we won’t get any more Philip Seymour Hoffman. This was such a taut, graceful thriller, and he so awkwardly, bearishly trod around in it, feeling out of place the whole time, and yet totally in control. Terrific political thriller though.


Cover photo by anthonyfmiller, used under Creative Commons license

Navy strength

On Wednesday Nellie and I rushed out of work (early; it was New Year’s Eve, after all) to come home, pick up our stuff, collect a couple of friends, and start driving north. We had all been invited to spend New Year’s Eve with our friends Kaylea & Matt at their Bat Lake cottage.

We worried about the forecast, but with little reason: we made the drive with almost no issues save the usual traffic slowdowns on the DVP and 401, and a few minor snow squalls along the way. After a stop or two we arrived just in time to watch the second half of the Canada/USA World Junior game. Canada won. Of course.

There were ten of us in total, and we were the last four to arrive. On top of what we’d brought, the place was already full of food and drink (including a 30L keg of beer). We hugged our hellos, poured a drink, snacked on meats and cheeses, and settled in. After a while the chef (Matt) and sous (Nellie) began preparing dinner. Though, Matt had been preparing some of it all day, smoking a brined chicken and a lamb shoulder. There was also beef (not sure where that came from, actually) and Nellie made scalloped potatoes with chorizo sausage, and we all plowed into it. We’d also been drinking some tremendous wines brought along by Kaylea’s friend Jordin, including an Italian style I’d never heard of (and can’t remember, dammit), a beautiful Barbaresco, and this amazing Barossa F.U. Shiraz (seriously) that was massive (17.5%!) and complex and puzzling. I can’t imagine I’ll ever get to try it again.

We played some Cards Against Humanity (I won; I am depraved) and then got bundled up so we could go out to where Matt had set up a fire. We stood around it, enjoying the warmth, and eventually sliding around for a bit on the lake itself, as the ice was plenty thick.

By midnight we were back inside, ready to drink a Magnum of another stunning wine: a 1998 Nicolas Feuillatte Palmes D’Or. It was Out. Goddamn. Standing. It was a fitting way to pay tribute to 2014, and welcome 2015.

We’d all had busy days, and had all been eating and drinking since 5pm (or earlier), so everyone crashed around 1:30. The next morning we slowly stirred ourselves, did a token clean up, had coffee from Fahrenheit, ate bacon and cranberry french toast, and drank breakfast Caesars.

Most people went out for a winter walk, but I stayed behind with downstairs Jeff (it’d take too long to explain the moniker; just go with it) to help clean up and then relax. The crew had taken warm cider with them; I poured myself a cup (with a little Navy Strength gin thrown in for good measure), sat by the window, and nerded out with Matt’s copy of The World Of Ice & Fire.

Eventually everyone came back from their trek…some got cold and came in to warm up, while others tried to light another fire. I waited until it was going strong (I’m a sissy, and no longer of any use with outdoor things) before joining them.

We drank Winter Ale and Okanagan wine by the fire, taking shelter from the snow and wind amongst the trees, and felt about as Canadian as we could feel.

Eventually we too got cold, and went back inside for more food, and a Cards Against Humanity speed round (Steph won; she is depraved). For dinner Matt had made chili, and it was the most amazingly delicious chili I had ever eaten. It was sweet and spicy and the perfect consistency. I went back for seconds. I had to talk myself out of thirds. As it was I just kept taking great heaping spoonfuls of it from the pot and shoving them in my gob.

We weren’t done with the outdoors; a few of us wrapped up again and went back to the lake. It was so dark, and so snowy, that you couldn’t see the other side of the lake. Just a faint outline of the tops of trees amidst a Hoth-like blank spot on the earth. I’ve lived in the city for so long I’d forgotten how quickly winter can create this sense of distance and danger, even when you’re only a few hundred feet from a warm house.

Back at the cottage everyone was starting to wind down, or already napping. We were full of food and drink and tired from the cold. My body began rejecting everything…any more food, any more drink, being awake at all. Nellie began folding laundry. Began, never finished. We were all wiped, apart from upstairs Jeff who watched George Carlin’s classic Seven Words sketch on late-night TV. As one does.

I woke up Friday morning worrying about how I would get our rental car up a snowy driveway, but then the local Mr. Plow showed up and saved the day. We cleaned the place as best we could, scarfed down some scrambled eggs and toast, packed up, and jumped in the car with our charges to head home. Nellie and I had to get back to the city for a 3:00 puck drop in the first World Jr. semifinal. Fortunately it got less snowy as we drove south, and we had no problems on the way home (extreme nausea and over-full bladders excepted) and we hit Toronto by 2:15. We offloaded our stuff, put our travel companions in an Uber limo, dropped the rental car, and made it to the ACC just in time for the game.

It was a weekend of celebration: the new year, superb people, the Canadian outdoors, and plenty of amazing food and drink:

For the record, that’s 8 bottles plus 1 magnum of champagne, 5 bottles plus 2 magnums of red wine, 3 bottles of white wine, 1 bottle of port, 6 large bottles of (strong) beer, and the better part of the rum, scotch, gin, and vodka. Plus about 2/3 of the keg in the background and a while bunch of tallboys we didn’t even bother to count.

Night, 2014. Morning, 2015!