( )

let’s get something clear right off the bat: it’s not agaetis byrjun. nor should or could it be. agaetis byrjun was wondrous because it wasa surprise, an expected trove of incan gold when i wasn’t even looking for it. some of the lustre wore off when i began to hear “svefn-g-englar” in every tv show and movie striving to be indie-cool, but the that cd, for me, exists in my old apartment, 3 feet off the floor, crossing the living room to my couch where i sat agape. such a singular feeling about a cd eliminated any chance of a band repeating with a follow-up, and so i resigned myself to not making a comparison.

the self-control was unnecessary. () (a rather poncy title, i’ll admit) holds up as a different experience. agaetis byrjun was the introduction and indoctrination; () checks our guts to see if we understand why we’re here and if we have what it takes to stay. they do their best to scare us off in the first three songs, so anyone short of patience (read: MTV viewers) will lose interest without realizing it’s all part of a plan. the reward arrives with njosnavelin, probably destined to be the “popular” song from the album, much as “svefn-g-englar” was. it was already featured in vanilla sky in the crucial final scene, and it has an addictive – and, as usual, unintelligible – lyrical hook. i’ve been humming it today when the cd wasn’t playing in my stereo, computer or nomad. you will too.

there’s nothing new here. these songs have all been played live, and i heard most or all of them at the massey hall concert last fall (and will probably hear them again tonight), so while the general public may not have heard these songs, concert-goers and determined downloaders are familar with them already. with music like this, though, it’s the beauty of hearing it, the subtleties that you get in the studio that you don’t get live, that’s why you buy the disc and listen in the dark when everything else turns to shit or gold. live is a different experience, and an amazing one with this band, but the music coming from this album is like an established conductor or an old artist or the ’77 canadiens…there’s no deception here, no surprises. you know what’s coming, you’re ready for it…and it kicks your ass in ways you didn’t know a band could.

this is no longer just an alright start.

i come from downtown

toward the end of the first world war, and up to the beginning of the second, the british navy – which had been the dominant maritime power for centuries (thereby making britain a dominant world power) – became less and less of a force, not so much because they weakened, but because they rested on their laurels and let history pass them by while clinging to tradition (see also ‘French Infantry’) at the sake of innovation.

in any case, that was the last tragically hip concert i plan on ever going to. i’ve seen them live 3 or 4 times now, and the concert highlights are fewer in number and exactly the same as they were 7 years ago on the day for night tour.

first of all, let’s review some rules of concert decorum:

  1. not since the height of kiss army power in the late 70s has it been cool to fire up, giggling and triumphant, a joint/smoke as if this makes you rock n’ roll and shows how you stick it to the man. this is especially true in opera venues with names like “the hummingbird centre”, as was the case last night.
  2. devil signs have been dumb even longer than that.
  3. do i even need to mention swaying your lighters back and forth? see my spiritualized review for details.
  4. dancing, jumping, singing, shouting, whistling and generally getting your groove on are fully encouraged. however the music grabs you, you gotta let it do it’s thing. however, this does not mean you can scream (and i mean roseanne-singing-the-star-spangled-banner-quality screaming here…) at the top of your lungs for the full two hours – drowning out even the loudest parts of songs – unintelligible half-lyrics interspersed with “FUUUUCKINNNNNN’ EEEEEEEEHHH!!” as were the two mouth-breathers beside us. these fuckups, no doubt, drove in from barrie or ancaster, covering the floor of the pickup with empty bottles of wildcat. they would’ve been entertaining, except they were ruining the sound, so we just laughed at them and not with them. but, it’s a concert, so what’re you gonna do?

“nautical disaster”, “yawning or snarling”, “fire in the hole” and “greasy jungle” were the pallbearers of the mighty hip that had given us the absolutely brilliant (if overplayed) fully completely, the classic up to here and the underrated road apples (the best song from which, “cordelia”, still stands up as one of their greatest). day for night was their suez crisis, the signal to the world that they were no longer infallible. while half the cd (“grace, too”, “so hard done by”, “thugs”, “inevitability of death”, “an inch an hour”) showed their old strength, the other half threw in the towel and said, “no mas”.

it’s not nostalgia that makes people cheer the loudest for “new orleans is sinking”, “fifty mission cap”, “at the hundredth meridian” or “blow at high dough”. those songs are better, more original, more distinctive. the lyrics were more biting, the emotion was in it more. there sure as fuck weren’t any drum machines (as there are on in violet light). all 4 cds since day for night have had, at best, 3 good songs, not one of which is as good as the worst song on fully completely. remember, folks, i’m not saying this because i refuse to be drawn out of the past, i’m speaking from both a technical and a “gut” feel on this. the music isn’t as strong, and it doesn’t give you the same kick in the balls. i love it when bands evolve, as long they evolve into something good, otherwise they should cut their losses and pack it in.

and so, if this trend by the hip continues, i’ll keep trading (or just not buying) the new hip cd every few years, and they’ll get no more of my concertgoing money. not that this should worry them; they’ll never go broke touring here, certainly. fans have given them as much of a solid touring base in canada as the stones (who, coincidentally, played a block away at the air canada centre last night) have worldwide. i just hope they pull themselves out of this spin before they become a travelling sideshow like the stones, living on their fame and mystique rather than their music. they’re dangerously close already.

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at one point last night, when the four of us were cheering excitedly about drinking the same wine as tony soprano on the screen before us, someone said, “i’m not sure whether this is a high point or a low point in my life.”

see, we somehow managed to watch the entire third season in two nights. 13 episodes. 13 hours. it became something obsessive in us, almost maniacal. okay, not maniacal, but we were determined to get through it all. last night we fired up some pasta and vino to get into the spirit of things (much like my need to make pasta every time i watch the godfather and see clemenza teaching michael how to cook). there was also an incident with vampire teeth that i’ll not get into.

now i have to wait for season 4, since i don’t have hbo/tmn. no patience! instant gratification now! now right now!

fine, i’ll wait.

anybody have any wine?

tiff: a wrap

8 movies in 8 nights, the last of which spilled off the reel last night at the elgin.

  • between strangers wasn’t the best movie of the festival, but it provided the biggest buzz in the theatre. the lineup was much bigger, people were begging to buy tickets outside, ans the cameras were thick and plentiful. there were loads of stars in this one, including mira sorvino, pete postlethwaite, deborah kara unger, malcolm mcdowell, klaus maria brandauer and wendy crewson. but most of the excitement, of course, was for sophia loren. a longer standing o than coppola got (toronto loves their italians) and the cameras went nuts, but once sophia got down the stairs without her dress falling off the film got underway. it wasn’t, as i said, a great movie, but there were some very good performances (especially loren and sorvino and, as always, postlethwaite) and people enjoyed seeing toronto so honestly portrayed rather than doubling for new york or chicago. a good film, not a great film.

the final rankings?

  1. dirty pretty things
  2. assassination tango
  3. laurel canyon
  4. the emperor’s club
  5. 8 femmes
  6. talk to her
  7. between strangers
  8. adolphe (really, putting this movie in the 8th spot is misleading. i’m very emphatically placing it dead last. i’m certain this movie, in a past life, was some old sick nazi guard dog)

the drama the drama

so, not only was tonight’s movie one of the best yet, there was some additional drama right next to us in the theatre.

  • i admit that i haven’t seen many stephen frears movies. really, high fidelity is the only one i’ve seen, but i’ve been meaning to see the grifters. anyway, last night’s movie was dirty pretty things, a pretty remarkable flick. audrey tautou must’ve really been trying to find a role completely removed from the saccharine amelie. piers handling pointed out that, in the whole movie (which is set in london) you never really see any “typical” british people. just immigrants, some legal, some not so much. anyway, it was a great movie…beautifully shot, gritty and posh at he same time (not unlike london), interesting and with real characters. there was a bit of a predictable twist at the end though. i must admit, i missed most of the last 5 or 6 minutes as someone was having a medical emergency right in front of us (he was fine, in the end), but i think i got the gist of it. even not knowing what happened in those scenes, this film belongs in my top three of the festival for sure (along with laurel canyon and assassination tango).

(twelfth / 2) night

expectations met and surprises!

  • robert duvall showed up to present his new movie assassination tango, which he both directed and starred in, and brought along a friend. though i knew francis ford coppola was an executive producer i didn’t think he’d be there…but there he was, dressed in the same cocaine-smuggler-white suit that rob morrow had worn the night before (let out a few inches), ambling out to a standing ovation. duvall’s co-star luciana pedraza also came out, and about the time i caught my breath they’d been seated and the movie began. the movie itself was great, easily one of the best so far, right up there with laurel canyon. duvall has a great penchant for unapologetic and memorable characters, and the relationship that fell out with pedraza was unpredictable and sensible and still touching. it’s better than #2. i’m calling it #1a.

film fest, part the fourth

5 down, 3 to go. last night’s movie was…different, without a doubt.

  • François Ozon’s movie 8 femmes is, as Piers Handling says, “a giant chocolate cake of a movie.” a mystery, a comedy, an absurdist crime thriller, even a musical. catherine deneuve showed up for a standing ovation and then watched the audience swing from laughter to mild confusion. i think the movie lost a few people who like their movies a little more formulaic, but most seemed impressed. as for me, i liked it, even though i usually detest musicals. the movie never took itself seriously enough for the music to seem overbearing; instead, it was quirky like your weirder friends. not for everyone, but most peope seemed to enjoy it. i believe i’ll put it in third place. the rankings, in case anyone’s interested, are as follows:
    1. laurel canyon
    2. the emperor’s club
    3. 8 femmes
    4. talk to her
    5. adolphe (in this case, the gap between #4 and #5 is like the distance between “good” and “pig-nasty”)

tiff v3.0

now that’s more like it.

  • the emperor’s club, starring kevin kline, was a far sight better than the carnage we’d witnessed the night before. in the same vein as dead poets society, but shown from the teacher’s point of view, it was a showcase for kline – who was in the audience – and the man rarely goes wrong, so the crowd loved it. i’m ranking it #2, right behind laurel canyon and ahead of talk to her. i refuse to even include adolphe in my rankings. ptoo!

tiff, part ii

yecch. you know, i’m not one of those guys who dismisses french films out of hand. i like a good character-driven period drama as much as anyone, but after last night, two of my four most hated films in memory have been french.

  • adolphe was shite, in my opinion. i felt absolutely nothing for the characters, not even annoyance or loathing – they were simply not interesting or well-drawn. and in a character-driven movie, that’s death. had this been a regular movie theatre, i’d have left. too bad, really. i was hoping it would surprise me.

the toronto international film festival

it’s on! seen two movies thus far:

  • talk to her, the new film from pedro almodovar. i hadn’t really watched much more than pieces of almodovar’s earlier films, but i was impressed with this one. bizarre at times (where did he find that prop?), uncomfortable at others, funny throughout. really, really good.
  • laurel canyon, lisa cholodenko’s newest. i’d seen high art, and liked it more each itme i watched it, but this one was – to my mind – so much better. a lot of the same elements throughout…two vastly different groups of people interact awkwardly, one member of the meek party is drawn into the bohemian party, etc. what made this even better than high art were the performances of frances mcdormand and alessandro nivola (both of whom were there last night). kate beckinsdale surprised me too, i’d sort of written her off as a loss after pearl harbor. i continue to love natascha mcelhone. i continue to hate christian bale.