Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Ackermansion is Closed

Sad news kids, Forrest J. Ackerman, science fiction pioneer and grandfather of genre geekdom, passed away last week. Ackerman coined the term "Sci Fi" and was also the creator and editor of the Famous Monsters of Filmland (aka Famous Monsters) magazine. Ackerman's home (aka the Ackermansion) served as a museum for his vast collection of horror and science fiction memorabilia, allowing fans to see original movie props from the golden age of cinema through to the present.

I first became aware of Mr. Ackerman (who was fondly called Uncle Forry by his fans) sometime in the mid-nineties, during the comic book/trading card/collectible boom. The Ackermansion and its staggering collection of books and props were frequently featured in a number of documentaries on collecting and/or classic genre films. For me, the Ackermansion was one of the holy grails of movie geek must-see locations. Sadly, I'll never get the chance to get a guided tour from the man himself.

Ain't It Cool News has a few tribute pieces featured on their site. Some of which you can read here and here.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

That's one surly Sasquatch

Hey Kids! Did you miss me?

This blog has definitely proven to be a source of disappointments, but usually those disappointments were reserved for you, the reader. But now I've gone and disappointed myself. For the longest time, I took some pride in the fact that I had posted an entry at least once a month since I started this blog. Usually it was a blatant cop-out or a placeholder post, but dammit, it was better than nothing. So, it was especially disheartening for me to realize on Monday that I totally forgotten to pay literary lip service to this blog throughout the entire month of November.

I suppose it could be worse. It's not like I was trampled to death by frantic shoppers. I used to look forward to watching the news reports about Black Friday. Those short CNN clips that showed people scrambling and fighting one another in an attempt to be the first one through the doors at 5 am. Usually the insanity resulted in little more than some scrapes and bruises and surprised testimonials from the morons that waited all night in the cold so they could save $50 on a new TV. Like a black eye in a mosh pit, the violence and subhuman behavior was always seen as something simultaneously shocking and yet somehow inevitable. I say, next year, give those Wal-Mart greeters tasers.

Speaking of things shocking yet inevitable, winter is upon us. I can't speak for everyone but here in the Maritimes the onset of winter is often viewed as an unprovoked personal attack. Every year Maritimers seem to greet the snow and dropping temperatures as if they were experiencing these meteorological phenomena for the first time. Some find themselves asking questions like, "why is it so damn cold?" "What the hell is this white stuff falling from the sky?" and "Why don't I know how to drive anymore?" I'm starting to think that all the vitamin D we soak up from the summer sun erases all the painful winter memories from our brains.

And on the subject of dwindling grey matter, Roger Ebert recently wrote and interesting screed on his blog about the death of formal film criticism. Ebert cites the rise in celebrity culture as a major factor in the decline and slow death of print based film criticism. I'm inclined to agree with Ebert to some extent on this topic. A few years ago when I first started reading/using IMDB, their news feeds were mostly filled with stories about films and film productions. In the last year, I noticed that IMDB's news feeds have become almost exclusively concerned with celebrity culture. Who's dating whom, who made what faux pas and what they were wearing. As I said, I mostly have to agree with Ebert on this topic, but there is one facet of the decline of formal (ie. print based) film criticism that Ebert doesn't seem to take into consideration: the internet. The proliferation of blogs and movie based websites has made traditional print based film criticism almost unnecessary. The entire newspaper industry is likely feeling effects similar to those felt by the music and film industry. Traditional media outlets are losing ground every day to the internet. Why would someone want to pay for a copy of the Chicago Sun Times to read a Roger Ebert movie review, when that same review is available for free on his website? I can't blame Ebert for decrying the death of print based film criticism, if all the newspapers fired all the critics he'd be out of a job (more or less).

And finally on a marginally less dour note (no pun intended), I suggest that you all check out one of my new favorite websites Passive Aggressive Notes. The site features a frequently updated collection of passive aggressive notes left for others (roommates, co-workers, customers, neighbors, etc.) If you've ever found a note on your door with a "helpful" suggestion from someone without enough backbone to actually confront you, then you'll enjoy this site.

Monday, October 27, 2008

My Apologies to Mr. Welles

Hey Kids,

- The state of my pseudo-blog-project, My Year of Orson Welles, has obviously gone into the crapper. While my pseudo-obsession with the works of Mr. Welles remains intact, I can't seem to get the motivation to watch and dissect any of his movies. I turned something I love into work, which never works out for me. I'm not ruling out possible future entries in the project, but I hope none of you readers are holding your breath.

- With Halloween around the corner, I've felt the urge to buy and watch a plethora of horror movies. While watching the movies hasn't been difficult, I've found it hard to find horror movies in the usual retail locations. Even the dollar store took down all their Halloween stuff and starting putting up Christmas decorations last week.

- The recent Canadian election resulted in another Conservative government. Don't blame me, I voted for the Christian Heritage Party. (No, I didn't.)

- Ever since I took in my cat Whitey, I've been trying to get her to pull her own weight around the house. All she does is sleep all day. She hasn't looked for a job in months. Now, you might think I'm crazy for complaining about my unemployed cat, but if I were in Japan things would be different. Take for example, Tama the feline station master of a Japanese railway station.

What do your pets do all day? Maybe it's time these freeloaders earned their keep. In these tough economic times pet labor might just be the solution we're looking for.

- And finally, my new favorite YouTube clip, the literal version of A-Ha's "Take On Me"

Happy Halloween Boils and Ghouls!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Empty Theatre

I went to the movies with my father earlier today. We went to see the Pacino/De Niro flick, Righteous Kill. We were the only two people in the theatre. While the movie has been out for a little over two weeks now and it had not performed all too well at the box office, I did not expect to see it in an almost empty theatre. I've been to some sparsely attended screenings, but none quite as bad as this.

As for the movie itself, it was nothing special. While the performances were all fine, the script was sorely lacking. I'm not usually the type who tries to figure out the big reveal well in advance of the final act, but I couldn't help but put all the pieces together before the first film reel changed over. It wasn't the biggest cinematic disappointment of 2008 (sadly, I'd give that title to Burn After Reading) but it certainly was no highlight either.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

You Tell 'Em, Wolfman!

Ah, summer. I'd apologize for the lack of updates and whatnot, but I'm not all that sorry. It's too nice out for me to be writing about Orson Welles and Chuck Norris. Also, it's too nice out for you to be reading this. But in the off chance that it's raining or September or something, here's yet another lame placeholder post.

- My Year of Orson Welles should return in September. I tried to slap together a post for July, but it just wasn't happening. I don't think many of you are actually reading and/or enjoying this blog project, but I'm gonna keep doing it regardless.

- I did eventually see The Dark Knight and it was good. Not quite #1 on IMDB good, but it probably was the best movie I've seen in theatres so far this year.

- This week is Chester Race Week. Some of you might remember that this means seeing old friends, drinking too much, and hobnobbing with the rich and illiterate. I'm anticipating a hangover that should last me until sometime next week.

- I went to the annual Sappy Records music festival in Sackville, NB again this year. It was a good time, despite the poor weather and proliferation of hipsters.

- Probably the most important update though, is that I became an uncle for the first time last month. My sister in Ottawa had her first child, a bouncing baby boy named William. I'm proud to be an uncle, but more so I'm proud that my sister and her husband didn't give their kid a stupid name.

And that's about it folks. See you soon, unless the sun is shining.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Boredom Bunny

It's after six and I'm still at work. On a normal day I'm supposed to get off at four. I am very bored. Here's a picture of a bunny.

Dammit Boredom Bunny, you know I can't go to the movies with all this overtime going on!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Placeholder Post

Wow, summer is really killing my ever-waning urge to blog. Well, like the title of this post suggests, this is mostly a placeholder so I don't post back-to-back Orson Welles stuff.

I stole the idea for this post from the Onion's AV Club, I think they got it from somewhere else, but I don't care enough to do the research. Essentially, you're just supposed to pick an album for every year you were alive. I added the criteria that it had to be an album that I actually owned and that there would be no repeat artists on the list. This was not an easy list to get through. Though I often defend music from the 1980s, I had no idea I liked so few albums from that era.

So here's my list:

1981 - "Damaged" by Black Flag
1982 - "Combat Rock" by The Clash
1983 - "Speaking in Tongues" by Talking Heads
1984 - "Remission" by Skinny Puppy
1985 - "VU" by The Velvet Underground
1986 - "So" by Peter Gabriel
1987 - "Substance" by New Order
1988 - "I'm Your Man" by Leonard Cohen
1989 - "Doolittle" by Pixies
1990 - "Fear of a Black Planet" by Public Enemy
1991 - "Ten" by Pearl Jam
1992 - "Smeared" by Sloan
1993 - "Bargainville" by Moxy Früvous
1994 - "Mellow Gold" by Beck
1995 - "I Should Coco" by Supergrass
1996 - "This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About" by Modest Mouse
1997 - "OK Computer" by Radiohead
1998 - "In/Casino/Out" by At the Drive-In
1999 - "Beautiful Midnight" by Matthew Good Band
2000 - "Veni Vidi Vicious" by The Hives
2001 - "White Blood Cells" by The White Stripes
2002 - "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" by The Flaming Lips
2003 - "Fever to Tell" by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
2004 - "Franz Ferdinand" by Franz Ferdinand
2005 - "Illinois" by Sufjan Stevens
2006 - "Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not" by Arctic Monkeys
2007 - "Woke Myself Up" by Julie Doiron
2008 - "At Mount Zoomer" by Wolf Parade

Saturday, June 28, 2008

My Year of Orson Welles - Cultural Archaeology

When it comes to Orson Welles, I am an enthusiast but not an expert. I started this project as an excuse to delve into the man's life and legacy. Mostly, I wanted to see Welles' impact on film for myself. It was also my hope that I might encourage others to discover his works. Though I don't necessarily envy anyone approaching Welles' films for the first time. Despite having left behind a filmography that is celebrated by critics and historians, the preservation and availability of his works leaves much to be desired.

A significant number of Welles' films are currently unavailable on DVD in North America. This is due in part because of Welles' later European period, in which some of his films were shot sporadically when he could find willing investors. The other significant factor comes in the form of Welles' daughter Beatrice. Beatrice Welles is notoriously protective of her late father's works. So much so that she has prevented the restoration and release of a number of his films.

Also, it must be noted that with the exception of Citizen Kane, the majority of Welles' films were altered by the studios that released them. One such film is the subject of this post, 1958's Touch of Evil, starring Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh.

Touch of Evil is essentially a film noir. A sparsely lit crime film with a dubious moral code. The story goes that Welles was originally hired only to play the main antagonist in the film, the iconic Police Captain Hank Quinlan. It was reportedly Heston who urged the studio to allow Welles to direct the film as well. At this point in Welles' career, the studios were not eager to have him behind the camera. There was concern that Welles would not be able to complete the film on time and on budget.

It should therefore come as little surprise that the final cut of the film was taken away from Welles not long after he had completed principal photography. Having seen Welles' original cut, the studio (Universal International) hired another director to re-shoot and re-cut parts of the film. After seeing the studio cut of the film, Welles wrote a 58 page memo to Universal detailing how he felt the film should be edited and released. Universal did not take Welles' suggestions into consideration while editing the film. The studio cut would be the version of the film that was given a theatrical release in 1958, with a run time of approximately 98 minutes.

In the mid 1970s, Universal discovered that they had another version of the film in their vaults. This version, running approximately 108 minutes, still contained elements that had been re-shot after control of the film had been taken away from Welles. And despite being released on video as the "complete uncut version," it would be another two decades before a definitive version of the film was released.

In 1998, the film was re-edited in accordance with the 58 page memo. This version, running 111 minutes, removes all sequences that were re-shot by the studio. This restored version is the only version of the film currently available on DVD. And while it remains the closest approximation of Welles' vision for the film, it must be noted that there are no copies in existence of Welles' original cut.

The film itself is celebrated for its opening sequence, a lengthy tracking shot of a bomb in the trunk of a car as it makes its way across the US/Mexico border. Easily one of the best scenes ever crafted by Welles, it is a masterpiece of choreography and camera work.

It's also interesting to note that while the film initially focuses on Heston's character, it eventually shifts towards Welles' character. Welles' performance as the Machiavellian Hank Quinlan is quite possibly one of his best. Welles' naturalistic acting style is not unlike the method acting of Marlon Brando during his peak years. And while it is difficult to take Charlton Heston serious as a Mexican, it is refreshing to see him portray a character that is somewhat subdued. Also in the film is Marlene Dietrich as Welles' gypsy confidante and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo from Zsa Zsa Gabor.

Perhaps one of the oddest aspects of the film is Welles' appearance. The character of Hank Quinlan is an obese man, having taken up junk food as a substitute for alcohol. To achieve this look, Welles' wore a substantial amount of padding and prosthetic makeup. It is somewhat ironic, considering his appearance in the film mirrors his appearance later in real life. In his later years, Welles weighed as much as 350 pounds.

The restored cut of Touch of Evil is available on DVD through Universal Studios.

[Images taken from:,,,, and]

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin is Dead, Long Live George Carlin

Sad new kids, George Carlin passed away yesterday. If you're reading this and you don't already know who George Carlin is, I feel bad for you. And I honestly mean that. There's not a whole lot I can say about George Carlin that hasn't been said already. The man was a genius and I'm proud to have a good number of his albums in my record collection.

I'll leave you with one of my all-time favorite Carlin quotes:

The very existence of flame-throwers proves that some time, somewhere, someone said to themselves, "You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I'm just not close enough to get the job done."

Rest In Peace George. Thanks for trying to teach us all a little something.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Pick-a-nick Basket

One of the things I like about my job is that no two days are the same. And since the landfill where I work is in the middle of nowhere, I get to see a good sampling of wildlife. Not everyone can push back from their desk, look out their window and see wild rabbits in the tall grass or eagles in the sky overhead. Being around nature usually has a calming effect on me, helping to dissolve some of the stress of the workday grind.

I say "usually" because last week I had a nature encounter that wasn't exactly calming. It was near the end of the day and I went out to my car to put my lunch box away. When I turned to go back into the scale house, out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of a black bear. The bear (not pictured, as I had better things on my mind than amateur photography) had just come out of the woods a stone's throw away from me.

The whole encounter may have lasted thirty seconds, but everything seemed to be moving at a snail's pace. I looked at the bear and the bear looked at me. Now, I have never encountered a bear before. Nor have I ever spoken with anyone with any previous bear encounter experience. I have however, as many of you know by now, seen a lot of movies.

What I remembered at that moment was that, according to some movie I can't specifically recall, bears hate loud noises. So it was at this point that I started clapping my hands and yelling obscenities at the bear. At first, nothing happened. I had just enough time to consider that perhaps the information I had gleaned from the movie was incorrect and I was only pissing off said bear. And while statistically, the number of fatalities by black bear are quite low, its likely that few if any of these unfortunate individuals meet their demise clapping like idiots.

Thankfully, within seconds, the bear turned and ran back into the woods. And thus ended my black bear encounter. And while the bear was seen around the landfill site a number of other times that week, it has not been seen in the last several days.

So, if I'm not mistaken, the lesson here is: anyone who says that TV and movies can't teach you anything will likely be eaten by bears.

[Picture stolen from]

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Free iPod

I got a 16 gig iPod Touch yesterday for free. My father won it through a contest at the store where he works. This is my first iPod. I'd been thinking about getting one for the last year or two, but I could never justify spending the money on one. I've been messing around with mine a lot since I hooked it up and I have to say that it's a lot of fun. My only fear now is that I'll lose the darn thing and someone else will be enjoying all my Devo tracks.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

My Year of Orson Welles - The Beginning

Today is Orson Welles' birthday, if he were still alive today he would be 93 years old. It is in the spirit of the occasion that I announce my first blog project, My Year of Orson Welles. It is my hope that through this project I will come to a greater appreciation and understanding of the film legend that was Orson Welles. Once a month, until this time next year, I will post an entry into this project detailing some element of Welles' work and legacy. I don't intend to go about this in a chronological order, instead I will post my thoughts on the works as I encounter them.

I couldn't tell you when it was exactly that I became fascinated by Orson Welles. Though I do know that the infamy surrounding Citizen Kane and the legendary radio brodcast of The War of the Worlds was something I was aware of long before I ever encountered those works first hand. Certainly, my interest turned to a borderline obsession around four years ago when I saw Citizen Kane for the first time.

While Kane is certainly the crown jewel of Welles' filmography, I'll save that for a future entry in this project. For this entry, I'd like to talk about Welles' adaptation of Franz Kafka's The Trial.

Like Citizen Kane, this was one of the few films that Welles had complete control over. Welles' film career is repeatedly marked by studio interference and unauthorized alterations to his works. The Trial, would be one of the few occasions where Welles' was able to release a film as he intended it to be.

Filmed in 1962 in an out-of-service Parisian railway station, The Trial is a loose adaptation of Kafka's work. The most striking aspect of the film are the visuals. Welles' places Josef K (as played by a post-Psycho Anthony Perkins) in contrast with either enormous buildings and vast expanses or tight corridors and cluttered rooms. With one surreal set piece opening onto another.

The film, apparently shot haphazardly and on the cheap, is poorly dubbed. Welle's provides the voices for a number of the characters himself, some more obviously than others. Welles' himself has only a brief part in the film, playing the role of the Advocate. Shown mostly lying in an obscenely ornate bed, Welles' delivers many of his lines without any expression on his face. In his closeups, it appears as if only his mouth is moving, the rest of his facial features seemingly carved in stone.

While watching The Trial, it's hard not to put together a mental list of films that may have inspired this work and films that undoubtably took inspiration from it. One could reasonably assume that Welles' took some inspiration from early German surrealist film makers like Fritz Lang. Also, the early shots of Josef K's office are not unlike those of Jack Lemmon's office in Billy Wilder's 1960 film The Apartment.

Here is the intro to the film, narrated by Welles himself:

The Trial has fallen into public domain and is widely available on a variety of budget releases.

[Images taken from: wikipedia and]

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

How Did You Spend Your Weekend?

If you haven't seen this already, it's security camera footage of a guy who gets stuck in an elevator for a little over 40 hours.

I've always wondered what it would be like to be stuck in an elevator for an extended period of time. My concern is always what you'd have to do if you needed to go to the bathroom. Best I can tell, this guy just held it in for two days.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Random Memories From A TV-Addled Mind

My brain is a vast repository for useless pop culture knowledge. That's meant to be more of a confession than a boast. Though many geeks like me would take pride in their expansive internal databases, I'm convinced that these memories are probably taking up valuable real estate in my brain. I can only assume that most people fill up these same portions of the brain with important stuff like math, social skills and a sense of direction.

It's hardly a curse though, it's always fun to blow someone's mind when you can help them piece together their own pop culture memories. It was recently that a friend came to me with a vague memory. It went a little something like this:

Friend: Do you remember a show that had this guy and a dog, and they showed clips of Batman or something. I think his name was Stan the Man.
Me: You mean Switchback?
Friend: Maybe.

It was indeed Switchback, a show I had not seen or thought about since it went off the air in the late eighties. Switchback was a youth oriented program on CBC. There were various versions of the program, each suited to their particular Canadian market. Stan the Man (pictured above) hosted the Halifax version with his trusty dog Rufus. My memories of the show consist of little more than glimpses of neon and puppets. I can remember, however, that the show was quite popular and it came as a shock to many when it was cancelled.

After being reminded of the show, I tried to find as much info on it as I could. Sadly, I couldn't find any video clips and only a few pictures. There are several mentions of the show on various message boards. One common theme among those who remember the show was that Stan the Man was not a particularly genial person when the cameras weren't rolling.

It was during my google quest for Switchback info that I came across the site, which must have been lovingly crafted by pop culture geeks not unlike myself. The beauty of the site though is that it focuesses on Canadian programming. Meaning that shows like Switchback, Danger Bay and the Littlest Hobo have all been given some recognition.

Here is a list of some of the countless Canadian made programs that brought back from the dark recesses of my brain:

The Anti-Gravity Room
Camp Cariboo
Deke Wilson's Mini Mysteries
The Edison Twins
Harriet's Magic Hats
Maniac Mansion
My Secret Identity
Puttnam's Prairie Emporium
Size Small
Squawk Box
Street Cents
Test Pattern
Today's Special
Under The Umbrella Tree
The Vacant Lot
Wok With Yan

The downside of this memory affirming bit of nostalgia is that it has knocked loose a new variety of partial memories. Like the show where a cop's soul gets trapped in the body of his St. Bernard after a car accident and the dog ends up living with the cop's relatives who have a wacky neighbor who is a hair-obsessed TV weather man who suspects that there is something not quite right with the St. Bernard. I'm not kidding about that either, it was a cheesy sitcom wherein the dog (who could talk) would try to help out the family with their everday problems by dispensing advice and stupid pet tricks. God help me.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Chief Brody and the Maritime Winter Blues

A little bit of sad news here kiddos, veteran actor Roy Scheider has passed away at the age of 75. Scheider, best known for his role as Chief Brody in Jaws, died this past sunday at a hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas. No official cause of death has been released. He will be missed.

In other news: I'm friggin' sick of winter. So sick that I've put together a haiku to express my hatred of this awful season. Enjoy.

Go to hell winter
You god damn son of a bitch
I hate shoveling

Sunday, January 06, 2008

A Late List

Seeing as 2008 hasn't yielded any milestones yet, here is a list of a few of my favorite movies/albums/books/websites of 2007.

Best Movies I Saw In Theatres*
3:10 To Yuma
American Gangster
Live Free or Die Hard
No Country For Old Men
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
The Kingdom
The Simpsons Movie

*I like to go see movies in the theatre as often as possible. Downloading movies and the quick turnaround from big screen to DVD is making the in-theatre experience almost unnecessary, which is a shame.

Great Albums I Bought*
Albert Hammond Jr. - Yours to Keep
Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare
Handsome Furs - Plague Park
The Hives - The Black and White Album
Julie Doiron - Woke Myself Up
Matthew Good - Hospital Music
Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
Patton Oswalt - Werewolves and Lollipops
Radiohead - In Rainbows**
Spaceblood - Spaceblood
Sunset Rubdown - Random Spirit Lover
The White Stripes - Icky Thump

*I still buy CDs. The whole Napster revolution is several years old now. If you like an artist, I think you should support them. The downloader mindset of "sticking it to the man" and "stealing from the rich" is pretty selfish. Just because you can steal, doesn't always mean that you should.
**Yes, I sprung for the limited edition discbox set.

The Books I Read*
"Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser
"I Am America (And So Can You!)" by Stephen Colbert
"Invisible Monsters" by Chuck Palahniuk
"Into The Wild" by Jon Krakauer
"The Areas of My Expertise" by John Hodgman
"The Road" by Cormac McCarthy

*I don't read a lot of new books. Nor do I read as much as I'd like. These are simply a few books that I can remember reading and enjoying over the course of last year.

Best of the Web
An internet talk radio show devoted to horror movies. The show is hosted by two guys from Kentucky, Uncle Bill and the Creepy Kentuckian. Deadpit's combination of news, reviews, comedy and honesty make for a very entertaining show. I had all but given up on the horror genre before I found this show.

SModcast is a weekly podcast hosted by Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier of View Askew Films. Each podcast is an extended informal conversation between the hosts and occasional guests. If you're a fan of Kevin Smith's movies (ie: Clerks, Mallrats, Dogma, etc.) then you will enjoy this podcast.

Is It A Good Idea To Microwave This?
American college students and their destructive microwave adventures.

Hopefully we can all look forward to a prosperous and enjoyable 2008.