In the end, all you have are memories.

I say this as someone who has lived in Toronto since 1995. I’ve seen many changes: the mainlining of Queen West into a retail stripmall, the slow existential irreverence of Church Street/Boystown, the awkward moral reclamation of Yonge Street by the city, the evolution (and perverse deflation) of Ossington Avenue, the¬†current “yuppy tension” in Kensington Market. To name just a few.

One thing you learn in Toronto (and perhaps most large urban centres) is that it was always cooler before you got there. It was always more fun. There was more leniency. Less rules. This is bullshit, of course, but it makes the people who were around back then feel important.

You live somewhere long enough and, whether you expect to be in this role or not, you end up being the person who points out what used to be at certain addresses: clothing stores, book stores, record shops, dance clubs, their lovely fucked-up people, long gone (and missed).

We go through life somewhat arrogantly or narcissistically thinking it’s all being recorded – it is the modern age, after all. But it’s not. The only thing recording it is your head. Your eyes. Your nose, your brain. When it’s all been taken-over, torn-down, or burnt to the ground by corrupt real estate developers, you – yes, you and your memories – are the only record of that thing having existed.

If there is something we share, I suppose it is that we all become storytellers after a while.



The Dread of Zombies

Everyone is waiting for the zombie genre (in books, television, and particularly film) to whither away like a desiccated corpse. I argue that it’s here to stay – that, in fact, it has stronger legs (ugh) than most other genres of the macabre.

The dread of zombies imagined – the tiredness some of us feel with each iteration (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, The Walking Dead, Zombieland) – is understandable. Less understandable than with vampires, but understandable still. There are too many zombie and zombie-like (for the record, 28 Weeks Later is not, strictly-speaking, a zombie film, yet it more or less qualifies itself by virtue of many shared) themes in books, shows, and movies these days. But I would argue that it’s because – due to our increased connectedness to each other via the Internet and social media – we are exposed to real life zombies. Thematic zombies. Metaphorical zombies. And the exposure stands to increase.

A shitload of people voted for a complete ass to be the mayor of Toronto. A shit. Load. Mind you, not many who lived downtown did. Still, it was a rout. People like me – people who prize intelligent discourse over pot shots, people who would prefer to be ruled by someone with an informed conscience rather than a bullet-list of to-dos – were incredulous. It didn’t even matter what quadrant of the political spectrum Rob Ford occupied: he was the last person any reasonably well-informed person would have wanted. And yet he won in spades.

Thematic zombies. Metaphorical zombies. The dread of zombies.

Who voted for him? Who can say that they “understand” him? Are they too not also zombies by virtue of his succession to the throne of city council? Faceless, nameless, godless, conscience-less hordes hefted Mr. Ford to office, and we stand here still – a year later – asking ourselves just what the hell happened, watching the circus of political buffoonery before our eyes.

Lest this become a solely personal treatise, isn’t this the same for everyone? Aren’t we witnessing “zombie activity” in other guises: large groups of seemingly nameless, faceless, godless, conscience-less hordes blindly enabling things we fundamentally disagree with but are powerless to dispell? For me it’s the rise of Rob Ford, for others it could be the Occupy movement. For others still, it could be the revolution in Tahrir Square. The massive, faceless but powerful other. The faceless, godless, conscience-less hordes…with agency.

Thematic zombies. Metaphorical zombies. The dread of zombies.

No, it is not going away. Make popcorn.


Two TIFF Reviews

The Keyhole world premiere at TIFF went over quite well (see here for more). I had the opportunity to catch two other films over the same weekend:

360: Fernando Meirelles’ latest film is a continent-spanning, Wim Wenders-esque meditation on fidelity and perseverance in a world whose inhabitants’ stories are increasingly inter-threaded. The cinematography is beautiful, with exquisite long shots which accentuate each locale intimately, while the characters sort out their broken hearts and wandering eyes. The cast is solid: Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins, Rachel Weisz, and many others, with yet another gritty, soul-churning performance by Ben Foster. It is a movie with a clear moral conscience at its core, which may disappoint some who are looking for a string of happy endings, and others who alternately want the world to conform to a cynical philosophy. One to elicit discussion, for sure.Jude Law and Rachel Weisz, in a scene from "360"Jude Law & Rachel Weisz in "360"

Anonymous: It’s weird to see a movie at TIFF which you know will be rolled out into movie theatres soon. Weirder still to stand in line and see a massive-sized poster for the movie you are about to see across the street from you, telling you that it will premiere in a month’s time. The tickets were comps, so I didn’t let this hang me up. Sam Reid as the Earl of Essex, in "Anonymous"

Anonymous isn’t a great film, I will say that now. In an effort to dramatize its thesis – that our notion of Shakespeare is based on a ruse, and that The Bard’s works were actually written by a nobleman, the Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans) – it crams in so many plot points to justify its theory (and it is a leading Shakespeare-alternate theory, for what that’s worth) that I felt separated from the characters (and eventually the story) on the screen. And this is a shame, because it’s a gorgeous-looking film and the filmmakers obviously spent a dear load of time making everything look authentic. The performances as well are quite strong, with a cast which also includes Vanessa Redgrave as Queen Elizabeth I and David Thewlis, who all but lives beneath the skin of the calculating William Cecil. The great tragedy, if you will pardon the pun, is that Rhys Ifans’ affecting lead performance, an actor who for so long has held films together in often comic-serving supporting roles, seems sacrificed to some degree – scattered across a time-spanning storyline – so that we only see him intermittently. Pity. Still, for those who love movies with codpieces and horse hooves clop-clop-clopping on cobblestone, you could do worse.


TIFF a-hoy!

Looks like the film I worked on earlier this year, Keyhole, will have its world premiere in Toronto this September @ TIFF. Some press here.

For those new to this site, I have had a parallel journal chronicling the film, called Guy Maddin’s Keyhole: A Post Production Diary, which I wrote in tandem with my work on the project.

Needless to say that I’m very happy to have another film premiering at TIFF, and I hope that it is well-received. Keyhole is a challenging film, even for fans of Guy Maddin’s work, yet I think it’s perhaps his most personal and – in that regard – bravest work to date.