Happy New Year & More…

Hello all,

Not much updating lately. There is a reason. Actually, two:

1)  I’ve signed with a literary agency who are interested in my current novel. This is great/fabulous/OMG news. However, because there are substantive revisions to be made (in order to clarify some of the details in the book and make it easier to sell to a publisher), my time is taken up with that.

2)  I am beginning my career transition, from film/TV Post Production Supervisor to Psychotherapist. I haven’t really made that public here, but it’s happening. I will begin to discuss it soon, because obviously it will need some explanation. Part of the transition has been renovating our basement to be an office – while this is a great idea (even still), it’s also been a great deal of work and stress and cost.

So, as you can see, particularly when you factor-in work-work, my plate is full. I will send updates here as they happen – or you can simply subscribe to updates. I will obviously have much to share with you about how both of these developments…um, develop.

Needless to say, it’s an exciting, somewhat scary time.

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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.

 

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Guy Maddin’s Keyhole

Good news #1: I’m supervising the post production on the new film by Guy Maddin, Keyhole.

Good news #2: I’ve been asked to do a blog/diary of its progress. Sweet!

Here’s the link to my Keyhole post production blog. Don’t be surprised if it takes my attention away from here for the next while. I will endeavour to keep Imaginary Magnitude updated.

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Movies & A Book: Some of The Best Things I’ve Witnessed in 2010

Here’s the best of what I’ve seen this year. I haven’t seen everything. You may disagree with what I have seen. This is life.

FILM:

Inception

Go ahead. Try. Try disagreeing that this is one of the most technically (and perhaps conceptually) elaborate mainstream Hollywood productions released in years which also happens to work as a “movie” that a wide variety of audiences would enjoy watching.

There has been a backlash against Inception. I don’t know how or why this is – perhaps it was over-sold as a deep “puzzle-solver” film, which it is not. And yes, the NYT’s A.O. Scott has a point in his comment that the film’s literal depiction of dreams are lacking psychological heft (outside of Marion Cotillard’s performance as DiCaprio’s wife). In any case, something has caused a revolt against this film and I say this revolt is missing the point.

Inception is, generally speaking, the most watchable, the most fascinating film of 2010. You are allowed to hate it.

A Prophet

I am a huge fan of Jacques Audiard, a French director who has always rewarded the viewer with films (Read My Lips, The Beat My Heart Skipped) that balance passion with style. With A Prophet, Audiard expands his canvas, creating a gritty, novelistic masterpiece on-par with The Godfather (yes). The story concerns a young incarcerated Muslim who slowly rebuilds himself from within the treachery of prison life, rising from under the thumb of a vicious mob leader to become his own person and create his own empire. Epic, patient, and in places extremely violent. People will be referring to this film for years to come even if it has not really made a mark in North America. Again, a masterpiece.


The Eclipse

I realize this Irish film was released in 2009, but it didn’t get here until now. A compelling ghost story which eschews the two-dimensionality of ghost story films. It was around the twenty-minute mark that I realized it was a film which was going to confound my expectations (expectations based upon years and hundreds of similar plot lines): it wasn’t going to squander what it was and fall prey to hackneyed cliché. A gorgeous, touching, ultimately humanistic film with a stand-out performance by Ciarán Hinds as a grieving father of two children who must swallow his pride to escort a loud-mouthed Aidan Quinn through the motions of a book tour of the small coastal city of Cobh, in County Cork. A sublime achievement by director Conor McPherson.

Notable: Winter’s Bone – see it. It’s on DVD now. Like A Simple Plan, it’s a self-contained “rural thriller” (ugh) with a chilling undertone of barren hopelessness. Unlike A Simple Plan, it’s uncomplicated which is what gives it more of an honest strength. Exit Through The Gift Shop is the perhaps best film made about art and the art world that I have seen – like Inception, it’s not trying to be deep, just smart. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World blew me away because I expected it to be weak (perhaps because all the publicity photos inexplicably used a static image of Michael Cera standing against a fucking wall…imagine if you will, trying to sell Star Wars with a picture of Mark Hamill sitting cross-legged in the desert – sounds awesome, eh?). Not only was it not weak, it was the strangest case of “I don’t know why I love this movie but I really do”. Painstakingly, sublimely Toronto-centric (which, unlike the inexplicable promo photos of Michael Cera, shouldn’t be factored into explaining why it didn’t fare well at the box office) and wildly imaginative – those two things have never met before…oh but wait, I forgot the perfect companion piece: Kick Ass – also shot in TO, and also exceedingly expectation-defying (although the climax is kinda drawn-out). As far as performances go, Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) and Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) stand out, along with Winter’s Bone‘s Jennifer Lawrence, and Hailee Steinfeld for True Grit (who, at 14-years, shows huge promise as an actor).

BOOK:

I would have said “BOOKS”, but due to work and school I haven’t read anything published this year (that I can remember), with the exception of John Vaillant’s The Tiger. Lucky for me, since it is without doubt one of the best non-fiction titles I’ve read in years.

The Tiger is a meaty real-life tale of vengeance by the titular beast, in the winter hinterland of the Russian Far East (which the author calls, paradoxically, “the boreal forest”). Vaillant describes an environment historically, politically, and biologically unique, inhabited by hardened outcasts. The shadow of a predator male tiger, known never before to attack without cause, creates a wave of dread throughout the land, with only a small band of volunteers to figure out the mystery. Vaillant provides wave after wave of fascinating detail – examples of how man and beast have evolved throughout time, how human and animal behaviour have worked in similar paths – that by the end of the book you feel as if you should have a credit in Ethology. This is truly a page-turner and I cannot recommend it enough.

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All That Glitters Isn’t Oranje

It should come as no surprise that my postings have been less frequent, in proportion to the success or lack thereof of the Dutch at the World Cup, which has just (mercifully) ended.

First: I’m happy we made it to the Final.

Second: I’m happy we lost (even though I wanted us to win at the time).

Allow me to explain: I will always support Oranje, but that doesn’t mean I have to suspend my critical faculties while doing so. It also doesn’t mean I am living in a nostalgic cloudbank in which Holland must either play soccer like the Kirov ballerinas dance or else they are “cynical” – a word bandied about by once-every-four-years-I-pay-attention-to-soccer pundits.

In case I haven’t beaten this point enough, my Oranje is the team of 1998. It always will be. They were beautiful to watch (take a look at my Ryeberg essay if you haven’t already) and most aficionados consider that squad the greatest team of the competition, regardless that they lost to Brazil in the semi-finals. The thing is, if you accept that, then you must also accept they were the very same team who flamed-out against Italy in Euro 2000 in the quarters, in perhaps one of the most humiliating games I’ve seen us play: same squad, folks. How’s that for beauty?

The toughest question in the world if you are a Dutch international soccer player: What can you do when the public, the pundits, the former stars from the Golden Age all want to see you play ballet if playing ballet doesn’t win anything? Don’t get me wrong: I like the Oranje ballet – I am one of those people who can walk away from a loss, still chuffed that we played “as we should”. I do side with author David Winner’s thoughts about Dutch soccer philosophy, as laid out in his (brilliant) book, Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer. But inevitably you want to win something, and the only silverware the Dutch have is the Euro title in 1988.

This brings us to the present. Sadly. Sadly, because for the most part Oranje did not live up to the philosophy we had come to World Cup 2010 expecting. Under the direction of Bert van Marwijk, they took a detour: individual beauty, sure, when necessary, but collectively less a ballet than an assembly line with a very narrow directive: win, above all else. And they did. They were rusty at first and their games, outside of pockets of that ol’ Clockwork Oranje we hoped to see, were not pretty, but they won, and continued to win. Lord, I wanted them to win, too – I was a willing enabler.

When the final against Spain came, I was a nervous wreck. I can only imagine how it must have been in Holland, for those making their way to the Museum Square in Amsterdam where the games were shown for the public. They had come so far, had been through so much, for so many years: 1974, 1978, the glimmer of 1998, the disappointment of missing 2002. So much baggage that you wanted them to win just to shake off the voodoo of the past.

But as I got prepared that morning I visualized what it would be like if we won, if for the first time ever we won the Cup. Instead of tears of joy, I have to tell you, I saw that it would have felt as if we had cheated. As if in winning, we had not done so as ourselves but as a cunning machine, as if someone had invented a “Dutch Soccer Team” to take our place. I cannot describe how difficult it was to deal with that: to stare at a historic vindication within reach of your fingertips, knowing simultaneously there was something inherently inauthentic about it. In fact, had we won, I fear the “victory” would have irrevocably punctured the heart of Dutch soccer, as opposed to the bittersweet reality I live with now: we lost, Dutch soccer is merely dented. Coach van Marwijk’s corporatist approach has been repudiated, that is for sure. What I don’t know is who or what, philosophically speaking, has been vindicated, since we are bridesmaids once again.

Perhaps it is our souls? I can’t speak for yours, but mine is in a better if not exactly comfortable place right now.

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Tripping

So we went on a trip, an idea first posited by Ingrid which we polished (oh who am I kidding, she polished – I was just a witness) into an eleven-day, three-city, three-country vacation at the end of 2009.

London was the primary location seeing as our friend Shannon (member of the Z-Rays and now a music teacher) had moved there a couple of years ago – it’s always easier when you have a friend in a strange town, especially when it’s a massive place like London. Ingrid had gone there for a visit in late-Spring (it was during this time that we bought our first house…without her ever having walked into it). In the summer, Shannon came over and stayed with us while we renovated and had the electrical pulled out. It only seemed natural that she be the person we see to end the year (and decade) and since I’d never been to London, it was the perfect choice.

Thing is, it was also an opportunity for me to visit relatives in Holland – and when I say “relatives”, I specifically mean my second cousin who lives outside the city of Leiden (notable, aside from its aged beauty, for its university – the second oldest in Europe).

Seeing as how the Eurostar train made its way from England to the continent via Brussels, Belgium, it occurred to me that it would be an excellent reason to check out a city I’d always wanted to investigate: Antwerp. Why Antwerp? Well…it’s between London and Leiden and neither Ingrid nor I had ever been there, with the exception of a couple of instances in past visits when I had to switch trains at Antwerpen Centraal station. The city always looked like a gothic gem from the station, which is quite a complement seeing as Antwerpen Centraal is one of the most beautiful train stations in the world – seriously, it’s dubbed “The Railway Cathedral” and worth the trip, if only just as a stopover.

The plan was set. And, regardless of the various chaotic things happening around (thankfully not to) us (the halted airline terrorist attack on Christmas, the stranded Eurostar trains just before then, a snowstorm in the UK just as we were leaving) it all went remarkably well, save for one missed train to The Hague.

Antwerp is a wonderful place to visit, with a mind-blowing mix of architectural styles, including some stunning Art Deco neighbourhoods. We stayed at the Mabuhay Lodgings, a conveniently located and very comfortable B&B with two very gracious hosts (and their two very cute cats). It’s a gorgeous city with much to offer and I look forward to spending more time there. I tried speaking Dutch, but between my elementary knowledge of the language and the dialect spoken in Antwerp, it was easier just speaking English.

Leiden, in the province of South Holland, is a spiritual home-away-from-home for me. 15 years ago I had stayed with my cousin and her husband, just outside of Leiden (in the village of Zoeterwoude), after I’d graduated from college. Like Antwerp, we were a little rushed for time (the aim was to celebrate New Year’s with our friend in London), but it was great to see the city again and spend time with my cousin (not to mention introducing Ingrid to her and her friends in the neighbourhood). We both look forward to returning, particularly when it’s warmer. If there was one drawback to our trip, it’s that it was unseasonably cold at times (and one can only flex one’s Canadian-ness in the cold so often before you just want to wimp out and stay inside all day).

London surprised me. It was the one place I had no ideas or preconceptions about – I never had anything against it, but alternately never had much of an understanding about it beyond the clichés. It’s a big, bustling, maze-like place which still somehow retains a convivial vibe; facing colder-than-normal temperatures while we navigated from place to place, I never felt the “silent sneer” you get from people in Toronto. I loved the pubs, I loved the beer, I loved Brick Lane (which reminds me of Kensington Market), I loved (again) the architecture, and was happy to have visited the Tate Modern (which had – coincidentally – curated a retrospective of artist Theo van Doesburg at the Stedelijk Museum in Leiden while we were there) as well as other sites and sights of interest. And yes, we even managed to hop onto one of the few remaining Routemaster buses in operation. We also met some of Shannon’s friends and enjoyed a lovely Sunday roast with them at the Carpenter’s Arms (a pub the notorious Kray brothers had bought for their mother). So much more to say, but that’s it in a nutshell.

Not bad for eleven days (mind you, at least one full day was spent travelling). Photos to follow…

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2009: This is Naught a Love Song

It wasn’t even close to New Year’s Eve before Ingrid and I were swearing that 2009 could not end fast enough, like a vampire-queen freshly staked that we wished would stop spitting blood and just fucking die already.

It’s not that it was such a *bad* year, so much as it was filled with such a dense and dramatic amount of events that by early December I simply had no room left in my head; my brain’s capacity was supersaturated with fragments of information without the ability to reflect anymore (reflection, I feel, being the way we digest information, the same way our stomach digests food in order to allow more food to come later). I tell you: such a state of mind is not healthy.

Among the highlights of 2009, this last year of the naughts: I completed work on two feature films, one MoW (movie-of-the-week), bought a house (without Ingrid being in the same country at the time!), moved into said house, started teaching post-graduate studies in film post production, and completed a major revision on my novel (which I’m becoming very happy with). Lastly, we managed to insert a three-country whirlwind vacation after Christmas. I must say, there was some cruel justice in having abandoned the country while the decade died. And what a decade it was…

Our friend, Shannon, who we met in London, upon hearing how things had gone for us in 2009, showed no surprise. “It’s the Year of the Ox.” she said “I can’t wait for it to end!”. According to Shannon, Years of the Ox are denoted by their eschewing of joy and relaxation for the throes of head-down labour and development. I’m not exactly sure how accurate this is – was it this bad twelve years ago, the last time there was an Oxen year? I ask myself – but one thing I do know: I certainly don’t want to go through another Year of the Ox for another twelve years.

And so, to my readers, and to those just visiting, when I say “Happy 2010” I really mean it. The Oxen year is not quite over yet – the Chinese New Year is not until February 14th (at which point, 2010 will be the Year of the Tiger). I wish you all the best for the coming year, and offer the following synopsis, taken from a website who took it from a website, who took it from another website (so it must be true):

Drama, intensity, change and travel will be the keywords for 2010. Unfortunately, world conflicts and disasters tend to feature during Tiger years also, so it won’t be a dull 12 months for anyone. The Year of the Tiger will bring far reaching changes for everyone. New inventions and incredible technological advances have a good chance of occurring. For all of the Chinese horoscope signs, this year is one to be active – seizing opportunities and making the most of our personal and very individual talents. Everything happens quickly and dramatically in a Tiger year – blink and you could miss an important chance of a lifetime!

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House

The following tale could be told, all story elements considered, over the course of an hour. I shall, for sake of blog aesthetics, keep it brief.

Ingrid and I decided not too long ago that it was time to look for a house. We went through the movements – contacted a mortgage broker, then contacted a real estate agent – and found ourselves seriously looking at houses. As in, “come to the house for 2pm and have a look”.

You learn very quickly what it is that you want, by virtue of what you don’t like: suspicious patch jobs, poorly graded foundations, murky unfinished basements. Then, of course, comes price. Finding a house – a good house – in downtown Toronto for a decent price is difficult. All the talk in the media about flailing real estate markets may be correct on the whole, but I can tell you from experience that downtown Toronto prices are still inflated (or, at the very least, stuck at pre-recession-2008 prices).

Ingrid then left for a week’s vacation to see a friend (and sometimes-bandmate of mine) in London, England. Two days after she left, I receive a house listing via email from our real estate agent – look at this, she says, it’s perfect for you two. I was afraid of this; I lived in terror that this would happen – that, while Ingrid was away, I would find a house and (because the downtown buyers’ market is still strong) would need to make a quick decision as to whether or not to put in an offer. I saw the place on Friday (same day I received the email) and needed to have an answer for Sunday. Nice house. Nice owners. Great neighbourhood. Good price, considering house, owners, and neighbourhood.

Long story short, I bought a house that Sunday which Ingrid has never seen, save for photos and descriptions sent via email. I am currently going through a swirling mass of elation, buyer’s remorse, stress, and raw, drug-like excitement. I swear, my life mirrors B-movies and 80s TV shows sometimes.

Thankfully, she lands in Toronto tomorrow, so I will not be the only one trying to get a handle on this. I cannot even imagine – on her end – how surreal an experience this must’ve been.

I also don’t want to see my phone bill.

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