Anders Bergstrom's blog on Words, Films, and Music

Monday, October 31, 2005

The Weather Man is a depressing film. But it's also darkly funny as well. The performances are uniformly outstanding and the cinematography is wonderful. Perhaps what I'm trying to say is that, The Weather Man is a very good film.

Nicholas Cage is David Spritz, a Chicago weather man whose life is a complete mess. His marriage is over. His kids are dealing with all kinds of problems. His father (Michael Caine), a Pulitzer Prize winning author, is dying. On top of all that, Dave finds his job meaningless, and people think he's an asshole. One of the regular things he has to deal with is having fast food thrown at him. Of course, Dave wants to get things together, but as he finds, it isn't easy, and real life doesn't always turn out the way we dreamed things would when we were kids.

Cage gives another outstanding performance. I wish he would keep doing films that are dramatic/comedic (Adaptation, Matchstick Men) and just ignore the whole action star thing (National Treasure). Hope Davis, as his estranged wife, is appropriately frustrated and frustrating - she has a lot of appeal to me in many ways, the kind of woman I find interesting. I'll take this moment to recommend the little-seen gem, The Secret Lives of Dentists, with her and Cambell Scott. Very good. Nicholas Hoult (About A Boy) plays Dave's son, and newcomer Gemmenne de la Pena plays his troubled daughter. Michael Caine is likely to get an Oscar nomination for his role in the film.

The film isn't neccessarly happy. But it's real. As Michael Caine's character, Robert Spritzl points out, "Do you know that the harder thing to do, and the right thing to do, are usually the same thing? "Easy" doesn't enter into grown-up life." Not something you hear at the cineplex every night, from the mouths of big name actors, but a point well taken none-the-less.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

"Bond. James Bond." Halloween can be no fun when you're 23. You're too old to go out trick or treating, and yet you haven't resolved yourself to your fate, sitting at home handing out candy. I didn't know if I would get a chance to do anything for Halloween this year. No one was planning a party, as far as I knew, and so I didn't put a lot of thought into it, other than Monday night I'm going to watch myself some Halloween movies (Burton's Sleepy Hollow is a yearly ritual for me). But Meghann (who has posted a whole bunch more pictures here). was kind enough to invite me to a Halloween bash with a bunch of her friends, so I had to come up with a decent costume. In lieu of the Harry Potter costume which I've worn for the past 3 years, I decided that with my recent interest in all things Bond, I would go as the man himself: Sean Connery in From Russia With Love. I didn't have a rea bowtie, but I think the costume worked pretty well. And the fun thing is that as Bond, your drink is also your accessory: "Martini. Shaken, not stirred."

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Do you know what one of the most strange things to get used to here on the Pacifac Coast is? The fact that Hockey Night in Canada starts at 3:30 PM!

So what happens is that the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs game, which starts in a few minutes, is on the late afternoon, there by throwing a distracting wrench into my homework plans. Let's just hope that the Senators kick Toronto's ass!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Here you are Belle. You'll love to hear this.

On Sunday night, after spending all afternoon working on preparing my notes for teaching sentence structure, I decided I had had enough and went out to see a movie. The theatre has become my sanctuary from work and the world. I had wanted to see Flightplan, with Jodie Foster, for a while. While the film didn't have the greatest reviews, I was still curious about it. It turns out I enjoyed it quite a bit. While it's not a great film, it's an enjoyable ride. The film has a real Hitchcockian bent to it, employing plot elements reminiscent of The Lady Vanishes and others. Sean Bean is solid as always, and Peter Sarsgaard continues his string of outstanding supporting roles. What I particularly liked about the film was the atmosphere created in the enclosed space of the airplane (albeit one of those new 400 passenger super-airbuses, but still). Of course, the main reason to see the film is Foster. She's outstanding in pretty much ever role she takes; her icy blue eyes revealing both her intelligence and beauty. It's too bad she doesn't make more films than she does (and something more substantial, since this and her last film, Panic Room, were both fairly light weight, while enjoyable). If you want to see her at her best though, check out Silence of the Lambs, and also one of my personal favourites, the film of Carl Sagan's Contact. Both of her characters in those films (and in Flightplan) are intelligent, capable women. It's refreshing from the Hollywood norm.


Also, I found a poker night here in Victoria. Monday nights at Felicita's. It's not for cash (gambling laws and all that), but there are prizes and the players take it seriously, which is nice. While I do miss the house games from back home, this is good practice as some of these guys are really good. Still, I managed to hold my own and came away happy with my performance. It's nice to play against some different people, as I was wondering how good I really was and if I was just used to playing the same people over and over.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Danny posts some insightful comments on television and how it allows us to waste time. I like to waste time too, but I find myriad other ways to do so. For instance, posting to my blog, talking on MSN, reading web comics (Penny Arcade, PvP, Scary Go Round), organizing playlists in iTunes, going for a walk, and, or course, socialising with my fellow students over coffee or beer.

For the record, I have over 50 channels of television, but I only regularly watch the following:

  • FOX (Arrested Development, The Simpsons)
  • TSN (hockey games, SportsCentre)
  • CBC (news, hockey)
  • Much Music and Much More Music (on the rare occasion that they actually play music videos these days)
  • and The Comedy Network (The Daily Show)
Last week I bought Arrested Development: Season 2 on DVD, and have already watched the whole season again with highlights like "Uncle" Jack (Martin Short in a hilariously insane role), Franklin (Gob's hand puppet):
Gob: Franklin said some things White-America wasn't ready to hear.
: Gob, weren't you also mercilessly beaten outside of a club in Torrance for that act?
Gob: He also said some things that African-America wasn't ready to hear either.
and Zach Braff as the founder of Girls With Low Self-Esteem. Go watch it now!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

I don't really know why Cameron Crowe's films seem to work for me time and time again. While it's no suprise that I absolutely love the critically acclaimed Almost Famous , even Crowe's box office and critical dissapointment Vanilla Sky became a favourite of mine. Perhaps Crowe just hits on aesthetic notes that I mesh well with my own sensibilities. Or perhaps it's just merely that the man is the master of creating soundtracks, melding popular music into his films in memorable and remarkable ways (see the "Tiny Dancer'" scene in Almost Famous or the Tom Cruise freakout to "Good Vibrations" in Vanilla Sky).

The main reason to see Elizabethtown.

Elizabethtown isn't an out and out homerun; let's just get that out of the way (maybe that's for that other Kentucky town, Louisville to handle). It's flawed in a number of ways, and coupled with the failure of Vanilla Sky, this may hurt Crowe's Hollywood currency. It isn't going to win any awards, and won't probably bank hugely at the box office. But to me this is a much more interesting film than most directors are pumping out these days. It's a personal film; Crowe has gone to great lengths to highlight this in the promotional material and in the set up of the film itself. And it shows through in the film itself.

Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom shedding the armor and English accent) travels to Elizabethtown, Kentucky after his father passes away in the wake of a phenomenal personal failure at work and in life in general. As expected, over the course of the film Drew finds new zeal for life in the love of his family and friends and in the chance relationship with a peppy airline stewardess, Claire (Kirsten Dunst). The film is somewhat disjointed in some ways. The opening scenes of Drew's failure in shoe design and suicidal intentions don't mesh with the down to earth flavours of Kentucky. Some of the plot elements are downright goofy and too coincedental for a film that seems to demand that we emotionally connect with it. It's not until Drew encounters Claire on his trans-continental red eye that the film really picks up. Kirsten Dunst is amazing. Claire is so charming, so much so that I wanted to run away with her part way through the film. The performances of the two main actors go a long way to making the film work, and it shows that Crowe spends a lot of time working with his actors to get what he wants out of them.

While I said that the film doesn't entirely mesh, on their own the elements of the film are fantastic. From the hours long phone conversation (one interesting motif in the film is the use of cellphones, something that really grounds the film in the America of today) to the final roadtrip, these sequences completely engaged me. Especially in the last half of the film, the emotional elements of the story start to come together and work, perhaps in part because of my own travels and dealings with death in the last few months (my grandmother passed away from cancer at the end of August in case you're wondering).

A word on the music in the film: Crowe's use of music is spot on. From the almost theme song of the film, Elton John's "My Father's Gun" to Ryan Adams (a personal favourite) with "Come Pick Me Up" Crowe creates a solid, cohesive album of sincere, rock and alt-country songs that make it the perfect roadtrip music to travel across the heartland of America. Of course, this becomes the climax and most memorable piece of the film. When all was said and done, I wanted to take Claire's map and go on my own roadtrip. And on that count, Crowe succeeds.

Friday, October 14, 2005

It's official! Daniel Craig is the new James Bond!I'm very excited about this news. Craig is a wonderful actor, who I was mostly recently a fan of in Matthew Vaughn's Layer Cake. Other's might recognize him from his small roles in films like Elizabeth, Road to Perdition or Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. The fact is that he'll be perfect for returning the character to something a little more cold, a little more deadly, and a little more like original Sean Connery role.

The next Bond film will be Casino Royale, which was Flemming's first Bond novel. This will be the third time that it's been adapted: once for television in the 50s, and for the spoof film in the late 60s with Peter Sellers and Woody Allen. Martin Campbell (Goldeneye, The Mask of Zorro) will be directing. Goldeneye is easily my favourite non-Connery Bond film, so he's hoping he makes Craig's debut a good one!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Wanna read an interesting blog? Check out Radiohead's blog, as they work on their new album due out in Spring 2006! Thom gives some tantalizing glimpses of a new track entitled "Rubbernecks." I must say, this is one of my most anticipated albums of next year (even if I think Hail to the Theif is their weakest album, here's hoping they're back on track). I think I'm going to go listen to some Kid A.

In other Radiohead news, I must also mention that Johnny and Phil are going to be part of the band, The Wyrd Sisters, in the new Harry Potter movie along with Jarvis Cocker from Pulp.

Also, you should all go and download the newest Radiohead single, "I Want None Of This" which was released for the charity album, Help: A Day In The Life in the UK.

Monday, October 10, 2005

It's time for a massive update. And a wish to all of you whom I haven't personally talked to, a very happy Thanksgiving weekend. Here's to a shortened work week of eating turkey sandwiches. On this Thanksgiving Monday afternoon I decided I really need to update the blog: a time for reflection, perhaps? Or maybe I'll just give the narrative. Living in Victoria, I'm close to two major cities (Vancouver and Seattle) and it means that there are a lot of good concerts. Also, how could I live here without exploring those cities a little bit? Well, that's exactly what I did this past week and half.


It's been a very busy couple of weeks. School in particular is getting very busy. I find myself swamped with readings and writings and weekly presentations for my Literary Computing class. But one cannot live on work alone, so in the name of unwinding and doing something fun, I jumped at the opportunity to see Franz Ferdinand on the Oct. 1st weekend at Seattle's gorgeous Paramount Theatre.

Of course the trip to Seattle was more than merely a hop on a bus and jaunt down the street (though it did involve both of those activities). Because of the nature of living on an island, one has to find a way to cross the body of water that separates us from the mainland. Lesley Matheson, whom many of you know, (but who still hasn't sent me the photos from the concert!) came with me as she's even more of a music nut than I am. We caught the Victoria Clipper ferry from the downtown harbour on Friday afternoon, and had a comfortable and speedy ferry ride directly to downtown Seattle. Conveniently, the Hostel International, where we stayed, was only a few blocks from Pier 69. We found it with minimal trouble and found our room to be clean and comfortable. As a spoiled brat I've never had the hostel experience before (I stay in hotels), but this time on a student budget, it made sense and it ended up being a lot of fun.

The concert was Saturday night, so we had to find things to do in Seattle on the Saturday. One exciting part of the trip was that I had the opportunity to meet Jeffrey Overstreet, whom I have participated on message boards with, but not had the chance to meet in person. Jeffrey knew a great coffee place and amazing bookstore as well, and we also explored the Pike Place Market as well. Seattle is a great place to visit as there seems to be no shortage of cool places to shop, cool places to drink, and cool concerts to see. In short: it's cool.

I mentioned that the Hostel International ended up being a lot of fun. Specifically, we found out that two of the other people staying in the hostel were also going to the Franz Ferdinand concert that evening: Tracy, from Vancouver, and her boyfriend Keith, from Sydney, Australia. We ended up going for dinner with them before and having a few drinks as well. And then we went to the concert with them as well. That's something that would never happen in a hotel (as opposed to a "hostel" - the "s" is very important). There's something about a community of travelers that seems to open itself to that kind of fast friendship making.

Now for the concert; I know that's what you've all been waiting for. The opening bands were Cut Copy and TV On The Radio, both of whom were unfamiliar to me. But Franz was the real attraction of the concert. The lower level of the concert hall (where the tables are in the above photo) was all cleared out for the audience, so the crowd (at least the standing crowd) was reading to dance! The lights dimmed, and then they busted out the opening number from the new album "The Fallen." It was a great opener and the guys were all in top form, energetic and dynamic, especially lead-singer Alex Kapranos. They then segued into "The Dark of the Matinee." Then they followed it up with another new song, the catchy single "Do You Want To." The crowd was then fully in their hands, as they unleashed their number one hit. "Take Me Out" was a homerun. The crowd went insane. As soon as the opening guitars were heard, even those casual Franz Ferdinand fans were excited. That was what we were there for. And it was worth it. They played a fairly long set, going through mostly their old album, but with a few tracks from the new one ("Walk Away" was a stand out). They closed with "Michael" (perhaps one of the most playfully ambiguous pop songs of all time) but then came back to an encore performance of "This Fire" as the drummer from one of the other bands came out and joined Paul on the drums, in a whirlwind drum duel that was fantastic to watch and really left the audience on a high.

The ferry ride the next morning was early, but we made it. Seattle had been a good experience, and I was a little sad that I had to go back and face the daunting reality of grad school once again. Little did I know that the fun wasn't over just yet.


Wednesday night rolled around. I had a monster of a reading to finish up for my Chaucer and Middle Scots poetry class. I was listening to The Arcade Fire's album, Funeral, as I also chatted with my friend Meghann on MSN Messenger (the bane of my productive existence - MSN, not Meghann). I mentioned that I was listening to the album, in part because many of my friend's back home had seen The Arcade Fire in Saskatoon the previous weekend (as I was enjoying Franz Ferdinand in Seattle). Everyone had said what a great performance it was. On a whim I checked the band's website and discovered that the were actually playing the final show of their tour in Vancouver that coming Friday night (less than two days away!). I mentioned this to Meghann, assuming that the show would long have been sold out, as it was in Saskatoon. Meghann soon popped back saying that she had found tickets to the show if we wanted them! It was too good an opportunity to pass up. I said yes, figuring the logistics would take care of themselves. So, with two days notice, after having just been to Seattle the weekend before, I had committed myself to going to Vancouver to see another show that I was very excited for. Like I said earlier: spoiled.

Things have a way of just working out it seems. You know that part in Shakespeare In Love where Fennyman (Tom Wilkinson) and Henslowe (Geoffrey Rush) are concerned about the fate of their play?

Hugh Fennyman: So what do we do?
Philip Henslowe: Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.
Hugh Fennyman: How?
Philip Henslowe: I don't know. It's a mystery.

Well that is sort of the way things always seem to work out for me. I knew I was going to the show on Friday night in Vancouver, but I still didn't know where I was going to be staying. Meghann mentioned that there was a hostel downtown, but we didn't have a reservation or anything. I mentioned in passing to my friend Percy that we were going and he reminded me that it was Thanksgiving weekend and that he would be going home to Vancouver to see his folks, and that it would likely be no problem for us to stay there that Friday night. Percy's serendipitous hospitality turned out to be the perfect thing. I got his home phone number, and we agreed that we would stop by his house on the way to concert Friday evening.

Of course it couldn't all be that easy. Friday after class, I raced to the bus and Meghann, her friend Erin, visiting from Ontario, and Jag, one of our grad student compatriots jumped on the bus and made our way to the ferry crossing. The ferry trip was great and within a few hours we were downtown in Vancouver. At the train station, I decided that I needed to check a map to find Percy's house. I proceeded to look up the street and then direct my friends to board a Skytrain and ended up in New Westminster, where I was convinced that Percy's house lay (Trivia: It also happens to be the place of my birth!) After a fruitless search, I called Percy, who politely informed me that they didn't live on that particular numbered street in New Westminster, but rather the same numbered street in West Vancouver...a good distance away in another municipality. Someone had neglected to tell me that the maps had all their listings divided up by municipality and I hadn't paid enough attention to the index. Embarassment and a speedy 45 min cab ride got us to Percy's to drop off our stuff and make our way to the PNE Forum.

Fortunately for us, the first band didn't start playing until 8 pm, so we didn't arrive late and even got pretty good seats. The opening act was Belle Orchestre, a side project of The Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Parry. They were interesting and actually quite solid. The second act, whom Meghann was a fan of, Wolf Parade, put on a decent performance but the real show didn't begin until The Arcade Fire took the stage.

The opener was the opening track of Funeral, "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" and it was amazing! This is a band who knows how to perform. The various members of the band all took turns playing different instruments, and Win Butler's vocals were perfect. If there was ever an example of a band who really uses the live performance to give the audience something different from what they get on the CD, this is it. Whether it is the rock star antics of Win (smashing his guitar) or the vaguely creepy dancing of Regine (Are you a robot?) or even the fantastic stage set, complete with lamps which make it feel like they're playing in your living room, or the way the percussion wailed on motorcycle helmets at one point, these guys and gals gave one of the most fantastic live performances I've ever seen. They played most of their album, and also a couple older songs including the fantastic "Headlights Look Like Diamonds" from their self-titled EP. Other highlights included the live performance of
"Une Annee Sans Lumiere" and "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)." The band ended up doing two encores. The first was the much anticipated "Wake Up," where they also brought on stage all the other bands from earlier in the evening and even a few audience members as well. However, for the second encore Win came on stage and said "Well, we've run out of stuff to play, so we'll just play something by New Order." It was a fantastic conclusion to the evening, and the band picked up their instruments (as I hear they have done in both Seattle and Saskatoon, my friends tell me) and move out with the audience, playing acoustically as they led us out into the evening. It was definitely one of the concert going highlights of my life.


We made it back safely from Vancouver, thanks to Percy's hospitality and the excellent Greater Vancouver Transit System. The Thanksgiving weekend proved to be a lot of fun, and not a let down at all. It all helped to ease the pain of missing my mom's fantastic cooking and the company of my brother's and uncle David. Of course, there are other things that happened over the past week, but I think I've written enough for the moment. Maybe when another long weekend comes along you'll get another monster post like this, but don't hold your breath.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

First the Halo announcement, now this teaser poster. I love Peter Jackson.

You should all go and listen to LCD Soundsystem, the self titled album that was released earlier this year, but I just picked up. This is great music that compells you to move. Imagine a blend of post-punk, garage rock, disco, techno and a touch of the Beatles. "Tribulations" just might be one of the catchiest songs I've ever heard. I dare you not to tap your feet or nod along.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, I'm going to recommend the new Sigur R
ós album Takk...This is even better than their 2002 release (). It's more focused, more melodic, and les wandering. Not to say that Sigur Rós has gone pop, but this album will be less off-putting to people who haven't moved beyond five minute "songs". "Sæglópur" makes me feel euphoric as it builds to a wonderful crescendo. What is it about Iceland that I love so much?

Video game movies suck. Name one that's actually really good. You can't. Can you? Didn't think so.

It looks like Microsoft and Bungie are out to change that with the adaptation of my favourite video games of the last 5 years. The Halo movie is being produced jointly by 20th Century Fox and Universal Studios (why? think $100 million plus budget) who declared that they want to make Halo: The Movie their tentpole release of 2007.

But why my optimism that this won't be another suck-fest, like the latest from Paul W.S. "I didn't make Boogie Nights" Anderson (Resident Evil) or Uwe Boll (House of the Dead)? Well for starters they've got a real screenwriter: author Alex Garland (28 Days Later, The Beach). Always good to start with a decent script. Plus, Bungie has been personally involved in the production from the beginning. But the icing on the cake was announced today. And it just about blew my mind.

Announced today was the name of the Halo film project's executive producer. His name? Peter Jackson. Yep. That Peter Jackson and his partner Fran Walsh. Yep, the Oscar-winning duo behind the best films of the decade. And they're bringing their amazing WETA workshops with them to work on models and effects of the Covenant, the Flood and all our favourite weapons and vehicles. This is crazy. This movie could be huge. This movie will be huge. Halo 2 made more in one day than any film ever has ($80 million). Jackson's Lord of the Rings are among the most beloved and highest grossing films of the decade. Mark my words. This is great news for gamer and movie fans.

P.S. Yes, I'm working on a post about my weekend in Seattle and the Franz Ferdinand concert. I'm just waiting for Lesley to send me the photos.