Archive for November, 2009


Notes from the back row- Leave them Laughing

November 27, 2009

Notes from the Back Row – Nov 24


“If you gotta go, go with a smile.”

The Joker said that, the Jack Nicholson Joker, in Tim Burton’s Batman way back in 1989 but those sentiments are popping up again in Whistler this week with a special sneak peak screening of Leave Them Laughing –A Musical Comedy about Dying that’s playing Monday November 30 at Buffalo Bills.

Directed by Academy Award winner (and sometimes Whistler local) John Zaritsky, Leave Them Laughing is a documentary about Carla Zilbersmith, a Canadian/Californian actress, musician and comedienne diagnosed with Lou Gerhig’s Disease (ALS) a fatal nerve disorder that shuts down your muscles and organs and body while your brain remains sharp as ever, and then you die.

It’s a tragic disease with no cure yet single-mom Carla and her son Maclen (a hybrid of McCartney and Lennon) tackle their hard times the best way they can, with humour, bravery, and zero self-pity.

Using old footage cut with stuff shot in May of this year, Zaritsky delivers a an stirring film full of bad-taste humour and feel-good emotion as the deteriorating Carla sings songs celebrating life and cracks jokes in the face of death.

Most of us here, living in the snowglobe that is Whistler, might not expect that a redheaded single mother in a wheelchair talking about butterflies, love, sex (she makes a “F*ck it List” rather than a Bucket List) and condoms of the world could make us re-evaluate ourselves, our lives and our families, but through Zaritsky’s lens, she does. Leave Them Laughing elicits empathy and humbleness yet still delivers good chuckles and entertainment.

“From the outset I wanted to do something different,” Zaritsky says. “At least something I had never seen done. Zaritsky, who spent a lot of time in Whistler making the popular National Film Board flick Ski Bums, stepped away from his regular themes and chronological filmmaking style this picture but the results are powerful.

“I think everyone can find this film enlightening as a model of courage,” he says. “But the Whistler audience, you live life to the extreme up there and I think you will relate to the idea of going laughing all the way and having fun and enjoying life to the end. I think the crowd up here will appreciate Carla’s outrageousness more.”

Zaritsky admits it was sometimes sad to film the daily deterioration of another human being but says Carla, who recently got “out of order” tattooed on her no-longer-functioning legs, “made it easy on us all because we had so much fun with her and she had so much fun you almost lost sight that she was in such bad shape and going to die.

“You don’t get to pick what happens to you in life,” Carla tells her 16-yewar-old son in the film. “And a lot of bad shit can happen, but you do get to pick how you live moment to moment and how you choose to place those things in importance in your life.”

Leave Them Laughing is not my regular type of recommendation –no hot chicks with guns– but Carla and Maclen Zilbersmith are two of the bravest characters you’ll see on the screens this year.

If you do want explosions, shurikens, and serious ass kicking the Village 8 opens Ninja Assassin on Friday. Plot, acting, lighting, CGI and character troubles aside, this is a ninja movie full of slicing, dicing and kicks to the face and for real ninja fans, that is enough.

Also opening, the worst movie of the year –Old Dogs, starring John Travolta, Robin Williams and Seth “I-need-a-new-agent” Green.  More garbage crap from the assholes behind Wild Hogs, this movie is considerably less funny than dying of ALS.


Check out Carla Zilbersmith’s blog here –


Notes from the Back Row- New Moon

November 27, 2009

Twilight Inspired Tattoo that will look amazing in 30 years.


Notes from the Back Row

Nov 18th, 2009

It’s going to be a frenzied weekend at the theatres as Twilight Saga- New Moon opens and girls aged ten to fifty go batshit crazy in ways that only women can.

Based on the bodice-ripping teen fiction of Stephanie Meyer, the Twilight series, with it’s cheesy melodrama, ain’t just for kids. It’s hooked mature women as well, from bored housewives to thirsty cougars to usually-intelligent professionals.

“I’m not that excited about the movie coming out this weekend,” said one friend of mine, “I’d much rather watch it in the privacy of my own home.” And she doesn’t mean because she makes better popcorn.

They call these rabid fans “Twi-Hards” and all the hype is all about Edward Cullen, the brooding Vampire played by Robert Pattinson, and the little girl who loves him, Bella, played by Kristen Stewart. I won’t even bother with the plot synopsis because the trailers give it all away and everyone who’s going to this movie has already pored over the source material. It’s a built-in audience and despite laughably bad dialogue, cheap-looking effects, poor acting (Pattinson) and that recurring “becoming a vampire/losing your virginity” metaphor that little girls love, this movie is critic proof.

Even though it’s really the dudes who get sexually objectified in these films (Taylor Lautner is shirtless almost the entire 130 minutes) Kristen Stewart is still hot but Bella sulks and pouts her way through the whole flick. It’s like sitting in on a teen depression seminar peppered with mystic homoeroticism and then getting a “save yourself for marriage” pamphlet crammed into your face on the way out. I guess the fight sequences are a bit better as Edward takes on a generic clan of Vamprie royalty but none of it is terrible inspiring. A bit more comedy than the first installation unless you’ve got a mop to wipe up all the slug-like trails leading in, I’d stay out of the theatre this weekend.

Stay home and rent Anvil! instead. Anvil! The Story of Anvil is a documentary about seminal 80’s Canadian metal band. These guys were pioneers, forging the thrash-metal sound that later became huge with bands like Metallica or Slayer. Credited as big influences by successful rockers like Lars Ulrich. Lemmy Kilmister and Slash, Anvil never really took off in the 80’s and drummer Robb Reiner and frontman Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow have long been forced to take day jobs to support themselves and their families. Now in their 50’s, the middle-aged rockers are still givin’er and dry humping the rock and roll fantasy of success on an ill-fated European tour with hopes that their 13th album will catch on.

It watches a bit like Spinal Tap but this is a real story and director Sacha Gervasi (who was a 15-year-old roadie on Anvil’s 1985 tour) plays things straight capturing perseverance and love of metal in the face of endless economic troubles and repeated blows to the self-esteem. Anvil beautifully illustrates that rock and roll is a life style not a job and if shredding guitars, pounding drums and screaming vocals are the only things that make you happy then that’s what you should do with your life. Plan B is to just keep on givin’er.

Plan B for movie lovers this week should be to seek out a theatre playing The Fantastic Mr Fox, the lastest stop-motion animation from Wes Anderson (Life Aquatic, Royal Tennenbaums.) Voiced by George Clooney (that guy is everywhere), Meryl Streep, Jason Swartzman and Bill Murray this flick is better than Where the Wild Things Are. And if you wear a leather jacket, poof your hair up, look sullen and hang out in the lobby after, you can probably take home a frisky Twi-hard as well.


Movies- Tarantino makes my day

November 24, 2009

Quentin Tarantino is a fuckin genius. Kill Bill is one of the most stylistically perfect films of the past twenty years (Inglorious Basterds is not too shabby either) but alongside all that brilliant filmmaking, he routinely delivers fantastic, nail-on-the-fucking-head film analysis and criticism.

Film criticism, at least at the university I went to, was pretty dry stuff. Everyone was still hung up on the ‘auteur’ theory and half the teachers were militant feminists. My buddy Sean got us (me, him, and Joe Abernathy) banned from any and all womens’ studies programs (not that we minded) for saying “Why is that when there’s a guy on the screen it’s just a guy on the screen, but throw a woman up there and suddenly it’s a STATEMENT???”

The Lab Teacher flipped on him (and me and Joe for laughing into our overpriced film theory text books) but it turns out, when there’s a guy on the screen, it’s also a statement. As Tarantino explains in this clip.


Movies – Yanksgiving

November 14, 2009
Happy Yanksgiving

Happy Yanksgiving

Happy American Thanksgiving,

or, as i call it Yanksgiving.

Americans seem to have more fun on Thanksgiving than Canadians, or at least, American college girls do. But mostly, Yanksgiving always reminds of Eli Roth.

Eli Roth is pretty awesome. Lately, he starred as “The Bear Jew” in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, where he gets fairly serious baseball-batting peoples’ skulls all over nazi-occupied France. But he’s also the director of a pretty sick Camping-trip-goes-down-the-shitter movie Cabin Fever.

Cabin Fever should be recognized for it’s unique and, these days, foreshadowing villain. (spoiler- it’s a disease.) Roth’s next flick was Hostel, which sits just this side  of the turning point when torture-porn horror films started to get old. Hostel 2 is well off on the other side.

The reason I associate Roth and Yanksgiving is because of Thanksgiving, a fake trailer he made for Grindhoused, and word is that Thanksgiving will become a real feature-length flick. Thanksgiving (American or Canadian) is an underused holiday in the horror genre. Romantic Comedy has fistfucked Thanksgiving and every other possible family holiday, but Horror? Not so much.

Roth’s next flick is supposed to be a sci-fi called Endangered Species, which sounds awesome, but here’s hoping Thanksgiving is not far behind.

check the made-before-anyone-thought-it-would-ever-be-a-movie trailer for Thanksgiving. I jsut had a kid, and it’s gettign cooler every day, but up until now this kind of shit is what i lived for. Cheerleaders on trampolines, severed make-out heads? Fuck yeah man.








Notes from the back row- The end of the world starts now.

November 13, 2009

Thunder Beat??? sounds badass


Notes from the Back Row- Nov 10th

The end of the world starts today  (origianlly published in Whistler’s Pique Newsmagazine)


Guatemala City has some pretty sketchy areas,” My friend Greg cautioned me on my first trip to the homeland of the Mayans. “There’re a few poor neighbourhoods where a skinny white guy like you is almost guaranteed to get shot, stabbed or knuckled down. Robbed in any case.”

This was 2004, Greg was living in Guatemala and I was flying down to stand in his wedding. I was also hoping to look into the infamous Mayan “2012–End of the World” mythology and Guatemala City seemed a good place to start.

“If you must go out alone,” Greg added, “It’d be best to just walk around completely naked so people will know you have nothing they want.”

“How about,” I countered, “for vanity’s sake I wrap a tortilla shell around my cock?”

“I don’t know man, some of those dudes are pretty hungry…”


I survived Guatemala City and a two-week tour through the country but every local I talked to about the 2012 thing just laughed it off as myth. Yes, the Mayan Calendar is more accurate than the one we use today (365 and ¼ days in a year? That’s sloppy.) Yes, the 5,126-year “great Cycle” does end in December 2012 but few contemporary Guatemalans, direct descendants of the Mayans, actually believe this to be the end of the world.

So I guess Roland Emmerich’s new movie will have to do. 2012 opens this Friday at the Village 8, and if you’ve ever wondered what happens when a massive solar flare leads to crust displacement across the entire planet earth, then this is the flick for you.

This movie is all about the effects – a shitload of computer generated mayhem– but 2012 also stars John Cusack as one of many father figures fighting to redeem themselves and get their families and hearts back in place as the world literally explodes, crumbles, burns and is washed away around them. The story and dialogue are of the so-bad-it’s-good variety yet played straight (except by Woody Harrelson, who hams it up fittingly) and there is unintended comedy throughout. Oh, did I mention that 2012 is 151 minutes long? It is, so smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.

As a writer/director Emmerich is no stranger to large scale disaster movies (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow) but he’s also the guy responsible for the last Godzilla and 10,000 BC and while many film purists see this kind of massive CGI flick as the death of storytelling I see two and a half hours of blasting, exploding, toppling, crashing, burning, drowing, mindless entertainment. Did the Mayans invent popcorn? I bet they did.

Of course the other theory floating around is that the ancient Mayans were coached by Aliens and that’s why their architecture, calendar, numerical and alphabet systems are so advanced (we owe the binary number system to them, for one.) The turnover of the Mayan calendar is also rumoured to be the next point of contact with the ET’s. I even bought a postcard of the scenic volcano-ringed Lake Atitlan with flying saucers photoshopped in.

In the end, I made it through Guatemala City without dying or stripping naked and I found the ancient land of the Mayans to be a beautiful and friendly country. Not a single person I spoke with thought the world was going to end anytime soon. In fact, they all said exactly the same thing. “2012. It’s just stories, like Y2K. It’s nothing.”

Which is exactly what I’d be teaching them to say I was an Alien.



Also Wes Anderson’s The Fantastic Mr Fox opens today (friday.) It’s all stop motion, everything in it was handmade, and is voiced by George Clooney, Jason Swartzman, Meryl Streep, and the best actor in the world, Bill Murray.

check the trailer. this is gonna rule.


notes from the back row- Clooney and goats.

November 10, 2009

Notes from the back row Nov 3/09  (First published in Pique NewsMagazine)


One of the best parts of 'From Dusk Till Dawn'


George Clooney is a throwback to the Hollywood leading men of a previous era – that winning mix of personality, intelligence, class and talent reminiscent of the days of Cagney, Cooper, Grant and Bogart – but Clooney adds compassion and social activism to the formula, making him the hottest star going these days. His work in Darfur alone elevates him into the Jolie-Pitt echelon of awesomness.

Humanitarian stuff aside, Clooney always delivers on the big screen. From politically charged dramas like Syriana or Good Night and Good Luck (which he also wrote and directed) to good-time comedies Oceans 11 or Burn After Reading to genre classics like From Dusk to Dawn to heavy drama like Michael Clayton Clooney’s versatility sells tickets and fills theatres and he’s got a new one out this week as Men Who Stare at Goats opens Friday at the Village 8.

First-time director Grant Heslov’s The Men Who Stare at Goats also stars Ewan McGregor as a journalist who ends up following special-forces ‘Warrior-Monk” Clooney out into 2003’s Kuwait to unearth the New Earth Army, a military experiment of Jedi-knights with apparent psychic powers of mind-reading, wall-passing-through, and the ability to subdue goats with their thoughts. Jeff Bridges co-stars as the lost leader and Kevin Spacey plays the villain harnessing the dark side of the force. McGregor(Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars Prequels) knows a thing or two about Jedis but he plays this one pretty straight, despite the madness Clooney and the others bring around him. While the acting is strong throughout, the flick is a bit jumbled. It’s supposed to be a comedy but there are just as many mind-farts as mind-boggling and in the end Goats watches like a weird mash-up of Three Kings and the Three Stooges. Amusing but not great, through no fault of Clooney.

Also opening Friday is The Fourth Kind, another pseudo-reality thriller, this time about alien abductions in Alaska. Milla Jovovich stars and the film can be commended for trying new things, like running supposedly real (it’s not) archival footage alongside actors re-living the terror, but unless you’re a believer going in, you might consider it a bit dumb and the ending literally comes out of nowhere. Fire in the Sky is a better alien abduction movie, but The Fourth Kind has a few tense moments as well. Jovovich doesn’t shoot a gun, so that’s too bad, but otherwise she is great.

Next up, more sci-fi. The Box, the third feature from Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko) also opens this weekend and stars Cameron Diaz as a 70’s housewife/teacher presented with a mysterious box and an even more mysterious proposition –Push the button and you get a million bucks, but somewhere someone will die as a direct result. She pushes it and the film dives into the realms of morals and consequences as Diaz and her husband attempt to discover what the box is and where it came from.

Kelly brings lots of his trademark brooding and quiet suspense, and as a Christmas parable about our lack of conscience the film suceeds. But the payoff is a bit muddled by moralizing games and Sartre-influenced pyschobabble. Decent, but not epic, although it is good to see Cameron Diaz take on a meatier role than usual.

Speaking of meaty roles, George Clooney has another flick out next month that is already building Oscar hype. Up in the Air is directed by Jason Reitman (Juno, Thank You for Smoking) who apparently wrote the role specifically for Geroge. It got a lot of good press at the Toronto Film Fest and also stars Vera Farmiga and Jason Bateman. Stay tuned for more Clooney, and of course, more chicks with guns.


this pic should have been at the top but Salma's got nicer guns


Movies- Salt Trailer

November 7, 2009

Just when you thought the weekend couldn’t get any better a new Angelina trailer pops up. This movie is called “Salt” and it stars Angelina Jolie in what looks to be a kick-ass espionage thriller about Russian Spies, set-ups, and double agents.

Angelina Jolie knows how to pick em. Fuck Yeah!