Photos from Around the Block Number Seven

I’m proud of myself for getting out of the house regularly these days to take pictures.

I mean…

I guess I would still leave the house; just go to the store and come right back, but taking my camera with me has created an excuse and opportunity to stay out longer. And I’m starting to remember how much I enjoy taking pictures. People who know me from before know that photography was the first love of my life.

So, this whole thing has been an exercise in gaining back a piece of myself. Before the drugs, I was the guy with the camera. Soon after, I was the guy with the drugs. I want to be the guy with the camera again.

Here’s this week’s pics…

Careful. This is an ATIVE driveway.

Careful now. This is an ATIVE driveway. No parking and no C’s allows.

A view from the hill.

A view from the top of the hill.

One day I'm going to step inside this chirch.

One day I’m going to step inside my local church. (and no I won’t burst into flames)

Stained Glass Windows from the outside with the sun's reflection are probably stunning from inside.

Stained Glass windows from the outside showing the sun’s reflection are probably stunningly beautiful from the inside.

OPen Stain Glass Window

An open stained glass window on a pretty place of worship

A closer look

A closer look at the glass.

G & H Red Light

G & H Red Light

Foliage

Foliage

This guy.

This guy… on a roof

Rusted Rustic Shack

Rusted Rustic Shack

Green House covered in green

Green house covered in green.  I love it when nature swallows up a man-made structure. In the story I’m writing now everything’s covered in green.

In the Mirror

In the Mirror

In the Woods

In the Woods

In the Wire

In the Wire

In the City

In the City

I think they diverted the takeoffs and landings at my local airport because there were no airplanes.

So I guess I’m staying.

See you next week.

– Mel

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5 Quick Reviews of 5 DVDs (The Plus One Addition)

This month’s movies are a mixed bag. Several of them I suggest watching with a barf bag because they are not good. Unless that’s your bag.

These are five quick reviews and one long personal story about… baseball.

So, once again I found myself with five reviews sitting in my DVDs folder, so here we go..

To the reviews…

First up

Trance (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Trance

Directed by Danny Boyle

Written by Joe Ahearne and John Hodge

Starring James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson & Vincent Cassel

What the guy who cut the trailer for Trance wanted the movie to be is so much better than what it is. I want to see that guy’s movie.

McAvoy

“Tell me how I get out of this contract.”

Trance is convoluted and silly. At times it is hard to follow because of deceptive camera work and at times it’s boring as all hell. The trailer for this film suggested something so much better. That is not what this is. Danny, I usually find something in each of his films that I like, Boyle is to blame for this. He makes horrible decisions here.

Rosario Dawson

The stunningly sexy Rosario Dawson

Well, Rosario Dawson’s beauty is this movie’s one redeeming feature but Danny Boyle had nothing to do with that (I’m thinking; her parents, her personal trainer, herself) except for putting it on our screens (thank you sir). But other than that, Trance is a waste of time. A literal waste of time. The shittiness of the story and the ambiguous directing make this film a monumental waste of time.

James McAvoy

Let me out of this bad movie

MILD SPOILERY RANT ALERT

We’re told a story at the end about what happened for the past hour and a half, and It could have been anything. But that’s not the important part. The important part is that they just wasted an hour and a half of our time. Trance is not worth that time. It’s not even worth the five minute explanation at the end. If it had been a substantially jaw dropping reveal then maybe but it ain’t.

END SPOILERY RANT

Trance

“Man, that’s harsh.”
“I don’t think he likes us.”

Skip it (Nothing but Rosario’s body to see here… move along)

Next up… something good.

On The Road (IFC Films)

On The Road

Directed by Walter Salles

Written by Jose Rivera Based on On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Starring Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Amy Adams, Tom Sturridge, Danny Morgan, Alice Braga, Elisabeth Moss, Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen

On The Road

Movies about writing are cool… I’m just saying.

On The Road is another masterpiece from the great Walter Salles, who brought us Motorcycle Diaries. It is a beautiful road picture. A beautiful adaptation of the book. With a beautiful cast and beautiful music and beautiful scenery.

Kristen Stewart & Marcel Proust

Just like Emma Watson, the camera loves this girl.

With beautiful photography and beautiful writing and beautiful music. On The Road is just…

On The Road

Beautiful?

Oh what’s the word I’m looking for? …ah yes, GORGEOUS. This movie is gorgeous. I loved everything about it. Every goddamn thing.

On The Road

Two fantastic actors who should be in every artsy film being made. Every one.

And the fact that four of my favorite and four of the loveliest young actors in hollywood are in this movie is just cake. Sweet sweet cake. I’m going to assume you’re already familiar with Jack Kerouac before I tell you to…

Rent it. Buy it. See it.

Next we get personal.

42 (Warner Bros. Pictures)

42

Directed by Brian Helgeland

Written by Brian Helgeland

Starring Chadwick Boseman & Harrison Ford

I felt that 42: The True Story of An American Legend pussied out on its subject somewhat. It could have been a little harder, it could have been a lot harder, but it softens its subject and its time period. I wanted it to be a little more awkward, a little more brutal and a little more baseball centric. It is after all a baseball movie.

Harrison Ford

“Say what you want about my cartoonish performance but I really commit to it, don’t I?”

Harrison Ford might garner a few nominations for his portrayal of Branch Rickey but he won’t deserve them. His performance is pure caricature.

I also felt the actor who played Jackie was too young.

Rachel & Jackie

This guy is way too young.

Please excuse me. I am a huge baseball fan. I am also a black man and Jackie Robinson is one of my personal heroes. So, I’m going to take a little personal detour here. Just skip the next two paragraphs if you must.

They try to recreate this moment in the film.

The real Jackie during that time. They try to recreate this moment in the film.

(It’s been a while since I talked about myself) I played second base, like Jackie did during his prime before he joined the Dodgers, when I played baseball as a kid. On an all white team. In an all white league. The way I remember it (I was very young), I had to quit or there was going to be bloodshed and this was in the seventies. Players were coming in spikes up into second. I was getting bad calls from racist umps. One umpire said to me as I came to the plate “You’d better be swinging.” His way of saying that he was calling everything a strike. Again I have to remind you that this was the 70’s and also I was a small child. One kid who spiked me in the chest, knocking me to the ground, was called safe at second. He was out by a lot and should have been thrown out of the game. This was not unsupervised: Parents, Adults, People in the Stands. And no one helped me up. Not my team or the other team or the adults. No one touched me. No one helped me. No one gave me a hand. But they were quick to manhandle me when I took a swing at that kid. Everybody wanted to put their hands on me then. Oh you have anger issues and we don’t want you in the league. Now ask me again why so few black men play professional baseball today.

42 Movie

Had they at least made a good sports movie, I would have given them a pass.

I am no where near as strong as Jackie. Never have been. I still ain’t. I joined a billiards league a few years back. Again, only black person. This was Los Angeles, 21st century. A guy on my own team kept trying to get under my skin. He said there was no need to call my shots because we played nigger pool. I asked him not to use the word but he kept right on trying to rattle me. I had no means to shut him up you see. I couldn’t beat him at nine ball because he was on my team. He kept saying it while I was shooting. During the actual tourney. As loud as he could. “I’m just calling it what it is. It’s nigger pool. It’s nigger pool. What’s the matter with nigger pool?” No one shut him up. I waited for that one white guy who tells his friend to knock it off. But he wasn’t there. He said it one too many times and needless to say after they pulled me off of him, I was asked to leave.

Chadwick Boseman

This movie dances around race like Jackie used to dance around the bases.

These examples are nothing compared to what Jackie Robinson went through. And I got into a fight both times. And thrown out of playing a sport I loved both times. 42, which is the story of Jackie Robinson’s rookie season and, I guess somehow, about the retiring of his number, is a watered down and softened for middle America version of what Jackie went through. It is poorly written and badly directed by a writer and director that I’m guessing knows little to nothing about baseball. It just isn’t very good. If you want a good racially charged baseball movie watch Bingo Long’s Travelling All-stars & Motor Kings (1976 and yes that is the name of the movie)

Bingo Long

Billy Dee Williams, James Earl Jones & Richard Pryor

Wonderful cast. Fantastic baseball scenes. (The baseball in 42 was sorely lacking for story and situation) If you want to see a good baseball biography watch The Pride of the Yankees (1942)

Pride of the Yankees

Gary Cooper… considers himself… the luckiest…

42 was lacking in its baseball content. Lacking in its biographical content. And just lacking. In my opinion, if 42 wins an Academy Award, you can honestly chalk it up to white guilt. I am sorry to be so blunt. Jackie Robinson deserves a more powerful and better film. Maybe next time.

Skip it. (Or wait for it to come on TV. It’s like a made for TV movie anyway)

Next

Olympus Has Fallen (FilmDistrict)

Olympus Has Fallen

Directed by Antoine Fuqua

Written by Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt

Starring Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Cole Hauser, Finley Jacobsen, Ashley Judd, Melissa Leo, Dylan McDermott, Radha Mitchell & Rick Yune

Olympus Has Fallen is little more than a rehash of Die Hard. It has a great cast but bad dialogue. No real writing took place in the making of this film. There’s “kind of okay” action (that’s the best way I can describe it) It’s just “all right” but not anything to write home about (or blog about).

Olympus Has Fallen

“Everyone’s waiting for you to say it.”
“Yippee ki yay. Motherfucker.”

Seriously, I loved the casting, is really the only compliment I can make. I loved every one of these actors in better things. But this is not good. It’s directed pretty well for what it is; A movie with no dialogue or just some slightly changed Die Hard dialogue and no plot except a slightly changed Die Hard plot.

Gerard Butler as (not) John McClane

Gerard Butler as (not) John McClane

So really, honestly, people, just rent Die Hard. It’s a much better movie with an awesome cast as well. Don’t let the people in this derivative piece of crap suck you in, like it did for me. Don’t make the mistake I made.

I regret the time spent watching this.

Skip it. (Rent Die Hard instead [the first one not the fourth or fifth one])

The Big Wedding (Lionsgate)

The Big Wedding

Directed by Justin Zackham

Written by Justin Zackham Based on Mon frère se marie by Jean-Stéphane Bron and Karine Sudan

Starring Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, Ben Barnes, Katherine Heigl, Amanda Seyfried, Topher Grace, Susan Sarandon & Robin Williams

It is rare when I can’t get through the first half hour of a movie. Rarer still when I don’t make it past fifteen minutes but when I have to turn a movie off after five minutes… well then you’ve got yourself a seriously inane and insipid pile of feces. Or the star-studded fiasco, The Big Wedding.

The movie is as bad as this cast photo

This movie is as bad as this cast photo makes it look.

In the first five minutes Robert Deniro places Susan Sarandon on the kitchen counter in preparation of cunnilingus (yeah that’s right). They have just returned from walking the dogs or going to the market… whatever. They came from outside. He puts her on the counter but they have no idea that Diane Keaton has let herself in and is also in the (small & open) kitchen with them… well needless to say hilarity ensues. Wait. No it doesn’t ensue. It’s stupid. And unnecessary. And pointless. And badly written. Horribly directed and beneath all three of the actors in the scene.

But in the following scene Amanda Seyfried and her fiance… let’s just call him no name guy… are in the office of their parish priest; played by Robin Williams, who makes a joke about all the Chinese people at Harvard. (side-splitting comedy it is not)  So the no name guy begins to insult the priest in a Chinese dialect but before he can say the foul word he’s working up to, his wife-to-be kicks him just in time. Whew. This is all in subtitles of course and I’m guessing Amanda could also see the subtitles and feared that Robin was going to read them as well..

So let’s see… Crass? check…. Racist? check… Stupid? check… Embarrassingly bad? check.

Waste of time?

Turn it off?

Skip it? check. check. check.

And now for something completely different…

Another Earth (2011 Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Another Earth

Directed by Mike Cahill

Written by Mike Cahill and Brit Marling

Starring Brit Marling & William Mapother

To make up for the last movie I included a bonus one. The bonus movie this time out was recommended by a twitter follower (twitterer, twitter friend) It’s called Another Earth and it is the first feature film by writer/directors Mike Cahill and Brit Marling (who also stars in the film)

Another Earth

She’s got a ticket to ride…

Another Earth is a fantastic little film about the discovery of… another Earth. It reminded me of Melancholia in a lot of ways but it was not quite as trippy as all that. At that exact moment there is a huge bit of tragedy that happens. And those two things make for a great story and a great movie.

Another Earth

I love pictures of planets in the sky that are as big as the moon

Another earth is a great story with some heady and very deep themes. There are fine performances, a thought-provoking premise and story development that left me speechless. I love it when a movie does that; leaves me speechless.

Another Earth

Brit Marling is wonderful in Another Earth. I can’t wait to see more of her work.

It’s one of those films where everyone will get something different out of it. Sure, it’s about redemption. It’s about forgiveness. But it’s also about discovery. And about courage. All with a beautiful soundtrack. I highly recommend it.

But leave your astrophysics degree out of it. Another Earth is a fantasy. It is a parable. It is not meant to be scientifically accurate. Fact.

Rent it. (Yet another movie to add to my collection)

So to Recap:

On The Road and Another Earth are two of the best movies I have seen all year. Completely different stories. One is earth-bound (as opposed to Earth 2 bound) and primal & sexual, while the other floats above the earth and is spiritual & emotional. These are the only two good movies I review this month.

Trance has Rosario Dawson’s naked body and those are the only two good things about it

42 is a softball pitch for a hardball subject but is well-meaning and well-dressed. The only two good things about it.

Olympus Has Fallen has a fine cast and is a good reminder for everyone to go rent Die Hard. Only two good things about that.

The Big Wedding is… um… I got nothing. I turned it off. I turned off a movie where Susan Sarandon is getting eaten-out in the first five minutes. I love Susan Sarandon. it would have to be a really bad movie for me to do that and It is.

But I’ll tell you what’s not bad… 2 out of 6 ain’t bad.

Until next time movie lovers,

– Mel

How We Treat The Least Among Us

I tried to watch this without crying or screaming… I could not.

It doesn’t need sound and personally I think the music takes away from the impact.

It is just six minutes and I’m sorry.

 

I am not a vegetarian. I’ve hunted. I’ve fished. I see nothing wrong with killing for food.

THIS is torture. I see EVERYTHING wrong with that.

This is not the most efficient way to run a (omg I’m going to call that a) farm. This is the most profitable. Less space, less overhead, fewer employees, smaller cost, more profits. These days there is no such thing as evil as long as there’s profit in it.

It’s not the killing or what they do to them after they’re dead. It’s how they treat them while they are alive; The animals and the workers. Because every single person who works there has either hardened their heart long ago or they’re dying inside.

Now I see why they fight so hard to make sure these things aren’t shown. And why it is illegal to record the conditions of these plants in America. But I ask you honestly, do you think American farms are better or worse? Or just the same?

The only difference I see between this and experimenting on lab animals is that we eat them afterward.

Fuck that.

– Mel

Five Favorite Foreign Filmmakers Part 4 of 5 (Oh Canada)

My five favorite filmmakers from five regions continues after a slight delay.

The list became difficult once I got back to North America being so close to home. It was hard to separate the Americans from the Canadians. And as it turned out there were a lot more Canadians than I thought. 

Francis

“Hey, what’s this guy got against Canadians?”

Lighten up Francis.

My original plan was to combine Mexico & Canada into one region but Mexico will just have to join South America because there were just too many Canadians.

Isn’t that always the way?

So part four is just Canada. And part five will be Latin America, I suppose. To the list… 

First up:

Norman Jewison

Norman Jewison

Norman Jewison is one of my earliest favorite directors. One of my original faves, as it were. The director of some of my favorite films from before I realized how much I loved films.

A fantastic storyteller and a director who elicits great performances from amazing actors. A true actor’s director. The great Canadian (who knew) filmmaker: Norman Jewison.

Here are five perfect films with superb performances.

In the Heat of the Night (1967)

In the Heat of the Night

Rollerball (1975)

Rollerball

…And Justice for All (1979)

And Justice for All

A Soldier’s Story (1984)

A Soldier's Story

Moonstruck (1987)

Moonstruck

Five fantastic films, but Rollerball (the original not the silly remake) is my personal favorite and is yet another one of those movies that I quote all the time.

“I love this game, Moonpie.”

The next director on the list will be familiar to readers of my blog. The very skilful

James Cameron

Envy Presents 5 by 5: My 5 Favorite Films by My 5 Favorite Directors (5/5)

What can I say about James Cameron that I haven’t already said here?

Nothing really. He is the man. He is a Canadian man. (again who knew?) And he is also number five on my all-time list.

Here are four perfect action films.

The Terminator (1984)


Aliens (1986)


Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)


True Lies (1994)

True Lies is still one of my all-time favorite Husband & Wife Spy Thrillers. Speaking of which, I miss The Americans on FX. I can’t wait for that show to come back.

"That's the fact, Jack."

“That’s the fact, Jack.”

That’s the fact, Jack.

Next up, and without any further ado, the patriarch of what some have called the first family of Canadian Cinema… and by some, I mean me.

Ivan Reitman

Ivan Reitman

Ivan Reitman has made many other comedies, but as it turns out my three favorite of his films are all Bill Murray hits. Ivan Reitman is one the best directors of the Action-Comedy genre and all that came after borrow from his brilliance. And he made Bill Murray a big star.

Also he has the rare distinction of fathering another of the directors on this very list; Jason Reitman.

*Side Note: His daughter, Catherine Reitman, used to produce an internet movie review show, called Breakin’ It Down.

Catherine Reitman and Harry The Sound Guy

A show that I would refer to religiously before going to the theater and paying 30 dollars to see a movie. But alas, Catherine has moved on to other things. All six of her.

Catherine Reitman

Besides his three kids, here are three other, damn near perfect, things Ivan Reitman has produced…

Meatballs (1979)

Meatballs

Stripes (1981)

Stripes

Ghostbusters (1984)

Ghostbusters

Needless to say, I quote all three of these movies constantly, Stripes especially. They are three of the funniest movies ever made, Stripes especially. And there is no quicker way out of a bad mood than by watching any of these movies but… Stripes especially.

"Whose idea was this?"

“Whose idea was this?”

Mine, Bill. It was all mine.

Next up the sublime beauty of…

François Girard

François Girard

François Girard is a magnificent film artist whose films I consider museum quality or even space time capsule worthy. Just exquisite works of art. The Red Violin is one of those rare films that makes my heart hurt in a good way. And Glenn Gould is not just an original take on the biopic but an experience.

François Girard hasn’t made a ton of films. But the films he has made are wonderful.

Here are two of the most beautiful stories you can see.

32 Short Films about Glenn Gould (1993)

32 Short Films About Glenn Gould

The Red Violin (1998)

The Red Violin

Each film is a love letter to music and love and death and life and sex and art and film and… breathing.

And lastly..

The young Jason Reitman who makes great films.

Jason Reitman

Jason Reitman

I put, the young Jason Reitman who makes great films, in the same category that I place Sofia Coppola. Both are the offspring of great directors but in my opinion, even though they do not garner the amount of respect due their artistic inheritance, they are better. They are both better filmmakers than their fathers.

Call me crazy, (you wouldn’t be the first) but after a handful of films each, I am keenly aware that they are both immensely talented. Just dripping with it. It’s awful. It’s disgusting.

I could have chosen any one of, the young Jason Reitman who makes great films’s films but, if you are not aware of his work, this is the best place to start…

Juno (2007)

Juno

Juno is the film best remembered for making Diablo Cody a recognizable name. And yes the dialogue and story are fantastic, but the pacing, the photography, the feel of the film, the subtle sweetness of the cinematography, the fly on the wall filmmaking that you get from directors like Jason (& Sofia) are what make this wonderful film.

This is not a film. You’re not simply watching a film. You’re watching someone’s life. And if you didn’t recognize the actors you’d swear it was some sort of illegal surveillance. Joyce, Kubrick, Renoir. To be that young a director (under 40 is young for a director) and to be able to do that. It’s… sickening. But it’s also amazing.

The kind of training you get growing up on film sets, I guess.

"Aaaarmy Training, sir." "ARMY TRAINING, SIR!"

“Aaaarmy Training, sir.”
“ARMY TRAINING, SIR!”

No, Bill, not army training.

We will meet again in Latin America, you and I.

Until then, hasta luego.

– Mel

Photos from Around the Block Number Six

So, I went out today. To the store again. Bought some Ice Cream. I need to lay off the Ice cream… seriously. Cookies & Cream. Took a new route to the store. So I had some different image choices. Hope you enjoy them.

Red Light is actually a whole bunch of little tiny lights

Red Light is actually a whole bunch of little tiny lights

Please Curb Your Sign

Please Curb Your Sign

Birds On A Wire

Birds On A Wire

Homeless in this neighborhood are living well.

Homeless in this neighborhood are living well.

Another Pretty Place of Worship

Another Pretty Place of Worship

What's that up in the road, a head?

What’s that up in the road, a head?

A Caged Flower

A Caged Flower

A Trapped Sign

A Trapped Sign

Birds off the Wire

Birds off the Wire

The Neglected Balls of Late Summer.

The Neglected Balls of Late Summer.

The Last Flight Out

The Last Flight Out

It was a good photo day.

And now we celebrate.

ICE CREAM!!!!

– Mel