The new film Oz the Great and Powerful arrived proclaiming it as the work of “the producer of Alice in Wonderland.” And so it goes in Hollywood, where L. Frank Baum and Lewis Carroll can be elbowed aside by the guy who made the Young Guns movies. That guy in question is Joe Roth, a veteran producer who’s had some of the biggest hits of his career in the last three years with a series of ‘adult’ takes on classic children’s stories such as Tim Burton’s version of Alice in Wonderland and Snow White and the Huntsman.
Friends came to stay with us recently. Among their suitcases and belongings, they had a cute, quilted shoulderbag, which they plunked on the kitchen countertop. Out came sleeves of aluminum pods, each one a pre-ground single-portion serving of coffee. Then a milk frother. And finally the Pixie, a sleek, pint-sized machine. It turned out this was a smaller version of what they use at home, the Citiz and Milk. The Pixie, my friend explained, a tad embarrassed, was their travel-sized Nespresso machine. It accompanied them on road trips.
The new film version of Anna Karenina, scripted by Tom Stoppard, directed by Atonement’s Joe Wright, and starring Keira Knightley, has just been released. To prepare, I’ve been watching older adaptations of Tolstoy’s novel. Well, not the
One of the remarkable features of the history of photography is that, less than a century after its invention and less than fifty years after film replaced the unwieldy photographic plates of its early years, it became the medium of choice for many whom we now regard as major artists: Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, and many others.
One glorious fall night a year ago—trees blazing yellow, air charged with promise—I rode my bicycle onto the High Level Bridge, in Edmonton, hit something and catapulted face first onto cement. When I came to, the world was silent. Sound and sensation returned, but quietly and one-by-one, like passengers from an overnight flight emerging into a vast empty airport: taste of blood, mouth full of teeth, car horn, traffic, a single thought: Things have changed.
Pop music remains amongst the most accessible and inclusive cultural conversations because, for the past half-century, it hasn’t really changed. In 1967, for example, I Think We’re Alone Now took Tommy James and the Shondells to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100, and then twenty years later, with negligible updating, Tiffany to #1. Then there’s Lana Del Rey—if she’s not the reincarnation of Patsy Cline, who is? Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound approach to producing persists as a load-bearing pillar of modern commercial rock. How did Oasis rise to the fame of the Beatles?
In a recent stroll in the woods, I came across a leafy bramble loaded with small dark fruit. Recognizing they were blackberries, I extended my arm and grabbed a handful. Moments later, I encountered a straight but flexible tree branch. I fashioned a fishing pole and dipped the hook into the nearby pond. Three quick jigs, and the pole arched. Soon I had a nice-sized perch dangling at the end of the line. I was really doing well. I was living by my wits and instincts! Maybe I’d take my forest booty back to my shack—built by me—and make some sort of blackberry-perch fricassee. Gross?
I’m writing these words on February 11, the same date that storied film critic Pauline Kael published her final column for The New Yorker in 1991. Hobbled by illness and, worse, uninspired by the crop of movies coming out of Hollywood—her final column was devoted to brief takes on Awakenings, L.A.
I know shockingly little about money, especially where it goes once it leaves my fingertips. And each spring, my anxiety spikes with tax time, RRSP deadlines and the like. I am overwhelmed by the amount that I do not understand. I suspect I’m a lot like the majority of people, so ignorant and embarrassed about my financial illiteracy that, every year, I hand over my meagre savings to a financial advisor with a computer and a necktie.
When I was entering my teen years in the lower middle-class doldrums of Los Angeles, California, I was embittered by what I imagined was the misfortune of growing up in a place that was brutally ugly and devoid of either history or culture. Never mind that I was fifteen minutes from the Pacific Ocean and not all that much farther from wooded canyons and mountains and desert, my immediate surroundings were nearly identical ranch-style houses hastily assembled over razed orange and avocado groves, supermarkets, gas stations, fast food restaurants, strip malls, and vast parking lots.
Terrence Malick’s recent film The Tree of Life does not appear to be a dangerous movie. It’s essentially a long, lyrical evocation of Malick’s nineteen-fifties boyhood in an upper-middle-class enclave of Waco, with an idealized mother (Jessica Chastain) and a stern, distant father (Brad Pitt)—and what could possibly be mood-altering or soul-shaking about that?
A humdrum-looking 150-gram package of penne pasta recently arrived at my door in a padded mailing envelope. These random food drops generally inject a pleasantly absurd respite into my computer-bound days. A two-four of canned cream of broccoli soup here, a raw baking potato there. Such is the glamour of being a food writer.
The talk this summer about the 2011 Polaris Prize can be summed up by the fact that, for the first time, it bent to popular opinion. Since its inception in 2006, this annual award for best Canadian record has been administered with exuberant contrariness by juries of music bloggers, journalists and DJs, each with an ear cupped to the national underground and eager to champion the obscure.
Craig Taylor is the author of two books, Return to Akenfield and One Million Tiny Plays About Britain, and he is the editor of the literary magazine, Five Dials. For years, he has been cataloguing the habits and behaviours of Londoners in his notebooks, and interviewing as many of them as possible. These notes are the basis of his new book, Londoners: The Days and Nights of London as Told by Those Who Love it, Hate it, Live it, Long for it, Have Left it and Everything In-between, to be published Fall 2011 by Granta in the UK and HarperCollins in the US.
Steven Dixon’s work in this series documents the decay of industry, in this case the coal mine surface buildings around Nordegg, and the Crowsnest Pass in southern Alberta. The archaeological record of how man influences his environment reveals a legacy of abandoned industrial structures such as mines, mills and factories, and their related town sites.
In February, the video-streaming website Hulu, once best known as a place to waste time catching up on old episodes of Heroes, made a major announcement: they had struck an exclusive deal with the Criterion DVD label to eventually make more than 800 titles from their back catalogue available online, free of commercial interruptions, through their premium subscription service Hulu Plus. The first batch of films to appear included The 400 Blows, Rashomon, Seven Samurai, M, and L’Avventura.
In 2002, when I started working in the breast cancer screening department of what was then the Alberta Cancer Board, one of the recurring agenda items in staff meetings was what to do with the world’s longest pink ribbon. Stapled with intense resolve by Calgary staff and volunteers, many of the 24,000 ribbons inscribed with names of loved ones, it was carefully laid out on the hill behind CFRN TV in Calgary, jubilantly measured at 6,765 feet, certified by the Guinness World Records people and, shortly after, stuffed into large cardboard boxes.
Intimacy and connection are at the heart of musical performance, no matter how large or small the act or venue. Some big names, such as The White Stripes, who announced their breakup this past February, knew how to get at it or were at least willing to try. In 2007, the band staged an ambitious Canadian tour with shows in every province and territory, but odder than The White Stripes playing in Iqaluit was what they did between gigs.