a unique perspective on this crazy world

Posts tagged ‘media’

nostalgia for the silver screen…

I am one of those hard-nosed, practical, logical people… yeah, the kind of pompous jerks the more emotional types like to throw foam bricks at…

But, at least I have a sentimental streak… and there is lots of room in my life for nostalgia.  When I do manage to find some elusive free time, that is one of my indulgences.

I should have been working this past weekend… and shirking my duties will likely catch up to me in a matter of days, if not hours, but I live in Vancouver and weekend the Ridge Theatre was closing.

ridge 015The guys who own the Ridge have always been cool… and because of that, they are not going out with a whimper – but with a bang.  A film festival of sorts!  I really wanted to go every night but I do have a serious job and it does pay for my serious travel habit so I had to constrain myself but this was the last weekend and I had to be in that theatre at least once before it was all over…

As is likely obvious, I have a lot of history… with people, with cities, with buildings…  I’m not quite sure where it comes from… this hyper-awareness of my part in the history of the world, small though it might be.

We are all part of it.  We all make history.  And I think it keeps us grounded – and relevant – to recognize it.

For me, the Ridge didn’t really begin there… it began with Mike… and the Bloor Cinema in Toronto… and being a poor student.  I can’t remember the exact price anymore but you could buy a pass to the networks of cinemas of which the Bloor was part and see second run films for less than the price of a draft beer…  I think beer was $1 and a second run film was 99 cents 🙂

That’s how I discovered Woody Allen… how I argued with Mike that Eraserhead was stupid – but started following David Lynch… how I learned that the cinema was full of ideas… and garbage… and you would have to wade through it… but how rich that experience would be… without Mike and the Bloor I would never have seen Koyaanisqatsi… or learned about Philip Glass… go see it, people, and see Al Gore for the gas-guzzling charlatan that he really is…

http://www.koyaanisqatsi.org/films/koyaanisqatsi.php

Media can be so powerful… but sadly is largely controlled by alpha male buffoons… so be careful what they are trying to brainwash you to believe…

Oh yes, the media and truth… My first film at the final Ridge fest was Argo.  I have been wanting to see it since its opening night – so figured I could be nostalgic – AND see a film I really wanted to see for $5 on the big screen!

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/argo_2012/

It’s really worth seeing.  But, as a Canadian who at the time was a big Carter supporter and aware of current events, I was curious how the film story would go down…  Apparently not so realistically… the drama is great for film.  But, in the realpolitik of the 21st century, there is something to be said for Canadians – who are actually great at diplomacy, willing to do their homework and more concerned about the collective good than the glory.  It’s how we (all of us, not just Canadians :)) will save the world.  Sorry, CIA 😉

But, for me, it wasn’t really about Argo... it was about the Ridge.  I can’t remember my very first visit.  But I first moved to Vancouver in 1985 and it has been part of my life since then.  I saw a lot of films there.  I saw cool special events like weekends full of animation – or great advertising from all over the world.

But the way the Ridge became a place where I felt at home was courtesy of the Vancouver Film Festival.  I also started that courtesy of Mike, sitting in gritty suburban cinemas with uncomfortable seats and floors that always seemed sticky with decades of discarded fluids that could never be entirely eliminated.

But you didn’t come for the ambience 🙂 You came to have your young mind twisted and stretched by great art – and poseurs… eventually you learned to tell the difference 😉

One of those cinemas was the Ridge.  It might have mattered just because of that but years after Mike and I broke up, I was still going to the Ridge and began volunteering at the Vancouver Film Festival because I really believed in the power of cinema to change the world.

The first night I volunteered we made The Vancouver Sun because there was a mini-riot due to bad planning and administrative procedure.  But, at the time, there was a serious recession going on in Canada, and I was unemployed, and happy to be trying to stem the floodgate of disgruntled patrons to prove to myself I still had employable skills…

That first year I floated between Vancouver Centre (the riot locale) and the Ridge.  In those days, the Ridge was suburbia, despite being about a five minute drive from the center of the city.  And Louise ran the Ridge.  It’s been a few decades so I am going to say she was Scottish… She was definitely a Celtic woman with attitude – and principles.

I guess these days you would call it a girl crush.  I just wanted to grow up and be like Louise 🙂  Because she was commanding, fair and charismatic.  No matter what happened (and a film festival is a bunch of artsy prima donnas trying to do something that requires business-like precision so lots happened!) she was always cool and resourceful.  And she protected us.  And tried her best to give the patrons the best theatrical experience.

My years at the Ridge were critical to my human development.  Louise was the boss I aspired to be.  She knew how to manage both up and down the chain – and if you were ready for a challenge…

It is one of my most vivid memories…  I think it was because the Festival Director hired his girlfriend… or some such nonsense that is the stuff of real life… in any event, we had a sold-out show for Europa, Europa but had instead been sent Europa.  What’s one missing Europa you ask?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Europa_Europa

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Europa_(film)

That’s what Louise was afraid of.  I saw them both and would highly recommend you do the same.  But the audience looking for Europa, Europa might not be as keen on Europa.  And Louise knew that… I can’t remember exactly how many people you can fit into the Ridge – but it was the largest cinema on the festival circuit – and there were over 500 seats… so the lineup could be several blocks long and everyone would still get in…

So that night I walked the line and explained to over 500 people that they weren’t going to be seeing the film they had signed up for but the new one was equally compelling… but we would refund anyone who was disappointed, no questions asked.  We had to stay in the lobby to see what happened and process refunds.  I think maybe 5 people asked for refunds.

Louise was a master.  Be upfront with your customers and manage your customer relationships with honesty.  Evaluate your team and set them up for success by assigning them to the roles to which they are suited.  Be the boss but don’t be afraid to be one of the team when it can be strategically deployed to strengthen your organization.

Louise was an artist.  So I doubt she realized she was teaching me business lessons.  But she was a Scot and genetically predisposed to organization?  In any event, she inspired loyalty.  Once I discovered Louise, I always asked to work at the Ridge.  I wasn’t the only one who loved her so every year it was a bit like a family reunion.  And Louise inspired the well-organized rebels… so the theatre ran well… we got to hang out in the Crying Room watching almost the entire film… and it was always over Canadian Thanksgiving so Louise would have pumpkin pie and we would eat it at the concession stand.

My final film at the Ridge (the theatre’s final as well!) was Midnight in Paris.  I already saw it on a plane to Paris as my regular blog readers will recall 🙂 But it was a good film… and I discovered Woody Allen on the repertory film circuit so it was a poetic ending.  And the film is about nostalgia, so hard to find a more perfect ending.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midnight_in_Paris

I took pictures like all the other nostalgia freaks 🙂 And peeked in to see if the Crying Room was still there.  It was!  It is quite possible you don’t know what I am talking about as it is the only cinema I have ever been to with such a room.  It’s why there is something to be said about a 63 year old single screen suburban cinema.  The Ridge let you bring your baby to the movies… and, if the baby started crying (or you thought it might), you could watch the film from the Crying Room.  I think most people just figure their baby won’t be welcome at the movies so it was the place where we hung out during the film festival since we had to get the audience in and out of the cinema so could only watch the film while paying guests were happy and in their seats.  Louise knew where we were and could come and grab us if she needed help.ridge 018

The final night was quite emotional.  They pretty much packed a huge cinema to see a film you could rent on DVD or see on an airplane.  There was a short speech, lots of clapping and a standing ovation for the owner.  I think it’s my first standing ovation in a movie theatre 🙂

In honour of the Ridge closing, I would encourage everyone to go and see a film on the silver screen.  I’ve never been able to duplicate the visceral experience at home and will be a fan of the cinema as long as they exist…

Mr. Pine’s Purple House…

Apparently I was not the only one inspired by Mr. Pine – you gotta love the internet 🙂  My crush, Jon Stewart, was talking on The Daily Show this week about painting your house mauve… in response to Glenn Beck’s crazy Marxist utopia Independence USA.  He likened it to Main Street USA at Disneyland.  Disneyland was fun to visit but it was not for the independent of mind.  So the comparison is apt.

mr pines purple houseAnd Jon is my age so I am wondering if he picked mauve because he also knew about Mr. Pine 🙂  Purple is an awesome colour – with lots of interesting associations –  but we’ll talk about the colour purple some other time…

Jon’s take on the whole crazy mess is hilarious and you should watch it, rather than listen to me paraphrase it (Jan 29, 2013)

http://www.thecomedynetwork.ca/shows/TheDailyShow?videoPackage=130175

It points out the strange, conceptually warped place that is the present day USA.  It’s such a complicated, remarkable and twisted place.  Watching The Daily Show freaks me out a little – and makes me recall my first public speech.  I was an atrocious public speaker.  But a precocious, serious child.  So aged 11 I warned about the dangers of watching too much television.  Back when all I could watch was the CBC!  No danger of wanting to watch it for too long 🙂

But I did LEARN some stuff from TV.  And was usually reading a book in the background because I wasn’t intellectually engaged enough.  But luckily my mom really liked small children and engaged us, rather than popping us in front of a video so we could have the storyline of every Disney animated classic memorized.

The media IS powerful.  And independent thought is essential when you are sitting in front of a TV.  Or a movie screen (more on that soon 😉

So… I am really grateful that reading was highly encouraged by my parents.  First, they read to us.  My internet research revealed that I was 3 when Mr. Pine painted his house purple – so it was likely one of my very first books.  Maybe that’s why it ended up as my favourite.  We had at least one story every night.  And I cleaned out the small town library once I could read on my own.  One of my favourite childhood memories were the boxes of books that came into my house courtesy of auction sales.

It certainly wasn’t all high brow!  That’s how my best friend and I found “The Happy Hooker” and read racy passages aloud to each other when her mother was at work.  We didn’t even really know what was being described – but we knew it was forbidden 🙂

Maybe your child shouldn’t read “The Happy Hooker” but it’s good to be exposed to new ideas and situations outside your own personal realm.  It was books that saved my ass when I ventured out as a young adult with very little knowledge about the great, wide world in which I wanted to wander.

The first boy I seriously considered marrying sealed the deal because we would chime, almost in unison, “let’s go get a book about that!”  We figured books were the answer to every obstacle or new situation life threw at us.

There is something to be said for human contact – and expert advice from live humans 🙂  But it took me a rather long time to figure that out.  In the meantime, I had books…

All sorts of points of view, myriad experiences I would never be able to create for myself, a chance to delve into both the past and the imagined future to try to figure out how to make the present better…

All that reading will also give you a point of view.  You don’t need to paint your house purple (it’s likely not a good idea 🙂  But you shouldn’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe.  People love a maverick!  Just ask Mr. Pine.  His purple house made him the toast of the town 🙂

http://www.amazon.com/Pines-Purple-House

p.s  I have carried Mr. Pine’s Purple House with me to over 30 residences and three continents – but I learned all the lessons by age six – so the physical book is just nostalgia 😉

I’m civilizing you :)

What a concept! 🙂  I have been thinking of plenty of posts but still catching up from my time in Manitoba so not quite sure when they will hit the internet but I just watched episode 4 of “The Newsroom” and it has already inspired one unwritten post before this one so I decided it was time…

I’ve never been much of a TV watcher.  It’s almost always “background” to me… and the sophistication of the plot and dialogue of most TV shows doesn’t require much real attention… but it’s nice to have the comforting noise so I often have the TV on even though I am not officially watching and can always catch more of the details in future re-runs.

But sometimes you stumble across something that arrests your attention and you can’t even just google stuff while watching and actually follow the entire show…  That would be “The Newsroom”, Aaron Sorkin’s newest baby.  I happened to stumble across the pilot in the last week or so.  I was planning to write about it with a heading, “america is not the greatest country in the world.”

I have been in love with Jeff Daniels for a couple of decades… and Emily Mortimer is one of those actresses who should be described as “one of the leading lights of her generation”.  And it has Sam Waterson and even Jane Fonda, for god’s sake.  For those who appreciate great acting and actors who can deliver great writing… well, it just restores your faith in humanity.  It really is trying to civilize us 🙂

The speech that Jeff Daniels (aka Will McAvoy) delivers in the pilot is one of the most intelligent, introspective, inspiring descriptions of the current state of the American nation and the American mindset I’ve encountered.  Both the dialogue and the delivery are astonishing.  At first Will is trying to avoid saying anything because he has become a meaningless rich celebrity without a point of view.  The question is why is America the greatest country in the world.  Not “is.”  Then he thinks he sees his old girlfriend in the audience, a journalist who he thinks is in Iraq dodging bullets.  She is holding up a sign that says, “it’s not.”  It inspires him.  Unlike his fellow pundits who cite something stupid like “freedom” he cites facts (remember those little nuggets, Fox News???), trying to explain to the underliterate audience just what America IS good at…  We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next twenty-six countries combined, twenty-five of whom are allies. 

I am sure there will be more to be said.  As I type this, I am trying to follow Jon Stewart skewering Mitt Romney.  It is pretty sad that all the best news in the United States of America is not really “the news”.  That’s the message of “The Newsroom.”  Pundits and infotainment replacing actual facts and analysis that made us all smarter and better world citizens… Will McAvoy-aka Jeff Daniels-channelling Aaron Sorkin really IS trying to civilize us.  We need it.

Once upon a time I was in an elevator with Rupert Murdoch… back when he was just famous in Australia and there was no Fox News.  I shoulda slugged him.  But that would have been bad for my career 🙂  I made a lot of statements about my dad at his funeral but the one that fits tonight…

He watched Lloyd Robertson every night.  (I actually saw Lloyd in the CTV cafeteria but was never brave enough to talk to him.  I wanted to tell him about my dad.)  He knew way more about the world than George W. Bush ever will and he would have made a far better President.  You would think there should be an IQ test for the leader of the free world.  At least a few skill testing questions… and no calculators!

My dad was the one who taught me about the importance of civilization – and my role in keeping it alive.  Let’s hope “The Newsroom” is a hit – and we all learn how to be more civilized.  America can be great.  Will talks about that too – and it’s worth hearing.  America is your promising child who turned into a drug dealer when you weren’t paying attention.  Maybe the big mistake was giving Murdoch American citizenship?  Apparently points for character are not a big part of the criteria…

http://www.hbo.com/the-newsroom/index.html

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