Wednesday, December 8, 2010

John Lennon (1940-1980): A Legacy of Vulnerability

There was a moment while watching After the Ice Melts, the final episode of CBC's Battle of the Blades when I marveled at the openness and vulnerability expressed by a number of the participating hockey-players. Tough guys like Kelly Chase, Patrice Brisebois, Theo Fleury and Russ Courtnall, all openly wept on national television. It was remarkable, not just because it challenged our preconceptions of "macho" hockey players, but also because it was obvious that this experience was a transformative one for these men. Fleury and Courtnall were particularly open, talking about their experiences with sexual abuse and mental illness, respectively.

Notably, none of the women wept, but almost all of the men did. I don't think the episode was manipulated or edited to get the men to cry on camera while the women sat dry-eyed. It was clear that these hockey players were profoundly changed by their Battle of the Blades experience, and the tears expressed this transformation. Perhaps for the first time in their lives, these men were allowed to express themselves in a non-prescribed manner that wasn't ultra-masculine, like hockey, a sport that is as much about convention as it is competition. For NHL hockey players to put on figure skates and, for an intensive period, collaborate as equal partners with women in the creative sport of pairs skating, surely is a game-changer --for life-- and I have little doubt that they are better men and human beings for the experience. They all expressed gratitude for the opportunity to participate in the program, which includes working with and donating prize money to charities.

As corny as it sounds, there's much to be said about getting in touch with one's emotional self and living life more openly and honestly. It sounds very Robert Bly, I know, but if everyone, not just men, were more in tune with their higher emotional selves, the world would be a better place. It's as simple as that.

One man who advocated strongly for love in the world is John Lennon, who was murdered thirty years ago today. On the anniversary of his death, I always profoundly feel the loss his death represents to humanity, because I believe the world would be a different place if he was still alive. John was brave, outspoken and passionate about peace and activism. He cared deeply for the world and humanity --and, perhaps more significantly-- people universally loved and respected him. He was in a uniquely powerful and influential position to transform hearts and minds.

 In the new biopic about John's early years, Nowhere Boy (ending tomorrow at the Twin) we see John's life with his Aunt Mimi, his middle-class upbringing and intriguingly, we're shown a portrayal of the mother who was not "fit" to raise him, Julia. Most of us who are familiar with Lennon's music know her by his heart-rending tributes to her (who, along with Yoko, he called his "muse'): Julia and Mother. We're also familiar with the rather static photo of her, but in Nowhere Boy, she's brought to life as a vivacious and care-free red-head who loved to dance and sing, quite the opposite of the stern Aunt Mimi. While Mimi was protective of John and determined that he would have a "proper" upbringing, Julia was the one who encouraged John to explore his creativity through music and thus, she played a major role in changing the world.

What sets John apart from the other Beatles --each remarkable in their own way-- was his brazen honesty: to him, the personal was the political. John also was a pioneer into explorations of the self: when the Beatles went to India to study transcendental meditation, many followed (and when they smoked pot and dropped acid, for better or for worse, multitudes followed, as well.) His explorations into primal therapy with Arthur Janov in 1970 resulted in Mother, possibly the most sincere, harrowing and vulnerable evocations of the hurt inner-child ever recorded: "Mama don't go! Daddy come home!" Lennon's openness and vulnerability made it acceptable for other men to follow suit. As Yoko Ono sang of John in Beautiful Boys: "your mind has changed the world." She also believed that John legitimized stay-at-home fatherhood. He wanted to be the father to his son, Sean, that he couldn't be to his older son, Julian. He also wanted to be the father he never had.

In one scene of Nowhere Boy, we see a struggle between Alfred, John's birth father, and Julia. One of the reasons Mimi took guardianship of John was because Alfred, a merchant seaman, was never home and she believed Julia couldn't cope. When John was five years-old, Alfred wanted to move the family to New Zealand, but Julia refused. Imagine if she had conceded, and little John Lennon had been raised in New Zealand: there would have been no Beatles. Imagine the world without the Beatles. Now, imagine the world today with John Lennon. Would the world be different if John was still alive? I think so.

Lennon brought magic and colour to the world through his music, and he spoke a powerful and simple message of love that people universally understood. People listened to him when he sang -- very truthfully -- "every now and then I feel so insecure... Won't you please help me?" Lennon, through his openness and honesty, challenged the conventions of the day. "Why shouldn't we cry?" he said in a radio interview. "They tell us to stop crying at about twelve, or whatever it is. You know, 'Be a man.' What the hell is that? Men hurt."

Lennon's willingness to express love and show vulnerability made it okay for a generation of men to do the same, and that includes, many years later, a group of ex-NHL hockey players who felt safe enough to cry and speak of trauma and healing on national television last week.

So where would John's pioneering spirit have led the world, if he was alive today? That's for you to imagine.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

All You Need is Love: Reflections on Never Let Me Go

The Beatles had it right: All you need is love.

Perhaps not in those exact terms, but love is the secret of the universe, the philosopher's stone that so many have sought to attain. Occam's razor: the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. Yet, love? It just seems too simple, too trite. Love? Cheesy!

While the notion of love is simple enough, enacting it on a daily, continuous basis is complex and frequently, difficult work. If one can truly master the art of loving, not a la Kama Sutra (although I'm sure it helps), but more in the mode of Erich Fromm, one has figured out this game of life.

So how could we have got such a simple concept so wrong? 

Such are the questions that arise upon seeing the excellent British film Never Let Me Go, based on the novel by Japanese-born, British author Kazuo Ishiguro. The Brits have a cinematic history of doing sci-fi social dystopia very well, and Never Let Me Go can proudly take its place beside such classics as Village of the Damned based on The Midwich Cuckoos and Joseph Losey's The Damned (no relation to the former). That some of the best of British sci-fi were made during the height of the cold war when H-bomb anxieties were particularly high is made clear by the prominence of radioactive children in those scripts.

Good science-fiction has always used a fictionalized future to examine problems and anxieties in our society now. That the children of Never Let Me Go are bred solely for the future utilization of their vital organs suggests a current deficit of humanity in our society, where individuals are not seen as enchanted, unique souls. If they are seen at all, it is for utilitarian purposes. While thankfully --hopefully!-- we may not feel this attitude is the prevalent one in our neighbourhoods and communities, many do sense this cold disenchantment coming from government, big business and the dying institutions that surround us. At this war-torn and uncertain time in history, the fact that humanity is facing a massive spiritual and ecological crisis is hard to deny.

What is the value of one human life in an alienated world? Can the expression of love and creativity reenchant a soulless universe? Tommy, played by Andrew Garfield, asks this question of Miss Emily, the headmistress played by Charlotte Rampling, and her response provides one of the most chilling --and infuriating-- moments in the film, because the audience knows that the ones who have souls are the ones who got the short ends of the sticks.

There is bargaining in this film. While these children have been raised not to question their fates or the fairness of their short lives, of course, they do, and the answers don't come easily. The audience is left to grapple on their own with these difficult issues, which undoubtedly is the reason Never Let Me Go split audience opinion. Furthermore, the heartless society of this film is a reflection of our own, which is a recognition that may be too unsettling for some to countenance. Personally, I can't regard films as powerful as Never Let Me Go in such a dismissive and repressive way. Rather, I welcome the opportunity to sit with these questions, because the issues raised by Never Let Me Go are many. Watching this film, you'll find yourself thinking of all kinds of injustices and inhumanities, some of which you may have experienced, or even, enacted.

The film's title comes from a torch-song sung by Jane Monheit, a song of love and longing and the human desire to feel needed, to love and be loved. Such a simple concept, the inspiration for countless songs, and yet, perhaps because of its simplicity, so easy to get wrong.


Friday, August 27, 2010

The Master's Voice (reflections on Scott Pilgrim vs. the World)

Every so often I find myself in a movie theatre thinking, "what would Alfred Hitchcock think?" 
It's my own benchmark query and --I admit-- something of a judgment call. I can't answer the question; I only can imagine what the Master would have thought, say, of the latest Hollywood special FX blockbuster. So there I am in the theatre, watching another crappy CGI explosion while simultaneously, in my mind's eye, is Alfred, shaking his head, jowls quivering piteously over the current state of Hollywood cinema. 
For me, it can be that bad, which is why I generally spare myself this time-wasting agony (and thus, sparing myself the necessity of asking myself the question in the first place). Film as Hollywood CGI thrill-ride typically is not my cup of tea; there are just too many other movies to see (and, of course, too little time). 
But what about film as video game? What would Hitch have thought of that?
Last night I wandered over to the Princess Twin to check out Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Enough positive word-of-mouth had been generated to make me curious what the buzz was about. I have to say, I don't think I've ever seen a movie quite like it. 
Seamlessly, British director Edgar Wright (Shawn of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) has melded the media of cinema, gaming and comics and --no pun intended-- it's a marvel. Some people have spoken of seeing this movie multiple times. I can see why: the cinematic image is so laden in this film --with pop-up balloons, graphic novel aesthetics, gaming iconography and clever cultural references-- that one probably needs to see it (if so inclined) at least twice to take it all in. I particularly loved how Wright layered images to create mise-en-scene and edited scenes by dissolving backgrounds from foregrounds. Very smooth. 
So what would Hitch have thought? I think he would have approved (I can see the jowls jiggling up and down as Hitch nods his head.) I have two predictions, though: Scott Pilgrim has not yet "found" its audience. It will happen, but it's going to be what they call a "sleeper" hit (kind of like Donnie Darko, but hopefully it won't take that long.) Once its cult success is confirmed, I predict that Scott Pilgrim vs. the World will be re-released in 3D. You heard it here first!
My next prediction is a no-brainer: wait for the copy-cat Scott Pilgrim knock-off movies. Like Reservoir Dogs, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Napoleon Dynamite before it, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is the standard-bearer for a new hybrid, a film that defines a unique moment in time. The cool thing is, this one's part-Canadian and proud of it, too. 
See you at the movies! 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Old Films, New Eyes: The Aesthetic Pleasures of Cinema

I'll never forget the experience of seeing The Good, The Bad and the Ugly on the big screen for the first time. It was about 20 years ago and --the fact is-- I didn't sit through the entire movie. Having seen the movie on TV years before, I thought I had already seen it. Boy, was I wrong. Stopping by the Original Princess that night, I stepped in the auditorium to check out the crowd and watch some of the film. I was blown away by what I saw on screen. There was Clint as Blondie, larger than life on an endless vista of Cinemascope glory. 
"You dig!"
After that night I learned my lesson and since then, I make a particular effort to see the revived old classics that appear on the Princess Cinema's program, not only because I want to take advantage of the chance to see these gems on the big screen, but also because I know these screenings are rare. When I describe them as once-in-a-lifetime, I'm not kidding. We recently screened the remastered version of my all-time favourite film, The Red Shoes, at the Princess, a magical experience I will recount another day. Since all three screenings were well-attended, I asked John if he could bring the film back. No, was his response, as the film had been shipped off and returned to the States (which meant it would be far too costly for us to bring it back over the border).
I doubt that I will ever tire or cease to be amazed by the experience of seeing an old film with new eyes. To me, the sense of re-discovery is like falling in love again ("can't help it!") It's a unique and somewhat addictive sensation and, while it is uncommon, this year I've had the opportunity to renew my acquaintance with old titles several times already, and I know there will be more to come because the Princess --as part of our 25th anniversary-- plans on screening many of our classics from years past. 
Last August we screened the 40th anniversary re-release of Woodstock. WOW! And to think I almost didn't go because, well, I'd seen it before (on VHS when I was fourteen). I definitively had NOT seen this movie before. What a privilege to see this amazing documentary in 35mm in a theatre with full stereo surround sound and --I don't care what anyone says about their home theatres-- they can never match the true, collective, cinematic experience.  I have a lot to say about Woodstock, but I'll save that discussion for another post.
My next "scales-fell-from-my-eyes" experience came while watching Lawrence of Arabia last fall. Although I had seen it when it was re-released in 1988, perhaps at the age of twenty I was too inexperienced to fully appreciate the grandeur of this magnificent film. It was not lost on me this time, as the opening scene of T.E. Lawrence riding his motorbike made me feel dizzy and ecstatic. This film, originally released in 1962 in 70mm, should never be aired (or viewed!) on television. A waste of time, in my opinion. Recently Cinematheque Waterloo presented Fellini's La Dolce Vita. I had seen this movie multiple times, in multiple formats (VHS, DVD, 16mm) but never in 35mm. Again, I felt like I was seeing an entirely new movie. It was a delight from start to finish.
One can be forgiven for getting certain Fellini titles mixed up: many of his mid-period, semi-autobiographical films have recurring, similar dream-like scenes, as though he was continuing to process their latent meaning in his own psyche. Last night I went to see 8 1/2 at the Original, not entirely sure whether or not I had seen it before. I had, but not in 35mm. I actually moaned with pleasure upon witnessing the following scene, one of many dream-scapes Fellini explores in this film.  
Martin Scorsese once said that Peeping Tom and 8 1/2 say everything one needs to know about filmmaking, an interesting (and I hope tongue-in-cheek) observation about the filmmaking process. As for comparitives, I would pair 8 1/2 with Kurosawa's Dreams, as both movies suggest, by theme, the truth that watching a film in a movie theatre is the physiological equivalent of going into a dream state. The visceral pleasure of watching a 35mm film projection is considerably different than watching a digital projection. When we watch a film in a cinema, because of the projector's shutter mechanism the screen is actually black for almost half the time; of course we don't perceive it (because of "persistence of vision") but physiologically we do: it's like being in an alpha-state. Call me old-school, but I won't be entirely sold on the complete digitization of cinema until that alpha-state can be mimicked with digital technology. Obviously the difference is subtle, but film-lovers can sense the difference. It's an analog sensation: it's felt.
Special mention should be made that the recent availability of some Fellini titles can be credited to the venerable Janus Films, the 1950s distribution company that brought many of the classics of world cinema to North American viewers. Now owned by Criterion, last year Janus released its first theatrical title in over thirty years! 
Previously, I noted that this year --September 18th, to be exact-- the Princess Cinema will be celebrating its 25th anniversary. In addition to screening the first film ever projected at the Princess, Casablanca, we'll be presenting a series of Charlie Chaplin films, released by Janus. I am encouraged by Janus and some of the majors, who periodically dip into their vaults and clean up old titles for theatrical revival. Let's hope that the distributors continue to re-release some of these great films, so a new generation of film lovers can truly see these films as they were meant to be seen: in 35mm, on the big screen!
See you at the movies!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Cinema & Pharmakon (or, stop me if you've heard this one before)

Can a movie change your life?
I believe so. Movies certainly have changed mine, and I think I can say that one film in particular changed me forever. That movie was Peeping Tom, a 1959 British film about a serial killer.
Karl Boehm as Mark, a creepy serial killer who's also an aspiring filmmaker.

 A serial killer? Yes, I'm afraid but, this is what happened. It was a Saturday night, I was a mere 22 years-old, and a friend and I wanted to see a movie. Any movie. We were both living above Home Hardware in uptown Waterloo; she had a long-term lease on this great apartment, and I moved in on a summer sublet because the rent was cheap. Since the accommodations were temporary, I didn't bother to properly settle. In other words, my sublet was a mess of half-opened boxes, their contents strewn haphazardly around the room. I remember overhearing one of our male friends ask Gretchen, incredulously, "Is that Wendy's room?" Apparently my private self didn't match my public persona. In my mind I was being efficient with my energies.
               I had left on my floor a bedside array of unread Film Comment magazines I had borrowed from the office of the Original Princess Cinema. I'd been working there as a manager for almost a year, and I wanted to learn more about movies, so aside from watching them constantly and taking film courses at the University of Waterloo, I also was reading books and stacks of film journals. Gretchen also worked at the Princess and in one month I recall that she and I saw thirty different films at the cinema together (back when the Original's programming was really rep). We would watch anything and everything. 
               If anyone reading this knew Gretchen, you'd know that she was adventurous. She was OUT there. Incredibly smart, charismatic and funny, she and I had a lot of fun together but, there were some places she would venture that garnered no temptation for me. These places --which I considered no man's land-- shall remain nameless to protect the innocent! On this particular Saturday night, Gretchen had procured some psilocybin and I decided I would go on this trip with her. This was the second, and last time I partook of this powerful substance. Some people get the giggles or the munchies when they partake. Not me. I'm one of those people who go to profound and sometimes paranoid places, where my mind never stops and sleep never comes. Needless to say, I have experimented a little because I'm curious by nature (beware the perils of curiosity!) but, I like to limit these experiences because they can be too much. As my dad says, "I can get high on water." Me too, dad. 
                   So Gretchen and I took our sacrament and wandered over to the Princess to watch a midnight screening of a movie about which neither she nor I knew a thing. As we were watching this movie and getting more and more bugged out by what we were seeing on screen (and what was happening in our brains), at one point, feeling like I was falling down the rabbit hole, I turned and whispered to her, most seriously: "I feel like my life is a movie and I'm behind the screen of it." I feel wigged-out now just remembering this moment, because later, after being changed by this film, (I went on to become a huge fan of Michael Powell's films and did a fair amount of research and writing on them while in grad school) I learned that Peeping Tom is one of the most relentlessly and brutally self-reflexive films ever made
Mark not only likes to film, he also likes to watch. For once he has an audience other than himself.
Smile! You're on candid camera!
Is that a knife on the end of your tripod, or are you just happy to see me? Helen (played by the wonderful Anna Massey) refuses to look in the mirror provided for her viewing pleasure.
Home movies like you've never seen before

It gets weirder. Two-thirds of the way into the movie we saw THIS freakish, howling image on the screen before our eyes: 
In unison, Gretchen and I let out a loud, spontaneous scream! We screamed not because we were scared; rather, this was a shocked scream of recognition. Remember the unread Film Comments left near my bed? For two weeks my roommates and I had been glancing daily at the covers of these magazines strewn about my floor, but the most noticeable cover featured that same, bizarre, distorted eye-ball image from Peeping Tom! I hadn't cracked the magazine, so I didn't know that this back-issue included a tribute to Michael Powell (Film Comment 26.1, May-June 1990). I had not heard of this --at the time-- lesser-known, forgotten director and I certainly didn't know what that weird image was. It was just a strange, randomly eye-catching picture from the cover of a magazine, and now, there it was in the cinema, manifested hugely in front of our eyes. Up until that moment, possibly the most shocking moment in the film, neither of us had made the connection. Of course we screamed!
                      It was a powerful experience, full of (ahem) magic, mystery and overwhelming synchronicity. I was never quite the same after seeing that movie, that night at the Princess. That is the power of cinema and that's why I love it so.
                       See you at the movies!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sex & Cinema

I am obliged to make a correction regarding the opening of Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky. I'd been reporting that it opens with a hot and steamy 15-minute love-making scene, which is one of the reasons I trotted off to see the movie last night. It does open with a passionate scene --of the riot that erupted at the Paris premiere of Rite of Spring -- but, it wasn't what I was expecting. In other words, this was no Betty Blue! Too bad, although I did enjoy the depiction of this legendary event where "the pagans on stage made pagans of the audience." People just don't seem to riot over art the way they used to.

After the film I ran into Paul Tiessen of the Laurier film department and his wife, Hildi. In comparing notes on the film, my first response was to say the movie was "restrained," which seemed to surprise them a little. They didn't know I'd been anticipating a lot more sex --not that this film doesn't deliver it, because it does-- it just doesn't deliver 15-minutes of sustained sex at the outset. When Coco and Igor are finally alone in a bedroom together, I almost said out loud, "Get it on!" (or "Take it off!"?) It was what I'd been waiting for, yet oddly, the inter-species coupling between Adrien Brody's character and Dren in Splice was more titillating than Igor and Coco's affair, simply because in Splice the sex was dirty and just wrong. Chanel and Stravinsky make a brooding fashion statement out of their ruts of spring. Coco & Igor is gorgeous to look at, but ultimately the passions are as tightly bound as the laces Coco cuts from her corset at the beginning of the movie, and that's probably the point. As far as affairs go, this one --like all affairs-- is a wash-out. If they don't end in tears then they end in marriage, and how boring is that? I'm not against marriage of course, I just don't like Hollywood endings.

Ideally, sex in the cinema (on the screen please, not in the seats!) should act like foreplay: it's best if you have a partner and a bed to go home to, rather than having to come to the cinema with your trench coat on (and believe me, we've seen a few of them over the years.) Everyone has their favourite sexy film: mine is Philip Kaufman's The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which I saw over 20 years ago at the Original Princess Cinema with an old boyfriend (not John, by the way, although John did rather proudly tell me that he took three different women to see that movie during its long run at the old Waterloo Theatre. The cad!)

Watching a sex scene in the cinema is always interesting. For one thing, it's not the same as watching it at home by yourself (or at home with your honey, for obvious reasons.) When the drama gets intense and well, what do you know, intercourse is being depicted, the atmosphere in the cinema electrifies most palpably. Sure, most likely --hopefully!-- it's being generated by your own brain, but it's in the air, too, and it's a heady mixture of hormones, pheromones, awkwardness and discomfort. It's wonderful. The best on-screen sex is when the leads bring that magical, ineffable "chemistry" to their performance. This is why I love The Unbearable Lightness of Being, because the chemistry between Daniel Day-Lewis, Juliette Binoche and Lena Olin is incredible.  The source material wasn't bad either!

The notion of chemistry can be very personal. I remember being decidedly turned-off watching Neil Jordan's 1999 adaptation of Graham Greene's The End of the Affair, because in my mind there was no chemistry between Ralph Fiennes and Julianne Moore. I can take or leave Ralph Fiennes as a romantic lead: he's a nice-enough looking man, but there's something too ethereal and airy about him (not enough Scorpio!) and sometimes he's just too skinny for my liking; whereas Julianne Moore can be (at least in this film) too earthy. It wasn't a good match in my books. I'm also an avid reader of Graham Greene's novels, so my critical radar was probably finely pitched at this screening.

Sex in the cinema can also be instructive --sure, in the art of love-- but also outside of the bedroom: in the moral arena. I don't think I have seen one film about affairs that has a happy ending; indeed, most of these films end horrifically badly. I'm reminded of Louis Malle's Damage, starring Juliette Binoche and Jeremy Irons (another awkward coupling between actors); Polanski's Knife in the Water and Bitter Moon; Kieslowski's Dekalog 6 & 9; Wolfgang Petersen's (Das Boot) Shattered and of course, Fatal Attraction. The titles of these films say it all!

One of my all-time favourite movies is My Dinner with Andre. There are no sex scenes in this film; in fact, there's just one scene: old theatre pals, Andre and Wally, sitting at a table enjoying a meal at a respectable restaurant in New York. I try to watch this movie once a year, as I am as fascinated as Wally is by Andre's stories of his esoteric adventures and philosophies. (By the way, I consider My Dinner with Andre to be an occult film, but that's a blog for another day.) At the end of MDWA, Andre reflects on fear of death and the ephemerality of life and, in doing so, he talks about sex and relationships. In essence, he says that people have affairs because it makes them feel that they're on firm ground. "You know, there's a sexual conquest to be made, there are different questions: does she enjoy the ears being nibbled, how intensely can you talk about Schopenhauer in some elegant French restaurant. Whatever nonsense it is. Well, have a real relationship with a person that goes on for years, that's completely unpredictable. Then you've cut off all your ties to the land and you're sailing into the unknown, into uncharted seas. I mean, you know, people hold on to these images: father, mother, husband, wife, again for the same reason: 'cause they seem to provide some firm ground. But there's no wife there. What does that mean, a wife? A husband? A son? A baby holds your hands and then suddenly there's this huge man lifting you off the ground, and then he's gone. Where's that son?"

Those are some of the most beautiful words ever spoken in cinema, and I cry every time I hear Andre speak them! While Andre's logic appears to be counter-intuitive --that a brief affair gives the sensation of firm ground while a long-term relationship provides no assurances-- he's absolutely right. We grow old, we change, people come and go. It's all fleeting. Watching a movie is quite the same: it provides us an escape from terra firma, but in the best films, we can take something quite concrete --instruction-- from that ephemeral experience of watching light flicker on a screen in a darkened room.

And that's what I love most about the cinema. See you at the movies!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The perils of curiosity

Last night I treated myself to the most unlikely double-bill: The Kids are All Right (playing now at the Twin) and Splice (playing at 9:25 until Aug. 11 at the Original). Typically, theatrical double-bills will have some thematic similarity or they may have something else in common, such as two films by the same director or actor. The only thing last night's films shared was the topic of the scientific intervention of biological procreation: the offspring of the lesbian couple in The Kids Are All Right were the result of a sperm donor, and the human/animal mutation of Splice is the result of questionable genetic engineering. I know, it's a bit of stretch to link these two films, but I had a great night out and both films, in their own unique ways, were fantastic. At the end of Splice, I realized that these films actually had something much deeper in common: curiosity. The curiosity of one (or more) of the characters in these films drives both narratives, and in both films, the characters have to deal with the consequences of curiosity. Once the Pandora's box is opened, of course, it can never be closed again. It's a lesson for us all. 
A face only a mother could love: Elsa (Sarah Polley) imprints with Dren, in Splice

I won't say too much more about these movies because I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but what I will say is: Mark Ruffalo, why haven't I noticed you before?   Wow, is he a sexy Lothario in this movie, with his laid-back, ruffled California charm. Boyish and easy-going, he's another Gen X mid-lifer (as is Julianne Moore's character, who goes through an identity crisis of her own.) Actually, every character in TKAAR is transformed by crisis. It's tough-going at times but, we can assume from the title that this family is going to be okay, and most likely, stronger and better because of their trials. I'd also like to add that it was great to see a believable lesbian couple on screen. The writing and dialogue in this movie is so fantastic, and it's the little details that add up, like the way the kids naturally pluralize "moms." The Kids are All Right also features an excellent soundtrack (with no "Our House" by Madness, thank god, contrary to what the trailer might have you believe.) One of my favourite David Bowie songs is in this movie: Black Country Rock. Oh yeah! I think I was thoroughly sold on this movie when I saw Ruffalo's character drive up on his vintage motorcycle to the strains of this lesser-known Bowie song. Very cool.

Now that I think of it, a lot of David Bowie songs have been used to powerful effect in movies. Off the top of my head I can think of a few recent films: the inclusion of 'Heroes' at the end of The Cove brought tears to my eyes; 'Cat People (Putting Out Fire)' in Inglorious Basterds; and 'Life on Mars' in (only) the theatrical version of Lars von Trier's Breaking the Waves. I've been thinking about David Bowie and his Uranian ways lately. Bowie and film: might be a blog for another day....

See you at the movies!