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Sean Montgomery

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(no subject) [Jun. 1st, 2014|10:30 am]
Okay, these 'improvements' to Livejournal are getting ridiculous. Now, when I look at my friends' feed, it's squeezed down to just 1/3 of the frame, with a second third reserved for widgets I don't use, and the final third empty. I tried finding a settings feature where I could change this, but I can't find one. So annoying.
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(no subject) [May. 29th, 2014|12:14 am]
I haven't posted in a while, mostly because I've been back on the 60 hour a week work schedule for the past month. And I can't even talk about what the project is. Well...one more week of overtime next week, and then I anticipate getting a little 'furlough' time before I start on the next season of Thomas and Friends. Then, I'll be able to write a proper update.
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Finding Vivian Maier [Apr. 6th, 2014|02:15 pm]
About a year ago, I saw the trailer for a forthcoming documentary (funded through Kickstarter), titled 'Finding Vivian Maier'. It caught my attention for two reasons. First, the story was intriguing. John Maloof, president of the Jefferson Park historical society on Chicago’s Northwest Side, decided that he wanted to write a book about the neighbourhood; and as part of that process he went looking for vintage photographs. In 2007, this brought him to an auction where he took a chance on a box full of negatives priced at $400. Unfortunately, a quick glance at what he had didn't reveal anything relevant to his project, and he put them aside. Then, a while later, he pulled out the box again and began scanning some of those negatives. And what he saw is the second reason the film caught my eye: the photos were amazing.



All Maloof knew was that the photos had been taken by someone named Vivian Maier. There was no information on Google about her. She had never shown any of her work publicly. Who was this woman? Answering that question led him to make the film. It had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, but I was unable to get a ticket. Thankfully, it's finally making its way onto theatres, and Karen and I got to see it on Friday.

As it turns out, there's quite a bit to the story, and I found it to be rather fascinating. Maloof returned to the auction house where he'd obtained the original box of Maier negatives, and began doing deals with other people who had scooped up her work (edit: I just read an interview today in which Maloof indicated that he had to pay increasingly large amounts of money for the other photos, as word started to get out about her. One collector has already begun publishing some of the images). By the time Maloof was done, he had assembled some 150,000 images (which represents about 90% of Maier's pictures). Them, in 2009, he tried another Google search on Vivian Maier....and this time, he got a hit: her obituary notice. Maier had died in April of that year.

Maloof was able to put the pieces of the puzzle together. The boxes of negatives contained receipts with street addresses (it seemed that Maier had been something of a pack rat). Maloof checked out one of the addresses, and the family who lived there knew Maier: she had been their children's nanny. For that is what Maier did for her entire adult life: look after children. Now, two storage lockers full of her possessions were about to be thrown in the trash, so Maloof took possession of that material as well. In them were stacks and stacks of newspapers, 16mm films, and hundreds and hundreds of rolls of undeveloped film.

Maloof wound up meeting and interviewing most of the kids that Maier had nannied for, and a more detailed portrait comes together. She'd been born in New York, but her parents separated while she was still a young child, and she wound up spending the first years of her life in a small village up in the French Alps. She was blunt, inquisitive, and politically left-wing.

Now, at this point, your enjoyment of the film may vary. Clearly, she had been an intensely private person, keeping her possessions and her photographs locked up and out of sight. She never married or had any romances, had no close friends, no local family. How would she have reacted to this kind of prying? Not well, one would think. As the film unfolds, it becomes clear that Maier was a full-on hoarder, who became increasingly reclusive and paranoid in later life. A couple of people opine on camera that there surely must have been some deep trauma in her childhood, or some degree of mental illness, to account for her behaviour. For some, this kind of speculation may be a bridge too far. Karen, for instance, was mostly just interested in the photos themselves, and didn't need to know all about the artist. But for me (as someone who likes puzzles, and understanding what makes people tick) it was fascinating. And it relates to my opinion about good art: it's not just about being able to accurately draw something, or create an appealing arrangement of colours. It's about communication. It's about being able to see the world through the eyes of another human being, and feel a connection with that person, or with the subject of the work itself. And Maier's work does that expertly. She did most of her shooting with a Rolleflex camera which hung on a strap at waist level - so they're shot from the eye level of a child. For me, this makes her compositions remind me of childhood memories, from when my family lived in Montreal. And knowing more about the circumstances of Maier's life helps me to appreciate the possible meaning behind her choices in subject matter, and feel a deeper connection with it. It can be appreciated in human terms, not just in formal ones.

It's certainly a shame that Maier was never recognized in her own lifetime. She died penniless and alone. Maloof's mission to bring her work to light seems to be driven by genuine appreciation, but he is also the financial beneficiary, as books and prints of her pictures get published. Still, at least we have the work now.
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The Ice Storm [Dec. 22nd, 2013|09:04 pm]
All week long, weather forecasts were warning that a storm was coming our way for this weekend, and that depending on temperatures it could bring as much as 20 cm of snow. Well, as it turned out, temperatures hovered right around the freezing mark - creating the perfect conditions for an ice storm. It rained through most of Saturday, and the precipitation began to freeze on contact with everything it touched. Karen and I were supposed to attend Raquel's annual 'Roast Beast Feast' last night, but as our departure time approached, the roads were becoming treacherous, and we knew the situation would be worse by the time we'd be heading home. So we cancelled. In hindsight, we probably would have made it home okay, but it's best to be safe. Because when we woke up this morning, things were pretty bad indeed. Two trees across the street from us had come down, and the cars were coated in half an inch of ice. We had power, but checking the news revealed that hundreds of thousands of others in the area were not so lucky. In other words, a good day to stay home, and that's just what we did. Eventually, we ventured out to clear the sidewalk and driveway. Thankfully, Karen had a spade for the task, because the plastic shovels weren't going to cut it. To clear the cars, we poured buckets of hot water onto the windows and the tops of doors. Eventually, we got the job done.
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Found [Oct. 1st, 2013|10:17 am]
Karen just messaged me. The police called, and Karen's mom was located alive and well on Manitoulin Island. She'll be home in a few days. Very strange.
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Book Meme [Dec. 27th, 2012|10:41 am]
1. What are you reading right now?
I have two books on my night stand: 'This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly', by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff; and 'Censored 2013: The Top Censored Stories and Media Analysis of 2011-2012', by Mickey Huff and Andy Roth. I started the first of those about three weeks ago and found it a bit dry, which allowed me to be quickly distracted by the latter (which I'm actively reading).

2. What did you last finish reading?
'Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt', by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco. A clever blend of Hedges' prose and Sacco's illustrations, it looks at capitalism's 'sacrifice zones' across the United States (including Camden New Jersey, and the coal mining operations of West Virginia). I recommend it.

3. What will you read next?
Too many choices! Either 'The Untold History of the United States' by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, or 'The Energy of Slaves: Oil and The New Servitude' by Andrew Nikiforuk. I'll probably wind up jumping back and forth between them, as I often do with books.
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Dispatch From Cancún [Nov. 15th, 2012|11:24 am]
Karen and I have been in Cancún Mexico since Sunday, and I'm finally getting around to saying something about that topic. Not that there's too much to report. The trip has been marked primarily by massive amounts of sloth, interspersed with periods of eating. Which is precisely what Karen and I both needed. Well, the sloth part, anyway.

This time around, I booked with Sunwing Vacations instead of Westjet, since it saved a couple of bucks. Unfortunately, the jet we were on was an older model with cramped, uncomfortable seating - which made the flight down feel longer than it was. On the plus side, they had a free in-flight meal (a serviceable pasta dish). Back on the negative side: the movie shown was 'The Magic Of Belle Isle'. Next time, we're switching back to Westjet.

While waiting for the plane in Toronto, I was reminded of how the airport falls down in comparison with other big hubs (Atlanta, Houston, Chicago, even Charlotte). A ton of money was spent on the huge new terminal building, but the shopping and dining options are seriously lacking. We didn't have time for breakfast, and all that was available at the airport were muffins and bagels from Tim Hortons.

We were greeted by gorgeous weather, as expected. While we had to wait almost half an hour for our shuttle van to arrive, we didn't mind too much. The drive to the resort took us through the heart of Cancun's hotel district, and we passed the infamous Coco Bongo. I actually appreciate that our resort is out of the city. I prefer the quiet here.

As we arrived at the Excellence Playa Mujeres, and were greated by the customary cool towels, glasses of champagne, and scent of citronella candles in the lobby, I was curious to see what would happen at check-in. Would they recognize us as repeat customers? Would there be free upgrades offered? Alas, no. But we got the room we wanted. They'd booked us into a room near the central pool, but we asked for and got a swim-out by the spa instead - which we appreciate for...you guessed it...the quiet. After dropping our bags, we headed out to get a little snack: a basket of tasty nachos.

The following day, there was acknowledgement of our loyalty to the resort - the manager sent up a bottle of champagne, and a gift bag containing a ball cap, polo shirt and tote bag. Nice! One issue: Karen wanted the bag and cap, leaving me with the shirt...but it was a Medium size. I requested a Large, but was told that they didn't have any available. No biggie. There was also a selection of full-size liquor bottles in our room (no extra charge)...I don't remember that from last year.

The only real thinking we have to do down here is where to go for dinner each night. We started with the Mexican restaurant, which had refreshed its menu since last year. Previously, they had offered a selection of 'Tex-Mex' dishes, but those were scrapped in favour of more traditional offerings...a move I had no problem with. I can get Chimichangas at home anytime. I had some Yucatan style chicken, which was pretty good - but our order was a bit late coming out because we arrived at the same time as a big corporate group (From 'Medieval Times', I believe...which is a business partner with the company that owns the resort). We hustled back to the room so I could catch the Monday night shows on Strangeways radio, and I used room service to order some chocolate cake for dessert. Such luxury!

Tuesday, we returned to the French restaurant that we'd enjoyed last year. I feasted on quiche and filet mignon, with creme brule for dessert. Awww, yeah. And last night we tried their tapas restaurant, 'Flavour Market'. It was a pleasant surprise...some really delicious offerings. Alas, service was pretty slow there too...but hey, we're on vacation, so what's the rush - right? :)

Yesterday, I wandered over to the activity board to see what was going on, and decided to partake in the game of bingo going on by the pool. Instead of numbers, the caller was pulling flash cards with pictures of Mexican flora and fauna. Three rounds were played, with each one yielding a bigger prize bag. Winners were commanded to call out the phrase 'Bingo Bingo, papasito Edwinsito (the caller's name), in Cancun we shake it like a boom-boom-boom'. Players who said the phrase incorrectly were subjected to 'punishment': having to get up and dance in front of everyone. And I wound up winning the final round, which required a full bingo card. My prize was a polo shirt exactly like the one I won at music trivia last year...and a gift card for a free 'marine wellness' treatment at the spa! *That* was unexpected. I let Karen have it, and her appointment is at 4 p.m.

I do wish we had come down for 7 days instead of 5. While Karen and I miss the dogs, I'm really enjoying this downtime. Although I suspect if I stayed here for much longer I'd wind up weighing 300 lbs! I think we might try another resort next time. We *do* like it here, but I wouldn't mind investigating other options...maybe a place close to some Mayan ruins, so we'd actually get off our asses for a couple of hours.

While I know that I tend to be happier and more relaxed when I stick to a vacation 'media fast', I haven't been sticking to that this time. We've watched some CNN, and I've been browsing my usual circuit of depressing news websites. I have so far been successful at restraining myself from posting snarky comments on the Facebook walls of Jewish friends who are busy repeating Israeli propaganda about their latest bombardment of Gaza. And yes, I have also been unsuccessful at avoiding Facebook. But it's fun for me, so what the hell.
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Moogfest! [Nov. 4th, 2012|05:34 pm]
Last weekend, I attended the Moogfest festival in Asheville North Carolina for the second time - and now I'm finally getting around to writing about it!

This year's festival was spread over 2 days instead of 3, meaning that there were fewer acts on offer. They also announced the final lineup weeks later than last year, causing me to delay my commitment to go. But when the lineup came out...there was enough there to draw me in: Orbital, Thomas Dolby, Cold Cave, Trust, Bear in Heaven, Mouse On Mars, Richie Hawtin, Magnetic Fields. My friend Angela would be able drive up from Knoxville to see me again too. And this year there was an additional incentive: I'd also get to meet DJ Candy of Strangeways Radio, who lives in nearby Charlotte and who was committed to going. So the trip was booked, and off I went.

Last year, I opted to fly out of Buffalo New York, since it saved me a couple hundred on airfare...but this time the difference in price wasn't that huge. And it also means a two hour drive each way between home and the airport. So I just flew out of Toronto, and Karen was able to taxi me (Incidentally, if Kraftwerk ever signs on for the festival, Karen will probably come down with me...but for now, she doesn't feel passionate enough about the festival to let me spend the extra money on her). The trip down started uneventfully. I got off the first plane in Atlanta and checked the departure board, which indicated that my connection to Asheville was still on time. But by the time I transitted between terminal buildings, the situation had changed. Now, the flight was delayed...apparently for some mechanical problem (which is never reassuring). So, I had time to get some lunch and browse around the book store. I got a combo of chili and Chicken Waldorf sandwich at the Atlanta Bread Company, which is similar to Panera, and very good. Atlanta airport has WiFi, but it's not free....except outside of the Starbucks, where I was able to get a connection. I listened to the guy next to me trying to get put on the standby list for the next flight to Asheville - since all remaining flights for the day were fully booked. But in the end, it was okay...we took off, albeit over an hour late.

I'm not sure how many people fly into Asheville for Moogfest, but I didn't see any obvious attendees on my flight. Most seemed a little 'outside the demographic' (i.e. older).

Upon arrival in Asheville, I picked up my rental car. I'd asked for a compact, but they were all out of those so I got a free upgrade to a Dodge Avenger. And it was pretty okay to drive, I admit. More interior space than my car, that's for sure - and more power. But the V6 engine certainly loved gas. I barely drove the car over the two days that I had it, and it cost me $30 to refill before bringing it back in.

After checking in at the Holiday Inn, I plugged in my laptop and saw that Candy had just posted a picture on Facebook of her own room in Asheville. I texted her to let her know I was on my way downtown to meet her in line for our wristbands. She was no problem to find...we recognized each other right away. And she's totally the same as she comes across on the radio...friendly and laid back. While we were standing there chatting, I idly checked my pocket for my Moogfest ticket....and it was not to be found. I double checked, every pocket. But no. This was not a happy development. I knew I had it when I left the hotel, I'd made sure of that. So, I left Candy in line while I trotted back to the car to look for it. I feared that it might have fluttered out of my pocket during the inital walk over - and that if so it was surely gone, picked up by someone on the street. Thankfully though, it was in the car, right in the center console. Sigh of relief! Then I hustled back to the lineup as quick as I could (but not *that* quickly...Asheville has a lot of hills, and I am out of shape). Candy had just passed behind a barrier, so I could no longer just cut in beside her. Now, the old me would have sullenly walked to the back of the line and waited like a schmuck. But I walked up to the festival worker who was standing by the barrier, and he let me in. Yay!

After wristbands were obtained, it was time to grab dinner. Last year's performances started at 5:30, and I got by on stuff from the arena snack food counter. But this year everything was later, so we had time for something a little classier. I knew Candy was vegetarian, so I suggested an Indian restaurant not far away. And it was really good! I had the Butter Chicken (of course), and it had a pleasing level of spiciness. Alas, dinner conversation went a little long, so we were a bit late for the first band, Bear in Heaven. But really, I treat the festival as a musical buffet, but a series of main courses. I was content seeing partial sets, in exchange for seeing more bands. Bear In Heaven were really good, and I want to hear more by them now.

Candy and I had essentially the same preferences for bands to see that evening, so we were able to stick together the whole time. We spent the majority of the time at one venue, the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. Between sets we hung out in the lobby, having drinks and people-watching. Because Moogfest takes place at Halloween, many people dress in costume, and some are quite clever. One fellow was dressed in the 'tuxedo and eyeball head' outfit used by the band The Residents, and he wound up the winning the festivals' costume contest.

After Bear in Heaven was Miike Snow. I only knew a couple of songs by them, but enjoyed the set. They were much more energetic and flashy in presentation than I'd expected. I had an option at this point to go see Exitmusic, but I'd already seen them open for School of Seven Bells earlier this year, so I stayed put for Squarepusher instead. Thanks to epi_lj, I knew to bring earplugs. But even with them, I found that a little Squarepusher goes a long way. Not just loud, but staccato and discordant. A light show which seemed cool at first but when started to feel like a non-stop camera flash going off in your face. So we left after 1/2 hour to go check out Blondes. They were pretty cool! Like Ford and Lopatin (who I saw last year at the same venue) it was just two guys with their DJ decks, triggering loops and samples...but they got some good grooves going. However, I was in the mood for sitting by this point. And Candy was in the mood for a snack. So we grabbed some fries in the pub under the concert hall. Afterwards, we headed back to the main concert venue to see Explosions in the Sky. But not before I poked by head in to see a bit of Richie Hawtin's set. I liked what I heard, but I only stayed long enough to hear one song and take a couple of pictures. Explosions in The Sky were fantastic, even though they're really not a band you'd picture being invited to Moogfest. After all, the festival was set up to honour the work of Bob Moog, pioneer of electronic music making...and here was EITS, with a drummer and a bunch of guitarists. But their uncompromising take on 'post rock' still makes them a welcome addition to the lineup. They play long instrumental pieces which are reminiscent of Robin Guthrie at times...so it is no surprise that they found a home on the Bella Union record label (founded by Guthrie and fellow Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde). Still, Candy and I were both seriously flagging by this point (almost 1:30), and we called it a day before the end of the set.

On Saturday morning, Candy and I met up for brunch at the Tupelo Honey cafe, a place I enjoyed when I visited last year. I had their house special: Sweet Potato Pancakes with Spiced Pecans and Peach Butter. And yep, it was de-lish. Then we parted ways. She headed downtown to check out some of the seminars being presented by the fesitval, and I went to an in-store CD signing by the band The Magnetic Fields. It was held at Harvest Records, a cool little store on the west side of town. While not large in total inventory, the stuff they have in stock is well curated. There was also a table devoted exclusively to artists playing at Moogfest, at reasonable prices. Four members of The Magnetic Fields showed up early, and wound up doing some CD shopping to kill time. Band leader/songwriter Stephin Merritt looked around and said 'it's the world's first all male record store'...and indeed the room was full of guys at that moment. But women did arrive, including the bands' 5th member, Claudia. They all assembled in the next room, and I got them to sign a copy of 'Love At The Bottom Of The Sea'. I didn't chat too much, aside from thanking them for doing the meet-n-greet.

Then it was time for a nap, before Angela arrived. By 5:30, it was time for us to head into town, and this time there was zero line-up for wristbands. We went to a Mellow Mushroom Pizza for dinner, which I thought was a local joint but which is actually a chain. On the way over, I texted Candy and invited her to join us - which she did. Pretty good pizza, I must say.

On this evening, my agenda and Candy's diverged a bit (Angela was happy to see whoever I suggested). She started with Divine Fits, while I took Angela to see Magnetic Fields. As I expected, it was the same setlist as when I saw them play earlier this year, so I didn't feel bad by leaving early. We headed off to see Cold Cave play at The Orange Peel, where we wound up re-connecting with Candy. And here again, the earplugs came in handy. Man, were they loud. But really good...so 80s. Was happy to hear 'Love Comes Close' and 'Underworld USA' played. But Angela and I snuck out before the last song, in order to get in line for Trust, another band with unapologetic 80s influences. Candy, who came later, had to wait in line and wound up missing some early drama. About three songs in, Trust lost all power to their stage gear. There was milling around for at least 5 minutes, during which time Angela and I considered taking off to see Thomas Dolby. The crowd was very patient though, and I'm glad we did stay, because it meant we got to see them do 'Candy Walls'. Still, I did want to catch a but of Dolby's performance, so we snuck out early again. Dolby was fun! We only saw three songs though (including Europa and the Pirate Twins, and Airhead), because it was time for my most anticipated show of the festival: Orbital. And they did not disappoint. Some bands annoy with an insistence on ignoring their popular older material...not these guys. They played Halcyon (complete with Belinda Carlisle's 'Heaven is a Place On Earth), Satan (a killer version of that), Lush, Chime, Belfast, the Doctor Who theme...along with a favourite from the new album, New France. The room was jumping. Well, maybe not Candy. She was clearly really tired, and had to bow out early. Angela and I stuck around, and then finished our evening with a lovely performance by Harold Budd and Keith Lowe. It was such a contrast to Orbital - hushed and delicate. Just Budd on piano and Lowe on upright bass (using a sampler to play multiple overlapping parts, the way Imogen Heap does when she sings live). I wish we could have seen the whole performance, but once again it was late and we had to bail.

And that was it for the music. One last thing before leaving town: brunch at the Moose Cafe with Angela. We arrived after they usually stop serving breakfast, but they humoured me, and I got the Farmer's Market special (eggs, ham, home fries, french toast). Not as awesome as Tupelo Honey, but still pretty good! Angela went on her way, and I got to kill an hour downtown, where I saw the Moogfest sign getting hauled away on a trailer. Pretty much all signs of the festival had been swept away, and Asheville was back to its usual self. It's a really town...in some ways, it reminds me of Kingston (where I went to University).

Flight back home was uneventful, and I got back in time to see Walking Dead. Sadly, I felt a bit like the walking dead at work on Monday morning, but that's another story.
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Frankenweenie [Oct. 7th, 2012|07:31 pm]
Movie review time again! Last night, Karen and I went to see Frankenweenie with our friends Kyn and Steve. Kyn is a huge Nightmare Before Christmas fan, and she was really jonesing to see this one - which seemed like it could be a fun return to form for Tim Burton after a run of films I either felt 'meh' about (like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) or just wasn't interested in seeing at all (like Dark Shadows).

Well, it certainly was a return to form for him, in the sense that it rehashed some of his more familiar themes: a misunderstood loner, suburbia as a conformist nightmare, death, 50s monster movies (and, of course, a Danny Elfman score). Combine elements and stir until blended. What was missing for me was a clear purpose or coherent theme. I get that Burton loves the look of old horror movies, and an artist has to follow their passions. Frankenweenie replicates that look quite successfully, with lots of fun expressionistic cinematography and visual references for those knowledgeable about the genre (there was also a somewhat questionable nod to the the Godzilla series of movies, involving an Asian student). But I believe that good art has to offer more than just empty style...it has to communicate something. And so, what was the film trying to say? I saw two themes at play...and unfortunately, I felt that Burton dropped the ball on both: 1)Science as a metaphor for imagination, and 2) dealing with the death of loved ones.


1) Science used as a metaphor for imagination. The films' best character by far is the science teacher, modeled after Vincent Price and voiced by Martin Landau. In a memorable scene, he is called before a PTA meeting to answer charges that he is encouraging his students to carry out dangerous experiments. The teacher accuses the adults in the audience of being 'stupid' and afraid of science...whereas the children (whose minds are still open) embrace it. However, the 'science' in question involves bringing dead pets back to life with electricity. Anyone with some basic life experience will know that this is not science, and it doesn't work....it's not a failure of imagination. There's also an idea introduced that the results of an experiment depend on whether you 'love' said experiment...that somehow your emotional state influences your results. It is a somewhat odd - even inappropriate - message in a film aimed at kids.

2) Letting go of loved ones when they die. The films' protagonist isn't trying to play God the way that the Victor Frankenstein of Mary Shelley's novel was...he just wants his dog back, and finds a way to do it. But then we never really deal with the repercussions. Does the dog feel pain at having been made conscious after being stitched back together? Wouldn't it still just be rotting meat? Does it *want* to be resurrected? Is it a good idea to be bringing things back from the dead? It seems to me that an appropriate way to end the story would be for our protagonist Victor to accept that death is part of the natural order of things...and with just a minute to go in the film, it seems that is where it's going. And then, at the very end, Burton tacks on a nice happy ending in which the dog never has to die. I was really disappointed by that.


There were a couple of amusing scenes along the way, and enough activity to hold my interest...but in the end it was not a tale that I see myself wanting to revisit...which makes me curious as to why Burton felt a need to do so.
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Samsara [Oct. 6th, 2012|02:02 am]
Tonight, I finally got to see 'Samsara', a year after I struck out getting a ticket to its' world premiere at the TIFF, and 5 1/2 years after I first heard that it was being made. Samsara is from the same team that made 'Baraka', which is one of my favourite movies - a work that I can (and do) watch every year. I watched it for the first time at the Princess Court theatre in Kingston back in 1992, and it really blew me away. It hit me right as I was on the verge of adulthood - thinking about my future, my place in the world, what I wanted to do with myself. And Baraka's imagery of people from around the world, all involved in the same basic day-to-day struggles spoke to me. Some people feel it necessary to hit the road after high school and 'find themselves' out there somewhere. But Baraka reminded me that life is transitory and all of our efforts ultimately come to nothing....it is traditions, passions, and personal connections that give life meaning while we're here - and those things are usually to be found where you already live.

Anyway, I was really looking forward to Samsara. And I wasn't disappointed...it was very much a sequel to Baraka. Perhaps too much so, though. It relied on a lot of the same imagery (impoverished people scavenging through trash, sped up footage of factory workers and subway commuters, religious temples, serious looking aboriginal people). My friend epi_lj made an interesting observation: 20 years after Baraka came out, beautiful High-Def imagery of the world is now ubiquitous. It's there 24/7 on TV stations like Oasis, and on BBC natural world series. While Samsara's director Ron Fricke has a fabulous eye for subject matter and composition, the decision to turn that eye on familiar things meant that this film didn't have the same 'wow' factor that Baraka did. There were a few places that hadn't been covered in Baraka, but even here they were things I'd seen before (the sulfur miners from 'Human Planet', the Chinese factory from 'Manufactured Landscapes', the prison dancers from YouTube...) I suppose I was hoping to see more 'new' things, or see them in a new context. Compared to Baraka, there was a greater emphasis on waste and decay, and less on joy and celebration...so as a result the overall mood was more somber. The music was pretty good too...although even that contributed to the 'been here before' vibe - with the same composer doing the main themes, and Lisa Gerrard contributing appropriately mournful vocal parts. Don't get me wrong - it was beautiful and well worth seeing (and I look forward to having the Blu-ray so I can revisit certain passages in it again)....I just didn't feel as much surprise and awe that I'd hoped to. I suppose I'm just too damn jaded, and that's the stage of life where this film found me.
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