Musical Icons: On the Verge of Extinction

With the tragic news of Prince’s death last week, it got me thinking about the future of an endangered species called The Musical Icon.  While Musical Legends are very much in our midst, the likes of Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Bob Marley, Michael Jackson, David Bowie and Prince fall into the Icon category for several reasons.  They changed the way we listened to and felt about music, blurred the lines between different genres and sparked emotional responses that we never knew existed.  Inevitably, they left us much too soon and certainly before they were done reaching us.

When I Googled the term Musical Icons, I got lists like The Top 100 Most Influential Singers or Top Selling Artists of the 21st Century, which is not how an Icon should be viewed.  Obviously, having hit songs and popularity are part of the equation but certainly not the only part.  You have to examine why the songs were hits, why people love to see them in concert and buy their albums.  I’m sure Beyonce is on all those lists I came across but she is not, or will she ever be, in the same atmosphere as an Icon (and that includes her husband, who may be a visionary, but is certainly no Icon).

Despite what you may think represents an Icon, there are only a few left and no one really waiting in the wings.  In my opinion, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen and Bono are bona fide icons, falling into the same category as the others because of the musical risks they have taken and the emotional response they have accomplished when the risk worked. That’s the thing about Icons, they always have failed attempts but they get back on the horse and bring us something new and beautiful.  A special mention would be Quincy Jones, who has contributed to the emotion of many iconic songs from behind the glass.   I understand this feels like a very subjective discussion and you feel like you should argue for artists like Madonna, Frank Sinatra, Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger but they fall more into the category of Legends.  They are more about longevity and making popular music than actually having a huge emotional reach.

What’s that? Oh, you noticed that all the artists on the Icons list were men? True.  As I said, there are specific requirements for being an Icon and in the past, it has mostly been male artists that have fit that mould.  The good news?  Looking at the scope of artists today, all of the potential Icons of the future that I can see, are women.  The ones that have transcended genres and stirred up a lot of emotional response on numerous albums.  I see this possibly happening with artists like Lady Gaga and Adele, who seem to be in the game more for the artistry than the fame, which is a very important factor.

We’ll have to wait and see what happens in the future but for now, my advice is to soak in every minute of Purple Rain and any other iconic album on your list.  At the end of the day, music teaches us to feel and we can always use a little more of that.

 

Advertisements
Posted in Icons, Music, Prince | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exclusive: Conspiracy Solved! Superheroes Are Fictional!

Well, okay maybe the title was a little misleading.  There is actually no conspiracy other than the one the film critics have staged to rid the world of Marvel’s competition.  As a self proclaimed comic book geek as well as fan of the film industry, after seeing Batman V Superman, I finally figured out what has the fans and critics divided and it is clearly revealed in the first ninety seconds of the movie:

Thomas Wayne has a mustache!

Never in the history of the DCU has the father of Bruce Wayne, doctor, philanthropist and godfather of Gotham, ever been portrayed with a mustache! No wonder fans want Zack Snyder off the franchise.  How could he take something as innocent an the upper lip of Thomas Wayne and give it…hair?

Since I nailed that and I still have you here, I guess I can give my take on all the hoopla surrounding this film.

First off, I would like to point out that while I understand the geek culture has a passion for wanting to stay true to the source material, this is a movie about a middle-aged rich guy who dresses like a bat versus an alien from another planet who is indestructible and shoots lasers out of his eyes.  Not exactly a basis for serious adult speculation.

With that said, the film is a greatly entertaining spectacle.  It is certainly dark in tone (intentionally) like something off the pages of a Frank Miller book.  As a fan of the genre who is educated on the universe and the idea of what they were doing with this film, I enjoyed it immensely.  With that said, my wife, who is not a comic book nerd, also really enjoyed it but had some issues following the plot.

Since I have mostly good things to say about the film, here are the few issues I believe the average moviegoer will have:

  1. Wonder Woman: since they are currently shooting her solo film, they do not delve into her backstory at all, leaving her presence a complete mystery.  It is not discussed on any level what has brought her there so it will confuse some who are unfamiliar.
  2. Lex Luthor: going for the ‘Mad Scientist’ instead of ‘Evil Genius’ version was an absolute mistake on their part.  Jesse Eisenberg floats around the screen like a wannabe Joker, wearing bowling shoes with his $10,000 suits.  Luther is a cerebral villain and should be played as that, even as a younger man.
  3. Justice League: the teasers were a great Easter egg for us fans but to the non-fan they seem out of place.  I understand giving the audience credit to figure things out but they may have over shot on that one.
  4. Doomsday: for such an iconic enemy of Superman, he was created and incubated way too fast, almost so they could fit him into the final act.  The better play would have been to end the movie with him coming to life and started the Justice League film with the Trinity battling him.

Two other things I want to mention: Jeremy Irons is fantastic as Alfred but completely underused.  He brings a swagger to the role that not even Michael Caine brought in the Chris Nolan trilogy.  Hopefully his role expands going forward.  The other thing is Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.  Incredible casting.  She is gorgeous and looks completely natural handling a sword and kicking ass.  Her in that costume may finally be the fantasy image that usurps Princess Leia in that gold bikini.

I enjoyed just about everything else about the movie and there should be no unfair comparisons to films in the Marvel universe which are historically brighter, lighter and funnier.  If you have watched Daredevil on Netflix you know that Marvel does plenty of dark material and does it well.  I think making the DCU the darker and more serious universe is the right call since they have the most brilliant villains and heroes who possess God-like powers that can not be explained by science.

Furthermore, if B v S is not the best DC film in the series that is not necessarily a bad thing.  This is the jumping off point for the universe so the films should only get better and better.  In my opinion, Marvel started off too strong as Iron Man was the best comic book movie of all time (again, my opinion) and since then their offerings have gotten weaker, culminating with the mess that was Avengers: Age of Ultron and the completely over rated Ant-Man (although Paul Rudd was great as always).  Since DC is trying to be the anti-Marvel and spin off solo films from the team-up one, the expectations have to be adjusted.

Looking ahead at the Marvel offerings, the pickings are getting slim although Fox (which owns the entire X-men universe) is looking promising with Deadpool and New Mutants in the works.  Marvel Studios has Captain America: Civil War coming out (which is essentially Avengers 3) followed by Dr. Strange, Black Panther, Spider-man and another Thor.  In that same span DC will offer Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, Justice League Part 1 and then Aquaman.  I don’t know about you, but if I’m spending $11.50 to sit in a movie theater, I’m going with the Super Friends on this one.

In conclusion, I would like to appeal to your sense of sympathy and ask you to forgive Zack Snyder for his oversight.  Considering it was supposed to be 1981, I think he probably thought everyone had a mustache back then.

Posted in Film Review, Hollywood, Television and Film | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Canada Post: A Clown Corporation

I think it’s pretty obvious by now that most government-involved organizations are some of the least efficient and productive companies in the world.  Private businesses are run with the goals of strong production, cost effectiveness and decent customer service. Canada Post is a perfect example of a Crown Corporation that badly needs to be completely privatized.

Without even taking into account the dysfunction and lack of foresight provided by the past executives for this floundering company, I need only point to current events and my own personal experiences.  Their knee-jerk reaction to soaring costs and lost revenue was to raise the price of a single stamp from 65-cents to 85-cents in 2014, followed by redefining the way they charge for shipping packets and parcels.  After that, they were out of ideas so they decided to phase out home delivery and put mail carriers out of work. Genius!

For those of us who sell on Ebay or some other online marketplaces, shipping is an important part of the equation.  When they realized how badly they dropped the ball by not incorporating technology quicker or finding ways to generate revenue in an e-mail world, they did what they do best: increase rates.   Not only did they increase rates and eliminate any existence of economy-priced shipping, they insisted parcels have a MINIMUM size.  That’s right, if you go into the post office to ship something, you could be told your package is too small (some of us have been told that in much more awkward situations).

Recently, I tried to ship a small package (measuring 3″ x 5″ x 1″ thick and weighing 0.133 kg) to a local address (a total distance of 9.3 kms) for which I had budgeted $5.00 based on previous transactions.  The item was placed on the size-chart and I was informed it needed to go into a shipping bag (for $1.50) because there wasn’t enough room for a postal label (she refused to use the back of the item).  Correct me if I’m wrong, but haven’t letter stamps managed to stay the same size for 200 years even as rates have increased? Apparently their crack research team hasn’t been able to come up with a “stamp” sized label for packages (then again, why would they when they couldn’t charge for the bag?).  To add to the insanity, she held the package to the tiny little mail slot on the end of the size-chart to show me it was too thick to be a ‘packet’ and would have to be classified as a ‘parcel’ (I don’t know what that mail slot is based on, but unless a lot of people are having cheese slices mailed to them, it seems a little narrow).  So, in addition to the extra $1.50 in shipping bag costs, the item was tagged with a local shipping charge of $9.25.  I could literally feel my blood pressure rising.  This little Ebay item was going to cost almost $11.00 in total shipping.  I had no words.  I have shipped dozens of similar items to the western United States for barely more than $12.00 but this was going to cost $10.75 to go 9 kms?  Suffice to say, I refused the service and delivered it myself, dropping it effortlessly through the mail slot in the front door of the house (wide enough for a cheese sandwich).

Why not use another courier company? Excellent question.  Purolator Courier is a very well known and popular one.  It is also 91% owned by…Canada Post!  They decided it was more lucrative to invest in a competing company than to fix the problems they had so in 1993 they became majority owner.  So, when it gets too expensive to ship with their regular service, they hope that you walk over to the nearest Purolator office.  Ownership aside, these large courier companies are meant more for larger expedited packages and guide their services towards quick and convenient which comes with a higher price tag.

There has been a long-standing call for privatization of Canada Post citing the postal services in the UK, Finland, Sweden, Netherlands and New Zealand which have all gone private and are flourishing.  I know there are many hard working men and women at Canada Post and the last thing I ever want is for people to lose their jobs but it is usually an automatic side effect of restructuring corporations.   Implementing the proper technology would certainly eliminate some of the postal plant jobs but with the money put into the right places, there would be no need to eliminate home delivery at the same pace and keep many mail delivery people on the job.  As for those of us who use their services on a regular basis, it would keep our blood pressure down, even if we have small packages.

Posted in Life | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Not Your Father’s Mid-Life Crisis – Welcome to 2016

Although I can’t remember the exact date, I have a clear memory of the day in 1990 when my father, 46 at the time, had an old car dropped into our garage by a tow truck.  The car was a 1965 Ford Mustang Convertible, badly in need of restoration.  I didn’t realize it at the time as a 15-year old kid but that was the beginning of my dad’s mid-life crisis.

When I turned 40 last year, I didn’t give much thought to it.  I don’t care to celebrate my birthdays much, mostly because I feel like birthdays are for children but partially because I just don’t care about my birthday.  Last year was also the year that most of my friends turned 40 so it felt like it was one party after another to the point of hoping to God there was no one left to have a birthday.  Add that to the fact of the large family party we have for my kids every year and I had exceeded my quota of birthday celebrations.  The year came and went without me raising an eyebrow for the most part although I did find myself in a more nostalgic mood.  I had taken to re-reading old comic books, watching old movies and finally going through boxes of my old toys and collectibles to see what I had.  It wasn’t like I was spending a lot of time doing this (I don’t have much free time with the demands of fatherhood) but at one point I realized I was looking forward to some weekend quiet time to reorganize my basement.  Last weekend it finally hit me as I sat in my basement, watching Return of the Jedi and repairing some G.I. Joe action figures that I had found in two pieces in one of the boxes: I am having a mid-life crisis!

In the old days, a mid-life crisis usually meant an affair with a younger woman (I wish), taking an extravagant ‘guys only’ trip or buying a sports car (see: my father).  Now, it seems that a mid-life crisis of my generation gets over-nostalgic and wants to play with his old toys instead of spending time with his family (doesn’t seem that far-fetched, right?)  Seeing how there there is such a large population between the ages of 35-50 right now, maybe that is also partially to blame for the continuing existence of brands like Star Wars, Transformers, G.I. Joe and so forth.  It’s a generation of working, middle-class people who have probably dreamt big but live small-ish.  As our families grow and we start meeting with lawyers and bankers to contribute to RRSPs and have our estates and wills planned, we long for the time where the biggest responsibility was getting to the comic shop before it closed.  Where older generations more often had pension plans and investment properties to ease themselves into retirement and life as a senior, a lot of us have to scrounge the sofa cushions for spare change to tip the pizza guy (sorry, pizza guys).

The good news for the wives and children of my generation, is that instead of speeding off in our new Corvette or boat, we are staying in the basement to play with our old shit.  We don’t mind being in the house, we just don’t want to actually spend time with all of you when we’re going through this period.  The other positive is, since we already had the stuff and it was sitting in boxes, we aren’t spending extra money or taking up extra space so even if (and probably when) we get over this phase, we don’t need to sell the item thus sending us into a new depression.

I think I speak for all men between 35-50 when I ask the families to just give us a little space while we get through this.  We’re just watching movies or playing guitar, not locking ourselves in the bathroom like we did when we were teenagers.  Come to think of it, that was something else I used to look forward to….

Posted in Hobbies, Mid-Life Crisis | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Retro Overload: A Look at the Current Hollywood Think Tank

The past decade has been an interesting, if not predictable time in Hollywood.  The rise of the comic book genre has surpassed anyone’s expectations and the insistence on sticking with known brands has become the norm.   Hollywood is stuck in a retro/remake machine. The original idea, better known as a “Spec Script” in Hollywood circles, has been on life support.  According to a March 2013 article in Vanity Fair (Will the Spec Script Rise Again?), in 1995 there were 173 Spec Scripts sold.  In 2010, the number was down to 55.   Why? Studios want a familiar brand and automatically generated interest before they give financial backing to something.  With the cost of going to a movie at an all time high and network ad revenue at an all time low because of streaming options, illegal downloads and android boxes, decisions had to be made.  Some good, some not so good.

 

It is understandable, to a point, that studios would take old school TV shows and much older movies and have them turned into something tangible for this era.  Mission: Impossible is a much less far-fetched concept now than it was in the 60s (as ridiculous as that sounds).  The technological developments in CGI have made it a much easier decision to continue brands like Star Wars, Star Trek and Jurassic Park.  Big, popular brands from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s re-booted and made available to the Millennial generation and beyond sounds tempting.  As a child of the 70s and 80s, its like hopping in the DeLorean and being 8-years old again (although if they ever remake BTF in my lifetime I will personally slap Spielberg and Zemeckis for letting it happen).

The problem is quickly becoming the choices of what is getting remade.  When you have a beloved classic film/TV series you would think the studios would want to retain the posterity of the original.  But you would be wrong.  As everyone knows, in Hollywood, money talks and bullshit walks and they have walked a lot of bullshit out of those studios over the past decade.  Here’s a few that come to mind: Dukes of Hazard, Footloose, The A-Team, Total Recall, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Karate Kid,  Red Dawn, Robocop and Point Break.  Remember those? Neither does anyone else.  They were all box office bombs proving if the remade product is not superior to the original, don’t waste your time.  If those remake choices were headscratchers, the next few years will also see remakes of Scarface, Dirty Dancing, Wargames, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Police Academy,  Cliffhanger and Memento (which came out in 2000!)

Television has had better luck rebooting shows like Friday NIght Lights, Parenthood, Hawaii-Five-O, Hannibal, Fargo and the recent X-Files revival.   That is almost enough to make us forget the failed attempts at Knight Rider, Bionic Woman, The Fugitive, Charlie’s Angels, The Odd Couple and Heroes Reborn (I said ‘almost’ make us forget).  Coming soon are revivals of Prison Break, Twin Peaks, Xena: Warrior Princess as well as Netflix going into the vault for Fuller House and CBS has commissioned a script for a reboot of MacGyver! (please use the same theme song).

There have been some very good remakes/big screen editions of old brands in the past few years (The Equalizer, The Next Three Days, 21 Jump Street and the aforementioned Star Trek) and the key seems to be finding the right Director (imagine that?).  This is supposed to be a painstakingly slow process but with the current think tank system being “Make More, Not Better” it seems most studios are happy to let the office intern direct a movie as long as he doesn’t want a piece of the back end profits.

The numbers say that Hollywood is on the way out of this vacuum and heading back towards a more Spec Script-friendly era.  With the amount of titles on its list to be remade, rebooted or continued, all I have to say is I’ll believe it when I see it.

Posted in Hollywood, Oscars, Television and Film | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trump and The Oscars: A Dream Partnership

There has been a slew of complaints and boycotts over the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences inability to diversify the nominations.  A lot of the complaints have been poorly presented and reactionary without addressing the actual issue: the average age and uniformity of the entire Academy.  The Academy is 93% white, 76% male and the average age is 63 years old.  Does that remind you of another organized, public “party” in the United States? I’ll give you a hint: it’s NOT the Democratic party.

It should come as no surprise that there is such a lack of diversity, not only in the nominations but in the available roles.  Looking over the films of 2015, there were very few starring racial minorities so the problem is not the voting system per se.  The problem, this past year, was the films that were produced and directed by many of those voting members.  If they don’t hire minority crews and don’t cast minority actors, they can’t vote for them.  Many have pointed out that Creed and Straight Outta Compton have both crew and cast members that could and should have been nominated but from everything I have read in the critics’ circle, it seems to be a case of those films being popular but not quite at the level of Oscar nominations (I haven’t seen either so I am withholding judgement).  It then becomes a situation of voting them in for political reasons and not for creative accomplishments which opens another can of worms.  It is a problem not easily rectified but I think I have come up with a solution for this and at the same time, solved the U.S. Republican party vote in one fell swoop: The Academy gets to vote for the Republican party leader who in turn becomes President of the Academy and the citizens of the United States get to vote for the Oscar nominations!

Think about it.  With an academy that is mostly white, male and old, Donald Trump is a guaranteed winner.  He can run the Academy like he runs his business and by the end of his four-year term, most of the older members will have retired and the younger members (being the majority) will want a more liberal representative and will oust him in a second.  This will eliminate a lot of that old, white, male component of the Academy making for a younger, more diverse group going forward.  Trump will also get his “Presidential” victory and when he is not re-elected will say he is leaving politics of his own volition.  He gets to be in charge of a large group of white men AND tell everyone he quit (just like he “quit” The Apprentice and “decided” to stop running the Miss America pageants).  I think we can all agree that there is no chance in hell Trump becomes P.O.T.U.S. so this can be his consolation prize.

On the flip side, the good people of the United States, who are roughly 62% white,  49% male and only 14.5% are over the age of 65 (Wikipedia stats) can punch ballots for the Academy Award nominations.  Of course, if the Academy is not voting for them, they would officially be called The Oscars or we could have the citizens vote on the nominations and the Academy vote for the winners of those nominations, keeping the long history of the Academy in place.  That may be the way to go.

So there you have it.  With the strike of a keyboard I have solved two issues that are very relevant in North America right now and I won’t charge a cent.  It’s my contribution to the human race and an example of goodwill towards all.  You’re welcome.

Posted in Oscars, Republican Party, Television and Film | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Disappointing Reveal of Awards Shows

Personally, I want Ricky Gervais to host everything.  Awards shows, talk shows, hell, even telethons (send us your drug money you wankers!).  If one thing was clear about the Golden Globes last night, it was that shows like this need way more Ricky and way less stars presenting awards.

It remains one of the most unchanged formulas of all time.  Writers for these shows come up with a cute little bit for two presenters which is delivered poorly and gets zero laughs.  Combine that with ill-prepared speeches that run way too long early in the night and you get reduced time for the actually entertaining host and no time for the main category speeches at the end of the night.  It is a complete collapse from the producer and director chair.  The fix seems simple enough: if the presenter is notoriously funny/witty, give him/her the option to use 60 seconds for some material before announcing the award.  If the presenter is the majority of the Hollywood elite and off screen is shy/quiet and completely unfunny, STOP WASTING OUR TIME.  In addition, the awards that come in the first two hours should have a 20-second speech limit.  If they run past that (as they always do) let them keep talking but cut the broadcast to commercial with a musical sting and wide shot of the room.  They can yammer on and on all they want but the show will remain on time and the commercial breaks will all be fulfilled.  Gervais nailed it on the head in his bit about no one caring about the winners except for “the winner” yet no one listens.

Another unfortunate reveal of these shows is just how few of these “stars” are actually as charming/funny/witty when there is no script in front of them.  I know Amy Shumer and J-Law are making a film together but watching Lawrence try and keep up with the super-witty Shumer during their co-presentation was almost un-watchable.  Watching Maura Tierney “um” her way through her acceptance speech was annoying enough but watching the usually well-spoken and likeable Denzel Washington completely unprepared for his Cecil B. Demille award was embarrassing.  You forget your glasses it’s one thing but he had no idea what to say outside his crib notes and his award was PLANNED, not a surprise.

The night had some other excellent highlights such as Sly Stallone finally winning an award for playing Rocky Balboa after 40 years and finally able to show a large audience that he is not a mumbling idiot as perceived by many non-fans by making one of the best speeches of the night.  Jim Carrey had a funny bit before he presented (though it derailed a little) and the Ricky Gervais-Mel Gibson was the bit of the night capped off by Ricky’s voice over the end credits announcing that on behalf of he and Mel, he would like to say “Shalom.”  That great joke became a credits throwaway because Taraji P. Henson had to hand out “cookies to everyone” and feel the need to admit she was blowing way past her allotted time with another train-wreck of a speech.

It is amazing in this age of instant streaming that these awards shows have not figured out how to keep the attention of the audience and  run a shorter, more entertaining show.  It starts with the choice of host and Gervais is perfect since the Globes is always a less stuffy room than the Oscars.  If someone gets the balls to step up and trim the insane amount of fat from the broadcast, it could actually be a truly entertaining way to spend an evening.

Posted in Awards, Television and Film | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment