Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The real reason Star Wars III is the worst of the bunch.

So I finally went to see Revenge of the Sith yesterday, some two weeks after its premiere—a radical departure from the time I spent in line to see the earliest possible showing of The Phantom Menace back in 1999. The original Star Wars movies captured so much of the popular imagination because they delivered a new mythology. Or rather, they delivered a very old mythology, dressed up in very new and appealing costumes. The story goes that George Lucas’s inspiration for Star Wars was in large part due to mythology expert and heroic storyteller, Joseph Campbell, and his book The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Star Wars was appealing because no matter how cheesy the dialogue was, its characters could be identified with in a very basic and instinctive way. (Any fans of the original trilogy who have been utterly dismayed by the wasteful prequels are encouraged to seek out any and all of Mr. Campbell’s works for solace—the aforementioned Hero…, and The Power of Myth in particular.)

Forget for a moment that the prequels are like a three-part seminar on dialogue clichés, and that they were increasingly hostile to the notion of continuity. The real problem is that George Lucas accessorized the hell out of his Empire (literally and figuratively) and destroyed its mythological framework through neglect. Without the structure of humanity’s timeless therapeutic stories to guide him, the characters were rendered flat and the plot inconsequential. I’m supposed to believe that a boy’s fear of losing his wife to childbirth is enough to turn him to the Dark Side, but that a woman’s love for her soon-to-be-born children isn’t enough to give her the will-to-live? I'm referring to the most appalling plot qualification in any movie I’ve ever seen, and the reason I think Revenge of the Sith is the worst of the six Star Wars movies. The following piece of dialogue is a perfect microcosm of the infuriating failure of these prequels.

MEDICAL DROID: Medically, she is completely healthy. For reasons we can't explain, we are losing her.

OBI-WAN: She's dying?

MEDICAL DROID: We don't know why. She has lost the will to live. We need to operate quickly if we are to save the babies.

If I’m following correctly, the fact that her husband has turned to the Dark Side has robbed her of the “will to live”, and for some reason, the fact that she has children on the way doesn’t play into this desire-to-live at all. Does anyone see anything wrong with this?

All Lucas had to do to make this film work was to make it about sacrifice. He could have turned Vader into an inverted hero like Milton’s Satan, used his misguided heroism as a means to some kind of greater redemption. He could have—gasp—made a female character the real protagonist and have Padmé’s death serve as a chosen and necessary event for the birth of the twins. But speculating at this stage is pointless and a little painful. What actually happened is that George Lucas chose to rob the only female heroine of her agency (and maternal drive) in an embarrassing display of paternalistic ignorance, and to reduce one of the greatest movie villains of all time to the status of blubbering wimp. Talk about your tragedies. Nooooooooooooooooooo!

Friday, May 27, 2005

Every night is a no brainer

First things first. There is a madman/genius among us, and it's important that everyone take note. It's unclear to me whether he's a religious nut, a maverick, or just some guy with way too much time on his hands. Given that he has recreated many scenes from the Bible using Lego, I'd wager all of the above. What is clear however, is that Jesus's disciples were apparently all gay:

Poor CBC really needs the NHL back in action. This weekend's primetime lineup includes the Friday movie, Movie Night in Canada (on Saturday), and the Sunday Night Movie. Is Canadian culture really that contentless without hockey? I'm kind of embarassed.

Montreal weekly The Hour has a new music column by Brendan Murphy. I was sad to see Dylan Young go, but I'm sure Brendan will, at the very least, keep things interesting. While I have a soft spot for the idiosyncratic Montreal Mirror columns, you know something is wrong over there when not one of them mentions that Sam Prekop is in town at the Main Hall on May 30th. To each his or her niche, I guess. Of course if you're looking for real news, Dr. J. Watts III has come out of hiatus over at Goldkixx. And in relevant music news, anyone who never got around to downloading Stephen Malkmus's latest album, Face the Truth, is encouraged to go out and buy it now that it's been released. In fact, if you did download it, go out and buy the vinyl. It's competing with Architecture in Helsinki's In Case We Die for my favourite album of 2005 thus far. Look out for full reviews of both when I do a mid-year recap in July.

I know everyone will be heading to the Green Room tonight, but Saturday sees a few interesting local artists launching the next phase of their respective creative adventures. Electro-pop outfits Hexes and Ohs and Statue Park go in for a joint album launch show at the Main Hall. Meanwhile, Montreal's Kids in the Hall, Kidnapper Films, kick off their first real tour at Theatre St. Catherine, to be followed by a fundraising party.

I might just stay in a play with Lego, we'll see. That shit is expensive! If anybody wants to send me their old vintage Lego, let me know.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Waste like radishes.

Today I removed an incredibly cumbersome and antiquated microwave from my new home. On the back it had a worn white label that indicated the machine had been built in 1985. When I unplugged it, it let out a little high quick electromagnetic scream. The garbage men took it, to where precisely I don’t know.

This whole thing with Tony Blair taking an "anti-hoodie" approach to street crime is kind of risible, no?

First off, even if the two were remotely linked, the 'authorities' are just catching on now? Ever heard of Robin Hood? Jesus, support some kind of education initiative instead of telling kids they're criminals if they wear a freakin hoodie, asshole.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Talk about Season Finale.

First off, just a quick note to let everyone know that I will be doing some blogging over at the Pop Montreal website, starting today with a piece on comeback tours, nostalgia, and The Life Aquatic. There will likely be some overlap with what I do here, but don't expect any double postings, and don't expect my music content to drop off here as a result, either.

In the wake of the parliamentary drama that played out these last two weeks (which in honesty ran neck-and-neck with the end of the OC season in terms of plot twists and climaxes), I'm going to keep my comments to the following:

Any chance Stephen Harper had to appear moderate and reasonable and concerned for our country in my eyes was dashed yesterday with his smug post-vote comments. If the Tories want to survive as a party, I suggest they do away with the righteousness and their leader and open their eyes to the fact that this is progressive country, and will only become all the more so as my generation ages. The ironic thing about yesterday's vote is that this whole conflict wasn't really about fiscal policy at all. As long as the Tories hold to the extremes of their social conservative cultural policies, I'd wager they'll have a hard time gaining control of parliament. The direction of Canada is still up for grabs, but the Conservatives under Harper are just too far right to reach.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

My city's a sucker.

So while the Conservatives will do their best to topple the government today, trigger an election to try and a get a new team of hardcore social conservatives elected, and the Senate Republicans try and get even more Orwellian so they can take control of that crazy unaccoutable judiciary ...... the bastion of harmless fun and real freedom that is Montreal gets a much needed second wave of summer shows starting tonight with Bright Eyes back in town (already?) at Metropolis with the Faint, and wacked-out noise-poppers Deerhoof at La Sala Rossa. The craziness continues through the long weekend with The Decemberists competing with the one-two darlings-of-the-day punch of M.I.A. and LCD Soundsystem at La Tulipe on Sunday the 22nd. The latter is supposedly sold out, and I have to say I'm with the masses on this one. I like some good jaunty lit-pop as much as the next guy, but I never did think the Decemberists (or their latest, Picaresque) were such a big deal. I'm sure everyone will appreciate the extra swaying room at the Sala; I'll be dancing in the heat over at La Tulipe with M.I.A. and Mr. Murphy. Saturday's best bet has local cinematic instrumental charmers Torngat playing a release show for their new EP La Rouge at O Patro Vys. Friday show-seekers are encouraged to check out our local Hank Williamsified tower of song, Lil' Andy, at Le Divan Orange on the 20th. Tuesday the 24th at Le Divan also hosts what I suspect will be one of the better small-stage shows of the summer, with Blocks artist SS Cardiacs heading a bill that also boasts Germans, and Architecture in Helsinki's long lost Canadian cousins We're Marching On. I wrote a brief review of their debut EP back in April, and suffice it to say that I think these guys have a bright future. We're Marching On will also be playing at Fringe Pop (June 10th to 19th), whose official lineup will likely be announced soon, and at the worst is still featuring a performance by Wolf Parade and the 1st Annual Baby Air Guitar Competition and Dog Shows. Not enough? June also sees the excellent experimental Suoni Per Il Popolo festival hit the Casa/Sala, with Electrelane (who've just released a new album) and Comets on Fire among my top pics.

It's hard to be too cynical with that much good music waiting. Bring on the bigots!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

All's fair in love and war. Women can do both, you know.

Since when do we expect politicians to be free of personal ambition? If this country is ever to get passed empty rhetoric and mudslinging, one thing needs to be made clear: politicians are people with careers; people with careers, and people in general, of course are always thinking of their own well being in addition to any other responsibilities they may abide by. Personal ambition (of whatever kind) does not necessarily preclude public responsibility. If we all stopped expecting our leaders to be altruistic robots, maybe we could do away with the smokescreens and the bullshitting and get a few things done.

Yes, it was a dirty move on Stronach's part. A monumental political backstabbing. So what? I still have more respect for someone who crosses the floor (personal ambition aside) and takes her proper place in the culture war, than someone like MP Robert Runciman who said that "she sort of defined herself as something of a dipstick, an attractive one, but still a dipstick". Christie Blatchford has a piece in the Globe today essentially justifying calling Stronach a whore. Someone should tell her that it's two old professions that have a lot in common, not an isolated case. But Blatchford always seem to opt for sensationalism over journalism, and in this case it's at the expense of gender equality.

Stronach is playing politics. It's a dirty game. And her move was as dirty as they come. But the fact that she's not on-line with Conservative party policies like same-sex marriage can't be understated, and I'm amazed how played-down it's been since the announcement. She didn't come across very well last night on The National, but blame that on having spent a day being slandered left right and center and then getting her back up, and on Peter Mansbridge not wanting to come across as soft. I think it's perfectly reasonable for her to say something like, 'look, I have some disagreements with the Liberals fiscally, but the Conservative Party under Stephen Harper was becoming increasingly hostile to my core values. I thought I could unite the Party and lead it into more progressive territory. I couldn't. So I'm going to try and have an impact with the Liberal Party.' If I have any advice for her, it's to put all her cards on the table, do away with the rhetoric and rehearsed soundbytes, and be the pragmatic, ambitious, responsible politican she could potentially be. How refreshing would that be?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Canadian Conservatives collectively shit their pants.

So Belinda Stronach, has, um, joined the Liberals. Did anybody see this coming? I certainly didn't. But it makes perfect sense. What's amusing and interesting about this whole situation is that a) everyone who's pissed as hell and spins this story in terms of a personal gain move on her part will likely have just cause, but that b) Stronach's justifications for crossing the floor are equally valid. She was never with the Conservatives on same-sex marriage, and is way more progressive than her party probably ever allowed her to be.

But what's really interesting (at least in term of how prime-time interests go these days) is whether a) she and Peter Mackay split up, b) Mackay is about to defect as well, or c) the two will pull a Maria and Arnold and keep their bedroom out of the state. Or something like that.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

And the man and his opponent were without integrity, and they had no sense of shame.

Well, at least when the Canadian government falls (next week) we can get off of the soundbyte loops and on with the farce. It's blossom weekend in Montreal, and I bet there's a poll somewhere that says 70% of Quebecers care more about going out and dancing right now than they do about the Gomery inquiry. For those of you in Montreal, I recommend the following.

But even the most die-hard Liberals would likely rather get on with ripping on Steven Harper than watch Paul Martin make himself look any more pathetic and powerless. I'm embarassed as a Canadian than things have come to this. The Tories are so frustrated with Martin's last stand that they've commodified their cancer-striken member MPs; Martin is so desperate it seems as if all he really wants now is for the Queen to recognize him as Prime Minister and have it be done with; and poor Conservative MP Diane Ablonczy is so confused that her regurgitation function has its lines crossed: With former immigration minister Judy Sgro vindicated, she had this to say: "It's premature to sound a note of exoneration ... I think everyone's waiting for the ethics commissioner's report of his inquiry." Gomery-talk much? If that's not proof that this Parliament needs a kick in the ass, I don't know what is. Though to be fair, most of those die-hard anti-SSM MPs need a kick in the ass anyway.

Yes, while I cringe at the thought of a Conservative government, anything is better than this current predicament. I'd much rather being throwing eggs at bigots than watching a bunch of children throw them at each other. And how this imminent election will go is anybody's guess.

With all this embarassingly (or is that frighteningly?) anachronistic bickering (or is that bullying?) going on in Kansas again with creationism, I'd like to see Mr. Harper pressed for his thoughts on evolution during the campaign this summer. While I don't forgive any oppents of same-sex marriage for their ignorant prejudice, I'm by no means shocked by it. People are homophobic, they are presented with rhetoric that appeases their fears and dresses itself up in fashionable Canadian tolerance, and they proceed to swallow and regurgitate. Fine. But if Steven Harper's notion of where women came from looks anything like this ...

...I'm headed to Parliament hill with eggs if he and his cronies are ever elected.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Chicagoan can sense fever-pitch in Montreal!

So The National finally did a piece on the Montreal music scene [25:30 in, available online until May 2 @ 10:00pm]. Funny how they didn't take my advice to do this story 6 months ago when they were running their Montreal 'Road Stories' segment, but suddenly decided it was a good idea after The Arcade Fire hit the cover of Time Magazine Canada (or was it the New York Times article that did it, guys?). Anyway, I generally like the CBC and The National, I just wish it didn't have to play into the 'it's only worth telling if someone else takes notice first' mentality in this instance. Oh well.

I would have liked to see Brian and Meyer at Blue Skies Turn Black actually interviewed, seeing as how they have been so pivotal in getting this scene off the ground these past 5 years, but I thought the interviews with Dan from Pop Montreal and André from Mandatory Moustache were actually ok. This was by no means an in-depth look at the underground scene so much as it was a cursory overview of what's going on here, but I suppose that's to be expected.

I did, however, find it amusing that good old Pitchfork found a way into the story. Let me first of all say that when it comes down to it, I like Pitchfork. Funny how they have to face the same kinds of fickle whims and the ever-daunting 'backlash' to which the best bands they cover are subject. While they can get a bit self-congratulatory and obnoxiously prententious at times, they ultimately still have the most consistently decent music-writing, a genuine sense of public responsibility, and the most thorough music news service out there. With every print-mag and weekly sinking further into industry-affiliation-hype-quicksand, I'm thankful that e-zines like Pitchfork are around. And while the Pitchfork tone is unmistakable, it's also worth remembering that there are a lot of different people with differing opinions (some of whose I respect more than others) contributing to that voice. Plus, anyone that puts on this good a festival for $10 is OK in my books.

All that said, it was hard not to cringe when the National cut from a shot of a show at Le Divan Orange to a shot of the Pitchfork guys at their rows of computers in Chicago saying things were 'building to a fever-pitch' here in Montreal. Talk about your ironic contrasts. So thank you to the CBC for getting a geek in Chicago to tell me about what's happening down the block.

On a side note, the boys at Blue Skies Turn Black that they should have been interviewing have finally put out a proper LP by Les Angles Morts. This band has been playing great shows in Montreal lately, and with a US tour happening this summer, along with the (otherwise inconsequential) press-possibilities given their former-Arcade Fire status, 2005 should see them garnering some success. Anyone into arty instrumental noise-rock stuff should definitely check this out. I won't likely be posting a full review here, as this kind of sound isn't usually my thing, and I don't feel comfortable weighing in when I don't have the trained ear or the vocabulary to do so. I will say, however, that Howard Billerman (he produced a record called Funeral last year...you may have heard of it?) did a great job producing this. For someone who is easily turned off by the messiness of so much experimental noise stuff, I was surprisingly grabbed by it. There's more going here than avant-garde speed rock, of course, and there are just enough accessible melodic riffs and downtempo moments tastefully sprinkled throughout to keep unadventurous listeners engaged. It's not easy to get an oftentimes loud and aggressive band to also convey the intelligence and intricacy of their music, but I think everyone involved has succeeded here. Anyway, I'm told the thing will get full and proper distribution later this summer, but if you're in Montreal, you should be able to get a copy now at Esoteric.

Finally, for the most underground of underground Montreal happenings: ex-Hot Hot Heater Dante DeCarro will be performing a series of solo shows this week, with Arlen from Wolf Parade backing him up on drums. First up is a show on May 3rd at Barfly. Those not checking out The Books or Mice Parade on the 4th can catch them at Saphir. Esperenza hosts the May 6th performance. Those in NYC can also check out the whole affair at the Mercury Lounge on the 7th.