Thursday, December 31, 2015

At Year's End

Everybody wants a great Christmas or New Year's story - the emotional kiss goodbye, the romantic kiss hello at a landmark, seeing long-gone friends or family members for the first time in years, new beginnings... the works.

And those who are lonely just feel lonelier, particularly if they happen to fall upon Holiday movies, which are usually centered around people finding others they connect with. Worldwide, the Holidays are the most common time of the year for suicides.

I don't have a dog in either race (that I know of), though I know people who will live those types of situations. I was just making the most out of the extended fall season when winter came back with a vengeance.

I usually live my life on the levels - a two-year plan for the ''big decisions'' (job, place to live, things relating to comfort level versus the problems that come with them), and a minute-to-minute reaction to everything else, which at times can involve big decisions (breakups, where friendships are going) but are mostly just paths, left or right, yes or no and the like.

Mid-term plans aren't usually my thing, which is why I'm not a fan of purchasing show tickets months ahead of time, because I'll forget and remember it's taking place at least a dozen times. The Holidays have that for me in droves, planning to go see my family here and there yet forgetting what day of the week we're at when I wake up in the morning (or afternoon, as was the case for the past few days). ''Yeah, let's meet on the 31st''... then ''oh shit, we're the 31st?'' and having ten minutes to do what I thought I would have three days to do them.

I've been putting off going to the grocery store for over a week now. But I watched all of The Boondocks, though... Netflix and sleep.

As I'm writing this, I realize I'm five days away from going back to work, 9 to 5, staring down an abyss of numbers that don't mean anything, listening to some Robert Schimmel CDs. I wish I could hibernate.

2015 was a year. It wasn't all bad (like, say, 2012), but it wasn't spectacularly nice. It had its moments; I had some good times, a few people made me smile a lot, I laughed, I cried. It would have made a terrible B-movie, or a great one if a character actor (John Turturro, Samuel L. Jackson, Paul Giamatti) played me better than I did.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Top 10s: Holiday/Christmas Movies

Here's a list that could go many ways...

Best Film (that somehow involves the Holidays):

10. LOVE, ACTUALLY, Richard Curtis (2003)
9. BATMAN RETURNS, Tim Burton (1992)
8. EIGHT CRAZY NIGHTS, Seth Kearsley (2002)
7. THE REF, Ted Demme (1994)
6. BAD SANTA, Terry Zwigoff (2003)
5. ELF, Jon Favreau (2003)
3. STALAG 17, Billy Wilder (1953)
2. DIE HARD, John McTiernan (1988)
1. BRAZIL, Terry Gilliam (1985)

Best ''Holiday Movie'' (i.e. ''Best use of the Holidays as a storyline''):

10. A CHRISTMAS CAROL, Brian Desmond Hurst (1951)
9. WHITE CHRISTMAS, Michael Curtiz (1954)
8. THE SANTA CLAUSE, John Pasquin (1994)
7. IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, Frank Capra (1946)
6. HOME ALONE, Chris Columbus (1990)
4. BAD SANTA, Terry Zwigoff (2003)
2. MIRACLE ON 34th STREET, George Seaton (1947)
1. A CHRISTMAS STORY, Bob Clark (1983)

Best Actor In A Holiday Film:

10. WILL FERRELL, Elf (2003)
9. EDMUND GWENN, Miracle On 34th Street (1947)
8. DENIS LEARY, The Ref (1994)
7. EDDIE MURPHY, Trading Places (1983)
6. JACK LEMMON, The Apartment (1960)
5. JAMES STEWART, It's A Wonderful Life (1946)
4. BRUCE WILLIS, Die Hard (1988)
3. BILL MURRAY, Scrooged (1988)
2. JIM CARREY, Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
1. BILLY BOB THORNTON, Bad Santa (2003)

Best Actress In A Holiday Film:

10. BARBARA STANWYCK, Christmas In Connecticut (1945)
9. TAYLOR MOMSEN, Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
8. MARJORIE REYNOLDS, Holiday Inn (1942)
7. BEVERLY D'ANGELO, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)
6. JANET LEIGH, Holiday Affair (1949)
5. SHIRLEY MACLAINE, The Apartment (1960)
4. CATHERINE O'HARA, Home Alone (1990)
3. LORETTA YOUNG, The Bishop's Wife (1947)
2. KITANA KIKI RODRIGUEZ, Tangerine (2015)
1. CATHERINE DENEUVE, Un Conte De Noel (2008)

Best Supporting Actor In A Holiday Film:

10. LEWIS BLACK, Unaccompanied Minors (2006)
9. PAUL GIAMATTI, Fred Claus (2007)
8. ALAN RICKMAN, Love, Actually (2003)
7. GARY OLDMAN, A Christmas Carol (2009)
6. RANDY QUAID, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)
5. DAN AYKROYD, Trading Places (1983)
4. DANNY GLOVER, Lethal Weapon (1987)
3. ALAN RICKMAN, Die Hard (1988)
2. TONY COX, Bad Santa (2003)
1. KEVIN SPACEY, The Ref (1994)

Best Supporting Actress In A Holiday Film:

10. ELIZABETH HARNOIS, One Magic Christmas (1985)
9. FRANCES LEE McCAIN, Gremlins (1984)
8. PHOEBE CATES, Gremlins (1984)
7. LAURA LINNEY, Love, Actually (2003)
6. CHRISTINE BARANSKI, Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
5. MELINDA DILLON, A Christmas Story (1983)
4. NATALIE WOOD, Miracle On 34th Street (1947)
3. MICHELLE MONAGHAN, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
2. JUDY DAVIS, The Ref (1994)
1. LAUREN GRAHAM, Bad Santa (2003)

Best Director, Holiday Movie:

10. RICHARD DONNER, Scrooged (1988)
9. BILLY WILDER, The Apartment (1960)
8. JOHN McTIERNAN, Die Hard (1988)
7. JOE DANTE, Gremlins (1984)
6. RON HOWARD, Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
5. SEAN BAKER, Tangerine (2015)
4. BILLY WILDER, Stalag 17 (1953)
3. TIM BURTON, Batman Returns (1992)
2. HENRY SELICK, The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
1. TERRY GILLIAM, Brazil (1985)

Friday, December 25, 2015

Video Of The Week: Queen

When I was a child, around the age of 10 or 11, I had heard a few Queen songs: We Will Rock You, We Are The Champions, maybe Radio Gaga - but I was not familiar with their entire discography. By 1989, I was into Guns N' Roses, Michael Jackson, N.W.A., Ice-T, and The Cure.

When a friend of mine got his hands on the The Miracle cassette and wouldn't stop playing it, I got into it; when CDs became the go-to music medium the following year, my first purchases on the format were Jane's Addiction's Ritual De Lo Habitual, GN'R's Appetite For Destruction and GN'R Lies (I'd listened to the tapes so often I'd killed them), EMF's Schubert Dip, and The Miracle.

To this day, it remains the only Queen album I listen to at least once a year, and the only one I can listen to straight more than once. It's the perfect blend of the band's usual opera-meets-prog-meets-pop and the best of what the late 1990s' hair metal had to offer (big chords, complicated-yet-melodic guitar solos, perfect-pitch voices, creative drumming), and it wasn't getting stale by getting overplayed everywhere.

And the fifth single, the title track The Miracle, contains a message of hope for the future of mankind, despite it being ''a miracle we need'' to have ''peace on earth and an end to war''; essentially, it's the same message as John Lennon's Happy Xmas (War Is Over), but neither overplayed nor overused in ad campaigns for organizations which may or may not spend more money on advertizing and administrative fees and salaries than they do on helping the people they're supposedly collecting money for. I mean, sure, Lennon's song is a little better, objectively, but The Miracle deserves some air time alongside it, and I'm doing my part by naming it my Video Of The Week:

Fun fact: for most of the video, four British kids play the parts the members of Queen, sharing the stage with the actual adults at the end. The child playing singer Freddie Mercury is actor Ross McCall, of Band Of Brothers fame. Paul Howard, who plays the part of guitarist Brian May, is the frontman in Silvery, a London-based rock group.

Merry Christmas. I wish you peace of all kinds, but mostly peace of mind.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Death In Vegas

I was in Las Vegas a month ago when the Paris attacks took place.

And this week, fellow Quebecers were in an accident on the strip where I spent most of my time there:

Those interviewed keep asking ''why''? The same was said about what happened in Paris, and in Beirut.

But there is no why. This one was a distressed woman. Terrorists have a cause. People need to realize many things, chief among them the fact that even if we cure everyone and every ill, one dissatisfied customer can take things to the extreme and crack - and kill.

That's life.

Another part of life is that we all die.

At birth, at one year old, at ten, at twenty-five, at fifty, at eighty-three, at one hundred years of age. Natural causes, AIDS, cancer, accident, murder - no one walking the earth's surface survives, ever.

Who the fuck cares how you die. Live for the moment. LIVE. Because Life hangs by a thread, and a tiny one that no one can see most times.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Video Of The Week: Disturbed

After their version of Genesis' Land Of Confusion, it seems like Disturbed wants to steal the title of ''best cover band'' away from Marilyn Manson, and despite my finding them generic, cheap and unauthentic, they do pull these covers off better than expected.

Here, they tackle Simon And Garfunkle's The Sound Of Silence, in a video directed by Matt Mahurin (effects-ridden, though, and it looks like they ran out of budget near the end):

There's too much autotune in the voice for me to take it seriously, though.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Video Of The (Last) Week: Velvet Revolver

Fucking December, eh? John Lennon, Darby Crash... now Scott Weiland.

I wrote a (probably) mean post when he passed on my Facebook page:
All I meant was a counterpoint to those who Kurt Cobain-ed him and made him a music god now that he was dead when he was merely a musician. And I cited examples of some not-so-perfect people who had achieved greatness that perhaps may have redeemed some of the bad they'd done in their lives.

And his (second) ex-wife Mary Forsberg, with whom he had two children, agreed:
We read awful show reviews, watch videos of artists falling down, unable to recall their lyrics streaming on a teleprompter just a few feet away. And then we click "add to cart" because what actually belongs in a hospital is now considered art.(...)

I won't say he can rest now, or that he's in a better place. He belongs with his children barbecuing in the backyard and waiting for a Notre Dame game to come on. We are angry and sad about this loss, but we are most devastated that he chose to give up. (...)

Let's choose to make this the first time we don't glorify this tragedy with talk of rock and roll and the demons that, by the way, don't have to come with it. Skip the depressing T-shirt with 1967–2015 on it - use the money to take a kid to a ballgame or out for ice cream.
 So... yeah.

I wasn't sure of I was going to post this or not, and even as last week turned into this week, then late into the week, I hesitated. But I had words to get out there, and I decided to do just that.

So, here's a song that deals with some of the fallings-out Weiland and Forsberg (playing herself) had to deal with, with the Velvet Revolver power ballad Fall To Pieces, which all members (Weiland, guitarist Slash, bassist Duff McKagan, power-drummer Matt Sorum and guitarist Dave Kushner) contributed to and isa nice way for the former members of Guns N' Roses to avoid playing covers of their own songs Sweet Child O'Mine and Patience with their new band too often, as they are of the same type: