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Monthly Archives: September 2010

I finally got around to it. I finally saw The Expendables. Despite the mixed, predominantly negative reviews available to the public in regards to this action-packed, testosterone-driven, pissing-contest of a movie, I really enjoyed it. Again, knowing me, there were some flaws…

The difference between The Expendables and another action flick of the past decade is that Sylvester Stallone knows how to make a movie. It has a pulse, it’s character-driven and it speaks a universal truth. To watch a Stallone film is humbling to say the least; you can take all of your pretenses on film watching, shove them outside, sit back and have a good time yet walk away with some form of political awareness.

Critics have not been generous with their reviews on The Expendables and I don’t blame them because most of them enjoy a specific type of movie (There Will Be Blood for example). Just because there are over the top action sequences, which are the pulse of the film — it is a genre film after all, geared towards a specific audience — does not mean it cannot hold any narrative merit.

The Expendables has a clear narrative. It’s about a group of mercenaries who go to South America to overthrow a dictator. Moreover, these mercenaries are a group of men with a job they can’t escape, thus they are unable to lead normal lives even if they no longer partake in the field missions themselves.

I guess what I wanted out of the film was more of an ensemble piece rather than a buddy film with Stallone and Statham as the leads. Oh and not enough Dolph Lundgren who played an excellent foil to Stallone’s character.

The much anticipated cameo with Arnold Schwarzenegger fell flat. It was really awkward probably because it was contrived. Bruce Willis’ presence did not help. I did like, however, the rapport between Trench (Schwarzenegger) and Barney (Stallone) that mirrored the real life friendship between both actors. Although they share the same political beliefs, they have opposing beliefs on how they should function within that political system (Stallone was always against Schwarzenegger’s running for office — actors have no business in government is what he believes.)

Finally, I am a fan of Charisma Carpenter. Why? Given a meaty role and lots of direction, Carpenter can work wonders. She got a lot of direction on The Expendables because her performance as Laci was subtle, but the role wasn’t there. It was disappointing to have Stallone write in a female character that was nothing more than the victim of an abusive boyfriend, waiting to get her feet swept up by a guy who kills for a living.

I will credit The Expendables with incredibly executed explosions, a tight narrative and solid performances from all parties involved. In the end, isn’t that all we look for in a good movie?

Pardon me, but the last few posts have been heavily film-related and I can foretell a couple of those to come, including this one. I was spoiled by my dear friend Noah Taylor last week — he treated me to three TIFF screenings.

One of them was “Boxing Gym”, the latest by fly-on-the-wall documentarian extraordinaire, Frederick Wiseman. In his eighties and still as sharp as ever (maybe even sharper…), Wiseman shows no sign of slowing down with this beautifully crafted doc that you can’t help but love the more you think about…

Still from "Buffalo '66 (c) Vincent Gallo, 1998

Dear Vincent,

I’m a huge fan of your work. Well, Buffalo 66. I really hate the Brown Bunny. After seeing Promises Written in Water, I understand where you are going and how you are growing as an artist. I guess you can’t expect us to expect something particular in your films, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have high expectations.

I overheard someone comment, following the screening, that it was essentially a short film with long takes. Although I disagree with most of that statement, I agree with some. Your story was missing a little meat. It’s minimalist cinema at its best, but there was something missing…a middle. There was no moment to wind down from.

Nevertheless, Kevin, the character you played, was surprisingly compelling. Mallorie was not — not until the very end at least (before she dies) and that too came to me as a surprise; that is, to relate to someone who I thought I would not be able to relate to — and too late! — that’s good writing.

It kinda saddens me, however, that you will never expose me to a story as universally told as Buffalo 66, but you are not making movies for me, you’re making movies that are true to you. I think the Brown Bunny signalled your departure from a conventional narrative to a more niche one. I still hate that movie even if I view it as an art film.

So I close this letter clarifying that I like Promises Written in Water, maybe even love. That as an art film, you’ve succeeded in creating something beautiful and relating it beautifully, but I cannot see it as something more than an art film. Why? Because you’re not there yet as an artist and I think that’s where you are going as a filmmaker: to transcend art for art’s sake.

Sincerely,

A. Abbasi

When I was approached (not personally, it was a mass callout) by my sort-of friend — Mumbai-based folk artist, Noush Like Sploosh — to spread the word on the upcoming release of her debut album Whimcycle, I was like, “Sure.” I have this here blog so why the hell not?

This street-teaming is to be done by listening to the lead single “Three-Act Circus” (available for download here) and spread the word of its goodness. In my own way, I’ll be doing just that with the following 50-word review of the song. I will grant her song the highest honour: an unabashedly honest, caustic review, devoid of any comparison to musical acts that already exist.

Entrancing. Toe-tapping. Head-bobbing. Noush Like Sploosh succeeds in carrying the listener through a tale in this trip-hop-folk-throwback with a catchy chorus to ground it all. The whimsical factor is not quite there due to her consistent vocal range, but the song’s playful composition honours the “Three-Act Circus” motif.

Whimcycle drops October-ish, 2010

www.noushlikesploosh.com

www.myspace.com/noushlikesploosh

Birthdays incite your friends to peer pressure you into confessing the amount of embarrassing moments equivalent to the year you just turned. No? Well, my friends peer pressured me to do that, ok? I didn’t get very far in the confessional as most of the embarrassing moments of my life had been conveniently blocked out…

My friend Malay encouraged me to recall the good, as opposed to the scarring, by enumerating the 25 most inspirational moments…to date at least. And by inspirational I guess I mean events, discoveries, aspects of myself I recently embraced that continue to drive me. So here they are in no particular order of importance…

  1. Meeting Hawksley Workman (i.e. someone you’ve admired since you were 15, who’s just as weird as you are, maybe more so, and still succeed at being himself)
  2. Coming face to face with the oeuvre of Marcel Duchamp
  3. Seeing Stevie Wonder live (as opposed to Paul McCartney or Leonard Cohen)
  4. Discovering “the Red Shoes”
  5. Realizing Ignorance is NOT Bliss
  6. That it’s okay for girls to make the first move: Games are for chumps.
  7. Working a dead end job the summer of 2007
  8. Realizing that in order to think outside the box, you must leave the box
  9. How problematic racial intolerance is in Quebec
  10. Writing “Charity Ball” with Jared & Ingi
  11. “Shadows” by John Cassavetes
  12. Understanding Shakespeare @ 12 years old
  13. Michel Foucault & mental illness
  14. Freeing that Raven stuck in my chimney
  15. Writing “To Kill a Spider”
  16. Having the drive to win one dodgeball game in elementary as an unathletic, clumsy, stalwart underachiever.
  17. Can’t eat what I can’t kill
  18. Proving everybody wrong about me including myself
  19. That it’s difficult for women to get along with other women…and that’s okay…and it doesn’t have to be that way.
  20. That I share the same birthday as Ben Gazzara, Jack Black, Goethe and Shania Twain (that I am destined for some sort of greatness)
  21. Eating humble pie on a regular basis
  22. Moving to Toronto from Montreal
  23. Sticking true to my guns — good instincts are hard to come by
  24. That I can be a good writer if I put my neck on the line — it’s what artists do…
  25. That there are no happy endings, just happy beginnings…
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