Saturday, December 31, 2011

December 2011 Books and Movies

Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol

I really liked this, but it's more the franchise than the cast or storyline. I know that most of the fancy tricks are beyond reality, actually more that they defy the laws of physics, but they are still so cool. The production value is high, the stunts (especially when Tom Cruise is scaling the worlds tallest building, the Burj Khalifa) are cool and the pretty, over the top accessories (fancy cars, beautiful jewellery, designer dresses) make up for the lack of believable plot and dialogue. Keep in mind that this is one of the few franchises (along with James Bond) that I will deliberately go to see, in spite of all of the above. If you feel the same way I do, give it a go, it was fun.

The Coke Machine - The Dirty Truth Behind the World's Favorite Soft Drink
Michael Blanding

It's hard not to read this title and think that it is stating the obvious, but the details of just how badly this corporation are screwing everyone are still quite shocking. From killing workers who are fighting for a better wage in Columbia, to outright stealing water from poor farmers in India, to overt and relentless marketing to children in North America and Western Europe, this company this company is unbelievable in their dedication to the bottom line and to it's shareholders. Its efforts to "do good" are laughable, especially at the moment, with its pledge to donate 5 million over 5 years (a mere drop in the profit bucket) to polar bear conservation (an icon adopted to promote the brand, albeit a fuzzy CGI version) without actually addressing its contribution to the climate change that is causing the issue in the first place! Augh. And the worst part is, it's impossible to avoid drinking its products, especially since there have been a large number of acquisitions over the last couple of decades. It was a very good read and written by a very reputable journalist, so if you can keep your anger in check, then give it a go.

Dish: Women, Waitressing & the Art of Service

This was a great Canadian documentary (featuring one of our local, albeit not the greatest, restaurants) about women and serving tables. I learned stuff (did you know there was a non sexualized topless diner in Montreal?), nodded my head frequently (after many years of service experience in my teens and 20s) and generally enjoyed the tone, view and pace of this film. If you have the chance, especially if you've ever worked in the service industry, give it a go.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1

Remember what I said about Mission Impossible? This is not included in that category. I knew this would be crap. I read the books and they were crap. I've see all the previous movies and they were crap. With the exception of Taylor Lautner's stellar abs. :) It's become a bet with a friend of mine that we can make it through the entire series. I don't know why. Sometimes things are just because. I originally read the series because I wanted to know what was fascinating my students who just couldn't put them down.

So, in this one, Bella and Edward finally tie the knot, and she gets pregnant on the the honeymoon. Delivering the baby almost kills her, and she is turned in order to "live". It ends (did I mention this was a two parter?) with her opening her eyes as a vampire. I can report that I laughed harder than in any other instalment, to the point that I was having a hard time stifling my snorts and giggles. Well, either it was the movie or the hoards of tweens and teens too busy on there cell phones telling everyone that they were at the Twilight movie instead of watching the Twilight movie!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

The Rez Sisters

Tomson Highway is a) my favourite Native playwright and b) in my top five Canadian playwrights of all time. I'd even go as far to say he's right up there in my top five favourite global playwrights of all time. To say I was excited about seeing Factory Theatre's latest mounting of The Rez Sisters would be an understatement.

This is actually the very first time I've even seen a production, although I studied the play extensively in Drama school and had seen the movie it hasn't been produced in Toronto in 25 years, nor in any of the other cities I have lived in. It was well worth the wait. I thought the multi racial casting was a interesting choice, although I wasn't sure at first. I actually read in a review that the reason it hasn't been produced in 25 years is because there has been much arguing about whether or not to cast all native or not. The blocking was wonderful, with amazing multi-levelled tableaux, especially in the scene where the women are all trying to raise money by doing as many odd jobs as they can. The set was sparse and utilitarian but very creative. I loved the costumes, they were quite evocative. I absolutely loved the audience participation, when we all played a game of bingo in the second half, using bingo cards found in our programs. Billy Merasty was especially good as Nanabush/The Trickster turned campy bingo caller. Apparently, his uncle, Rene Highway (also the playwright's brother) originated this role.

I only have a few critiques. I thought that Djennie Laguerre rushed the part of Annie Cook just a smidge. Because French is the actor's first language, this sometimes resulted in dropped lines, or somewhat unintelligible phrases. I also thought that Michaela Washburn didn't play the bisexuality in her role as Emily Dictionary enough. She was very butch, which made her softer side hard to believe.

I always feel closer to plays that I have read and workshopped extensively. This production came very close, but still was lacking a little. I really hope Factory mounts Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing (the companion play to The Rez Sisters featuring 7 men and a female Nanabush with the game being hockey) next season.