NOW YOUR SPUDS
TWO XL SPUDS — Absolute Must See
TWO SPUDS — Definitely Worth Checking Out
1.5 SPUDS—Worth Checking Out, But Don’t Expect A Ton
ONE SPUD – Not Worth It, Except For The Hardcore Fan
NO SPUD 4U – Just Plain Sucks
It’s March Break week. Because the Wife now works at a high school, she’s now on a kind of student schedule. This March break, she was absconded by my sister who needs help making some curtains. The Wife is handy that way. And a lot of other ways too I might add. But mostly they just get to hang out together. So while I miss her, we have always believed that the secret to an obscenely long marriage is getting away from each other from time to time. While I don’t ‘get away’ as often as the Wife does, there are still a few perks from my end.
TOP TEN ‘WIFE’S AWAY’ PERKS
1. None of that pesky bedmaking
2. No broccoli, green beans or asparagus
3. At least one pizza
4. Basketball on TV loud enough to hear the sneakers squeak and the fans curse
5. Wrestling, if I want to watch it
6. Complete and unrestricted use of the Spudmobile
7. Laundry time, what’s that?
8. Real Coke
9. Movies with subtitles (which the Wife can’t stand because she’s always doing something crafty when she watches a movie and subtitles would require her full attention)
10. Phone calls and emails to all the whipped guys I know to tell than I’m on parole.
THE GROOVEDIGGERS LEGION HALL SATURDAY NITE CONCERT (2 XL SPUDS)
As many of you know, the advertising business is one in which the people you work with and around tend to become friends. This Spud is no exception to the rule. Several of the guys I ‘grew up’ with in this business are still putting up with me and vice versa. These guys are Dean Raynor, Dave Van Fleet and Cam Levack.
On Saturday night three of them, along with a couple of other of their friend and associates unleashed their band, the GrooveDiggers, on the world. These same guys had held a similar event earlier in the century to celebrate some significant survival milestone of Van Fleet’s.
And it was a kickass night to say the least. Nearly 200 family, friends and curiosity seekers crowded a Legion Hall in the east end and we all had a ball. Needless to say I was looking forward to an evening of similar intensity and frivolity when I got the announcement that yet another Legion Hall had been chosen for this new event.
The Wife, sadly, had already agreed to head down to Fort Dreary to help out my sister and generally hang out together for a few days, so I watched the first period of the Leaf’s game, then headed off to the GooveDiggers evening on my own.
The GrooveDiggers is a 5 or 6 piece band (no one is sure) with Dean Raynor handling the vocal chores and bongos, Van Fleet hammering bass, Cam Levack on lead guitar, Dean’s, business partner Orest Semeniuk on keyboards, a dude named Meek manning the sticks and Leo Sullivan blowing Sax. The music is what best could be described as rocking blues.
These concerts come free with a very relaxed and cordial environment. A lot of the 200 or so people there knew each other and everyone there knew someone in the band. It’s a neat feeling to walk in and see a dozen or so people that you have known for years, and get to chat for a bit with just about all of them. The hall itself was just the right size for the event it was hosting. There was a cash bar doing a brisk business on one side of the stage which made the Legion folks happy. There was a free Italian buffet on the other side. There was seating for everyone and a big dance pit right in front of the stage.
The guys were a little edgy and distracted as I made the rounds to say hey. And who could blame them? They were gonna get up in front of all these people and do their best to sound just like a real band. That’s a daunting task for the best of us, and certainly something I wouldn’t want to take on. While hanging around the bar I ran into Roger Hill, one of the mob. Roger is an amazingly talented illustrator and did advertising illustration for a number of years. He’s retired now and concentrating on his fine art. But he’s a really good guy and so we found ourselves a place to sit at the back and waited for the band to light it up.
Pretty much the first thing out of Dean’s mouth were the three little words that broke the ice for the guys. “We’re really nervous”. After that they just started to play. And wouldn’t you know it, they sounded great. They ripped into a version of Mustang Sally that was foot tappin’, hand clappin’ and kickass all the way. You could feel them relaxing after that and they just bopped along like they were actually being paid to do the gig, and not the other way around.
The crowd, albeit a little biased, just loved them to death. It was a great set and all around the room you could see people looking at each other and nodding, like, “Hey, these guys are actually good”. And they actually were. It was a pretty badass effort.
I was majorly whipped from working all day Saturday and left before the second set got underway. But I had a great time, and was really proud of the guys. Mainly because they weren’t doing this to get some sort of second career going, or to make up for something they felt was missing in their lives. They’re doing it because it’s fun for them and they love it. And that makes all the difference.
In another four or five years there will be another GrooveDigger’s concert, no doubt, and I’ll be there with bells on. Two XL Spuds, my friends. Well done.
THE OSCARS (NO SPUD 4U)
The first thing you have to take into consideration about the Oscars is that they are very much a Hollywood thing. And the first thing you need to know about Hollywood is that there is a glass dome over that land. Information and knowledge from the outside world is not allowed to permeate. And all that gets out alive are movies and TV shows, the majority of which are sequels, adapts, rip-offs, spin-offs and judging by the decline in movie box office bucks and TV ratings, write-offs.
Having said all that, it’s almost impossible to understand why comedian Jon Stewart would be chosen as this year’s host. Are they trying to reach out to the rest of the world via New York City, which is Jon’s stomping ground? And what about Stewart actually accepting? I mean, this guy is an astute political satirist who has a bird’s eye view of America and could really care less about Hollywood. Surely he must have understood that he would be considered to be a Stranger In A Strange Land. Almost as strange as last year’s NYC bomb, Chris Rock. So that was a bitch. Nobody got the host. When we tuned in, we had missed (thankfully) the first five minutes or so of his opening monologue but it was obvious to see that he was tanking badly. It got to the point where he had to start incorporating their lack of response into his routine, which is never a good sign.
The rest of the evening was kind of like one of those car crashes you see in the movies, where everything happens in slow motion. Only it wasn’t a car crash…it was more like two guys painting a long corridor in a sterile office building. Every so often and for no apparent reason, they would have these movie montages that were themed to different things. These were pretty cool, and the fact that their being there made little or the relief dwarfed no sense they provided to all the deadly dull goings on.
The paranoia that existed around the length of time people take with their acceptance speeches made just about everybody feel uncomfortable and self-conscious. Rattling on waiting for the axe to fall, or in this case, the music to come up and drown them out. Nobody did anything remotely politically incorrect. Nobody cried. Nobody screamed. Nobody farted or burped. In fact, I was heard to comment a couple of times “Jeez, this is the pinnacle of their freaking career, and they’re busting a gut to stay cool about it.” Or words to that effect.
In fact the most interesting part of the evening was when Lauren Bacall (and I love her, so don’t take this the wrong way), came hobbling out on stage (hey, she’s like really old), delivered a speech that set up one of the weird montages, and kept flubbing here lines. Not just here and there, but every second or third word out of her mouth. The Wife and I had a pool going on when she would get her concentration back and stop flubbing the lines. But, sadly, she never did.
In spite of the monumental dullness of it all, we can score a couple for Canada, as Crash, written and directed by Canuk Paul Haggis took home the Best Picture Oscar, beating out Bro0keback Mountain, which was supposed to the lead pipe cinch lock for best pic.
But all in all, this was in the immortal words of Bill Shakespeare. “Much sound and fury…signifying nothing.” And actually, there wasn’t even much sound and fury.
So to sum up. Bad host from the wrong coast. Paranoid award winners. Nazi orchestra.
Lauren Bacall getting on. Steven Spielberg ignored again as director, cleans up as DreamWorks boss. Audience in coma. Women all looking like wardrobe failure was an impossibility. George Clooney, Hollywood badass. Crash, the big upset. Go Canada.
Jack Nicholson evidently has front row seats to just about everything. Finished on time. Vowed never to watch this crap again. Saved a lot of spuds here.
THE UNIT (2 SPUDS) (TUESDAY NITE @ 9:00 ON CBS)
IN A NUTSHELL: This is eerily similar to a series idea I had a couple of years ago. But I never showed it to any Hollywood types so I can’t sue anyone. It’s about a ‘special forces’ unit in the army that handles serious terrorist threats (and other stuff) to the good old American people. It’s headed up by Dennis Haysbert, who played President David Palmer on 24 last season, and who has a really commanding presence on TV. He and Robert Patrick run the Unit. And they are super rough and ready guys who fear nothing and can kill you nine different ways with a piece of skanky dental floss and a used Kleenex tissue. While this show is big on action and tension and all that other good stuff that keeps you from falling asleep, it also focuses on the soldier’s wives, their fears and the sacrifices they have to make in order to indulge their adrenaline junkie husbands. So this is not only powerful action TV but fascinating human drama too. The Unit, based on a book by some Special Forces maniac, is the brainchild of David Mamet who is one of the best across-the-board writers on the planet. This series packs the same sort of the wallop as his outstanding 2 Spud feature, Spartan with Val Kilmer. FEARLESS FORECAST: This is big budget stuff so it damn well better work. It’s pretty jingoistic, which is what I think will keep it alive for at least a season. American TV always needs hard-boiled patriotic heroes and there’s a whole bunch of them in this series. I wish it well. I will be all over it every week and you should too. This is the good stuff. The only downside is that as the number of (extinguished) terrorist threats builds on the American audience, they could start to become paranoid and turn off. So I would say this show gets a good season and no more. But what a trip that will be.
A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (2 XL SPUDS) (ON DVD)David Cronenberg is Canada’s most successful film auteur. But up to now he had been known for making creepy weird mainstream masterpieces like the Fly, Dead Ringers and Naked Lunch. His movies are always interesting and intelligent, but with this film, he has dialed it up a notch and created a true modern classic.
In A History of Violence, Viggo Mortenson stars as a regular guy who owns a diner in a small town in Indiana who is forced to kill a couple of psychos who take over his establishment.
The attention this leads to a series of other events that Viggo must deal with and that’s all I’m gonna tell you about the plot. Not that it would matter if I gave it away, because this movie is much deeper than ‘who did what to whom’. Like most movie masterpieces, A History of Violence works on an allegorical level as well as a mundane level, and as the layers of this film are peeled away we see that this movie isn’t so much about the story you’re seeing as it is about the times we are living it. It’s not an overpowering statement. In fact it’s quite subtle. But when you see it, it makes you wonder what Mr. Cronenberg is really getting at here.
Like many of the really good movies coming out these days, this one is based on a graphic novel, in this case, by the heavy-duty creative team of John Wagner and Vince Locke. The movie is simple and has an unhurried pace, which are anything but David Cronenberg traits.
If this is heralding a new direction for Mr Cronenberg to be moving in, well, he’s off to a hell of a good start.
A History Of Violence is as complete a film as I have seen in a long time. For that reason alone it’s extremely satisfying. By all means, check it out. There is some pretty nasty violence, but it really is a necessary part of the wallop this movie packs. And you will come away feeling extremely entertained.
THE NEW ADVENTURES OF THE OLD CHRISTINE (NO SPUD 4U) (MONDAY, I THINK)
IN A NUTSHELL: How many times is poor Julia Louis Dryfuss going to come at us in a hackneyed, unfunny, super obvious sitcom that has neither humour nor interesting characters nor plausible story lines to fall back on. FEARLESS FORECAST: I really don’t give a shit. And I really wish Julia would make the leap to drama or just retire. This is the polar opposite of must see TV. I give it 4 episodes and pfffft.
Well that’s it for this chapter of the old Chronicles. Hopefully we’re back on schedule.
Keep your stick on the ice and your head up.