Random Thoughts For January

It’s a month after Santa Claus, a week after the credit card bills told us how much he cost us, and winter has settled into the Northern hemisphere.  This year, Mother Nature seems particularly unhappy with her children, but life goes on.  So, a few random thoughts for January.

After enduring nearly a year of a planetary plague, I can now fully understand why all the women in Renaissance paintings are a little overweight and braless.

I’m a hockey fan, and I’m glad to see the Boys of Winter back on the ice.  My team, the Vancouver Canucks, aren’t doing very well, but this is hockey — and if it were easy, they’d call it baseball.

Speaking of baseball, Hank Aaron passed away last week.  He was the last great pure baseball player – just a regular guy who worked hard and hit the ball better than most pitchers could throw it.  Since Hank’s time, baseball players have become walking pharmaceutical experiments.  There are so many performance-enhancing drugs in professional baseball these days even Lance Armstrong is embarrassed.   

And sticking with sports, this year’s American football Super Bowl is going to be unique.  Tom Brady will be the oldest quarterback ever to probably cheat in a championship game. 

I’ll betcha right about now, Joe Biden’s thinking, “Hey, people!  I’ve got mittens, too!”

In Canada, the Governor General (FYI, this is Canada’s symbolic Head of State) Julie Payette resigned when an independent inquiry found she had created a “toxic workplace.”  She’d been verbally abusing the staff, and (come to find out) has a history of losing her cool – including being charged with second degree assault.  (Rumour has it her ex-husband got a noggin floggin’ one angry night in Maryland.)  You’d think somebody would have checked to see if Ms. Payette was actually the right person to represent the world’s politest nation.  So much for the Canadian “I’m sorry” myth.  Not to worry, though: Ms. Payette is going to get an annual $150,000.00 pension.  Apparently, being a bully has a financial upside – even in Canada.

Kiera Knightley said she will no longer do nude scenes in films with male directors.  Okay, your choice.  But, quite frankly, if you’re willing to take your clothes off for the entertainment of a million or so movie- going strangers, I don’t think it matters which gender tells you how to do it.  Personally, I think nudity in films is never necessary.  Every movie I’ve ever seen would be just as good (or bad) without it – except porn, of course, where nudity is, in fact, “integral to the storyline.”

I’m almost binge-watching a Dutch television series, Adulterer (Overspel) on Prime.  It’s 10 years old, which shows you how far out of the loop I am — but hey, the last time I was relevant, The Clintons roamed the Earth.  Anyway, it has a good storyline, nuanced characters, some twists, a couple of turns, suspense and a few surprises.  Plus, if you look closely and don’t mind hitting the pause button (a lot) you get a look at Dutch design and some very cool art.  That’s the thing about European television — you can get a total cultural experience just looking behind the actors at the sets.

And finally:

I remember Larry King not for his CNN suspenders but for his voice – on the radio.  He and I became friends in the early 80s when, once a week, I drove through the late night/early morning vast American desert.  For a couple of hours, with nothing to do but break the speed limit, Larry introduced me to America.  On his program, I heard people from all over the country — the great America tribes talking to each other – agreeing, disagreeing, unconsciously sharing their common ground.  To a Canadian kid who had only seen America in the movies, this was quite an education, and so, I will always remember him fondly.

Stuff That Surprises Me!

surprised

I’ve been roaming around this planet for a while now, and without putting on the brag, I can say I’ve seen and done a few things.  Nothing spectacular, but I’ve gained enough experience points to view the world with a very wary eye.  In fact, I’ve been called downright cynical on more than one occasion.  However, just because I know there’s no such thing as a free lunch, that doesn’t mean I’m jaded, faded and ready for the boneyard.  Actually, unlike most folks of my generation, I find a lot of wonder in the world.  Plus, even as my chronological odometer is creeping towards clicking over, there are things that still surprise me.  Sometimes, that’s a good thing; sometimes, it isn’t.  Here are just a few examples.

It surprises me …

That it’s still called Twitter, with a cute little blue bird icon — even though all the evidence shows it should be called Lynch Mob, with a flaming red Hangman’s Noose logo.

That coffee tastes way better when it’s not in a paper cup.

That the people who scream “science” at the first mention of religion are the same people who refuse to accept the scientific fact that there are only two human gender chromosomes, XX, XY — and one very, very, rare XYY combination that’s only found in men.  (BTW.  Call yourself whatever you like, just don’t call it science.)

That Johnny Depp lost all of his cool, and somehow, Keanu Reeves found it.

That people believe Qatar, population just shy of 3 million, has more Covid-19 cases than China which has like 100 times the population — over 1.5 billion!

That, at night, train whistles make me lonely.

That the people who want to legalize drugs to solve the drug problem think banning guns will solve the gun problem — and the people who want to make drugs illegal to solve the drug problem think banning guns won’t make any difference at all.  Weird!

That even the worst little brat on the planet is cute when he/she/it is sleeping.

That even though it’s been totally discredited, Politically Correct still rules the world.

That the Big Brother anti-mask brigade haven’t figured out that masks fool Facial Recognition software.  (Looks like a win/win to me.)

That I feel infinitely small whenever I look at the stars.

That we bitch about bad customer service when people with crap jobs occasionally seem grouchy from some reason.

That despite the “Imagine” video and Kanye West, there are people who still take celebrities seriously.

That they’re making another Fast and Furious movie.

We think that calling people names will somehow change their political opinion.

And finally:

That we’re still protesting the same stuff we did when I was a child.  Progress, people!  Have we made no progress?

Neglected Spy Movies

spies

I love spy movies.  Everything from the dirt-under-your-fingernails realism of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy to the “Oh, c’mon!  Plastic masks don’t work that way!” un-believability of the Mission Impossible franchise.  It all started when I was a kid and saw Dr. No.  (I was just an eyelash too young to fully grasp what Sylvia Trench was doing in Bond’s apartment, but I instinctively knew it had to be something cool.)  I went home and — in one long, grueling, dark, freezing Canadian winter — read all of Ian Fleming’s James Bond books, in order, cover to cover to cover to cover.  By Christmas and From Russia, With Love, I’d figured out the Trench/Bond dynamic.  Spies get the girl – all the girls.  I was hooked.  However, after all these years and literally hundreds of movies, I find there’s one subgenre of the spy movie that’s been woefully neglected – the Espionage Rom-Com.  There just aren’t that many of them.  Here are some of the good ones that immediately come to mind.  (Feel free to add to the list.)

Get Smart (2008) – One of the few made-from-TV movies that actually works.  Why?  Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway.  They are the natural evolution of Maxwell Smart and (they still didn’t give her a name) Agent 86.  He’s no longer Gilligan’s Island incompetent, and she isn’t hiding behind Max’s propped up ego.  And, they’re not heavy-handed with the 60s catch phrases, either.

Knight and Day (2010) – Ethan Hunt meets I Love Lucy.  Think about it!

True Lies (1994) – Seriously dated (It’s so old Arabs are still the villains!  Awkward!)  But Schwarzenegger gives it just enough Arnie to make it an action movie, and Jamie Lee Curtis gives it just enough Jamie Lee to make it a comedy.  Plus there’s a terrific tango scene at the beginning, Bill Paxton plays himself and, of the roughly 8 million bad movies Tom Arnold has appeared in, this is his best.

The Tourist (2010) – I’ve included this because, even though it’s not technically a com (Depp has his moments but …) it’s definitely a rom.  The critics panned it because critics are pompous asses.  It’s actually a good movie.  Trivia Time.  The movie was shot in less than 2 months because Johnny Depp was between pirate movies.  It features an ex-James Bond, Timothy Dalton.  And rumour has it that it was originally written by Julian Fellowes, the guy who wrote Downton Abbey.

The next four are not actually spy movies but hired assassins are part of the greater international intrigue genre

Mr. Right (2015) – Okay, Okay Sam Rockwell and Anna Kendrick have made some schlock, but they’ve made some really good movies, too, and together they make this one work.  Francis and Martha are the quirky lovers everybody wants to be – going about their business, together alone – while the rest of the world just doesn’t get it.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017) – Ryan Reynolds plays Ryan Reynolds.  Samuel L. Jackson plays Samuel L. Jackson.  And Gary Oldman can convincingly play anything on this planet (including Boris Johnson’s comb.)  This film features not one but three romances – Ryan Reynolds and Elodie Yung, Samuel L. Jackson and Salma Hayek and Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson.

Grosse Point Blank (1997) – International assassins have to come from somewhere.  This movie answers the question – whatever happened to that stand-alone, moody-cool guy from 12th grade?  Plus, it’s got John Cusack in uniform (Does he even own a different tie?) and a kick-ass soundtrack.

And finally:

Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005) – This is the Espionage Rom-Com by which all other Espionage Rom-Coms must be measured.  You can actually see Angelina Jolie lusting after Brad and Brad slowly, unconsciously, then consciously, then willingly, leaving Jennifer Aniston.  There are several mere “glances” between the two stars that are hug-your-knees sexy and it looks as if they’re doing the fight scene/love scene for real because — OMG! — they are!  Plus, two dance scenes and Mondo Bongo by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros.