Thor: Ragnarok – Review

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I would not have blinked had one of the characters in Thor: Ragnarok suddenly broken into song, bellowing “Kill the wabbit!”, because this movie was a live-action Bugs Bunny cartoon devoid only of Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd and Daffy Duck.

And I enjoyed it, exactly for that.

Unlike previous Thor outings that tried to delve into the frat boy-cum-reluctant prince (Chris Hemsworth’s Thor) and then dueling brothers (add in Tom Hiddleston’s Loki), this third treatise tossed aside any pretense at character development and plot, replacing it with 2+ hours of slapstick and one-liners designed to tickle the 12-year-old boy in all of us, regardless of gender.

By design, this movie was stupid and silly and wocka-wocka, and in that, it worked on all cylinders.

At best, the plot was a series of expositional “what you need to know now” moments that extended the sibling rivalry to include a supremely ambitious sister (Cate Blanchett aka Hela, God of Death) who felt slighted by Dad (Anthony Hopkin’s aging Odin).

Interwoven with this story was a side-plot that attempted to quantify whose dick was bigger: Thor’s or Hulk’s. Not surprisingly, the biggest dick actually belonged to alcoholic side-kick and fallen warrior Scrapper 142 (Tessa Thompson).

Despite the carnage—LOTS of people get brutally wiped out, so not sure if this is kiddie fare—the movie was downright fluffy and vapid, and your memory of it will likely evaporate by the time you get home. That said, the process of watching the film is fun, and one or two elements come to light (NO SPOILERS) that you know will feature in an upcoming Avengers saga.

And while we wait for that film, I suggest you YouTube What’s Opera, Doc?

The Last Laugh – review

Last Laugh poster

As I sat in Toronto’s Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, munching my popcorn and sipping my soda, I started to get the sneaking suspicion I had accidentally seated myself in a Synagogue, such was the nature of the audience who slowly closed in around me.

And as the theatre lights dimmed, I realized that they were here to see a documentary about the Holocaust, while I was here to see one about comedy. We were both in the right place.

For me, the central theme of The Last Laugh is the question: Is there any topic that is off-limits to comedy?

For the others, it was probably more a question of whether any humour could be found in something as horrific as the wholesale slaughter of 6 million Jews.

Through a series of interviews with comedians—most Jewish—and Holocaust survivors, centering on the thoughts of Renee Firestone, The Last Laugh pivots back and forth between heavy discussions about survival under unreal conditions and light-hearted attempts to understand the dark humours arising from those conditions as expressed by the generations of comedians that followed.

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As Mel Brooks pointed out, if he had tried to produce “The Inquisition” sequence of History of the World, Part I back in the late 1400s, he probably wouldn’t have fared as well in 1981. Likewise, other comedians pointed out that when The Producers was released in 1968, the concept of “Spring Time for Hitler” was scandalous, whereas people seeing the Broadway musical now are apt to sing along with the music.

For many, it was a matter of timing. How much time had passed since the original horror? For others, it was a bit more complicated, and it was generations more than years that needed to pass, citing examples where the children of Holocaust survivors—people who themselves did not experience and therefore release the horrors—were more apt to get upset about Holocaust jokes than their parents.

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Interestingly, Brooks himself was quick to note that the Holocaust was a line he could not cross himself, but that if someone else made a funny joke, he could laugh at it.

Going back to survivor Firestone, it was very interesting to see her perspectives on this question and the various attempts by comedians like Sara Silverman to touch the subject. For Firestone, none of the jokes seemed to come across as funny, but some she acknowledged were very close to the truth of the experience or how society now thought of it.

Elly Gross-Ferne Pearlstein-Renee Firestone

Writer/director Ferne Pearlstein (centre) with survivors Elly Gross and Renee Firestone

And she could see in hindsight the humour of some of the camp activities as the prisoners (I am at a loss for a better word to describe those held captive) tried to maintain a grip on sanity within the camps, whether it was preparing imaginary dinner parties or performing musical revues.

Countering opinions also entered the fray as people debated the merits of the film Life is Beautiful, most of the comedians considering it terrible and an ironic whitewashing of the horror, or bringing in other recent events such as Jim Crow racism or the events of 9/11.

Life is Beautiful

Ultimately, while I’m not sure the question of off-limit topics was ever really answered, everyone who watched the documentary was affected by it.

Where your heart was broken by a recounted memory, it was shortly thereafter mended by quip.

Where your breath caught in your chest at a recalled horror, it quickly burst forth in a gush of laughter.

After 88 minutes riding waves of conflicting emotions, the audience was neither depressed, nor bemused, but likely to a person, they had asked questions they had never considered before. Can’t really ask more of a documentary.

Historectomy – Brexit edition

Those who do not learn from history represent 100% of the human population.

We have plenty of examples where ignoring history has preceded disaster, and in some cases, preceded a very similar event or process. But correlation does not indicate causation. For one thing, I cannot think of a single example where someone stood up and cited something from history, thereby averting a disaster.

That said, I adore the study of history and so playfully offer the following commentaries on recent efforts to “make Britain great again.”

GreatImmigrationLordy

 

 

Gotta laugh (seriously, I mean that)

I am so amused by your humours

I am so amused by your humours

I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to stand-up comedy. Not in the performance of it, you understand—been there, done that, bear the scars—but rather in simply being an audience member.

For the uninitiated, stand-up is best described as stripping naked, slathering your body in hot sauce and dragging small razor blades across your skin while being judged by a room full of your parents. And your only salve is laughter.

Which is where my problem starts.

LOL Classic

LOL Classic

Hi. My name is Randy, and I don’t laugh at stand-up comedians. Okay, perhaps rarely laugh is more accurate.

It’s not that I can’t laugh. Get me together with the right group of friends, and I become a giggling gibbon. Hit me with the right joke or observation at the right time, and you’ll turn me into a hyperventilating tear factory. But for the most part, I only LOL when texting.

If I get where you’re going, I will nod. If I like what you said, I’ll smile. If I really like it, the smile will show teeth. But the laugh is elusive.

At a stand-up comedy show several years ago, a colleague accused me of being a comedy snob, suggesting that I refused to laugh to make myself look cool. Ironically, this made me laugh.

If my name were ever to appear in Roget’s Thesaurus, I can promise you that “cool” would only ever appear as an antonym. (Case in point, I just referenced Roget’s Thesaurus.)

So I knew I was in trouble a couple of weeks ago when the host of The Comedy Store in Los Angeles decided to sit me dead centre in front row, literally at the shins of the comedians.

The Comedy Store

The Comedy Store

I sat there. A long-torsoed beacon of attention. I was the Lighthouse of Alexandria (yet another cool reference) to those rolling on the oft-stormy seas of stand-up.

Comedian #1 takes the stage. She’s quickly warming the audience and then, “So, where you from?”. Toronto, says I. Cue the Canada jokes.

No problem. I come from a funny country with a funny reputation. Ask me a question, I’ll answer it best I can. I am more than happy to participate to help the comedian.

[Side note: I do not heckle, anyone. Comedy is hard enough without the drunken asshole. Likewise, I do not interject into someone’s set. The audience is there to enjoy the comedian’s wit, not mine.]

When engaged by the comedian, I will play along and maintain the game. I will not (or at least try not to) be funnier than the comedian.

Only one of the three A-list comedians (Argus Hamilton, Bobby Lee, Marc Maron) paid me more than passing attention, each one more than capable of holding their sets to their own material, addressing the audience with little more than a passing “You know what I mean?” or “How many of you…”

Bobby Lee, Angus Hamilton, Marc Maron

Bobby Lee, Angus Hamilton, Marc Maron

They talked to the whole audience, not just those of us they could see.

Then came the B-listers.

Like any artist, comedians at this stage are less able to roll with failing bits. And even when a bit is working, the big guy in the front row who refuses to laugh becomes the focus of attention.

After the third B-lister, I started to feel sorry for the audience, who quickly learned everything about me and Canada, the information oft repeated as no two comedians paid much attention to anything that happened five minutes before they hit the stage.

Over the five hours I watched the show—I arrived at 8:30 and didn’t leave until 2:00—I swear I was being spoken to or about or was on the microphone for one hour. I literally had more air time than all but one comedian. (Part of my air time included a rousing rendition of Oh, Canada and a duet of Tie a Yellow Ribbon.)

In five hours, I was told that I had an abnormally long torso (I do), I dress like Steve Irwin (I was), I work in maintenance or engineering (I don’t), I have beautiful hair (it is nice), and was asked twice to mimic cunnilingus (I respectfully refused). [Side note: Don Barris is a very very very strange man.]

Don Barris (his cunnilingus face)

Don Barris (his cunnilingus face)

And all, I am confident, because I refused to be the giggling gibbon.

I wasn’t defiant (except for the cunnilingus part). I never crossed my arms. I tried to be positive and supportive in my eye contact (perhaps that was mistaken as a challenge). And yet, I received a pretty good workout.

So, I think my choices are: laugh despite my personal opinions or ask to be seated in the shadowiest corner of the bar.

Either way, it will be a while before I attend another stand-up comedy show.

Sitting in back of the bar

Sitting in back of the bar

BoJack-sh!t (a review)

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Unless this is a satire about satires, I don’t get the new Netflix Original Series BoJack Horseman.

Ostensibly, the zany life of a washed up sitcom star from the 90s, who also happens to be a horse, who is trying to find meaning in a life of idle emptiness, the show is instead an endless string of really bad puns and lame jokes about anthropomorphic animals and Hollywood, punctuated with long speeches to highlight the irony of a scene or episode.

I am surprised the character giving the speech doesn’t hold up a sign reading “Ironic part” or “Satirical condemnation of status quo” just in case the audience was too stoned to realize that’s what the speech was about.

Episode 3 starts with an establishing shot of a bar called The Pelican. We then cut to BoJack sitting at the bar which is being tended by a…wait for it…pelican. Or in Episode 2, BoJack has a run-in with a Navy Seal who is a…here it comes…actual seal. Oh, and at the apex of humour, whenever BoJack’s girlfriend/agent puts him on hold, he listens to music from Cats…oh, did I mention his girlfriend/agent is a cat? Them’s the animal jokes, my friends.

pelican

There are attempts at social commentary, of course. In Episode 3, BoJack’s memoir ghost writer tries to make him feel better about a friend by claiming she was a victim of her circumstances and the pressures of society. But silly BoJack…he misunderstands this to mean that no one is responsible for their actions and that the fault universally lies with society, so he can act like a jerk and it’s not his fault. Silly BoJack.

HORSE

The voice talent is, well, talented. Alison Brie (Madmen, Community), Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), Amy Sedaris (Strangers with Candy), Paul F. Thompkins (No You Shut Up!) and Will Arnett (everything else)…these people can act.

Show creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg is a mystery to me. An actor and writer, all I can really find out about him is he a member of a sketch comedy group called Olde English.

And the more I read about him, the more I wonder if my original comment wasn’t dead on…this may just be an amazing meta joke perpetrated by a very funny man. Or it’s just not very good.

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Because I only lose 25 minutes of my life at a go, I will continue to watch to see if it gets better…dear God, let it get better…or let me in on the divine joke of this comedy.

Introducing CACOPHONY™

TooMuchSignalMarketingNoise

What if you could hear all of your friends conversing at the same time? And I mean regardless of whether they were in the same room with you.

Every thought. Every synaptic firing. Every vocalization. Pouring into your brain constantly.

The razor blades are under the sink. Try to be a good fellow and keep all of the blood in the tub, would you?

Welcome to Twitter.

I started on Twitter less than a year ago and I have noticed one thing about the people I hang out with: they fall into one of two camps. The constant pingers and the lurkers.

I, my apologies to everyone, am a constant pinger. I am one of those people who continues to post things throughout the day, and I never stay on one subject very long. I’ll hit themes and run with those for a while, or I’ll go through a period where all I do is respond to other people’s posts with “witty” ripostes. I’m not nearly the retweeter that most pingers are, but that’s mainly because I constantly feel the need to add to conversations rather than simply echo them.

In my actual social life, I have been referred to as “The Honest Ed” of comedy. Honest Ed, as the name would imply, was a local retail showman who had a large store at the corner of Bloor and Bathurst Streets in Toronto that fundamentally sold cheap crap to the masses under bright neon signs. Thus, the moniker given to me. Most of my humour is crap, but every once in a while, you’ll find something you like.

My brother Scott, in contrast, would be classified as a Lurker, if he had a Twitter account.

These are the people who patrol the social waters, largely unseen and shark-like, not interacting until they find just the right moment and then BAM!

At a family gathering, Scott would sit in the room, only slightly more animated than the wallpaper, while I rat-a-tat-tatted in all directions like a wind-up monkey with cymbals. He would wait for his moment and lay out a line, a joke, a comment that was smarter than anything I had said cumulatively. The room would collapse and he would dissolve back into the furniture, never to be seen again.

On Twitter, the lurker is the person whose icon only shows up rarely in your timeline. The person who catches your eye—when they catch your eye—only because you thought they were dead (or at least their account was dead). But catch you they do, and pay attention you must, because they have finally decided there is something worth saying and it should be good.

The pingers, I may only read about 1-10% of what they say at any given moment, making judgements on importance within the first two or three words (so much for 140 characters).

I have my favourites, those I will read more thoroughly, and those favourites change with my changing moods or their changing conversations.

So what is my point in this post?

I don’t have one. I’m a pinger. It’s never been necessary.

I merely observed something and felt I needed to comment on it…for more than 140 characters.

 

PS If you want to “hear” the Internet evolve, there is a really amazing site that monitors changes to Wikipedia and represents those changes visually and musically. Not surprisingly, it is called Listen to Wikipedia.

Listen to Wikipedia

From their site: Listen to the sound of Wikipedia’s recent changes feed. Bells indicate additions and string plucks indicate subtractions. Pitch changes according to the size of the edit; the larger the edit, the deeper the note. Green circles show edits from unregistered contributors, and purple circles mark edits performed by automated bots. You may see announcements for new users as they join the site, punctuated by a string swell. You can welcome him or her by clicking the blue banner and adding a note on their talk page.

 (Image is property of owner and is used here without permission because I couldn’t get a word in edge-wise)

Adages and Subtractages

plus-and-minus

Live your life like there’s no tomorrow…because one day, you’ll be right! (not mine)

Never put off until…

The meaning of Life is only unfathomable to those without a dictionary.

Philosophy is the art of sounding profound while saying things of no practical significance…much like Consulting.

If genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration, have antiperspirants made us idiots?

The quality of mercy is not strained, because it knows to bend at the knees.

Love is like a red, red rose… to get to the good stuff, you have to go through a lot of pricks.

The majority of people outnumber everyone else.

Dentists live hand-to-mouth.

Asking a mute for sound reasoning is like asking the blind to see your point.

Concerns about political correctness never seem to focus on the “correctness” part.

When I want an objective opinion, I’ll talk to my microscope.