Laughter Travels Well Too

As part of the last post about The Wind Journeys I planned to write about a second great road film I watched recently, but got off on a music tangent and decided enough was enough. Don't worry, I'm not setting myself up as some sort of faux film critic, I won't make a habit of these little movie reviews. It's just that I really love movies and have been watching a lot of them recently and happened to bump into a couple of special ones, that's all. A couple of nights after seeing The Wind Journeys, TCM came through again, although at a more reasonable hour this time. My wife Anna and I were watching something that ended at 11 o'clock and flicked over to TCM, arriving in the middle of an old black and white movie. As soon as I recognized Joel McCrea dressed as a hobo riding in a boxcar, I realized it was Sullivan's Travels, one of the greatest movies by that unique master of film comedy, Preston Sturges. I'd seen it once many years ago and didn't remember much about it, or whether I really got it the first time. Sturges is much admired and celebrated as a giant of comedy film-directing and screen-writing, but it's almost rare to see his movies these days. He had a thirty-year career in Hollywood but most of his famous movies were made in a furious burst of creative energy between 1939 and 1944. He developed a kind of Midas touch in film comedy during this peak, ruling the roost as the fair-haired boy of Paramount. He made eight films during this incredible run, seven more [...]

The Wind Journeys and Other Musical Travels

As a big movie fan, I don't know what I'd do without Turner Classic Movies, though I'd no doubt be better-rested without it. With so many more channels on TV now showing so little worth watching (and with so many ads), TCM is like an oasis of civilization. I often land in this cinematic Shangri-La at an hour when more reasonable people are sleeping though and the next thing I know I'm down a half-bottle of red and it's 2 a.m. To paraphrase an old W.C. Fields movie title, it's like "The Fatal Glass of Film." The other night was a case in point. I thought I'd be a good boy for a change and try to go to sleep at what I call an early hour, around midnight. But first, I tuned in to good old TCM, you know, just in case the peaceful mantle of Morpheus wouldn't come easily. My timing was perfect, host Robert Osborne was just introducing a guest programmer, who chose a Spanish-language film called The Wind Journeys that Osborne had never heard of - no small accomplishment - and revealed he'd never heard of it either until recently. He introduced it with a few comments, saying it was as visually stunning as Avatar, only without using any special effects, CGI or arty camera work. It was made in 2009 by a Colombian writer-director named Ciro Guerra, a joint productiion of Colombia, Argentina, Germany and the Netherlands. He also said that it might be better named "The Devil's Accordion", because it's about an old musician with a very special accordion with two cattle horns pointing more [...]

Apologia, More on Halladay

Yesterday's post on Roy Halladay as usual contained a few small typos and grammatical mistakes but also a factual error - I posted it in some haste because of the time-sensitve nature of his retirement. The typos I can live with, but factual errors bug me, I try not to make many of those. For some reason, I got it into my head that Halladay had an 18-year career, with 14 seasons in Toronto; it was actually 16 years, with 12 in Toronto. This mistake was compounded by being repeated several times through the piece, so I'm sorry. This and the other boo-boos have been corrected. In arguing Roy's HOF case I made comparisons between Halladay and three HOF pitchers with similar borderline-low win totals, but great supplementary stats - Koufax, Vance and Drysdale. After posting the piece, I thought of another famous pitcher I might have added - Whitey Ford - but it's just as well I left him out in the interests of shortening the piece. The more I think about it though, the more relevant and apt the comparison between Whitey and Roy becomes. This may seem laughable at first because of the obvious differences between them. Ford was a small left-hander and Halladay was a big, strapping righty. Whitey was a noted urbanite party animal, a running buddy of Mickey Mantle and Billy Martin, whereas Halladay was a country boy at heart, with ascetic personal habits that would make a Mormon look like a citizen of Sodom. And Ford pitched for the great Yankees and had a huge post-season more [...]

Is Roy Halladay A Hall-of-Famer?

At 36, pitcher Roy Halladay announced his retirement the other day, signing a one-day contract with the Blue Jays which will allow him to retire as one, a classy move by all concerned. It's gratifying to local baseball fans that this was clearly important to Halladay, and for one glorious moment there, I thought he'd actually signed a real pitching contract for next year, Lord knows we could use him if he were healthy. Roy cited a chronic back condition which led to ongoing shoulder injuries as the reason for his early retirement. I was a bit surprised given his not too advanced age and fanatical devotion to fitness that he couldn't have pitched longer, but I'm glad he's made his peace with retirement, this way he isn't risking permanent physical impairment. So the question on many baseball fans' minds now becomes : Did Roy Halladay have a Hall of Fame-calibre career? And if so, will he be elected? (The two are not quite the same question. The first one could be argued either way, but given the often inexplicable decisions of HOF voters over the years, the only honest and smart answer to the second question is : Who the hell knows?) Most commentators have described Halladay as a borderline HOF candidate, which is about right on the face of things, given his raw numbers alone. This means he is at least in the running and worthy of consideration, it could go either way. I heard TV baseball analyst Steve Phillips interviewed on a local sportscast and he said that in more [...]