From grad students to seniors, young children to young couples, a diverse crowd came out to U of T’s Faculty Club on Nov. 4 for John Wall’s talk on “A Quest for Co-Existence: People and Other Animals in an Increasingly Human World.” Wall, who is director of the Jane Goodall Institute and a doctoral candidate in Carleton University’s geography and environmental studies department, appeared as part of U of T’s Centre for Environment seminar series.As dusk fell Wednesday evening, Wall asked his audience: what are the processes and prospects of living with endangered species? How do people adapt to living with animals, and vice versa?“[Dr. Goodall’s] research has opened up a new view into animal behaviour, and chimpanzee behaviour and ecology,” Wall said. “She doesn’t see a sharp division between what we need to for other species and what we need to do for people. As she often puts it, ‘Let’s make a better world for the Earth and all of its inhabitants.’”A trip to Uganda as a volunteer development consultant shaped Wall’s research interests. Not only did he become more aware of complicated conservation and economic development issues in the region, but he also began to wonder about how people and animals co-exist.“The encounter” was the motif of Wall’s talk. He pointed out that because not everyone can share the same experiences, each individual encounter is unique. Direct encounters as well as indirect and vicarious experiences can shape our position towards not only animals, but other social groups and communities as well.“For me, an encounter with a chimpanzee, Sophie, changed my mind about people and animals. I was beginning to see myself in her eyes,” Wall said. “Subsequently I thought, ‘Humans are animals too, and just as our eyesight, hearing, smell, and touch are in continuum with other species, some of those species have capacities in those areas that far, far exceed our human capacity.’”Recently, Wall has focused on the mutual adaptations of people and threatened species. He has investigated eastern wolves in the Ottawa Valley, grizzly bears in Canmore, Alberta, and North Atlantic right whales in the Bay of Fundy.Wall said he hopes to continue working in human-animal studies that address conservation and development, and to examine how people develop their ideas of nature. “As we learn more about [encounters], and begin to see ourselves in the other,” he said, “it completely transforms our relationship and our desire to live a peaceful and successful co-existence.”
Close encounters key to co-existence
Saving the best for last
While penalty kicks may not be the fairest way to win, you can’t doubt the drama they bring.The entire Varsity Blues men’s soccer season hung in the balance on one shot. The Western Mustangs needed one goal to vanquish the top team in the Ontario University Athletics rankings but Blues goalkeeper Jon Smits was having none of it.The Mississauga, Ont. native stared down the Mustang shooter, danced on his line, dove to his right and swatted the ball wide of the post. There was elation on the field and in the stands as Smits pumped his fist in triumph.Midfielder Geoff Borgmann slotted one home and the Blues were one save away from the OUA final. It was up to Smits to guess correctly, and make the final save.“I just looked at the guy’s eyes, read him the entire time, and tried to strip down his confidence,” said Smits.Smits went right, the ball went right, and the celebration was on.“What can you say about our keeper,” said forward Nordo Gooden. “He really showed up when we needed him most. He had me in tears—I’m not going to lie.”With the hard-fought 3-2 win, the Blues moved into the OUA final against McMaster Marauders on Sunday afternoon where they eventually lost 1-0 on penalty kicks.Toronto looked vastly different than the tentative team that played Laurentian last week. They played with purpose, confidence, and had the strut of the number-one ranked team in the country.“I didn’t have to do much in terms of motivation,” said Toronto head coach Anthony Capotosto. “Mistakes are made by coaches arousing the players a little too much.”Over a minute into the game, Nordo Gooden headed a corner just past the right post and three minutes later Alexander Raphael had a sure goal taken off the line by midfielder Ryan Avola.“We were preparing all week to have a quick start,” said Borgmann. “Our game plan was to come out and pump some goals early.”The Blues took a well-deserved 1-0 lead in the 18th minute when Gooden got his second of the postseason.Borgmann took a one-touch pass and sprinted down the right side and centred the ball for Gooden, who tapped the ball by the left hand of Western goalie Andrew Murdoch.The early Blues offensive surge left the Mustangs on the back foot as it took Western nearly 27 minutes to get their first chance on goal.Western tied the game in the 28th minute. Michael Marcoccia gathered the ball, turned, and let a screamer go along the turf that beat a diving Smits. It was the fourth goal the Blues allowed in 11 games.The Blues held an 8-1 shot advantage at the end of the opening 45 minutes.Offensively, the Blues didn’t start the second half as crisp as the first. Their work rate and commitment was evident but they seemed plagued by nerves.They moved the ball nicely from side to side, but the touch passes, there in the first half, were either too strong or inaccurate.“It was a lot of jitters,” said Gooden. “We have a lot of rookies playing in the league who are not used to OUA soccer and they were nervous and it was showing out there.”The Mustangs’ confidence grew. They pushed the envelope offensively but didn’t trouble Smits with anything of high quality.Reminiscent of the first half, the Blues strung a series of passes that broke forward Gabe Gala through in the 38th minute. He went in alone on Murdoch but the keeper raced off his line and dove to knock the shot away.Overtime was next.Gooden scored his second of the game in the eighth minute of the first overtime session to give the Blues a 2-1 lead, but Michael Sawchuck tied the game with four minutes left in the second session, sending the game to a shootout.With Borgmann’s goal and Smits’ save in the shootout, the Blues earned an automatic spot in the CIS men’s soccer championship.
NBA Western Conference preview
Los Angeles Lakers
The BuzzGM Mitch Kupchak launched a pre-emptive strike on teams this summer when he signed mock rapper and proven threat Ron Artest, who is incidentally one of the league’s best defenders. Artest is “the only player in the world who can contain [Lakers superstar] Kobe Bryant,” according to basketball analyst Ron Artest. So logically, L.A. should benefit from having the self-professed “Kobe Container” instead of their best player to guard other teams’ scorers.PrognosisThe Lakers’ supporting cast will determine just how dominant the team is this season. Fifth-year centre Andrew Bynum should emerge as a reliable scoring option and defensive presence after knee injuries impeded his progress each of the last two seasons.
San Antonio Spurs
The BuzzThe Spurs are the NBA’s most intelligent franchise on and off the court. When injuries put a halt to their playoff run last season, R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich didn’t panic by chasing every big-name free agent on the market. Instead, they brought in veterans Antonio McDyess and Richard Jefferson to address their weakness at forward, and waited for their stars to recover from injury. While off to a slow start this season, the Spurs are the best at making winning look routine and should be in rare form soon.PrognosisPETA storms the Spurs’ home court and covers defamed bat-snatcher Manu Ginobili in red paint. The state of Texas sympathizes with PETA and hosts its first-ever vegan cuisine festival.
Portland Trail Blazers
The BuzzYoung, skilled, and hungry, the Blazers outplay teams at both ends of the court. While expected to join the elite ranks of the West this season, the Blazers have some underlying issues that could slow their progress. Concern still lingers over former number-one draft pick Greg Oden, who has suffered through injuries each of his first two seasons in the league. Coaches will have to monitor his minutes and continue to rely on back-up centre Joel Przybilla to pick up the slack. Another area of concern is point guard, as the Blazers have decided to slowly integrate newly acquired Andre Miller into their offense rather than start him outright. A point guard controversy won’t be far off if current starter Steve Blake outperforms Miller.PrognosisPortland has a point guard controversy on its hands when Andre Miller accuses Steve Blake of stealing his box DVD set of Alf season three. Coach Nate McMillan is beside himself, and decides to resolve the matter through a blind vote. His strategy backfires when Oden’s Hall & Oates: Greatest Hits CD disappears.
The BuzzFans who followed Denver’s playoff run last season witnessed a talented team come into its own. Once a “gun then run” offense, the Nuggets learned to close out quality opponents late in games and watched Carmelo Anthony emerge as a leader in the process. While this team is a safe bet to win over 50 games this season, there are some weak areas it needs to address. Their biggest issue is a thin bench that doesn’t eat up enough minutes, which could leave the Nuggets starters exhausted in the playoffs.PrognosisMavs owner Mark Cuban calls the Nuggets “a bunch of thugs” after they thrash his team on Celebrity Jeopardy. Cuban’s comments miff Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin, who points out that both teams were playing for the same charity.
The BuzzThere was a moment last year when the Mavs looked like they were done as contenders in the West. Owner Mark Cuban’s tantrum during the playoffs must have inspired Dallas management to give their team one last try. The Mavs have added three forwards (Drew Gooden, Tim Thomas, and Shawn Marion), who create a variety of match-up problems for other teams.PrognosisAnother disappointing season pushes Cuban to the brink of madness, culminating in a proposed trade that would send his entire team to Indiana for forward Troy Murphy. Indiana counters the offer by including forward Mike Dunleavy in the trade, making Cuban come to his senses at last.
The BuzzUtah has had its share of health problems the last two years. However, the return of Carlos Boozer should strengthen their frontcourt and more importantly reunite point guard Deron Williams with his favorite target.PrognosisThe reunion of the NBA’s Damon and Affleck takes a horrible turn after Boozer get hammered, checks into rehab, and Williams starts hanging out with George Clooney.
New Orleans Hornets
The BuzzIt’s Emeka Okafor and Tyson Chandler part two! I felt somewhat validated in my prior assessment of the two centres when Raptors’ commentator Jack Armstrong repeatedly criticized Okafor during Friday night’s game. (Though using words like “robotic” and “adequate” to describe him might be going too far.) Whoever their centre is, the Hornets are a bad situation that could get much worse. Players have had their fill of head coach Byron Scott, wing players Peja Stojakovic and Morris Peterson are underperforming and overpaid, and then there’s Okafor, of course. With all that said, just how good is Chris Paul if most analysts consider the Hornets a playoff team?PrognosisChris Paul goes above and beyond the call of duty for the Hornets. In addition to winning his first MVP, he solves the honeybee crisis and contributes to the design of the world’s most fuel-efficient car, while still finding time to spread his philosophy of love and happiness through haiku poetry. All this and New Orleans wins only 20 games.
The BuzzIt’s no secret that Phoenix plays defence like they’re participating in the celebrity game on All-Star Weekend. But instead of covering Frankie Muniz and Michael Imperioli, the Suns are tasked with the responsibility of controlling elite players like Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant. It’s a good thing this team can score with the best of them.PrognosisSuns coach Alvin Gentry tries to teach his team that defence is about heart and passion. Centre Amare Stoudemire objects to Gentry’s platitudes, and argues that defence is really about profuse sweating and hours of additional practice.
The BuzzThe Rockets represent a fading ideal in professional sports today: a team that buys into the idea of team. However, with Yao Ming out for the entire year and Tracy McGrady looking uncertain, the Rockets will have a tough time keeping pace in the West.PrognosisThe Rockets fire their trainer when forward Trevor Ariza complains of dizzy spells at the back of the team bus.
The Buzz KillI’ve heard the expression “youth is wasted on the young” before, but the Grizzlies really should’ve given it more thought. As one of the league’s youngest teams, Memphis felt it prudent to acquire some veteran players to round out its roster, which would have been fine if those players didn’t include oedipal malcontent Allen Iverson and man-child Zach Randolph. While Iverson is clearly in decline as evidenced by his poor play and crabbiness in Detroit last season, Randolph never had it together in the first place.PrognosisGrizzlies coaches are optimistic when Randolph and centre Marc Gasol box out teammates at the T.G.I Fridays buffet line. That optimism begins to wane when Randolph and Gasol fail to grasp the coaches’ brownie analogy and the ball later that night.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Buzz KillYou really have to like Oklahoma City’s chances, just not right now. While the Thunder has a superb trio of young players, the rest of the team is expansion grade. Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, and Russell Westbrook will resemble a miracle some nights, scoring most of the team’s points and producing more wins than previous seasons in the process.PrognosisForward Etan Thomas gathers the Thunder’s spare parts and leads a mutiny against the team’s coaching staff. The Thunder immediately cut Thomas and seven other players, and replace them with stand-ins from 300. Forced perspective is also used to enlarge these players.
Golden State Warriors
The Buzz KillThings were looking up for the Golden State three years ago, when they upset Dallas in the first round of the playoffs. Then Baron Davis left as a free agent, Monta Ellis injured himself in a moped accident, and the Warriors were back to square one. But why give GM Chris Mullen “the what for”? The Golden State has always been like a basketball purgatory, which is good if you’re Mikki Moore and astonished that you’re still playing—sort of.PrognosisThe Warriors crash and Mullen spends the next decade confusedly pondering what comes before square one.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Buzz KillI have serious doubts about this franchise that go well beyond its players and coaching staff. A 25-year history of blowout loses, incompetent draft choices, and Billy Crystal for a fan can mean only one thing: the Clippers aren’t a basketball team—they’re a money laundering operation.PrognosisBlake Griffin and Eric Gordon uncover teammate Baron Davis’ point-shaving scheme sometime between a rerun of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! and a 150-75 loss to the Warriors. NBA Commissioner David Stern hauls off the miserly Davis, who swears he would’ve gotten away with it, if it weren’t for those meddling kids!
The Buzz KillWatching the T-Wolves play rates up there with insufferable experiences like having a root canal, or stop-and-chat with some strange acquaintance from elementary school. If you’re looking for some positivity, here goes my best shot: T-Wolves rookie Jonny Flynn has the second-best ’30s gangster name in the NBA next to Rodney Stuckey.PrognosisMinnesotans call a local radio station to complain about profanity and win lunch with Wolves forward Brian Cardinal by mistake. The line goes dead immediately.
The Buzz KillThe Kings remind me of The Odyssey only much worse. One minute it’s Chris Webber playing in game seven of the Western finals, and then fate—or an indictment for lying to a grand jury—takes him far away for a long time. Fast-forward seven years and the Kingdom of ARCO is ruled by a bunch of D-leaguers, who spend their afternoons trying to get recognized at local shopping malls.PrognosisNeeding inspiration, the Kings rent all four Mighty Ducks movies, and learn that the biggest obstacle to winning is having no shot at all.
You win some, you lose some
Varsity Blues fans were not disappointed this weekend as the men’s basketball team delivered nothing but excitement in back-to-back nail-biters. The Laurier Golden Hawks and the Waterloo Warriors visited the Athletic Centre on Friday and Saturday, bringing the Blues a win and a loss respectively.Almost a year ago, U of T visited Laurier and defeated them 80-67, but this time around the Hawks were well prepared and battled the Blues into overtime. The narrow margin of the Blues’ 92-89 victory shows that it really could have been the other team’s game.The Blues started off strong and opened the scoring with a basket by Patrick Sewell in the first few seconds of play. However, the Hawks’ ability to work the inside offensively, and their tight defence let the Blues know early on that the scoreboard would balance out. Laurier was narrowly leading 25-24 at the end of the first quarter.The Hawks soared up 44-39 in the second quarter, although one of the game highlights was Blue Drazen Glisic’s fantastic break and crowd-pleasing lay-up just as the buzzer rang out halftime.It didn’t take long for the Blues to narrow the gap, and with just over a minute and a half left to go in the third quarter, Rob Paris sunk his fifth three-pointer of the evening, finally giving the home team the advantage. Laurier’s Kale Harrison, however, was not about to lose the lead, and tied the score 62-62 going into the final minutes of play.With only a few seconds left in the fourth quarter, the game was tied yet again, the scoreboard reading 79-79. Tensions were high and the crowd was on its feet as Nick Magalas went for the tie-breaking point. It bounced off the rim sending the game into overtime, when the Blues stepped it up a notch and won 92-89 causing the stands to erupt in ecstasy.“Both teams shot the ball really well [and it was] highly entertaining,” said head coach Mike Katz, “I’m glad the fans had an opportunity to witness a great game.”The Blues, however, did not walk away victorious for a second night in a row as the Waterloo Warriors narrowly overtook them 58-55.U of T may have won the tip off, but Waterloo racked up 12 consecutive points only five minutes into the game. The Blues quickly bounced back, and by the end of the first quarter they were only down 15-12. The struggle to dominate the scoreboard did not die down and going into halftime, the home team led by a single point at 24-23.Despite a valiant effort, the Blues narrowly lagged behind the Warriors 43-38 entering the final quarter.As the last 30 seconds ticked away on the clock, the Blues were only one basket behind the Warriors. In an attempt to take control, the home team incurred multiple fouls and put Waterloo on the line twice, tacking three points onto their lead. The Blues couldn’t catch up to the Warriors, who walked away with the win.Magalas, who was named Blues player of the game against the Warriors, said, “[I’m] obviously disappointed. We lost to them in preseason too and this was a big redemption game for us. We don’t match up well against these guys. We have a tough time with them, and I think they have a tough time with us. We always have a lot of low-scoring games when we play them, and tonight we were just on the other side of that low score.”Paris, who had been named the player of the game the night before, summed up the weekend perfectly, “Last night, I think we just fed off the energy of the crowd that was there and tonight we came up a bit flat. Maybe we were a little tired from that overtime game last night. […] Nonetheless, we’re the number six team in the country and we have to come out and play and be much better [than we were] tonight.”
Friday night fights
The Varsity Blues men’s hockey team defeated the Ottawa Gee-Gees 4-1 on Friday night at Varsity Arena.Only 55 seconds into the first period, Ontario University Athletics leading goal-scorer and Blues forward Byron Elliott landed in the penalty box, kicking off a game filled with penalty minutes for both teams.Shortly after successfully killing their first penalty, second-year Blues forward David Mooney etched the game’s first goal at 4:12 into the period, past Gee-Gees goaltender Riley Whitlock’s left blocker, off passes from Sean Fontyn and Rob Kay.Blues defenceman and assistant captain Eddie Snetsinger almost buried the lead on a Blues power play at 9:15 into the period, but his shot from the point nicked the goal post and the play continued.It wouldn’t be until 12:06 into the game, that Toronto’s Claudio Cowdrey whipped the eventual game-winner into the opposing team’s net.Both teams failed to take advantage of their respective power plays for the remainder of the period, and the Blues headed off the ice for the first intermission with a 2-0 lead.After a successful first period, the Blues were pleased with their play and confident going into the second period.“We played well on the offensive zone, we cycled the puck hard, we were hard on their defence, we took the puck to the net, and we also buried our chances,” said forward Rob Kay.The Blues ended up in penalty trouble at the beginning of the second as defence Mark Delost ended up in the penalty box at 5:18, only 27 seconds after teammate Matt Walters.Ottawa took advantage of their five-on-three power play as Gee-Gee’s forward Paul Forster buried a goal past Toronto goaltender Andrew Martin at 5:57.The Ottawa goal gave the opposing team an extra burst of energy and the Gee-Gees amped up the intensity, but it wouldn’t be long until the Blues regained their two-point lead.With Gee-Gee defenceman Scott Ashton in the penalty box, Blues forward Byron Elliott’s wrist-shot landed in the net off of passes from David Mooney and Eddie Snetsinger.With power play goals being a strong point of the Blues’ usual game tactics, it was surprising to have to wait well into the second period to see them capitalize.“It takes us a little bit to get going in the game. It helps when we get a couple power plays under our belt before we really get the confidence that we need on the power play to make good passes and make good plays to get the puck in the net,” said Rob Kay, who eventually scored his own power play goal two minutes into the third. Kay, who scored his own power play goal two minutes into the third off passes from Eddie Snetsinger and team captain Brendan Sherrard, ensuring a Blues victory.Martin made 24 saves during the game, and forward Byron Elliott was named player of the game.The Blues travel to Montreal on Sunday to face off against the unbeaten McGill Redmen for the first time since losing to them last year in the quarterfinals of the playoffs.When asked if the team was nervous for the upcoming game in Montreal, Kay responded, “We’re pretty confident. We’re just going to do what we usually do before a game and play them like any other team and go in there looking for a win. We’re going to be confident on the ice and do what we need to do to win the game. We wouldn’t look at it any differently than any other game.”The team remains in third place in the Ontario University Athletics East Division with their victory over the Gee-Gees.
When interviewing Tucker Max, be careful about dropping the S-bomb. To a writer assigned to deliver a story on Max, the “sexist” issue may seem a natural point of discussion. To a man who has been dealing with the adjective every day since the 2006 publication of his book I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, it is a topic of considerable weariness.“Define ‘sexism,’” he shoots back.I scramble for a dictionary. “See?” he says. “You’re throwing around a word you don’t know the meaning of!”I have found a definition: “Sexism: discriminatory or abusive behaviour towards members of the opposite sex.”“Okay,” he pauses for a second. “So, discriminatory behaviour, right? That means treating women differently simply because they are women. It’s not like I look at someone and say, ‘Okay, because you’re a woman, I’m going to…’ whatever, ‘xyz’ that I wouldn’t do with a man. No. I mean, like, the only people who focus on that shit in my writing are really kind of…whatever…” His voice trails off.“Look. Every person in my book takes shit. I give shit to guys just as much as I give it to girls, and probably no one ends up worse off than I do. And yet, it’s funny, no one ever says, ‘Why do you make fun of yourself so much?’ or ‘Why are you so hard on guys?’ For some reason they only focus on the aspects involving women. I really don’t know why. But sexism implies treating women differently. I don’t treat women any differently than I treat other men or myself.”I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, a raunchy collection of hook-ups gone wrong, features a disclaimer: “My name is Tucker Max, and I am an asshole.” This more or less establishes the persona point-blank. As described in his literary adventures, Tucker is an unapologetic narcissist with a raving id and a shortage of shame, eager to consume as much sex and booze as humanly possible. “But I do contribute to humanity in one very important way,” the disclaimer adds. “I share my adventures with the world.”Beginning as a blog, the book became a bestseller many times over, particularly on university campuses. Everyone’s favourite story seems to be “Tucker Tries Buttsex; Hilarity Does Not Ensue,” a chapter that filled me with the intense desire to buy Max a mop.Now there is a feature film of the same name, collecting many of his most famous anecdotes into a fictional story about Tucker (Matt Czuchry) taking his friends Drew (Jessie Bradford) and Dan (Geoff Stults) to a strip club to celebrate Dan’s impending marriage. Imagine The Hangover if you actually saw the bachelor party.The film is belatedly opening in Toronto theatres following an American theatrical run in September, where the film was met with modest box office revenues and some of the harshest reviews of the years (“The result just might be the most hypocritical feature in the history of film as well as the history of hypocrisy,” wrote Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune). Gamely taking interviews for the Canadian release, it is clear that Max is still smarting from the reception.I mention that Tucker’s big redemptive speech didn’t feel very redemptive. His voice lightens considerably. “So many critics totally fucking missed this,” he says. “I mean, they tried to criticize the movie because they’re like, ‘Oh, Tucker’s supposed to be irredeemable but then he fuckin’ totally changes at the end.’ And I’m like, ‘No, you idiots, did you not watch the fuckin’ movie?’ Because, like, he doesn’t! That’s the whole point.“This presented a lot of problems with the critics: so much of American film is so trite and so pat, and everything’s wrapped up in a little bow, and the moral message is very clear, right? But life doesn’t work like that, and we didn’t make a movie like that, because that’s bullshit. We made a movie where every character has faults—some are more good than bad, but the movie doesn’t take a moral position on anyone’s actions. It just shows them as they are. Sorta like The Wire, my favourite TV show of all time.”He continues: “A lot of people took this like, ‘Oh, they’re saying this [behaviour] is funny, this is good’—no! It’s not! Like, the movie doesn’t take a position on narcissism necessarily, and if it did, it would be that it’s bad. But a lot of people, because they’re so used to bland pabulum, they don’t get it. If you have a good, complicated movie, sometimes it’s tough to get across in the first showing. Sometimes people have to watch it a few times, like Fight Club, Office Space, whatever, and I think this movie kinda fell into that trap.”I was bothered by the scene where Tucker flirts with a group of female friends in a bar, holding an indignant one up to ridicule. I ask if it was fair to feel that the woman had every right to be angry. “Yeah, dude. No one’s right or wrong. I mean, in their exchange, sometimes she’s wrong, and sometimes he’s wrong, y’know? Like, there are definitely times when she’s kinda being a fucking cunt, and then there are other times when he crosses the line. The barometer of where the audience should be is where her friends are…I mean, dude, it’s supposed to be like real life, and it’s not always clear what’s right or wrong.”Instead of parlaying his book’s popularity into a big studio movie deal, Max went the route of independent financing and distribution. “I turned down $2 million for this script. There’s absolutely no way that had I filmed the script through a major studio they would have done anything but fuck this movie up. They would have cut all the balls off the comedy, they would have put Seth Rogen and Dane Cook in it, they would have changed Tucker to make him fall in love, and all this stupid shit that would have driven me up a fucking wall.”Several times during the interview Max refers to himself and his character as a narcissist, and I tell him that I’m surprised by his frankness. “I really am a narcissist, y’know? I’m not quite as bad as I was in the movie. The movie portrays me, like, 10 years ago, when I really, truly was, like, straight-up narcissist. Now I’ve kinda thought my way out of a lot of those issues, and I now maybe only have narcissistic traits, I’m not a full-on narcissist anymore.”Tucker Max will be appearing in-person at CINSSU’s advance screening of *I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell on Tuesday, Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. The film opens on Nov. 13.*
A splendid evening with the Prince of Wales and his Royal Military
The 2009 visit to Canada of Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall is a nationwide phenomenon. Well, at least to anyone who cares. The Royal Monarchy (which insists on capitalizing any noun within three feet of itself) has fallen under a lot of criticism in this country, not the least of which coming from our own Luke Savage in the previous issue of this paper. Even one of the photographers at this event was audibly complaining about how ironic it is to see Prince Charles, who has never seen combat, play the role of Colonel-in-Chief to two historic Canadian regiments, the Royal Regiment of Canada (formed in 1936, wearing red) and the Toronto Scottish Regiment (raised in 1915 as the “Mississauga Battalion,” wearing grey), which is also “Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother’s Own” (she liked them better). And so a crowd of admiring post-colonial onlookers watched an incredibly colonial ceremony: the Presentation of New Colours, a tradition that dates back to the 18th century. “Colours,” in this case, means not only the colours on the uniforms, but also the battle flags of each regiment, as well as a historical-spiritual combination of divine right and past accomplishment.The Royal Media Guide puts it best: “The Colour, then as now: was always saluted; carefully guarded; and had an escort to protect it. On the Regimental Colour are emblazoned the names of the battles in which the unit has distinguished itself. The Colour therefore reminds the soldiers of the past history and traditions of the Regiment…As such a symbol, the Colours are the most prized possession of the Regiment and are held in veneration.” Indeed.To say the least, it was interesting that this ceremony landed Charles, Camilla, and rows of military in 19th-century costume, right here at U of T. Varsity Stadium beamed as Anglican priests incanted and Charles gave a heartwarming speech about remembering the fallen. And despite the bitter cold, I think even the shivering men in kilts were given the kind of warmth and comfort that only such an archaic institution as the Monarchy can provide.
Beyond Bruce Lee
Now entering its 13th year, the Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival does not always attract the best of Asian and Asian-themed cinema. (The opening night gala in 2007 was Finishing the Game? Really?) However, it usually does provide a good chance to see some hidden independent gems, as well as Asian-produced box office hits unlikely to land a North American studio distribution deal. This year’s line-up is looking exciting, particularly because of the centrepiece presentation: Red Heroine (1929), the only surviving martial arts film of its period, will be screening Friday at the Royal with live musical accompaniment. In addition to the vintage kung foolery, here are three more major screenings.OVERHEARD
VVVThe last decade has been a disastrous one for the Hong Kong film industry. Once among the most vibrant and prolific film producers in the world, an annual output of 400-plus theatrical features has dwindled to around 50 thanks to a combination of rampant piracy and a shortage of new talent. Overheard, the festival’s opening night gala, comes from Alex Mak and Felix Chong, two of the makers of Infernal Affairs (2002), one of the few really worthwhile and globally successful Hong Kong films this decade. Overheard is one of the region’s most successful local productions this year, and it is indeed above average for contemporary Hong Kong commercial filmmaking. Ostensibly about three cops (Lau Ching-Wan, Louis Koo, and Daniel Wu) tasked to spy on a business firm suspected of insider trading and price fixing, Overheard isn’t so much a suspense thriller as a slick soap opera, with Koo tempted into corruption to support his dying son and Lau holding a secret affair with another cop’s estranged wife. The story walks the line of believability in its later scenes, and I’m not sure I’ll remember much of this a few months from now. Overheard is, however, serviceable entertainment. And as anyone who’s been following Hong Kong cinema over the last 10 years can tell you, there’s something to be said for serviceable.FISH STORY
VVVvA Japanese punk band primarily famous for having broken up “one year before the forming of The Sex Pistols” (as on-screen text tells us twice) record their last single, a Dadaist oddity called “Fish Story” based on a bit of bad translation from a paperback published just after the Second World War. A meteor races towards Earth 37 years later, and two men in a Tokyo record store spend their last hours attempting to decipher the meaning of the one-minute silence within the song. Amid these book-ending plot threads, director Yoshihiro Nakamura’s very deadpan comedy (based on a novel by Kotaro Isaka) shifts to several different subplots spanning four decades, the connection between them ambiguous until the final scene. Compulsively watchable for its dry tone and enigmatic plot, Fish Story is an entertaining testament to the importance of chance—until the ending explains how everything fits together, and the effect becomes somewhat anticlimactic. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the revelation, but I wish Nakamura had taken a cue from the film’s band and left a little more to the imagination.YANG YANG
VVVVYang Yang is the second feature-length film from director Cheng Yu-Chieh, whose Do Over received some acclaim on the festival circuit in 2006. The film follows its title character, a Eurasian teenager (Sadrine Pinna), as her mother marries Yang Yang’s track and field coach and her best friend Xiao-Ru becomes her stepsister. Shawn (Bryant Chang), Xiao-Ru’s boyfriend, takes an increasing interest in Yang Yang, and tensions rise between the two friends. Shot in claustrophobic close-ups with a handheld camera—a technique easier to take in small doses, admittedly—Yang Yang is still a strikingly intimate drama with naturalistic performances from its three leads. Director Cheng shows considerable skill with mood: he knows how to evoke his characters’ restlessness in visual terms.The Reel Asian Film Festival runs from Nov. 11 to 15. Locations include Innis Town Hall and Bloor Cinema. For more information, visit reelasian.com.