Thursday, December 10, 2009

Winter Tired

Last night, as I was trying frantically to right myself before ultimately sprawling off my bike and into some particularly hand-shredding road ice, I thought to myself, "Maybe I shouldn't bike through the winter." I biked last winter, to the consternation of my parents, who were convinced I was going to die, and occasionally myself, when I was slushed by a Mac truck going around Spadina Crescent.

In fact, I went on to think as my lobster-red hands grasped at a frozen-solid bike frame in a lengthy attempt to pick myself up off the frozen street, "Maybe I shouldn't leave the house until Victoria Day, a scant six months away, and the next time I can look forward to sweating in public."

I am no fan of the winter. Everyone in Toronto is marvelling at the lack of snow this year; we've had one piddly little drop that went hand-in-hand with the aforementioned iciness/hand pain. All my "extreme" friends are whining about how this is going to really mess with the ski season, while all my reasonable friends are whining that this is really going to mess with their regimen of sledding, drinking hot chocolate, and cuddling with their partners. I am more down with the idea of lying on the beach, drinking icy-cold diet colas, and holding hands. I'm not a winter gal.

"But surely there are good things about winter!" I can hear you exclaiming. There are: those things include Toblerone bars and...I've actually been staring at the computer for the past five minutes, trying to suss out a second awesome thing about wintertime. Fail. Sigh.

I'm not a skier; maybe if I was , I'd be more into the whole season. But, I'm a cyclist. Christmas bums me out (too much anticipation, which always spoils the pay-off), the weather is a total drag, my boots get about five times heavier, and patio season is but a distant memory. With other seasons, I can convince myself that it's not such a drag, that 40 degree weather is fun, that I love rain, that the sounds of dead leaves rattling against my third-floor window isn't a creepshow. But winter is 100% dreaded at my house. Nothing delicious is in season, it's cold, and hauling myself around the city is purely annoying.

America gets to have it both ways: they have both Alaska, which is has places named Skagway (hilarious!) and is cold; they also have Hawai'i, which have places named Honolulu (hard to spell!) and is hot as hell. Canada didn't think things through. Oh, sure, we have the North Pole - that's ours, right? - but where is our tropical getaway? If Trudeau was half the genius people thought he was, he would have annexed Cuba and I would be a happier girl today.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Fantastic Misters

Over at the Fug Nation HQ, the girls have been dilligently monitoring George Clooney's progress from smirking, terrible Batman to fox. How apropos that the Cloons, who is known by the people who know these things, as a foxy kind of guy, is now playing a real fox. Even better, he's doing it in a Wes Anderson-directed adaptation of Roald Dahl's book The Fantastic Mr. Fox, thus bringing together three of my favourite pop-culture creating men. Clooney, Anderson, Dahl: The CAD! Wait, that sounds weird. We'll figure out their sassy acronym later.

Let's take them one at a time, shall we? Clooney, being the biggest star for the older-than-twelve set (Dahl being the biggest star in the under-twelve set, of course), used to annoy the living daylights out of me. Remember when ER was huge and George Clooney was starring in those dippy romantic comedies that aren't really all that funny? Yeah, that was annoying, wasn't it? Right around the time of Three Kings, though, something switched. El Clooneria has made an interesting late-career choice to go funny and political, and that movie was the first flick of his that won me over. Since then, he's gone on to star in several Coen productions - generally a win, in my books - and usually plays disgruntled soldiers, bank robbers, or other unsavories. In fact, looking over Clooney's resume since the mid-'90s, there have been few straight shooters; he loves a loopy morality. Maybe playing Batman did something to him after all.

Wes Anderson can also be sort of a hit-or-miss enterprise. His films are generally precious, sometimes working and sometimes not so much. I loved The Royal Tenenbaums, because it's required by law for people under thirty to love it and identify fiercely with one or more of it's characters. (I'm a Margot, thanks for asking, although I aspire to one day be an Etheline.) Same with Rushmore, which perfectly captured the insecurities and arrogance of high school love. Some of Anderson's later works have been...uneven, especially the oddly paced and highly affected Life Aquatic, which wasn't all that good. But I do admire his aesthetic sense, because everything onscreen seems to have a story. His liveliest movies are practically three-dimensional; his flimsiest can barely muster one.

And then we have Roald Dahl. I'll be honest - those illustrations used to scare the crap out of me. Especially those for The Witches, which I read on vacation (in a cottage with strange closets) and which terrified me. His books balance whimsy with sheer pant-shitting scariness, often with bright children fighting off awful adults. I read a piece in the Globe recently about how Dahl wooed children's imaginations by writing about their suspicions that adults are nothing more than overgrown, beastly children, more like than not imbued with power and strength they use only for evil. As a current adult, it's not a flattering portrait, but hey - he called 'em like he see'd 'em. The best adults in Dahl's worlds are crafty, caring and educational: they teach their young charges that the world is going to try to mess with them, and the best ways to mess with the world right back.

So. To combine these three incandescent people into one project, the recently-released Fantastic Mr. Fox, which is plus animation and a lovely warm colour scheme, and which is a children's movie, which I also enjoy (yeah, I know), and those whole thing just seems ripe with the fruits of potential amazingness. I'm not going to oversell it to myself - I learned my lesson with the heartbreakingly mediocre Life Aquatic, thanks - but I do want to see it. Movies that inspire, books that move mountains, children who grow up to be George's a serious case of the warm 'n' fuzzies over here.