Friday, June 30, 2006

Everything I Love: The Kingsway Theatre

"The posterboards in front of the picture show were naked. It seemed to Sonny it would have been better to have left some posters up, even the posters to The Kid from Texas." -The Last Picture Show
Tonight the lights on the Kingsway Theatre's marquee go out for the final time. An Etobicoke institution since 1939, my dad spent many a Saturday afternoon watching a Captain Midnight short and a Roy Rogers western in this place. A 1950s matinee at the Kingsway was a circus, complete with popcorn boxes flattened into flying saucers and hurled at ushers from the balcony. My aunt and the other grade nine girls from Etobicoke Collegiate wailed through six back-to-back showings of A Hard Days Night in 1964.

The old theatre is only a shadow of its former self, the rowdy ten year-olds and necking teenagers replaced by an audience that is decidedly sedate, solitary, and strange. Still, its plush upholsted seats are comfortable in spite of their teetering, its concessions are cheap and bad for you, and the on-screen entertainment is augmented by the oddball who migrates from seat to seat before inevitably settling too close for comfort. I've seen some great movies there - Sunshine State, Spellbound, Y Tu Mama Tambien - as well as classics, like Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Godfather, I'd missed the first time through.

What I liked most about the Kingsway, and doubtless sealed its fate, was the space to stretch out and relax. Attending multiplexes between Tuesday and Sunday has become almost intolerable. Delusional latecomers spend an eternity stumbling in the dark while they look for seats and multi-pierced teenagers field phone calls mid-film while they tap the soundtrack into your chair. The Kingsway was one of the few remaining places to enjoy a film without risking a coronary.

Tonight the Kingsway is turning back the clock with $1 admission to see Raiders and Casablanca. If I can get anywhere near the box office, I'll sit through one last show.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Reward Small Wins... Phooey!

"People are driving the streets with children hanging out the windows or sitting on the hoods of their cars... They are behaving, as befitting the tourney's univeralistic claims, like the world's biggest idiots." -John Barber, The Globe and Mail.

More troubling than these incidents, is a general chickens-before-they-hatch celebratory trend, illustrated recently by Portuguese nationalists frothing onto Dupont Street to bask in a round robin victory over first-time World Cup qualifier Angola (as though colonizing the place wasn’t insult enough). For this jubilant satisfaction with small wins, I place the blame squarely at the feet of Dr. Spock and The Toronto Maple Leafs. Upon advancing to the second round of the playoffs, Leaf fans pour onto Yonge Street – blaring horns, hoisting homemade Stanley Cups, and performing minivan burnouts – in a league with more than half its teams in the postseason. So let’s all relax until we have something in which to genuinely rejoice – like the return to glory of the Buffalo Bills under their experienced, if geriatric, new leadership. In the meantime, I’ll turn up the Brooks & Dunn to drown out the excitable Europeans.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Saturday Night Thunder

On Saturday night the Niagara Escarpment shudders under the roar of grass roots stock car racing on Flamboro Speedway 's one third of a mile oval. Back yard racers from across the Golden Horseshoe drive the wheels off their hobbies for the bragging rights that only a plastic trophy and mention on the local country music station can bring.

The Webber and I stretched it out down the backroads of the old Wentworth County this weekend for an evening of racing and weren't disappointed by either the Flamburgers or the competition. Paul Howse's #8 sanded Scott Lyons' bumper to the chrome from green to checkers, but the 5-time late model champ would not be overtaken, conducting a car control clinic for 25 laps despite the #8's relentless bump-and-run efforts off turn four. By the end of the night, the fried onions were free and the full qualifying line-up of Thunder Cars was inverted, forcing the fastest cars to fight traffic for a shot at the win. Bobbing and weaving for fifteen laps, Randy Rusnell's #72 hauled Paul McIlroy in the #4 to the front, but had few laps remaining to work on Cambridge's Jamie Cox. Under the white flag, the #72 tried the high side on Cox's #44, but could gain no more than a quarter panel in turn one. Cox and Rusnell screamed nose-to-tail down the backstretch with McIlroy only a car length behind. Rusnell took one more shot at the high line coming off turn four, but after twenty laps of near-flawless piloting, the #72 got loose, allowing defending champ McIlroy to steal the second spot on the inside while Cox sprinted to his first win of 2006.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Review: Thank You For Smoking

"I don't have an MD or a law degree. I have a BA in kicking ass and taking names" - Nick Naylor in Thank You for Smoking

In Thank You For Smoking, Aaron Eckhart's character walks a tightrope as the ace lobbyist for Big Tobacco while trying to set a good example for his son. This movie was released earlier in the year, but I caught the second release with the Kingsway Theatre fading to black. The movie was cleverly written with nimble dialogue and William H. Macy is stellar as a Jesus-boot-wearing, tweed-jacketed, Dalton McGuinty-like weenie Senator from Vermont. Had I paid more than $6, however, or had the movie been longer than 90 minutes, I may have snuck out to catch the second half of Studio 2. Others have loved this one, but on a rent/don't rent scale, I give it a "don't rent" unless you're short on time or you borrow your movies fom the library.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Congrats, Hammer

A belated congratulations to my good buddy, The Roadhammer, who was married last month in the Caribbean. The new Mr. & Mrs. Hammer were the toast of family and friends in his old stomping grounds of Southwestern Ontario this weekend. All the best to both of you.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Review: The Sentinel

I’m trying to see as many movies at the Kingsway Theatre before it's shuttered next Friday. As part of this campaign, I took in the Sentinel last week, a movie that's been widely panned. It’s probably too late for you to see this one in theatre, but you may face a dilemma at Blockbuster some day. The story is simple: a plot to assassinate the President is aided by a mole within his Secret Service detail. The Michael Douglas character, who is having an affair with the First Lady, quickly becomes the target of lead investigator Kiefer Sutherland. I’ve read that this is essentially the movie version of 24. I’ve never watched 24, so it didn’t bother me in the least. The movie is fast and made all the more fun by a fantastic shootout filmed in the food court at Sherway Gardens (pictured), Canada’s best shopping mall, in which the bad guy makes a getaway through Sporting Life. I knew he would, Sherway is just too conveniently laid out. On a rent/don’t rent scale, I give it a “rent”.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Maybe it was that Skydome hot dog...

Update: Despite the heartbreaking disappointment of his blond European nurse, the Webber was given a clean bill of health and cut loose Thursday morning. For having once survived meningitis and now kept his appendix, our friend will be featured in a forthcoming issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

My good friend, the Webber, is laid up in the hospital this week awaiting the removal of a gratuitous appendage. While we hope that he'll recover in time for this weekend's honky tonk hijinx, it's possible that he may be convalescing in a bean bag chair, eating Cheetos and watching digital TV. A group of us are collecting money to buy him some medicinal beverages or even a new appendix. Get well soon, buddy, we're all thinking about you.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

All the Roadrunning

Thunder and lightening threatened all day, the subway shut down, and no one else could join me, but I managed to take in the North American launch of Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris’ All the Roadrunning Tour. After a sluggish start on Right Now, where Knopfler was barely audible, the hillbilly queen's raspy voice threaded through Michelangelo and Knopfler’s microphone was turned on in time for I Dug Up a Diamond, where he broke free with his signature guitar work. The show eventually found its stride on Done with Bonaparte where Knopfler and Richard Bennett’s dueling guitars lit a fire under the placid crowd.

Judging by their reaction to Speedway at Nazareth and Romeo and Juliet, these were Knopfler fans, few likely having bought or downloaded the masterpiece album, All the Roadrunning. Not an Emmylou Harris or Gram Parsons fan among them, they may have been disappointed in the show’s quiet contrast to last year’s Shangri-La Tour, but this is a city in need of a little slide guitar and mandolin, which last night summoned both the sights and smells of Birmingham, Alabama on Harris’ Red Dirt Girl.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Argos Home Opener

The folding of my home town's football team (for the second time) has forced me to re-evaluate my relationship with the Canadian Football League. Though it pains me, I will try to support the Toronto Argonauts' 2006 campaign. This seemed sensible since I can make it to most home games, I've been a Damon Allen fan since I was a kid, and I can continue to loathe Hamilton. Well, Damon was knocked out during the first series and at times I was actually cheering for the Ti-Cats. At least it was easy to get tickets.

Yesterday's opener made for a fine afternoon with the roof open, lukewarm beer, and enough empty seats to chase the shade across the nosebleeds. I'll offer only one observation about the experience. Someone in the Argos' marketing department has determined that the patrons don't really like football and have the attention span of gnats. To keep them from walking out after the first quarter, they are bombarded with music, cheerleaders in the stands, games at every commercial break, and high school-calibre skits on the Jumbotron. The sensory overload is so great that you actually miss the home team scoring touchdowns. Some advice to the front office: the 15,000 people who gave up their Saturday in June to sit in the Skydome are probably die-hards.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

(Possibly) The Start of Something Beautiful

This is my first free weekend since I left for China and, with work dragging through the week, I set out today to make the most of it. In my world, an easy way to make the most of anything is to visit the Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in Vaughn. I've been planning for some time to learn fly fishing and I took the first step by acquiring a 9-foot 6-weight rod and reel combo. To the satisfaction of the family comptroller, this package was less than half the price of my last acquisition - a $400 catfishing outfit. I'll try and keep track of my progress in this hobby over the summer. It should be hilarious.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Keepin' It Strait

George Strait and the Ace in the Hole Band sauntered through the Big Smoke last night in their characteristically understated manner and treated a few of us at the Molson Amphitheatre to an evening of down-home country music and western swing. This was my third Strait concert, but the first in a venue of less than 50,000. Several years ago, Alan Jackson took a shot at Garth Brooks' circus-like show in emphasizing that he (Jackson) just sings, without ropes or pyrotechnics. George Strait, with no set, few lights, and minimal conversation, makes Alan Jackson look like KISS. Strait loaded his set with hits starting with Unwound, through Heartland, to The Seashores of Old Mexico, with a swinging detour at Milk Cow Blues. Fiddler Gene Elders has never disappointed me on Amarillo By Morning. Toronto is the antithesis of a George Strait song and it was refreshing to listen to stories about the decency and tranquility of south Texas under a startlingly pink Lake Ontario sunset.