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by Kevin M. Brettauer

14 Feb 2010

‘We cannot build our own future without helping others to build theirs’.
—Bill Clinton (1946-present), former US President

‘We don’t all crumble at the sight of some clown in a flag’.
—Thor, God of Thunder, Earth-1610

It’s exceedingly obvious that every single person who has ever lived—even
people with the most rudimentary knowledge of history or politics—has their own distinct definition of what a leader is or should (at least attempt) to be. To the recently-paroled Lynette ‘Squeaky’ Fromme, that leader was a mass-murdering cultist and self-proclaimed returned ‘Messiah’ named Charles Manson. To the advocates of recognition of universal Civil Rights in the United States through non-violent methods (which birthed, of course, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s X-Men), Martin Luther King, Jr. was the man to follow. To Britain’s frighteningly Orwellian incarnation of the Conservative Party in the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher was the be-all, end-all (Warren Ellis is famous for having noted ‘I grew up in the 80s in England: we’d wake up each morning and look out the window to see if the government had finally put Daleks on the streets’).
 
However, since the United States declared its independence in the late 18th Century, one sort of Western leader has captivated popular media, including comicbooks, in a way not even fairytale princes and Arthurian legends have been able to manage: the American President, a position that, in itself, is almost mythical in stature, if not in actual relevance.

by Bill Gibron

14 Feb 2010

It’s a question that still plagues modern theorists, a debate that rages on between devotees of outright government corruption and believers in a populace complicit in the crime. The reason Germany went Nazi cannot be encapsulated in a single film review introduction, nor does every supposition deserve support. But in his latest film, maverick Michael Haenke makes the strongest argument yet for how a seemingly civilized country went from refined to fascist in the matter of a couple of decades. Offering a monochrome illustration of the infectious nature of evil, The White Ribbon paints of portrait of the Fatherland before the wars, a nation at odds both with its own place in the world as well as the longstanding battles of tradition vs. the contemporary.

Episodic in nature and told from the aging perspective of small town school teacher (Christian Friedel) who witnesses a series of strange events in the years leading up to WWI, there are several intertwining stories here. The village of Eichwald is lorded over by The Baron and The Baroness, wealthy landowners who employ most of the locals. Needing a nanny for their new twins, they hire shy city girl Eva (Leonie Benesch) and our narrator is instantly smitten with the teenager. Their on-again, off-again courtship acts as a central theme throughout the film. Elsewhere, the town’s doctor (Rainer Bock) falls victim to a freak (and quite sinister) accident, while the Protestant Pastor (Burghart Klaußner) is forced to discipline two of his more “unruly” children. Soon, a shocking crime with sexual overtones is committed. It affects everyone in different ways, including the kids, who seem strangely responsible for the sadistic and brutal acts.

by Bill Gibron

13 Feb 2010

It was the surprised gasp heard round the world. As Oscar nominations were being handed out a few weeks ago, the Animated Film category got a resounding studio slap in the face when Ireland’s The Secret of Kells walked away with one of the five coveted slots. No Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. No Astro Boy or Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. Instead, amongst the usual suspects from Disney and Pixar, along with the equally wonderful work of Coraline and The Fantastic Mr. Fox was this little known, little seen effort focusing on one of the Emerald Isle’s greatest national treasures and long dead art of book illumination. Don’t think this is a case of Academy voters patronizing some independent artists in their attempt to main creatively relevant within a domain dominated by the House of Mouse, however. In this case, The Secret of Kells deserves all the accolades - and potential awards - it’s receiving.

We meet little Brendan (Evan McGuire), living in a walled village in 9th century Ireland. His uncle is a monk, desperate to keep the town safe from advancing Vikings. These “dark ones” are ravaging Europe, and Abbot Cellach (Brendan Gleeson) believes his strategy (building a massive stone barrier) will save them all. One day, a famous illuminator named Brother Aidan (Mick Lally) comes to Kells, seeking refuge from the oncoming threat. He befriends Brendan and promises to teach him the ways of calligraphy that are used in the celebrated tome he is charged with protecting. Hoping to find a special color of green in the nearby forest, Brendan disobeys his uncle and heads out into the woods. There he meets a nymph, Aisling (Christen Mooney), who teaches him the way of nature. But when a special glass gem is needed to complete the task, Brendan is forced to confront the evil forces roaming the wilderness.

by Dave MacIntyre

13 Feb 2010

Multiple online music forums were abuzz when it was announced that The Magnetic Fields would be playing at The Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto.  A gorgeous venue that provides comfortable seats and outstanding sound quality to its audience, it was no coincidence that the band performed the entire show seated and playing in an almost orchestral style.

by Crispin Kott

13 Feb 2010

During last night’s interminably long opening ceremonies of the Vancouver Olympics, the b-list remake of a song that wasn’t terribly good 25 years ago received its official premiere. For those of us who ordinarily derive pleasure from being sarcastic and pseudo-witty about popular culture, the group assembled to perform this song is almost too good to be true. But when the cause is so seemingly worthy, is it still okay to chortle when Celine Dion hyper-emotes? Is it wrong for me to titter when even Jamie Foxx doesn’t look like he can believe how earnest he’s trying to appear in his introduction? Does Justin Bieber really sound like that? Vince Vaughn? Seriously? Haven’t the people of Haiti suffered enough?

This is no knock on the cause, which has seen an outpouring of support for a country that even before being leveled by a massive earthquake last month was in dire conditions. But haven’t everyday people like you and me already made up our minds about donating money/goods/time by this point? Does the ghost of Michael Jackson really have any pull in this matter?

Is it gauche to criticize the song itself for being underwritten and overstuffed given its intended purpose both then and now was to garner humanitarian support? Can we still blame Bob Geldof for any of this?

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