Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Nathan Douglas Interview - Filmed in Canada Ep.49

Filmmaker Nathan Douglas is back this week to talk about his films Son in the Barbershop and Cave of Sighs. Stick around to the end to hear Alexander and Nathan discuss Terrence Malick and his artistic trajectory since The New World. Please reach out Nathan or us if you are interested in watching his films.

Download this episode here. (52 MB)

Find out more about Nathan's films at the Stoneridge Films website.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Nirvanna the Band the Show the Recaps - S02E03 - The Boost

​This week’s episode of NTBTS, The Boost, could be compared against the best Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm or Silicon Valley episodes in terms of its complex plotting. While there are jokes, the comedy comes primarily from the absurd coincidence that the characters do not understand is controlling their lives and their suffering. NTBTS is also reminiscent of these classic comedies in that the show is becoming progressively darker as Matt stoops to lower moral ground in his megalomaniacal desire for both a show at the Rivoli and keeping Jay in Nirvanna the Band.

The episode centres around Jay competing in a speedrun tournament of Goldeneye 64 for the top prize of a show at the Rivoli. The steps it takes to get there, however, are anything but straightforward. Without getting into all the details, the cumulative effect is of Matt exploiting Jay’s video game prowess to such an extent that he gets hospitalized from a drug overdose. As I have been speculating throughout this season so far, it seems as though Matt and Jay’s relationship is reaching a breaking point. Ignoring the fact that they have never really been a band, I am concerned about the long term viability of Nirvanna the Band.

Out of the 11 episodes that have aired so far in Nirvanna the Band the Show, this week’s was by far the most nostalgic for me. I grew up playing Goldeneye 64 incessantly and, while I was never as good at the game as Jay, I definitely got a lot of enjoyment out of it. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air re-runs were also a major part of my childhood, to the point that I've actually been revisiting the show over the past several months. In fact, I just watched the episode where Carlton overdoses on speed, Just Say Yo, a few weeks ago. That coincidental viewing certainly prepared me for the thematic kinship demonstrated in this NTBTS installment.

The Fresh Prince reference adds some interesting complexity to the ending of The Boost, as it frames Matt as both Will and Jazz. In Just Say Yo, Will gives a speech at the end of the episode asking for the Banks family's forgiveness for his reprehensible behavior. The family relents, recognizing that Will is a victim of his upbringing and social environment and not an inherently bad person. However, when Matt attempts to give the same speech to Jay, he is thrown out of the hospital in the same manner Jazz regularly gets thrown out of the Banks household. This visual motif signals that Matt is, like Jazz, ultimately trying to manipulate others for his own gain and does not sincerely understand the ramifications of his actions. Just as Jazz and Will's relationship starts to sour in later seasons of Fresh Prince, so it seems Matt and Jay's relationship is deteriorating in NTBTS.

As with last week’s recap, here are my thoughts on the various interactions with real people throughout the episode, and how ‘real’ they are:

Did Matt buy speed from an actual drug dealer?

I think so. This woman’s cadence feels too natural to be an actor. Furthermore, there are no listed actor credits other than the person running the tournament.

Did Matt actually mistake a podcast named Rival1 for Rivoli?

As far as I can tell, there is no podcast about Goldeneye named Rival1. The host of the tournament is an online personality and streams on Twitch as RWhiteGoose.

Was the Goldeneye speedrun tournament real?

This is hard to discern. Clearly, if Rival1 does not exist then the poster for the event was fake. However, there could have been real posters for the event distributed separately from the one Matt finds in the store. Since there are no credited actors other than the host, the rest of the competitors were presumably competing for real. I find it hard to believe that no one would have noticed Matt cutting the cables of the winner's N64 so that Jay could win, but I suppose anything is possible.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Nirvanna the Band the Show the Recaps - S02E02, The Buddy

Note: My attempts in last week's recap to capture the essence of Nirvanna the Band the Show for those not currently watching will not be replicated in this, or future recaps. I will assume you are caught up to date on the show, as describing the show for the uninitiated is taking more effort than I care to expend.

My hypothesis was wrong. After last week’s episode, I speculated that NTBTS might shift focus away from Matt and Jay’s incessant desire to get a show at the Rivoli toward more of their pop culture-infused antics. Instead, The Buddy turned out to be one of the more Rivoli-focussed episodes of the series so far. They even got inside the Rivoli!

The episode opens with Matt watching Mrs. Doubtfire, taking inspiration from the film and making notes on a white board. When he puts all of the pieces together, he excitedly tells Jay about a new scheme. However, Jay is not interested in the new plan, preferring instead to attend a party on his own. The ensuing awkwardness reveals the cracks in their friendship. Matt's unrelenting desire to get a show at the Rivoli is at odds with Jay's interest in toning things down a bit and perhaps taking a different approach to their musical careers. This tension harkens back to The Buffet, from Season One, where Matt went to extreme lengths to dupe Jay into staying in the band. That scheme may have kept Jay's reservations at bay for a short while but he is once again questioning his commitment to Nirvanna the Band and getting a show at the Rivoli.

While movie references have always been peppered throughout the show, they have never before directly influenced the plot to the extent shown in this installment. From the physical comedy like going to the party in disguise and befriending Jay as “Tony” and the choking-on-shrimp restaurant set piece, to the stylistic choices such as the opening title sequence and score, this episode is all Doubtfire. In lesser hands, this could feel like a cheap attempt at cashing in on 90s nostalgia. Instead, I am consistently amazed at Matt and Jay’s ability to incorporate these dated movie plots into their own stories and pull them off while exploiting the interaction of unwitting bystanders.

The first season gave the impression Matt and Jay were more or less asexual. Both of these new episodes, however, have exposed their insecurities when it comes to bedroom activity. When Jay wolfs out, he is concerned no one will want to fuck him. Matt remarks, "Where are all the girls?" when Jay says he wants to get out and meet women at the party. Without passing judgment on sex work as a profession, Matt’s (read: Tony’s) desire to hire escorts is clearly driven by a juvenile impulse that does not appear fully developed. And Jay, upon realizing that Matt may ruin Tony’s plan, confesses that Tony said that Matt “can’t fuck.” The developing tension of Jay losing interest in Nirvanna the Band has my attention but I am also interested to see how Matt and Jay’s infantile sexual expression progresses over the season.

This episode also brought one of my favourite elements of the show back into focus, namely where the line is between fiction and reality. The following series of questions and answers are my attempt to try and find this line:

Did Matt and Jay crash a music industry party?

It appears all the partygoers were unaware of their being filmed since the two escorts in the flashbacks at the end of the episode are the only two credited actors in the episode. Whether or not Matt and Jay actually snuck in to the party is uncertain. My guess is they did not, given that Jay McCarrol is himself a musician in Toronto and feasibly could have gotten an invite to the party.

Did Matt sneak in to the kitchen at the Rivoli and dump cayenne pepper on Jay's pad thai?

Given the owners of the Rivoli are thanked at the end of the episode, my guess is the production got the owner's consent to film at the restaurant, and for Matt go in to the kitchen.

Did Matt secure the services of actual sex workers?

Yes and no. As mentioned above, both escorts were credited at the end of the episode. As such, they would have been prepped to appear and not unwittingly filmed. That said, at least one of the two women, Andrea Werhun, is a professional escort, as verified by this interview with Vice.

A few favourite jokes/moments/thoughts that did not fit into the paragraphs above:
  • Matt threatening Jay with a knife when he would not go along with his Rivoli plan
  • Jay erasing Matt’s plan on the whiteboard, only to stumble through remembering the exact same plan 
  • Jay thinking Tony is Steve Coogan 
  • Tony’s massive brick of a cell phone 
  • The reimagined flashbacks throughout the show are fantastic. In this case, Jay reflecting back on leaving Matt home alone and Matt’s dejected delivery of “Great” gave me a good chuckle 
  • Where does Matt get $700 to pay for the escorts plus whatever it cost to rent the limo? It is not established at any point that they have jobs, though I doubt the show will ever attempt the level of realism required to make this something viewers should care about. 
  • The opening title card says Chapter 11. Last season had 8 episodes, and The Book last week did not have a title card with a chapter number. This means they either skipped over at least one, but maybe two, episode numbers unintentionally, or there will be a flashback episode, or two, at some point this season.

Monday, 6 November 2017

The Red Violin - Filmed in Canada Ep.48

All is not sweetness and delicacy and harmony when William and Chris share their thoughts on The Red Violin. The award-winning 1998 movie was the art house darling in its day. Our podcasters think its time is up.

Download this episode here. (53 MB)

Find out more about this movie on its IMDb page: The Red Violin.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Nirvanna the Band the Show the Recaps - S02E01, The Book

Nirvana the Band the Show’s first season created a world in which pop culture references could lead to plot twists and revelations in the “real” lives of its main characters Matt and Jay. However, Matt and Jay’s film and tv obsessions were secondary to their primary goal: getting a show at the Rivoli venue on Queen Street in Toronto, despite having no original music. The first episode of the show’s second season flips this construct, and decides to focus on their cultural obsessions, leaving their Rivoli-based ambitions on the back burner.

The first clue comes in the opening shot of the Halloween-themed episode, The Book: instead of the title card featured at the beginning of every episode in season 1, listing the episode’s title and the subtitle, “Matt and Jay try to get a show at the Rivoli,” the episode starts suddenly, with Jay playing the Goosebumps theme on the piano, while a collection of R.L. Stine’s books are framed in the foreground of the shot. From here, the episode progresses with Matt going out to trick or treat on his own, while Jay stays home to clean up the house. In doing so, he discovers a Necronomiconish looking book in a floor grate. The book features a collection of movie themes, coded in Latin, that, when played, conjure the supernatural element from the film featuring said theme. The episode then progresses through a variety of hijinks inspired by Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Freaky Friday (1976), Jumanji, and An American Werewolf in London.

The Rivoli, other than being featured in the opening title sequence that is an homage to the classic Treehouse of Horror episodes of The Simpsons, is not mentioned until the very end of the episode, when, surprisingly, Matt appears to have convinced the owners of the venue to let them play. This success is then immediately undercut by Van Pelt, the villain from Jumanji, shooting Jay in broad daylight in a park in Toronto (trust me, if you haven't seen this show, it makes total sense).

The most exhilarating and entertaining aspects of the first season were the moments where I could not discern what was scripted and unscripted. When Matt and Jay travel to the Sundance film festival in The Big Time, did Matt really sneak their film in to the festival, and get a projectionist to show his film under false pretences? In The Blindside, did two spectators at a screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens actually pick a fight with Matt and Jay over ruining the experience of the movie? As I’ve watched and rewatched the episodes, I have been able to piece together most of what I believe to be real and fake, but there are still a handful of unknowns that keep me guessing. In The Book, those questions did not come up, mainly because the episode took place almost entirely in the house. The “on the street” interactions felt like more of an obligation this time around, and did not have the same electricity of others in the earlier episodes.

However, that is not to say the episode was not electric. The miniature world Jay travels in to, the Art Attack spoof, the werwolf transformations and other moments are all incredibly inventive, and move with the same energy and passion the show always has. But if this first episode of the new season is a signal of things to come, it seems the focus will become less on the real world concern of getting a show at the Rivoli and wrapping real people into the world of the show, and more on developing the fantastic, referential world of Matt and Jay.

I am most interested to see if the show takes on a more serialized structure this season, as I picked up on a few hints that seemed to suggest they might go in this direction. In particular, Matt’s insistence that he knew nothing about the book, cannot speak Latin, and that he was glad the chaos was all over moments before Jay turned into a werewolf, all came off as more than a bit suspicious. In fact, after watching the episode multiple times, I’m convinced that Matt created the book in an effort to turn Jay into a werewolf, and that this will have lasting implications on both characters going forward.

A few notes and favourite jokes:
  • The title sequence has some great homages to people and places of Toronto past, namely Sam the Record Man, Honest Ed’s, and former mayor Rob Ford, as well as classic Simpsons-inspired pun-based names and locations, like Spooky Dee’s, Zanziboo, Andrew Apphell, and Jay McScare-ol
  • I am persistently perplexed by how Matt says the word “piano”
  • Matt thinking Jay is actually inside of his head and that he has to avenge Jay’s death
  • Matt is secretly a 9/11 truther
  • Jay’s dejected remark of, “Who’s going to want to fuck me?”