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We Love the City Posts

Carnage: The joys of watching people being horrible

If you’re the sort of person who insists on likeable characters in entertainment, Carnage might be the most unpleasant film you’ve ever seen. The characters are dishonest, hypocritical, condescending, arrogant, snide, antagonistic, and insulting. They begin the film with a mask of pleasantries covering their inner ugliness, but by the time the credits roll everyone has been exposed as a tremendous asshole.

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Meek’s Cutoff’s: The wild, stoic, wandering west

Meek's Cutoff posterMeek’s Cutoff will sneak up on you.

It’s a slow, occasionally meandering film that doesn’t offer a lot of definitive plot points for the first 45 minutes or so. A group of settlers travelling west in 1845 takes a shortcut that gets them lost. Soon, getting to their destination has taken a back seat to finding water.

Director Kelly Reichardt follows the group as they trudge solemnly through the desert, slowed by seemingly mundane tasks: replacing a broken wagon axel, camping for the night, feeding their oxen teams. They’ve been led astray by their guide, Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood), who boasts of his many experiences but may have no idea where he is.

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The Debt: Heroes, lies, guilt, and Nazis

Poster for The Debt (2011)

The Debt begins by revealing one of its climactic scenes: A Nazi war criminal escapes from his Israeli captors, brutally assaulting one of them in the process. She recovers from the beating just in time to shoot him dead before he escapes into hiding forever.

The heroic scene is recounted 30 years after it happened by Rachel Singer (played by Helen Mirren in 1997, and Jessica Chastain in 1965), at the launch of a book detailing the Mossad mission to identify a suspected Nazi war criminal and return him to Israel to stand trial. But not all of the team is basking in heroic glory: One member commits suicide, suggesting that something happened on the mission that no one wants to talk about.

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How I Learned to Hate How I Met Your Mother

(Caution: This post contains spoilers for Symphony of Illumination, the seventh-season Christmas episode of How I Met Your Mother.)

How I Met Your Mother is unique among TV shows for its approach to narrative and storytelling. The entire show is conceptually a flashback, a father telling his children stories of his youth. That alone isn’t particularly unique – it’s basically The Wonder Years – but even within that framework, there are stories about stories.  Events are described by multiple characters, often tainted by perspective or memory, there are flashbacks within flashbacks, and more than one narrator has been revealed to be entirely unreliable.

It doesn’t always work. How I Met Your Mother is frequently lazy, with characters explaining events they should have little-to-no knowledge of. The central concept of the story of how Ted met the mother of his children fades in and out of effectiveness, depending on whether you think it’s cleverly subverting viewer expectations or merely dicking around and drawing out the series far longer than it needs to be.

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What is The Office about?

The Office had one of the best series finales I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, the series kept going.

In Goodbye Michael, the series bid farewell to Steve Carrell with a sweet and funny episode that not only summed up the character and his relationships with his co-workers, but in many ways closed the book on the entire series.

Alas, Goodbye Michael wasn’t even the last episode of the season, never mind the series. A search to find a new manager took up the last few episodes; when Season Eight began, Robert California, a steely and successful businessman, had not only taken the job, but got himself promoted to CEO, leaving Andy Bernard in charge of Dunder Mifflin Scranton.

Filling the shoes of Steve Carrell (and, by extension, Michael Scott) is a daunting prospect. Carrell largely defined The Office with his blundering, selfish, if well-intentioned boss. If you replace him with another Michael Scott, it looks unoriginal, but if you replace him with someone too different, you risk breaking the dynamics of the show. But while The Office may have been successful with the casting of the new boss amalgam – you could do a lot worse than basing your show around Ed Helms and James Spader – the dynamics and energy have been sorely lacking in the eighth season.

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Battlestar Galactica 1-10: Hand of God

Viper fighter - Battlestar GalacticaAfter the dregs of Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down, Galactica bounces back with one of my favourite episodes. This isn’t necessarily the best episode, but it may be the most fun.

Hand of God is an old-fashioned caper. The fleet finally finds a source of fuel, but it’s guarded by Cylons. They’re outnumbered and outgunned by the Cylon force, so they need to devise a cunning plan to win the day. It’s basically Oceans 11 in outer space.

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Battlestar Galactica 1-9: Tigh Me Up, Tigh Me Down

The Battlestar Galactica review has slowed down lately, thanks in part to a wedding and all its accompanying visitors and houseguests.

But it’s also because I knew this episode was coming. Tight Me Up, Tigh Me Down is by far the worst episode of the first season, and one of the worst episodes of the entire series. While Galactica is seldom perfect, this is one of the few episodes that is outright bad.

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Making Safe Cycling Laws Meaningful

With a provincial election in the fall, Ontario politicians are starting to line up their platforms. Yesterday, NDP leader Andrea Horwath unveiled her party’s environmental policies, and most of the attention seems to have gone to a proposal that would require drivers to give cyclists at least one meter when passing.

It’s not a new idea – 19 America states have a similar law. But while “passing at a safe distance” is the sort of thing most people can get behind, it’s hard to say how much the law is needed, or how effective it might be.

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Making Up Facts: Not just for mayors any more

Making Shit Up is the new standard for getting things done in Toronto. If you’ve got an issue, there’s no need for things like research or facts. You can just make up claims, and apparently many media outlets will print them, regardless of any actual connections to reality.

First, we have this letter to the editor clamoring for bicycle licensing:

My fine for causing an accident like that to Ms Nedobi would be steep, both monetary and point-wise. My insurance would increase and I would have to compensate the victim, yet the cyclists get away with minor conviction, if any.

This is particularly funny because The Star just ran an article a month ago about how careless driving penalties are lightweight whether you’re in a car or on a bike. Remember: The Highway Traffic Act applies equally to cars and bicycles in most cases.

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Battlestar Galactica 1-8: Flesh & Bone

Torture is a funny thing.

Most people would probably agree that torture is bad. But in fiction, as with other forms of violence, torture takes on a certain air of respectability. When the good guy has captured the bad guy, and the audience knows the bad guy is really the bad guy, is it really so awful to torture him a little bit? There’s no danger of ambiguity in Flesh & Bone: Leoben is a Cylon and everyone knows it, because Adama killed a Leoben model in the miniseries; it’s not like Starbuck is interrogating someone who’s merely suspected of being a Cylon.

And unlike even the scummiest of villains on 24, Leoben isn’t human. So really, what’s the harm in beating the crap out him while trying to find out where he hid a bomb? Is one Cylon life more valuable than hundreds or thousands of innocent humans? “Of course not”, you’d say.

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