The Best Video Store I've Ever Been To

Video Store?

"Brian," you might be saying, "you're at the leading... no, BLEEDING edge of technologies and the internets, why are you going to a video store? That's so pre-2007." Well, first of all, thanks for the recognition. Secondly, I happen to like to rent the odd video and I especially love independent video stores.

In Calgary, we have Bird Dog - which is awesome & you should go there if you are from Calgary and haven't been. While in Austin, I went to I Luv Video. It was great. A few things that made it so great:
  • Giant mural on the back wall incorporating images from everything from Star Wars to Oldboy.
  • Canada was a foreign films section.
  • The wall of shame, which names the people who didn't return their videos.
  • My favorite: comments from the staff taped on the covers of notable videos.

(for the record, we rented 'Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job, Season 3' and 'Broken Embraces'... but only saw the former)

There isn't much room for video stores in today's day & age. Big name stores in Canada (and I'm sure elsewhere) have been creating a lot of available retail space recently. The shops that survive are going to have to make sure they carve out a niche for themselves if they will survive for the next 10 years. Bird Dog & I Luv Video have done a good job of that so far - it is enjoyable to go to those places. They have created a brand for themselves that has allowed them to thrive when the big players are suffering big time.

They are a few years behind what the record shops have been experienced at the hands of the internet. In the music world, the likes of Virgin, Tower and HMV are all but extinct. Megatunes, a Calgary & Edmonton institution, is now also closing up shop. I hope that in the next few years that Bird Dog and I Luv Video will be able to adapt & avoid the fate of their record store counterparts.

Just gonna say it... I think he's wearing heels (not that there's anything wrong with that)

So I was on the old StumbleUpon earlier, and came across this article about the opening of Knight and Day in Seville, Spain (a city which I visited earlier this year and loved - awesome place). Anyway, it struck me that Tom Cruise was looking very tall next to his wife (or at least equally tall). I remember seeing her tower over him... then I saw his shoes.

Either he just experienced a tremendous growth spurt and simultaneous horrific case of claw foot, or he's wearing some cleverly disguised heels. Nicely played Cruise.

(submitted for evidence are previous photos of the happy couple)

Cool short film about World of Warcraft (for real)

Here's a confession for those that don't already know - I played World of Warcraft. A fair bit for a while.

I've happily separated myself from the game for a couple of years now, and even when I did play I understood that there were a lot more productive things that I could do with my time.

This is a beautifully shot short film that shows people who play World of Warcraft in their daily lives, except that they are represented by their game characters. The players talk about their 'avatars' and explain why they play the game. It's a pretty neutral look at those who play the game, but depending on your thoughts on WoW it could probably be seen as either inspiring or sad. Either way, it is oddly compelling.

Yup... definitely doomed.

So with all the civil war, oil spills and financial crises happening on Planet Earth these days, it is especially unnerving to be reading about researchers creating a completely new organism with a man-made synthetic cell.

The man behind it all defends up the discovery with this:

"I think they're going to potentially create a new industrial revolution," he said.

"If we can really get cells to do the production that we want, they could help wean us off oil and reverse some of the damage to the environment by capturing carbon dioxide."

Dr Venter and his colleagues are already collaborating with pharmaceutical and fuel companies to design and develop chromosomes for bacteria that would produce useful fuels and new vaccines.

Awesome. Probably what we need to do with brand new, man-made bacteria is put it in the hands of oil & gas companies and drug companies. Totally logical, as they are constantly proving that they're equipped to handle this kind of thing - BP and Halliburton especially - give it to them first. Perhaps they can give it to some CEOs on Wall Street, some Tea Partiers, the EU, Arizona, Homeland Security, Facebook, defense contractors, and politicians all over the world as well and see what they can do with it. Maybe Texas and their police can spray everyone with it while they spy on its citizens with their unmanned drones. Asshats.

I think one of the detractors got it right:

Dr Helen Wallace from Genewatch UK, an organisation that monitors developments in genetic technologies, told BBC News that synthetic bacteria could be dangerous.

"If you release new organisms into the environment, you can do more harm than good," she said.

"By releasing them into areas of pollution, [with the aim of cleaning it up], you're actually releasing a new kind of pollution.

"We don't know how these organisms will behave in the environment."

 I suppose it is appropriate that we're in zombie awareness month, as we can use I Am Legend as a cautionary tale (btw - if you haven't seen the Director's Cut alternate ending for I Am Legend, watch it here)

Music Bitches!

Considering the busy first week, I've actually done a good job of pacing myself so far. I've hung out with a bunch of married guys for the most part, so aside from the obligatory trip to the peelers which may or may not include a hillbilly knife fight, the wildest it has gotten is sitting around a bar drinking heavily and discussing ubiquitous platforms every second night and recuperating and discussing twitter backchannels on the in-betweens. Although there were a somewhat surprising number of very attractive women at SXSWi (i = interactive), nobody else in the group was single or in to networking in general, so most of the people that I met in the evening festivities were associates of the people I was with. That was fine though, as I met a bunch of great people. 

(A side note on the attractive women... I figured out later it is likely due to the rise in social media and the need for communications people in the online space - probably going to be your hot chick over the socially awkward uber-nerd)

So Tuesday is considered an "off-day" as it is the last day of the Interactive conference and the film panels (although films from the film festival portion of SXSW will continue to be shown until Sat). Scott and I started out slowly, and had pretty much taken it easy the night before - we checked out the Microsoft/Carsonified party but left around midnight still fairly sober. We went to a couple of great panels - one on dashboard design and the other on Canvas (the JS/HTML5 library that may replace Flash). Both panels were applicable to Game Plan Systems and provided some valuable insights. Interesting that a guy from the Canvas panel was heavily promoting flot, a Canvas graph-plotting library (graphs being integral to dashboard design).

Then we went to check out our first film - The People vs. George Lucas. If you are a Star Wars fan or fascinated with either nerdery or sub-culture dynamics then it is a great film. I like all three, so I found it to be highly enjoyable.

So when we got out of the movie and it was still raining fairly heavily and most of the people with Interactive had left it seemed like it would be an early night. Today (Wednesday) the music kicks off with the Levi's party at Fader Fort, which we found out is one of the parties to go to... there is always a surprise guest and this year the rumors to fill that slot include Metric, MGMT, Gorillaz, and Black Eyed Peas. I was anticipating a night of rest and preparation.

The evening took a somewhat surprising turn.

First I should explain that our hotel is a decent ways from the action, so we have a shuttle service that takes us to, and from, our hotel. It's a massive pain in the ass, but the shuttle drivers are usually great so it's often a pleasant ride.

Last night, after a nice steak dinner at the hotel, we got ready to head back downtown to meet up with some departing friends for a drink or two. Enter Robert Johnson - the extremely overtly gay shuttle driver. We were waiting for the shuttle with James, our new friend from Great Britain, and when the shuttle came rushing in to the hotel with 4 excited honks of the horn James' face immediately dropped. "Oh fuck", he says. Turns out that Robert Johnson had taken a liking to our young skinny friend on a previous trip. Robert jumped out of the shuttle and immediately latches on to James - "Hey honey!". Scott and I immediately hopped in to the back seat so James would have to sit up front - which he did with dread. Then a group of about 6 women came in to the cab and the energy level picked up.

The girls loved Robert and totally egged him on. With Give Me Your Love by Mariah Carey blaring in the background, Robert proclaimed "Keep your hands off the boys bitches they're mine!" - and we were on our way downtown. The 10 minute shuttle ride set the tone for the evening. Everything that came out of Robert's mouth was highly offensive and punctuated with "Bitches!", pretty hilarious stuff.

We ended up going to a Media Temple party for the closing of the interactive conference. I use MT for the Calgary Film Festival web site so was happy to drink their free beverages. They also had a great lineup of bands, the headliner was We Are Scientists (one of the bands I am currently enjoying and on my list of bands to see here). A friend of mine from Calgary, Mikael, was about to take off but We Are Scientists was great so he decided to stick around. Their music was really good, but they had a really good stage presence and were highly entertaining. The bass player (who was talented at his craft) was also somewhat of a comedian, and the lead singer seemed to find him particularly hilarious. The banter between songs was probably the best part of the show, and I managed to catch the last exchange of the evening - not their best bit, but you get the idea. Video above.

After the set, we left the bar. Mikael was extremely drunk but flying home in the early morning so went back to the hotel, and Scott had previously left so I ended up hanging out with this Australian girl I met while leaving the bar. She was a social media expert starting her travels the US for 3-4 months. She is going to San Francisco after SXSW and is basically starting what I just finished with NY/Spain, I am jealous. Anyways - we ended up bar hopping along the Austin strip... a lot different experience than hanging out with a bunch of married dudes.

Was a fun night and a great kick-off to the music festival. I think it will be substantially different than the interactive portion of the festival. Now that my hangover has subsided I must get myself to the Fader Fort party and get my St. Patrick's Day on.

5 for 7

Not horrible. I guess I should've called Mo'Nique on the merits of her Globe win... which I was not aware of.

I went out and didn't watch the actual event. I'm curious to how Baldwin and Martin did, but I will catch the highlights later.

My Oscar Picks

I hate award shows in general and I really don’t care about the Oscars. However, I love movies and this year had a pretty good crop. I saw a fair number that were in the Director and Best Picture categories, so I thought I’d throw down my predictions.

Best Picture

What I didn’t see: The Blind Side; An Education; Precious

What I want to win:
District 9. Was the surprise movie of the year for me and hasn’t received nearly enough attention, which is too bad. Hopefully it wins for Adapted Screenplay.

What I think will win: The Hurt Locker. Despite the controversy that surrounds it (the campaigning producer and knocks on its accuracy), it’s probably the second best film I’ve seen this year.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to me if Avatar or A Serious Man won, but either selection would make me kind of angry. A Serious Man is too much of an inside joke – those that get the references love the movie. I’ve met a ton of people in NY that think it’s great. I was bored with it though, and I nearly lost some friends who I convinced to come with me to see it (they hated it). Avatar, for all it’s innovation and entertainment value, is not Oscar-worthy. It’s the blockbuster to beat all blockbusters, but that’s about it. The plotline, character development and acting just are not there – it can take home all of the cinematography, art direction, sound, etc awards it likes and deserve all of them, but Best Picture this movie is not.

Best Director

What I didn’t see: Precious (Lee Daniels)

Who I want to win: Jason Reitman for Up in the Air. It was well written and supported by solid acting, but it was the direction that made kind of a boring idea for a story highly engaging.

Who I think will win: James Cameron. I think that he will take it for all the vision and innovation required to pull off Avatar. Will also be a good split of the major awards with his ex-wife, Bigelow.

Best Animated Feature

What I didn’t see: Princess & the Frog; The Secret of Kells

What I want to win: Fantastic Mr. Fox – this film probably gives Wes Anderson his best chance at taking home an Oscar. Still a bit of a long shot.

Who I think will win: Up. Always a safe bet with Pixar/Disney, plus it was the only animation nominated for a Best Picture.

Best Actor

What I didn’t see: Invictus (Morgan Freeman); Crazy Heart (Jeff Bridges); A Single Man (Colin Firth)

Who I want to win: Sam Rockwell in Moon, or Sharlto Copley from District 9 (looking forward to seeing him as Murdock in the upcoming A-Team movie). Too bad neither were nominated.

Who I think will win: Jeff Bridges seems like he needs an Oscar already.

George Clooney was typically solid in his Clooney way and Renner was really good. I didn’t think either were Oscar-worthy as I was watching them. I thought the dude from District 9 was much better. I think that there’s an off-chance that Freeman takes it. For some reason, it also seems like Clooney’s year. If ever there is a multiple choice question and ‘Clooney’ is an option – you will score higher every time if you pick that answer… his ties to Hollywood’s best directoral talent seems to keep him secure in potential winning roles. But I won’t mind seeing Bridges take home an Oscar… I don’t think the Tron sequel will get him that nomination, and he seems like a favorite this year.

Best Supporting Actor

What I didn’t see: Invictus (Matt Damon); The Messenger (Woody Harrelson); The Last Station (Christopher Plumber)

Who I want to win: Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds). He was unbelievable as the chillingly two-faced Jew hunter & stole the show from Brad Pitt, who’s no slouch.

Who I think will: Waltz.

Tucchi was great in a shitty film, and I think that there are cases to be made for Plumber, Harrelson and Damon to be honored, but this will not be their year. The Academy especially loves to reward those performers who feature in a wide range of roles through the year and both Harrelson (Zombieland) & Damon (The Informant) played more colorful characters in their other films of ’09, returning from a relatively quiet ’08 for both actors. This might be the last nomination for Plumber, who’s getting up there – and the supporting role is one where the Academy likes to give props to veteran actors/actresses. And Tucchi, another veteran performer, was very creepy in his role as a serial killer and on top of everything, lost his wife this year.

On the face of it, things seem stacked against the relatively unknown Waltz. However, I still think he will win. And he will win on merit, which is all that much sweeter. If he takes it, it will likely be the most deserving Oscar of the night as I suspect that the other categories will be too filled with politics, or too close to call.

Best Actress

What I didn’t see: all of them, so… The Last Station (Helen Mirren); An Education (Carey Mulligan); Precious (Gabourey Sidibe); Julie & Julia (Meryl Streep); The Blind Side (Sandra Bullock)

Who I want to win: I don’t really care. I thought Natalie Portman was pretty good in Brothers, but I really don’t have much point of reference on this one now, do I?

Who I think will win: Bullock. Seems like she’s got it wrapped up.

Best Supporting Actress

What I didn’t see: Nine (Penelope Cruz); Crazy Heart (Maggie Gyllenhaal); Precious (Mo’Nique)

Who I want to win: Cruz. She is very good looking and I think that her acceptance speech would be endearing.

Who I think will win: Gyllenhaal. She’s highly regarded and weird (let's say 'quirky'). I don’t mind her taking it home. Mo’Nique seems to be getting a lot of buzz too, but I’ll stick with Ma’Ggie.