25 Years After Seeing Back To The Future Part III In A Theatre, I’d Much Rather Watch Movies On DVD

I used to love going to the movies.  It used to be so much fun.

When I was little, my parents alternated between taking me to the latest action blockbusters, animated features and live action family films at various theatres around the city.  Battlestar Galactica was the first film I ever saw in the summer of 1978.  I was 3.  (I need to rescreen it because I don’t remember it at all.)  After that, it was all Disney & Warner Bros. cartoons, Muppet movies, the first Ghostbusters, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Superman II, Back To The Future and Star Wars sequels.  It was heaven.

By my early teens, when I wasn’t seeing the odd film with mom or dad I was going to the show with friends from school.  To be on our own without adult accompaniment was liberating.  It helped that most of us lived within walking distance of a single-seater and an eight-screen multiplex, both gone now, sadly.  We didn’t go often in the summer but when we did, it was always fun.  Lots of laughs and tomfoolery aplenty.

In the beginning, I was just a casual observer, a film fan who wasn’t all that critical and simply enjoyed getting out to see a much anticipated new release while having a good time with friends and family.

But in the summer of 1990, something shifted.

It was a Friday morning just before 11 o’clock.  The scene:  second period Grade 9 science glass.  While Mr. Petlura was rambling on about something we were supposed to be paying attention to, I overheard a couple of friends engaged in private conversation.  Back To The Future Part III was opening later that night and they were making plans to go see it.  Having loved the first two (I must’ve seen Back To The Future a half dozen times in the 80s), I wanted to go, too.  I was in as long as I had the money and was willing to stand in line for 90 minutes or so.  No problem.

After school ended that afternoon, I asked my mom for the money.  She gave me a 10.  At 5:30, two pals came to my house and we were off.

You might be thinking why in the hell did we show up at the closed theatre one hour and 45 minutes before showtime?  Simple.  We figured cinema eight was going to be packed that night and we wanted to guarantee ourselves three seats.  Curiously, when we arrived just a few minutes after leaving my house together, we noticed a dozen or so people were already waiting.  As we wasted time chatting and being silly, more and more moviegoers arrived, waiting right behind us.

At one point, we talked about a certain employee of the theatre, a tough, blond woman who charged teens the full adult price for admission which was, if I’m remembering correctly, $7.50.  We all wanted to get in for the child’s fare:  $4.  If she was there and she asked us our age, I think we all agreed to say we were 13.  If she knew we were 14, we’d have to cough up the extra $3.50 a piece.  (In my case, it didn’t really matter.  I was covered either way.)

As the theatre prepared to open its doors, the nerdy, bespectacled manager suddenly got on the loudspeaker to inform those of us who were hoping to see the first showing of Back To The Future Part III that there was a little bitty problem.  The film hadn’t actually arrived yet.

We were dumbfounded.  You could hear the collective groaning of the already impatient crowd.  As the manager told everybody else they could go in and buy their tickets for any of the other 7 films playing that night, we had to keep waiting outside like pariahs.

Every few minutes or so, he would get back on the loudspeaker to announce that yes, the film was still not there yet.  He must have done this at least 3 or 4 times altogether.  It got annoying after a while.

7:15 p.m. came and went and still no word on the arrival of the film.  Then, the big announcement.  The print was finally there.  Unfortunately, there was now a new problem.  They were having problems setting it up in the projector.

By this point, my friends and I had been standing outside for nearly 2 hours.  Thank goodness we were young, it was a warm Spring evening, we had plenty to talk about and we were dying to see this movie.  Otherwise, we probably would’ve just gone home.

Just before 7:30, the manager made his final announcement.  They sorted out all the issues with the projector and they would now admit people into the theatre to see the movie.  Thanks to all this needless nonsense, the screening would finally take place sometime before 8 o’clock.  Thank goodness I ate supper before I left.

Upon entering the building, we all shuddered as we saw the blonde employee seated inside the ticket counter.  We knew what to do.  One by one, she asked us our age after we requested our tickets.  And one by one, we persuaded her we did not have to pay the full $7.50.  That hurdle cleared, we had our tickets ripped by a pimpled usher and we finally took our seats inside cinema eight.

Over the next 2 hours, I was riveted.  Little did I know, this night would change my life.

That summer, I would go on to see 24 additional films at two different multiplexes with and without friends.  (The original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was the first film I ever saw alone.)  By the fall of 1990, as I prepared to enter Grade 10, I went into my first meeting of the school newspaper knowing what I would be writing from that point forward.  I was going to be “The Movie Critic”.

For the rest of my time in high school and my entire three years of college, I went to the cinema as often as I could, mostly alone because my friends did not want to see everything I wanted to see and writing a whole bunch of reviews for student publications in the process.  I was bummed at first by the constant rejection (I remember crying into my pillow over one particular incident) but then, I realized it was better to see them alone.  I wasn’t interrupted by farting, burping, incessant giggling, ear flicking, loud eating, annoying slurping and distracting whispers.  I could better concentrate on the film I was watching.  It was glorious.

Sometime in the mid-90s, however, I started to lose confidence and in subsequent years became more anxious and uncertain.  To this day, I don’t know where all these doubts were coming from but by 1997, it was no longer fun (nor affordable) going to the movies full-time, so I stopped.  I would occasionally go with my best friend on birthdays and other special occasions, off and on, for the next two decades (the last trip was last November), and while I always enjoying hanging with him, no matter what, because I enjoy his company it’s just not the same.  The confident, happy go lucky guy I was when I was a teen disappeared a long time ago.

In 2000, there was a slight theatregoing revival for me.  Despite now suffering from panic attacks and heart palpitations, I managed to see about a dozen or so first-run films before my local multiplex shut down for good in October 2001.  Thankfully, over time, my severe anxiety would be greatly reduced, the palps would cease and later screenings were far less stressful.

But in the last decade or so, it’s been way more fun watching films on DVD and videotape.  Honestly, how can it not be?  I now have access to closed captioning (I’ve become a lazy listener), I can pause, rewind and restart as much as I want (I do this way too often because of my insecurities and doubt), I have volume control and, when I get hungry, thirsty or have to piddle, I can take breaks.

At the theatre, there is no pausing, there is no rewinding and there are no restarts.  While sound effects, particularly for action pictures, can be excruciatingly ear-splitting, sometimes the dialogue is so quiet or so swiftly spoken you can barely hear it.  You only get one shot to catch it, so if you miss it, tough shit.  And if you have to put one in the bowl right this second, no projectionist is going to immediately stop the film so you can take care of business.

I remember going to see The Phantom Menace at my local multiplex with a bladder that never seemed to be empty.  After several pre-show tinkles (including the numerous ones I had at home before I left), during the actual movie I held out an hour before running like The Flash to make yet another ginormous yellow deposit.  Also not helping was Jar Jar Bings’ indecipherable patois.  Thanks to a much calmer screening on widescreen VHS with subtitles a few years later, although I still didn’t care for the film at least I understood what he was saying.  My bladder was thankfully more agreeable that day.  Far fewer tinkles.

It’s experiences like that one that now make me more irritatingly obsessive about having a full bladder during a movie.  (It’s why I try to drink as little as possible beforehand.  Not recommended, by the way.)  The longer the feature, the more concerned I am about being distracted about having to piss like a geyser.  It sounds silly, I know, but that’s my reality.  (I give letter grades to every film I see and sometimes write full reviews in this space.)  At least during a DVD screening at home, I can pause and pee as much as I like.  It drags out the running time of the film but at least I’m comfortable.

I feel for anyone today who loves movies like I do but chooses to go see them during their theatrical release.  The high ticket prices alone (over 10 dollars now, even during matinees) are enough to make you want to wait for the DVD every single time.  (Thank goodness my Costanza period gives me an excuse not to go on my own any more.)  My friend, a good and generous guy, often treats me the rare occasions we go to the cinema and while it’s always appreciated (like I said, we always have fun together), I miss the days when we just had pizza and played Xbox games on his giant home theatre screen.  With my 40th birthday just two weeks away, God knows I’ve been spoiled enough in my life.

On May 25, 1990, when I enjoyed seeing Back To The Future Part III for the first time at my local multiplex with him and an old schoolmate, I had no idea how life changing that experience would be.  I have always loved movies but four months after that screening, I started writing reviews for my school paper which made me love the good ones even more.  Despite a three-year break in the late 90s, I’m still writing them here today.

Part III hasn’t held up (I saw it on DVD last year and give it a marginal thumbs down with affection) but the first two Back To The Futures most certainly do (although I enjoyed the first one a lot more as a kid).  Throughout my life, of the approximately 2000 movies I’ve seen overall, about 1600 or so have been given letter grades.  (I hope to rescreen & grade the rest down the road.)  Many of them were seen in a theatre while the rest were viewed on videotape and DVD.

As I prepare to enter middle age (Jesus, I’m old), from this point forward, I’ll continue to get caught up with the history of cinema from the comfort of home.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, May 25, 2015
11:58 p.m.

Published in: on May 25, 2015 at 11:58 pm  Comments (1)  

A Labyrinth Of Pain

She can hear the voices every single day
Relentless & scolding, they hold such sway
Completely held down by these negative forces
She’s endlessly buried by these anonymous sources

A labyrinth of pain, a flood of depression
She can’t stop the bleeding no matter the compression
The throbbing persists, a constant reminder
Her predicament caused by a diabolical designer

The shouting so piercing it deafens her appeals
It smothers her intent to realign her wheels
She deteriorates to the point of massive fatigue
She’s no longer the centre of mysterious intrigue

Faced with the prospect of continuous decline
A puzzling dilemma she’s unable to define
Ever more doubtful it’s a passing phase
If only the voices would offer her praise

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, May 25, 2015
7:31 p.m.

Published in: on May 25, 2015 at 7:32 pm  Comments (1)  

Fearful Lens

I dreaded the days I would encounter your hate
You so rattled my senses I couldn’t think straight
You invaded my space and pushed me around
It was next to impossible to stand my ground

You made me feel resigned instead of empowered
It was never comfortable being a coward
You enjoyed stabbing my reputation with lies
Until the truth bled out and blinded your eyes

You took advantage of my physical limitations
You made me feel low with your withering imitations
In your heartless mind I was worthless scum
Thank goodness we all discovered you’re incredibly dumb

You used to be the epitome of all my fears
Until that day you wore plasticine on both your ears
You were making headphones that got seriously stuck
Everyone was laughing, you ignorant fuck

Remember that time you stole my hat
And threw it over a fence in seconds flat?
Or that time you stuffed snow in my brand new toque
I came down with such a fever I couldn’t help but puke

No matter how many times you were told to stop
You wouldn’t relent, you were like a crooked cop
I only survived with my dignity intact
When I changed schools as a matter of fact

The last time I saw you was in the checkout line
A moment of terror briefly crossed my mind
But you were oblivious to my presence there
And I wasn’t about to attract it with a frozen stare

Decades have passed since your tyrannical reign
I wonder how you function with such a tiny brain
I doubt you would ever offer to make amends
I no longer view you through a fearful lens

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, May 24, 2015
7:04 p.m.

Published in: on May 24, 2015 at 7:04 pm  Comments (1)  

A.F.

My big crush on you lasted a full seven years
When it ended I didn’t collapse into tears
You fell from the heavens right into my life
My ridiculous plan was to make you my wife

I was thin and short, goofy and weird
Accepting your rejection is what I always feared
So I never asked you directly for a single date
Mere contemplation would make me hesitate

I knew deep down I was wasting my time
An unworthy suitor for a human so sublime
I hoped to stand out from the admiring flock
Instead of just smiling when you chose to mock

I stupidly declared we were already one
You corrected the record by stating we were none
Your anger didn’t scare me, it gave me a thrill
Finally, a conversation and I couldn’t keep still

You told me to stop spreading this pitiful lie
We would only be together when pigs learn to fly
Your untouched beauty drowned out these cruel sounds
I danced with delusion for several more rounds

Up to a point, you were friendly and polite
You waved in my direction when I saw you out at night
But beyond this convention, I was expecting too much
Clinging to false hope became a childhood crutch

Then came the dumbest decision of all
Writing you a letter sometime in the fall
I emptied the contents of my vulnerable heart
But claimed intimidation and it all fell apart

We were rivals in class fighting for the top
I was usually second, you were the cream of the crop
You cleaned up the awards and I took a bath
Except that one time I claimed victory in math

No matter how hard I tried to pretend
There was no attraction and you would not bend
We had little in common and no reason to mingle
I lacked the physicality that would’ve made you tingle

To athletes and jocks, I could never compare
If only they were generous and had confidence to spare
I never felt whole, I never felt enough
Every single time, you saw right through my bluff

When I finally realized these feelings had died
I felt a strange resurgence of my long lost pride
There was no longer a need to seek your approval
If I pushed even harder, you would’ve ordered my removal

The last time I saw you I was thankfully invisible
Your bond with your son was clearly indivisible
I hope you found love, peace and joy
You were hot as fuck when I was a boy

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, May 24, 2015
4:07 p.m.

Published in: on May 24, 2015 at 4:07 pm  Comments (1)  

Stagefright: Aquarius

Are owls scary?  Wait, let me rephrase that.  Are psychopathic killers in owl costumes scary?

An odd question, I know, but hear me out.  In the 1989 horror film Stagefright: Aquarius, an escaped mental patient, really a former actor with a bit of a compulsive killing problem, terrorizes a thoroughly desperate theatre troupe while wearing a giant owl head.  (They’re rehearsing an “intellectual musical” called The Night Owl.  It’s so nonsensically sexist, even the director freely admits it’s a piece of shit.)

How does he end up in the theatre where they hope to premiere this disaster in a week?  Funny story.

One of the performers has a bad ankle and needs to get it looked at but at the same time is afraid of losing her job, a not unreasonable fear.  After convincing the kindly custodian to hand over the key to the back door of the theatre, her good friend, the wardrobe lady, secretly drives her not to the ER (which would make sense), but to a mental institution where the aforementioned psychopathic killer, sporting a decent shiner on his left eye, coincidentally has just been admitted.

While comfortably resting in his new cell, the actress with the bad ankle finds herself outside his barred door looking intently in his direction.  Suddenly, he sits up like The Undertaker and looks right back at her.  Unbeknownst to her, he’s not exactly confined to his bed.  Oh yes, the guards who brought him in had him tied to it alright, but even I could break free of those pathetic looking straps around his wrists.  (Where did they buy them?  The dollar store?)  What does the poor orderly who brings him food get for visiting his cell?  A needle in the neck, of course.

Somehow, without being detected at all by any of the obviously alert medical personnel at this top-notch high security mental health facility (dig those non-existent surveillance cameras), the psychopathic serial killer hitches a ride with the two dames by simply hiding in the back seat without, you guessed it, being detected.

When the wardrobe lady returns to the parked car now back outside the theatre because she forgot something, what does she get for her trouble?  An axe in the mouth, of course.  Did they make a pit stop at Home Depot or did I miss something?

At any event, she has the only key to the back entrance of the theatre which means psycho boy doesn’t have to worry about potential victims escaping that way.  Doing the rest of the job for him is The Night Owl’s incredibly idiotic director who decides, even after the discovery of dead wardrobe lady, to continue this goddamn pointless rehearsal hoping her murder will actually juice ticket sales to the point where the show can open four days earlier than scheduled.  (He even tweaks the script to note the change.)  To ensure that everyone complies (except for the actress with the sore ankle who he fires for leaving without permission), he gives one of his other actresses the only key to the front door and, then, get this, tells her to hide it.  Good thinking, chief!

Before everyone gets locked in for the night, sore ankle lady discovers dead wardrobe lady after she doesn’t return from her second trip to the car and the cops are called.  With a straight face, one of them claims they did a thorough search of the theatre and couldn’t find psycho boy.  Just in case, though, they assign two dopey officers to stick around outside in a parked car to have unfunny conversations with each other (“don’t I look like James Dean?”) in between all the completely preventable mayhem that happens inside.  Oh, did I forget to mention this all takes place on a dark and stormy night?

Anyway, places people, orders the clueless director as he summons a stereotypical gay performer to come out as The Night Owl and rehearse a bedroom scene with one of the actresses.  Unfortunately, the owl is a bit timid and doesn’t appear to know what he’s doing.  But after the director orders him repeatedly to “kill” his co-star, well, it’s a good thing he brought that knife with him.  You can’t say he doesn’t take direction well.

It takes a remarkable amount of time for everyone to realize that the actual assault they just witnessed in a collectively dimwitted daze was not safely staged by the super flaming gay guy.  Nope, it was the escaped mental patient who quickly flees after doing his business.  Of course, the woman he repeatedly stabs is the same one who hid the front door key.  Unfortunately, when asked where she hid it, she croaks.  Darn.

Then the stage lights go out.  The Night Owl’s director immediately understands they’re all fucked and is now having second thoughts about that whole hide-the-front-key-so-no-one-can-escape-this-train-wreck-of-a-rehearsal idea.  Not a fan of the silence, the killer, on more than one occasion fires up old the reel-to-reel so the film’s musical director can get his royalties.

As the troupe all make their way to one of the dressing rooms to lock themselves in, their slow-ass, deeply worried financial backer gets unintentionally left behind.  And wouldn’t you know it, he runs into psycho boy.  Yeah, offering him a bribe doesn’t really work.

Meanwhile, this director is something else.  He apparently had a one-nighter with sore ankle lady but she called it off when he wanted to share her with his friends.  Kinky.  Even though he fired her for bolting to see that unethical hospital psychiatrist (rubbing her thigh doesn’t help her ankle, Dr. Perve), she couldn’t leave because psycho boy snatched the back door key from dead wardrobe lady and, yes, he told the stabbed actress to hid the front door key without telling anybody where she put it.  No wonder he’s seeing a shrink.

His cold, clinical demeanour suddenly turns compassionate, though, towards his former flame as he belatedly starts to regret this whole doomed enterprise.  (Good timing, chief!)  Despite wisely insisting they all stick together to stay safe in this locked dressing room, he quickly breaks his own rule to accompany his assistant to an office to find that goddamn front key.

While they aimlessly root around looking for something they’ll never find, psycho boy has found a power drill.  How skilled is this motherfucker?  He doesn’t even have to break into the dressing room to get his kill on.  Eat your heart out, Ty Pennington.

By the time the director and his assistant return, the door has two holes in it and there’s a lot of blood on the floor.  Astutely observing psycho boy’s weapon of choice, they head to where he found it to retrieve their own weapons, yet another pointless exercise that won’t save them.

As the numbers start to dwindle, it becomes clear where all of this is headed.  And if there is anything positive about the predictable finish, it’s the almost complete absence of dialogue that leads up to it.

Back to my original question.  Can a psycho in an owl costume be truly terrifying?  Not in this movie.  The killer behaves no differently than Michael Myers, Leatherface or Jason Voorhees but he has even less of a menacing presence.  He often pops into the frame and the reaction is…meh.  Even his leering close-ups are weak.

The murder scenes are typically unpleasant bordering on cheesy in a couple of instances.  Truthfully, I’ve seen worse.  That said, pregnant actress lady sure meets a grisly end.  But Lucifer the cat?  Even psycho boy can’t resist his charms.  Eat your heart out, Dr. Evil.

If the film had been more satirical it might have been more fun.  God knows you can’t take any of this seriously, especially The Night Owl itself, a production so tasteless and amateurish it’s no wonder the director and his financial backer openly debate pulling the plug.  I mean a rape victim raping her rapist?  That’s “sensational”, director guy?  Fuck off.

The most honest scene in the film is the one inside the theatre after wardrobe lady’s murder.  The director gathers the remainder of his mourning cast and crew around (before they’re all locked in, he actually sends everybody else home!) to reveal he’s just as desperate for a hit as they all are.  And of course, wardrobe lady would want them to continue!  All of them are struggling to make ends meet and are begging for a breakthrough, so he turns to his backer to fork over more dough to keep them invested in this travesty.

Considering what happens to most of them during the remainder of the film, here’s hoping the real actors got a much better deal.  Something tells me they didn’t.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, May 22, 2015
9:03 p.m.

Published in: on May 22, 2015 at 9:03 pm  Comments (2)  

Maniac (1980)

She’s been dead for almost 30 years and he’s still not over it.

Frank Zito lives alone in a one-room apartment.  One night, he wakes up screaming in a cold sweat.  Then, he weeps.  Once he gathers himself, he washes up, gets dressed and leaves.

While wandering around aimlessly on the streets of New York he encounters a hooker with cheap rates.  (It only costs 125 dollars for “the ultimate”, whatever that means.)  They check right into the sleazy hotel she had just been outside standing in front of to get down to business.  Sadly, he won’t be sleeping over to enjoy the next morning’s continental breakfast.

The middle-aged schlub isn’t really interested in sex beyond some perfunctory making out and requested model poses.  No, our boy Zito would much rather strangle this working girl until she stops breathing.  Then, with typical compassion, he barfs in the bathroom sink and weeps while blaming her for her own murder.  What a gentleman.

Why did he do it?  The lack of a sensible answer is the biggest problem with Maniac, one of the most notorious horror films of the 1980s.  As amply documented on its otherwise excellent 30th Anniversary double-DVD release (the hours of extras are far better than the film itself), feminists and movie critics were so vocal in their hatred of it, their protests got covered in the news.  Siskel & Ebert famously devoted an entire episode of their PBS series Sneak Previews to analyze the startling plethora of “Women In Danger” films like Maniac in the American cinema.  A feminist anti-rape organization protested outside theatres showing the film advocating for a boycott.  In one news report, we see an offended woman literally paint over a billboard poster of the movie because she got tired of seeing it from her office everyday.

35 years after the film first premiered, it’s incredibly easy to understand why it pissed off so many people.  It is excessively violent and deeply misogynistic.  More importantly, though, this work of depraved fiction is thoroughly incoherent.

Played by late character actor Joe Spinell (The Godfather, Rocky), Zito is a constantly groaning homicidal self-talker with serious mommy issues and a fetish for mannequins wearing nailed bloody scalps of human hair.  He claims his mother died in an automobile accident in 1952.  But during the scene where he chokes the hooker to death his mom’s face is briefly seen in her place.  Does this mean he was sexually abused as a child and is belatedly punishing his mother through a sort-of lookalike while reliving a trauma?  The film is never clear on this.  Through voiceover flashbacks, we learn her idea of good discipline was locking him in a closet.  Why?  Who knows.  Either way, Zito’s constant weeping about all of this never warrants any sympathy when we don’t know the whole story.

Further complicating his motivations are his views of women in general.  He openly despises their joy, their freedom to dance and laugh, the way they dress, their use of make-up, their seemingly carefree sexuality.  He wants it all to stop, hence all the horrific murders he commits against random women like the nurse he chases all the way down into a subway bathroom or the model who has just taken a welcome bubble bath in her apartment after a long photo shoot.

His misogyny has roots in his childhood.  He didn’t approve of his mother’s personal choices, whatever the hell they were (vagueness is this movie’s Achilles heel), which has led him to needlessly and ruthlessly punish these other women.  Was she a prostitute like the woman he strangled in the hotel or a single mom who simply dated a lot?  Again, it’s not clear and truthfully, it doesn’t matter.  (There’s nothing wrong with being a sex worker or having a full dance card.)  The point is that Zito has very weak motivations for being a serial killer in the first place.

The two men he also kills have nothing at all to do with his burning hatred of women.  They are simply unfortunate witnesses who need to be executed, lest he be caught by the curiously absent authorities.  As awful as the misogynistic murder scenes are (they’re as bad as anything seen in the Saw & Friday The 13th franchises), the ones involving these male victims are just as appalling.  In fact, the scene where a mustachioed disco clubber gets his head blown off at close range while sitting in a parked car (why he doesn’t just drive away is baffling) is undoubtedly the most gruesome of them all.

Midway through the film, Zito gets photographed by a beautiful British photographer (Caroline Munro from The Spy Who Loved Me) in Central Park.  After he spots her, she conveniently leaves behind her bag which just happens to have a tag with her name and full address on it.  Next thing she knows, the same guy whose photo she’s literally just finished developing in her apartment darkroom is now at her door wanting to see it.

At no time during this impromptu visit does she elicit even the slightest bit of trepidation or suspicion.  Despite Zito being a walking red flag, she is actually interested in the undesirable psycho and even accepts his offer of a dinner date where his rather unsubtle propensity for jealous possession is never a serious cause for concern.

Why he continues to date her when he’d rather be killing women who kind of resemble his dead mother for rather confusing reasons is yet another mystery the film is not terribly interested in fully exploring in an intelligent way (not that the relationship is at all convincing to begin with).  By the time he persuades her to make a cemetery pit stop to pay respects to his mother’s grave while on another date, it’s more than clear his naïve, new girlfriend is the most tolerant human being he’s ever met.

Beyond a couple of quick, catchy, inessential snippets of disco, there is absolutely nothing redeemable about Maniac.  Not one god damn thing.  Thinly sketched characters are introduced and then immediately extinguished for no good reason as the demented Zito curiously changes up his methods of execution in one clichéd slasher scene after another.

While I was repulsed by the murders, I laughed uproariously during two unexpected moments of delusion.  There’s an unnecessary tribute to the last scene of Carrie and a bizarre revenge sequence where his small collection of mannequins suddenly, predictably and murderously spring to life.  (The headless one made me crack up.)  It “pays off” with a very fake special effect that betrays the film’s low budget.

Gene Siskel famously walked out of a screening of Maniac after only lasting a half hour.  Gene Siskel was a better man than I am.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, May 21, 2015
1:33 a.m.

Published in: on May 21, 2015 at 1:34 am  Comments (4)  

Michael Coren’s Welcome Evolution On Gay Rights Can’t Erase His Less Progressive Views On Other Issues

For years, I couldn’t stand him.  His obnoxious personality, his odious opinions.  I never heard his radio show but I did watch him quite a lot on CTS (now Yes TV).  I read his weekly Toronto Sun columns.  I even checked out one of his books from the public library.

As time went on, I couldn’t stay silent any longer.  I started writing and submitting numerous angry letters to The Toronto Sun, one of which actually got published.  I found myself yelling at him on my TV.  It’s usually healthy to expose yourself to views that are the complete opposite of your own but when I found myself constantly getting red-faced and my forehead often screaming in agony just from seeing his annoying, clueless words in The Sun and hearing them uttered on CTS, I eventually realized I had to move on.  I’ve not regretted that decision.  Experiencing Michael Coren full-time became a endless headache.

Despite no longer watching his show (which he left to join the now-defunct Sun News Network in 2011) or being a regular reader of his Sun pieces (he just left Sun Media this past February), every once in a while I would still catch wind of something offensive he had written and post a highly critical response in this space.

It’s been nearly a year since the last time I did that.  Last June, Coren had written a somewhat surprising Sun column headlined ‘I Was Wrong’.  At the time, I was decidedly unimpressed.  Put simply, I just didn’t believe he had changed his views on the gay community, gay marriage and homosexuality at all.  He also didn’t apologize.  “I Was Wrong” didn’t include “I Am Sorry”.

In a recent Toronto Star column, however, Coren has made me partially reconsider my view.  Reading him openly declare his support for gay marriage stunned me.  He had spent so much time condemning the idea it’s a bit jarring to see him fully reverse himself like this.  (A decade ago, he firmly held the opposite view in The National Post.)

He has also evolved on homosexuality itself no longer believing it’s a sin or disordered.  Last year, I opined that he simply wouldn’t use those specific words any more and that based on critical columns he had written just months earlier, he hadn’t actually changed his mind about gay sex.  That has turned out to be a thankfully bad assumption.

So, what happened?  Where did the angry, obtuse, sex-negative Michael Coren go?  Was he kidnapped and replaced with a gentler, kinder, liberal clone?  Is this a Invasion Of The Body Snatchers situation?

Hardly.  As he notes in The Star, he quietly left the Catholic Church for the second and final time in 2014 in order to join the Anglican Church.  It was only discovered just a couple of weeks ago and has apparently caused quite the firestorm online.

Why did he switch congregations?

“The change was to a large extent triggered by the gay issue. I couldn’t accept that homosexual relationships were, as the Roman Catholic Church insists on proclaiming, disordered and sinful. Once a single brick in the wall was removed the entire structure began to fall.”

But, as he continues, there’s was more to it than that:

“I refused to base my entire world view and theology, as so many active Catholics do, around abortion, contraception and sex rather than love, justice and forgiveness. Frankly, it was tearing me apart. I wanted to extend the circle of love rather than stand at the corners of a square and repel outsiders. So I quietly and privately drifted over to an Anglican Church that while still working out its own position on many social issues, is far more progressive, open, relevant and willing to admit reality.”

Two weeks before The Star published his essay, Coren was interviewed by The National Post.  When asked why he “could no longer worship with integrity as a Catholic,”, he responded:

“I could not remain in a church that effectively excluded gay people. That’s only one of the reasons, but for someone who had taken the Catholic position on same-sex marriage for so long, I’d never been comfortable with that even though I suppose I was regarded as being a stalwart in that position. But I’d moved on, and I felt a hypocrite. I felt a hypocrite being part of a church that described homosexual relations as being disordered and sinful. I just couldn’t be part of it anymore. I could not do that. I couldn’t look people in the eye and make the argument that is still so central to the Catholic Church, that same-sex attraction is acceptable but to act on it is sinful. I felt that the circle of love had to be broadened, not reduced.”

If only he had come to this welcome conclusion a lot sooner.  For as refreshing as it is that Michael Coren is no longer an anti-gay bigot, he nonetheless deeply hurt a marginalized community needlessly and dishonestly for decades while getting paid for it.  Quite frankly, he still has a lot of amends to make for that.  He doesn’t deserve a free pass for his horrific past misjudgments.  Forgiveness is earned over time, not flippantly given in an instant.

I am also puzzled by why he didn’t publicly announce his departure from the Catholic Church immediately, rather than wait a full year to do so in that Post interview.  Considering how long and how much of his Catholic faith has been a part of his writing and TV identity, it’s a rather dishonest omission.

Either you’re completely unguarded with your readers about your internal struggles, your inner philosophical wrestling matches and your political reversals or you’re hiding your true self.  In fact, to conceal important, relevant truths, even the ones you’re still making sense of, is to be fraudulent.

So, let’s not get nuts and throw him a ticker tape parade for being pro-gay now.  Besides, Coren hasn’t at all reversed himself on every awful thing he’s said in the past.  He still supports Israel laughably asserting that it’s “intensely democratic”.  He stubbornly supports the long discredited “two-state solution” instead of a “one-state solution” that ends Apartheid, a word he never uses, against Palestinians & African immigrants.  Critics of Apartheid are succinctly dismissed as “Israel-hating leftists” and not praised as champions of freedom.

And he’s not exactly pro-Muslim, either, no matter how many supportive tweets he posts about the long persecuted Omar Khadr.  While evolving on gay issues last year, he shamelessly plugged his anti-Islam book on Twitter following the murder of a soldier outside Parliament Hill.  And after the recent shooting at a “Draw Mohammed” contest in Texas, he wrote this tone-deaf piece that completely avoided the connection between anti-Western violence and America’s constant bombing & drone campaigns against Muslims in the Middle East.

He might support vaccinations, evolution and Ontario’s new sex education curriculum, but he’s awful on transgender issues.  He may condemn the CIA’s torture program, climate change deniers and Jian Ghomeshi’s atrocious behaviour, but he’s not exactly a feminist.

As a result, it’s understandable that some of those directly affected by his past anti-gay views are probably going to have a hard time forgiving Coren or even accepting his sincerity after his belated admissions to the Post.  Like I said, he has lot of fence mending to do.  He hurt a lot of innocent people for no good reason for far too long.

Even so, he deserves praise for finally coming clean.  It is never easy to admit hypocrisy, to finally accept out loud that you were wrong and need to change.

But it’s not the only issue he needs to evolve on.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, May 18, 2015
9:55 p.m.

Published in: on May 18, 2015 at 9:56 pm  Comments (1)  

Prison Of Fear

It might not happen but it’s worth a try
A stab in the dark for a pie in the sky
This eagerness is trapped in a prison of fear
Enveloped by indifference that won’t disappear

It might not occur but it’s worth a shot
The trick is to know when to pick your spot
But this hesitation’s fueled by colossal doubt
Denying a fix that you can’t live without

It might not take place but it’s worth the risk
If you ever get rolling business would be brisk
Deafened by the critics that live in your brain
Their poisonous rhetoric as relentless as the rain

It might not be possible but how would you know?
These delays are predictable and progress is slow
You’re shamed by deceptions you’ve imagined all along
Let them all die and start singing your song

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, May 18, 2015
3:57 a.m.

Published in: on May 18, 2015 at 3:57 am  Comments (1)  

You’re Not Listening

I wasted my time giving you hell
So much aggravation for such a long spell
Questioning your denial is a thankless task
You’re not even listening so why do I ask?

I spent years exposing your foolish thoughts
The endless frustration tied my brain up in knots
You continuously refuse to listen to reason
Your heart’s so cold it’s practically freezin’

Shaming you publicly clearly doesn’t work
When you hang with Obama is ignorance a perk?
There is nothing I can say that will change your mind
I see so clearly, you’re undoubtedly blind

Moments of temptation will surely arise
It’s now up to others to debunk your lies
I’m pulling the chute as I jump off the plane
Holding you accountable drives me insane

So go ahead and be as dumb as you are
Pretend you really matter, you glamourous star
One day the truth will land a significant hit
Until then, I no longer give a shit

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, May 16, 2015
2:08 p.m.

Published in: on May 16, 2015 at 2:09 pm  Comments (1)