…for aliens? Monsters? No! We’ll be watching the skies this coming long weekend, hoping they’ll be clear and blue rather than wet and grey. The forecast is mixed, with a couple of dry days following a couple of damp days, so not too bad.
The damp days might be good for beer and chocolate, and the dry ones for visiting beaches and hiking. Then the beer and chocolate.
Watching the skies? Sounds like a nod to old B movies about visitors from outer space. If the aliens do decide to visit this weekend, they might be a tad disappointed, given we’re heading as a province into what appears to be a lockdown due to increasing COVID-19 cases. Sorry, ET, nothing to see or do here until later in the year! Be good. Stay home whether you’re from Mars or Manitoba, and wait for the welcome mat to be put out, a successful vaccination program permitting. Then when you do visit, erm… come in peace?
A brief post as we wrap up work and look forward to the weekend. If chocolate bunnies, eggs and all that stuff is your thing, then I hope you enjoy the celebration. If it isn’t, I hope you have time for a beer, some chocolate, and a local outing somewhere pleasant.
Almost done here. Getting back to B movies, I hear there’s a new Godzilla vs. King Kong release? Lizards and apes – maybe I can convince Mrs. PC she’ll enjoy this new nature documentary? Hmm. Beer, chocolate, and mindless screen entertainment on a rainy day? Alright!
Tethered, and definitely in one place, location wise, but not feeling too tied down. Is this making sense? No worries, pull on your gum boots, and let’s jump from puddle to puddle…
Splash! A mishmash this week, like the weather, where we’ve enjoyed days with sun, days with rain, and days with both.
Splash! Thursday, the day I wrote this, was a day where light rain became heavy rain, with pulses and cloudbursts blowing through on strong gusts. Then the skies almost cleared, and the wind almost dropped. Almost.
On the sunnier days, Tuesday and Wednesday, I was able to work with students outside, catching up on grade 8 science. Grade 8 science and catching up? That was me as well as the students. Fair play to any student willing to give up a spring break afternoon or two to stay on top of their learning. And goodness, we are the people to talk to if you want to know about mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum, and if vesicles rhymes with testicles. Did I mention grade 8?
Wednesday was great, St. Patrick’s and a good excuse to wear green. “The colour matches your eyes!” said Mrs PC. She never saw the colour of my eyes the morning after a cultural tour of historic Dublin pubs I attended with my brother. I think we appreciated the architecture. We looked a bit green the next day, and not in a twinkling eyes way.
Splash! (Didn’t you miss it, the last two paragraphs?) Man about town bit next. The beer store lady was surprised to see me mid-week, but helpfully pointed me to where the last of the Guinness was hiding. At the grocery store, the cashier did all but buy me a drink from the Ukee Brewery – it is located in view and less than a minute from her till – insisting a lunchtime Guinness was ok on a work day, if it is St. Patrick’s. I didn’t like to tell her about the one and only time I taught with a hangover after a St. Patrick’s celebration went long. And wrong. My friend: Sure, Adam, we’re working tomorrow so we’ll have just the one – c’mon, it is St. Patrick’s. My willpower: OK! Never again.
Splash! A music bit now. Tethered? Not really. I have been listening to Chvrches quite a lot the past week or two. My fondness for 80s style electronica and misery in music has been very satisfied. It isn’t all downbeat, but check out “Tether” for a downbeat tune almost getting upbeat at the end. I probably haven’t sold that very well, but you might like it if you like Depeche Mode or Erasure.
Splash! A movie bit follows. I’ve been having an email back and forth with my brothers about great and not so great but at least entertaining movies. Tango and Cash? No. Point Break? Yes. Waterworld? Big no! Is it an overlooked masterpiece? Nope. It’s sh#t, even though, at a bare minimum, it should have been passably entertaining. It has pirates on skidoos, Dennis Hopper chewing (wobbly) scenery, explosions, a man with gills, and Kevin Costner’s definitely not balding, no sir, not me, look over there hair do. Hair don’t. I fast forwarded through the movie, pausing for the best bits. Not too many pauses. But it did get me thinking about his other movies – some are pretty good, some are terrible, and one had Whitney Houston. And Whitney was the route I took to Chvrches. Chvrches covered “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay” and there you go, that has been my music and movies week. I didn’t rewatch The Bodyguard. I remember it as not okay.
Splash! No, really, Splash, the movie. Probably not so good, or it’s okay and about right. Might be time to stop writing.
Like I said at the top, a mishmash, and it’s been pretty good. Unlike Waterworld. Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!
Easy rider? Roustabout? Moby what exactly? What’s going on here? I’ll start slow, then steadily pick up speed. It’ll be fine, just like riding a bike. Or falling off. It won’t be much clearer, even if you read to the end.
It has been pleasantly “steady as she goes“ the past week or so. Another big windstorm at the start of the week didn’t knock out the power – some disappointed students there – and we’ve enjoyed a cold and sometimes sunny settled stretch of weather.
With the drier days, I’ve been zooming about town on my bike, speeding up and down hills with ease. Yes, the sun on my face, wind in my hair- …
Hold on a moment, Speedy – “up hills with ease” PlaidCamper? Yes, of course. My fitness is paramount to me, my body being a temple, and you’ll agree regular strenuous exercise has always been a feature. Oh, alright. It’s an electric bike. So, yes, uphill with ease.
After many, many years of research, and countless conversations with Mrs. PlaidCamper, (yes, countless fascinating conversations – Mrs. PC) I admitted that recent ankle sprains and the approach of very early middle age meant the time had finally come to purchase an e-bike. (Peace at last – Mrs. PC)
Interestingly, as Mrs PC knows, because I mentioned it a million times, having a pedal assist bike is still exercise because the rider is pedalling and putting in a bit of effort. Mostly true, but probably less true if your e-bike has a twist throttle allowing no pedalling whatsoever. Care to guess what I’ve got?! I do pedal if there’s anyone around. It’s a small town and I’ve my fitness reputation to maintain. I haven’t ridden to the beer store yet. Yet…
Yes, years of research into battery duration, weight to power ratios (should that be power to weight ratios? I was too busy looking at the pictures), build quality, range and other important technical stuff. It had to be an informed decision. So I ended up getting a bike because it looked a bit like a mobylette, and I liked the seat. Yup, I’m shallow, easily persuaded, and must have been a Gallic teenager in a previous life.
Having had it a few months, I’m happy to report it is reliable, fun to ride, very comfortable now I’ve decided it’s an e-moped and I let the battery do all the work, and I think I look cool. If looking like something from Wallace and Gromit is cool. Which it is. In my head. Please stop laughing. I’m going to get a biker jacket and a flick knife and a tattoo and get told off by the principal.
As this appears to be descending into a weird late 50s or early 60s retro type of thing, it’s probably best I leave it here. Anyway, I’ve got to go hang out at the soda fountain, run a comb through my hair, get admiring looks. That’s right, daddy-o.
Thanks (Roustabout link) for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!
Things of a medical nature have been all over the news cycle the past few months, and particularly the last week or two. A helicopter for an ambulance? A healthy glow?! Immunity! Don’t worry, this won’t be a PlaidCamper rant about miracle cures and inequalities in health care as personified by mango-hued tax dodging toddlers. Although it might have been, had the last sentence run on any longer.
No. No ranting. This is a post full of true and nearly true stories. Almost cinematic, full of visual poetry, and likely requiring a Terence Malick, Jane Campion, or Peter Weir to capture the moving intensity and subtle dreamy drama. A tale of a man at a crossroads in life. Cue voiceover: In a world…
Cut! Too much? Ok. Cut. Take two. This will be a post full of the brave exploits of a young-to-early middle-aged PlaidCamper, a potential boon to the medical world if only he would consider yet another mid-to-very-early life crisis, and switch careers. Montage! A white coat? Nice. A stethoscope? Yes please. Rugged calmness in the face of death and disease? Oh, yes doctor. Cut! Stop! Enough of this.
Sorry, I don’t know what came over me. I almost swooned, understandably enough, at the thought of me in a white coat. Imagine a cross between George Clooney and Dr. Fauci, only many decades younger, and you’d be close. No? Assisted by soft lighting, and no close ups? And a wig? Not even? Where were we? Poor scriptwriting on this one. This is like Apocalypse Now, but medical. Let’s start with basic training.
Did I mention I participated in a Wilderness First Aid course? A week of skills and scenarios, designed to replicate real life situations, complete with all too convincing fake broken bones, buckets of blood, and stick on wounds and injuries too disgusting for The Walking Dead. All in a rainforest setting, and directed by a first aid trainer who looked nothing like Francis Ford Coppola. I think a young Martin Sheen, slightly too old for the part, yet fortunate enough to bear a certain resemblance to an OldPlaidCamper, will play me in the following scenes.
Cut, cut, cut! Sorry, Martin, we won’t be needing you. Haven’t you heard, PlaidCamper? Cinema is another victim of the virus. And Martin at any age looks nothing like you.
In truth, my never entirely realistic dream of becoming a doctor soon evaporated in the heat of simulated medical battle. I’m not a particularly good first aider, certainly not compared with how well our young participants coped in testing situations. They’d be elbow deep, or at least, gloved hands on, treating the injuries while I was still reciting lessons and trying to remember how to tie a sling. Fluffing my lines. Let’s just say I won’t be in any reboot of ER…
…unless it is in the patient role. I excelled! Lie down and grumble about aches and pains? Check! Fake a heart attack? I’ll do it! Food poisoning due to mushroom picking stupidity? I can fake that! Make up a medical history to confuse trainees? No problem! Wander off, pretend to pee in the woods, be startled by a bear and shoot myself with bear spray? I did that! Pretending, not for real. I was meant to do this! I’m a natural.
I really have had a near miss with bear spray, and know what it feels like. Method actor, that’s me. I search for the truth in stories and inhabit the characters I portray. I have to get under the skin of a role. Or under the skin of anyone nearby.
You’d like to hear my bear spray true story? One of Nature, red in tooth and claw? A terrifying tale of one man alone in the wilderness? Nope, it was none of that. I was in a supermarket parking lot, and walked round to the passenger side of the car to get my wallet out of a backpack. The pack was in the passenger footwell. I pulled on it to pick it up, when a strap got caught under the seat. Instead of slowing down and releasing the pack gently, I simply pulled harder, somehow breaking the trigger guard on the bear spray attached to the pack, delivering a dose all over the car radio and hand brake. Customers in the parking lot were treated to my first performance of man almost shoots himself with bear spray and scrambles backwards on all fours. If you’ve seen The Exorcist spider scene, you know how it went. Like that, but faster and with more swearing. It made my head spin, and some of the onlookers too.
It took weeks to clean and remove the remnants. I’d be driving along, sipping a cup of coffee and changing the radio station, and a few moments later get a bad burning sensation around my mouth. It wasn’t how I made the coffee. A few particles of weeks-old bear spray really pack a punch…
Fascinating insight into the craft, don’t you think?
Yes, I brought all my experience to the patient role. I certainly tested the patience of fellow first aid participants. I drew the line at letting them volunteer me for staging a drowning recovery after falling off a dock incident, although it was kind of them to think of me. It’s an honour just to be nominated.
I got an email from Francis, our first aid trainer, just the other day. Imagine my surprise that it contained confirmation I passed the course! It was like winning an Oscar. If I had them, I’d like to thank my manager, my agent, the producers, my personal trainer, personal chef, accountant, my personal trainer’s personal trainer, the wig maker, George Clooney, Dr. Fauci, and the bald one in ER. Also, commiserations to Martin, but come on, only I could play me in this movie…
Oh, the monstrous ego. Cut! That’s a wrap. I’ve got to wait by the phone, be ready to take the calls from Hollywood. Fade to black.
Monstrous ego indeed. Enough of that guy. I’ll finish by acknowledging how well our young participants did in the WFA course, and how safe we’ll all be out on the land in the future. They learned so much in a relatively short time, and showed real leadership and an ability to act and think clearly in stressful situations. Nothing fazed them!
Well, thankfully none of the plotless nonsense you’ve just read will ever get a theatrical release. Are you still here?! Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!
Time to saddle up! Be warned, it’s a rambling piece this week, detours and tangents aplenty as we take an armchair slow ride to nowhere in particular. That being said, with no topic or destination in mind, how will we know there’s been a detour? Anyway, I’m allowed to be off topic and tangential – squirrel – I’m not a president. Just saying…
I got an email from a friend yesterday morning, describing how he’s coping with lockdown in London. Some brief background? Ok. My buddy is a young man, only a year older than me. We met over 30 years ago, when I started my first proper job, working for a government department in central London. I can’t say exactly where, or name the department, all very hush hush. Regular readers know I can be trusted with the truth. Hank (not his real name, but one he wishes was) still works for a government department, and he’s currently plotting, I mean working, from his small apartment in North London. He’s fine, the evidence being he’s taken to dressing up in C&W clothing, complete with Stetson, and is listening to “Honky Tonks and Cheap Motels” by Whitey Morgan and the 78s. (Good cover there of a great song – what do you think?) Cowboy duds and country music – that’s normal for North London these days, isn’t it? He’s doing this as preparation for a (now postponed) road trip we were due to take this summer. I might have dodged a bullet there…
Sticking with the Western theme, Scout and I were moseying down the middle of 10th Street at high noon yesterday. As with all good, and not so good, Westerns, townsfolk scurried indoors as we passed, shooing their children ahead of them and peering out through the gap in the curtains. Showdown! Hairy and mean looking varmints (squirrels) moved from tree to tree, trying to get the high ground and a clear view of the sheriff (Scout) and her good looking and trustworthy young deputy (me, of course – how could you even ask?!) We faced them down, made it out of there.
‘Scuse me while I take a moment, spit my chewin’ baccy into the ol’ tin at my feet. Well sh*t, now I gone done made a mess on my boots. Shee-it. New old timey story? Ok. Okey dokey. You bet. I pardnered up with a law-abiding school master from Red Deer a few years back. He was principal of a Junior High School that had even more than the usual share of middle years miscreants, rebels, and wannabe outlaws. Education badlands, allegedly, but in truth, not at all bad, these were spirited and lively young people. Sheriff Duane was excellent at his job, corralling and educatin’ his young steers with great good humour. He was never overly fond of a meeting, preferring to be in the field teaching, rather than pushing darn papers. He’d always start a meeting with “Let’s get this dog and pony show on the road!” This young buck never quite understood what that meant, but I do think of Sheriff Duane every time I drink a Last Best Show Pony pale ale. Yup, all that just so I could use this photograph:
Well, I think that’ll ‘bout do it for now. I gotta get me a glass of something to sip slow and steady as I sit on my rocking chair, watch the sun set, dog at my feet, with Whitey Morgan and his boys crooning quietly in back. So long!
Goodness, what is going on? Where did all that come from? You’re doing something similar, yes? Or is it just me? Is this what happens when an old PlaidCamper is in a long term shut down. Or decline? Neural pathways rewiring themselves in new and not so interesting ways, and make believe takes over. It’s not all make believe. I am actually growing (or trying to grow) a fine “sad cowboy” moustache, for when Hank and I finally take that Western road trip. We’ll look (and sound, haha) completely authentic. You have been warned, small town bars of Alberta, Montana and Wyoming. That fast moving cloud of dust on the outskirts? Two thirsty show pony buckaroos riding into town…
Thanks for reading, I hope you’re well, safe, sane enough, and ready to enjoy your weekend!
PS I’ve just finished listening to “Honky Tonks and Cheap Motels” for the second time. It might (or might not) be a great way to plan a road trip, but it is definitely a fun old school country album. You’ll be growing your own sad cowboy moustache, or drawing one on. My thanks to Hank, the North London urban cowboy, for the recommendation.
I was out with Scout earlier this week, tramping the neighbourhood streets, enjoying the nonappearance of spring, and laughing at the squirrels laughing at us. We came across (another) patch of ice, frozen snowmelt, a perfect mini-hockey rink spread over the sidewalk, and another opportunity for me to reenact and explain to Scout how Iginla and Crosby combined to score the gold medal winning goal at the 2010 Olympics. Given the number of icy patches out there, various hockey moves happen quite a bit. To mix things up, I’ll sometimes charge the net, and Scout also appreciates my ability to score on the wraparound. I’ll admit that Scout’s stick handling is the best…
The picture of sporting excellence I’ve painted in your mind is, obviously, quite something to see, so now it’s going to hurt me (and you) to come clean, tell the truth. Ready?
We came across (another) patch of ice, and I muttered to Scout “Oh no, elephants!” She did what she always does when she has no idea what I’m going on about, wagged her tail and looked expectantly at my coat pocket that has the extra kibble. She’s a well fed dog.
“Oh, no, elephants!” What are you going on about, PlaidCamper?
Good question. Let’s take a time travel trip, back to the distant, distant past, to an era when young PlaidCampers roamed the earth, wearing NHS spectacles and terrorizing the neighbourhood when playing out on bikes for hours at a time.
We would build ramps so we could perform death defying leaps across canyons filled with (toy) trucks, pedalling furiously to gather up enough speed so when we hit the ramp it would fall apart before any chance of lift off. Looking back, it’s strange none of that group of friends and family ever became engineers or involved in construction projects.
Anyway, back to the elephants. I think we came to the conclusion that jumping over toys wasn’t sufficiently dangerous, that we somehow lacked motivation, the necessary element of danger. The solution? We didn’t need to leap over toys, what was needed was for the smallest of us to lie down in the canyon. It was at this point someone said “element of danger” and it became, because we were young and silly, the elephant of danger, a kind of shorthand for when we were doing things we shouldn’t. Not that that ever happened. Riding down Langley Hill, a steep, busy and pot holed road, a speeding stream of (poorly) self maintained bikes, wobbling madly in an attempt to keep up with the fastest kid, the guy with a speedometer, shouting out “32mph!” No elephant of danger there. How about climbing up onto the garage roof, leaping from garage to garage, knowing the construction was little more than balsa wood and tar paper? Yup, one of us fell through the roof, stuck at the waist and shouting for help to get free. It’s hard to help when you’re practically peeing yourself laughing, and looking around hoping there were no adults ready to give us what for.
Yes, the elephant of danger. There are other stories, but if I told them, I’m quite certain there’d be a knock on the door, and the long arm of the law would finally catch up. There are untold reasons behind why I keep moving on…
Back to the present day. I’d forgotten all about the elephants of danger until confronted by the ice sheet earlier this week. Did I really reenact the Iginla to Crosby Olympic golden goal? The truth? The long forgotten elephants phrase popped into my head as I flailed wildly, skating and slipping to reach the other side and the safety of drier pavement, as if being chased by the Hanson brothers. Less Olympian, and more Slap Shot. It’s probably the glasses…
Yes, that’s why the squirrels were laughing. As for spring and safer sidewalks, rumour and the Weather Network has it that we are due a warm, sunny and dry spell the next few days, which is great news, as I’m not as young as I was, and certainly far more cautious around elephants.
Thanks for reading, stay safe, and have a wonderful weekend! Must go, I can hear a knock at the door…
Or, in my case, being something of an introvert, anti-social distancing. Silver linings…
Clearly there is plenty to be concerned about presently, what with Covid-19 and the toilet roll fights in supermarkets. They cut those scenes from “Mad Max” didn’t they? I imagine John Woo or Sam Peckinpah could have had a slow motion field day with scraps and shreds of toilet paper floating through fight scenes of suburban scrappers going toe to toe over the last packet of spaghetti. Pasta pugilists…
Back to the social distancing. I don’t mind if that’s the way it has to be. Avoid large crowds and social gatherings? Oh, alright. Drive thru virus testing, then a quick stop at the drive thru growler refill station. Doesn’t sound too bad.
Oh gosh, I just sneezed. I’ll keep this brief, as I suddenly feel the need to google the early onset symptoms. All photographs this week are from Florencia once again, and if you’ve got to be socially distant, this seems as good a place as any!
Flippancy aside, please be well, look after yourselves, family, friends and neighbours, and remember pasta shouldn’t be overcooked and is best enjoyed with a glass of red wine. Or two.
Oh no, is this going to be a review of the terrible Stallone/Schwarzenegger movie from a couple of years back? Nope, although as we are talking about it, don’t tell anyone, I actually quite enjoyed it, a movie guilty pleasure in a throwback to the 80s sort of way. Let’s keep that to ourselves…
Two of our younger visitors this summer, early teens both, expressed how much they love western Canada, and one is planning to come back in her gap year – or gap life, as she’d have it – to stay for longer. The other lives in Canmore, has a busy life, but actually fancied the idea of a little place to retreat to. I thought of him earlier, when we hit the water one morning and paddled past this floating delight:
He was into the idea of cabins, and of going fishing, and I think this floating shed would be ideal! It wasn’t here before this summer, but I do remember seeing a very similar building drifting about in the channel just outside the outer harbour last autumn after a heavy storm. Has some enterprising soul salvaged and restored it? I hope it is the same shed, and I hope it is used for fishing.
I’m still a bit hooked on the idea of having a little boat (you already do, it is your kayak – Mrs. PC) and moored a short distance from the dream floating cabin is this little beauty:
I enjoy bobbing about in between the boats and buildings, it seems to keep us young at heart. I like that young people aren’t totally devoted to electronic activities, and when they unplug and look up, they are captivated by outdoor pursuits and beautiful locations. There is still hope for the future…
Keeping it brief this week, as I’m off to raid the piggy bank, see if there’s enough for a floating fishing platform. (Nope, there’s not – Mrs. PC)
This week is written and filmed in low definition PlaidCamperScope, and I did all my own stunts. Not too sure where it is heading, rather weak on plot, but there is a happy ending.
With the ongoing grey and snowy skies, I thought I’d post photographs taken on a brighter winter day a short while ago here in Alberta. As I type this, the snow is falling once again – that’s fine by me – but it seems like we haven’t had too many of my favourite Alberta winter days, where it is about -10C and sunny. On a day like that, you can ski or hike or snowshoe for hours, admiring the sparkling air without feeling the chill. Maybe by the weekend?
We were back at Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, on a still day with lots of sunshine, and just before the next round of snow. Chinook winds had eaten a fair amount of the ground snow, but there were still deep pockets in the ditches and hollows, and plenty of ice to catch us unawares.
We enjoyed the widescreen views to distant mountains, and the close ups of red berries and golden grasses poking through the snow. Scout enjoyed peeing on everything she decided she wouldn’t eat. Very discerning…
Parts of the park are in use as a working ranch, and I love the cinematic nature of the buildings, fences and tracks. If I had a low budget indie movie to make, one where mumbling Albertans play out their hardbitten dramas in a partially tamed yet still beautiful wilderness, I’d shoot it somewhere like Glenbow Ranch PP.
A grizzled, hardbitten yet optimistic semi-retired teacher, with the looks, but not the politics, of an older Clint Eastwood (squint and use lots of soft focus and imagination), fights heroically and stoically to convince Albertans of all stripes to diversify the economy beyond oil and gas and think about a future that doesn’t need fossil fuels. Met with disbelief, ridiculed for being too liberal and a jeep-driving hypocrite vegetarian, the laconic educator is run out of town and goes for a long walk in a provincial park, trying to think of a good ending, and wondering how well an electric car would work in a Canadian winter…
Sadly, most of my movie ideas barely fill the back of a postage stamp, and the scripts are rather brief – but they would be pretty to look at if they got made. Perhaps I should start small and very low budget – maybe I could direct a postcard?
My mind does tend to wander when I’m wandering in lovely locations, and I daydream about movies and stories, ones I’ve seen, and the ones still to be told. Living out west, or anywhere scenically dramatic, will do that to you I suppose. I hope future movie location scouts will still have outdoor locations worth scouting for. Post-apocalyptic dramas seem to be all the thing just now, but let’s hope they won’t be making these as documentaries in the future. I know there are “kitchen sink” dramas as well, but wouldn’t you rather see forests, lakes, rivers, natural deserts, mountains and oceans, both onscreen and for real? It’s not often I find myself thinking “I wish I could make a movie about this” when I’m doing the dishes, or “I hope this comes to pass” when a rerun of Mad Max is on, but maybe that’s just me?
On our drive home, this road warrior took the scenic route, meaning any road that didn’t get us back into the city too soon. Grand Valley Road lived up to the name, and I had to pull over and take a couple of pictures looking west as I drove the wrong way back on the 567.
I do love widescreen Alberta, but it is hard for me to capture it accurately in a photo. Still, these aren’t too bad for a cameraphone, a bit grainy – think 1970s 70mm film stock (I love the look of movies made then) – but they are ready for any of us to project a story onto.
Cut! And that’s a wrap. Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend full of new outdoor tales and cinematic adventures!
The happy ending? Oh, ok, here she is. Upstaged by a canine co-star. Flounces off to his trailer…
A strange blog post title – what’s going on? Best answer these questions, PlaidCamper.
I thought I’d write this a few months early, as winter appears to have come and gone, and Calgary is gripped by an early spring. Temperatures hitting 12C (!) the next couple of days, and last time I checked the 14 day forecast, the seasonal daytime high of 0C won’t be happening until late December. If this keeps up, expect a photograph of a daffodil next week…
Calgary has spring, and I’ve had man flu – very disappointing to have a winter affliction when it isn’t even winter outside. Doesn’t seem fair. Luckily, I’d never complain about the weather, and likewise, I’d never complain about feeling under the weather. Nope, I may be gripped by man flu, or worse, but you won’t hear a peep. Perhaps a sniff, sneeze, cough, and a small whimper, but that’s about all.
Having been confined to my sick bed (or sofa), I thought I’d recommend a couple of movies where winter does make an appearance. It’s the only snow we’ve seen for a while.
Let’s start with Wind River (dir. Taylor Sheridan, VVS 2017), one of the few decent movies for grown ups (they let me in) released since the summer, worth your time if you enjoy a slow burn story, arresting scenery, and great performances. Sheridan wrote this, and he wrote Sicario and Hell or High Water, also good movies. If you’ve seen the others, you’ll know Sheridan enjoys a stand off. The characters he creates aren’t always the most immediately accessible or likeable, but you’ll care about them when the stand off occurs.
In Wind River, we start with death on a reservation, followed by death in the past, then more death on a reservation, and finishing up with a bit more death high above a Wyoming reservation. It isn’t the most cheerful of movies, although there are glimmers of hope in the troubled lives of key characters. The story touches on family grief, notions of justice, wasted lives, greed over resource extraction, racial tension, friendship and duplicity. Fortunately, there is also a sprinkling of deadpan humour. And lots and lots of snow. All this in less than two hours, and it is a taut little mystery.
Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner are convincing in their roles, Renner as a hunter, Olsen as a rookie FBI agent. We can thank Sheridan as writer for avoiding what could have been a horribly cliched relationship between these two. The smaller roles are well cast and well acted, and the snowy mountain landscapes are beautiful. When the mystery of what happened to the original victim is revealed in a long flashback, it adds to the drama of what happens next. Great storytelling.
If all the gloomy death and despair of Wind River isn’t for you, then let me recommend a different movie. Be warned, it also features death, but there is far more fun to be had in Murder on the Orient Express (dir. Kenneth Branagh, 20th Century Fox 2017), if you are ok with watching a retelling of a story told countless times before.
I wasn’t too sure about seeing this one. I’d seen a trailer, and it was a touch off-putting. That moustache! The hammy-sounding Brit accents (I have one of those) and ‘eavy Belgian prrro-nun-cee-ation. Hmm – cliche and scenery-chewing alert!
Well, it was a blast! It’s hard to complain about a wonderfully familiar cast of good actors clearly enjoying themselves. Branagh is confident marshalling his players, giving each just enough space to shine.
The train is rolling through striking mountain scenery when a disaster strikes! It is stuck on a huge trestle bridge suspended over a deep, deep gorge after an avalanche blocks the track, derailing the steam engine. There is lots and lots of snow. There is a murder! Poirot has to solve the case before the avalanche is cleared, the engine restored, and the train is able to continue.
In what is essentially a one set movie after the murder occurs, the delights are in the encounters Branagh’s Poirot has with character after character. The movie isn’t derailed and the story doesn’t run out of steam, even if you know what happens. Branagh himself gives a distinctive performance as Poirot, humanizing him behind the huge whiskers and sharp detective intellect.
This movie is good to look at! As well as the colourful period costumes, the train’s interiors are glorious, all cut glass, wooden sheen, crisp tablecloths and gleaming silverware. This is a throwback movie, old-fashioned yet revelling in subverting an age that wasn’t as golden or glamorous as it appears. A fun film, if a story about murder is allowed to be fun.
There you have it, a couple of deeply different movies to enjoy on a dark winter (fake spring?) evening if you are feeling sorry for yourself with a bit of a cold. Thank goodness I was able to get a winter fix, even if it took a murder or two and some CGI…