Thursday, June 30, 2011

Through the clouds, we do get glimmers of summer.


The 70s

This post started off as an ode to 1970s Meryl Streep:

But I soon realized it had more to do with films from the 1970s than about Meryl specifically. It was a fantastic, adventurous decade for filmmaking - especially, it seems, for American actors and directors. Woody made his most endearing films, and Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman, Diane Keaton, Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway and Gene Hackman did some of the best work of their long careers. It was also a particularly excellent time for horror, science fiction, and political thrillers. I can admit that I am incredibly biased about 1970s films, and couldn't resist assembling a list of favourites:

Love Story, 1970 (Arthur Hiller)

The French Connection, 1971 (William Friedkin)

Harold and Maude, 1971 (Hal Ashby)

Play Misty For Me, 1971 (Clint Eastwood)

Straw Dogs, 1971 (Sam Peckinpah)

THX 1138, 1971 (George Lucas)

Cabaret, 1972 (Bob Fosse)

Solaris, 1972 (Andrei Tarkovsky)

Don't Look Now, 1973 (Nicolas Roeg)

The Exorcist, 1973 (William Friedkin)

Chinatown, 1974 (Francis Ford Coppola)

The Conversation, 1974 (Francis Ford Coppola)

Barry Lyndon, 1975 (Stanley Kubrick)

Jaws, 1975 (Steven Spielberg)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, 1975 (Milos Forman)

Three Days of the Condor, 1975 (Sydney Pollack)

All The President's Men, 1976 (Alan J. Pakula)

Carrie, 1976 (Brian De Palma)

Network, 1976 (Sidney Lumet)

The Omen, 1976 (Richard Donner)

Logan's Run, 1976 (Michael Anderson)

Annie Hall, 1977 (Woody Allen)

Days of Heaven, 1978 (Terrence Malick)

The Deer Hunter, 1978 (Michael Cimino)

Halloween, 1978 (John Carpenter)

Superman, 1978 (Richard Donner)

Alien, 1979 (Ridley Scott)

Being There, 1979 (Hal Ashby)

The China Syndrome, 1979 (James Bridges)

Kramer vs. Kramer, 1979 (Robert Benton)

Manhattan, 1979 (Woody Allen)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Another sport

While the rest of this city is deliriously consumed by some sort of ice sport (a game that is about to reach its zenith in mere minutes, a longwinded end to an equally lengthy and tiring series), it seems appropriate to discuss a different sport, one more suitable for the season - tennis.

Tennis was a constant presence in our household, which seems strange and bourgeois considering we lived in a rural prairie town. My father loved it, my uncles loved it, and my brother and I loved it. Since we were old enough to play we had our own racquets, mine a bright blue with rainbow strings, only gently worn due to my pathetic wrists and weak arms. My French uncle was a serious player; he strung his own racquets and had white shorts, and played actively well into his fifties. During boisterous family reunions my ears would perk up when the conversation would turn (as it often did) to the hope and disappointment around Michael Chang, probably the most successful Asian tennis player of all time. Chang, who would later develop thighs of steel, won the French Open at seventeen. The discussion would continue with comparisons, assessments, and debates about many of the greats - Edberg, McEnroe, Lendl, and Borg. Conners, Courier, Muster, and Becker. Or maybe it was Navratilova, Graf, or Seles.

My great was, and remains, Pete Sampras. He was never the dreamiest of the bunch and certainly not the loudest. He was the champion of Wimbledon, a failure on clay, and a classic player that was the antithesis to the flashier, long-haired Canon Rebel-peddling baseliner Andre Agassi. When preparing to serve, he would take three tennis balls from the ball boy or girl, examining all three in his hand carefully before selecting as he felt the fuzzy ones were the best to hit. One of my most memorable birthdays was when Sampras defeated Agassi in the Wimbledon final in 1999. Sampras had finesse and the game was an exhilarating combination of serve-and-volley, tennis whites, and strawberries and cream. It was magic.

As the rest of the city winds down from an intense few weeks of sticks and pucks, I will be sitting back with a lemonade, thinking about that amazing match in preparation for the All England Club next week. Care to join me?