Posts Tagged ‘scott pilgrim’

Ramshackle: A Yellowknife Story

January 5th, 2016 | Print | 0 Comments

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Every time I visit my hometown of Toronto, there are a couple shops I make sure to visit. One of those is The Beguiling, a now-legendary comics shop located near Bathurst and Bloor, perhaps most famous for being the one-time working location of Scott Pilgrim author Bryan Lee O’Malley. I stopped by last week to see if any of the really independent stuff on the first floor (second floor is more mainstream stuff e.g. Marvel, D.C., Manga, etc.), might catch my eye. Alison McCreesh‘s Ramshackle: A Yellowknife Story immediately caught my attention.

I’m not sure how it happened, but somehow last year I became really interested in the arctic. I read Robert McGhee‘s beautiful book on arctic history The Last Imaginary Place. I watched stuff on YouTube about the arctic. I began dreaming of a road trip visit to Dawson City in the Yukon Territories. An old high school friend of mine lives there now. She posts about it on Facebook a lot. A book about life in Yellowknife sounded great. I knew basically nothing about the capital city of the Northwest Territories.

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McCreesh writes about how she and her boyfriend Pat finished university and, after some road trips and random jobs around Canada, decided on a lark to move up to Yellowknife for a while. Once there, living out of their van, they struggled to adapt to the unique circumstances arctic life, including limited water and ‘unorthodox’ methods of dealing with human waste. They made friends with normal people, artists, bohemian types, etc. And learned about the history of the city.

McCreesh details all this beautifully in the graphic novel. She also takes time to explain the history of city and its current the social, cultural details, in order to provide everything with the proper context. As a result, Ramshackle is a wonderful, adorable, and educational little graphic novel. It made me miss the adventure of the open road, and the kind of life on the edge that led McCreesh and Pat to make Yellowknife their permanent home.

Seconds

October 19th, 2014 | Print | 0 Comments

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Bryan Lee O’Malley follows his now-classic Scott Pilgrim series with the whimsical Seconds, a graphic novel about a woman whose life becomes a little complicated after finding some mushrooms and a notepad that allow her to alter the her recent past.

Katie is 29 years old and works as a chef at a popular restaurant called Seconds. She recently acquired a property and is working on turning it into her own new restaurant to be called Katie’s. She encounters a mysterious hipster-y looking girl in her room one day and then finds a little box in a drawer with a mushroom, a notepad, and instructions to eat the mushroom and rewrite the past in the notepad the way she would have liked it to be. She starts doing this innocently, changing little things, but as she continues, the changes and the new worlds she creates with each revision become a bit much for her to handle. Not to mention that creepy hipster house spirit adding to her difficulties…

I bought Seconds, like most people probably did, because I truly, truly loved the Scott Pilgrim series (as well as the movie) and was anxious to see what its creator would come up with next. Seconds, however, is not the book for people like this, i.e. those looking for something resembling Scott Pilgrim.  It does feature the same basic art and a similar writing style and sense of humour, but it’s a completely different kind of book, with none of the geeky reference points and unabashed romance that made Scott Pilgrim resonate with so many readers, myself included.

Seconds is cute. It’s a well-written and composed story with a kind of ‘meh’ premise and likeable but not particularly interesting characters. Perhaps it was simply the cute, little story O’Malley wanted to tell, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But, unfortunately, Seconds is nothing particularly special.

Sloan

June 13th, 2011 | Features | 1 Comment

This Canadian band has been around for 20 years now. They’re still loved, still considered contemporary, and they’re still making solid albums. The band of the week is…

SLOAN!!!

I realized something recently.

The character of Scott Pilgrim was named after a song by the band Plumtree, a 90s indie rock band from Halifax, the small East coast Canadian city Sloan is also from. When promo for the movie was ramping up, I read something about how Scott Pilgrim creator Brian Lee O’Malley used to walk around listening to Plumtree albums on his Walkman in the 90s, and that image, or the feeling I get when I imagine that image, reminds me what it was like growing up in the 90s in Canada.

The Canadian music channel I grew up with (before MTV Canada existed) was Much Music, probably still the music channel most Canadians watch (though Aux.tv is now another contender). Canada has certain cultural laws which dictate that like 45% or so of what gets broadcast on the airwaves has to be Canadian in origin, so Much Music would play a lot of videos by Canadian bands…they legally had to. Truth is, I never really watched Much Music, I didn’t care about music videos and I still don’t really all that much, but Much Music was something I was always surrounded by. I was always aware of it, I would glimpse it here and there when my parents might turn it on for a bit, my friends, etc. Maybe I even did watch a bit of it because I remember a lot of those music videos by Canadian indie-rock bands. Most of them sucked and were as generic as they could possibly be, but then there were a couple that didn’t suck.

The point is, even though I didn’t listen to much of it as a kid (I wasn’t even really interested in music in general), I grew up with 90s/early 00s Canadian indie rock, it was something that seeped into my head, my ears, even though I was too young to recognize what it was, how it was different from other music, what made it special or unique. Looking back though, I realize how distinct 90s/early 00s Canadian indie rock was. Bands like Treble Charger (when Bill Priddle was still partly in charge) and Sloan typified it for the most part – even Our Lady Peace would probably get lumped in there by most, since they were ‘alternative’ and similar, but way, way more corporate, and would become even more corporate in later years. Their music was a ‘nicer’ version of what American indie rock bands like Dinosaur Jr. and Archers Of Loaf were doing. That’s a bit of an unfair comparison, but for the most part it was melodic rock with noisy guitars…so yeah…it’s not that far off…

I first heard Sloan on either Much Music or YTV, a Canadian kids channel. YTV still exists, right? I’m pretty sure it does. Anyways. I think they might’ve played a music video here or there. Regardless, at some point I remember seeing the music video for Sloan‘s “The Other Man”. That was the first song of theirs I ever heard and I really liked it. It’s still a great song. So great that whenever I heard about Sloan, I instantly thought of that song.

After that song – which I downloaded in Napster or Kazaa and would listen to on my primitive Mp3 player – I forgot about Sloan for a couple years. The feeling of discovering “The Other Man” seeped into the recesses of my memory to sink in the honey of nostalgia until pulled out again as an adult.

A couple years ago, I decided to check out Sloan again and decided I totally did not like them. AllMusicGuide.com recommended One Chord To Another, an album I downloaded and thought was way too clean and poppy, it lacked all edge and was just plain boring. Then Sloan released that song “Who Taught You To Live Like That”, a lazy, bluesy song that sounds a lot like Big Star‘s “Don’t Lie To Me“, except without any of the latter song’s redeeming charm. This further cemented my opinion that Sloan was just one of those crappy bands Canadians liked largely by Canadians for their Canadian-ness (blandness?) rather than their skill.

Recently Sloan released their 11th album in their 20 year history, The Double Cross. When I first heard about it’s release, I could’ve cared less, but solid reviews from the ever-trustworthy Stuart Berman in Eye Weekly and a damn-good 8.1 from Pitchfork forced me to reconsider and give a band I once loved a second chance. And thanks to them, I have come back to Sloan. I don’t love them like I loved “The Other Man”, but the band is full of damn good songwriters, and I’m going into their back catalogue to try to understand them better and maybe even find songs I heard, even loved, as a kid but forgot along the way. And so my return to Sloan isn’t just a return to a very solid Canadian band, but in a way, a return to my childhood, to the days of Canadian indie rock in the glorious, largely-forgotten 90s.

Scott Pilgrim and I: A Love Story

August 14th, 2010 | Features | 0 Comments

Don’t worry, I’m going to try to stay away from spoilers, so if you haven’t read Scott Pilgrim and are thinking about reading it or seeing the movie, don’t be afraid to read this.

Three months ago I didn’t know who or what Scott Pilgrim was. I was cozily living my life, when I started seeing people posting the trailer of Facebook with comments like, “This is gonna be the best thing eva!” After seeing the words, “Scott Pilgrim” too many times to ignore, I had to click on one of the trailers.

…And I watched it…

…And it looked really, really awesome…

It had video game references, dudes in rock bands, kung-foo fights, a love story with a chick with cool hair and it looked like a comic book. So basically it was everything I loved rolled up into one package. Whatever this was, I wanted it right now, and then more of it.

I wikipedia’d Scott Pilgrim and found out that it was this graphic novel series written by this guy Bryan Lee O’Malley and the entire thing is set in my hometown of Toronto. A week later a had time to go and sit down in the big Chapters/Indigo by the Scotiabank Theatre and I read through the first Scott Pilgrim. It was good, cute. I wasn’t in love with it yet but I definitely wanted to find out what happened next.

They didn’t have the second one at that store so a couple days later, I went over to the huge Chapters/Indigo by Yonge and Dundas and sat down and read through the second book. And the more I read, the more I fell in love with the story.

I had a huge stroke of luck and my pal/TdotComics prez Alice Quinn lent me books 3-5. And yeah, I just got more and more obsessed.

Not only are the books witty and an awesome hodgepodge of geek culture, but the love story around which everything revolves is amazingly sweet and one of the most realistic I’ve ever seen. We’re surrounded by so many two-dimensional or simply ridiculously unrealistic romances that when anything kind of gets it right, it’s a small miracle.

The chemistry between the Scott and Ramona makes sense. Ramona is this very emotional, complicated girl. She’s not 100% sure who she is. She’s always trying to find herself, and with every new boyfriend, she tries to enter and be a part of their world, find some place to belong. That’s why her ex-boyfriends are of a good variety, and her resume includes emo kid, skater/tough guy, vegan band guy, stylish older guy, etc. This is also reflected in her changing her hair every one and a half weeks.

Now, Scott Pilgrim, as a character, is not someone I would like in real life. The casting of Cera in this case was appropriate, because Scott Pilgrim is this shallow, uninteresting, lazy, unmotivated character. He’s almost like a non-character, and if I had to pick any actor in Hollywood to play a young guy totally devoid of character, I would probably pick Michael Cera.

So back to what I was saying before about why Ramona really likes Scott Pilgrim.

I’ve seen many an awesome, deep, emotional girl fall for a guy who looks about as interesting as a dixie cup. Why? Well, in this case, these blank guys, I think, act as blank canvases for these girls. These girls have so much emotional stuff to figure out in their own world, that these blank canvas guys kind of just allow them to do that, reflecting these girls back to themselves without interjecting any of their own reality. I could be wrong, but that’s just a theory I have and I know I’m not the only person who thinks this might be the case.

As you’ve probably figured out, it’s Ramona’s character that made me fall in love with the Scott Pilgrim series. However, despite my contempt for Scott Pilgrim himself, I do admire and relate to the way he feels about Ramona and how persistently (though clumsily) he pursues her. He’s like really in love and it’s cute. I know I’m like a cynical blogger, but everyone’s got their soft side…

So yeah, that was what really hooked me on the comics. And then of course there’s all the video game references and band stuff. I don’t know if I can go into that cuz it’s just like way too much, but I’ll just say if you haven’t played The Legend of Zelda (preferably Ocarina of Time), there’s a lot of stuff you’re not going to get. That game in particular gets a lot of nods and if you ask me it’s the greatest game of all time so, yeah, you should play it. If you’ve got a Wii you can get a Gamecube version and play that. If you have never played this game, your life is missing something.

Now, the movie: it’s awesome. Shot as though it was made for an audience with ADD, director Edgar Wright still makes sure to give us time to get to know the characters, and the fact that they’re played by such phenomenal actors and actresses as Anna Kendricks (Twilight, Up In The Air), Aubrey Plaza (Funny People, Parks and Recreation) and Kieran Culkin makes a big, big deal. Alison Pill (Milk) also stood out as Kim Pine, the pissy, deadpan drummer in Scott’s band Sex Bob-omb. Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona Flowers was a perfect choice, and her definitive, relatively deep voice imparts her intelligence immediately, something crucial to the character. Shout outs as well to Ellen Wong for going all out as ridiculous high school chick Knives Chau.

The first three fourths of the movie are very true to the comic while the last bit changes things significantly. It works but it’s a little shakier than the rest of the movie. Jason Shwartzman gives Gideon Graves a bit more character than he has in the graphic novel, which is good, but the entire subspace aspect of the graphic novels, which is crucial to understanding exactly how Gideon controls Ramona, is almost entirely glossed over.

That being said, if you’ve read the graphic novels and understand some of the things they only kind of briefly mention or allude to in the film, everything will make more sense and work better. And really, the few flaws the film has don’t compare with how many things it gets right. Video game culture is portrayed amazingly well, and between the visual references, 8-bit music, the way a lot of text is displayed on screen, and the way the aspect ratio changes during certain scenes, a lot gamers may very well come in their pants with excitement at what they’re watching.

Then there’s the music which is awesome. Not a big surprise when Nigel Godrich is your composer and the songs in the movie are written by Beck, Broken Social Scene and Metric. The song “Ramona” (which I just wrote about in my Beck Band of the Week thing) is definitely the best, though the Metric song (played in the movie by Clash at Demonhead) is also pretty good.

If you haven’t read the graphic novels, seen the movie, or don’t really know anything about Scott Pilgrim, I highly urge you to fix this. The poignancy at the center of the story is what I think has made this little book by a comic book dude from Ontario such a phenomenon and I highly recommend it to everyone who’s ever played video games, played in a band, read comic books, or liked a girl.