Friday, May 26, 2006

Ian Copeland R.I.P.

Ian Copeland, agent for many New Wave and other rock acts, died of melanoma on Tuesday at the age of 57. His older brother, Miles Copeland, founded the I.R.S. record label. His younger brother Stewart was the drummer for The Police.

Starting in the Seventies, Copeland was the agent of many Southern rock bands, among them the Charlie Daniels Band and Lynard Skynard. It was later in the Seventies after he had sought gigs for British band Squeeze that he expanded beyond Southern rock. In 1978 he founded the Frontier Booking International (the FBI, for short), which would become influential in the New Wave movement. The agency represented such New Wave acts as Adam Ant, The B-52s, The Cure, and, of course, The Police. Copeland's agency also boasted such acts as The Ramones, The Smiths, The Dead Kennedys, and Joan Jett.

As an agent and promoter Ian Copeland worked with some of the biggest names in rock music. Alongside his brother Miles' record label, I.R.S., Copeland's agency brought New Wave to the forefront of the music scene in the early Eighties. Although not a rock star himself, he certainly had an impact on the music being played at the time.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Second Coming

This week has been a hard one for my family, so I think I can be forgiven for not wanting to make a substantial blog entry tonight. Instead, I thought I would post one of my favourite poems by one of my favourite poets, William Butler Yeats. Yeats was a complex figure whose interests included myth, folklore, the theatre, mysticism, and even magic (he was head of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn for a time).

My favourite poem by Yeats is "The Second Coming." The poem was inspired by the Russian Revolution of 1917. He viewed the revolution as a threat to the aristocracy, a class which he held close to his heart. Among his poems, it is perhaps the one most influenced by his interest in mysticism.

"The Second Coming"
by William Butler Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Secondhand Lions

This weekend has not been a particularly good one for my family, so I thought we were in some need of cheering up. For that reason I rented one of my favourite movies, Secondhand Lions.

Despite having a well known cast (Robert Duvall, Michael Caine, and Haley Joel Osment), Secondhand Lions one of those many fall releases that fell through the cracks. Released in September 2003, it grossed only about $41,000,000. That was a real shame, as Secondhand Lions is a very well done movie. The film centres on 13 year old Walter (Haley Joel Osment) who is left by his flighty mother to stay with his two rather eccentric great uncles, Hub (Robert Duvall) and Garth (Michael Caine)in late Fifties Texas. The movie focuses on the relationship between the two old men and the youth left in their charge.

Many movies of these types tend towards the maudlin side. This is not the case with Secondhand Lions. The movie is sentimental without being mawkish. It is never manipulative. It never resorts to clever plot devices to evoke the viewer's sympathy. There are no shocking revelations to be had in the entire film. Instead, Secondhand Lions concentrates on its characters, allowing them to develop at their own pace without resorting to the usual cinematic tricks.

This having been said, one should not be fooled into thinking Secondhand Lions is a simple, straight forward film. The plot is enlivened by Garth's tales of their adventures in the French Foreign Legion and Hub's romance with the beautiful princess Jasmine. These segments are shot in the style of the swashbucklers of old, complete with extravagant swordplay and bold escapes. Alongside these action sequences, Secondhand Lions has its share of comedy and even a bit of tragedy.

The responsibility for the quality of Secondhand Lions squarely rests with four men. One is writer/director Tim McCanlies. His screenplay lets the characters drive the plot, rather than letting the plot drive the characters. His direction skillfully blends the various elements of the film in such a way that it is enjoyable and not without its surprises. The other three men responsible for the quality of Secondhand Lions are Michael Caine, Robert Duvall, and Haley Joel Osment. The three of them give great performances, never striking a false note once.

At its core Secondhand Lions is not simply about the bond between a youth and his two older relatives, but what it means to be a man. In the speech that Hub gives young men, he sums up the most important things in life as honour, courage, virtue, and love. It is hard to argue with that. Secondhand Lions is definitely a fine film that the entire family can enjoy.