06 September 2014

Running: Why I Run

In late 2009 and early 2010, I experienced a series of difficult losses that led to me being depressed in the summer of 2010.

One morning, I was lying in my bed, staring at the ceiling. Eventually, I said to myself, "I need to move or I'll never get up from this bed." Later that day, in the evening, I walked around my neighbourhood to figure out a route for running. The next morning I went for a run. I probably did barely 4km, and when I finished, out of breath and my legs heavy, I thought, "This is why I hate running!"

Yet I kept at it, and I steadily came to appreciate how good I felt after a run, like getting a natural high.

Running is now an essential part of my life. While I may not say anything truly new here, these are the reasons why I run:

1. Constant, tangible improvement and achievements. I remember the first time I ran 10km and the sense of accomplishment I felt. Whether it's going farther or faster than I've gone before, running always gives me the chance to do more, to get better, to meet new goals. You've run your first marathon? Okay, let's see if you can go faster for the next one! As well, there's always more to learn about running, from shoes to crosstraining to gear to technique to diet and so on.

Film: Noah and The Drop

Noah  *** (out of 4)

Intriguingly watchable throughout, visually and for the story and characters. The world of the far (biblical) past imagined with a suitable level of the fantastic and sense of the mythic/grand/powerful. Russell Crowe strong, convincing; Emma Watson good; Ray Winstone does menacing well. Jennifer Connelly awkwardly overacts at times. Decently well done.

The Drop  *** 1/2 (out of 4)

Saw the world premiere at TIFF, with the cast and director in attendance. Tom Hardy exceptional as Bob, a quiet, seemingly unassuming New York bartender going about his days among gangsters and local street thugs. He rescues a puppy, meets a woman, deftly handles a suspicious cop, and does what needs to be done to keep everything together. James Gandolfini's final role; he's typically very good. Pacing, editing, cinematography slowly, expertly build tension to the climax. Ending is surprising, fitting, satisfying.

01 September 2014

Film: A Most Wanted Man and Locke

A Most Wanted Man  *** 1/2 (out of 4)

Philip Seymour Hoffman's last starring role. A meticulous, tense, very finely balanced and written spy thriller. Precision editing and cinematography. Keeps you guessing to the end, along with the characters. Convincing performances by all the leads, with Hoffman captivating in his weariness, distrust, and impatience. The post-9/11 world from behind the scenes, and it's a dour, shifting, confused world.

Locke  *** (out of 4)

Just Tom Hardy as Ivan Locke in a car on a long drive to get to a hospital in London for the birth of a child conceived during a one-night stand. He's trying to do the right thing, he says, as his life (job, family) disintegrates in the course of the drive. Locke proves to be a fascinatingly complex, troubled, coiled-up man. The claustrophobia of the car matches, perhaps, that of his life. Hypnotising.

24 August 2014

Favourite Films of 2013

Awfully belated, I know, but this list has been on my mind for a while. It includes films released in 2013, though some I eventually saw on DVD/Blu-Ray in the first few months of this year.

My top 10 films of 2013:

1. Gravity  ****
2. 12 Years a Slave  ****
3. Her ****
4. The Spectacular Now ****
5. Upstream Color *** 1/2
6. Blue is the Warmest Color *** 1/2
7. Le Passé/The Past *** 1/2
8. Jagten/The Hunt  *** 1/2
9. Frances Ha  *** 1/2
10. Fruitvale Station *** 1/2

Honourable Mentions: American Hustle, The Bling Ring, Blue Jasmine, Dallas Buyers Club, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Invisible Woman, Nebraska, Spring Breakers, To the Wonder

Pleasant Surprises: Don Jon, The Way Way Back

Disappointments: Inside Llewyn Davis, Only God Forgives, Oz the Great and Powerful, The Lone Ranger, Pacific Rim, Thor: The Dark World

Favourite Performance by an Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave

Favourite Performance by an Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

Film: Boyhood

*** 1/2 (out of 4)

On one hand, amazing to watch the actors actually aging over the span of twelve years, particularly Ellar Coltrane, the lead. The transitions as he grows up are seamless and surprising at the same time. On the other hand, a film that steadily, carefully captivates and wins you over. It's a portrait of life, really. Perhaps leaves some storylines oddly undeveloped, but in the end that's of little concern.

12 August 2014

Film: Only Lovers Left Alive

*** 1/2 (out of 4)

The vampire film as expression of early 21st-century ennui. A desolate, Gothic, brooding Detroit contrasted by a mazy, softly lit, sensual Tangier. Swinton and Hiddleston captivating as an ultracool, mysterious, devoted, centuries-old couple in love with each other and with human history, art, poetry, music, and retro-technology. Every frame and every shot is stylish, observant, meditative. The blood and fangs are rare, and more effective for being so. It's about the lovers, after all.

08 August 2014

Running: Being Injured Sucks

I love running.

It's something I do that's truly for me –– my health, my mind. It's my meditation time, when I'm doing a run on my own. It's a constant source of tangible achievement and improvement, going farther and/or faster than the last time. It's being part of an incredibly motivating and inclusive community.

I started running regularly, as a habit, around four years ago. Then I found myself doing my first 10k race. Then it was my first half-marathon. Then, in October 2013, I did my first full marathon, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (or, the "Scotia full," as some of us say here in Toronto).

What a rush that day was. Definitely one of the most amazing days of my life.

In the finish area after the race.

Since that day, however, I've not been able to run very much, and not at all from January to March. I'd developed a stress fracture (and bursitis) in my right knee, likely during training for the marathon, and which was, of course, exacerbated by the race.