Saturday, December 31, 2005

2005: The Year In...Turner!

Here it is: the final installment of 2005: The Year In...Review! I've spent time looking at movies, my experience at U2, music, and going to weddings, and it's finally time to summarize the year that it has been in my life. For a refresher, check out last year's post to see where I had been in 2004. Now to review this year.

I began the year by continuing in school. I had several year-long classes to finish, as well as my second year as President of the IVCF Chapter at the University of Saskatchewan. It was also the end of my stretch of twenty consecutive months of school. These first four months had a number of highlights, including a trip to Regina over February break, and a class in Contemporary Catholic Thought. Perhaps the biggest highlight came very early in the year, when my father finally gave his life to Christ. He changed jobs soon thereafter, and for the first time that I can remember had a job that he really enjoyed in which he could also support the family. I was utterly exhausted by the end, but it was all worth it, as Lee and I celebrated the end of my school year and his degree by going on a pilgrimage to Vancouver to see U2 on April 28. It had been a draining school year and year of ministry, but it had finally come to an end.

I got back to Saskatchewan and decided to go to Regina for a week, which would be ended by emceeing my first wedding of the summer. It was great to reconnect with some old friends, and the wedding was a blast. Unfortunately, I had little idea at that point of what to do in May and June. I got back to Saskatoon and attempted to find employment with no luck. Thankfully, my parents were able to help me out financially, and I was able to spend the rest of May relaxing and recuperating. June rolled around, and that meant that it was time for the Great Western Canadian Road Trip to Abbotsford, BC for a friend's wedding. And seeing A again for the first time since we had broken off the engagement. Needless to say, I was a tad stressed, but the wedding and the encounter were very good, and I felt really confident as we travelled to Saskatchewan that life was going to get better. And then my life hit the improbability drive.

I knew the couple of weeks after I got back would be busy, as my roommate was getting married, I was dealing with A, we were all moving out of our house, and I was preparing to go to Redberry Bible Camp to counsel for the summer. What I did not expect was finding out within two weeks that two close friends of mine were both terminally ill: my friend and former roommate Mike went back into the hospital with depression, and my friend and pastor Dwayne found out that he had cancer. My world was shaken up, but I pressed forward, got everything done, and got to camp. I did not know what was going to happen over the summer, but I did know that I was where God wanted and needed me to be, and that was all I needed to know.

The transition into camp was difficult, but I managed. I had never been to this camp before, and I knew very few people there. But I was beginning to hit my stride in the second week of camp, when I got a phone call: Mike had killed himself at 21 years old. Redberry was good and allowed me to leave, but I was unable to go to the funeral because I was emceeing a wedding that weekend. It was good to be there, but difficult because Mike's death affected several people at the wedding, including the bride and groom. But I got through and went back to camp, which was filled with ADHD and homesick campers for the next two weeks, with a visit to Eatonia to see newlyweds Chris and Maryanne one last time before they moved across the country. I had the first week of August off, which was very needed. It was in that week that I saw Dwayne for what would be the last time. I ended that week by travelling to Regina to emcee wedding number four, and then went back to camp. The next two weeks were very difficult, as news of Dwayne's worsening condition reached the camp, and on August 16, I found out that Dwayne had passed away. Again, Redberry was understanding, and allowed me to leave. I went back to camp immediately after the funeral, and spent the ensuing weekend on the campsite, followed by one last week of counselling. I had a great week, and finished strong, and I was done my summer at camp.

After a brief trip to Regina during Labour Day weekend to help two other newlywed couples whose weddings I had emceed get ready to move to Toronto, it was that time again. School. I had decided in March to spend the 2005-2006 school year completing my four-year B.A. in English, and so I again postponed my final year of Education to finish my English degree. I moved in with new roommates into a new place and attempted to start fresh. I was no longer involved in leadership in IVCF, and I was excited about the possibilities of the new school year. I did alright for the first two months of the year, until school stress began to accelerate in November. Then I found myself really beginning to struggle through my four classes, and spent sometime wondering why. I soon realized that the events of the previous year were truly beginning to take their toll on me, and that I was far more deeply affected by these events than I had ever thought. I made it through the end of the semester with a lot of help from God and friends, and ended up doing surprisingly well. I entered the holidays again utterly exhausted and ready for some time off, which I have gotten in the last week and a bit.

And so this is where I find myself now. I have one semester left to complete my English degree, with one year of Education (including a four-month internship) still left after that. I have little idea of what I will be doing for the summer or beyond that. I am planning to find part-time employment to help me out financially, as well as pursuing initiatives that will help make me an overall healthier person. 2005 has been a draining year, and I hope and pray that 2006 will be a year that will be refreshing and refilling. I would never want to repeat this year or wish it on anyone, but I also would not want to have done things any other way, because I know that in the end this year has been an incredibly valuable experience, difficult though it has been. I celebrate the new year this weekend, and a new year of life on Friday, my twenty-third birthday. Thank you all so much for all your help, love, and support throughout this difficult year. This concludes 2005: The Year In...Turner. See you in 2006.

Friday, December 30, 2005

2005: The Year In...Weddings!

Since I had some thoughts to post from today's festivities, I thought it might be time for the next part of my year-end review: the year in weddings! I went to a lot of weddings this year. I was invited to nine in total, with at least two more "invitations" extended informally. I went to five during the summer, and the final wedding of 2005 was yesterday. Of those five in the summer, I emceed four, also deejaying one of those, and roadtripped to BC for the other. Four of the six weddings were high-church (three Catholic and one Anglican), with another non-denominational and the other Hawaiian themed. One was in small-town Saskatchewan, two in Saskatoon, two in Regina, and one in Abbotsford, BC. Basically, I went to a lot of weddings, and I have a lot of pent-up thoughts from all my wedding experiences that I feel the need to share in this year review.

The first wedding of the summer was my first emceeing job, and I realized that I really enjoy emceeing weddings. It's a high pressure situation, and it's a challenge because every wedding is slightly different. Different families and friends have completely different expectations and standards, and it's not easy to meet the conditions of couple, audience, and still be yourself, but it's a lot of fun. I hope that I don't have to duplicate the feat of four in one summer, but if I do, I'll be more than happy to do it. I also love deejaying. It can be difficult to appease the crowds, but there's so much pacing of the night that the DJ does that it's tough to make everyone happy. The DJ at this most recent wedding wasn't very good, and it showed: too many polkas + bad slow songs + not enough recent hits = a lacklustre crowd. And now that I've done a bit myself, it's really aggravating to have to put up with a bad DJ. Or emcee, for that matter. But thankfully, that didn't happen in the weddings I didn't emcee this year.

I also had the chance to be part of the "out-of-town crew" at the wedding in BC. There was a table of us Saskatchewan people, and it was a blast to be the travellers. It is a completely different experience when you're part of a significant sized group coming from far away, and it makes the wedding a lot of fun.

I did end up flying solo for this final wedding, despite my pondering finding a date a couple of weeks ago. And I concluded that it's not fun. I didn't really feel like I could bring a date to this wedding, since I knew it would be a tough day for me as it was, so I couldn't bring someone else in on that, too. The point is, I don't ever want to go solo to a wedding again.

The wedding gift is another area that I have thought about, having given distinctly different gifts at each wedding. I have struggled with giving something that reflects me as well as something that the couple will use, and I think I did a good job in each case of doing just that. I think it's important to give something that they wouldn't buy themselves, either. I've decided I'm not a big registry person, unless there's something there that I would buy them anyway. I just can't see any couple saying in ten years, "Wow, he did a great job in giving us these placemats and toilet brush!" It's a fine line to walk, but I think I did it well this year.

So that's the weddings of 2005. There are already four weddings on tap for 2006, with at least one more expected, with more possibly on the way. Some of those will be travelling, some not, but it appears that I will have at least one more summer filled with weddings. It has to slow down sometime, doesn't it? But then come the babies...George Costanza was right. It never ends. But that's okay. And so ends my review of 2005: The Year In...Weddings! Tune in tomorrow for more Year In Review at Life of Turner!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

2005: The Year In...Music!

Welcome back to 2005: The Year In...Review! here at Life of Turner. Today's installment focusses upon the world of music. I'll spend some time talking about the best and worst albums, songs, concerts, stories, disappointments of the year, as well as other random collected thoughts from the year as pertaining to music. As reference, you may want to read 2004: The Year In...Music! to get an idea of last year's thoughts. Now onto 2005!
It's really amazing how much I still have to recap when thinking about this year. I felt like I had an off year as far as music went, but I still got an awful lot in this year despite lack of time and money. Imagine if I had more of either of those...that would be a lot of music. One of the biggest developments of the area in music was starting the Bring Back Vinyl with Mistah Kurtz in the latter part of the year, but I'm still taking the space to share my thoughts with all y'all here. Anyway, on with the review!

Top stories of 2005:
5. the Supertones, after nine good years and one kind of mediocre year to end, and to Petra, after 30 great years with 3 okay years interspersed. They both came to Alberta within the year, and I missed them both. And I will continue to miss them, since they're both now done.
4. EPs. P.O.D., Collective Soul, Stavesacre, Relient K, and others released EPs to tide their fans over until their next albums, but also demonstrated that the EP is developing its own purpose as a musical vehicle.
3. The Man in Black. This fall's film Walk the Line has helped rekindle my interest in the work of Johnny Cash, particularly his earlier years. Wow.
2. Quick turnarounds. Blindside, Emery, Project 86, and Demon Hunter were among the bands that released albums after releasing albums in 2004. It makes it tough to experience new artists when I can barely keep up with the ones I already follow.
1. U2. Vertigo Tour. Need I say more?

Disappointments of 2005:
3. The Supertones. Not only did I not get to see them when they were in Edmonton, but they released a decent best-of and a half-assed worship album this year without any B-sides, DVDs, or other valuable things for longtime fans (such as myself). But at least Ethan's in Demon Hunter now.
2. Tooth and Nail churning out some real junk, especially the new Thousand Foot Krutch. For every Mae, Emery, and Underoath, they're releasing two Terminals. It's okay to stick with a few really good bands and not sign eight million mediocre bands.
1. Delays, delays, and more delays. Switchfoot's Nothing Is Sound was delayed two months, and new albums from Mars Ill, Mute Math, and P.O.D. were held off until the 2006. Boo-urns.

Best non-U2 shows of 2005:
2005 was a down-year for me for shows. I would have liked to have seen concerts by Pillar (YQ), Supertones (YC), Project 86 (HM), Mute Math (HM), L.A. Symphony (Odeon), and Petra (Calgary), but there's only so much one man can do. I think this year was as much about the shows I didn't go to as the ones that I did, but there were three concerts that really stuck out of the dozen or so I went to this year other than U2. Skillet and KJ-52 put on passable shows at YCSK in November, but there were three others that were far better. You can dig through the archives and find posts after most of these shows for more information.

3. Collective Soul, Credit Union Centre, mid-September. Better venue, crowd, and sound than their May concert at Prairieland. I'm glad I got to experience this redemption after the debacle at the beginning of the summer.
2. Pigeon John, The Odeon in Saskatoon, mid-January. The first of Pigeon's two visits to Saskatoon in 2005 was by far the better of the two concerts. Go Pigeon!
1. Underoath, Prairieland, mid-September. It was only a half-hour set, but these Tampa boys were absolutely amazing. Plus I got to watch football with them before show after we finished our interview. So awesome.

Best packaging of 2005:
3. A String Quartet Tribute to Relient K
2. Demon Hunter - The Triptych
1. Project 86 - ...And The Rest Will Follow

(I will attempt to give the 2005 Mixtape within a couple of weeks. But on with the review.)

Favourite albums of 2005:
First things first: I purchased a fair number of albums in 2005, and there are still a lot left on my list to buy sometime. But I still did not listen to nearly as many albums as I would have liked to, so my top ten favourite albums for the year are slightly skewed. Some of the albums that I bought that did not make the list are: Audio Adrenaline - Until My Heart Caves In; Casting Crowns - Lifesong; Pigeon John - Sings The Blues; John Reuben - The Boy vs. the Cynic; Superchick - Beauty Through Pain. But there are many more I could have considered. Hence this list of the Top Ten albums of 2005 to experience and/or purchase someday (lest you think I'm being negligent by omitting these from my list):

4th Ave Jones - Stereo: The Evolution of HipRockSoul
Audioslave - Out of Exile
Copeland - In Motion
David Crowder Band - A Collision
Deepspace5 - Unique Just Like Everyone Else
Foo Fighters - In Your Honor
Juliana Theory - Deadbeat Sweetheartbeat
Mae - The Everglow
Sufjan Stevens - Illinois
Thrice - Vheissu

And finally, my Top Ten albums of 2005 as they stand now, in alphabetical order:
As Cities Burn - Son I Loved You At Your Darkest - There's something intangible about this album that just grips you. The music is great, the lyrics solid, but the whole is far greater than the sum of the parts. One of the best debuts in awhile.
Blindside - The Great Depression - After the heights of Silence and About A Burning Fire, it makes sense that the only place to go for Blindside would be "down." A little depression never hurt anyone, especially since it helped produce this masterpiece, which is arguably the band's best "album" yet.
Coldplay - X&Y - A surprisingly solid, if not schizophrenic, effort from the second-biggest band in the world. A better track order and a lot less falsetto would go a long way though.
Demon Hunter - The Triptych - Not as good as 2004's Summer of Darkness, but still solid straightforward metal. If the only knock against an album is that it is not as good as its predecessor, that's a very good thing. This is the kind of album that I wouldn't mind if the band called it quits and never released another song. It would be sad, but it's good enough to satisfy me for a long time.
Emery - The Question - A more mature sequel to 2004's The Weak's End that shows that the band isn't just a screamo band. More melodic and introspective, and an overall better album than its predecessor.
Maylene and the Sons of Disaster - This album is an iffy inclusion to this list that will likely be supplanted by one of the albums from the previous Top Ten, but it's still a solid concept debut album effort. Southern screaming rock: whodathunkit?
Moby - Hotel - Trance, rock, ambient triphop: it's all here. It's a step away from Play and a step in the right direction. A very brilliant album.
Neverending White Lights - Act I: Goodbye Friends of the Heavenly Bodies - This ethereal debut from Canadian songwriter Daniel Victor features different famous guest vocalists on each track, but still maintains its unity and integrity as an album. It's a concept album and a debut, but it works, and it is utterly enchanting.
Project 86 - ...And The Rest Will Follow - I wasn't sure what to expect, but this album crunches, grooves, and rocks like true Project should. It'll take time, but I think this could prove to be their best album yet. We'll see.
Switchfoot - Nothing Is Sound - Maybe this is the real beautiful Letdown. Despite three mediocre tracks and a bit of overproduction at times, the 'foot gave us their second-best album this year. I think this is a better album than people gave it credit for, and time will prove that fact.

So that's the year that 2005 was in music in the world of Turner. The overall summary is that it was a year of barely keeping up, without really trying anything new. I also think that it will take a little while for the aftermath of the myriad releases from August to October to really establish their identity in my life, and it will be interesting to see how it all turns out. I am planning to revisit these thoughts in six months' time to see how they have developed and to re-evaluate them, but this is how everything stands at the end of 2005.
So what's there left to look forward to in 2006? The fun begins immediately with P.O.D.'s long-awaited and much-delayed album Testify, which releases January 24. Other projects expected this year are the also long-delayed Pro Pain by Mars Ill and the debut full-length album from Mute Math, who will be performing at YQ 2006 in mid-February. As Cities Burn will be coming to Saskatoon in another eagerly anticipated show. 2006 should also feature new albums from Stavesacre (How To Live With A Curse, March) and Pigeon John (...and the Summertime Pool Party, May), as well as new albums from Mae, Pillar, Sanctus Real, Skillet, Underoath, and others that will be revealed as the year goes by. And last but certainly not least, Gotee records is planning to release a tribute album to Jesus Freak in its tenth anniversary, with different bands covering each track from the original. Awesome. It will also hopefully be the year that I get that long-coveted iPod. How triumphant that will be. That's the year 2005 in the world of music in the Life of Turner! Tune back tomorrow for the last part of 2005: The Year In...Review!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

2005: The Year In...Vertigo!

This year has been one of the biggest in recent memory for U2. Their 2004 album How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb was recently nominated for five Grammy awards, including Album of the Year. The band had several radio hits, most prominently the ubiquitous "Vertigo" and the reflecting "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own." Bono was instrumental in this summer's Live8 concert, and was recently named one of Time's Persons of the Year. Furthermore, their Vertigo 2005 tour had 90 sellouts in 90 shows on their North American tour, with a total attendance of over three million people. And I was one of them exactly eight months ago. To commemmorate that night, tonight I watched the Vertigo 2005: Live in Chicago DVD, which was recorded a week and a half after I saw U2 perform at GM Place in Vancouver on April 28. The original experience was still so powerful that watching the DVD brought tears to my eyes at times that had really affected me in the show I saw. But the DVD understandably cannot capture what I experienced, which remains fresh in my mind after all that has happened in the intervening eight months. I originally posted right after the concert, but allow me to recall some elements of that experience.
From the opening notes of "City of Blinding Lights", I knew it was going to be a memorable night. Or maybe it was the random guy who started jumping up and down in the middle of the floor half an hour before the show even started, causing the crowd to erupt in a frenzy. Whatever it was, the sense of something great was palpable. I did not expect anything less than life-changing before I got to the venue, and even more so as I eagerly anticipated the band's entrance. As if the opening volley of songs, a collection of some of the band's best pop-rock anthems (City-Elevation-Vertigo-Beautiful Day) weren't enough, they launched into "Gloria," one of the songs they dusted off from their early years just for this tour. And it built from there. I knew that most of the set was the same as the one they played at the previous concert, and would play at the next concert, but there was still something about it that did not allow me to dismiss the performance as prepared. I knew Bono had performed the "Coexist" headband bit before, and had made similar rants in introducing "Miracle Drug," but it didn't matter. I was there with them that night, and it was the present that mattered. The experience was so...definitive, right down to having those in attendance call Paul Martin from their glowing cell phones during "One." The only nod to the 90s was their first encore, but the troika of "Zoo Station," "The Fly," and "Mysterious Ways" was more than enough to satisfy me. And to finish off with "40," with the crowd singing while the band members filed out, was an experience beyond description.
I was perhaps most touched by "Where the Streets Have No Name," which truly revealed the heart that the band has for Africa to me. The presence of the Holy Spirit was so powerful that exactly four months later, as I listened to missionaries present at my church about their time in Congo using that same song, I was still reduced to tears from the earnestness of the band's message. I think that's what really hit me that night: this is not a band who is wandering through a desert or who is unsure about themselves. They have a confidence in their calling that can only be derived from the working of the Holy Spirit, and that same spirit is clearly being manifested in their lives and performances. God was there, with me, Lee, and the 20,000 others who were caught up in the same sense of awe and wonder of God, whether they knew it or not. That night was not just a concert for me; it was a powerful experience of the presence of God. I do not think I will ever forget April 28, 2005: the night I experienced U2.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

2005: The Year in...Movies!

Welcome to the second annual Year in Review here at Life of Turner. Over the next few days, I will be taking some time to discuss my favourites of 2005, as well as the disappointments, in the areas of movies and music, as well as recapping my year of life and of blogging, so stay tuned. Today is for discussing the year 2005 in the cinema. If you're interested in last year's results, check out 2004: The Year in...Movies!
One of the main difficulties in doing a year-in-review is that a year is not often enough time to experience all the movies released in that year, so I spent a significant portion of the first half of 2005 simply catching up on movies I had missed out on. Thankfully, nothing much happened in the cinema until the beginning of May, so I didn't miss much at all. But I feel the need to begin this year's review by presenting the "Reviews in Haiku" I wrote about films released in 2004 that I posted on this site from January to May:

Star-filled biopic / Scorsese's masterpiece? No, / Self-indulgent tripe. (The Aviator)
Supporting cast great / Clever, poignant, and cutting / Carrey deserved nom (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)
The touching story / Of writing of Peter Pan / You'll get misty-eyed (Finding Neverland)
Quirky little film / Orphaned kids learn tough lessons / Jim Carrey is nuts (Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events)
Coming of age tale? / Film "jumped the shark" early on; / I didn't get it. (Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou)
Best Picture? Nuh-uh! / Predictable and preachy; / Subtlety is dead. (Million Dollar Baby)
Geek is again chic / Classic lines, scenes, characters / Pure fun dumb laughs. GOSH! (Napoleon Dynamite)
Cage hunts for treasure / But is it history, or / Yank propaganda? (National Treasure)
Is it possible / To satirize zombie flicks? / Apparently so. (Shaun of the Dead)

Now, onto the movies of 2005. One of the big stories all year has been how movie attendance and profits have been going down, and it's little mystery as to the nature of that phenomenon: bad movies. This year was perhaps the most unoriginal year of movies that I can remember, as there have been more movies that I have deliberately avoided after being subjected to the previews. I should note that out of the 150+ movies released to the general public this year, I have seen fifteen, with desire to see about six more, and about nine more than that that I will likely end up seeing someday just because I will see them. That means that, as far as I am concerned, I will end up watching only 20 per cent of the movies released this year, a process which filters out most of the garbage. Not surprisingly, of the movies I saw this year, seven were on the list of movies I was looking forward to last December, all of which I saw in first-run theatres. And likely due to the high volume of crap in movies designed for teens and adults, I watched an inordinately high number of children's movies this year. In fact, only one of the films I saw was made for older audiences (Exorcism of Emily Rose), but that's even a stretch. I may have to wonder about this later, but for now, in review in haiku form, are the movies that I saw in 2005:

Great casting in Bale / Gotham has never looked better / Best Batman flick by far (Batman Begins)
Depp and Burton clicked / in endearingly odd film / Loved Oompa-Loompas (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)
Narnia brought to life / in film that transcends review / Stoked for Caspian! (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)
Finally, Hollywood film / treats spiritual world well / Very thought-provoking (The Exorcism of Emily Rose)
Had great potential / but Fox made it juvenile; / Alba ruined it (Fantastic Four)
Newell brings perfect / blend of action and drama / Gleeson, Fiennes stole film (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)
Vivid visuals / Bring book and people to life / Don't Panic; bring towel. (The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy)
Do we really need / another epic with Bloom? / Scott thought so, but wrong! (Kingdom of Heaven)
Wacky animals / with a positive message; / Kids' movie fun for all (Madagascar)
Amazing graphics, / Famous voices, and weak plot: / perfect kids' movie. (Robots)
Matt trying to be / Indy in adventure flick / actually almost worked (Sahara)
Sci-fi western fun / But destined for "cult" status / Still, worth the rental (Serenity)
Reese and Phoenix shine / in tale of love, drugs, and fame; / I want a sequel! (Walk the Line)
Saw only last half / of this bastardized remake / Spielberg jumped the shark (War of the Worlds)
Kids' film really tries / but for better adventure / Go rent Jumanji (Zathura)

I considered crafting a Top Ten list for movies in 2005, but I haven't seen enough movies to make that long of a list. I considered a Top Five, but then I would have had to leave some out. So I decided to list the movies from this year that I would not only recommend, but that I will own someday and appreciate over and over again. There are seven such films that I have seen so far, and here, in alphabetical order, are my favourite films of '05 as they stand now:

Batman Begins - Christopher Nolan's Gotham is the best of the films, and despite a couple of small miscues (Katie Holmes), his revisioning of Batman rejuvenated the franchise. Casting Christian Bale was genius, though an all-star supporting cast didn't hurt. Who isn't looking forward to the next film in the series?
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Forget the 1971 version; Tim Burton's visioning of Willy Wonka should be considered the default version of Roald Dahl's classic book. Johnny Depp was great, but Freddie Highmore also put in a good performance as Charlie. It was fun, weird, eclectic, eccentric, and a little creepy when it needed to be. And how could you not love the Oompa-Loompas?
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - I cannot say enough about this movie. It was everything I wanted it to be, and nothing I didn't want it to be. The magic of Narnia was in the film as much as in the books, and I believe that Lewis would be proud.
The Exorcism of Emily Rose - I will admit that this film was not the best-made film of the year, but it is so captivating that I have no choice but to include it in this list. Tom Wilkinson is amazing, as always, and Laura Linney - the thinking man's Jennifer Aniston (which is a good thing!) - performs well. This film made me think more than any other movie I saw this year, and it
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - Another year, another Potter flick as one of my favourites; but this movie continued the upward climb of the films. Mike Newell had a tough job to do in bringing this book to life, but he balanced humour, teenage drama, and action very well. Brendan Gleeson as Mad-Eye Moody and Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort were brilliant, but Daniel Radcliffe really began to come into his own as Harry. Was this a better movie than Azkaban? I'm not sure, but it did a better job of translating difficult material to the screen.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - It didn't do very well in theatres, but I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Douglas Adams' classic book brought to life. The changes that were made kept to the spirit of the book, and Sam Rockwell was brilliant as Zaphod Beeblebrox. This is the kind of film that I can watch repeatedly without becoming tired of it.
Walk the Line - A love story disguised as a musical biopic, this envisioning of the early career of Johnny Cash was very well-done. Joaquin Phoenix doesn't simply impersonate Cash; he inhabits the country music legend. My only complaint is that the film ended: it ended very well for the film, but I wanted to see the rest of Cash's life. Maybe they can make a sequel entitled "Man in Black," about Cash's life throughout the 1970s and early 1980s.

There you have it. And here are the films released in 2005 that I still have yet to see: Chicken Little, Cinderella Man, Good Night and Good Luck, King Kong, March of the Penguins, Syriana, and Valiant. I will revisit my Best of 2005 list in six months, and make any changes necessary after viewing some of these movies, as well as any others that come up in the intervening time.
The films upcoming in 2006 that intrigue me are: V for Vendetta (March 6); Ice Age 2 (March 31); Poseidon (May 12); X-Men 3 (May 26); Cars (June 9); Charlotte’s Web (June 23); Superman Returns (June 30); Pirates of the Caribbean 2 (July 7); Lady in the Water (July 21); Ratropolis (Nov. 3); and Happy Feet (Nov. 17).
That's the year in movies here at Life of Turner. Visit tomorrow for more 2005: The Year in...Review!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Links awakening

Well, I've been far overdue for another mass promotion of new blogs, so here are some of the new sites that I have been noticing in the past two months of which you should also take note.

This Hapax Legomenon - The blog of fellow Saskatoonite Jadon Androsoff, whom I have never met, but who quotes my blog from time to time. Mostly a collection of thoughts he finds on others' blogs, but a good read nonetheless.
09/11/81 - ? - The blog reinvention of Rochelle Knox, formerly of The Wanderings of Snowy Florimell. Rochelle is an English grad student in Kingston, ON, who writes about her experiences and about many different literary topics.
How Will I Know Unless I Ask? - Some people know her better as "Fish," but however you know Kaeli, she is one funny chick. Think of her as me with a better physique.
Shannon Journies - Shannon is a twenty-something prairie girl living in Saskatoon, and this is her life online. She's cool, and you should get to know her.
Avoiding Success... - Julia is working her way through a philosophy degree. Why? Only she knows, but at least she shares her thoughts in her blog!
La Marriage de la fille Lipskey - Meg is the former roommate of the Queen of West Procrastination, so you can only imagine how odd she can be. Great random observations about life as a student and the process of planning a wedding, plus the odd wacky internet find.
Adventures of a Foreigner in S. Korea - Alvil is...well...Alvil. He's one of a kind, and he's chronicling his journeys in South Korea. I cannot explain Alvil: you have to experience him for yourself.
Bronwyn's Space - Bronwyn is a crisis worker in Regina, and her blog focusses primarily on her own life, but often includes astute observations about the condition of the world in which we live.
Wayward Reporter - Jeremy, the news editor at the Sheaf, has resumed blogging about current issues, journalism, religion, politics, and random funny stuff. Occasionally requires a content warning, but worth the read. - Not a blog, but the online home of Saskatoon photographer Liam Richards, who also works at the Sheaf. Great photos of bands, skateboarding, sports, and other random subjects. Check out the page of photos of Underoath, especially.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Happy Festivus!

My friend Jason over at Number One Cellar recently wrote a post about his first Festivus experience. Festivus is a secular holiday that was popularized in the 1997 Seinfeld episode "The Strike." And the "holiday" has inspired online businesses as well as numerous stories about Festivus across the internet. There's even a site that claims to know the true origin of Festivus, While I view Festivus as little more than an entertaining diversion, the amazing thing is that there are people who are beginning to celebrate this as a real holiday, much like Kwanzaa, which was formed in 1966, the same year as the alleged beginning of Festivus. Now it's time for the "airing of grievances." Doesn't this indicate some kind of deficiency in society, that these made-up holidays can become actual celebrations? That there are arguments about whether "Jediism" can be considered a religion? It's like the parodies of Futurama come to life (The Church of Trek, the celebration of "Xmas"), but it's real life! The line between actual and fictional continues to be blurred. But in the spirit of the holiday, I will wish you all a Happy Festivus, and I will give you a Festivus gift.

Festivus is not over until you pin me George!

"...not the feats of strength..." - George Costanza

Monday, December 19, 2005

Finding a wedding date

It is far more difficult than I had anticipated to find a date for a wedding coming up on December 29. This is the first time I have had to find a date for a wedding. Pretty much every other wedding I've been to in the past three years I've either been involved in somehow, I've had enough friends there that I didn't have to have a date, or I've had a certain date who accompanied me (ie. my then-girlfriend/fiancée A). But now I'm going to a wedding in which I really know only the bride and groom, so I don't have the comfort of having a group of friends there, and I really need a date. But it cannot be just anyone. It needs to be someone who I can stand for an entire day and enjoy their company and with whom I have no romantic complications (okay, so that's every girl I know, but that's beside the point) and who would not mind being seen with me in public. It's a tall order, and I haven't been able to put much time or thought into it. And so, with the wedding ten days away, I am dateless. I don't think I've ever needed a date in this way before, so I'm actually kind of concerned. I guess it's time to pull out my little black book (that is, the Microsoft Excel file in which I record all of my contacts) and try and find a willing girl for this social experiment. Errr, I mean, lovely day. Any volunteers?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Farewell to Shadowlands/Bringing Narnia to life

"Lucy said, 'We're so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often.'
'No fear of that,' said Aslan. 'Have you not guessed?'
Their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them.
'There was a real railway accident,' said Aslan softly. 'Your father and mother and all of you are - as you used to call it in the Shadowlands - dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.'
...And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before."

C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

Now that I have read C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia in their entirety once again over the past week, I feel more qualified to give my assessment on what should happen with the future of the Narnia films. I do think there should be more, but not all seven books should be made into movies, as I have heard suggested. Nor do I believe any longer that they should attempt to condense several books into a fewer number of films (ie. squishing the events of two books into one film). I now strongly believe that there should be a trilogy of Narnia films made, of which one has already been released. The second film should be Prince Caspian, the fourth book in the series, and then the trilogy should end with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Each of the other four books should not be translated into film for several reasons. One is that they are each diversions from the core storyline of the Pevensies, and so it makes sense to limit the films to those featuring the Pevensie children. Second, these three books take place in the same experience more than the others, which feature great jumps chronologically and geographically to maintain the storyline. (Caspian is also a jump in time, but if you've read it you'll understand what I mean.) The third reason is that these three would be the best to see on screen, while the others might not hold the same kind of intrigue as a film; they make excellent books, but I doubt they would translate as well in to a cinematic presentation. A fourth reason is that, unlike The Lord of the Rings, each of the Narnia books can exist as its own entity. There is an overarching story, but not of the same sort as Tolkien's narrative, in which the beginning is dependent upon the end. The end of Dawn Treader could easily be taken as a concluding point for the film series with a little creativity (and hopefully some borrowing from the end of The Last Battle), and in fact the films would be better off ended there, rather than drawing it out. Narnia purists might disagree that it is possible to cut out the remaining four books and maintain the heart of the story, but I disagree with them entirely. Leaving some books to the imagination will only make the exercise of crafting Narnia films that much more valuable, because they will exist more as a version of the books, rather than attempting to supplant the books (much as Jackson's Rings apparently attempt to do). The fact is that in making these three films, most of the most interesting storylines and characters are brought to life (Reepicheep, Caspian, Glenstorm, Deathwater, the Dufflepuds, etc.), and the films do not drag on forever. Any other Narnia enthusiasts have thoughts on the issue?

Puzzling papers

There are times when papers just flow, and there is no difficulty in figuring out how they will work. The pieces fit together, and the only battle is just to muster up the motivation to do the work. Then there are those papers that seem to defy any ability to come to a finishing point. They just kind of sit there, waiting for you to somehow see things in a fresh way that will help you fit it all in an order that makes sense. Sometimes it really takes awhile for that to happen, which is what has been happening over the past week with this final paper. The research is there, the idea is there, the ability is there, but it's just a matter of everything coalescing into one cohesive comprehensible unit. Sometimes you can force it, but often you can't. You just have to wait for that flash of inspiriation and then take hold of it while you can. I think that inspiration is coming now after a couple of days dry in that area, so I need to take advantage of this while I can to try to put all these pieces together into a term paper. By Monday.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Entering the world of Narnia

I just finished reading C.S. Lewis' The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe in one sitting, since I was inspired by watching the movie again. And I can honestly say that I believe that the film improved on the book. By no means am I discounting Lewis' genius; it's just that seeing Narnia brought to life is so very powerful, and that the changes that were made were appropriate for filling in the gaps in Lewis' text. I was surprised at how much he leaves unsaid in the book, and how many of the events of the film that worked seamlessly into the plot were actually introduced for the sake of the film. Granted, this is a children's book, so the comprehension level is intended to be lower, and there is still much merit in reading and imagining Narnia for one's self (so much so that my children will read it before they watch it), but the visual representation of Narnia is so essential that having that visualization captured in the film brings out much of the richness of the book that might otherwise be lost. Unlike Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, which was also a visually stunning film, Lewis' Narnia does not have nearly the same level of literary sophistication as does Tolkien's Middle-Earth in book form, so there is far less lost in translating Narnia to the screen than in transposing tale of the Ring from book to film. I doubt that Lewis' Space Trilogy would undergo as successful a transformation to cinematic presentation, and I daresay that I hope it never does, for fear that concretizing Lewis' postulations from that book would ruin them for the reader and viewer. I am by no means discarding Lewis' book, but I am saying that the film brings Narnia to life in a way that makes the film even more powerful than its original source.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Battle for Christmas?

It's two weeks until Christmas Day, and it seems like every time I go to church I hear about how the world is stealing Christmas and that there's a grave battle in our society because stores and schools no longer use the word "Christmas." There's an epic battle being waged, we're losing the meaning of Christmas, and we Christians need to fight for our right to Christmas. There's such a militant "us against the world" mentality in this jargon, which also permeates attitudes toward taking prayer out of schools, changing the name of time eras from "B.C." and "A.D." to BCE and CE, and allowing homosexual marriage. Maybe it's just me, but I don't see the epic struggle over Christmas. Okay, so schools don't have Christmas pageants anymore. They don't celebrate Ramadan or Kwanzaa or Chanukkah anymore than Christmas, from what I can tell. The calendar is still based around Christmas, and students still get that time off as a holiday. So how are they losing Christmas? If anything, removing the Christian religious imagery from what the world calls "the Holidays" purifies the meaning of Christmas. Now Jesus is separate from Santa Claus, and the story of the birth of Jesus can regain its own identity, separate from the Winter Festivals that schools are promoting. Some people will say that this is a step toward removing the Christian meanings from this season entirely, while I say it's a way of taking Christian meanings out of places where they're being misused and allowing for the true reason for the season to come through. It's a battle that I don't mind losing, because I think it helps win the war, to use those terms. And so I say with all my heart, "Merry Christmas!"

Aslan is on the move

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is one of those movies that comes along very rarely in one's life. It is the kind of movie that has the power to fundamentally shift one's worldview, and after which one will likely not be able to see the world in the same way. Braveheart, The Passion of the Christ, and The Fellowship of the Ring were are few of these movies, and now this film can be added to their ranks. It is both socially conscious and eternally purposeful; wise beyond its years and innocently childish. It is Magnificent, Gentle, Just, and Valiant, just as the four Pevensies are. It is also delightfully British, as Lewis no doubt intended for it to be. Director Andrew Adamson's (an aside: I wonder how soon they realized that a "son of Adam" was directing this film. But I digress.) choice to place the action firmly within the bounds of history (the children are evacuated because of the attacks on London by the Germans) serves to accentuate the marvel of Narnia, as it brings our world and Narnia into a kind of parallel existence. The characters are exquisite, and the development of computer-generated characters is so much further advanced than I would have thought even five years ago when Shrek and Donkey made their first appearance. And although I had feared the allegorial element of the story might be watered down or neglected, the story and character of Aslan were preserved properly, and he is the majestic king and humble servant I had always imagined him to be. In short, Narnia is everything that I had hoped it would be, and nothing I had hoped it wouldn't be. Walk into the wardrobe for yourself, and see what you experience. It may not be tame, but it will be good.

Friday, December 09, 2005

A Movie of the Life of Turner...

I am often skeptical of these kind of internet quizzes, especially ones that feature only five questions, but as usual, I am amused with the result. Thanks to M for the inspiration.

The Movie Of Your Life Is A Cult Classic

Quirky, offbeat, and even a little campy - your life appeals to a select few. But if someone's obsessed with you, look out! Your fans are downright freaky.

Your best movie matches: Office Space, The Big Lebowski


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