Saturday, February 28, 2009

Movie Review - Once

I'll be the first to admit I don't watch a whole lot of movies, and I review even fewer. But there's a movie that I want to talk about that I greatly enjoyed tonight; a low-budget music film made in Ireland called Once.

The film follows a nameless Dublin street musician (Glen Hansard, 'Guy' going forward) and a Czech immigrant (Marketa Irglova, 'Girl' going forward) who befriend one another while the guy is performing on the street one evening. He learns that the girl is a pianist, and after he shares some music with her, they go on to record an album with another group of street musicians to complete the band. The characters are simple, he being a vacuum repairman and writing music on the side, her being a mother taking care of a child, and the dynamic between the two main characters is enjoyably sweet. The shoulder-held camera shooting of the film also adds to its simplicity of both the characters and the story; very little in the way of high drama or fancy camera work, just a plain, simple, enjoyable story that doesn't try to do too much or be strikingly profound with any underlying themes.

Where Once really shines, however, is in the music. As mentioned, the story revolves around the guy and the girl recording an album, and the music that the characters record, which serves as the soundtrack for the film, is largely written and performed by Hansard and Irglova themselves, either individually or jointly, and serves as the true focus of the film. The music follows a general trend of being low-key acoustic ballads, with a range of emotion from more tender and hopeful ("Falling Slowly") to bitter hindsight ("Lies"), and much like the film itself, makes little effort to be musically profound or complex; with the exception of "Fallen From The Sky", the music is simple band arrangements or guitar/piano duets, that fit perfectly with the style of the film.

All in all, while certainly not an involved film by any stretch, it doesn't profess to be, and as such becomes a good film by being a simple story, as well as, admittedly, a vehicle for Hansard's and Irglova's music. If you're looking for something laid back and easy to watch and enjoy, with a terrific soundtrack to boot, I highly recommend it.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Wheeling and Dealing

So as a Toronto sports fan, by and large, I've had the unenviable task of rooting for some rather mediocre teams, not the least of which being the 2008-09 incarnation of the Toronto Raptors, who, admittedly with some critical injuries, have been underachieving all year. With signing point guard Jose Calderon long-term and picking up Jermaine O'Neal from the Indiana Pacers in a trade this off-season, things were starting to look up after a middling effort in the 2007-08 season at 41-41. Anyone who paid attention knew that the O'Neal pickup was definitely an experiment or a project, and as of last night, that experiment appears to be over by way of trade with the Miami Heat:


C/F Jermaine O'Neal
F Jamario Moon
Conditional First Round draft pick

F Shawn Marion
G Marcus Banks
$3M cash considerations

As for my thoughts on the trade, I don't think it's a bad move, difficult though losing Jamario Moon is to swallow, and a nagging feeling that GM Bryan Colangelo gave up a bit too much as a result. Moon was an energetic, enthusiastic player, and while certainly not up to snuff as a starter, was a solid bench option, and with his athleticism, a superb help defender. O'Neal, while a strong frontcourt player and rebounder, something the Raptors desperately needed, was a question mark with regards to the health of his knee, and with both he and star player Chris Bosh preferring to operate in the post, may not have been the best fit. As unfortunate as it is to see these guys go, it's business, and in the case of O'Neal, it's probably for the best. O'Neal looks like he may be a good fit in Miami as well, who had traded Shaquille O'Neal to the Phoenix Suns for Marion, and will give the Heat the post presence that they've been lacking after Shaq's departure.

Picking up Shawn Marion gives the Raptors, when they get healthy, a solid secondary scoring and rebounding option to Bosh, and a dedicated small forward. Although his 12.o PPG this season with Miami certainly leave something to be desired, with a point guard that can take care of and move the ball like Calderon, it's not an unreasonable expectation to see that number rise in Toronto, while maintaining his eight or nine rebounds per game clip. Marcus Banks will give Toronto a good secondary point guard option to Calderon, or at least another option along with Roko Ukic, which will have Anthony Parker as a dedicated shooting guard, and will make guard Will Solomon expendable.

This trade also gives the Raptors significant flexibility for the coming off-season as well; by off-loading the near-$23M owed to O'Neal next year, and replacing it with Marion's expiring contract, that frees up a tidy sum for Colangelo to work with, either to re-up Marion or to explore the free agent market and use that money elsewhere. Additionally, once the Raptors return to full health, this will give their starting five some stability by, for better or worse, making Andrea Bargnani the starting centre, and slotting Marion in at small forward, rather than having a revolving door in the frontcourt with the likes of Moon, Bosh, Bargnani, Joey Graham, and O'Neal.

Overall, I think this trade is a good move. It gives the Raptors some lineup stability, a secondary scorer, and one less question mark about health, as well as some increased financial flexibility. I doubt this will help the Raptors vault into the playoffs this season, but down the road it can bring them back to respectability.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Breaking It In

So here I am, with another blog that will likely not see too much action. Purposes of this will likely just be for random musings and the like, or if I discover I have something particularly poignant to say. I may also cross-post a few things with some other blogs as well. Until such a time occurs, I do believe this will be a wrap.