12 Days of Christmas: In Bruges

It's Christmas time in Bruges, Belgium and two hitmen, Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson), are on a forced sabbatical. They are lying low until they hear from their boss Harry (Ralph Fiennes). You see Ray has royally screwed up a hit and Harry isn't happy with him at all.

Marie: [to Ray and Harry] "Why don't you both put your guns down, and go home?"
Harry: "Don't be stupid. This is the shootout. "

This is a very black comedy with some brilliant moments of drama and some brutal action thrown in for good measure. The movie is written and directed by first time filmmaker Martin McDonagh. The basic plot is one Hollywood's good old hitman screwed up and killed someone he shouldn't have plot but McDonagh and company make the movie into something so much more than that.

Both Gleeson and Fiennes are excellent in their roles. I'm not usually a fan of Colin Farrell but he is perfect as Ray, an arrogant screw up who really isn't as bad as he lets on but the things that come out of his mouth just make you shake your head and laugh.

"I don't hit women. I would never hit a woman, Chloe. I'd hit a woman who was trying to hit me with a bottle. That's different. That's self-defense, isn't it? Or a woman who could do karate. I would never hit a woman generally, Chloe."

To describe anymore of the story would be to deprive people the pleasure of discovering the film. It's also one of those movies that Hollywood has no idea on how to advertise it. The trailer for it is terrible and really doesn't accurately advertise what the film is about at all. It's better to just watch the movie.

The Midwestern Musical Idiom

So, the Permanent Date and I went to see Grant Hart at the Horseshoe Tavern the other night. A late show on a sleety Monday, the crowd attracted was the same 85 superannuated hardcore fanboys (And 6-10 WAGS of same, oneself included) that might be expected on a balmy Saturday afternoon. The gentleman has his audience. It is small, and nerdy, but it is his. Sporting an elegant and flattering John Waters-esque ‘stache, Mr. Hart played a set that spanned his entire career, giving many generous gestures of antique Husker Du songs to his devoted, though wee in number, following.

(Once upon a time, when I had a regular show on the University of Toronto’s radio station, my announcement of “Coming up, a brand-new track by Grant Hart” stimulated the most call-in’s I’d ever had. If I hadn’t known yet that I was a Bitter Old Punk Boy magnet, well, dammit, I knew then. By the way, the lovely little song, “Barbara”, that I’d go my mitts on? He played it at this show.)

The thing is, I kept wishing that the longtime fans would shut up and let the man play some new songs. Mr. Hart is that rare songwriter who improves dramatically with age. His more recent numbers, like the lovely cabaret songs referencing Milton, or Echo and Narcissus, were far more impressive to me (Admittedly, I am a decade or more out of his PUNK ROCK GOD! radius,) than the stripped down versions of early-eighties semi-hits that his solo, though very aptly wielded, guitar would allow.

It was that rare “nostalgia show” that left me eager, not for reminiscences of times past, but for a copy of the artist’s new album. Really, though, Mr. Hart should tour with a band. A more melodic and less devotee oriented set might inspire an awful lot of new fans. Oneself included, again.

P.S. Dig this YouTube clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vefkvjcjNj8, during which a young, tie-dyed Mr. Hart addresses Joan Rivers as he might a boozed-up friend of his grandmamma, “Yes, ma’am, this is the goofy job I do.”

Pick of the Day: Handel's Messiah

There's a Sing-Along Messiah at Knox Metropolitan Church tomorrow night, so you have your choice of that or this performance tonight which features the Regina Symphony Orchestra, the Regina Philharmonic Chorus and invited soloists.

As regular readers of prairie dog know, we're not big fans of organized religion. At least, of those organized religions that try to shove their belief systems down the throats of other people without regard for their right to live their lives as they wish. Having confronted the death of a beloved family member in mid-November, I can see how the idea of life after death and an eternal soul could be of immense comfort to people. But even if Heaven doesn't exist, that doesn't diminish the value of life here on Earth. There's a whole wonderous universe out there, and if we'd just get our shit together we could start exploring and even inhabiting it. That's not going to happen, though, as long as we, as a society, remain fixated on the idea of the Rapture and an impending apocalypse that will herald Jesus's return.

Still, I do want to distinguish, as one letter writer in our Dec. 3 issue did, between people and institutions that embody true Christian values, and those scumbags who use religion as a cover for some of the most odious and oppressive ideology imaginable. In the spirit of the former, here's video of a choir in Stuggart under the direction of Helmet Rilling performing "Hallelujah" from Handel's Messiah. (YouTube)