Thursday, November 17, 2005

Superman II: Restored International Cut

When I was a kid, I watched Superman II dozens of times. I memorized scenes. A few years ago, I rented the DVD. But something was wrong. Some of the scenes were cut differently. Dialog I had memorized was missing.

It turns out the version I recorded from ABC (or maybe CFCF-12) was longer than the cinema/DVD version. But that's just the beginning of the story. Read this:

Think you've seen Superman II? Think again.

I recently obtained a copy of what has become known as the "Restored International Cut" of Superman II. What the heck's that all about, you ask?

Let me explain... no, there is no time. Let me sum up.

Richard Donner directed "Superman: The Movie" and also shot 70% or so of "Superman II" at the exact same time. Before Donner finished filming all of "Superman II", Marlon Brando filed a lawsuit over a discrepancy in how much he was paid in regards to the original film's box office grosses.

As a result, he was completely removed from "Superman II" by the producers. Donner then argued with the producers who wanted to make the film "more campy", and as a result he was removed from the project and replaced with Richard Lester. And all of you who have seen both "Superman: The Movie" and "Superman II" knows just how much campier the second one really is (for so many reasons I won't get into here).

Gene Hackman then refused to return for any of Richard Lester's reshoots, and so in several places in "II" it's just a body double and a voice double redoing his lines and... all kinds of terrible stuff.

Well initially when "II" aired on television in foreign markets, a lot of the original Donner footage was in various versions (they have since been airing the theatrical version on television). The "Restored International Cut" is a masterful piece of work... it takes all of those lost Donner scenes from VCR recordings of these other versions from countries around the world and edits them all back in.

And I have to tell you, my friends, what Donner would have done and what we've all seen that Lester did are very different movies.

Anyway, it's just really blown my mind to have the curtain pulled back on something I knew and loved for so long to reveal nothing but a bad director fighting with a good director and muddling the final product.

Read the rest here, including a scene-by-scene summary of the differences. I have not yet seen this fan-created copy. It is supposed to be very well done. Like Wikipedia, this Restored International Cut is another neat example of how community-based initiatives are enabled by the Internet.

Ideally, Warner Brothers and director Richard Donner will open their vaults and re-cut the movie with previously unseen Brando footage and all the extra Donner-directed scenes, which were cut from the cinematic release and only included (partially) in the international TV version. Basically, I'd like them to try to create the film that should have been made.

UPDATE: I have now seen the Restored International Cut. The entire movie is made from old VHS copies. (I thought they would have used the official DVD footage with interspersed VHS extras. I was wrong.) There were only a few extra bits and parts that I don't remember seeing on my CFCF-12 version I watched as a kid. The subtitles are used to indicate to viewers if a scene was directed by Donner or his replacement.

Bottom line: the DVD is worth watching if you are (or used to be) a fan of Superman 2.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Boisclair wins PQ leadership

André Boisclair admitted he took cocaine while a minister in the government of Lucien BouchardAndré Boisclair, 39, was selected by party members as the new leader of the Quebec Party. He is the youngest person ever to lead the left-wing secessionist-loving party. He also happens to be openly gay. And he admitted during the leadership campaign that he ingested cocaine more than once while he was a cabinet minister in the government of Premier Lucien Bouchard.

The Quebec Party has come a long way. People like René Levesque made chain-smoking acceptable. Jacques Parizeau opened the door for angry drunks to assume the leadership. Bernard Landry made it okay to berate hotel workers of Mexican origin for plebiscitary setbacks. And now André Boisclair has made cocaine use cool again.

Obviously, the bar is getting higher. Those thus far excluded from the leadership -- women and anglophones -- shouldn’t be discouraged.

My advice: Go buy some crystal meth.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

How to check status of parking tickets in Montreal

Montreal parking ticketA friend who gets a lot of parking tickets once advised me not to pay it immediately. Rather, one should wait for the administrative reminder from the City of Montreal. If you don't get the reminder, that means the city has lost track of your ticket. Me: 1. Mayor Tremblay: 0.

Of course, what if the administrative reminder from the city never reaches you because of some mixup at Canada Post. The city will assume you received it. And if you don't pay, it will assume you want to go to court. The next letter you get will be an appointment notification letter. At that point, you're screwed because you'll be on the hook for court fees too -- even if you decide to pay the original fine.

Fortunately, you can now check the status of your parking ticket at the city's Web site. Wait a week or two and then check to see if your ticket is in the system.

A real Parliament

I do not watch Coronation Street. I'm not a big fan of BBC News. I don't dream of living in London. In short, I'm not a anglophile who has some weird love of the United Kingdom and all things British. The disclaimer is necessary because I suspect some will interpret what I'm about to write as thoughtless chauvinism against Canada. It is not...

I was browsing the the television channels this morning when I came across a replay on CPAC of Question Time from the UK House of Commons. A few things struck me.

1. Unlike at the federal Parliament in Ottawa where ministers answer questions on matters related to their portfolio, in London the prime minister answers all the questions himself. And because Britain is still more-or-less a unitary state, the prime minister has to answer questions about foreign policy, education, healthcare, and trivial local issues. It is a challenge for any one person to keep up-to-date on so many issues and be prepared to answer questions about them every day.

2. Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, is a gifted speaker with an encyclopedic knowledge of facts. It is a beautiful thing to watch him answer a question. His off-the-cuff answers sound as thoughtful and genuine as Assistant DA Jack McCoy in NBC's Law and Order. But Blair doesn't have a script. He knows the basic gist of what he wants to convey and speaks without notes. His voice goes down at the end of a sentence to indicate that the sentence is over. That is a sign of someone who knows what he wants to say in advance of saying it. He did not fill pauses with "hums" and "ahhs". And he never one used the word "essentially" as our own prime minister is known to do. The leaders of the Liberal Democrats and Conservative parties also spoke eloquently. As did the backbenchers.

3. The MPs in London sit very close together. They have no tables or desks. The debates and questions happen in close quarters.

These observations lead me to question why the members of our own federal Parliament lack the vigour, thoughfulness and skill of Blair and his colleagues. Is it the British school system, which emphasizes debate skills? Or does the UK Parliament attract a higher quality of leaders? Or am I just being a snob?

Monday, November 07, 2005

Julie Synder implies no Quebec anglos speak French properly

I was flipping around tonight and saw Irish rock star Chris de Burgh singing on Star Académie, the popular Quebec singing competition on TVA.

After singing Don't Pay the Ferryman, host Julie Snyder interviewed de Burgh in English and French. Chris de Burgh understands French and speaks it decently. He's no Jodie Foster. But he's okay for a guy from Ireland.

I'm not sure if Snyder was trying to suck up or if she harbours deep-seated resentments, but she said to the audience: Wow. Finalement un anglophone qui sait comment parler francais comme-il-faut.

Imagine what would happened if Canadian Idol host Ben Mulroney had made a comparable comment to French singer Charles Aznavour. The Quebec unions and the St. John the Baptist Society would be in the streets protesting this provocation. CTV would be issuing on-air apologies. (Remember what happened when Triumph the Insult Comic Dog visited Quebec City?)

Yet, Snyder's disparaging comments about the proficiency of Quebec's English-speakers' abilities in French won't even be noticed in Quebec.

For the record, Julie Snyder's English sucks raw open ass. She admitted as much when she made the self-evident claim that his French is better than her English. Duh. In fact, my favourite part of the interview was when Snyder touched de Burgh and then said (in hinglish): "I'm not gonna to wash tonight." A little too much information, Julie.