Monthly Archives: September 2012

Here I VIFF Again

September 27th to October 12th will be when this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival will occur. Lots to look forward to. Hundreds of films and shorts from 75 countries over these 16 days. Last year’s was a record-setter. This year the Film Festival wants to take things further.

You may remember last year I wrote about that year being the 30th for the VIFF, explaining the history and what to the festival showcases. Also you may remember the Festival records that year achieved. What’s also remarkable about last year is the Oscar success of some of the featured films from last year. The Best Picture winning The Artist was featured last year as was the Best Foreign Language Film winner A Separation.

This year’s VIFF also has goals of achieving a lot. There is estimated to be 380 films from 75 countries this year. Canadian and Asian film as well as documentaries are once again expected to be the highlighted genres of film at the Festival. What’s new this time is having the closing gala at the Centre for Performing Arts. Two live performances at the Centre are also expected to take place this year. Also added is a new real-time electronic ticketing system much like the one used at sporting events. The additions came upon the return of a $250,000 gaming grant the Festival once had until it lost its eligibility in 2009 as the government left adult arts groups behind in giving grants out. The grant returned as a result of the provincial government reassessing gaming grants.

Now that the grant is returned, the festival can continue to grow in both attendance and the number of films exhibited as well as the venues showcasing the films. The Granville 7 and its seven cinemas is once again the theatre with the most action. Pacific Cinematheque and the VanCity Theatre are the two other main theatres showing films throughout the sixteen days of the Festival. Temporary theatres showing films include the Park Theatre which will show a pair of films on two separate days and the Vogue Theatre which is scheduled to be a venue on nine of the sixteen days including the opening gala tomorrow night which will feature the screening of Canadian director Deepa Mehta’s Midnight Children.

As for me, I’m scheduled to do six shifts of five hours each. I actually volunteered this morning. It was good. Good to see a lot of volunteers I know back. Also exciting to see what featured films will be playing. I plan on taking in as many films as I can. Like last year, I’ll be aiming for a mix of Canadian, international, shorts and documentaries. I hope to post as many reviews here about the films I have seen. Anyways here’s to another year of film festing. If you want to check out this year’s fest, just go to the official website.

Documentary Review: First Position

Rebecca Houseknecht gets ready something more than a dance competition in First Position.

“You have five minutes of stage to prove why you deserve this chance.”

I went to see First Position a week or two back because I wanted to finally make use out of movie tickets for a certain cinema I won during an Oscar party. I’m glad I did. It’s a unique outlook on the art of ballet dancing, the children that aspire to excel, and the Youth America Grand Prix competition which is a potential ticket for many futures in the dance. It left me with a surprising outlook and I now know more.

Before I go into reviewing First Position, I’d like to explain the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) competition. The competition was created in 1999 by two former dancers of the Bolshoi Ballet. The competition is not just a top dance competition but a potential ticket to futures in dance. Many dancers are awarded scholarships to various renowned dance academies from around the world. The total value of scholarships are estimated to be $250,000 annually and they range from summer intensives to full-year schooling. Dancing jobs are also offered from renowned ballet ensembles worldwide. Many dance companies have considered this competition a ‘game-changer in dance’ or a ‘dancer’s marketplace’ ever since it began.

As for the YAGP competitions, they consist of semifinals contested in twelve American cities and five foreign cities and the finals in New York. The individual competitions are divided into three age divisions: pre-competitive (11 and under), junior (12-14) and senior (15-19). The junior and senior divisions have Grand Prix awards and the pre-competitive division has a Hope Award. Medals are awarded in each age division with men and women separately. There are also competitions in Pas de Deux and Ensembles with medals awarded. There are also special awards given out at the end.

The YAGP may start with an annual total of 5000 dancers competing in the semifinals and almost 300 dancers in the finals in New York City annually but the movie focuses specifically on six in the 2010 competition:

-Rebecca Houseknecht, 17: The Maryland teen is a self-described ‘princess’ and has an obsession with the color pink. She’s been dancing and competing her whole life. Now that she’s on the verge of graduating high school she wants to dance professionally. Competing at the YAGP could open the door for opportunity. Nevertheless she’s nervous since she knows chances are slim.

-Joan Sebastian Zamora, 16: A Colombian so good at dancing, he had to move to the renowned The Rock Dance Academy in Philadelphia to improve his skills. Ballet is his passion. He receives a lot of support from his family and frequently talks with them from thousands of miles away. He’s hoping to become a professional dancer but is now chasing a scholarship from a top academy.

-Michaela DePrince, 15: A refugee from Sierra Leone who was shunned in an orphanage as the ‘devil’s child’ for vitiligo discoloring her skin. She carried a picture of a ballerina with her during her days in the refugee camp and dreamed of being that woman. Adopted by a white American family at age 4 along with another girl from the refugee camp, she looks back at her past saying: “It’s a miracle I’m even here.” She’s come this far training at a top professional school but wants to take things further.

-Miko Fogarty, 12: The daughter of a Japanese mother and British father, her mother was a dancer in her native Japan and she took to the love of dance instantly. Unlike most children who are either influenced or forced into things by their parents, she shares the same love of dancing as her mother and a special bond with her.

-Aran Bell, 11: A real-life Billy Elliot. It’s a surprise that this ballet prodigy is the only dancer in his family. An American boy living in Naples, Italy where his military father is stationed, Aran trains at a renowned school in Rome. Being 11 doesn’t excuse him from training over 30 hours a week, but Aran loves ballet enough to commit himself to it.

-Jules “J.J.” Fogarty, 10: Miko’s younger brother. He too is very skilled of a dancer but he doesn’t seem to be the dancer type his sister and mother are. He lacks the passion shared by his mother and sister but will he continue on or give out?

Throughout the documentary, there are many factors about the life of a young ballet student. One starts when a judge says “Kids who are pursuing ballet as a career give up their childhood.” Even Michaela will acknowledge: “You’ve been working your body to death since five.” We see the childhoods of all six. All six may train an excruciating number of hours a week but they all have time for fun, even those that are home-schooled or take correspondence learning. Rebecca points out she has fun with friends and a boyfriend: “I feel I lead a pretty normal life”. We see Michaela talking and eating with her friends. We see Aran play catch and skate on his skateboard. He has a BB gun, toy cars and many teddy bears. Miko herself says: “I think I’ve had the right amount of childhood and the right amount of ballet.” Maybe children pursuing dancing do have a childhood. Just a different one than most of us.

Other themes about ballet enter the picture in the film too. One is the importance of the family dynamic in supporting the child chasing their dream of dancing. They may be lucky like Michaela and Rebecca to live near a top notch school or they may be like Joan Sebastian’s family whom Joan only sees a few times out of the year. Nevertheless the support is evident for all in an art that involves a lot of time and a lot of money. Another is the difference between loving dance and liking it. It becomes evident with J.J. as he admits that he likes dancing but doesn’t love it enough to devote the huge number of hours any longer. Viewers may have even sensed that at the beginning. Another element included is race and gender. Michaela talks about the flack she hears like: “blacks lack the grace to excel in ballet.” Joan Sebastian mentions of an African-Cuban ballet dancer as his idol and inspiration. Aran keeps his dancing private from his classmates: “A lot of men think ballet is not what it is.” On the other hand Joan Sebastian’s six year-old little brother wants to be a dancer just like Joan.

As the competition progresses from the semifinals to the finals, we also see other aspects of ballet come to light. One is highlighted in a conversation with Rebecca and her dancing friends about the competitiveness of the dancers. She mentions how when she gives a compliment, many react to her with suspicion. The funny thing is while many people believe ballerinas to have snobby catty personalities, all the dancers profiled in the movie have very likeable personalities. Another aspect is dancers and eating. To the surprise of many, all the dancers featured have big appetites and admit to eating a lot. There’s been a lot of talk about dancers and eating disorders but the dancers’ eating reminds us that a dancer with an eating disorder like anorexia won’t have the energy to train or perform well. So good eating is necessary. Another aspect is dancing injuries. They range from blisters to pulled muscles to inflamed toe joints to popped knees to the unspeakable. It shouldn’t surprise you with training 30 or more hours a week. What would surprise you is that dancers are expected to perform with the injuries and still make it look pretty. That could lead to further aggravation. Many dancing careers have been cut short because of injury. Surprising how watching ballet performances are beautiful but the training part has a lot of ugliness.

Yes, the film shows a lot of themes and aspects of ballet as it goes from showcasing the training to the home life to the competition. Competition has some aspects of its own. First is the semifinals held in the various cities. As I mentioned, a total of 5000 dancers try out in the semis to become amongst the 300 that qualify for the finals in New York. They show all six competing in their own semifinal competitions but the most eye-catching were that of Miko, J.J. and Aran. Miko falls during the first performance in her semifinal. Her mother always blames herself whenever Miko falls. Nevertheless we’re made aware that the judges like a good recovery. Miko performs well during the second performance and she qualifies. J.J. also qualifies as he’s given special consideration for his age. Even though Aran is American, he competes in the European semifinals. We’re also introduced to Aran’s friend from Israel. Her name is Gaya Bommer and she’s a dancer trained by her mother. They form a special friendship even though they’re miles apart and Gaya can’t speak any English.

One thing we should remember is that the semifinals are held anywhere from two to six months before the finals. A lot can happen within that time. That’s the time when J.J. decided to quit ballet. This breaks his mother’s heart as he quits before the finals. Miko and the other dancers continue on. Nevertheless some face their own pressures. Joan Sebastian returns to visit his family in Colombia. It’s a warm homecoming visit. The family is from modest means. They know dancers have a short career life but they encourage Joan to chase his dream. Rebecca still hopes for the YAGP to be her chance for a dancing job with a company but we hear from her mother that many companies have either hired less new dancers or let go of some existing ones. We’re even told by a judge at the beginning that there are many dancers but few will get good work dancing. Then Michaela faces an aggravated foot injury. It’s starting to flare up shortly before the Finals. She’s uncertain if she will perform well.

Then the 2010 YAGP finals take place. There are anywhere from 200 to 300 dancers from around the world competing in both individual and group competitions. The film focuses solely on the individual competitions. Two things the film showcases about the finals outside of the featured dancers’ performances is firstly how international the competition is. There are dancers from a multitude of countries competing here even though most of the semis were held in the US. Another is how even in a tight competition like this, bad steps, stumbles and falls do happen. Reactions from the dancers are not pleasant at all. One teen male was seen backstage walking silently angry over his fall. Another girl’s instructor reacts with frustration after her fall. Another young boy bursts into tears at the end of his performance. We’re also told by one of the dancers that hitting or missing at the YAGP could actually hurt one’s chances of getting their career. A reminder that while the YAGP has become a game-changer as a dancer marketplace, it’s also a game-changer for one’s reputation in the world of dance. Yes, the YAGP is a competition a lot like a sports competition but it included the same cruel unforgiving attitude of showbiz mixed in.

Then it’s time for the featured dancers to perform. Both Aran and Gaya are magnificent. Rebecca also dances well. Joan Sebastian flies brilliantly. However the performances with the biggest interest were Miko and Michaela. Miko displays the confidence and the flawlessness that was missing from the semifinals. And Michaela performs excellently and gracefully as if the injury wasn’t there. After the dancing is over, it’s time to award the prizes and the scholarships. You can find out the results of those over at the YAGP website. I’ll just say some were rewarded with prizes and some were rewarded with scholarships to renowned academies. Those with scholarships looked forward to a new life and for better things to come. Those that won prizes continued on dancing preparing for next year’s competition. J.J. had since been pushed into academics. His mother told him if he won’t shoot high in dancing, he’s left to shoot high in his schooling. As for Rebecca–SPOILER WARNING–she was the only one of the featured dancers who left the competition without a prize, scholarship or a job offer. We learn in the epilogue she was later offered a job at a Washington Dance Ensemble.

One of the best qualities of this documentary is that it doesn’t just simply take you into the lives of the participants but makes you want each of them to achieve. We see in front of our eyes how much dance means to them. It’s a given. If they’re born to do it and they love it enough to work hard at it, it’s natural for one to want them to excel at it. Even though we’re reminded of all the odds, we still want them to succeed in the end because we feel they deserve it. Director Bess Kargman is a former dancer herself so she has first-hand knowledge of all the odds and ends of training and competing in dance. The YAGP started long after her childhood ended but she still knows of all the right elements to place in the movie such as the training, the outside factors, the semifinal highlights, the time in between and the finals.

She succeeded in giving the audience a look at the struggles, the ugliness, the stresses and the triumphs from the dancers’ points of view. It will surely open a lot of people’s eyes about what it’s like to be a young dancer. Also it’s interesting how a lot of moviegoers got a perception of the ballet world after seeing Black Swan. The movie had some truth to it but not all of it is completely true. Even with the dancers shown here, none of them appeared to be as insecure as Nina. They all had their own issued but they were all likeable, confident and exhibited high self esteem. This documentary sure changed what I thought about kids in ballet. The film also got me interested in next year’s YAGP.

Another thing that’s unique about this documentary is that it’s one of few that one can bring their children to see. There were children in the audience when I attended and that’s a good thing. I feel any child who sees this will learn a lot about dance and competing. Most girls dream of being ballerinas. This will show them that to be successful in ballet you not only have to dance as light and pretty as a swan but have a body of steel and a will of iron to make it. Most girls dream of being it. Few are willing to put in the hours and years to achieve it. Also it shows that boys who want to make it not only have to have the same iron will but a thick skin to the common negative stigma associated with boys in ballet not just from other boys but some adults too. It’s the Billy Elliot story all too often. All the boys shown here love it too much to quit over any teasing. The father of The Rock dancer Derek Dunn, who’s a former YAGP winner, said: “I have to say I never expected my son to be a dancer but I couldn’t be prouder.” Here’s to those boys.

First Position is not only an eye-opener of a documentary but it’s engaging to the audience and even exciting especially when the audience shares the same passion as the dancers. Definitely a documentary worth seeing.

Also in case you’re interested in the Youth America Grand Prix itself, the official website is at: http://www.yagp.org/ YAGP 2013 semifinals have already started with the first semis, the South American semis, being held in Santos, Brazil as I speak. Also next year’s finals will be held in NYC on April 12th to 17th. A good chance to catch the future of dance.

Movie Review: Moonrise Kingdom

Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman escape together in Moonrise Kingdom.

Moonrise Kingdom is one of those films one who wants get off the beaten path might want to see. Knowing that Wes Anderson is directing it is one sign this is something out of the ordinary. But is it enjoyable?

The film starts with a young girl, the oldest of four children and only daughter, has her binoculars out for a search. She leaves her house on the search with her cat, six books and a record player but we don’t know what she’s searching for. Her name is Suzy Bishop. Meanwhile it’s rise and shine for the Khaki Scouts at Camp Ivanhoe. Only one scout is missing and no one can find him. His name is Sam Shakusky.

Flashback a year ago. Suzy is about to perform for a church musical for Noye’s Fludde by Benjamin Britten. Sam sneaks in and meets Suzy. It was like love at first sight for the two. Over the year’s time, they were pen friends and they made a secret pact to reunite in the summer and run away together. Now today is the day. As Suzy is walking to the area with binoculars in hand, Sam paddles his canoe over the lake well-equipped with camping equipment. They meet and camp out for several days on a secluded cove which they call Moonrise Kingdom. Their love blossoms as the days pass and as Sam paints pictures of her.

Eventually the two are located by the scoutmaster, the police and Suzy’s parents. They’re first able to evade escape by the scouts after Suzy stabs one in the side with lefty scissors. But it’s all too late as they are caught. Suzy is taken home by her parents and is ordered never to see Sam again. Sam is in custody with Captain Sharp and is about to be sent to ‘juvenile refuge’ because he is an orphan and his foster parents no longer wish to house him. The two run off again and hide. One other thing to add: a hurricane is expected to hit the area in a matter of days.

It’s this second incident that people are more cooperative. The Scouts learn of the love of the two and believe it their duty to help them hide. The Scouts even seek out the help of Cousin Ben to help them in the hiding out. It appears to be successful but there are many twists and turns including a flash flood within the camp and the recovering stabbed boy blockading Sam’s escape. After a lengthy chase, they return back to the church as it is about to do a musical. Problem is all those attempting to chase the two down head there too and the hurricane is slowly but surely approaching. Sam and Suzy refuse to give up and even go as far as going to the top of the church steeple while the storm is at its wettest and windiest to evade capture. The ending ends in an offbeat way but it’s a happy ending that ends in a charming manner.

I’m unsure if Wes was trying to get a point across in this movie or if he was just trying to deliver a quirky but nice story. It’s easy to sense that there may be a message here with a lot of elements in the story: 1965, New England, scouts, church plays, lawyer parents, an orphan who runs away a lot, a girl with behavioral problems. Whatever the situation, Wes succeeded in making this offbeat kiddie-romance quite charming. Wes has had a history of doing charming but quirky movies like Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited and even the animated family movie The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Here he has a story of children in love that commonly make for a typical cutesy story, adds his own quirks in there, gives the two children in love unique characters and delivers a winning and entertaining story. How often can a director accomplish that?

Besides Anderson’s filmmaking, the film has  other great qualities too. The script he co-wrote with Roman Coppola, son of Francis Ford Coppola, adds to the charming quirkiness of the movie. The acting performances of the leads Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward were very good, especially since they’re debut performances. The one thing is that Wes Anderson wanted the two to act in a certain style of acting that would fit the movie instead of your typical acting. Both did a good job of not only doing their character but succeeding in making the chemistry both quirky and a perfect aspiring at the same time. Anderson also brings back actors he has worked with in past movies like Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman and Larry Pine and he also includes Edward Norton who will star in his upcoming The Grand Budapest Hotel. Their addition as supporting players also add to the story as well as supporting performances from other established actors like Harvey Keitel, Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton.

It wasn’t just the writing, directing and acting. The music also added to the movie as well. The first is the inclusion of Benjamin Britten’s music in the movie. It’s obvious Wes had a liking to Britten’s music as a child. In fact we hear the Young Person’s Guide To the Orchestra played by Suzy’s little brothers at the beginning. The original music from Alexandre Desplat also added to the movie’s charm too. Many can agree that the use of such music had a lot to do with the movie’s charm.

Moonrise Kingdom is an odd and quirky story that will win you in the end. Great movie to watch for moviegoers who want to get off the beaten path.

Montreal Shooting Reminds Canada Political Violence Rare But Likely

Quebec premier-designater Pauline Marois avoided being shot by a crazed gunman on Sept. 4th. One man was killed and another critically wounded.

The news shocked all of Canada. On September 4, 2012, Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois won the Quebec provincial election. She was to give her victory speech at the Metropolis in downtown Montreal when a masked gunman opened fire, killing a stage technician and injuring another. Marois was unharmed. It has not been determined whether this was meant to be an assassination attempt on Marois or not. Even if it was, politically-motivated assassination attempts in Canada are extremely rare. Nevertheless the shooting did remind us that such a catastrophe is very possible here in Canada.

Throughout the beginning of time, being a political leader has always been a position to put one’s life in jeopardy. The King of a country would be seen as the prime target for warring armies in the quest to conquer. A leader could even be assassinated by a person within their circle as Julius Caesar was. Even in modern day dictatorships or dictatorships of the recent past, a head of state would be prey for assassination attempts like Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein, Salvador Allende or Anwar Sadat. The assassin would either be an person of opposition or a militarized coup.

Even in democracies assassination attempts are still common as was the failed attempt on UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1984 and the successful attempts on India’s Indira and Rajiv Gandhi in 1984 and 1991 respectively. Even countries with a reputation of being peaceful like Sweden are not immune to assassination attempts as was the case when Prime Minister Olaf Palme was shot and killed in 1986. The most famous assassination attempts in a democracy have come from the United States. Four presidents including legendary presidents like Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy have been assassinated while in office. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan was shot while in office but survived. The most recent assassination attempt on an American politician was on January 8, 2011 on Arizona US Representative Gabrielle Giffords. She survived but six others, including US District Court Judge John Roll, were killed.

Here in Canada, we’re lucky not to have a prime minister assassinated while in office.  Even infamous prime ministers like Brian Mulroney lived to see his last day in office and even Stephen Harper is still alive and active during a time of Harperphobia that’s heavily promoted through the gab of liberal Canadians. The closest call was on Jean Chretien back in November 5, 1995 when a man armed with a knife broke into his home residence to stab him. Neither Jean nor his wife were hurt.

There have only been two successful assassinations in Canadian politics. The first is Thomas D’Arcy McGee. He was both an Irish nationalist and a father of Canadian Federation. He would attack the Orange Order in his writings in the 1850’s and defended the Irish Catholic right to representation in the assembly. He was elected to the Legislative assembly of the Province Of Canada in 1858 and played a significant role in the creation of the Dominion Of Canada. Less than a year after the independence of Canada, McGee was shot to death by Patrick Whelan, an Irish Catholic and a sympathizer of the Fenians: a group of Irish Americans who wanted to take over Canada to prevent British occupancy. Whelan was hanged. McGee remains the only Canadian politician at the federal level to be assassinated.

The second successful assassination was at a provincial level and an act of terrorism. Pierre Laporte was Vice-Premier and Minister of Labour of Quebec in 1970 as Robert Bourassa was the Premier. On October 10, 1970, Laporte was kidnapped outside his home by a cell of the FLQ: A Quebec independence terrorist group. The FLQ was already regarded as a dangerous group for it had already committed seven murders, multiple mail bombings in the 60’s and bombed the Montreal Stock Exchange one year earlier. A British diplomat had been kidnapped days earlier and was still hostage. Laporte’s abduction was part of a ‘political protest’ to have ‘political prisoners’ freed. The Government of Canada under Pierre Trudeau responded with the enactment of Canada’s War Measures Act and Trudeau’s promise to punish whoever harms the two men. On October 17th, seven days after the abduction, Laporte’s body was found. The incident is remembered in Canadian history as the October Crisis. The British Diplomat was released in December and the FLQ eventually declined due to heavy police crackdown and declining public support after the assassination. Nowadays the biggest lobby for Quebec independence is through peaceful political lobbying like the Parti Quebecois.

Despite current politics in Canada being mostly peaceful, there is a chance for violence either by a cowardly person or a person with opposing viewpoints. We shouldn’t forget that Canadians have often reacted angrily to political situations in the past. We’ve had rebellions in both Lower Canada and Upper Canada before the Dominion was created. We’ve had rebellions in Manitoba in the 19th Century like the Riel Rebellion. We’ve had labor riots in various cities with the Winnipeg Riot of 1919 being the most famous.

Political violence became less admired and more looked down upon since World War II but it’s not to say it’s completely gone away. Back in the 60’s there were attacks on air force bases to protest the war. In the 80’s and 90’s, there were protests and blockades from First nations groups. Even in my city of Vancouver, there have been political riots like the G7 riot back in 1997 and various anti-Olympic protests before Vancouver 2010. There was also the G8 riot in Toronto from anarchist groups. So there’s no doubt that there’s political anger here in Canada that can turn violent.

I won’t say that the Montreal shooting was politically motivated as that has yet to be proved but I will state the facts I’ve read and know as of now. On the night of September 4th, 2012, the Parti Quebecois won the provincial election with a minority government. Party leader Pauline Marois delivered her victory speech when partway through, a masked gunman opened fire with what many thought was an AK-47. One stage technician was killed and another was injured. Marois was taken away by her bodyguards and was unharmed in the shooting. The gunman then attempted to set fire to the building with a Molotov cocktail. The shooter was quickly tackled and arrested by the police.

The victim was 48 year-old stagehand Denis Blanchette. Witnesses including Marois herself believe his actions taken that night could have prevented more fatalities. His funeral was held in a Roman Catholic church and was attended by hundreds including Marois and other political dignitaries. Police were present throughout the church. Dave Courage, the 27 year-old man who was also shot, was originally in critical condition and continues to recover in hospital. The suspect is 62 year-old Richard Henry Bain of La Conception, QC, a small town 90 miles northwest of Montreal. He faces 16 charges including first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder as well as possession of explosive material and prohibited weapons. While being placed in a police cruiser, he yelled in French “Anglos are waking up.” then in English: “It’s f***ing payback time.” Crown Prosecutor said Bain has 27 guns, all but one had been registered.

Bain is expected to reappear in court on October 11th. Despite the statement, it’s unknown whether Bain’s actions were politically motivated or the actions of a crazed man. Court trials and public reaction will define the events yet to come and could even affect the political climate in Quebec. One thing about the shooting is that it reminded Canada that political assassinations in Canada are quite possible. An extremely rare chance of happening but still likely.

WORKS CITED:

WIKIPEDIA: FLQ. Wikipedia.com. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FLQ>

WIKIPEDIA: October Crisis. Wikipedia.com. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/October_crisis>

WIKIPEDIA: Thomas D’Arcy McGee. Wikipedia.com. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_D%27Arcy_McGee>

WIKIPEDIA: 2012 Montreal shooting. Wikipedia.com. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation Inc.

< http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_Montreal_shooting>

Montgomery, Sue. “Shooting suspect Richard Henry Bain arraigned on 16 charges, including first-degree murder”  Montreal Gazette 6 September 2012 <http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Shooting+suspect+Richard+Henry+Bain+arraigned+charges+including+first+degree+murder/7200523/story.html>

London 2012 Paralympics: Best Ever

Margaret Maughan lights the cauldron of the 2012 London Paralympics.

On Sunday night, the fourteenth Summer Paralympic Games closed in London. They were contested only a month after the main summer Olympic Games began. These Paralympic Games were another effort of the International Paralympic Committee to help put disabled sport upon the same parallel as able-bodied sport. They became the biggest and best ever.

START AND DEVELOPMENT

Sport for the disabled has existed ever since there were people with disabilities who still wanted to remain active and had the will to make it happen. However the start of formal sport for people with disabilities had its start and development at the Stoke Mandeville hospital in the English town of Stoke Mandeville 55 km northwest of London. It was after World War II and through the iron will of war veterans left permanently injured with either paralysis or amputation to develop sport to stay physically active and through the guidance of neurologist Ludwig Guttmann. It was on July 28, 1948–the day before the main Summer Olympics of London opened–that the Stoke Mandeville Games For The Paralyzed took place. It consisted of a single archery competition between fourteen men and two women, all from the UK.

You could say it was those Stoke Mandeville Games where the Paralympic sports movement would be born. True, but it would take some time and development. The Stoke Mandeville Games would become an annual sports competition and would consist of UK athletes only. In 1952, Dutch athletes participated at the Stoke Mandeville Games making it the first ever International Stoke Mandeville Games. The Games would continue to be contested annually and would continue to become more international. Then a breakthrough occurred in 1960 when Rome, host city of the Summer Olympics that year, agreed to host the International Stoke Mandeville Games just weeks after the main Olympics ended. This was the first time those Games were held outside of Stoke Mandeville and would later be remembered as the first ever Paralympic Games. It consisted of 400 athletes from 23 countries participating in 57 events in eight sports.

Paralympic sport would continue to grow. The International Stoke Mandeville Games would continue to be contested annually in Stoke Mandeville for three more years. Then in 1964, Tokyo would host the Games just weeks after the main Olympics ended just like Rome did four years earlier. The Stoke Mandeville Games continued annually and the 1968 Stoke Games we held just weeks after the main Olympics ended. However they would be held in Tel Aviv, Israel instead of Mexico City which hosted the main Olympics. This would continue on for twenty years where the Stoke Mandeville Games would be held in Stoke Mandeville in non-Olympic years and be held in an international city. There would be two dissimilarities during this period of time. One would be no mention of Stoke Mandeville in the title and having tiles like ‘Olympiad For The Physically Disabled’ or ‘International Games For The Disabled’. Another dissimilarity was the host city as it would be a different host city than the main Olympic Games. Also noteworthy was the creation of the first ‘Winter Olympic Games Of the Disabled’ in 1976. Like the Summer Games, the Winter Games would also be contested in cities that didn’t host the main Winter Olympics. One notable achievement of those Games is that over the years they would be recognized seriously enough for national heads of state to formally open them at their Opening Ceremonies.

Another breakthrough occurred in the summer of 1988 when the Games were held in Seoul, Korea just weeks after they finished hosting the main Olympic Games. This marked a return to the original format of 24 years ago when these Games took place in the same host city of the main Olympic Games and this partnering would continue to be the format to this day. Another notable thing of these Games was that they would be the first such Games to be referred to as the ‘Paralympic’ Games for ‘parallel’, not paralyzed and most people think. The ‘merger’ of the two Games that year would prove to be a great success and would even spawn the formation of the International Paralympic Committee the following year.

Also in case you’re interested, the International Stoke Mandeville Games would later be renamed the World Wheelchair Games and are now called the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports (IWAS) World Games. They are headed by the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation, a sports federation separate from the International Paralympic Committee, and take place annually except during Paralympic years and at various cities worldwide.

MY OWN EXPERIENCE: VANCOUVER 2010

As many of you know, I come from Vancouver. Our city hosted to 2010 Winter Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games of that year. I had tickets for the Opening Ceremonies, alpine skiing, nordic skiing and sledge hockey. It was a very good experience. The Opening Ceremonies held on March 12th was a fun occasion which featured a DJ performing for the parade of athletes as they were coming out. The opening ceremonies also involved audience participation and featured a wide array of performers from a breakdancer with Arthrogryposis named ‘Lazylegs’ to an amputee rock band to wheelchair riders practicing halfpipe tricks to a deaf poet. The Ceremonies also paid tribute to two of Canada’s greatest athletes with disabilities: the late Terry Fox and Rick Hansen. There were speeches made by Hansen as well as past Paralympic athletes like Aimee Mullins and Chantal Petitclerc. The ceremony ended with a grand lighting of the flame by teenage athlete Zac Beaumont: a Paralympic snowboarder. He was selected to represent the future of Paralympic sport not just because of his age but also because he was a snowboarder and snowboarding was not part of those Paralympics. Snowboarding will make its Paralympic debut in 2014 under the name Parasnowboarding.

The following day I was to see the alpine skiing competition at Whistler. It was cancelled out due to foggy conditions and heavy snow. Even despite the cancellation, there was an area at the basin of the hill where children and adults could try Paralympic sports on their own. There was sledge skiing trials, sledge hockey trials and even an amputee skiing trials. It was also an introduction to the equipment used for sports competitions like the sledges for sledge skiing and the ski poles for amputee skiers called outriggers whose edges first act like poles then flip to become skis to support balance. Over at a visit to the main Whistler Town Square there were performances by rock bands throughout the square and celebrations galore at the restaurants. The medal ceremonies happened later that night. It was a great occasion and all the athletes were excited for what they achieved and the mood was festive. Whistler would be the competition grounds for all but three medal events of the Paralympic games so these Games were as much Whistler’s as they were Vancouver’s.

Me with IPC President Sir Philip Craven during Vancouver 2010.

I returned to Whistler Thursday the 18th to watch nordic skiing. There were three types of competitions: sledge, blind and amputee. Both sledge skiers and blind skiers were all ranked by their finish time. Amputee skiers were different as there were different types of amputees through the competition and times had to be adjusted due to the amputee level of each athlete for the sake of a level playing field. A unique thing I learned is that blind skiers, both nordic and alpine, would have guides with full vision guiding them through telecommunication letting them know of what to expect while they’re on course. Often guides for Paralympic athletes have to be athletes of Olympic caliber ability. I also remember groups of schoolchildren were at the events as part of a special promotion from the ticket sales. Later that day i went back to the village where they had a special igloo shaped exhibit called ‘Spirit In Motion’. Inside was an exhibit of Paralympic sports and its history. It was almost like walking through a museum learning all the information. Most of the exhibits were provided by Otto Bock, a German prosthetics company. I was also able to meet Sir Philip Craven, president of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). We talked for a short bit as he had to head back to Vancouver. I told him I was to see a sledge hockey game tomorrow and that’s when he gave me the news that Canada lost their semifinal to Japan. My heart sunk because I wanted them to make the gold-medal final of course. The day ended with more celebrations over at the Whistler Olympic Plaza. Medals were given out and two of which went to Canadian athletes that were some of the biggest winners of these Games: five-time gold medallist Lauren Woolstecroft, an amputee alpine skier; and three-time gold medalist Brian McKeever, a blind Nordic skier. The ceremonies ended with a concert by Serena Ryder.

Friday the 19th was the day for the bronze medal game of sledge hockey. I was too late to get a ticket for the gold-medal final. This was the match I was hoping NOT to see Team Canada play in. Of course I wanted them to play in the gold-medal match. Sledge hockey has been one Paralympic sport that has caught a lot of attention over the past few years. Canada has also welcomed the sport with open arms and matched have stimulated interest in the sport.  Anyways it was held at a hockey stadium over at the UBC Campus. The game was scoreless during the first two periods. Then a goal for Canada happened at the beginning of the third. During the third period, things started looking bad for Canada as they had only one shot on goal while Norway was having plenty. Then the nasty moment came. A foul by a Canadian was committed which allowed Norway a penalty shot. This infuriated the Canadian goalie enough for him to throw his helmet down. When the Norwegian took his penalty shot, he scored. Tied 1-1. Then one of the Canadian players took a bad hit and was lying on the ground. He was lying still and the coach came rushing out onto the ice. The whole arena was silent. Fortunately he was able to get up. The whole area was so relieved he was alright we didn’t seem to care if we won or not. We didn’t; Norway scored the bronze medal-winning goal with less than four seconds to go.

ACCOLADES AND CONTROVERSIES

The Paralympic Games have had their greats over the years. the most medaled Paralympian is American blind swimmer Trischa Zorn who won a total of 55 medals, 41 of them gold, from 1980 to 2004. The most medaled Winter Paralympian is Norwegian Ragnhild Myklebust who won 27 medals including 22 golds in three different winter sports: biathlon, Cross-country skiing, and ice sledge racing. It’s interesting to know that while Michael Phelps is the only Olympian with 10 or more gold medals, there are a total of 39 Paralympians with ten or more. The most medaled Canadian is Chantal Petitclerc, a Wheelchair racer who has won a total of 21 medals including 14 gold. Another Canadian Paralympic legend is Arnie Boldt, a single-leg amputee performer in athletics, who has won a multitude of Paralympic medals and was especially dominant in the high jump. Many consider him to be the best Paralympic athletics performer ever. The most golds in a single games is 12 won by Trischa Zorn at the 1988 Summer Paralympics. While Phelps is the only Olympian to win eight golds in a single games, there are six Paralympians who have won eight or more.

Each Paralympic sport has had their greats. While there’s Zorn and French swimmer Beatrice Hess in swimming, there’s Sweden’s Jonas Jacobsson in shooting, Germany’s Gerd Schoenfelder in alpine skiing, Myklebust in nordic skiing, Petitclerc and Switzerland’s Franz Nietlispach in athletics, and Britain’s Lee Pearson in athletics.

The Paralympic Games are not without their controversies. The biggest example of cheating came at the Sydney Games of 2000 when Spain’s intellectual disability basketball team was ruled to have at least ten members who weren’t intellectually disabled. Mental tests, which were to be conducted before the Games, weren’t conducted. It was later admitted ten members weren’t intellectually disabled and the team was stripped of the gold. That was considered by many to be one of the ‘most outrageous sporting moments’ in history. Intellectually Disabled Basketball has not been contested at the Paralympics ever since and it wouldn’t be until these Paralympics in London where Intellectual Disability sports would make a return, and under close scrutiny.

There have also been doping violations at the Paralympic Games too. The first positive tests came at the 1992 Barcelona Games. The Sydney Games of 2000 was the first Games to ensure their Games met the International Medical and Anti-Doping Code. Out-of-competition tests were introduced at those Games. Those resulted in fourteen athletes testing positive, ten of them powerlifters. There’s even a form of doping unique to Paralympic sport: boosting-where the athlete is induced with autonomic dysreflexia to increase blood pressure. It’s an ongoing problem that still exists.

THE LONDON GAMES THEMSELVES

These Paralympic Games were anticipated to be the biggest ever. Organizers were expecting before the Games to be the first Paralympics to achieve mass market appeal, fueled by the public enthusiasm continuing after the end of the main Olympics in London, the UK’s role in Paralympic sport and growing interest and media in Paralympic Sport. The torch bagan its journey on August 24th with torch lightings in London, Belfast, Edinburgh and Cardiff. All four met in Stoke Mandeville on the 28th, the day before the Games’ opening, to unite to create a special cauldron during a special ceremony commemorating the village’s role in the history of the Paralympics. The flame headed for London was lit and it arrived at the stadium after a 24 hour relay during the opening ceremonies just after being declared open by Queen Elizabeth II. The cauldron was similar to the multi-pedaled cauldron used for the main Olympics and it was lit by Margaret Maughan, Britain’s first Paralympic champion. The opening ceremony was as star-studded as the Olympics featuring acting from Ian McKellen, music from group Orbital and an appearance from Stephen Hawking. The closing ceremony was just as star-studded as it included Coldplay, Rihanna and Jay-Z. The Paralympic flag, by the same tradition as the Olympic flag, was handed from the mayor of London to the mayor of Rio. And British Paralympic champions Jonnie Peacock and Ellie Simmonds extinguished the flame and shared its last flame on torches to others throughout the stadium.

4300 athletes from 156 countries participated at these Games in the 503 events throughout the twenty sports. The competitions were a delight themselves and you could guarantee Olympic appearances by South African runner Oscar Pistorius would stimulate attention. He attracted a lot of attention but was surprised in the 200m run when he was beaten by a Brazilian runner. The sprinting star of those Games was actually a British teenage sprinter Jonnie Peacock. A single-leg amputee, he won the 100m for his disability class. His coach was Dan Pfaff, coach of 1996 Olympic 100m dash champion Donovan Bailey.

The most medaled athletes were Australian swimmers Jacqui Freney and Matthew Cowdrey with eight medals each: all gold for Jacqui and five gold for Matthew. The athletics competition had two quadruple-gold medalists with American Raymond Martin and Brit Dave Weir. Another British athlete, cyclist Sarah Storey, also won four gold medals. The most medaled Canadian was swimmer Summer Mortimer who won seven medals including two gold. Britain’s Sophie Christianson won two gold medals in equestrian. Brazil and Russia won the two football tournaments. The powerlifting events were won mostly by Nigeria, Iran and Egypt. China proved to be as dominant in Paralympic table tennis as they are at Olympic table tennis winning 14 of the 26 golds. China also won six of the twelve wheelchair fencing events.

In terms of the medals race, China won the most with 231 medals, 95 of them gold. Host country Great Britain won the second-most medals with 120 including 34 gold. Russia won the third-most medals with 102  including 36 gold. The USA was fourth in medals with 98 including 31 gold. Canada had its lowest Paralympic medal haul in 40 years with only 31 medals, seven of them gold. Canada usually ends up in the Top 10 on the Paralympic medals chart but ranked 20th at these Games.

GAMES MARKETING

Having the Paralympics start weeks after the main Olympic end and in the same host city has helped establish the Paralympic Games since they were repartnered back in 1988 and as helped them grow considerably. It’s another thing to help promote and market Paralympic sport and get good ticket seat sales. Even though ticket sales are lower than that of the main Olympic Games, it hasn’t been easy to attract good-sized crowds to Paralympic sport. There have been some cases in past Paralympics where some events would ‘give away’ seats to attract crowds. There have been other times when Paralympic events would attract good-sized crowds. I remember back in 2010 the gold medal match for sledge hockey was sold out weeks before it was contested. Thus my purchase of a ticket for bronze medal match. I also remember the Paralympic Games offering discounts for groups of ten or more and even offers for field trips for schoolchildren. The ceremonies were very well-attended. The skiing events I attended also had good sized crowds. The sledge hockey playoff rounds started selling out as the weeks got closer. And the medal matches for wheelchair curling sold out.

London attempted to take it even further by becoming the biggest-selling Paralympic Games in history. They planned to sell a total of 2.7 million tickets. Part of the promotions included introducing the Paralympic mascot Mandeville, named after the Stoke Mandeville Hospital, the same day the main Olympic mascot Wenlock was introduced. Royal Mail released a combined Olympic/Paralympic postage stamp series of 30 stamps each featuring either an Olympic or Paralympic sport. One of which came from Channel 4, the British channel broadcasting the Paralympic Games with 150 hours of live coverage, ran an ad campaign in the weeks leading up called Meet The Superhumans. The Ads were aired over 78 commercial television stations in Britain and was met with huge critical acclaim.

Broadcasting was also very good. Many countries like Britain, Australia, France, Germany, Spain, South Africa devoted five or more hours a day on live coverage. Some countries like Canada and New Zealand had broadcast of ceremonies and a daily hour-long highlights show. The one country with the least coverage was the United States. NBC and its NBC Sports Network only provided a total of 5 1/2 hours of coverage. Only four one-hour highlight shows and a recap show on NBC scheduled for September 16th. There was actually a lot of online broadcast of the Paralympic Games that was more active than broadcast on television. Canada had four online channels broadcasting 580 hours of coverage. Many other countries included their own online broadcast. And the IPC’s own Youtube channel broadcast approximately 780 hours of coverage. Broadcasting rights raised a profit of  £10 million, a Paralympic record.

As for tickets, 2.7 million were sold. Even before the main Olympics were over, London’s Paralympic ticket sales had already broken the Paralympic record of 1.8 million for the Beijing Paralympics. By the time the Opening Ceremonies started, a total of 2.4 million were sold. The Opening Ceremonies only had 800 tickets unsold before its start which went to the police and the military along with London Mayor Boris Johnson distributing 1100 to youth athletic clubs. There was even 100,000 contingency tickets sold on September 6 due to popular demand which included multi-event passes and event tickets passed on by sponsors and partners. It’s no wonder this much enthusiasm led Sir Philip Craven to call these ‘the best Paralympic Games ever’ at the closing ceremonies.

LOOKING BACK AND LOOKING AHEAD

Oscar Pistorius’ popularity has done a lot to stimulate interest in Paralympic sport.

There can be many factors determining why these became the biggest and best Paralympic Games ever. One could be increasing support and funding of Paralympic sport from almost all national Olympic Committees. Some could also say it was due to Britain’s enthusiasm of the main Summer Olympics that poured into these Paralympics. Some could also add it was the Olympic appearance of South African double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius that stirred up excitement. Some could say it was Britain’s contribution to Paralympic sport from the genesis of its formation at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital after World War II to Sir Philip Craven serving as the current President of the IPC. Nevertheless the organizers succeeded in making this the best Paralympic Games ever and leaves a tough act for Rio to follow in 2016.

Despite the success of these Paralympic Games, there are some challenges that lay ahead. First is the connection of the Paralympic Games to the Olympic Games. Since 1988 it has relied on being held shortly after the conclusion of the main Olympics to boost its popularity. That move has been very successful and is under contract to continue to be that way at least until 2020. The question is will this ‘partnership’ continue after or will the Paralympics try to hold their own by being held in a different host city? Also The IOC and IPC have close ties and both Presidents Jacques Rogge and Philip Craven meet regularly. Would the ties continue if there was such a change?

Another is the cultivation of star Paralympic athletes and the support of Paralympic sports. We have one current star Paralympian in Oscar Pistorius, commonly known as ‘The Fastest Man On No Legs’. His quest to compete at the main Olympics since 2008 and his appearances at the main London Olympics have sparked his popularity to where he receives $2 million in endorsement money annually. It’s less than the $20 million Usain Bolt will be getting but the most for any Paralympian ever. I’ve even seen him in two Nike commercials. The question is will there be other newer Paralympic stars in the future to help popularize Paralympic sport. Also the funding for Paralympic athletes. As the Paralympics continue to grow, will the funding of Paralympic athletes continue to grow too? Another is people with disabilities having access to sporting activity. I remember going to the Canada Paralympic Association website before Vancouver 2010 and saw an into that said: “34% of able-bodied people have access to sporting activity. 3% of people with disabilities have access.” Will access to sport for people with disabilities grow over time and how will it be promoted to them? I also remember shortly after the 2010 Vancouver Paralympics there were many bus ads promoting Paralympic sport throughout various buses. That’s one good example. Also the possible increase of more Paralympic Sports. Over time there will be more efforts to make more sports for people with disabilities accessible and competitive. Already I know Parasnowboarding will make its debut at the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi. Will there be new Paralympic sports in Rio and in future Summer Games? Only time will tell and it will have to involve the national and international sports federations and the athletes to get the green light from the International Paralympic Committee.

The 2012 Paralympic Games of London ended with a record bang. Enthusiasm for these Games paralleled that of the main Olympics. The future of Paralympic athletes and Paralympic sport looks bright and more promising than ever. It’s up to the various organizing committees and the athletes to help take Paralympic sport into the future not just for the increase of fanfare and revenue but also for the accessibility for the disabled. Nevertheless after these Paralympics, the future couldn’t look any brighter.

WORKS CITED:

WIKIPEDIA: 2012 Summer Paralympics. Wikipedia.com. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_Paralympic_Games>

WIKIPEDIA: Paralympic Games. Wikipedia.com. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paralympic_Games>

WIKIPEDIA: Cheating At The Paralympic Games. Wikipedia.com. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheating_at_the_Paralympic_Games>

Movie Review: Ted

DISCLAIMER: I know that summer ended and I know that Ted was released more than two months ago but I’ve been preoccupied with a lot of things in my life like my work, the excitement of summer sports events, and even my Olympic writing. This is the first of four long-overdue summer movie reviews. I hope you understand my delay and I hope you appreciate what I have to write.

I’m sure when many first see a movie poster of Ted, they’d think it’s a family movie. Mark Wahlberg watching television with an animate teddy bear, must be family fun, right? You couldn’t be wronger. It will surprise you.

John Bennett was the odd boy out in his Boston neighborhood. When he was eight, his parents gave him a talking teddy bear for Christmas. One night he wished over a shooting star that his bear would come to life. He did and promised John he’d be friends with him forever. He soon became a huge celebrity but still remained friends with John and would continue to do so in the years to come, though high school, college, and even in his present life. Even Lori, his girlfriend of four years, is fine with it.

Or is she? Fast-forwarding to the present, John is an adult but hasn’t grown up an awful lot. He has a job and a strong relationship but the job’s not the best and he’s afraid of thunderstorms. Ted has also changed. He still has a good friendship with John but he’s quite the partier who knows how to down a few brewskis and toke on a bong frequently. Lori is starting to feel the discomfort as her sleazy boss Rex keeps hitting on her and her friends even ask about her and John. Lately Ted has become more of an interference between the two. The problem is not just because John isn’t all that mature but because of Ted’s over-the-top partying. How over the top? Ted’s the type that can do a totally raunchy ‘Dirty Fozzie’ dance, get down with a checkout girl and even play truth-or-dare with hookers that involved dares that are way too kinky.

Lori finally declares ‘it’s Ted or me.’ John agrees to clean up his act and even gets Ted to move out into an apartment of his own. Ted is fortunate enough to get a job at a grocery store where he moves up places and even dates Tammi-Lynn the checkout girl. So problem solved for John, right? Guess again! John and Lori find Tammi-Lynn obnoxious. John still occasionally meets with Ted and talks with him. Then it happens. Ted calls John over to one of his parties which feature none other than their childhood hero: Flash Gordon star Sam Jones. Even though he’s with Lori at an occasion, he can’t miss this for the words. He attends but Lori finds out on the spot. It’s over.

John tries to get his life together. He tries to move on without Lori. He even tries to win her love back by singing to her at a Norah Jones concert while she’s on a date with Rex to no avail. He tells Ted off in what becomes a fistfight. Ted tries to patch things up between him and Lori. However the real turning point comes when a guy named Donny and his ‘son’ Robert take him as his own. Ted learns Donny has been obsessed with him since day 1 and that something’s wrong. It’s just as John’s returning to Lori as he alerts John of the trouble. It’s just as Ted is abducted by Donny and taken into his car that the problem happens and it’s up for John and Lori to save him. Ted tries to escape even as much as trying to climb to the top of Fenway Park but Donny tears him to shreds in an attempt to get him. After Donny’s arrested John and Lori now have to deal with the fact Ted might die. John even tries to stitch him all up and Lori does something of her own. The movie ends happy and predictable in some ways but unpredictable and equally as delightful in others.

The best quality of the movie is that it succeeds in entertaining with a premise and story that could have been the catharsis for something dreadfully awful but ends up being watchable, enjoyable, excellent and even make sense. That has to be the biggest triumph of Ted. I’m sure the premise of a talking teddy bear whose best friends with a 35 year-old man boy would be the setting up for a movie in danger of being incredibly cheesy or an insult to the crowds intelligence. Not Ted. It took the skilled writing of Family Guy cartoonist Seth MacFarlane to make a movie win in terms of writing and its ability to entertain. The first giveaway to those who don’t already know Seth is all behind this is Ted’s voice being exactly like Peter Griffin. Those familiar with Seth’s cartoon series shows, especially The Family Guy, knows that Seth is never one to shy away from subject matter that raises eyebrows and rattles cages. Many have compared his envelope-pushing humor to that of South Park cartoonists Trey Parker and Matt Stone. One thing Seth does in Ted that Trey and Matt don’t do in any of their works is come to an honest, smart, even heartfelt ending that’s able to work with Ted for all its over-the-topness.

It’s not just Seth’s efforts that make Ted succeed. Mark Wahlberg fit very well into his role as man-boy John Bennett. He made it look believable and entertaining. Mila Kunis also succeeded with her character and with making an otherwise ridiculous situation on screen come across smart. Giovanni Ribisi was also good and funny as the weirdly creepy villain. Norah Jones and Sam Jones (no relation of course) also fit in perfectly with their cameo appearances. Jessica Barth was good with her character acting as Tammi-Lyn. She did the cartoonishness of her role well. Joel McHale was the minor glitch of the movie as his role as the slimy Rex came across as too cartoonish or too stockish to fit in with the story. I think he overdid it in the sliminess.

One thing about Ted is that the humor is not for everyone. Fans of Seth MacFarlane’s humor would definitely go for all the jokes in Ted but those that aren’t comfortable with the likes of the Family Guy better be warned. There’s a lot of ethnic and racial humor, poking fun at religion, a lot of humor that may come across as poking fun at certain individuals, and even some sex humor that may make some people squirm in their chair. I myself found Ted mostly entertaining but even still there were some element s of humor in there that I wasn’t ready for. And to think years ago I had no problem sitting through the humor of Team America: World Police. Yeah, age can do that to you.

Ted is a comedy that will surprise you. Surprise you with the over-the-top humor, surprise you with the bizarre situation and surprise you with how well-done this movie is. It’s no wonder it’s this summer’s surprise hit.