Fury Road

2000 horsepower of nitro-fueled war machine

 
It’s been 30 years since Mad Max went Beyond Thunderdome, and 34(!) since the world learned the story of the Road Warrior. The wait has been so long that one wonders if anything could possibly live up to the dream of a sequel truly worthy of the name Mad Max.

Well I’m here to tell you that not only is Mad Max: Fury Road the best action movie of 2015 – it’s the best action movie since Terminator 2: Judgment Day hit theatres in 1991. Quite simply, Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the best action films ever made.

No fate but what we make

When I was nine years old I took a ten hour ferry to visit my father in Prince Rupert, BC. In the summers he worked tirelessly as a commercial fisherman, catching salmon and halibut on the west coast of the Queen Charlotte Islands. When either his boat was at capacity with fish or supplies were low, he’d journey back to the mainland to deliver the catch and stock up.

On this trip I had one thing on my mind: I had seen advertisements on television and in magazines for Terminator 2, and as a young artist with a growing love of science fiction, it looked like everything I wanted to see in a movie.

My mother wasn’t keen on the idea of taking an impressionable adolescent to an R-rated film. Lucky for me my dad was open to the idea, and after his deckhand gave the movie a glowing review, we were off to one of the most decrepit movie theatres I’ve ever been in to watch a sequel to a movie I hadn’t even seen.

Terminator 2 blew my 9-year-old mind.

I nearly shit my pants when the first skull was suddenly crushed by a T-800 stepping down from off screen, and my knuckles were white for the subsequent two hours as my finger dug into the seat. My passion for movies was lit with the nuclear fire that ended the world in Terminator 2. I was never the same – I changed.

Fury Road reignited my passion for film like a high-octane adrenaline shot.

Get away from her you BITCH

I was too young to see Aliens. Not yet a teenager, I was confident that having seen Alien already (when I was too young for many of the techniques to work on me) that surely a movie with a few more monsters in it wouldn’t be too bad. My babysitter at the time agreed to rent it and watch it with me. She was barely older than I was.

It terrified me. I jumped at every scare, from the first facehugger flailing around in its container to the endless onslaught of monsters gradually overwhelming and slaughtering all the main characters. My blanket was clutched tightly for two and a half hours of adrenaline.

That young, it never occurred to me that Sigourney Weaver would be the main character. It also never occurred to me that she couldn’t be. When she took charge of the crumbling team of marines and led them through their alien-infested hell, it never seemed like it was an unusual thing. And when she was the only one left to go back and rescue her surrogate daughter, armed to the teeth with a bandolier of grenades, a pulse rifle, and a flame thrower, I never questioned why she was badass – she just was.

Weaver was nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of Ellen Ripley in 1986, and while there has been a far-too-small number of female action heroes since then, nobody has come close.

Until now. Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa is the biker-clad-badass beating heart of Fury Road, showing that the trail blazed by Weaver’s performance decades ago isn’t dead, it was simply dormant. Few characters – let alone women – have ever been shown to be this fierce, this driven, this strong. Theron’s Furiosa is every bit as capable as Tom Hardy’s Max Rockatansky, and in many ways she is stronger.

Max is a survivor. Furiosa has a mission.

Fury Road is female action heroes done right.

My world is fire and blood

George Miller is 70 years old. It has been 30 years since he last did a Mad Max film, instead going in what seems at this point to go in another random direction – nobody could have guessed following The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome that he would make films like Lorenzo’s Oil, Babe, and Happy Feet. Everyone feared he had gone soft.

Instead, Miller brought 75-year-old Director of Photography John Seale out of retirement to film the most energetic and visceral chase film in decades. These geriatrics just threw down the gauntlet and kicked every current and aspiring action filmmaker in the groin.

They say “they don’t make them like they used to” about so many things, but in the case of Mad Max: Fury Road, it rings true in a new way. George Miller just made the best action film in decades by doing it old school, with as few computer-generated fx as possible, and with creativity, vision, and audacity. He just reminded the cinema world that you only use crutches when you need to – overloading your film with CGI cheapens the experience; crashes and explosions thrill you in Fury Road because you know they are real – just like in The Road Warrior.

Complimenting the frenetic action of Fury Road is perfect editing (the best since last year’s Whiplash), an utterly intense score by Junkie XL that maintains the pressure throughout the film, and incredible performances delivered by top tier actors with almost no dialogue to work with. There is more dialogue between the lines in Fury Road than a Tarantino film – It’s all in the eyes.

I’m not going to talk about plot. I have no desire to spoil this experience for anyone. Instead, I’ll leave you with this: Fury Road made me feel like a 9-year-old boy seeing the definitive 90s action film with his dad; Fury Road made me feel exhilarated the same way I did when Sigourney Weaver threw an alien queen out an airlock; Fury Road made me grip the edge of my seat like the best thrillers ever made, but it also did it while being creative in new and refreshing ways.

Fury Road is a cinematic experience not to be missed, and one of my top films of all time. A couple grumpy old men just kicked the action world’s teeth in to show them how its done, and all I want to say is thank you.

Changing the world

It all starts with ideas

As the ball gets dusted off and starts rolling on TEDxVictoria 5, the familiar questions I’ve been asking myself since the beginning start coming back to me: Do people even care about TEDxVictoria? Does TEDxVictoria matter? What does an event like this even accomplish, if anything? Isn’t it all just entertainment?

But unlike previous years, I now have answers based on experience that can answer all of those questions to my satisfaction – and even to my own excitement.

Five years ago now, while the first ever TEDxVictoria was in its planning stages we were lucky enough to have a speaker passed on to us from another TEDx event, TEDxMileZero. There was no way for them to make the schedule work with their event, and so the organizers were happy to connect us to him.

The meetings with this speaker went well, and were fascinating, but it wasn’t until our first rehearsal session when we were able to see the presentation for the first time that it started to dawn on us that this wasn’t just an idea worth spreading, it was important.

That talk went on to become the closing talk for the inaugural TEDxVictoria:

After being posted online, that talk really started to catch on.

In 2011, the Oil Sands/Tar Sands were still a relatively new issue to most people. The project had been underway for years, but the actual imagery of what was happening in Northern Alberta had not yet made its way into the mainstream.

The talk generated a lot of attention, and once that topic really started to take off it was posted to the TED main page where it has gone on to become the most viewed TEDxVictoria talk of all time.

We felt pretty good about ourselves as an organization, excited that a talk from our first event made it on to the TED main page, happy that our event was so successful (our first sellout event!), and we kind of left it at that – but that never stopped people from constantly asking us if this matters or what happens next, or where do these ideas go?

Then, in 2014, we hosted this talk:

Here we are only four years removed from Garth Lenz’s passionate talk about the oil sands, and we have a real example of the next generation doing something about it. Two teenagers who are not yet even old enough to buy themselves a drink have invented something that, lets face it, the world needs, and that hopefully we won’t have to use off our coasts here in BC – but I am damn sure we will be glad we have them.

It isn’t the solution to all our fossil fuel problems, but it is a start. I can’t think of anything more inspiring.

And it all started with an idea.

2014 in Action (film)

I am not alone in thinking that action movies are usually stale.

It’s hard to conceive at this point, but it has actually been 22 years since Hard Boiled, and there have been very few fresh, new, and exciting action films released since then.

Now, I’m talking pure action films – movies made solely by artists to entertain you with violence, not dramas with dark or violent elements. I’m talking about the films like Taken, not Proof of Life.

2014 blessed us with some fresh and exciting entries into the world of action. I’m here to talk about The Raid 2 and John Wick.

“Yeah, I’m thinking I’m back.”

Lets start with the latter of the two: John Wick. Why did I love this film? Why was it an excellent action film? Why does it deserve to be mentioned?

First, the titular character is played by Keanu Reeves, who like the John Wick on screen has also been away from action for a while. Keep in mind that The Matrix came out in 1999 – 15 years ago – and Reeves has done no real action films since then.

Reeves is the perfect actor for this role. He easily posses the physicality to accomplish the action scenes in it (I imagine working with Yuen Woo-ping made doing these scenes easy) and believe it or not, his acting chops are a huge asset to this film. I know, you’re thinking ‘what the fuck? really?’ but I kid you not: Reeves’ stoicism and minimal dialogue and every-so-slightly-wooden persona actually fit the character of a grieving superassassin well.

The next reason you need to watch John Wick is the world building: the supporting cast, featuring actors like Michael Nyqvist, Willem Dafoe, John Leguizamo, Adrianne Palicki, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick, and even Kevin Nash for a couple lines… they’re all superb. They overdeliver on surprisingly deep characters who have little to do on screen other than try to kill John Wick.

But it’s not just the nuanced performances that are normally forgotten in action films, it’s also about the character of the world the film takes place in. They open doors to a ton of interesting possibilities and they don’t walk through any of them – they make this world seem bigger than what they show, and it pays off by making every conversation more interesting, every scene more rich.

Oh, and then there is the action.

Fantastically choreographed scenes where Reeves manages to kill something like 70+ people in the run time with brutal efficiency. You’ll laugh, you’ll cheer, you’ll wince. The mix of martial arts and gunfighting is far more plausible than it ever was in Equilibrium – these people look like they know how to use their weapons.

John Wick is a great action flick that anyone who loves action films can enjoy. I’d give it a 4/5 stars.

The best action film since Hard Boiled?

In 2011 The Raid: Redemption threw its hat into the ring as a serious action film. Director Gareth Evans delivered an almost absurd amount of action for such a simple premise: a SWAT team gets trapped in a building they try to raid, and a fight for survival ensues.

While not every character lived through The Raid, nearly every actor returns for The Raid 2: Berendal, a balls-to-the-wall action film that is a serious contender for one of the best action films of all time.

The hero of The Raid is back, this time embarking on a truly epic journey in this crime saga that spans years and boasts some of the most insane violence I’ve seen on film. The Raid 1 had a couple moments that made you wince. The Raid 2 has moments that make you gasp with surprise because yeah, they went there.

The action choreography is top notch. The violence is epic. The story tries to be a cross between The Raid and The Godfather in terms of scope, and it doesn’t quite hit the mark, but that’s not why you watch a movie like this. Kudos to Evans for aiming that high, but this is not a crime saga to make Scorcese proud. The Raid 2 is ultraviolence. And if you are a fan of violent action films, you probably haven’t seen anything like this before.

The film ran a bit long at 150(!) minutes, but it pays off with the freshest and most exciting car chase scene since Ronin and a finale that is pure intensity.

Oh, and it opens it for another sequel. I’d watch that. 4.5/5 stars.

 

Trailers!

TEDxVictoria 2014

Reflection

After each of the first three TEDxVictorias I was so energized and excited that I was compelled to write about my experiences immediately. Memories, moments, and thoughts would flood into my conscious mind after the event and it was all I could do to try and capture some of them for my summary.

This year was different. I felt the opposite of energized following the event — this year I was beyond exhausted. When I finally had a moment to stop following the event I crashed. I was too tired to write about the event. I am drained.

I also needed time to think about the event. Four years of full time volunteer work – thousands of hours of not-so-spare time – and what had I really accomplished?

The plan

The fourth TEDxVictoria was also my second time out as the Creative Director, and while I am technically leading the whole event I did make a large effort in 2014 to mentor and empower my team into taking more of the event into their own hands.

We cut back on meetings this year, limiting ourselves to just one meeting a month for the core team, usually over lunch or dinner. Each of us have such busy lives juggling successful careers, relationships, families, and other projects in addition to TEDxVictoria, so I wanted to make sure that if this event was going to take up our time, it would be less obtrusive on our schedules by also being a time we ate a meal.

For our core team, this worked wonders for our schedules. Our schedules were freed up a great deal. But there were flaws:

  • By only meeting once per month, if anyone missed a meeting that meant they wouldn’t meet with the team for months. Life takes precedent over volunteering (as it should!) but missing meetings hurts a lot more when there are not as many of them. This is a difficult hurdle at times for any volunteer organization.
  • Volunteers outside the core team felt neglected – by meeting less frequently we were fracturing our community.

To counter those points, here were our benefits:

  • One meeting a month is easier on our schedules.
  • Decisions are made far more easily with smaller meetings.
  • Meetings are more productive in a smaller amount of time.

This taught us a lot. The biggest struggle was that our initial core team was a couple people too small. 1-2 more people more (making it a team of 7-8 core) would be ideal.

Everything was easier this year

Contrary to what I mentioned above, everything went better this year than it ever had in previous years. TEDxVictoria operates like a smoothly oiled, well made machine.

This is the benefit of having an exceptional team of people who work well together.

The event ran like clockwork. We only had two people go over time slightly, which meant that we had to cut TED videos for those sessions, but the schedule was tight, the event ran on time, and we delivered the best lineup in four years with the best talks.

This was the first year we’ve received compliments not just on the quality of the talks, but on the order in which the talks took place on the event day.

So many things went well that I can’t even think of how to list them.

The crash

About 10 days after the event the adrenaline wore off and I hit a wall. My body gave out. I got sick for what essentially turned out to be the entire month of December.

This is why when you work on large scale projects, you make damn sure you have downtime after. Don’t do what I did. Don’t go back to work the next day and continue at the pace you were working at because it’s an unsustainable pace. Working on TEDxVictoria is like having another extremely demanding full time career on top of my other career, always consuming my spare moments and hours.

I’ve only been doing this for four years. There are other TEDx events that are on their fifth event this year, going on to their sixth.

Despite this, I am already planning 2015.

Highlights

I’m not going to get into reviewing my own event’s talks. TED Talks are so subjective. The talks are all online now, so you can check them out for yourself.

My favourite part of this year’s event was watching my team members succeed. Their efforts make this event happen, and their successes were my biggest joy from this event.

Now it’s time to plan my last TEDxVictoria.

My Heroes

“If you’re going through hell, keep going”

The above quote is from none other than Winston Churchill, perhaps the most quotable person in history next to Jesus or Kanye West (although obviously for different reasons). It’s a comment that I still think of routinely, as I elect to build my life into a complex series of projects and tasks, intertwined with each other so deeply that I sometimes risk losing it all or having some kind of crazy mental break. Or both. But I’m not writing about that — I’m here to write about what keeps me going.

I feel deeply fortunate to be working with many of the most motivated and inspirational human beings I have ever come across. I’m sure many leaders think the same thing about their teams – and they’re right – but I feel that I have something of a unique perspective because the TEDxVictoria has evolved radically over the four years it has been together. Change has been constant, and that evolution has really helped to build something magnificent.

Let me tell you how it all keeps me going:

These people.

That’s it. Sure, there are amazing opportunities that come out of working on TEDxVictoria, both professionally and personally, and the connection to the local community is extremely rewarding. But at the end of each day, when you are already exhausted from your job, your personal life, and whatever else might have gone on, and you sit down at your computer to find an email inbox that has exploded since you last looked at it, it’s those other amazing people you work with that help you get through it all.

Take Caitlin for example: Caitlin works more than I do (full time for a top tier firm), is in a band that plays a lot (steady weekend shows, as well as headlining festivals), works at or volunteers at every awesome event in Victoria (VICFest, Rock the Shores, etc), has absurdly cute dogs that she takes care of, oh, and works as TEDxVictoria’s Director of Human Resources in her spare time. And did I mention she still manages to have a life?

I’m pretty sure she doesn’t sleep. That must be it.

Or how about Adam, who, like Caitlin, works more than I do, also volunteers and works at all kinds of festivals, but then somehow manages to find time to coordinate an incredible amount of artistic endeavours throughout the city with all kinds of crazy organizations. He also does this for TEDxVictoria as our “Enabler of Art.”

Adam enables art like a boss. His work ethic is impeccable and he has the beard to match.

Holly is the best tech/stage manager on Vancouver Island, and is always in high demand. I have on many occasions witnessed just how good she is at her job, and I am humbled that she does for free for TEDxVictoria what she could easily be paid well for elsewhere. Her positivity is infectious at all times.

Our Director of Marketing and Communications is none other than Dani Pope, one of the most talented writers in Victoria. You probably read some of her articles – they were consistently the best that Monday Magazine ever put out – but you might not know that she’s also deeply involved in the community through other events like Walk a Mile in Her Shoes.

And finally, there’s Genevieve. Our ringer in many ways, she’s the only TED Senior Fellow in Victoria and if you’ve ever had the pleasure of conversation with her, you’ll know what I mean when I say that she can make literally anyone enthusiastic about science. Like Holly, her energy is crazy infectious. She’s been to many TED events, and is a pioneer in her field where she researches cave art to try and help us better understand the cognitive and spirituality of our ancestors. Kind of a big deal.

High Functioning Dreamer/Doers

Every member of our team inspires me, and each time we get together I am imbued with the determination to follow through on our goals. Holly described our team as “Dreamer/Doers” — people who dream things up and then just do them.

Have you ever worked anywhere where you actually look forward to every meeting? Where you want nothing more than to spend more time with your colleagues chatting about the work that you do? If you have, then you know how magical it is when you have that. It’s not the easiest thing to find.

I think perhaps the best thing to do is make it. When you have it, it’s easy to keep on going, even when you’re tired and want nothing more than half a night’s sleep.

TEDxVictoria 2014 Leadership Team
TEDxVictoria 2014 Leadership Team

Tar Wars

Attack of the food poisoning clones

During an exciting bout with food poisoning that left me 5-10 pounds lighter I reconnected with Star Wars.

Like many fans that grew up with the original trilogy, I wasn’t a huge fan of George Lucas’ second trilogy. Sure, the FX were impressive and the lightsaber battles were more awesome than ever, but the heart of the original series didn’t seem to be there.

My inner child just wasn’t feeling it.

When the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated film and subsequent animated series were launched, I wasn’t interested. I didn’t think it had anything of value, and I was still bitter about Episodes I and II (Episode III was pretty decent, but not enough to wash the bad taste of I and II out of my brain).

Remembering a blog post from a friend of mine who wrote that she never gave Star Wars: The Clone Wars a chance until she was stuck at home sick, I decided to give Clone Wars a try.

The first season sucked. But as the 22-minute episodes went on I became more and more interested in the ever-expanding mythology of the Clone Wars and what it meant for the rest of the Star Wars series since it is considered to be canonical.

After a while, the show gets good. Really good. I am still surprised at how good it is, and I am almost finished the fourth season.

Finally I am able to understand Anakin Skywalker’s journey on a more personal level than Hayden Christianson was ever able to convey with his stiff acting in Episodes II and III. Watching Anakin slide ever closer to the dark side because he simply feels too strongly for his friends and fellow soldiers really helps to further paint the picture of the man who would become Darth Vader.

The show is actually awesome. And for some strange reason, it has made me think a lot about TEDxVictoria’s biggest success…

The Tar Sands

I have been thinking a lot lately about Garth Lenz’s 2011 TEDxVictoria talk. Maybe it is because it was the first (and only) talk from TEDxVictoria to make the TED main page. Maybe it is because Star Wars made me think of Tar Wars for some bizarre alliterative reason. Maybe it is because I have been speaking with potential TEDxVictoria 2014 speakers of late, and our biggest success invariably comes up. Or maybe it is because I have been watching Years of Living Dangerously lately with my partner, and the subject of climate change is constantly on my mind.

It was probably because of all of the above. Either way, it stuck in my mind. TEDxVictoria’s biggest success is about a battle that Canadians and the other inhabitants of the Earth are currently losing: the war against fossil fuels.

Have you watched Garth’s talk? If you haven’t, and you have 18 minutes, check it out:

I am not surprised at people who want to work at Alberta’s Tar Sands. Work is work, and after an economical depression like the one the world just experienced, of course people will take the jobs they can to get ahead in life. Many of my fellow classmates, family members, and even friends have made the journey across the Rocky Mountains and further up north to take high-paying jobs. They have homes, vehicles, and families, and they’re still young — regardless of the consequences, I can’t argue with the fact that they are better off than I am right now.

I think that what bothers me the most is that many countries – and Canada in particular – are burying their heads in the tar sand blatantly ignoring the signs. It frightens me that climate change isn’t dictating who we vote for yet, when we will absolutely be feeling the ever growing negative affects of global warming, drought, wildfires, etc, during our lifetimes.

I am optimistic, however. Last week President Obama did something that really blew my mind when he bypassed Congress to force power plants in the US to lower their carbon emissions by 30% (from 2005 levels) by 2030. It isn’t enough by a long shot, and there will be fierce opposition from those most negatively affected (and those with a lot to gain politically), but if the leader of the most powerful nation in the world is listening and doing something about it, I am hopeful that we humans can get these issues sorted sooner rather than later.

Oh, and hopefully when JJ Abrams’ take on Star Wars comes out, it doesn’t suck. Cross your fingers!

Stream of Community

I’m not usually one to endorse products or projects. This isn’t because I am unwilling to support projects; it is merely because I have mixed feelings about how much information I want to put out on the Internet.

I’m a private person (writes the blogger). I am always willing to share my thoughts and views in person, but when it comes to talking about things online, I have never been wholly comfortable promoting myself or others.

That changed with TEDxVictoria back in 2011.

I finally had something to talk about that I felt like sharing with the world at large, and TEDxVictoria is a project that is, well, public.

TEDxVictoria, and my connection to TED and TEDx, have changed my life. It has also led to me connecting more deeply with my local community. And in that community, some friends of TEDxVictoria have a project with a lot of potential…


StreamOfConsciousness

Livestream with a purpose

An idea I had been thinking about for TEDxVictoria for a long time is hopefully coming to fruition this year:

We are looking to livestream TEDxVictoria 2014 this November, but perhaps more importantly we are hoping to also livestream our speakers for an online Q&A following their TEDx Talks on stage.

The idea is to provide our online audience the opportunity to participate in the dialogue with our speakers during our session breaks, after watching their talks and performances in the theatre. It’s the online interaction that is important here — the hope is that more people will join in the important discussions that TEDx Talks initiate.

That is the potential of Stream of Consciousness working with TEDxVictoria. If they meet their crowdfunding goal, we will have a platform for facilitating online engagement with TEDxVictoria 2014’s speakers.

That’s pretty cool.

Since TEDxVictoria has sold out the last three years, livestreaming can help our event reach a wider audience — an audience that could now participate from home, work, or abroad. I think that’s a pretty big deal, don’t you?

Check out www.fundthestream.com for more info.

 

Creative Project Manager

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