Sunday, January 16, 2022
By MICHAEL WALSHThe year 2021 was not without its disappointments. Though I tried to be upbeat in my New Year’s Eve Editorial, I worried that Reeling Back had fallen into neglect during its eighth year in cyberspace. It had grown by a mere 48 postings, and I had no new milestone to celebrate. As I thought about today's posting, my mind wandered into the whyfors of word usage, and the hold that now-obsolete terms such as “milestone” retain in everyday language.
Well, that was going nowhere fast, and my brain made an unexpected U-turn into the idea that 2021 had been a great year for vocabulary building. Credit climate change for an explosion of new words and phases to play with. In late June, “heat dome” was the new thing. British Columbia’s record high temperatures (and number of heat-related deaths) made headlines around the world.
We then added the phrase “wet-bulb temperature” — the point where evaporation and cooling can no longer take place because the atmosphere is saturated with water. When the WBT reaches 35C, it crosses a threshold at which humans can no longer lose internal body heat and cool themselves. Put another way, it’s the moment when the metaphor “we’re cooked” becomes a toe-tag reality.
November added “atmospheric river,” a weather event during which it rains. A lot. More international headlines focused on B.C. floods. Mudslides and highway closures ensued. And then, to put paid to the hope that COVID would soon be in the rearview mirror, came “omicron.” It quickly took first place in 2021’s enlarged lexicon, and joins “polar vortex” as words we carried into the New Year.
As I write this, today’s weather forecast tells me that “tsunami advisories” have been issued for the entire North American West Coast, the result of an undersea volcano erupting near Tonga. I’m reminded of the now obsolete phrase “tidal wave,” terminology we really don’t use anymore, and the fact that this posting began with the need to mark a milestone — should I say laud a landmark? — for Reeling Back: my 1,200th posting. January has seen 12 additions to the archive so far, including:
MOLIÈRE — Celebrated as France’s greatest literary genius, the bad boy playwright is the subject of writer-director Ariane Mnouchkine’s 255-minute biographical epic. A 1978 release, it’s in French with English subtitles. (January 15)
DICK TRACY — A big fan of the notoriously violent American comic strip, Warren Beatty directed himself in the title role of this 1990 tribute to the 1930s lawman. Popstar Madonna co-starred as his bad girl love interest. (January 13)
DIM SUM - A LITTLE BIT OF HEART — Independent director Wayne Wang established himself as "poet laureate" of the Asian-American family, identity and food with this 1985 Cantonese-language feature, a heartfelt drama set in San Francisco. (January 12)
SURF THEATRE — In 1970, pioneering movie house manager Lew Young began a 20-month-long experiment programming adult films in his suburban B.C. cinema, a story that did not have a happy ending.(January 12)
BAD LIEUTENANT — Arguably Harvey Keitel gave his greatest performance in writer-director Abel Ferrera's dark 1992 tale of a New York police officer whose life has become a living hell. (January 9)
Q & A — Issues of family and tribe in the legal system are probed in writer-director Sidney Lumet's 1990 crime drama. Nick Nolte plays a bent cop who runs afoul of Timothy Hutton’s straight-arrow lawyer. (January 9)
UNLAWFUL ENTRY — Director Jonathan Kaplan's 1992 thriller offers a serious examination of the "rogue cop" phenomenon within its pulp-fiction plot. Ray Liotta stars as an unhinged suburban officer. (January 9)
THE NAKED GUN 2½: THE SMELL OF FEAR — Leslie Nielsen returns in the role of police lieutenant Frank Drebin in this 1991 sequel to The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! Writer-director David Zucker returns as well. (January 9)
NAKED GUN 33⅓: THE FINAL INSULT — Designed to go out with a bang, the satirical series finale revolves around a plot to blow up the Academy Awards. Star cameos abound in director Peter Segal’s 1994 farce. (January 9)
TRULY, MADLY, DEEPLY — Demonstrating an ability to blend the comic with the dramatic, British writer-director Anthony Minghella created this 1990 supernatural romance. Juliet Stevenson co-stars with Alan Rickman. (January 6)
DEATH WEEKEND — Among the products of Canada’s tax-shelter era, writer-director William Fruet’s 1976 thriller had an enduring influence on the horror film genre. Brenda Vaccaro stars as a woman not afraid to take the fight to the bad guys. (January 1)
WILLIAM FRUET — Shortly after his debut feature Wedding in White won the Best Film honour at 1973’s Canadian Film Awards, writer-director Fruet sat down with me in Vancouver to talk about the future of movie-making in the Great White North. (January 1)