Published on September 18th, 2017 | by Padraic Coffey


My Favourite Things – Ivan Decker

Ivan Decker is stand-up comedian based in Vancouver, Canada.

Miller’s Crossing (1990, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen)

It’s probably highly cliché, but my favourite film is Miller’s Crossing. It’s almost a perfect film, but then so are so many other films within the Coen Brothers’ catalogue. To quote Brent Butt, a comedy influence and friend of mine, Miller’s Crossing is so beautifully shot that you could watch it without the sound, and it is so beautifully written that you could listen to it as a radio play, and both would be unbelievable on their own.

Everything within it – the story, the characters, the acting – is all so good, and the Coen Brothers are great at making films as a whole which are not focused on one main arc. Every scene, every character’s life, is a little vignette that’s interesting on its own. They all kind of mesh together, and I appreciate everything they do, especially in a world where films now are just trying to become franchises.

Most films these days are an hour and 35 minutes of pipe-laying, and introducing characters and backstories, and then the actual film starts in Act Three, with 20 minutes left to go. It’s as if the whole movie is Act One of some saga they’re hoping to do, but that’s such a gamble. As the audience, if you’re left without enough to keep you involved, it removes everything from your enjoyment because nothing gets answered until the second or third movie.

The Coen Brothers do such a good job of wrapping it all up, or leaving it in a place where you can take it to where you want it to go in your imagination, but it’s not dissatisfying. The endings are all where they’re supposed to be. Everybody gave them shit for No Country for Old Men because it ends with Tommy Lee Jones having that line. I remember being in the theatre, and people were all so upset with that ending. They just didn’t understand what it was about.

People can make sequels if they want, but I don’t think sequels should be focused on from the beginning. Make a sequel where it’s needed. A good example that came out recently was Ghost in the Shell. The entire movie was just origin story, which wrapped up 10 minutes before the end. The rest of the movie almost concluded within a montage. I highly doubt there will ever be a sequel. Movies shouldn’t be designed to become franchises from the beginning. My friend Graham Clark is a comic who talks about how Mad Max was such a great film because it started without an Act One or Act Two. There was no pipe-laying, or finding out how this person became who he was. It’s so much better when a movie is a story, a self-contained story.

Netflix series do this too. You watch a show, and ask why it’s nine episodes. It could have been told in two hours, if you were a good film-maker.

Way of the Peaceful Warrior (1980, Dan Millman) and
A Kid’s Guide to the Brain (1994, Sylvia Funston, Jay Ingram)

There are a few books that I like. Books are one of those interesting things, because I think what makes a book so good is the time it comes into your life. It’s hard to try recommend a book to somebody who is not feeling the way you feel about things, which is why so many bestsellers are of a time.

One of my favourite books is Way of the Peaceful Warrior, by Dan Millman. It’s about a guy who’s going away to college and determining about his life, and it brings in some philosophies on life that I think was very helpful to me at the time. It leans towards a Buddhist philosophy in a way, but it’s very cool. It’s a classic story of a young man who’s out wandering around. He meets an old guy at a gas station who takes him under his wing and teaches him about life. It’s similar to Good Will Hunting, or any of those stories, but I found it be be pretty beneficial to me at the time.

I read it when I was in my early twenties. It was a good time to do so because you’re so confused then. You don’t know what you want to do or be, or where you want to go, or what to put your emotional effort into. It was a book that taught be about perspective, though I think if I read it now I would hate it. It’s a bit hokey and basic, in terms of those philosophies. There is probably much more well-written stuff on the subject, but it’s a good introduction to a different sort of philosophy on life.

It’s kind of an Eastern philosophy, but framed in a way that a Western world kid would understand. I guess you could say that it’s kind of whitewashed. It could take criticism from that, because these are teachings that are done in that culture. I think for the sceptic, and for young dudes who will typically push away anything that they think is designed to help them or make them think a certain way, it pushed me in that direction.

Another book that I think was very good, which is going to seem crazy, was a book I read when I was 9 years old. It was called A Kid’s Guide to the Brain, and it was written by Sylvia Funston and Jay Ingram, who was on Daily Planet. It was a really good exploration of stuff that I learned way later, when I did psychology in college, but written in a way that kids could understand. It was really eye-opening. How your brain works, how memory works, how nutrition influences your moods. Things that were always confusing, and still are to many adults. I felt very lucky that I was introduced to this book at that point in my life, because it helped me learn so much, and gave me a new way of seeing things. I was able to separate myself from emotions, even at that young age, and realise that your body is like a machine. What you give it is really important.

It went into detail about the different parts of the brain, like the cerebral cortex, the frontal lob, the hippocampus. It talked about a guy who damaged his hippocampus and would wake up everyday as if it were Groundhog Day. Every night he would go to sleep and his memory would be replaced. It was very cool to read this as a child, because I think it’s very important that people understand how your brain works. It goes into detail about addiction, and patterns, and how you can get into these comfortable rhythms. It talks about the five senses and how they affect. It was very well-written, and I highly recommend it to anybody with a kid to help them understand how the mind and the brain work.

The Chronic 2001 (1999, Dr. Dre)

It’s very hard to pick a favourite album. There are a lot of different ones. As far as genres go, I could say Coltrane’s My Favourite Things. It’s quite short, but those are pretty classic jazz standards.

I think The Chronic 2001 is up there as one of the greatest albums I’ve heard. It came out at a time in my life when I was in high school, and was kind of what made hip-hop explode. A lot of hip-hop heads will tell you that the album mainstream and dumb, and that you should have been listening to Wu-Tang Clan before it, if you were really a hip-hop fan.

Obviously, there are people who are much more into hip-hop, but was someone who enjoyed hip-hop growing up, The Chronic 2001 was an album where every song was good. I love what it represents, too, the idea that Dr. Dre was being dissed and told he couldn’t do anything anymore. He decided to come out of retirement and do one more album that blew up and was an unbelievable success. He called in his friends and said, ‘all you guys can be on every track’. Every track has amazing guest stars, like Eminem. It was right at the beginning of Eminem’s career, so Dr. Dre grabbed on to the heat that Eminem had all over suburban white North America. It was just astronomically successful, and I don’t think anyone can listen to the piano riff on Still D.R.E. and not get excited.

Ivan Decker is a stand-up comedian based out of Vancouver, British Columbia. He performs Canada-wide and has appeared at the Just for Laughs festival in Montreal and also has numerous television and radio appearances including multiple appearances on the popular CBC program “The Debaters.” His album I Wanted to Be a Dinosaur is available on iTunes.

Twitter: @IvanDecker
Facebook: Ivan Decker

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About the Author

Padraic Coffey is a freelance writer and film critic who currently lives in Vancouver, Canada. He has written for the Sunday Independent, Ireland's largest circulation newspaper, and Trinity College, Dublin, ranked in the top 100 best universities in the world by the QS World University Rankings in 2014. Additionally, his film criticism has appeared on Volta - Ireland's first VOD website - as well as sites such as Taste of Cinema, Film Jam and Head Stuff.

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