search my site:




Scott McKay is a Toronto strategist, writer, creative director, patient manager, half-baked photographer and forcibly retired playwright.

This little site is designed to introduce him and his thoughts to the world. (Whether the world appreciates the intro is another matter.) If you'd like to chat, then you can guess what the boxes below are for.



This form does not yet contain any fields.




    "They had their cynical code worked out. The public are swine; advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill-bucket."

          – George Orwell






    "Advertising – a judicious mix of flattery and threats."

          – Northrop Frye






    "Chess is as an elaborate a waste of time as has ever been devised outside an advertising agency."

          – Raymond Chandler


    Entries in movies (4)


    "Broadsword calling Danny Boy"

    For the holidays I'll be posting fluffy little nothings (if explosions and Richard Burton can be considered fluffy) about guilty pleasures.

    Chief among these may be the 1968 classic war movie, Where Eagles Dare.

    (No, not because of how similar the theme music is to the mock-heroic chunks of Monty Python and the Holy Grail; maybe Ron Goodwin was moonlighting at DeWolfe Music.)

    Richard Burton is only two years removed from Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, but well on his way to his "magnificent ruin" stage. Clint Eastwood is just off his Leone spaghetti westerns and has gotten no less wooden. As the good guys, they have preternaturally perfect aim of their machine guns, while the German troops, despite their large numbers and ferocious reputations (see, "Poland, invasion of"; and "Russia, invasion of") seem not to be able to work their guns very well at all.

    And yet, somehow, this schlock is every Western boy's fantasy – well, mine anyway. I guess that's because the whole movie is like playing army with your friends when you're ten. You can blow up anything, because you're carrying around enough dynamite packs with cool trip-wires to destroy Central Europe. You shoot at guys and say they're dead, and they are, while you yourself get to say "missed me!" whenever you want.

    The radio scene is perhaps the high point – Burton trying to signal for the plane to pick up the embattled survivors with full-throated stage ham voice, while Clint schmeissers a battalion of the Wehrmacht's finest without hardly looking. It's stuck with me since the first night I was allowed to stay up late and watch this idiotic wonder several decades ago.

    "Broadsword calling Danny Boy. Broadsword calling Danny Boy!"


    Planet 10 sounds like a pretty good idea right now

    Tonight my life (okay, my mood) was saved by the inexplicable The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension! Inexplicable because I just can't imagine anyone with money actually agreeing to finance a movie that's aggressively weird, chock full of in-jokes and pretty much guaranteed to not appeal to a mass audience.

    It's not easy to encapsulate in a quick synopsis. There are some evil aliens called Lectroids who steal something Buckaroo (who is a physicist/neurosurgeon/racecar driver/rockstar) has been working on called the overthruster so they can go back to their home planet and reconquer it, only the good Lectroids get in touch with Buckaroo...

    What matters are the details. For instance, all the Lectroids are named John Something, as in John Bigbooty (pronounced Big-boo-TAY), John Smallberries, John Yaya, in order to fit in seamlessly on Earth. The President looks exactly Orson Welles. John Lithgow as the head rebel, Dr. Emilio Lizardo, is about as out of control as it's possible to get on a movie set. The rest of the cast is full of brilliant folks like Christopher Lloyd and Vincent Schiavelli who never got the kind of recognition they should have. And the writing is full of gems, like this call and response between Lithgow in full Hitlerian mode and a factory full of Lectroids:

    "Where are we going?" bellows Lithgow.

    "Planet 10!"


    "Real soon!"

    I saw it a couple of times when it came out, in theatres that were nowhere near half full. Which was too bad for the writer and director, and for the producer.

    But its distastrous run somehow just deepened my love for it.


    "you gotta play this game with fear and arrogance"

    What makes Bull Durham such a good movie for me, let alone maybe the best sports movies ever made (sorry, Bill, I don't care what Tim Robbins looks like pitching), is that it's about failure. And there aren't very many movies that deal with that.

    In most movies, the protagonists tend to win at something in the end. And yes, Crash Davis and Annie end up together, but as much as both of them are driven by desire, they're both haunted by their fear of aging and the future. She's still teaching part time, and he'll become a manager at Visalia, and maybe he'll have a shot in the bigs as a manager.

    But it's punk-ass Nuke Laloosh who ends up with what everyone wants – the major league career, the success, a life in The Show.

    When Crash gets the "this is the toughest job a manager has" speech, your heart fails as you watch his life instantly constrict. This man is good at what he does, has a certain competence and a certain reputation, but the time comes and he can no longer do his job. His life is gone. What's next? What purpose can he grasp?

    It's a movie about "meaningless" records like the most home runs ever hit in the minor leagues. It's a movie for the vast majority of us who claw our way to the middle. It's a movie for grown ups who know that the ladder can be kicked out from underneath them. It's about the fear and arrogance we all bring to our jobs every day, aware that we can't be weak but knowing we need to be wary and watchful of everything around us.

    Maybe baseball "will repair our losses and be a blessing to us" but the movie is about people who love something more than it loves them. And that's hard.

    You could look it up.


    michael bay fans can skip this post

    Since it's Friday night and the Borg is madly assimilating our Prime Minister and Governor General, and will soon start in on our finest athletes, I've decided to resurrect my already forgotten tradition of writing about non-marketing things on Friday nights. You know, things that humans actually consume with pleasure, like novels and movies.

    The last half hour of appalling noise from CTV has naturally made me think of The Conversation, the whisper quiet but incredibly tense concoction that Coppola whipped up between finishing publicity for the first Godfather and starting location scouting for Godfather 2.

    (Warning: if you think that Transformers is in any way a good movie, or if you're the one in the theatre who's always loudly asking, "Who's that guy?" or "Why'd he do that?" then don't bother.)

    The Conversation is about an eavesdropping expert named Harry Caul, played by Gene Hackman. As the movie opens, he's trying to record the conversation of a couple walking in San Francisco's Union Square. But nothing is explained, no reason is given. As things unfold you begin to think that you know what's going on, but you don't. (That's as far as I'll go.)

    Hackman is brilliant; it actually makes me sad to think how much he's been wasted in the last 20 years. And other Coppola favourites appear, including Robert Duvall, Harrison Ford and John Cazale. 

    But they're not the best part of The Conversation. What's best is simply how the movie is told. It happens in the way that John Stuart Mill describes poetry; it's not heard but overheard. Everything is suggestion and menace. There's almost no verbalized threat, but threats are everywhere.

    It's the brilliantly suggestive editing and sound design.

    It's Walter Murch.

    Murch started out in film with Coppola and George Lucas and had done editing and sound design for Godfather; he was hired to do both for this film. But as shooting on The Conversation was nearing the end, Coppola was contractually obligated to start scouting for Godfather 2, and was forced to leave without shooting some key scenes. Murch was left with a bunch of film that didn't necessarily have a cohesive story any more. But in a book of interviews he did with Michael Ondaatje, The Conversations, Murch describes how he began to play, to try and tell a different story with the film he had. He was forced to become much more allusive, working with suggestion instead of exposition. The film that Coppola had intended disappeared, but fortunately for us it became something even more interesting, something far more powerful.