Friday, January 30, 2009

Canada's Top Ten....but WTF Is A Pontypool?

Today marks the beginning of a week of screenings and panels in Toronto under the banner of Canada's Top Ten. Organized by the Toronto International Film Festival Group (TIFFG), Canada’s Top Ten highlight their picks of the top Canadian feature and short films for 2008. It's held from January 30 to February 7 at Cinematheque Ontario.

This is the eighth year for the event, and kudos to the group for trying to celebrate and raise awareness of Canadian features and shorts...though it is kind of hard to be really jazzed about it all since like almost half of the films haven't even been released in theatres yet. People's Choice Awards this is not. And there doesn't appear to be an awards ceremony...I guess they're all winners.

Here's a list of the selected features:

Adoration – Atom Egoyan (Entertainment One/Seville Pictures, May 2009)
Before Tomorrow – Marie-Hélène Cousineau and Madeline Piujuq Ivalu (Alliance Films, February 2009)
Ce qu’il faut pour vivre (The Necessities of Life) – Benoit Pilon (Entertainment One/Seville Pictures)
C'est pas moi, je le jure! (It’s Not Me, I Swear!) – Philippe Falardeau (Entertainment One/Seville Pictures)
Fifty Dead Men Walking – Kari Skogland (TVA Films, Spring 2009)
Heaven on Earth – Deepa Mehta (Mongrel Media)
Lost Song – Rodrigue Jean
Maman est chez le coiffeur (Mommy Is at the Hairdresser’s) – Léa Pool (Equinoxe Films)
La Mémoire des anges (The Memories of Angels) – Luc Bourdon (National Film Board of Canada)
Pontypool – Bruce McDonald (Maple Pictures, March 2009)

Congrats to everyone being's better than nothing I suppose.

Now...a few thoughts about the last film on the list which, for the record, I haven't seen...and it may be AWESOME, but...

I know I'm a broken record about the importance of the name of your film, but watch the trailer below for Pontypool, and then someone tell me how its depiction of Night of the Living Dead meets Talk Radio relates in any way, shape, or form to the title? Pontypool??

The movie's based on a book, "Pontypool Changes Everything" by Ontario author Tony Burgess (ECW Press, 1998) - a title that suggests 'Pontypool' is a thing or a person. But it turns out to be the name of the town where this virus that turns people into zombies takes hold.


As you already know, I'm a big believer in the title giving you your first real good taste of whatever it is you're going to be viewing...that's just how I roll. And I get nothing from Pontypool.

Not to mention it's from a book I've never heard of, and I fear most everyone else hasn't heard of it either. So if that's why they kept that title, to 'build' on the supposed built-in brand or fan base of the novel...then I think they're going to be sorely disappointed by the number of 'book fans' who show up to see the film at a movie theater.

Okay...rant over. Go to the Cinematheque Ontario this your local filmmaking know the drill.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Eat Your Veggies

Really jammed up this week on about five different things, so I'll be brief.

First, LOVING DMc's rant and the ensuing comments about Canadian TV show 'em up HERE and HERE... you just gotta love the big guy for not being afraid to tell it like it is. Seriously.

Next....the Henshaw provides us with a preview of upcoming posts and some tasty tidbits of what he's been learning and hearing at NATPE this week, including this doozy of a quote: "Within three years, the television commercial will be a memory."

And speaking of commercials, why is this new ad from PETA:

...being banned from airing during this weekend's Super Bowl by NBC because it "depicts a level of sexuality exceeding our standards," ... yet the following Burger King ad from a couple years ago featuring a meat-eating Paris Hilton was apparently okay.

Someone wanna explain that to me?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Successfully Selling Cops And Malls And Ring Tones

I was coerced into seeing Paul Blart: Mall Cop by the kids last night...oh yes, they'll be keeping me company when I head to Grindhouse II later year --- and you can line up to start kicking my ass now, but "Mall Cop" actually wasn't that bad.

Structurally, the script worked pretty well. Yes, it was by the numbers, but it more or less tracked...hit all the right notes when and where it was supposed to...and things that were set up early deftly paid off late. And like the Die Hard formula it was riffing off of, Blart was a reluctant hero but still likeable, and he saved the day plus got the girl at the end.

I even found the music interesting. It was primarily retro, but also had a few urban R&B/Hip Hop tunes for the kids (though in the theatre I was at the young'uns seemed to know all the oldies too). That said, I don't know if you'll hear REO Speedwagon's "Take It On The Run", Survivor's "I Can't Hold Back", and Rasheeda's "My Bubble Gum" together in any other movie this year. (Survivor...awesome!)

"I'm the type of girl you want to chew on like your bubblegum..."

It was a teenage girl's ringtone...but the phone ended up in Blart's possession. Hilarity ensued every time it rang.

My kids ate it all up (and judging by the movie's performance at the box office so far, they're not alone)...and surprisingly I didn't want to spit it out the minute the title sequence started to roll.

Go figure.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

No Pain, Only Gain (Well, Maybe Some Pain)

Now I'm not saying the following prescription drugs haven't helped a lot of people deal with some serious serious medical conditions...but their advertisements scare the shit out of me.

Cymbalta can cause nausea, dry mouth, or constipation; Mirapex can cause drowsiness, or intense gambling or sexual urges; side effects of Zoloft can include insomnia, diarrhea, and sexual dysfunction; Cialis side effects may include headaches, backaches, and erections lasting more than four hours (that's a side effect?); and the downsides of Celebrex can include serious skin reactions, stomach/intestine problems, and bleeding ulcers that could cause death.

Of course, we can't leave out the most terrifying ad of them all, Abilify, where the list of possible side effects (including coma or death) takes up more than half the commercial.


They all make me want to reach for a big handful of Havidol:

Mmmm. Havidol. Just what I needed.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Toga! TOGA!

Double secret probation, Belushi, and togas ARE Friday Fun...

Because it makes me wanna SHOUT!, and smile.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I Once Was Found But Now Am Lost (in a good way)

There's life...and there's TV. And while those two things generally mesh together nicely in my little world, sometimes life supersedes and I'm unable to climb on board a new series when it begins.

I missed the plane when the TV series Lost started its run four years ago. And by the time I was finally able to give it a whirl I quickly became 'lost', as they say, and stopped trying.

Until this past summer.

I kept hearing good buzz and, quite frankly, was missing a dose of twisty-turny sci-fi 'big' mystery TV in my viewing diet. There hadn't really been anything of that ilk 'finding' me since the days of The X Files and Buffy and Angel. This wretch needed some saving.

So I dived in head first and screened all of Season 1 and half of Season 2 on disc whilst out at the cottage. I liked it. Liked it quite a bit actually. Even the kids got into the show and all of its serialized mystery addictiveness. I kinda drifted through the rest of Season Two during the fall...and then in December it was a dvd marathon through Seasons 3 and 4.

I've since discovered the plethora of show fansites out there on the internets, all quite swollen with analysis and theories and predictions...and concluded that pretty much any thoughts I might have about the show have been expressed already.

But I do want to say two things.

1) McGrath and John August both wrote about this recently...that as consumers of film/TV we want something familiar and comfortable, but want that something to also feel new or original. Lost accomplishes that feat in spades. It gives us fans of The X Files or Buffy the Vampire Slayer or BSG our cool sci-fi/paranormal fix without feeling like we're watching something we've already seen before (see Fringe, Eleventh Hour, Supernatural). I know how the Lost boys got where they got was pretty wacky ('Survivor' meets 'Castaway' meets 'Lord of the Flies'), but still...the end result is four kinds of awesome.

2) The show has balls. They proved it at the end of Season 3 by messing with their tried and true formula, when already a hit. That is, taking their episode story model of intercutting the adventures of the survivors on the island with a 'flashback' story (usually focusing on one of the primary island survivors), and bringing a game changer to the table by introducing 'flash forwards' to a time of life after the island for six of the survivors.

I would've loved to have been in the writers room when the story department came up with that one.

Now anyone who follows the show more closely than I might inform me that this was always part of the series gameplan...but I'd call bullshit. If that had been on all the writers minds right off the top, there's no no NO way they would've held off using flash forwards for nearly three entire seasons...66 friggin' way.

Because its too cool a move. It'd take just way much discipline and dedication not to play that card whenever you felt the show might be growing a little repetitive or stale or what have you...(like middle of Season 2 or beginning of Season 3).

No I say they were well into it all, probably end of Season 2, and spinning and riffing and bickering and bantering and perhaps someone in the room said: "So, does anyone get off the island or not?"...and someone else said, "Of course some of them do." And someone else said, "Well who? And what would that be like for them?" And then someone else jumped up and exclaimed, "What if we showed life after the island for some of our characters, but treated as if it was a flashback, until we revealed it was actually the future...and...and...


I know that's what I would've said....because the coolness of that idea and the story possibilities it held would be immediately apparent.


For me, that moment, whenever it happened, encapsulates the fun and thrill and excitement and pleasure of working in a story department with a team of smart, clever, passionate people writing for a long-running TV series. You'd have had to be there to truly appreciate what the Lost boys experienced, but having played the TV game for a long time, I can certainly imagine how sweet it was.

Crashing ahead to the here and now, and not to get all spoileree, but the Chicago Tribune's Maureen Ryan has a long Q&A HERE with showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse...and HERE Alan Sepinwall previews the new season. And in this recent interview with Lindelof and Cuse they discuss their writing process and hint at the audience having to get used to a new form of narrative story-telling in Season 5:
Cartlon Cuse: Our approach to the story telling changed drastically once we were able to negotiate an end date to the show. Before that we didn't know if the mythology had to last two seasons or seven seasons. Once we knew there were only going to be 48 eps of the show left we were able to start charting out the remaining journey. We approach it on three levels.

First we have discussions about the uber-mythology and plant the big landmark events in rough locations. Then at the end of each season we have a writer's mini camp where we discuss the arc of the upcoming season in great detail. Then we break each individual episode and see where we end up at the end of each break.

Followed by:

Cartlon Cuse: We actually TRY and jump the shark all the time. The last thing we want to do is feel like the show is falling into a tired paradigm. In fact this season we start out with a new narrative approach. Not the now traditional flashbacks or flash forwards. We always are trying to keep the storytelling surprising.
The game's changing again. Excellent.

Lost Season 5 begins on ABC sweet that sounds.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I'm In Love With (The Music In) My Car

I was thinking about doing a 'year in my music' review last month, but as I started to put it together I was struck by how average and 'mainstream' so many of my choices were...and I ditched it. I mean, pretty much everything I was going to shout about was already on Q Magazine or Spin Magazine or Rolling Stone mags 'best of' lists (which got me wondering...have I become so uncool? Or have all the rags just gone more cool?). Anyhoo. Bo-ring.

But then I was reading an article recently that labelled some of the picks I was planning to highlight as 'recent discoveries', so I decided to do a quick revisit.

First the rules, pretty simple's are ranked by the length of time a band or artists' disc spent in the cd player of my car (and who doesn't love their car + great tunes...I mean, really) --- most time in the deck wins.

Yeah, you heard me. This ain't about kudos for bragging about the obscure, hip, cool, rad music I came across... this is about what stayed in the player, playa.

So counting down, or up, the top five:

5) Ryan Adams & the Cardinals - Cardinology - 3 weeks 4 days

Alt-country meets stadium rock... great cruising music... wrote about it HERE.... check out "Magick"

4) Bob Mould - District Line - 3 weeks 6 days
Beck - Modern Guilt - 3 weeks 6 days

A tie between two alt pop punk mavericks...wrote about 'District Line' HERE...'Modern Guilt' a little bit HERE (it grew on me)... check out "Gamma Ray"

3) Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid - 4 weeks 2 days

Courtesy Callaghan giving a thumbs up...hard to put a finger on what exactly I liked so much about this UK bands' folksy yet richly textured release, but it got played over and over and over...check out "One Day Like This"

2) The Killers - Day & Age - 5 weeks 1 day
Bit of surprise with this one, which after being casually tossed in for a quick 'let's give it a listen', just came out of the car a few days ago. Perhaps it was because of the cold, but I think because there was a whole lots of 80's 'Tears For Fearsy' and 'Human Leaguee' dance fun....check out "Human"

1) My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges - 7 weeks
TV on the Radio - Dear Science - 7 weeks

Yes, another tie. Kind of lame I know, but these were also the only two cd's I bought this year that spent considerable time in the deck, came out of the deck, and then went back in the deck again. So a bit of a cheat in that I combined their time spent in my vehicle's cd player, but whatever... they deserved it. Wrote about 'Evil Urges' HERE and 'Dear Science' HERE...both are brilliant...don't hesitate to purchase.

Other musical year end notes: didn't see a lot of live acts this year...Neil Young was special but the standout show would have to have been Kathleen Edwards and her band kicking out the jams for an hour at a folk festival. Her new cd Asking For Flowers with The Cheapest Key wasn't too shabby either.

And coolest 'very viral' music video of the year (I could take or leave the song)... Weezer's "Pork and Beans".

Just watch it and you'll understand what I mean.

Okay...we all good?

Friday, January 16, 2009

To The Fringe...And Beyond!

Rummaging through my old vinyl and found this treasure from 60's British stage comedy/satire troupe Beyond The Fringe (aka Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Alan Bennett, and Jonathan Miller). And even though the clip is from the Secret Policeman's Ball as opposed to the original, take a Friday Fun trip back to the end of the world and discover: "Will this so to lay low...the mountains...of the earrrrtth."

Because it makes me smile.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Baby, It's Bad Out There

(click to enlarge) read that right: -45.

Need to warm up the joint.

Tom Jones is hot, but SRV is smoking...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

When A Canadian Movie Is Wrapped...As A Gift

Denis McGrath put up a long post today that's a definite must-read...go NOW. It's an overview of the CRTC's (Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission) mandate, followed by the big guy questioning whether Vice Chair Michel Arpin has our best interests in mind when he publicly states in an interview that he's "...not that interested in televised fiction or even feature films. I would prefer to read a novel."


But always the helpful one, Denis goes on to suggest we send him copies of quality Canadian TV shows and movies we like with a plan to forward one of each per month to Mr. Arpin's office with the hope of educating the commissioner about what we make, so to speak.

I'm pretty sure we'll have the TV shows and series covered pretty well, but what about Canadian feature films? When I was starting out in this biz, Un Zoo la Nuit (Night Zoo), I've Heard The Mermaids Singing, and Jesus of Montreal were the movies held up high as the bar to strive for. Personally, I enjoyed "Night Zoo" the most.

So what are the feature films held up high today?

For a long time, I didn't pay a lot of attention to our indigenous theatrical releases because...well, not very many peaked my interest, and I was working in TV. But over the past year or so, as I've been more involved in the development of long form drama, I've made best effort to see more Canadian as to be conversant, you know. Here's some of the ones I've screened:

Bon Cop Bad Cop
The Tracy Fragments
Emotional Arithmetic
Away From Her
Beowulf and Grendel
Monkey Warfare
Trailer Park Boys: The Movie
Eastern Promises
The Rocket

*It's All Gone Pete Tong

Sadly, very few of these I actually saw in a cinema and had to catch them on Super Channel or Movie Central. And of the list above, C.R.A.Z.Y. was easily the film I enjoyed the most... entertaining well-made Canadian English language flicks have always seemed fewer and farther between. Those darn French...they make better films and have a different word for everything.

At any rate, you can discuss or suggest HERE at InkCanada or chime away in the comments, but sticking to more recent Canadian feature films, what titles would you recommend sending to CRTC Vice Chair Michel Arpin?

(Here are two compilations on Wikipedia...Cinema of Canada...and...Canadian Films of the 2000's... but I acknowledge that neither is a complete list)

* added after post written

Sunday, January 11, 2009

An Untold Truth...Conveniently

“Advertising: the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it.” Stephen Leacock

I've seen one poster, two trailers, and one commercial for Defiance, the upcoming WWII flick starring Daniel Craig, and found some of the ways they are marketing interesting.

First, the print ad looks not so much like everyman and his three brothers help Jewish refugees escape their Nazi-occupied homeland of West Belarus, and a LOT like 007 (aka James Bond) kicking out the jams. Not a big shocker that they went there but still...PR guys...come on.

Then the commercial playing over and over on my TV set this weekend during the NFL playoff games buttoned itself with the voice over line: "Based on the incredible untold true story."

Trailer Number Two said the same thing, but different: "A true story...never before told."

But it was Trailer Number One that really hammered the message home with the title card: "Based on the most incredible true have never heard."

I was left wondering when being just 'based on a true story' (like Valkyrie or Flags of our Fathers or Letters From Iwo Jima or The Pianist or Band Of Brothers or Schindler's List even, most of which I'd never heard of before they were released as films) became not quite good enough anymore.

Is Defiance a good film or a turd...I have no idea. But I don't like feeling manipulated, or the implication that an 'untold' true story is somehow more worthy of my attention. I'm sure the marketers were just trying to make the film sound special in this year of so many Holocaust movies they almost all cancel each other other out, as Eric Kohn writes HERE in the New York Press. But still, it smells a little like desperation....

Does this kind of subtle smoke and mirrors shtick really work on your regular average Joe public movie goer? I'd like to say no....but then they probably don't think about this kind of stuff as much as I do. Or even care.

Friday, January 09, 2009

How Much Is The Copy Of Orgasm?

Go Bananas as a young Woody Allen pays homage to Keaton and Chaplin in these two Friday Fun clips... it's magazine comedy!

Love the music in the second clip, plus seeing a young Stallone playing a subway mugger...bonus!

Because they make me smile.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Sure The Stooges were about Iggy, all about the Iggy...but it was Ron Asheton's guitar work that made me listen to Funhouse and the band's self-titled debut over and over and over again.

Especially the song "No Fun".

That solo shredded my first set of speakers. Awesome.


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

By Any Other Name

Last night the new dramedy series Being Erica premiered on the CBC, and tonight the one hour drama Wild Roses makes its debut.

Now first just let me say I mean no disrespect with this post. I haven't seen a frame of the series, and in fact know several colleagues who worked on it so wish the show all the success it deserves (though today Doyle takes a few shots in his review)...but as more or less an outsider, like most viewers hopefully tuning in this evening, I got to wondering about the title. Wild Roses. Wild Roses. What does it tell us? What does it connote?

What does it mean?

When I first heard about the series, the working title was "Cowgirls" I believe. Then, when the series got greenlit earlier this year, I read some press that referred to the show as "The Wild Roses". My takeaway from that was an image of a Coyote Ugly-like series set on the ranches and oilfields in and around Calgary, and the name of one of the families portrayed was Rose.

But Rose it's not. It's the Henrys and the McGregors.

From CBC/Official Website:

Two families, the wealthy McGregors and the debt-ridden Henrys, clash over land, love and loyalty in Calgary, Alberta.

Okay...okay...I get that. Sounds like a Canadian Dallas, with perhaps a little Coyote Ugly tossed in for fun. But still...Wild Roses (after dropping the 'The')? What's the connection between that title and the show? So I dug a little deeper.

Here's the opening title sequence, and the trailer:

Sure seems like a "Dallas" for the new millennium...and even looks like there's some "Coyote Ugly" action happening, but then I read this quote in an interview with lead actress Michelle Harrison:

Michelle Harrison got a conspiratorial look on her face when it was suggested Wild Roses is a contemporary Dallas.

"We were told not to say it's a contemporary Dallas," Harrison said with a shy smile. "But it really is, you know? There actually is no better way to describe it."

Told not to say it? Really? How...odd. In fact, most of the current press releases from the network describe the show as 'Shakespearean'...odder still.

Anyway, I'm not here to nitpick...I'm here trying to figure why it's called "Wild Roses".

Not a clue.

Maybe one of the families were called the Roses at some point, and then they changed the family's last name but forgot to change the show title...I really have no idea. But to be perfectly honest, the fact that I can't seem to see or find an obvious connection between title and show kinda bugs me.

Believe it or not, series titles are important. Very important. Whether to entice new viewers, or hold onto the fans, or just to simply, clearly, and succinctly relate what's it all about...the title of a series plays a huge role in defining the show.

Wild Roses. What's your takeaway?

Monday, January 05, 2009

All Hail The Canuck Blogfather

Several weeks ago (back when it wasn't -44 with the wind chill for the tenth straight day!), Ink Canada's Karen Walton put out a call to our industry for Creative Citizen of the Year nominations...

Sometimes, when an artist or cultural industry worker truly sets the bar for caring about more than the bottom line and the credits, we organize a little group virtual standing ovation for them, and try to bring eyes, ears & hearts to their efforts to improve the quality of life for human beings in general.

We miss more than we applaud here largely because these model citizens are generally rather modest about their gigantic Goodness-es.

So. If you know someone who ought to be applauded for the smallest acts of Giving a Damn, or the biggest... please use this space to bring them some luv and us some lessons on what cool really looks like.

Last night, after noting all the nominations and tallying all the votes, a recipient for Creative Citizen of the Year '08 was chosen...and no real surprise it's Denis McGrath - TV writer/producer, WGC Board Member, unofficial leader of the Canadian Writers Mafia, and of course, the mad blogging demon that is Dead Things ON Sticks.

McGrath's 'daddy cool' response:

Well hell's bells. For once, uncharacteristically, I don't really know what to say.

Except maybe this: three and a half years ago I started blogging because I felt isolated as a TV writer, and thought if only we were more of a community... maybe we'd be more effective, plugged in, and less generally abused. And maybe the work would get better.

Now here's that community made manifest ... created by us all but due in no small part to Karen Walton's Herculean efforts. What we do with this harnessed brainpower ... well, I guess now we start to figure that out.

Thanks. I'm muy chuffed.

Excellent choice, Karen and her band of Inkies...excellent choice.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Let's Put A Smile On That Face

Welcome to 2009, my friends...welcome to 2009!

Movie mashup recuts can be easy Friday Fun 'gets', but this Dark Knight meets Toy Story 2 edit-fest is pretty slick. That Woody...he's such a Joker.

Because it makes me smile. On my face.