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.


Trevor B. Cunningham said...

Your bang on. The only intriguing title out of the group is Fifty Dead Men Walking...but it sounds too close to Dead Man Walking. I have not seen any of these and I hope I get a chance. When it comes to Pontypool, they should have used their tagline...Shut Up Or Die...sounds a bit more exciting. I know of one screenwriter who did a version of the book ten years ago (out of a possible 14 drafts), but the author fought the changes...which could explain a few things.

wcdixon said...

Thank. You. Trevor.

The author fighting changes COULD explain quite a few things.

And yer right again...50 Dead Men Walking sounds WAY too close to Dead Man Walking...I'll admit the first time I heard title I thought...hasn't that already been made not too long ago?

Disgraced Media Baron said...

Regarding the title, Pontypool: as a comparison, the film title Cloverfield doesn't give a lick of information as to the genre or content of the film, but there was a huge marketing effort within the target audience to exploit the MYSTERY of the title. By the time of the film's release, most everyone was aware that Cloverfield was a monster movie of some kind, but the meaning of the title itself was still left obscured.

I'm curious to know if you think Cloverfield as a title alone falls into the same trap as Pontypool. or if any title can connote any meaning with an appropriate viral campaign...

wcdixon said...

Great point've nicely pointed out to me that 'marketing campaigns' can play as important a role as ‘titles’.

And Cloverfield is the perfect 'other' example. I still, to this day, have no takeaway from that movie title...which still kinda bugs me a now (as it did when it was released).

Cloverfield could’ve been called God-zilla...Pontypool looks like it could’ve been called Virus or Zombies --- someone made a choice in both cases to keep the titles more random and obscure. The difference is Cloverfield’s trailer was able to go viral right away on its 30 million dollar P&A marketing campaign with a zillion commercials and from the camp of J.J. Abrams (one of the creators of Lost!) even if the target audience didn’t ‘get’ the title, they ‘knew’ what they were in for. Pontypool doesn’t have that advantage.

I'm not saying there aren't exceptions to the rule, but I'd still take an Alien or Hellraiser or a Caddyshack or Big or Gladiator (that were not only one word titles but also informed you somewhat about what you might be in for) over a Pontypool any day.

Angie said...

Well I guess I should inform you about Pontypool since I live here! Yes it is small and there have been some things happen here ...and I have been here only 5 years. The town was once home to Jewish families, houses used as cottages. There are some crazy murder stories I have heard but whatever that’s hearsay, the last while I have lived here in Pontypool was the ladies body found in an old dump on our quiet side road lined with thick trees. The name of a story is nothing its content is everything. Watch before you judge or maybe visit here ( the oldest last grain tower still stands as you enter.......that’s pretty creepy who knows what’s in there!!!!)lol Angie

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