Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) CTT (Canada's Top Ten) has just wrapped its run at TIFF Bell LightBox and the Genie Award Nominations for outstanding achievement in Canadian Film have just been announced. This should be a time of celebration, but a dark cloud is hanging over these events and raining on the parade. In a country where the largest, most powerful "Canadian-owned" exhibition chain refuses to uphold its corporate responsibility to Canadian Culture, every little bit helps.


By Greg Klymkiw

When the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) Bell LightBox presented a week-long celebration of Canadian cinema earlier this month - screening all the features and shorts selected in its annual Canada's Top Ten (CTT) - a number of print and online articles sparked a flurry of hot debate on such social networking sites as Twitter and Facebook. I can also attest to such conversations being hotly debated in any number of face-to-face social situations. Canadian filmmakers have much time on their hands to debate such matters. ("I'm between films," was the oft-heard remark prefacing most verbal trashing of TIFF's CTT.)

No sooner did the dust clear from those debates when rumblings began to surface from within the roiling volcano of Canuckle industry pundits and players. On the eve of the big day when The Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television (ACCT) would announce nominations for the 32nd annual Genie Awards (Canada's - ahem - "Oscars"), ruminations of the same kind began to surface.

Would the new ACCT head honcho Helga Stephenson (former TIFF topper), a leaner (and supposedly meaner) Board of Directors, as well as substantial amendments to the Genie Awards entry fees and qualifications actually make a difference in rendering the awards relevant to Canadians outside of the movie business? (Or, for that matter, anyone living north of Dupont Street in downtown Toronto?)

Well, scrutiny and slags are just fine, but I have to admit that far too many pundits and players in Canada (including, sadly, more said players and pundits who really ought to know better) seem, I think, to be looking in the wrong directions to level their volleys of criticism. TIFF's CTT and the ACCT Genie Awards are not it.

In English Canada, there is one primary target: Cineplex Entertainment. The "Canadian" exhibition chain owns and/or controls more screens than anyone in the country. They'll always argue that their only concern is the stockholders and that they'll play any Canadian movie as long as it makes money. That's all well and good when it comes to no-brainer programming choices like the start-studded Cronenberg spanking-fest A Dangerous Method and others of this ilk (no matter how acclaimed or not they might be), but what about the rest of the product?

A secondary target for scrutinous ire-infused debate on the state of Canada's domestic motion picture product is the gaggle of domestic film distributors that adhere to the status quo, but in all fairness to them, they're only going to spend money on the marketing necessary to keep the product on screens if they actually GET screens. Cineplex Entertainment is stingy with those. They have far too many Hollywood movies to play (often to empty or near-empty houses given the ridiculous number of screens said product hogs).

There's no two ways about it. English Canadian cinema lags far behind other indigenous industries outside of North America in terms of audience support for its own work. Canadian audiences are not quick to embrace their own cinema, but in order to embrace it at all, the work needs venues. This, of course, is not (and has never been) a problem in Quebec as the province has had very stringent guidelines regarding Quebec-based distributors and a more-than-level playing field for the exhibition of French-language product - thus allowing for the development of audiences ravenous for homegrown movies.

I'd also argue it's not necessarily always the fault of the product, either. Many decent, perfectly entertaining and/or artistically challenging movies get little chance to be seen.

If screens cannot be secured and held onto, there is no real way to adequately develop an interest in domestic product. Until Cineplex Entertainment gets off its lazy corporate duff and waggles its piggy tail in the direction of Canadian cinema and - even at a loss - does its corporate duty with respect to AGGRESSIVELY making DECENT screens available to said product, thus fulfilling their responsibility in supporting cultural initiatives in this country, then things are going to continue their snail-paced incremental changes.

Until Cineplex Entertainment does the right thing, any efforts that can be made to promote Canadian cinema must be welcomed and supported.

This is where TIFF's CTT and the Genie Awards come in - promotion and celebration!!!

End of story.

Does this mean both entities are above scrutiny? Of course, not. However, I'm not sure the scrutiny applied in recent weeks has proven all that effective other than getting noses already out of joint - out of joint even further.

And for what?

With TIFF's CTT, the first volley in print came from film critic Norman Wilner in that pseudo-left-wing-rag I (stereotypically, but genuinely) use to line my budgie cage when I can't get enough free copies of the Toronto Star (the latter being freely dispensed at flea markets, home shows and, on occasion, WalMart). Wilner's piece asserted that "the problem" with TIFF's CTT is "a larger tendency in Canadian cinema" to elevate "our filmmakers to Great Cultural Hopes as soon as they wow a festival or win a prize, never reassessing them once they’re up."


When they're up?


From what? Bed? An erection? A snort of coke?

Wilner attempts to elaborate on the aforementioned thesis (as it were) by suggesting that "when someone like Cronenberg has an off year, his picture still gets in because the potential media outcry if we exclude the country’s most esteemed working filmmaker would be unimaginable."

I doubt anyone WOULD raise much of a hue and cry when a genuinely dreadful (or even good) picture is excluded. That includes Cronenberg. Wilner does, however, offer-up an interesting question that might have had more weight (and reason for serious analysis) if he'd bothered to elaborate properly on how or why he believes a "potential media outcry" would occur.

Wilner's question is thus: "But what if that exclusion led to an honest conversation about the way the Canadian entertainment media pander to the idea of national treasures?"

Great question.

For the life of me, I can't even begin to fathom why Canadian critics were so kind to Paul Gross' execrable Passchendaele. This is a movie that deserved to be laughed off by every critic with anything resembling taste, intelligence and/or self-respect.

The movie STUNK!

End of story.

The domestic boxoffice gross for Passchendaele (such as it was) was bought and paid for with a whole lot of tax dollars (directly and indirectly), so I doubt one can genuinely say the picture was a hit. And to reiterate, it was equally disturbing that most of Canada's critics didn't use their prose to wipe Gross' shit from their collective asses instead of politely spreading the falsehood that it was a noble effort worth seeing.

Wilner uses Passchendaele, along with Barney's Version as examples of the sort of Cunuckle-headed movies that "were at best competent stabs at complex material that desperately needed an artistic vision behind them" and cites the ludicrous "buzz" on both that was "whipped up by friendly newspapers for months before the films reached theatres, the better to convince the public that seeing these films was an act of patriotism."

That said, it still doesn't adequately support his notion that the exclusion of those films on the CTT would have caused explosive jets of indignant diarrhea from the media. Those critics who shamed themselves by being polite to Passchendaele were, no doubt, secretly delighted (save for the brain dead amongst them) that someone had the guts to ignore it and I cannot locate an even passing mention criticizing the film's exclusion from the CTT. (That the miserably directed Barney's Version secured a CTT nod will always be beyond me, but I suspect not too many would have cried foul if it HAD been excluded.)

Paul Corupe's Canuxploitation! site appears to side with Wilner unequivocally, going so far to title its analysis of the CTT "Canada's Token 10?" Corupe proclaims: "If you only read one article about the Top 10, make it Norman Wilner’s recent piece for Toronto alt-weekly NOW, 'Canuck Conundrum,' which takes issue with the TIFF panel’s reliance on established and celebrated Canadian directors–even when their latest work is not considered up to par."

Corupe elevates Wilner's piece in lofty enough terms that I'm reminded (with tongue firmly planted in cheek) of Pauline Kael comparing the New York Film Festival's premiere of Last Tango in Paris to the unveiling of Le Sacre du Printemps.

In fairness to Wilner, he does indeed cite David Cronenberg's loathsome A Dangerous Method for what it is and calls it "a dud", but again, this does little to PROPERLY support his assertion that its exclusion from the CTT would have raised media ire.

I do agree most wags would certainly have been tut-tutting, but the bigger and more interesting question is, why did critics (not just in Canada) rave about this movie? In a sense, A Dangerous Method is not unlike an eager Bukkake recipient of critical, egghead and arthouse-snob jets of spunk, splashing ever-so voluminously upon its greedy face and into its wide open mouth.

(Oh, and as a side note, allow me to clarify that I use the term "arthouse-snob" to describe pseuds who don't REALLY like art films, but prefer movies that make them THINK they're seeing art.)

Look, there's no way this movie would have been excluded from the CTT - none! The buzz on the picture has been extremely positive world wide. IF all the aforementioned loved the movie as much as they did, there's no way in hell the CTT jury wouldn't have also. A Dangerous Method is no Passchendaele. Tons of people loved the former all over the world, whilst the latter drew mostly polite accolades domestically and derision and/or indifference everywhere else. And frankly, in spite of the fact that Wilner acknowledges that A Dangerous Method is "inert and schematic and doesn’t illuminate its subject" (in addition to the aforementioned "dud" declaration), I'd argue he's being as polite as all those other Canucks who politely hailed Passchendaele when he says that Cronenberg's snore-fest is "a stately and well-acted drama".

Hey, that's reason enough for movies to win Oscars.

(The King's Speech, anyone?)

For his part, Corupe cites "Peter Morris’ essential 1994 article "In Our Own Eyes: The Canonizing of Canadian Film” [which] asks some worthy questions about the way certain kinds of Canadian films have been canonized over the last few decades while others, many equally deserving, are brushed aside. Imagine, for example, an alternate Canadian film landscape where John Paizs’ superior Crime Wave scooped the 1985 Best Picture Genie from the actual winner, the far less essential My American Cousin.

I am probably one of Paizs' biggest champions. I've seen Crime Wave more times that I can easily remember. Its genius, humour and innovation have few equals in Canada and most importantly, Paizs paved the way for an entire generation of Canadian filmmakers with his indie-minded vision. Even Guy Maddin will admit how much of his career he owes to John Paizs.

While Corupe's comment is clearly focusing on the landscape that might well have been affected by such a win (and not suggesting that the movie necessarily should have won the Genie), I suspect that the Genie-snubbing of Paizs and many of those who followed him is part of what contributes to a vibrant counter-culture. Alas, many whacko indie-minded Canuck films found much more eager audience support outside Canada's borders and in spite of the unquestionable brilliance of Crime Wave, I suspect its magnificent pop-culture sensibilities derived from such deliciously oddball sources as 50s crime pulp mixed with the bizarre Canadian tradition of National Film Board and corporate filmmaking kept it from exploding in the same European territories that many other indie Canuckle pics did. It was bereft - thankfully - of snob appeal and it truly found its way into the world as cult film via homevideo during a strange period (the 80s and 90s) when many THEATRICAL venues for cult product were closing down or changing their programming strategies to be second run cinemas.

That said, it ultimately wasn't necessary for a movie like Crime Wave, which will be revered and remembered when most Canadian films are rendered to a slag heap, to win a Genie Award. Paizs, and by extension, Crime Wave, having to join any club that would have someone like him or his film as a member seems unthinkable. Besides, I don't recall David Lynch's Eraserhead, John Waters' Pink Flamingos or Russ Meyer's Faster Pussycat Kill Kill winning any Oscars. They will, however, live a whole lot longer than, say, The King's Speech.

I agree wholeheartedly with Wilner when he says: "When we exalt filmmakers into icons, we stop seeing them as artists who have hits and misses. If you can do no wrong, you can never be challenged, and any perceived failings in your work must be the failings of the audience." Hell, I'm more than guilty on that front when it comes to John Ford - I even like Seven Women for Christ's sake!

Bottom line: Those who love film ALWAYS tend to "exalt filmmakers into icons" and there are any number of filmmakers on the CTT list who, frankly, deserve it. (For me, it's Guy Maddin. Yeah-yeah, full disclosure: I'm an old friend and produced some of his movies. Big deal. I love them all. Well, maybe all save for one, but I'm not telling.) Hell, even Wilner acknowledges that Cronenberg is "a legitimate artist and a Canadian treasure... [and looks forward] to each new project that bears his name, and always will."

Moi aussi!

All that said, there aren't enough of us who hate A Dangerous Method and can see it for what it really is and that alone, I suspect, is what DEMANDS inclusion on the CTT list.

Wilner is completely off-base when he states: "Pretending it’s one of the year’s best films does no one any favours. It just makes it look like TIFF is playing favourites – and why wouldn’t they? Cronenberg’s name guarantees media coverage."


Who, pray tell, is pretending?

Most of Wilner's colleagues, domestically and internationally think it's one of the year's best. Do you really think THEY are playing favourites? No. As wrong-headed as they might be on this one, the accolades all seem genuine. Why then would Wilner assert that TIFF is playing favourites by including it on the CTT? As for the media coverage, Cronenberg's movie had ALREADY been afforded plenty of support long before the CTT was announced.

Corupe asserts "that Morris’ notion is taking on extra importance this year, perhaps due to an increasing disconnect between 'officially' canonized CanCon and the varied Canadian films that audiences (and, obviously, more vocal critics) now want to see. It may also be a symptom of frustration with the way Canadian film industry is portrayed so reductively by lists and award shows–they seem to infer that the only game in town is a handful of the same old established icons."

Sorry, I'm not swallowing that one. How does this differ in any other country? It doesn't.

Corupe offers up the old "national insecurity" argument to condemn the notion that Canada "reassures" itself that our "filmmakers are global leaders" by "awarding them the same homegrown prizes every few years". Ho-hum. That's as boringly Canadian as the assertions made by all of the other CTT critics.

Wilner, however, astutely asserts "that leaving out a lesser work by an established filmmaker might actually generate a conversation this country needs to have about how we see our cinema." Yeah, it would, but I just don't see how this has happened with the 2011 CTT? Other than A Dangerous Method, which really isn't a good example to boost this argument, Wilner dashes off Sarah Polley's Take This Waltz as being "problematic but genuinely felt" and dismisses its inclusion as being merely the result of "star power".

Other than Polley and Cronenberg, Wilner's piece offers no real backup to the assertions he makes that "lesser work" was included in the CTT. (I agree the Cronenberg stinks, but its inclusion makes sense and frankly, I think Polley's film is terrific and a much braver work than the universally loved Away From Her.)

Corupe seems to extol the flawed arguments in Wilner's article whilst reporting upon "a panel discussion on TIFF’s picks, as published on Cinema Scope magazine’s blog. The participants only briefly touch on the idea of 'pandering' that Wilner notes, with AV Club Toronto editor John Semely again singling out A Dangerous Method as a curious selection, but the bulk of the conversation questions TIFF’s canonization of certain types of films over others, and even suggests that TIFF’s list is behind the curve of contemporary filmmaking trends."

A Dangerous Method is, according to John Semley, a "curious selection"? I reiterate: there's enough reason to suggest it isn't.

When Corupe reports upon the Cinemascope panel suggestion that the CTT titles are "behind the curve of contemporary filmmaking trends", I can only, ladies and gentlemen, present you with the dull, predictable 2012 Academy Awards nominations. Token nods to the genuinely great Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, nothing for Lars Von Trier's Melancholia, dick-all for Roman Polanski's Carnage, a completely disgraceful shutout for 50/50 (which boasted one of the best screenplays in years) and nary a wisp of acknowledgment in the direction of truly ahead-of-the-curve works as Bobcat Goldthwait's God Bless America, Jean-Baptiste Léonetti’s Carré blanc, Terence Davies' The Deep Blue Sea, Scott Leberecht's Midnight Son, William Friedkin's Killer Joe, Jeff Nichols' Take Shelter (I mean really! A nomination for Jean Dujardin's prancing, preening pantomime over Michael Shannon for Best Actor?) and among many, many others, Lucky McKee's The Woman.

How is it, again, that the CTT choices are "behind the curve of contemporary filmmaking trends" when one can compile several lists of a myriad of films that have NOT been acknowledged by the Oscars this (or any) year (and, for that matter, any number of critical Ten Best lists that stuck like flies to shit on mostly tried and true stodge-fests)?

Christ, at least the CTT has Guy Maddin's Keyhole on it. Whether anyone loves it or hates it, the movie is definitely ahead of the curve. There's NOTHING out there like it.

For his part, Wilner too swims in the same waters as Corupe and the Cinemascope panel on this. He states that "Far too often, we assign merit to a project based on the talent attached or the source material." We? We, who? Canadians? Uh, I think not, Norm. To the former, I give you the undeserved Jeff Bridges Oscar nod for Crazy Heart and for the latter, allow me to provide you my almost foolproof method of picking winners in the Best Short Drama or Short Documentary Oscars (none of which I ever see prior to the Awards telecast). I read the synopses and look for subjects that include - in this order - the Holocaust, the environment and the homeless.

This is not a Canadian problem. In fact, I'm not even sure it IS a problem.

It's just the way things are.

Wilner's article also opened the other tin of that dreaded clostridium botulinum bacteria - the much-hated (mostly, it would seem, by me) notion that we must always be celebrating what's new and fresh. Give me a break. I'm not just being a curmudgeon here when I say how sick and tired I am of every Tom, Dick and Harry going out of their way to extol the virtues of the new and unsung. Wilner suggests he'd "much rather see an awards list that celebrates the actual passion expressed by younger, hungrier filmmakers" and cites the CTT-acknowledged "first-timers" Nathan (Edwin Boyd) Moraldo and Jason (Hobo With a Shotgun) Eisener as worthy inclusions on this list. Maybe so, but I'd argue that both films, whatever their merits, are NOT the sort of cutting-edge first features worthy of citation based on the "passionate" ideals of "younger" and "hungrier". If these are criterion by which to present lists of the "best", where then are the works of the truly mad geniuses comprising that Winnipeg-spawned filmmaking collective Astron-6? These psychos gave us the magnificent bum-blasting $10,000-budgeted splatter-fest of the funniest and highest order Father's Day and the phenomenally imaginative and hilarious $1000-budgeted (!!!!!) Manborg. (Full disclosure: I don't personally know any of these miscreants of cinema brilliance who hail from Winnipeg, but I AM from Winnipeg and have, like every member of the Astron-6 collective, consumed the drinking water from all those 'Peg pipes laden with delicious and nutricious asbestos.)

Besides, there's a reason more established filmmakers with a great track record are oft-cited in such lists. They've got more than "hunger", "youth" and "passion" on their side, they've generally got the sort of life experience and canon of work that yields movies that end up, more often than not, being imbued with a universality that extends well beyond the ephemeral frissons that tub-thumpers for "new and fresh" ignore. (For example, I've had my fair share of problems with centenarian filmmaker Manoel de Oliveira's recent output, but it ultimately speaks with the voice of experience and I'll take his flawed work over the best of some snazzy young turk with very little to say - ANYTIME!)

Hell, even most of the predictable Oscar nominees (including ones I hate) are, at the very least, ABOUT something.

Corupe, wisely notes that the CTT has often acknowledged very cool Canuckle genre fare. As a genre geek, I've ALWAYS appreciated this. I, however, did (as noted above) not register surprise over the inclusion of Hobo With a Shotgun - compared to the work of Astron-6, the movie is extremely conventional. I also did a major double-take when, during the Cinemascope roundtable, The Grid's Jason Anderson lamented the absence of The Corridor - this was hardly the paragon of genre excellence some might think it is. I mean, come on - a bunch of smelly guys in a cabin in the woods inspired to kill each other by some mysterious force? Dullsville, baby, Dullsville. And nary a single babe to spice up the proceedings.

I certainly do share Wilner's shock at the CTT exclusion of Ingrid Veninger's phenomenal i am a good person/i am a bad person and certainly it's a better movie than A Dangerous Method or Starbuck, but here's one thing that needs to be addressed: LISTS ARE SUBJECTIVE!

End of story.

In fact, the way in which the CTT is administered seems really fair. There isn't a single person on the jury who shouldn't be there. This year's crop of jury members seemed especially stellar and more than up to the task. As Curtis Woloschuk astutely notes in the Cinemascope roundtable: "Ultimately, I think it is inevitable that the responsibility for an undertaking like CTT will fall to an established gatekeeper. With TIFF’s cultural clout, it ensures that a worthy panel of voters can be assembled and that the press (and, in turn, public) will take notice when the results have been tabulated."

And as for the various notions akin to Art Bell-styled conspiracy theories about the selection process, I'd pretty much have to say they're a crock. As Woloschuk adds: "I tend to believe that CTT represents what the voters, for better or worse, truly believed to be the year’s best films."

Wilner ends his piece by saying: "And, yeah, you can write all of this off as a critic cranking about how the 2011 list doesn’t properly represent his values or opinions. But before you do, ask yourself whether it represents yours."

Norm, of course it doesn't. Neither do your lists, my lists or anyone else's lists.

They represent those who compiled them.

And you know what? Whether people agree with the choices or not, I agree wholeheartedly with Woloschuk that the CTT promotes Canadian Cinema and gets people talking about Canadian films and seeing them (at least) in Toronto (and as a result, hopefully beyond), English Canada's undisputed Centre of Excellence (as a Winnipegger this sad truth makes me gag).

I generally detest juries and committees. I especially think Canada relies too heavily on them. I also don't want to seem like I'm waving some sort of flag for TIFF. They too have ignored many important films within their programming of the film festival proper (I'll never forgive them for not showing Monte Hellman's Road to Nowhere) and even more maddeningly, they've often scuttled behind the safe walls of "the committee". Just as annoying, I don't buy the other wall TIFF and others hide behind. An insider at TIFF told me that Hellman's film was excluded from the festival because "WE" didn't have room in the program for it. My response? Fuck off, it's Monte Hellman. MAKE ROOM!!!

Lord knows, I've had a few of my own films not invited to TIFF and/or turned down for financing from various agencies, investors, broadcasters and distributors with that cowardly Canuck preface of, "The committee felt that…"

My response is, "Yeah, but what the fuck do YOU think?"

They never say. It's so much easier to hide.

On the flip side I've found myself on all manner of selection committees in this business. It's not something I've ever been happy about - finding consensus is what leads to lowest common denominators - but during the aftermath, when I have to face the rejected, I can't ever recall resorting to "we". That said, I always enjoyed saying "I" when I was right and the committee/jury was wrong. To quote James Cagney in Raoul Walsh's Strawberry Blonde, "That's just the kind of hairpin I am."

"We" is such a detestable word. Like a mantra, the words "the committee", "the jury" or, finally, the dreaded "we" assault you as a filmmaker as deeply as a garotte slipped round your neck - from behind, of course. Canadians have a problem with looking you in the eye while they gut you with a Rambo blade. Happily, Steve Gravestock, TIFF's head honcho of all things Canuck has managed a fantastic way to make use of a jury and in his job as a programmer, he's one of the few people - in my experience - to ever use the word "I" instead of the royal "we".

This is what a mensch does.

Mice do the other.

And now, on the eve of the Genie Awards, nonsense about their value is being bandied about. Some of it I even agree with, but you know what? They're trying to make it better. Helga Stephenson is at the helm and she too is one of the real ones. I expect to hear the word "I" coming from her far more than the loathsome "we".

Sure, I have a whole mess of quibbles about the Genie nominations this year - I hate how Guy Maddin, for one, has been hosed bigtime with a mere one nomination. That said, given how gloriously insane Keyhole is, it stands the biggest chance of all the nominees and eventual winners to live well beyond this year and in particular, this year's Genie Awards. The other reprehensible genie snub is Mike Goldbach's stunning black comedy Daydream Nation with one token nod. This, for me, was the Canadian equivalent to the recent Oscar snub leveled at 50/50. That both of these films had some of the best writing of the year in Canadian (Mike Goldbach) and American cinema (Will Reiser) respectively, I can't begin to fathom either picture's exclusion in at least THAT category. And the biggest Genie hosing of all is Maddin-related: HOW IN THE NAME OF CHRIST DID THE BRILLIANT LOUIS NEGIN NOT GET NOMINATED FOR HIS GREAT SUPPORTING TURN IN KEYHOLE?

As for Norman Wilner's article - I've been especially hard on him. But allow me to be Canadian for just a second and say that in spite of the low-rub ink advertising rag that printed his article, he's a much better critic and writer than the column inches and word count he gets actually allows him to be. For all my disagreements with the article, it finally did what it was supposed to do. Bloggers blogged, tweeters twittered, wags wagged and the cocktail/canape set did what they always do when they don't really read what they're reading and accept what they want at face value to bolster whatever pathetic sour grapes are giving them the runs.

Wilner sparked debate and perhaps, in his own way, was as tub-thumping as those Cunuckles who extolled the virtues of Passchendaele. The difference is that the debate Wilner's article inspired contributed to further awareness of Canadian Cinema. (Those who rejoiced over the, uh, genius that was Passchendaele did little but pay lip service to it, and perhaps even bolstered the nay-sayers.)

As Corupe himself admits in summarizing the views of the Cinemascope panel: "It all boils down to one thing – the purpose of the Canada’s Top 10 intiative is to promote Canadian films and filmmakers to audiences. It’s about getting names of films in front of potential viewers."

So, if that's the case, what, I ask, is the problem in the first place?

Norman Wilner's full article can be found HERE, Paul Corupe's HERE and the Cinemascope roundtable HERE.

Canada’s 2011 Top Ten Feature films as chosen by the TIFF CTT Jury were:

Café de flore — Jean-Marc Vallée (Alliance Films)
A Dangerous Method — David Cronenberg (Entertainment One)
Edwin Boyd — Nathan Morlando (Entertainment One)
Hobo With a Shotgun — Jason Eisener (Alliance Films)
Keyhole — Guy Maddin (Entertainment One)
Marécages — Guy Édoin (Mongrel Media)
Monsieur Lazhar — Philippe Falardeau (Entertainment One)
Starbuck — Ken Scott (Entertainment One)
Take This Waltz — Sarah Polley (Mongrel Media)
Le Vendeur — Sébastien Pilote (Entertainment One)

Oh, a note about NOW Magazine's low-rub ink. When one is in a pinch (so to speak, loaf-wise), the paper still leaves a lot to be desired as toilet tissue.


  1. Interesting take as always, but I think you have me a little wrong--my Canuxploitation.com site mostly abstains from directly commenting on these things--I leave that for others like yourself. I'm mostly observing the general trend; that critics (a group in which I do not count myself) were calling for inclusion of even more genre films and questioning some of the "old guard" (something this site generally does too, even in this article: Astron-6). I do realize a bit of opinion slipped through, but I tried to restrict it to the point that the questions raised by Norm's article are worth asking--I agree with his underlying argument that the "canon" should always be scrutinized (Hell, widening the canon is practicly my site's mission statement). That makes it worthwhile for my readers.

    I'm also not arguing that Paizs deserved a Genie that year, just wondering aloud what might have happened if he did. Certainly we would have gotten more films by him, which would have been a great thing (Lynch, Waters & Meyer all had strong counterculture support and decades of output--apples & oranges, but you knew that). And yeah, maybe the Academy and other countries are "behind the curve" too (note: this is included in my piece as a quote from the CS round table, I didn't say it). Should we not hold ourselves to a higher standard? The CTT has to celebrate boring films because other countries celebrate boring films? Huh?

    So yes, "the purpose of the Canada’s Top 10 intiative is to promote Canadian films and filmmakers to audiences." But people should know there's a wide variety of Canadian films out there by a an equally wide variety of directors beyond the already established aueturs--it might just change some attitutdes about homegrown movies. TIFF has the power to communicate this message through their top 10 selections and, as I point out in my article, audiences have unparalleled opportunity to seek them out--Cineplex is increasingly irrelevant to a younger filmgoer's viewing habits. But debate is healthy and I'm sure TIFF enjoyed the little (very little) controversy.

  2. The problem of coverage and recognition by media and academies largely comes down to film promotional money and personal influence, of course. The quality of the film is of secondary importance. Crime Wave vs. My American Cousin is a good example. Who was the production company(ies) for each and how much money did they have to promote the films? My American Cousin had CBC in their corner and it was promoted and pushed endlessly and mercilessly. Even today I still remember as a teen seeing this movie constantly on commercials! Never heard a damn thing about Crime Wave until about 2000 when I came across a VHS at a specialist video store. Cousin had CBC in its corner, who did Crime Wave have?

    As for Hobo With A Shotgun and Edwin Boyd being on the list, well look who the (executive) producers are -- Paul Gross and Niv Fichman for Hobo and Daniel Iron for Edwin. Who were the name producers for Father's Day or Manborg promoting those films? Who was in their corner? No big names in this country.

    I've seen how this stuff works. The people with the money and influence behind these films often wine and dine (and even pressure in some cases) the media for coverage, giving the "critics" and academy voters private, catered screenings in board rooms. And in some cases, the producers are the media.

    It's because of this insulated bubble world that Canadian film dropped from being occasionally embraced by the public box office in the tax shelter days, and for a few decades now has largely remained in the doldrums of public indifference.

  3. Hey Paul! Thanks so much for responding - much appreciated. You do not count yourself amongst critics, and yet your recent posting of the Top Ten movies you saw for the first time in 2011 was magnificently written, displayed impeccable taste in your analyses and is even inspiring me to re-visit a couple of those titles I had long-ago written-off. So there! I've made a point to slightly revise my piece to more adequately distinguish between your position and that of those you reported on. Hope this now works a bit better. Importantly, I clarified the Paizs Genie stuff and this inspired me to add more about Paizs, so thanks - writing about Paizs is always a good thing. As for the notion of holding ourselves to higher standards, I took the opportunity to readdress this a bit, so thanks again. That said, I maintain the list within the context of Status Quo gatekeepers is not that bad. Your comment about the increasingly irrelevance of Cineplex to younger filmgoer's viewing habits. Maybe you and I need to debate that and/or discuss it more formally on your site or mine. I'm an old fashioned kind of guy, but I also started in the business as a journalist first and then, for years as a theatrical film buyer and I'm convinced bringing back some showmanship to mainstream exhibition is not impossible - but more on this for another time I guess. All the best, Paul.