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The TOTEM Poll: Totally Off Topic, Everything Media
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Old July 1st, 2004, 11:12 AM   #1
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Join Date: May 2002
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Happy Canada Day / Great Cdn Films

July the 1st and it is Canada. I am at work monitoring help queries but I can still feel like I'm celebrating if my fellow Canadians can post happy thoughts here.

Just to start off (and to keep somewhat in the theme of the board), here is my personal list of great Canadian Films.

DEAD RINGERS (1988) - David Cronenberg's strange but true story about two twin gynecologists who live together and die together features Jeremy Irons in a marvellously creepy performance that established him as an intellectual weirdo for the rest of his career. The props for the gynecology scenes deserved star billing, as well.

IF YOU LOVE THIS PLANET (1982) - Along with The Atomic Cafe one of the great propaganda pieces of the 80s attacking the nuclear age. Based upon the book by Helen Caldicott, it is a totally slanted National Film Board short that won the Academy Award with its emotional, slamming message. Today Caldicott is a bitter radical. No surprise.

MANUFACTURING CONSENT (1992) - Canadians do very good straight documentaries but this one is very stylishly put together. An examination of the work and thoughts of political critic Noam Chomksy, this is really one of the great political documentaries and a staple for media junkies. Chomsky's critique of the mainstream media's reporting of the United States' influence on human rights in various countries that fall within its geopolitical sphere (or out of it) is damning. A very entertaining film as well with nice devices. The one shot everyone remembers if the big Noam Chomsky head lecturing down from the jumbotron in a football stadium about how Americans treat war as sports as football players high five.

EXOTICA (1994)- Atom Egoyan's film is structured like rose with each layer unplucked slowly to reveal the truths of the past. Oddly marketed as a sexploitation movie, actually it's a film about grief. Bruce Greenwood stars as a Revenue Canada auditor who has seen his life fall apart after the murder of his daughter. He returns night after night to a stripper bar where the pretty Mia Kirshner (the lesbian assassin in "24") performs for him in a schoolgirl's uniform. Why he does this is the question. A wonderfully structured movie and my favourite Canadian movie.

THE SWEET HEREAFTER (1997) - Atom Egoyan's adaptation of Russel Bank's novel about a school bus tragedy investigated by an 'ambulance chasing' lawyer. Egoyan sets the novel in a B.C. town and uses his same ensemble of actors (Sarah Polley, Bruce Greenwoood, Murray Chaykin, Arsinee Karijian, Elias Koteas) and adds Ian Holm as the lawyer. A nicely structured plot that winds ever inward to expose the relationships and pasts of the villagers.

CUBE (1997) - basically a graduate film school project by the Canadian Film Center that turned into a cult SF rental standard. Take a single rotating cube set, change the lighting and you have a psychological futuristic mystery about a group of strangers who wake up in a 3-dimensional puzzle. Avoid the sequel, Hypercube.

HARD CORE LOGO (1996) - You can describe this as a punk Spinal Tap but it's not really a parody. It's the story of a Canadian punk band that comes together for one last benefit tour. A road trip film (like other Bruce Mcdonald films), it is very funny in parts but turns very serious as the punk band begins to unravel as the trip wears on.

ATANARJUAT: THE FAST RUNNER (2001) - Last year's festival darling was the fresh pairing of new technology (digital video) with an ancient Inuit myth. The stark lines of digital video present the high contrast beauty of the arctic icescape in an environment that hasn't seen much treatment since Nanook of the North (which I have not seen). The story about two brothers and their conflict with a rival group of brothers is both brutal and funny. Weird weird humour. It features one of the most memorable images in film, the naked 'fast runner' of the title being chased over ice floes by hunters.

BLACK ROBE (1991) - One of the best films about Canadian history, Black Robe came out around the same time as Dances With Wolves and to my mind is a far superior movie about aboriginals and definitely avoids the golden interpretation of Indian lives that the Kevin Costner film spoons out. Set in 16th century Quebec, it is the story of a young and fanatical Jesuit (Lothaire Bluteau) assigned to bring the word of god to the Huron. To get to the Huron mission he must travel with a company of Algonquin (lead by August Schellenberg) through epic lakes, forests and through a cordon of fierce Iroquois. The Iroquois are skeptical of 'the black robe's attempts to convert them. At once a gritty survival film and a spiritual, cultural clash, it is one of the glossiest historical films about Canada you will see. Impressive photography showing the tiny, liliputian humans paddling amidst the immense geography that was and is Canada.

CLEARCUT (1991) - A grim thriller starring Graham Greene (from Dances With Wolves) about a white liberal who is kidnapped by an Indian activist and taken for a tour of the forest. The politics are a bit strange and not very well laid out but there is something deliciously fierce about Greene's performance. I don't know how it was received among aboriginal audiences but I wonder if they cheered when Greene blows away the RCMP and begins carving into the leg of the white liberal.

JESUS DE MONTREAL (1989) - the sole Quebecois film on my list (purely because of my own ignorance of Quebec film) is one of the best known films from Denys Arcand. Winner of the Jury Prize at Cannes in 1990 it is a modern parable about the life and sacrifice of Jesus as experienced by a group staging a passion play. Lothaire Bluteau is the title character. Frequently shown in religious studies because of its uncynical examination of religiosity in modern life. Denys Arcand is a past Cannes favourite, having made a splash previously with The Decline fo the American Empire and its sequel this year: The Barbarian Invasions.

32 SHORT FILMS ABOUT GLENN GOULD (1993) - An inventive and never boring fanciful examination of the life of pianist Glenn Gould who is forever enshrined in the performer pantheon for his recordings of the Goldberg Variations. I'm not a classical music fan (had enough of that learning piano when I grew up) but this is excellent filmmaking. Indeed, it is 32 short films in one package, each film encapsulating a certain point in Gould's life or a certain work. Playing Gould as an adult is Colm Feore who you will recognize in quite a few international films usually playing a stately middle aged man. Director Francois Girard also made The Red Violin.

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Old July 1st, 2004, 06:24 PM   #2
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I just got home from a celebration out in Langley. Time to put some salmon burgers on the grill, put back a few Sleeman's and then go hit the town (not driving of course).

Keith, good list.
My favourite's are Strange Brew and Exotica (tie)
And don't forget Porky's (on a technicality).
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Old July 2nd, 2004, 04:14 PM   #3
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Waydowntown -- A group of office workers wager to see who can go the longest without going outside. They live and work in Calgary where the apartments and office buildings are all connected underground. Strange film that took a little time to grow on me.

Black-tailed Fly -- Short cartoon based on the traditional folk song.
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