Category Archives: Top Tens

These lists don’t necessarily contain ten items, but they do contain some of our favourite movies of all time!

The Top Ten Best Car Chases

There’s nothing better than a frantic, fast-paced, pulse-pounding car chase.

The kind that sticks you directly in the middle of the action at a hundred miles an hour, keeping you at the edge of your seat as the mayhem unfolds.

The kind that keeps you coming back to re-view (and in my case, “review”) time and again,  just to relive it.

The kind that brings something new to a very crowded genre.

The kind that I’m crazy for not including in my top ten list.  Well, did I miss any?

10. Bank Heist (Fast Five)

This would rank even higher if two Mustangs had been involved instead of two Dodge Chargers, but it’s still fantastic to see Vin Diesel and Paul Walker double-team the streets of Rio de Janeiro with a gazillion ton bank safe in tow.

Bonus points for the fact that when the safe opens, it’s to Danza Kuduro so I’m reminded of every Caribbean vacation I’ve taken since 2010.

9. Mall Escape (Terminator 2)

Normally, if you’re choosing between a dirt bike and a big rig tow truck for chase purposes, you’d take the terminator2truck, right?  But what if the dirt bike also comes with an assist from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800?

What makes this chase all the more awesome is that if you go in to this movie cold, you cannot be sure which killer robot is on little John Conner’s side – a masterstroke by James Cameron which the movie’s trailers spoiled for anyone who’d seen them.

8. Mall Break-In (The Blues Brothers)

You expect a crash or two as part of a chase.  Maybe a car even flips over once in a while.   The Blues Brothers took crashes to an entirely different level.

A total of 103 cars were wrecked during the film, many of them during Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi’s wild ride through a shopping mall.  That triple-digit destruction was a record until Blues Brothers 2000 deliberately smashed one more car during its production.  But it’s the original receiving the crown that matters, namely a spot on this prestigious list.

7. San Francisco Tour (Bullitt)

Steve McQueen takes a spin in maybe the most iconic Mustang ever and tames the bullittstreets of San Francisco and a rival driver in a Dodge Charger.

But it’s not only the car, it’s also that McQueen made sure to keep his head in view of the camers so you knew it was him doing the heavy lifting the whole time.

6. World’s Worst Valet (The Rock)

This is mostly about the car, as Nicolas Cage borrows a beautiful yellow Ferrari F355 Spider to chase down Sean Connery in a Hummer H1.  And fucks it up badly.

Michael Bay puts his own spin on a San Francisco chase, complete with a runaway trolley car, and reminds us that at Bay’s peak his set pieces were as good as anyone’s.

5. Catching the Train (The French Connection)

french connectionThe French Connection’s chase is iconic for good reason.  This claustrophobic subway/car chase was filmed without a permit in real Brooklyn traffic, causing real car crashes that were left in the film (the producers paid for the repairs, but still).

While the choice to film on uncleared streets is one that would never be allowed by a Hollywood studio today, the camera angles used by director William Friedkin and his crew are still being used today.

4. Bellbottoms (Baby Driver)

It’s rare to have a car chase open a movie, but when it’s done right,  why not?

Here, Edgar Wright gets the opening chase scene SO right, in part because he’d been dreaming of making this very car chase (complete with accompanying song) since the 90s.  It was worth the wait!

3. Chasing a Black…Tank (Batman Begins)

Christopher Nolan can do it all, can’t he?  You’d think the streets of Gotham City would be perfect car chase fodder but only Nolan got it right.batman

Nolan also got a Gotham chase right in The Dark Knight, but for my money the chase from Batman Begins is the best one since it shows us how bewildering it would be for the cops trying to keep track of a superhero’s black…tank as it defies the laws of physics.

2. Fourth Quarter Magic (Drive)

As good as Baby Driver’s opening is, the opening sequence in Drive wins out for Nicolas Winding Refn’s patience and subtlety.

This chase feels like it actually could have happened, and more importantly sets the tone for the rest of the film with its gritty realism, a hint of the pulsing synth soundtrack, and amazing attention to detail (only after seeing the chase play out do we understand why Ryan Gosling’s character is such a big basketball fan).

1. The Whole Enchilada (Mad Max: Fury Road)

Mad Max: Fury Road is FURY ROADessentially a two-hour long chase scene, so on that measure it has to be number one.

But what is most impressive is that I couldn’t pick just one short sequence of that chase to focus on because it’s all fantastic.  The madness and desperation in Max’s world lend an unmatched urgency to the chase, and George Miller never takes his foot off the accelerator even for a minute – fitting for the best car chase scene of all-time.

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Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day has recently been resurrected as a Broadway musical, and Bill Murray went to see it on Tuesday. And Bill Murray went to see it on Wednesday. Is Bill Murray fucking with us?

By all accounts he enjoyed the show, laughing and pumping his fist during musical numbers. Not all of us are destined for NYC this summer, but the good news is, you can catch Groundhog Day pretty much any old time, and here are but a few reasons why you should revisit this classic over and over again.

  1. Director Harold Ramis originally wanted Tom Hanks for the role but realized Hanks was “too nice” and went knocking elsewhere. Michael Keaton turned it down. Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Alec Baldwin, Howie Mandel, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams, Kevin Kline, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Kevin Costner and John Travolta were also considered before Bill Murray was cast.
  2. Harold Ramis has a cameo in the film as Phil’s neurologist. Also appearing, if you shannon-groundhog-day.jpgwatch dedicatedly enough: Michael Shannon in his big screen debut – he’s Fred, one of half of the young couple who’s supposed to get married that day.
  3. Although a family of groundhogs was raised specifically for this movie, when Bill Murray was severely bitten not once, but twice, he had to receive rabies treatment, which are rather painful injections.
  4. Although set in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, the film was actually filmed in Woodstock, Illinois, just 50 miles from Murray’s hometown, Wilmette. Tourism in Punxsutawney spiked after the film’s release, but it’s in Wilmette where you’ll find a small plaque that reads “Bill Murray stepped here” on the curb where Phil continually steps in a puddle, and another marked “Ned’s Corner” where Phil perpetually meets Ned the insurance salesman (Stephen Tobolowsky).
  5. There are 38 days depicted partially or in full in the movie. Ramis said originally he wanted about 10 000 years worth of days and ended up with what he considers to be a decade’s worth which is still a really, really, sad, lonely long time to be reliving the same day.
  6. Bill Murray was offered a “spit bucket” for the scene in which he gorges on pastries. That was a terrifically bad idea on his part…guess who got a tummy ache?
  7. In one scene, Phil throws the alarm clock, destroying it. In real life, Murray’s throw did little to damage the thing so the crew took baseball bats to it to smash it up. And yes, it really did keep playing that stupid song, just like in the movie.
  8. Murray was going through a divorce at the time and compensated by becoming obsessed with the movie, calling up Ramis with all kinds of questions. Ramis tired of it and sent the writer (Danny Rubin) to sit down with him and iron out all the wrinkles. This caused a rift in their friendship – Murray didn’t speak to Ramis for many years.
  9. When Phil is at the piano teacher’s house, it’s actually Bill Murray playing. He can’t read music but plays by ear, and learned that passage by heart to play it in the movie. [It’s Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme by Paginini, fyi]
  10. Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, and Stephen Tobolowsky have all served as honourary Grand Marshals in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.
  11. In Swedish, the movie’s title is translated as “Monday Every Day” – although in 1993, when the movie came out, Groundhog Day was on a Tuesday. The specific day of the week is not mentioned in the film.
  12. In once scene, Phil throws himself from a bell tower. The building is actually the opera house in Woodstock, Illinois, where local legend has it that the ghost of a young girl haunts the building ever since she fell off a balcony section and died.
  13. uxyA34o.gifThe famous line “Don’t drive angry!” was improvised by Murray when the groundhog in his lap was aggressively trying to escape by climbing over the steering wheel. [Yes, this was one of the times when Bill got bit]
  14. In the final shot, we see Phil carry Rita over the gate before climbing over it himself. This may seem romantic but was unscripted: in real life, the gate was simply frozen shut.

Stripes

Stripes came out before I was born, but it’s still a good source of inspired team work between Harold Ramis and Bill Murray. 10 fun facts about a classic comedy:

  1. Ivan Reitman and Dan Goldberg wrote the movie specifically for Cheech and Chong. When their manager demanded way too much money, they took out (most) of the pot humour, found the script got smarter, and flagged down Bill Murray to star. Judge Reinhold, in his first film appearance, gets what little remained of the weed jokes.
  2. Bill Murray only came aboard about 2 weeks before filming began. He didn’t show up to set until the 3rd day of filming because he’d been following his precious Chicago Cubs around the country. In the very first scene shot, in which he grabs LxxsQSI.gifheavy luggage out of a trunk, he genuinely injured himself and his exclamation “Oh my balls!” is the real deal.
  3. Bill Murray insisted that Harold Ramis should be tapped to play his best bud. They were friends in real life of course, but Murray also wanted Ramis’s help in re-writing dialogue, the better to improvise with. Dennis Quaid was auditioned by the studio to play Ramis’s part. He was married to P.J. Soles at the time. If you squint hard, you can spot him as an extra in the graduation scene.
  4. Soles’ part was meant to have been played by Kim Basinger but she too wanted too much money, so the part went to Soles who had just finished shooting Private Benjamin in which she wore the exact same uniform.
  5. The department of defense for some reason approved of the film. They not only let them film at Fort Knox, they allowed soldiers to be extras. A real army barber buzzed all the men, who had not been told how short their haircuts would be. John Candy was particularly depressed. Murray and Ramis being the “stars” got to keep theirs a little longer.
  6. The cast and crew had a 2-week drinking binge when they found out John Lennon had died.
  7. John Larroquette ad-libbed the line “I wish I was a loofah” and then had to explain to director Ivan Reitman what a loofah was.
  8. A 9-minute scene in which they drop acid and parachute out of a plane was filmed but cut – BUT is included on the DVD extras.
  9. John Candy wasn’t well known; he bonded with the cast by inviting them over for spaghetti and to watch the Roberto Duran/Sugar Ray Leonard fight.
  10. When Bill Murray shouts  “But we’re American soldiers! We’ve been kicking ass for 200 years! We’re ten and one!” – the last is a thinly-veiled reference to Vietnam, written by Ramis.

Canada 150

Today we celebrate Canada’s birthday, and it’s a big one this year: 150. So here’s a list of 150 things I love about Canadian film:

Canadians make you laugh:

1.Norm MacDonald: Born in Quebec City, Norm got his start writing (The Dennis Miller Show, and then Roseanne) but of course moved on to SNL where he formed friendships which still result in movie roles today: The Ridiculous 6, Funny People, and Dirty Work. You can catch him right now in Girl Boss and The Middle, plus he’s got a new stand-up special on Netflix.

2. Eugene Levy: Born in Hamilton, Ontario, burst onto the scene in SCTV, and those improv skills would pay off years (decades) later when he teamed up with Christopher Guest for a series of mockumentaries including Best in Show and A Mighty Wind. Regular movie goers will likely recognize him as Jim’s Dad in American Pie. Right now 914acc14f981294edbad7bb009a9d2a3he’s got a hilarious new show with his real-life son called Schitt’s Creek.

3. Catherine O’Hara: Born in Toronto, she co-stars frequently with Eugene Levy, including the Christopher Guest movies, and the delightful Schitt’s Creek. She’s also popularly known as Kevin’s Mom from Home Alone, and Delia Deetz from Beetlejuice.

4. Phil Hartman: Born in Brantford, Ontario, Phil died too soon from tragic circumstances, but not before leaving us with a real legacy of his delicious work, including long stints on SNL, The Simpsons, and Newsradio, as well as memorable movie roles in Sgt. Bilko, Jingle All The Way, and Houseguest.

5. Rick Moranis: Also born in Toronto, Rick was of course on SCTV where he first became half of that nitwit Canadian duo, Bob and Doug McKenzie (see Strange Brew for a crash course). He appeared in Ghostbusters, Spaceballs, Parenthood, and Little Shop of Horrors. He played Barney Rubble in The Flintstones and had a career-defining role in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (and its various shitty sequels).

6. John Candy: Born in Toronto and naturally a cast member on SCTV, he left a major impression on comedies of the 80s and 90s, including Planes, Trains & Automobiles, Uncle Buck, Cool Runnings, and Canadian Bacon.

7. Jim Carrey: Born in Newmarket, Ontario, Carrey churned out dozens of horrid comedies, including Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask, Dumb and Dumber, The Cable Guy and Liar, Liar. He’s also taken some turns for the more serious, in films like The Truman Show, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Man on the Moon.

8. Martin Short: Born in Hamilton, Ontario, he inevitably landed on SCTV as all good Canadians must (it was our version of SNL) and went on to such silliness as Three Amigos, Father of the Bride, and Mars Attacks! He’s also done voice work in The Prince of Egypt, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Treasure Planet, and Frankenweenie – and that’s beside his most famous role as official spokesperson in the Canadian pavilion at Epcot.

9. Mike Myers: Proudly born in Scarborough, Ontario, Myers achieved fame on SNL and watched it snowball with hits like Wayne’s World, So I Married an Ax Murderer, Austin Powers, and Shrek.

10. Michael Cera: Born in Brampton, Ontario, Cera was cast as an awkward, gawky teen on Arrested Development and has basically played that role ever since: Superbad, Juno, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, Lemon, Crystal Fairy & The Magical Cactus.

Canadians make you soon:

11. Ryan Gosling: Born in London, Ontario (and shout-out to my hometown, Cornwall, where he briefly lived with his father), Gosling was the first person born in the 1980s to be nominated for Best Actor (Half Nelson – 2006). Over here, we knew him first as a gangly, geeky kid on Breaker High, and a dweeby one on the Micky Mouse Club, but by the time The Notebook hit theatres, he was a certified heart throb. Luckily, he’s got acting chops to back it up, and has seen success with the likes of Lars and the Real Girl, Drive, The Place Beyond the Pines, The Big Short, and La La Land, which landed him another Oscar nod.

1f026ba441f53793f9835bfddc6484a3--deadpool-movie--film-12. Ryan Reynolds: Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Reynolds used a weird sitcom called Two Guys, A Girl, and a Pizza Place to launch a varied career that has included the highs and lows of Van Wilder, Definitely Maybe, Adventureland, Green Lantern, RIPD, Woman In Gold, and finally, Deadpool, where he seems to have hit his stride.

13. Rachel McAdams: Born in London, Ontario, her big break was probably getting cast as the proverbial mean girl in Mean Girls. Though born in the very same hospital as Ryan Gosling, the two didn’t meet until cast together in The Notebook. They hated each other, of course, and had horrible fights on set. After the movie wrapped, they somehow had a four year relationship, during which she did Wedding Crashers and The Time Traveler’s Wife. She also went on to do Midnight in Paris, Aloha, Southpaw, and Spotlight.

14. Joshua Jackson: Born in Vancouver, B.C., he realized every little Canadian boy’s dream by starring in the ultimate hockey movie, Might Ducks long before he became Dawson’s Creek’s resident heart throb, Pacey. He spun that into a movie career that included roles in Urban Legend, Cruel Intentions, and The Skulls.

15. Dwayne Johnson: You got me; The Rock isn’t Canadian but he does have Canadian citizenship, and that’s because his daddy was born in Amherst, Nova Scotia. And before he was a wrestler, Dwayne played in the Canadian Football League, for the Calgary Stampeders.

16. Pamela Anderson: Born in Ladysmith, B.C., Pamela shares a birthday with Canada: she was born on its centennial, which makes Pamela 50 years old today. We were all reminded of her origin story earlier this summer with her cameo on Baywatch, but her movie career has also included such smash hits as Barb Wire, Pauly Shore Is Dead, and Scary Movie 3.

17. Charlotte Le Bon: Born in Montreal, Quebec, Charlotte Le Bon sizzles in pretty much everything she’s in. Don’t take my word for it, check her out in The Walk, The Promise, Anthropoid, The Hundred Foot Journey, or In The Shadow of Iris.

Canada makes you think:

18. The Corporation: This documentary explores the weird concept of a corporation that we have, with special attention to the American legal definition of a corporation as a person.

19. Pink Ribbons Inc: This documentary explores the big business of breast cancer, where and how the fund-raised money is spent (hint: you’re not going to like it). Really eye-opening, changed the way I donate.

20. Dear Zachary: A Letter To A Son About His Father: A film maker makes a film for the unborn son of his murdered friend, a gift to a fatherless baby. Really moving.

21. Angry Inuk: An in-depth look at seal hunting in the Inuit community. Really makes you see the other side of the issue.51IXTpRbFmL

22. Grass: The history of the American government’s war on marijuana in the 20th century. Woody Harrelson narrates.

23. Secret Path: A haunting look at the legacy of residential schools on Indigenous populations, through the eyes of one particular child who perished.

24. Ninth Floor: About the 1969 student protest against Sir George Williams University’s administration’s mishandling of racist accusations towards a professor.

25. Stories We Tell: A documentary that uncovers layers and layers of family lore to see if truth can be uncovered – or if there is any such thing as one family truth.

Canadians kick butt:

26. Evangeline Lilly: Born in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, I’ll always think of her as the phone sex girl, but most outside of Canada got to know her as a tough survivor on Lost. She’s had film roles in The Hurt Locker, Real Steel, and The Hobbit, but she’s also dipped her toes into the Marvel Universe as The Wasp. You’ve already seen her in Ant-Man; stay tuned for more kick-butt action in Ant-Man and The Wasp, and of course an upcoming Avengers movie.

27. Keanu Reeves: He wasn’t born here – in fact, he was born in Beirut. But he landed in and grew up in Toronto, where he became a naturalized citizen. He played hockey of course, where he earned the nickname The Wall as a goalie, but his dreams of playing for Canada were dashed with an injury. In his first studio movie, Youngblood, he played a Canadian goalie, and with his dreams relit, he packed his bags for Hollywood, where I believe you know the rest, culminating in kick-ass roles in the likes of The Matrix and more recently, John Wick.

28. Hayden Christensen: Born in Vancouver but raised in Markham, Ontario, a city in which I lived right around the time that he was filming those Star Wars prequels. He got to play Anakin Skywalker, humanizing and some might say emo-ifying the most badass villain of all time, Darth Vader.

29. Cobie Smulders: Born in Vancouver, Smulders became known on the sitcom How I Met Your Mother but for some reason has parlayed that into a kick-butt movie career where she’s played Wonder Woman (in The Lego Movie), agent Maria Hill in various Avengers movies, and Jack Reacher‘s sidekick in the most recent iteration.

30. Nathan Fillion: Born in Edmonton, Alberta, Nathan Fillion appeared on that infamous giphy.gifTwo Guys, A Girl, and a Pizza Place with fellow Canuck Ryan Reynolds back in the day, and that’s not the only thing they have in common. Fillion must have a super hero kind of voice, because before voicing a car in Cars 3, he did Steve Trevor in an animated Wonder Woman film, Green Lantern in several animated Justice League films, and even a “Monstrous Inmate” in Guardians of the Galaxy. Sadly, he was cut out of Guardians 2, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they found something for him in #3…maybe as Captain Hammer, from Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog?

31. Anna Paquin: Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, she won her first Oscar at the age of 11, the second youngest ever to do so, a Best Supporting win for The Piano. She’s been kicking ass uphill ever since and the only question is which role was more badass: Sukie in True Blood, or Rogue in X-Men?

32. Carrie-Anne Moss: Born in Vancouver B.C, Moss hit it big alongside Keanu in The Matrix. She followed up the trilogy with roles in Memento, Chocolat, and Disturbia.

33. Victor Garber: Born in London, Ontario, Garber has had a long career with kick butt roles in Alias, Argo, and Sicario. His various movie credits include Legally Blonde, Sleepless in Seattle, Milk, and Self\less.

34. Will Arnett: Born in Toronto, Arnett starred in Arrested Development, and again with Michael Cera in The Lego Batman Movie, in which he played Batman and Cera played – Robin? He’s had semi-heroic roles in Jonah Hex, Despicable Me, Men in Black 3, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. If you prefer him downtrodden, try him on Netflix in either Bojack Horseman, or Flaked.

Canadians are multi-talented:

35. Jay Baruchel: Born right here in Ottawa, and raised just a little down the highway in Montreal, Jay Baruchel made a name for himself in movies like Almost Famous and Million Dollar Baby. He’s also been an Apatow mainstay, appearing in comedies like This Is The End and Knocked Up. He really hit pay dirt with blockbuster franchise How To Train Your Dragon, in which he voices the lead character, Hiccup. He’s also got screen writing credits on hockey movie Goon, and a directing credit on its sequel.

36. Paul Haggis: Born in London, Ontario, Haggis because the first screenwriter to write two Best Film Oscar winners back to back: Million Dollar Baby, and Crash, which he also directed (it won Best Original Screenplay as well). Other writing credits include Flags of Our Fathers, Quantum of Solace, Casino Royale, Letters From Iwo Jima, and In the Valley of Elah, which he also directed.

37. William Shatner: Born in Montreal, Quebec, is of course known first and foremost as the original Captain Kirk on Star Trek. You may or may not remember him alongside Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn in Dodgeball, or opposite Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality 2. He’s also done voicework on animated films such as The Wild, and Over The Hedge. He also wrote and directed The Captains, a documentary about all the actors who have played Star Trek captains.

38. Nia Vardalos: Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Nia weirdly also has a one-episode credit from Two Guys, A Girl, and a Pizza Place, but she got her big break when Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks attended her one-woman show. Having Greek heritage in common with her, Wilson was immediately charmed, and helped turn that show into My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which would become a sleeper hit. Vardalos also wrote Connie and Carla, Larry Crowne, and of course the Greek Wedding sequel, and she tried her hand as director on I Hate Valentine’s Day.

39. Sarah Polley: Born in Toronto, she was known to us Canadian folk when she was just a little girl starring on Ramona, and Avonlea (I also so her on the stage in Stratford, in a production of Alice Through The Looking Glass). Her film career has had some strong roles, in The Sweet Hereafter, Go, My Life Without Me, and Dawn of the Dead. She’s also gone writer-director with Away From Her, Take This Waltz, and Stories We Tell.

40. Dan Akroyd: Born right here in Canada’s capital city, Ottawa (fun fact: his father was a policy adviser to then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, father of current Prime Minister Justin), Danny boy also shares a birthday with our country; he turns 65 today. Aside from SNL, we know and love him from Trading Places,  The Great Outdoors, Driving Miss Daisy, My Girl, My Fellow Americans, Grosse Pointe Blank, Pearl Harbor, 50 First Dates, Tammy, and Pixels – not to mention the terrific characters he’s written: The Blues Brothers, Ghostbusters, and Coneheads.

41. Seth Rogen: Born in Vancouver, Rogen has directing credits include This Is The End and The Interview, writing credits including Pineapple Express, Sausage Party, and The Green Hornet, plus, you know, the acting thing: The Disaster Artist, The Night Before, Steve Jobs, The Guilt Trip, 50\50, The 40 Year Old Virgin.

Canadians have vision:

42. David Cronenberg: Born in Toronto, Cronenberg is know as the King of Venereal Horror or the Baron of Blood – and he’s proud of it. He’s the director responsible for the likes of The Fly, Crash, eXistenZ, A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, Maps to the Stars, and more.

43. James Cameron: Born in Kapuskasing, Ontario, Cameron made Titanic, the first Best Picture Academy Award winner to be produced, directed, written, and edited by the same person. He also wrote The Terminator, Aliens, and True Lies, and directed The Abyss, Terminator 2, and is in the middle of doing 5 Avatar films all at once.

44. Norman Jewison: Born in Toronto, Jewison is the visionary director behind The Cincinnati Kid, In the Heat of the Night, The Thomas Crown Affair, Jesus Christ Superstar, Fiddler On The Roof, Moonstruck, and The Hurricane.

45. Denys Arcand: Born in Deschambault, Québec, Arcand is the talented director behind Jesus of Montreal, Days of Darkness, and The Barbarian Invasions, which won best screenplay at Cannes, best Canadian feature film at TIFF and the Best Foreign Film Oscar. In 2005 Arcand was named Companion of the Order of Canada, which recognizes individuals for exceptional achievements of national or international significance.

46. Patricia Rozema: Born in Kingston, Ontario, Rozema directed the apocalyptic Into the Forest and Mansfield Park, which she also wrote. She also adapted Grey Gardens along with Michael Sucsy, which Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange made famous.

47. Atom Egoyan: Born in Egypt but raised in Victoria BC from the age of 2, Atom became part of the Toronto New Wave style of film making. His career breakthrough came with Exotica, and critical acclaim followed with The Sweet Hereafter, which garnered him two Oscar nominations, and finally, commerical success with Chloe, Ararat, and The Captive (which stars Ryan Reynolds). Egoyan received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, Canada’s highest royal honour in the performing arts, in 2015

48. Ivan Reitman: Born in Czechoslovakia, his family came to Canada as immigrants when he was 4, and they settled in Toronto. His directing credits include Meatballs, Stripes, Ghostbusters, Dave, Twins, Kindergarten Cop, and Six Days Seven Nights. He is currently working on a Twins sequel called Triplets.

49. Jason Reitman: Ivan’s son Jason was born in Montreal and followed in his father’s footsteps, career-wise, directing Thank You for Smoking, Juno, Up In the Air, and Men, Women & Children.

50. Philippe Falardeau: Born across the river from here in Hull, Quebec, Falardeau is the director of Monsieur Lahzar, The Good Lie, and Chuck (aka, The Bleeder).

51. Deepa Mehta: Born in Amritsar, Punjab, raised in New Delhi, Mehta immigrated to Canada in 1973. She made a remarkable trio of films (the “elements trilogy”): Earth, Wind, and Fire, and get this: Earth was sent by India to the Academy Awards as its official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film, and Water was sent by Canada for the same – where it secured a nomination. Other notable films include Heaven on Earth, Midnight’s Children, Beeba Boys, and Anatomy of Violence.

52. Denis Villeneuve: Born in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, Villeneuve made strong Canadian films like Incendies and Polytechnique and then made the leap to Hollywood, directing Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario, and Arrival. He’s currently working on Blade Runner 2049.

53. Jean-Marc Vallée: Born in Montreal,  Vallée also made a film little-known outside of Canada called C.R.A.Z.Y before making it big with films like Dallas Buyers Club, Wild, and Demolition.

54. Xavier Dolan: Also born in Montreal, Dolan has been a hidden gem here for some time, but that’s about to change. He’s already got some great movies under his belt Laurence Anyways, Mommy, and It’s Only The End of the World. He caught the eye of Adele, who had him direct her infamous video for Hello, and now he’s making his first English-language film, called The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, starring Natalie Portman, Jessica Chastain, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, and Canada’s own Jacob Tremblay.

Canada is beautiful:

elbow-falls-sunrise-c2a9-2012-christopher-martin-556855. Brokeback Mountain: the film, like the story, is set in Wyoming, but it’s beautiful Canada you’re seeing on screen, almost entirely the Rocky Mountains of southern Alberta. Particular locations include Upper Kananaskis Lake, Mount Lougheed, The Fortress, Moose Mountain, Elbow Falls, and Canyon Creek.

56. Capote: set in Kansas but actually filmed around Winnipeg, Manitoba, because nobody does rural quite like Canadians. Aside from the plains, locations include Stony Mountain Institution (a prison), and the Manitoba Legislative Building.

57. Titanic: okay, the movie was mostly shot in a huge water tank in Mexico, but James Cameron did bring cast and crew to Halifax, Nova Scotia to shoot some harrowing ocean scenes aboard the icebreaker CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent. And you’re going to hate this, but that controversial piece of wood that Rose floats on after the ship sinks is based on a real life artifact that’s on display in a museum in Halifax.

58. One Week: in this movie, Joshua Jackson hops on a motorcycle and does a road trip through Canada, coast to coast, or just about. From Toronto he rides west, through the Prairies and the Rockies to Vancouver Island. He makes various stops at cheesy “big things”, like Sudbury’s giant nickel, Drumheller’s dinosaur and Wawa’s Canada Goose.

59. The Incredible Hulk: our largest city, Toronto, is a frequent stand-in for New York City but what locked it down for the Hulk was the mayor’s fanboy promise to shut down Yonge Street, a major thoroughfare, for four whole nights of intensive filming – you know, explosions and burning cars. Sean and I both lived there at the time but I don’t have any Hulk sightings to tell you about.

60. The Virgin Suicides: Sofia Coppola’s film about a group of male friends who become obsessed with five mysterious sisters who are sheltered by their strict, religious parents in suburban Detroit in the mid-1970s was filmed in, you guessed it, Toronto!

61. Interstellar: Christopher Nolan’s film was partially filmed in Alberta –  in Lethbridge, Fort Macleod, and Okotoks to be exact, where the dust bowl scenes were filmed and the corn fields were planted. Figures: no place better than The Prairies for that!

62. The Revenant: When Alejandro G. Iñárritu needs rural, snowy forests and mountains, he knows just where to go: northern Canada! Filmed in British Columbia and Alberta, Canada looked beautiful, if not altogether inviting, in my opinion much nicer than the real places they were playing, ie, Montana and South Dakota.

Canada on purpose:

63. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The graphic novel is set in Toronto and so too is the film,tumblr_lqo9zoYN2I1qb3f0ao1_500 thanks to director Edgar Wright who made it happen. The film is peppered with recognizable Toronto landmarks – for once we see our city in a film and we can claim it properly.

64. The Shipping News: For some time this was the most depressing movie on the planet. A grieving Kevin Spacey movies to Newfoundland where he meets a widowed Julianne Moore  and lives in a derelict home. The Maritimes looks just as bleak as you’d expect.

65. What If: Can a man and woman really be just friends? Written by Canadian screenwriter Elan Mastai, it’s set amid the romantic backdrop of Toronto but instead of popular attractions, Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan’s ultra-hip characters meet and fall in love in lesser-known locations like the George Street Diner, Rooster Coffee House, Riverdale Park and the Royal Cinema.

66. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz: Based on the novel by Mordecai Richler and starring Richard Dreyfuss, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz follows the titular character as he tries to scheme his way out the poor Jewish community of 1950s Montréal. Saint Urban Street plays a prominent role in the film, as does Wilensky’s, a popular lunch counter first opened in 1932 that you can still visit today. Highly recommended is the Wilensky Special: a sandwich of all-beef salami and bologna, Swiss cheese and mustard pressed between two slices of yellow bread.

67. Take This Waltz: On a plane ride back to Toronto, Margot (Michelle Williams) meets and crushes on Daniel (Luke Kirby). Sharing a cab home, they discover they are neighbours, because Margot is an otherwise happily married woman (to Seth Rogen). Actually filmed right in Toronto.

68. Everything’s Gone Green: Ryan (played by Canadian Paulo Costanzo) is a slacker tempted by a money laundering scheme while writing for a lottery magazine. Filmed AND set in Vancouver, the movie (written by Canada’s Douglas Coupland) pokes fun at how often Vancouver is dressed as Los Angeles – with one potted palm tree that makes the rounds of all the film productions in town.

69. Enemy: about a college professor in Toronto (Jake Gyllenhaal) who’s stuck in a rut until he randomly watches a rental video and spots an actor who looks just like him. He looks him up and becomes obsessed with his lookalike. Actually filmed in and around Toronto, a brilliant film by our own Denis Villeneuve.

Canadian Idol:

70. Chantal Kreviazuk: This Winnipeg-born songstress has 45 soundtrack credits under her belt, but none as famous as her cover of Leaving on a Jet Plane for Armageddon. (Her husband Raine Maida’s band Our Lady Peace also appears on the soundtrack.)

71. Alanis Morissette: Ottawa-born Alanis played God in Kevin Smith’s Dogma, but she’s got 98 soundtrack credits listed on IMDB, including The Internship, The Devil Wears Prada, and City of Angels where she’s got a particularly haunting one called Uninvited (fellow Canadian had the smash hit from the same movie).

72. Celine Dion: She made a cameo in Muppets Most Wanted as the Piggy Fairy Godmother, but Charlemagne, Quebec born Dio has a whopping 110 soundtrack credits, including that monster hit for Titanic (which she didn’t much care for – she only sang it once, the song we heard a million times on the radio was the demo). Of course you can’t discount her epic song for Beauty and the Beast, and Sleepless in Seattle, and Up Close & Personal.

73. Neil Young: 142 soundtrack credits for this formidable folk singer born in Toronto. You’ve heard his music in the likes of Jerry Maguire, Philadelphia, Almost Famous, and The Big Short.

74. Bryan Adams: Hailing from Kingston, Ontario, Adams surprisingly tops Dion with 165 soundtrack credits, including huge ballads for Don Juan DeMarco, The Three Musketeers, and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

75. Leonard Cohen: This Legend born in Montreal has 261 soundtrack credits to his name. Among the many movies his songs have appeared in: Natural Born Killers, Shrek, Watchmen, and Sing.

76. Christophe Beck: This Montreal-born composer proves Canadians are more than just a hit single on the soundtrack. This busy guy has worked on 140 movies, including The Hangover, Ant-Man, Frozen, Trolls, Pitch Perfect, Cake, and Edge of Tomorrow.

77. Howard Shore: Born in Toronto, Shore is a musical genius who has composing credits like Denial, Spotlight, The Hobbit, The Departed, The Lord of The Rings, and Aviator. He’s also served as orchestral conductor on Hugo, Doubt, High Fidelity, and Dogma.

78. Jeff Danna: Born in Burlington, Ontario, Danna’s varied composer credits range from Silent Hill, Fracture, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, The Good Dinosaur, and Storks.

79. Mychael Danna: Brother to Jeff (above), Winnipeg-born Mychael is an Oscar-winning composer (for Life of Pi), whose credits include Moneyball, 500 Days of Summer, and Little Miss Sunshine.

80. Michael Brook: This Toronto-born composer has such credits as The Perks of Being A Wallflower, Heat, Into the Wild, and The Fighter.

81. Owen Pallett: You may know him as a member of Arcade Fire, but Mississauga-born Pallett has composing credits for The Box, The Wait, Life, and an Oscar nomination for Her.

82. Paul Schaffer: You may know him as David Letterman’s band leader\right hand man, but Thunder Bay-born Schaffer has a whole bunch of soundtrack credits, and it’s all because of one little song: he co-wrote It’s Raining Men, and that song has legs! It’s appeared in The LEGO Batman movie, Magic Mike, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Eraser, and more.

83. David Foster, of Victoria, BC, has not one but two best original song nominations to his name, for Karate Kid Part II (Glory of Love) and The Bodyguard (I Have Nothing). Other sound track listings include Ghostbusters, Deadpool, and A Hologram for the King.

Canadians shine bright:

84. Michael J Fox: This Edmonton-born actor just received the Governor General’s Award for the performing arts – he got up on stage and performed Light of Day with Joan Jett. He also had an iconic role in Back To The Future, not forgetting Teen Wolf, The Secret of my Succe$s, For Love or Money, and Mars Attacks!

85. Mary Pickford: This Toronto-born actress was the first Canadian to be nominated (then win) an Oscar – Best Actress 1928 for Coquette. She worked in and conquered Hollywood from 1909-1933, with some 250 credits to her name, including The Poor Little Rich Girl, Little Annie Rooney, and Daddy-Long-Legs.

86. Christopher Plummer: Hailing from the city of Toronto, Plummer has two Oscar nominations to his name: best supporting actor for The Last Station, and Beginners (the latter of which he won). He also appeared in The Sound of Music, A Beautiful Mind, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Pixar’s Up.

87. Jacob Tremblay: This 10 year old from Vancouver won hearts in Room and has3rd Annual "An Evening With Canada's Stars" followed it up with roles in Shut In, Burn Your Maps, and Before I Wake.

88. Walter Huston: Toronto-born Huston received an Academy nomination in 1936 for Dodsworth and again in 1941 for The Devil and Daniel Webster. He also had memorable roles in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Yankee Doodle Dandy, and And Then There Were None.

89. Ellen Page: From Halifax, Nova Scotia, Page secured an Oscar nomination with her breakout role in Juno. She’s also appeared in Inception, Tallulah, Freeheld and Into the Forest – the last two she also produced.

90. Norma Shearer: Born in Montreal, Shearer won an Oscar for best actress in 1929 for The Divorcee, and was nominated additionally for Their Own Desire, A Free Soul, The Barretts of Wimpole Street, Romeo and Juliet, and Marie Antoinette.

91. Donald Sutherland: Born in Saint John, New Brunswick, Sutherland has credits spanning 6 decades (and counting), from The Dirty Dozen to Backdraft, JFK, The Italian Job, and The Hunger Games.

92. Graham Greene: Born on the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario, Greene was the second First Nations actor to secure an Oscar nod for best supporting actor, Dances With Wolves, 1990 (Chief Dan George was first). You may have also seen him in Die Hard, The Green Mile, and the Twilight saga.

93. Marie Dressler: Born in Cobourg, Ontario, Dressler won her first Oscar in 1930 for Min And Bill, and was nominated again the following year for Emma.Memorable roles include Anna Christie, Dinner At Eight, and Tillie’s Punctured Romance.

Did you know?

94. Roger Avary, from Flin Flon, Manitoba shared a best original screenplay Oscar with Quentin Tarantino for Pulp Fiction.

95. Neill Blonkamp, though South African born, moved to Vancouver B.C. at age 18 where he attended film school. Now a citizen of Canada, he and his Canadian wife Terri Tatchell received an Oscar nomination for writing District 9 together.

96. Emma Donoghue, the author and screenwriter behind Room, is Irish-born but a Canadian citizen. She received an Oscar nomination for her work.

97. Michèle Burke, also born in Ireland but a naturalized Canadian. She has 6 Oscar nominations and 2 wins for her work in makeup and hairstyling: Quest for Fire, The Clan of the Cave Bear, Cyrano de Bergerac, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, and The Cell.

98. Jack L. Warner, born in London, Ontario, was a 6-time Oscar-nominated producer, of best picture nominees Disraeli, Flirtation Walk, All This, and Heaven Too, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Auntie Mame, and My Fair Lady, which won. He also executive-produced Casablanca.

99. Ralph E. Winters, Toronto born, was an Oscar-nominated editor. He received Academy nominations for Quo Vadis, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The Great Race, and Kotch, plus two wins, for Ben-Hur, and King Solomon’s Mines.

100. Graham Annable, born in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, is an animator who’s worked on BoxtrollsSetVisitStacchiAnnableCoraline, Paranorman, Kubo and the Two Strings, Despicable Me 3, and received an Oscar nomination as director of Boxtrolls.

101. Dean Deblois, born in Brockville, Ontario bur raised within spitting distance of here in Aylmer, Quebec, is an animator and director. He’s worked on Mulan, Lilo & Stitch, and was Oscar-nominated as director of How to Train Your Dragon, and its sequel.

Favourite Canadian Film Festival

102. The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is one of the largest publicly attended film festivals in the world. Founded in 1976, it has screened major award contenders such as Room, The Imitation Game, 12 Years a Slave, La La Land, and The King’s Speech.

Canadians are such characters:

103. Argo: Americans call it Argo, but historically, we have referred to this as the “Canadian caper” – the movie was criticized here for minimizing the role of the Canadian embassy in the rescue but that’s the Hollywood machine for you.

104. Logan: Wolverine himself is of course Canadian, born in Cold Lake, Alberta. Deadpool is also Canadian – the comics always said origin unknown but the movie professed his birthplace to be Regina, Saskatchewan – the city that rhymes with fun!

105. The Whole Nine Yards: Rosanna Arquette repeatedly butchers the French-Canadian accent, which must have been particularly painful to costar Matthew Perry, who is actually Canadian.

106. Zootopia: Peter Moosebridge, the news anchor in Zootopia (seen only in Canada, PeterMoosebridge-ZootopiaFrance, and USA versions) is a salute to our own venerated Peter Mansbridge.

107. The Love Guru: It isn’t Mike Myers playing the Canadian in this film but rather Justin Timberlake, who s3_timberlake_le_coqplayed a French Canadian goalie who sang lots of Celine songs and offered people a “Quebec pizza” (a poptart with ketchup).

 

108. The Proposal: Sandra Bullock plays a NYC book editor who turns out to actually be Canadian, and is facing deportation, having overstayed her visa. So she has to go home and convince her American assistant (played by Canadian Ryan Reynolds, haha) to marry her.

109. South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut: In which Canadian movie stars Terrence & Philip teach kids to swear and their parents blame Canada – with a snappy song!

110. The 39 Steps: Shame on Alfred Hitchcock; he changed his protagonist from British to Canadian only to cast a Brit, who wasn’t very convincing.

111. The 49th Parallel: Speaking of unconvincing, how about Laurence Olivier’s Québécois accent? Possibly the worst of his career.

112. Secretariat: Although. John Malkovich as a French Canadian? Also pretty laughable.

113. Yoga Hosers: This is the second in Kevin Smith’s Canadian trilogy and a real stinker, the Canadian characters complete caricatures – and not a real Canadian among the cast.

114. Sicko: Michael Moore tackles health care in this documentary, and he makes an obligatory trip across the border into Canada, where we value our socialized medicine and revere the man who gave it to us.

 

Canadian Gems:

115. Fubar

116. Fubar 2

117. Mommy

118. Polytechnique

119. The Sweet Hereafter

120. Bon Cop Bad Cop

121. Bon Cop Bad Cop 2

122. La guerre des tuques

123. Laurence Anyways

124. My American Cousin

125. Closet Monster

126. Remember

127. War Witch

128. Miraculum

129. The Man who Skied Down Everest

130. Away From Her

131. The Trostsky

132. Hello Destroyer

133. Videodrome

134. Naked Lunch

135. Goon

136.  It’s Only The End of the World

137. Window Horses

138. Jesus de Montreal

139. My Winnipeg

140. Let’s Rap

141. Strange Brew

142. Mon oncle Antoine

143. Crash

144. The Red Violin

145. Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner

146. Owning Mahowny

147. It’s All Gone Pete Tong

148. Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey

149. Chloe

150. I Killed My Mother

 

 

 

 

 

Top 10 Actors Who Play Assholes

Kevin Spacey: Se7en, Swimming With Sharks, The Usual Suspects, Glengarry Glen Ross, American Beauty, Superman Returns for fuck’s sake. Or Nine Lives for that matter, and tenor.gifBaby Driver and Horrible Bosses. The man played Richard Nixon! No one plays mischievous evildoer as well as Spacey, but even his good guys tend to be smug bastards at best. His dialogue comes out razor-sharp, often coated with either sarcasm or condescension, and likely both.

Jeremy Piven: This guy is just insufferable. You can crown him King of Pricks based on his role in Entourage alone, but his screen credits offer further proof: Old School, Sin City, Very Bad Things. The guy even plays sleezy cartoon characters in both Cars and The Pirates! Band of Misfits. His deadpan delivery is infuriating and he has the kind of shit-eating grin that just begs to be slapped. Hard.

Christopher McDonald: I wondered if I was just holding a grudge from Thelma & Louise shooter.gif(he played the shitty husband) but no, he followed that up playing Shooter McGavin in Happy Gilmore, and what a fantastically smarmy role that is. He even plays the guy who wants to steal flubber from poor Robin Williams. He has the kind of arched eyebrow that makes me wonder: is he perpetually typecast as a dick, or do characters turn into dicks once played by him? Chicken or egg?

John C McGinley: If you see this guy on screen, you know you’re in trouble. He’s often thetumblr_mhfd5iDNow1qgqpr6o1_400.gif socially awkward dad who gets under everyone’s skin. You just want to snap his unironic suspenders to deflate his pomposity for just a moment. Platoon, Wall Street, Office Space: Hollywood seems to agree that this guy just oozes jerk.

Richard Dreyfuss: He played conceited in Dillinger, self-involved in American Graffiti, self-important in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, egotistical in The Goodbye Girl, pretentious and selfish in Mr. Holland’s Opus, and arrogant in Red. Come to think of it, is he even capable of pretending to be nice? At least he’s a bit sympathetic in Whose Life Is It Anyway; yeah he’s a real jerk to pretty much everyone around him, but the dude’s paralyzed and you cut him some slack. In everything else, you just kind of hate him.

Sam Rockwell: I kind of love Sam Rockwell, but there’s something weaselly about him. tumblr_inline_n66089BWPG1sn461n.gifHe seems to get stuck playing the douchebag an awful lot, but to his credit, he has a certain charm that makes the douchebaggery slightly lovable. Except in Iron Man 2: in that one, he’s downright evil, but I think if you’re in a movie with Robert Downey, Jr who plays the lovable scoundrel card pretty hard, you have to go big or go home.

Jason Bateman: you pair that chubby, boyish face with the condescending hot garbage that comes out of his mouth, and you’ve got a goldmine of narcissistic characters on your IMDB page. He’s obnoxious in Bad Words, manipulative in Horrible Bosses, irresponsible in Juno, patronizing in This Is Where I Leave You, bullying in Central Intelligence, a swindler in Zootopia, and downright infuriating in The Ex. This guy plays to his strengths!

Bradley Cooper: He may play a rapscallion, but he’s an irresistible rapscallion. Those dimples let him get away with murder, and sometimes his characters come pretty close. tumblr_lnzkidiQ4a1qix5n3o1_500.gifHe played the lying, cheating husband in He’s Just Not That Into You, the lying, cheating fiance in Wedding Crashers, an amoral arms dealer in War Dogs, a diva in Burnt, a shit-don’t-stick-to-me arse in The Hangover, a corrupt cop in The Place Beyond the Pines, and a reckless raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy. Does his devilish grin suit him? It does. And Cooper knows it.

Billy Crudup: He didn’t have time for his dying dad in Big Fish. He didn’t have time for his band or for child prodigy journalists or devoted fans in Almost Famous. He puts the nails to a grieving widow in Jackie. He leads people astray in Alien: Covenant. He terrorizes kids in The Stanford Prison Experiment. His characters are not often likeable, even if they aren’t bad. What does it say about Crudup that he’s so good at that?

Jason Schwartzman: This is the guy we love to hate. He’s an angry bear in Listen Up tumblr_o1qjdbWn651ujfksmo1_500.gifPhilip, an insecure uppity asshole in Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, a conceited actor in Funny People, and as Louis XVI (in Marie Antoinette), he was the very symbol of tyranny – and that’s without mentioning every smug arsehole he’s played in every Wes Anderson film. He embodies neuroses and self-loathing. Even when he’s playing earnest, he’s coming off overearnest and cloying. He just can’t win, which is why he always plays an asshole.

 

Who’s on your list?

 

10 Must-See Documentaries on Netflix

An earlier post flagged some good movies worth your time on Netflix. This one does the same but shines the spotlight on documentaries, an especially strong category on Netflix. These are current on Canadian Netflix as of May 2017 and clicking on blue titles will reveal a more detailed look at some very good films.

Sour Grapes: Welcome to the world of fine and rare wine auction markets, and how they were ripe for fraud. This doc centers on one particular counterfeiter who befriended the rich and powerful and swindled them out of millions of dollars.

13th: Ava DuVernay’s in-depth look at the prison system in the United States how it reveals America’s history of racial inequality. The system is busted. Get woke.

Jesus Camp: I’ve forced this one on a few people now because I think it’s daring and scary as fuck. It’s about a camp indoctrinating kids into evangelical Christianity and the extremism on display is alarming.

Muscle Shoals: A must-see for music lovers, it explores the studio itself and Rick Hall, the man behind it, responsible for making music that defined a generation, birthing the Muscle Shoals Sound, remaining influential and relevant today.

Peter and the Farm: One of the most authentic slices of life I’ve ever seen on film. Peter is an old man, the product of his addictions. He’s alone on his farm, resenting the land he once cherished, and counting down the days until he dies alone. Depressing but fascinating.

Tower: A look at the fateful day when a sharpshooter started killing people on a college campus in Austin, Texas. Effective story telling and a visual flair help piece together a narrative worthy of remembrance.

Raiders!: A somewhat gleeful fulfillment of a childhood dream. Friends who spent their youth remaking Raiders of the lost Ark reunite to film the one last scene that eluded them at the time due to budgetary and logistical reasons but is now within their grasp.

The Hunting Ground: An unflinching look at the campus rape epidemic: the boys who perpetrate it, the administrators who cover it up, and the girls and their families who lay devastated in its wake.

Miss Sharon Jones: Just as her singing career is exploding she’s sidelined by pancreatic cancer. It’s the worst year of her life, but she’s not the kind of woman who goes without a fight.

For The Love of Spock: A sweet tribute to his father, Leonard Nimoy, by a son in mourning for a father and a national icon. Learn about the man and his most famous character, and be touched by how much those two overlapped.

What are your Netflix picks?

Cool Shit on Netflix

Netflix is a black hole. You can spend more time deciding what to watch than actually watching. Sometimes the decision is paralyzing – am I the only one who has occasionally just read a damn book instead? Here’s a handy list of stuff that’s worth your time on Netflix. All of this can be found on Canadian Netflix in May 2017, but lots and maybe even most will be available in nearly all markets. Click on any blue title to read more about the film, and stay tuned for another post featuring documentaries, as Netflix is particularly good for those.

Don’t Think Twice: When one person in an improv comedy troupe gets a big break, the rest of the group grapples with jealousy as they realize they’re not all destined for great things. Starring Mike Birbiglia, Keegan-Michael Key, Gillian Jacobs.

 

Blue Jay: Two former high school sweethearts meet up years later in their hometown and spend the day (and night) reminiscing – the flame is rekindled but so are past hurts. Starring Sarah Paulson and Mark Duplass.

Mascots: In this new mockumentary by Christopher Guest, a bunch of low-level sports mascots compete as only adults wearing ridiculous fuzzy costumes could. Starring Parker Posey, Chris O’Dowd, Zach Woods, and the usual suspects.

Grandma: Lily Tomlin gives a career-best performance as the titular Grandma, called upon when her granddaughter needs an abortion her estranged daughter wouldn’t approve of. With Judy Greer, Julia Garner, and Marcia Gay Harden.

Infinitely Polar Bear: A manic-depressive father tries to win back his wife by attempting to take care of their two young, spirited daughters while she goes back to school. Super well-acted by Mark Ruffalo and Zoe Saldana.

 

Experimenter: About the infamous experiments by psychologist Stanley Milgram that tested people’s willingness to obey authority – with shocking results. Starring Peter Sarsgaard, Winona Ryder, Anton Yelchin.

Desierto: A group of people trying to cross the border from Mexico into the United States encounter a man who has gone rogue, taking border patrol duties into his own racist and violent hands, man hunting man. Starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

American Honey: A teenage girl with nothing to lose goes AWOL with a bunch of traveling magazine sales misfits and gets caught up in a perfect storm of hard partying, law breaking, and young love. Starring Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf, Riley Keough.

Cake: A woman becomes fascinated by the suicide of someone in her chronic pain support group while coping (and failing to cope) with her own personal tragedy. Starring Jennifer Aniston, Anna Kendrick, and Sam Worthington.

The Lobster: A movie only for the most quirky and adventurous audiences, about a world in which single people have 45 days to find love or face the direst of consequences. Starring Rachel Weisz, Colin Farrell, and John C. Reilly.

Hunter Gatherer: An indie gem in which an irrationally optimistic man returns home after a 3 year stint in prison only to find his girlfriend and his family have all moved on. Starring Andre Roya and George Sample III.

The Spectacular Now: Young love changes things for an alcoholic high school senior – but even the nicest of girls is no match for addictions. Starring Shailene Woodley, Miles Teller; with Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Bob Odenkirk.

Calvary: Not for the faint of heart. After being threatened during a confession, a good-natured priest must battle some super dark forces in his community. Starring Brendan Gleeson and Chris O’Dowd.

Denial: Rachel Weisz and Timothy Spall go head to head in a battle of Holocaust denial, based on the real-life court case.

Collateral: A hitman forces a cabdriver to drive him all over the city of Los Angeles as he performs a multitude of sins, while a dutiful cop chases behind them. Starring Jamie Foxx, Mark Ruffalo, and Tom Cruise.

45 Years: A married couple about to celebrate their wedding anniversary (guess which one) receives shattering news that makes them question everything. Starring Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay.

The Witch: This one scared the bejesus out of me with its dark, suspenseful mood that’ll ring buckets of anxiety out of you when a 1630s New England family is torn apart by the forces of witchcraft…more or less.

 

Anomalisa: A stop-motion animated movie by Charlie Kaufman, because why not? It charmed the pants off me when a man paralyzed by his unremarkable life experiences something out of the ordinary.

Force Majeure: A family on a ski vacation has their whole world turns upside down when an avalanche hits – everyone is fine, but the fact that Dad ran and left his family to die makes everyone very uncomfortable. A movie that will inspire discussion.