Tag Archives: Canadian content

Paper Year

Franny (Eve Hewson) and Dan (Avan Jogia) are young and broke but they’re terribly in love so they get married at city hall, keeping mum until after the fact.

The first year of marriage is supposed to be the easiest. You’re literally still in the honeymoon period. You’re still writing thank you cards for all the wonderful gifts you received at the wedding. You’re blind with bliss and you’re killing it so hard at this marriage thing that you practically think you invented it. But it’s also a time of transition and adjustment. Now that you’re officially bound to another human being, you have to make real compromise.

Franny and Dan are in for a bumpy ride. He, an out-of-work actor, takes a job house sitting/ dog walking while some other, luckier actor is out of town. She, a writer, finally lands a job writing for a terrible reality TV show. It’s not a glamourous job but she does respect her boss, head writer Noah (Hamish Linklater)….maybe a little too much? Because it certainly causes friction at home, her landing a dream-adjacent job, and him taking a job that forces him to admit that acting is not a thing he gets paid to do. Their paths diverging, they grow apart.

Paper is the traditional anniversary gift for a first anniversary. But I think in this case, it’s also referring to the fragility of that first year. Paper is so easily creased. So easily ripped, in fact. By the third year you’re into leather, which, whoa, is a lot more durable. Also durable: fifth year’s wood, 10th year’s aluminum, and motherfucking 60th anniversary’s diamond. Jeez Louise. Marriage, as an institution, makes less and less sense. And yet most of us are still making the attempt. Lots of us fail in that attempt. Some of us fail multiple times. I mean, can you even imagine being with someone for 60 years? When marriage was invented, it was a social bond, a partnership wherein financial stability and child rearing were emphasized. Today we expect everlasting romance. For 60 years? Yikes.

Franny and Dan are having a heck of a time just making it to year one. I remember my own year one: we bought a house, we got a third dog, and a new car. My nephew was born. My sister got married. Sean changed jobs. We traveled to New York City, and to Vegas where we renewed our vows for the first time. It was a good year. But Sean and I were not young newlyweds – Sean was an old maid in his 30s, in fact. We already had homes and careers and lives. We didn’t need to complete each other. Franny and Dan have a lot more working against them, and let’s be honest: they’re not half as charming as Sean and I. So while it’s understandable that you’d keep coming back here because we’re so damn irresistible, I’m not sure even 89 minutes is worth spending with Franny and Dan. Dan and Franny (do couples always agree on who’s name goes first?). Paper Year is an okay movie, strictly speaking, but it didn’t move me, it didn’t inform me, it didn’t delight me or captivate me. And those are all things I continue to get from my own marriage, on a surprisingly daily basis. And it’s just plain old Sean going about his ordinary life, being a (mostly) wonderful person and (largely) thoughtful husband.

1ST YEAR: Paper
2ND YEAR: Cotton
3RD YEAR: Leather
4TH YEAR: Fruit & Flowers, or Linen & Silk
5TH YEAR: Wood
6TH YEAR: Iron / Candy
7TH YEAR: Wool/ Copper
9TH YEAR: Pottery
10TH YEAR: Tin/ Aluminum
11TH YEAR: Steel
12TH YEAR: Silk
13TH YEAR: Lace
14TH YEAR: Ivory
15TH YEAR: Crystal
20TH YEAR: China
25TH YEAR: Silver
30TH YEAR: Pearl
35TH YEAR: Coral
40TH YEAR: Ruby
45TH YEAR: Sapphire
50TH YEAR: Gold
55TH YEAR: Emerald
60TH YEAR: Diamond

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Take This Waltz

Margot and Daniel meet over the whipping of an adulterer in old Montreal (one of this old-timey reenactment thingies). It’s brief, and it’s awkward, but they’re not exactly displeased to find each other sitting side by side on the plane ride home to Toronto. They’re pithy and flirty with each other, and it seems fairly cracking until the split cab ride home reveals two alarming truths: Daniel (Luke Kirby) is Margot’s neighbour, which prompts Margot (Michelle Williams to hurriedly confess that she is married. Happily. To Lou the cookbook writer (Seth Rogen).

Gem Sarah Polley writes and directs, and through her scenes of mundane domesticity, we see a content and comfortable marriage. The detail in their MV5BMTQwMTc2MTY2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDQ5NjU3Nw@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1503,1000_AL_coupledom, the weird little quirks that pepper their relationship, these things are so specific they feel true. This couple feels solid. But while Margot knows inner contours of Lou’s every thought, Daniel is tantalizingly unknown. It’s hot: both the steaming Toronto summer and the relationship growing between neighbours. Maybe it’s even hotter because they’re trying to be good. Margot’s trying to be married to Lou, who gives her no reason to stray, and yet. And yet Daniel is mysterious and alluring. He’s new. Falling in love is not just about this other person, it’s about seeing your best self through their eyes. Of course Lou still thinks she’s beautiful, but beautiful in the way of a couple who’s been together a long time and hardly notices each other anymore. Beautiful even though he’s seen her bloated, he’s seen her blemished, he’s seen her hangry and petty and wearing sweat pants for 3 days straight. Beautiful in a way that when she’s naked in the shower, he’s more concerned about pranking her than ogling her body. Meanwhile, Daniel is deeply fetishizing her. She’s still a manic pixie girl to him, full of dark corners and intoxicating unavailability.

And here’s the true truth that Sarah Polley eventually gets around to: the grass isn’t greener. Or rather, the grass is greenest where you water it. Don’t take love for granted and don’t mistake novelty for connection. Take This Waltz is bittersweet and filled with melancholy despite having a saturated look about it, with reds that pop and yellows that burn like sunshine. It’s a great little movie that’s depressingly honest – a romance that defies its genre.

A Kandahar Away

Kandahar, Saskatchewan.  Population: 15.  A world away from Kandahar, Afghanistan both in size (the original Kandahar had 557,000 residents in 2015) and circumstance (as the larger Kandahar is under constant threat from the Taliban).  

Kandahar_Away_1But a name is a powerful thing, and Kandahar, Saskatchewan (named in honour of the 1880 battle of Kandahar, Afghanistan) is about the only link to his home that Abdul Bari Jamal can find.  Jamal came to Canada in 1991 with his wife and five children, refugees all, fleeing their conflicted homeland as the Taliban were taking control.  On an impulse, and without telling any of his family, Jamal bought eight plots of land in Kandahar, Saskatchewan, for himself, his wife, and his kids.  Ten years after that impulse purchase, Jamal takes his family on a trip to Canada’s Kandahar to let them in on the secret.

Their trip is chronicled by director Aisha Jamal, who not coincidentally is one of Jamal’s five children.  The whole family, including their parents, are urbanites to their core, so coming face to face with a dwindling prairie town approaching “ghost town” status is a huge adjustment.  But a far more problematic matter soon arises when Mr. Jamal comes up with the idea to use their land to memorialize the 158 Canadians who lost their lives in Afghanistan.  Judging from Mrs. Jamal’s shoulder-shrugging reaction, this is not the first such idea that Mr. Jamal has come up with, but his children are greatly shaken by the idea that their father wants to commemorate a force that invaded his homeland rather than the thousands and thousands of Afghans who’ve been killed in the conflict. 

It is fascinating to get an inside look at these discussions and disagreements between  a family that is clearly close-knit.  They have a lot of commonalities to larger issues in our society.  In particular, they give great insight into the refugee experience and the differences in attitude between an Afghan-Canadian and his Canadian children.  The elder Jamal seems afraid to voice any concern or raise any controversy over Canada’s military involvement in Afghanistan, while his children have no such qualms.  There’s something significant there about the importance and value of freedom of expression, as well as Canadian identity. 

Director Jamal handles these discussions brilliantly, letting both sides exist and allowing viewers to draw their own conclusions while the family drama, which would be sufficiently entertaining on its own, plays on.  It is a delicate balance to strike but Jamal successfully melds both aspects together to create a memorable and effective exploration of a very sensitive subject.

Tough Guy

After a year of getting beat up, the Detroit Red Wings “drafted big”, big guys across the board, which landed Canadian novice Bobby Probert was on the team. Bob Probert wasn’t just big, he was tough, and he had a reputation as a fighter. You know, to “protect his teammates.” As you do. This was the 80s, so hockey was rougher and refs were scarce. On-ice brawls were a lot more common than they are today, and Probert was only too happy to oblige. But Probert’s lack of restraint wasn’t just on the rink; off-hours, he drank heavily and did drugs. When stories of DUIs and police altercations hit the papers, the NHL forced him into treatment, and a lot of good that did – he hooked up with one of the counselors and brought her home. He must have been a charming schmuck because not only is that a huge breach of professionalism, it’s also pretty hard to overlook his chronically missing teeth.

The documentary shows the Red Wings management selfishly slapping bandaid solutions on the troubled kid. Their franchise was having a couple of difficult seasons, and if there weren’t any goals to get the hometown crowd excited, a fist fight would do it, and “The Bruise Brothers” (with Joey Kocur) became marketing gold. The coach kept indiscreetly mouthing off to the press, and Probert was now skating high, a cocaine-fueled rage machine waiting for a target.

Back and forth between Detroit (USA) and Windsor (Canada), it was only a matter of time before border patrol found drugs in Probert’s possession. Sure jail was a possibility, but so was deportation, and that was a threat to his career. The NHL failed him in more than one way: he was constantly told that he played better (meaner) when he was drinking than sober, but a contract with serious money was the best incentive for sobriety, and for a time, it worked.

Tough Guy interviews former teammates, former rivals (Tie Domi!), family members, even Don Cherry. It’s a Canadian wet dream, except it tells a dark tale with a mean downward spiral.

Elliot The Littlest Reindeer

In fact – spoiler alert – Elliot is not  reindeer at all. He’s a miniature horse who lives on a petting zoo. His best friend is a tin can-eating goat named Corkie. But Elliot dreams big. The petting zoo is attached to a reindeer training centre, a ‘farm team’ from which Santa drafts his 8 reindeer each year. Elliot does his best to train along with them, though the other reindeer laugh and call him names (will reindeer never learn?).

Luckily, Blitzen announces his retirement 3 days for Christmas, and Santa decides to hold elliot-the-littlest-reindeeropen try-outs for all the aspiring reindeer stars. Elliot and Corkie have to do some fast-talking and some fairly amateur cosplay to even get him in the gates. But Elliot is fast and surprisingly agile. Is he actually a contender? And even if he wins, is it possible for a miniature horse to be accepted onto Santa’s team?

This is a cute little movie that’s sure to please young children. You can tell it’s a Canadian production because it likens the reindeer team to a hockey team – the two great pursuits of the north. The voice cast includes Morena Baccarin, Josh Hutcherson, John Cleese, Martin Short, Jeff Dunham, and Samantha Bee. Packed with cuteness and with a protagonist the whole family can get behind, why not add Elliot The Littlest Reindeer to your family’s holiday rotation this year? It’s got a one-day only cinema engagement in the following cities December 2nd, and will be available on VOD as of December 4.

North Vancouver 🦌  Vancouver 🦌 Langley 🦌  Thunder Bay 🦌 Winnipeg 🦌  Calgary 🦌 Toronto 🦌 Edmonton 🦌  Regina 🦌  Scarborough 🦌  Halifax 🦌  Niagara Falls 🦌  Oakville 🦌 Guelph 🦌 Montreal 🦌 Barrie 🦌  Sudbury 🦌 Cote Saint-Luc 🦌  Windsor 🦌 Peterborough 🦌  Ottawa

The New Romantic

Blake’s lackluster love life just got her fired. She used to be the sex columnist for her college newspaper, but since she can’t remember the last time she even gave a hand job, her readers have lost interest in her sex life, and maybe she has too.

Conveniently for both the script, and her sudden interest in gonzo journalism (prize money is at stake), the VERY next night she tapped to be the third party in a sexual tryst where two of the positions were be paid, hers included.

Prostitute? Gold digger? An older, wealthy man “helps” a young woman out, in exchange for sex and the good, easy parts of a relationship – dates but not feelings, essentially. MV5BNWVkNDc2NDAtMzg5Ny00NDNlLWI5MmItZDRlOTY5YjFiMTY5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTA5NDQ1NjU@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,957_AL_Rather than cash, she gets paid in designer hand bags and trips to Paris. Wait. Is this sounding a little too much like sex with Sean? Not that Sean has ever bought me a sex moped. A “ho”ped if you will. But bags and trips for sure. So there’s a gifty element to almost any relationship. And Blake wonders why we’re so squeamish about gold diggers anyway. History is filled with patrons.

The New Romantic is an entertaining if enjoyably predictable introduction to the sugar baby lifestyle choice – a world I knew little about, and to be honest, I hadn’t often thought of this side of the equation. Sugar Daddies are a known quantity. In this case, Ian claims not to know what women want, and he has enough money to not spend the energy figuring it out. It hurt my feelings a bit that the rich old man is played by Undeclared’s Timm Sharp, who is younger than Sean, but I guess this is our new reality. Ian doesn’t play games; he makes faithful transactions. He even seems to like Blake (Jessica Barden), which is confusing for her. Blake is young enough to confuse money and its trappings for romance. After dating broke college boys, fancy french restaurants and conflict-free diamond tennis bracelets seem awfully chivalrous. Of course, where some men may expect sex after such “chivalry”, Ian feels entitled – he’s owed, because technically, he’s paid for it. So that one time you try to beg off and realize that your No doesn’t hold salt, it’s a bit of a wake up call.

This movie is a sweet surprise and Jessica Barden is a big part of its success. Director Carly Stone has a light touch. For the most part it’s fun and flirty – which makes the few weightier scenes all the more noticeable. The New Romantic features an actually likeable Millennial and a forthrightness about her particular dating woes, told in a way that makes us all feel a lot less judgmental. And it also might make you wonder if you’re underpaid for all that milk you’ve been giving away.

Angelique’s Isle

Sault Saint Marie, 1845: a trading post. A beautiful young Ojibway woman named Angelique (Julia Jones) marries a French-Canadian voyageur named Charlie (Charlie Carrick). The newlyweds sign up to work at a camp during the copper rush and set sail for Lake Superior’s Isle Royale in search of a more prosperous future. Fortunately or unfortunately, they’re a little too successful. They find a whole boulder’s worth of copper, only it’s too big to take back on their little barge. The company men leave Angelique and Charlie behind to ‘guard’ their find. Two weeks, they’re told, though Angelique is reluctant – that boulder has sacred carvings on it, and she knows it shouldn’t be removed.

Alone on the island, Angelique is haunted by nightmares of residential school and her life before. She and Charlie tough it out with minimal food and dwindling hope, but as you might have guessed, those Detroit folk were not exactly honourable. Weeks turn into months. The no longer wait for a boat, they wait to die – of starvation or cold is the only question.

As she waits for death to claim her, surrounded by the undeniable beauty but also savagery of the land, she is visited by the spirits of her ancestors and her inner demons. Angelique isn’t the only one to be visited. It’s going to be a long winter for everyone involved.

Directors Marie-Hélène Cousineau and Michelle Derosier obviously have a feel for and a respect for the land. A Canadian winter can take your breath away both literally and figuratively. As this particular winter drags on (and all Canadian winters feel about 16 months too long), Angelique will have to rely on traditional ways to ensure her survival, and her spirituality to guide her. Cousineau and Derosier have chosen well with Jones as their heroine; Angelique is strong and fierce. She is worthy of our attention.