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CanFilm Five: Ottawa Screenwriter and Mayfair Theatre partner Ian Driscoll

“CanFilm Five” is the Canuxploitation blog’s ongoing guest column, which brings together prominent filmmakers, bloggers, critics and programmers to discuss their most loved offbeat Canadian films.

Ian Driscoll is the screenwriter of numerous gutter-level features and short films including the HARRY KNUCKLES series, JESUS CHRIST VAMPIRE HUNTER, THE DEAD SLEEP EASY, VAMPIRO: ANGEL, DEVIL, HERO and SMASH CUT. He has also worked as a story editor on a number of feature films, and makes (mercifully infrequent) appearances in front of the camera.  Since 2008, Ian has been a partner in Ottawa’s oldest surviving cinema, the Mayfair Theatre, which has been voted Ottawa’s “best alternative to a multiplex movie theatre” three years running. You can read more of his writing on films, Canadian and otherwise, at The Cultural Gutter

For this CanFilm Five, Ian presents his five favourite Canadian films (and a whole lot of honourable mentions!), in chronological order. 

THE RAILRODDER
Gerald Potterton, 1965

One of Buster Keaton’s final starring roles, this cross-country travelogue is one of the greatest pleasures in the NFB catalogue. It opens in London, with Keaton standing on the Westminster Bridge, overlooking the Thames. He’s reading a newspaper, and in the paper is a full-page ad that reads: SEE CANADA NOW. Keaton promptly jumps off the bridge into the water, and, an edit later, emerges from the ocean on Canada’s east coast. He discovers an unattended railway speeder, and sets off for the Pacific.

Along the way, the film provides a rare glimpse of the Canada of 1965 (the rail line Keaton rides into Ottawa no longer exists, for example) — images that carry with them a powerful wave of false nostalgia.

The film reminds me of what I love about Buster Keaton — his tranquil death-defiance, the way he and the camera become a comedy duo, his dedication to jokes that serve the story, and his hat.

But it’s also very much about how we Canadians view ourselves, and our country. Our landscape is a parade of natural wonders, to be sure. But to anyone who lives here, and lives through our seasons, it’s also exactly what Keaton shows us: a succession of epic sight gags. (I’m pretty sure that you could read the film as a parable about the Canadian immigrant experience, too, especially with the images that bookend it. But that’s a bit highbrow for me.

Potterton also directed HEAVY METAL (not on my list) and an animated version of Leacock’s MY FINANCIAL CAREER (which, at under seven minutes, is probably essential viewing).

You can watch THE RAILRODDER in its entirety below or on the NFB website.

THE ROWDYMAN
Peter Carter, 1972

Director Carter also helmed RITUALS (which I’ve written about here), as well as numerous episodes of “Wojeck,” which is a CBC TV series I’d really like to catch up on. (In a perfect world, I’d spend my days writing a fan-fiction novel about a case that takes the combined efforts of Wojeck, Kojack and Kolchak to solve. But I digress.) … Continue Reading

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CanFilm Five: BEAUTY DAY Director Jay Cheel

“CanFilm Five” is the Canuxploitation blog’s ongoing guest column, which brings together prominent filmmakers, bloggers, critics and programmers to discuss their most loved offbeat Canadian films.

In addition to being the editor and founder of The Documentary Blog and is the co-host of the Film Junk Podcast, Jay Cheel is  is documentary filmmaker whose debut feature, BEAUTY DAY, was an official selection at the Hot Docs international film festival and was nominated for Best Documentary for the 2012 Genie Awards. Previously, Jay worked for video game developer Silicon Knights, where he directed the short film THE GOBLIN MAN OF NORWAY, a viral marketing film for the XBox 360 game TOO HUMAN. Jay is currently working on his next feature length documentary, HOW TO BUILD A TIME MACHINE about alleged time traveller John Titor, who claimed he was from the future in a series of internet posts in 2000, and you can help him raise funding!

In putting together this CanFilm Five, Jay realized many of his favourite Canadian films feature an unusual method in which evil or a specific threat is brought upon its characters. As a result, he picked his favourite “death delivery systems” that appear in Canadian films. 

PONTYPOOL (2008): Death via words.
Bruce MacDonald’s PONTYPOOL is probably one of my favourite horror films of the aughts. It’s a brilliant one-room thriller that’s like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD meets WAR OF THE WORLDS (Welles’ radio version) meets TALK RADIO. Stephen MacHattie is brilliant as rogue radio personality Grant Mazzy and the overall concept — a language virus — is really clever. It fits perfectly into this list as death via words.

THE GATE (1987): Death via heavy metal
The inclusion of The Gate on this list may be a bit of a cheat as the heavy metal album — Sacrifyx’s “The Dark Book” — isn’t singularly responsible for the release of evil upon the characters in the film, but it definitely plays a direct role in conjuring the critters from within the mysterious hole Glen (Stephen Dorff) finds in his backyard. I remember seeing THE GATE at the drive-in and being absolutely blown away by the — at the time — groundbreaking special effects and the odd mix of horror and comedy with a playful, kids adventure film. Not to mention, Louis Tripp (who plays heavy metal fan Terry) was from my home town, which had me mesmerized as a kid.

VIDEODROME (1983): Death via video
This is probably the most obvious choice on this list, but arguably the most appropriate. David Cronenberg’s VIDEODROME is strange, sexy, gross, and oddly prescient. The hallucinatory nature of the film adds up to some pretty crazy imagery that has gone on to define Cronenberg as a filmmaker (at least up until recently), and will likely remain imprinted in the viewers mind for years to come (like bad tube TV burn-in). I love Cronenberg’s take on Moses Znaimer and City TV, and the cable access/VHS culture strikes a particularly personal note for me (as seen in BEAUTY DAY!).

STRANGE BREW (1983): Death via beer
Alright, maybe “Death via beer” is stretching it a little, but Brewmeister Smith’s (Max Von Sydow) evil plot to take over the world is dependent upon brainwashing citizens via his tainted Elsinore beer. Yes, STRANGE BREW is a classic. I grew up watching this film over and over and absolutely LOVED it. It was always great seeing the CN Tower in the background of the shot when the MacKenzie brother’s van dives into Lake Ontario. And of course, most kids — including myself — who grew up with this film couldn’t help but be reminded of STAR WARS as soon as those black and white hockey players hit the ice (they also reminded me of The Beast’s foot soldiers in KRULL).

eXistenZ (1999): Death via video games
eXistenZ offers up more classic Cronenberg body-horror, working as a great companion piece with VIDEODROME. This time around, he focuses on video games, blurring reality and virtual reality in a film that’s probably more relevant now than it was at the time of its release (and possibly an influence on Christopher Nolan’s INCEPTION). Maybe it’s a cheat to include two Cronenberg films on this list (especially two that are so similar), but they’re just too great to dismiss simply for being obvious choices. Also, with such a specific topic, I was quickly running out of options!

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CanFilm Five: Cult Film Comix Artist Rick Trembles

“CanFilm Five” is the Canuxploitation blog’s ongoing guest column, which brings together prominent filmmakers, bloggers, critics and programmers to discuss their most loved offbeat Canadian films.

Rick Trembles’ critically acclaimed and always awesome hybrid comic strip/ movie criticism column Motion Picture Purgatory has been appearing every week in the Montreal Mirror since 1998 (after originating in the same pages with the paper’s inception in the ’80s). His unique work has been compiled and published as books by Fab Press (volume 1 & volume 2 are currently available).

Trembles also continues to make animated short films that occasionally tour the globe and to play in his 32-year-old post-punk band The American Devices. His more experimental comix work has been featured in numerous galleries and published internationally. The L.A. Times called him “a famous free thinker,” and Concordia University English Professor Marcie Frank featured Trembles in her chapter about comix for the book QUEER DIASPORAS (Duke University Press).

For this CanFilm Five, Rick offers his five favourite Canadian films that he has  featured in Motion Picture Purgatory. Click the thumbnail to see the full, comprehensive reviews on Rick’s site!

Rick sez: 

Not only does SWEET MOVIE (1975) have nostalgia-inducing footage of Montreal’s landmark Guaranteed Pure Milk tower that I used to frequently walk past, but full-frontal chocolate-covered split beaver from ’70s Quebec sex icon Carole Laure (at her confused counter-culture best), & Otto Muhl’s scatological “Cult of Infantilism” flailing about; who can resist such a banned oddity?

… Continue Reading

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CanFilm Five: Reader Edition

“CanFilm Five” is the Canuxploitation blog’s ongoing guest column, which brings together prominent filmmakers, bloggers, critics and programmers to discuss their most loved offbeat Canadian films.

Last week we announced the winners of our holiday giveaway, in which we offered the chance for a reader to get his or her top five favourite Canadian films listed on the blog, in addition to some great prizes from the NFB and Retro Films Entertainment. Well, that winner was Alberta’s Josh Marler, who know graces us with his top five picks.

1. RABID
Easily Cronenberg’s most Canadian film and, truthfully, this is one of the only things that elevates RABID above a tie with all Cronenberg’s other genre films. That, and I love this idea just a bit more than his other work, though it is still very Cronenberg. Who else could take a concept like armpit vagina penis stinger and make it actually work? Nobody except this creative genius.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-petXcizF1E

2. MY BLOODY VALENTINE 
Gotta love this little slasher from Nova Scotia. Some of the best special effects from the Great White North ever, even if most of it was cut out. The plot is great, the acting, the atmosphere, cinematography, and of course the gore, Personally I say it’s Novy’s best film–really the only thing missing is a cameo from one of the Trailer Park Boys.

3. HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT 2
Of course I need one film from my hometown of Alberta. The long awaited sequel to PROM NIGHT would take a completely different approach instead of the (by this time) boring man in a mask. The plot focuses on a Freddy Krueger-ish ghost haunting Hamilton High. Even though it is seriously corny and at times laughably stupid that’s the charm of it. Plus, I always did like all the EXORCIST jokes, especially since the film is a much bigger rip-off of CARRIE.

4. PORKY’S/SCREWBALLS 
It’s hard to choose between these two even thought Screwballs was just a rip off of Porky’s it was campier and frankly more Canadian then Bob Clark’s epic. Sure PORKY’S has Doug McGrath, Kim Catrall and Art Hindle, but SCREWBALLS was actually shot in Canada. Besides neither one really has any true hosers or Canadianness.

5. DERANGED
Not only one of the best genre films of the 1970s, DERANGED is also one of the creepiest from Canada and also one of the best directed (even if by outsiders). For me, one fun thing is watching HOME ALONE after DERANGED and seeing rumoured family killer “Ezra Cobb”…ma ma. Same feeling I get from Watching DAHMER star Jeremy Renner in SENIOR TRIP. Out of the many Ed Gein movies this gem truly is the best, even if it the character isn’t actually Gein.

Thanks again Josh and enjoy your DVDs!

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CanFilm Five: Holiday Edition

“CanFilm Five” is the Canuxploitation blog’s ongoing guest column, which brings together prominent filmmakers, bloggers, critics and programmers to discuss their most loved offbeat Canadian films.

It’s the holiday season, so what better time to give our regular contributors a break? While they rest up and catch up on their Canadian film classics, we’re filling in today to offer up Canuxploitation.com’s five favourite Christmas-themed scenes in Canadian exploitation cinema (and for another perspective, check out contributor Lauren Oostveen’s list of Canadian Christmas films for the Canadian Encyclopedia blog).

Joyeux Noel!

5. LE MARTIEN DE NOEL
Quebecois kiddies Cathy and Frankie are just about to get some holiday gifts from their dressed-as-Santa dad when all of a sudden Pooflower, the titular extraterrestial of this odd winter-themed movie appears in a bright red suit. Two Santa Clauses? How charmingly screwball! In the only Christmas scene in the film (despite the title), these kids are ecstatic to get… their dad sent to jail and a two foot wide replica of P.F.’s UFO?!

… Continue Reading

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