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CanFilm Five: Horror Writer and Playwright Alexandra West

“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.

Alexandra West is a freelance horror journalist who lives, works and survives in Toronto. Her work has appeared in the Toronto Star, Rue Morgue and Post City Magazine among others. She is a regular contributor at Famous Monsters of Filmland and you can find more of her horror ramblings and reviews at her blog, Scare Tactic. Aside from her work in horror criticism, Alexandra’s play, FINAL GIRL, is running in Montreal from October 26 to 28th at 11pm.

Taking place at Freestanding Room (3rd floor at 4324 Boulevard Saint-Laurent), FINAL GIRL stems from West’ theatre background and her love of horror. The play uses a slasher film structure to explore the nature of the killers and victims within your typical slice-and-dice film. Using Carol Clover’s writing in Men, Women and Chainsaws as framework and with a childhood spent watching the best horror films Rogers Video would rent to a minor, FINAL GIRL is an intimate look at a beloved genre that’s fun for the whole family, if the family is all over 18 and doesn’t mind some graphic language.

For this seasonally appropriate edition of CanFilm Five, Alexandra takes a look at the five awesomest women in Canadian horror.

Sarah, MY BLOODY VALENTINE (1981)
From one of the best slashers ever made, Sarah is one cool cucumber. When she and her friends get trapped in a mine during the Valentine’s Day dance with a killer on the loose she is the only one to keep it together and think logically about getting out of there with losing her head, unlike some other people. When you watch more than your fair share of slasher movies involving teenagers doing silly things, it’s so refreshing to see an adult woman, in peril, but keeping it together that it’s hard to go back to over-the-top silliness. She is my slasher role model.

Nola, THE BROOD (1979)
Nola may be a contentious choice, as critic Robin Wood called THE BROOD a reactionary film that shone a negative light on the womens’ liberation movement, but for me it draws attention to furious nature that repression breeds. Nola is both a mother trying to save herself and a dangerous force of nature that attacks all those that would stand in her way. She is the lady version of the Queen Alien and just as bad ass.

Ginny, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (1981)
Being popular is hard. It’s even harder when there’s a killer on the loose.  Melissa Sue Anderson (yup, the daughter from LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRARIE) is fantastic as Ginny, our Final Girl in this ’80s-tastic slasher, but she’s all the more impressive against the winding plot that would give John Grisham a headache. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME plays out like the best surprise party ever because the ending is such a kicker, and Ginny and is the perfect vessel to discover this horror gem.

Barb, BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974)
Canadians make the best slashers, if evidenced only by this list. Forget affecting, subdued, Egoyan-esque dramas– Canadians defined, broke and remade the slasher genre starting with this classic. BLACK CHRISTMAS is my favourite slasher. It’s creepy, funny and unforgettable. Seriously, I haven’t been able to look at a dry cleaning bag without seeing an instrument for my imminent destruction since I fist saw this movie. For all of the wonder that this film gives me, Barb may be my favourite part. While she’s no Final Girl, she’s one of the most entertaining characters in horror and every time I watch BLACK CHRISTMAS I’ll root for her ’til the end.

Brigitte, GINGER SNAPS (2000)
I love an awesome good girl. And Brigitte is not only an awesome good girl, but an awesome sister. While she fights to save her sister Ginger from turning into a werewolf, she also has to define herself against Ginger’s evolution. Brigitte is an excellent rendering of a young woman trying to find herself and break away from a toxic relationship. It’s a remarkably identifiable movie for any young woman, not just the hairy ones.

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CanFilm Five: Author and Canadian Film and TV Critic D.K. Latta — Part 2

“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.

The Masked Movie Critic, otherwise known as D.K. Latta (or is that the other way around?) is a sometimes writer of science fiction and of non-fiction, and a self appointed (and strangely self-important) commentator about, and opiner on, Canadian film & TV and has been for years. His website The Great Canadian Guide to the Movies (& TV) contains capsule reviews of literally thousands of Canadian movies and TV series and, when it started in the late 1990s, boasted it was the most extensive English-language Canadian site of its kind on or off the web. Not that there was a lot of competition for that particular bragging right. It’s probably less so now but, hey, he still likes it. It is also associated with his blog — Pulp and Dagger Blog — which is intended to cover a broader range of movie, TV and pop cultural topics, and does…but still tends to focus a lot on Canadian films and TV.

D.K. contributed two excellent lists–this earlier one on Canadian modes of movie mayhem  and this one on everyone’s favourite Canadian character actor, Michael Ironside!

Michael Ironside has become one of Canada’s most enduring exports. And has attained that singular distinction of arguably being a “cult” actor. Sure, any actor would love to be a matinee idol or to have a few Oscars under his belt. But the “cult” actor is, in his way, perhaps a more stalwart figure — a recognizable face to some, a vaguely recognized name to others…and an icon to many. He may not always appear in the best movies — indeed, “cult” actors are often usually described as being better than their material — and often in genre films of sci-fi, action and horror. But that’s kind of their appeal: their lack of pretension. They come. They do their job. And we love ‘em for it. And if you can tap into that vein successfully, you can look forward to a long career. Ironside himself once commented that in an industry where most actors were unemployed, most of the time…he’s worked steadily for years. Wonder if Ryan Reynolds or Ryan Gosling will be able to say the same a few decades down the line?

But Ironside’s roles have often been dictated by his distinctive presence and demeanour. It’s not that he has a face only a mother could love — it’s not like he’s ugly or anything — merely that he has a face only a mother wouldn’t be very, very scared of. And with a growling voice and the perfect surname to go with it! And so whether playing heroes or villains, Ironside is usually cast as the tough guy: the murderous killer, or the gruff anti-hero. But there’s more to his career than that! So let’s look at some of Michael Ironside’s more unusual roles.

SCANNERS (1983)
Okay, yeah, this is very much what you’d expect from him. But as probably his first major role, the one that put him on the cinematic map, it’s worth starting with. Ironside had already paid his dues in Canadian film with TV guest spots, and movie bit parts, and grunt work (on the movie NOTHING PERSONAL, he had a bit part as a motorcycle cop…and behind the scenes was, according to him, doing the laundry of the film’s star, Donald Sutherland!) by the time he was cast as the telepathic villain in David Cronenberg’s gory milestone — the movie that, arguably, helped take Cronenberg out of the ghetto of cult fandom and into the mainstream.

But now let’s consider some of his atypical roles:

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CanFilm Five: Author and Canadian Film and TV Critic D.K. Latta — Part 1

“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.

The Masked Movie Critic, otherwise known as D.K. Latta (or is that the other way around?) is a sometimes writer of science fiction and of non-fiction, and a self appointed (and strangely self-important) commentator about, and opiner on, Canadian film & TV and has been for years. His website The Great Canadian Guide to the Movies (& TV) contains capsule reviews of literally thousands of Canadian movies and TV series and, when it started in the late 1990s, boasted it was the most extensive English-language Canadian site of its kind on or off the web. Not that there was a lot of competition for that particular bragging right. It’s probably less so now but, hey, he still likes it. It is also associated with his blog — Pulp and Dagger Blog — which is intended to cover a broader range of movie, TV and pop cultural topics, and does…but still tends to focus a lot on Canadian films and TV.

D.K. contributed two excellent lists–this one, and a second one we will be posting shortly. D.K. sez:

Instead of focusing on a best or greatest movie Top 5 list, I thought maybe I’d connect some films — some good, some bad, some indifferent — by their very Canadian modes of mayhem. Yes, Canada may be the land of “Peace, Order and Good Government” but sometimes it has provided a forum for some singularly Canadian forms of murder…or at least, wilful violence. Since it’s a top 5, I’ve had to make choices, just narrowly excluding GINA and its grisly snowplough death, or the creepy wendigo in GHOSTKEEPER. And I’m sure BON COP, BAD COP could fill up half this list by itself. Which brings us to:

TEKWAR (1994)
William Shatner, in collaboration with Ron Goulart, wrote a series of TEKWAR sci-fi novels that were turned into four TV movies, and then became a short-lived TV series. The novels and the TV series were explicitly set in a future United States but, interestingly, in the TV movies it’s a more ambiguous North American setting. In the first — and the best — of the movies, called simply TEKWAR, a future-era private eye (played by Greg Evigan) investigates a missing scientist’s disappearance. In one scene, the villains fear he’s getting too close to the trail and send a killer android after him — a hockey player android that attacks him at a skating rink.

SHADOW OF THE WOLF (1992)
In this film, Lou Diamond Phillips and Jennifer Tilly play a couple of star crossed1930s era Inuit lovers on the run from both their tribe and the white man. An attempt at a big budget spectacle of the kind Canada rarely tries anymore (and maybe this film’s poor box office partly led to that) in one memorable scene their igloo is attacked by a ravenous…polar bear! (“Crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside,” as a polar bear described igloos in an old Far Side comic strip). Not the easiest beasties to train, nor much call for them in movies set a little farther south, polar bear attack isn’t exactly one of Hollywood’s more common cliches!

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CanFilm Five: Programmer and Filmmaker Dion Conflict

“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.

Dion Conflict is Toronto-based film historian/film maker/programmer. From its beginning showing film prints in the back room of Toronto Queen Street haunt The Rivoli , his CONFLICT ARCHIVES celebrates its 20th year of putting neglected celluloid back on the screen with eclectic programs that have entertained audiences not only in Canada, but also the United States, Estonia, and Finland (where one of his screenings clobbered Tarantino’s GRINDHOUSE). Dion is the man behind many film screening series including Hunka Junk, Midweek Mondo Madness, Trailer Trash and, most recently, SHOCK AND AWE, the all-night Grindhouse film fest showcasing 16mm and 35mm film prints unseen on any big screen in Canada in decades. The latest SHOCK AND AWE marathon screens at Toronto’s Revue Cinema on June 23, 2012 and will include SLEEPAWAY CAMP, RAPPIN’, HORROR HOSPITAL and more (see Dion’s blog for more details and ticket info).

Dion is also the founder of the world’s first 24 hour online streaming video superstation (Paxels) which not only included 50% original content and ran endless short films, music videos, interviews, films, seminars and sports. Currently, Dion is developing his feature film script (a comedy) and speaking with other production companies and producers. He notes, “If I could have ideal casting for the project, it would have Boris Kodjoe, The Situation, Ron Jeremy, Tyler Medeiros, Canadian Ben Johnson, and Men Without Hats on the soundtrack.”

 Dion sez:

As a kid, and still today, one of my favorite cartoons is DAVY AND GOLIATH, the claymation religious cartoon with young Davey (wearing his checkerboard shirt which looks like it was made from a tablecloth at a Big Boy Restaurant) and his dog Goliath. They usually would get into some adventure where something goes wrong. Goliath would kinda egg the kid on, and his sister Sally would snitch. Davy’s Dad would go “Did you learn something Davy?” Davy would reply and God would also be thrown in the equation.

You don’t need to watch DAVY AND GOLIATH to learn some valuable life lessons, or listen to a Play-Doh dog egg you on to get in trouble. All of the most important lessons I have learned in life have been from Canadian cinema. Here’s my top five most valuable life lessons from Canadian film.

LE PARTY (1991)
When I went to Montreal to screen “Dion Conflict: Trailer Trash”, I told the audience that the best Canadian film ever was from Quebec was LE PARTY, a statement that made the audience both gasp and laugh at the same time.  The late Pierre Faladeau made this trashy little opus about a travelling troupe of “entertainers” doing their annual show at a Quebec prison–including a drag queen singing about his/her mother, a magician (who complained about working for the CBC and a fibreglass factory), a Francophone country singer belting out a song about penetration, a comedian named Leo with terrible jokes, and not one, but two strippers (and one fake leopard skin/rug).  While the show goes on, there’s plenty of copulation, contraband drug use, and crying.  The band “Rapid Fire”, looking like a Trooper cover band, plays on while the prison officials look away.  LE PARTY is so friggin awesome, I could talk about it endlessly, but I would rather you see it and agree with me that it’s the best Canadian film ever. 

LIFE LESSON LEARNED: If you have to get thrown in the clink in Canada, INSIST it is in Quebec.



 
ODDBALLS (1984)
It ran endlessly on First Choice Pay TV (before the crappy merger with Superchannel, and not the new one) and I would watch it every time.  Chris (Wally Wodchis) ends up getting shipped off to “Camp Bottom Out” where owner Hardy Bassett (a fairly sauced Foster Brooks) considers selling until his grand-daughter convinces him to give the summer camp a chance.  Can Mr. Skinner and his goofy son Chadwick sabotage the camp’s success in order to turn the camp into a shopping mall?  ODDBALLS is filled with tons of gags (complete with goofy sound effects) as Chris and the boys are endlessly looking to get laid.  Funny because most of them look like they are not old enough to have a wet dream (and it’s an all-boys camp).  You find yourself groaning so much at the gags, that it ends up being somewhat funny. ODDBALLS might be the Maury Povich BABY DADDY offspring of MEATBALLS.

LIFE LESSON LEARNED: Not everyone in Southern and Central Ontario will sell their land for shopping malls or condos.

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CanFilm Five: Producer and Writer Greg Klymkiw

“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.

Greg Klymkiw is an Ontario-based writer, producer and journalist. He programmed a Winnipeg rep cinema specializing in cult movies and served as a film buyer for small-town movie theatres (including tons of drive-ins). As the Director of Marketing for the Winnipeg Film Group, he developed the brand of the Winnipeg style and masterminded the marketing that turned Guy Maddin’s TALES FROM THE GIMLI HOSPITAL into an international cult sensation. He produced John Paizs’s early shorts, Maddin’s first three features (GIMLI, ARCHANGEL and CAREFUL), the Berlinale Best Feature Film Award Winner THE LAST SUPPER and, among others, the notorious BUBBLES GALORE. For 13 years he was the Producer-in-Residence and Senior Creative Consultant at Norman Jewison’s Canadian Film Centre. He is currently producing, screenwriting, consulting and script editing. As a film journalist, his writing appears at: Klymkiw Film Corner, Electric Sheep, Canadian Film Corner, Daily Film Dose and the legendary Joe Kane’s “Phantom of the Movies Videoscope”. Greg sez:

I’ve always loved genre pictures and in one way or another they have all inspired my life and career in terms of trying to make movies that defied expectations (while also fulfilling them). What’s kind of cool, is that I could probably name about thirty of so Canadian films that delivered the goods in this respect, but for the sake of brevity, here are my Top Five Most Inspirational Canadian Genre Films (in ALPHABETICAL order):

CRIME WAVE
Yeah, yeah, I know, full disclosure and all that; John Paizs is one of my best friends and colleagues. However, I’m also a worshipper and student of the Paizs Method. I have seen CRIME WAVE so many times that I stopped counting after 50 viewings (not including just watching and re-watching my favourite scenes). The movie never fails to delight and inspire me. The combination of sun-dappled and lurid colour, the clear joy and love for B-movies, the brilliant use of narration, humour that is always absurd, perverse and just plain laugh-out-loud funny are just a few things that place this movie in the top five of this list, but frankly, also in the Top Five of all Canuckian movies. Importantly, Paizs’s humour is reverential and NEVER tongue-in-cheek. I learned more about the art of actual filmmaking from Paizs and CRIME WAVE is a huge part of that.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoGk_QL2xnw

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