Monday, December 29, 2008

A movie review, the best I can do amidst pre-holiday craziness

It's been about a month. Wow.

Holiday planning, visiting, shopping, wrapping, visiting, visting, and visiting consumed my life more than I anticipated.

I had so many to-do lists that got buried at the bottom of other lists (ahem, bills). Those to-do lists always had "writing" at the top, usually written in a larger size than the other items.
Anyway, I did watch a great film I was asked to review for another site that I'd like to discuss. It's called Racing Daylight and it's fantastic. The switch in narrative structure and voice was rich, and I fell in love with all the characters, especially Sadie, who has one of the best opening lines in a movie. Ever.

"I always knew I would end up insane." Short and profound statement. Intrigued me from the beginning. I knew this would be a good movie.

This is pure storytelling, and what's interesting about the movie is that the story is told from three different perspectives, each perspective taking on varying camera angles, so that each angle signifies that character's unique voice.

The DVD was just released last week--it's definitely worth checking out.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Here's the F---ing blog

Over the weekend, I attended a screening of Young People F---ing, followed by a panel discussion including the film's director, Martin Gero, screenwriter and actor, Aaron Abrams, and Dan Lyon from Telefilm Canada.

Before the discussion started, I nestled in my seat and got ready to watch one of the most controversial films that helped ignite the Bill C-10 fiasco. By the middle of the movie, I realized I had forgotten to search for the controversy in the film. Sure, it was raw and liberal, but controversial? One, big, fat, "no".

The film was extremely well-written, well-casted, and as one audience member stated, "did not have that cliched "Canadian feel" to it. I think she was trying to say it shot well.

Anyway, I was genuinely impressed by the film--not because the Conservative Party made such a huge deal over its "controversy" but because I enjoyed all the characters and their respective situations. While some people may not relate to every one of those situations, the material in this film is highly-relatable, from the friends who are obviously in love with each other to the endless mind-games women and men tend to play with each other.

The panel discussion mostly focused on the edgy title and Bill C-10, some funny Conservative Party insults (presented in a very professional manner, of course), and a little chat about the Canadian film industry. The major concern with the Canadian film industry and Bill C-10, obviously, is that the Bill will only discourage many Canadian filmmakers from making those awesome, "edgy", Canadian movies in order to receive government funding. The result? A loss in what Canadians do best--embrace art, diversity, and originality, and therefore, a loss in films that emphasize those artistic values.

Who knows exactly what will happen to the Canadian film industry and aspiring Canadian filmmakers, but I'm banking on the crazy-passionate ones that say, "F--k you, Conservatives. I'll find a way to shoot the sequel to "Young People F---ing. I don't need any stinkin' government funding for "McVety Likes it F---ing Rough".

Friday, April 25, 2008

We're all stars now, in the real show

Being on reality TV makes you at least one of two things: more self-conscious and/or wonder how on earth you ever ended up on reality TV. Last September, I competed on BookTV's The Next Literary Superstar, a national contest I entered through encouragement from a good friend. I travelled to Edmonton, Alberta and lived inside a Chapters with 11 other final contestants where we were each faced with a feat: to write an entire novel in just three days.
The 12 of us constantly endured interruptions for interviews, challenges, penalties and prizes, and store shoppers. Which really ends up being a two-day affair when you think about it.
Anyway, lots of time has passed and this weekend (tomorrow), I'm heading back to tape the season finale. I've had a rough week dealing with work, stress, play rehearsals, and mentally preparing for this reunion.
It will be absolutely lovely to see the other writers again. We actually kept in touch in the last months, some of us even getting together for dinner.
This weekend is something we've all been looking forward to for a while.
Part of mentally preparing for this ordeal just reminded me of how it feels to be in front of a camera and acting like--yourself. I've performed quite a bit, but always "in character". Doing it as yourself is completely different. Probably because the cliched saying is true, "we are our own worst critics." So, when the opportunity allows us to "act like ourselves", we tense up even more than usual, in hopes of masking whatever it is we're embarrassed to show the world.
Off to bed-- tonight, dreamland. Tomorrow, "real world".

Friday, March 7, 2008

We are family...I got all my writers with me

Yesterday I received an e-mail from a former writing colleague of mine. She had mass e-mailed most former students from the Professional Writing program at the University of Toronto. I learned that another one of our former classmates had just suffered the loss of her home caused by a fire and that her mother and brother were in the hospital.

People responded to that e-mail with such warm words in an effort to show our friend support. That e-mail restored my love for that program and its students. From the first day of my first professional writing class, I felt a strong connection with everyone. Yes, everyone. My favourite professor assured us all that long after graduation, we would always be there for one another. "The writing world is one of community," he would always say. Gone are the days of the "hermit" writer. On the contrary, powerful writers know and value the need for human connection. After all, it is this connection with humanity--all its beauty and flaws--that shines in our writing.

Even after graduation, we care. We care about the milestones in our former classmates' lives: promotions, weddings, babies. And misfortunes. We can all relate to that drastic change--the one that swoops into our comfortable lives and replaces it with temporary turmoil.

And even in the midst of chaos and misfortune, I smile when I think of the writers--that special group of people in my university days that can always offer sincerity and support.

Their words count. A lot.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Heritage Minister is a "no show"

The Canadian federal government has decided to deny tax credits to film and television productions that are deemed "too edgy," containing graphic sex, violence, and homosexuality. Thanks to Charles McVety, president of the Canada Family Action Coalition, his part in discusssions with Public Safety Minister, Stockwell Day and Justice Minister, Rob Nicholson in the Prime Minister's Office, contributed to the Conservative changes.

Conservative MP, Dave Batters persuaded the new president of Telefilm Canada, Michel Roy, to prohibit federal funding for edgy films. He used the film Young People Fucking as an example.

Director David Cronenberg warns that low-budget, edgy Canadian films are at risk. Cronenberg says the changes proposed by the federal government are an "assault" on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. "The irony is that it is the Canadian films that have given us an international reputation that would be most at risk because they are edgy, low-budget films made by people like me and others that will be targeted by this panel."

Martin Gero, director of Young People Fucking (opening in theatres in Canada this April) could also be scrutinized by the panel. Gero shot his feature film with support from Telefilm. "It seems ill-conceived from beginning to end, and is less about censorship than destroying the economic foundation of our entire industry," Gero says. "It's old people fucking with the Canadian film industry." At the Genie Awards last week, the Heritage Minister, Josee Verner was a “no show,” but her office claimed it had nothing to do with the government’s plans to deny tax credits.

Sandra Oh, Grey’s Anatomy star and the show’s host, stated “censorship has had a little work done and is trying to make a comeback. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound very Canadian to me.”

Film critics and producers warn that changes to the Income Tax Act would cripple the Canadian film industry, as they suggested Ms. Verner’s absence from the Genie Awards was because she may face fury from the crowd. However, Verner states she was out of the country last week, claiming the “changes have nothing to do with censorship and everything to do with the integrity of the tax system.”

Many art groups are speaking out, claiming these changes deviate from the promises of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Susan Swan, chair of the Writers' Union of Canada has protested, "we're not going to sit back and accept this. We don't like being told what kind of art we can make by the federal government."