Monday, 14 March 2016


BROOKLYN & ROOM are NOT Canadian Movies:
OUR BILDERBERGIAN (pathetically so)

Commentary By Greg Klymkiw

The 2016 Canadian Screen Awards in Film were, for the most part, a disgrace. This is not so much the fault of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television who preside over the event (formerly known as the Genies, and before that, the Etrogs), but rather, the blame lies in the pathetic entirety of the Old Boys' Club which presides over the mainstream status quo of feature films in this country.

In a nutshell, many of the top CSA awards were bestowed upon non-Canadians and pretend-Canadian films. It's the pretend-Canadian pictures that are the latest problem in the continued lateral moves plaguing Canadian Cinema - one Judas (or, if you will, Judii) after another, betraying truly indigenous cinema. Canadian Cinema, at least in the world of the Status Quo Old Boys' Club is so pathetically Canadian, that one can never really talk about the art and industry of our cinema as spiralling into the shitter - THAT would at least be something - but no, we're talking about the especially woeful Canadian trait of the slavering mouth chasing after its own golden anal leakage in a seemingly infinite circuitous movement.

Yes, everything in the universe revolves as it should, especially in Canadian Cinema. There's a spanner in the works, though. It's a slow burn. Like Woody Allen's Alvy Singer (as a child) notes in Annie Hall: "The universe is expanding...the universe is everything, and if it's expanding, someday it will break apart, and that will be the end of everything."

Alvy's doctor tries to placate the child by placing the lad's depressive ruminating in the context of a problem that will only be happening in the distant future. "We've gotta try and enjoy ourselves while we're here," chortles the scary Brooklyn paediatrician.

Well, in Canadian Cinema, there are a few who have the luxury to "enjoy" themselves while they're here. This, of course, includes all the self satisfied nest-feathering pig farmers - bureaucrats, supposed captains of industry and all the other purse-string-and-power-holders - bestowing the slop and, lest we forget, the private club of anointed hogs feeding at the trough provided by the aforementioned bearers of the nourishing mush.

In a sense, our power brokers are doing little more than fattening select livestock for slaughter, or in the parlance of chicken farmers, they're not using "laying" feed (which allows chickens to live out their lives providing yummy eggs) but are, instead, doling out "finishing" feed, to plump the buggers up for the neck wringing and eventual evisceration.

Now, again, this is Canada. We have the patent on lateral moves and as such, I reiterate, we're not really swirling into a sewer. Not yet, anyway.

As Alvy Singer reminds us, "The universe is expanding" and expansion means eventual destruction, but like everything about Canada, impending doom crawls along the edge of a straight razor at a snail's pace. 

Let's look at one film which our Canadian bureaucrats are especially proud of. It's called Brooklyn, an Irish tale about an Irish lassie making the big post-WWI sojourn across the pond to the new land of America and settling in the ethnic melting pot of Brooklyn, New York. The film stars Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson, Jim Broadbent, and Julie Walters in the key roles. None of these actors are Canadian. The film is directed by John Crowley, screen written by Nick Horby and based on a book by Colm Tóibín. None of these gentlemen are Canadian.

In fact, did anything in the aforementioned summary make you think the film was even remotely Canadian?

Though the movie provided me with little more than the occasional rising of bile and nasty anal fissures whilst watching it, Brooklyn has many admirers amongst the international critical establishment and has garnered extremely substantial box office receipts.

In fact, let me say now that it is a movie my own late Mother would have loved profusely. Mom was Canadian and my educated guess as to her admiration for it, does not, however, make it a Canadian film and in all honesty (in the interests of full disclosure), dear Mom detested pretty much all of the films I produced which were Canadian. She was not fond of movies about necrophilia (Tales from the Gimli Hospital), WWI mustard-gas-induced forgetfulness and electric sodomy machines (Archangel), incest (Careful), AIDS and euthanasia (The Last Supper), pornography (Bubbles Galore) and Gay sexuality (Symposium), etc.

"Why don't you do something that normal people would like?" she'd ask, ad nauseam. Like most "normal" people, she'd have been much happier if I had produced a movie like Brooklyn and if something that unthinkable had happened, I must admit I'd have done exactly what the Canadian producers did and taken advantage of every scrap of available Canadian taxpayer dollars via the international co-production agreements and federal/provincial tax credits to get it made.

I wouldn't have done this, of course. I'd have preferred to make a movie about the immigrant experience in Canada and the myriad of great stories which exist about that.

Telefilm Canada and the rest of its ilk in the public and private sector, however, have no real interest in the wealth of great Canadian literature about immigrants. Almost all of these books lie dormant in terms of film adaptation.

One of my great dashed dreams was to produce a film of John Marlyn's "Under the Ribs of Death" about immigrants in north end Winnipeg, but the response from "powers-that-be" at the time was always the same: "Too expensive" and "Who cares about Winnipeg?" I suspect the response would be the same today. Marlyn's book was never an international best seller and wasn't about the immigrant experience IN AMERICA. This is not sour grapes, by the way, just an acknowledgment of reality.

Canada's entertainment power brokers want to be star fuckers.

They're pathetic that way.

And now, because of Brooklyn, they'll have had their stars and fucked them too. Most of all, they'll have fucked Canadians (up their assholes sideways with a red-hot poker) into believing, Spanish Inquisition-like, that Brooklyn is a Canadian film. At the very least, Telefilm Canada and other government financing/funding agency bureaucrats want the country's ruling politicians to know how Canadian it is to ensure continued coffer leakage into their coffers so they can keep their cushy government jobs and provide more money to their friends in the Canadian film industry who are allowed to gobble from their by-invitation-only troughs.

But you know what? I've always hated nest-featherers - especially those who purport to actually care about our culture. They're like some puny, pitiable Bilderberg Club of Canadian Cinema.

I don't fucking care if Brooklyn provided employment. Support for the arts does stimulate the economy, but said support should not be Workfare for crews, actors, etc. and it most certainly should not be corporate welfare to Canadian producers who know how to fill out the endless forms required for this largesse.

In Brooklyn's case, I don't care that Montreal continued the tradition of standing-in quite nicely for old New York. Numerous genuine NON-Canadian films have shot and continue to shoot in Montreal for similar reasons and at most, take advantage of tax credits. They do not, however, purport to be Canadian (this would embarrass them, anyway) and the Canadian Government doesn't claim them as Canadian, either (though they'd probably prefer to, but their guidelines keep them from doing so).

I especially don't care that some deft Irish/UK producers hooked up with some enterprising Canadian producers to finagle a whack of bucks from the Canadian government.

None of this matters because:

Brooklyn is NOT a Canadian film.

Room, of course, is the other Canadian movie that's not really Canadian, but our power-brokers want you to believe it is of the Holy Canuck Order. I love Room and I am thrilled it got made. In fact, its filmmaker, Lenny Abrahamson shares similar traits to some of Canada's greatest filmmakers (Egoyan, Maddin, Rozema, Paizs, McKellar, Harkema, etc.) and as such is, to my way of thinking, an honorary Canadian. Its writer Emma Donoghue is a recent landed immigrant to our shores, so she at least counts as a Canadian for real.

Speaking of Donoghue (more on her later, actually), Room was the recipient of the 2016 CSA Golden Screen Award. Formerly known as the Golden Reel, this has always been the most embarrassing award doled out by the Academy. It honours the highest grossing Canadian film in Canada. Ugh! How fucking pathetic! We're ultimately honouring art and each year we're congratulating a film strictly on the basis of how many tickets it sells. The last time I checked, I don't recall the Oscars EVER officially doing likewise. Doing this is so petty and provincial, it makes me shudder every time the award is announced.

In the early years of the awards, the first three winners of this prize were Lies My Father Told Me (1976), Why Shoot The Teacher? (1977) and Who Has Cut The Wind? (1978), all of which were Canadian to the max. What this proves is that there genuinely WAS a time when Canadians wanted to see REAL Canadian movies about the Canadian experience. Over the years, the award began to be dominated by that of the Meatballs and Porky's ilk, broad Quebecois knee-slappers like Ding et Dong and Les Boys or horrendous English-Canadian turds like Passchendaele which had their huge grosses bought and paid for through the largesse of Telefilm Canada, various other government agencies and Cineplex Entertainment. And sure, there were occasional Canadian films of quality which won the award like those of the wonderful Denys Arcand (Decline of the American Empire, Jesus of Montreal), David Cronenberg's Crash and Jean-Marc Vallée's C.R.A.Z.Y. - proof that Canadians paid oodles of dough to see Canadian movies of quality.

But I ask you?

Air Bud? (Flying Basketball Playing Dog) Pompeii? (Cheesy sword and sandal disaster movie epic with laughable digital effects) The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones? (A horrendous attempt at a new Twilight-like teen franchise with a Rotten Tomatoes aggregate of 12% and the Forbes Magazine declaration that the film's opening gross was "a full-blown disaster" and "the biggest bomb of the weekend") Resident Evil: Apocalypse? Resident Evil: Afterlife? Resident Evil: Retribuition? (All three films featuring Milla Jovovich with her painted-on attire and lithe form battling zombies)

These were all Canadian films and they were honoured for their box office grosses in Canada. Given that The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones was such a huge flop, its grosses were still high enough to outdo every other Canadian film in its year of release. Yup, something to celebrate, alright - a Canadian film that did so poorly that it still managed to beat every other Canadian film in the box-office sweepstakes.

(As a side note here, the CSA offers a Golden Screen to television drama based on the highest ratings. I can accept this, but they also offer a similar award to the highest rated Canadian reality-TV program. This is akin to celebrating the fact that millions of gibbering gibbons scarfed down beer and pretzels while watching this crap. Then again, I guess it's not so different that celebrating the same audiences plunking coin down at the ticket wickets to see Resident Evil: Apocalypse or any other pictures in the Milla Jovovich canon.)

And so, we are brought back, full circle to Room (2016's award winner for highest grossing Canadian film in Canada). The nice thing about this award is that Telefilm Canada generously provides a cash prize of $40K (in useless Canadian dollars given the exchange rate right now against the American dollar).

However, as promised earlier, we're getting back to Room writer Donoghue.  She was the cash prize recipient of the Golden Screen, which, she generously donated to the Canada's stellar ImagiNative film festival of aboriginal/first nation cinema.

Here's the disgrace, the embarrassment. Telefilm Canada provides this prize to the central creative forces behind the camera and above the line. The winner of the dough is the writer and director. (Oddly, not the producer. It says what Telefilm really thinks about the creative elements producers should bring to the table.)

But get this! Telefilm will only give the cash to Canadians. Since director Abrahamson is a non-Canadian, he gets bupkis. Since the award is meant to be shared, Telefilm Canada gets to keep $20K and give the other $20K to Room's writer. Perhaps the bean-counting loser bureaucrats could have doled out the entire $40K to Donoghue? That would have been the magnanimous gesture (and the great Canadian aboriginal festival would have been $20K richer).

And you know what? By denying dough to a non-Canadian director seems to indicate more than penny-pinching. For all of Telefilm Canada's crowing about their great Canadian film Room, they can't really believe it is THAT Canadian, after all. 

And they're right. Room is NOT a REAL Canadian film.

Telefilm has essentially created a pathetic conundrum for both the Academy as well as genuine Canadian talent with their mixed-message need to star-fuck.

Let's see how this works:

Several of Room's actors are Canadian including the brilliant young Jacob Tremblay (in spite of his CSA nomination and win in an inappropriate category), the always astonishing Tom McCamus, the eternally vivacious Wendy ("What red-blooded Canuck lad DOESN'T have a crush on her?) Crewson and, additional able support from Amanda Brugel, Joe Pingue and Cas Anvar.

Here's the problem, though.

The Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress CSA Awards were respectively doled out to Room's Brie Larson and Joan Allen respectively. Now, don't get me wrong here - Larson and Allen are great actresses and their work in the film is exemplary. Larson especially takes things to a completely different level and delivers a performance that's not just great in this year - it's a performance that stands up there with the best of the best and will resonate for all time.

Unfortunately the nominations and wins for Larson and Allen in the CSAs gobbled up nominations and wins for CANADIAN actresses.

Is this a petty, provincial, insular, protectionist and myopic concern? To some, it could be seen that way, but in reality, these awards are to celebrate and promote the achievements of Canadians in the motion picture arts. (Some might say that if the BAFTAS can honour non-Brits, the CSAs can honour non-Canadians. Uh, has anyone noticed UK has a feature film industry? They've had it for quite some time now.)

If the CSA awards are to TRULY honour Canadian films AND Canadian co-productions, then they get a major FAIL grade on that front. Let's be honest. The lion's share of media coverage has extolled and will continue to tub-thump the virtues of non-Canadian actresses and the average Canuck will ONLY learn that Canadian films are "growing up" and using "REAL" stars/actors that they know and love from AMERICAN film and television. The punters are going to assume ALL Canadian films will and should be just like AMERICAN films. That's the last thing anyone in Canadian Cinema needs, but it's also the last thing we need to be promoting.

Granted, there have been precedents for this in past CSAs since the beginning of time - non-Canadians have definitely taken home the CSA, Genie and Etrog gold. So what? If more and more fake Canadian films are going to be financed by the Government of Canada and other Canadian public/private entities in order to up the star-fuck ante, to dally with OSCAR, GOLDEN GLOBE and other glories, can our OWN awards not carve out their OWN niche for our OWN Canadian artists? Is this unreasonable? Is this really so petty, provincial, insular, protectionist and myopic?


If Telefilm Canada and its ilk are now going to be pathetically seduced by star fucking, you can bet such work will explode with ferocity in terms of Canadian money being shovelled into the maws of co-productions, especially those which are this breed of fake Canadian films. These are films that have NO interest in Canadian life and/or culture which, I'm sorry, IS indigenous, IS distinctive and IS decidedly different from the American experience.

A perfect recent example of a REAL Canadian movie is David Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars. This is one of the best films of the new millennium - period - Canadian or otherwise. What makes the film so savagely satirical, chilling, jaw-agape shocking and piss-your-pants funny is that it IS Canadian. Yes, it's written by an American. Yes, it's set in America, Los Angeles no less. Yes, it's about the AMERICAN film industry. Yes, it focuses on a variety of New-Agey nuttiness that seems peculiarly indigenous to America (L.A. in particular). Yes, a good chunk of it, mostly exteriors, were shot in America. Yes, it stars mostly non-Canadian actors like Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, John Cusack and Robert Pattinson, though it does have superb support from Canucks like Sarah Gadon, Eric Bird, Ari Cohen, et all.

And yes, Maps to the Stars is an international co-production, utilizing financing from America, Germany, France and Canada. And yet, because of the fact that it's directed by David Cronenberg, imbued as he is with a singular vision that is uniquely Canadian - a perversity and way of looking at the world that can only come from being Canadian (and keeping him firmly amongst similar Canadian auteur stylists like Egoyan and Maddin), Maps to the Stars feels resolutely, indigenously and ultimately Canadian. Who else but a Canadian filmmaker of Cronenberg's calibre could provide the deftly nasty and (at least for this fella) knee-slappingly hilarious take (and genuine birds' eye view) on Bruce Wagner's great writing?

It takes a poet of cinema to create films like Maps to the Stars and Canadian Cinema has never shied away from visual poetry (in spite of the many power brokers over the decades who've tried to snuff out this "tendency"). Hell, as an international co-production, Cronenberg's picture even brings a formidable Canadian force to the table in one of its three producers, the estimable and highly creative Martin Katz. To believe in and support Cronenberg's vision, to actually get the film up and running, took a pit bull - but one imbued with a superb sense of cinema literacy and impeccable taste. In an interview (a great interview at that) with Real Style, Katz brilliantly, and with aplomb, nails the essence of the film a year before it was unleashed as "an absurdist comedy about the entertainment business". It not only distils the picture's creative essence perfectly, but was a clearly integral pitch in harnessing all that needed to be corralled in order to make Cronenberg's great film a reality.

It is Canadian and a co-production and one that I'd be proud to proclaim as a Canadian film.

The problem, finally, is not so much the Canadian Screen Awards, the problem is that many Canadian producers lack the vision and imagination (of Katz, for example) to present international co-productions to the money people, international co-productions that ARE Canadian first and foremost. Ultimately, the guiltiest of all the parties are those bureaucrats crossing Ts and dotting Is, ravenously and slavishly making the whole star-fuck happen to please their boss, le Gouvernement du Canada. They want to have their pouding chômeur and eat it too.

As for co-productions being honoured by the CSAs, the answer is simple: Add a category for international Canadian co-productions for feature films as the Academy has done for television drama.

The only category in co-productions that they wouldn't have to do this for is in Feature Documentary. The nominees for 2016 feature documentaries included genuinely Canadian docs like The Last of the Elephant Men, The Amina Profile, Hadwin's Judgement, How To Change The World and, of course, the grand prize winner, Alan Zweig's mind blowing Hurt. Our documentary producers are interested in Canadian stories and/or Canadian perspectives upon international events.

They're not whores - well, not obvious whores, anyway.

As for non-Canadian stars (or key non-Canadian craftspeople involved) in Canadian films being honoured, co-productions or not, the answer is also simple: Add special citations and round them up into a gorgeously edited presentation of film clips with appropriate commentary for the TV broadcast Gala. (And while they're at it, DON'T leave out docs and shorts for the broadcast which, as the CSAs do now is so petty, so insulting and so infuriatingly Canadian.)

Restructuring to have a citation process for non-Canadian elements would add nomination and awards opportunities for Canadians who would otherwise be shunned and shut out of the process of celebration and promotion.

And you know what?

It'd still allow for some star-fucking.

Or in the immortal words of the immortal Clarence Carter:

When I start makin' love, I don't just make love
I be strokin', that's what I be doin', huh
I be strokin'

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