Proud to be a Canucklehead

Oh she's Canadian, babyTo those unaware, July 1st marks Canada’s Birthday, and while I didn’t paint a flag on my face and run in red boxer shorts down my street spraying a custom blend of Bits n’ Bites (aka Méli-Mélo) and Smarties like confetti on passersby, I did manage to write up this quick if not slightly belated tribute of sorts.

Most people here are proud to live in a land where a garbage strike makes national news instead of a president being ousted by the military or protestors of a national election being brutalized by an oppressive regime.

We can call any government knucklehead the most colourful name we can think of in public, print, and web mediums (like this: “John Baird is a Toronto-hating schmuck”), or any corporation for what they are (like this: “Bell Canada is a monopolistic monster”), and brand government agencies as weak kneed lackies (like this: “The CTRC has no balls, and is eradicating any vestige of competition and fair market practices among internet and cellphone providers by handing over telecommunications control to egomaniacal Bell and Rogers”); or accuse local government of being cheap (like this: “Attention TTC: Finish the goddamn Sheppard Stubway, dammit”).

I like it that our past Prime Minster Jean Chrétien grabbed a protester by the neck in an improvised martial arts move, and that he and his wife defended themselves against a house invader with an object d'art until the RCMP came to the rescue.

The term “prorogue” is now an iconic part of our vernacular due to a beady-eyed idiot in a helmet hairdo who thought he could stomp on the faces of the official opposition back in November of ’08. (Mind you, the coalition of three-headed monsters wasn't much of a better idea, given Monster #1 made his pitch to the country in a blurry, badly composed message "from his bunker.")

I’m also proud that we have Coffee Crisp, Kit Kat, and Smarties, and pushed invader Krispy Kreme off the Canadian map (except at Petro Canada stations in prepackaged offerings).

We’ve had a few tragic cultural failures – in spite of using Dan Ackroyd in the press launch of “Roots Air,” the airline went poofty-woofty soon after its debut because the populace felt the whole idea of a clothier running an airline was dumb – but we’re still strong to the bone.

Artists are still allowed to do their thing – Atom Egoyan will forever figure out a way to weasel video gear or video footage into a film no mater what decade or planet is the setting – and we’re more open to nudity on major media outlets than the U.S. (When Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut debuted on Pay TV, we aired the pickles and beaver version, not the fuzzified hoo-ha version distributed in North America by Warners).

When spoken in its proper context (like a direct quote) on TV and in radio, the words “fuck” and “shit” are wholly permissible, including national TV station CBC – which is frankly just plain awesome, since the world thinks we’re too bloody polite.

We made a film called Young People Fucking in ’08, and in spite of prudish Conservative government knuckleheads angry that such a film could’ve received tax dollars and credits, I hope there’s more amusing boffing flicks in the pipeline this year, ready to make a big splash on international screens with ferocious power and vigor.

For every Celine Dion we inflict upon a generation, we also give the world Glenn Gould and Oscar Peterson, so we can’t be that evil. Sadly, we continue to poison ourselves with ET Canada and CTV’s etalk Daily, and we probably have to come to terms with the horrible truth that Ben Mulroney will never, ever go away. The tanned Max Headroom dollie is CTV’s entertainment tool, and he’s their permanent fixture since CTV has total vertical integration of the music and TV streams in cable, HD, and the world wide weebe.

A few people and things I’m proud of the most in our contributions to film:

Composers Jeff Danna, Mychael Danna, Howard Shore, Mickey Erbe and Maribeth Solomon. The tax shelter films of the seventies (see and get lost in our special fromage), from which we never would’ve been able to give the planet Circle of Two, The Kidnapping of the President, Prom Night, Death Ship, Heavenly Bodies, Curtains, My Bloody Valentine, and The Silent Partner (actually, that one’s a really good film). IMAX Lexx, Season 1 (a weird little quartet of TV movies starring green-haired German babe Eva Haberman).

And a few things I’d like to see change before July 1st, 2010:

All the dentists and doctors who own pieces of Canadian films should stop being greedy and make the films they own – those from the 70s and 80s – available in widescreen on TV, if not as downloadable films. You know you can’t sell hardcopies of Circle of Two. Live with it, dammit, and just free up a dead asset and make some money instead of none.

The CBC should stop sitting on a huge trove of live broadcasts and similarly make them available on their pay station, or for free online. (The NFB has already started the process, with partial and whole films available via Flash.)

Years ago, Elwy Yost ran a silent Canadian film on TVO’s Saturday Night at the Movies, and unsurprisingly, I’ve no idea what it was because I was just a kid, and it were never shown again.

We produced films prior to signing over our cultural soul in the dumb Canadian Cooperative Film Act (or whatever it was called) that gave control of film distribution to foreign corporations in exchange for mere mentions of ‘things Canadian’ in Hollywood films (like 'Wow, that sure is a cold wind coming down to Texas from Canada!'), and unlike other countries – Britain, France, America – virtually none of those early Canadian films exist on DVD. (If they do – Please post a link to some online resources in the Comments section.)

I’d also like to see Canadian films available domestically on DVD, and not as IMPORTS; I’d like to see more Quebecois films available outside of Quebec with English subtitles (unless it’s purely a territorial agreement with the film’s owner); and see a few absurdities come to an end: the local bare bones edition DVD replaced by the special edition DVD available stateside, and see TV shows Canadians made available domestically on disc, like Friday the 13th: The Series; the damn thing was shot in my neighbourhood, for Pete’s sake, and I have to use an IMPORTER.

Years ago I recall seeing a few Canadian classics show up on DVD – Goin’ Down the Road, for example – but that wave kind of stopped. Note to distributors: if you own the rights to indigenous works, and you have a TV transfer, think mail order DVD-Rs (like Warner Bros.’ started doing) or the internet, because it’s a waste to have a back catalogue just sitting there.

Commercial stations often run reality crud and infomercials, leaving you with pay stations. That can’t be a satisfactory return, particularly since your target audience is aging, and new generations of Canadian filmgoers won’t have any idea your movies exist, let alone why they’re unique.

Even if film downloads are periodic, local media will publicize your catalogue through reviews, because once it’s in the mighty Google cache, it will never go away, so your films will indeed get some extra life – just don’t be greedy and demand $14.95 for a download; if Criterion can charge $5 for a classic film like The Third Man from the Janus catalogue, then a local production funded by four orthodontists and two up-and-coming podiatrists is fair-ware at $5 or less per download.

It’s Canada Day: make a corporate promise to do better, if not make a little money by putting some culture back into circulation, although please omit The Littlest Hobo from your efforts – enough of the damn pooch show (although if you really want it, you can order it from VCI, but it's an IMPORT).



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