Archive for June, 2008
Monday, June 30th, 2008
In Bruges (10/10): Violent, hilarious, totally politically-incorrect. This is a little movie, a smart movie, and very nearly a perfect movie. Rent it now.
Drillbit Taylor (2/10): The little chubby kid has some seriously great lines and moments, but that’s all there is to recommend this movie. The rest of it absolutely sucks.
Meet The Browns: Tyler Perry is still making movies…this is another one. Stars Sofia Vergara and Angela Bassett, but it may just not be worthwhile anyway.
City of Men (8/10): A reasonably good follow-up to the all time classic City of God, this is a spin-off of the TV show in Brazil which was a spin-off of the original movie.
Mad Men Season One: 1960s New York ad agency. A well-respected, highly regarded TV series that gets it’s DVD release today.
Vantage Point (2/10): A presidential murder told from several different viewpoints, a la Rashomon. From all critical viewpoints, however, this movie is dreadful.
Days of Darkness: A man lives a double life – one life is a fantasy life, the other is real. In real life he’s a loser. In his fantasy life, he’s a knight in shining armour, irresistable ladies’ man. Could go either way. Denys Arcand directed this French Canadian film, so that’s something on the plus side.
Asterix Et Obelix Contre Cesar (5/10): The famous French comic books are brought to life in this 1999 film starring Gerard Depardieu and Roberto Benigni. A little too much reliance on the comic books themselves, but all in all a decent way for kids to learn French.
Asterix Et Obelix: Mission Cleopatre (6/10): An even better movie than Contre Cesar, simply because Monica Bellucci is ridiculously hot as Cleopatra. Ridiculously hot. Neither of these two films has English subtitles or English dubbing available.
Walker: Texas Ranger, Season Five (4/10): If you watch with a developed sense of irony, you may well enjoy this. But boy, you really can’t take it seriously, or you might have brain failure.
Streets of San Francisco, Season Two Volume One (7/10): Karl Malden and Michael Douglas are the stars of this series. One of the best casts for a TV series, and the San Francisco streets are amazing as well.
100 Million B.C.
Get Smart’s Bruce and Lloyd: Out of Control
The Ruins (3/10)
Superhero Movie (2/10)
The Tracey Fragments (4/10)
Charlie Bartlett (6/10)
Batman: Gotham Knight
Romulus My Father (4/10)
Shaggy and Scooby-Doo Get a Clue Vol. 2
Heavy Metal in Baghdad (8/10)
Stories of Lost Souls
Backyardigans: The Mighty Match-Up!
Monday, June 16th, 2008
Be Kind Rewind (7/10): Jack Black and especially Mos Def are fantastic in this funny comedy about two losers who have to re-create old movies themselves to replace VHS tapes that have been erased at their rental store. Movie lovers will enjoy.
Fool’s Gold: Another Matthew McConaughey – Kate Hudson movie, this one is sure to be dreadful. Unless you want to see Kate Hudson in a bikini for two hours. Or a shirtless McConaughey for two hours.
Californication Season One (9/10): The best show on TV comes to DVD with the release of Season One. Full of nudity, sex, drug use and gross bodily functions, and David Duchovny is remarkably good. Smart, funny and terrific.
Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins: A TV self-hellp guru returns to the small town where he grew up, and tries to prove he’s no longer the kid that was always picked on…sounds like Mr. Woodcock with Martin Lawrence in the Seann William Scott role. Which…sounds awful.
Control (9/10): The best musical biopic of the past decade. And yes, that includes Ray and Walk The Line. This profile of Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis, who tragically hanged himself in 1980, tells the story through the music, through pictures, and through a tour-de-force performance by Sam Riley.
The Flock (4/10): Richard Gere mentors Claire Danes as a pedophile profiler and monitor. A girl goes missing, they must track her down. It’s pretty awful.
Joy Division (8/10): Documentary that tackles much the same subject matter as Control, but with the real subjects being interviewed, and more focus on the greatness of the rest of the band than simply on the story of Ian Curtis. Powerful and interesting.
Transformers Animated: Transform And Roll Out (3/10): A TV series made into a DVD to capitalize on the revitalized market for Transformers since that big movie. Mostly annoying, the same guy who does the big-voice stuff on CHEZ also voices Optimus Prime.
Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days: The film I am anticipating greatly, it’s Romanian (and Romanian films have been great in recent years). Two girls go to see an illegal abortion doctor.
Jericho Season Two (6/10): A slightly overlooked show that was cancelled after this season. Wraps up nicely with the series finale, and includes the final episode that would have aired had the series been extended for another year.
My Mom’s New Boyfriend: Meg Ryan and Antonio Banderas star in a movie about an FBI agent whose mother is dating…and he spies on her boyfriend…and espionage ensues. Blah!
The Tatooist: A tattooist unwittingly unleashes a forcible deadly spirit through an ancient Samoan tattoo tool. Now marked for death, he will need to uncover the source of the evil in order to save his new love, and recover his own soul. Seriously.
Rails & Ties: A deadly collision between a train and car lead to an unlikely bond between the train engineer and a young boy who escapes the carnage. Kevin Bacon and Marcia Gay Harden star.
Also out this week:
Chaos Theory (5/10)
It’s a Boy Girl Thing (3/10)
Just Add Water
Under The Same Moon
My Name Is Juani
On The Doll
Librarian 2: Return to King Solomon’s Mines (3/10)
The Spiderwick Chronicles (7/10)
In Bruges (10/10)
Meet The Browns
Sex And Death 101
10,000 BC (1/10)
Drillbit Taylor (2/10)
City Of Men (8/10)
Futurama: Beast With A Billion Backs
Mad Men Season One
The Business of Being Born
The Eye 3
Unstable Fables: Three Pigs And A Baby (6/10)
Days of Darkness
Flight of the Conchords: Complete First Season
Monday, June 9th, 2008
Jumper (5/10): The always-wooden Hayden Christensen teams up with the will-work-for-beer-nuts Samuel L. Jackson in a film about a guy who “jumps” through time and space. It’s not terrible, but….
The Bucket List (3/10): I know for a fact that this is terrible. Because I watched it. And I’m fairly angry that I did. Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman are great together, but the movie around them is abysmal.
The Other Boleyn Girl: Scarlett Johanssen and Natalie Portman, together? In the same movie? Awesome…but then I also thought The Black Dahlia was going to be great with Scarlett Johanssen and Hilary Swank. And it sucked.
Fatal Contact (6/10): Hong Kong Kung-Fu, with some decent action scenes. Underground fights are nothing new to the world of martial arts movies, but these are decently filmed and the movie is surprisingly moving.
Witless Protection: Larry the Cable Guy. The witness protection program. Ugh.
Crusing Bar (3/10): Some of the worst subtitles I have ever seen on a movie. Get this only if you are francophone. Even then, I wouldn’t really recommend it.
Smiley Face: The always-entertaining John Krasinski and Anna Farris team up for a comedy where a girl gets really stoned and walks around. There might be more plot but…who cares.
Comedy Central’s Home Grown (5/10): A series of vignettes, skits, and full episodes of Comedy Central programming that are predicated on the idea that people who smoke weed like nothing more than to watch other people doing the same.
The Grand: Woody Harrelson is a gambler. Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm) co-stars. Everyone wins. Or doesn’t.
American Gangster Season Two (9/10): Real-life African American crime figures get biographical, documentary treatment in an excellent show from BET. Ving Rhames narrates. Season Two includes the guy who inspired The Wire, and Frank Lucas from the movie American Gangster.
Timber Falls: Young hot girl goes to the woods…there’s evil in the woods…stop me if you’ve heard this one before…
The Odd Couple Season Four (6/10): A solid TV show before all the odd-couple I’m-clean and you’re-dirty jokes ran out. They are beginning to run out in season four.
The List: Dangerous blood oaths in the confederate army lead to dangerous doings 140 years later. Malcolm McDowell is somehow involved.
The Fugitive Season Two (7/10): It would have been nice to see more continuity and continuing story lines, but the episodes themselves remain as good as ever.
Alive or Dead: Horror movie involving hot girls and a school bus.
Hawaii Five-O Season Four (6/10): This show was ridiculous, but stands up as a campy and hilarious blueprint that actors like David Caruso have used to their advantage in later years. Dated, cheesy, but loads of fun.
Super High Me
The Fugitive Season Two, Volume One. Doesn’t deliver up to it’s potential. Like me in high school. (*******7/10)
Monday, June 9th, 2008
Genre: TV series, Drama
Country: United States
Starring: David Janssen, Barry Morse
Narrator: William Conrad
Creator: Roy Huggins
Run time: 12 hours 51 minutes
DVD distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment
DVD extras: Not much of anything
Related reviews: The Fugitive Season One Volume Two, The Fugitive Season Two Volume Two, The Fugitive Season Three Volume One
When last we left Richard Kimble, “The Fugitive”, at the end of Season One, Volume 2, he was holed up in a house with two crazy odd-couple friends who were shielding him from the long arm of the law. The net was closing in on him as the cops had set up roadblocks and a search party in his area. And then…he escaped. I was kind of hoping for a cliffhanger ending to that first season, but I guess they didn’t do that in the old days. They just figured that people would continue to watch if they made a good series. And they DID make a very good series. I would call it refreshing if a series did it today. But this one is from the mid-sixties, so I don’t know what to call it. I guess I just thought it was nice.
But this lack of cliffhangers and continuing story lines becomes a bit of a problem in Season 2. It was great in Season One when each episode stood on it’s own. It set up the premise of the show wonderfully, David Janssen was brilliant as Richard Kimble, and the writing was great. So, OK. Now you’re in the second season, and the whole premise of the show has now been set up. Kimble has been wrongly convicted of murder, but managed to escape thanks to a disastrous train accident on his way to death row. Now he is on the run from the law, searching for the one-armed man who is the real killer. But now that I’m into this second season, I want more story. I want to follow his hunt for the one-armed man, and I want to root for him as he gets chased by the law. The whole premise of the show is one that screams for continuity between episodes, but we still get one-offs, all season long.
But of course, those one-offs are still very good. Season Two of The Fugitive begins with Kimble looking for help from a superstar lawyer played by Ed Begley. By the way – here’s a hilarious excerpt from a review of this DVD set at www.tvshowsondvd.com - or, at least I thought it was hilarious.“15 episodes that include guest stars like Ed Begley (father of Ed Begley Jr.)” Hmmm…no kidding, eh? But you KNOW nothing is going to come of it, because each episode ends the same way it begins – Richard Kimble is on the move and on the run. Anyway, the season moves along at a brisk pace, one episode at a time. In the end, it is compelling TV, but it isn’t the kind of thing where you want to watch several episodes in a row. Although, that is more than I can say for most television. One at a time is enough, which means you can watch all fifteen hours of Season Two, Volume One of the Fugitive on fifteen different days, over the course of the next three months, which should be just enough time for Season Two Volume Two to come out. Volume One comes out tomorrow, June 10th, from Paramount Home Entertainment.
Hawaii Five-O Season 4. Campy hilarity, and a blueprint for the career of David Caruso. (******6/10)
Monday, June 9th, 2008
“Book ‘em, Danno.”
Genre: TV series, Cop, Drama
Country: United States
Starring: Jack Lord, James MacArthur, Kam Fong, Al Harrington
Guest stars: Herbert Lom, Buddy Ebsen, John Ritter, Vic Morrow, Marion Ross, Hume Cronyn, Donald Pleasance, Ray Danton, David Birney
Creators: Leonard Freeman
Run time: 20 hours 9 minutes
DVD distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment
Related reviews: Hawaii Five-O Season Five, Hawaii Five-O Season Six, Hawaii Five-O Season Seven
One of the worst things you can say about a TV show or movie from the 70s or 60s or even the 1930s and 40s is that it feels dated. That it doesn’t stand up over time. That what was once considered classic is stuck, mired, in it’s own era, completely lacking the ability to maintain it’s relevance in today’s world. And then, every now and again, being “dated” can actually be a good thing. Such is the case with Hawaii Five-O, a show which may be the classic show that holds up the least over time. And I love that about it! It is so cheesy and mired in the seventies that it becomes hilarious to watch. The Fourth Season of Hawaii Five-O comes out tomorrow, June 10th, from Paramount Home Entertainment.
Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett must be the most hilariously dated screen character available on DVD right now. His hair is glorious, in a 1970s pre-Flock-Of-Seagulls sort of way. This is the most dated hair on TV, next to MacGyver’s mullet. His delivery is painfully cheesy, the one-liners and the tough guy talk are a cross between Clint Eastwood and Don Johnson, which just doesn’t work. Well, any more, I guess. The tough-guy showdowns between McGarrett and the big evil bosses (especially the wooden yet enigmatic Wo Fat, played by Khigh Dheigh) are ludicrous but SO entertaining. It’s pretty clear to me that on CSI:
Miami, David Caruso is channeling 70s-era Jack Lord. And for some reason, people still love that show, while I think David Caruso is hilariously over-the-top. The legacy of the ludicrous cop. A funny one, I think.
Also awesomely dated is that famous theme music. One of the most familiar tunes in the world, I had never seen an episode of Hawaii Five-O, I couldn’t have identified the theme correctly in any way, but as soon as the first episode started up there it was. This one’s up there with Bonanza as probably the greatest most recognizable theme music in TV history. Another hilarious part of the show – prototyping the David Carusos that were to come – is that Steve McGarrett seems to be the only character on the show. Oh, they’re a team, McGarrett and the other guy…played by James McArthur…what was his name? Oh yeah. Danno! A guy who exists simply as a reason for Lord to utter the line “book ‘em, Danno”. I’m certain this series was intended to be extremely serious in it’s day, but it has now become so campy as to be awesome. Watch it next time you’re about to get into CSI:
Miami and look for the comparisons. Then again, many people don’t get the humour in CSI:
Miami either, so perhaps they’ll watch this and be very entertained. I know I was.
Wednesday, June 4th, 2008
I have always found the phrase “popcorn movie” to be perplexing. Why are certain movies referred to as “popcorn movies”? It seems as though the phrase has come to mean big, massive-budget, mostly brainless summer-blockbuster-type films. I think the people who came up with the name had this idea: People who go to these movies shut off their brain for two hours. And people who shut off their brains eat popcorn. Ergo, people who go to these movies eat more popcorn. This must be the path of the logic that goes into the name “popcorn movies”.
But then you have to think – why do people who turn off their brains eat more popcorn? Does temporary stupidity cause you to want popcorn? And perhaps it does. After all, nothing in the world gets a bigger price markup than movie popcorn. It costs the movie theatre about 10 cents to make a large bag of popcorn, which they sell for seven dollars. That is a 7,000% markup. Does anything else get marked up that much? Other than movie theatre soda and cotton candy? Yes. Summer blockbuster movies. Let’s take, for example, this year’s Iron Man. The screenplay for this movie might have cost an awful lot – say, $500,000.00? Maybe. Who knows, I couldn’t find out how much Jeff Vintar and Stan Lee were paid, or how much Jeffrey Caine was paid for the re-write. So I guessed high. And then the budget for the movie is $135,000,000.00. That is a markup of 27,000%. Even more than popcorn! And that is the standard here. For the most part, summer blockbusters are very thin on script and very large on effects and action and so forth.
And some are even good. Really, it’s what a director and cast do with a script that makes the movie. But this markup, I believe, is the real reason these movies are referred to as “popcorn movies”. Ten cents worth of story and seven dollars worth of flash. And as the movies move on into sequel after sequel, the markup gets higher and higher. You might shut your brain off when The Incredible Hulk starts this summer. You will then go to purchase popcorn, now that your brain is off. But next year, when you go to the theatre to watch The Incredible Hulk Goes To Anger Management, you may have to shut your brain off before you buy your 15 dollar movie ticket. And three summers from now when you attend The Incredible Hulk’s Long Slow Painful Stay In Rehab, you may have to shut off the ol’ brain before even watching the trailers. Of course, by then, movie tickets will be thirty bucks and popcorn will be forty-eight dollars.
Monday, June 2nd, 2008
Semi-Pro (6/10): The type of comedy Will Ferrell can do in his sleep, and sometimes does do in his sleep. The supporting cast is good, although the comedy and story are very thin. The film has a heart and a historical relevance that make it watchable.
The Eye: Jessica Alba in a horror remake of yet another Asian frightfest. Not only has no film since The Ring come close to living up to it’s Asian original, this one also stars Jessica Alba. Ugh.
Meet The Spartans: Likely to be the worst movie of the week, and perhaps of the year, Meet The Spartans is done by the same people who did two of the worst movies of all time, Epic Movie and Date Movie. Steer clear.
The Take: John Leguizamo and Tyrese Gibson star in a movie about an armored truck driver who survives a hijacking. Seems like a decent plot, but looks like it could go stupid-Rambo in the second act.
Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Tour (8/10): There isn’t enough actual comedy, but this behind-the-scenes look at a cross-country 30-day 30-city tour hosted by Vince Vaughn has some great moments and shows comedians at their essence. A great watch.
Flawless: Demi Moore and Michael Caine plot to heist diamonds at the London Diamond Corporation in the 60s. Could be an excellent heist picture.
Mama’s Boy: Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite) is thirty and still lives at home with his mom, Diane Keaton. Funny stuff happens. Judging by the horrible movies with this same plot over the past few years (Failure to Launch, I’m looking at you) and judging by the terrible decisions Diane Keaton has made recently (Mad Money, Because I Said So), this could be a giant pile of crap. Or not.
The Bronx Is Burning (8/10): ESPN mini-series about the New York Yankees and their contentious run for the World Series in 1977. Mixed in with the baseball is the Ed Koch race for mayor, the Son of Sam, and the violence that existed in NYC that very hot summer. A great watch for baseball fans and non-fans alike. John Turturro plays Billy Martin, and Oliver Platt is George Steinbrenner.
The Onion Movie: This might just be the funniest movie out today. The Onion newspaper and the onion online are fake-news masters, with some of the funniest writing around, and they have assembled a hilarious cast, which will be terrific if they don’t take themselves seriously. But can Steven Seagal really not take himself seriously?
Weeds Season Three: Pot-dealing soccer mom is back for third season. Mayhem and laughs will ensue!
Mannix: Season One (4/10): Mike Connors is very good as Mannix, a private detective who works for a giant corporate firm doing battle against a giant corporate crime empire, but the whole show feels very dated. May have been good in the 60s, but it just doesn’t play today.
Normal: Three strangers struggle for control as they confront their roles in a tragic accident some years earlier. Stars Carrie-Ann Moss. Could go either way.
The Animation Show Volume 3 (7/10): Although it is hosted by Beavis and Butthead, and put together by Mike Judge, this collection of animated short films is more artistic than crude. Solid viewing for the art-film people.
Also out tomorrow:
Monday, June 2nd, 2008
Genre: TV series, Drama
Country: United States
Starring: Mike Connors, Gail Fisher, Joseph Campanella, Ward Wood, Robert Reed
Creator: Lalo Schifrin
Run time: 21 hours 18 minutes
DVD distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment
DVD extras: Not much of anything
Related reviews: Mannix Season Two, Mannix Season Three
“Mannix” was a TV show from the 60s and 70s. It seems to be one of those shows that was a success in its time, but it really doesn’t hold up today. You see, it’s a detective show. And there have been so many detective movies over the years, and detective TV shows, that for a film or show to cut through and maintain any kind of relevance in today’s world, it has to be something really special. Think of Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon, or Eastwood as Dirty Harry, or yes, even Peter Falk as Columbo. Each of those characters was so unique and so interesting that people will watch Columbo, Sam Spade, and Harry Callaghan for years to come. Season One of Mannix comes out today, courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. But I would recommend picking up the Dirty Harry Ultimate Collection instead, it also comes out today. And comes with a free police badge!
Detective Joe Mannix is played by Mike Connors, who does a good job. He has a Johnny Cash late-60s haircut, and looks and talks a lot like the Man In Black. He is tough and implacable, and direct, and determined and smart. And he always gets his man. But then, haven’t we seen that a thousand times before? He’s not as implacable as Sam Spade, not as tough as Harry Callaghan, less determined than Philip Marlowe, and not as smart as Columbo. So he exists on this second-tier, forgotten rung of the Private Eye ladder from that era, who just doesn’t measure up to Mike Hammer, let alone the truly classic detective characters on TV and in film. No knock against Connors here, he was just written that way.
And it’s the writing that makes this show seem terribly dated when you watch it now. Mannix works for a company called “Intertect”, a massive private-detective company. Which was something that apparently existed in the sixties. There are virtually no cops in the shows, and although there are very often some heinous crimes, like murder, Mannix doesn’t call the cops for backup, he calls his boss. And regardless of how many bad guys there are, his boss showing up with a gun forces them all to drop their guns. Which means that Mannix and the boss, played by Joseph Campanella, are so bad-ass that the two of them are able to surround and outnumber ten bad guys at a time. And “Intertect”? Sounds a lot like a company name that is created for a punchline in a modern comedy. Like “Initech” in Office Space. And the bad guys always come from something that is cryptically called “the syndicate”. It is never explained what this “syndicate” actually is, we just take for granted it is a large and powerful evil criminal enterprise. But then, Joe Mannix is not James Bond.
In every episode there is a hot babe. Almost always a blonde. And in every episode, there is a femme fatale character. Usually the blonde. But Mannix is usually too smart and perceptive to fall for their traps and charms – I guess because he saw the exact same woman every week for seven years. Your radar would be up after that. The opening and closing credits are irritating, with this mosaic-style fade-cut where a bunch of squares appear on the screen to make a big picture. Which would be fine if they didn’t do it every single commercial break as well. And the theme music is sparse, and really short, which would also be fine if it was just for the opening and closing credits. But they use it as a sting, as a car-chase theme, as dramatic pause music – always the exact same tune! Through the whole show! It’s annoying!
The episodes have titles that are hit-and-miss, some of them hilarious. Skid Marks on A Dry Run. Warning: Live Blueberries. Coffin For A Clown. Funny stuff. There is always a bevy of hot women walking around Intertect, showing up as secretaries and office runners and so forth. Which makes me think the casting agent for this show was getting laid a lot on the side by promising walk-on roles to every hot woman who crossed his path. And even if the bad guys are NOT from “the syndicate”, they still seem to have hired thugs for some reason. All this means that every single episode of Mannix is exactly the same as every other episode of Mannix. And that makes the first season tough to watch all the way through – 24 one-hour episodes, the main difference in each being that the hot blonde is played by a different actress.
Now, there is one awfully cool special feature on the DVD worth mentioning. Clips from the “Hard-Boiled Murder” episode of the TV show Diagnosis Murder, where the entire cast of Mannix was reunited for the show. And by that I mean Connors, Campanella and Peggy Fair, who played Mannix’s secretary. One of the first African-American women to have a regular role on a major TV series, Fair was very good, but she didn’t appear until Season Two. So really, there is almost no reason to pick up Mannix Season One.
Sunday, June 1st, 2008
The Canadian Conservative government has decided that they are the best judges of art and proper taste. They are trying to pass a bill called “C10″, a bill that would give them the power to approve or deny tax credits for Canadian artists depending on how they, the government, through a committee, saw that art. Federal Heritage minister Josee Verner says:
“We are far from censorship here. We are just putting forward an intention from our government and (from) the former Liberal government just to make sure that we will take fiscal measure to make sure that the Canadian taxpayers’ money won’t fund extreme violence, child pornography or something like that.”
The change to the Income Tax Act (Bill C-10) would allow Verner, or a government committee, to deny tax credits to productions deemed offensive and “contrary to public policy.” Members of the Canadian film and television industry have criticized the possible amendment for threatening to deplete Canadian production by casting doubt over its financing. But although that is the immediate concern, in the long run it could be the least of their worries. Famous Canadian actors and film makers like Sarah Polley have spoken out against this bill because of censorship. And although Verner may well believe what she says (or maybe not – she is, after all, a politician), there is something amiss here. This is a government who under Stephen Harper has stated, almost implicitly, their desire to control the media. They have been closed-mouth in dealing with the media to such a degree that most Canadians don’t really know their policies on anything. Which, in effect, is an attempt to censor that media. So if you are willing to practice indirect censorship with newspapers, what is to stop you from practicing direct censorship once the ability falls into your hands. And if C10 passes, that ability will be squarely within the power of the Tories.
Now, of course you say – I don’t want my tax dollars going toward child pornography or extreme violence! And of course, you are right. But when has this been an issue before? When has a film director approached the government, hat in hand, asking for a grant so he can make his blood-and-guts child porn epic? And when has he been approved for this grant? It has never happened. So why pass a bill to prevent something that has never happened from happening, unless it is the first step toward censorship? And although it may irritate us that something like the remake of Prom Night gets a tax break in Canada, preventing that isn’t what the bill is designed to do. The definition of “offensive material” and “material that is contrary to public policy” seems deliberately vague. What does that mean, really? Well, the problem is that it could mean anything. And it won’t prevent making movies that are lousy, but rather those that are edgy and interesting and perhaps designed to provoke.
The latest example is the movie “Young People F***ing”, a movie which caused a lot of controversy when some prominent Conservative employees were offered free tickets to the screening, resulting in at least one firing. Can you imagine the Conservatives firing someone because they accepted a free ticket to an advance screening of Indiana Jones? This is why the whole thing smacks of censorship. The reason these tax breaks for Canadian art exist is that it is in the best interests of Canada to support our homegrown talent. (It’s also one of the reasons Graham Greene and Gordon Pinsent still get work.) But this bill will be counter-productive in a big way. Not only is it a slippery slope toward the government telling us Canadians what we can and can’t watch, and what is suitable for us, but it will also drive film makers out of Canada.
One of the scariest parts of this bill is the part that says the tax credits for these projects, if they are deemed offensive by these arbitrarily defined guidelines, will be pulled after the projects are completed. That means if a Canadian film maker wants to push boundaries, and make something daring and provocative, he or she must wait until the project is done to see if the rug will be pulled out from under them. Sure, you’ve made something artistic, but this committee says it’s “contrary to public policy”, whatever that means, and they take from you the money you needed to get this film done in the first place. So now, you can never make a film again, because you are massively in debt. And what kind of bank will finance a loan for a project which may well make it to completion and then have everything taken away, to the point where it can no longer be distributed or have the capacity to make any money?
The government should support homegrown artists and talent. But they should not dictate how. This would be like the City of Ottawa cutting an ownership group a tax break so they can bring the CFL back to Ottawa. The new football team comes in, revitalizes a community, brings in great revenue, is run exceptionally well, and generates money for the city. More money than they would have made through the taxes they waived. And then, three years in, as the new team is about to embark on it’s first playoff run, the city all of a sudden reverses it’s decision on that tax break, demands the team pay four million dollars in taxes immediately, and basically forces them out of the league. (A stretch? – I don’t know, it IS Ottawa City Council.) And why? Because they didn’t sign Jason Clermont when they had the chance, and they benched Damon Allen down the stretch. Or maybe because your star linebacker was caught drunk driving. Or some such thing – By the way, I assume if Ottawa ever has another CFL team, Damon Allen will come out of retirement to be the QB at the age of 57.
OK, football digressions aside, the point here is that there are already controls in place to prevent truly offensive and heinous movies and TV shows from being made with the help of Canadian tax dollars. We will not, ever, as taxpayers, be on the hook for child porn. There is no reason for this bill except to exert one more facet of government control over Canadians. And if it causes Canadian artists to censor themselves for fear of losing funding, or worse, to be ruined when everything is taken away, or worst of all, leave Canada completely to ply their trade in another country without such dangerous policies, then we, as Canadians, have all lost.