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Shakespeare in Love, Revisited

Shakespeare in Love, Revisited, image,
Seana McKenna as Julius Caesar. Photography by Clay Stang – The Garden, courtesy of The Stratford Festival.

Shakespeare in Love, Revisited
by Ralph Lucas – Publisher

(February 2, 2018 – Toronto, ON) If I was forced to make a short list of films that I thought had really smart writing Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Shakespeare in Love would be on the list. Shakespeare in Love gets a lot of it smarts from Tom Stoppard, who cowrote the screenplay with Marc Norman. Stoppard, a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, also wrote, among many others, Empire of the Sun, Brazil, The Russia House and Billy Bathgate. Both Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill were written by Richard Curtis who also gave me some of my other favourite films including The Girl in the Café and the Black Adder TV series. But it’s Shakespeare in Love that came to mind. when I saw a recent performance of Shakespeare’s King Lear by the Groundling Theatre.

Part of the attraction was I had seen previous Groundling productions and liked what they were doing, plus the company was founded in 2011 by Canadian stage, TV and film actor Graham Abbey. But most of the attraction was seeing Seana McKenna in the role of Lear. In Shakespeare in Love we are treated to the fantasy of a women (Gwyneth Paltrow) appearing on stage at a time when all productions were an all-male affair. Women were first permitted to perform on the English stage in the early 1660s, after the Restoration of King Charles II. One date that is mentioned is 1629 when a touring troupe of male and female French players showed up in England. The first woman to appear in a Shakespeare play did so in 1660 – 44 years after the Bard’s death. So part of my interest in Lear, as the play was now named, was seeing a woman in the role traditionally played by a man.

McKenna was nothing short of brilliant as Lear and the relationship between her and her daughters achieved a poignancy that I think must have been unachievable with a man in the title role. In its time the play traces Lear’s descent into madness. Today, with Alzheimers the frightening scourge of an aging population, McKenna’s depiction of the disease’s unrelenting path is deft, tragic and heartbreaking.

Martha Henry and Brent Carver. Photography by Clay Stang – The Garden. Courtesy of the Stratford Festival.
Intrigued with the idea of women playing roles once reserved exclusively for men I remembered we had published a story last October about the Stratford Festival and about Martha Henry, who will turn 80 this month and will play Prospero in The Tempest, Shakespeare’s great drama of loss and reconciliation, and the last play that Shakespeare wrote alone.

What else might Stratford be up to?

 In addition to Martha Henry playing Prospero, Lucy Peacock will play Satan in Paradise Lost. Inspired by John Milton’s epic poem of the cosmic battle between good and evil, Satan’s revenge and the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, this Stratford production is being billed as an “ultra-contemporary new drama” that is “fiercely engaging, irreverently funny and deeply moving.” And Seana McKenna returns to Stratford to take the title role in a production of Julius Caesar (pictured at the top of this article). This will be her 27th season at Stratford.

With women in Hollywood and Canada still overlooked for plum screen roles and now bringing to light decades of sexual harassment or assault, will the day come when women begin to inhabit the roles most associated with men? Will the next James Bond be played by a woman? What about Robin Hood? Maybe some remake of a Glenn Ford western; he made 27 of them. I wonder who might fill his cowboy boots in The Fastest Gun Alive?

It is more than simply interesting to see women take lead roles in Shakespeare plays. While the words remain the same, the accent, if you will, the perspective, the focus shifts and the story bends and is refreshed in a way that results in something far more than switching genders. I think it’s too soon to say if this is a trend and if what is happening on stage can translate to film. It might be something that only works best with Shakespeare. As noted in that October article, in a 2010 filmed version of The Tempest, Helen Mirren played Prospero, changing the character’s name to Prospera.

For a look at the complete calendar for the 2018 season at Stratford, click here.

Northernstars logo imageRalph Lucas is the founder and publisher of Northernstars.ca. He began writing about film and reviewing movies while in radio in Montreal in the mid-1970s.

Diana Bang

Diana Bang, actress,
Thomas Middleditch and Diana Bang in a publicity still for Entanglement.

B: in Vancouver, B.C.

Diana Bang got her start in acting with the Asian-Canadian sketch comedy group, Assaulted Fish. She is best known for her role as Sook in Seth Rogen’s The Interview.

Features & TV Movies:

VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release

Ripples (2008, short)
Do You Know Me? (TV-2009)
Dandy Lions (2009, short)
Sorority Wars (TV-2009)
Misplaced (2009, short)

Call Me Mrs. Miracle (TV-2010)
The Edge of the Garden (TV-2011)
Panmunjom (2012, short)
Kiss at Pine Lake (TV-2012)
The Music Teacher (TV-2012)
Abducted: The Carlina White Story (TV-2012)
Lost Lagoon (2012)
Tom Dick & Harriet (TV-2013)
That Burning Feeling (2013)
Rocketship Misfits (2013, short)
No Clue (2013)
Guess Who’s Coming to Christmas (TV-2013)
The Price Is Precise (2015, short)
The Tree Inside (2015)
The Master Cleanse (2016)
PLAN b (VR-2016, short)
Never Better: A Closure Comedy (2017, short)
Entanglement (2017)
Lucy Dies (2017, short)
Status Update (2018)
Boundaries (2018)

TV Series – Cast:
Alice (2009, mini-series)

Eve of Destruction (2013, mini-series)

TV Series – Guest appearances:
Aliens in America (2008)

Fringe (2010)
The Killing (2011)
Continuum (2012)
Bates Motel (2013, 2017)
Rush (2014)
Convos with My 2-Year Old (2015, 2016)
Second Chance (2016)
Paranormal Solutions Inc. (2016)
No Tomorrow (2016)
Hard Days, Wet Nights (2017)
Lucifer (2017)
Imaginary Mary (2017)


85 minutes – comedy-drama
Festival Release date: May 19, 2017, Seattle Film Festival
Release date: February 9, 2018 (Canada, U.S)
Canadian distributor: Thunderbird

While searching for the meaning of his existence, Ben Layten (Thomas Middleditch) uncovers a family secret that leads him to a woman named Hanna… But when he and Hanna (Jess Weixler) inadvertently fall in love, his life becomes strangely complicated. Ben starts to realize that everything is amazingly and incredibly connected – and that the world might just be more inexplicable than he imagined, and that life, and love, is a lot more complicated than he ever imagined.

Entanglement, movie, poster,



Amber Ripley
Jason James

Executive Producer:

Jhod Cardinal
Tim Gamble
Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith

Line Producer:

Krista Kelloway


Jason James


Jason Filiatrault


James Liston


Jamie Alain
Gareth C. Scales
Christopher Watson


Andrew Harris

Production Designer:

Scott Moulton

Art Director:

Kara Hornland

Costume Designer:

Sekyiwa Wi-Afedzi

Cast: Roles:

Thomas Middleditch
Jess Weixler
Diana Bang
Randal Edwards
Marilyn Norry
Eric Keenleyside
Johannah Newmarch
Jena Skodje
Shauna Johannesen
Nicole Laplaca
Mackenzie Gray
Graeme Duffy
Viv Leacock
Denalda Williams
B.j. Harrison
Angelo Renai
Michael Bardach

Ben Layten
Hanna Weathers
Tabby Song
Betty Layten
Norm Layten
Dr. Jill Franklen
Alexa Bales
The Real Hanna
Street Photographer
Doctor Chang
Security Guard
Scruffy hobo

A Banner Year for Canadians at the 2018 Academy Awards

The Shape of Water, image,
Image from The Shape of Water courtesy of FOX Searchlight Pictures.

A Banner Year for Canadians and the Canadian Film Industry at the 2018 Academy Awards
By Wyndham Wise

(January 30, 2018 – Toronto, ON) Two films in 2017 shattered historical stereotypes of what Canadian films are and are supposed to be — Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water and Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049.

But I hear you say, what the heck are you talking about? Neither film is Canadian. Well, yes and no. While it’s a 100 percent American production from Fox Searchlight Productions, The Shape of Water is being enthusiastically embraced as Canadian due to the fact that it was shot entirely in Toronto studios with exteriors filmed in Hamilton passing for 1950’s Baltimore, and its entire production crew, apart from the top talent, was made up of local Toronto union members.

Of course, two Golden Globes, 13 Oscar and 12 BAFTA nominations — many going to those local union members — has made the Toronto media sit up and take notice and embrace The Shape of Water with civic pride. It also helps that Mexican-born director del Toro has made Toronto his home base for several years now.

By Canadian tax laws, Blade Runner 2049 is in fact a Canadian film. In reality, it’s an American movie, a joint venture between Alcon Entertainment, who own the rights to the Blade Runner franchise, and Sony Pictures made in association with Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions and Vancouver’s Thunderbird Films. It was filmed entirely at the Korda Studios in Hungary.

Beyond its star, Ryan Gosling, and director, the film’s Canadian connection is tantalizing and extensive, earning its official minority co-production status with the Canadian Audio-Visual Certification Office, and tax credits from the provinces of Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia.

Included in the 16-minute credit role at the end of Blade Runner 2049 are the names of these talented Canadians (this is only a partial list and does not include the dozens of special and visual effects artists, technicians and their assistants): Tim Gamble and Frank Guistra, executive producers with Thunderbird Films; Denis Villeneuve, director; Ryan Gosling, lead actor; Mackenzie Davis, supporting actress; Dennis Gassner, production designer; Renée April, costumes; Jo-Ann MacNeil, key makeup artist (also Csilla Blake-Horvath); Pierre Gill, second unit DOP; and special and visual effects from Framestore, Double Negative, Rodeo FX and MPC Montreal.

Blade Runner 2049 snared five Oscar nominations, a record for a Canadian film (which ties it with Atlantic City, a Canada-France co-production from the tax-shelter era), and eight BAFTA nominations (including one for Villeneuve for best director, something that the Academy unfortunately choose to overlook). Giustra, the founder of Lionsgate Films and a current director with

Blade Runner 2049, movie, poster,
Blade Runner 2049 poster courtesy of
Warner Bros. Pictures.
Thunderbird Films, and Tim Gamble, CEO of Thunderbird, worked for years with Alcon Entertainment to bring Los Angeles Police Department bounty hunter Rick Deckard back out of retirement and onto the silver screen. “We’ve been involved on this project for four or five years now and to see it finally being made is a dream come true,” Gamble said from his Vancouver office.

Blade Runner 2049 is a sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic. Scott served as executive producer and gave Villeneuve, Hollywood’s most in-demand Canadian director, carte blanche. The sequel is cold, slow and grandiose, and perfectly captures the detached coolness of its predecessor. It unfolds at its own esoteric pace, more concerned with exploring the bruised psyche of Gosling’s K, and the dark corners of the dystopian world he inhabits, than with shootouts, beats-per-minute action sequences and spaceship chases. It’s an elegant and thoughtful continuation of a sci-fi classic, and Villeneuve’s enormous talent is on full display with this visually spectacular, tonally haunting, dream-like epic.

Am I the only one to notice that The Shape of Water is a mash-up of The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) and Ron Howard’s Splash (1984), a film described as a love story between a young man and a mermaid. Bare with me a minute here. Substitute Sally Hawkins’ lonely hearts character in The Shape of Water for Tom Hanks’ love-starved bachelor in Splash; her buddy/comic foil Octavia Spencer for The Shape of Water, movie, poster,Hanks’ brother, played by John Candy; the fish creature (Doug Jones) for Daryl Hannah’s mermaid; and Michael Shannon’s nasty bad guy for Eugene Levy’s comic version of the same character.

Despite the art-house pretensions and overriding Cold War themes of The Shape of Water, the storyline is basically the same as Splash and the end is almost a direct steal.

At the end of Splash, the army pursues Hanks and Hannah through the streets of Manhattan as they make a mad dash for the water; in The Shape of Water, it’s a murderous Shannon who chases the creature and Hawkins through the streets of Baltimore to the water’s edge. In both films the protagonists make it just in the nick of time; and in both films, Hanks and Hawkins instantaneously and magically adapt to life in the deep with their true loves.

In total, 13 Canadians have been nominated for Oscars this year, which has to be record number. Anthony Leo, co-producer of the animated feature The Breadwinner, a Canada-Ireland-Luxembourg co-production based on an award-winning Canadian novel by Deborah Ellis; Christopher Plummer for best supporting actor in Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World (it’s Plummer’s third nomination; he won in 2010 for Beginners); The Shape of Water’s sound editing and mixing crews, which includes Nathan Robitaille, Nelson Ferreira, Glen Gauthier, Christian T. Cooke and Brad Zoern; The Shape of Water’s co-producer, J. Miles Dale, and it’s production and set design team, including Paul D. Austerberry, Jeffrey A. Melvin and Shane Vieau; Winnipeg-born editor Sidney Wolinsky for The Shape of Water and Vancouver-born production designer Dennis Gassner for Blade Runner 2049.

Northernstars logo imageWyndham Wise is Editor of Take One’s Essential Guide to Canadian Film and former editor-in-chief of Take One: Film in Canada, as well as an occasional contributor to Northernstars.ca.

Blade Runner 2049

123 minutes – Sci-Fi Drama
Language: English
Release date: October 6, 2017
DVD release date: January 16, 2018
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

Based on characters in Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? the story for Blade Runner 2049 was conceived by co-screenwriter Hampton Fancher. Set 30 years after the original film, Officer K (Ryan Gosling) is a new LAPD blade runner who unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. His discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former blade runner who’s been missing for 30 years. Blade Runner 2049 is a USA-UK-Hungary-Canada co-production.

Also see: A Banner Year for Canadians at the 2018 Academy Awards.
Also see: This film was selected as one of the Top 10 Canadian Films of the 2010s.
Poster & Trailer courtesy of Warner Bros.

Blade Runner 2049, movie, poster,



Broderick Johnson
Andrew A. Kosove
Cynthia Sikes Yorkin
Bud Yorkin

Executive Producer:

Yale Badik
Bill Carraro
Tim Gamble
Frank Giustra
Val Hill
Ridley Scott

Co-Executive Producer:

Asa Greenberg
Ian McGloin


Dana Belcastro
Carl O. Rogers
Steven P. Wegner

Associate Producer:

Donald L. Sparks


Denis Villeneuve


Hampton Fancher
Michael Green


Roger Deakins


Joe Walker


Benjamin Wallfisch
Hans Zimmer

Production Designer:

Dennis Gassner

Art Director:

Paul Inglis (Supervising art director)
David Doran
Bence Erdelyi
Lydia Fry
Rod McLean
Stefan Speth
Alessandra Querzola (Set Decoration)

Costume Designer:

Renée April

Cast: Roles:

Ryan Gosling
Dave Bautista
Robin Wright
Mark Arnold
Vilma Szécsi
Ana de Armas
Wood Harris
David Dastmalchian
Tómas Lemarquis
Sylvia Hoeks
Edward James Olmos
Jared Leto
Sallie Harmsen
Hiam Abbass
Mackenzie Davis
Krista Kosonen
Elarica Johnson
André Lukács Molnár
István Göz
Pál Nyári
Joshua Tersoo Allagh
Zoltán Béres
Konstantin Pál
Ferenc Györgyi
Samuel Brown
Lennie James
Carla Juri
Kincsö Sánta
Barkhad Abdi
Harrison Ford
Ben Thompson
Suzie Kennedy
David Benson
Stephen Triffitt
Sean Young

Sapper Morton
Lieutenant Joshi
Angry Old Lady
File Clerk
Niander Wallace
Female Replicant
Doxie #2
Doxie #3
Memory Child
Scavenger #1
Scavenger #2
Scavenger #3
Scavenger #4
Scavenger #5
Scavenger #6
Orphanage Boy
Mister Cotton
Dr. Ana Stelline
Birthday Girl
Doc Badger
Rick Deckard
Elvis Look-A-Like
Marilyn Look-A-Like
Liberace Look-A-Like
Sinatra Look-A-Like

Someone Else’s Wedding

Someone Else's Wedding, movie, image,

86 minutes – Comedy-Drama
Festival release date: December 1, 2017 (Whistler Film Festival)
Release date: TBA
Production company: CCI Entertainment
Canadian distributor:

The fractured Haines family attempts a reunion as the eldest son gets set to marry in Montreal. It is a wedding that no one really wants to attend. Barbara Haines (Kathleen Turner) is the forceful matriarch who shows up with wimpy boyfriend Albert (Wallace Shawn) in tow. However, Barbara’s ex-lover Tammy (Francis Fisher) is also at the wedding and since she helped raise the kid, she feels she has some matriarchal privileges as well. Tammy also has a lot of unresolved animosity towards Barbara that has yet to be settled. The younger members of the wedding party also manifest a number of their own issues that bubble up on the occasion of this dysfunctional family get-together as a loud, hilarious, disaster of a wedding ensues.

Someone Else's Wedding, poster, movie,



Pat Kiely
Philip Svoboda
Robert Vroom
Arnie Zipursky

Executive Producer:

Berry Meyerowitz
Jeff Sackman

Line Producer:

Martha Fernandez


Pat Kiely


Pat Kiely


Robert Vroom


Michael Pierro

Art Director:

Sylvain Lemaitre
Élyse Bédard (Set Decoration)

Cast: Roles:

Jessica Paré
Kathleen Turner
Luke Kirby
Jessica Parker Kennedy
Kevin Zegers
Wallace Shawn
Frances Fisher
Cristina Rosato
Jacob Tierney
Kalinka Petrie
David La Haye
Nathaly Thibault
Arthur Holden
Albert Kwan
Johnny Griffin

Barbara Haines
Tammy Bergman
Mareva De La Torre
Hotel Guest

The Shape of Water leads Oscar® Noms

The Shape of Water leads Oscar® Noms
The Shape of Water image courtesy of Fox Searchlight.

(January 23, 2018 – Toronto, ON) Guillermo del Toro’s Golden Globe win as Best Director was a sure sign he would be on the list for the 90th anniversary Oscars® and he and his film, the marvellously crafted fantasy The Shape of Water rule the race with a total of 13 Academy Award nominations announced earlier this morning in Hollywood.

In essence, The Shape of Water tells the story of a mute janitor who falls in love with an imprisoned sea creature. Its 13 nominations, including Best Picture, are just one away from the record for the most in Academy Awards history. The 1950 film All About Eve was the first to be nominated for 14 Oscars®, followed by James Cameron’s Titanic and last year’s La La Land, which costarred Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Nominations are one thing, actually winning is something else. Only three films have won 11 of the coveted Academy trophies including Ben Hur in 1959, Titanic in 1997 and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2003. All About Eve and La La Land landed 6 awards.

In addition to del Toro for Best Director and the film for Best Picture, as Canadian media was quick to point out, the “shot in Toronto” The Shape of Water nominations include Richard Jenkins for Actor in a Supporting Role; Sally Hawkins, who starred in the Canadian hit Maudie, was nominated as Actress in a Leading Role; Octavia Spencer in the category Actress in a Supporting Role; Dan Laustsen for Cinematography; Luis Sequeira for Costume Design; Sidney Wolinsky for Film Editing; Alexandre Desplat for Original Score; Paul Denham Austerberry for Production Design; Nathan Robitaille and Nelson Ferreira for Sound Editing; Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern and Glen Gauthier for Sound Mixing and Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor for Original Screenplay.

Blade Runner 2049 created a lot of buzz for Canadian director Denis Villeneuve, but he was not nominated for his work on the film. It did pick up nominations for Cinematography (Roger A. Deakins), Production Design (Sarah Greenwood), Sound Editing (Mark Mangini and Theo Green), Sound Mixing (Ron Bartlett, Doug Hemphill and Mac Ruth) and finally Visual Effects (John Nelson, Gerd Nefzer, Paul Lambert and Richard R. Hoover)

Christopher Plummer picked up a nomination for Best Supporting Actor for All the Money in the World. It must have been a sweet moment for both Plummer and director Sir Ridley Scott. Scott wanted Plummer in the first place but the studio pushed for Kevin Spacey, who Plummer then replaced when all of Spacey’s scenes needed to be reshot after Spacey’s career quickly evaporated.

The Canadian co-production The Breadwinner is one of five films up for an Oscar® in the category Animated Feature.

The 90th anniversary Oscars will be handed out on March 4, 2018 and will be hosted for a second time by Jimmy Kimmel.

Stana Katic

B: April 26, 1978 in Hamilton, Ontario

Known for her role as Kate Beckett in the long-running series Castle, which starred fellow Canadian Nathan Fillion in the title role, Stana Katic began life in Hamilton, Ontario. She moved with her Croatian-born parents to Aurora, Illinois and graduated high school there in 1996. She returned to Canada to study at the University of Toronto and went on to the DePaul University Goodman School of Drama, where she studied acting. She also studied acting at the Beverly Hills Playhouse acting school. Stana Katic plays the role of Emily Byrne in the 2018 US-Israeli co-pro series Absentia.

Features & TV Movies:

VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release

Acid Freaks (1999, short)

Shut-Eye (VR-2003)
Pit Fighter (2005)
Faceless (TV-2006)
Dragon Dynasty (TV-2006)
Company Man (TV-2007)
Feast of Love (2007)
Stiletto (2008)
Quantum of Solace (2008)
The Librarian III: The Curse of the Judas Chalice (TV-2008)
The Spirit (2008)

Truth About Kerry (2010)
For Lovers Only (2011)
The Double (2011)
Big Sur (2013)
Superman: Unbound (voice, VR-2013)
CBGB (2013)
Sister Cities (TV-2016)
The Rendezvous (2016)
Lost in Florence (2017)
Cadaver (2018)

TV Series – Cast:
Would Be Kings (2008, mini-series)
Castle (2009-2016)

Absentia (2018)

TV Series – Guest appearances:
The Handler (2004)
Alias (2004)
Dragnet (2004)
The Shield (2004)
JAG (2004)
The Closer (2005)
ER (2005)
24 (2006)
Brothers & Sisters (2006)
Heroes (2007)
CSI: Miami (2007)
The Unit (2007)

Fletcher Drive (2012)

Dim The Fluorescents

128 minutes – Comedy
Festival release date: January 2017 (Slamdance, World Premiere)
Release date: December 8, 2017 (Toronto)
US Release date: November 5, 2017 (Portland)

Dim The Fluorescents follows the friendship and creative partnership between struggling actor Audrey (Claire Armstrong) and aspiring playwright Lillian (Naomi Skwarna). Lacking a proper outlet for their creativity, they funnel all of their considerable passion and talent into the only paying work they can find: role-playing demonstrations for corporate seminars. When Lillian and Audrey book their biggest gig to date – at a hotel conference with an expected audience of three-hundred – their lengthy and emotionally fraught rehearsal process, two lifetimes’ worth of personal, professional and creative compromises rise to the surface and the ensuing tensions threaten to derail both the production and their friendship.

Named best feature at the Slamdance film festival in Park City, Utah, Northernstars selected Dim The Fluorescents as one of the Top 10 Canadian Films of 2017.

Dim the Fluorescents, movie, poster,



Josh Clavir
Daniel Warth

Executive Producer:

Daniel Bekerman
Andrew Ferguson
Matt King
Andrea Mullan


Julie Baldassi

Associate Producer:

Vita Carlino
Hannah Donegan
Trevor Duwyn
Caitlin Foster
George Gibbons
Kalli Paakspuu
Lori Thorpe


Daniel Warth


Miles Barstead
Daniel Warth


Chet Tilokani


Daniel Warth


Miles Barstead

Production Designer:

Hanna Puley
Joële Walinga

Art Director:

Elise Taylor

Costume Designer:

Jillian Kovaçik
Julia Cronin (assistant costume designer)

Cast: Roles:

Claire Armstrong
Naomi Skwarna
Andreana Callegarini-Gradzik
Brendan Hobin
Clare McConnell
Todd Graham
Jocelyn Reynolds
Anna Maguire
Laura Tanguay
Thalia Kane
Rebecca Payne
Bo Martyn
Kye Fox
Stanley Bonn
David John Phillips
Robert Cook
Philipp G. Berg
Vitor Marques
Hannan Younis
Stephanie Tonietto
Joe Organ
Charles Yao
Dan Fortin
Alex Samaras
Emily Hughes
Zazu Myers

Casting Assistant
Other Actress 1
Other Actress 2
Other Actress 3
Guy 1
Guy 2
Bradley’s Boss
June’s Admirer 1

CBC Grabs Record CSA Noms

Canadian Screen Awards, image,

(January 17, 2018 – Toronto, ON) When it comes to any part of the government or any government-funded entity like the CBC, you’ll often hear people say, in a derogatory way, something like “Your tax dollars at work.” By any measure, CBC is spending those precious funds very well when judged by those who should know, members of the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television who have bestowed 210 Canadian Screen Awards nominations on the public broadcaster, up from 193 last year.

Here’s a quick look at just some of those nominations:

In the Drama category, CBC shows have a total of 89 nominations. They include Anne (13), Alias Grace (11), Murdoch Mysteries: Once Upon A Murdoch Christmas (4), Pure (3), X-company (3) and Gord Downie’s The Secret Path (2).

Nominations in Comedy include Kim’s Convenience (12), Schitt’s Creek (11), Baroness Von Sketch Show (6), Workin’ Moms (5), Rick Mercer Report (5), This Hour Has 22 Minutes (4), Mr. D (3) and Michael: Every Day (1).

CBC News received 30 nominations in 16 network and local categories, while CBC Sports garnered eight nominations including a Best Sports Host nomination for Scott Russell. It had been previously announced that former CBC News

Rick Mercer, actor, host,
Rick Mercer at the 2015 Canadian Screen Awards.
Photo © 2015 by Ralph Lucas. Used with permission.
chief correspondent and The National anchor Peter Mansbridge will be honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award and satirical sketch comedy series Rick Mercer Report, now in its final season, will be given an Academy Icon Award for its ongoing contribution to the media industry in Canada and globally.

CBC-supported Canadian feature films received 19 nominations including Maudie (7), The Breadwinner (6), The Man Who Invented Christmas (3), Bon Cop Bad Cop 2 (2) ) and a nomination for Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for Tzi Ma of Meditation Park, one of the first recipients of the CBC Breaking Barriers Film Fund.

So next time you hear someone say something about CBC and taxes, you’ll be able to remind them just how well that money is being spent. The 2018 Canadian Screen Awards will be broadcast live on CBC on Sunday, March 11 at 8 p.m. (9 p.m. AT and 9:30 p.m. NT). Click here for a full list of nominations for television.

Hot Docs Honours Two

Hot Docs Honours Two, image,
John Walker in a still from a Northernstars interview in 2016.

(January 17, 2018 – Toronto, ON) When the 2018 edition of Hot Docs opens in Toronto on April 26, two renowned filmmakers will be honoured. First is U.S., two-time Academy Award winner Barbara Kopple who will be given the Hot Docs Outstanding Achievement Award, recognizing her enduring contribution to the documentary form. Filmmaker John Walker, who Northernstars interviewed in 2016, will be in the spotlight with the festival’s Focus On program, an annual showcase of the work of a Canadian filmmaker.

Walker is one of Canada’s most prolific and respected documentary filmmakers. His films have won international acclaim and appeared at major film festivals from Toronto to Tokyo. He has received 19 nominations and awards from the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television, including the coveted Donald Brittain Award for best social/political documentary. His 2016 feature Quebec My Country Mon Pays had its world premiere at Hot Docs in 2016. He also co-produced, wrote and directed the provocative feature film Passage, a fiction/documentary about the Sir John Franklin search for the fabled Northwest Passage.

John Walker is the first Canadian to receive the Organization of American Historians – Eric Barnouw Award, and his passionate commitment to the documentary form led him to co-found DOC, Documentary Organization of Canada, and act as a mentor to numerous emerging filmmakers across the country.

Barbara Kopple is a highly respected director and producer of documentaries, narrative film and commercials spots. She has won two Academy Awards for Best Documentary Feature—one for American Dream (1991), and the other for Harlan County USA (1977). Her most recent documentary, A Murder in Mansfield, premiered at the 2017 DOC NYC Film Festival, and This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous, which she directed and produced, premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film

Barbara Kopple, photo,
U.S. filmmaker Barbara Kopple.
Festival. Her doc Running from Crazy received a 2014 Primetime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special, and her film The House of Steinbrenner was part of ESPN’s Emmy nominated “30 for 30” series and received a 2010 Peabody Award as well as the International Documentary Association Award for Best Continuing Series.

Kopple also directed and produced, with Cecilia Peck, Shut Up and Sing, following the Dixie Chicks and the fallout they faced after publicly criticizing President Bush; and directed and produced Fallen Champ: The Untold Story of Mike Tyson, for which she was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Directing. With her numerous film credits, Kopple has received several prestigious awards from her peers and colleagues, including the Human Rights Watch Film Festival Irene Diamond Award, Los Angeles Film Critics Award, DC Women of Vision Award, the Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize, the White House Project’s EPIC Award, DC Women of Vision Award, and the New York Women in Film & Television Muse Award, to name just a few.

This year’s Canadian International Documentary Film Festival runs from April 26 to May 6. Click here for more information about Hot Docs.

The TFCA turns 21

TFCA at 20, image,
Sarah Polley at the TFCA podium at the Carlu in Toronto.

The TFCA Turns 21
by Jim Slotek

(January 3, 2018 – Toronto, ON) You’ve got Telefilm and other taxpayer-related grant agencies. And crowdfunding of course. But a major single source of cash for Canadian movies these days is the Toronto Film Critics Association. We criticize because we love.

At its gala Jan. 9 at Toronto’s Carlu – as it does each year – the TFCA will give $100,000 (courtesy of sponsor Rogers) to the movie its members deem Best Canadian Film of the Year.

It’s the biggest cash prize for any Canuck filmmaker, enough for many to make several films. Last year, in a move that was consummately Canadian, the winner, Hugh Gibson (who won for his documentary The Stairs, about Toronto’s Regent Park), shared his winnings with runners up Matt Johnson (Operation Avalanche) and Kazik Radwanski (How Heavy This Hammer). The runners-up got $5,000 each, so the trio split a combined $110,000.

As if that wasn’t enough seed money for the industry, this august group of film know-it-alls (of which I happen to be a member) hands out the annual Technicolor Clyde Gilmour Award (in the name of the late, great Toronto Star movie critic. It’s a career recognition, whose recipients (including Deepa Mehta, Alanis Obomsawin and Norman Jewison) are given $50,000 in post-production services from Technicolor to hand off to a young filmmaker of their choice.
Other awards handed out by the TFCA include the Canadian Tire Allan King Award (not restricted to Canadians, but handed out in the past to Sarah Polley for Stories We Tell and Jennifer Baichwal for Manufactured Landscapes) and the $5,000 Manulife Financial Student Film Award.

This gang of 40-or-so sometimes-squabbling film reviewers is celebrating its 20th year as an organization, with the publication of Our Words On Film, a book of selected articles by its members (available at Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox). It’s gobsmacking to us how a group of writers that started out around a table at a cozy Italian restaurant, came to have such a footprint on the industry on which it reports.

Gilmour was one of two legendary Canadian film critics whose influence informed the creation of the TFCA. The other was Jay Scott, the Globe & Mail’s colourful, hard-partying master of words and metaphors who championed Canadian film throughout his career until his death in 1993. The award in his name – the Stella Artois Jay Scott Prize – goes to Canadian up-and-comers, like Ingrid Veninger and Xavier Dolan (whose work Jay would have loved). For her part, Veninger gave her $5,000 prize in thousand-dollar increments to five younger filmmakers. Canadian moviemakers apparently like to share.

The years pass, and some fondly-regarded colleagues are no longer with us. Now magazine’s late John Harkness (known at one time to studio film publicists as “The Harkness Monster) would pronounce loudly on films as they were screening, and would often leave early – sometimes very early. “If the milk is sour, I don’t drink the whole quart to find out if it gets any better,” he’d say when called on it. Fun fact: late in life, John became quite well off from winnings in online poker.

Original member Angela Baldessarre was smart, witty, well-liked and well-informed, and a staunch advocate of international (and particularly Italian filmmaking). There is an annual Best Film award in her name at the Italian Contemporary Film Festival, and I was proud to serve on the jury and give a speech about her and this year’s winning film Fiore.

Anyone who thinks critics are a hive mind, loving films you hate and hating films you love, would be surprised at the strenuous debate that goes on in our annual “live vote” (I plan to wear a “Your favourite film sucks” t-shirt to next year’s vote). Sometimes we crazily leave orbit, like the year we voted Nicolas Cage best actor for Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans.

We also have philosophical differences about what Canadian films should mean. (I maintain our comfort-myth about being a breeding ground for funny people tends not to be reflected in our movies, which often suggest we’re the unhappiest place on Earth. I pushed hard one year for Goon as best picture. No luck).

This year, the trio of Canadian filmmakers in line for a that $100k cheque is young, given to thought-provoking films, all worth a look. Kevan Funk’s Hello Destroyer (about a junior hockey player who goes from hero to zero after critically injuring an opponent with a hit) is as much a study of society’s shunning behaviour as about Canada’s de facto national sport. Ashley McKenzie’s Werewolf is an affecting piece about a relationship of two junkies, doomed by their inability to sync their attempts to get “clean,” while Joyce Wong’s very millennial Wexford Plaza uses a Rashomon-like approach to portray a flirtation that goes way wrong between a 19-year old woman working as a strip-mall security guard and a commitment-phoebe bartender.

For the record, here are some more past winners of the TFCA’s Rogers Best Canadian Film prize: Guy Maddin (The Forbidden Room and My Winnipeg), Denis Villeneuve (Enemy, Incendies and Polytechnique), Sarah Polley (Stories We Tell and Away From Her), David Cronenberg (A History Of Violence and Spider) and Zacharias Kunuk (Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner).

That’s a formidable slice of Canadian film history right there.

Northernstars logo imageJim Slotek is a longtime Toronto Sun columnist, movie critic, TV critic and comedy beat reporter who has interviewed thousands of celebrities. He’s been a scriptwriter for the NHL Awards, Gemini Awards and documentaries, and was nominated for a Gemini Award for comedy writing on a special. His writing also appears in Cineplex, Movie Entertainment magazines and in the blog Original-Cin.

Passages 2017

Passages, 2017,

Passages 2017
by Ralph Lucas – Publisher

(January 1, 2018 – Toronto, ON) The new year 2017 was only hours old when Bill Marshall’s family released the news that this icon of film in Canada had died in hospital of a heart attack. He was a driving force behind the establishment of numerous industry organizations, including the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, The Toronto Film and Television Office, and was past President of the Canadian Association of Motion Picture Producers. He was the man behind the Niagara Integrated Film Festival, which he launched in 2013, but he will always be remembered for being a cofounder of the Festival of Festivals which grew up to become the Toronto International Film Festival. Bill Marshall was 77 when he died in Toronto on January 1st.

Heart issues would fell the next two Canadians actors. Although he was born in Italy, Tony Rosato grew up in Canada and became an actor. Remembered for his work on Saturday Night Live, SCTV and Night Heat), Rosato was 62 when he died of a heart attack on January 10th.

Joy Coghill was born May 13, 1926, in tiny Findlater, Saskatchewan and grew up to spend 7 decades in the Vancouver theatre world, a span that saw her honoured with the Order of Canada and the Governor General’s Award for the Performing Arts. In addition to her theatre work she did a fair bit of TV and movies — she was DaVinci’s mother in the long-running CBC drama DaVinci’s Inquest. But Coghill never let her success go to her head. When she was cast in the children’s movie, Jacob Two-Two Meets The Hooded Fang in 1976, she told The Vancouver Sun’s Patrick Nagle, “Look at me — my first feature film and I’m playing a chicken.” Called the “queen of actresses in Vancouver since the ’40s,” by Norman Young, the former chair of  Vancouver Civic Theatres, Joy Coghill was 90 when she died at St. Paul’s Hospital after suffering massive heart failure. Joy Coghill died on January 20th.
Rob Stewart, director,
The first month of 2017 ended with the news Toronto-born filmmaker Rob Stewart had drowned. Stewart disappeared near Alligator Reef, about four nautical miles southeast of Islamorada. He had made it to the surface following his third deep dive where he had been filming for a new feature-length movie about his favourite subject, sharks, and the threat they are under from over fishing and environmental change. It had been reported that he had given an “OK” sign after surfacing, but when one of his diving companions appeared to be in trouble and fell unconscious, attention focused away from Stewart. When people looked back to make sure he was indeed okay he was nowhere to be seen in a vast and otherwise empty part of the water surrounding the Florida Keys. Rob Stewart was 37 when he died on January 31st.

Canadian-born American television producer and writer Howard Leeds died on February 11th. He had worked on such popular series as The Brady Bunch, Silver Spoons and Diff’rent Strokes. Leeds was 97.

Stuart McLean isn’t listed on Northernstars, but we mark his passing on February 15th because he was, quite simply, a radio performer and writer of remarkable talent. Born in Montreal West on April 19, 1948, McLean’s run on CBC began as a researcher for Cross Country Checkup in 1974. Twenty years later, McLean launched The Vinyl Cafe as a summer series. Following the show’s second summer run in 1995, McLean published Stories from the Vinyl Cafe, his first book in that series. The show became part of CBC’s regular schedule in 1997. He was given the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour three times and was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2011 “for his contributions to Canadian culture as a storyteller and broadcaster, as well as for his many charitable activities.” Stuart McLean was 68 when he died of melanoma on February 15.

Just four days later actor Chris Wiggins died. Born in England, Wiggins was a banker there, but changed careers after arriving in Canada in 1952. He headed west coast to Trail, British Columbia and worked in newspaper and radio advertising prior to auditioning for anChris Wiggins, actor, amateur theatre group which required an English voice. This piqued his interest in a possible career move. After winning a Best Actor award (Henry Osborne Challenge Trophy) for stage performance in 1955 at the Dominion Drama Festival, he was advised to head east to Toronto, where there would be more work. In Toronto, he performed on the stage with the Museum Theatre and Crest Theatre and from 1959-1960, he was also a member of the Acting Company with Ontario’s Stratford Festival. Chris Wiggins was 86 when he died from complications from Alzheimer’s disease on February 19.

More than a month would go by before we learned of the passing of Betty Kennedy. Known in Toronto for her career as an interviewer on her show on CFRB radio, Kennedy was also a regular panelist on the CBC news quiz show Front Page Challenge. Kennedy also served as a Canadian Senator in 2000 and 2001. Betty Kennedy was 91 when she died on March 20.

On March 28, French-born Canadian actress Janine Sutto died. Born in Paris, her credits on Northernstars lists more than 45 films and television series that she appeared in. In 1986 she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and was promoted to Companion in 1991. In 1998, she was made a Knight of the National Order of Quebec. Sutto received a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award in 2014. She was less than a month away from her 96th birthday when she died in Montréal. Janine Sutto had stopped performing just four years earlier when she was 92.

Québec actor and theatre director Paul Hébert was 92 when he died on April 20. Born on May 28, 1924 in Thetford Mines, Quebec, Hébert became an icon of Québec theatre, film and television. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada on June 29, 1987 for his services to French Canadian entertainment and was made a Knight of the National Order of Quebec in 1994. In 1984, the Université du Québec awarded him an honorary doctorate; as did Université Laval in 2000. In 2007 he earned the Denise-Pelletier Award for Performing Arts, a Governor General’s Award, the Academy of Quebec Theatre’s Hommage Award and the Victor-Morin Theatre Award. He died in Québec City on April 20th.

Four days later, actress Glory Annen Cibbery died. Born in Kenora, Ontario in 1952, she moved to England when she was 17 to pursue a career as an actor. Her film and TV credits are few. She was 64 when she died in England on April 24 from complications from diabetes.

Georgie Collins was born June 12, 1925 in Calgary, Alberta and grew up to have a career on stage and to a much lesser degree in television and film. Many of her screen credits were in Westerns including the 1987 made-for-TV movie Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge, Cowboys Don’t Cry in 1988 and in six episodes of Lonesome Dove: The Series. Considered the Grand Dame of theatre in her hometown of Calgary, she was 91 when she died there on May 3rd.

Musician Jimmy Dale started out in England in 1935 as James Edwin Dale. He moved to Canada with his famly when he was 11 and went on to become a renowned musical director in television. After attending the Royal Conservatory of Music and studying composition with Gordon Delamont, he played in Peter Appleyard’s band then went on to work as a musical director on many of CBC’s prime time and late night shows in the 1960s. Moving to Los Angeles in 1969, he continued as musical director on the Smothers Brothers, Andy Williams and Sonny and Cher shows. He returned to Toronto in 1972, and joined his old friends Rob McConnell and Guido Basso as the pianist in McConnell’s band, The Boss Brass. He continued to be a force in the Canadian jazz and TV scenes, winning a Juno award for his work with the Boss Brass, he was also nominated for Emmy and Grammy awards. Dale also composed and arranged for film, theatre and live shows. He moved to Naples, Florida in 1997 and died there on May 20th after a long illness.

Sylvia “Cadesky” Stoun Mureddu was 96 when she died on May 25. Don’t recognize the name? Her career spanned 70 years of entertaining as a piano player, singer, and comedian, and humorist under her stage name “Miss Saucy Sylvia”.  Born in Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada on July 27, 1920, at age 6, she began playing the piano, which she learned from the nuns at Sisters of St. Joseph Academy.  She went on to college and graduated from the University of Toronto with a teaching degree and a master in languages. While at UofT she worked at CFRB. She later moved to Cincinnati where she was hired as a staff vocalist on radio station WLW. Other staff vocalists at the time were Rosemary and Betty Clooney, and Doris Day.  The Sylvia Show would be heard every week with guests stopping by including Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington.  She also worked at W.J.R. in Detroit and WINS in New York.

The Canadian-born US TV producer Marilyn Hall was 90 when she died on June 5th. Born in Winnipeg on May 17, 1927, Hall graduated from the University of Toronto. She later earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. Born Marilyn Doreen Plottel, she married Monty Hall in 1947. Monty Hall would also pass away in 2017. Famous for hosting the TV game show Let’s Make a Deal and for being dad to Tony Award-winning actress Joanna Gleason, Monty Hall was 96 when he died of heart failure on September 30th.

American-Canadian film director and screenwriter George A. Romero died on July 16th. Known for Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Creepshow. Romero was born on February 4, 1940 and raised in the Bronx. He moved to Toronto in the early 2000s and attained Canadian citizenship in 2009, becoming a dual Canada-U.S. citizen. Romero was 77 when he died in his sleep in Toronto of lung cancer.

The very next day, July 17th, brought news of the passing of venerable actor Harvey Atkin. Remembered primarily for his roles in the TV series Cagney & Lacey and his film work, particularly Meatballs, Atkin was 74 when he died of cancer.

More than a month went by when Québec novelist and playwright Réjean Ducharme died on natural causes in Montréal. Ducharme was 76.

As mentioned earlier, Monty Hall died on September 30th. The crime writer Max Haines as died on September 30. He wrote 27 true crime books before retiring in 2006. In 2005, he was awarded the Derrick Murdoch Award, one of the Arthur Ellis awards, by the Crime Writers of Canada.

On October 15, Canadian Mi’kmaq artist, musician, composer and playwright Cathy Elliot died after being struck by a car. Elliot was known for working with Indigenous youth across Canada to express their culture through theatre and documentary film. Born June 5, 1957 in Québec, Cathy Elliot was 60 when she died in Essa, Ontario.
Remembering John Dunsworth, actor,
The actor John Dunsworth began acting in elementary school when he was the Voice of God in The Creation. But it wasn’t until taking an elective course at the University of Guelph that he fell in love with drama and was cast as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and Oscar Wilde in The Masque of Wilde. He returned to Halifax in the early 1970s and co-founded Pier 1 on the Halifax Waterfront – the first alternate professional theatre on the east coast. He directed and acted there and for Theatre Canada in Newfoundland; taught at Dalhousie University and directed productions for many theatre companies including a dozen comic operas for the Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Nova Scotia. In the 1990s he landed the role of Jim Lahey in Trailer Park Boys. Dunsworth also had an extensive career in television and film dating back to 1978. One of his more prominent roles in a career with close to 70 credits, was as Dave Teagues in 52 episodes of the series Haven. John Dunsworth was 71 when he died on October 16 after a brief and unexpected illness.

Dunsworth’s passing was overshadowed, as was almost all news on October 17th when The Tragically Hip singer and songwriter Gord Downie died. He was only 53 and had remained quite active despite treatment for an incurable glioblastoma. Those last few months were documented in the documentary Long Time Running co-directed by Nicholas de Pencher and Jennifer Baichwal. Gord Downie was named Canada’s Person of the Year by Canadian Press. He was also Person of the Year in 2016.

You need to be of a certain age to remember “Our Pet, Juliette.” A mainstay of early CBC, Juliette was born in Winnipeg and grew up in Vancouver. A performer from the beginning, she was singing with the Dal Richards’ band at the Hotel Vancouver when she was just 13, and, by 15, she already had her own show on CBC Radio. Her big star turn came in 1956, when she launched her Saturday night television show, which was scheduled right after the enormously high-rated hockey game. The show was cancelled in 1966, a time when tastes were changing and rock ‘n’ roll was rising. She was married to musician Tony Cavazzi for 40 years, until his death in 1994. Juliette Cavazzi continued to sing in CBC specials, and later hosted an afternoon talk show, Juliette and Friends, from 1973-1975. She was 91 when she died in Vancouver on October 26.

On November 6, writer and filmmaker William Weintraub passed away. He worked at the National Film Board as writer, producer and/or director on more than 150 productions. He is usually remembered for

William Weintraub, screenwriter,
Photo of William Weintraub © Lois Siegel.
Used with permission.
his satirical 1979 novel The Underdogs, which provoked controversy by imagining a future Socialist Republic of Quebec, in which English-speakers were an oppressed minority, complete with a violent resistance movement. His 1993 documentary The Rise and Fall of English Montreal dealt with the migration of English Quebeckers out of the province that began in the 1960s and accelerated rapidly after the 1976 election of the separatist Parti Québecois. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2003. Weintraub was 91 when he died in Montréal.

Five filmmakers died in the last month of 2017. Fil Fraser was 85 when he died on December 3rd. He was a broadcaster and producer. The animator, actor and filmmaker Grant Munro died on December 9. In 1952, he co-starred with Jean-Paul Ladouceur in Norman McLaren’s famous short, Neighbours. He worked on the films Two Bagatelles (1953), Seven Surprizes (1963), Christmas Cracker (1963) and Canon (1964). Christmas Cracker, was nominated for an Academy Award in 1962. Born in Winnipeg, Grant Munro was 94 years old when he died in Montréal, Québec.

Actor Bruce Gray died December 13. Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico to Canadian parents, he was 13 when his parents decided to return home to Toronto. Usually remembered for Bruce Gray, actor,his role as Ted Hartley, Jessica’s harried publisher in the long-running U.S. series Murder She Wrote, in Canada he was known for the five seasons he spent portraying investment banker Adam Cunningham on the TV series Traders which brought him a Gemini Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role. Bruce Gray was 81 when he died on December 13.

Canadian producer Bob Crowe died on December 15th. He was a co-owner of Angel Entertainment in Saskatoon and had his hand in everything from feature films to TV series, commercials and live events. He was 62 when he died suddenly in Vancouver.

Finally, actress Heather Menzies-Urich was best known for her role as Louisa von Trapp in the 1965 musical film The Sound of Music and as Jessica 6 in the TV series Logan’s Run. She was 68, when she died on Christmas Eve, December 24th.

Northernstars logo imageRalph Lucas is the founder and publisher of Northernstars.ca. He began writing about film and reviewing movies while in radio in Montreal in the mid-1970s.

The Top 10 Canadian Films of 2017

Top 10 Canadian Films,

The Top 10 Canadian Films of 2017
by Jim Slotek

(January 1, 2018 – Toronto, ON) Discovering good homegrown films is the most gratifying, and at the same time, the most frustrating part of being a Canadian movie critic.

A relative handful of theatres across the country show Canadian films. When Cancon was a “thing” in the ‘70s, movie exhibitors somehow avoided the regulations that were applied to radio and TV, and there is no incentive to show them.

With little promotion, sparse crowds become a self-fulfilling prophesy. At one of the movies I’m going to recommend here, the first screening on opening night in Toronto saw a paid attendance of four. At another, there was no one. Happily, most find their way eventually to the small screen and TMN, where, yes, there are Canadian content regs.

The lead off film here – Porcupine Lake – has yet to open theatrically, save for a handful of film festivals (including TIFF, where it received rave reviews). If it makes it to a theatre near you, do yourself a favour and skip the super-hero movie du jour and see it.

1 – PORCUPINE LAKE: Former child star Ingrid Veninger has made a specialty of directing coming-of-age stories, and this is her latest and best (with Oscar-winner Melissa Leo as an offscreen mentor). It’s the

Porcupine Lake, movie, poster,
Poster for Porcupine Lake courtesy of Films We Like.
story of two oddly-matched tween girls – one a city mouse, the other a rough country kid – who become fervent best friends during a summer in Port Severn, Ont. A powerfully emotional film.

2 – STEGMAN IS DEAD: Canadian films are often accused of being too serious. This debut feature by David Hyde is a darkly funny tale in the Tarantino/Coens “stupid criminal” genre, about a robber-turned-porn-producer named Stegman who has turned to blackmailing his former boss (Michael Ironside) to finance his films. Naturally, a “hit” is taken out on him. But a parade of homicidal nitwits enter his house/studio and don’t come out. Sit back and enjoy.

3 – SUNDOWNERS: Schitt’s Creek writer Pavan Moondi previously directed July Talk lead singer Leah Fay Goldstein to a Best Actress Canadian Screen award nomination in his film Diamond Tongues. In this straight-up comedy, Phil Hanley and Luke Lalonde (of the band Born Ruffians), play a pair of luckless videographers hired to film a disastrous (and drunken) wedding at a Mexican resort. Anarchic comedy of a Canadian sort.

4 – WEIRDOS: Bruce McDonald has been all over the map, with an accent on horror in recent years. But the guy who gave us the rockin’ road movies Highway 61 and Hard Core Logo indulges his ‘70s Cancon jones with this sweet coming-of age story about two Nova Scotia teens (Dylan Authors and Julia Sarah Stone) hitchhiking from Antigonish to Sydney. The story is touching and the music is pop catnip for audiences of a certain age (we’re talking songs by The Stampeders, Edward Bear and Andy Kim). Kind of a cinematic K-Tel album, great to listen to.

5 – HELLO DESTROYER: Kevan Funk is a finalist for the $100,000 Rogers Best Canadian Film award from the Toronto Film Critics Association for this film about a junior hockey player (Jared Abrahamson) who falls off the rails. A gentle young man who is prodded into playing hyper-aggressively, he goes too far and critically injures an opponent. From there the film becomes less about hockey and more about shunning – with hypocrites of all stripes covering their asses and distancing themselves from the former teen sports hero.

6 – THE SECOND TIME AROUND: A solid reason to see this retirement-home romance is that it contains the final performance by the great Canadian actor/singer Don The Second Time Around, movie, poster,Francks. The lovebirds are Linda Thorson (ex of TV’s The Avengers) and veteran comic actor Stuart Margolin, with august support from a veritable Canuck acting Hall of Fame, including Louis del Grande (of CBC’s ‘80s hit Seeing Things) and Jayne Eastwood. A sweet and quirky geriatric rom-com.

7 – POOR AGNES: The winner of the Best Canadian Feature at Montreal’s Fantasia Festival, it’s a claustrophic, darkly comic tale of a female sociopath (Lora Burke) who lives in a cabin in the woods – yet somehow manages to snare young men to hold captive and exert control over. A terrific first performance by newcomer Burke and an ambiguous undercurrent of either empowerment or misogyny, depending on where your antenna is pointed. Provocative stuff.

8 – LET THERE BE LIGHT: Lest we forget that Canadians are among the world’s foremost documentarians, here’s an fascinating film about the (still-elusive) promise of fusion as the ultimate energy source, and the $1 billion a year experiment in the South of France called the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. If it works, scientists will have created a self-sustaining mini-sun with a temperature of 150 million degrees C. Directors Mila Aung-Thwin and Van Royko jump between this big-ticket project (funded by 37 countries) and a handful of colorful inventors who are pretty much trying to create fusion in their garage.

9 – DIM THE FLUORESCENTS: Another Canadian award-winner, Daniel Warth’s dramedy about an actress and playwright (Alias Grace’s Claire Armstrong and Naomi Skwarna) who create dramatic corporate seminars, was named best feature at the Slamdance alternative festival in Park City, Utah. Warth and co-writer Miles Barstead got kudos for a sharp script that allows Armstrong and Skwarna’s characters to bond. Builds to a surprising and much talked-about finish.

10 – WEXFORD PLAZA: Another finalist for the $100Gs TFCA Award. A sweet flirtation that goes sour between a 20-year-old female strip-mall security guard (Reid Asselstine) and a 31-year-old bartender (Darrel Gamotin) is told in he-said/she-said chapters. Joyce Wong tells a realistic story awash with thoughtless Millennial behavior, texting, sexting and general aimlessness. Not a movie for people who feel they have to “like” characters, but one that rings true.

Northernstars logo imageJim Slotek is a longtime Toronto Sun columnist, movie critic, TV critic and comedy beat reporter who has interviewed thousands of celebrities. He’s been a scriptwriter for the NHL Awards, Gemini Awards and documentaries, and was nominated for a Gemini Award for comedy writing on a special. His writing also appears in Cineplex, Movie Entertainment magazines and in the blog Original-Cin.

Daniel Warth

Daniel Warth, director,

Daniel Warth studied film at Toronto’s Sheridan College. His short films that have screened on a number of networks including Comedy Central and CBC as well as at festivals including Beijing International Film Festival, Worldwide Short Film Festival, Chicago Underground Film Festival, Portland Film Festival, FIN: Atlantic International Film Festival and Slamdance Film Festival, where his debut feature, Dim the Fluorescents, won the 2017 Grand Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature.

Features & TV Movies:

VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release

Dick Mime (2010, short)
It Won’t Be Long (2010, short)
Petty Thieves (2013, short)
Dim the Fluorescents (2017)

Credits as a Screenwriter:
It Won’t Be Long (2010, short)
The Fox and the Chickadee (co-writer, 2012, short)
Petty Thieves (co-writer, 2013, short)
Dim the Fluorescents (2017)

Dim the Fluorescents, movie, poster,

Naomi Skwarna

Naomi Skwarna, actress,

Naomi Skwarna is a Toronto-based writer and actor. As a journalist, she writes for Hazlitt, The Hairpin, The Walrus, The Globe and Mail, Toronto Life, The National Post, The Believer, The Brooklyn Quarterly, Real Life, TIFF, and others. As an actor, she performed in Toronto and New York in the original production of Sheila Heti’s All Our Happy Days Are Stupid and in Birdtown & Swanville’s Even This Old Town Was a Forest. She made her film debut in the 2017 feature Dim the Fluorescents.

Features & TV Movies:

VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release

Dim the Fluorescents (2017)

Dim the Fluorescents, movie, poster,

Claire Armstrong

Claire Armstrong, actress,

Claire Armstrong is a primarily a stage actor. The Dora Mavor Moore award-winning actor and producer is also a co-founder of The Storefront Theatre, one of the leading independent companies in Toronto championing new Canadian work. Recent theatre credits include The Crackwalker (Factory Theatre); The Crucible (Theatre Calgary); Arcadia (Citadel Theatre); Black Coffee (Manitoba Theatre Centre); After Miss Julie for which she was given a Dora for Outstanding Performance, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Red One Theatre Collective); Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Tempest (St. Lawrence Shakespeare).

Features & TV Movies:

VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release

Dim the Fluorescents (2017)

TV Series – Cast:
Revelation: The End of Days (2014, mini-series)
Running with Violet (2017)
Alias Grace (2017, mini-series)

Dim the Fluorescents, movie, poster,

Navin Ramaswaran

Navin Ramaswaran, director,

Navin Ramaswaran is a commercial director who also has built an impressive list of credits directing short films and features. His 2013 short, One More for the Road was included in the 2016 release, Bloody Bits: Shorts Compilation Vol. 1. His 2017 feature, Poor Agnes, was the winner of the Best Canadian Feature at Montréal’s Fantasia Festival.

Features & TV Movies:

VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release

Do Not Disturb (co-director, 2006)
Nara (2008)
Day 3 (2009, short)

I, Heart (2010, short)
Love/Infatuation (2010, short)
A Fork in the Road (2011, short)
One More for the Road (2013, short)
The Misfortune of Madeline Moody (2014, short)
Seek (2014, short)
Pete Winning and the Pirates: The Motion Picture (2015)
Chasing Valentine (2015)
Late Night Double Feature (2016)
Bloody Bits: Shorts Compilation Vol. 1 (2016)
Time Out (2017, short)
Poor Agnes (2017)

TV Series – at least1 episode of:
Pete Winning and the Pirates (2014)
In Public (2015)

Poor Agnes, movie, poster,

David Hyde

David Hyde, director,

David Hyde is an award-winning director short film director, music video director and veteran reality/documentary- reenactment TV director. Stegman is Dead was directed and co-written by David Hyde marking his feature-film directorial debut.

Features & TV Movies:

VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release

Choke. (2004, short)
Leo (2005, short)
Leo Volume 2 (2005, short)

Suzanne Rogers Presents: Oscar de la Renta (TV-2010)
In the Room (2015, short)
Stegman Is Dead (2017)

TV Series – at least 1 episode of:
Spectacle: Elvis Costello with… (2011)
Copper (2012)
Property Brothers – Buying + Selling (2013)
Come Dine with Me Canada (2013)
Yukon Gold (2014)
Ice Road Truckers Canada (2014)
Evil Encounters (2017)

Stegman is Dead, movie, poster,

Poor Agnes

Poor Agnes, movie, image,

98 minutes – Horror, Thriller
Festival Release date: July 19, 2017 (Fantasia)
Release date: November 10, 2017 (Toronto)
Canadian distributor:

Agnes is a serial killer. She kidnaps and tortures men before murdering them, and she’s good at it. Ambitious, cunning, and narcissistic, Agnes hides in plain sight within a rural town while defining her own systems of sport and romance. When Mike, a private investigator, shows up on her doorstep to look into the cold-case disappearance of one of her early victims, she seduces him and traps him in her basement. Through an unlikely alignment of survival strategy and remorselessness, Agnes bonds with Mike, and he becomes a willing participant in their psychological power game. The circumstances of their curiously morbid relationship progress as their dynamic evolves, and the film is sent into an engrossing tailspin.

Poor Agnes was filmed in Thunder Bay, Ontario. It had its World Premiere at the 2017 Fantasia Film Festival in Montréal, Québec.

Poor Agnes, movie, poster,



Anna Jane Edmonds
Ryan Keller

Executive Producer:

Jonathan Hlibka

Associate Producer:

Curtis Jensen


Navin Ramaswaran


James Gordon Ross


Bruce William Harper


Sydney Cowper


James Mark Stewart

Production Designer:

Stephanie Avery

Costume Designer:

Deanna Sciortino

Cast: Roles:

Lora Burke
Karen Scobie
Amy Marie Wallace
Robert Notman
Will Conlon
Stan Alto
Rodney Dwira
Neil Paterson
Kate Alice Phillips
Dennis Austin
Philip Contardo

Crying Torture Survivor
Torture Survivor
Police Officer
Courtney the Cashier
Pawn Broker
Police Officer