Bill C-10 and the f-word movie, yet again.


The Canadian Press reports that the Senate is going to amend the controversial bits of Bill C-10 — that is, the bits that would allow the government to deny tax credits to Canadian films and TV shows if they contradict certain as-yet-undefined moral or social standards — even though the bill has already been approved by the House of Commons.

This sets up an interesting situation. Most of the Senators are Liberal, and none of them are elected, and virtually all of them were appointed by previous prime ministers. Meanwhile, in the House of Commons, the Tories are running a two-year-old minority government, and the opposition parties — of which there are three — could have ganged up on the Tories and killed the bill if they had wanted to. But they didn’t. And yet, according to a recent Ipsos Reid poll, a “slim majority” of the public is on the side of the unelected Senators, rather than the elected MPs, on this issue.

What makes this situation even more interesting is that the Tories called this bill a confidence measure, meaning any defeat of it in the House of Commons would have brought the government down and prompted another election. (That, presumably, explains why the opposition parties didn’t gang up on the Tories and kill the bill: they don’t want an election right now.) But apparently a defeat in the Senate will not have that immediate effect, or so says the CP.

Politicians at the lower levels of government have spoken out against Bill C-10, too, or at least the controversial bits of it, in recent weeks. Two weeks ago, the mayors of Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax — all of which have vital film and TV industries — told the Senate banking committee they were opposed to this aspect of the bill because it would seriously hurt the economies in those cities. (As a side note, the Toronto mayor’s appearance at the hearing apparently required the ceremonial opening of a new film studio complex in Toronto to be postponed.) And last week, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty spoke out against the bill too.

The Georgia Straight ran a comprehensive story on Bill C-10 last week asking if the Tories were using it to foment a “culture war” in Canada similar to the “culture wars” that have raged in the United States.

Meanwhile, Anthony Furey asks why artists across the country are up in arms over the alleged “censorship” of Bill C-10 but are saying nothing about the so-called “human rights” tribunals that are effectively threatening to censor writers like Maclean’s columnist Mark Steyn:

I urge the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists and all the other prominent persons and organizations that have officially denounced Bill C-10 to recognize that, regardless of Maclean’s’ political bent, the destruction of free speech is far more virulent in the kangaroo courts of our human rights tribunals than in our income tax laws. We have so much more to lose.

For what it’s worth, Steyn himself made a similar point in a column that ran almost three months ago.

And of course, at the heart of all this fuss, and riding the wave of controversy to whatever success it can get, is the movie Young People Fucking — which, despite the title, isn’t really any racier than a lot of R-rated American movies. The film opened across Canada last Friday and was #11 at the Canadian box office, grossing $103,544 — right behind What Happens in Vegas and just ahead of Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

Two weeks before the film opened, CanWest News Service reported that Conservative MPs had avoided a special screening of the film that had been arranged for the very politicians who have been tossing this film’s title around as they debate Bill C-10:

The filmmakers behind the movie with the naughty title say it has a message the Conservative Party would approve — if they would only come and see it.

“Our generation makes an effort to separate love and sex,” says Martin Gero, the director of the romantic comedy Young People F—ing. “They’re all trying to do this thing, and they’re all failing miserably . . . we’re saying, ‘Listen, people our age. This is really hard to do without being emotionally involved.'”

In an interview with the Georgia Straight, Gero says the title was originally just a working title — but then it stuck:

“It was the first thing we came up with on the script, ’cause it spoke to the type of attack we wanted to put on the film: we wanted to be frank and honest and uncensored, basically,” he says in a downtown Vancouver hotel. “The title spoke to the type of language we wanted to use, the type of unblinking feel we wanted the film to have, and we never dreamed that it would be on the final print of the movie.…To their credit, our distributors kind of were like, ‘You know what? I think the title really fits if we can figure out how to get away with it.’ ”

The title has put marketers in awkward situations (it’s being called YPF in the U.K. and U.S.). But over tea at a Commercial Drive café, actor Sonja Bennett, who won a Vancouver Film Critics Circle award for her performance in the film, points out that Canadian films need whatever attention they can get. “I think that Martin and [cowriter] Aaron [Abrams] are really smart, and the producers are really smart, because most Canadian movies—this one included—have such small budgets. We don’t have the budgets to publicize the way American films do. You gotta pull out whatever you can, and if having a catchy title creates buzz around the film and gets people to go see it, that’s fantastic.”

It’s easy to misinterpret the tone of the title, which, in fact, is tongue-in-cheek. Abrams, who stars as a guy whose best female friend proposes fuck-buddy sex, explains that the actual movie thwarts expectations. “It’s not like we’re naive to what the title is. It’s a sensational, attention-grabbing thing.…People come in and either expect something hard-core and edgy or expect something very juvenile. But what I like about that turn is that they’re always surprised by what they get, because it’s neither of those things.”

Alas, of course, the title has also attracted the wrong kind of attention from politicians and activists who aren’t inclined to see it and have their expectations thwarted in the first place.

The Straight also notes that one of the top-grossing Canadian films of all time — i.e. Porky’s (1982) — was a sex comedy, and it gets this delightful quote from Bennett: “So often Canadian movies are dark, and it’s just really wonderful to be involved in a Canadian film that doesn’t have any incest or hockey in it.”

Finally, the mighty Roger Ebert has offered his own two bits on the brouhaha, first commenting on the pros and cons of the f-word’s increasing acceptability, and then reviewing the film itself. He gives it three stars.

Oh, and minor fact-check: The film is not “X-rated”, though Ebert says it is in one of his posts. In fact, the film currently has no American rating whatsoever, and in Canada, it is rated 18-A in most provinces but 16-A in Quebec.

JUN 19 UPDATE: Variety now has its own story on the Senate’s proposed amendments to Bill C-10.

Wallace’s love life — third time’s the charm?

Every time the Wallace & Gromit films give Wallace, the human half of the claymation duo, a love interest of some sort, people tend to react as though there were something unusual about this, as though such a thing had never been done before. Case in point: in a recent post on the upcoming short film A Matter of Loaf and Death — which was called Trouble at Mill when it was first announced eight months ago — the sci-fi blog io9 actually emits a “gasp!” over the fact that Wallace seems to have a new girlfriend in the person of one Piella Bakewell. But what about Wendolene Ramsbottom in A Close Shave (1995) or Lady Campanula Tottington in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)? Hasn’t Wallace been friendly with the ladies before? I guess the difference this time is that Wallace may have finally gotten beyond the flirting stage. At any rate, it will be interesting to see how Gromit responds to there being someone else in Wallace’s life. As we saw when that penguin moved in, in The Wrong Trousers (1992), Wallace can be easily distracted, in ways that leave his pal in the doghouse — literally. And if the filmmakers ever really want to startle us, maybe they’ll give Gromit someone to pine for.

Polygamy movies — more than one, of course.


Movies often come in twos — two Truman Capote films, two meteor- or asteroid-based disaster movies, two computer-animated movies about ants, and so on — so it’s not too surprising that Variety brings news of two different films in the works based on the polygamist sect led by Warren Jeffs, who was placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list in 2006 and was convicted of being an accomplice to rape in 2007.

First, there was an announcement regarding Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs, a memoir by Elissa Wall that has been picked up by Jeffrey Sharp and Christine Vachon, who previously collaborated on Boys Don’t Cry (1999) and A Home at the End of the World (2004).

Next, there was an announcement regarding Escape, the much more briefly titled memoir by Carolyn Jessop, which has been picked up by Katherine Heigl, star of Knocked Up (2007) and 27 Dresses.

Interestingly, the sect led by Jeffs belonged to a fundamentalist branch of the Mormon faith, whereas Heigl was raised in the mainline Mormon church, for lack of a better word, and she still speaks well of the church even though she doesn’t attend any more. So it is particularly interesting that she would be tackling a film on this subject.

Mormon polygamy is, of course, central to the TV series Big Love, which has been on the air since 2006 — and while I have never seen that show, I gather from Wikipedia that the characters on that show worry that people like Warren Jeffs have made their own branch of Mormonism look worse than it is.

Muslim polygamy is also becoming big news in North America, or at least in Canada. Are there any films or TV shows that cover the subject from that angle, I wonder?

Canadian box-office stats — June 15

Here are the figures for the past weekend, arranged from those that owe the highest percentage of their take to the Canadian box office to those that owe the lowest.

Sex and the City — CDN $12,330,000 — N.AM $119,522,016 — 10.3%
What Happens in Vegas — CDN $7,350,000 — N.AM $75,755,145 — 9.7%

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian — CDN $11,240,000 — N.AM $131,904,474 — 8.5%
You Don’t Mess with the Zohan — CDN $5,740,000 — N.AM $68,760,685 — 8.3%
Iron Man — CDN $24,740,000 — N.AM $297,918,329 — 8.3%
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull — CDN $22,900,000 — N.AM $276,524,265 — 8.3%
Kung Fu Panda — CDN $7,640,000 — N.AM $117,289,932 — 6.5%
The Strangers — CDN $2,880,000 — N.AM $45,287,220 — 6.4%
The Happening — CDN $1,840,000 — N.AM $30,517,109 — 6.0%
The Incredible Hulk — CDN $3,070,000 — N.AM $55,414,050 — 5.5%

Newsbites: The sequels and remakes edition!

I’ve been sitting on some of these for a while — but no longer!

1. It looks like MGM is serious about remaking RoboCop (1987; my comments). The studio created a poster for the new film and put it on display at the Licensing International Expo in New York last week, and a studio rep reportedly re-assured a fan that the remake will be rated R, just like the first two RoboCop films — and unlike the PG-13 third film. The new film is apparently set for release in 2010, though no one is attached to direct it — yet.

2. Speaking of cyborg franchises that began in the 1980s, the MTV Movies Blog has a picture of the poster for Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins that also appeared at the Licensing Expo — and they also report that the first trailer for that film might be attached to The Dark Knight, which comes out a month from now.

In related news, Terminator director McG posted an update to the movie’s official blog a couple weeks ago, in which he talked about the various Terminators that have been designed for the film — including the rubber-skinned T-600, which pre-dates the T-800 model that was played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the first three films.

Oh, and McG also floats the possibility that the new Terminator film might not be rated PG-13, as some have suggested.

3. And speaking of franchises that went from R to PG-13 and almost always suffered a drop in quality as a result, the MTV Movies Blog also reports that Brett Ratner is thinking of making Beverly Hills Cop 4 a PG-13 film, “to make it new for kids.” Or perhaps Ratner is really talking about making an R-rated movie for the kids? That would be kind of dodgy, even for him.

4. Jumper star Hayden Christensen has told the Toronto Sun that a sequel to his teleportation movie — indeed, a full-on trilogy — may be in the works. “But,” he adds, “I don’t think they’re rushing to get into production.” Thank heaven for small mercies.

5. Variety says John Moore is attached to direct a remake of Capricorn One (1978), the Peter Hyams conspiracy thriller about a faked mission to Mars. Moore’s last two films — Flight of the Phoenix (2004; my review) and The Omen (2006; my review) — were also remakes. Is it the director or the industry for which he works that is stuck in a rut here? Discuss.

6. Matt Page reports that the makers of Color of the Cross (2006), which posited that Jesus was a black man, have produced a sequel, Color of the Cross 2: Resurrection, that apparently came out on DVD about three months ago.

7. Remember how Disney announced two years ago that they were going to produce a bunch of Tinker Bell videos, in which the formerly mute fairy would now have a voice, courtesy of Brittany Murphy? It seems that Pixar dude John Lasseter, who has since taken over the Disney animation division, didn’t quite care for this development, so Brittany Murphy is out … and Mae Whitman is in. The first video comes out October 28. Hollywood Newsroom and the Hollywood Reporter have the details.

8. The Hollywood Reporter says Elizabeth Berkley, who may be best known for starring in Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls (1995), is joining the sequel to Donnie Darko (2001) — and yes, there is a sequel in production — as “a speed freak-turned-Jesus freak whose sentiments about ridding the world of its exponential sin are rivaled only by her infatuation with her dreamy pastor.” I have to ask: What is it, exactly, that makes this sin so “exponential”?

9. Jeffrey Wells passes along this note from Werner Herzog:

As you probably know, I will begin principal photography of Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans in three weeks time, with only a very short period of pre-production. But I am doing fine, and this does not make me nervous. By the way: it is not a remake (as reported almost everywhere) — it is a completely different story in the same sense as the last James Bond is not a remake of the previous one.

“On another note: just before the hurricane I was scouting locations in Thailand, Burma, Laos, and Vietnam for The Piano Tuner, and as soon as I arrived in Bangkok I found myself arrested and handcuffed to a chair because of unpaid bills and taxes by the producers of Rescue Dawn. It required much explaining to explain that I was not the producer.

Just when you think this guy’s life couldn’t get any more interesting than it already is… Oh, and Variety says the Bad Lieutenant sequel, or whatever it is, may re-unite Ghost Rider (2007) co-stars Nicolas Cage and Eva Mendes.

10. TrekMovie.com has the details for the newest Star Trek Fan Collective DVD set, which will focus on “alternate realities” — including six episodes set in the Mirror Universe, taken from three different series. The new set comes out September 16.

11. This isn’t a sequel or remake or anything quite like that, but I just have to note that a 20th-anniversary edition of Heathers (1989) is coming out on DVD next month — apparently one year early. Even so, has it really been 20 years already? That’s more than half my lifetime. Gadzooks, I feel old.

Seeing a movie again for the first time.

One more item for Father’s Day: National Post film critic Chris Knight had an article in yesterday’s paper on taking his three-year- old son to his first movie, Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!:

When the film ended, we walked hand in hand to the lobby, where he tugged at my arm until he had me down at his level. He has his mother’s blue eyes and his father’s absurdly serious face. “Thank you for the movie, Daddy,” he said gravely and hugged me. You could not calculate a better way to bring tears to a father’s eyes.

In The Film Club, novelist David Gilmour’s wonderful memoir about watching movies with his teenaged son, he repeats this lesson, learned at university: “That the second time you see something is really the first time. You need to know how it ends before you can appreciate how beautifully it’s put together from the beginning.”

If we hold this to be true, it means the first time we really see a movie is often when we share it with someone else. Certainly we see it differently in the company of another. Films can impart knowledge, but they also invite thought, conversation, reflection and dissent.

Part of the joy of filmgoing is to recommend and be recommended good movies. And a joy for any parent is sharing with our children the things we enjoyed when we were young. It starts with fondly remembered books, reading the stories that were read to us; it moves on to movies, travel, philosophy, food and wine. Movies are a wondrous thing to share, for they are forever unchanging, waiting in canisters, video sleeves or discs for the next set of eyes to own them. Like islands, continents, worlds, they exist to be discovered, and there is no limit to the number of times this can happen.

I want my children to discover (as I rediscover) such family films as E. T., A Christmas Story and The Princess Bride; comedies like Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Duck Soup; adventurous tales like Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Lord of the Rings; thought-provokers like 12 Angry Men, Apocalypse Now and Bridge on the River Kwai. No doubt they will not share my love for all of these, and will make their own discoveries and share them with me. The wonder of watching our children grow apart from us includes the opportunity to grow together.

Hear, hear. Knight ends the article by saying that he is thinking of taking the wee tyke to see Kung Fu Panda: “I’ve only seen it once, on my own, which means I’ve never really seen it at all.”


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