Blame Canada … for these flicks
In honor of Canada Day, Bob Grimm pays tribute to movies touched by our northern neighbors
America celebrates its Independence Day this week, so I know of no better time to raise a glass—in the form of a sprawling feature article—toward Canada, our peaceful and relatively huge northern neighbor. They will be celebrating Canada Day on July 1, and film lovers have many other reasons to thank the country besides providing the world with a very fine ginger ale.
The following is a mish-mash of films with links to Canada. The film could simply be made in Canada, populated or directed by Canadians, or just set in Canada, for that matter.
Strange Brew (1983): A beautiful ode to the Great White North, co-directed by and starring SCTV alumni and Canadians Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas. The flick received no appreciation upon its initial run but has become legendary in its video release (where the hell is the DVD?). Thomas and Moranis were ready to team with Canuck Dan Aykroyd for a sequel furthering the adventures of the McKenzie brothers called Home Brew, but the production was shut down when the financing fell through. A sequel would be huge, and Canada is being shamed with the production stall.
Fly Away Home (1996): An all-time great family film about a girl (Anna Paquin) who goes to live with her dad (Jeff Daniels) in Ontario after her mother dies. She raises some geese—I love geese—and teaches them to migrate over the border to the United States, leading them to our country with a couple of airplanes. Sweet.
The Sweet Hereafter (1997): Canadian director Atom Egoyan moved the locale of Russell Banks’ novel about a small town dealing with the loss of its children in a bus crash from northern New York to British Colombia. Many Canadian actors populate this better-than-excellent film, including Sarah Polley and Bruce Greenwood, who went on to play JFK in last year’s 13 Days.
Brain Candy (1996): Canadian comedy troupe Kids in the Hall crafted a film that I did not like in my original review, although I’ve grown to appreciate this film about happy drugs over the years. I’ve always liked Bruce McCulloch’ s Cancer Boy, a wheelchair-bound cancer patient who refuses to let his illness get him down. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, rent this now.
David Cronenberg Movies: Cronenberg often makes me ill (all his gooey sexual imagery can be hard on my stomach), but you are sure to find plenty of Canadian action in films such as The Brood, Videodrome (starring Blondie), Scanners (the “head blowing up” movie) and Existenz (lots of scary sexual organ imagery in that one). Canadian Cronenberg went on to tease Sharon Stone into thinking he would direct Basic Instinct 2 before pulling out—no pun intended—at the last minute, effectively giving the project a death kiss and qualifying him as my new hero.
Dogma (1999): Kevin Smith’s goof on organized religion featured God played by a Canadian woman (Alanis Morissette). This answered a question that had plagued theologians for many years: Did our lord and personal savior start a very promising career with a stint on Nickelodeon’s You Can’t Do That on Television? A special edition DVD of Dogma was released last Tuesday!
Titanic (1997): After many hours of intense research and toenail clipping, I determined that this little movie about a big boat sinking in a major way is, in fact, the most successful film directed by a Canadian (James Cameron). Also, it’s the only film directed by a Canadian to feature both Kate Winslet’s naked breasts and Leonardo DiCaprio spitting.
South Park: The Movie (1999): One of two movies in which the United States goes to war with Canada. Trey Parker took some nasty shots at the north, skewering everything from the way Canadians speak to Anne Murray. The song “Blame Canada” actually had the balls to say that Canada “… isn’t a real country, anyway.”
The Edge (1997): Anthony Hopkins froze his ass off during the filming of this wilderness adventure set in Calgary. It’s notable for how frightening Alec Baldwin looks when he doesn’t shave, and one of the final appearances of the late Bart the Bear, perhaps cinema’s greatest bear. He had that cute, big bottom lip thing going that sometimes made it hard to take him seriously as an actor.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978): Canadian-born actor Donald Sutherland betrays the human race when he does that finger-pointing squeal thing at this film’s end, essentially becoming one of cinema’s more memorable tattletales. Donald’s son Kiefer would later turn in pal Emilio Estevez for stealing chocolate milk on the set of Young Guns 2, proving that while squealing might not be a Canadian trait, it certainly runs in the family.
Ghostbusters (1984): While it has nothing to do with Canada as far as plotting goes, this one is full of Canadians (Rick Moranis, Dan Aykroyd) and directed by a Canadian (Ivan Reitman). It has the distinction of being the last great film Reitman ever created.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982): Another extremely famous Canuck is William Shatner, so it’s only fair that we acknowledge one of his major acting triumphs. His acting talent never shone brighter than his star turn as Ricardo Montalban’s nemesis in this best film of the series. A tear came to my eye when he bellowed out that echoing “Khan!”
Freddy Got Fingered (2001): Born in Ottawa, Tom Green went on to jeopardize his film career with this frightening shock comedy that features, amongst other curious things, Green chewing through a newborn’s umbilical chord. Canada had reportedly taken steps to officially disown Green, but abandoned the notion when Green bought the country a Porsche.
Teen Wolf (1985): Canadian Michael J. Fox embarrassed his native country with this film, a movie far more wretched than Fingered. It carries the ever-important message that “You don’t have to be a wolf to make it in this world, especially when it comes to basketball foul shots.” If you don’t know what I’m talking about, do your body and soul a favor and do not watch this film in an effort to put it all together. It will only result in irreparable colon damage.
A Christmas Story (1983): Never has the spirit of American commerce and Christmas been captured so accurately and warmly than in this holiday gem. Director Bob Clark gets it all right, from the Macy’s parade and its sometimes-vile Santa, to a child’s obsession with faux firearms. Believe it or not, this is a Canadian film.
Canadian Bacon (1995): Before South Park, the United States went to war with Canada on film. Alan Alda is the U.S. president looking to gain more political support, and John Candy is looking like he just ate Quebec. It’s political satire with no bite, unless you count the thousands of hot dog bites Candy must’ve performed to get that big.
The Shipping News (2001): Kevin Spacey, hot off Pay it Forward, one of the worst movies of our generation, will play Quoyle, the divorcee trying to put a life together in Newfoundland, in this long-in-the-works adaptation of E. Anne Proulx’s excellent novel. Everybody from John Travolta to Billy Bob Thornton has been rumored to be involved in this one, but ultimately, the job went to the guy who does the best Christopher Walken impersonation.