December 18, 2006

How Telefilm is Missing the Contemporary Multiplatform Mark

(Toronto) While at first left wondering what place Telefilm had in involving itself in the video game arena with the recently announced video game competition it does, on reflection, make some sense on principle.

Yes, video games are typically devoid of any cultural significance except on the most superficial level -- especially in this era when none are really cutting edge phenomenon. It wasn’t always the case. There are no Space Invaders or Donkey Kongs or Pacman games coming out in this era. And this is something to ponder. Those ancient games were unlike anything else in their time period and became icons. It was due to their originality and unique niche they created for themselves. Today, virtually all the computer games are highly derivative knock-offs of rip-offs based on sequels to feature films which were an imitation of something else. We did have Sim Earth and a few others in the relatively recent past, and a handful of others. But the overwhelming majority are not innovative in the least. And are at their weakest at the storytelling level -- which is why they always make such horrible feature film adaptations.

So, considering these things, it’s clear that Telefilm should concentrate on its supposed mandate and focus on winners for such a competition based on originality and especially original storytelling. By that meaning a story culturally significant to Canadians, without being overtly pretentious and unconvincing. A tall order.

But here’s the better, obvious plan. And I see no mention of it from Telefilm in their literature. Perhaps its there, but I don’t see it. Telefilm should be concentrating its efforts on multiplatform media releases. The video game version would be part of an overall package, which includes the feature film release and print and internet content. This is where entertainment is now.

However it would never fly with Telefilm, this intelligent contemporary approach to Canadian culture. It will remain hopelessly grounded, based on what we see them pursuing currently. The feature film projects being green lit for English Canadian film are more of the same director driven, and familiar “established” loser production company driven, projects that have bombed so hopelessly for a decade and a half or more. The new lists for films to be financed by Telefilm for 2007 release could easily be switched with a list from 1997. Instead of picking projects based on “the project”, focus remains on rewarding the usual suspects who the Canadian public have rejected so many times in the past, and following the misguided star of 1960’s auteur cinema as the model for current socialist cinema in Canada. Ignoring the fact that those guys back then were able to make film after film because there actually was an audience for what they were doing back then, and their films made a profit -- which is not the case today. Hell, there's even a new generation of groomed "auteur" directors being rewarded for writing their own audience-less material for the tiny "off-shore" film festival crowd. It's sad.

So Telefilm is not misguided in pursuing the video game angle. Nor are they misguided in pursuing the funding of some internet “new media”. Where they are missing the mark, is that they retain the same faulty thinking which has crippled English Canadian Telefilm since its inception when it comes to viable cultural product -- ie. product the culture of the country embraces as its own. Who can say when that will change?

December 13, 2006

Look, Tiny Tim: The Canadian Film 2006 "Top Ten"

(Vancouver) The “Top 10” of Canadian Film for 2006 has been chosen. Courtesy of the TIFF Group. A quick Google search will reveal a list predictable and disheartening, as these list usually are. There’s one dramatic feature which is not too bad and has a little bit of appeal. There’s a couple of very earnest documentaries. And then the bulk of the list is filled out with pretentious art house style junk which certainly isn’t art, nor is it made for any discernible audience outside of the tiny group of faux intellectuals (or perhaps pseudo-intellectuals is a more accurate term?) who huddle around together patting themselves on the back, throwing away millions and millions of tax-payer dollars, year after year. All the while pointing a finger at big bad Hollywood as the reason nobody goes to see their films.

Notable about the list is the lack of “big name” Canadian filmmakers. That’s a big plus for Canadian film’s direction. You know, Egoyan comes to mind. Or Lantos, or a few others. The usual suspects who have sucked so many untold millions out of taxpayers in the name of “Canadian Culture” and produced film after film, year after year, which Canadians hate. Certainly Canadians look at their garbage as anything but Canadian Culture. It’s not embraced by Canadians as their own, that’s for sure. Unfortunately, Lantos has another hopeless bomb in the wings with “Fugitive Pieces” and Egoyan is hiding out at the U of T until the ill-wind blows over and maybe Canadians will never notice the $40 million or so thrown away on his boring pretentious flops. Hey -- when exactly are Lantos and Egoyan going to start paying back all those millions in government loans and public investments? Maybe Egoyan should sell his Land Rover?

But what is disheartening is that some obscure filmmaker once again pulled the old Canadian funding trick and placed old cross-eyes Donnie McKellar in as the star of his film Monkey Warfare. This was done solely to get Telefilm production funding and the “stamp of approval”. This list of really awful Canadian films that have starred the feeble actor is long and sad. All of them complete disasters, with one grating third-rate Peter Sellers on cough syrup “performance” after another. But, he’s one of the Canadian Film Illuminati. A made man. The kicker? He’s going to star in yet another pretentious go-nowhere film he wrote in the not too distant future. And we, my friends, will be throwing millions down the shoot for more faux Canadian Culture staring the faux Canadian star, Don “Old Cross-eyes” McKellar.

Other low points include the lack of inclusion of Bon Cop, Bad Cop on the list. Sorry to burst your bubbles, but Trailer Park Boys hasn’t come close to breaking even and is not a runaway hit. Although it is a decided move in the right direction. Bon Cop, Bad Cop did a lot more original things and was far more interesting. And it was a genuine hit film. That’s reality.

And where’s this stupid pet zombie movie, Fido? It’s not on the list? Canadians dropped $11 million on this also-ran Shaun of the Dead. Not good enough to be on this list? Geez, that really doesn’t signal good things for this film. Or maybe it does? The group of people who have been given credit for this list have a track record of being completely clueless with regard to Canadian film decision-making. Everyone of them with a really dark past of public fund waste. So maybe that means it’s worth checking out? You wouldn’t think so reading about it. It sounds like an awful riff in Dead Alive/Shaun/ a thousand other tired zombie comedies sub-genre.

And lastly, there is the wet stain of Sarah Polley. Super-activist. So super left wing hardcore she was ex-communicated from the NDP (seriously). Child star who never had to get a real job and knows very little about every day Canadians. Her “actor’s film” is on the list, of course. It’s oh so “Canadian” in its dreariness and lack of audience. What makes it all so distressing, is that once we get rid of a hackauteur like Egoyan, he’s replaced by a future repeat siphon for Canadian taxpayer dollars like Polley. There seems no escape. No doubt, she already at work at her next project. Her funding for next year squirreled away by Wayne Clarkson before Telefilm even gets any allotment from the government. Likely while she jets around to film festivals, paid for by Telefilm, for her film which was ruthlessly and expensively promoted by Telefilm to be in those festivals. The film a few hundred Canadians might go see in the theatre and rent. A few hundred, tops.

Merry Christmas, English Canadian Film. May God, if there is one, help the sad orphan that is English Canadian Film.

December 03, 2006

CRTC, Please Observe Reality

(Ottawa) CRTC meetings over the past week fell off the national media radar quickly, but the questions linger for anybody who cares about this multi-billion dollar industry which has been so badly mismanaged in terms of federal subsidies and investment. And, very likely, the situation will become more hopeless when the CRTC makes its changes in the next year.

Why? It’s both simple and not so simple. Simple because it is obvious that changes must be made. Not so simple because the CRTC appears to be driven by a confused mode of thinking. Somehow, through convoluted logic, they appear to believe that the key to a thriving Canadian TV industry is to empower broadcasters to do whatever they propose that they need to do to be “competitive”.

Now, it’s not so hard to see that the CRTC has been assuming that Canadian broadcasters are functioning in a free market economy and that assuring strong competitive rules enabling profits for such a market ensures a strong industry. Oh boy, oh boy, this is where the big mistake is made.

Canadian broadcasters have not been operating in a free market economy for decades. They are beneficiaries of non-stop subsidies and government-funded production money for all that time. They don’t have to deal with the real world like US broadcasters do -- operating in a real free market economy. Canadian broadcasters leach off of the Americans, getting their best shows for relatively little money and, when forced into providing the miniscule amount of Canadian TV content they are obligated to provide (an insanely miniscule amount, beyond any good sense), they lean on the Canadian tax-payer for the major portion of financing. Hell, they won’t even develop a show without Telefilm money for the most part! It’s a complete joke, welfare system that has developed. And it’s a welfare system for billionaire corporations buying each other out like rich piranhas! Only in Canada, you say? Yes, only in Canada.

I outlined the obvious solutions to enable a Renaissance in Canadian TV in my last entry: IF I RAN THE ZOO (AND THE CRTC). I’m certain none of my suggestions will be enacted. Even though the Canadian taxpayer would come out kings and queens with an empire of quality Canadian TV on par with the best in Britain after a year or two shakedown, as pressure comes properly on the Canadian broadcasters to earn their keep.

Oh well, it will be interesting and likely depressing to observe the CRTC’s decisions. One can only hope they are able to see the big realistic picture, rather than some idealized fantasy which does not exist. I doubt it.
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