Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Girl With No Name

Before the manic pixie dream girl, there was the girl who was too socially advanced to be noticed for her awesomeness. Molly Ringwold, of course made a career out of the archetype, and not far behind her was Shannon DeWinter.

Truth be told, I was Team DeWinter long before the "Team Blank" meme was a thing. Movies like Hall Pass Confidential, Acid-wash Dance Party and Gene Toxic were regular rec-room sleep-over viewing in my neighborhood.  And I'll even admit that there was a time when I could pretty much recite the entirety of We Gotta Get Out of this Place (The film named after the song, not just the song.) along with the movie - from the opening monologue ("People think that growing up in a brownstone across the street from Wrigley Field musta been the coolest thing a kid could do...." - And no, I didn't just cut and paste that from the quote page on IMDb.) through to the last lines of the Animals' song over the closing credits. And yeah, its a movie that is still seared onto my soul, but I first went to it because I had a crush on Shannon DeWinter.

I first saw A Girl With No Name under similar circumstances, and though it never spoke to me the same way as We Gotta Get Out of this Place, I did go back the next weekend and watched it again, just to see Shannon. I identified with Kevin - Marsha was smart, sexy, cool and had no idea just how fantastic she was... and that made her even more amazing.

The film has aged as poorly as any film from the 80s has, but it still has its moments - like this one...

Thursday, April 11, 2013


The first Cameron Dieppe film was always the best of the bunch, wasn't it? The premise - a man who discovers that his job was a cover for espionage that he was unaware he was committing in the course of his innocent ambassadorial travels - was only barely plausible for one roller-coaster of a movie.  Of course it couldn't work for a second film, let alone a third... or a fourth!  And yet in the inscruitable plot-logic of Hollywood, a franchise was born.

One part Bourne Identity, one part North by Northwest, the original transcends its potentially silly inciting circumstances and has us forgiving the film for those stretches of credibility, largely on the strength of some of the most thrilling suspense sequences of the early millennium. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

99% Girlfriend

If you aren't familiar with the Film-Sport podcast, you should check it out. Every week they have a top five list exploring some film related category. Top five films about imagination. Top five performances by inanimate objects. Top five directors who never stood a chance in Hollywood. You get the idea. When they announce the topic at the beginning of an episode I spend the rest of the show working out my top five on the subject in the back of my head as I listen to the reviews and other features. Usually at best my number one ranks around the bottom of their top five, and nothing else I pick is anywhere in sight - except maybe as an honourable mention. But not this past week...
This week's top five was: Top five verbal smack-downs. And I got four out of five... the exception being my number one pick. So, as a shout-out to one of my favourite podcasts, here is my number one pick.

From the classic of grunge-era college movies, 99% Girlfriend - if you know the movie, you already know the scene. I think part of what appeals to me about this scene is how easily once upon a time I could have been Blair.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Mare Crisium

Going back to MODA winners for this week's installment. Mare Crisium is one of the great stories about dreaming big. A fairly transparent adaptation of the Icarus myth, what is truly remarkable about Mare Crisium is how uplifting the end of what is essentially a distressingly tragic story can be. Full credit goes to screenwriter Robert Christopher who won his first MODA for Mare Crisium at the 1995 ceremony.  Of course his place in Hollywood is by now practically legendary and you can expect to see more of his scripts appear in this blog.

This scene opens the film and with great economy reveals the depth of Jack's ambition as well as hinting at his destructive mania. Rewatching this scene - and the fantastic performance of Edward Sweigskraft - knowing where the film is ultimately taking Jack, and vicariously us, there is never any doubt that reaching his goal, at literally any personal cost, will be a triumph for Jack.

Friday, March 22, 2013


When one starts a new endeavour there are things that need to be learned.  I learned one of those things this week.

I thought I was being clever, taking one of the all-time classic silent shorts and writing up a full description of the action, but as it turns out, it was a lot of work!  So, fair warning, I'm probably never going to do that again.  But I did do it, so here we go....

You have seen Sideshow, right?  It is one of the seminal works of slapstick comedy of all time.  It is one of the very first  Muybridge Legacy short films (Shot in 1913 - yes, 100 years old!) yet it still holds up.  It stars Shao and Zi Zhe, a pair of real-life Siamese twins. (Allegedly - there is some controversy alluding to fraud, but that is not my business here.) And actually manages to deconstruct the classic Hollywood fist-fight before there was a Hollywood, or a set of fist-fight tropes to deconstruct.  Seriously, this is genius before it's time.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Inside the Four Foot

This week's scene is from a rather unknown Canadian film from 1978. You are going to have to excuse me for a bit here while I indulge myself. I grew up in a curling family, my father was at one time one of the top 100 curlers in the world. In fact, he was responsible for the reform of the hog-line rule in the mid 70s. (I swear!  You can look it up!) So perhaps you can see why this particular film is special to me. I doubt that there was a curling household in Canada that didn't have a well worn copy of Inside the Four Foot on betamax.

I'm not going to kid you, this isn't a particularly great movie, but this particular scene has always affected me. I found a digital transfer of Inside the Four Foot online just last week and watched it for the first time in probably 25 years. It has not aged well. However, I was surprised to recognize a face I didn't know back then. As it turns out this was the debut film for Bailey McGettigan, later to be known as Minister Sledge in the long running Brit-com Big Wig.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Better Days

This week's scene is from one of my favourite romantic films of all time.  Yeah, Better Days is pretty bittersweet to be called "romantic," but I've always been drawn to films with a healthy dose of the ambiguous and/or the subversion of expectation.

If you haven't seen the film and haven't been told the big reveal, take your warning here - spoiler alert! - this is the scene where Vida's big secret comes out. But its one of those moments that, like Dil's secret in The Crying Game is pretty much a staple of pop-culture by now. So even if you haven't seen the film, you probably are aware of the twist.

Jessica Wainbottom, who played Vida in the film won the 1984 MODA for Best Actress, and it was scenes like this one that got her there.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Seven Sundays a Month

For the inaugural scene I thought it would be appropriate to begin with a scene that is on the lips of everyone these days as it just won bloody near everything last weekend at the 75th Annual MODA Awards.  Of course I am talking about Seven Sundays a Month, the festival darling that peaked at just the right time to clean up this past awards season.

When I say it won everything, I'm hardly kidding.  If it was nominated, it won.  Except (and I am fully cognizant of the irony here, that is partly why I chose it) for Marcy Wigglesworth in the Best Screenplay category.  But literally everything else, 17 statuettes went out to everyone from the coveted Best Feature award, right down to Hans Fritxbischler who took home his record 6th award in the Best Assistant Make-up Assistant's Janitor's Alternate Assistant.

Anyhow, unless you've been living under a rock, you know the details, so lets get on with it...

This scene, performed by the luminous Kate Percival and astounding newcomer Jake Wansome, was consistently the clip shown most often from this tear-jerker during its Cinderella-story run on awards season. I'm certain it will leave you wondering why didn't Wigglesworth win for screenplay, and make it an even dozen and a half?