By Brian D. Johnson - Tuesday, April 23, 2013 - 0 Comments
A veteran character actor has his day in a tale of a Maritimer crushed by city hall
In a career spanning four decades, James Cromwell has appeared in 50 movies and more than 100 TV shows, playing everyone from mad scientists and American presidents to Prince Philip and Pope John Paul II. But he’s more familiar as a face than a name, and has never had a lead role, until now. He doesn’t count the movie he’s famous for, co-starring with a pig as farmer Hoggett in Babe (1995). Back then, the studio tried to submit his name to the Academy Awards as Babe’s lead actor, he recalls. “They said, ‘Your name comes first.’ I said, ‘Yeah, because you couldn’t say: starring the pig. I have 16 lines! The pig is the lead!’ ” Cromwell got his way, and an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor—the tallest actor ever so honoured. Standing six foot seven, his is an imposing presence; even at 73, he looks like a guy you don’t want to mess with, especially when he raises his voice.
As the stoical hero of Still Mine, a lovely Canadian movie set in New Brunswick, this yeoman actor has finally found a leading role commensurate with his stature. The film is based on the true story of Craig Morrison, who became locked in an epic feud as provincial bureaucrats tried to stop him from building a house on a parcel of his own land in St. Martins, overlooking the Bay of Fundy. Morrison was a master carpenter and sawmill operator, but because his hand-milled lumber was unstamped and his materials didn’t conform to the building code, the province tried to block construction, then threatened to bulldoze the house. After six court appearances and a front-page story in the St. John Telegraph Journal, Morrison eventually won his battle three years ago at age 91.
The movie is an octogenarian romance: Morrison builds the house to give his wife, Irene, a room with a view as she succumbs to dementia. Writer-director Michael McGowan (Score: A Hockey Musical, One Week) found the story’s Capra-esque elements irresistable. “You find out he’s doing it for love. Then you fly out there and see how beautiful St. Martins is, and when you meet him, he says, ‘By the way, I got this baseball I got signed by Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth when I was 10.’ ”
By Brian D. Johnson - Tuesday, December 4, 2012 at 5:05 PM - 0 Comments
I’ve been a devotee of the Whistler Film Festival for most of the past decade. Cannes and TIFF are both essential and vast, but these festivals unfold on such an industrial scale that they’re no longer, well, festive. For a film critic on the assembly line of world cinema, they’re more work than fun. Whistler, which wrapped its 12th edition this past weekend, has always been the festival I most look forward to. It doesn’t hurt that skiing is part of the program—unlike Sundance, the WFF encourages it, and with its Celebrity Ski Challenge, the mountain becomes part of the program. But Whistler’s five-day extravaganza also brings together filmmakers, media and industry folk with unparalleled energy and intimacy.
As a guest of the festival, I wore two hats this year, as a journalist and a member of the documentary jury. And it was evident to me and everyone I talked to that this was the year Whistler raised its game. Continue…
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, November 18, 2010 at 1:40 PM - 1 Comment
Look which journalist scored an interview with Mrs. Harper, Potash is a laughing matter—but only off the record
Look which journalist scored an interview with Mrs. Harper
Heritage Minister James Moore held his most recent movie night at the National Arts Centre, screening Barney’s Version, a film based on the Mordecai Richler novel. Moore’s goal for these nights is to introduce Canadian films to MPs and a “few” others. Well, more than 1,400 people attended this one, including producer Robert Lantos, Mordecai Richler’s wife Florence Richler and several of the film’s stars, including Canadian hunk Scott Speedman. Speedman’s silver-screen break was playing a vampire-werewolf hybrid in the first two Underworld ﬁlms, alongside Kate Beckinsale. Laureen Harper made Jayne Watson’s night by asking the CEO of the NAC Foundation to show Speedman to the washroom. Watson happily obliged. Mrs. Harper’s date was Labour Minister Lisa Raitt—who was unaware of the honour until she was escorted onto the red carpet to join Mrs. Harper (who is traditionally accompanied by House leader John Baird when Stephen Harper can’t make it). It seemed like Raitt’s lucky night all around when she scored the seat next to Speedman’s to watch the film—although she then had to move over to accommodate an NAC bigwig. When Mrs. Harper, who rarely does interviews, walked the red carpet, she did speak to a few reporters—including eTalk’s Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, wife of Justin Trudeau. President of the Treasury Board Stockwell Day “snuck” some Twizzlers in for Mrs. Harper; on Moore’s movie nights, treats are verboten. There is, however, a VIP reception beforehand and, afterwards, a general reception with food inspired by the film—on this night, smoked salmon, bagels and battered chicken in honour of the film’s Jewish characters. A papier mâché bust of Richler graced the lobby. The artist, Susan Longmire, used pages from Barney’s Version to create the work. Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and his wife, Zsuzsanna Zsohar, each gave the film two thumbs up. In fact, Iggy came back specially from Montreal for it. This was his first Moore movie night. There was talk the PM might also attend for the first time, but it was not to be.
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 4:00 PM - 0 Comments
MP dilemma: Rick Mercer or Glee?, Encyclopedic knowledge
MP dilemma: Rick Mercer or Glee?
Heritage minister and Canadian cinema fan James Moore held his fourth movie night for MPs, this time showcasing Incendies by Quebec director Denis Villeneuve. Moore’s fellow MPs are very thankful that he has exposed them to some incredible Canadian films they might otherwise not have seen. Plus, they get to meet stars and directors: Villeneuve himself was on hand for this screening, as was actress Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin. Some MPs get their CanCon via Air Canada, such as NDP Megan Leslie, who appreciates being able to watch homegrown movies while flying. Airline travel has had another kind of impact on the viewing habits of Steven Fletcher, minister of state for democratic reform. He confessed to Capital Diary that while flying over the summer, he watched a lot of Glee. Back on the ground, however, there’s a problem: Glee is on TV at the same time as Rick Mercer’s show. Patriotically, Fletcher says that he opts for Mercer—so long as they are new episodes.
The Canadian Encyclopedia celebrated its 25th year at Ottawa’s Government Conference Centre. Moving online in 1999 has had some unforeseen benefits, notes editor-in-chief James Marsh. He says that while the encyclopedia tries to take the long view, certain political events, like prorogation, require immediate action. “When I went and read our own article on prorogation I thought, ‘I still don’t understand this.’ ” Online, the solution was easy: “We expanded that entry.” Marsh tries to plan ahead, and is currently ensuring the site has lots of info for the upcoming 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. All prime ministers are mentioned in the encyclopedia, as are finance ministers and politicians of lasting influence. The most looked-up article in the encyclopedia? The one on Pierre Trudeau, says Marsh. Montreal rookie MP Justin Trudeau is “in there, but it’s more for being famous than it is for anything else [at this point].” In attendance at the celebration was former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Flora MacDonald. “I think it’s so important that Canadians celebrate their history and this is one of the ways we do it.” While she was minister of communications in the ’80s, MacDonald provided funding for the encyclopedia.
Firefighters arrive at GG’s first public event
The first official public event for newly installed Governor General David Johnston was the launch of a joint initiative by the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and the National Round Table on the Environment and Economy (NRTEE) to look at the effects of global warming in Canada. Johnston, as it happens, was the founding chair of the NRTEE. The event was held at the Canadian Museum of Nature, where, just as the GG was being introduced, the fire alarm went off and a recorded voice instructed everyone to evacuate the building. At first the GG was taken to a gallery on the third floor, so he was one of the last ones out of the building. British Ambassador Anthony Cary, however, was one of the first out. Once firefighters arrived and confirmed that it had been a false alarm, the event was back on. Johnston took the podium and quipped, “I have been a university president for 26 years and this is the first time I emptied the room even before I spoke. There were many times they emptied while I was speaking.”
Baird happy for Tewksbury
Olympic gold medallist Mark Tewksbury was on the Hill for a reception for Special Olympics Canada. He is currently completing a $200,000 overhaul on his heritage home in Montreal, thanks in part to the government’s home renovation tax credit, he said. Government House leader John Baird piped up, “See, Canada’s economic action plan is working.”
By macleans.ca - Friday, September 24, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Hilary Swank cleans up for the cameras, the Boss is still working, and the FUBAR guys have some advice for the PM
Sarah Silverman’s amazing week
She was at TIFF promoting Peep Show, but Sarah Silverman has been in town shooting Take This Waltz with director Sarah Polley. “Sarah is so supportive,” she told Maclean’s. “After my first take on my first day, she came up to me and said, ‘That was amazing!’ Then someone brought her a cup of coffee and she said, ‘This coffee is amazing!’ ” As for her Waltz co-star, Seth Rogen, she says, “He’s the least neurotic Jew I’ve ever met.”
Hosers to Harper: live a little
Just when you thought the hoser comedy had reached the end of its evolutionary rope, along comes FUBAR 2. David Lawrence and Paul Spence showed up in character to their red-carpet premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival—as Alberta metalheads Terry and Dean. Michael Dowse’s sequel to his 2002 mockumentary cult hit boasts a fatter budget and a sweeter story—an oil sands bromance that takes the moronic duo to the pipelines and peeler bars of Fort McMurray. Environmental rape and testicular cancer has never been funnier. Talking to Maclean’s, Dean (Spence) said Laureen Harper was an old hunting buddy of his father’s, prompting Terry (Lawrence) to suggest the Prime Minister should “make things cheaper, like 1984,” and “party with Laureen a little more.”