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…