Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New TV Season and the Vancouver International Film Festival Kick Off

Busy week ahead here on the coast as the Vancouver International Film Festival (unoffically) kicks off tonight with Women In Film & TV's (WIFTV's) barnstormer Martini Madness.

Always the first party to kick off the festival, MM is traditionally held the day before VIFF's official start. And that holds true this year. VIFF opens tomorrow with a gala screening of Blindness, the Canadian co-production based on a novel by José Saramago adapted by the talented and prolific Don McKellar.

VIFF runs from September 25 to October 10, and although it's not nearly as star-studded as Toronto's festival, it still offers the chance to swap rain gear in favour of cool pants and glad rags.

Other Canadian features skedded include Fifty Dead Men Walking, Control Alt Delete, Down to the Dirt, Edison & Leo, and Stone of Destiny.

For a full sked, check out

Flashpoint Moves to Sunday

While “Vancouver's Who's Who” (or more rightly “Vancouver's Who's That?” ) head to VIFF's opening gala tomorrow night (September 25), countless others will be tuning in to ER, as it begins its 15th and final season at 8 pm on CTV. It'll be followed by Grey's Anatomy, which returns with a two-hour special at 9 pm.

And yes, that means Flashpoint is moving.

Canada's favourite new cop show will have a new, semi-coveted Sunday time slot, as of this weekend (September 28). It'll air at 10 pm, gadzooks, squaring off against Brothers & Sisters (ABC, Canwest Global).

The boys and gals of Flashpoint return on CTV with an all-new episode, dubbed Eagle Two, directed by Vancouverite Stephen Surjik (Intelligence). CBS has not yet announced when it will air that episode.

***Update: - Friday, Sept. 26 - CTV has this morning announced that Law & Order: Criminal Intent, with Vincent D'Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe, will move to Sunday at 10 pm, as of this weekend. Meanwhile, A channel will offer a new episode of Mad Men, also at 10 PM.

Mad, Mad World

A final note, congrats to my dear friend Maria Jacquemetton and her husband and writing-producing partner Andre Jacquemetton for their weekend Emmy win. They and the rest of Mad Men's creative team, helmed by showrunner Matthew Weiner, were honoured with the Emmy for best dramatic series. So well earned, so happy for them. Not only is Maria a talented writer, she's also a mother and a generous pal to her girlfriends. Love when good things happen to good people. Felicitations!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

So You Think You Can Dance Canada

“Dance is the song of the body."
~Martha Graham

It is on. Or it will be on tonight, as Canada’s version of So You Think You Can Dance debuts on CTV. Just a day after Theo Tams was crowned the latest Canadian Idol, TV viewers now have another TV talent show to argue about.

Of course, the first argument about any on-air talent show is whether or not it passes the sniff test of arts and entertainment programming. Is it culturally relevant? What is the distinction between relevant and irrelevant? “Those Philistines are dumbing down the culture and pandering to the masses!” is a protest frequently made by people who, presumably, are ideally equipped to assess what is and isn’t “good television.” I’ve read a surprising, well to me, anyway, number of reviews that write off the So You Think You Can Dance franchise off as trivial, just a TV dance-athon.

Frankly, I’m really looking forward to tuning in tonight to So You think You Can Dance Canada, especially as an advance screener was not made available. Ahhh, that’s clever promotion, generating a national sense of anticipation and buzz, but releasing only a brain-dazzling highlight video. En pointe, if you will. But I digress…

Dance aficionados in this country know that Canada is blessed with a wealth of little-seen and under-celebrated talent. My guess is that So You Think You Can Dance Canada will play a huge role in increasing the profile of our talent pool. And that’s great news for young dancers, who are mostly young women struggling to make ends meet; some take second and even third jobs just to pursue a dance life. The average dancer in Canada earns less than $30,000 annually, according to a 2004 study.

"There is a bit of insanity in dancing that does everybody a great deal of good." ~Edwin Denby

I was able to check out auditions held last spring in Vancouver at The Centre and was thrilled by the level of talent that tried out (before judges Mary Murphy and Jean Marc Genereux). And I had the chance to chat with amicable and lovely host Leah Miller, usually seen on MuchMusic. (Look for my feature article in an upcoming edition of TV Times).

The series seems a sure bet to be a hit. It borrows from the same template as the original American series, which ruled the ratings here and in the United States this past summer. My own suggestion to the series creative team would be to highlight the dancers interpretation of the music they’re moving to…It can be fun to watch the behind the scenes action of dancers working with the choreographers, but so often when watching (the American version) you don’t get much of a sense of how the dancers feel about the music. Dance is athletic, but it’s not gymnastics…It's an expression of music through the wonder that is the human body.

Bottom line: the show can’t miss any more than Baryshnikov or Harrington could be homely.

“Someone once said that dancers works as hard as policeman -- always alert, always tense. But policemen don't have to be beautiful at the same time."
~ George Balanchine

Monday, September 8, 2008

What Comes Next? Bill C-10 slips into the night…

So now what? Best. Proclamation. Ever.

Bill C-10 is dead...for now away.

As of September 7, 2008, the 39th Parliament is dissolved and all unpassed legislation is done like yesterday’s dinner. The end, dear friends, signals the death of Bill C-10, and every other government bill that hadn’t received royal assent. In total, more than 30 government bills died this past weekend on the order paper. (

So, now what? Well, that depends on which party emerges victorious after the October 14 election.

Not surprisingly, opposition leaders Stéphane Dion (Liberal), Jack Layton (NDP), Gilles Duceppe (BQ) and Elizabeth May (Green Party) are seizing the chance to criticize Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Conservative) and his recent arts industry missteps.

The Conservative government’s cuts to arts programs, to the tune of about $45 million, have been harshly criticized, especially in Quebec. And no matter how much Harper’s officials protest, the Tories just can’t seem to shake the impression that their omnibus tax bill C-10 (and its film industry tax credit changes) was a ham-handed attempt at censorship.

Canada’s arts and culture workers, a massive labour force, have more reason than ever to turn to a party that understands the real economic value of their work and the considerable revenue they generate. After all, if the Ford auto company can be provided with a reported $80 million worth of incentives without being labelled a corporate welfare bum, it’s hard to understand why arts industry incentives are seen as “hand-outs.”

Interesting times. If the Conservatives win, even a minority government, it seems likely that they will introduce many of C-10's provisos in a new bill.

However, it’s possible that Harper has misjudged Canadians enough that either Dion or Layton could take his job. Dion’s chances in particular look good. That said, it seems far fetched to suggest that May or Duceppe could emerge as Prime Minister, though May sure can punch above her weight and argues well enough to influence cultural policy.

Hopefully Canada’s arts and culture workers will take full advantage of the chance offered by this snap general election to ask federal leaders some tough questions about cultural policy and financing. (And to ask what is says about Harper that he introduced and passed a bill during the 39th Parliament that set a fixed election date, only to ignore his own legislation?)

Canada will have a new government on October 15, 2008. My preference is that it not be the old new Government…and one with a new attitude about arts and culture.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Canadian Television Fund

In case you're curious about which English language Canadian prodcos received money (and how much) in the last round of funding, check out the following link.
- media release issued today by CTF/FCT.

Convention Coverage: Plus Ça Change, Plus C'est Pareil

Happy September. Have you been watching U.S. political convention coverage non-stop? I can’t look away. I could not be more morbidly fascinated, even if the conventioneers were naked, but, thank God, they’re not, especially the Republicans.

Praise the lord and pass the ammunition. That pistol-packin’ hockey mama running for V.P. in the U.S.A. can sure hold a crowd’s attention. Call it a seduction of hee-haw style over substance.

Full marks to the journalists on the convention floor in Minnesota. Covering that thing must be like being stuck in the middle of a huge Amway convention, if only the stakes weren’t so frighteningly high.

I watched CNN last night and thought their team, especially Wolf Blitzer, was much too soft on Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. And wasn’t it over the top to have Gretchen Wilson, she of the country hit Redneck Woman on hand to sing the Star Spangled Banner? Republican organizers are apparently not fans of subtlety or nuance.

Best reporting I watched was on Radio Canada (en francais) last night, particularly commentary from Joyce Napier. The team offered lots of analysis without bias. For similar reporting (in print) check out John Ibbitson’s reporting in today’s Globe and Mail, (

As for her remarks, wasn’t it great to learn that Sarah Palin’s hubby belongs to the steelworkers union and is a champion snowmachine racer? What is that anyway?

Gov. Palin’s endless remarks about her family would have been better suited to the Jerry Springer stage than a national political stage, but her fans sporting buttons with slogans like “Hoosiers for the Hot Chick” lapped it up like a milk-starved tiger cubs. But when she touched on oil: Drill, baby, drill!! It could not be clearer that this election is about oil, energy and the control of both.

Palin’s acceptance speech ought to be remembered for what was missing. Remarks on America’s crippled economy and suggestions to repair its ongoing credit and housing crisis? She made no significant comments.

Policy statements about improving America’s public education system (readin’ and ‘rithmetic and all that) and access to health care were also conspicuously absent.

As far as international affairs and geopolitics are concerned, wow. If Gov. Palin really believes that American forces are winning in Iraq, her awakening will soon be beyond rude, should her soldier son deploy to the region and begin writing letters home…If he actually goes as scheduled.

As far her grasp on foreign policy goes, it’s quite telling that she mispronounced the name of the Caucusus region, while making her most important significant remarks about energy and global affairs. It is not pronounced like the plural – caucuses – of caucus, Governor.

Please try this link before you mention the area again:

Pronouncing the name of the region will imply (even if it’s not true) that Palin is informed about the area and its valuable resources. And that will help counter the (legitimate) perception that her appointment embodies all that’s cynical and objectionable about American politics.

And it might make Russian President Vladimir Putin less inclined to laugh at the Governor (and America). Fortunately, the icicle-eyed Pres understands the importance of propaganda and image making, as evidenced by the recent release of photos of Putin shooting a tiger with a tranquilizer gun in Russia’s Far East. Pass the ammunition.

Can’t wait for McCain to speak tonight. Plus Ça Change, Plus C'est Pareil.