Monday, February 23, 2009

Brain Candy: Award-Winning Films on TV

So did you tune in to the Academy Awards? If you did, then a) you’re one of about 4.5 million Canadians who did, according to a CTV media release. That makes last night’s broadcast the most-watched program of the year, ahead of the Super Bowl and the World Junior Hockey Championship, Gold Medal Game. “Nearly one in three Canadians (10.7 million) watched some, or all of, the broadcast,” according to CTV.

And it also means b) you’re probably nurturing a crush on Hugh Jackman. The song-and-dance man killed last night, and proved that age old show biz adage, If you build it, they will come.

If haven’t had your fill of award-winning movies - and how could that be possible? - tune in tomorrow night when Super Channel and present a showcase of winning Canadian films. The flicks are all winners from’s ongoing contest series.

“We’re thrilled to offer our own mini Oscar-type showcase,” says Clare Hodge, Super U’s creative Manager and Vancouver producer of last-year’s indie darling Love and Other Dilemmas.

“ is a place for stories from across Canada in French and English. Our filmmakers will tell you it is a chance at serious prize money, a broadcast on Super Channel and, then of course, to boast to all your friends and colleagues. Our viewers love the comedy, drama and documentary they see on the site. We hope all our winners will host gatherings and toast to their success while watching their films on Canada’s national pay television network.”

Check for the 411.

And if you haven’t had your fill of Joaquin Phoenix jokes – and how could that be possible – check out this video from Independent Spirit Awards.

Joaquin Phoenix, 2001, 2006, nominee for Academy Award.

Joaquin Phoenix, 2009, nominee for best butt of Awards' season jokes ...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Brain Candy: The Fifth Estate on Tonight

CBC’s flagship investigative series The Fifth Estate makes its first appearance in its new timeslot today, Friday, 9 pm. Tune in to a powerful episode with a report from Gillian Findlay dubbed Powerless.

In it, the award winning Findlay looks at a controversial Alberta-based rehab/addiction centre for young adults. If you miss the broadcast, you can always screen it online, at:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

BRAIN CANDY: The Future Is Now

From a 1981 TV news report....

It’s no surprise (considering how long it took me to master the simple art of posting youtube videos to this blog), that I never guessed how quickly the ‘fantasy’ described in this report would become reality.

It’s amazing that this report was filed in 1981. That was several years before I graduated from Journalism school, yet I don’t recall ever hearing a word about this “experiment,” or similar predictions about the future of journalism, while I was at J-school.

In fact, just having computers in classrooms was then a novelty. Maybe the biggest untold story - lost within the many recent stories about the ‘demise’ of print journalism & newspapers - is that it appears so many of us collectively failed to see it coming...apparently or allegedly...even when it was dead ahead, like the Titanic about to hit an iceberg.

As the report indicates, the future of journalism (as of 1981) is a hybrid of print and electronic news gathering (ENG, remember that term?), “newspapers on personal computers,” with people, fancy this, sipping their morning coffee in front of a computer as they read the news. That scenario describes my morning routine at least five-six days of the week. How about you?

With all that’s transpired in this struggling business, and even more job losses announced just today, I don’t want to kick anyone feeling down. But how did we get this one so wrong? Like George W. Bush might say, it was quite a “misunderestimation.”

Watch the item carefully, and note which American newspapers are involved in the “experiment.” Most are now in serious financial trouble, including the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which in January filed in the U.S. for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.
Adapting to change is necessary for survival, whether one is talking about a person, a business or a person working within a business.

Some successful online-only news sites, such as The Tyee ( ), have been around for years. It owes its success to the vision of founding editor David Beers. Getting in on the ground floor meant established and now enjoys a solid reputation for journalistic integrity, and it built a reliable core of readers. According to its site, it gets about 15,000 hits daily.

Many of us who love newspapers fret about whether or not they’ll survive. We reminisce about the days when the newspaper pages were pasted up with wax, as they were still when I began working in 1989 at The Ottawa Citizen. And we recall working in an environment that reeked of ink. And we remember when it all mattered so much. Those were the days; they are well and truly over.

As a wise man once said, the medium is the message. And as the medium of delivery changes, so does the message. Does that mean journalism is dying or does that mean it's changing? I guess that’s up to those of us who continue to practise it, regardless of the form in which the information is presented.

Many journalists have been laid off, but so have auto-workers, health care providers and even Starbucks’ baristas.

It’s not clear if printed newspapers will still be around in 2020. Maybe they won’t, but does that necessarily mean our society will suffer for it or be less of a democracy? Will sites like, the Huffington Post, or The Walrus survive and ensure a knowledge gap doesn't emerge?

Will our society’s general level of literacy decline without easy access to papers and print magazines? Will a gap emerge between the very literate and those who get their “news” from celebrity gossip websites?

People under the age of 35, especially those younger than 30, have vastly different news-consumption habits than those over 35. Many have no interest in daily news and are cynical about journalism as a profession. Will they eventually seek information elsewhere or will they just be uninformed and uninvolved?

The questions hang in the air like clouds of ink in an antiquated press room.

Brain Candy: Better Yet, Call These Pics Soul Food

The photo above (left) may be one of the more enduring images of the recent spate of deadly wildfires in Southern Australia. As bad as the news out of Oz has been -- police there believe at least 180 people have died -- the image that's captured imaginations and hearts around the world is a photo (distributed by the Associated Press) of a firefighter offering water to a wounded koala, whose injuries included severely burned paws.

The little female, nicknamed Sam, is recovering at a wildlife shelter (according to a report from AP). The overwhelming response to the photo of Sam and her new human pal reflects how much comfort we take from believing that the best parts of human nature can emerge during the worst circumstances. Or maybe it explains why in a study done here (in Canada) asking participants to identify the most trustworthy professionals, firefighters were chosen by 93 per cent of respondents, followed by nurse, airline pilots and doctors.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Brain Candy: Genie Noms...The Envelope, Please...

As if all this Grammy and Oscar buzz wasn’t enough, nominees were announced today for the Genie Awards, which honor the best in Canadian film. The noms weren’t all that surprising.

After winning three awards last May at BC’s Leo Awards, auteur Carl Bessai's celluloid meditation Normal, is up for three Genie Awards, including Best Motion Picture, Best Achievement in Direction (Bessai), Best Performance By an Actor in a Supporting Role (Callum Keith Rennie) and Best Original Screenplay (Travis McDonald).

Passchendaele’s showing is no surprise, considering its boffo box office. The First World War epic is up for Best Motion Picture and actor Paul Gross is nominated for Best Actor. No noms for direction, cinematography, screenplay. But it’s up for Best Motion Picture. You figure it out.

Meanwhile, the mind-and-life altering Amal, by Richie Mehta, is up for six awards, including Best Motion Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Direction and Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Rupinder Nagra).

Remember the little picture that could, and did start all that excitement (about Bill C-10)? One of its actors, Kristin Booth, is nominated in the category Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role. One nom for Young People F*cking...Is it just me or is that anti-climactic, no actual pun intended?

Some highly recognizable names are also up for awards, including Christopher Plummer, nominated for Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, for Emotional Arithmetic. Susan Sarandon (Emotional Arithmetic) and Ellen Burstyn (The Stone Angel) are both in the running for the Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role trophy. The Genies will be handed out in Ottawa on April 4. Here's not-not-quite-complete list of noms.

1) Best Motion Picture

David Miller, Steven Bray

Ce qu'il faut pour vivre / The Necessities of Life
Bernadette Payeur, René Chénier

Andrew Boutilier, Carl Bessai

Niv Fichman, Francis Damberger, Paul Gross, Frank Siracusa

Tout est Parfait / Everything is Fine
Nicole Robert

2) Achievement in Cinematography

Fugitive Pieces
Gregory Middleton csc

Le Banquet
Nicolas Bolduc

Le piège américain / The American Trap
Pierre Gill

The Stone Angel
Bobby Bukowski

Tout est Parfait / Everything is Fine
Sara Mishara

3) Achievement in Direction

Richie Mehta

Lyne Charlebois

Ce qu'il faut pour vivre / The Necessities of Life
Benoit Pilon

Carl Bessai

Tout est Parfait / Everything is Fine
Yves-Christian Fournier

4) Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Isabelle Blais

Emotional Arithmetic
Susan Sarandon

Heaven on Earth
Preity Zinta

Maman est chez le coiffeur / Mommy is at the Hairdresser's
Marianne Fortier

The Stone Angel
Ellen Burstyn

5) Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Ce qu'il faut pour vivre / The Necessities of Life
Eveline Gélinas

Fugitive Pieces
Rosamund Pike

Maman est chez le coiffeur / Mommy is at the Hairdresser's
Céline Bonnier

Tout est Parfait / Everything is Fine
Anie Pascale

Young People Fucking
Kristin Booth

6) Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Rupinder Nagra

Ce qu'il faut pour vivre / The Necessities of Life
Natar Ungalaaq

Emotional Arithmetic
Christopher Plummer

Paul Gross

This Beautiful City
Aaron Poole

7) Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Emotional Arithmetic Max Von Sydow

Fugitive Pieces
Rade Sherbedgia

Le Banquet
Benoit McGinnis

Callum Keith Rennie

Tout est Parfait / Everything is Fine
Normand D'Amour

8) Original Screenplay

Ce qu'il faut pour vivre / The Necessities of Life
Bernard Émond

Heaven on Earth
Deepa Mehta

Travis McDonald

Real Time
Randall Cole

Tout est Parfait / Everything is Fine
Guillaume Vigneault

Brain Candy: Not Really, But American Idol Is Still Fun...

So it’s a big week for Idol fans. More Hollywood Week drama will unfold tonight and then tomorrow the Top 36 singers will be revealed in a special two-hour episode (Fox, CTV, 8 pm).

Hopefully, tonight’s episode will be easier on the ears than last week’s. Ouch.

And is it just me, or did all the women associated with American Idol look less-than-fantastic at the Grammy Awards?

Not exactly Eye Candy...Paula’s outfit would ONLY make sense to, well, Paula. And Carrie Underwood's outfits (she wore three that night) made me think, Jesus Take the Wheel. Has Carrie Underwood has ever met a pair of hot pants that she didn’t want to make her very own? Silly, of course we’re talking about her love of “formal shorts.”

We’ll leave Jennifer Hudson alone, except to say she looked better at the Super Bowl.

Where's a good hippy chick like Kelly Clarkson when you need one?

Friday, February 6, 2009

In Memoriam: David Waldon

TV critics are a funny lot, characterized by some commonalities; most are driven, smart, and more than capable of demonstrating why the word assertive starts with the letters a-s-s. But, as there is with any group, there are those who stand out; journalists who balance ambition with altruism, whose sharp wit is tempered by compassion, whose jokes don’t come at the expense of others.

TV critics across North America are reminded of that today as we mourn a kind man who embodied a lot of what’s good about arts-and-entertainment journalism. On Wednesday, February 4, freelance journalist David Waldon, a man not yet 40 and a liver transplant survivor, passed away in Los Angeles.

Dave will be missed by his friends and fellow members of the Television Critics Association. His warmth, generosity, unassuming manner and intelligence made him a rare find, indeed. Rarely seen without his trademark Chicago Cubs ball cap, Waldon was liked by all who met him. Here’s to you, Dave.

A lovely tribute to him can be found on his good friend Brent Furdyk’s blog,

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Brain Candy: More Real Life Law & Disorder

Appearances aside, TV or Not TV is not becoming a go-to-site for true crime programming. That said, don't you dare miss tonight’s instalment of The Fifth Estate (CBC, 9 PM). On tonight's show veteran, award-winning reporter Linden MacIntyre sits down for an exclusive interview with Shawn Hennessey, one of the Alberta men recently convicted of manslaughter for his involvement in the 2005 deaths of four police officers in Mayerthorpe, Alta.

MacIntyre has been following the Mayerthorpe story diligently for years, since the events of March 3, 05, when an ex-convict named Jim Roszko ambushed and murdered four cops, members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who were on duty at his farm, the sight of a large-and-sophisticated dope grow op and stolen auto parts chop shop.

The deaths shocked Canadians; especially after details emerged that Roszko had a lengthy criminal record, but had served little time in jail. Area residents claimed to be terrified of him.

MacIntyre has consistently questioned whether or not charges against the men, Hennessey and Dennis Cheeseman, were justified. The men pleaded guilty to manslaughter after admitting they drove Roszko to his farm and lent him a rifle. MacIntyre questions if the full story's been told. Hennessey and his wife Christine talked to MacIntyre the night before his court date (in mid-January). Hennessey was sentenced on January 30 to a term of 15 years in prison, while Cheeseman was given 12 years by Alberta Justice Eric Macklin.

Oh, one other thing... The Fifth Estate moves to a new time slot next week. As of Friday the 13th (no, I’m not kidding, Friday the 13th) it airs at 9 pm. All in all, no big thing for the Fifth’s demo. Fans will follow it or continue to watch at The real shocker is that, as of next Wednesday, The Week the Women Went will air at 8 pm, followed by Being Erica at 9 pm.

I’m a bit worried about The Women. After all, that little talent contest called American Idol is just heating up... It airs on Fox and CTV, Wednesdays at 8 pm. Say what you want about its ‘decreasing’ popularity, but it’s not for nothing that show is called a ‘death star’ by American TV execs.

(Photo of Linden MacIntyre: