Our decidedly friendlier Northern neighbor is praised for many things (hockey, universal health care, a much more singable national anthem), but motion picture and entertainment greatness is generally not one of them. Well I’m here to right that wrong by listing some of the people and pictures that can truly make an argument that Canadia is a thriving hotbed of filmic fascination. Now I’m not talking about the transplants who are assumed to be American, shedding as they did their homeland at the border like an embarrassing, too-loud sweater (Michael J. Fox, William Shatner, Sandra Oh, Sarah Polley, Mike Myers, Matthew Perry, Rachel McAdams, David Cronenberg, etc). Nor am I including those few purely Canadian imports that have managed to infiltrate, somehow, our national consciousness (so called) like “The Kids In the Hall”, “The Red Green Show”, “Degrassi Junior High”, and “SCTV”. See, there’s a whole varied, interesting film industry just looming up over our heads, populated, somewhat incestuously, by a colony of writers, directors, and actors who have largely eschewed the bright, tantalizing kleiglights of Hollywood to cross-pollinate each others’ projects in the cool, Canadian sun. Check these crazy cats out:
A. Don Mckellar. Gaunt, googly-eyed, snaggle-toothed actor/director/writer is, perhaps the busiest guy in Canada.
Where you know him from: Seemingly never venturing out of the motherland, maybe you saw him in more adventurous director David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ as the creepy guy who makes the tooth gun.
What you should know: wrote, directed and starred in the beautiful end of the world fantasy Last Night. Wrote and acts in the excellent cult classic 32 Short Films About Glen Gould. Starred in the indie cult film Highway 61. Was hilarious as Darren Nichols, the quintessentially pretentious theater director in all three seasons of the great show “Slings and Arrows”. Wrote the excellent Red Violin. Starred in the creepily funny post-modern sitcom “Twitch City”.
B. Callum Keith Rennie. Handsome, crazy-eyed, snaggle-toothed actor.
Where you know him from: Battlestar Galactica, probably, as the charismatic robot dude Leoben Conroy. Shows up in Memento, “The X-Files”, “Smallville”. Look for him in the indie Snow Cake.
What you should know: Was Sandra Oh’s leading man in the delightful Double Happiness. Thankfully replaced Paul Gross’ original partner in the Chicago-set Canadian cop show “Due South”. Part of the excellent ensemble in McKellar’s Last Night. Partnered up with McKellar again in “Twitch City”. Was in Bruce MacDonald’s Hard Core Logo.
C. Paul Gross. Handsome, very talented leading man. Teeth are fine.
Where you know him from: Took his shot at Hollywood stardom in the ski movie Aspen Extreme. Starred in Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City”.
What you should know: Probably the most talented actor you’ve never heard of. Absolutely stunning in the excellent “Slings and Arrows” (check the Comedy section at Videoport!). Starred in “Due South” as a misplaced mountie with a combination of naiveté and heroism that would have made him an ideal movie Superman. Has done his part for Canadian sport by narrating its answer to Ken Burns “Hockey: A People’s History”, and starring in the curling comedy Men With Brooms.
D. Colm Feore. Balding, fierce-eyed character actor.
Where you know him from: the doctor who pulled of the tricky face transplant in Face/Off, maybe? Or the satanic lead in the Steven King miniseries “Storm of the Century”? Is apparently on 24. He’ll definitely look familiar.
What you should know: had an hilarious guest role on “Slings and Arrows”. Was mesmerizing in the titular role of 32 Short Films About Glen Gould. Very menacing and funny in Dave Foley’s The Wrong Guy. Also in The Red Violin .
E. Bruce MacDonald. Prolific Canadian director.
Where you know him from: you don’t.
What you should know: directed the cult indies Highway 61, Dance Me Outside, Roadkill, the sort-of zombie movie Pontypool, and Hard Core Logo. Directs a lot of “Queer As Folk”.
F. Atom Egoyan. Even more prolific Canadian director.
Where you know him from: Everybody loved his overpoweringly sad The Sweet Hereafter.
What you should know: has been turning out intriguing, character-driven drama for years. Check these out at Videoport: Next of Kin (not the Patrick Swayze one, you dope), Family Viewing, Speaking Parts, The Adjuster, Calendar, , Felicia’s Journey, Ararat, and Where the Truth Lies for an icy, unsettling good time.
Last Night: written and directed by A. Starring A and B, along with Sandra Oh and David Cronenberg.
32 Short Films About Glen Gould: written by A. Starring D.
Highway 61: written and directed by E. Starring A.
“Slings and Arrows”: starring A, C, and D.
The Red Violin: written by A. Starring D and A.
“Twitch City”: directed by E. Starring A and B.
“Due South”: starred C and B.
Hard Core Logo: written and directed by E. Stars B.