I’ve been so concerned with finishing off my Irish epic, which turned out to be longer and more tedious than Ulysses, that I missed commenting on some of the hottest issues facing us today.
In late breaking news, Ronald Reagan is still dead. Despite round-the-clock coverage while he lay in state, his state never actually changed. With Ronald safely filed away in the ground, the American news networks have finally, reluctantly, ended their three hundred consecutive hours of tributes during which the whole country joined together as one to pretend that Reagan was a competent president.
In entertainment news, it was revealed that the Olsens were, in fact, conjoined twins after all. Over the course of their profitable years together, Ashley had been absorbing all the nutrients, leaving sister Mary-Kate to wither. The operation to separate them into distinct eating-disorder clinic patients proved successful. Doctors hope to also separate them from their billions of dollars once the invoice is delivered.
But I know the real news you tune in for when you come here is MY news. So to that end…
A couple of weeks ago I went down to the Fries With That? studio for the second-season crew photo. The crew photo always provides a valuable opportunity for the writers to touch base with the people who shoot the show, assuming the writers are actually invited and actually bother to show up. The fraction of a second when we’re all together in front of a high-speed camera shutter is not to be missed. Just don’t blink. My first full-colour photo of this sort, it will join the other crew photos on my office wall so I can remember all the people I don’t know who I never worked with directly.
A week later I metroed over to a Mont-Royal Street club for the wrap party. There, I was again reunited with the cast and crew so I could watch, from a safe distance, the ritualistic white-people dance that breaks out at these things somewhere after the third round of drinks. The music, typical of most bars, begins at a perfectly reasonable level that encourages social human discourse. The volume is then raised, in fifteen-minute increments, all the way to eleven, where conversation becomes flatly impossible and only drink and dance remain viable options.
The writers, as writers do, formed a phalanx at one table to assure that no one would intrude on our self-perpetuating feeling of isolation. Occasionally one of us would make a run to the buffet table to hunt and gather valuable nutrients that would sustain us through our next stretch at the keyboard, when we would see neither proper food nor daylight for weeks at a time. Despite our efforts to keep everyone at bay with our transparent attempt at a clique, the actors, gregarious creatures that they are, each stopped by in turn as they made the rounds. As writers, it’s our job to put these poor victimized extroverts under the microscope in an effort to generate material for the show. Even as we exchanged greetings and well-wishes, I clinically took note of who was dirty dancing with who in the name of potential third season pairings.
The only solid factoid to emerge from our brief flirtation with meaningful interaction was that it was Morgan Kelly’s birthday – though it’s anyone’s guess which one. He plays a teenager on television, so that could place him anywhere between the ages of twenty and fifty-eight in real life. Actors get a lot of cosmetic work done, and without a valid birth certificate it can be difficult to guess how many years they have under their tightening skin grafts. The more successful amongst them actually sustain themselves on the spare parts of lesser actors, like some stitchwork Frankenstein monster. Jack Nicholson, for example, is responsible for an entire lost generation of thespians who, their hand forced by a string of failed auditions, sold their internal organs to him just to make rent on their one-room apartments. The subsequent manpower loss to the table-bussing industry is incalculable. Christopher Walken, for another, is well known to subsist on the blood of drama school students. And Shelly Winters is rumoured to have eaten Emmanuel Lewis on a single saltine cracker within six months of Webster going off the air.
The highlight of any wrap party as far as someone like me (who spends most of their time watching people in movies and television as opposed to speaking to them in real life) is the blooper reel. With little ceremony and no announcement, the edited highlights of this season’s goofs, gaffes and fuckups appeared at the head of the dance floor through the miracle of video projection. It’s the same sort of material you might have seen Dick Clark and Ed McMahon broadcast back in the day, only without all those annoying bleeps to make it suitable family entertainment. The fine, sheltered folks down at Standards and Practices would blush to hear some of the naughty words that come out of people during the production of a show that’s supposed to be aimed at our unblemished youth. However, more effort was put into this blooper reel than merely assembling a collection of actors blowing their lines. I particularly enjoyed a juxtaposed clip from one of my Radio Active episodes that predicted, quite accurately it seems, that Giancarlo Caltabiano’s future lay in flipping burgers.
Among the writers-table topics of conversation for the evening was the emergence of the first Fries With That? superfan. I’ve heard of one or two fan sites related to shows I’ve written for in the past, but this is the first one I’ve seen myself. With an almost Trekkie-like fervor, Matt Plante has created a tribute page that quotes my own webpage several times. As a primary source of insider information, how could I not feel flattered? Matt has been in touch with The Vestibules and myself via email, sniffing around for some hot tips. I’ve been resisting the urge to pass on all sorts of tawdry stories about substance abuse and sexual misadventures but, sadly, I’m not privy to anything like that. Working at home, alone in a room, the most exciting gossip I can offer concerns that way-cool box of felt tip pens I bought the other day.
Aside from keeping you abreast of my latest news, I’ve been derelict in some of my other duties as well. Having fallen behind online while I play catch-up in the office, I owe you an extra couple of weeks’ worth of Movies in Longshot. Three new ones should keep you entertained for as much a ten or eleven seconds. I also need to give a public acknowledgement to Rich Johnston for mentioning Longshot Comics in his column, Lying in the Gutters. I’ve experienced a modest deluge of orders since then and he has my thanks.
And I wanted to link you to this article, which I think speaks volumes about the Canadian film industry and why hardly anyone bothers to watch our home-grown movies. It’s good that Canadian funding is moving towards backing more commercial projects (as opposed to some of the navel-gazing shit that only a director and his mother could love), but it’s bad that there seems to be little concept of how to develop these commercial projects, or which ones are worthwhile. There have been several fiascos of late, with some very strange choices as to what films deserve wide distribution and massive ad campaigns. While terrific genre fare like Cube and the Ginger Snaps trilogy are banished to rep houses and video shelves with hardly a word, millions are earmarked to push a curling comedy (fun, amusing, yes – but seriously, it’s about curling, and nobody pays to see a curling movie) and yet another heist movie (amusing and fun again, yes – but the ubiquitous trailer couldn’t even pitch the hook that made this one different). Somehow, I don’t think a Chevy Chase yuk-yuk fest about a talking barnyard animal is going to make Porky’s money no matter how much they audience-test it. There’s a mint to be made by our film industry if they can only accept that our unique, government-funded Canadian sensibility can be marketed to a much wider audience than micro demographics like curlers and unemployed Maritime cod fishermen.
If you can’t find any worthwhile Canadian films to rent down at your local mom and pop video store, let me encourage you to sample the offerings from the boutique film industries of other nations that also can’t hope to compete with Hollywood. There’s a myriad of interesting material from around the world to sample. Like…um… German industrial safety films, for instance.