Looking Back on a Decade of Movies

Without getting into a debate about when this decade actually ends (I think technically it will end 31 Dec 2020), there are just a hair under six months left in the 2010s. Around December, critics will be voicing there opinions of the Best Films of the Decades. Top 10 and 20 Lists will start popping up on a regular basis. So, I am going to start working my way towards my Best of the Decade list over the next 6 months.

Every few weeks between now and the end of the year, I will post a review of each year in film from 2010 to 2019, with a recap of the the major news, stories, popular and acclaimed films.

Each entry will happen over two consecutive days: First Day, recap of the year. Second Day, my Top 10 (and runners up) for that year.

My hope for this??

Simple, to share my love of film and maybe to bring attention so some movies you haven’t seen or have forgotten or just didn’t get around to seeing when they came out.

At this point, I am waffling between four movies for #1 of the decade. But … two of my favorite directors (Tarantino and Scorsese) have highly anticipated movies yet to come this year.

I won’t be doing a “worst 10” because I just don’t go out of my way to see bad films. But each each’s review will contain a list of “Movies to Avoid at All Cost”. Basing bad films that wasted part of my life is almost as fun as reviewing good ones.

The 2000’s were dominated the Lord the Rings and Harry Potter. This decade, Star Wars and MCU. Some of the those movies appear on my lists along with other block busters but also smaller films, indies and movies that just connected with me.

When this is done, I will update my Top 100 (there will be new entries and some shuffling of existing ones).

I have “Top 10” lists ready to go for 2010 to 2018. 90 Films I really loved of the roughly 400 I saw. They include

  • Four total Guilty Pleasures (movies that are not good but I love anyways)
  • 6 Best pictures (3 Best pic winners thus far would not have made my year’s top 10)
  • Three Movies not in English
  •  6 Superhero movies (not all MCU!)
  • 9 or 10 movies you may not have heard of
  • One movie that I am completely ashamed I even like

A couple of small hints …

The Social Network is thus far the most critically acclaimed movie of the Decade. Its not on my Top 10.

In only one year thus far was my pic for the year’s best film also the Best Picture winner at the Oscars.

 

 

 

 

Dan’s Oscar Picks 2019

This could well be the dullest year in Oscar History, with Roma sweeping in the awards and a lot of disappointed faces. I don’t see that. In years like this, history tells us there is one movie shut out (I pick The Favourite) and the rest get spread out a lot. I am just going with my gut.
I am looking forward to Gaga and Cooper but nothing more than Spike Lee’s acceptance speech.
Here are my predicted winners with a brief commentary on each category and why I am making the pick. This is based on research from about 12 different reliable pundit websites and blogs as well as my own gut in a few areas.

THE MAJORS

BEST PICTURE

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The race is wide open enough that none of these 8 would shock me.

This is probably the most open category and there was a great deal of late campaigning from a lot of movies. Roma is the favourite, but by no means a lock. I could see BR, The Favourite, Green Book, BlacKkKlansman or Black Panther winning. None would surprise me. Vice and A Star is Born both seem to be out of the race. All that said, Best Picture is voted with a very convoluted ranked ballot system which can produce unexpected results. (Moonlight, Spotlight). Also, there are rumblings that the Academy is not very fond of Netflix and sees them as a disruptive force. Still, the love is gushing all over Roma. If I had money on it, I would go with Roma. Green Book and BlacKkKlansman seem to be next on the list.

Who will win : Roma

 

BEST DIRECTOR

It stuns me that in a year with 8 best picture nominees, we have a Best Director nomination that is not on the best picture list. This appears to be a two-horse race between Spike Lee and Alfonso Cauron. Cauron has a win (Gravity) and Lee is way overdue. Cauron is getting wide praise for the extent of his work so my thought is that this will be the 5th year in the last 6 with a Mexican director taking home the big prize. A Spike Lee would not startle me, his film is very good and decidedly Anti-Trump.

Who will win: Alfonso Cauron, Roma

 

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

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Bradley Cooper is the only one here playing a fictional character. L to R Bale as Dick Cheney. Cooper as Jackson Maine. Dafoe and Van Gogh. Malek as Freddie Mercury. Mortensen as “Tony Lip’

Rami Malek? I have a tough time with and Oscar win for a role of exaggerated prosthetic teeth and lip syncing. (I viewed Bohemian Rhapsody as a historically inaccurate train wreck with some very good concert scenes, only one of which actually happened). Four of the five nominees this year are playing real life characters. Willem Dafoe (love him), Bradley Cooper and Viggo Mortensen, the nomination is the award. The pundits and predictors show a two-way race between Rami well in the lead over and Christian Bale for Vice. Rami is not a mortal lock but certainly the odds-on pick. I call a minor upset. (Even though last five years all acting categories have gone to the favourites). Final note, do NOT count out Bradley Cooper. Well loved 7 time Oscar nominee with a massive marketing machine behind him, and he sang his own music.
Who will win: Christian Bale, Vice

 

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

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Glenn’s year this year.

Lady Gaga was the front-runner in this category for a long time, until awards season actually started and Glenn Close came to the forefront. This her 7th nomination and she has done a brilliant job voicing Homer’s long-lost mother on the Simpsons. It seems to be her year in a close race with Olivia Coleman. Close should have an Oscar now for her unforgattable role in Fatal Attraction but lost to Cher in Moonstruck.

Who will win: Glenn Close, The Wife

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Green Book has faced a mountain of criticism and deflected it all and done extremely well on the awards circuit. Mahershala Ali is close to a lock. But would it not be great to see Sam Elliot win an Oscar. I can dream, can’t I?? Adam Driver was excellent in Spike Lee’s film but not enough put him over the top. If there is an upset here, it’s the wonderful Richard E. Grant for Can You Ever Forgive Me. I saw it on a plane but it was still a great performance! Plus he a very well liked.

Who will win: Mahershala Ali, Green Book

 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

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Likely the year’s strongest category, the fact that Regina King was overlooked for a nomination from The Screen Actors Guild makes it far more of a race than it may seem.

Regina King has wiped the slate clean in awards season, but that said she was not nominated for a SAG award. SAG members make up about 2/3 of the Academy voters. So, this is not the lock that it seems. Both Rachel Weiss and Emma Stone received wide acclaim for The Favourite as did six-time nominee Amy Adams for Vice.

This, this s King’s to lose.

 

Who Will Win: Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Writing awards are often viewed as a Best Picture Consolation Prize. Original Screenplay is wide open this year with four of the five nominees a possible winner. The Writer’s Guild picked Eighth Grade which was not even nominated. Paul Shrader has written some extraordinary movies (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull to name but two) and has his first nomination this year for First Reformed. It seems to be a two-way race between The Favourite and Green Book. Co-writer Nicolas Vellelonga is the son of the character “Tony Lip” played by Viggo Mortensen.

Who Will Win: Nicolas Vellelonga, Peter Farrelly, Brian Hayes Currie for Green Book

 

BEST ADAPTED SCREEN PLAY

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Best movie of the year and arguably the best poster too.

Barry Jenkins has already won for Moonlight. Spike Lee, mortal lock. As silly as the Oscars are, there is always on award this per year that makes me jump out of my chair, this is it.

Who will win: David Rabinowitz, Charlie Watchell, Kevin Willmott, Spike Lee for BlacKkKlansman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Runner-Up Prizes

BEST FILM EDITING

In past years, this award always went with best picture, not so much lately. There is no clear fave here and no long-term Academy stalwarts running. Most are first time Editing nominees. There is a lot of editing in Bohemian Rhapsody but its not good.

Who will win: Hank Corwin, Vice

 

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

The voters will love the fact that Alfonso Cauron filmed his own movie in black and white. If there is an upset here it could be Lukas Zal in Cold War

Who Will Win: Alfonso Cauron, Roma

 

BEST ART DIRECTION

Usually goes with costume design. Not this year. Hard to call this one. You have Best Picture nominated Period Piece in the Favourite which usually wins here. I think it goes for the recreation of 1970s Mexico City.

Who will win: Eugenio Callebrero & Barbara Enriques, Roma

 

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Sandy Powell is a legend. She has 14 nomination in this category (including 2 this year!) and three wins (The Aviator, Young Victoria and Shakespeare in Love).

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Five movies. 4 nominees. A combined 25 career nominations and 4 wins.

This is a category full of veterans with multiple nominations and wins. I am going against conventional wisdom (period piece) for the first African American winner here.

 

Who Will Win: Ruth E. Carter, Black Panther

 

ORIGINAL SONG

I can’t see this going any other way. Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga will perform together and later Gaga will accept the award. If there is upset, maybe 10-time nominee Dianne Warren for “I Will Fight” from RBG.

Who will win: “Shallow” from A Star is Born

 

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Noteworthy: This is Alexandre Desplat’s 10th nomination since 2007! This award tends to go to a Best Picture nominee. That narrows it down to two.

Who will win: Ludwig Garrosan, Black Panther

 

THE “OTHER KINDS OF MOVIES”

Note : This is were the academy has the ill-conceived, silly, unnecessary and immediately withdrawn idea for Best Achievement in Popular Film. If you want a new category, how about the Stunt Crew?

BEST ANIMATED FILM

Into-the-spider-verse

Hyper-kinetic, original and just pure fun.

The Incredibles 2 is a heavyweight movie from heavyweight Pixar. I loved it. Isle of Dogs is without a doubt the weirdest movie I have ever seen. But this year, its gonna be Spidey, a movie that should have nominations in sound, screenplay and best picture and probably editing too.

Who will win: Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse

 

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

This could get weird. Roma is the odds on for Best Picture so it may get overlooked here. This has another very strange balloting system and produces odd results. In 2006, the amazing Pan’s Labrynth had 6 nominations and 3 wins but did not win here. Cold War has three nominations.

Who Will Win: Cold War (Poland)

 

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

RGB is a sentimental favourite but the reviews called it more Hero Worship than true documentary. The year’s most acclaimed documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbour” was not nominated.

Who Will Win: Free Solo

 

TECHNICAL CATEGORIES

BEST MAKE-UP
Vice. Marking Christian Bale into a convincing Dick Cheney.
BEST SOUND MIXING
Bohemian Rhapsody. Concert Scenes were exciting and entertaining.
SOUND EDITING
Bohemian Rhapsody – see above
VISUAL EFFECTS
Avengers Infinity War – Since Black Panther for some baffling reason is not nominated.

 

SHORT FILMS (EDUCATED GUESSES)

Animated Short

Boa (going with Pixar)

Documentary Short

Black Sheep (pundit consensus)
Live Action Short

Margeruite (pundit consensus)Best-Picture-Oscars-2019

 

Dan’s Overall Predictions

The Favourite gets shut out

No runaway winner

This year’s very possible WOW moment : Black Panther for Best Picture

Count by Movie….
Roma – 4
Black Panther – 3
Bohemian Rhapsody – 2
Green Book – 2
Vice – 2
Let’s be honest, this is a weird weird year with a relatively weak set on nominees. I could very much be eating my words Sunday Night.

Describe the 2018 Oscars in One Word: “Safe”

Its not a surprise at all to me that this years show was the lowest rated Oscar telecast since the Neilsen Ratings started in 1974. Jimmy Kimmel was at best average last year. The two front running movies did not make $100 million between them. And, like it or not, TV audiences are tiring of being lectured, which seems to be an awards show staple.

This year’s Oscars had lower ratings than the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics. They were trying so hard to play it safe and not offend anyone and it showed in a rather dull telecast.

A few years ago, the Academy added more best pictures to the list of nominees to try and increase audience interest. If you look at the highest rated broadcasts of the last 30 years (1994 Forrest Gump, 1997 Titanic, 2003 Return of the King), they have well liked, financially successful movies at their forefront. This year, you have to go to 14th in the years box office to find a film with any Oscar possibilities (Dunkirk) and 47th for one with a real chance (Shape of Water). There were only about 7 nominations combined from the Top 10 films.

Gal Gadot and Luke Evans both gave performances worthy of Oscar consideration in blockbuster movies.

There was only one shock for me the whole night, that Kobe Bryant won an Oscar to a standing ovation in a MeToo world, which Hollywood wants to drive more than anything. Bryant was charged with rape and the charges dropped when his accuser, a 19 year old that Bryant admitted an extra-marital affair with, refused to testify in court. He later settled out of court in a civil suit. Casey Affleck’s accusations are very similar and was not allowed to even present.

There is an exceptional amount of hypocrisy in Hollywood that is emphasized by Bryant’s Oscar. MeToo voices like Meryl Streep and Oprah, some of the Hollywood’s most influential people, befriended and publicly praised Harvey Weinstein and cuddled up to him along with the Clintons and Obamas. They knew.

Ok, off my soap box.

All 8 major categories went exactly according to predictions. Maybe the only surprise of the night was Coco winning for best original song. (Same song writers that previously won for the ubiquitous ‘Let it Go’ from Frozen).

Their were two highlights for me. First was Roger Deakins. A brilliant, prolific cinematographer with 13 prior nominations, many for Best Pic nominees and a couple of winners, and no wins. Blade Runner 2049 was a superb film and he deserved this.

The second was Frances McDormand. She won her first Oscar in 1996 for Marge Gunderson, the plucky, pregnant policy chief in Fargo whose instincts both as a cop and a wife were uncanny. Also, that character has one of my favourite ever movie lines “I’m not sure I agree 100% with your police work there, Lou”. She created one of the most memorable characters in all of film.

McDormand is akin (in my books) to Daniel Day Lewis. Lately she is picky about her projects, few and far between and when she takes one on, she engulfs it

I loved her speech. When she called on Meryl to stand up knowing that others would follow. And then when she said “Talk to us, we have projects we want financed”. A punch of honesty right between the eyes.

She finished her speech by saying “two words … inclusion rider”.  This is relatively new to Hollywood and is really only at the disposal of A-list stars. Its a rider on their contract that stipulates that 50% of the cast (as far as it can serve the script) and crew must be women and minorities. For a self congratulating industry that seems to still largely be in denial of its problems with abuse, racism and sexism, this may have been the most poignant and effective of any speech given yet.

McDormand used her platform not to lecture and not to give a speech full of empty slogans and platitudes but as a direct call to action for people that wield her level of influence and higher. Bravo.

For the record, I was 7 for 8 on the major categories and 17 for 24 overall. I missed both music categories and Best Picture of all things.

I love the Oscars, always have and always will. There is a growing gap between films that audiences like and those the Academy chose to honour. The more this gap grows the more less relevant that long, languid show will seem. I am not sure how, but it needs to reinvent itself.

 

Dan’s 2018 Oscar Picks

This is going to be an interesting year for the Oscar’s. The first year without Harvey Weinstein. His influence on the Oscars was legendary, he could and did make a lot of unlikely films and actors nominees and winners. For 13 straight years he had at least one Best Picture nominee and his movies won over 140 Oscars over the years. If you ever wondered how mediocre films like Chocolat, Life is Beautiful and Shakespeare in Love had their Oscar success, its the Weinstein Factor. Good riddance.

I have not seen a lot of the movies this year. My pics are based on a lot of reading from Critics and Movie insiders and various websites.

Best movie for me this year, that I have seen, Get Out narrowly edging Logan.

This does not seem to be the year of a sweep or a runaway winner. Three Billboards with 3-4, The Shape of Water with 3-4 and the rest very spread out.

I thought Jimmy Kimmel was a weak host last year and I am quite surprised he is back. Perhaps he can do something this year other than Trump and Matt Damon jokes.

All that said, here are my picks.

 

THE 8 MAJOR CATEGORIES

Best Picture

It’s a two way race between Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri and The Shape of Water. Vastly different films. There has been negative talk associated with 3BB of late and Guillermo del Toro is a much loved director. Also, in a two way race, never count out the third horse, which this year is Get Out. It is fashionable lately to given the Actors film best pic and the Special Effects film best Director. I see that continuing this year.

Dan’s Pick: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

best_picture_new-split-h_2018

 

Best Director

Best-Director

Jordan Peele proved he belongs in this group.

What a strong category. I am still in awe that Jordan Peele is an nominee. Greta Gerwig made a well loved, touching real life movie. Christopher Nolan has the Midas Touch and should have an Oscar by now. Paul Thomas Anderson makes consistently interesting and original films. Guillermo Del Toro has made some questionable films but never a bad or dull one. Hellboy, Blade II and Pacific Rim and all super fun even if they are not high art. Pan’s Labrynth is among my Top 100 favourite films, its pure genius. He is well liked and will take home the trophy.

Dan’s Pick: Guillermo Del Toro, The Shape of Water

 

Best Actor

Here is one where you bet the farm.

Dan’s Pick: Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

 

Best Actress

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Frances McDormand is the favourite but any winner from this group would not be a surprise.

There is more talk in this category than any other of the majors. Margot Robbie made a sympathetic character out of Tonya Harding. Sally Hawkins is a brilliant actress, long overlooked. Meryl is Meryl, perhaps the greatest of all time and can never be counted out. Saorise Ronan gained acclaim and her third nomination for Lady Bird and she is brilliant. Her time will come. Frances McDormand as an all new kind of grieving mother will win.

Dan’s Pick: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

 

Best Supporting Actor

For the longest time, everyone favoured Willem Dafoe in the Florida Project. I love his work but that small film did not mount much of a campaign. Sam Rockwell now seems to have momentum.

Dan’s Pick: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

 

Best Supporting Actress

Everything I read everywhere points in one direction. If there is a upset it will be Laurie Metcalf in Ladybird

Dan’s Pick: Alison Janney, I, Tonya

 

Adapted Screenplay

Logan created a superhero film that defies the genre with heart and pathos. It will not win but perhaps should. The Disaster Artist is out of the question. Look here for Call My By Your Name to win its one and only award.

Dan’s Pick: Call Me By Your Name

 

Original Screenplay

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Oscar Nominee Daniel Kaluuya in what has become an iconic shot from Get Out.

Wide open, I think. The Big Sick will not win, any of the outer four could. I see the Academy wanting to honour Jordan Peele’s fascinating and horrifying Get Out. Either that or Ladybird.

Dan’s Pick: Get Out

 

The Runner Up Categories

Best Cinematography

If you have seen more than 10 movies in the last 20 years, chances are one was filmed by Roger Deakins. Proflic and brilliant, he has 13 prior nominations and could have won for any of them. He should have won for Fargo and Skyfall and arguably Shawshank. He is long overdue and his work here is among his best. Possible upset, Rachel Morrison, the first ever-female nominee in this category for Mudbound. (She also filmed Black Panther).

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Everything about this short from Blade Runner 2049 is perfect. Deakins’ attention to the tiniest detail is legendary.

Dan’s Pick: Roger Deakins, Blade Runner 2049

 

Best Costume Design

I am going to take the easy route and pick the film about a clothing designer

Dan’s Pick: Mark Bridges, The Phantom Thread

 

Production Design

I almost always get this wrong so maybe I should go against my instincts. The team of Katie Spencer and Sarah Greenwood have done some brilliant work and are nominated twice this year. Blade Runner 2049 was close to perfect. The team from Shape of Water are all first time nominees in a category of Oscar veterans. I see them winning:

Dan’s Pick: The Shape of Water

 

 

Film Editing

Hard to pick here. For decades, editing and best picture went together. Not so much in recent years. Coin toss for Baby Driver, Dunkirk and The Shape of Water. Lee Smith should have won for The Dark Knight.

Dan’s Pick:      Lee Smith, Dunkirk.

 

Best Original Song

The year was short on musicals. This is Me from The Greatest Showman is the only real musical song nominated. Wouldn’t it be great to say “Oscar Winner Mary J Blige”?? That said, Common has won before, but Diane Warren is 0 for 8 coming into this show.

Dan’s Pick: Common and Dianne Warren, Stand for Something from Marshall

 

Original Score

There is zero change John Williams will win but the music for Last Jedi was perfect. Alexandre Desplat seems to score one out of very three movies these days. Carter Burwell has done most of the Coen Brother’s films but is rarely acknowledged. This is also a tough category.

Dan’s Pick: Carter Burwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

 

Animated Feature

I have not seen it yet but Pixar’s Coco got great reviews and seems to be the consensus pick. Could The Boss Baby win. Three words, Big Hero 6.

Dan’s Pick: Coco

 

Foreign Language Film

Dan’s Pick: The Insult (Lebanon)

 

Technical Categories

 Best Sound: Dunkirk

Best Sound Effects Editing: Dunkirk

 Best Visual Effects: Blade Runner 2049

 Best Make-Up and Hair: Darkest Hour

 

The Educated Guesses

Documentary Short: Edith + Eddie, true story of a nonagenarian newlywed inter-racial couple

 Documentary Feature: Faces Places. Celebrated French Director Agnes Varda becomes the oldest winner of a competitive Oscar. She is receiving an Honorary Award as well.

 Live Action Short:: Dekalb Elementary. About a real life 911 call placed during a school shooting in Georgia.

 Animated Short: Dear Basketball (In a #MeToo world, I find it hard to see Kobe Bryant winning an Oscar but this is the popular pick).

A Canada 150 Celebration of Music – My Favourite Songs of My Favourite Canadian Bands

For Canada 150 today, I am going to depart from the film theme of this blog and turn to my first passion in life, music. We in Canada have much to be proud of on the music scene. Even today, the charts world wide are topped by Canadians (Beiber, Drake, Th Weekend). There was a time in 1995 when three Canadian women (Alanis Morissette, Shania Twain and Celine Dion) ruled the charts across the globe.

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For this entry, I will name my favourite 15 Canadian recording artists, pretty much in order, with my favourite song from each of those bands. Its not an attempt to compile a “Best of” list. The Hip, for example are not on my list but if I were to just do a list of great Canadian songs, they would be there.

Who are yours? Your fave Canadians and their single best song for you? What memory does it bring up, why does it resonate with you. I would love your comments.

Before I start, honourable mention to five acts that did not quite make the list for me: Arcade Fire, The Hip, Blue Rodeo, Jane Siberry and BTO. Please do yourself a favour and give a listen to Jane Siberry’s “Dancing Class” from No Borders Here. Again, on list of songs, its way up there. But this list is about artists and a single song.

15. Parachute Club – Rise Up

Parachute Club exploded onto the mid 80s Canadian Music scene, when Much Music was actually a station that played videos. Their fusion of pop, soca and World Music was unique. Led by the sultry-voiced Lorraine Segato, it was an early anthem for gay rights and equality in general, with lyrics like “we want freedom, to love who we please”. Its a song about empowerment with a truly universal theme.

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Admittedly, a lot of that passed me by in 1983. Back then I was mesmerized by the songs percussion and Latin influence and it general upbeat message and tone. Aside from its sad, sad use in a frozen pizza commercial, it has become timeless. I played the grooves off this album.

 

14. Gowan – Guerilla Soldier

Born in Scotland and raised in Scarborough, Larry Gowan combined his ARCT classical piano traninig and love of theatrics into a truly unique and Canadian version of Prog-Rock. His album Strange Animal from 1985 was a huge success in Canada, producing the FM radio staples A Criminal Mind and the title track.

Guerrilla Soldier is his most powerful work and ranks as one of the single best songs I have ever seen performed live. And for those music aficionados, that’s Tony Levin on bass.

13. Stompin Tom Connors – Sudbury Saturday Night

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To not include Stompin’ Tom would be tantamount to treason. The proudest of all Canadian artists, the original country rapper, the man who said “we should all join Quebec and separate together”.

One of my prize possessions is my father’s original vinyl pressing of Northland Zone, an album with Connors, a guitar and slab of wood on the floor. Its featured track is “Sudbury Saturday Night” and is an undeniable piece of Canadian Culture. A song about hard working miners in the oft-forgotten Nickel Belt.

We’ll drink the loot we borrowed and recuperate tomorrow
‘Cause everything is wonderful tonite-we had a good fight
We ate the deli pickle and we forgot about the nickel
And everybody’s tickled for it’s Saturday tonight

If those aren’t truly Canadian lyrics….

12. April Wine – Bad Side of the Moon

As Canadian as they get, April Wine was a hit machine in the 70s. Although they have so many great originals, their cover of Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s Bad Side of the Moon remains my favourite. I believe it is an improvement on the original. It brings back memories of listening to CFTR in the 70s.

11. Rough Trade – High School Confidential

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Carol Pope: what can you say about her? She challenged every convention she could, personally and musically and with this song, summed up her band and her music. There weren’t a lot of openly lesbian pop music fantasies in the 1980s and at age 15 when it was released, I am not sure that I was 100% sure that

I knew what I was listening to. But to this day, I know every word and wonderful double entendre.

Pope wrote this song intentionally to confuse the audience. Was she singing of her own fantasies of the “cool blonde scheming bitch” or was she singing from the point of view of a lusting boy. This is a great song.

10. Rush – Tom Sawyer

Rush is a band I respect and admire more than I like. For their fearsome chops, mastery of time signatures, insanely devoted fans and longevity especially on the road. As a drummer, I have to pay homage to Neil Peart, one of the most gifted men to ever pick up sticks. Tom Sawyer fuses Rush’s Prog Rock/Metal style with pop and Top 40 hooks perfectly. But any drummer will tell you, its Peart’s imagination and chops that make this the song it is.

Its really is the ultimate air-guitar or air-drum song.

9. Gordon Lightfoot – If You Could Read My Mind

Inspired by his divorce, Four Chord Gord penned his first US #1 A/C hit while sitting in an empty house in Toronto. It’s not so much (for me) a song of anger and resentment, but more of one working out his emotions, “the feeling’s gone and I just can’t get it back”.

This song has a brilliant arrangement of acoustic guitar, keys and strings, no notable drums or percussion.

It’s a sad song to be sure but one that closes a door on one part of his life and looks ahead to the next. “I will never be set free as long as I’m a ghost that you can’t see”.

8. Alanis Morissette – You Oughta Know

Too_hot_cassette_alanis_morissette

A few years before Jagged Little Pill, under the name Alanis, she had a short run as big-haired pop star with Too Hot. JLP represented one of rock’s great 90-degree turns.

Ok, look past how horribly over played this song was and maybe still is. Jagged Little Pill ruled the charts, powered by one of rock and roll’s greatest poison pen letters. The album is the second best seller all-time by a female artist, behind only Shania Twain’s Come on Over.

The ubiquitousness of this song has never dulled its edge. Its shocking lyrics, slicing vocals and almost creepy, angry production values launch it beyond simple catharsis to one of modern music’s greatest “Fuck You” moments.

Loved it then, still love it now.

Just for clarity, Alanis has never said whom this song is about.

 

 

7. The Band – Up on Cripple Creek

If you don’t know the history of The Band, four boys from Ontario and one from Arkansas, I would encourage you to read everything you can. They have a fascinating history from back up for Ronnie Hawkins to one of the most influential recording acts of their time.

“The Weight” is largely considered their signature song, but “Up on Cripple Creek” is just pure fun, a simple song about a trucker in the south who stops in to see “Little Bessie” for some time at the track, drinking and music. Levon Helm sang lead on this song written by Canadian Robbie Robertson: Its southern rock at its best.

That really cool riff at the end of each chorus (“A trucker’s dream if I ever did see one”) is Windsor Ontario’s Garth Hudson, playing a Hohner Clavinet keyboard with a wah-wah pedal. It’s one of the first instances of a sound that would grow to be a staple of 70s rock and prog-rock. Think of the intro of Stevie Wonder’s Superstitious a few years later…

6.  54 40 – I Go Blind

Naming their band after a latitudinal line that separates Alaska and British Columbia and the Oregon Last Dispute, 54 40 is one of the most influential and enduring bands from the Western Alternative Rock/Punk scenes.

I Go Blind, a song about turning your back on the obvious plight of those in third world countries, was a minor hit for them in 1986 then was covered by Hootie and the Blowfish and became a Top 10 Hit in US and Canada. I saw them in a private show in Calgary a couple of year back. Still sounded great.

The original video is on YouTube. Give it a watch, its very simple and very impactful.

5.  Barenaked Ladies – Brian Wilson

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Around 1992, my partner in the DJ business Shawn McEwen handed me a 5 song demo tape from this band he heard at the College Student’s Council conference in Halifax. He said “You will probably like this in a year or two”. Shawn knew I was late to the game most of the time. If I had a Million Dollars became a staple of our DJ rotation and shortly after they released Gordon which remains one of my favourite albums. The famed “Yellow Tape” sold over 100,000 copies in Canada.

One of their first songs, Brian Wilson is still their best. A concert staple and fan favourite, it chronicles the parallels of the lives of Brach Boy Brian Wilson and Steven Page and contains a nod to the famed Sam the Record Man on Yonge Street.

4. Joni Mitchell – Carey

Joni Mitchell’s Blue is rightly considered of the greatest albums of all time and Court and Spark is not far behind. I did not fully appreciate Joni Mitchell until my early 20s when my friend and band mate Paul Martin had me listen in earnest.

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Blue is often listed amongst the greatest albums ever released and rightfully so. It would top my list of Best Canadian recordings.

For Joni, I have a virtual tie between this song and “Raised on Robbery”, her tale of a Toronto hooker splitting a bottle of gin with man in bar while a Leafs game on in the background.

“Carey”, though showcases her two greatest gifts, her poetry and her unmatched vocal talent. The subtle note bending, the two-octave jumps, all done with skill and ease. This song about a love affair she had while on vacation in Greece, is deeply personal and so spot on perfect that his transports you to the Mermaid Café with every listen.

 

“Maybe I’ll go to Amsterdam
Or maybe I’ll go to Rome
And rent me a grand piano and put some flowers ’round my room
But let’s not talk about fare-thee-wells now
The night is a starry dome
And they’re playin’ that scratchy rock and roll
Beneath the Matalla Moon”

3. Max Webster – Oh War!

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1977 – the original album cover for High Class in Borrowed Shoes.

I love Max Webster. I don’t feel they every get the love they deserve or their place amongst Canada’s great bands. Kim Mitchell saw much more success as a solo artist. High Class in Borrowed Shoes was the first album I ever purchased for myself. Oh War! With it’s raunchy blues, killer guitar and f-bomb woke something up inside me musically. In the 1970s, Max played rock and roll outside the box and that worked for me.

This entire album influenced me as a young drummer as much as anything I ever listened to.

 

2. The Guess Who – No Time

Not their biggest hit, but released in the peak of their early 70’s fame, “No Time” is a great, biting Dear John letter that for its time was leading edge hard rock. Known both for Burton Cummings unique belting vocals and the memorable Randy Bachmann guitar riff, this song closed a lot of concerts over the years and was recognizable from its first note.

Picking my favourite Guess Who song was a chore, but for me, this is their timeless classic. American Woman has a hallowed place in rock history but No Time defines the band.

1. Bruce Cockburn – Coldest Night of the Year

In the 1980s when I truly discovered Bruce Cockburn, the world was living a life of excess. More was not enough and too much was barely a start. The plight of the rest of the world was relatively unknown to most North Americans. Bruce Cockburn at this time sang about injustice, war, the environment and fairness for Indigenous Peoples. He was and still is a songwriter, poet and activist. On top of that and maybe even moreover, he is a monster guitar player, one of the most gifted in history.

His songs “If I Had A Rocket Launcher”, “Call It Democracy”, “Stolen Land”, “Waiting for a Miracle”, “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” and many others spin tales of parts of the world a society that few songwriters of his time cared to acknowledge.

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Cover of Bruce Cockburn’s Mummy Dust, a compilation album with Coldest Night of the Year added as an original for radio release.

But it’s this breezy, bluesy valentine to Downtown Toronto, the tale of a lonely and heartbroken man on a cold night in Canada that remains my single all-time favourite song.

Cockburn could weave enormous complexity into his music, but this song, brilliant in its simplicity and equal parts whimsical and melancholy, stands apart for me. I have seen him in concert 7 times (8th coming this fall). He is a great Canadian and a musical hero.

 

Oscar 2017: The Vindication of Steve Harvey

The reading of the wrong name for Best Picture was just that last in a series of bizarre events on last night’s Oscar telecast.

In the world’s largest festival of privileged self-congratulation, the Oscar show was pretty moribund. Kimmel was well paced and acceptably funny, but I could have done with less Damon and less political humour. There are other things to joke about.

That Mel Gibson would make a movie that would even be nominated let alone take home two statues is remarkable. He has been Hollywood poison for some time.

It went largely unnoticed that Brie Larson did not hug or applaud for Casey Affleck on his Best Actor win. Larson, a strong advocate for victims of sexual assault announced the win to Affleck who has two out of court settlements for sexual assault allegations.

The low point of the evening for me, sadly, was Viola Davis’ acceptance speech. I love her. A truly gifted actress. I am on record many times on this. But when she said “I became an artist and thank God I did because we are the only professional that celebrates what it means to live a life” I wanted to throw up. You don’t hear speeches like this from the editors, the costume designers. Only from those in the bubble of their own self-importance.

It took nearly two hours for the 14-time nominee La La Land to pick up its first trophy, which did not come as a surprise. There had been a backlash brewing against it for quite some time. Whether it is good or bad, I know few who think it is 14-nomination good. It was seeming like Hollywood was going to pat itself on the back for making a movie about how wonderful Hollywood is.

Of the eight major categories, only best picture did not go according to predictions. I find it funny that Martin Scorsese won his first Oscar at age 65 and Hitchcock has none, but Damien Chaziel is an Oscar-winning director at age 32. But for the one category that was a true upset, no-one would have guessed how it would play out.

Price Waterhouse has taken the “wrong envelope” fall for this. This is an in excusable gaffe of epic proportions. I don’t like it when a drive-thru employee does not give me napkins. How, in such a tightly controlled show, in its biggest moment, can this happen?

What is truly odd is that Emma Stone has said openly, she had the envelope for Best Actress in her hand. She kept it. So did PWC print two?

There are a lot of conspiracy theories, none that I will discuss here, but there is more to this than meets the eye. I am not completely convinced of the “wrong envelope” theory.

Still, The Streaker of 1974 as David Niven is set to award Best Picture to The Sting will live on as the most memorable moment in Oscar history. Not for just for what happened but also for Niven’s perfect, dead-pan come back.

“Isn’t it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?”

For the record, I went 14 for 24 and so did my son. My worst year in a lot of years.

That was not a good Oscar show. Musical performances were generally flat; the humour was way to Trumped and the tour bus thing while cute, fell on its face.

Only one film from the Top 20 of the 2016 box office was a significant nominee and that was La La Land, which was 20th. In fact, in the last nine years, only two Best Picture winners, Argo and The King’s Speech, grossed over $100 million and found any kind of real audience.

The Wrong Envelope, it would seem, saved the night.

 

 

2017 Oscar Picks

The Oscars seem to do whatever they can to make themselves less and less relevant. You could argue that they never were and it would be hard to disagree.  Since 2008 when the top 2 grossing and critically acclaimed films, The Dark Knight and WALL-E, got 14 nominations but none for best picture, the show has been in a tail spin.

This year, they are set for a sweep of La La Land, a movie that basically says how great movies are. I have not seen – I will – but the reviews are mixed at best and hardly worth a record tying 14 nominations.

My insane schedule at work kept me from the movies a lot this year. But I still follow the buzz and the web sites, so for what its worth, here is my predicted list of winners. I see a year of upsets.

 

Best Picture – Moonlight. Its been gaining momentum as has the back lash against La La Land

Director – La La Land. Damien Chaziel is a golden boy and it seems fashionable to split these awards in recent years.

Actor – Denzel Washington. Fences. Well loved in a killer role he directed. Directing himself to a best actor will put him in very unique company. He is in a dead lock with Casey Affleck.

Actress – Isabel Huppert. Elle. She won the Globe. Heavy acclaim. They love foreign actresses. Emma Stone is favoured. I see an upset here.

Supporting Actor – Mahershala Ali. Moonlight. Mortal Lock.

Supporting Actress – Viola Davis. Fences. Finally. Mortal lock. Long long overdue.

Original Screenplay – Manchester by the Sea

Adapted Screenplay – Moonlight

Cinematography – La La Land

Production Design – La La Land

Costume – Florence Foster Jenkins. Wide open category. Maybe to Jackie.

Make-up – Star Trek Beyond

Score – La La Land

Song – City of Stars from La La Land

Visual Effects – Rogue One. No other movie was close.

Sound – La La Land

Sound Effects – Hacksaw Ridge.

Editing – La La Land. Until recent years always went with best pic.

Foreign Language – The Salesman

Doc. Feature – OJ Simpson: Made in America

Doc. Short – The White Helmets

Animated Feature – Kubo and the two Strings. Please this over Zootopia. Please.

Animated Short – Piper. Perhaps the best thing Pixar has done next to WALL-E.

Live Action Short – Le Femme et le TGV. Total, total guess.

If La La Land Sweeps, well ,this will be my worst year EVER!!