The local film industry continues to slip back to the listless shadow days of a generation ago. In the gathering grey, here are 10 bright lights.
1 david cronenberg (Spider) Spider is Cronenberg's best film since Dead Ringers. Dark, intense and precise in every nuance, it's exactly the sort of movie Telefilm Canada doesn't want to make any more. Cronenberg shot Spider in England with Ralph Fiennes, but it's Toronto through and through. Opens next month.
2 daniel macivor (Past Perfect; Marion Bridge)
This year MacIvor wrote, directed and acted in the airplane two-hander Past Perfect and adapted his own play for Wiebke von Carolsfeld's Marion Bridge. Both films prove him the strongest character writer working in our movies. Wonder what he'd do with a budget?
3 rebecca jenkins (Marion Bridge) Jenkins co-starred in both Daniel MacIvor films this year, and was an especially bracing gust of fresh air in Marion Bridge. Last seen holding down various TV gigs, Jenkins has fulfilled the promise she showed in Anne Wheeler's film Bye Bye Blues. She's a grown woman now, and she rocks.
4 peter mettler (Gambling, Gods And LSD) Mettler's Gambling, Gods And LSD, which made a splash at this year's Toronto International Film Festival and opens next year in early February, is a rich, immersive swirl of a movie. Mettler travels from home to Vegas to India, hunting the picture of transcendence. Like Spider, this is an endangered film. Mettler maintains deep roots outside of Toronto, in Switzerland, which makes him even more of a Torontonian.
5 ajay virmani (Bollywood/Hollywood) I never fell for Bollywood/Hollywood, but I'm glad it exists, and it exists because of Ajay Virmani. He's the air cargo mogul whose deep pockets got Deepa Mehta's hit film made in record time. But Virmani is more than a fat cheque book. His input grew out of his love of Bollywood movies, especially the music.
6 david alpay (Ararat) Four years ago, Alpay was a high school science wiz, winning the big "Brain Bee" neuroscience contest. This year he made his film debut, and became the soul of Atom Egoyan's Ararat. Alpay brings a direct, emotional consistency to his role, harking back to Egoyan's early protagonists, but freer.
7 kevin mcmahon (McLuhan's Wake) As Marshall McLuhan's name and work creep toward brand status, stakeholders snipe over his legacy. McMahon's film, McLuhan's Wake, flies above the fray -- a fresh, idiosyncratic take on the man's pithy genius, and how to use it like a claw hammer.
8 nadia l. hohn (Iced In Black film festival)
Hohn came to the party late, starting up Iced In Black: Canadian Black Experiences On Film just when similar events were falling under the wheels of the new millennium. But Hohn decided to throw her own party, and now serves up black film Canadian-style all across the country.
9 ingrid veninger (On Their Knees; Gambling, Gods And LSD)
The only producer in town who also acts, or is it vice versa? Veninger this year co-starred in Anais Granofsky's knock-around road movie On Their Knees and helped shepherd Peter Mettler's Gambling, Gods And LSD to the screen. All that and she still had time for a flurry of hair tints.
10 S. Wyeth Clarkson (deadend.com)
Clarkson's deadend.com is flashy and assured in a way that generates automatic criticism. But even though his suicide odyssey is overlong and uneven, he pulls some surprisingly strong work from his actors. A talent to watch.