Gil Bellows and Toronto Stories got derailed last year.
Over the last few weeks, a growing drumbeat of angry letters and Web comments have charged NOW's movie writers with "slamming local movies" and carrying a "hate-on" for Canadian films in general.
Since all of this seems to have started in response to my unfavourable review of Toronto Stories, I figure I should address the core question posed by a commenter identified only as GGH: "Why is this paper, which should be the voice of alternative local film, often so relentlessly negative about it?"
That's a reasonable question, though it was undercut by GGH's subsequent statement that "anyone who's ever heard Wilner interviewed would know that he's not inclined toward these kinds of movies."
Let's address the second comment first. It's simply not true. Despite what GGH (and other commenters) may think, I'm open to just about any movie, Canadian or foreign, commercial or alternative.
I walk into every screening hoping to see something great, or at least worthy of my time. I wouldn't be doing this job if I weren't. Nobody gets into the reviewing game because he likes being disappointed.
As for the idea that I - or this newspaper - should champion alternative local film just because it's alternative and local, well, we're going to run into some problems there. I'm a movie critic, not a publicist; when a movie is good, I'll say so, and when a movie sucks, well, I have to say that, too.
If you picked up a newspaper last October, you might have thought seeing Passchendaele was an act of national service - and you'd have watched one critic after another find something encouraging to say about the battle scenes while bending over backwards to avoid discussing the melodramatic story, the clumsy dialogue or that atrocious climax.
Seriously, folks, there's nothing wrong with admitting that Canadian cinema had an off year. The movies our filmmakers released in 2008 - Passchendaele, Blindness, Adoration, Down To The Dirt, Real Time and, yes, Toronto Stories - were by and large pretty lame. There are going to be better years, with better movies. And it'll be my pleasure to let you know about those movies when they arrive.
Have you seen Pontypool? It's pretty good. Not perfect, mind you, but pretty good.