#10 – DANA BEELER
“I would say i’m sorry if i could
But the words they never seem to get through to you
And maybe i bit off more than i could chew
But the world keeps spinning with or without you”
— from Last Call
Dana Beeler has released just one album, and over the past 6 months I have listened to The Long Goodbye more than any other collection of music. Beeler’s songs of cynicism and sadness are sung cheerfully. It’s comfort food for the ears, is what it is. (Also, the album’s title makes me think she might be a writer influenced by the reading of mystery novels, though I have detected nothing noticeably Raymond Chandler-like in the lyrics.)
It would be great to have a printout of Beeler’s lyrics. No CD that might have liner notes seems to be available and the words are nowhere on the web. There are a few areas in the eight songs on the album that are hard to make out, and I can’t help thinking I’m missing some nuances of Nova Scotia colloquialisms.
Her plans for 2016 were outlined on Facebook: “I’m so excited for January”, she wrote. “I have 2 very cool & very different shows! Jan 8 I’m playing with a group of cool bands fronted by bad ass babes @ Gus’ Pub & Grill with my full band (rocks, rolls, and t-shirts with swear words on them) Jan 23 I’m playing during my most favourite festival In the Dead of Winter Music Festival in my most favourite venue The Company House! New Songs! and some good news for the new year (new new new!)”
#9 – EMILY HAMPSHIRE
On CBC’s SCHITT’S CREEK, Emily Hampshire is Stevie Budd, the sarcastic motel clerk and almost-girlfriend of David Rose (Dan Levy). On SyFy’s 12 MONKEYS she is the philosophically insane Jennifer Goines. Hampshire’s characters give each show its distinctiveness, and both Goines and Budd have developed a considerable following. On SCHITT’S CREEK Stevie is the bridge between the locals and the intruders, having interests in common with both groups but being part of neither. On 12 MONKEYS Jennifer gives expression to the insanity of all the other characters and their efforts to restore a long gone past at the expense of an uncertain future.
Season Two of SCHITT’S CREEK premieres 12 January at 9pm on CBC.
12 MONKEYS will return to SyFy (US) sometime in April.
#8 – SENSE8
“It was the weirdest pitch. Usually you’re pitching the action stuff or things that are very commercial. We’re talking about gender and identity and secrecy and privacy, and figured, “We probably blew this.” So we went to lunch, and after lunch Netflix called and said, “We’re buying this. We’re taking it off the market. We’re straight-to-series, go. Prep.”
—- J. Michael Straczynski (to Liz Shannon Miller of Indiewire)
Eight strangers, on various continents, share a genetic mutation that connects them at the brain. Sense8 is like a Thomas Pynchon novel. Everything but the kitchen sink is thrown at the viewer almost all the time. Not all of it works, but most of it does.
The nicest thing about the series is that it gives an unsanitized view of life in parts of the world that as a rule get little attention from North American television and film. The eight mutants are located variously in Kenya, Mexico, Germany, South Korea, India, the US (two of them), and Iceland.
Much like real life, the show is wonderfully unstructured at times. Aml Ameen turns in a great performance as Capheus, and it is pleasant to see former DOCTOR WHO companion Freema Agyeman in an entirely different sort of role as Amanita, the significant other of Jamie Clayton‘s character Nomi.
Here’s what Clayton had to say about Nomi: “There has never been a trans character in a movie or on a show before whose story did not revolve around transition. Nomi is the first. Her story has nothing to do with the fact that she’s trans. She just is. And she’s living her life, and she’s in love, and she has a job, and she’s a whole complete person who is then thrust into this amazing cluster. And no one cares because, at the end of the day, we shouldn’t care that she’s trans. It doesn’t matter. She’s a human being.”
UPDATE: Jamie Clayton tweeted on 29 December that she and Freema Agyeman were in Berlin for a Sense8 table read, possibly indicating that production will begin sooner than March.
#7 – CANADIAN BEATS
“I’m Jenna, and I am the creator of Canadian Beats. I have had a strong love for Canadian music, which started with Hedley. I have a passion for promoting these talented Canadian bands and artists, and that’s how Canadian Beats came to be. I am so proud of what it has become over the last few years, with many talented music lovers and writers coming together to spread the word of Canada’s music.”
—- Jenna Melanson
CANADIAN BEATS describes itself as “Canadian music fans working hard to promote all the musical talent that Canada has to offer. Your source for band interviews, reviews, tour dates and more.” The blog has some fine writers working for it (too many to list all of them here). Those who immediately come to mind are Cassandra Popescu, Dutch Bickell, Remington Fioraso, Amanda Hather, Jenna Melanson herself, and Nicole Wolfe. Melanson’s blog was responsible for my finding the two singer/songwriters on this list. A lot of great music is coming out of Canada these days, and if one is outside the country it is not always easy to locate. There are other Canadian music blogs and they are informative but none is as readable or as un-opinionated as CANADIAN BEATS.
#6 – LAID
Australian TV shows sometimes take a while to get noticed in North America. All twelve episodes of the AACTRA Award winning LAID turned up just recently on Netflix (US) though its two season run on Aussie television ended in 2012.
LAID is a romantic fable about Roo (Alison Bell), a woman who discovers that her past lovers are dying, in the order that she slept with them. The show is about her hilarious and poignant efforts to stop this from happening. The neuroses of Roo’s roommate E.J. Griggs (Celia Pacquola) keep the show from being too predictable.
Creators Kirsty Fisher and Marieke Hardy got the idea for the show from a news story about a handsome young fellow who died while holidaying. They began wondering how they might react to the death were he a former boyfriend or someone they’d casually slept with.
Besides Netflix, LAID seems only to be available on a zone 4 DVD. Alison Bell will be Liz in the 2016 TV series TOMORROW WHEN THE WAR ENDS, which is based on the Tommorrow series of books by John Marsden, in which eight teenage friends return from a camping trip to find that Australia has been invaded by a foreign power.
#5 – EMILY GAGNE
It was her interview with Kathleen Carroll (the former New York Daily News film critic) that first caught my attention. Go read it and you’ll see why. Gagne is a feminist film and TV critic who writes for pop culture sites The Mary Sue, Hello Giggles, Yahoo Canada, Cinefilles, and the podcast Remotely Girly. She is co-founder of Cinefilles, which describes itself as “…an attempt to give young, aspiring female film critics a chance to express themselves, free from dated ideals and expectations.”
Gagne’s conversations about LOST GIRL with showrunner Michael Grassi were most helpful in getting a handle on that show’s at times puzzling final eight episodes. Her recaps of iZombie got me to watch the show (normally zombies are something I avoid). Turns out iZombie is quite good for an American network show, but without Gagne, I would never have discovered it.
On Twitter, @emilygagne provides a dependable supply of witticisms.
#4 – TAMSEN MCDONOUGH
” ‘…is John going to continue to form a funny and evolving bond with the ship that is strangely loyal to him?’ then absolutely, yes. And if we were ever to have a storyline where Lucy is ported into a physical body for some reason, then I could see some interesting stuff between them. Either way, I’ve always believed that Lucy’s programming was modeled on the voiceprint and personality of a real and existing woman, so it’s conceivable that one day Johnny might meet Real Lucy and feel an automatic pull.”
—- M. A. LOVRETTA (to Veronica Scott – USA TODAY)
Tamsin McDonough, the voice of Spaceship Lucy on KILLJOYS, is one of the reasons that spaceships are fashionable again on television. (on right is an interview with McDonough by the Killjoys Podcast THE QUAD in which she discusses how she got the part, and what the future might hold for her character.) Lucy is more complicated than one might expect. Confronted with a severely wounded Johnny, she admits: “I don’t know what to do.”
Then there was this scene with Dutch in Lucy’s airlock after diving unprotected through empty space.
DUTCH: “Lucy! Open the door to the hold.”
LUCY: “I’m sorry, but quarantine parameters state you must remain in airlock one hour…”
DUTCH: “Lucy,I’m in serious pain here.”
LUCY: “There are protocols, Dutch.”
DUTCH: “Lucy, I have to get in, before these things rip me a new one.”
LUCY: “I’m sorry but protocols state you must remain in airlock for one full hour.”
DUTCH: “Lucy, John’s in trouble.” [door opens immediately – Dutch enters] “No favourites my ass. I’m taking over, you mechanical bitch.”
Despite her favouritism towards John, Lucy is being quite logical. With one crew member in difficulty, maintaining quarantine procedures makes sense. With John in trouble as well, two-thirds of the crew might be disabled, leaving only D’Avin, with whom Lucy has no experience. The decision to let Dutch into the hold was made logically, not out of fondness for Johnny.
#3 – STORIES WE TELL
The most recent film by Sarah Polley is a documentary that chronicles Polley family history and Sarah’s search for her biological father. Though it was released in 2012, I did not find it until this year. The film is an extraordinary experience and quite difficult to describe. When Sarah Polley began to create this chorus of interviews with family and friends each giving a different perspective on the subject matter, she did not know the outcome in advance. Because of her method, the film proceeds in a continuous mode of self-criticism. STORIES WE TELL is a fascinating tale, but a long one, and seeing it in two or three sittings probably helps one to fit things together, giving one time to consider the possibilities.
This film is unique. David Edelstein said in New York Magazine: “The meaning of documentary is extraordinarily fluid these days, of course, and by calling it so stylishly into question Polley has earned a lot of affection from critics, festivalgoers, and even fellow documentarians. Stories We Tell supplies a lot of talking points in the battle against the so-called truth of individual memory.”
STORIES WE TELL is available on Amazon and iTunes. Polley’s 2011 film TAKE THIS WALTZ, a dramatic comedy about a happily married woman who falls in love with the artist living next door, is an excellent film of a different sort. (Sarah Silverman is in that one.)
#2 – JESSICA JONES
“Wow, this is a great show!”. I said that with amazement many times (varying the expletive somewhat) while watching JESSICA JONES. Melissa Rosenberg wrote a brilliant story and Krysten Ritter gave one the best performances I have ever seen by an actor on television, and I have watched a lot of TV. Rachel Taylor is also memorable in the role of Jessica’s best friend Trish Walker, and the intense portrayal of the almost-evil lawyer Jeri Hogarth by Carrie Anne Moss is indescribably delicious. Kilgrave, the villain, was very real, very evil, and played by one of the best actors on the planet, David Tennant.
Even though JESSICA JONES is set in the Marvel universe and in the vicinity of the DAREDEVIL stories, not once was the area referred to by the antiquated term ‘Hell’s Kitchen’.
The problem facing Rosenberg now is what does she do for an encore? What new threat could possibly be as menacing as Kilgrave? Season two doesn’t need to happen right away. It may take time to discover what Jessica Jones needs to fight next.
#1 – MEGAN NASH
“I left a part of me, maybe just the empathy, on the side of the broken highway 43
Being cold isn’t hard to do when you favour bad news, when you favour bad news
I wish I could be the statue, the one where the moss grew, outside of your high school
I wish I could be the deer head, hanging on the wall instead of hanging on to you”
—- verse 2 of Deer Head
Megan Nash has a powerful, beautiful voice. I haven’t been this impressed by a first album since k.d. lang released A Truly Western Experience in 1984. Though Nash comes from rural Saskatchewan, most of the songs she writes are not country songs. Her second album, Song Harvest, Volume One, is rightly classified by iTunes as ‘traditional folk’ (though one might quibble with calling it traditional). Amazon is less specific, categorizing the album as both ‘folk’ and ‘alternative rock’. Cut number four, “Try”, is definitely Country. Labels aren’t going to stick to Nash’s music. When she has something to sing, she will sing it in whatever style best suits the message.
Nash told Chris Holoien of OMJ: “I am, for sure, doing a volume two, which I’ve been working on all summer and I’ll record again in the church and in a similar format like live off the floor, but this time I want to bring in my sister…and another friend of mine to sing on it…and then I’ll finally do a full band album, after Song Harvest Volume Two.”
Song Harvest Volume One was recorded live in St. Oliver’s Catholic Church in Palmer, Saskatchewan. Her first record was She Said, She Said, a three song EP released in September 2013, which can be had on Bandcamp for $3.
She is also one third of a fascinating Moosejaw rock band called PANDACORN. (The other thirds are Brodie Mohninger and Ryan Schnell.) PANDACORN describes itself as “the lovechild of dance floor fantasy and unabashed lyricism with a kick-drum heartbeat and rock n roll soul”. One does hope there will be another PANDACORN album someday. They are very good, and so is their 7 track album, Synthesis of Opposites, which is available on iTunes. Remington Fioraso of Canadian Beats did a great interview with PANDACORN right after they released that album in November 2014.