#10 – JEREMY LALONDE
Jeremy LaLonde has directed two feature films: THE UNTITLED WORK OF PAUL SHEPARD and SEX AFTER KIDS. The first of these, with the somewhat unattractive acronym of TUWOPS, is an intricate dissection of the root causes of loneliness. Dar Dowling of the Huffington Post described the film’s central character (played by Kris Holden-Ried) this way: “…you watch him [Paul Shepard] go from being absolutely sure he’s great boyfriend material, to actually ‘seeing’ for himself what an absolute asshole he’s been in relationships, after going in search of all the women he’s ‘loved’ – and actually filming it.”
Zoie Palmer received a 2011 ACTRA Award nomination for “Outstanding Female Performance” for the scene in TUWOPS where she throws stuff at Holden-Ried. (It is by far the film’s most memorable scene.) Christine Horne (now the leader of the Una Mens on LOST GIRL) is great as Sadie.
In 2013, LaLonde directed the short film OUT, which stars Tommie-Amber Pirie and is beautifully hilarious. Isabel Cupryn of The Canadian Film Review called OUT “a study in comedic timing”. Mr. Lalonde is now one of my favourite directors and would almost certainly rank higher on this list had I been able to see more than the trailer of SEX AFTER KIDS. (Its US release date is unknown.)
His current project is a short film called BASTARDS in which an aging rock star with a year to live bribes his illegitimate children into doing typical family activities with him for the chance to become his heir. Tommie-Amber Pirie will be in that one as well, so it is something to look forward to. SEX AFTER KIDS begins its Canadian theatre run on 7 February in Toronto.
#9 – MISS FISHER’S MURDER MYSTERIES
With Essie Davis in the title role, this excellent TV adaptation of the works of Australian writer Kerry Greenwood first aired in 2012, but I only discovered it when it turned up on Netflix in late 2013. Greenwood’s books evoke the romanticism of Dorothy Sayers, combining it with puzzles worthy of Agatha Christie. In the TV version, Phryne Fisher is (more or less) a polyamorous and much more fashion conscious version of Harriet Vane. Murder Under the Mistletoe, the final episode of Season 2, may be the series finale as well. There is as yet no word on whether the show will be renewed for a third season. An indication of the shows popularity might be the amount of Phryne Fisher fan fiction that has been written, some of it novel length.
More than anything else is the production values of the series. They put out all the stops including accurate and elaborately beautiful set designs of the time period and then the most gorgeous costumes you will ever see on the TV screen. The costumes are dazzling, precise (down to the buttons of the actual time period given to the designers), and just rich in their eye catching presentation. The production puts every last penny to good use, this series looking like it costs even more than the million dollars they dole out per episode. If the mystery aspect of the show is less appealing to you, tune in just for the visuals and even beautifully shot cinematography because this is the show to watch if you truly want to see the 1920s come to life.
#8 – THE LAST MAN
Found this gem browsing Netflix. When I saw the title and description, I immediately thought of the Mary Shelley novel, but there is no discernible connection to that. THE LAST MAN features Jeri Ryan, and is a post-apocalyptic comedy of relationships. It won a couple of film festival awards in 2000, and had a theatrical release in 2002. It is one of the best films I’ve seen this year.
This is Jeri Ryan’s second film (not counting those made for television). Her first was the intriguing MEN CRY BULLETS, a rather hard to find movie made just before she became 7 of 9 on Voyager, about an aspiring female impersonator (Stehen Nelson). Harry Ralston, writer and director of THE LAST MAN, played a homeless person in MEN CRY BULLETS.
#7 – MOTIVE
Not who, but why is the question posed by this fascinating detective drama set in Vancouver. Detective Angie Flynn (Kristin Lehman) rarely removes her gun from its holster, and firearms are responsible for almost none of the deaths depicted on the show. Lehman, in an interview with Lena Lamornay, described what the show is trying to do:
“I think that by showing people the killer and the victim right off the top in very visually compelling ways, whether the viewer knows it or not, we are already challenging their preconceived notion of what’s right or wrong, what’s good or bad, who a killer is or a victim is because oftentimes in the scenario you see the victim in, or you see the killer in, are not your standard typical moral presentation of who’s good, who’s bad, who’s the killer or the victim. That to me is what actually leads the story.”
Some wonderful guest stars (Molly Parker, Liane Balaban, Andrea Menard, and Carly Pope to name a few) added spice to season one of this thoughtful, well written show. The second season will premiere on CTV in Canada 8 May at 10pm eastern. It will air on ABC sometime in the summer of 2014.
#6 – GEORGIE VALE
I first encountered Georgie Vale‘s music when she covered a Marling song (New Romantic) early in the year. Her style is cheerful (in a Petula Clark sort of way) with a light folk influence. It is a quite distinctive sound. Most of her material to date is available on Soundcloud. Vale’s latest single, As Long As You’re Mine, is available as a free download. The video of that (by Joe Farr and Mike Ransom) is on YouTube).
Vale played Glastonbury in 2010. Her most recent show was 20 December at Belushi’s in Bath.
#5 – AMANDA SETTON
Though Charlie ripped out my heart
Laying bare a fragile soul
Her touch still makes me shiver
Her warmth still makes me whole
—- LAUREN SLOTSKY
Among other things, Amanda Setton’s character Lauren Slotsky is a poet, and the above verse was the first indication of Lauren’s bisexuality. Lauren has spent a summer in Juarez, and interned for a summer with Japanese whalers. She is a woman of mystery. As Adriana Lima said to her (in episode 10) “You’re a disturbed girl. I like disturbed girls.”
Setton is a real find. Though Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar were what induced me to watch THE CRAZY ONES, it’s Amanda Setton who causes me to keep tuning in. At least partially because of her, the show has developed into American TV’s most intelligent sitcom since Seinfeld. Lauren Slotsky comments like a Greek chorus on the other characters’ misadventures.
Just prior to doing THE CRAZY ONES, Setton was in the off-Broadway touring company of the Nora Ephron play LOVE, LOSS, AND WHAT I WORE. Her first major TV role was as Vegas stripper Kimberly Andrews on the afternoon soap ONE LIFE TO LIVE, but she is best known for her role as Penelope Shafai on GOSSIP GIRL.
#4 – TRENNA KEATING
—- Doc Yewll
Last 15 April, I was moved to pause the first episode of DEFIANCE and rewind to find out just who was that actor playing that role. It was right after Doc Yewll’s first scene. I had tuned in the show because of Julie Benz, Jaime Murray, and a few others, but Trenna Keating as Doc Yewll made me stop and do a computer search. Since Mia Kirshner’s character was killed off at the end of last season (something that did not please me) Keating is the main reason I will watch season 2. Doc Yewll is the most fascinating alien since Odo on DS9.
ABOUT KEATING: She was born in Weyburn, Saskatchewan and began studying acting at the age of 10. She has done most of her work on Canadian television, and is best known (prior to DEFIANCE) for her role as Sergeant Hannah Corday on the 2011 Canadian TV series COMBAT HOSPITAL (available on Amazon Instant Video).
ABOUT DOC YEWLL: Meh Yewll has been the Defiance town doctor for eight years. She is an Indogene, a species that evolved on the planet Daribo alongside the Castithans. Indogenes value science above all else. At birth, they are given a short name, and later take a second name descriptive of their skills. Indogenes have bright white skin with a hexagonal pattern across it, hexagonal-shaped irises and no visible hair. They typically are given genetic and technological implants specific to their profession.
#3 – THE TRUE HEROINES
“In terms of the look, I am going for a modernized 1950s look- more of a throwback and nostalgia for the era, than a hardcore authenticity. I personally LOVE when folks point out elements that aren’t 100% period- it means folks are watching and they care.” —- Director Michelle Ouellet
This webseries/cabaret show got my attention when Paula Giroday guest starred in the fifth episode of MOTIVE. Season one is now on Hulu (US) and there are strong indications that a second season is in the works. THE TRUE HEROINES explores the lives of three seemingly normal 1950’s housewives who have superpowers, and follows them as they evade the evil corporation that brought them into being.
THE PREMISE: After the World War One, in an attempt to limit the numbers of the Allied Forces lost to the war, secret research began in a small town called Paradise Hill to breed humans with special abilities. They were settled in small, utopian US towns created for that purpose. When World War Two began, these enhanced humans were sold to the government, but some (among them THE TRUE HEROINES) managed to escape.
Season one is now online, and there are strong indications that a second season is in the works.
Pearl Andrews (Fiona Vroom) – superpower is invisibility. She is an ex war nurse who makes a great apple pie. Married to Percy (Neil Grayston).
Margie Hepburn (Jovanna Huguet) – compulsively tidy, her power is super-speed. Her husband is Calvin (Brendan Penny).
Dottie Rodriguez (Paula Giroday) – grew up in a tough Cuban neighborhood. Her power is super-strength. Married to Hugo (Zac Santiago).
Ali Liebert (BOMB GIRLS AND LOST GIRL) is pretty good as the neighborhood Mrs.Kravitz.
#2 – CHARLOTTE ERIKSSON
Charlotte Eriksson is a poet and traveling minstrel who tweets like a songbird (Do follow her (The Glass Child) on twitter. You won’t regret it.) and is possibly the world’s most quotable person. Her acoustic album, Songs of an Insomniac, is just brilliant, but her artful command of language is the main reason she is on this list. The quote below is from her book, “Empty Roads and Broken Bottles: In Search of the Great Perhaps”:
“So they gave me love in form of poison and tiny little pills, programming my emotions, teaching me how to feel. To act correct and talk correct and answer without knowing the question, because that, my dear, is how you get love. Yes that, dear youth, is how you’ll be loved. I tried to medicate my own fucked up little mind with chemicals and adrenaline, tasting sweeter every night, shaking louder every time. Sitting wide awake in bed until the world disappears, writing poetry to concentrate on something real while waiting for the love to arrive.
I’ve been looking for it night after night, waiting patiently for it to show up, maybe somewhere in between the state of awake and asleep, alive and not so alive, sober and not so sober.
(I lost track of the difference somewhere in between.)”
#1 – ORPHAN BLACK
Intelligent science fiction with interesting characters, most of whom are played by the same actor (Tatiana Maslany), this series has immense potential. It will take several seasons to cover the ethical and scientific issues around cloning. Orphan Black has thus far done a pretty good job of making the dry and poorly understood subject of human cloning interesting, thanks to the thespian acrobatics of Maslany, and the charm of gay friend-of-clones Felix Dawkins (Jordan Gavaris). In the beginning, I watched this because it followed Dr. Who. By season’s end, I was impatient for Dr. Who to end, so I could watch more Orphan Black. Among other notables in the show’s cast are Inga Cadranel (LOST GIRL) and Maria Doyle Kennedy (THE TUDORS).
The show does have a sense of humour. Director John Fawcett said this in an interview with Jeff Berkshire: “Our whole thing in setting out with the tone of ‘Orphan Black’ — we were making a clone show and it was always important to us that it was fun, not just mysterious and thrilling and stuff like that, but funny. To say ‘We’re gonna make a clone show’ is absurd first of all. I think it’s important to have a good sense of humor about it and I can see that the fans respond to that.”
Season two of ORPHAN BLACK will premiere on BBC America 19 April 2014.
I mean that’s the whole nature/nurture question right there.”
FELIX: “Okay, let’s talk nature. Out of nine so far, one’s a psycho who killed four others, one committed suicide, one is a bloody soccer-mum, and then there’s you. My crazy sister is sane by comparison.”
IF THE LIST WERE LONGER – THESE WOULD BE ON IT
- SHELDON KIRSHNER – JOURNAL
An intelligent and useful blog by Toronto journalist Sheldon Kirshner. Kirshner’s writings focus on books, films (especially documentaries), and exotic destinations, as well as Jewish affairs and the Middle East.
- ANNA HARDWICK
Hardwick has received Canada Council support to travel to the National Silent Theatre of Sweden (Tyst Teater) to work with artistic director, Josette Bushell-Mingo. Together with an international team, they are in the process of creating a play entitled To A Flame, integrating deaf and hearing theatre practices.
- BOMB GIRLS
Stories of women working in a Canadian bomb factory during World War II. This show has won many awards and was cancelled after two seasons by Global TV. It features great performances by Meg Tilly and Ali Liebert. A movie is planned.