Back in the mid-’80s, the producers at CBC Radio, aware that I was an avid movie fan, asked me to do a once-a-week review for “The Morning Show” of a film of my choosing being shown at the Avalon Mall cinemas.
I agreed, partly because covering the legislature, as I did back then, and doing a daily analytical piece from up on Break Wind Hill, was making me an on-air sour puss, a cynic, a side-effect, an occupational hazard, of being forced to listen to the endless drone of self-serving, back-slapping speeches by our “honourable” members; I desperately needed an occasional break.
The assignment was a real treat, a labour of love, and I stayed at it for six months or so until the exercise started to feel like that nasty four-letter word called w-o-r-k, and began to interfere with my enjoyment of watching movies. Taking notes in a darkened movie theatre, a fascinating novelty (allowing my imagination to see me as a Newfoundland version of Roger Ebert), eventually became drudgery, and I called a halt to my brief reviewing career.
But, during this Oscar time of the year, it seems appropriate to write once again about movies, especially those films that seem to have not gotten a lot of publicity, films with a Newfoundland context.
“The Wild Bunch”
Starring Frank Moores. This movie takes place in the wild and wooly ’70s, and you’ll find yourself either totally envious or disgusted as the lead performer, Frankie Baby — as he was labelled back then — parties his way through eight years as premier of Newfoundland. The movie has an R rating, with heavy drinking and much sex throughout. Moores was seen earlier in “Animal House,” set in Ottawa. John Crosbie co-stars in “The Wild Bunch” as the voice of reason, the unofficial premier.
You may have seen the brilliant, original “Being There,” a satire about a simple-minded gardener who impresses the hell out of the politically powerful and the electorate in the United States by, well, simply “being there.” This is a local version starring Dwight Ball, who always looks good and sounds good, but says and does little of substance, but manages to maintain power by, well, “being there.”
“The Godfather Part IV: The Kids Are Alright”
This is the latest instalment in the Crosbie saga in which Ches Crosbie and his sister Beth attempt to wield power in Newfoundland (not the hydro type). Ches stars as the wannabe premier, and Beth as the would-be finance minister, but the film includes an historical account of attempts by various generations of the family to govern Newfoundland. Their father John, who starred in “The Godfather Part l” a couple of decades ago, appears briefly in “The Kids Are Alright” as an aging consigliere who’s been to the wars, and provides insight (and warnings) for his children on power and politics.
Michael, fans of hers might recall, starred several years ago in a Newfoundland version of “Mutiny on the Bounty,” costarring Dale Kirby.
Starring Gerry Rogers and Lorraine Michael. Although the film depicts the present-day frustrations of the two sitting members of the New Democratic Party, it is also a history lesson on how idealism and practicality were never able to cohabitate within the NDP, nor were they able to be passed on with any degree of substantial success to Newfoundland voters. Jack Harris costars as a brief bright light in the NDP who eventually fades into the sunset. Michael, fans of hers might recall, starred several years ago in a Newfoundland version of “Mutiny on the Bounty,” costarring Dale Kirby. Kirby went on to star in “Kindergarten Cop,” and recently appeared on television in a season of “Survivor,” but was kicked off the island location for unacceptable behaviour and banished to another piece of land called “Oblivion.”
“A River Runs Through It”
Starring Danny Williams and Ed Martin, this is an apocalyptic tale of a hydro project on the Churchill River, doomed from its genesis. It’s an Oscar winner for sure, with breathtaking visuals — the “Mighty Churchill” is something to behold on screen — but it’s also a devastating indictment of political and bureaucratic blindness. You might recall Williams’ earlier performances in such blockbusters as “The Ten Commandments” and “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” Martin, Williams’ costar, appeared previously in “Waking Ned Devine,” the story of a multi-million-dollar lottery winner. “A River Runs Through It” costars Kathy Dunderdale, whose film dossier includes “Unforgiven.” Tom Hanks has a cameo as “Forrest Gump,” on screen long enough to mumble: “Stupid is as stupid does.” And Ron Penney is seen now and then as a character called “bottom -feeder.”
“The Money Pit”
Only briefly referenced here, this movie stars Tom Osborne as a money man, a financial adviser — in way over his head — who relies strictly on oil prices for his survival, and that of his 500,000 clients. Osborne worked as a script consultant on the 2007 documentary “In Debt We Trust.”
Ready, roll cameras, and ACTION!
Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at email@example.com