1.19.2006

what i'm watching: canada sighting

Long before we moved here, we knew that movies are made in Toronto as a stand-in for New York or other US cities. I know that Trontonians like to play "spot Toronto," similar to how I enjoy trying to identify the exact locations of New York movie scenes. The difference, of course, is that the New York locating spots are supposed to be in New York.

Well, last night, for the first time, I recognized Canada in a movie that wasn't supposed to be there. I was all kinds of proud of myself.

We watched "The Ballad of Jack and Rose," which is supposed to take place on an island off the east coast of the US. I took that to mean the Outer Banks off the Carolinas, or maybe the Georgia Sea Isles, some barrier island like that.

Towards the end of the movie, the main characters are driving down a street, and for a split-second, a Canadian Tire sign is visible. We paused and reversed, just to be certain, and there it was, the unmistakable red triangle.

Sure enough, there it was in the credits: filmed entirely on location in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

I just looked up "Jack and Rose" on the Internet Movie Database, and they've got the mistake listed, too.

The movie, by the way, ranged from bad to passable. It was written and directed by Rebecca Miller, the daughter of the late great American playwright Arthur Miller, and who is married to Daniel Day-Lewis, who stars in this movie. There were some interesting moments, but I felt it tried to do too much, and ended up very muddled. Plus, I take major points off for an intrusive and unnecessary soundtrack. I also had the distinct feeling that a feel-good, Hollywood ending was tacked onto what was supposed to be a very dark conclusion. Not awful, but definitely not a must-see - although I'm glad we saw it, because of that sign.

21 comments:

RobfromAlberta said...

If you want to see some more Canadian scenery, go see Brokeback Mountain. Although it's set in Wyoming, it was shot in southern Alberta.

L-girl said...

Cool. I'll definitely see it when it's on DVD.

Although I look forward to seeing Alberta scenery in person.

Granny said...

Don't know if you've heard about my Brokeback Mountain battle with our local homophobes but no matter. Our theater is finally showing it beginning the 27th.

I write letters to editors.

When I watch films that are shot in S. F., I pay attention to street intersections. In reality for example there is no intersection of Pine and Bush. They are parallel one way streets but people keep mentioning the intersection of ...

Also, in the famous car chases, the drivers manage to get from Fisherman's Wharf to Candlestick Park (maybe 12 miles) 5 seconds. Rather like leaping tall buildings with a single bound.

L-girl said...

Also, in the famous car chases, the drivers manage to get from Fisherman's Wharf to Candlestick Park (maybe 12 miles) 5 seconds.

Right! If you watch Seinfeld, people get from Yankee Stadium in the Bronx to the Upper West Side of Manhattan in two seconds. They also run through Central Park into midtown in a minute. Ah, TVland.

andrea said...

I was an obsessive watcher of the X-Files, as much to play "spot the location" as because I enjoyed the show. I quit watching when it moved from Vancouver to LA, though. (Name-dropping trivia: Scully -- what was her name? -- had her baby on the same maternity floor the day before I had mine. My husband saw her schlepping around the hallways.) But now, back to my election-watching obsession...

L-girl said...

I was an obsessive watcher of the X-Files, as much to play "spot the location" as because I enjoyed the show.

I was the same way with Law & Order - I used to love seeing the NYC locations. The place names were always changed, which is an ongoing joke in the city.

They also frequently filmed in upper Manhattan where we lived - lots of parks, a marina (good for floating bodies!), lots of streets that scream "urban jungle", plus some beautiful old buildings that could pass for an upscale neighbourhood.

Lone Primate said...

I've never minded all that much when some Canadian scene is supposed to stand in for someplace in the US. What really gets up my nose is when Americans insist a story be changed to be set in the US. For example, "My Big, Fat Greek Wedding" was a story written by a Canadian woman about her (Greek) Canadian family. It was set in Winnipeg, where she grew up. The movie transferred the location to Chicago. Why? Aside from the fact that it's larger, how is Chicago noticably different from Winnipeg? They're both on the prairies and they're both windy. But one was the home of the writer; the other was not. What is it with Americans that this story was worth seeing if crowned with 50 stars and thirteen stripes, but not if a maple leaf was occasionally seen in the background?

Another was "U-571", in which the filmmakers tacitly gave the US credit for capturing the Enigma machine... despite the fact that the Royal Navy did so before the US even entered the war (hence the small print at the end of the movie after the teenagers have filed out thinking this is history). But hey... how interesting is it watching the British be heroic? They talk funny. :/

If any of you are fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000, they actually made fun of this attitude at the end of a movie filmed in Canada:

Crow: Okay, okay. So, so you got Rowsdower, and he roams through Canada, and he's got his little pal Troy, and they all into all kind of scrapes...but they HELP people.
Mike: Alabama.
Crow: (aside) What?
Mike: Alabama... Chicago... CLEVELAND. No, I like Alabama. You like Alabama? It's your show.
Crow: Well, well, to me, CANADA is the essence...
Mike: PITTSBURGH. We'll do it in Pittsburgh.
Crow: Well, well I suppose if you actually film it in Pittsburgh.
Mike: No, no, no, no...we film it in Canada. Have to.

L-girl said...

For example, "My Big, Fat Greek Wedding" was a story written by a Canadian woman about her (Greek) Canadian family. It was set in Winnipeg, where she grew up. The movie transferred the location to Chicago. Why? Aside from the fact that it's larger, how is Chicago noticably different from Winnipeg? They're both on the prairies and they're both windy. But one was the home of the writer; the other was not. What is it with Americans that this story was worth seeing if crowned with 50 stars and thirteen stripes, but not if a maple leaf was occasionally seen in the background?

That's a typical Hollywood decision. "Americans" per se don't have anything to do with it, it's not like they're given a choice.

The entertainment industry is full of strange conventions of what's done and what's not. Stuff is constantly changed for no good reason. Characters' ethnicities are changed, genders are switched, characters are added, references removed - all based on bizarre beliefs/myths of what supposedly sells. "Chicago skews better than Canada." But does it? Chances are, the movie exec that made that up has never been to Winnipeg, so of course a movie can't be set there!

I wouldn't lay this at the feet of "Americans". It's just what they're fed.

Wrye said...

Unforgiven also shows Southern Alberta to magnificent effect.

L-girl said...

Unforgiven also shows Southern Alberta to magnificent effect.

Oh, I liked that movie!

That was Alberta? Cool! I guess that was before my Canada radar was operable. :)

sharonapple said...

I saw Short Circuit 2 when I was younger, and it's suppose to be set in New York, but it's obviously Toronto. They even picked some of the most identifiable parts of the city -- the Eaton Centre, World's Biggest Bookstore, Yonge Street just south of Bloor -- to film.

Lone Primate said...

I wouldn't lay this at the feet of "Americans". It's just what they're fed.

I think that's passing the buck. Hollywood did not make that decision in a vacuum. They sell to what plays in Peoria. It still begs the question of why. I don't give a lot of credit to arguments like "it's not Americans who do it, it's Hollywood", or "it's not Americans who do it, it's the government", etc. That's too disconnected. Okay, maybe not all Americans, sure. But the majority or at least the largest identifiable plurality drive these process... there, as anywhere else.

L-girl said...

Hollywood did not make that decision in a vacuum.

Sorry my friend, but that shows an ignorance of how the entertainment industry operates. They do make decisions in a vacuum. Half the stuff they believe - and make decisions based on - is completely divorced from reality.

But the majority or at least the largest identifiable plurality drive these process... there, as anywhere else.

I disagree. I don't think those type of decisions are consumer driven at all. The movie was supposed to bomb! So was Sideways (supposed to bomb). Both were huge hits.

They don't know what Americans want and are thinking. They just make shit up, and it becomes what America wants because it's what's out there.

I grant you most Americans probably don't know where Winnipeg is. But that they wouldn't see a movie - a heavily marketed, romantic comedy, feel-good movie - because it was set in a Canadian city? No.

That may jive with a certain image of Americans that perhaps you subscribe to, but it doesn't fit with reality.

James said...

I saw Short Circuit 2 when I was younger, and it's suppose to be set in New York, but it's obviously Toronto. They even picked some of the most identifiable parts of the city -- the Eaton Centre, World's Biggest Bookstore, Yonge Street just south of Bloor -- to film.

They used Queen's Park as the court house for the citizenship ceremony at the end. I wandered into that shoot by accident -- took me a while to figure out why our Parliament was covered with American flags.

Off topic: A few days ago I mentioned Easter Island, and L-girl asked if Jared Diamond's Collapse discusses it. I just got Collapse in paperback, and judging by the photo plates, it gets a lot of attention in the book.

L-girl said...

A few days ago I mentioned Easter Island, and L-girl asked if Jared Diamond's Collapse discusses it. I just got Collapse in paperback, and judging by the photo plates, it gets a lot of attention in the book.

I thought I remembered seeing it in the copy I bought my mother. Which I'm waiting for her to lend to me. :)

Lone Primate said...

Laura, I usually agree with you on most things, but I can't on this one. You always seem to want to absolve the American people from anything done for them, or in their name... in this case, it's cultural; other times it's political. It's natural you'd feel this way, because your own political bent puts you on the outside of most of this. But I'm pretty sure the people on the right are 110% sure their government is doing just exactly what they want, and that Hollywood is making movies that represent their deep belief in the country and its values. Hollywood IS talking to them, and they're responding with cash. If you don't believe me, then why did Michael Moore have to come to Canada to get distribution money for Fahrenheit 9/11?

I don't deny that Hollywood tries to guide people with the movies it makes, too, but that has to be subtle. People know when they're being forced in directions they don't want to go, and they'll walk away. I believe most movies Hollywood makes are almost entirely throwing a dog a bone to get a good day's work out of him. The persuasion factor is mostly limited to "buy this product", not so much changing the country's values.

Now that you're outside the US, step back and think about it. Imagine the reaction of the American public if, say, the British made a movie about the brave British aviators who made the first powered flight, and sold that movie around the world to otherwise credulous audiences. There'd be an uproar. But this is exactly what U-571 was; an utter denial of someone else's proud history. If the story is, as you're suggesting, the central issue, then this begs the question: why couldn't -- why didn't -- Hollywood tell that story with British sailors, the way it happened? Because Americans have reached a point in their history where they by and large do not want to hear of the accomplishments of others, the achievements of potential economic and cultural rivals, suggestions of alternatives to their norms. They want reassurance, and Hollywood gives them that. American flags on the story of a Canadian woman's romance.

Where were the British in Saving Private Ryan, other than providing a target in the form of Montgomery for a gratituous slam? Where were the French, for that matter? It's a wonder the Germans were allowed to show up. Think of how things have changed. In the 1960s, it was still possible for Hollywood to make a movie like The Great Escape, entirely about the British, so long as one big-name American character was thrown in (in reality, it was a Commonwealth camp; there were no Americans in the real great escape). Can you image that movie being made today? Something has changed about the American character in the last two generations. It's not longer really okay to be successful or noteworthy if you're not, in some aspect, beholden to the United States. There's a loss of confidence across the board that leaves the rest of us mute. And that, finally, is an attitude has to be laid at the doorstep of the average American, not Hollywood, and not Washington. They're both responding to their greater constituencies.

L-girl said...

And that, finally, is an attitude has to be laid at the doorstep of the average American, not Hollywood, and not Washington.

I understand you see it that way.

I don't doubt the link between Hollywood and Washington. The difference is you see an entity called "the American people" as more active participants in the process, or agents of it, than I do. I see them more as sheep.

As far as the cultural critique of Hollywood fare, what's made now and what was made when, I'll have to pass. Your assessment sounds reasonable, but so do others when I read or hear them. I don't pay enough attention to that realm to make any kind of intelligent analysis.

allen said...

Canadian films.

Can anyone help a Yank who is still unhappy about a Canadian film being officially banned from entering the States some years ago, produced by I believe the Candian National Film League? having to do with preserving or protecting the environment. I wish I could provide the approx. year.

L-girl said...

a Canadian film being officially banned from entering the States some years ago, produced by I believe the Candian National Film League? having to do with preserving or protecting the environment.

This rings a vague bell, but I can't remember what it was... Maybe someone else can help. Or maybe I can find something via Google.

Trevor said...

There was a movie called "If You Love This Planet..." - early 80s, anti-nuclear, produced by the NFB. I think it was either nominated for, or won, an Oscar too.

Re: Northern Manhattan and L&O. Yeah, I remember having a hard time moving the car around in the NYC "alternate side parking shuffle" (But it does train you to get to know every religious holiday under the sun) when they'd film in our 'hood. I remember them dogn a spectacular episode of Third Watch there too, where they dropped a RV from the elevated part of Riverside Drive. As I used to tell folks back hime in NB -- any episode of L&O order where Lenny had his gun out, or was forced to chase a perp down, that was Washington Heights.

L-girl said...

Wait a sec. Wait just a second here. I know this story.

Trevor, are you the person we previously knew as Beausejour?