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2018 in Canadian film and TV: 10 of our favourite picks this year

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(From left to right) Baroness von Sketch Show, Letter from Masanjia, Knuckleball, Wynonna Earp and The Go-Getters all made the list of our 10 favourite TV and film picks from 2018.
(From left to right) Baroness von Sketch Show, Letter from Masanjia, Knuckleball, Wynonna Earp and The Go-Getters all made the list of our 10 favourite TV and film picks from 2018.

If you’ll humour me in first-person, for a moment: when I started The Mutt back in May of this year, I had a passing wonder whether there would be enough interesting Canadian film and television to fill a full content calendar. That concern was quickly dashed – our small team of writers didn’t have time to cover everything! (PS: writers, send me your pitches!)

What’s interesting to me about the Canadian film and television market is the allowance it provides for originality. While box office is important (as the good folks at First Weekend Club will tell you) few production teams plot out their features with an adherence to investors as their primary guiding principle.

That makes writing about the Canadian film scene all the more interesting, given the fact that each production usually has a passionate voice behind it or an easy hook to guide the story.

With 2018 wrapping up, we’ve chosen 10 of these stories featured on The Mutt in the past year that we found to be emblematic of this spirit, as well as some of our favourite Canadian film and TV of the year.

Letter from Masanjia

Dir: Leon Lee

Letter from Masanjia follows Sun Yi, a man who had been held as a political prisoner in Masanjia, a notorious labour camp. Above, he holds the letter that provoked a firestorm of coverage after a Oregon resident found it included with Halloween decorations purchased at KMart. Canadian film and TV news. Photo courtesy Flying Cloud Productions.

Letter from Masanjia follows Sun Yi, a man who had been held as a political prisoner in Masanjia, a notorious labour camp. Above, he holds the letter that provoked a firestorm of coverage after a Oregon resident found it included with Halloween decorations purchased at KMart. Photo courtesy Flying Cloud Productions.

The subject of this documentary traces back to 2012, when an Oregon resident shopping in Kmart discovered a desperate letter from a political prisoner in China. Letter from Masanjia, directed by Leon Lee, follows this letter back to China, uncovering the harrowing state of labour camps in the country. The doc was one of 166 submitted for consideration at the 91st Academy Awards and would wholly deserve a nod.

Read our story on Letter from Masanjia here.

Letter from Masanjia is now available on VOD.

Mr. D Season 8

CBC

The final episode of Mr. D airs Dec. 18 on CBC. The Mutt - Canadian film and TV news. Photo courtesy CBC

The final episode of Mr. D aired Dec. 18 on CBC. Photo courtesy CBC

CBC’s beloved workplace sitcom about an ill-equipped and bumbling high school teacher came to an end as the show’s series finale aired Dec. 20. Season 8 of the show saw Gerry Duncan (Gerry Dee) start a new life in Japan, take over as principal at Xavier and send the graduating students off with the perfect parting gifts. We’ll miss the show – no one plays bumbling idiot as riotously as Dee.

Read our interview with Gerry Dee here.

The complete series of Mr. D is now available to watch on CBC.

WALL

Dir: Cam Christiansen

WALL boasts a distinct visual style, something director Cam Christiansen said he wanted to emphasize to create a sense of authorship. The Mutt - Canadian film and TV news. Photo courtesy National Film Board of Canada

WALL boasts a distinct visual style, something director Cam Christiansen said he wanted to emphasize to create a sense of authorship. Photo courtesy National Film Board of Canada

From award-winning director Cam Christiansen and starring British playwright David Hare, the fascinating WALL examines both the physical and cultural barriers separating the Israeli and Palestinian residents of the Israeli West Bank. The film boasts a distinct visual style partly inspired by graphic novels and one that Christiansen said he chose to emphasize a sense of authorship.

Read our story on WALL here.

More information on WALL is available via the National Film Board website.

Knuckleball

Dir: Michael Peterson

Knuckleball, directed by Michael Peterson, is described as a mix of Home Alone and The Shining. The Mutt – Canadian film and TV news. Photo courtesy GAT PR

Mix Home Alone with The Shining and you’re getting close to understanding the premise behind Knuckleball, a gritty and pulse-pounding thriller from director Michael Peterson. Peterson draws engaging performances from Michael Ironside and Luca Villacis perfectly suited for this lively and taut feature.

Read our interview with Peterson here.

Knuckleball is now available on iTunes and VOD. For more information, click here.

Baroness von Sketch Show

CBC

Before co-creating and starring on Baroness von Sketch Show, Aurora Browne co-starred on Comedy Inc. and was part of Toronto's Second City troupe. The Mutt - Canadian film and TV news. Photo courtesy Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Before co-creating and starring on Baroness von Sketch Show, Aurora Browne co-starred on Comedy Inc. and was part of Toronto’s Second City troupe. Photo courtesy Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Picture yourself riding your bicycle on the way to work. As you’re pedaling, you see someone you vaguely know, but not enough to stop-and-chat. Instead of stopping, you awkwardly yell to them, “Hello!  …I have to keep going.” For Baroness von Sketch Show writer Aurora Browne, turning those painfully awkward moments into riotous sketches have propelled her career on what has become one of the CBC’s most reliably entertaining shows.

Read our interview with Baroness von Sketch Show’s Aurora Browne here.

The third season of the Baroness von Sketch Show is available to watch on CBC.

The Go-Getters

Dir: Jeremy Lalonde

Directed by Jeremy Lalonde (How To Plan An Orgy In A Small Town), The Go-Getters is a dark comedy starring Aaron Abrams and Tommie-Amber Pirie as a hooker and a drunk trying to claw their way back from rock bottom. The Mutt - Canadian film and TV news. Photo courtesy Northern Banner Releasing.

Directed by Jeremy Lalonde (How To Plan An Orgy In A Small Town), The Go-Getters is a dark comedy starring Aaron Abrams and Tommie-Amber Pirie as a hooker and a drunk trying to claw their way back from rock bottom. Photo courtesy Northern Banner Releasing.

In the intro, I wrote about how one of the best parts of covering Canadian film is being able to watch films where directors take big risks and play to underground tastes. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better example of this than in Jeremy Lalonde’s The Go-Getters, a gloriously dark and vulgar journey starring a deadbeat drunk and a junkie hooker. Just in time for the holidays!

Read our interview with Lalonde here.

The Go-Getters is currently playing in select theatres and launched on VOD on Christmas Day.

VIFF’s Future//Present program

Shot in modern-day Bosnia and Herzegovina, director Igor Drljača's The Stone Speakers is set to play as part of the Vancouver International Film Festival's 2018 Future//Present series. The Mutt - Canadian film and TV news. Photo courtesy Timelapse Pictures

Shot in modern-day Bosnia and Herzegovina, director Igor Drljača’s The Stone Speakers played as part of the Vancouver International Film Festival’s 2018 Future//Present series. Photo courtesy Timelapse Pictures

Among festival programs we always keep on our radar each year is the Vancouver International Film Festival’s Future//Present program. Our writer Brandon Wall-Fudge dove into the lineup at the 2018 festival, which showcased some of the best examples of those films redefining what Canadian film can be, including Spice It Up, M/M and Mangoshake.

Read the feature here.

The Vancouver International Film Festival returns in 2019.

Slave to the Grind

Dir: Doug Brown

Slave to the Grind is a documentary focused on grindcore. The Mutt - Canadian film and TV news.

Slave to the Grind is a feature-length documentary focused on the grindcore genre.

Napalm Death, Carcass, Pig Destroyer… maybe not household names to the average music fan, but among the principal players in the proudly abrasive genre of “grindcore.” Doug Brown’s feature-length documentary Slave to the Grind dives headfirst into the history of the genre and of its legions of disciples, many of which look nothing like you might expect.

Read the story here.

Slave to the Grind wrapped up a world tour in November 2018. Stay tuned to the film’s official Facebook page for updates.

Wynonna Earp Season 3

Space

Wynonna Earp airs Fridays at 9 p.m. E.T. on Space. The Mutt - Canadian film and TV news. Photo courtesy Bell Media

Wynonna Earp aired Fridays at 9 p.m. E.T. on Space. Photo courtesy Bell Media

To be perfectly frank, I personally am not caught up on Wynonna Earp, but after reading the weekly coverage from our resident “Earper,” Ghezal Amiri, it’s become clear to me that the show is among the most bonkers, odd and crazy good times on television. Amiri took us on a roller-coaster ride of her own emotions as she explored Purgatory along with Wynonna, Wayhaught, and one individual she calls Angry Vamp Doc, all the way to the season’s wildly emotional conclusion. Full speed ahead to Season 4!

Read Ghezal Amiri’s recap of the double-sized Season 3 finale.

Wynonna Earp returns on Space in 2019. 

Genèse (Genesis)

Dir: Philippe Lesage

Director Philippe Lesage's Genesis is the second autobiographical film from the Quebecois director, following 2015's Les démons. The Mutt - Canadian film and TV news. Photo courtesy Ixion Communications

Director Philippe Lesage’s Genesis is the second autobiographical film from the Quebecois director, following 2015’s Les démons. Photo courtesy Ixion Communications

Few directors are doing coming-of-age stories as effectively as Montreal-based director Philippe Lesage, whose second autobiographical feature, Genèse, is a total knockout. The film follows 2015’s The Demons, with characters from that film also appearing during Genèse. It’s a beautiful, intelligent and contemplative look at adolescence and young love, and one of the best Canadian films of the year.

Read our interview with Lesage here.

Genèse is now screening at festivals worldwide.

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Schitt’s Creek to conclude after next season

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The popular CBC sitcom Schitt’s Creek will conclude with its sixth and final season, star and co-creator Dan Levy announced in a statement today. Photo courtesy CBC.
The popular CBC sitcom Schitt’s Creek will conclude with its sixth and final season, star and co-creator Dan Levy announced in a statement today. Photo courtesy CBC.

The popular CBC sitcom Schitt’s Creek will end at the conclusion of its sixth season, series co-creator and star Dan Levy announced March 21.

“We are so grateful to have been given the time and creative freedom to tell this story in its totality, concluding with a final chapter that we had envisioned from the very beginning,” Levy said in a statement. “It’s not lost on us what a rare privilege it is in this industry to get to decide when your show should take its final bow.”

Schitt’s Creek premiered on CBC in 2015, becoming one of the network’s most successful half-hour comedies ever. The show follows the fish-out-of-water Rose family, forced to assimilate into a small town after they lose their family fortune.

Though the show’s first season received mixed reviews, it grew in regard with both fans and critics over subsequent iterations. Schitt’s Creek’s fifth season, which premiered on January 8, 2019, scored a 100 per cent “Fresh” ranking on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.

The show is also among select company among Canadian sitcoms, drawing strong viewership in the United States and elsewhere thanks to distribution on Netflix and the American Pop network. Critics have reacted favourably to recent episodes, with TV Guide’s Megan Vick writing that each season of Schitt’s Creek has “gotten better and better.”

Read Levy’s full statement below.

New episodes of Schitt’s Creek air Tuesday nights at 9/9:30 NT on CBC.

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Watch the Oscar-nominated Canadian short “Animal Behaviour”

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The National Film Board of Canada is offering Canadians the opportunity to watch the Oscar-nominated Canadian short film "Animal Behaviour" until the end of today. Photo courtesy NFB
The National Film Board of Canada is offering Canadians the opportunity to watch the Oscar-nominated Canadian short film "Animal Behaviour" until the end of today. Photo courtesy NFB

To get prepped for the 91st Academy Awards, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is offering Canadians the chance to check out Animal Behaviour, nominated tonight in the Best Animated Short Film category.

Animal Behaviour is a new short from Alison Snowden and David Fine, who previously won an Oscar in 1994 for Bob’s Birthday. The short is the 75th Oscar nomination for the NFB, and the first short film for Snowden and Fine since Bob’s Birthday. The 91st Oscars air tonight at 8 Eastern on ABC and CTV.

Watch Animal Behaviour below (expires tonight).

Next up on The Mutt: Wynonna Earp future in doubt as Season 4 delayed

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Wynonna Earp future in doubt as Season 4 delayed

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Wynonna Earp Season 3 Episode 11/12 - "Daddy Lessons/War Paint". Photo courtesy Bell Media
Wynonna Earp Season 4 is in jeopardy, according to the The Hollywood Reporter, due to financial difficulties. Photo courtesy Space

All of a sudden, Wynonna Earp is in Purgatory.

Earpers were stunned Thursday night when executive producer and showrunner Emily Andras posted (and subsequently deleted) a tweet suggesting that fans of the show may soon have to fight for it. Another tweet, posted shortly later, took a decidedly more straight-forward approach.

Andras appeared to be responding to the news that funding for the fourth season of Wynonna Earp appeared to be on shaky ground, according to a report from The Hollywood Reporter. According to THR, financial challenges faced by IDW Entertainment have stalled production on Season 4, despite the company being contractually obligated to deliver the show to Syfy.

In response to the news, Earpers took to Twitter with the hashtag #FightForWynonna, which at the time of publication was one of the top Twitter trends in Canada. Though Season 4 has yet to be officially cancelled, IDW has yet to commit to a start date for the new season.

“IDW is committed to continuing to tell the Wynonna Earp story,” the company said in a statement posted to Twitter. “Much like the fans, we are passionate about not only the series, but the comics, the characters and the overall message that the Wynonna Earp franchise carries. We are in the process of working out the details for how the Wynonna story will continue and will share new details very soon.”

Our resident Earper, Ghezal Amiri, was a big fan of Season 3, writing that the show’s season finale, entitled “War Paint”, was a “wildly emotional conclusion.” Read her recap here.

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