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Oldie but goodie picks by filmmaker Michael McNamara

Oldie but goodie picks by filmmaker Michael McNamara

on
May 20th, 2020

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Oldie but goodie picks by filmmaker Michael McNamara

Today’s guest curator is filmmaker Michael McNamara, the co-founder of Markham Street Films. Michael has produced and directed documentaries, variety shows, and children’s entertainment including the Gemini Award-winning feature doc Acquainted With The Night and 2018’s Catwalk: Tales From The Cat Show Circuit, a quirky documentary which the Globe and Mail called “possibly the greatest cat video ever.” (And we had the pleasure of spotlighting in a past newsletter.) Here are his selections of Canadian content for your self-quarantine.

Starbuck (109 minutes)

In this 2011 film, a 40-something slacker finds a new sense of purpose after discovering his past sperm donations led to the births of more than 500 children. It’s sweet and funny and full of heart, thanks mostly to the talents of the great Patrick Huard, and the writing and direction of Ken Scott, who went on to do the not-as-good Hollywood remake of this film, Delivery Man, starring Vince Vaughn and Chris Pratt. My suggestion: stick with the Canadian original.

Starbuck is available on Netflix.

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Jane Siberry - I Muse Aloud (52 minutes)

Next, I went looking for my favourite Canadian comedy of all time, 1977’s Love at First Sight with Dan Aykroyd, Jane Mallett and the much under-appreciated actor Mary Anne McDonald. I could not find it streaming anywhere, so at the risk of self-horn-tooting (there’s not much else can you do in social isolation, is there?) I'll recommend some vintage efforts of mine, starting with this 1987 documentary about Toronto singer/songwriter Jane Siberry. It was produced by Cambium Productions, who also created Sharon, Lois and Bram’s Elephant Show, with a half-hour cut made for CBC and this feature-length version, commissioned by TVO. Don Allan directed Jane's live performance and some of the interviews and tour coverage. For the TVO version, I was brought in to write, edit, and second unit-direct the extra scenes in the field and studio, working with cameraman Peter Mettler. I spent hundreds of hours editing this and came to love everything about Jane, her music, and her amazing band, which then included Rebecca Jenkins, Anne Bourne, Al Cross, Gina Stepaniuk, Ken Myhr and producer/composer John Switzer. Hopefully this will inspire you to go looking for more of Jane’s wonderful music.

You can watch the full documentary on YouTube.


How Canadian artists are spending their time isolation:
For Roy Orbison (7 minutes)

This short video is a visual poem made by me and my brother, video artist Chris McNamara. It is written and performed by our late father, poet Eugene McNamara, who would have turned 90 this year. It’s a bittersweet eulogy and farewell to his favourite singer-songwriter, Roy Orbison. CanLit fans may recognize some of the writers and poets in the barroom full of “lonely men,” including Alistair MacLeod, author of the award-winning No Great Mischief, which would also make for an amazing read right now.

Watch For Roy Orbison on YouTube.

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