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National Post Diaries December 15 – December 19, 2008


My personal e-mail address begins with “mrchaos” for a reason. As a freelance film critic—root work “free,” I like the freedom of it—I have always tried to avoid structure, particularly in my work life. I generally play by the ATM rule—Always Take the Money!—so unless I have to do something illegal or show myself naked I’ll usually say yes to a gig if there is a pay cheque involved. That often leads to log jammed weeks like the one I have coming up. It’s better to be busy than not (that’s the freelancer’s motto… or at least it should be) but sometimes I sacrifice sleep for work and live to regret it. I’ve just come through a rough weekend of sitting through eight hours of deliberations for a film award on Saturday and then doing a quick in-and-out-in-an-Sunday-afternoon trip to New York to interview the cast of The Wrestler. Today is spent strapped to my computer writing this and trying to think of clever things to say about the movies I have to review this week; reviews that will eventually end up in print on my website, and live on Canada AM and my radio show on CFRB. Tonight I’m hosting a screening of a new movie called Toronto Stories at the Hazelton Hotel screening room. It’s a beautiful space, the kind of elegant mini-theatre I imagine Hugh Hefner has in at the mansion. The only difference, I guess, is that Hefner has Playboy Bunnies draped over his over-stuffed leather seats and we don’t. Tonight two of the film’s directors—there’s four in all—David Weaver and Aaron Woodley will be in attendance to do a Q&A and sip some champagne after the screening. It’ll be a fun night… more on that tomorrow.


I seem to be spending a lot of time in hotels these days. Over the weekend I was at Gladstone in Toronto for a meeting and the W Hotel in NYC to interview freshly minted Golden Globe nominee Mickey Rourke. Since I’ve been back everyone wants to know what he’s like. I only spent a few minutes with the guy, but I my first impression was that he’s unpredictable. Refreshingly so. In the interview he talked about living in a “state of shame”—try getting Brad Pitt to go there… you can’t—and later had me reach down the back of his shirt to check the label. The next night I had dinner at One at the Hazelton Hotel and saw Tom Cruise in the restaurant, Bryan Adams at the bar and heard that Duran Duran was about to check in. Strange days indeed.


There’s nothing but deadlines this week because everyone is trying to cut out early for Christmas. I’ve been screening movies steadily for weeks so I’m caught up with everything I have to see through to New Years. Trouble is, I also have to write about them and shoot advance episodes of my TV show Richard Crouse’s Movie Show. That translates to a lot of keyboard bashing. I make it doubly hard on myself because I have a rule when it comes to reviews; I either write them 24 hours after seeing the film or wait 24 years. One is a gut reaction, the other a considered response with the benefit of hindsight and reflection. In my new book Son of the 100 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen I mostly used the latter approach but these days I’m in the mind numbing position of writing two or three reviews a day. Carpal tunnel here I come!


Thursdays and Fridays are the days I throw off the shackles of my computer and actually reenter society. Spending most of my time in the dark watching movies or at the computer writing reviews doesn’t really do much to hone one’s people skills, so I look forward to Thursday and Fridays when I actually get away from the glow of the computer screen and get to talk to real, live humans. Started the day with a cell phone interview on the Bill Carroll Show on CFRB as I drove to the CTV studios to do a hit on Canada AM discussing the Golden Globe nominations. It’s a fun spot although I’m so gob smacked that James Franco got nominated for Pineapple Express and not Milk I am uncharacteristically speechless by the end of the segment. The rest of the day is spent getting reacquainted with society…


On Friday’s I have to get up at a time I like to call “arse o’clock” to do Canada AM. I’ve been their movie critic for years, but no matter how many times I do the show I feel like barfing every time the alarm goes off at that hour. After dragging a comb across my head and fighting traffic I “entertain the nation” as I like to call it, and head back downtown to shoot an episode of Richard Crouse’s Movie Show for the Independent Film Channel and tape my radio show at CFRB NewsTalk 1010. At night I shoot a review segment for NewsNet and head over to The Royal Theatre to host a screening of Toronto Stories. David Cronenberg and Bruce MacDonald are in the audience. At one point during the Q&A I see Cronenberg cradling his head in his hands. Am I boring David Cronenberg? I hope not… later he says hello and doesn’t seem agitated so I think I’m OK.

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