5 Canadian films to get you in the holiday spirit

By Nadia Brophy

It’s that time of year again - the one that gets you seated by a warm fireplace, curled up in a blanket with hot cocoa in hand, eyes glued to the TV screen. Ladies and gentleman, it’s Christmas time, and I’d like to gift you with a curated list of some Canadian holiday favourites to get you in the mood for celebrating this special season.

1.     Coming Home for Christmas (2017)

Screen Shot 2018-11-23 at 10.40.33 AM.png

Nothing quite beats the feeling of flicking on the Hallmark Channel at this time of year and immersing oneself in a feel-good Christmas romance. In doing so, you may come across Coming Home for Christmas, a romantic comedy following the complicated love life of Lizzie Richfield, a house manager for an estate in Virginia. The film focuses on Lizzie’s task in planning a Christmas Eve gala before the estate is sold. During this time, she finds herself caught up in the life of Robert Marley, a member of the family who owns the estate, as she begins to fall for him while also being pursued by Robert’s brother Kip. If you’re not a huge fan of keeping up with complicated love triangles, I urge you to still give the film a chance simply for its beautiful Canadian scenery. Despite being a dual American-Canadian production, all of the scenes in Coming Home for Christmas were filmed in picturesque British Columbia. Canadians from the west will recognize the towns and landscapes of Abbotsford and Langley, B.C., which bear striking resemblance to the intricate Christmas village sets that occupy our mantles during this season.

2.     The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017)

Screen Shot 2018-11-23 at 10.40.55 AM.png

Romance is all good and fun, but perhaps you’d prefer to indulge in a bit of Christmas history. How about a biopic drama about one of the season’s most beloved authors, Charles Dickens, portrayed by Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens in the Irish-Canadian production The Man Who Invented Christmas. This film chronicles the author’s true story of emergence from financial difficulty after he publishes three novels that fail to gain success in England’s literary scene. After gaining some new-found inspiration, Dickens sets his focus on writing the renowned story of Ebenezer Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, A Christmas Carol. What arguably makes the film most intriguing is watching Dickens’ characters come to life as he writes them into existence. The audience is treated to humorous interactions between the author and the infamous humbug played by Canada’s own Christopher Plummer. The film’s score was written by Canadian composer Mychael Danna and features a series of ambient orchestral works that emulate the feeling of waking up on a snowy Christmas morning.

3. The Nutcracker Prince (1990)

Screen Shot 2018-11-23 at 10.41.07 AM.png

I think we can all agree that there’s something very special about watching animated films during this season. Perhaps it’s the giddy child in us that grew up watching The Grinch and A Charlie Brown Christmas on repeat leading up to Christmas day. If you’re looking to feel that childlike excitement again, The Nutcracker Prince will surely fulfill that desire. Based on the classic story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A Hoffmann, the Canadian animated fantasy tells the tale of a young man - voiced by Canadian actor Kiefer Sutherland - who has been cursed to live his life as a nutcracker doll gifted to a girl named Clara on Christmas Eve. When Clara finds out that the curse can be broken if the Nutcracker defeats the sinister Mouse King responsible for the curse and wins the heart of a maiden, she embarks on a fantastical journey to help her special toy become his true self once more. Part of her journey leads her to be shrunken down and transported through the Land of Dolls where Christmas is brought to life on screen through images of elegant white swans, massive evergreen forests and a towering candy palace. If you haven’t already been convinced to add this enchanting film to your Christmas to-watch list, it is also accompanied by the famed music from The Nutcracker ballet, a classic seasonal production that follows the same story.

4. The Legend of Frosty the Snowman (2005)

Screen Shot 2018-11-23 at 10.41.17 AM.png

Yes, you did read that right - the ever-classic The Legend of Frosty the Snowman does indeed fall under the category of Canadiana Christmas. While the film was, in fact, a co-production between America and Canada, part of the animated tale was created by former Vancouver-based animation company Studio B Productions. The film also features the voice talents of Tara Strong, a Toronto native whose work includes Rugrats, Powerpuff Girls and Fairly Odd Parents. This classic animated fantasy is set in the fictional town of Evergreen, where children are forced to abide by a strict curfew and told not to participate in any fun activities. But that all begins to change when a black top hat escapes from a mysterious trunk that has been locked away in an attic for years and gives life to the most fun-filled presence of all - Frosty the Snowman. The magical character quickly wins over the hearts of the children in Evergreen as he encourages them to enjoy the winter season while it lasts. The plot begins to take a wicked turn when an antagonizing force leads Frosty to his demise and steals his hat in an effort to keep the town absent of fun. But that doesn’t stop the children of Evergreen from embarking on a quest to reclaim their snowy companion’s hat in an effort to restore the spirit of magic in their somber town.

5. Silent Night (2002)

Screen Shot 2018-11-23 at 10.41.26 AM.png

When looking for films to get us ready for this joyful holiday, we traditionally wouldn’t reach for a dark flick with intense subject matter. But for those of us who are looking for a little more depth and substance in our films - still keeping with the spirit of Christmas, of course - can turn to Silent Night, a fact-based story set on Christmas Eve during World War II. The film follows a German woman and her son who attempt to escape the dangers of war by fleeing to an isolated cabin in the Ardennes forest. It is not long before their cabin is invaded by groups of American soldiers and their German enemies. The interaction would have ended in a bloodbath if it weren’t for the mother who, after much struggle, is able to convince the German soldiers to set aside their contentions with the Americans and partake in a Christmas Eve dinner together. The soldiers eventually build unlikely friendships that supersede the tension that once existed between them. While I wouldn’t list Silent Night under the ‘feel-good’ category we’re all familiar with during the holidays, I would nevertheless label it a film that captures the spirit of Christmas in bringing people together to celebrate the season.

22 Blockbusters You Never Knew Were Filmed in Canada

By Brent Smyth

While Canada may not have its own version of Hollywood, many blockbusters choose their northern neighbours to film key scenes and even entire movies! Whether to save money or the incredible scenery, here are the top 22 films to have been shot in Canada, and just wait for 16 and 21.

#1- Titanic (1997)

During the true sinking of the Titanic in 1912, Halifax was the closest port to the catastrophe, and the first to receive the distress signal. The ocean scenes in the film, which was in 1997 the most successful of all time- were shot near where the 1912 event occurred. In Halifax today over 100 victims of the sinking are buried near the port.

Twilight.jpg

#2- Twilight (2008)

Forks High School in the Twilight films in real life is the David Fraser Secondary School in Vancouver. Throughout the Lower Mainland and Vancouver play host to the setting in three of the four movies in the series.

(The Hollywood Reporter)

(The Hollywood Reporter)

#3- Good Will Hunting (1997)

Shot in only five months, this movie was created in Boston and Toronto, and all the movie’s famous classroom scenes were filmed at the University of Toronto and Central Technical School, not Harvard and MIT.

interstellar.jpg

#4- Interstellar (2014)

While a solid ¾ of the film is in space, the initial farm scenes and opening locations are all found in Alberta. Including Calgary, Canmore, Okotoks, Fort Macleod and outlying areas.

(MTV UK)

(MTV UK)

#5- Mean Girls (2004)

Set in Illinois, a majority of the movie was shot in Toronto at Malvern Collegiate Institute and Etobicoke Collegiate Institute, and the famous Jungle mall scene was shot in Etobicoke, in Sherway Gardens.

Inception.jpg

#6- Inception (2010)

Truly a movie of international locations, inception takes place in England, Morocco and France. However the Fortress Mountain Ski Resort in the Canadian Rockies at Kananaskis, just outside of Calgary served as the snowy mountain fortress sequence, the deepest dream level.

(Rolling Stone)

(Rolling Stone)

#7- Billy Madison (1995)

Sandler’s character in the film progresses through all the grades of school, and the movie itself progresses through quite a few locations in Toronto, including Northern Secondary School, John Ross Robertson Junior Public School, the Parkwood Estate in Oshawa and several other locations around Toronto, Oshawa and Stouffville.

#8- Blades of Glory (2007)

Putting the city’s Olympic history to use, the film used the Montreal Olympic Stadium for the outdoor skating scenes, and the movie’s signature chase scene was shot in Montreal’s Olympic Village.

(El Parana)

(El Parana)

#9- IT (2017)

The remake of Stephen King’s clown horror finds its home in Port Hope, Ont. The local Queen Street Tattoo parlour was transformed to Derry Ice Cream for the film.

(Pop Geeks)

(Pop Geeks)

#10- The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Seemingly filmed in New York City, for four nights in downtown Toronto Yonge Street was closed for filming. And because of how accommodating Toronto’s mayor at the time had been, the Eaton Centre and the University of Toronto also play a role in the film.

(Mental Floss)

(Mental Floss)

#11- Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Instead of flying to France for the European scenes, film crews travelled to Montreal and Quebec City to avoid breaking the bank while still getting the european feel.

(Nerdist)

(Nerdist)

#12- The Neverending Story (1984)

Although most of the movie was shot in Germany, the alleyway Bastian finds himself chased into is Vancouver’s Blood Alley in Gastown. And at the very end of the movie, Flying Luck Dragon Falcor does a Vancouver fly-by.

(Time Out)

(Time Out)

#13- Capote (2005)

It may have been set in the flatlands of Kansas, but Capote was instead shot in Winnipeg and Selkirk, Manitoba. Some notable sites to see are the Manitoba Legislative Building, Gilbart’s Funeral Home and Stony Mountain Institution, which plays a prominent role in the film.

(Mental Floss)

(Mental Floss)

#14- My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

Starring Canadian actress Nia Vardalos, the film may have been set in Chicago, but the filming didn't draw Vardalos far from home. A number of downtown spots including Toronto’s Greek Town played home to the film.

(The Telegraph)

(The Telegraph)

#15- Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Although set in Wyoming, it is clear the Canadian Rockies are the breathtaking backdrop seen in the film. Sites where the filming actually took place include Calgary, Elbow Falls, Cowley and Fort Macleod.

(The Ace Black Blog)

(The Ace Black Blog)

#16- Chicago (2002)

Iconic Toronto locales such as Osgoode Hall, Queen’s Park, Elgin Theatre and Union Station all had roles in the film, and Toronto has frequently played the part of Chicago in blockbuster films, and this musical was no exception.

(Addicted2Success)

(Addicted2Success)

#17- Cool Runnings (1993)

Loosely based on the 1988 Jamaican national bobsled team that competed in the Olympics in Calgary, this movie stays true to its real-life counterparts and had a majority of its filmign done in Calgary.

(Hollywood Reporter)

(Hollywood Reporter)

#18- Juno (2007)

Although set in Minnesota, Juno was actually shot in various locations throughout Vancouver, Burnaby, Coquitlam and White Rock, and this American-Canadian comedy has gone down as a Canadian classic.

(Hollywood Reporter)

(Hollywood Reporter)

#19- The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

The highest-grossing Hollywood movie ever to be filmed in Canada, this American action film finds its locations in Toronto and Montreal, as well as globally in places such as Tokyo, Hawaii and Scotland.

(The Telegraph)

(The Telegraph)

#20- Total Recall (2012)

Using the aid of CGI, Guelph, Ont. was converted into a post-apocalyptic London, and Toronto location such as the  University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus and Roy Thomson Hall stood in for stations within the planet’s internal transit system, The Fall. Total Recall remains one of the largest budget films shot in Toronto.

(PLay

(PLay

#21- American Psycho (2000)

Considering the word ‘American’ is in the title, don't be alarmed when it is revealed Bateman’s office is in the TD Centre, serving as a substitute for the Seagram Building in New York City, which were both designed by architect Mies Van der Rohe. Additionally, The Phoenix Concert Theatre, The King Edward Hotel’s Consort Bar, The Senator diner and several more of the city’s now-defunct restaurants and clubs played host to Patrick Bateman and his friends on film.

(The Telegraph)

(The Telegraph)

#22- The Revenant (2015)

Shot in Alberta, the winter it was being filmed proved difficult for the crew, as the snow started to melt before production was complete. This forced the final fight scene in the film to be shot in Argentina. Also due to the odd winter, Burnaby, B.C. was used for a few scenes.

This piece was edited by Isabelle Kirkwood

Notable Canadian Oscar Winners throughout History

Oscar-season is officially over and this year brought Canada's fair share of homegrown nominees. Let's take a look back through the history of the Academy Awards to look at Canada's most notable winners. 

1. Mary Pickford

pickford.jpeg

Mary Pickford of Toronto won the second Best Actress award in Oscar history (however the first award for an actress in a talkie) for the 1929 film, Coquette. Although Pickford retired shortly after from acting in 1933, she would receive an honorary Oscar at the 1976 Academy Awards for her contributions to the world of film.

2. James Cameron

cameron.jpg

For producing the (then) highest-grossing film of all-time, James Cameron won Best Picture, Best Director and Film Editing in 1997 for Titanic, which earned a record-breaking total of 11 Oscars.  

3. Norma Shearer and Marie Dressler

Complex.com

Complex.com

Continuing the trend of Canadian actresses dominating the early Oscars ceremonies, French-Canadian actress Norma Shearer won the Best Actress award at the third Academy Awards for the 1930 film, The Divorcee. Canada’s Marie Dressler then won the Best Actress award for her performance in the 1930 film, Min and Bill at the fourth Academy Awards.

4. Harold Russell

Complex.com

Complex.com

Despite being a disabled World War II veteran, Nova Scotia-born Harold Russell featured in the 1946 film The Best Years of Our Lives, for which he claimed the Best Supporting Actor award. Russell lost both of his hands in combat, and received a second Oscar that night for ''bringing aid and comfort to disabled veterans through the medium of motion pictures.''

5. Norman Jewison

Complex.com

Complex.com

Through the years, Jewsion’s films have won 12 Oscars- including Best Picture in 1967 for In the Heat of the Night, and have been nominated for a total of 45. He himself has been honoured as a seven-time Oscar nominee, and in 1999 received the prestigious Irving Thalberg Award at the Oscars.

6. Christopher Plummer

Complex.com

Complex.com

Known for his iconic role as Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music, Plummer won his first Oscar in 2012. He received a standing ovation when he won Best Supporting Actor award in the independent film, Beginners. The then 82-year-old was the oldest person to have ever won an Oscar.

7. Walter Huston

Complex.com

Complex.com

Playing a wounded ship’s captain in Humphrey Bogart’s 1948 film, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Toronto-born Walter Huston won the Best Supporting Actor award. His son John won Best Director that year for the same film.

8. Anna Paquin

Complex.com

Complex.com

Making her debut performance at just age 11, Winnipeg-born actress Anna Paquin picked up her Best Supporting Actress award for the 1993 film The Piano. That night Paquin became the second-youngest Oscar winner of all time.

9. Denys Arcand

Complex.com

Complex.com

Arcand is the only French-Canadian director in history to take home an Oscar, along with being nominated three times, all in the Best Foreign Film category. He was nominated for The Decline Of The American Empire in 1986, Jesus Of Montreal in 1989 and won in 2004 for The Barbarian Invasions

10. Paul Haggis

Complex.com

Complex.com

Haggis became the first screenwriter to write two Best Film Oscars back-to-back- Million Dollar Baby and Crash in 2004 and 2005- the latter of which he directed. For Crash, he won Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.