Tag Archives: Documentaries

What Happens When You Go Looking in the DVD Section of the Library

I’m one of those people who finds it hard to pick a movie to watch on a Friday night. Growing up, the family’s weekly excursion to Blockbuster became a lengthy, leisurely affair. Despite my family’s frustration, I doubled down and took my time, knowing how important it was to select the right movie for the right evening. A movie was the perfect complement to a long day of being subjected to my peers. These days the choice is made harder by the fact that I’ve seen hundreds of them.

So, when I found myself in Woodbridge Library on a day off last week, I thought I would take a gander at their DVD and Blu-Ray collection. For my first post on Hot Off the Shelf, I wanted to extol the virtues of what I found there, as well as some other DVDs I’ve borrowed from the library recently.


DVD cover for the television show Press.

Woodbridge is where I found Press, a PBS Masterpiece series with woefully few episodes. Masterpiece (Theater as it used to be known) on PBS is something I imagine the younger generations have absolutely no idea exists. It’s a series of shows on PBS on Sunday evenings, often featuring actors dressed in empire waists, rigidly riding horses, and declaring how “drole” everything is. I tease because I love – fan as I am of everything romance, including Austen.

Press is something different altogether, though. On the surface, a blatant warning about the future of journalism in Britain (and the world in general) told through a parable about two papers on opposite sides of the political spectrum in London. Duncan Allen is the editor of The Post, a right-leaning tabloid-leaning sensationalist paper that puts narrative above all else, even the truth. On the other side of the coin is Holly Evans, deputy editor of The Herald, an earnest daily that adheres closely to the journalistic code. Despite this — or perhaps because of it — it’s on the way out.

Episodes are divided between the two newsrooms, and there is a clear winner as to which is more interesting to watch. No surprise there. Infuriatingly, Ben Chaplin’s portrayal of Duncan Allen is gripping. Somehow, he makes Allen someone we want nothing and everything to do with. Morally, there is nothing ambiguous as to Allen’s shortcomings. Yet, he sees himself as working towards a better society, “A Better Britain,” as it says on The Post’s stark red wall. Luckily, the other characters are intriguing too and infuriating in their own ways. Case in point, Holly Evans makes a decision that is both incredulous and somehow feels inevitable toward the end of the six episodes. Although you may inhale them all and spend the rest of your life pining for more, like hunger pangs in your stomach, it will have been worth it. It’s better to have loved, they say.

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Try Vegan in 2020

Are you a devout bacon lover? A chicken wings connoisseur? A meat and potatoes kind of person? When you hear the word vegan, do you run for the hills?

For many, the word vegan is a dirty word – a radical lifestyle met with ridicule and skepticism. But I want to show you that going vegan doesn’t have to mean extraordinary sacrifice. Simply being more aware and mindful of how your decisions impact animals and the environment is a great first step toward embracing the vegan ethos.

The Invisible Vegan

You don’t have to jump straight into it. Take time exploring fresh fruits, veggies and vegan alternatives such as dairy-free milk and meatless burgers. Plant-based options are more prevalent than ever before. There’s no need to give up your favourites. I thought I would never again enjoy the taste of cheesecake, but I quickly found a delicious coconut-based alternative readily available at my local grocery store. Many of your favourite coffee joints like Starbucks and Second Cup offer tasty milk substitutes to satisfy your caffeine cravings. With summer around the corner, farmers’ markets are a great alternative to conventional supermarkets. You’ll be accessing more healthful foods while supporting the local economy. Continue reading

The Valour and the Horror

2017 is an important year for Canada.  It’s the 150th anniversary year of Confederation and the 100th anniversary year of the Battle of Vimy Ridge.  All but forgotten is the 25th anniversary of the production of a National Film Board three-part documentary on Canada’s effort in the Second World War: The Valour and the Horror, produced in 1992.  It is not a comprehensive history, neither is it glorious in any sense.  It is a highly critical examination of three important events in Canada’s military history: the doomed defense of Hong Kong against the Japanese in 1941; Canada’s role in British Bomber Command; and Canada’s role in the Battle of Normandy.  In each of these parts, the producers show great admiration, even reverence, for the Canadian junior officers and ordinary men, while being highly critical, even contemptuous, of political leaders and senior Canadian and British officers.

Perhaps the most famous, or infamous part of this documentary was Part II: Death By Moonlight: Bomber Command.  In it the producers are highly critical of Air Marshal Arthur “Bomber” Harris for his enthusiastic targeting, through area bombing, of German civilians in a failed effort to demoralize the population.  They use as their chief example the fire-bombing of Hamburg in 1943 that killed over 32,000 civilians including more than 9,000 children.  While absolving the pilots and crews under his command, they all but accuse Harris of war crimes.  This set off a firestorm (pardon the pun), of protest from politicians who were greatly affronted by the implication of Canadians participating in war crimes.  They even hauled the producers before a Senate committee.  The CBC was so cowed by this (self) righteous indignation that they cravenly decided to pull the broadcast of the documentary.

I invite you to watch this three-part documentary and to read up on the attack on free speech it spawned, an attack that was not so vigorously defended by our less than intrepid public broadcaster.