front page

Living a life like a movie

Historical epic a cultural revelation

In a rare coincidence of dates — it won't happen again until 2067 — today (February 8) is both the Chinese New Year and British Columbia's Family Day. A statutory holiday in the West Coast province since 2013, the Family Day "tradition" was manufactured by politicians to add an official holiday to a month that previously had none. Rather more firmly established is China's Spring Festival observance, marked in various ways for more than 3,000 years. Based on the 1644 Shíxiàn calendar, it uses a lunisolar form of calculation, which makes the first day of the New Year a moveable feast. Observed by Chinese communities worldwide — an estimated 1.3 billion people — the 15-day festival is growing in popularity in Pacific Rim cities such as Vancouver. Fans of astrology take particular delight in the fact that the Shíxiàn calendar is linked to a 12-year cycle of zodiacal animals, and an interest in the attributes that these signs confer on persons born in their given years. This year, for example, is the Year of the Monkey. According to the place mats once universally available in mid-range Chinese restaurants, Monkey persons "are characterized as lively, quick-witted, curious, innovative and mischievous." Today, it seems only right that Reeling Back recall Pu Yi, who was born 110 years ago yesterday (February 7), 13 days into the Year of the Horse. Director Bernardo Bertolucci told his story in 1987's The Last Emperor.


local news

Dead in the water

Ship's cargo a load of Nazi nonsense

Sources differ on whether Alvin Rakoff was born on this day (February 6) in 1927. Not in dispute is the director's long list of generally distinguished stage and screen credits, although he might want us to forget his 1980 Canadian tax-shelter project, Death Ship.

comics page

Elemental action quest

Producing a one-of-a-kind cartoon

His distinctive romantic-realistic style became the standard by which heroic fantasy illustration is still judged. Born on this day (February 9) in 1928, artist Frank Frazetta joined with iconoclastic animator Ralph Bakshi to produce the 1983 sword-and-sorcery cartoon feature Fire and Ice.


Profit-making prophet

Ayn Rand inspired a capitalist Christ

In the fall of 1966, Ayn Rand's most ardent disciple visited Toronto to deliver the opening lecture in a series devoted to her personal philosophy, Objectivism. Some 300 believers heard Nathaniel Branden preach a sermon advocating "the virtue of selfishness."


Angry old white guys!

My Blog; Your Guide to What's New

What historians will make of the results of the 2016 New Hampshire primary election is yet to be determined. What's already clear is that mainstream American journalism is failing the public in its coverage of the issues and personalities at the heart of the U.S. presidential contest.



A DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES is the Internet address of Michael Walsh, a Canadian living in Vancouver, British Columbia.

I spent my working life as a newspaperman. While others covered the waterfront, I specialized in movies. As a film critic, I published my views in newspapers and magazines, on radio and television, at conferences, conventions and in the occasional courtroom. It was my good fortune to cover 30 of the most exciting, innovative years in screen history (1965-1995).
Retired, but not inactive, I've launched Reeling Back in in order to recall and, perhaps, make sense of it all. Eventually, it will grow into an archive of the nearly 6,000 films I've reviewed to date. Because everything old is news again, each posting will include a note connecting these particular movie memories to the here and now.

And, yes, I intend Reeling Back to offer new material, including web-log commentary, reviews of current pop culture and additions to my own "works in progress" — four book-length projects still in the notebook phase.

From Will Shakespeare to Marshall McLuhan to Joss Whedon, the great thinkers have all reminded us that we live in a world of wonders. In this small corner of cyberspace, I'd like to share some of the wonders that I have seen.