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Don’t mourn, organize!

Remembering the way it was . . . and is

Today (September 8) is Labour Day. Marked in the U.S. and Canada since 1894, it is perhaps the most ignored statutory holiday on the Hollywood calendar. Notoriously anti-union, the American movie industry has traditionally regarded organized labour as the enemy of its creative enterprise — defined by the major studios as the right to exploit creators and employ creative bookkeeping to enhance corporate profits. With a few notable exceptions, mainstream features are unsympathetic to the labour movement, its history and its achievements. “Like a union-buster’s dream come true, the America on the movie screen has been almost union free,” Ken Margolies wrote in a 1981 Screen Actor Magazine article. “When portrayed, organized labor’s image on film ranges from inaccurate to sordid.” In 1954, the year that union membership peaked in the U.S., income inequality (defined as the share of income going to the top 10 percent) was at it lowest point on record. Hollywood’s response was On the Waterfront, a nasty little item that argued that unions were a threat to the American dream. Today, the moguls celebrate their part in reversing both trends. Reeling Back prefers to recognize an honourable exception to the Hollywood rule, independent writer-director John Sayles, who told the true story of a union-led struggle for social justice in West Virginia’s coal country in his 1987 feature Matewan.


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Managing marital crises

Feminist parable a Canadian classic

No list of great Canadian filmmakers would be complete without the name Anne Wheeler. Born on this day (September 23) in 1946, Wheeler honed her craft at the National Film Board before breaking out as an independent writer-director with the intense 1986 feature Loyalties.

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Not in Brooklyn anymore

Great game bombs on the big screen

Participants in a 2005 poll named it “the greatest game of all time.” Published by Nintendo, Super Mario Bros. made its debut in Japan on this day (September 13) in 1985. Less well received was the 1993 live-action movie adaptation, a cartoonish comedy also called Super Mario Bros.


Video as default option

Looking into global village’s future

The 37th item in Reeling Back's 38-part series recalling the cinema of Vancouver's Expo 86 considers the video-based presentations shown in the pavilions of Pakistan, The Philippines, Senegal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.


The miracle that wasn’t

My Blog; Your Guide to What's New

August was an interesting month. It started with high hopes, when I learned that there was a pill that might be good for a problem that I’ve been having. As with so many things medical, there was the possibility of side effects, but on the whole it seemed like a worthwhile toss of the dice.



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.