Saturday, July 4, 2015
By MICHAEL WALSH
Since 1980, Canada's science fiction fans have honoured achievement within the genre at an annual awards ceremony. Originally known as the Casper, in 1991 the award trophy was redesigned and renamed the Aurora. Processing nominations and administering the final balloting is done by CSFFA, a non-profit organization founded for the purpose.
Last year, the CSFFA board created a Hall of Fame. Included as its first inductees were all previous winners of Lifetime Achievement Auroras, a group that included the Canadian "golden age" author A.E. Van Vogt and Toronto-based SF editor-activist Judith Merril. In 2014, writers William Gibson, Spider Robinson and Jeanne Robinson were the first to join them in receiving the new honour.
Earlier this week, I took up the open invitation of the CSFFA Hall of Fame jury to members of the fan community to offer nominations.
Date: Monday, June 29, 2015.
To: Hall of Fame Awards Jury
From: Michael Walsh
Subject: Nomination of DAVID CRONENBERG to the CSFFA Hall of Fame.
PLEASE CONSIDER SCREENWRITER AND film director DAVID CRONENBERG for induction into the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association Hall of Fame.
Born March 15, 1943 in Toronto, Cronenberg meets your eligibility requirement of Canadian citizenship. It also should be noted that throughout his career he has maintained his Canadian identity and residency, producing 19 of his 21 theatrical feature films in this country.
On the record as having been a science-fiction reader from childhood, he is today internationally recognized as an artist who has significantly influenced the genre. Although he has been the recipient of many honours over the years, the one most pertinent to this nomination is the online magazine Strange Horizons 2004 list of "The Ten Best Science Fiction Film Directors." Cronenberg is ranked No. 2.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should note that, although we were both students at the University of Toronto in the mid-1960s, I am not personally acquainted with David Cronenberg. I have followed his career in my professional capacity as a Vancouver daily newspaper film critic, and have favourably reviewed many of his features.
In the manner of a true artist, Cronenberg does not follow trends. Instead, he creates his own, often pushing the boundaries of audience acceptance within his chosen genre. Among the science-fictional elements present in his work are genetic mutation and manipulation, precognition, human-machine interface, teleportation, telekinesis and virtual reality.
The evolution of his narrative interests proceeded through at least five distinct phases. His earliest features — including 1975's Shivers, Rabid (1977) and The Brood (1979) — are explorations of biological horror in which his characters' bodies are in rebellion. With 1981's Scanners and his Stephen King adaptation The Dead Zone (1983), he applied his distinct aesthetic to issues of the paranormal.
In what I consider his most Canadian film, 1983's Videodrome, Cronenberg anticipated one of the 21st century's great questions, our relationship to media. In it, he applied his unique vision to the work of Canada's celebrated media critic Marshall McLuhan. (This is discussed at some length in my 1983 review.)
In his fourth phase, Cronenberg brought his biological preoccupations together with technology to produce a disturbing remake of The Fly (1986), then added issues of identity and sexuality in a thoroughly disturbing medical malpractice fable, Dead Ringers (1988).
Identity within circumstances of social dementia has became his focus as a mature artist, and is evident in such subsequent features as his William Burroughs adaptation Naked Lunch (1991), his J.G. Ballard adaptation Crash (1996) and eXistenZ (1999).
Though his recent features have not been within strict genre boundaries, his contributions to science fiction and fantasy are substantial and deserve CSFFA recognition.
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And that was one of the many things I found to do during the month that I wasn't updating this web log. Among the other things I did was to add 17 new postings to the Reeling Back archive. Those items were:
JOHNNY CRAWFORD (interview) — During a visit to Vancouver for the 1974 the world premiere of The Inbreaker, the former child star talked about U.S. television's "golden age," growing up through five seasons of The Rifleman and finally turning 30. (Posted June 30)
THE MASK — Newmarket, Ontario-born comedian Jim Carrey made his breakthrough to Hollywood's A-list playing the title role in this 1995 live-action cartoon based on a comic book from Oregon-based independent publisher Dark Horse. (Posted June 29)
THE INBREAKER — Johnny Crawford played the title role in this 1974 adventure-drama about a young Albertan who risks life and limb working in the West Coast halibut fishery. George McCowan directed the independently financed B.C. feature. (Posted June 27)
I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND — Beatlemania was the subject of Robert Zemeckis's debut feature, a 1978 comedy that recorded a life-changing day in the lives of four fab fans played by Nancy Allen, Wendi Jo Sperber, Theresa Saldana and Susan Kendall Newman. (Posted June 24)
DARKMAN — Before he achieved major success with Spider-Man, director Sam Raimi invented his own comic-book superhero, a scientist who survives a tragic lab explosion, then seeks revenge on evildoers. Liam Neeson had the title role in this 1990 thriller. (Posted June 23)
LOOK WHO'S TALKING NOW — John Travolta and Kirstie Alley returned to B.C. to film the final entry in their made-in-Vancouver domestic comedy trilogy. In this 1993 feature, it's the family pets who offer the voice-over commentary. (Posted June 20)
BODY HEAT — Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan made his directorial debut with this 1981 homage to film noir, a seriously steamy feature that introduced audiences to actress Kathleen Turner. (Posted June 16)
CHRISTOPHER LEE (interviews) — During an interview in 1975, the British actor shared his enthusiasm for working in Vancouver on a low-budget feature called The Keeper. In a follow-up conversation in 1980, he expressed his disappointment at the locally-made film's apparent disappearance. (Posted June 15)
VALÉRIE — Québec director Denis Héroux boasted of breaking a taboo in his 1969 erotic comedy — undressing a Québec girl in front of a movie camera. Soon all Canada was sharing the sight of the au naturel Danielle Ouimet's joie de vivre. (Posted June 13)
THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE — Much like his human neighbour, the resident of 221b Baker Street, a rodent named Basil uses deduction to solve the case of a missing toymaker. Offering yet another variation on Sherlock Holmes, this Disney animated feature is from 1986. (Posted June 13)
LAST TANGO IN PARIS — Remembered as a motion-picture landmark, director Bernardo Bertolucci's 1972 sex shocker was significant less for its art than for its effect on the economics of film distribution in the United States. Marlon Brando was top-billed. (Posted June 12)
OUR FEATURE FILM FEST: 11 — In Part 11 of a 20-part series, Reeling Back continues The Greater Vancouver Book Feature Film Festival with restored notes on the eight features in its directoral tribute to Jack Darcus. (Posted June 11)
ED WOOD — With love and flawless craft, Tim Burton captured the elusive reality of the Hollywood hallucination in his 1994 fantasy-biography of a filmmaker some call "the worst director of all time." Johnny Depp had the title role. (Posted June 9)
DESERTERS — The commanding presence of stage actor Alan Scarfe inspired writer-director Jack Darcus to create the character of Ulysses Hawley, an obsessed U.S. Army sergeant and the central character in Darcus's 1983 feature examining draft resistance in Vancouver circa 1969. (Posted June 8)
GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS — Working with an all-star cast, director James Foley brought David Mamet's 1983 stage play to the screen in 1992. Its bracingly bitter denunciation of the so-called free market had lost none of its relevance then, and remains just as true today. (Posted June 6)
FLESH GORDON — The anarchic spirit of Mad Magazine was abroad in Hollywood in 1974, the year that Bill Osco and Howard Ziehm produced their science-fiction sex comedy based on the comic-strip space adventurer. (Posted June 4)
CLASS OF '44 — The University of Toronto's campus was ready for its closeup in 1972, the year that director Paul Bogart arrived to shoot this tepid sequel to the blockbuster hit Summer of '42. (Posted June 2)