Published: Sep 12 2013, 07:26:pm


Why base a website on film reviews from the mid-1960s to the mid-1990s?

    The reason for Reeling Back is summed up in the phrase "everything old is news again." Much of what we are experiencing today was anticipated in the turbulent years that followed the Second World War. A new generation came of age, energetically expressing their feelings and ideas through the popular culture. It is interesting (and entertaining) to revisit these films and to see them as they were seen in their own time for the perspective they can give us on the world they helped shape.

Why do you call your reviews "restored versions"?
    Although most of the the material posted on the Reeling Back website originated elsewhere — in newspapers, magazines, books, radio, television or other websites — the versions posted here are based on my original typescripts, not the previously published versions. Every posting is newly edited to correct typographical, spelling, grammatical and the (rare) factual error. Occasionally, material eliminated in a publication's editing process has been restored, to create the equivalent of a "director's cut."       

Where did these reviews originally appear?
    The content featured on this website was created by Michael Walsh over a journalistic career of some 45 years. The articles and reviews are restored versions of items written for a number of newspapers, magazines and books, including: The Varsity (the University of Toronto's student newspaper; 1964-67); Toronto Telegram (1967); The Province (Vancouver; 1969-1995);  Vancouver Express (1970; 1978-79);  The Vancouver Book (J.J. Douglas, Vancouver; 1976); Variety (New York; 1978-82); B.C. Business Week (Vancouver; 1978-79); The Canadian Movie Quiz Book (Macmillan-NAL, Toronto; 1979); Influential Business (Vancouver; 1980-81); Plus (Vancouver; 1987-88); The Greater Vancouver Book (Linkman Press, Vancouver; 1997); Encyclopedia of British Columbia (Harbour Publishing, Vancouver; 2000).

Who came up with the ratings that you include with each review?
    Unlike the United States, where (since 1968) films are assigned ratings by the industry-financed Motion Picture Association of America, Canada's provinces have a tradition of government film censorship. British Columbia was a pioneer in the classification of theatrical movie releases. In 1960, the province's progressive Chief Censor, Ray MacDonald, felt the public would be better served by a system that allowed it to make choices. Gradually retiring the scissors, he created a system of classifications — General, Mature and Restricted — to inform filmgoers what they could expect. On occasion, he would add a Classifier's Warning — for example "coarse language, occasional violence" — to clarify the nature of a given film's content. MacDonald's ratings were applied until 1997, the year the government revised B.C.'s system to conform with the new, national Canadian Home Video Rating System. 

Will you be posting any new material?
    Yes. In addition to being restored, each article and review is accompanied by an Afterword in which I offer additional information and my current thoughts. And, yes, there will be new pieces written exclusively for Reeling Back's various sections as events in the outside world unfold. Finally, I have set aside the Editorials section as my personal web log (Blog), where I will provide the deeply considered wisdom and light comedy that we have come to expect from our tribal elders.

What do the icons on the home page represent?
    The icons featured on the home page are your quick guide to the kind of item you'll find when you click the READ MORE button. Aside from its Front PageReeling Back has 14 departments divided into four sections. The icons you'll see in the Local News section are a First Nations totem pole (indicating an item of B.C. Film History); a tall tree (reviews of films Made in B.C.); and a maple leaf (reviews of films Made in Canada, but not B.C) and a Lions Gate Bridge lion (items that constitute Vancouver Memories). The Comics Page will show either an artist's brush icon (indicating reviews of Animated Features), the Pow! word balloon (reviews of feature films Based on Comics) or the smiling mask (Live Action Comedy reviews). The six icons you'll see in the Entertainment section are an open book (reviews of Books); a shopping bag (a Miscellany section including, among other things, documentary film reviews); a globe (Foreign-language Films) ; a treble clef (movie soundtrack Music reviews); a microphone (interviews with People); and a question mark (a knowledge-testing Quiz); Finally, the one icon that won't change is the manual typewriter that identifies the Editorials section. This is my personal blog spot, and will contain the sort of original content that the late Norman Mailer famously called "Advertisements for Myself."

Who designed and built this distinctive, user-friendly website?
     Full credit goes to the web-savvy team of John Cunningham (development and architecture) and Brianna Thomas of BT-ART (frontend development & graphics).

Why such an emphasis on Canada and things Canadian?
    The short answer, to quote James Cameron's April 12, 2012, interview with Stephen Colbert, "I'm Canadian . . . "  The full answer — and the reason why, in 1979, I wrote The Canadian Movie Quiz Book (Macmillan-NAL) — is that too little emphasis is placed on Canada's contribution to the motion picture business. Among the reasons I've created Reeling Back is to honour the too-easily ignored accomplishments of this small nation's cinema artists.

Who do you consider a Canadian?

    Canadian is a very inclusive category for me. Of course anyone born here — James Cameron,  Anna Paquin, William Shatner — will always be Canadian. We also embrace those who came here at an early age — Kim Cattrall, Keanu Reeves, Ivan Reitman — and were shaped by the experience. And we welcome those who chose to come here — Barry Morse, Norman McLaren, Charles Martin Smith — and adopt Canada as their home.

What's your favourite movie?
    Easy to ask but difficult, if not impossible, to answer. With more than a century of feature films to choose among, I'm confronted with an embarrassment of riches. Movies, like moods, are ever changing, which is why I can't have just one favourite.

How do I contact you with comments, corrections or to tell you about my favourite movie?
    Every Reeling Back page has a CONTACT ME button in its lower right corner.