It’s been quite a year for us here at Forget The Box. In fact, 2009 has, without a doubt, been FTB’s best year this decade! It’s also been our only year to date, so I guess that also technically makes it our worst year so far, but who’s counting.

It hasn’t even been a full year, though at times it feels like three or four of them. Our first official post appeared on March 29th, followed a few days later by a post properly introducing the site and promising new content three times a week. Our first column, Friday Film Review, appeared May 8th and we launched FTBTV on May 16th with the season 1 finale of JC Sunshine’s Fireside Chat and a fundraiser party featuring local musicians.

This is post number 173, not counting the 16 unofficial posts imported from this writer’s old blog to get things going. Today we have seven weekly columns, six full-time writers, four part-time writers and (for the most part) daily updates.

Meanwhile JC Sunshine just wrapped up its second season with a third scheduled to begin mid-Februrary and the FTBTV lineup includes three other shows: The Long House with Irkar Beljaars, Fashion Ambush (which will soon be replaced by Aimee Davidson’s new show 100 Jobs) and Joe Two-Four featuring live commentary on Habs games which just premiered. More shows and stand-alone videos such as short films are planned for 2010.

While our writers have already filed their reports talking about the year (and in some cases the decade) in news, film, theatre, environmental issues, video games and rants, we have asked them to pick their favorite posts by themselves and by others on the site from 2009. So here, in no particular order (think pulled out of a hat), are some of the popular ones:

Innu canoe can do: Environmental columnist Mel Lefebvre goes on a canoe trip with Innu elder and activist Elizabeth Penashue and writes about it for Green Bean Tuesdays.

Good beer outdoors (photo Cindy Lopez)

Drinking outdoors. Good times.: Aaah, drinking, in the summertime. Forget the Box had people at the Beer Fest and our correspondent Jerry Gabriel managed to remember enough to file this report.

No one mourns the critic: A theatre critic who focuses on underground and unconventional theatre reviews a big-budget Broadway musical and actually kinda likes it. Part of Jason C. McLean’s Sunday Theatrics column.

Underground arts or quartier des bureaux: No one actually picked this post in particular, but there were several votes for other posts dealing with the conflict between the artists of Café Cleopatre and Angus, a developer with Tremblay-administration backing. From Christian Yaccarini’s criminal past to a secret letter he wrote to supporters to an attempt by the artists to appeal to Prince Charles, this story has generated quite a bit of reporting from us and this post is as good a place to start as any.

Why so serial killer: A review of the TV series Dexter and analysis of the popularity of the serial killer aesthetic in our culture by Mike Gwilliam in his Forum M column.

I Know No One Listens To Talk Radio But…: Ever hear one of those ads that make you wonder just how it got on the radio in the first place? FTB writer Chris Zacchia did.

Wind in a scene from Hunting Down Memory

FFR interview Wind: An interview with Wind, the focus of the documentary Hunting Down Memory, by Friday Film Review’s Stephanie Laughlin.

I hate this city because I love it: Laurence Tenenbaum rants about Montreal and what it means to him.

Montreal Nights: An evening that starts with friends in a park and ends with a great show from two local bands. Music writer Eve gives the We Heart Music column a review that is so very Montreal.

Against “fixing” pets that aren’t broken: Probably our most controversial post this year, from Laurence Tenenbaum’s Laurence Rants column. In it, the author talks of why he feels we shouldn’t fix our pets. Agree or disagree, it’s an interesting point of view.

Correcting Corrections Canada: The story of one man’s wrongful conviction and his efforts to change our prison system as a result written by Irkar Beljaars for his The Long House column.

Don’t let the sun come up on me – a review of Dracula in a Time of Climate Change: A Sunday Theatrics review of a play dealing with the implications climate change have for the planet’s vampires. Theatre columnist Jason C. McLean found it funny and smart while making a point.

A project whose time has come: In our very first political endorsement, we urged Montrealers elect Projet Montreal candidates as city and borough councilors and borough mayors and party leader Richard Bergeron as the mayor of Montreal.

The official Forum M Holiday and Boxing Day Gift Guide: Video game columnist Mike Gwilliam gives readers his wish list for the holidays.

Two strangers find friendship in Sofia Coppola’s fantastic Lost in Translation: A Friday Film Review of one of columnist Stephanie Laughlin’s all-time favorite films.

In Montreal this year, gentrification was on a bit of a rampage. It claimed the Cock n’Bull Pub back in August and while this legendary drinkery has plans to re-open soon in a new location, the old spot is still quite a loss. Another loss on the horizon, sadly, is Le Medley.

One attempt to offer an alternative to this beast of boring was shut down rather quickly when Montreal police forcibly shut down the Autonomous Social Centre. This community-based cooperative arts and culture centre built in an abandoned Pointe-St-Charles factory was raided before it could even have an opening party.

One group fighting against gentrification in the form of a colossal office tower proposed as the centerpiece of the Quartier des Spectacles (entertainment district) are the artists of Café Cleopatre. Along with their supporters, they took their case against the city-backed developer’s plans to the Office de Consultation Publique (OCPM) who sided with them.

Cafe Cleopatre as it stands now (photo Chris Zacchia)

Despite this ruling in their favor, revelations about Angus Development head Christian Yaccarini‘s criminal past, the surfacing of an email showing the developer’s true intentions, members of the coalition speaking out in the city council, benefit shows, public support for the artists and even an attempt to get Prince Charles on board, Mayor Gerald Tremblay is still committed to pushing through his handpicked developer‘s plan.

Now, Café Cleopatre is taking Tremblay and Yaccarini to court. This won’t be the only court challenge the mayor is facing. This was an election year and corruption on the part of Tremblay (and to a lesser extent, Louise Harel’s right-hand man Benoit Labonte) soon became the focal point of the campaign.

Projet Montreal on election night (photo Jason C. McLean)

Unfortunately, corruption wasn’t enough to unseat Tremblay. Fortunately, there were significant gains for Projet Montreal, a party endorsed by Forget The Box. They swept the Plateau Borough and made significant gains in other places including the former Tremblay fiefdom of NDG and Rosemont to name a few. This is after only eight years of existence and two election campaigns.

Another party that may very well make waves in the years to come is the Pirate Party of Canada. Inspired by the success of Sweden’s Pirate Party, they hope to reform Canada’s copyright laws and protect both privacy and net neutrality. They hope to do so by influencing the other federal parties.

In federal politics, the Harper government has been all about image control this year. We’re not talking about quashing stories about the rise of the NDP or their own dwindling support in Quebec, but rather eliminating potential embarrassment and as a result coming across like a bunch of repressive thugs.

In the run-up to Copenhagen, Greenpeace dropped banners critical of Harper’s (and Michael Ignatieff’s) environmental stance on the parliament buildings and as a result, anything Greenpeace-related, including t-shirts, were banned from Parliament Hill as a security precaution. Both during and after an embarrassing performance at the Copenhagen Climate Summit, Harper’s troops decided to attack Equiterre as well as parody websites put up by US activist pranksters The Yes Men instead of attacking Climate Change.

The Harper government is also ignoring another threat to the environment: the practices of Canadian mining companies around the world. Fortunately, there was some good news on this front in 2009.

For a few years now, the Frente Amplio Opositor in Cerro de San Pedro, Mexico and their supporters in Montreal have been trying to get an illegal mine operated by New Gold (formerly Metallica Resources) shut down. The groups have been working in solidarity with activists against the open-pit practices of Canadian mining companies both around the world and in Canada as well.

In May, under the banner of fake mining company Royal Or, FAO Montreal staked a legitimate claim to mine Mount Royal. This was a theatrical attempt to show what open-pit mining is like for other communities and it resulted, rather unexpectedly, in Mount Royal being officially protected against mining interests.

Mining pig (photo Raymond Bégin)

The group used theatre again when they took part in a global day of action against open-pit mining in July. They wanted to show what the real swine flu was with actors playing pigs in front of the Montreal offices of the Toronto Stock Exchange.

In November, the FAO’s efforts finally paid off and the mine in Cerro de San Pedro was closed by the Mexican government because it had been (surprise, surprise) operating illegally. There were rumors of initial violence, but they turned out to just be rumors.   Since then, the situation has escalated but it hasn’t gotten as bad as the one in El Salvador where activists opposed to Vancouver-based Pacific Rim Mining’s attempts to set up a mine have been killed.

Speaking of Vancouver, in case you haven’t heard, the Olympics are coming up real soon and resistance to it has been met with considerable repression. From pulling down artwork to questioning American journalists at the border for well over an hour, local, provincial and even the federal government have made it clear that this is one brand they want to protect from damage.

We’ll have to wait until 2010 to see how this unfolds and to see what becomes of Café Cleopatre and the other stories we’ve been covering this year. We also plan to cover quite a bit more and if you want to write for us or take pictures, please get in touch, that is after you take some time to ring in the new year!

With 2010 beginning I talk about some of my favourite films of this year and the past decade

Happy New Year Forget the Box readers!   New Years is that special time of year where everyone makes goals they pretend they’re going to keep, drinks way too much, then dreads the fact that they’ll be going back to work soon and most importantly film critics make lists of their favourite films of the year or in this year’s case, the decade.   So, in no particular order, here are my lists for the best films of 2009 and the best films of the 00’s (or however the heck we’re supposed to call this decade)

My favourite films of 2009

Up in the Air: Jason Reitman shows yet again why he’s becoming one of my favourite American directors with this excellent tale of a man who travels around the world firing people for a living.

500 Days of Summer: Without a doubt, the best romantic comedy of the year. I love the script, I love the actors, I LOVE the soundtrack. Nothing but love love love for this film.

Bright Star: A beautiful and haunting film about first love from director Jane Campion, this film sadly came and went without too much notice when it played in theatres this fall. To make sure it doesn’t fall into obscurity forever make sure you check it out when it comes on DVD.

Grey Gardens: While of course they could never top the real thing, Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange gave amazing performances in the HBO film as Big and Little Eddie, relatives of Jackie Kennedy who went from high society grandeur to crazy cat lady squalor.

The Hangover: Without a doubt the comedy that made me laugh the most and hardest this year.   I’ve loved Bradley Cooper since he played Will on Alias so it’s nice to see him finally starting to get some love from film audiences.

My favourite films of the decade

Lost in Translation (2003): This story of two strangers who find friendship in Tokyo is not only one of my favourite films of the decade but probably of all time.

There Will be Blood (2007): Daniel Day Lewis gives, without a doubt, the best male performance of the decade as Daniel Plainview, an oil man who’s ambition, greed and ruthlessness enables him to be incredibly successful in work and incredibly miserable in life.

Children of Men (2006): Set in the not so distant future, this film tells the story of a world where women are infertile and the human race scramble to find some meaning to a world that has no future.   It’s an intense and depressing subject perhaps, but it’s so brilliantly shot and directed by Alfonso Cuaron that you can’t keep your eyes off it for a second.

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001): The brilliant film that introduced me to the world of Wes Anderson.   While I love many of his other films, none have yet to top this film about a family of geniuses who reunite when the patriarch claims to be dying of cancer.

Le fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain (2001): While the film boasts a great performance by the adorable Audrey Tatou, the real highlight of this film is the way that Paris is transformed into a candy-coloured fairy tale.   I’ve seen the film a hundred times and it’s beauty still captivates me every time.

Well, this is going to be one bucket of sunshine, so strap yourself in and hear all the good we’ve been doing for the planet during the last year of the decade.

Having had my head buried in schoolwork for the past year, I have to admit that the topics I have chosen to write about since becoming a regular contributor on Forget the Box may not be the hot, burning environmental issues covered by regular media.   Maybe some of the problem is that the media doesn’t cover the hot, burning environmental issues that we should be hearing about.   The good thing is that many subjects regarding positive environmental action, no matter how big or small, is that it rarely has anything to do with “au courant” topics.

Elizabeth Penashue
Elizabeth Penashue and her husband Francis

I try to write about environmental, or socially-related environmental topics that I find important.   One of the most significant experiences I had over the year was canoeing with Elizabeth Penashue, an Innu elder who is fighting tooth and nail to protect her land Continue reading “Year end Green Bean review”

First of all, I apologize for not posting last week.   Here’s my rant.

I truly hope 2010 is far better that 2009 was.   I wish that for everyone, regardless of how good or bad 2009 was for them.   On with the show…

The Year in Review.

For me, 2009 was both a horrible year and a greatly important one.   As far as bad years, it was at least as bad as 2008, 2004, 2001 and 1990 were.

2009 started well enough, at a great party where I made many new friends.   My roommate at the time got somewhat lucky and he wouldn’t shut up about it or stop rubbing it in my face until the middle of February.

During the year I moved twice.   The first time was in the middle of winter and the truck got stuck in the snow and I lost many of my belongings including my inherited antique typewriter, my antique television and all of my artwork.

On top of it all, I was in a lot of pain for much of the early winter, doing my best to hide it from view.   I was mainly hiding it from myself.   After my hospitalization for gout in 2008, I was taking my medication for it but adjusting to the changes in it hurt.

Then I was forced to cut off my long, beautiful hair.   I was thinking of selling it to a wigmaker but the barber chopped it up and threw it out.   The barber also insulted me over it.   I’m never going back to that barber.

Shortly afterwards, I was forced to move back in with my parents after ten years of living in my own house.   Now frustrated, dejected, depressed and worthless, I was a jobless failure and a boomerang kid.

I had seven jobs in 2009, only one of which seems somewhat secure, although I’m not able to be certain of it until the end of February at the earliest.   Most of the jobs I had were difficult for me in one way or another and mostly didn’t pay very well at all.

Also, I gained a brother-in-law when my sister got married.   The only thing keeping me from going totally off the deep end in 2009 was the speech I promised to give.   I gave it.   Afterwards, I needed some other reason.   It was a couple of months before I found it, being my current job.   I certainly hope and pray that this one lasts!

More important for this column, 2009 saw the official launching of Infringement Television.   JC Sunshine’s Fireside Chat and NSN TV (now The Long House)   soon became the main content thereof.   There was, however a major disagreement over the content of the fledgling Infringement TV between several assorted members of the Montreal Infringement Festival and the website was soon changed into the mixed media WEB TV / Online Magazine format, which we called Forget the Box after a blogpost that Jason C. Mclean was writing.

We struggled, but we got something off the ground without really spending any real money, which is a good thing because none of us seem to have any.   After a while,we started getting writers to write articles and columns for the site, including this one.

I went back to school as an independent student for one semester at the beginning of 2009.   I was hoping to get an on-campus job using the work-study program, only to find out a few months later that I was never eligible in the first place.   No choice but to drop out. When we applied for a government grant to help out the beginnings of Forget the Box, history repeated itself and we’re still struggling with no budget at all because of it.

Another important thing that happened to me in 2009, was that I finally got my own car.   I had needed a car for a very long time before this past year, but could never afford one.   Finally, I got some help with getting it, insuring it, repairing it, tiring it and even fueling it!   The expenses piled up.

I think I’ll be playing catch-up until 2017 at this rate, barring any further disaster!   Now that I have a decent job, even if it’s not always full time, at least I can play catch up properly.

Year-in-review pieces traditionally deal with a particular subject in all of its facets as covered by the writer in question. In the case of this writer, though, I didn’t have the chance to cover all of the facets of theatre this year in Montreal or elsewhere.

This is due to a few things: I only became a theatre columnist in July, I was busy performing in theatre (and then web-TV) myself and I had quite a few other duties on this site. Excuses, excuses, excuses! Regardless, while my new year’s resolution is to get out and see more shows in 2010, there is still some good stuff that I took in this year.

I took my first bite into reviewing when I saw Dracula in a Time of Climate Change (pun fully intended and even a bit forced in this case). It was a fun, fast paced comedy with a conscience, just what I expected from the Blacklist Committee for Unsafe Theatre. Having seen this play in an earlier workshop version, I was surprised with how it developed, but not disappointed.

Dracula in a Time of Climate Change (photo by Susanna Jones)

Then, for a few months, I plunged myself into performing in theatre and helping it (and other art forms) happen behind the scenes. As an organizer for the Montreal infringement Festival, I saw some great shows but was too busy to write about them.

I did have a chance to write about Car Stories, a show I’ve been part of since 2003. This year, I played in both the Montreal and Buffalo versions. When we brought the show to Buffalo, I had a chance to catch some of the rest of their infringement Festival, which is currently the largest such festival in the world.

I was extremely impressed with how the festival had grown. It is now an event that sticks to its underground roots but involves many people and causes quite a bit of excitement each time it comes around. While there was much more music than anything else this year, the theatre that was there was quite good.

The Hairy Ape (photo by Kurt Schneiderman, Subversive Theatre Collective)

I had a chance to catch The Last White Elephant, a performance piece by Phó Malpica which was staged entirely in a very narrow alleyway in the Allentown neighbourhood. With lighting and just one performer, it really used the space well. I also caught Subversive Theatre’s excellent production of The Hairy Ape, which I reviewed.

I got quite busy upon my return and while I did post some of my theories on theatre, reactions to stories and even a review of an older show I saw, I missed some good local shows. One show I would have liked to have seen myself was Olivia. Fortunately, another writer was able to cover it in my place.

As someone interested in politics and activism as well as theatre, when the two or three worlds intersect, it generally peaks my interest. In Montreal, they met a few times this year.

Artists trying to save Café Cleopatre from destruction put on a verbatim theatre performance about their conflict with a developer and the city as part of Contre Courant and brought some theatrics to Prince Charles when he came to town. Meanwhile, in one of the bigger theatre scandals of the year, former Theatre Ste-Catherine boss Eric Amber nearly sparked a language war with a flippant e-mail response to a Francophone theatre troupe. He later apologized then bragged about the press it was generating for him.

Contre Courant (photo by Linda Dawn Hammond)

While municipal politics in Montreal became quite theatrical this year, New York’s mayoral race saw performance activist Bill Talen run as the Green Party candidate. He did so in character as Reverend Billy.

So while what I did catch this year impressed me, my New Year’s resolution stands. Expect more show coverage from me and others on this site over the next twelve months.

Happy New Year!