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"There’s no heavy lifting in pointing out that a band sucks."
April 12, 2013 4:55 AM   Subscribe

Self-proclaimed Rock and Roll Sociologist, Paul Lawton (of The Ketamines) has a Tumblr called Slagging Off where he critiques his fellow Canadian musicians. A recent post attacking government sponsorship of the arts earned Lawton an interview with Vice Magazine and a rebuttal from indie-rocker (and robot-lover), Dan Mangan. Unsurprisingly, Lawton has responded to Mangan's rebuttal.
posted by jeffen (81 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is me! I also wrote my MA thesis about Metafilter "back in the day"
posted by Quartermass at 5:11 AM on April 12, 2013 [16 favorites]


Cool.

Not knowning anything about the situation, I have to see the original post about Factor seemed to make some sense (domination of grants by a small group of seemingly well connected, similar acts, presence of direct beneficiaries on the board, etc) , but the rebuttal to it was completely off the mark: "the world is unfair and you're too negative, just make music".
posted by MartinWisse at 5:26 AM on April 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think you could have made the very good point about FACTOR being run by insiders who essentially vote themselves money without being disdainful about other people's music.

Public snobbery (and I'm a bigger private music snob than anyone) has no place in building an independent music community. I support a lot of musicians whose music I don't particularly love because the ecosystem depends on variety. Venues can't exist on hard-edged indie renegades no matter how impeccable their musical credentials. They also need blues bands and hard rock and teen pop and so on. Their shit fertilizes the soil, so to speak.

This is one of the things you learn in a smaller community (I live between Collingwood and Owen Sound). You have to open your mind about music if you're going to get anywhere.
posted by unSane at 5:29 AM on April 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


I am glad slagging off exists, and as someone who is a country critic, music funding in Canada is terribly fucked.
posted by PinkMoose at 5:39 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Actually unSane you could also argue that permissiveness and lack of critical sentiment is very destructive to music innovation and leads to stuff like Mumford and Sons.

I prefer snobs to those lukewarm "I like everything" kind of people who lack the backbone to express and opinion.

If there is no criticism people are not required to have conviction.
posted by mary8nne at 5:39 AM on April 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


In retrospect the being "disdainful about other people's music" part of the blog was poorly thought out. I had a larger point that I was trying to make (Canadian music is highly uncritical, music writers fail to point out inadequacies in a lot of what passes as "current" sounds out of fear of having a fanbase let loose on their inbox, etc), but it clearly came off too dickish.

On the other hand: pointing out that I don't like certain things in a joking manner is hardly going to stop the tide of blues, hard rock or whatever garbage passes for saleable music.

I have been making music out of Lethbridge, Alberta since 1995, I just moved to Toronto last fall. I know "smaller community." Initially the whole point of that section of the blog was listening to bands with an open mind and telling the truth from my perspective. I never set out to be mean, that part just happened, sometimes.
posted by Quartermass at 5:40 AM on April 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


I demand a response from Mangan here. Somebody send him a Metafilter account.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:43 AM on April 12, 2013


Mangan is actually truly a kindhearted, nice man. His fanbase sucks though. Let's talk about disdainful for a second here. haha.
posted by Quartermass at 5:47 AM on April 12, 2013


I think Lawton is right about FACTOR being inward-looking, and Mangan is right about VICE, and unSane is right about how the whole thing was framed in the first place, and Quartermass (our MetaFilter selves are simulacra of our real selves, right?) is right about not having thought through the music-criticism framing of the original piece enough.
posted by Shepherd at 5:50 AM on April 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


reading the faux-Interview Mangan seems completely clueless about what he was saying about FACTORs biases.
posted by mary8nne at 6:03 AM on April 12, 2013


Mangan is actually truly a kindhearted, nice man.

I'd believe that were he to defend you the way you're defending him.

Mangan seems completely clueless about what he was saying about FACTORs biases

"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:15 AM on April 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wait a minute... the Canadian government gives people... money... to... play music?

What kind of sick, topsy-turvy upside-down communiss world is this??

*packs bags*
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:17 AM on April 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is it ok if I like Sloan?
posted by symbioid at 6:23 AM on April 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm grateful this is happening. The article helped me put a finger about what's ever-so-slightly off about the bands that succeed in the Canadian music scene... it's all top-down, not bottom-up, and there's this tiny group of industry tastemakers that wield a disproportionate amount of control. I didn't realize this, but I'm all too familiar with the results. (Such a scenario is really the only justification for the continued existence of the Trews, for instance.)
posted by blue t-shirt at 6:23 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


If nothing else, the make-up of their BoD is terrible. So it's dominated by people who are essentially profiting off the grant awards? It's possible I'm not understanding entirely, I've never even heard of Metric or The Trews.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:24 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


...as someone who is a country critic...

Oh, you's a country critic, is yuh? Well, don'tchoo say nuthin' bad 'bout Tammy Wynette or I'm gonh kick yuh ass allaway tuh Alberta!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:25 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


there's this tiny group of industry tastemakers that wield a disproportionate amount of control.

industry TASTEmakers!
gonh need a PACEmaker!
doin' it TOP down!
gonh get a SMACK down!
playin' the TREWS?
you'll get knocked out'cha SHOES!
knock you back to next WEEK!
with my fearsome criTIQUE!

aight, I'm outta here...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:38 AM on April 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mic drop, flapjax, do the mic drop!
posted by Rock Steady at 6:39 AM on April 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Actually unSane you could also argue that permissiveness and lack of critical sentiment is very destructive to music innovation and leads to stuff like Mumford and Sons.

I prefer snobs to those lukewarm "I like everything" kind of people who lack the backbone to express and opinion.


Sort of bland (but polished and well executed) music is nothing new. Nor is its popularity. It's part of music as an element of society. A good chunk of people don't really want to have to pay that much attention to music. That doesn't make them weak people who can't form an opinion, it makes them people who don't really care that much about music. I probably don't care very much about one of their passions, even if I sort of like that it exists.

Mumford and Sons aren't popular because they never got criticized, they're popular because you can put them on in the background and it's sort of pleasant noise. (Also, say what you will about their song writing, that is one polished band. There's a level of craft in their playing that's should be applauded).
posted by Gygesringtone at 6:40 AM on April 12, 2013 [4 favorites]



"public funding of the arts", OMG the Horror! Someone get Rand Paul on the phone, it's time to lead the "Big Bird" battalion northward.
posted by incandissonance at 6:44 AM on April 12, 2013


I guess I'm just too dense (and admittedly too in love with what Arts & Crafts does as a label and Dan Mangan as an artist) to see how Factor is "corrupt". They have a business model and there are rules. Some might deem them unfair and that's their right I guess but the fact of the matter is, Factor gets to set their own standards. If they set them as such that only certain bands and labels will acquire funding well, then. That's just how it is.

I guess I just don't see why there is any point in slagging off ANY funding of the arts, no matter how corrupt it is deemed by some. Factor says they are "dedicated to providing assistance toward the growth and development of the Canadian independent music industry.” Are they not doing that? Why yes, they are! As it happens, that handy spreadsheet points out they're only doing it for certain bands / labels but no where in that mandate does it say they won't. You could argue that there are bands and labels with merit that can't make that requirement of 5000 albums sold through a Factor distributor mark but Factor is in the business of making money to give money. I'd assume that if they start funding things that don't hit that threshold, they'll help put out a good few records that do well but the others will be a drain and bankrupt the system, no?

Ultimately, I agree with Mangan -- his opinion is the same I had of Lawton's (or Quartermass', as it were) before I even read the rebuttal:

"You’re pointing the finger at bands that you don’t like. Their success is frustrating because you find that their art isn’t in line with what you want to hear. It’s frustrating because they have large audiences, and other bands that you prefer have smaller audiences."

(Also, goddammit, can we PLEASE stop talking about Mumford and Sons as if they're some asshole band that is ruining music? I get it, they make "music people" (of which I happily am, no doubt) mad because they're well-liked but good lord, they did not kill music and their visibility is good for music. Yes, even the indie variety. People forget they were that for quite some time. They're certainly not my favorite band, I don't buy their records anymore, but they frequently tour with bands that need and deserve publicity and they've done a lot for my preferred genre of listening. For proof of that, please see what Lovett, the pianist, does with Communion. I appreciate that as do a lot of my friends and fellow writers / critics though we don't love the band. Can we please cut them some fucking slack already?)
posted by youandiandaflame at 6:51 AM on April 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Just saying, as someone who read Trixie Belden mysteries religiously as a kid, that I cannot hear the name "Dan Mangan" without thinking of this picture. Colors any opinion I might otherwise have of the poor real-life Mr. Mangan.
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:02 AM on April 12, 2013


Well, don'tchoo say nuthin' bad 'bout Tammy Wynette

As I've recently learned, she is justified and ancient and therefore above all criticism.
posted by COBRA! at 7:05 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


FACTOR has a policy that prevents applications from record labels without a minimum of 5000 albums sold through a FACTOR approved distributor, a minumum number FACTOR uses to differentiate upper and lower tier music. While smaller, regional labels were left to live or die on their own merit, the bigger labels who managed to break past that initial hump of 5000 were allowed to keep coming back to the well.

Wow, that's some real, stinky, ass-backward stuff right there. Thanks, this is a neat post.
posted by mediareport at 7:10 AM on April 12, 2013


One could write the same article about the Canadian film industry. Sickening.

When Government funded arts is pretty much the only arts, the arts generally suck.
posted by dobbs at 7:10 AM on April 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


mediareport: Wow, that's some real, stinky, ass-backward stuff right there.

I don't get this. Why is this ass-backwards? Yes, they are probably other deserving bands and labels out there, no doubt. But Factor is not obligated to look at them and they seem to be rewarding those that have proven they can make a good record and get it sold by letting them come back to the well over and over again, as mentioned. I really just don't see what's wrong with that. I'm honestly asking in good faith -- why is this seen as ass-backwards?
posted by youandiandaflame at 7:21 AM on April 12, 2013


Re Mumford and Sons: there's no hate like the hate for an indie band that got popular. There's something deeply paradoxical about this raging against Factor for supporting bands that meet some threshold of commercial viability. If they supported the deeply obscure bands that you currently revere there's always the terrible risk that some of them might actually catch on with more people--and then you'd have to start hating them for "selling out."
posted by yoink at 7:23 AM on April 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


When Government funded arts is pretty much the only arts, the arts generally suck.

Taking government funding out of the equation is no guarantee of greatness. See: Hollywood.
posted by rtha at 7:26 AM on April 12, 2013


Have you read the rest of Lawton's post, youandiandaflame? It looks like an incredibly inward and insular system that keeps dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into the same few companies.

"Factor favours a pre-existing network of like-minding music industry insiders, some of whom sit on the board of directors of Factor itself" and "most of the money goes out to labels, production companies and bands who live within 20KM of the FACTOR offices in Toronto" seem sharp enough criticisms to get an official response from FACTOR (not holding breath), and Lawton's suggestions at the bottom for opening it up and making it more forward-looking seem right on point.
posted by mediareport at 7:29 AM on April 12, 2013


Taking government funding out of the equation is no guarantee of greatness. See: Hollywood.

rtha, by pretty much any metric, Hollywood has made countless great films. Being ridiculously generous, English-speaking Canada has countable-on-one-hand great films.

I cannot name a truly great english language Canadian film made in my lifetime. At best, the films are "fine" or "entertaining" or "interesting" or "guilty pleasure" or "cult fave". Great? Hasn't happened that I'm aware of.

And I'm not advocating removing government funding. However, when there is no other option for feature filmmaking, it simply doesn't work.

And Quartermass, good to see you back.
posted by dobbs at 7:35 AM on April 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have, mediareport.

Here's the thing: That's his take on it, as a guy that's seemingly pissed and misdirecting his anger because bands he cares about aren't getting this funding. That's the way I read it. Yeah, "Factor favors a pre-existing network of like-minded music industry insiders". So fucking what? I don't know if I'm not understanding this because I happen to think that those bands and labels that are repeatedly funded are good and deserve it (even though they certainly are not all things I listen to or dig) but I'm not getting it, either way.

It looks like an incredibly inward and insular system that keeps dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into the same few companies.

It is, you're right. But again, so? They're not obligated to do anything more than that, if they don't want to, right?

Again, Factor can do whatever the hell it wants. And if they cut down the model they apparently adhere to and only fund one label or one band for the rest of it's days just because they please, I still don't see the problem with that.
posted by youandiandaflame at 7:41 AM on April 12, 2013


Why is this ass-backwards? Yes, they are probably other deserving bands and labels out there, no doubt.

Beeecause there is still capitalism? Record labels that sell 5000 copies of a record can stay in business. Dischord still exists. If the NEA gave grants to rock bands (which they might, I have no idea but I doubt it) I would hope it would be for bands that have some kind of cultural significance or unique talent, not that they were radio worthy.

I wonder how it works in Sweden or Norway? I hear from Scandinavian musicians that they love their public arts funding system. I doubt they have the same rules, otherwise how would one of my favorite bands Ungdomskulen keep getting grants?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:42 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Factor can do whatever the hell it wants

Isn't it a public service? Then no they can't. They should operate for the greater good of the Arts community. Sounds like they are instead quashing diversity by funding only a narrow band of that community--the kind that has the most broad appeal. That's stultifying, not encouraging.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:44 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


youandiandaflame: And if they cut down the model they apparently adhere to and only fund one label or one band for the rest of it's days just because they please, I still don't see the problem with that.

If you really think it would be OK to have a single state-sponsored rock band, I'm not sure our perspectives are close enough to continue the discussion.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:46 AM on April 12, 2013


By the time you're selling hundreds and thousands of albums, you should probably not need support to keep your musical entity together, touring, and making new music. If you DO need that kind of support at that level, then the system is broken in ways that FACTOR grants will never fix.
posted by blue t-shirt at 7:53 AM on April 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have no idea what argument youandiandaflame is making here, unless it's that all criticism is invalid, and I honestly have no response to that.
posted by mediareport at 7:54 AM on April 12, 2013


As someone who has been involved in the Canadian Music Industry for the past 15 years and seen many bands attempt to receive FACTOR funding, and a few succeed I support 100% what this article is saying. It's not what you know, it's who you know. It's not what you're doing, it's who you have advocating on your behalf.

In fairness to FACTOR and their top-down approach, we don't want a grant organization deciding who to fund based on artistic merit. Then it gets into all sorts of problems about Government choosing what is art and what is not.

HOWEVER, the current model does not work as it only rewards those who are successful and, arguably, have less need for the grant. The success stories I've witnessed were because those acts were represented by a manager/producer who knew exactly who to approach and what strings to pull.

It's government funding of arts, what do we expect? It just makes it VERY hard for the true Indies and as a result I'm sure that quite a bit of great art and music suffers.
posted by dogbusonline at 8:02 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


In retrospect the being "disdainful about other people's music" part of the blog was poorly thought out. I had a larger point that I was trying to make ...but it clearly came off too dickish.
I get your intent, but it's a little dickish, yeah. Particularly the ridiculing of small bands no one's heard of or people playing CMW or whatever, because why bother? Let them enjoy themselves. I'm often guilty of snarking on popular music that is bugging me (seriously, CBC, every fucking song you play has that SHOUTY chorus of people who sound like they're at a union rally) but for the most part I think you should just like what you like and who cares.
But your FACTOR stuff is right on. Seriously, why does Metric need more government cash? I remember attempting to apply for a FACTOR grant several years ago and just giving up because I lacked all the required credentials. It's sort of a recurring theme in Canada.
Last summer I was excited that the NFB was starting this mentoring program for songwriters who wanted to get into composing scores for films. So I went to apply and the requirements were that you had to have had your music in a feature film and/or commercials. So...you had to already be established for them to help you get established. So frustrating.
posted by chococat at 8:03 AM on April 12, 2013


I've heard a lot of "don't critique small bands because they are small" but also "what is the point of critiquing huge bands like Metric because they are too big to do anything about"

Totally agree: like what you like. But...
posted by Quartermass at 8:08 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Quartermass: "don't critique small bands because they are small"

There is a difference between "don't critique small bands" and "don't ridicule small bands".
posted by Rock Steady at 8:13 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Decent criticism doesn't pull punches, but does explain or at least illustrate why the critic feels as they do.

There may not be much decent criticism about.

I'm often reminded of the line from Bias Binding by Yeah Yeah Noh - "Gonna put the fun back into being pretentious/ Yeah Yeah Noh, so full of ourselves..." - when such discussions break out...
posted by Devonian at 8:28 AM on April 12, 2013


Thanks for doing this Quartermass. I was wondering why there seemed to be a "CBC Radio 3" sound that played stuff that I found ok, and fine, but really didn't grab me all that much - it also tended to be a little same-ey.

There's definitely more and better Canadian music coming out now than at any other time I can remember, though, so maybe they are doing something right.

(And as someone who was meh on Dan Mangan - I saw him on his most recent tour, and he's surrounded himself with some excellent musicians, and has gone far past the folk-pop stuff he used to sing)
posted by sauril at 9:19 AM on April 12, 2013


Wait a minute... the Canadian government gives people... money... to... play music?

A truly advanced society would give some people money to not play music.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:23 AM on April 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


HOWEVER, the current model does not work as it only rewards those who are successful and, arguably, have less need for the grant.

This is somewhat of an universal problem with government or non-profit sponsored grant programmes of any kind, especially when sponsoring creative pursuits. Unless you're just giving away money with no strings attached, sooner or later such a programme wants to get some kind of feedback on well it's achieving its goals and of course it's always easier to measure monetary than critical success.

So take a non-music example, the Dutch Olympics organisation in the past decade or so has increased sponsoring for those sports Holland is successful, ie. wins medals, at the cost of funding sports with less of a following when arguably it's the latter who'd need the funding the most.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:38 AM on April 12, 2013



One could write the same article about the Canadian film industry. Sickening.


Good conversation here, to which I would throw in, this ain't a remotely simple issue. Because it's not as if Factor etc haven't gotten behind some excellent (and world class) sounds, particularly over the past decade.

But it you want to tear into something, go after Telefilm Canada whose untold millions of investment dollars have accomplished effectively nothing over the past 20 years in terms of lifting our homegrown English language movie biz to the international stage. By which I mean, in the 90s we had David Cronenburg and Atom Egoyan to get excited about. Now we have ... David Cronenberg. Not sure what's happened to Atom Egoyan.
posted by philip-random at 9:45 AM on April 12, 2013


Rock Steady: If you really think it would be OK to have a single state-sponsored rock band, I'm not sure our perspectives are close enough to continue the discussion.

I really don't think that and apologies if my tone gave that impression. I just don't think that's what Factor, with it's funding from the Canadian govt. is doing.


Lawton says "So then how was the merit-based system gamed so that the middle-of-the-road output THE TREWS and METRIC was chosen to represent Canadian music?"

What I get from that, what I got from the Vice piece, and what I got from the rebuttal was that Lawton would have never had issue with Factor were it funding bands he deems more deserving and thus my defense of Factor, almost by default (which I will totally cop to) because it seems like Lawton is just pissed the bands he likes aren't getting funded. The piece is full of the man's assumptions about the music that's being released and he's using his findings about how they fund and who's on their board to bolster his argument but I don't think that's fair. Make the argument, fine, but make it with of your opinion of shitty The Trews. He essentially (to me) seems angry that certain musicians and labels are being funded and thus regurgitating the same kind of music which causes young and new artists to play the same simply because they want to make it. If that's happening, it's shitty, I'll give him that, but none of his argument accounts for the fact that maybe it's getting funded because the public likes it. Maybe Arts & Crafts is putting out albums that, no matter how trite I or anyone else thinks they are, the masses adore and will thus purchase and support.

Look, Lawton might be right. I'm not Canadian, I'm not immersed in their scene (other than to write about frequently). But a guy who says things like “even if we take one awful band off the road this summer, the project was a success” rubs me the wrong way, as a hardcore lover / supporter of music. He seems to be actively looking for ways to shove new bands that he deems unworthy out of the scene. His voice has been loud this week in the circles I run around in, full of music nerds and obsessors. I just wish that his voice would have instead been championing great artists who he feels deserve success instead of cutting down those he feels doesn't.

I guess I poorly phrased my argument in previous comments and granted, I went full on Defend The Shit Out Of Factor Mode because dude, this guy seems to be more interested in letting me know what he hates (and not even why he hates it) than he is outwardly and visibly supporting what he thinks is deserving and that just tips my MUSIC RAGE GRAR! meter too far to the bad side.
posted by youandiandaflame at 9:46 AM on April 12, 2013


also Dan Mangan, who, after various attempts to get excited about his stuff, I still couldn't name a single song. He seems to be the ultimate example of ... okay. And I seriously wonder how much of his artistic cred comes from the fact that his name sort of reminds people of Jeff Mangum
posted by philip-random at 9:49 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've never even heard of Metric

I guess you'll have to take my word for it, but they are widely known. They sell out huge shows (like it says in Paul Lawton's post), and a few years ago moved out of the country and updated their bios to say they're a "band from LA". I don't know why they're still getting any funding from Canada at this point.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:05 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


also Dan Mangan, who, after various attempts to get excited about his stuff, I still couldn't name a single song

I wasn't excited until I heard him live. It's not the greatest thing ever, but he puts on a fun show.

I think both Mangan and Mangum were at the Calgary Folk Festival in 2012. They never shared the stage, though (Mangum didn't do workshops, or lights, or amplification for that matter. Much as I love the guy's music, he put on a terrible show for 90% of the audience, who weren't close enough to the stage to hear him)
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:11 AM on April 12, 2013


(In other news, I can't help but feel like I've "made it" as a metafilterer now that i've been flapjaxxed. what an honor!)
posted by blue t-shirt at 10:14 AM on April 12, 2013


youandiandaflame: it seems like Lawton is just pissed the bands he likes aren't getting funded

I guess I can understand where you are getting that, but to me it seems like his point is "Factor is funding a narrow slice of the music scene, and whether or not you like that slice (and I don't), I think that's a problem." Now, I think his argument might have been better served by omitting the value judgement, but the blog is called Slagging Off, so that's maybe a bit optimistic. I read it as Lawton being pissed that a certain type of band is the only type getting funded, and I do agree that that is a problem.

For what it's worth, I have no aesthetic dog in this fight. I've never knowingly heard the music of any of the bands/people invoked in this back-and-forth, so maybe that gives me an objectivity that is missing if you know and like (or hate) any of the acts involved.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:33 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


youandiandaflame: it seems like Lawton is just pissed the bands he likes aren't getting funded

I believe he's copped to value judgment already, and regrets it. But he maintains his greater position, which is that something stinks in FactorLAND.

For which I commend him as he's effectively taking an Emperor's New Clothes position, FACTOR being a hugely powerful outfit in the Canadian culture wars. They really can make or break a career. Which, I should reiterate, isn't to say that they haven't made some strong calls, backed some worthy artists.

But power is power. It does corrupt and thus, we must question it. Always.
posted by philip-random at 10:44 AM on April 12, 2013


I've never even heard of Metric

Watch a Toronto Blue Jays game on Sportsnet and you'll be all too familiar with Metric.


For those who don't know, Rogers (the owner of the Jays) has the rights to "Stadium Love" for promotional purposes and play it, set to video of players and broadcasters looking cool, every single commercial break. By the fourth inning you're ready to throw a brick through the television.
posted by dogbusonline at 10:53 AM on April 12, 2013


Are the The Trews still Canadian? They spend most of their time in Australia. You better leave The Weakerthans, The New Pornographers and Corb Lund alone.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:29 PM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Taking government funding out of the equation is no guarantee of greatness. See: Hollywood.

rtha, by pretty much any metric, Hollywood has made countless great films. Being ridiculously generous, English-speaking Canada has countable-on-one-hand great films.


Same with Australian film funding. They pass on movies like Saw but fund boring movies nobody watches.

And what's wrong with slagging off bands you don't like or that don't meet your standards? And is Canadian government funding the reason the same few Canuck folk acts tour Aus every year?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:35 PM on April 12, 2013


Are you really saying that SAW is a great film? Because yikes.
posted by unSane at 5:42 PM on April 12, 2013


I've always thought of Factor Grants as Canadian Music Industry Subsidies, rather than pure creative Arts Grants, and slightly more in the style of those petroleum industry subsidies which profitable resource extraction corporations get from the Canadian Federal Government..
posted by ovvl at 5:48 PM on April 12, 2013


I haven't seen Saw, but its more popular than most Australian funded films. Quartermass, what's your opinion on Sam Roberts?

Maybe I should start a blog like this. Look out, San Cisco!
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:56 PM on April 12, 2013


English-speaking Canada has countable-on-one-hand great films.

What are your standards for "great", and what do you consider Canadian film? David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan, Jason Reitman and Vincenzo Natali all have some claim to being Canadian, and they filmed some of their movies in Canada with Canadian actors. Some of those movies also have Hollywood producers or financing though.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 5:56 PM on April 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


SAW is one of the most relentlessly commercial and exploitative franchises in recent cinema. Why you think it should qualify for government funding is beyond me.
posted by unSane at 5:57 PM on April 12, 2013


...but speaking of pure creative music Arts Grants, The non-profit Polaris Prize has recognized some interesting decent new music...
posted by ovvl at 6:08 PM on April 12, 2013


SAW is one of the most relentlessly commercial and exploitative franchises in recent cinema. Why you think it should qualify for government funding is beyond me.

It's an example of the government ignoring a film that would go on to be popular, forcing its directors to seek funding in Hollywood. And it's a sign the government ignores genre cinema.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:32 PM on April 12, 2013


..discussing SAW in this thread is part of what makes me start to lose faith here..
posted by ovvl at 6:32 PM on April 12, 2013


Hollywood is EXACTLY where a mainstream commercial film like SAW should go for funding. It's absolutely pointless for governments to fund films which could be successfully funded elsewhere. They're not studios. The whole point of government funding is to provide alternative sources of funding for films which find it hard to get financed in the commercial marketplace. I can't believe I even have to tell you this. The BFI is an excellent example, as is BBC Films to a certain extent, and Telefilm to a lesser extent.

If governments want to attract film production for big films like SAW then they do it through tax credits not funding agencies.
posted by unSane at 6:42 PM on April 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


(I say Telefilm to a lesser extent because the last time I had a meeting with them they started talking to me about ludicrously optimistic figures for how much of the Canadian box office they were going to capture. So for projects funded at the national level, you bet they are looking for commercial stuff. At the much lower provincial funding tier, not so much I guess. They also suffer from exactly the same thing as FACTOR in that you can't, for example, get funding from them as a producer until you've produced a feature film. The other thing that screws them is that everything they fund has to be conspicuously Canadian, which tends to screw it for the US box office, since as Richard Ford once pointed out, the US tends to consider Canada different enough to be irritating but not different enough to be interesting, unlike, say Manchester).
posted by unSane at 7:04 PM on April 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


An Open Letter inspired By Paul K. Lawton That No One Will Read.
posted by jeffen at 7:29 PM on April 12, 2013


I love Tammy Wynette.

Dobbs:

22 Great English Canadian Films in my lifetime (I was born 1981)

1) Scanners
2) I've Heard the Mermaids Singing
3) Whale Music
4) Tales of Gimili Hospital
5) My Winnipeg
6) The Adjuster
7) Black Robe
8) Highway 61
9) Pontypol
10) 32 Short Films About Glen Gould
11) Exotica
12) Blood and Donuts
13) Last Night
14) Joes So Mean to Josephine
15) The Hanging Garden
16) Hustler White
17) Ginger Snaps
18) Take This Waltz
19) Water
20) Fire
21) Fubaar
22) Lillies


That ignores documentaries, animated films, most shorts, french and aboriginal films, and most co-productions. Considering our populaiton, we do really well on film.
posted by PinkMoose at 8:05 PM on April 12, 2013


Also Polaris has not awarded anything to anyone interesting, and mostly ignores country.
posted by PinkMoose at 8:07 PM on April 12, 2013


1. this is all probably accurate
2. there's good music and not so good music / quality, beauty and value exist / subjectivity is false
3. the ketamines suck based on I just listened to 4 songs on bandcamp - if you're just gonna rehash guitarpop at least have some fuckin hooks, pussies
4. they're so bad I'd rather listen to pink spiders or white wires or some shit
5. but actually fuck that shit I just put on some FIDLAR
posted by legospaceman at 8:40 PM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


3. the ketamines suck based on I just listened to 4 songs on bandcamp - if you're just gonna rehash guitarpop at least have some fuckin hooks, pussies

Oh, God, I just listened too. I gave the guy way too much credit. Quartermass, if you were in my town I'd support you, because I like people who make music and I get where you're coming from, but really you are in a BIG fucking glass house to be lobbing stones at other bands. If you're going to label yourself 'pop' or 'bubblegum' at least have the decency to attempt to understand the mechanics of those genres. I was in a band that sounded like yours in 1991 and we were shit too.
posted by unSane at 9:22 PM on April 12, 2013


22 Great English Canadian Films in my lifetime (I was born 1981)

1) Scanners
8) Highway 61
10) 32 Short Films About Glen Gould
11) Exotica
13) Last Night
21) Fubaar


six of which I've actually seen from beginning to end. Because I give a lot of Canadian films a chance ... but refuse to stick with something that hasn't genuinely hooked me by the twenty minute point.

None of these six are what I'd call "great". They just aren't. Except maybe 32 Short Films. I should give that another shot.

And when I say great, I mean world class, no excuses or homer-ism.

Scanners is fun but hardly Cronenberg's best. That would be Videodrome for me, followed by Naked Lunch and then a pile of stuff like Dead Ringers, Spider, The Fly, History of Violence all rating as damned good ... but only the first two are what I'd call great.

Highway 61's a fun mess, with Hard Core Logo a far better Bruce McDonald film (almost great).

Exotica, I found, enormously disappointing. Last Night was good.

Fubaar was a good laugh.

In general, I rank a lot of English language Canadian films as competent, worth watching ... but like I said already, hardly great.
posted by philip-random at 10:28 PM on April 12, 2013


Phillip:

4 questions:

1) What do you mean a homerism
2) Maybe we should define what we mean as great
3) Ambitious, difficult, bodily, gorgeous, well shot, well plotted, well acted, well written, slipping through genres (what does it mean that one of the best films in our history is a gay pornographic remake of sunset blvd for example), refusing conventional wisdom, often formally innovative--maybe not "great", but more willing to fall apart in important ways than lets say The Trews or Metric are not.
4) Canadian culture should be given a chance, and when it is given a chance, it blooms in ways that are stranger than most.
posted by PinkMoose at 11:09 PM on April 12, 2013


I mean I don't know all of that but Propagandhi is Great and Villenueve is great.
posted by legospaceman at 11:32 PM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


22 Great English Canadian Films in my lifetime (I was born 1981)

You and I have very different definitions of great. I've seen the majority of the films on your list (all but 3). None of these movies would qualify as great in my book.

Hell, I'd say Whale Music, Last Night, and Hanging Garden are downright awful. I walked out of Last Night and wish I'd done so with the others. (How can any movie with Cronenberg acting in it be "great"? He's a *terrible* actor! You're just letting that slide because, well, it's Canadian, what do we expect?! Blood and Donuts? Seriously?) I walked out of Water as well (or maybe it was Fire--whatever one had the guy masturbating in front of his grandmother). I know some actors, writers, producers and directors associated with some of these films and that still hasn't made me want to rewatch any of them.

Where are Canada's Chinatown, Serpico, Miracle at Morgan's Creek, A Separation, Piano Teacher, LA Confidential, Paris Texas, 400 Blows, M, Rosetta, French Connection, Paper Moon, Maltese Falcon, Le Cercle Rouge, Breathless, The Tall T, The Graduate, Five Easy Pieces, Network, The Wild Bunch, Sweet Smell of Success, Miller's Crossing, Third Man, The Apartment, The Passenger, The Long Goodbye, It's a Wonderful Life, Brief Encounter...

They don't exist and never will under the current system.

And yes, I'm aware that I'm listing films by some of the greatest filmmakers of all time. But that's part of my point: Canada doesn't have any filmmakers even close to this. Yes, we have well-respected directors like Bruce McDonald, Guy Maddin, Atom Egoyan, Cronenberg... but they don't operate on the same level as the Dardennes, or Haneke, or Polanski, or Lumet, or Godard, or Altman. With the exception of Cronenberg, I'd say the only reason you've heard of any of those filmmakers is because you can't not have heard of them, living here. You honestly think Egoyan would be on your radar if he was American? No, he would have made 2 or 3 movies and vanished (as I wish he would have) as the majority of his work is a snoozefest. The Adjuster cost 1.5 million dollars to make and even though it's one of the best known Canadian movies ever made, it earned back less than a third of that. No one wants to watch it. It's boring and self-indulgent. It's trite. And Patricia Rozema? Are you kidding? Have you ever tried to rewatch Mermaids or White Room? Dreadful stuff.

The movies you named are not even on par with what I would consider "pretty good" or "passable" American movies like Dazed and Confused, Primer, Brokeback Mountain, Garden State, Into the Wild, or Juno.

You watch them once and if you can make it all the way through you pretty much forget them. They're pablum.

And they positively pale in comparison to the best American independent cinema which is made without government money, for less, and pack more of punch: Laws of Gravity, Blood Simple, The Unbelievable Truth, Spanking the Monkey, Killer of Sheep, Sex Lies and Videotape...

Why is this the case?

Certainly Canadians have the technicians to make great films--the Americans use us all the time. We also have great actors and writers. So... what's the problem? The common denominator seems to be the system. The process a film goes through to getting made in this country--and the parameters that make it or its filmmakers eligible--just doesn't work.
posted by dobbs at 12:28 AM on April 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yes, we have well-respected directors like Bruce McDonald, Guy Maddin, Atom Egoyan, Cronenberg... but they don't operate on the same level as the Dardennes, or Haneke, or Polanski, or Lumet, or Godard, or Altman. With the exception of Cronenberg, I'd say the only reason you've heard of any of those filmmakers is because you can't not have heard of them, living here.

Huh? I've never been to Canada and I've heard of all those filmmakers. Guy Maddin especially gets love from critics, and I enjoyed what movies of his I've seen.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 1:15 AM on April 13, 2013


Dobbs is exactly right in every word of what he says above. I speak as someone who's tried and failed to get a couple of indie movies financed by Telefilm and Harold Greenberg. There's just no point. All they want is another midbrow mediocrity that they can slap themselves on the back about. Egoyan is the poster child. Unfortunately the whole film development community here is infected with the mediocrity bug. Most of them think they're much cleverer and more important than they are, just because. It's a massive cultural difference from London or LA. There's no edge or hunger. Just the bland leading the bland.

I realize I'm painting with a broad brush here and there are probably exceptions, but like I say Dobbs absolutely nails it from my experience.
posted by unSane at 5:53 AM on April 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the criticism of The Trews and Metric as "middle of the road" is not just supposed to be a statement on the quality of their music, or even primarily so. Part of Lawton's point is that FACTOR's funding choices seem to reflect a goal of pushing a specific kind of Canadian music—one that adheres to a vague indie rock sensibility and has wide enough appeal to become made-in-Canada international successes. There's nothing wrong with that goal in isolation—plenty of Canadian record labels, even much-loved ones like Arts & Crafts, pursue this goal to varying extents.

FACTOR is not a government agency (which I actually didn't know until just now) but its funding comes from two sources: the Canada Music Fund, which is distributed through the Department of Canadian Heritage (i.e. public funding), and Canadian Content Development contributions from private broadcasters, who have been compelled to make mandatory contributions since 2005. FACTOR is a non-profit organization whose stated goal is to help build the independent Canadian music industry.

If FACTOR is predominantly funding established bands with an eye towards international success, that would make sense from a business perspective, but I think most of us would agree that FACTOR is supposed to support bands and labels that traditional sources of funding would ignore. The reason why Metric is so popular is BECAUSE they're very "middle of the road" nowadays, and the idea that FACTOR should pour its money into a Metric video when arguably that money would be better served elsewhere is what I think is unpalatable.

Of course, everyone's going to have different ideas on what "better served elsewhere" really means. The tension between return on investment (indirectly, of course, since FACTOR doesn't give out fund with the expectation of making a profit) and encouraging a diversity of voices exists and will always exist for all public funding of the arts. Metric's next video existing does not necessarily hinge on getting FACTOR funding, but for a bunch of bands just starting out, or for bands in genres we don't traditional consider "CanCon," FACTOR funding could be the difference between YouTube cult hit and obscurity. It has nothing to do with Metric's perceived quality and everything to do with how much money Metric has at its disposal versus other bands.
posted by chrominance at 10:21 AM on April 13, 2013


Also Polaris has not awarded anything to anyone interesting, and mostly ignores country.

I think Final Fantasy, Patrick Watson, Caribou, Fucked Up and Arcade Fire all put out fantastic albums in their respective years. I agree Feist is a totally uninteresting choice for 2012 though.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 1:03 AM on April 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


...and mostly ignores country.
True, but we already have the Junos for traditional genres. Polaris mostly recognizes genre-bending and genre-twisting. If a new country artist with the flair of k.d. laing appears, she would get a nod from Polaris.
posted by ovvl at 5:40 PM on April 14, 2013


Speaking of Telefilm, has anyone seen that strange 1994 comedy directed by Paul Donovan, 'Paint Cans'? It teases the piss out of Telefilm Can-bureacracy.

Paul Donovan is an interesting and under-rated Canadian director whose career just flies under the radar. He did a distinctly Canadian spin on post-atomic armageddon in 'Def-Con 4', and a fascinating docudrama about radical environmentalists in 'The Squamish Five'.
posted by ovvl at 5:51 PM on April 14, 2013


This probably belongs here: Metric Ripped Off In Advert For MILF Dating Website?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:27 PM on April 14, 2013


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