Pop Culture & The Meaning of Life

The Canadian Connection Edition

I’m super excited to present to you this day the one and only Ironic Mom direct from Calgary. Sure, I give Canada a hard time here and there, but you know I love the country that gave us so many great bloggers. And hockey. And Sidney Crosby. And [cue Handel’s Messiah] Mario Lemieux. I’m a Pittsburgher, what can I say?

Leanne is brilliant, one of the funniest writers I’ve ever read. She’s been getting noticed lately too. Check out her recent gigs for radio, TV, and the Calgary Herald among others. She also helped name this very feature she’s now writing for, the Friday Flick Faceoff.

Hopefully picking from such a wide range of movies gave her mom brain some time off. She did a great job. So grab a warm cup of syrup and let’s figure out what this faceoff’s all aboot.


While Canada does have a growing film industry, it also frequently lends its people and places to Hollywood. Some of the Canadians who invade the U.S. film market are James Cameron, Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Keanu Reeves, Hayden Christianson, William Shatner, Kim Cattrall, Elisha Cuthbert, Leslie Nielson, John Candy, Michael J. Fox, and Pamela Anderson.

There are many great films with solid Canadian connections. Here are five:

Unforgiven (1992)

Unforgiven, a multi-Oscar winner, was filmed in Alberta, basically outside my back door. This is also where Brokeback MountainLegends of the Fall, and The Assassination of Jesse James were filmed. Welcome to the True West. But I had to highlight Unforgiven. Clint is a giant legend, as are the Canadian Rockies, a virtual character in the movie. Besides a formidable landscape, Unforgiven has all the classic characteristics of a great western: bad boy, heroism, courage, and morality questions.

Juno (2007)

This quirky film about a teenage pregnancy crosses genres and defies stereotypes. As a teacher, I appreciate when films show teens to be intelligent and reflective, which this movie does brilliantly. Juno was not only filmed in Vancouver, but was also directed by Canadian Jason Reitman (who both co-wrote the screenplay and directed The Air Up There); he’s also the son of Ivan Reitman, Director of Ghostbusters. If that’s not enough Canadiana for you, the lead was played by Ellen Page (who, more recently, was in Inception) and co-starred fellow Canuck, Michael Cera, who’s been on Arrested Development.

Pride and Prejudice (2005)

While this version of Austen’s classic does not include Colin Firth (whom I’d personally like to offer Canadian citizenship to), it does include New Brunswick-born Donald Sutherland, and he plays Mr. Bennett brilliantly. Sutherland has been in multiple roles, including Reverend Monroe in Cold Mountain and Hawkeye Pierce in the movie of MASHPride and Prejudice, though not the BBC version, is still a classic story, well told in the 127 minutes Hollywood gave it. It’s worth a view to listen to Sutherland’s voice (who, by the way is the father of Keifer Sutherland of 24, who has his own distinctive timbre). If you can’t wait to hear Sutherland Sr., click here to listen to a voice I’d love to curl up in.

Dances with Wolves (1990)

Although this movie is most known for Kevin Costner, Graham Greene was nominated for his role of Best Supporting Actor, playing Kicking Bird. In addition to this, Greene, who’s from the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario, has been in The Green Mile and Die Hard. Other Canadians in Dances with Wolves include Maury Chakin, the crazy officer that sent Costner’s character (John Dunbar) to his far west posting, as well as Tantu Cardinal, who played Kicking Bird’s wife. In addition to all these north-of-the-49th actors, some critics credit Dances with Wolves with reviving the Western genre.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

Canadian Nia Vardalos both wrote and starred in this fun Rom-Com. Vardalos is from my hometown of Winnipeg, and to support the stereotype that Canada is as unpopulated as you think it is, last week I sat next to a woman while getting a pedicure; she was a Greek-Canadian from Winnipeg, and Vardalos’ father had given the speech at her wedding.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding, partially filmed in Toronto, is perhaps best known for fantastic writing (Vardalos was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay). Some of the great lines include “There are two kinds of people – Greeks, and everyone else who wish they was Greek,” as well as “Let me tell you something, Toula. The man is the head, but the woman is the neck. And she can turn the head any way she wants.” Classic.


I’ve learned so much about our neighbors to the north! I have no idea who will win from this great selection. Have at it!

[UPDATE: So close all the way to the end, this one came down to 1 vote!]

The Friday Flick Faceoff features films that share a common thread. Cast your vote anyway you like and don’t worry if you’ve seen all the movies or not. Love to hear why you picked what you picked though!

Find me on Twitter under my new handle @ClayMorganPA!

February 18, 2011 - Posted by | Movies


  1. I’m probably picking an underdog, but My Big Fat Greek Wedding is one of my favorites. So many quotable moments, and soooo different than my small short Polish/German wedding/family.

    Comment by Amanda Hoving | February 18, 2011 | Reply

    • I was actually in a big Greek wedding. I wouldn’t exactly say it was fat, but I was the best man and that movie was very accurate.

      Comment by educlaytion | February 18, 2011 | Reply

    • There are quotable moments indeed; it’s good writing.

      Comment by Ironic Mom | February 18, 2011 | Reply

  2. I’m going to have to vote later – having so many of them fall in different genres, it makes picking a winner more dependent on my mood. I’ll have to think on it a bit to truly pick a the best – made slightly easier by never having watched Unforgiven or Pride and Prejudiced.

    I enjoyed the other three for very different reasons. Tough match up, IM.

    Comment by Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos | February 18, 2011 | Reply

    • Waiting for you to weigh in, Kelly!

      Comment by Ironic Mom | February 18, 2011 | Reply

      • I finally had to go with Dances with Wolves.

        I really enjoyed Juno. I find My Big Fat Greek Wedding hilarious with brilliant writing and a excellent cast.

        Dances with Wolves was just amazing though. I didn’t expect to enjoy it near as much as I did – with the drama and small moments of humor interlaced within.

        Costner is probably my least favorite part of the movie – at least his narrations (his performance is one of his better ones). What I truly enjoyed was the supporting cast and storyline.

        In the end, I had to vote for the movie that inspired the naming of my children in-utero (earning their names) and then the name of my blog.

        Plus, it’s just an awesome movie.

        Comment by Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos | February 20, 2011 | Reply

  3. Ehhhh… Not sure if any comparison on Canadian Movies is complete without adding “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle”.. But I did have to vote for “Dances with Wolves” and Graham Greene, great movie, better acting. Thanks Ironic Mom for sharing this Friday…..

    Comment by Arty (Tinman) | February 18, 2011 | Reply

    • Thanks for commenting, eh? I avoided putting some infamous Canadian movies (like Porky’s and Fubar)…

      Comment by Ironic Mom | February 18, 2011 | Reply

  4. As a Canadian, you have to mention all of the great (and no so great) movies that used Montreal as a backdrop, like The Whole Nine Yards and The Score (which featured MY OLD STOMPING GROUNDS in the suburbs!). I’m pretty sure Art of War was filmed in Montreal, as was Snake Eyes (sniff, in the old Forum, sniff).

    Those are just the English movies. Once you get into the French ones, well, the list would be endless. If you’re interested in a the buddy cop genre, Canadian style, rent “Bon Cop, Bad Cop,” with Colm Feore and a thinly-veiled parody Gary Buttman. Awesome.

    But that’s just me. I’ll always be a Montrealer at heart.

    Comment by ReadyWriting | February 18, 2011 | Reply

    • Great suggestions. I was going to put “Bon Cop, Bad Cop”, but I didn’t think enough people would have seen it. But you’re right: it’s a good flick!

      Comment by Ironic Mom | February 18, 2011 | Reply

      • So you Canadians have some kind of secret club eh? I suppose you have code phrases in French too. I should’ve paid attention in languages. Maybe Larry will know the secret handshake when he shows up.

        Comment by educlaytion | February 18, 2011 | Reply

        • I would tell you, Clay, but you haven’t gone through the official Canadian initiation yet…

          Comment by Larry Hehn | February 18, 2011 | Reply

          • I know, I know. I still haven’t done the caber toss or shaved a moose yet. I’m working on it!

            Comment by educlaytion | February 18, 2011 | Reply

            • Caber toss. Very funny. And you need to eat poutine and a beaver tail…

              Comment by Ironic Mom | February 19, 2011 | Reply

              • I’ll chase it with maple syrup 🙂

                Comment by educlaytion | February 19, 2011 | Reply

  5. I had to pick Unforgiven. Aside from it being one of my favorite movies, the list of other westerns that have used the same setting are fantastic as well. I never would have guessed. Did you mean the most recent Assassination of Jesse James by The Coward Robert Ford. When Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck? The landscape is lonely and inspiring.

    Comment by 1sttime0ffender | February 18, 2011 | Reply

    • Yes, the Brad Pitt one was filmed primarily in Calgary and areas. “Lonely and inspiring” is the perfect description.

      Comment by Ironic Mom | February 18, 2011 | Reply

    • I finally picked and went with Unforgiven. Surprised myself a bit too. I also like the Assassination of Jesse James a good bit. One of the best slow movies I’ve ever seen.

      Comment by educlaytion | February 18, 2011 | Reply

  6. What’s got to be remembered is that the reason that the film business is so large in Canada is that the government offers film companies huge tax credits for filming in the country. The NFB is also very very supportive of its film industry and is notorious for this worldwide.

    Comment by Anthea | February 18, 2011 | Reply

    • So true. The NFB is fantastic.

      Comment by Ironic Mom | February 18, 2011 | Reply

  7. I just had to give my vote to My Big Fat Greek Wedding because the groom’s parents in that movie are my parents to a T, right down to the bundt cake!

    Comment by Larry Hehn | February 18, 2011 | Reply

  8. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Leanne Shirtliffe, claymorganpa. claymorganpa said: Did you see today's guest post from @Ironic_Mom? Did you vote? #movies […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention The Canadian Connection Edition « EduClaytion -- | February 19, 2011 | Reply

  9. […] Yesterday, I had the pleasure of guest posting at Educlaytion, a blog by Clay Morgan, a talented pop culture guru and history professor. Each Friday Clay runs a Friday Flick Face-off, where he picks a theme and pits movies up against each other, with readers having the chance to vote for their favourite. For my guest post, I selected 5 movies that I love that have Canadian connections. Check out the post here. […]

    Pingback by My Love-Hate Relationship with Movies | Ironic Mom | February 19, 2011 | Reply

  10. JUNO! JUNO! JUNO! JUNO! But then I always like movies about unwed, teenage mothers. For me, it’s a lot like carrying an umbrella on a beautiful day. If I have an umbrella, it won’t rain. So if I watch JUNO (a lot), that will never be my family.

    Comment by Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson | February 19, 2011 | Reply

    • You are so interesting Renee. That dad is so funny in the movie too.

      Comment by educlaytion | February 19, 2011 | Reply

  11. Good list, Leanne! I have one to add: “Children of a Lesser God” (William Hurt, Marlee Matlin) was shot mainly in and around Saint John, New Brunswick in 1986. Also, film mogul Louis B. Mayer was born in Russia, but grew up here in Saint John.


    Comment by writerwoman61 | February 19, 2011 | Reply

  12. How can a list, especially any list featuring connections to the Canadian film industry, be complete without including Abraxas: Guardian of the Universe?! To hear Jesse Ventura say “My box has VD” propels this pointless entry to the top of my list.

    Comment by mediaudio | December 13, 2011 | Reply

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