Canadian Movies You Need To See That Don’t Suck — Phil The Alien

April Wine: Canadian

Sign Of A Gypsy Queen”; ‘Nature Of The Beast‘ (1981)


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A NonSucking Canadian Movie You Need To See…

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Phil The Alien (Comedy — 2004)…
a movie aboot a beaver, an alcoholic shape shifting alien, his band and Jesus.

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My grandfather built dams for forty years… in fact he built most of Canada’s mega-projects between 1960 and 1985. He was the project manager or engineer for projects like Churchill Falls, Rogers Pass (the longest railway tunnel in the western hemisphere) and the Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine (Boucherville) Tunnel. He also consulted on dams and other projects built in Sri Lanka, Nepal and Algeria. On one of his projects a mountain was in his way so he filled it with dynamite and made it disappear into a mushroom cloud (it’s one of my favourite photos). He is the only non-Architect to have his work become a part of the Canadian Centre for Architecture. His daughter, my mother and an Historian, is in the process of having a beaver added to our family crest. All of which is ironic considering what my grandfather did to the beaver which built a dam on the river feeding the lake he had his cottage on. It may have taken two attempts but I’m pretty sure that beaver is still in orbit. Beavers are strange and very resilient, animals. They’re also very large. Surprisingly large. Especially at 2am on a dark street in Ottawa when you’re walking home listening to White Zombie at maximum volume on your Walkman. They’re actually large enough that when you first see one on a dark street in Ottawa you’ll think “Holy shit, look at that massive dog… wait… dogs with a hump that bad in their spine would be incapable of walking around dark streets just west of downtown Ottawa.” Then your next thought would be “Holy fuck… is that a fucking wolverine? Having never seen one outside of a comic book it may very well be a wolverine. Tonight,” you’ll think “may be the night I die of a wolverine attack. How fucked is this?” But then the hairy beast will freeze and lift its huge flat tail and slap it on the asphalt with a sound which will barely register over “More Human Than Human” — which would actually make it very loud — and it will give you a vital clue as to what this weird little beast thing is. “Holy Jeezus Fuck…” you’ll say out loud in shock and disbelief, “that’s a fucking beaver.” At least that’s what I said… after 2am just west of Ottawa’s downtown while walking to my apartment in Hull, Quebec. They say an adult beaver can grow to be four feet long and apparently they can’t see very far. They’re mostly right. It was spring and it had been raining for days and the Ottawa River was running fast and high, which might explain why this massive wannabe jacket was actually waddling in the direction of Ottawa’s Little Italy. But it had caught my scent (or heard Rob Zombie) and was now rearing back on its hind legs and I swear to Christ that big-tooth bastard was up to my chin and pissed off enough that it was chattering those humongous teeth at me with those little front claws clasping and unclasping the air like it was trying to decide whether to leap for my neck or draw a pistol. You haven’t felt fear until you’ve stared into the blank brown eyes of a chattering beaver. Actually at this point I was kind of laughing. Pissed off or not it was just a freaking beaver. So I did my best to herd it back towards the river and away from Ottawa’s Italian community. It took aboot an hour — beaver do not move very fast even when pissed off — but I walked the confused beaver back to the calm water of the Lebreton Flats Canal. Once across the bridge and into Hull I found another confused beaver trying to chew through a chain link fence at the EB Eddy plant. But it was late and I was too tired to play with beaver anymore.

“And who doesn’t love Candy?”… asked the clinically depressed hunter. “My parents.” replied the prostitute. “Phil The Alien” is a perfect example of why the Canadian movie system sucks. Phil The Alien has an excellent cast, first time director Rob Stefaniuk does a great job with his zero budget, and he has written one of the funniest pure-Canadian humour movies ever put on screen. But there are two problems with Phil The Alien…
1) the pre-production budget. Stefaniuk had to take the main role because he couldn’t afford a leading actor. Very few Canadian movies can raise enough money during pre-production to sustain a movie through to the end. So Rob became “Phil” and a stuffed toy became “The Beaver”, Phil’s best friend. The two special effects were not bad in an Apple iMovie kind of way, but the “ray-guns” were toys. Literally.
2) the distribution. English-speaking Canadian movies are not distributed to English-speaking Canadian theatres so much as left at their door where they may be picked up and adopted by a kindhearted manager who may play the movie for a few days but, really, he has so many better paying movies which have all sorts of pre-production money and who can afford to have their characters carrying real guns with real blanks and not cap-guns. If you want to learn more aboot why Canada’s movie industry mostly sucks I wrote all aboot this a while back in: Five Essential Facts Aboot Canadian Movies.

Phil The Alien definitely does not suck… basically the movie is a riff on the classic Walter Tevis novel “The Man Who Fell To Earth”. Phil — not his real name — is a shapeshifting alien who can move stuff with his mind and levitate who survives a spaceship crash which kills his father. He’s found by a (roughly) 15-year old kid who offers Phil medicine in the form of whiskey. A bewildered and drunk Phil is then chased out into the wilderness of semi-Northern Ontario by the kids clinically depressed father, and is taken in by a beaver who may or may not be an assassin contracted by a super-secret American agency. Eventually Phil finds God in a jailhouse conversion, sobers up and heads out on the road with his rock band. In between Phil crash landing and his escaping Earth this movie has some of the funniest moments and lines in Canadian cinema and definitely the coolest moment involving a song by Rush. The stunning Nicole DeBoer plays a Quebecois assassin with a Parisian accent while Joe Flaherty — one of the original SCTV group — voices “The Beaver” and the great Graham Greene plays Wolf the bartender. There are a couple of scenes involving the leader of the super-secret American force of baddies that suck pretty hard, but the scene where two puppies get killed with a cheese-grater more than makes up for any minimal suckage. Overall I think the moral is “alcohol is your friend, but never trust a beaver… especially the talking ones carrying sniper rifles”

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Phil The Alien: Canadian Movie

Phil The Alien Trailer (2004)
Directed by Rob Stefaniuk
Starring Rob Stefaniuk (Phil), Nicole DeBoer (Madame Madame)
and Joe Flaherty as “The Beaver”

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If you find a broken link, or the YouTube stuff isn’t loading
properly, let me know and I’ll find an alternative…
I’m Canadian, it’s what we do. Off the ice.

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About Gabriel

I’ve lived in fifty-two places. I've been paid to pick stones out of fields, take backstage photos of Britney Spears, and report on Internet privacy issues. My photos have been published in several newspapers, and a couple of magazines.
This entry was posted in Canada, Canadian Movies, Canadian Music, Canadian Politics, CSN:AFU Movies, Humor, Humour, Punk. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Canadian Movies You Need To See That Don’t Suck — Phil The Alien

  1. sisyphusledge says:

    I was beginning to get concerned about (shld that be aboot?) you. Various wonderings re: work assignments vs. MD problems. Glad to see a new post from you, I enjoyed reading this, liked the song and the trailer and thought, “grief…that seems like a lot of hard work gone into writing all that…” research and links as well. Laugh at my naivety but tell me, they don’t really eat beaver do they? Puppies being killed?? Can’t cope with that in a film. I know enough about animal abuse and I hate mankind enough as it is without adding more pointless animal slaughter to clutter up my very visual mind. ‘S’truth, I have a bad head looking like a migraine starting but have managed to read all this, click on a number of the links (OK, I own up, not every single one of them) and even get to write a comment with my buggered brain. Stuff on architecture I can understand, even in Canadian-speak. History I also like. Politics I used to like, but my buggered brain doesn’t any more.
    Yep, I liked this post. Cheers.

  2. feartheseeds says:

    Thanks for commenting and the concern Sisyphus, it’s good to have you venturing out. I was entertaining a special guest last week so I was away from my computer. I’m not sure if anyone eats beaver anymore… it actually hurts not to point out the double entendre. The puppy killing scene in Phil The Alien is done very tastefully… there’s also some cameo’s by the Orca’s and Beluga’s at the Niagra Fall’s Marineland that are worth watching. I hope the migraine doesn’t take long to dissipate… your brain has been through far too much over the past few months. As for the “about” v. “aboot” thing… I’m actually writing aboot as the default now. I wrote a piece last week for a local publication and the spellcheck found five aboots.

  3. sisyphusledge says:

    Errmm, I am blushing a pinker shade than the red that came about after seeing your response. Just not switched on….Lamictal kind of turns brain off that sort of thing. Am mortified!! (It had to be pointed out to me as the feline term is more usually used in my circle, if you see what I mean…need to stop here!)

    The “aboot” is interesting. I am passionate about anything Bach (J.S Bach) and of course have always been huge fan and fascinated by, Glenn Gould, Canadian pianist, recording artist and composer (but you’ll know all of this better than I ). I have been watching a great series of clips from a documentary on YouTube about him and the “aboot” really is there. I can hear it and I think I understand now. Love it, just love it.

  4. Gabriel. says:

    I can’t remember exactly why but I never liked Lamotrigine but I know it works for a lot of people. I hope it’s helping.

    The “aboot” thing has a long historical place in Canadian linguistics. The fact that it’s disappearing from our lexicon is an interesting story that I really should write aboot soon… I have a pretty decent theory. We do still say it, despite what most of us will tell you. But mostly we catch ourselves aboot halfway through saying it and “correct” ourselves and finish with an “owt”.

    I’ve tried looking on the web for diets which include beaver but I give up after aboot twenty Google pages of porn… it would make sense that at sometime in our history Canadians ate a lot of beaver, especially considering the European fashion of wearing beavers as head gear is what brought so much of the second round of immigration to this region. I feel pretty comfortable in writing that the first round of immigration — the Native or Aboriginal Canadians — definitely ate quite a bit of beaver back in the day. Just so it’s clear, that entire paragraph was written just for the double entendre… but I really did try to find out aboot the diet thing.

    The next time I post something I’ll leave some Glenn Gould for you.

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