Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Waiting Room Documentary



Recently I had the pleasure of watching the documentary The Waiting Room with a small group of classmates at Cinematheque in the Exchange District. The film screening was the first part of an assignment for my Journalism class. This blog post expressing my feelings after having seen the film is the second part.

I went into the theatre expecting to see a low budget, amateurish documentary made by young film students trying to get a passing grade on their final assignment.

I did not expect to see a well made movie that would bring me to tears. No, I didn't expect tears at all.

The documentary takes place in a waiting room at a public hospital in California and portrays how the waiting room operates over the course of 24 hours. During that time, the film crew follows various people and uncovers their stories as they wait to see a doctor, get diagnosed, and eventually get discharged, whether they want to or not.

The Waiting Room, much like the movie Sicko, tries to enlighten the audience on the American health care system and how it treats its low-income patients. Crowded, loud, and teaming with sickness, the waiting room portrayed in the documentary appears to be a dreadful place for a seriously ill person in need of medical attention.

In the movie many of the individuals being recorded by the cameras had a similar story. They didn't have a lot of money, didn't have health insurance, and required expensive treatments like surgery and medication. Looking for a way to receive treatment despite their lack of money, these individuals sought refuge in a public hospital and its over-populated waiting room.

Watching movies and documentaries like this always reminds me of how fortunate I am to live in Canada. Here's a quote from Health Canada's website that explains the process in the most simplest terms.

"Universal coverage for medically necessary health care services provided on the basis of need, rather than the ability to pay." [source]

A big difference from America's current system which treats patients based on the amount of money they can spend to get themselves whole again.

The film did a really good job of following patients and capturing their entire journey from start to finish. I am happy that I was able to leave the theatre satisfied with the stories I had witnessed rather than frustrated by any unexplained endings. 

My only criticisms of the film would be its slow pace and lack of information at the beginning of the movie. The information describing where the movie takes place is not revealed until the very end before the credits and I believe my understanding of the activities in the film would have been better had I known that from the start.

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Interview for the Dig In Challenge

For my latest article for the Projector I had the opportunity of asking Sagan Morrow, the coordinator for Dig In, a few questions about the up-coming Dig In Challenge beginning in February. Sagan gave wonderful answers and so much helpful information, but I wasn't able to include everything she said due to my 400 word limit. So instead I have decided to put the full interview here.
Look forward to the article about the Dig In Challenge in the next issue of the Projector.


1. Can you briefly explain what happens in the challenge?

The Dig In Challenge is a five-month local food initiative from Food Matters Manitoba to help promote healthy, local, sustainable, and fair foods across the province. Families from all over Manitoba sign up for the Dig In Challenge and make a personalized pledge, which could be anything from growing a garden and learning about preserving food to menu planning and cooking with local foods. The Dig In Challenge is free to sign up, and we'll be giving away prizes at our food skill workshops. Participants can also share recipes online at www.DigInManitoba.ca. The Dig In Challenge is a collaborative effort between Food Matters Manitoba and our partner organizations.

2. Why do you think it is important to have an event such as this?

We as a society have become detached from our food system and lack many of the basic food skills and food knowledge that we once had decades ago. The Dig In Challenge is an opportunity for families to connect with farmers, learn about how their food was grown, and learn new food skills and how to cook. This is especially important when we consider the health of our children, which is why we're partnering with schools and encouraging families with children to join the Dig In Challenge so that they can teach their children these food skills that they can carry on into adulthood.

3. What benefits do you think people can gain by signing up for the challenge?

DigInManitoba.ca and the Dig In Challenge are great free resources on where to buy local foods, how to connect with local organizations, share knowledge of food skills and getting back to the land, and learn about the importance of health, sustainability, and accessing nutritious foods.

4. What advice can you give to less-experienced registrants?

Have fun with this! The Dig In Challenge is all about challenging yourself and trying something new. The workshops are a good place to learn and meet others in the community, and we also have an online forum available where participants can share their successes and ask questions of more experienced participants.

5. What are you most excited for?

This year some of our participants from outside Winnipeg are facilitating workshops, which we didn't really have in last year's pilot project of the Dig In Challenge. We tentatively have workshops in Grand Rapids, Strathclair, Oakbank and Brandon and are open to having more workshops in other rural areas. This is such a good opportunity for many more people across the province to get involved in the Dig In Challenge, and it is also indicative of how there are experts everywhere. The Dig In Challenge is about tapping into resources everywhere and sharing knowledge and skills that you might already have with others.

6. What online sources would you recommend that can help participants?

At www.DigInManitoba.ca/challenge, participants can access the online forum, a FAQ page, a calendar of upcoming workshops and a list of our partner organizations. We also have lists of local grocery stores around the province to make eating healthy, local food easily accessible.

7. Anything else you would like to mention or talk about?

This year we are expanding the Dig In Challenge to make it more accessible for schools, faith groups, workplaces, and other community groups by having specific Dig In Challenge pages for each of them. You can access these at www.DigInManitoba.ca/challenge. This is a fun way to get your whole group involved. We are also offering several workshops to be facilitated right in your workplace, to help you get your coworkers excited and learning about good food too.

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Rocky Horror Picture Show vs. Phantom of The Paradise


Since I was a teen I have been in love with both of these cult musicals. But as I grew older and began to learn more about the world and classic literature and film art, I began to believe that one was undoubtably "better" than the other in terms of entertainment value and sheer genius.

Phantom of the Paradise was released in the U.S in 1974. The film was one of the firsts of its kind with its gothic style and outrageous plot-line mixed together with characters breaking into song and dance. Sadly, the film was just too strange for most of its audience and it only found success in a small city located in Canada called Winnipeg.

One year later The Rocky Horror Picture Show came out. It too contained an outrageous plot-line complete with spontaneous musical numbers. Although Phantom had introduced the film audience to a similar style of rock-horror parody, Rocky saw little success upon its release and didn't really gain a following of any kind until years later.

For a brief time the two rock-horror films played side by side on a double bill released by Fox. Eventually Rocky's popularity grew and Fox released a participation version of the film, adding fuel to the flame and solidifying Rocky's rise to fame.

Phantom, however, never saw the same kind of enthusiasm.

Why is it that two films with the same genre and style that were released at around the same time could see such differing popularity? It saddens me to know that such an amazing movie like Phantom of the Paradise remains unknown to so many viewers while The Rocky Horror Picture Show has been seen by almost everyone I know. That being said, I think I understand why there is such a vast difference in popularity between the two movies, despite their similarities.

Phantom of the Paradise is a genius mixture of classic stories like The Phantom of the Opera, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Frankenstein, and Faust with references to classic films like Psycho and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. When I was younger and had no idea about these books and films, I viewed the film as an odd movie with strange characters and an even stranger plot.

After having completed high school and taken many film courses in university, I now understand the deeper meanings behind the story and where each character's origin comes from. Swan is the man who sold his soul to the devil. Beef is Frankenstein. Winslow is the Phantom. And Pheonix is the innocent with the beautiful voice.

While The Rocky Horror Picture Show does make its own references to classic films like King Kong and other science fiction stories, it's mostly a parody of horror b movies. And even though its soundtrack is entertaining and memorable, in my opinion it lacks the depth and beauty of many of the songs that were performed in Phantom. But Rocky does have the opportunity for audience participation with its "Time Warp" dance and wildly dressed characters. Phantom is lacking in such songs to dance along to and memorable character images aside from Beef's shiny outfits.

To me Phantom of the Paradise will always be better than The Rocky Horror Picture Show based solely on its touching and profound music. At the same time I understand Rocky's popularity driven by its status amongst the younger crowd as the wickedest musical ever.

For folks who have seen both movies, which do you prefer or think is better?





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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Face-to Face Interviews for an Internship at Disney

[Photo Source]
Back in December I wrote a post titled How to Ace a Phone Interview and in the post I described my experience interviewing over the phone for a summer internship with Walt Disney World. The interview was just one of the many steps a college student takes to become one of Disney's summer interns.

Well I have some exciting news. I've been asked to come to Toronto at the end of January for the face-to-face interviews. These interviews are the final step in the process before being given a position, and then after that it's just a matter of filling out the paper work, getting a 90 day student work Visa to work in The United States, and then buying the plane ticket to Florida!

Oh, and I have to go to the bank to buy some American cash. Can't forget to bring money for food. : )

So you might be wondering what happens in the program. Well, Disney provides housing to the interns as well as pays them for the hours they spend working at the parks. As a foreign student from Canada, I'll be rooming with other foreign students, and as for the job, Disney has a whole list of roles people can request to do.

Although I dream of being the character Bell from Beauty and The Beast, foreign students are not allowed to be "face" characters, only "fur" characters (like Mickey or Minnie). But I'm not sad because I'm sure I'll be very happy just being in the park telling people to keep their hands in the car or helping find folks the perfect souvenir to give to their families.

I've been looking forward to the day when I could apply for this internship, and now that I'm just a few months away from hopefully working in Florida, everything seems to be moving so fast. As of now though, I'm preparing for my up-coming interview at the end of this month, getting forms filled out and putting together a list of the roles I would like to do this summer.

Wish me luck!
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Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Review of Les Miserables

Photo courtesy of the gallery at lesmiserablesfilm.com.
Full of flash forwards but lacking in flash, the new musical film Les Miserables wrenches the hearts of all who watch it and bores off the ears of all who hear it.

Before returning to school last week I had the chance to see this movie in Winnipeg's new VIP theatre at the Cineplex (a review of the theatre coming soon), and was it ever a roller coaster ride. The movie stirred such deep emotions in me from the opening song to the closing song, I just might be able to watch The Notebook now with a straight face.

Les Miserables was made known to a lot of non-musical-fans when Susan Boyle performed "I Dreamed A Dream" on the competition show Britain's Got Talent back in April, 2009. Then Glee featured the same song two years ago in a beautiful duet between one of the main characters and her mother.

Today, the musical's name is on everyone's lips and the images of the film can be seen everywhere you go. But, does anyone actually know what the musical is about?

I certainly didn't. I had no clue what the story was about except that at some point Anne Hathaway gets her hair cut off. But now I do know and I have no problem sharing with folks the main points of the story and my opinion on the film.

Don't worry, I won't give any spoilers.

Photo courtesy of the gallery at lesmiserablesfilm.com.
Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is released from prison after serving 19 years for stealing some bread for his starving nephew and then trying to escape multiple times. After meeting much hardship, he is taken in by a Bishop who sees the good in him and is given some silver. With this silver, Valjean declares he will become a new man who follows God, and thus Monsieur Madeleine is born.

Flash forward, Valjean/Madeleine is living a good life as a hardworking factory owner and it is at this point when the main story starts.

Fantine (Anne Hathaway) is introduced, secrets are revealed, people sing, more people sing, Valjean is chased by an officer with a grudge against him, someone dies, and by now the audience has been crying for a good half hour.

Soon after, another flash forward occurs and a new story begins. This new story is connected to the old characters by their children and it is equally as tear-wrenching as the first. Although there is some good news. The young couple below, a sort of French Romeo and Juliet, actually have a happy ending.

Photo courtesy of the gallery at lesmiserablesfilm.com.
What I liked about the film:

Visually the movie was very pleasing and the music was epic. With this in mind, it was definitely worth it for me to see the movie in the theatre rather than at home on DVD. 

Hugh Jackman's acting and singing were great and I particularly love the little blond boy who appears in the second half of the movie.

What I did not like about the film:

The constant singing, even when there was no music playing. I think there may have been a total of 3 lines that were spoken. Everything else was said in song. 

The length of the movie was very long. It's likely that in a live performance of the musical there would be a short intermission, and that's exactly what this movie needed. Or perhaps the movie could have been divided into two separate films. 

There wasn't much that I disliked about the film, although I would have loved seeing a little more of Hathaway's character because she is such a great actress and her part was so integral to the second story. I also would have loved seeing a lot more of Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter because in such a serious movie, their comedy was a real breath of fresh air.
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