Rock, Paper, action! | Arts + Culture | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

Rock, Paper, action!

Learn the Way of the Tosser from filmmakers Tim Doiron and April Mullen.

Lisa and Bart are having an argument. They decide to settle it via Rock, Paper, Scissors.Lisa's thought: "Poor, predictable Bart. Always picks rock."

Bart's thought: Good ol' rock. Nothin' beats that!"

Bart: "Rock!"

Lisa: "Paper."

Bart: "D'oh!"

"It's a universal game. If you're three or 103 you know about it," says Tim Doiron, the writer, co-director and co-star of the independent comedy Rock, Paper, Scissors: The Way of the Tosser. "We liked that there are no cultural boundaries, there are no religious boundaries. There's a universal appeal."

The 85-minute Way of the Tosser was shot in Niagara Falls and Toronto over two weeks during November 2006. Doiron shared directing duties with real-life roomate and friend April Mullen. She also produced the film and plays Holly Brewer, the on-screen partner to Gary Brewer. Though they share the same last name, the characters aren't related---yet. (It's an ode, the filmmakers say, to the Tiny Toons pair, Buster and Babs Bunny.)"

Doiron plays the lead, Gary Brewer, a man who makes all his choices in life based on the outcome of Rock, Paper, Scissors (RPS). Gary believes if he can become the World Champion of RPS, he will have earned the right to ask Holly to marry him. "

The movie is structured as a mockumentary, partially due to its subject matter---though there are thousands of people who take RPS very seriously---but mostly for economy. "

"The reason why we shot a mockumentary-slash-documentary was because we knew that we were contending with a tight budget and there was no way we were going to shoot our first feature on 35mm," says Mullen, on the line from the pair's Toronto home. They also knew the genre would allow for lower production values, but Tosser---shot by Daniel Grant (brother of musician Jenn)---�Įlooks terrific, arguably better than most Canadian films (or television). It's helped by the art direction and costumes, which includes bright vintage t-shirts on Gary, leg-warmers on Holly, a Polaroid-filled bedroom for their friend Trevor (Ryan Tilley), a wood-panelled basement and streets laden with piles of fall leaves."

"The aesthetic and the colours are so important to us as people, and as artists," says Mullen, who calls it "the '70s look." They found the panelling in Niagara in a house that subbed as the Brewers' apartment. "She's 80 years old," Mullen says of the house's occupant, "and that's the way it's always been."

Though it takes almost an hour in film time to get to the World RPS Championships, held annually in Toronto, the Tosser cast filmed the footage at the real 2006 event on the first night of the shooting schedule. Doiron and Peter Pasyk, as Gary's nemesis Baxter Pound, both entered the tournament in character. The film's action scenes draw from their actual play and results. "We put Gary in with a handicap," says Doiron. "He didn't throw paper and I tossed my left hand the whole time." No one in the crowd noticed the filming taking place, he says. "

"Everything was real," says Doiron, a New Brunswick native (and, no, no relation to Julie). "Like when you hear someone in the crowd yell, 'We love you Baxter Pound!' That really happened."

Doiron and Mullen are on a cross-country university tour, hosting tournaments---in character---and screening the film, which doesn't have theatrical distribution. (The Halifax edition will go down at Saint Mary's.) The RPS winner at each school will receive $100 and be represented in the Toronto finals by a character from the film. The ultimate winner gets a walk-on role in the duo's next movie."

"It was our out-of-the-box marketing strategy to match the film's unique world ," says Mullen, adding, "Bring it to life, bring the characters to the people. We thought it would be a lot more effective if we were there in person."

Doiron and Mullen use RPS daily, and know each others' strategies. "

"I have to start throwing other things," muses Doiron. "When we were in the UK I lost, like, 20 matches in a row because everybody knows I throw scissors." a"

Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day"

Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day is never very funny and for a while it looks disastrous. The film's 1940s screwball antics seem not so much breathless as out of breath. The score by Paul Englishby takes no prisoners in underlining every gag. Eventually, the film develops authenticity. It still isn't funny, but director Bharat Nalluri, whose weird resume includes Tsunami: The Aftermath and The Crow: Salvation, captures status-based romance and the swing music boom in ways that are as much an evocation of '40s-movies as of the reality of the era. "

As Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) becomes the governess for actress Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams), their class barrier is equated with a questionable difference in values. Lafosse is free-spirited and conceited; Pettigrew is intelligent but never has any fun. It's a set-up for the predictable arc of the characters breaking from their shells. Their romantic misadventures offer satisfying senses of change and hope, which is what Nalluri was after in the first place. "



A lot of bile is directed at Semi-Pro because it's another sports comedy with Will Ferrell. This isn't a significant problem. If it was, people would also make note that co-star Woody Harrelson has been in White Men Can't Jump, Kingpin and Play it to the Bone. Ferrell is in a slump because he's stopped making movies for people other than himself. "

Leading his amateur Flint, Michigan basketball team to possible membership in the NBA, Jackie Moon (Ferrell) only possesses traits already expected of Ferrell characters. The '70s-based setting hasn't the genuine feel it did in, say, Anchorman. Here it's an excuse for the stupid novelty of underscoring a white character with funk music (something Superbad just did.) The supporting players---Andre Benjamin, Maura Tierney, Will Arnett, Andy Richter---don't seem invested in the movie. "

As with last year's Blades of Glory, Ferrell's indulgence reaches so deep, it no longer means anything. I can't tell you why Ferrell flipping out at a boardroom meeting and biting his hand is funny, because it isn't. Even the tone lacks uncertainty. Scenes of former lovers played by Harrelson and Tierney reuniting strive for a sincerity removed from the farce. Those bits end up the most laughable because there's little reason to care."



As the titular Penelope, Christina Ricci sports a Miss Piggy snout, an approachable fairy tale-deformity. But fairy tale conventions also blight this movie's integrity. A shut-in, for fear of terrifying others and traumatizing herself, Penelope knows her appearance is just a curse that can be reversed if she manages to find true love. That same cop-out was used in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, which preached that looks don't matter compared to the person inside---so long as nobody in the relationship remains ugly at the end of the movie. Despite a charming moment when Penelope plays a Cyrano de Bergerac-inspired game with her crush (James McAvoy), her disfigurement fails to achieve value as metaphor for adolescent isolation the way Rocky Dennis' in Mask does, or, for that matter, the female subject of Morrissey's disturbing song, "November Spawned A Monster." That's because Penelope is too timid to skewer image-based pressures on girls. The film's vanity undermines any chance of it being heartfelt and intelligent.

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