Think of your favorite Christmas movie. Think hard. Now, does it resemble even the hope of your actual childhood Christmases?
I’m gonna guess not so much.
My favorite Christmas time movie was Bad Santa, which tells you something about my abnormal view of an ideal yule time. Record setting uses of the word Fuck and anal sex in a holiday film is surely the making of a classic. Partially because of Billy Bob’s rudeness, but mostly because of sheer comedic brilliance of Warren P. Sonoda, Coopers’ Camera has usurped all other Christmas movies in my mind.
Truth is Santa and exhausted flying reindeer don’t exist. Jesus’ himself may not have existed, but family sure does. And families are always, by varied degrees, dysfunctional.
So begins the premise of Coopers’ Camera, from the self same folks that brought you Ham & Cheese. If you don’t know that movie, it is not entirely your fault, but please do rent it and I will agree not to go into a rant extolling the virtues of Canadian Cinema yet again.
If you were alive during the 1980’s, the feel of Coopers’ Camera will bring back some horrible memories for you, in handheld VHS quality. It did for me. The bad wallpaper, the overstuffed chesterfields, every male sporting some version of the mullet and/or a perm, those truly tragic acrylic sweaters that I received every Christmas for years and years… watching this immediately made my skin remember the oily feel of those sweaters with ski scenes or geometrically unrealistic giant snowflakes playing out across my chest, just below my acne ridden face.
I also remember having to fake being happy with every gift resulting in over compensating with glowing thanks for home made jeans and matching family fleece jackets with each of our names sewn in. It was a painful childhood, but clearly it could have been worse.
The film starts with a video camera being the main family gift, opened by a very pregnant and disappointed mom played by one of my favorite moms, Samantha Bee. Turns out all the gifts are horrible disappointments because Dad, (Gord Cooper played by Jason Jones) seems incapable of getting anything right, including an erection.
This is the comedy of discomfort. You have no doubt that you are watching a home video of the worst Christmas ever. Turns out that the camera, along with barely used tapes, was acquired in lieu of a loan owed by a local pervert played by Dave Foley and his penis. The audience is treated to the occasional ‘accidental’ clips from Foley’s taped sexcapades. 11 am on a Sunday morning is far too early to have a penis jump out at you, even for a very brief second, on the big screen, and I now understand why flashing is illegal. His ass got more screen time… but equally disturbing. I am happy to report that I am still a heterosexual having been tested by Foley’s enormous ass. Huzzah for average male nudity. I feel wonderfully buff in comparison.
This film is far too real at times. What is comedic to us as the viewer would actually be tragic at the time. This falls within my theory on family: Any given week in any given family goes from tragic to dull to briefly funny, but concentrated in a sitcom format, or, as in this case, to 92 minutes, creates comedy. I was laughing to hard to care if the Cooper family would survive the day, or indeed, what happened to the chain smoking grandma that disappeared to bed at noon. Personally, I suspect she passed away shortly before a tragically drunk Jason Jones starts sliding turkey and stuffing under her locked bedroom door. This was one lose end left over that I haven’t considered until just now.
I have to be very cautious in what I write here. It would be horribly irresponsible of me to give away too much in a review, such as this being the first time I have ever seen a grown man sitting on a toilet trying to poop on the big screen. (See what I mean?)
You know what it is about. You know that I like it very much. I am assured that it will see the big screen in November in some of those other big cities in Canada.
I watched the movie at the Vancouver International Film Festival and as with film festivals everywhere, the director is often in attendance. Warren P. Sonoda was indeed sitting at the back and answered some questions after the film.
I never really know what to ask. I really want to say something intelligent. I have any number of questions to ask, ranging from the technical boring things about cameras and aspect ratios and formats, (which only really serve to show off my knowledge and annoy everyone else who has a genuine question) to that eternal and pointless question to any artist “Where did you get your ideas from?”
So Mr. Sonoda, if should wander upon this blog, let it be known that I had no honest unselfish questions for you, but did want to thank you personally for making me remember and laughing until I had the tears on a Sunday morning. I have no schmoozing skills, and I worry that I’ll only end up begging you to hire me, which would be embarrassing for both of us.