Hot Docs 2014, All the King’s Men, and Learning a Little from History

April 18, 2014 | By


This city is blessed with major, mid-level, and micro-film festivals, each vying for the hungry attention of movie fans. I’m not sure if the following claim still holds true (or whether it was an oft-repeated promotional concoction on par with Toronto being ‘the most multicultural city in the world’), but years ago it was said T.O. housed ‘more filmgoers per capita.’


Hot Docs 2014 starts up this coming Thursday April 24, and I’ll have some early reviews of films, including several that may fall below the radar of major review sites. Watch for the first set of reviews to appear early next week.

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Twilight Time’s release of Robert Rossen’s 1949 film All the King’s Men on Blu-ray comes with perfect timing, as Toronto’s got several months to figure out which candidate can best turf the worst mayor in the city ‘s history.



Willie Stark ————————————- Huey P. Long ——————————— Mayor Bozo


Rob Ford. You know, the infamous ‘crack smoking mayor of Toronto’ whose blighted the city & country with his on-camera antics, like the “pussy” incident, live on TV. 

Although brother / City Councillor Doug Ford proclaimed at Thursday night’s campaign launch that Rob’s run for a second term as mayor will be ‘history making,’ I’m pretty sure political pundits &  journalists will have a more sober account of the night and Rob’s speech to his loyal bobblehead nation this weekend, especially since anything can happen leading up to election day.

Most sane cities probably restrict their campaign seasons from a few weeks to a month or two, but we’re a little stupid here. There is no need to extend a campaign from now to October, because there will likely be moments of voter tune-out: the public getting tired of hearing repeated accusations, claims, proclamations, shallow promises, and scandals dragged into dreary daily media coverage, and opting to literally tune out for long periods until we’re close to October, and then pay attention to which person they feel is best suited to lead the country’s biggest city into 2015.

For the citizens of T.O., scrutinizing each eligible candidate is a must, because whether one leans left, centre, right, or feels compelled to voice approval for Mayor Bozo, you have to educate yourself and make the best choice to ensure the best candidate earns the top job.

Put perhaps another way, would you rather see your major hand out candies to kids at parades, or toss ’em in globs to the ground, as happened in 2012 with Xmas candy canes, and occurred with a similar lack of finesse in 2013 with Cadbury Creme Eggs?



Yup. That’s a real photo of Mayor Bozo (taken by NOW magazine) pasted onto a Cadbury Creme Egg box at work. Those are hard objects headed for the asphalt prior to human consumption.


One could find slight parallels between our mayor and his muddy past with some of the personages in All the King’s Men, the classic film adaptation of Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that was based on his writings about Louisiana’s demagogue Governor and Senator, Huey P. Long.

Now… Ford isn’t in the league of Long. That’s plain obvious.

Ford has built nothing, he’s failed to gather any private sector financing for his civic erections (subways, subways, subways), concocted a widely debunked “billion dollar” tax payer savings, and has no empirical lineage to the average Joe since he benefits from a wealthy family that runs a million dollar label company operating in two countries.

At one point Rob Ford and his crocodile smiling brother Doug (“Dougie” to pundits) supported a waterfront plan to build a big mall and a giant Ferris wheel; Huey “The Kingfish” Long actually built roads, hospitals, and funded school textbooks.

Broderick Crawford All the King's MenFord is an absolute bullshitter, whereas Long (and even his fictional counterpart Willie Stark) accomplished things which ultimately did improve Louisiana’s infrastructure with some social programs.

CrawfordLongFord_combo_630x300Even if one’s knowledge of Long comes from archival media coverage, it’s kind of clear which one had a vision and was capable of acting and delivering vs. the one who repeats the same handful of talking points to a converted flock of niche voters wanting a Conservative candidate in a perceived sea of Lefties.

There are other right and centre-right candidates in this town; people voted for Rob Ford because he was the easy choice – a simple talker in local government with a local brand name and a slapped-together image of one who ‘fights for the little guy.’

In the nearly 80 years since Long’s death by an assassin’s bullet, historians still wrangle over some of his good deeds  and bad behaviour; Rob Ford’s legacy will be police surveillance footage of him pissing in an alley, appearing on Jimmy Kimmel in ‘a magician’s suit,’ and being a liar (unless you re-ask a question correctly, after which he may admit fault).

Unlike Huey Long, in 80 years Rob Ford will be regarded as a joke, and an unwanted infamous figure in Canadian politics only because he made international headlines as ‘the crack-smoking mayor of Toronto.’ A Toronto Star photographer neatly captured “The Bozo Stupor” in this winning entry in the Communication Arts 55th Photo Competition.

Compared to Long’s accomplishments, Rob Ford’s effort to leave any notable mark is as meaningful as a faded pee stain in one of our numerous laneways.

HueyLongPBSLong’s physical accomplishments – bridges and buildings, for example – still stand, and as Ken Burns’ insightful 1985 PBS documentary Huey Long details, he could slide into the posture of a smiling buffoon, but the proof lies in the public records of Long’s savvy political maneuvering. Rob Ford’s just a full-on buffoon, and  will certainly inspire local artists to create more visual, aural, theatrical and cinematic satire; basically, citizens trying to process Mayor Bozo’s legacy on the city’s political, social, and economic culture.

Robert Rossen’s 1949 film is in many ways a cautionary tale, and remains the definitive film version in spite of Steve Zaillian’s star-studded but otherwise dud version of Warren’s novel, and whereas Sony did author a superb HD master for home video, they opted to release Zaillian’s 2006 film on Blu. It’s a sexier film, but the wrong choice for fans of the novel.

AllTheKingsMen_1949_BRSony’s missed opportunity is Twilight Time’s gain (and ours), as they’ve also included an isolated score track featuring Louis Gruenberg’s lovely score (which is great to listen on its own).

I’ve written a comparative film review, since there are significant differences between Rossen’s chronological adaptation and Zaillian’s more faithful version of Warren’s book. Both movies feature superb talent, but one’s kind of a mess.

Coming shortly: more stuff.



Mark R. Hasan, Editor


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