The patron saint of Hoser Films. Spawned from cult sketch comedy show SCTV, the comedy here goes from high-brow to low-brow in a heartbeat as we follow Bob and Doug Mackenzie in their eternal quest for free beer (The mouse in the bottle gag works every time.)
They take a job at a Toronto brewery which is owned by an evil brewmeister played by Max Von Sydow. Yes, the man who played chess with the devil in Bergman’s The Seventh Seal is plotting to take over the world with drugged beer and has hockey player thugs (looking somewhere between the NHL and Star Wars) to help him along. The shock treatment scenes with Bob and Doug are comic gold.
Goin' Down the Road
The prototype of the hoser-film, right down to the quasi-documentary-slash-vérité style (many of these hoser films are filmed as mock documentaries). Two clueless Nova Scotians set off to make their fortune in the big city of Toronto.
Things go from bad to worse when they find out that good jobs don’t exactly grow on trees for those who have no skills. While they find girlfriends and buy furniture on layaway, soon their unemployability catches up with them to tragic results. Not a comedy in the same vein as many of the other films on display here, it is both gentle and bleak at the same time.
A true Canadian film experience.
An overlooked gem written and starring one of the gods of Canadian cinema: Gordon Pinsent. Here he plays a newfie good old boy who lives a wild life of endless evening drinking (and morning hangovers) and casual flings with many women. His character is not as simple as you first would think. His weekly visits to meet girls in St. John's include a trip to the old age home where he has a bond with an elderly patient who was once a womanizing legend himself.
The conversations and body language between these two are at once tangential to the films narrative, but come back to the core of the picture. How to deal with yourself once you have spotted "the girl" that got away, the one you should have married. What is great about this movie is that it is just damn fine storytelling (easy to follow, but subtly complex), the nod to Truffaut's 400 Blows with the final shot is a nice touch. Consider The Rowdyman as a happier more mature companion piece to Goin' Down The Road, which came out only a year prior.
Hard Core Logo
The great hoser rock-doc from director Bruce MacDonald (whose early filmography is also worth a look, especially Roadkill and Highway 61). Flailing punk band Hard Core Logo take it to the road one last time (with a documentary crew) to try to put themselves on the map and raise a little money for punk-legend Bucky Haight (A sublime Julian Richlings, you know, the guy who gets, well…er…cubed at the beginning of Cube and the Archbishop of Krypton in the new Man of Steel) who lost his legs in a gun accident.
The lead singer, Joe Dick and guitarist, Billy Talent (no relation to the current artist Billy Talent) spend the time trying to capture their lost youth on the tour while fighting about Billy’s potential career move to a larger successful American band. This is the dark version of This is Spinal Tap (which could also easily qualifies as a hoser film in its own way) with its own unusual blend of comedy and straight up drama.
Probably the most well-known film on the list, spawned from Saturday Night Live the same way Strange Brew was spawned from SCTV. In fact, you could say that Wayne’s World is the younger, hip update of The Mackenzie Brothers. (Perhaps in the same way, the Mackenzie Brothers borrowed liberally from Cheech and Chong - the latter being Canadian himself.)
It is set in America, but really that America is Scarborough Ontario, and it likely that only Canadians would get the fact that the donut shop in the Detroit suburb Stan Mikita’s is actually a funny nod to the Tim Horton’s donut chain founded by a hockey player. Garth (played by undervalued comedian Dana Carvey) is the perfect hoser, while Mike ‘Austin Powers’ Myers tries to play it cool as Wayne who runs a local access TV show not unlike The Great White North.
Trailer Park Boys
Spanning seven seasons of television, three films (the third is currently in production) and yes, a Christmas special, the wildly popular mock-doc formatted TV show is a rarity in that it even became somewhat of a cult item outside the typically hermetically sealed Canadian media landscape. The pot growing and petty scheme hatching adventures of three Dartmouth ne'erdowells seemed to capture the countries imagination in spite of copious amounts of F-bombs, utterly irresponsible behavior such as constant drinking and driving and perhaps most 'criminal' of all, the re-branding the retail institution of "Canadian Tire" as "Canadian Mutherfucker."
Nothing was sacred on this 22 minutes of maritime mahem. Even though Ricky, Julian and Bubbles worked far better on the small screen than the big screen (the Ivan Reitman produced feature film was a total bust) but any list of hoser cinema would be remiss without a strong endorsement of this highly mannered, highly intelligent series on stupidity and vulgarity.
It is curiously noteworthy that actress Ellen Page got her start early on in this series playing the young daughter of the put-upon trailer park owner, Jim Lahey. Furthermore, Jason Eisner and Rob Cotterill, the guys behind Hobo with a Shotgun and Treevenge and local Dartmouth guys met on the set of this show.
Phil The Alien
Guaranteed to split audiences due to its zero budget aesthetic and scatter-shot genre-bending execution. Phil is indeed a gigantic bug-like alien who drops to earth and assumes the form of a lumberjack shirt wearing Northern Ontario local. A poor naïve soul, he falls in with the drinking crowd at the local pub with the low rent band, and Graham Greene tending bar.
Meanwhile, a secret agency headquartered under Niagara Falls dispatches some fur coat wearing agents (One named “Agent Orange”) to eradicate the reported alien presence. After being thrown in the local jail for drunk and disorderly conduct, Phil finds Jesus, and sets off on a religious quest.
The film plays like Kids in the Hall crossed with Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste and has Joe Flaherty doing the voice of a talking beaver to the worst beaver puppet in the history of film (which is nonetheless an ace shot with a sniper rifle). It might be the weakest entry on this list, but there is kind of strange genius at work here.
Fubar and Fubar II
Western Canadian hosers rejoice! Michael Dowse's very funny mock-doc features two metal heads who live in Calgary, like to get drunk while camping (setting up the tent is optional), and use the phrase “Turn down the Suck.” The film has the boys doing typical hoser things like smashing in a bus shelter for kicks, and jumping through a campfire while drunk, but turns serious when one of them gets cancer and has to go through chemotherapy.
A dark turn for a hoser comedy, perhaps, but listening to the doctors baffled interview when he tries to explain the miracle of his patient keeping his ‘fuzzstache” when the rest of his long metal head locks have fallen away is priceless. Fubar is a great companion piece to the wildly popular Canadian TV show Trailer Park Boys, both Fubar and the Trailer Park Boys TV Pilot were made around the same time at the opposite ends of the country and both went on to spawn further spin offs and sequels around creatively dodging work while living life to not quite the fullest.
The sequel is set in the Alberta Oil-Sands and is a very loose remake of another film on this list: Goin' Down The Road. Only with monster trucks and strippers.
A bonafide hoser documentary that offers the life story of Ralph Zavadil, and his cable access character Cap'n Video. Ralph spent the early 1990s pursuing a TV career while selling pot on the side. He broke his neck during an infamous pool diving stunt, snorted eggs, and lit his face on fire. Fastforward to 2011 and he hangs out making glass-art with his buddy from his General Motors, attempts to reconnect with the daughter he never knew he had while, beer in hand, is still living life to the fullest.
Shot with a great eye for widescreen cinematic images, as well a keen intuition for great character moments, this documentary integrates footage of the show that was the forebearer for Johnny Knoxville and his Jackass pals on MTV (even if Ralph didn't enjoy their national success) with current Niagara locales and even finding time to work in an A-Team building montage. It's a great and unusual piece of documentary cinema.
The most recent addition to the hoser Canon has the most Canadian of past-times at its centre. Hockey here is portrayed in the old-timey, Slap Shot era, sense where the violent enforcers are as engaging (or more engaging) than the superstars because fans of the minor leagues come for the blood, not the fancy skate work is the laundry line on which to subvert the normal sense of sports heroism.
Seann William Scott plays an immature bouncer with a heart of gold and an inferiority complex from a moderately successful Jewish family who gets in fight with a hockey player at the local rink and comes to the notice of the coach. That he cannot skate or knows nothing about the countries national past-time does not stand in his way his natural knack for fisticuffs any more than it does for his blogger/cable-access pal (writer Jay Baruchel) who is a younger, hipper, even more boorish version of Don Cherry does for casual vulgarity.
But, like any good hoser film, Goon is not a cynical, satirical subversion, however, there is a perfectly sweet (without ever being cloying in the typical Hollywood sense) message of teamwork and heroism, and the inevitable showdown with fellow Jew enforcer Liev Schreiber is seen more as passing of the baton than genuine antagonism. Scott’s character may be an American Jew, but he is a dyed in the flannel true hoser of cinema.