As ticketholders lined up around several city blocks to get into the Bloor Cinema Friday night, the main concern among them was whether Let’s All Hate Toronto would live up to its hype. The movie itself was not reviewed beforehand, so this was the first time the movie would see an audience.
Some went into the movie expecting a serious in-depth investigation into the sociological and psychological theories behind the animosity towards Toronto, and were sorely disappointed. However, if you were looking for a fun, cheeky look at Canadian culture and misconceptions about our city, you walked away happy.
The film, directed by Albert Nerenberg and Rob Spence, follows the duo across Canada as they try and uncover why Toronto is hated across the land. The movie starts off with the Labour Day Argos game against Hamilton. Spence sees news reports of a billboard that says “Toronto Sucks,” and is shocked.
“I had no idea that there was a perception out there that Toronto did suck,” said Spence in an interview before Friday’s screening. Soon, he sees that the idea spreads far beyond Hamilton. “In the U.S., they all rally behind their biggest cities. The slogan is ‘I love New York.’ In Canada, they say ‘Toronto Sucks.’ It’s a real Canadian expression.”
“Canadians are so proud to be humble, so they don’t want to recognize their greatest city.”
Spence, also known as Mr. Toronto, uses his marketing background and comes up with the idea of hosting “Toronto Appreciation Days” across Canada. “There are many people who can’t come here for one reason or another, so I decided to bring Toronto to them,” says Spence. He teamed up with Nerenberg, whose previous documentaries include Stupidity and Escape To Canada.
“I figured, he’s an expert on stupidity, so it just makes sense.”
The movie is set around these Toronto Appreciation Days and the crazy antics of Mr. Toronto. In Newfoundland he crawls out of the ocean carrying his Toronto Appreciation Day banner and holds the event right there on the beach. In Halifax he is accosted by a group of young ‘uns and a blowup doll who accuse him of being a “panty waist.” In Montreal the event is upstaged by a group of young musicians named The Dancing Cock Brothers who sing a song called “Goodbye Toronto, Bonjour Montreal,” and Mr. Toronto ends up in a scuffle with one of the bandmembers.
The movie isn’t all antics. It looks at the history of the animosity towards Toronto, and discovers it stemmed from Toronto being chosen as the capital of Ontario. Nerenberg also analyzes a number of reasons people have for hating our fair city, including the fact that Toronto thinks it is the centre of the universe (because of media concentration, we don’t hear about the rest of the country’s news, but they hear all about ours). It also dispels the rumour that Toronto is uptight, bringing up local darlings Newmindspace and the anything-but-boring Toronto Pride Parade (in which Mr. Toronto gets stripped to his underwear by a group of lesbians.)
They also clear up the rumour that the United Nations had declared Toronto the most multicultural city on earth. Apparently, the only people who have declared this statement have been Toronto politicians.
And of course, the Toronto Maple Leafs make an appearance. In the movie, Mr. Toronto marches down Edmonton’s Whyte Avenue during the Stanley Cup finals wearing a Toronto jersey emblazoned with Wayne Gretzky’s name and his infamous number 99.
“I have made a lot of personal sacrifices for this city, and I have put my safety at risk many times,” he says. His sacrifices have led many to believe that his trademark eye patch is because of an incident along the tour.
“There are some rumours going around that the reason I wear the eye patch is because someone punched me in the eye in St. John’s—but the truth is, I really have lost one eye. I was shooting at piles of cowshit on my grandfather’s farm and it backfired and hit me in the eye. It’s now become somewhat of a metaphor, as I stand up for bullshit everywhere,” says Spence.
The movie is charming, entertaining, and had the audience howling with laughter. It’s not your typical documentary, and the filmmakers acknowledge that.
“All I want is for audiences to come out of the theatre with more appreciation for Toronto,” says Spence.
How can you hate that?
Top photo by Jack Simpson. Bottom photo of the rush ticket lineup at the Bloor Cinema by Albert Nerenberg.