Since they started four years ago, Gabrielle and Philip Slayton have gained a lot of notoriety on YouTube for their special brand of film reviews. She's a stay-at-home mother of two and he's a retired lawyer and best-selling author. As an avid watcher of their show, I discovered that their fresh perspective on film is not only fun and informative - it's a family affair.
TorontoVerve: How did you and your dad start Gab & Dad?
Gab: We always loved going to movies together since I was a little girl so I could credit my dad with instilling my love of film, which continues into my adulthood. We began going to a lot of movies together when I was in -between jobs 4 years ago. Coming out of the theatre, we always had lively banter and often disagreed with each other – just like our relationship. Then one day my dad said that we should do reviews on YouTube – he barely knew what YouTube was.
I was initially against it. I thought, ‘why would anybody care?’, but he was the driving force and purchased a video camera. Our first review was I Love You, Man and we were getting all these responses. We were curious and gratified that people were interested in our reviews so we kept doing it and fed off the feedback. Eventually, our subscriber base grew and we received a lot of positive feedback. But we received our share of negative feedback too. People have very strong opinions about movies so often people disagree with us. And occasionally some don’t express themselves intelligently, which may result in comments like “you’re dumb” and “you don’t know what you’re talking about.” Some people think that we’re sort of elitist maybe because dad’s image is older, distinguished and very educated – he has a bit of a British accent so he might come across as pompous to some viewers and I can be quite verbose.
Most of the reviewers on YouTube are young males and most of the viewers are young males so what they generally expect is, “dude, that Stallone movie was rad!” And we’re more cerebral than that. Not always, but maybe we are a bit more elitist. I don’t know. But on the flip-side that’s what makes us different and a lot of people respond positively to our Daughter/Father relationship and our fresh perspective on film.
[Gabrielle Domingues and Philip Slayton on air reviewing A Good Day to Die Hard]
TV: What do you love the most about doing film reviews with your dad?
Gab: It’s an extension of our great relationship. We’re very opinionated and we like to express ourselves. We love it when we agree with each other, which is often, but we also love it when we don’t agree with each other. I can argue with my dad about a movie and it’s not going to hurt our relationship. It’s not personal or sensitive. It’s a great way to share thoughts and feelings with him. And sometimes in our reviews, things get a little personal. We’ll bicker. Occasionally, people will even comment, “Dad wasn’t very nice to you.” It’s almost like our therapy couch and I love to share that with him. Especially now, I’m an adult with a busy life and he’s busy in his retirement – sometimes it’s what brings us together. If we haven’t seen a movie in 2 weeks, we’ve got to make that time. It’s a thread that ensures that we don’t let too much time pass without seeing each other.
TV: What was it like growing up with your dad?
Gab: My parents were divorced when I was very young, so I spent most of the time with my father on weekends. For better or for worse – it was mostly the fun times with my dad. During the week, going to school and getting in trouble was sort of my mom’s territory. On weekends, dad would always have something fun planned and movies were a big part of that. I remember when he took me to see Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan when I was 8 years old.
During that time, he was a high-powered lawyer and under a lot stress. Occasionally, he was grumpy and insular. I never disturbed him when he was in his office otherwise I’d get into trouble. There was that other side of him that I didn’t cross. So now I like the way we banter about movies and I don’t have to risk getting him mad at me for some real reason. Even though I’m a parent now, I still feel like a kid in some ways in our relationship. I also like to see his relationship with my children. Of course, grand-parents get to have all the fun and none of the hard stuff. My dad and I have always been similar in a lot of ways. He’s my rock. Even when he’s away – he’s in Paris now – I feel slightly abandoned because he’s so far away (laughs). So we’ll Skype and talk about movies to keep the lines of communication open.
TV: What types of films do you like to see together?
Gab: Over the years, we’ve seen almost anything and it’s the same with Gab & Dad. I like mainstream films so I’ll drag dad to The A-Team or the latest Die Hard – films he wouldn’t go see in a million years unless I made him. And those are among our funniest reviews because he’s like ‘this is just crap!” But really, he’s up for anything. Some of my favourite genres are Sci-Fi and psychological thrillers and dad may lean more towards artistic, high-art and cerebral films. But when we see movies together, it doesn’t really matter what it is because we’re mainly interested in seeing how the other will react – whether it is his pick or mine. I read more about movies and I know more about their background so he’ll usually trust me with my choices. But when he reacts in a pooh-pooh way, I can get frustrated with that because sometimes I think he just does that to rile me and the viewers up. I want him to be fair to the movies – no matter what they are. But we’ll see anything and it’s all about the reaction. Sometimes a bad movie can be a fun review.
TV: Isn’t it better for the show if he pooh-poohs a film?
Gab: Yeah, the more controversial we are, the higher our views. For our worst of 2012, dad picked Lincoln as the worst movie of the year and I know he did that to be provocative. He doesn’t literally believe it’s the worst film of the year. I mean, I have to roll my eyes and people who have watched Gab & Dad for a long time know to expect that from him now. In some ways, I’m more the voice of reason and more ‘one-with-the-people’ because I more or less understand the general sensibility of film-goers. I can also be hard on popular films and sometimes, I too suffer the backlash. That’s why we stand out as well and maybe that’s why we’re not as popular because we’re always honest. If we see flaws in a popular movie, we’re going to say so and that might turn some people off. We may exaggerate for entertainment purposes, but we won’t ever sell out.
TV: Your dad is a respected lawyer and law author. Did he have hopes of you becoming a lawyer?
Gab: He’s never pushed that upon me, but I think he would have been proud to see that. Being in the law profession, he knew all the negative sides of it and he’s written about it. I don’t think he necessarily thought it would be the best thing for his only child to do. There would be times when we would be debating about something and he would look at me and say, “you’d make a good lawyer.” And I always took that as a compliment coming from him because I think using your intellect and research to convince someone of your point of view is exciting in law, and yet, you can also apply it to all other aspects of your life – like being a film critic.
I don’t think he regrets that I’m not a lawyer. Maybe he’d like to see me more successful than I’ve managed to be for various reasons, but like any other parent, I think he wants to see me happy and I believe he thinks that I have skills and strength that perhaps I haven’t fully acknowledged in myself, and he would like to see me use those qualities to elevate myself further. Like with Gab & Dad, he says, “we should get more publicity and have our own show by now,” but he really means me because he doesn’t need all that at this stage in his life – although he likes the attention. I think he really wants me to find that big thing that I’m passionate about.
TV: Not only do you review movies with your dad, you also do reviews with your 10 year old son Max.
Gab: When dad was busy, I’ve done a few reviews alone, but I really prefer bouncing off of somebody. So when Max was 6, I got him involved. And that’s something people haven’t seen before: a mother and son film review. But to me it’s logical if we’re reviewing a kid’s movie. What would a kid think? Max’s teacher thinks it’s great for his confidence and it’s fun for me.
TV: You’ve done the show with your dad and son. Can we expect a review or two with your husband?
Gab: He’ll never do the show. He’s always rolled his eyes at Gab & Dad. His attitude is if it makes me happy that’s fine, but he thinks it’s silly and weird. At first, he didn’t want me to involve our son with the show, but he sees that it’s harmless now. He likes movies, but he prefers watching them at home. It’s disappointing that my partner isn’t as passionate about film as I am, but my dad and Max compensate for that.
TV: More than ever Hollywood has come under fire about gun violence, most recently sparked by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut. What is your position on gun-violence in movies?
Gab: I feel strongly that’s it’s a very unfair correlation that’s made between gun-violence in the media and real world. Violence in films can be gratuitous and film-makers should be responsible, but if it serves the story in a crime-thriller, then violence has to play a part. It would be extremely ignorant or surreal to try to remove elements of violence from media. Just like the notion of taking cigarettes out. Their hearts are in the right place, but to have no character in cinema or TV that ever smokes a cigarette is not realistic or fair to the vision of story writers, who imagine a chain-smoking character. It’s not the responsibility of film to portray a morally perfect world that we should all aspire to. Also, there are millions of people who aren’t buying guns to hurt people and who are also avid movie-goers and TV watchers. Anyone who gets an idea from a film to hurt people is someone who has lots of other issues and problems that have nothing at all to do with movies. Anytime the finger is pointed at film, it’s usually a convenient scapegoat that’s completely ignorant in my opinion.
Even country-wise, Canadians watch the same films as Americans, but compare the violence statistics. That to me is such an obvious counter-argument that I really can’t believe when the opposite argument gets any traction.
TV: So the Oscars are around the corner, which film or actor do your think got snubbed the most?
Gab: The consensus is that Ben Affleck not getting the Director nomination for Argo is the biggest snub and it seems really bizarre now because he’s won all the other awards for Best Director (Golden Globes, Screen Actor’s Guild and the British Academy Film Awards). That will officially go on the record as the biggest snub. For me personally, I think the film The Sessions really was overlooked. It’s a small film that sadly people didn’t go see. Helen Hunt is nominated, but she won’t win and John Hawkes not getting nominated is a huge miscarriage of Oscar justice. Yes, it’s Daniel Day Lewis’ year, but still, John Hawkes should have been there. Also, The Dark Knight Rises not getting anything in visual-effects or cinematography at the very least is very disappointing to me.
TV: How will you and your family watch the Oscars?
Gab: I watch the Oscars by myself because I really like to go in the cone of silence. I sit on the couch and order everyone in the house to leave me alone – that includes my 1 year-old daughter Rosie, whom I want nothing to do with for those 4 hours or so (laughs). She’s in my husband’s hands. I really enjoy absorbing the show by myself. I don’t want to miss a thing and I certainly don’t want people talking. I have some friends who are into it, but not as much as me. And in the past, I’ve gone to Oscar parties, but I actually don’t enjoy it because it’s too distracting – people are eating and chatting and I just want to be in the zone. This year, my son has expressed interest in watching because he knows how much it means to me and he loves movies. I’ll let him watch for a bit, and if he starts to lose his concentration, I will dismiss him (laughs). The Oscars are still a solitary enjoyment for me and that’s the way I like it.
The 85th Academy Awards airs this Sunday at 8:30pm EST on ABC/CTV. Be sure to return tomorrow when Gabrielle exclusively shares her Oscar predictions with TorontoVerve.
Follow Gabrielle on Twitter.
* Gab & Dad photos furnished by Gabrielle.