I lived in the Toronto Annex for a little while in the nineties and early 2000’s, just at the border of Kensington Market.
The neighborhood was, for the most part, pretty well-off. Lots of Saabs and restaurants with one word names. But just at the the neighborhood’s border, over at College and Spadina - for any of you familiar with T.O. geography - there was the Scott Mission, a homeless shelter rife with mental illness, alcoholism and people who were just plain down and out. Beside the Scott, as if to make a step up in the world a bit easier to find, was a place called The Hotel Waverly. A fleabag flop house straight out of the noirest film this side of Detour.
While I never worked up the courage to rent a room, the place held certain fascination for me, if only because of its cinematic scuzziness. I love places like these: grind houses, arcades, peep shows, and automats. Places that seem to reek of lives lived and lost.
The Best Hotel on Skid Row takes us inside one of those places: the Madison Hotel in L.A. And gives us a window into the bleak lives that etch out existence in some of the rooms. Charles Bukowski narrates. His cool laconic cadence providing the same sort of meaningless shrug toward the audience that life itself seems be sending towards the film’s protagonists.