Oscar Predictions: Round 1 - Once More Unto the Breach

Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) in La La Land. an Entertainment One release.
Once more unto the breach. The award season grind returns earlier than ever. There’s barely a frontrunner and there are still two full months of moviegoing left to enjoy, but critics’ nominations are already coming out and screeners are trickling in as campaigns swing into gear. Let us start by crossing our fingers in hopes of a much more civilised and enjoyable year of Oscar fodder, and begin by looking at the three main stages of the year award-wise: pre-festivals, festival season, and late-breaking game-changers.


'Fritz Bauer' a Timely Slice of History

The People vs. Fritz Bauer (Der Staat gegen Fritz Bauer)
(Germany, 105 min.)
Dir. Lars Kraume, Writ. Lars Kraume, Olivier Guez
Starring: Burghart Klaußner, Ronald Zehrfeld, Michael Schenk
On the heels of last year’s admirably assembled and Oscar-shortlisted snooze-fest Labyrinth of Lies comes a much more satisfying take on the fight to bring Nazi war criminals to justice. The People vs. Fritz Bauer dramatizes the story of a prosecutor who played an essential role in building momentum for the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials. As Fritz Bauer (The Reader’s Burghart Klaußner) hunts Nazis in search of justice for the atrocities of the Holocaust, his quest illustrates how easily one can lose sight of righteousness while pursuing it.


Contest! Win Tickets to See 'Bad Santa 2' Across Canada!

Ho! Ho! Ho! Cinemablographer is making a list and checking it twice, giving movie tickets depending on who’s naughty or nice! Readers on the ‘naughty’ list are in good company this Yuletide season as Billy Bob Thornton returns to the Santa suit in Bad Santa 2. Bad Santa 2 opens Wednesday, November 23 from eOne Films, and Cinemablographer has tickets to sneak peeks around Canada! Answer the trivia below for your chance to win tickets!


'The Lockpicker' is an Unnerving Study of Grief and Alienation

The Lockpicker
(Canada, 94 min.)
Written and directed by Randall Okita
Starring: Keigian Umi Tang, Storie Serres, David Woroner, Jordan Gray, Madi Langdon
Randall Okita delivers on the promise of his short films with his first feature film as a director, The Lockpicker. His previous short, The Weatherman and the Shadowboxer, is a tough act to follow with its ingenuous experimental form and innovative design, but Okita upholds the visionary richness of his shorts while filming with a much larger canvas. It’s a departure, too, in that The Lockpicker is as minimalist as the shorts are packed with complex aesthetics. Using ninety minutes of screentime and the commercial demands of feature filmmaking don’t necessarily allow for the same formal experimentation, especially when one works in Canadian dollars, and The Lockpicker displays an intuitive and economical approach to the medium. One can do more while doing less.


The Nip of the North

Two Lovers and a Bear
(Canada, 96 min.)
Written and directed by Kim Nguyen
Starring: Tatiana Maslany, Dane DeHaan, Gordon Pinsent, John Ralston
Courtesy eOne Films

“Two lovers walk into a bar,” says Lucy (Tatiana Maslany) during an intimate moment of Two Lovers and the Bear. Lucy offers this rambling joke that includes a bear, an octopus, and a crapload of word vomit, and while one cannot remember the point or punch line of her story, this pause in Two Lovers and a Bear is the moment in which the film all comes together. This elusive new drama from Oscar nominee Kim Nguyen (War Witch) is an odd little octopus. Like Lucy’s joke, it takes a leisurely pace to arrive at its destination and when it hits home, one doesn’t quite understand what just surmised, but it’s uniquely satisfying. It’s a cold and enigmatic film that envelops the viewer like a big ghostly bear hug.


African Film Festival of Ottawa Returns with 'As I Open My Eyes'

As I Open My Eyes (A peine j'ouvre les yeux)
(Tunisia/France/Belgium, 102 min.)
Dir. Leyla Bouzid, Writ. Leyla Bouzid, Sophie-Marie Champion
Starring: Baya Medhaffer, Ghalia Benali, Montassar Ayari
This year’s African Film Festival Ottawa opens with Leyla Bouzid’s drama As I Open My Eyes. The film is Tunisia’s official submission for Best Foreign Language Film to this year’s Academy Awards, which is a nice get for a fest in its second year even if the title is unfortunately absent from the list of films accepted by Oscar as eligible to compete. Let not awards consideration be your guide and appreciate the film as a nice, nuanced, and wonderfully acted coming-of-age tale about life in Tunisia before the Revolution.


Get Swept Up in 'Sand Storm'

Sand Storm (Sufat Chol)
(Israel, 87 min.)
Written and directed by Elite Zexer
Starring: Lamis Ammar, Ruba Blal, Hitham Omari, Khadija Al Akel
Courtesy of TIFF
Get swept up in Sand Storm. This efficient whirlwind of a film from Elite Zexer is sparse and powerful. It’s Israel’s submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars this year and it could go all the way if the folks on the nomination committee dig Toni Erdmann as little as the Cannes jury did. There’s nothing to fault in this small film with a mighty heart as Zexer creates a delicately heartfelt story about a mothers and daughters.


Operation Can Con

Operation Avalanche
(USA/Canada, 94 min.)
Dir. Matt Johnson, Writ. Matt Johnson, Josh Boles
Starring: Matt Johnson, Owen Williams, Josh Boles, Krista Madison, Jared Raab
Courtesy of eOne Films

Operation Avalanche brings to the screen a conspiracy for the Canadian film scene to rival the allegedly false moon landing that it dramatizes. This new found footage flick/mockumentary is the latest film from Matthew Johnson following his breakout hit The Dirties and it comes to theatres following a ten months of controversy and conversations fuelled by Johnson speaking out against Canadian film pillars like TIFF and Telefilm Canada for their allegedly conspiratorial practices that determine who gets anointed in terms of support and funding. He says that the same established filmmakers receive tax dollars to churn out commercial films that aren’t doing Canadians any service. Bruce McDonald, Patricia Rozema, and Deepa Mehta all just made their best films in years, but here comes Matt Johnson and Operation Can Con to rouse the members of the Toronto New Wave from their slumber.


Docu-Thriller Peeks Behind Korea's Curtain

The Lovers and the Despot
(UK, 98 min.)
Dir. Rob Cannan, Ross Adam
Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Who knew that Kim Jong-ill wanted to be Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, and Leni Riefenstahl rolled into one? North Korea’s notorious supreme leader is at the centre of the fascinating documentary The Lovers and the Despot, as is his unexpected love for film that fuels this enthralling story. This stranger-than-fiction docu-thriller unravels a wild tale. It’s a thrilling cinematic caper, but also a uniquely revealing glimpse behind the curtain of one of the most secretive countries in the world.


Who Knew Dirty Harry Could Be So Sappy?

(USA, 96 min.)
Dir. Clint Eastwood, Todd Komarnicki
Starring: Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Skyler White
Tom Hanks stars in Sully

Sully has so much cheese one might think it’s a Steven Spielberg movie. It’s not, however, a Spielberg film. It’s a Clint Eastwood flick.

Contest! Win Tickets to See 'The Lovers and the Despot'

Flash contest! The stranger-than-fiction docu-thriller The Lovers and the Despot opens in Toronto at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema on Friday, Sept. 30 from Unobstructed View. We have 2 pairs of tickets to give away to the opening night screening in Toronto this Friday at 6:30 PM at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, so we're giving the tickets away quick and dirty, Kim Jong-il style! Trivia away!


You Can Dress a Girl Up...

The Dressmaker
(Australia, 118 min.)
Dir. Jocelyn Moorhouse, Writ. PJ Hogan, Jocelyn Moorhouse
Starring: Kate Winslet, a Hemsworth, Judy Davis, Hugo Weaving, Sarah Snook
Kate Winslet stars as Myrtle 'Tilly' Dunnage in The Dressmaker, an Entertainment One release.

You can dress a girl up, but you can’t take her to the Outback. Kate Winslet gives a feisty performance as voluptuous Aussie seamstress Myrtle ‘Tilly’ Dunnage in the dark comedy The Dressmaker. Winslet is a hoot as the she-devil from Down Under in this oddball film from Jocelyn Moorhouse. When Winslet arrives dressed in Tilly’s best, smoking a cigarette like a femme fatale and taking in the fictional Podunk town of Dungatar, she’s the catalyst for a zany fish-out-of-water comedy. This film is completely out to lunch and is an absolute riot if one goes along with its eccentric style. It’s the hottest mess of the season.

Ottawa International Animation Festival Announces Award Winners

I Like Girls. Courtesy of the NFB
The Ottawa International Animation Festival has announced its winners for 2016. On the 40th birthday of Ottawa’s top festival and the largest animation showcase in North America, OIAF fêted a nice contingent of Canadian films with Canuck flicks earning both top jury prizes. (I had planned to attend this year, but wasn’t able to make it, unfortunately, due to various commitments/unexpected hitches.)


Canada Sends 'It's Only the End of the World' to the Oscars

Gaspard Ulliel in Xavier Dolan's It's Only the End of the World.
Shane Laverdière, courtesy of eOne Films.
Canada is sending Xavier Dolan to the Oscars once again! In an announcement made today via Facebook livestream, Telefilm Canada honcho Carole Brabant confirmed that Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World would be our official submission to the Oscars in the category of Best Foreign Language Film. (Read the Cinemablographer review of It’s Only the End of the World here.) The event arguably the largest international platform to expose a Canadian film to audiences worldwide and the selection was decided by the Pan-Canadian committee of industry peers chaired by Telefilm. 

It’s Only the End of the World marks the third time that a film by the 27-year-old director has represented Canada in the Oscar race after his 2009 debut I Killed My Mother and 2014 hit Mommy, which was a surprise omission from the December shortlist. Other submissions this year include My Life as a Courgette (Switzerland), Very Big Shot (Lebanon) , Port of Call (Hong Kong), The Age of Shadows (South Korea), Eva Nova (Slovakia), and frontrunner Toni Erdmann (Germany).

'Leave Ottawa'

Words of wisdom from Nepean homegirl Sandra Oh: