Oscar Deadline Approaches: What Could be Canada's Best Foreign Language Film Contender?

Possible Canuck Oscar contenders are A Bag of Marbles, Hochelaga, Maligutit, Old Stone
and Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves
The submissions for the Best Foreign Language Film race are trickling in! Canada announces its contender on Monday, September 25 and whatever film we send joins a growing field that already includes some formidable frontrunners. Cannes winners The Square (Sweden), Loveless (Russia) and 120 Beats Per Minute (France) are leading the pack, but don’t count out Berlin winner On Body and Soul (Hungary) and fall festival breakouts like Razzia (Morocco), A Fantastic Woman (Chile), and Angelina Jolie’s First They Killed My Father (Cambodia). Other submissions include Happy End (Austria), Racer and the Jailbird (Belgium), and The Fixer (Romania). With these and other submissions in place, what are the films that Canada might consider?


“It’s Not All About You Anymore”: Mike White, Ben Stiller and Austin Abrams Talk 'Brad’s Status'

Austin Abrams and Ben Stiller star in Brad's Status.
VVS Films
“Can I say what your dad said to me yesterday?” asks Ben Stiller.

 “Uh, sure?” Austin Abrams laughs nervously.

 “He said he told you that you could do whatever you want so long as you finished medical school.”

“That’s a joke,” the younger actor inserts before turning to the members of the press seated ’round the table. “They’re very supportive of what I’m doing.”


TIFF Review: 'Hannah'

(Italy/Belgium/France, 95 min.)
Dir. Andrea Pallaoro, Writ. Andrea Pallaoro, Orlando Tirado
Starring: Charlotte Rampling
Programme: Contemporary World Cinema (North American Premiere)
Courtesy of TIFF
Charlotte Rampling gives a performance of devastating subtlety in Hannah. This masterful turn, which earned Ramping Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival, shows the veteran actress at the top of her game playing a woman whose life falls into a tailspin when her husband goes to prison. It’s useful to consider Hannah as a European companion piece to the American indie Who We Are Now starring Julianne Nicholson as an ex-con struggling to shake her past, which also played the festival. Both films are intimate character studies about the unshakable stigma that crime places upon the individual. Sins of the past and guilt by association are different crimes in each film, but both actresses give powerfully introspective performances as women desperate to save their lives from the burden of their crimes. Rampling, like Nicholson, gives one of the best performances of the year in a hidden gem worth finding.


TIFF 2017: Festival Wrap-up and Picks for 'Best of the Fest'

Sweet Country - My pick for 'Best of the Fest'
TIFF might have scaled back its programming by 20-ish percent, but the Festival of Festivals still felt as big and loud as ever. The movies were good if one was willing to look for them, but anyone who complained about 2017 being an off-year for the programming didn’t stray beyond the Galas and Special Presentations or was too concerned about premiere status. There really were some hidden gems and discoveries. Out of the 50 feature films I saw before and during the festival, about 43 of them were good to great. A pretty good average, I think.

TIFF Review: 'Who We Are Now'

Who We Are Now
(USA, 95 min.)
Written and directed by Matthew Newton
Starring: Julianne Nicholson, Emma Roberts, Zachary Quito, Jimmy Smits
Programme: Special Presentations (World Premiere)
Courtesy of TIFF
Julianne Nicholson is always good, but nobody’s ever given her the chance to show her full potential. Nicholson is a reliable supporting player after turning in good work as, say, the tirelessly devoted Ivy alongside Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts in August: Osage County, the straight-laced skating coach in I, Tonya, and the connective tissue to family drama in Tully. The actress gets her first true lead role in the movies with Who We Are Now and she doesn’t skimp on the opportunity to inhabit her character as fully as she can. What a treat it is to see a character actor find a great a lead role and dive into it.

TIFF Review: 'On Body and Soul'

On Body and Soul
(Hungary, 116 min.)
Written and directed by Ildikó Enyedi
Starring: Alexandra Borbély, Géza Morcsányi, Réka Tenki
Programme: Contemporary World Cinema (North American Premiere)
Courtesy of TIFF
If a deer is your spirit animal, then On Body and Soul is the film for you. A pair of deer, one doe and one stag, steal the show from their human co-stars in this peculiar meditation on life and love. Pardon the pun, but it’s a film worth fawning over.

TIFF Review: 'C'est la vie!'

C’est la vie! (Le sens de la fête)
(France, 115 min.)
Written and directed by Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano
Starring: Jean-Paul Bacri, Gilles Lellouche, Jean-Paul Rouve, Eye Haïdara, Suzanne Clément
Programme: Galas (World Premiere)
Courtesy of TIFF
Thank goodness for subtitles. There was so much laughter at TIFF’s Closing Night Gala presentation of C’est la vie! that those of us in the audience might not have had a clue what was going on without the aid of subtitles. Loud and consistent laughter rippled throughout Roy Thomson Hall from beginning to end of C’est la vie! and often drowned out the French dialogue that had TIFF-goers in stitches. This warm and hilarious comedy from directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano (The Intouchables, Samba) was a perfect choice to close a successful edition of the Festival. It's a lot of fun.


TIFF Review: 'The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches'

The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches (La petite fille qui amait trop les allumettes)
(Canada, 111 min.)
Written and directed by Simon Lavoie
Starring: Marine Johnson, Antoine L’Écuyer, Jean-François Casabonne
Programme: Contemporary World Cinema (World Premiere)
Courtesy of TIFF
Horror thrives La belle province thanks to Simon Lavoie's utterly creepy The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches. This black and white nightmare is Quebecois gothicism to the core.  It's creepy,  arty, and literary cinema as Lavoie strips back the popular novel by Gaétan Soucy and gives a thoroughly visual interpretation of its tale of madness. The film will shake you.


TIFF Review: 'Happy End'

Happy End
(Austria/France/Germany, 107 min.)
Written and directed by Michael Haneke
Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Matthieu Kassovitz, Toby Jones, Fantine Harduin, Franz Rogowaki
Programme: Masters (North American Premiere)
"Without happy endings, none of us would be here," laughed Michael Haneke while delivering a mic drop when asked about the relationship between families and happy endings at the North American premiere of Happy End. It turns out the arthouse director of bleak films like Amour, The Piano Teacher and The White Ribbon has a sharp sense of humor. As expected though, it's a very dark one.


TIFF Review: 'Faces Places'

Faces Places (Visages villages)
(France, 90 min.)
Dir. Agnès Varda, JR
Programme: Masters (Canadian premiere)
Courtesy of TIFF

Faces Places features the oddball couple of 89-year-old filmmaker Agnès Varda and thirtysomething photographer/street artist JR, but one won't find a better pair of kindred spirits at the movies this year. The two artists join forces and embark on an ambitious street art series as they tour the villages of rural France taking portraits of the local residents and pasting enlarged visages on the buildings of these small towns. At once a road trip and a non-fiction art film, Faces Places is a whimsical masterpiece of documentary filmmaking that pays tribute to the land and its inhabitants by intimately connecting the two.

TIFF Review: Journey's End

Journey’s End
(UK, 107 min.)
Dir. Saul Dibb, Writ. Simon Reade
Starring: Sam Claflin, Asa Butterfield, Paul Bettany, Toby Jones, Tom Sturridge
Courtesy of TIFF
Director Saul Dibb plunks moviegoers deep down in the trenches with Journey’s End. This tense and unsentimental portrait sees the Great War from its infamous bowels. It’s interesting to get this perceptively limited perspective on war hot on the heels of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, which envisions the evacuation of Dunkirk during World War II through a triple pronged puzzle of land, air, and sea. Trudging through the muck with young and overeager Second Lieutenant Raleigh (Asa Butterfield, The Space Between Us), however, gives a tangible shivering realization of a universal truth of battle: war is hell.


TIFF Review: Alias Grace

Alias Grace
(Canada/USA, 90 min.)
Dir. Mary Harron, Writ. Sarah Polley
Starring: Sarah Gadon, Edward Holcroft, Rebecca Liddiard, David Cronenberg, Anna Paquin
Courtesy of TIFF
Praise be! After taking TVs and streaming sites by storm with the incredibly timely The Handmaid’s Tale earlier this year, the oeuvre of Margaret Atwood gets another page to screen adaptation with her finest novel, Alias Grace. This adaptation from creator Sarah Polley (Stories We Tell) and director Mary Harron (The Notorious Bettie Page) does ample justice to its source material based on the first two episodes screening at the Toronto International Film Festival. Alias Grace captures the scope, mood, and dryly playful account of the subjugation of women as told through the harrowing story of alleged murderess Grace Marks, which, sadly, resonates strongly no matter the setting Atwood uses or the time in which her work appears. The CBC/Netflix mini-series promises to satisfy the appetites of Handmaid’s fans while they await another season, and it’s both similar to and different from the Hulu series to stand in its own right and further more curiosity for all things Atwood. This miniseries is some dark and dangerous CanCon.

TIFF Review: 'Racer and the Jailbird'

Racer and the Jailbird
(Belgium/France, 130 min.)
Dir. Michaël R. Roskam, Writ. Thomas S. Bidegain, Noé Debré, Michaël R. Roskam
Starring: Matthias Schoenaerts, Adèle Exarchopoulos
Programme: Special Presentations (North American Premiere
Courtesy of TIFF
Dangerous curves ahead: Matthias Schoenaerts and Adèle Exarchopoulos bring the heat in Racer and the Jailbird. This thrilling drama from Michael R. Roskam (The Drop) is Belgium's submission to this year's Best Foreign Language Film race and it's a bold choice for voters with an inclination for something deep and dark. Racer and the Jailbird is a tale of ill-fated romance that probes our taste for danger and the thrill of living on the edge. This stylish and sexy potboiler puts its foot on the pedal and doesn't gear down for 130 minutes. 


TIFF Review: 'Hochelaga, Land of Souls'

Hochelaga, Land of Souls (Hochelaga, terre des âmes)
(Canada, 100 min.)
Written and directed by Francois Girard
Starring: Samian, Vincent Perez, Raoul Trujillo, Wahiakeron Gilbert, Emmanuel Schwartz, Tanaya Beatty, Sébastien Ricard, Siân Phillips, Linus Roache, Gilles Renaud, Tony Nardi, Naïade Aoun, George Wahiakeron Gilbert, Rykko Bellemarre, Jacques Newashish
Programme: Galas (World Premiere)
Les Films Seville
Hochelaga, Land of Souls is a spectacular and stunning achievement. It’s a sweeping and essential offering for Canadian film at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival with its epic scope, impressive scale, and artistic merit. 

TIFF Review: 'Brad's Status'

Brad’s Status
(USA, 101 min.)
Written and directed by Mike White
Starring: Ben Stiller, Austin Abrams, Jenna Fischer, Michael Sheen, Luke Wilson, Jemaine Clement
Programme: Platform (World Premiere)
Courtesy of TIFF
Ben Stiller renews himself as an actor in Brad’s Status. The Zoolander star dives into his deepest role yet as Brad Sloan, an affable fortysomething who finds himself in a midlife crisis when his comfortable, if completely safe, life in Sacramento seems bland in comparison to the updates of his college buddies. The actor finds in Brad Sloane what Jim Carrey had in Truman Burbank and Andy Kaufman—a comedic character with just a few more dramatic edges to fully show off his chops. Brad’s old chums are objects of envy for their cushy gigs, early retirements, private jets, exciting weddings, and supermodel wives and Stiller marinates in Brad’s dissatisfaction like an über-cranky George Bailey.