This is Why I Love Jane Fonda

This is Where I Leave You
(USA, 104 min.)
Dir. Shawn Levy, Writ. Jonathan Tropper
Starring: Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Corey Stoll, Rose Byrne, Connie Britton, Kathryn Hahn, Timothy Olyphant, Abigail Spencer.
Imagine August: Osage County without the catfish, plate-smashing, incest, pill-popping and dramatic oomph, and one might imagine a film like This is Where I Leave You. This is Where I Leave You brings to the screen another dysfunctional family mourning the death of its patriarch, and like August: Osage County, it features a darn fine cast colliding in comedic moments of familial chaos. Both August: Osage County and This is Where I Leave You see the authors of their popular source material adapt their own beloved works for the screen, but the latter unfortunately just doesn’t translate as well to the cinema as sharply as the former does.


Oscar Predictions: Round 1 - Let's Get this Party Started!

Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck in Gone Girl.
Is it that time of year already? Oscar season seems to creep up earlier and earlier. It’s the new Christmas as celebrations usually reserved for winter appear before the Halloween candy does. I feel ridiculously late to the party this year, even though I’m posting predictions a few days earlier than I did in 2013. Mind you, some sites started calling winners when the snow was still on the ground, and the first official “For Your Consideration” screener went out to Academy members in AUGUST, so the party started almost obnoxiously early this year. Said screener film is Snowpiercer, which shows that the crazy train of Oscar campaigning looks to be kicking into high gear stronger than ever before. So, fine, I’ll be a shoe as I tie my laces and try to catch up with the pack.


uOttawa Human Rights Film Festival Runs Oct. 2-5 (Win Tickets to Opening Night!)

Ottawa filmgoers are enjoying so many film festivals these days that they might confuse the National Capital with Toronto. All these unique screenings are very exciting as new festivals appear amongst the granddaddies of Ottawa film such as the recent Animation Festival. Next weekend, October 2 to 5, marks the second edition of the University of Ottawa Human Rights Film Festival after a successful launch last year. (Keep reading if you want to win free tickets!)


On 'Denzel Washington Films' and 'Liam Neeson Movies'

The Equalizer
(USA, 131 min.)
Dir. Antoine Fuqua, Writ. Richard Wenk
Starring: Denzel Washington, Martin Csokas, Chloë Grace Moretz, David Harbour, Johnny Skourtis, Melissa Leo.
Denzel Washington stars in The Equalizer.
The Equalizer suggests that the line between a “Denzel Washington film” and a “Liam Neeson movie” is slowly becoming a fine one. A “Denzel Washington film,” as my moviegoing companion and I discussed while we semi-eagerly awaited the sneak peek of The Equalizer to start, generally features the debonair Denzel in some suave role that is morally grounded, yet often has a hint of coolness that only Mr. Washington can convey. He might, Training Day aside, play a good guy with a vice or a baddie with a virtue, and the audience generally looks forward to a good performance, some action, and a clean ending.


One World Film Fest Review: 'Above All Else'

Above All Else
(USA, 95 min.)
Written and directed by John Fiege
“It says keep back 500 ft. on that machine but it’s coming much closer,” says one of the impassioned activists in Above All Else as he observes a large rig clear-cutting trees on the property of Texas naturalist David Daniel. The large machines, operating for TransCanada, devastate the environment to facilitate the growth of the Keystone XL pipeline. They come dangerous—almost fatally—close to the environmental activists housed in the treetops of Daniel’s beautiful property. Barely twenty feet separate the blades of the machine and the falling tree from the activists who sit placidly in the trees and capture the destruction of the forests through the lenses of their camera. Above All Else shows just how close big business is willing to threaten the lives of individuals as it forges ahead in the name of “progress.”


OIAF 2014: Festival Wrap-up and 'Best of the Fest'

Seth's Dominion. Photo taken from the production, courtesy of the NFB.
Sigh. Another festival is in the can. 2014 marks another great year for the Ottawa International Animation Festival as it caps off five days of excellent screenings with booming audiences and ’toons galore. Five great days of festival-going yielded screenings of all five feature films in competition, plus 100 shorts across the competition screenings and special programmes. Attendance seemed up for OAIF, as The ByTowne was consistently packed with anifans at every screening. (And having so many screenings at The ByTowne made the hardest part of the festival trying not to get popcorn at every single screening!) There wasn’t a dud in the bunch, either, which shows that Ottawa really is the best place to see the top tier of animation.

OIAF Review: Disney's 'Feast'

(USA, 10 min.)
Dir. Patrick Osborne
Leave it to Disney Animation to be the top dog of the 2014 Ottawa International Animation Festival. This year’s OIAF features a spotlight on the Mickey Mouse studio, and the sneak peek and behind-the-scenes talk of Disney’s latest short, Feast, arguably marks the highlight of the festival. Feast is easily one of the best shorts that Disney has ever produced.


OIAF Review: 'Until Sbornia Do Us Part'

Until Sbornia Do Us Part (Até que Sbornia nos separe)
(Brazil, 85 min.)
Dir. Otto Guerra & Ennio Torresan, Jr., Writ. Thomas Creus, Rodrigo John
Starring: Andre Abujamra, Hique Gomez, Otto Guerra, Nico Nicolaiewsky, Arlete Salles, Fernanda Takai
The Ottawa International Animation Festival offers back-to-back Brazilian hits with the feature presentation of Until Sbornia Do Us Part after last year’s impressive screening of The Boy and the World. Sbornia marks a much different style and tone than Boy offers, and the contrast in films is very exciting. If Boy features a palette of happy innocence, then Sbornia is the rambunctious party that comes after the fall. This wild and vibrant odyssey is unlike anything I’ve seen before. Watch Sbornia with befuddled amusement, for it’s a wild ride even if one never quite grasps what one is watching.

OIAF Review: Pixar's 'Lava'

(USA, 7 min.)
Written and directed by James Murphy
Starring: Kuana Torres-Kahele, Napua Greig
Audiences at the Ottawa International Animation Festival received an exciting sneak peek on Friday night when the upcoming Pixar short Lava screened before the feature presentation of the NFB’s Seth’s Dominion*. A warm mahalo! goes out to the folks at Pixar and the OIAF for including this exclusive treat, for Lava is a charmer.

OIAF Review: Short Film Competition 3

Lesley the Pony has an A+ Day
There isn’t much sex at the Ottawa International Animation Festival this year. Previous editions of the festival feature boners up the wazoo as swinging appendages and colourful members add some adult entertainment to what some folks usually consider a medium for kids. Fewer boobs and bums figure at the fest this year, too, as many of the shorts in the competition feature a notable maturity. Animation fans looking for skin, though, get their money’s worth in Short Film Competition 3. SC3 has more sex than most short films on the Internet probably do—live action ones, anyways.

OIAF Review: Short Film Competition 5

Butter Ya Self.
Maybe it's festival fatigue setting in or maybe the other sections are simply so much stronger by comparison, but the overall crop of SC5 isn't the best of the bunch. (Something has to go on either end of the scale.) Some of the shorts struggle to conjure a glimmer of recognition in my memory as I consult the programme before reviewing this block. There are a handful of shorts that nevertheless make SC 5 worth seeing, though, especially one morbid ditty that offers one heck of a ride!


Award Winners for the 2014 Ottawa International Animation Festival

Hipopotamy. Photo courtesy of OIAF.
The awards were handed out tonight for the 2014 Ottawa International Animation Festival. The ceremony took place at St. Brigid's Centre for the Arts where festivalgoers enjoyed beers in a church while they applauded the winners. There are some great choices in the bunch, especially Seth' Dominion, Priorities, Lesley the Pony has an A+ Day, and 1000 Plateaus.  The list of winners is as follows:
-Grand Prize for Independent Short Animation: Hipopotamy (As the winner of this category, the film is now eligible for Best Animated Film at the Academy Awards.) Runner up (or 'special shout out' since runner ups are discouraged in this category: Butter Ya' Self
-Grand Prize for Feature Animation: Seth's Dominion (unanimous)
-Best Experimental/Abstract Animation: Eager, Runner up: Totem
-Best Narrative Animation:  Marilyn Myller, runners up: Phantom Limb, Me and My Moulton
-Best Promotional Animation: Holland Animation Film Festival 'Film Festival Leader', runner up: Fight
-Best Television Animation Made for Adults: Crime: The Animated Series Runner-up: Heaven's Countryland Part 1: The Story of King Jong Un
-Best Short Animation Made for Kids: Magic Time. Runners-up: A Fish-tailed Girl, Anatole's Little Saucepan.
-Best Animated Series for Kids: Les larmes du crocodile. Runner up: The Last Laserdisc Player
-Animation School Showreel: Rhode Island School of Design. Runner up:Tokyo School for the Arts
-Best Music Video Animation: Unity, runner up: Moving On
-Best Undergraduate Animation: Lesley the Pony has an A+ Day
-Best Graduate Animation: Things Don't Fit, runners up: Somewhere, Crazy Little Thing
-Best High School Animation: Priorities, runner up: Dance of Death
-Best Canadian Student Animation:  Soup aux carrotes. runners-up:  Montreal Rush, Lucy and the Limbs.
-CFI Award for Best Canadian Animation: 1000 Plateaus, runners-up: Mtl Rush, Soif
-Sony Pictures Public Prize: We Can't Live without Cosmos

See the winners when they screen Sunday, September 21 at The ByTowne at 7:00pm and 9:15pm.
Congrats to all!

OIAF Review: Short Film Competition 4

The Pride of Strathmoor
Short Film Competition 4 might be the best of the shorts programmes so far at this year’s Ottawa International Animation Festival. SC4 is an animation cornucopia and the strongest films of the programme lie at opposite ends of the spectrum. Three standout films make this programme such a winner: two are deep and dark while the third is as bright and colourful as animation can be!


OIAF Review: 'Aunt Hilda'

Aunt Hilda (Tante Hilda)
(France, 89 min.)
Dir. Jacques-Remy Girerd, Benoît Chieux; Writ. Jacques-Remy Girerd, Benoît Chieux,
Starring: Sabine Azéma, Josiane Balasko, François Morel, Bruno Lochet
Aunt Hilda’s screening at the 2014 Ottawa International Film Festival began with a gaffe. The images flickered onscreen without any accompanying audio. As patrons scattered about the around the theatre shouted “Sound!”, “Sound!”, and “Marco!”, one couldn’t really be bothered by the muteness since the beautiful hand drawn animation of the film is a marvel. Look at Aunt Hilda in awe. Listen to it less closely, though, for when the film finally clicked on the audio, one realizes that Aunt Hilda plays better with the volume off.

OIAF Review: 'New Ghosts in the Ol' Haunt'

The Alphabet
The Ottawa International Animation Festival spooks up a storm with the special screening “New Ghosts in the Ol’ Haunt: Regrets, Residues, and Crossing Over.” This selection of strange and unusual shorts is a mix of morbid humour and existence musing. Ghosts do roam, especially in the witching hour, and this eccentric programme offers a fun choice for OIAF-goers and folks dabbling in the arts on Saturday’s overnight fete, Nuit Blanche. This mix of classic and contemporary stories is just the ticket for festivalgoers who love to turn on the flashlight and tell a tale in the dark as their imaginations run wild.