Oscar Predictions: Final Round - Four and One More

The Oscar nominations come out this Tuesday and what a year it has been. It’s been so wild and so up and down that the Spike Lee movie that likens the sitting President of the USA to the leader of the KKK is stirring up the least controversy this season. Yikes.


Contest! Win a 'Beautiful Boy' Prize Pack!

The Oscar nominations come out next Tuesday and you can expect Timothée Chalamet to be heading back to the ceremony this year. The Beautiful Boy star already has nominations under his belt from the Golden Globes, SAG Awards, and Critics Choice Awards for his powerful performance as Nic Sheff, a young man who shares the story of his battle with, and recovery from, drug addiction. (One of this blog’s picks for the top ten performances of 2018!) The film adapts Sheff’s memoir Tweak along with his father’s side of the story, Beautiful Boy, to show two perspectives on the devastating impact that addiction has on a family. Beautiful Boy comes to Blu-ray on Tuesday, January 22 from VVS Films and Cinemablographer has a prize pack to give away to celebrate Chalamet’s extraordinary performance!


Stan and Ollie: A Silver Screen Bromance

Stan & Ollie
(UK, 97 min.)
Dir. Jon S. Baird, Writ. Jeff Pope
Starring: John C. Reilly, Steve Coogan, Shirley Henderson, Nina Arianda, Danny Huston
Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy with a camera
John C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy and Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel in Stan & Ollie, an Entertainment One release.
Photo: Aimee Spinks.

The comedic spirits of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are alive and well in the duo of Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly. The actors are a delightful screen team in this fun bromance. With straight-laced Coogan playing Laurel and the jolly Reilly playing Hardy, the actors give some of their best performances while paying tribute to the famous tag team of stage and screen. One doesn’t need to be a fan of classic cinema to have a good laugh with Stan & Ollie as the film revisits the final chapter of their career together with some of their best gags revisited, and in some cases reinterpreted, to bring their laughs to life.


Golden Globes: Will Win/Should Win (and Oscar update)

Will A Star is Born claim the lead at Sunday's Golden Globes?
Is it Golden Globes weekend already? How time flies! Award season is still all over the map as it nears the end of the advocacy stage of the critics’ groups. At this point last year, the Globes basically signalled the end for Laurie Metcalf and Willem Dafoe when their hot streaks on the critical circuit were interrupted by Allison Janney and Sam Rockwell, who went on to claim all major prizes from the Globes onward. Right now, Roma is on top in terms of Best Picture wins, but it is ineligible for the same prize at the Golden Globes on Sunday night, so we’ll at least have a better sense of who the bigger rivals are. Overall, I still feel that this is the big night for A Star is Born to take a confident lead, especially as it stands as one of only four films to score a Globe nomination for Best Picture along with top nominations from the Producers Guild and Screen Actors Guild. (Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody and BlacKkKlansman are the others.)


2018 in Review: The Best Films of the Year

From top: Won't You Be My Neighbor?, A Star is Born, The Favourite, American Animals, Roma,
Isle of Dogs, Suspira, BlacKkKlansman,
and Destroyer are the year's best films
It pretty much sums up 2018 in a nutshell by saying that my two favourite films of the year are the Mr. Rogers documentary about the value of kindness and the movie where Nicole Kidman mercilessly beats the shit out of everyone. What a mood.


2018 in Review: The Best Performances of the Year

Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Tilda Swinton, Carmina Martínez, Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz,
Rosamund Pike and Nicole Kidman are among 2018's top stars.
2018 might not have been a so-so year for movies, but it’s hard to find a year with a stronger list of acting credits. The films of 2018 excelled in large part by the quality of the performances that fuelled them. I could easily have limited the list of the top lead performances of 2018 to Best Actress contenders and still omitted worthy names if I capped it at 10. Not even Meryl Streep made the lists this year, the acting was so good!


Interview: Chatting with 'Birds of Passage' Director Cristina Gallego at 'That Shelf'

Embed from Getty Images

The team behind Embrace of the Serpent is back! After the 2015 arthouse hit and Oscar nominee comes Birds of Passage, an electrifying Colombian cartel drama directed by Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra. The film is Colombia's Oscar entry for Best Foreign Language Film and recently made the shortlist.

Birds of Passage gives drug wars a tribal spin by setting the drama in the land of the Wayuu clans in northern Colombia. “Since Embrace went well, it was very easy to finance this film,” said Gallego, speaking Gallego, speaking ahead of the film’s Canadian premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. “It let us take the next step in the scale of film we could make. In Colombia, movies are usually pretty small because of financing.” 


'The Favourite' Leads Online Film Critics Society Awards Nominations

Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman star in The Favourite
Courtesy Fox Searchlight Pictures
Yorgos Lanthimos's period satire The Favourite leads the nominations for the 22nd annual Online Film Critics Society Awards. The organization, of which I am a member, is the oldest and longest running international group supporting film culture in the online sphere.


The RBG Origin Story

On the Basis of Sex
(USA, 120 min.)
Dir. Mimi Leder, Writ. Daniel Stiepleman
Starring: Felicity Jones, Armie Hammer, Justin Theroux, Sam Waterston, Kathy Bates, Jack Raynor  
Martin Ginsburg Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Every good superhero deserves an origin story. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the cloaked crusader of 2018, gets her turn in the biopic On the Basis of Sex with a spunky performance by Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) charting her journey towards becoming a Supreme Court Justice and the meme-able “The Notorious RBG.” On the Basis of Sex is the second entry in the Ruth Bader Ginsburg cinematic universe of 2018 and while it’s a perfectly decent and timely film, it’s neither great nor essential viewing for anyone who saw Betsy West and Julie Cohen’s documentary RBG. The doc is not cinematic masterpiece, either, so an RBG reboot seems inevitable.


2018 in Review: The Best Canadian Films of the Year

Meditation Park, Anthropocene, Mary Goes Round, Kingsway, The Fall of the American Empire and Cardinals are some of 2018's best Canadian films
It is harder and harder to see a Canadian film in a Canadian theatre these days. And I hate to say it, but many of the Canadian movies that actually find space on big screens are not good. However, there are some real gems in between the schlocky horror flicks, lo-fi comedies about thirtysomething males, and cheap Canadian movies four-walling a theatre simply to meet their funding requirements.

Vox Lux: A Tale of Pop Music, Tragedy, and Violence

Vox Lux
(USA, 110 min.)
Written and directed by Brady Corbet
Starring: Natalie Portman, Jude Law, Raffey Cassidy, Jennifer Ehle, Stacy Martin, Willem Dafoe
Celeste Vox Lux
Natalie Portman stars in Vox Lux
Courtesy of Elevation Pictures
1999. A year of pop music, tragedy, and violence.


"Out, vile jelly! Where is thy lustre now?"

(USA, 132 min.)
Written and directed by Adam McKay
Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Jesse Plemons, Alison Pill, Tyler Perry, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Lily Rabe  
Dick Cheney Lynne Cheney
Christian Bale stars as Dick Cheney and Amy Adams plays Lynne Cheney in Vice
Courtesy eOne Films
"Out, vile jelly! Where is thy lustre now?"
-King Lear

Dick Cheney is a villain worthy of Shakespeare. The Bard deftly blended tragedy and comedy to comment upon the rulers of today and while Adam McKay might not be William Shakespeare, he certainly knows how to craft a bad guy. After skewering Wall Street, the man behind The Big Short takes aim on the White House and sends audiences back to the dark ages of the now- second worst administration in the history of the USA. George “Dubya” Bush is too easy a target though, and has already been picked apart by movies like the incendiary Fahrenheit 9/11 and the Bush-league Oliver Stone biopic W. Instead, McKay sets his sights on the junior Bush’s wingman, Vice President Dick Cheney, played in a deadpan performance by Christian Bale in a furiously funny film. Cheney is a man of many vices and McKay’s flick portrays him as a crafty, Machiavellian politician who was really pulling the strings throughout Bush’s reign of terror. Vice is an all too relevant satire when yet another idiot is running the show in 2018.

A Spoonful of Sugar Helps 2018 Go Down

Mary Poppins Returns
(USA, 130 min.)
Dir. Rob Marshall, Writ. David Magee
Starring: Emily Blunt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ben Whishaw, Emily Mortimer, Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, Joel Dawson, Julie Walters, Colin Firth, Meryl Streep, Dick Van Dyke
Mary Poppins mirror
If there’s one silver lining to be found in Donald Trump’s administration, or the likes of Doug Ford and whatever other terrible people happen to be in power now, it’s that they make a film critic’s job too easy. One could have easily made a drinking game out of the number of films deemed balm for divisive times in 2018. Many films received praise for their relevance, while others got a passing grade for showing up at the right time. However, the holidays are here and everyone needs some Christmas cheer. If there’s a film to warm the heart and make the yuletide gay, it’s Mary Poppins Returns. The film is a welcome homecoming for the magical nanny who touched generations of children. Mary Poppins Returns is the grand finale to the “movie we need right now” festival of 2018!


Mary, Mary Quite Contrary

Mary Queen of Scots
(UK, 124 min.)
Dir. Josie Rourke, Writ. Beau Willamon
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, Joe Alwyn, Adrian Lester, Guy Pearce, Adam Bond, Jack Lowden
Saoirse Ronan stars as Mary, Queen of Scots
400 years before Nancy and Tonya, there was the rivalry of Mary and Elizabeth. One of history’s biggest grudge matches receives a hot-blooded and contemporary adaptation in Mary Queen of Scots. The film pulses with regal tension as Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie face off as the royal rivals in two powerhouse performances.

'Ben is Back' and Roberts Returns

Ben is Back
(USA, 103 min.)
Written and directed by Peter Hedges
Starring: Julia Roberts, Lucas Hedges, Courtney B. Vance, Kathryn Newton
Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges star in Ben is Back
Courtesy Elevation Pictures
Ben is Back might be the most depressing Christmas movie since It’s a Wonderful Life. But if there is a Jimmy Stewart in Hollywood today, his spirit endures in Julia Roberts’ infectious smile. Roberts is heartbreakingly good in Ben is Back playing Holly Burns, the devoted mother fighting to save her family with the same indefatigable goodwill that makes audiences cheer for George Bailey year after year. She gives one of her best and most surprising performances opposite Lucas Hedges (Boy Erased) in this engaging, emotionally draining, and ultimately rewarding portrait of addiction’s ability to tear families apart.