4/19/2019

'The Grizzlies': A Film that Roars

The Grizzlies
(Canada, 104 min.)
Dir. Miranda de Pencier; Writ. Moria Walley-Beckett, Graham Yosy
Starring: Ben Schnetzer, Paul Nutarariaq, Emerald MacDonald, Anna Lambe, Fred Bailey, Tantoo Cardinal, Booboo Stewart, Will Sasso
Inuit lacrosse team
Photo by Shane Mahood
Mongrel Media

The fearless and inspiring The Grizzlies gives Canadian film the great sports drama that has long eluded it. As The Grizzlies gives its excellent young cast a chance to shine, roar, and spotlight their community, the film provides a significant call to action for the suicide crisis up North and an effective portrait of the complexity of north/south and Indigenous/settler relationships. The film begins with a heartbreaking image of an Inuit youth walking on the tundra, alone save for his faithful dog, as he takes his life. The image returns more than once in The Grizzlies as the film introduces audiences to a community in which literally everyone has lost a friend or family member to suicide.


4/10/2019

Nocturnal Animals: 'Fausto' Re-Imagines Man and Myth

Fausto
(Canada/Mexico, 70 min.)
Written and directed by Andrea Bussmann
Starring: Alberto Núñez, Victor Pueyo, Gabino Rodríguez, Fernando Renjifo, Ziad Chakaroun
If Andrea Bussmann’s previous feature was a tale for those who dreamt, her latest work is a dream realized in its most cinematic form. Bussmann’s Fausto transports the Faust myth to beaches of Oaxaca, Mexico for a loose, free-flowing, and hypnotic meditation. It’s a fleeting film that ebbs and flows in elliptical pauses. Demanding, frustrating, fascinating, and rewarding, Fausto is a richly dense exercise in active viewing. Much like a dream that only makes sense when unpacked and savoured as a metaphorical whole, it’s also a beautifully evocative film that washes over you and enriches the mind.

The uncanny character of the film is complemented by the peculiar hybrid structure with which Bussmann reimagines the fable. Alberto (Alberto Núñez) and Fernando (Fernando Renjifo) laze on the beach playing games and telling stories. The characters include a handful of migrants, some Oaxacan locals, and an ex-pat American who tell their stories in meandering accounts. They tell stories in an indirect manner, never quiet making eye contact with the camera, but rarely having a perceptible recipient for the fables they share. Their yarns unfurl like interview answers or soliloquies—something between the two, perhaps—as they muse upon the mysteries of the world, deals with the devil, the knowable versus the unknowable, either to Bussmann or to the open ear of the midnight air. Their stories contrast with the omniscient narration (by Gabino Rodríguez) who serves as both an all-seeing eye and an unreliable narrator given that too few images are discernable to the viewer’s eye—there are many shots in which one can’t really understand what transpires onscreen.

The film thrives on the interplay of images, the power of storytelling, and on the relationship Bussmann conjures between things the audiences sees and doesn’t see. (Or sees to an extent, in Bussmann’s pitch-black nocturnes.) Storytelling as at the heart of Fausto as Bussmann returns to the image of the men sitting around a bonfire on the beach or a candlelight dinner at night.

The darkness of the images is consistently mesmerizing. Shot on a Sony a7S digital camera, which retails for around $2000 as an affordable prosumer device, and then transferred onto 16mm film, the palettes of Fausto visualize myriad contradictions and tensions that embody Bussmann’s film. The compositions are dark, yet washed out with the strained exposure grain of the digital camera and rendered with a bleachy ghostliness afforded by the images’ reproduction on film. Many of the images are almost entirely black as Bussmann’s camera gazes out to the ocean and takes in a few stars, which pepper the screen faintly, like small pinholes through which the light escapes.

Animals appear onscreen, too, in museum displays and daytime scenes on the beach. Stuffed gazelles stare back from the screen, looking at us as intently as we look at them, while one of Fausto’s more hypnotic moments watches a dog accompany the men on a stroll along the violent beach. Waves crash thunderously as the humans make their way up a rocky cliff and the dog, lacking the proper digits with which to climb the wall, simply jumps and barks as the waves hit the shore. It’s a scene of great indirect violence and a reminder of the world in which we’re all ultimately powerless beings.

Shot like a meditative anthropological or ethnographic film, Fausto invites audiences to consider the creatures that frolic on the screen and the natural environment that engulfs them. The narrator speaks often about the characteristics of nocturnal animals—creatures that see in the dark and generally can’t be tamed—and by enshrouding the film in the dark of midnight, Bussmann challenges a viewer to see the world through the eyes of man, an animal, that is contained by the world in which he thinks he’s free.

The resulting aesthetic suggests that the world of Fausto is some beguiling between-place as the men contemplate their state of limbo. The modern and theoretical take on the classic myth fuses past and present, world and otherworldly, presence and absence. It’s a tale of shadows and men, and people and their environments. It’s hard to say what exactly Fausto is or means, but the spirit of the film leaves an insatiable hunger to know more.

Fausto opens in Toronto on Thursday, April 11 at TIFF Lightbox.


4/02/2019

Interview: Chatting with 'New Homeland' Director Barbara Kopple

It was an absolute thrill to get to chat with Barbara Kopple, the two-time Oscar winning director, who just happens to be my favourite filmmaker working in documentary thanks to films like Harlan County, USA, Miss Sharon Jones!, Shut Up and Sing, American Dream, and more. Over at POV, I got a chance to talk with Kopple about her latest film, New Homeland, which follows five boys--a mix of Syrian and Iraqi refugees--as they experience the Canadian wilderness for the first time. The doc is a thoughtful study about the need to open arms rather than put up walls.


3/29/2019

Interview: Chatting 'Hotel Mumbai' with Director Anthony Maras and Actors Anupam Kher, Nazanin Boniadi, and Jason Isaacs

Anupam Kher stars as Chef Oberoi in Hotel Mumbai
VVS Films
More on Hotel Mumbai! After last week's chat with Armie Hammer comes more insight on the film from director Anthony Maras and actors Anupam Kher, Nazanin Boniadi, and Jason Isaacs. The cast and director discuss their exceptionally powerful film and honouring the true heroes behind their characters and seeing the tragedy of the attacks in Mumbai as a call for unity in divisive times.


3/26/2019

"Something from the belly": Philippe Lesage's 'Genesis'

Genesis (Genèse)
(Canada, 129 min.)
Written and directed by Philippe Lesage
Starring: Théodore Pellerin, Noée Abita, Jules Roy Sicotte, Emilie Bierre, Édouard Tremblay-Grenier, Paul Ahmarani
brother sister in a car
Genesis is arguably the one truly great dramatic film in this year’s Canada’s Top Ten. It is an excitingly unfortunate reminder that the best of Canadian cinema remains largely invisible. See it if and whenever you can. Lesage jokes that it could be a sequel to his 2015 film The Demons, but he says there’s no point making a sequel to a movie that nobody saw. It’s a shame that there isn’t wider recognition for Lesage’s work in the Canadian circuit, so hopefully his new film Genesis will mobilize cinephiles to champion one of the emerging filmmakers in Canada doing new and exciting things with film form.


3/15/2019

Interview: Chatting with 'Level 16' Director Danishka Esterhazy

Sara Canning in Daniska Esterhazy's Level 16
New interview! Chatting about Level 16, feminist dystopia, fandom, Handmaid's Tale, femme fatales and Sara Canning's great Veronica Lake look with director Danishka Esterhazy at That Shelf. The film is now playing in Toronto!

3/14/2019

Vives les fantômes!

Ghost Town Anthology (Répertoire des villes disparues)
(Canada, 97 min.)
Written and directed by Denis Côté
Starring: Robert Naylor, Larissa Corriveau, Josée Deschênes, Diane Lavallée, Jocelyne Zucco, Normand Carrière, Hubert Proulx, Rachel Graton
Snow drifts are scary, but nobody has quite captured the foreboding nature of snow billowing across the road like Denis Côté does in Ghost Town Anthology. The new and (expectedly) peculiar film from Côté’s mind proves the director to be one of the most distinct voices in Canadian film today, although that trait was already proved with A Skin so Soft, Bestiaire, Carcasses, and Vic + Flo Sawa Bear. Whatever goes on inside his head is the stuff that psychologists dream about, but for those of us who prefer to probe the mind while sitting in a darkened movie theatre, Côté’s movies never cease to fascinate. Ghost Town Anthology might be Côté’s best film yet, and I say this as a passionate fan. It’s a stripped down horror flick that sends shivers to the bone like a winter chill on a February day.


Interview: Chatting with 'Hotel Mumbai' Star Armie Hammer!

Armie Hammer in Hotel Mumbai
VVS Films
I'm very excited to make my debut at Sharp with an interview with Armie Hammer! I got to chat with Hammer at the Toronto International Film Festival in September where we looked at his excellent new film Hotel Mumbai, and touched upon his first time playing a father, his bromance with Timothée Chalamet, and the challenges of bringing such an intense story to the screen.


3/07/2019

Interview: Chatting with 'Through Black Spruce' Star Tanaya Beatty

The TIFF coverage keeps on coming!

First up in this month's coverage to drop is a chat with Tanaya Beatty, who gives a powerful breakout performance as Annie Bird in the adaptation of Through Black Spruce. (She really should have landed a Screenie nom, IMO.) The film hits theatres March 29. Pick up a copy of BeatRoute in BC and Alberta to read!

 


3/01/2019

Contest! Win Tickets to See 'Gloria Bell'!

Put the gin in the freezer and get out your heels, Gloria Bell is ready to hit the dance floor! Julianne Moore brings new life to the title role of Gloria Bell playing a woman discovering the thrill and comfort of enjoying independence in the prime of her life. The film, a hit at last year's Toronto International Film Festival (read the TIFF review here) casts Moore in an English-language remake of Sebastián Lelio's acclaimed film Gloria with the Oscar winning director back at the helm. Gloria Bell opens on Friday, March 15 from VVS Films and Cinemablographer has a tickets to give away for sneak peeks in Toronto and Vancouver. Answer the trivia below to win!

2/25/2019

Oscars Recap: 'Favourite' Moments of the Night


Last night’s Oscars felt dead on arrival when Queen opened the show with a performance that was so lifeless and awkwardly shot one might have mistaken it for a clip from Bohemian Rhapsody. Fortunately, though, the ever-reliable trio of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Maya Rudolph brought the energy back to the room. In the absence of the usual opening monologue, the trio offered a funny bit that ripped on the many gaffes the Academy made en route to this year’s Oscars, including losing host Kevin Hart and backtracking on its decision to award several categories during the commercial breaks and present edited clips later in the show. This year’s Oscar broadcast might have been the swiftest one yet since it didn’t have a host to pad the evening with jokes and filler. The Oscars didn’t suffer much without a host, but like the show could have used a bit more pizzazz. One can hardly fault the Academy because they ultimately listened to viewers and delivered a show that focused largely on the nominees and winners.

2/22/2019

Oscar Predictions: Final Round - Will Win/Should Win

A Star is Born Oscars
Clockwise from top left: Roma, BlacKkKlansman, Black Panther, A Star is Born, The Favourite, Green Book
Another year, another utterly toxic Oscar season in the can. I don't know if this year was as brutal as the last one, but jeez - don’t you remember when the Oscars were fun? Don’t you remember when you could champion a movie because you loved it, because it moved you, or because it wowed you unlike anything you’d seen before? I mean, could you even imagine Titanic winning Best Picture in 2018? If The Boy Who Cried Woke thinks its classist to say “You’ve gotta see Roma in a theatre!” then Titanic would have gotten killed because Rose, the rich girl, survived the shipwreck and Jack, the magical boy from Steerage, died. An iceberg would be the least of Titanic's problems.

2/15/2019

Five Films to See at TIFF Next Wave

kids with skateboards
Catch must-see Oscar nominee Minding the Gap at TIFF Next Wave
Courtesy of TIFF.
Forget Max Ophüls, the archival 35mm print you need to see this week is But I’m a Cheerleader! TIFF’s Next Wave Film Festival returns this week offering youth-oriented programming with films both old and new selected by young movie buffs. Jamie Babbit’s campy and hilarious cult hit is just one of the retrospective highlights of the film that should attract moviegoers eager to explore films that didn’t make the cut at TIFF’s recent 1999 series. (Still waiting on that Thomas Crown Affair spotlight, dear Lightbox!)

2/11/2019

Watch Oscar Nominee 'Animal Behaviour'

gorilla and dog in therapy
Animal Behaviour
NFB
FYI, you can watch Canada's Oscar nominee Animal Behaviour now that is available for free from the NFB. This delightfully hilarious film from Alison Snowden and David Fine marks the NFB's 75th Oscar nomination and is well deserved. (Snowden and Fine previously won for the short Bob's Birthday, which inspired the hit series Bob and Margaret.) It's my personal favourite in a very strong crop of animated short films. Have a watch, enjoy a laugh, and add your vote to the ballot!

2/07/2019

Oscar-Nominated Live Action Shorts are Sadistic Hell

Fauve
Wowee, the short film branch of the Academy is a sadistic bunch. I love the five films they nominated for Best Animated Short, but the programme for Best Live Action Short is simply intolerable. With the exception of one contender, the nominees are relentlessly bleak, exhausting, and, at times, excruciating films. Oscar completists must tread lightly in this scenario, for it might better to fill out the ballot than endure the miserable hell of a screening. At the very least, find out the screening order of the films and plan bathroom breaks or walk out times accordingly.