OIFF Review: Shorts Programme 2

The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
The second shorts programme at the 2014 Ottawa InternationalFilm Festival doesn’t quite match the overall caliber of the first one, but the excellent doc The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life (Dir. Malcolm Clarke; USA/Canada/UK, 39 min.) more than gamely ensures that this screening lives up to expectations. This winner of the 2013 Academy Award for Best Documentary, Short Subject is an outstandingly inspiring affirmation of life. It’s worth the admission alone.

OIFF Review: 'In the Turn'

In the Turn
(USA/Canada, 90 min.)
Written and directed by Erica Tremblay
Ah, now here’s an empowering documentary for audiences at the 2014 International Film Festival. Ottawa audiences will love this story about Crystal, a ten-your-old girl from Timmins, who struggles while growing up in a small town that hesitates to accept people who challenge their idea of normalcy. Crystal’s mom introduces her daughter and explains how life in the snowy Shania Twain town isn’t easy for Crystal, who first expressed thoughts of suicide in relation to her gender dysphoria at the age of five. Crystal’s trouble at school, her mom explains, sums itself up best/worst with the school’s decision to deny Crystal the ability to play on sports teams because they don’t know whether to put her with the boys or with the girls.


OIFF Review: 'The Lost Key'

The Lost Key
(USA/Venezuela, 88 min.)
Dir. Ricardo Adler, Ricardo Korda, Belin Orsini
You know a doc’s a dud when it preaches about sex and intimacy and the only take away from the film is the thought, “Whatever happened to Meg Ryan?” The unfortunately absent has-been star of the 1990s appears in a fleeting snippet of one of her romantic comedies with Tom Hanks in the dismal documentary The Lost Key. Time is better spent watching Ryan’s Hanging Up than this one.

OIFF Review: Short Programme 1

A Mile in These Hooves
The first shorts programme of the 2014 Ottawa International Film Festival offers a playlist of great films. These eight shorts show how much the Festival has grown in its fifth year. It also shows how far Ottawa film has come in the age of OIFF, for this programme contains arguably the best Ottawa short production of the past five years alongside a film from The Weinstein Company. Yes, local talents are in the same block of shorts as a film that credits Mr. Oscar Campaigner himself, Harvey Weinstein, as Executive Producer. The real thrill is that the local short is undeniably the better film of the two. To be honest, though, there isn't a bad film in the bunch!


OIFF Review: 'American Descent' and 'Subsurface Flow'

American Descent
(Canada, 83 min.)
Dir. Brooks Hunter, Writ. Brooks Hunter, Robert Menzies, Maggie Newton
Starring: Eva Link, Madeline Link, Olivier Suprenant, Caedan Lawrence, Mark Slacke, Rachel Cairns, Katherine Dines, Timothy Paul Coderre.
Found footage strikes again. American Descent, the latest film from Brooks Hunter, director of OIFF 2011 alumnus and 2011 turkey train runner-up Kennyville, makes an admirable stab at mockumentary but falls victim to the same tired clichés and conventions that make found footage one of the most insufferable forms of filmmaking. American Descent, which should really be titled Stupid People: The Movie, is so dumb, dull, and repulsive that a not even cheerleader for local content could love it.

OIFF Review: 'My Father and the Man in Black'

My Father and the Man in Black
(Canada, 87 min.)
Written and directed by Jonathan Holiff
Johnny Cash is an American icon, so it only makes sense that the untold story of the man behind the Man in Black is the story of a Canadian. The late Saul Holiff, reserved and modest(ish), receives a posthumous tribute from his son, Jonathan, who mines the archive of his father's life in the folksy documentary My Father and the Man in Black. This personal Canada production, which screened at the Ottawa International Film Festival on Friday, walks the line between sweetness and sentimentality, but Holiff provides both an intimate tale of fathers and sons and a revealing glimpse into music history.


Trailer for 'Elephant Song' Starring Bruce Greenwood, Xavier Dolan and Catherine Keener

Photo: Les Films Séville
Les Films Séville released a trailer for the upcoming drama Elephant Song starring Bruce Greenwood, Xavier Dolan, and Catherine Keener. Elephant Song features a trio of strong performances in this stage to screen adaptation from director Charles Binamé. The film comes to Canadian theatres February 20th, 2015, which will hopefully be hot on the heels of an Oscar nomination (and maybe even a win) for Xavier Dolan's Mommy in the Best Foreign Language Film race. Mommy recently passed the $2 million dollar mark, which is significant for a Canadian film, and should encourage healthy domestic and foreign interest in the English-language Elephant Song. This release date also makes Elephant Song eligible for Canadian Screen Award nominations. (Expect the three actors to be nom'd.) Elephant Song had its world premiere at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival (review here) and recently had a swanky Ottawa screening hosted by Heritage Minister Sheila Glover.

OIFF Review: 'Girlhouse'

(Canada, 99 min.)
Dir. Trevor Matthews, John Knautz; Writ. Nick Gordon
Starring: Ali Corbin, Adam DiMarco, Erin Agostino, Chasty Ballesteros, Alyson Bath, Alice Hunter, Slaine.
Sexy coeds get porked and butchered in the local slasher Girlhouse and the result is pretty nasty. Girlhouse, which had its world premiere as the opening night selection of the 2014 Ottawa International Film Festival to an energetic and decently-sized crowd at the Mayfair Theatre, certainly marks one of the most professionally assembled and commercially viable genre flicks to emerge from the local film scene. A heaping dose of sex and violence makes this diversionary gore-fest a prime contender for the Netflix queue, although audiences outside of the local film scene might not be as forgiving of the clichés and overall derivativeness of the film. Still, Ottawa audiences should appreciate the technical efforts of their peers while teen target demos could bring some interest akin to the locally shot moneymaker House at the End of the Street.


'Citizen Marc': A Grassroots Campaign (of Sorts)

Citizen Marc
(Canada, 93 min.)
Dir. Roger Larry, Writ. Roger Larry, Sandra Tomc
Civil disobedience goes up in smoke in the raucous documentary Citizen Marc as famed and/or notorious marijuana activist Marc Emery positions himself as the Gandhi of ganja. Yes, that statement sounds like hyperbole, or like the words of a guy taking a toke, but Marc irreverently positions his cause as something akin to a holy war. Citizen Marc playfully magnifies this large-than-life character and posits his grandiose narcissism as one of his superhuman strengths. Marc’s delusions might also be his kryptonite, for director Roger Larry frames the story of Marc’s fight for marijuana rights within his recent legal battle and extradition to the United States for selling pot seeds across the border. This sassy doc asks if such a brazen personality is ultimately a help or a hindrance for cultivating social change.


Ottawa International Film Festival Runs Oct. 15-19!

The Ottawa International Film Festival returns this week! Running from Oct. 15-19, Ottawa’s little festival that could makes a big step forward in its fifth year. This year’s OIFF features the largest line-up yet with an impressive six features and 17 shorts from a mix of local, national and international talents. Even more impressive is OIFF’s new residency at Ottawa’s historic Mayfair Theatre, which gives the festival a new home with more seating capacity (and far better popcorn!) than its previous homes at the now-defunct World Exchange Plaza and other venues around the city. OIFF is not without its humble origins, as anyone starting up a project in Ottawa’s arts scene needs to keep in mind, but year five shows that business is a boomin’ for the local film scene!


Contest: Win Tickets to 'The Best of Me' in Ottawa and Toronto! (CONTEST CLOSED)

Alright, Nicholas Sparks fans! The latest adaptation of the romantic author comes to the screen with the bittersweet drama The Best of Me starring James Marsden, Michelle Monaghan, Liane Liberto, and Luke Bracey. The Best of Me opens in theatres October 17 from eOne Films, but if you live in Ottawa and/or Toronto and you want tickets to a sneak peek, you are in luck! Answer the trivia below for your chance to win!


'Nolo Contendre'

The Judge
(USA, 141 min.)
Dir. David Dobkin, Writ. Nick Schenk, Bill Dubuque
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr. , Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong.
How many high stakes courtroom flicks plead ‘no contest’? The legal plea lets a defendant play it safe by neither admitting to charges nor fighting them. It saves a potentially dramatic episode of legal proceedings as one avoids disputing one’s guilt. It’s dignified, I guess, if the potentially guilty party has nothing to prove.


Contest! Win Tickets to see 'Birdman' in Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver! (CONTEST CLOSED)

The Oscar race is on! Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) has had critics and audiences flapping their wings with praise ever since it opened at the Venice Film Festival this summer. Birdman, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu and starring Michael Keaton, opens in Canadian theatres from Fox Searchlight Pictures Canada beginning Oct. 24, but if you live in Toronto, Calgary, or Vancouver and want to catch a sneak peek of Birdman, you are in luck! Answer the trivia below for your chance to see Birdman before it hits theatres!


Cellar Door Film Festival Announces Line-up

The Bulgarian horror/thriller Roseville opens the 2014 Cellar Door Film Festival.
Ottawa’s Cellar Door Film Festival is excited to announce the line-up for its inaugural festival, which screens in Ottawa November 7-9, 2014. (Full disclosure: I’m one of the programmers and I’m very pleased to be sharing this news!) All screenings take place at Club SAW and are generously supported by CDFF’s presenting sponsor, The School for Studies in Art and Culture at Carleton University, as well as supporting sponsors the Alumni Association of Carleton University, GNA Heating and Cooling, The Haunted Walk of Ottawa, and Used Ottawa. CDFF presents Ottawans with their first festival of speculative cinema with four feature films and eleven short films across the genres of horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. These films were chosen from a healthy group of submissions that came from twenty-six countries across four continents. Pretty good for a first time festival!


Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage (and Then a Lot More Hateship)

Gone Girl
(USA, 149 min.)
Dir. David Fincher, Writ. Gillian Flynn
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry, Kim Dickens, Carrie Coon.
The adaptation of Gone Girl employs near clinical fidelity to its source material, yet one feels like an adulterer watching the delicious drama unfold onscreen. The book by Gillian Flynn inspires me to be on Amy’s side of the affair for every page of the novel from beginning to end, yet the film by David Fincher puts me on Team Nick for every frame of the movie from open to close. Gillian Flynn writes both versions and they’re nearly identical in terms of words, story and structure, so this adaptation poses a fascination re-reading by the film author that draws out all the social resonance embedded within Flynn’s texts. This wicked thriller by David Fincher is one of his best films yet.