picks for the hottest films from the first 25 years of Hot Docs.
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(Canada, 95 min.)
Written and directed by Darren Curtis
Starring: Nabil Rajo, Jahmil French, Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine, Oluniké Adeliyi, Fanny Mallette, Brent Skagford, Théo Pellerin
One of my guilty pleasure when it comes to cheap Canadian cinema nobody’s heard of is Darren Curtis and Pat Kiely’s cracked-out and ridiculous comedy Who is KK Downey? A wonderful discovery at the 2008 Kingston Canadian Film Festival that some of my friends still cite as a reason why they won’t see Canadian films with me, KK Downey is a riotously silly parody of faux-author JT LeRoy who gained fame by penning a bestseller allegedly based on a previous life as a truck stop hustler. It’s a hoot largely due to its madcap direction and to Curtis’s fearlessly looney performance as the privileged white guy who crafts a story of oppression to sell his shitty book.
Isle of Dogs
(USA, 101 min.)
Written and directed by Wes Anderson
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Koyu Rankin, Liev Schreiber, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Courtney B. Vance, F. Murray Abraham, Yoko Ono
|Fox Searchlight Pictures|
Give Wes Anderson a bone! His latest film Isle of Dogs is pooch perfection. Even a die-hard cat person will fall head over heels in love with this movie and leave the theatre doing little back flips whilst yapping for joy.
|Sally Hawkins stars in Maudie|
|Brigitte Poupart in Les affamés - the only Best Picture nominee that's truly excellent|
Emmanuel Crombez / Les Films Séville
The Canadian Screen Awards are tonight and it’s an evening to quietly celebrate a so-so year in Canadian film. The roster of nominees indicates that the nomination committees went out of their way to find a diverse group of contenders and unearthed some buried nuggets, but few of these films screened theatrically and some of them barely made a peep on the festival circuit. A lot of the best Canadian work was short changed. The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it qualifying runs don’t help much either when it comes to giving audiences a chance to see the films. Canadian television seems to be picking up steam with Schitt's Creek and Alias Grace expanding their wow factors beyond the land of the maple leaf, but our films are struggling.
The Heart is What Dies Last (C’est le cœur qui meurt en dernier)
(Canada, 105 min.)
Dir. Alexis Durand-Brault, Writ. Gabriel Sabourin
Starring: Gabriel Sabourin, Denise Filiatrault, Paul Doucet, Geneviève Rioux, Céline Bonnier, Sophie Lorain
|Denise Filiatrault in The Heart is What Dies Last|
Les Films Séville
This year’s totally random Canadian Screen Award nominee for Best Picture is The Heart is What Dies Last. It’s titled less awkwardly as C’est le coeur quit meurt en dernier in its native français, but presenters probably won’t be stumbling over syntax while ripping open the envelopes. It’s a fine, decently acted drama, but nothing to make the heart stir.
Never Steady, Never Still
(Canada, 112 min.)
Written and directed by Kathleen Hepburn
Starring: Shirley Henderson, Théodore Pellerin, Mary Galloway, Nicholas Campbell, Jared Abrahamson, Lorne Cardinal
Shirley Henderson, the actress with the squeaky voice, is a tremendous force in Never Steady, Never Still. This debut feature from Kathleen Hepburn gives the British actress an outstanding lead role as Judy, a woman living in oil country, BC, who experiences a tragic illness because of contamination from the fields. Judy suffers from crippling tremors having lived with Parkinson’s disease for twenty years and Henderson finds in the character the same empathy and strength that Sally Hawkins brought to her performance as severely arthritic painter Maud Lewis in Maudie. The physical power of this performance is incredible, but the emotional might is even greater.
“This is a really long show,” said Jimmy Kimmel while introducing last night’s Academy Awards broadcast. Kimmel started on the wrong note. The Oscars never seemed to end, but the duration wasn’t the problem. The monotony was. I could barely hear much of the show at the Oscar party I attended, and after a while, that wasn’t a bad thing because the banter in the room was often much livelier than the telecast. There wasn’t any big hiccup in the show, yet Kimmel kept apologizing and asking folks to move it along when he had no reason to say sorry. The absence of Envelopegate 2 stressed a big takeaway from the evening: safe doesn’t make for great TV.
The ballots are printed, the predictions are set, and the red carpet is ready! A laid back atmosphere can make or break any good Oscar party as friends become rivals when battle lines are drawn between Three Billboards, Lady Bird, and Get Out. (Anyone without a stake in the race should take a bathroom break during Best Original Screenplay.) Help create a cozy and convivial mood with some themed Oscar noms for this year’s contenders. Draw out the finer points of the films over bubbly and have a good laugh: tonight’s for celebrating.
|Billboards, Lady Bird, Darkest Hour, The Post, The Shape of Water, and I, Tonya|
For every ‘yup’ there’s a ‘but.’ This year’s Best Picture race is an unlikely field. Some major stat looks to be broken since all the contenders have a bit of baggage that decreases the odds of a confident win. Get ready for the Oscars to break the Internet on Sunday night! Awards season ends its six-month grind of toxic mudslinging on March 4th when either Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri or The Shape of Water takes Best Picture. It’s a tight race with Get Out, Dunkirk, and Lady Bird having adoring fans, and after last year’s crazy finale, the memory of #OscarsSoWhite, the shadow of Harvey Weinstein, the stench of Donald Trump, and the energy of #TimesUp, it feels as if there are many factors percolating with the usual stats and precursors. With an open mind, let’s look at who will win and should win in the top categories!
Les affamés (The Ravenous)
(Canada, 96 min.)
Written and directed by Robin Aubert
Starring: Marc-André Grondin, Monia Chokri, Charlotte St-Martin, Micheline Lanctôt, Brigitte Poupart, Marie-Ginette Guay, Robert Brouillette
Some call it home and others call it cottage country, but what often draws one to the rural regions of Canada is the silence. The quiet and leafy countryside can be an idyllic reminder of a way of life that seems forgotten in the fast-paced and impersonal cities to which everyone flocks. There’s something truly beautiful, however, about sitting back and watching the sunset over grassy plains rather than through tightly packed condos, smelling pine-scented air rather than carcinogenic smog, or being in a neighbourhood where people wave rather than accuse randomly you of offending them. The sound of silence rather than the din of traffic. This image of “Canada” doesn’t really fit the cultural imagination anymore, but it hasn’t died away.
Mom and Dad
(USA, 83 min.)
Written and directed by Brian Taylor
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Selma Blair, Anne Winters, Zackary Arthur, Robert Cunningham
Why would anyone have kids? They whine. They’re messy. They’re expensive. They’re noisy. They completely consume one’s life and one’s identity. These points could all be positives provided one’s the paternal/maternal type and/or up for a challenge. If not, kids might be one-way tickets to crazy town. Having just raised a kitten, I don’t know how or why people do it when it comes to human children.
|Oscar voters should consider Margot Robbie, Dunkirk, Christopher Plummer, |
The Post, On Body and Soul, and The Breadwinner
Oscar ballots are in the mail! February 20th marks the beginning of the final round of voting for this year’s Academy Awards race. Best Picture still looks to be a nail-biter with The Shape of Water and Three Billboards going neck-and-neck and their distributor Fox Searchlight laughing all the way to the bank, while the four acting categories look locked for Gary Oldman, Frances McDormand, Allison Janney, and Sam Rockwell. But last year’s upset proves that no frontrunner is secure, so let’s send the annual memo to the Academy with cases to be made for some of this year’s most worthy contenders:
Fake Tattoos (Les faux tatouages)
(Canada, 87 min.)
Written and directed by Pascale Plante
Starring: Anthony Therrien, Rose-Marie Perrault
Fake Tattoos is the real deal. This raw and intimate film from Pascale Plante deserves to be in the spotlight. It’s easily the best feature dramatic debut from the Canadian circuit in 2017 and director Pascale Plante shows the most overall finesse in fusing the authenticity of style with storytelling. This rugged and easygoing love story is Once meets Nuit #1 for the indie rock crowd. It’s Sleeping Giant for people who came of age in grungy concerts or in their bedrooms listening to music on late summer nights instead of getting to bask in the sunlight of cottage country. Find love and lose it in the freeing summers of youth with this bittersweet number that pulses with passion, adrenaline, and pain.
In Between (Bar Bahar)
(Israel/France, 103 min.)
Written and directed by Maysaloun Hamoud
Starring: Mouna Hawa, Sana Jammelieh, Shaden Kanboura, Henry Andrawes, Mahmud Shalaby
Discover a voice in writer/director Maysaloun Hamoud. Her feature debut In Between is a welcome drama about Arab women negotiating love and independence within a male-dominated society. Set in the Arab quarters of Israel, In Between presents three women who are outsiders among outsiders in a world wrestling with change. It’s a bold and funny tale of female friendship and women’s rights.