The Urban Planet and Tent Town, USA

Slums: Cities of Tomorrow
(Canada, 81 min.)
Written and directed by Jean-Nicholas Orhon
The slums of the world have assumed a mystical, if not fetishistic, quality in the movies ever since Slumdog Millionaire took the world by storm in 2008. Slumdog thrillingly, if problematically, entrances audiences with its rags-to-riches romance that whizzes through the slums of Mumbai. Settings of exotic poverty are frequent in the movies, but few films actually tackle the significance of slums beyond the character and life that breathes in these overlooked corners of the world. They’re unacknowledged cities, really, as filmmaker Jean-Nicholas Orhon argues in the insightful documentary Slums: Cities of Tomorrow. This sobering film takes a matter-of-fact portrait of slums, which are rapidly growing as some of the most populous places on Earth.


Bill Murray, Patron Saint of Comedy

St. Vincent
(USA, 103 min.)
Written and directed by Theodore Melfi
Starring: Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts, Jaeden Lieberher
Bill Murray puts the F in ‘Bill F***ing Murray’ with his colourfully cuss-laden turn in the charming crowd-pleaser, St. Vincent. St. Vincent, which opened at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this year on the festive celebration of Bill Murray Day, canonizes Murray as one of the patron saints of comedy. Murray has been on something of a latter act reinvention of his career since 2003’s Lost in Translation brought his a well-deserved Oscar nod, and his turn as the grumpy Vin in St. Vincent might be one of the finer fusions of his sophisticated dramatic streak with his Caddyshack swagger. It’s a competitive year for actors, but there’s reason to believe that a few comedy fans will nominate their saint in the months ahead. St. Vincent sees Murray at his curmudgeonly best.


'Enemy', 'Grand Seduction' Top Directors Guild of Canada Winners

The Directors Guild of Canada awards were handed out in Toronto tonight. Enemy leads with three prizes, although Don McKellar scooped the prize for Best Director for The Grand Seduction. Oddly enough, Denis Villeneuve won the Canadian Screen Award for Best Director when Enemy led the CSA haul despite losing the top prize to Gabrielle, which went home from the DGAs empty handed. The winners are as follows:

Presented by Platinum Sponsor, Technicolor

Presented by Gold Sponsor, Deluxe

Don McKellar – The Grand Seduction
Presented by Silver Sponsor Rogers Group of Funds

Watermark – Jennifer Baichwal

The Golden Ticket – Patrick Hagarty

Presented by Silver Sponsor Pinewood Studios Group

Patrice Vermette - Enemy         

Matthew Hannam – Enemy

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones - Kevin Banks, Stephen Barden, Alex Bullick, Nelson Ferreira, J. R. Fountain, Rose Gregoris, Jill Purdy, Nathan Robitaille and Tyler Whitham

Please visit www.dgc.ca for the.complete list of winners including television categories.

Don Draper Makes a Pitch

Million Dollar Arm
(USA, 129 min.)
Dir. Craig Gillespie, Writ. Tom McCarthy
Starring: Jon Hamm, Aasif Mandvi, Madhur Mittal, Suraj Sharma, Lake Bell, Alan Arkin.
Don Draper knows how to make a pitch, so it’s no wonder that “Mad Men” star Jon Hamm gamely steps to the mound in the feel-good sports flick Million Dollar Arm. There’s some Madison Avenue drive and showmanship behind the pitch that Hamm’s sports agent JB makes to save his business in the film. The key to success, he thinks, is to breed a new culture of fandom for American baseball and the best resource lies in the untapped market of India where cricket fans are ideally suited for the American pastime of hitting a ball with a bat. From Lucky Strikes to three strikes, though, Hamm sells it with conviction.


Oscar Predictions: Round 2 - Could Oscar Season Revive These Contenders?

Marion Cotillard in The Immigrant
A month goes by quickly and a few corners are taking shape in the early rumblings of the Oscar race. Gone Girl is certifiably in after a month of booming box office and intelligent debate about gender roles in film (for the better) and has clearly tapped into a conversation that people need and want to have. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is definitely in, especially since the film is already earning cries of “Give Michael Keaton the Oscar,” although Keaton and company won’tbe available for much early campaigning, but, as THR notes, the film’s in good company with Fox Searchlight. Twitter’s losing its sh*t over Interstellar, but the film is so embargoed up the wazoo that nothing is really clear except that a bunch of people on the Internet are going crazy over a Christopher Nolan movie. (Because that never happens, right?) CITIZENFOUR, finally, also seems to be sparking major conversations with reliable writers like Anne Thompson callingit the frontrunner for Best Documentary Feature. I personally can’t see anything edging out the Roger Ebert doc Life Itself in the doc category, though, but I have yet to see CITIZENFOUR.

Planet in Focus Announces Nominees for Green Screen and Green Pitch Awards

Producer and Just Eat It film subject Jen Rustemeyer looks over a pile of rescued food. 
Toronto’s Planet in Focus kicks off in just two weeks, but a few nominees have been announced for some of the festival’s industry awards to be handed out during the festival. Planet in Focus, which runs Nov. 7-9, is Toronto’s largest and longest-running environmental film festival. Today’s nominees include the films competing for the Harold Greenberg Fund’s Green Screen Award nominees, which recognizes films and televisions works that display “best environmental practices during production.” PIF’s other batch of nominees, for the William F. White International’s Green Pitch, assists in the creation and support for notable green films by providing in-kind services and $1000 for the development of environmentally themed films. The winner and runner up for the Green Screen prize will be named during PIF’s award ceremony at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema on Nov. 9 while the Green Pitch winner will be named during the PIF Industry Day on Nov. 7. This year’s Planet in Focus opens Nov. 7 with Sturla Gunnarsson’s stunning doc Monsoon.


Ottawa's Inside Out Film Festival Runs Oct. 23-26!

Tru Love opens Inside Out tonight at The ByTowne.
Ottawa gears up for another festival as the local edition of Inside Out starts today at The ByTowne. Inside Out, Ottawa’s largest LGBT film festival and an offshoot of the larger Toronto festival, seems like a great alternative for Ottawans looking for a warm and inviting atmosphere to cheer them up. This year’s festival boasts an impressive line-up of features and shorts, including two Oscar contenders from Brazil and Switzerland, plus the opening night screening of the Canadian film Tru Love. The festival moves to The ByTowne as its home for most screenings (some are also at Club SAW) now that the defunct World Exchange is sitting empty. (But it’s still a great source for free parking on weekends, FYI.) ByTowne previously hosted the Inside Out closing night screening of Blue is the Warmest Colour to a packed audience, so hopefully the move means that more cinephiles will come out for a few screenings and help the festival get bigger and better as it grows!


Festival Japan Offers Free Films in Ottawa Oct. 24 & 25

Until the Break of Dawn screens free at Festival Japan on Oct. 24.
Fans of world cinema in the National Capital may look forward to a pair of free screenings this weekend courtesy of the Canadian Film Institute (CFI) when Festival Japan screens Oct. 24 and 25. Festival Japan, presented by the CFI in collaboration with the Embassy of Japan and The Japan Foundation, offers two contemporary Japanese films for Ottawa cinephiles. Both films screen in the new River Building at Carleton University, which will be the new home to many future CFI screenings to come. Take a parking tip from a thrifty Carleton grad, though, before heading to the fest: there is no free parking on campus, but anyone willing to walk five minutes may find ample free parking on the other side of Bronson Avenue at Brewer Park. Why spend money on parking when you can take a brisk walk (use the tunnels if it’s cold!) and then go for drinks afterwards?

Tickets Now on Sale for Ottawa's Cellar Door Film Festival!

The Canadian horror film Dys- screens at Ottawa's Cellar Door Film Festival
with director Maude Michaud in attendance on Nov. 8.
Trick or treat yourself to something sinister this Halloween season when Ottawa's Cellar Door Film Festival screens a fantastic line-up of horror, sci-fi, and fantasy films Nov. 7-9. Advance tickets are now available for the festival, and CDFF offers film fans an early bird rate of $9 a ticket for online sales (with an additional 5% off if you share via Uniiverse). Tickets are $12 at the door on the day of the event. All screenings take place at Club SAW, the funky cellar of Ottawa's film scene, located in Arts Court at 67 Nicholas St, just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the transit-friendly Rideau Centre.


'Mommy' Becomes Highest Grossing Quebecois Film of 2014

Xavier Dolan and Anne Dorval on the set for Mommy.
Photo: Shayne Laverdière, courtesy Les Films Séville.
Here's some more good news for Mommy as awards season approaches: La presse reports that the Xavier Dolan film and Canada's Oscar submission has handily become the highest grossing Québécois film of 2014. (Read the 5-star review of Mommy here.)  

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

A Mile in These Hooves
The fifth annual Ottawa International Film Festival is officially a wrap! It’s nice to see the festival going strong in its fifth year. OIFF 2014 is my fourth year covering the festival and this year arguably marks the most well attended festival since I first caught the local fest at the now-defunct World Exchange in 2011. (I’m only using a visual gauge of the crowds, for official attendance numbers have not yet been released.) The surest sign of the festival going strong is its comfy new home at Ottawa’s Mayfair Theatre, which marks a much more appealing home than previous venues both in terms of atmosphere, access, and a/v quality.


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!