Oscar crowns the Swan Queen!

Let me start by saying that I did terribly with my predictions this year! Only 14/21... ouch! I think that next year I will just clip lists of the categories to the wall and throw darts at the nominees. I’ll probably have better luck with that! Overall, though, I think that James Franco and Anne Hathaway did a good job as hosts of last night's abbreviated Oscars. (As part of the younger demographic, I’ll say that they fulfilled their duties more than adequately.) Their opening spoof of Inception was a great kick-off to the show, and it was a lot of fun to watch them play off one another during the evening. I also liked Anne Hathaway’s self-mockery when she saluted all the viewers making a drinking game out of her gaffs... but really, after Melissa Leo’s f-bomb, any miscues were negligible.

As for the winners, I liked how there were a few surprises thrown in with the expected victors, although I am disappointed though that neither Incendies, nor Barney’s Version took home the gold… Not wanting to dwell on the negative, I’ll give a big resounding “YAY!” to Natalie Portman’s Best Actress win! Portman was very gracious in her speech, as was Colin Firth, and I liked how both winners acknowledged the directors whose films helped define their careers, which is something that too few winners do. While I’m disappointed that Black Swan didn’t pull an upset, I’m glad that The King’s Speech stood strong and took top prize. When The King’s Speech lost of the awards early in the evening, and The Social Network nabbed three, I thought that things were going to go the other way; however, once David Fincher lost Best Director, I think we all knew that it was a done deal. (I’d hate to have seen Twitter when that happened…) This Oscar season might be over, but with The King’s Speech and Black Swan taking the top awards, I’ll be extra careful with my picks at TIFF this year in hopes of getting a sneak peak at the frontrunners for Oscars 2011.

Winners and comments after the cut:


Oscar Predictions!

James Franco & Anne Hathaway host the Oscars this Sunday at 8:30 on CTV
“Heads, it’s The Social Network. Tails, The King’s Speech,” says Pat in a vain attempt to predict this year’s Best Picture winner. It really is a toss-up as to what will take top prize, which is funny, because back when I made my picks for the Golden Globes, I almost wrote that it was a done deal for The Social Network. Pre-Globes, The Social Network clobbered the competition: When the critics groups dished out their awards – it won everything. After it racked up four prizes at the Globes, however, it seems like Hollywood cried, “No more!” Between the Globes and the Oscars is when the big awards, from the guilds, are handed out. The King’s Speech won three of the four "top" prizes, netting honours from the Screen Actors Guild, the Producers Guild, and, in the biggest upset, the Directors Guild. (Speech was ineligible at the Writers Guild awards.) The guilds matter most because their members overlap with the Academy, whereas the critics groups do not. Will the Oscars follow the guilds, or will we see lots of critics patting themselves on the back Monday morning? Who knows?

Regardless of the outcome, Sunday night should (hopefully) offer a good show. The Academy has changed things up by appointing Anne Hathaway and nominee James Franco as co-hosts (presumably in an attempt to lure younger voters). Also good in terms of both show quality and running time is the recent decision to axe the stupid montages (re: “A tribute to writers on film” etc.) and the even better choice to cut the five-presenter retrospectives for the acting nominees. The Best Song nominees are also back in the show after a one-year hiatus, although it’s too bad that this is one of the weaker years for this category – Cher would have brought a lot to the show, but her song isn’t nominated. James Franco had rehearsed the song for the broadcast, but that too has been cut…thank God.

Anyways, on to the nominees! I’ve seen most the nominees, except for a few of the foreign, two documentaries, and the odd tech nominee. And the shorts, but it’s impossible to see those beforehand, unless they surface on Youtube.


See Inside Job!

Inside Job ★★★★
(USA, 108 min.)
Dir: Charles Ferguson
Narrated by Matt Damon
This will just have to be a quick blurb because I need to get my act together and finish my Oscar predictions. On that note, it will be an easy task for me to select my pick for Best Documentary Feature: Inside Job is a compelling and persuasive essay on the events, actions, and politics that ultimately led to the economic meltdown of 2008. Director Charles Ferguson offers plenty of testimony and archival evidence to explain the build-up to the recession, and the film communicates the complexity of the situation very clearly - one can enter the film with virtually no knowledge of the recession and be able to follow it quite easily.

Identity Crisis

Unknown ★★
(USA/Germany, 113 min.)
Dir: Jaume Collet-Serra; Writ: Oliver Butcher, Stephen Cornwell
Starring: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Bruno Ganz, Aidan Quinn, Frank Langella.
It may have been the chattiness of the Cheap Tuesday crowd and their incessant need to whip out mobile devices during the film, but Unknown offers little to recommend. This low-octane identity thriller is nearly as brain dead as my neighbouring moviegoers who constantly had to confer in order to follow the connect-the-dots plot. (Although they were nowhere near as bad as the couple who asked one another if 2012 was based on a true story!) The dull simplicity of Unknown seems all the more pitiful through its familiarity – it seems like a desperate attempt to cash in on the success of several recent hits.

The formulaicness of Unknown comes as a surprise since the film gets off to a quick start. Within five minutes, the film introduces Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) and his lovely wife Betty Draper, I mean Liz, (January Jones) as they arrive in Berlin for a conference on biotechnology. Martin forgets his important briefcase at the airport, and thus abandons Liz at the hotel in order to retrieve it. En route to the airport, Martin’s cab goes off a bridge. Four days later, he wakes up at the hospital with sparse recollections of the event and no documentation to prove his identity. 


All the World's a Film Set

A Wake ★★★★
(Canada, 93 min)
Dir: Penelope Buitenhuis; Story: Penelope Buitenhuis and Krista Sutton
Starring: Graham Abbey, Tara Nicodermo, Sarain Boylan, Martha Burns, Kristopher Turner, Krista Sutton, Raoul Bhaneja, and Nicholas Campbell.
If all the world’s a stage, then it must also be a film set. That seems to be the premise of the DV-shot drama A Wake, in which a cast of characters assembles to perform a farewell for their great director (think Rachel Getting Buried). That director is Gabor (Nicholas Campbell), a reputedly visionary artist on both the Canadian and International stage circuits. Following his sudden death, his widow, Hanna (Tara Nicodermo), complies with his final wishes and summons the most crucial members of his acting troupe to bid him adieu at their country estate in snowy Cambridge, Ontario. Naturally, Gabor’s passion was Shakespeare, and his thespian mourners have immersed so much of their lives in the Bard’s verse that it seems they can’t express themselves without a script. If only life could imitate art. 



A snapshot from Snapshot
In case this week's post on Jimmy Waver left you hankering for more films that are short-n'-sweet, you're in luck! The CFC (Canadian Film Centre) and SHORTSNONSTOP Mobile Movie Festival, presented by TELUS, announced today the 16th SHORTSNONSTOP prize - winner along with the winner of the second Audience Award, sponsored by iThentic.  Currently celebrating its fourth anniversary, SHORTSNONSTOP is the year-round international short film competition showcasing short films produced for mobile and online platforms.  The festival awards a cash prize of $1500, thanks to TELUS, each quarter to the best short film selected by an international jury of experts. The next prize date is April 15, 2011.

Chosen from 10 finalists, the $1500 prize - winner for this first round is James Whitaker from the UK for Snapshot, an intimate look at the journey of two couples as they get a snapshot that will last forever.


Something Glorious comes to Blu-Ray!

Appearing on Blu-Ray and DVD today is Glorious 39, a spectacular hidden gem that is well worth seeking out. I saw Glorious 39 during TIFF 2009 and it absolutely entranced me. As far as festival favourites went that year, it was second only to Precious.
Set in the summer of 1939 – apparently, the most glorious summer Britain ever had – Glorious 39 tells of the calm before the storm. The film explores the paranoia of pre-war England through the eyes of Anne Keyes (Romola Garai), the adopted daughter of an aristocratic family. The film thus offers a chilling thriller, as well as an absorbing reconstruction of an aspect of history rarely captured on film: that in which Brits turned on their compatriots in order to quash anti-Nazi sentiment. I don’t want to say much else in terms of plot because the film quickly sneaks up on you, but through the treacherous inter-family treason at the Keyes estate, Anne quickly begins to see that wonderful summer as the transition between two worlds. 


Jimmy Waver!

I can't believe that I never thought to search for this on YouTube, but a random thought led me to look this gem up on everybody's favourite procrastination website. If you have never seen Jimmy Waver, you don't know what you're missing! This short film was made in 2002 by Darren Doyle, and it happens to have the greatest shooting location ever: Norway Bay, home of my family's cottage. Jimmy Waver stars Norm Loftus (his cottage is just down the street!) as Jimmy, the friendliest man in the bay, as he goes about sharing his trademark waves and some cottage country cheer with the locals.

Take a look:

P.S. When reading the credits, I was thrilled to see that Jimmy Waver is based "on the theory of Dogme 35." (who ever thought that Dogville and Norway Bay would go hand in hand? Lol!)
P.P.S: There's also another Norway Bay gem: Mulligan!


Speeches Galore at BAFTAs!

The British Academy of Film and Television Awards (BAFTA) were handed out today. It comes as no surprise that The King's Speech steamrolled the competition, since it's like, the most British movie ever made. Speech landed seven wins, including Best Picture, Outstanding British Film, and acting nods for Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, and Helena Bonham Carter. Natalie Portman also added some more hardware to her corner (woo!), thus pushing the odds more in her favour in the 'Portman Vs. Bening' match. How well the BAFTA's resemble the Oscars remains to be seen: this is a pretty good batch of winners, but this year also seems to have some of the closest races in recent memory. Should be an exciting few weeks!

Best Picture: The King's Speech
Outstanding British Film: The King’s Speech
Director: David Fincher, The Social Network
Actor: Colin Firth, The King's Speech
Actress: Natalie Portman, Black Swan 
Supporting Actor: Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech
Supporting Actress: Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech

Muddles the Magic

The Illusionist ★★★
(France/UK, 80 min)
Dir: Sylvain Chomet; Writ: Jacques Tati, Sylvain Chomet
Just a few quick words today on The Illusionist, the new film by French filmmaker Sylvain Chomet. Like Chomet’s breakthrough film, The Triplets of Belleville, The Illusionist is a charming and whimsical tale. It also features exquisitely quirky animation, as well as some of the most biutiful beautiful landscapes rendered on film– the gothic landscapes of Edinburgh are the most striking in the film. In some ways, The Illusionist resembles an eighty-minute trek through a watercolour wing at an art gallery.


Barren Lives

Biutiful ★★★½
(Mexico/Spain, 148 min.)
Written and directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring: Javier Bardem, Maricel Alvarez, Hanaa Bouchaib, Guillermo Estrella.
Biutiful, the fourth film by director Alejandro González Iñárritu, is ugli on the outside, but pritty on the inside. As the title suggests, though, imperfection is one of film’s assets. It’s also the film’s downfall, because Iñárritu offers an unrelentingly bleak odyssey that almost collapses under the weight of its own misery. Fortunately, the strength of Javier Bardem’s lead performance as Uxbal easily sustains the burden of Iñárritu’s heaviness and makes Biutiful a compelling film.

Bardem’s Uxbal seems like a shady character. He’s somehow implicated in black market dealings – his job is mostly relegated to paying off the cops. He also is involved in a human trafficking ring, but whether his job is limited to finding jobs for the migrants, or is as large as actually bringing them across the border, remains unclear. Either way, Uxbal profits from the hardship of others. Iñárritu makes it seem understandable, if not acceptable, because Uxbal does it all to support his two kids – He’s separated from their bipolar/addiction riddled mother, Marambra (played by Maricel Alvarez, who’s a real firecracker in the film). Additionally, Uxbal is dying of cancer, but despite the doctor’s prognosis, he refuses to believe the inevitable.


Meryl Thatcher

Deadline released the first pic of Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in the upcoming biopic The Iron Lady. Streep is currently in the process of filming with Mamma Mia! director Phyllida Lloyd and Another Year's Jim Broadbent. I feel like we'll be hearing lots about this film in the months to come...


In Good 'Company'

The Company Men ★★★½
(USA/UK, 104 min.)
Written and directed by John Wells
Starring: Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper, Kevin Costner, Rosemarie DeWitt, Maria Bello.
To live the American Dream: When dad heads off for work in the morning, he leaves his giant, well decorated house in the suburbs and he arrives at the office to clock eight or nine hours towards a six-figure salary. He rests easy because he knows that mom is taking care of the kids, and that there are two cars in the garage – each with a full tank of gas. It seems like a fairy tale in the first season of Mad Men, but viewers know that by season three, Don Draper reveals the Dream as nothing more than a cruel joke.


Genie Nominations!!!

Barney's Version
The Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television announced the nominations for the 31st annual Genie Awards this morning. In the awards honoring the best in Canadian film, Barney's Version leads with eleven nods, followed closely by Incendies with ten. Some of the other Best Picture nominees are head scratchers...Les amours imaginaires is clearly an apology to Xavier Dolan for last year's massive snub of I Killed My Mother. Best Actress is probably the strongest of the categories: great choices, although I haven't seen Grown Up Movie Star... Two of the Best Actress nominees are from Trigger, my favourite Canadian film of the year, which also received nods for editing and score.

UPDATED the full list of nominees via a spectacular cut and paste job from the Press Release of nominees . I've looked them over more thoroughly now that I have a day off from school, and I've noticed some good/not so good things about the nods.
Good: -Recognition of Splice, especially the technical work!
         -2 nods for Year of the Carnivore: yay Sook-Yin Lee!
         -3 nods for Defendor, including Best Original Screenplay.
Not so good: 
        -Rosamund Pike popping up as a lead actress and not in the supporting category where I hoped she would. This means that I can't cheer for both her and Tracy Wright! Oh, well. Best of luck to Minnie Driver for Best Supporting actress, then!
        -That original song category..."Standing Alongside Gone" by Brendan Canning (from Trigger) should have taken the gold, but it isn't even on the list. Neither are any of the goofily patriotic songs from Score: A Hockey Musical... shame!
       -Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie was snubbed in the Best Documentary Category. How?
      -And NOTHING for Chloe???

Oh, well - a lot of good movies are recognized for a particularly good year. Huzzah!
The Genies will be awarded March 10 in Ottawa...who can get me tickets???

Main categories below:

Best Picture
10 1/2
Les amours imaginaires (Heartbeats)
Barney's Version