An Incredible 'Search'

Searching for Sugar Man
(UK/Sweden, 86 min.)
Dir. Malik Bendjelloul

 Photo by Hal Wilson, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. It’s one thing to rummage through a thrift shop and find a kitschy lamp or knick-knack that suits your personality just perfectly. It is another thing, though, when the valuation of a man’s worth receives such polar opposite appraisals. Searching for Sugar Man tells an astonishing story of a musician who was tossed out one place only to be exalted elsewhere.


Where Film Meets Foodie: The Festival Diet

Festival season approaches! This exciting fact means that the bums of serious moviegoers may soon grow larger. Not necessarily due to an excess of sitting, mind you, but more because of the festival diet. There are eleven days of movie-going bliss during the Toronto International Film Festival; however, TIFF can be murder on a healthy diet. Proper and efficient eating can greatly enhance one’s festival experience, though, so please familiarize yourself with The Festival Diet in preparation for the event. In TIFF speak, this advice is all about “Where Film meets Foodie.”


Watch 'The Maker'

Watch the delightful short film The Maker, which I had the pleasure of reviewing at WSFF earlier this year.
It also made my list of the Top 10 films of the festival and it scooped WSFF's prize for Best Animated Short, thus making it eligible for the Academy Awards. Best of luck at the Oscars!

Hillbilly Bloodbath

(USA, 115 min.)
Dir. John Hillcoat, Writ. Nick Cave
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Guy Pearce, Gary Oldman, Mia Wasikowska.
It’s hard to get drunk on Lawless. This prohibition-era western sprays a wealth of ultraviolent gunplay, but it fires blanks instead of piercing bullets. The film makes for a disappointing reteaming of John Hillcoat and Nick Cave, the director and screenwriter of the spectacularly gritty and hot-blooded western The Proposition. Whereas The Proposition felt like a visionary entry in the genre, Lawless just comes off as dull and formulaic. 


TIFF Review: 'Dear Scavengers'

Dear Scavengers
(Canada, 9 min.)
Written and directed by Aaron Phelan
Starring: Hrant Alianak, Helen Colliander, Erin Pitt.
Hrant Alianak stars as Hector, a no-nonsense used appliance store owner in Dear Scavengers.
Hector (Hrant Aianak) is a curmudgeonly immigrant trying to earn an honest living as an appliance salesman in Toronto. He doesn’t quite seem to understand the younger generation, nor does he seem to want to, as they’re all a little too hyperactive and fussy for his liking. “My friend, this is not an art gallery,” he sternly informs a toe-shoe wearing liberal who studies the aisles of Hec’s Appliances in search of an energy efficient stove.


Pushing Mr. Daisy

The Intouchables
(France, 112 min.)
Written and directed by Olivier Nakache and Olivier Toledano
Starring: François Cluzet, Omar Sy, Anne Le Ny, Audrey Fleurot
The French mega-hit The Intouchables is a true crowd pleaser. It’s easy to see how it became the most widely seen film in France for 2011, and France’s second biggest box office hit of all time. The first is 2008’s Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis. Ch’tis is charming, but it’s as dumb as a brick. It’s the French Porky’s, if you will. (In a PG-13 kind of way.) Regardless, Intouchables is a better piece of cinema than Ch’tis is, so it’s no wonder that this buddy comedy has gone on to become the highest grossing non-English language film of all time. And it’s not even in 3-D!


WSFF Goes on Hiatus

WSFF announces its hiatus
The CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival has announced that it is going on hiatus. I'm very sorry to hear about this sad news. The festival was founded in 1994 and has since become North America's largest festival and marketplace for short film. In addition to being an ideal place for emerging filmmakers to network, learn, and share their work, WSFF is/was one of several festivals accredited with the Academy, so winners could see their careers change as they wnet on to be eligible for Oscars in the Live Action Short and Animated Short categories. (On that note, The Factory and The Maker are the ones to watch.) This is particularly sad news as I just posted a rave review for CFC's TIFF-bound short Frost. Additionally, WSFF was the first festival to grant me accreditation. It allowed me to discover and review some great films that I would never see elsewhere. Here's my list of favourites from this year's fest and if you think that films like Withering Love, Margo Lily, and Kali the Little Vampire deserve a platform, please join me in thanking WSFF for offering such a great platform to the art of short film.

TIFF Review: 'Frost'

(Canada, 13 min.)
Written and directed by Jeremy Ball
Starring Emily Puggford, Oscar Hsu, Lara Daans.
Emily Piggford as Naya. Photo by David Lee.
“All things leave a mark on this world. Sometimes the marks are small, like scratches on the edge of a knife. Other times, they are big, like clouds across the sky. Father says the difference between people and animals is that people choose the marks they leave behind while animals just can't seem to help themselves,” says Naya (a strong Emily Piggford) in the voice-over that opens the short film Frost. Frost, a production from the Canadian Film Centre’s Short Dramatic Film Program that screens in the Short Cuts Canada Programme at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, is sure to leave a big mark on the world. Frost is an ambitious production by writer/director Jeremy Ball that succeeds with every risk it takes.


The Road to Awareness

(Canada, 93 min.)
Dir. Maxwell McGuire, Writ. Shawn Riopelle & Maxwell McGuire
Starring: Max Thieriot, Laurence Leboeuf, Demián Bichir, Sarah Wayne Callie, Douglas O’Keefe, Thomas Dekker, Juliette Lewis.
So many dramas tell of characters fighting cancer or living with AIDS. Some films show people who must deal with erectile dysfunction. Seinfeld even devoted a whole episode to gonorrhea. Some diseases are just catchier than others are.


TIFF Review: 'Asian Gangs'

Asian Gangs
(Canada, 9 min.)
Written and directed by Calum MacLeod, Lewis Bennett
Langley, BC native Lewis Bennett made himself the New Year’s resolution that he would make one film a month that tackled local issues. He began by discussing all those severed feet that were washing up on the shores on Vancouver in his January film, Feet. In March, Bennett tackled the subject of gangs and youth violence along with co-writer/do-director Calum MacLeod. March’s installment, Asian Gangs, also happens to be screening within the Short Cuts Canada Programme at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.


OIFF Review: 'Marilyn'

(Canada, 104 min.)
Dir. Chris Petry, Writ. Patrick “Paddy” Mitchell
Starring: Ryan Robbins, Allison Mack.
The hook of Marilyn is that Patrick “Paddy” Mitchell penned it during his term in Leavenworth Prison. The Ottawa-born Mitchell, who was the former leader of the Stopwatch Gang of bank robbers, landed on the FBI’s list of wanted criminals following a string of burglaries that allegedly exceeded 100 banks. Mitchell wrote the story of his arrest after being caught in 1994. He died of cancer in 2007 at the age of 64 while serving his sentence in prison. His posthumous story – a story of how far one man will go for love – appears in its final version as Marilyn, which screened at the Ottawa International Film Festival on Friday.

OIFF Review: 'Charles Bradley: Soul of America'

Charles Bradley: Soul of America
(USA, 74 min.)
Dir. Poull Brien
Why is it so hard to make it in America? Charles Bradley has been performing for decades, but it wasn’t until the age of 62 that he released his first album. Bradley, moreover, spent much of his formative years under the shadow of someone else. As the James Brown look-alike/tribute man, the soul singer performed under the aliases of James Brown, Jr. and Black Velvet, the latter of which filled marquees more frequently. (When there were marquees to fill.) Bradley’s music is hard-hitting and soulful. Charles Bradley: The Soul of America, the first American film to screen at the Ottawa International Film Festival, makes a welcome stop at the festival after screening at SXSW and Hot Docs. This documentary, which chronicles Bradley’s struggle to make it in the music business, is as moving and intimate as Bradley’s music.


OIFF Review: Short Films


The first short to screen at this year’s Ottawa International Film Festival was Encore (Dir. Jonathan Kischel, 9 min.). Encore played on opening night before the feature presentation Thirteen Downs. The short was one of several entries in this year’s 72-hour video challenge put on by OIFF to help engage and inspire local filmmakers. Encore offers a touching story about fathers and sons through its multigenerational approach to art. Like the tools that the vagabond artist uses to create his lovely works, artistic inspiration might best be achieved through the words “Reduce, reuse, and recycle.” (Watch the film here.)

OIFF Review: 'Undercurrent'

(Canada, 78 min.)
Written and directed by Martin Forcier
Starring: Jon McLaren, Matthew Stefiuk, Barry Blake, Guy Buller
Ottawa looks to be a budding hub for crime drama! After last year’s OIFF topper A Violent State comes its neighbour Undercurrent. Like A Violent State, Undercurrent is a violent, steely tale of street justice within the local (fictional) underworld. Undercurrent is a stylish, gritty crime drama.

OIFF Review: 'Thirteen Downs'

Thirteen Downs
(Canada, 97 min.)
Written and directed by Karim Ayari
Starring: Sophia Radisch, Ron Tarrant, Richard Gélinas.
 A young girl and an old man lie on the floor. Their sweaty faces are framed in close-up. “What just happened… stays between us,” the old man says to the young girl. Ick.


A Love Story of Boys and Their Toys

Hit & Run
(USA, 100 min.)
Dir. David Palmer & Dax Shepard, Writ. Dax Shepard.
Starring: Kristen Bell, Dax Shepard, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rosenbaum, Arnold Palmer, Kristen Chenoweth, Joy Bryant, Beau Bridges.
Hit & Run is a love story. There is a romance between Annie and Charlie, played by real life couple Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard, but the true love in this movie is between men and their cars. Hot rides and big engines give a man confidence, and, if one believes a myth from the Don Draper days, a car is like an outward expression of a man’s manliness. It is a status of what a man can and cannot have. If you saw Mad Men’s best episode this season, “The Other Woman,” you know exactly what I’m talking about.


TIFF Names More films for Galas, Special Presentations, and Contemporary World Cinema

What Maisie Knew

From TIFF comes the final announcement for films in the Gala and Special Presentations programmes, along with 62 titles for Contemporary World Cinema. I’m especially excited about the addition of What Maisie Knew (Gala), Smashed (CWC), The Paperboy (SP), On the Road (SP), and the Closing Night Gala Song for Marion.

The Toronto International Film Festival® announces the addition of 3 Galas and 18 Special Presentations, including 8 World Premieres, to its slate. The Festival will close with Paul Andrew Williams’ A Song For Marion, starring Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp. Festival-goers will be treated to an exciting programming lineup of diverse titles and genres from around the globe, including works from Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Iraqi Kurdistan, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, the UK, and the USA. 

Toronto audiences will be among the first to screen remarkable pieces of cinema by directors Dan Algrant, Paul Thomas Anderson, Dante Ariola, Yvan Attal, Susanne Bier, Nick Cassavetes, Daniele Ciprì, Lee Daniels, Brian De Palma, Bahman Ghobadi, Harmony Korine, Patrice Leconte, Spike Lee, Scott McGehee, Claude Miller, Henry-Alex Rubin, Walter Salles, Valeria Sarmiento, Pablo Trapero, Peter Webber, and Paul Andrew Williams.

This announcement brings the final number of Galas to 20, and the final number of Special Presentations to 70, including 48 world premieres


Song for Marion | Closing Night Film
Paul Andrew Williams, UK, World Premiere
A feel-good, heart-warming story about how music can inspire you. Song for Marion stars Terence Stamp as Arthur, a grumpy pensioner who can't understand why his wife Marion (Vanessa Redgrave) would want to embarrass herself singing silly songs with her unconventional local choir. But choir director Elizabeth (Gemma Arterton) sees something special in the reluctant Arthur and refuses to give up on him. As she coaxes him out of his shell, Arthur realizes that it is never too late to change.

Peter Webber, Japan/USA, World Premiere
In the aftermath of Japan's defeat in World War II and the American occupation of the country, a Japanese expert (Matthew Fox) on the staff of Gen. Douglas MacArthur (Tommy Lee Jones) is faced with a decision of historic importance, in this epically scaled drama from director Peter Webber (Girl With a Pearl Earring).

What Maisie Knew
Scott McGehee, David Siegel, USA, World Premiere
Based on the Henry James novella, the story frames on 7-year-old Maisie, caught in a custody battle between her mother – a rock and roll icon – and her father. What Maisie Knew is an evocative portrayal of the chaos of adult life seen entirely from a child’s point of view. Starring Joanna Vanderham, Onata Aprile, Alexander Skarsgård, Julianne Moore, and Steve Coogan.
 --> YES!


Which Film Will Be Canada's Oscar Pick?

The Barbarian Invasions: Canada's only Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film
It’s been just under a week since TIFF rounded off the names of the Canadian titles that are set to play at the festival. The selections have left me pondering the prospects of these movies. I’m not musing on our own awards, mind you, since predicting the Genie nominations is like throwing darts with a blindfold. The question that I am left wondering after this announcement, then, is to ask which of these films will be Canada’s submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars.


What's Wrong with 'Virginia'.

(USA, 116 min.)
Written and directed by Dustin Lance Black
Starring: Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris, Harrison Gilbertson, Emma Roberts, Amy Madigan, Toby Jones, Yeardley Smith.
What’s wrong with Virginia? I’m tempted to say “everything.” Virginia, the schizophrenic directorial effort by Dustin Lance Black (screenwriter of Milk) is a shrill, gaudy, mess of a movie that doesn’t know what to do with some potentially strong material.


Falls Short of the Legacy

The Bourne Legacy
(USA, 135 min.)
Dir. Tony Gilroy, Writ. Tony Gilroy, Dan Gilroy
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Donna Murphy, Zeljko Ivanek, Louis Ozawa Changchien, Joan Allen, David Strathairn.
This week’s blatant cash grab in the summer where originality came to die is the fourth installment in the Jason Bourne saga. Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is nowhere to be found in The Bourne Legacy except for a few brief mentions and archival photos. The series is well served, but hardly reborn, with Jeremy Renner’s turn as Aaron Cross. Cross is another spy in the covert government program that gave rise to Jason Bourne. The Bourne Legacy recycles styles and sequences from the Matt Damon trilogy, but for all its redundancy, the film is nevertheless a wild, thrilling, and entertaining spy flick. 


The Game of Politics

The Campaign
(USA, 85 min.)
Dir. Jay Roach, Writ. Chris Henchy, Shawn Harwell
Starring: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis, Dylan McDermott, Katherine LaNasa, Sarah Baker, John Lithgow, Dan Aykroyd, Brian Cox.
Oh, do we not all love the three-ring circus called American politics? The Campaign, the latest effort from funnymen Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis, takes aim at the two party farce of American democracy. Politics is a dirty game with no rules. Candidates will do whatever it takes to win. No trick is too foul. No wife is safe. 

Celebrity is Contagious

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Pssst! Book soon! Word is that the Clinic might get busier come October 12th!

The Golden Years

Hope Springs
(USA, 100 min.)
Dir. David Frankel, Writ. Vanessa Taylor
Starring: Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carell
Many people retire by sixty, but not Meryl Streep. My favourite actress is truly in the midst of her golden years, and offering as strong and prolific an output as she did in the 1980s. Streep reteams with David Frankel, her Devil Wears Prada director, and gives another winning performance in Hope Springs. Nowhere near as lightweight as the trailer suggests it to be, Hope Springs is a smart and refreshing love story for grown-ups. Perhaps the story of Kay and Arnold Soames (played by the perfect onscreen couple of Streep and Tommy Lee Jones) is a glimpse at how life would have turned out for Margot and Lou had they stayed together in Take This Waltz. Much like the 2009 Streep vehicle It’s Complicated, Hope Springs looks at how one can rekindle ‘that old feeling’ when one is pushing retirement. Stronger and more insightful film than the fun Nancy Meyers’ comedy, this year’s Streep sex-romp is a surprisingly candid portrait of love and sexuality in the senior years.


Canadian Titles for TIFF12

 The Canadian titles have been announced for this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. It’s a good-lucking bunch of films overall, with some expected titles popping up, such as Xavier Dolan’s Laurence Anyways, Sarah Polley’s documentary Stories We Tell, and Brandon Cronenberg’s Antiviral. I’m especially excited to see Inch’Allah, from Kim McCraw and Luc Déry, the producers of Oscar nominees and Genie winners Incendies and Monsieur Lazhar. (Will they make it three years in a row?) Other goodies include a new Bruce Sweeney film and a quartet of films by new directors that are playing in the Discovery programme, which houses Canuck debuts now that the Canada First! programme is defunct. I'm disappointed that Molly Maxwell didn't make the cut, as well as Three Days in Havana, but the latter might not be finished/ready. Overall, though, the selections are impressive and diverse, with the festival bringing seven films by female directors to the line-up. TIFF also announced the short films for Short Cuts Canada. Among those I’m eager to see Frost (the new CFC short), as well as Ashley McKenzie’s When You Sleep.

Some of the films announced today will be eligible for the City of Toronto + Canada Goose Award for Best Canadian Feature Film — given out annually to a Canadian filmmaker — and the SKYY Vodka Award for Best Canadian First Feature Film — presented annually to a Canadian filmmaker for an impressive debut feature. The Canadian awards jury responsible for selecting this year’s winners includes producer and filmmaker Jody Shapiro, CPH PIX Festival Director Jacob Neiiendam, actor and filmmaker Valerie Buhagiar and director, writer and producer Patricia Rozema.

The newly announced Canadian selections are:

Sisters, Brothers, Friends, and Lovers

Your Sister’s Sister
(USA, 90 min.)
Written and directed by Lynn Shelton
Starring: Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt, Mark Duplass
Lynn Shelton, one of the momma’s of mumblecore, delivers a new daughter of a film that proudly wears its low-budget naturalism in every frame. Her film, Your Sister’s Sister, was shot in a mere 12 days with much improvisation and creative collaboration from actors Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt, and Mark Duplass. The direct sound is a little wonky and the camera is a little wobbly, but that’s half the method of the movement. The greater half, and this is where Your Sister’s Sister succeeds most, delivers a drama brimming with true to life rawness and honesty. 


Ottawa International Animation Festival Announces Line Up

Here’s a big announcement that I missed while I was at the cottage. The Ottawa International Animation Festival announced its selections on August 1st. Not only is OIAF Ottawa’s largest film event, but it’s an important forum for artists, industry professionals, and fans of animation. It’s the largest event of its kind in North America. As proof, OIAF received a total of 2377 entries from 81 different countries this year. This number was narrowed down to 94 short films and 4 feature films for competition. In addition, 49 showcase films were chosen to represent the efforts of the Canadian, International, and Student communities.

-Arrugas | Spain, Dir. Ignacio Ferreras, North American Premiere
-Babeldom | UK, Dir. Paul Bush, Canadian Premiere
-Consuming Spirits | USA, Dir. Chris Sullivan, Canadian Premiere
-Le Tableau | France/Belgium, Dir. Jean-Francois Laguionie, North American Premiere


'Inescapable' Trailer

Another trailer has premiered in this most trailer-filled of weekends. A preview has landed for Ruba Nadda's Inescapable, which has a slot in the Gala section at TIFF and is one of the few Canadian titles announced so far. (The rest will be named on August 8.) Inescapable looks like quite a departure for Nadda, whose Cairo Time, which won Best Canadian Film at TIFF 2009, was a slow/sensuous romance; however, Inescapable marks a reteaming of Nadda and star Alexander Siddig and it looks like another potent (and timely) story set in the Middle East. Marisa Tomei and Joshua Jackson co-star.

Source: Cineplex

Trailers for Zero Dark Thirty, The Paperboy, On the Road

Wow, what a week to be at the cottage! (Hope you all enjoyed the long weekend!) Some trailers for some highly anticipated films (and potential TIFF titles and Oscar heavyweights) surfaced while I was at the beach, namely the ones for Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow's Osama Bin Laden drama Zero Dark Thirty, Lee Daniels' (Precious) Cannes/Nicole-Kidman-peeing-on Zac-Efron sensation The Paperboy, and a UK trailer for the adaptation of Jack Kerouac's On the Road.

We begin with Zero Dark Thirty, which hits theatres in December: