Oscar Predictions: Final Round - Might as Well Pick From a Hat!

12 Years a Slave
Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony marks the end of the closest and most exciting race I’ve seen in years. I honestly haven’t a clue whether 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, or American Hustle will take home the Best Picture Oscar, and this uncertainty has me looking forward to the award with the same level of enthusiasm I had when I was itching to see if Meryl Streep would take home an Oscar for 2011’s The Iron Lady.


Another 'Walmart Indie'

Third Contact
(UK, 85 min.)
Written and directed by Simon Horrocks
Starring: Tim Scott Walker, Jannica Olin, Oliver Browne, Cristina Dell’Anna.
A provocative article in Salon recently dubbed American independent cinema as “the next Walmart” of the film industry. Beanie Barnes notes in the article, “Many in the industry still refuse to acknowledge that film is subject to the economic laws of supply and demand.” Film however, is not Field of Dreams. If you build it, the masses won’t necessarily come.


DiverCiné Wishes Ottawa "Bon Cinéma!"

C’était un matin excitant dans le capital, car que je suis allé chez le « launch » du 12 e festival de DiverCiné. Si tu n’es pas en train de voir, mon français n’est pas le meilleur. Donc, comme c’était un drôle épisode comique comme celui de Carol (Margo Martindale) dans le segment « 14e Arrondissement » par Alexandre Payne dans Paris je t’aime, j’ai regardé les célébrations avec un mélange de compréhension. Pas les meilleurs en parlants le français, Carol et moi, mais nous sommes en bonnes esprits pour le festival de DiverCiné!


Oscar's Live Action Shorts

This year’s crop of live action short films nominated at the Academy Awards is an impressive bunch. Oscar’s Live Action Shorts offer one of the most diverse categories among the nominees. Not only do all five films offer voices and stories from outside Hollywood, but also the films themselves couldn’t be more different. Hard-hitting dramas, strange star-studded comedies, message movies, and the speculative arts all find a place here.


Oscars: Best Picture and the Rule of Three

The Godfather: Oscar's iconic Best Picture winner with a low tally of 3 prizes.
This year’s sprint to the Academy Awards feels like the closest contest in recent memory. It’s essentially a three-way race between 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, and American Hustle. Any film could conceivably win. Gravity almost seems like a shoo-in to take home the most trophies come Oscar night, but does that mean it’s a lock for Best Picture?

Cineplex Confirms 10-screen Multiplex at Lansdowne

The projected Lansdowne redevelopment
Citizens of Blah-ttawa no longer have to rely on suburbia for all their franchise film needs! CBC news reports that Cineplex has confirmed that it will bring a ten-screen multiplex to downtown Ottawa at Lansdowne Park. The ever-controversial Lansdowne redevelopment long had plans to include a movie theatre, but they were put in limbo when Empire Theatres exited the movie biz and left the developing site without an owner. The site was caught in the midst of a kerfuffle when the Empire’s other vacated location at the World Exchange was set to close despite the best efforts from new owner Landmark Cinemas. (The battle between cinema locations largely had to do with questions of exhibiting films in such close proximity.) The closure of the World Exchange at the question mark of the Lansdowne site left downtown Ottawa without a multiscreen theatre, although the city’s two single screen venues, The ByTowne and The Mayfair, kept films a flowin’ for cinephiles during the drought and will continue to do so since their focus on independent, international, and alternative cinema (plus lower admission fees for loyal members) allowed them to exist alongside departed multiscreen venues like WE and the defunct Rideau Centre theatre.


Win Tickets to see Chris Tucker in Toronto!

Question for Toronto readers: Do you want to attend an event celebra bold, black risk takers? In celebration of Black History Month, the Canadian Film Centre, Clement Virgo Productions and TD are pleased to present a special evening honouring acclaimed actor/comedian Chris Tucker (Silver Linings Playbook, Rush Hour 1, 2 & 3, Jackie Brown, Fifth Element). If you want tickets to the event, answer the trivia below for your chance to win!


The Great Beauty (La grande bellezza)
(Italy/France, 142 min.)
Dir. Paolo Sorrentino, Writ. Paolo Sorrentino, Umberto Contarello.
Starring: Toni Servillo, Carlo Verdone, Sabrina Ferilli, Carlo Buccirosso,
Toni Servillo in The Great Beauty.
Photo credit Gianni Fiorito, Courtesy of Mongrel Media.
Bellissimo! If Federico Fellini were to come back from the dead today and film a roaring party, it might look a lot like The Great Beauty. The Great Beauty could be the best Fellini film that Fellini never made. The legacy of the cinema Italiano is alive in full force in this sumptuous satire from director Paolo Sorrentino (Il divo). The Great Beauty, Italy’s official submission and nominee for Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Academy Awards, is an intoxicatingly Fellini-esque portrait of the ruins of Rome seen through the eyes of an aging writer named Jep Gambardella (played by an outstanding Toni Servillo). Jep, a fun-loving celebrity/culture journalist, gazes upon Rome with increasingly world-weary eyes. What Jep sees looks fun and glamorous at first before Sorrentino perverts the old man’s worldview to make everything seem hollow by the film’s end. Sorrentino delivers with The Great Beauty an entrancing satire on the empty excess of the sweet life.


'The Animal Project' Trailer

Mongrel Media released a trailer for Ingrid Veninger's latest film The Animal Project. I caught The Animal Project at TIFF last fall, loved it (review here), and included it in my list of Top 10 Canadian films of 2013 (here), but if those endorsements aren't enough, check out 1:05!

Where to See the Oscar Nominees in Ottawa

Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle.
Only one week remains to see all the Oscar nominees! If you’re furiously planning to check off as many titles from the list as you possibly can, which you should, you’ll need to plan accordingly. Luckily enough, a few of the biggies are playing downtown(ish), but some of the other contenders could have you travelling from Kanata to Orleans to Barrhaven. (You can use your knowledge of the ’burbs as an extra conversation piece while you show off your cine-smarts at this year’s Oscar party.) Here’s where you can see the Oscar nominees in Ottawa:


Oscar Bridesmaids: The 2013 Wedding Party

A mosiac of Oscar bridesmaid Leonardo DiCaprio made out of Oscar winners.
Always a bridesmaid, maybe a bride? As we revisit a popular post from last year’s Oscar season, let us wonder who might have caught the bouquet at last year’s Governor’s Ball. The Oscar bridesmaid, if you’ll recall, is that nominee who has long been eluded by the little golden groom. It might take a while to win one, but a combination of merit and momentum can turn a bridesmaid into a bride as the Oscar race swells in a demand to see a nominee take a trip down the aisle.

The wedding party of Oscars 2013 boasts a familiar pack of Oscar bridesmaids. At least three nominees should wear seafoam to the awards, since they were on this list last year and they will likely be listed again given their chances in this year’s race. (Those nominees are Roger Deakins, Thomas Newman, and Wylie Stateman.) Few of this year’s Oscar bridesmaids actually stand much chance at winning, so cross your fingers and wish them many happy returns!

In Praise of Older Women

(Chile/Spain, 110 min.)
Dir. Sebastián Lelio, Writ. Sebastián Lelio, Gonzalo Maza
Starring: Paulina García, Sergio Hernández
Paulina García stars in Gloria. Courtesy of Roadside Attractions

The journey from cougar to cat lady is a fickle one. Gloria (Paulina García) might not be on the prowl for cubs as she frequents the dance floors of Santiago, but there is a youthful lust for life that runs through her 58-year-old body. This feisty divorcée approaches life with the spunk and verve of a college kid. Gloria develops a sweetly euphoric coming-of-middle-age pic as its title character embraces the freedom of adulthood.


Catching Up on Canadian Screen Award Nominees with 'Amsterdam', 'Vanishing Point', and 'The Mortal Instruments'

There aren’t many Canadian Screen Award nominees that one can catch up on in the last few weeks leading up to the awards, so I crossed a few more films off my list:


Tatiana Maslany & Viggo Mortensen Among Canadian Screen Awards Presenters

"Orphan Black" star Tatiana Maslany will present at the Canadian Screen Awards
CBC Television and the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television announced the preliminary list of presenters for the upcoming Canadian Screen Awards, which will be handed out March 9 at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto. Tatiana Maslany and Viggo Mortensen are among the stars slated to present at the upcoming ceremony. Maslany is a double nominee at the Canadian Screen Awards with a pair of Best Actress nominations for her continuing work on the television series “Orphan Black” and for her performance in the film Cas & Dylan. (Maslany’s Cas & Dylan director Jason Priestley is also on the list of presenters.) Viggo Mortensen will be on hand to present the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award to director David Cronenberg. Mortensen won a Genie for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Cronenberg’s 2011 film A Dangerous Method.


Win Tickets to see 'No Clue' in Calgary and Vancouver! (Contest Closed)

All right, “Corner Gas” fans! Brent Butt is back and he wants *you* to see his new movie, No Clue! No Clue opens in theatres March 7 from eOne Films, but audiences in Calgary and Vancouver can win tickets to a sneak peek. Get a clue and answer the trivia below to win!


BNFF Review: 'The Last Sentence'

The Last Sentence (Dom over död man)
Dir. Jan Troell, Writ. Jan Troell, Klaus Rifbjerg
Starring: Jesper Christensen, Pernilla August, Ulla Skoog, Björn Granath.
“I wish you were the way you write,” says Puste Segerstedt (Ulla Skoog) to her husband, Torgny (Jesper Christensen) in one of the most poignant moments of Jan Troell’s The Last Sentence. The Last Sentence, which screened in Ottawa last night as both the Swedish offering and the closing night film of the Canadian Film Institute’s Bright Nights: Baltic Nordic Film Festival, is an exquisitely shot and artfully neutral biopic about influential Swedish newspaper editor Torgny Segerstedt. Torgny is a man of conviction and passion when he wields a pen and commands a typewriter, but he’s a cold and distant man when it comes to close personal relationships. The Last Sentence interrogates how a man can have such a gap between his public and personal personas, and ultimately challenges the audience to ponder the words of the famed writer. Does powerful rhetoric hold sway when the speaker himself is not a man of action?

Creative Genius

The Lego Movie
(USA/Australia/Denmark, 100 min.)
Written and directed by: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Starring: Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrell, Liam Neeson.
Tie-in merchandise is usually just one building block of the Hollywood machine, but the fantastically entertaining The Lego Movie shows that an entire feature-length film can be built upon glorified product placement. The Lego Movie builds a case brick by brick that the product that shares its name and trademark is indeed the best darn toy ever made. Every piece of the film is a Lego block that creates an entire world of fanciful escapism. Kids will marvel at the all wonders they can build with Lego, while the parents accompanying them will note how Lego is one toy that will never grow old. If The Lego Movie is just a 100-minute ad for the iconic Danish toy, then it’s the most brilliant marketing ploy since 99 cents.


"It's 'RoboCop'."

(USA, 118 min.)
Dir. José Padilha, Writ. Joshua Zetumer
Starring: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Jennifer Ehle, Jay Baruchel, Samuel L. Jackson.
Joel Kinnaman stars in Columbia Pictures' Robocop. Photo by: Kerry Hayes

An early film class I took at Queen’s featured one of the most memorable lectures of my studies. It was one of the first weeks of a second-year course on film theory and criticism, and the class was particularly excited because the lecture for the week focused on an unexpected title: RoboCop. More fun than watching Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 sci-fi actioner, though, was sitting in the lecture in which a popcorn movie was explained as art. The professor earnestly zeroed in on the opening credits, freeze-framing a seemingly inconsequential second of screentime in which the word “RoboCop” appears in kitschy ’80s graphics. The “o” (the middle one) happens to sit atop a building that figured in the centre of the frame. Hence, the penetrative power of RoboCop (or something of that variety) foreshadows the intelligent critique of masculinity that courses throughout the film. To which a blunt and baffled student replied, “It’s RoboCop…”


Win Tickets to see '3 Days to Kill' in Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg! (Contest Closed)

Is Kevin Costner the super spy of 2014? Shortly after appearing in January’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Costner headlines the international spy thriller 3 Days to Kill. 3 Days to Kill opens in theatres February 21 from eOne Films, but if an advance screening is in your sights, audiences in select cities can win tickets to a sneak peek!

Oscar Update: Memo to the Academy

The Broken Circle Breakdown
There are now only two weeks left for Academy voters to complete their final screenings and turn in their ballots. The critics have spoken and the guilds have endorsed a myriad of nominees, so the Oscar race is more wide open than ever. Here are a few nominees and potential dark horses that we’re hoping the Academy considers:


CFC Sends 'Jean of the Jonses' Filmmaking Team to Tribeca All Access Program

Stella Meghie and Amo Adetuyi will participate in the Tribeca All Access program
The CFC (Canadian Film Centre) announced today that the filmmaking team behind Jean of the Jonses has been selected to attend the Tribeca All Access program (TAA) at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. Attending TAA for Jean of the Jonses are writer/director Stella Meghie and producer Amos Adetuyi of CircleBlue Films. Meghie’s previous credits include the CFC short Frost and Recovering Undercover over Love, the latter of which she wrote, produced, and directed, while Adetuyi has produced films such as Beat the World and High Chicago. By participating in TAA, which was created to help foster and nurture relationships between film industry executives and filmmakers from statistically underrepresented communities, the filmmakers will have significant opportunity to partake in intimate workshops and networking opportunities with peers from different corners of the film industry.

Shorts of Every Colour: TIFF Announces Short Cuts International

The short film Homecoming, which screeed at TIFF 2013 in
To Repel Ghosts: Urban Tales from the African Continent
Exciting news from the festival circuit for shorts fans! The Toronto International Film Festival announced the creation of Short Cuts International, a programme of international short films that will premiere at TIFF 2014. “With new technologies and a constant influx of new talent, short filmmaking is flourishing,” said Cameron Bailey, Artistic Director of the Toronto International Film Festival, speaking in Berlin. “As TIFF expands its global reach, we want to bring some of the world's finest short films to the audience, industry and media that gather in Toronto every year.”


Catching Up on Oscar Nominees with 'Cutie and the Boxer' and 'Jackass: Bad Grandpa'

Ushio and Noriko Shinohara in their Brooklyn, NY home.
Photo credit: Patrick Burns. Courtesy of Mongrel Media.
I watched two more Oscar nominees last night in an effort to tick off every name on my ballot (although I draw the line at another Hobbit movie). The films couldn’t have made for a more random bill: Cutie and the Boxer and Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa. The latter film marks the last straw in my aim to be an Oscar completist.


BNFF Review: 'Mother, I Love You'

Mother, I Love You (Mammu, es tevi mīlu)
(Latvia, 79 min.)
Written and directed by Jānis Nords
Starring: Kristofers Konovalovs, Vita Varpina
Family dynamics change over the years, but nothing changes the old adage that says that boys will be boys. Kids only grow through experience, yet the lessons of life for this generation might not be the same as our parents’ generation. Take, for instance, the coming-of-age tale faced by twelve-year-old Raimonds (Kristofers Konovalovs) in Mother, I Love You. Raimonds, on the cusp of adolescence, lives alone with his workaholic mother in their small apartment in Riga, Latvia. With his mother at work at all hours of the day and night (and keeping up her social life under the guise of a hectic work schedule), Raimonds is forced to grow up on his own. He learns through trial and error when playtime stops being a game.


BNFF Review: 'Moonrider'

(Denmark, 82 min.)
Dir. Daniel Dencik
What makes Danish films so appealing to North American audiences? The question arose during a conversation with some peers at the launch for the Canadian Film Institute’s Bright Nights Baltic-Nordic Film Festival, since Denmark was riding a high on a trio of nominated films—The Act of Killing, The Hunt, and the short Helium—at this year’s Academy Awards. Add to these three the European Union Film Festival sell-out Superclásico and it seems as if the Danes might have a monopoly on the Baltic-Nordic contingent of local cinephilia. (Although the Swedish films have also been doing rather well.) There is no easy answer to explain why the Danish filmmakers turn out more hits than many of their other European contemporaries do, but Moonrider, the Danish offering at this year’s Bright Nights Baltic-Nordic Film Festival, is bound to reignite the question following the screening.

Two Takes on Vampire Academy: Reviews from Me and My Inner Thirteen-Year-Old Girl

I caught a sneak peek of Vampire Academy last night, but as folks at the screening were kindly handing out nail polish to all the young girls in line, I realized that I was probably not a member of the film’s target audience. Therefore, in an effort to understand the YA lunacy of Vampire Academy, I decided to embrace my inner thirteen-year-old girl and let us both review the film.


Win Tickets to 'Pompeii' in Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Vancouver, Victoria, and Winnipeg!

Let the games begin! Olympic fever is underway, so now’s the time to go back to Pompeii! Pompeii takes audiences back to the time of swords and sandals for a rousing tale that should have viewers cheering like Olympians. Pompeii opens in theatres February 21 from eOne Films, but audiences in select cities have a chance to catch a sneak peek of the film before it hits theatres.

Finger Painting

The Monuments Men
(USA/Germany, 118 min.)
Dir. George Clooney, Writ. George Clooney, Grant Heslov
Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville, and Cate Blanchett.
Stokes (George Clooney) presents his case to President Roosevelt 
in Columbia Pictures' The Monuments Men. Photo by: Claudette Barius

There is, sadly, nothing monumental about George Clooney’s latest picture. The Monuments Men, Clooney’s fifth film as a director, is about as far off the mark of its potential as it can get. There’s enough grandeur in the material and enough talent in the cast and crew that The Monuments Men has the makings to be one of the best films of his career as a director. Instead, it’s his worst film.


Documentary can be a Dirty Business

Dirty Wars
(USA, 87 min.)
Dir. Rick Rowley, Writ. David Riker, Jeremy Scahill
Feat. Jeremy Scahill
Jeremy Scahill in Afghanistan. Photo by Richard Rowley.
War is a dirty, dirty business. It takes a hero to hunker down in the dirt and get the job done. A soldier can get even dirtier and assume greater risks by getting the job done properly and ethically. Equally prone to getting dirty are those digging up dirt and holding people in power accountable for ensuring that war is less a dirty affair and more a clean fight. War makes people sensitive (as it should), but intrepid reporters could easily get mud in their eyes when they speak the truth.

Resolution 2014 Screens Thursday

Just a head’s up for local film fans that Ottawa’s SAW Video will be holding Resolution 2014 screening tomorrow at the ByTowne. Resolution is an annual showcase of new members’ work. Resolution 2014 offers a mix of drama and documentary, narrative and experimental cinema, and both live action and animated films. Tickets are just $5 and the event includes a post-screening reception and Q&A at Shopify (126 York St.). I'm already booked for (covers mouth) Vampire Academy, but please head on over to The ByTowne for 6:45pm at support local film!

The screening list includes:


BNFF Review: 'My Stuff'

My Stuff (Tavarataivas)
(Finland, 82 min.)
Written and directed by Petri Luukkainen
“Things won’t make a home. It has to come from somewhere else,” says Petri’s grandma more than once during their visits that appear throughout Petri Luukkainen’s documentary My Stuff. My Stuff, which screens in Ottawa Wednesday night at the Canadian Film Institute’s Bright Nights Baltic-Nordic Film Festival, sees the young filmmaker go on a Morgan Spurlock-y quest of self-examination. Petri visits his grandmother frequently to seek her age-old wisdom and non-judgemental candor while undergoing an odd system of soul-searching that forms the study of My Stuff. Petri has decided to purge himself of all his material possessions and reclaim one item from storage per day for all three hundred and sixty five days of the year. It’s as extreme and interesting a challenge as it sounds.


Grief and Nightmares

William’s Lullaby
(Canada, 111 min.)
Written and directed by Nicholas Arnold
Starring: Richard Roy Sutton, Toby Bisson, Robert Lawton, Ila Lawton.
“Find Closure: That’s the way to stop the dreams,” says Peter (the late Robert Lawton).
“What if they don’t stop?” asks Thomas (Richard Roy Sutton). “What if they’re real?”
“They’re not.”


BNFF Review: 'Into the Dark'

Into the Dark
(Norway, 85 min.)
Written and directed by Thomas Wangsmo
Starring: Thorbjørn Harr, Fridtjov Såheim, Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Laila Goody, Fredrik Grøndahl, Fredrik Frafjord.
Into the Dark, the Norwegian offering at this year’s Bright Nights Baltic-Nordic Film Festival, is a stark and potent domestic drama about grief and guilt. This film by writer/director Thomas Wangsmo, a graduate of Montreal’s Concordia University making his feature film debut, begins almost imperceptibly as a slow burn thriller. A car accident in a snowy suburb outside Oslo sees Jan (Thorbjørn Harr) collide with Nicolai (Fredrik Frafjord), the son of his neighbours Svein (Fridtjov Såheim) and Sigrun (Laila Goody), as the boy passes through an intersection Jan approaches while driving home that night. As Nicolai lies on the ground with his crumpled bicycle and his parents anxiously await the oncoming ambulance, Jan’s wife, Anita (Ellen Dorrit Petersen), pulls him as side and murmurs, “Don’t tell them about the …” She trails off just as the authorities arrive on the scene.

Juliette Binoche 2014

Camille Claudel 1915
(France, 95 min.)
Written and directed by Bruno Dumont
Starring: Juliette Binoche
Watching drama unfold at a slow, almost static pace can be mentally exhausting. To live such an experience, however, must be excruciating. The unrelentingly slow and oddly titled Camille Claudel 1915 offers a ninety-five minute glimpse into the life of French sculptor Camille Claudel during a year in her stay at an asylum in Montdevergues. One senses the hell of living in such a place as Camille Claudel observes the mentally anguished Camille, played by Juliette Binoche, approach a kind of psychological annihilation through ennui. When the final title card of the film states that Camille lived in the asylum for another twenty-nine years (against her own wishes and against the advice of her doctors, no less), the languorously paced Camille Claudel hits with an impact one didn’t see coming.


BNFF Review: 'Blood Type'

Blood Type (Veregrupp)
(Estonia, 67 min.)
Dir. Leeni Linna
“The all-devouring passion of a soldier is the battle, the thrill of challenging fate, the triumph of becoming one's own destiny,” reads a quote from German writer/philosopher Ernst Jünger that serves as an epigraph for Leeni Linna’s documentary Blood Type (Veregrupp). Blood Type explores with remarkable objectivity the facets of a soldier’s psychology that Jünger notes. Blood Type, which opens the Canadian Film Institute’s fourth annual Bright Nights Baltic-Nordic Film Festival on Saturday, offers a portrait that Ottawa viewers might not expect from this corner of Europe during the Winterlude-set festival.