A Short History of the NFB at the Oscars

Ryan, the NFB's 2004 Oscar winner, is one of a dozen films to win Academy Awards for the organisation.
Photo from the production, courtesy of Copper Heart Cut, Inc. and the NFB.
The most recent Oscar race illustrates how Canadian films have the goods to compete with Hollywood heavyweights. Long before Room and Brooklyn became award season rallying points for the Maple Leaf, the hallmark of Canada’s success on the road to Oscars was, and remains, the films of the National Film Board of Canada (NFB). The NFB’s success at the Oscars is unparalleled for any organisation working outside of the Hollywood system. With 73 nominations and 12 competitive wins to its name, as well as an honorary award in 1988 to mark its 50th anniversary and “its dedicated commitment to originate artistic, creative and technological activity and excellence in every area of film making,” the NFB accounts for much of Canada’s recognition on the film industry’s biggest night.


'The Lobster' a Uniquely Pessimistic Love Story

The Lobster
(Ireland/UK/Greece/France/The Netherlands/USA, 118 min.)
Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos, Writ. Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou
Starring: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Ben Whishaw, John C. Reilly, Olivia Colman, Léa Seydoux
Short Sighted Women (Rachel Weisz) and David (Colin Farrell) in a scene from the film The Lobster by Director Yorgos Lanthimos. Courtesy of Mongrel Media
“Have you decided what kind of animal you would like to be if you don’t make it?” asks The Hotel Manager (Olivia Colman).
“A lobster,” replies David (Colin Farrell).
“A lobster is an excellent choice,” she responds.


'The Clan' Evokes the Spirit of Scorsese

The Clan (El clan)
(Argentina/Spain, 108 min.)
Dir. Pablo Trapero, Writ. Pablo Trapero, Julian Loyola, Esteban Student
Starring: Guillermo Francella, Peter Lanzani, Lili Popovich, Gastón Cocchiarale, Stefanía Koessl
Photo courtesy of Fox International
Argentina’s The Clan, not to be confused with Chile’s The Club, is bold, intense filmmaking. This powerful drama, Argentina’s Oscar submission in the most recent race, invites the audience into the home of a family of entrepreneurs. Like the clan behind Tony Soprano, the Puccio household draws loyalty along bloodlines and raises the bar for small family businesses. We’ve seen stories of kidnappings and revolution in Latin America before, ranging in films from Missing to No, but writer/director Pablo Trapero breathlessly and rivetingly presents an underworld in which the business of taking lives is a deliciously evil endeavour.


Batman and Superman Make Nothing But BS

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
(USA, 151 min.)
Dir. Zack Snyder, Writ. Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer
Starring: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Gal Godot, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Holly Hunter, Jeremy Irons
The title Batman v. Superman implies a winner, but the reality is that everybody loses with this film. The much anticipated showdown between the Caped Crusader and the Man of Steel comes three Batman movies and two Superman reboots later in the new era of comic book movies, and this $250 million dollar opener for yet another goddam superhero franchise leaves Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill holding the hot potato long after everyone else has passed it on. Put Batman and Superman together and all this film yields is a huge steaming pile of BS.

Win a Digital Download of 'Coconut Hero'!

Now playing in theatres, Coconut Hero is a quirky and endearing Canadian co-pro. (Read the Cinemablographer review here.) The film comes to home video on April 1 from Search Engine Films and lucking readers have a chance to win a free download. Answer the trivia below for your chance to win!


Childhood Classic Endures in 'The Little Prince'

The Little Prince
(France/Canada, 108 min.)
Dir. Mark Osborne Writ. Irena Brignull, Bob Persichetti
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Mackenzie Foy, Riley Osborne, Marion Cotillard, James Franco, Albert Brooks, Paul Giamatti, Benicio Del Toro
Mackenzie Foy is The Little Girl in The Little Prince, an Entertainment One release.

Canadian animated features are few and far between. There’s an impressive catalogue of shorts and stuff coming out of the NFB and pockets of independent innovators, but the costly venture of feature-length animation leaves a sparse field in the Canuck canon with notable exceptions like Asphalt Watches and The Legend of Sarila. Sometimes, Can-Con collaborations yield remarkable gems like the 2003 Oscar-nominated co-pro and Canadian Genie winner The Triplets of Belleville. Going big requires a pooling of resources, especially for a project that requires so much detail and dedication, and the flight of fancy The Little Prince is another step forward.


'The Passion of Augustine' Leads Winners at Gala du Cinéma Québécois

Céline Bonnier in The Passion of Augustine.
Photo courtesy of Les Films Séville
Several films shared the wealth in Quebec's annual cinema soirée. The awards, temporarily re-dubbed the Gala du Cinéma Québécois after organizers promptly dropped the name 'Les Prix Jutras' in the wake of allegations of pedophilia against Quebec film icon Claude Jutra, saw popular Québécois films in the spotlight along with more auteurist offerings. The big winner overall was Léa Pool's box office hit The Passion of Augustine, which drew six honours including Best Film, Best Direction, Best Actress for Canadian Screen Award nominee Céline Bonnier, and Best Supporting Actress for Diane Lavallée. The touching drama about a resilient music teacher fighting to save her school during the cusp of religious, cultural, and political revolution led the nominations with the FLQ drama Corbo going into the awards, although the latter was notably shut out. Philippe Falardeau's My Internship in Canada nabbed three prizes including one for Canadian Screen Award nominee Irdens Exantus in the Best Supporting Actor race, while former Oscar bid Felix and Meira and Oscar nominee Brooklyn won prizes for Screenplay and Art Direction & Cinematography, respectively. (The latter repeated its win in the category at the Screenies.) La guerre des tuques landed two awards, finally, including a non-competitive gong for being Quebec's biggest moneymaker.

Capsule Reviews: 'Chi-Raq', 'Whiskey Tango Foxtrot', 'Deadpool'

A bit more capsule catch-up with the diverse trio of Chi-raq, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, and Deadpool. Don’t miss Chi-raq!

(USA, 127 min.)
Dir. Spike Lee, Writ. Spike Lee, Kevin Willmott
Starring: Teyonah Parris, Nick Cannon, Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett, Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Hudson, John Cusack
Spike Lee delivers his best film since 2002’s 25th Hour with the ferociously poetic Chi-raq. This film is an ingenious exercise in rhythm and poetry as Lee and co-writer Kevin Willmott adapt the Greek play Lysistrata to the contemporary warzone of urban Chicago. The actors speak in rhyming verse as they confront the escalating gang violence in the city, which has reportedly taken more American lives than the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined during the same period. It’s more accessible than, say, a Shakespeare film that borrows the Bard’s verse and it’s all thanks to Lee’s bold in-your-face approach.

Drinking the Malick Kool-Aid

Knight of Cups
(USA, 118 min.)
Written and directed by Terrence Malick
Starring: Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Cate Blanchett, Teresa Palmer, Imogen Poots, Freida Pinto, Wes Bentley
Rick (Christian Bale) and Nancy (Cate Blanchett) in Knight of Cups, an Entertainment One release.

The press notes for Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups indicate that the director shot the film without a conventional screenplay and I hate to say it, but it shows. While Knight of Cups doesn’t offer the same rambling shots of people twirling in the wheat fields à la To the Wonder, the film essentially plays like a feature-length collage of B-roll footage. Actors improvise in eye-catching locations and Malick’s team draws out something miraculous in the editing room. There is still a lot of twirling, though, and ample shots of actors frolicking, running, and wandering as the impressive cast puts ample trust in Malick’s vision and explores the creative process. There’s an aimlessness to this act of Malickian meandering though, since Knight of Cups doesn’t have a fully formed idea behind it, like an essay that ‘explores’ rather than ‘argues,’ so the filmmaker’s cinematic philosophy and visual poetry don’t inspire the same sense of wonder one sees in his stronger efforts The Tree of Life and The Thin Red Line. One can call Knight of Cups total BS, an odyssey into the soul, or an exercise in vulgar auteurism, and the film is open enough to allow all three flavours. Take your pick.


What's the Recipe for a Coconut Hero?

Coconut Hero
(Canada/Germany, 96 min.)
Dir. Florian Cossen, Writ. Elena von Saucken, Daniel Schacter
Starring: Alex Ozerov, Bea Santos, Krista Bridges, Sebastian Schipper
Alex Ozerov stars in Coconut Hero.
Search Engine Films
What’s the recipe for a coconut hero? Rum? Whipped cream? Donuts? Sugar?
Nope, nope, and nope, but there’s a little of the latter.


No Reason to Sing the Blues Over Baker Bio

Born to Be Blue
(Canada/UK, 95 min.)
Written and directed by Robert Budreau
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Carmen Ejogo, Callum Keith Rennie, Stephen McHattie, Janet-Laine Green
Ethan Hawke and Carmen Ejogo star in Born to be Blue, an eOne Films release.

There’s something very Tax Shelter Era-y about the co-Canadian biopic Born to Be Blue. This dramatization of American jazz sensation Chet Baker casts Hollywood star Ethan Hawke (Boyhood) as the music icon alongside American up-and-comer Carmen Ejogo (Selma) in a Sudbury-shot film that draws upon Canuck resources—natural, cultural, and financial—to make a film that bares a strong resemblance to Hollywood products. The difference between Born to Be Blue and Canuck commercial aspirations of the 1970s and 80s, however, is that it’s actually good.


Contest: Win Tickets to See 'Demolition'! (CONTEST CLOSED)

Jean-Marc Vallée is ready to destroy the moviegoers with his latest drama Demolition. (Read the rave Cinemablographer review here from TIFF, where the film was the Opening Night selection.) Jake Gyllenhaal stars in this seriously powerful new film from the director of Wild and Dallas Buyers Club about a man who breaks down and puts himself back together after losing his wife in a devastating accident. Demolition opens in theatres April 8 from VVS Films, but lucky readers have a chance to attend sneak peeks of Demolition in select cities. Answer the trivia below for your chance to win tickets!

'And the Candy Goes To...': Canadian Screen Awards Recap

Norm MacDonald
The talk of the Canadian Screen Awards wasn’t so much the sweep by Room, but rather the christening of a new icon. Last night saw the Canadian Screen Awards unofficially assume the name of “The Candys.” (Or “The Candies,” as Twitter debates.) Host Norm MacDonald opened the show by encouraging presenters to dub the Canadian Screen Award “The Candy” while bestowing honours upon recipients. The homage furthered a recurring talking point around the Canadian Screen Awards since their inception: they need a better name. Peter Howell originally championed “The Candys” back when the merged film and television honours began, and while that name remained an underlying favourite, “The Screenies” generally merged as an abbrev’d moniker. After last night, though, when everyone from Jacob Tremblay to Aunjanue Ellis to Christopher Plummer handed out a “Candy,” the award solved one problem of the identity crisis it’s carried since birth.


Canadian Screen Award Winners

Room leads the Canadian Screen Award nominations.
Photo: Caitlin Cronenberg / Elevation Pictures
Film winners for the 2016 Canadian Screen Awards! Full list of nominees here.

Best Picture


Best Director:

Lenny Abrahamson, Room
-Becomes the first non-Canadian to win since Bruce Beresford for Black Robe (1991)

Actor in a Leading Role:

Jacob Tremblay, Room
-Calls Christopher Plummer a legend, has the cutest speech of the night 

Actress in a Leading Role:

Brie Larson, Room
-A no-show, but adds a Candy to her Oscar

Actor in a Supporting Role:

Nick Serino, Sleeping Giant

Actress in a Supporting Role:

Joan Allen, Room

Best Original Screenplay:

Remember, Benjamin August

Adapted Screenplay:

Room, Emma Donoghue

Achievement in Costumes:

Beeba Boys, Joanne Hansen

Achievement in Cinematography:

Brooklyn, Yves Bélanger

Achievement in Art Direction/Production Design:

Room - Ethan Tobman, Mary Kirkland

Achievement in Film Editing:

Room, Nathan Nugent

Achievement in Make-up:

Room, Sid Armour, Jennifer Gould

Achievement in Music – Original Score

Brooklyn, Michael Brooke

Achievement in Music – Original Song

Scratch: A Hip-opera

Achievement in Overall Sound

Hyena Road

Achievement in Sound Editing

Hyena Road

Achievement in Visual Effects:

Hyena Road

Ted Rogers Award for Best Documentary Feature:

Hurt - Alan Zweig, Peter Gentile

Achievement in Cinematography – Documentary

The Last of the Elephant Men - Arnaud Bouquet

Achievement in Editing – Documentary

How to Change the World - James Scott

Best Documentary Short

Bacon and God's Wrath- Sol Friedman

Best Live Action Short

She Stoops to Conquer - Zack Russell, Marianna Khouri

Best Animated Short

The Ballad of Immortal Joe - Hector Herrera, Pazlitt Cahlon

Discovery Award

(Festival film with budget under $250 000)
Winner: Mina Walking

Best First Feature Award

Winner: River - Jamie M. Dagg


All Hustle, No Flow

(Canada/Laos, 95 min.)
Written and directed by Jamie M. Dagg
Starring: Rossif Sutherland, Sarah Botsford, Douangmany Soliphanh, Aiden Gillett
Elevation Pictures

Rossif Sutherland keeps on running in River, but the film doesn’t move towards any heavenly body. This brisk yet sluggish chase move just keeps going as newcomer Jamie M. Dagg, winner of this year’s Canadian Screen Award for best first feature, recycles clichés in a thriller that shows much promise despite its overall unevenness. The film literally runs out of gas—twice—as Sutherland runs and runs without really getting anywhere. River is also hustle, no flow.


Canadian Screen Awards Preview: Will Win/Should Win

Jacob Tremblay as Jack and Brie Larson as Ma in Room.
Photo by Caitlin Cronenberg, courtesy of Elevation Pictures
This year’s Canadian Screen Awards give a lot to celebrate. They mark the end of a good year for Canadian films, both in terms of production and exposure. The field still contains a few clunkers, also rans, and random choices that don’t really represent the year in Canadian film, but they’re outweighed by some examples of diverse and daring cinema, like The Forbidden Room and Demons. On the heels of not one but two Best Picture Oscar nominees with Room and Brooklyn, the films most likely to duke it out for Best Picture, Canada’s doing eh-ok and the Screenies reflect that sentiment.


Capsule Reviews: 'Le Mirage', 'The Mermaid', 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny'

More capsule catch-up! Full reviews will return soon.

Le mirage
(Canada, 103 min.)
Dir. Ricardo Trogi, Writ. Louis Morissette
Starring: Louis Morissette, Julie Perrault, Christine Beaulieu, Patrice Robitaille
Julie Perreault (Isabelle) et Louis Morissette (Patrick) in Le mirage.
Les Films Séville

Quebecois filmmaker Ricardo Trogi (1987) usually delivers when it comes to commercial comedies, but his latest film Le mirage is a bit of an odd duck. The film is as slick assembled as Trogi’s films tend to be, but something’s a bit off in this well-intentioned portrait of male alienation in contemporary suburbia.


Capsule Reviews: 'The Passion of Augustine', 'Triple 9', 'Eddie the Eagle'

Playing catch-up with some capsules!

The Passion of Augustine (Le passion d’Augustine)
(Canada, 103 min.)
Written and directed by Léa Pool
Starring: Céline Bonnier, Diane Lavallée, Lysandre Ménard, Pierrette Robitaille
Les Films Séville


Pip Pip, Motherf***ers!

London Has Fallen
(UK/USA/Bulgaria, 99 min.)
Dir. Babak Najafi, Writ. Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt, Christian Gudegast, Chad St. John
Starring: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Radha Mitchell, Jackie Earle Haley, Melissa Leo
Gerard Butler and Aaron Eckhart star in London Has Fallen.
Courtesy VVS Films

Pip pip, motherfuckers! The London Bridge might be falling down, but Gerard Butler can save the world by teatime. Butler returns as butt-kicking Secret Service agent Mike Banning, the dedicated officer sworn to protect American President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) from disaster. London Has Fallen follows the enormously successful Olympus Has Fallen in which Banning risked his skin to save the POTUS, but one doesn’t need to have seen the first film to enjoy the second. London Has Fallen brings nonstop action as it unleashes a cartoonishly extravagant web of chaos and calamity on the regal English city. It’s wonderfully ridiculous no-holds-barred entertainment.


Writers Guild of Canada Awards Nominations

William Shatner in A Christmas Horror Story, an Entertainment One release.
The Writers Guild of Canada Awards announced their finalists yesterday. They are a surprising bunch with a special leaning to genre films in the dramatic categories. Big congrats to my former Queen’s classmate Sarah Larsen on her nomination for A Christmas Horror Story!

The nominees in the feature film categories are:


Cold Canadian Greed

(Canada, 90 min.)
Dir. Jason R. Goode, Writ. Andre Harden
Starring: Jamie Bamber, Marie Avgeropoulos, Aleks Paunovic, Stefanie von Pfetten
Jamie Bamber, Stefanie von Pfetten, Marie Avgeropoulos, and Aleks Paunovic star in Numb.
Photo by Jan Kiesser, courtesy of A71.

Hey, Leo: you think it’s cold up here in Canada? You say you froze your buns off while shooting The Revenant? Well, you haven’t experienced true Canadian winter like these four kids have.