'Spotlight' Wins: Oscar Race Ends on a Much-Needed High Note

The Spotlight team wins Best Picture
Yayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy for Spotlight! This year’s Best Picture win for Spotlight was a triumph and an encouraging endnote for a very negative season. The good guys can still win. Tom McCarthy’s drama about the courageous Boston Globe reporters who broke the story of sex abuse and subsequent cover-ups in the Catholic Church pulled an upset when it looked as if Alejandro G. Iñárritu was about to make history by being the first person to win back to back Oscars for Best Picture and Director. (He would have been a very worthy winner!) Spotlight made its own place in history, as it broke a record held by 1952’s The Greatest Show on Earth for being the last film to win Best Picture and only one other award. (Spotlight won Best Original Screenplay.) The ranked ballot probably accounted for its win in a tight year, but seeing the film win let last night’s Oscar broadcast end on a high note after a shaky evening.


Oscar Party Playlist (Plus Some Ideas for Oscar Noms!)

The Retrosettes perform "You Got the Love" in Youth
With this year’s Oscars broadcast bound to be tense and awkward, a proper atmosphere during the red carpet and mingling hours is key to a successful Oscar party. Besides the obligatory themed noms, like, say, some bison sliders to celebrate The Revenant, some potatoes to fête The Martian (debate who would have the better fertilizer: Matt Damon or Jessica Chastain!), some spaghetti and Guinness for Brooklyn, Boston Cream donuts for Spotlight, and a Sunday treat for Room. For drinks, serve water for Mad Max: Fury Road (every party has one cheap guest, so at least he/she will be on target), a Jack and Coke for Amy, and some big martinis to say cheers to Carol with a ’55 Margaux to savour Steve Jobs. If you want some coffee, poison a guest à la The Hateful Eight and let the rest of the party debate who did it.


Canuck Co-Pros 'Fatima', 'The Little Prince' Top César Awards

The Canadian co-produced Fatima won top honours at France’s César Awards yesterday. The awards, France’s equivalent of the Oscars, gave Best Film to the Canada-France co-production directed by Philippe Faucon. Fatima beat out stiff competition including France’s Oscar contender Mustang and Cannes Palme d’Or winner Dheepan. Additional honours for Canadian film went to the Canada-France co-pro The Little Prince in category for Best Animated Feature.


Final Oscar Predictions: 'Fasten Your Seatbelts. It's Going to Be a Bumpy Night!'

Anne Baxter, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, and George Sanders in 1950 Best Picture winner All About Eve.
As Margo Channing (Bette Davis) says in Oscar winner All About Eve, “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night!” Here we are in the final hours of one of the toughest, closest, and ugliest Oscar seasons yet. Chris Rock is bound to roast the voters, while someone could easily fire back at the Academy/President Cheryl Boone Isaacs for throwing the older members under the bus and dividing the Academy at a time when it needs to stand united. By introducing a purge on members--and it's perfectly normal and fair for any group to review the activity of its membership--the Academy's Board of Governors implicitly blamed the older members for basing their nominations on prejudice, rather than merit, when it expedited efforts to introduce valuable memberships rules that were already in the works. A lot of people are bound to be uncomfortable during the ceremony, so much so that Chris Rock might as well share hosting duties with Ricky Gervais. Buckle up for four hours of awkward viewing!


BNFF Review: '2 Nights Till Morning'

2 Nights Till Morning
(Finland/Lithuania. 84 min.)
Written and directed by Mikko Kuparinen
Starring: Marie-Josée Croze, Mikko Nousianinen
Photo courtesy of the Canadian Film Institute.

Canada’s Marie-Josée Croze gives a captivating performance in 2 Nights Till Morning. As Caroline, the complicated workaholic who has a layover with destiny in this seductive Finnish-Lithuanian co-pro, the actress delivers her best work since her Genie Award and Cannes prize-winning performance in Oscar winner The Barbarian Invasions. Croze finds a strong screen partner in Mikko Nousianinen as Caroline flirts with the idea of making a connection with his Finnish DJ Jaakko when they meet at a hotel bar in Vilnius, Lithuania. In the vein of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise and Danièle Thompson’s Jet Lag, this talky and mature two-hander offers a whirlwind romance for mature audiences. It’s a wonderful, refreshing film driven by a pair of excellent performances.

'We of the Craft Are Crazy'

Touched with Fire
(USA, 107 min.)
Written and directed by Paul Dalio
Starring: Katie Holmes, Luke Kirby, Christine Lahti, Griffin Dunne, Bruce Altman
“That’s what I call illuminating,” says Marco (Canadian actor Luke Kirby) as he displays a portrait of a bipolar brain to Carla (Katie Holmes), his partner-in-crime at the hospital. Marco and Carla are both bipolar and this picture of a brain that shares their illness pops off the page with its vibrant colours: blue, pink, violet, and red. The picture, an image from a ho-hum medical book, speaks directly to the experience that Marco and Carla seek to validate while escaping the treatment put open them by the doctors and orderlies at the hospital. Marco, a rapper, and Carla, a poet, both have strong artistic talents that hit their creative heights with the manic strokes of their bipolar roller coasters. Art and madness is a long-reigning love affair, but Touched with Fire shows that the connection runs much deeper and is far more politically correct.


A Snake is One Slippery, Spectacular Creature

Embrace of the Serpent (El abrazo de la serpiente)
(Colombia/Venezuela/Argentina, 125 min.)
Dir. Ciro Guerra, Writ. Ciro Guerra, Jacques Toulemonde Vidal
Starring: Nilbio Torres, Jan Bijvoet, Anontio Bolivar, Brionne Davis, Yauenkü Migue
Photo courtesy Northern Banner Releasing.

A snake is one slippery, spectacular creature. Embrace of the Serpent is equally elusive. This Colombian odyssey and nominee for Best Foreign Language Film in this year’s Oscar race refuses to take a straight line. It’s as windy and slithery as a serpent and it speaks with a forked tongue.


The End is Nigh

End of Days, Inc.
(Canada, 83 min.)
Dir. Jennifer Liao, Writ. Christina Ray
Starring: Carolyne Maraghi, Mark O’Brien, Paulino Nunes, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Janet Porter, Anna Ferguson, Yulia Petrauskas
What’s worse: living a boring 9 to 5 existence or going down in the apocalypse? The end is nigh in the Canuck comedy End of Days, Inc., which puts a quartet of worker drones in the hellish flames of a workplace that just might be run by Satan. The minions of Godfrey Global close up shop on their last day of work, but they receive an odd proposal from the boss Mr. Godfrey (Paulino Nunes) who insists they all attend a farewell party to receive their final paychecks. Sometimes it’s best to punch out and take a loss.


BNFF Review: 'Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words'

Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words (Jag är Ingrid)
(Sweden, 114 min.)
Dir. Stig Björkman, Writ. Stig Björkman, Dominika Daubenbüchel, Stina Gardell
Featuring: Alicia Vikander, Isabella Rossellini, Pia Lindström
Photo courtesy of the Canadian Film Institute.
Meatballs, make-it-yourself furniture, dragon tattoos, and Ace of Base are some of Sweden’s greatest cultural exports, but nothing from the great Scandinavian country rivals the legacy of actress Ingrid Bergman. The iconic star of films such as Casablanca, Anastasia, and Autumn Sonata is best remembered as a classically composed actor with a magnetic aura and an adaptable charm. Her charisma and grace resonate strongly in romances like Casablanca, thrillers like Notorious, and poetic neo-realist dramas like Voyage to Italy. She loved movies, and the movies loved her, as Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words recalls with a loving and candid portrait of the late star.


Memo to the Academy: For Your Consideration

Cate Blanchett in Carol
Final voting is underway in this year’s Oscar race! I’ve now had the chance to see all the nominees save for Best Foreign Language Film contenders Theeb and A War, Best Animated Feature nominee When Marnie Was There, and Best Animated Short Film nominee Sanjay’s Super Team, so I can say with confidence that this year has a very strong field of competitors. It’s a tight race and only a few votes could determine the winners. With that in mind, Cinemablographer sends its annual Memo to the Academy with a few notes of consideration. Please add your FYCs in the comments!


Contest! Win Run of Engagement Passes for 'Touched with Fire'! (CONTEST CLOSED)

Katie Holmes and Canadian actor Luke Kirby bring an inspiring story to the screen in Touched with Fire. A hit at last year’s SXSW film festival, Touched with Fire comes to Canadian theatres and VOD on Friday, February 19 from Pacific Northwest Pictures, and lucky readers can win run of engagement passes to see the film on the big screen! Answer the trivia below for your chance to win passes!


Contest: Win Tickets to See 'London Has Fallen' Across Canada! (CONTEST CLOSED)

Big Ben is about to topple like a pile of Jenga blocks in London Has Fallen! London Has Fallen, the sequel to the 2013 hit Olympus Has Fallen, brings Gerard Butler back in action to protect international leaders from terror. London Has Fallen opens in theatres March 4th from VVS Films, but readers across Canada may attend a sneak peek to see the film before it hits theatres. Answer the trivia below for your chance to win tickets to London Has Fallen!

The Ladies and the Tramp

Portrait of a Serial Monogamist
(Canada, 84 min.)
Written and directed by John Mitchell and Christina Zeidler
Starring: Diane Flacks, Carolyn Taylor, Vanessa Dunn, Gavin Crawford, Caroline Gillis, Karen Robinson
Diane Flacks in Portrait of a Serial Monogamist

We’ve all seen that guy, right? The one who won’t commit? The dude who goes through girls as if they’re cold beers on a Saturday night? Drink ’em, love ’em, dump ’em, and move on the next one. But what if this guy, the one we’ve all been taught to distrust in romantic comedies, is a girl? Is going through glasses of chardonnay any different from ploughing through beers?


Bright Nights: Baltic-Nordic Film Fest Returns to Ottawa

Marie-Josée Croze and Mikko Nousianinen star in 2 Nights Till Morning.
Photo courtesy of the Canadian Film Institute.
Ottawa’s annual Winterlude film fest gives cinephiles in the 613 a few reasons to strap on their skates and glide down the Rideau Canal. Make sure to stop at Carleton University after getting a Beavertail, since the Canadian Film Institute’s annual Bright Nights: Baltic-Nordic Film Festival promises a week of world cinema from the wintry nations to the east. This year’s festival has another impressive class of films with Iceland’s Oscar submission Rams playing alongside the Ottawa premiere of Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words, a feature doc about Sweden’s greatest cultural export next to IKEA. Add Joaquim Trier’s heavily acclaimed Louder than Bombs, and film buffs already have three reasons to brave the cold before diving into the line-up. PS: There’s also a Finnish feature starring own Marie-Josée Croze if folks want to keep it Canadian this winter!


PPZ's Blade Not as Sharp as Its Wit

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
(USA, 108 min.)
Written and directed by Burr Steers
Starring: Lily James, Sam Riley, Bella Heathcote, Ellie Bamber, Douglas Booth, Jack Huston, Charles Dance, Lena Headley
Bella Heathcote (left) and Lily James (right) in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, an Entertainment One release.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single film in possession of a good zombie, must be in want of some gore.

Contest! Win Tickets to See 'Race' Across Canada! (CONTEST CLOSED)

The race continues! Stephan James (Home Again) stars as in Race, the incredible true story of runner Jesse Owens who defied Hitler and became an icon by winning four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics. Race opens in theatres February 19 from eOne Films, but lucky readers across Canada may win tickets to sneak peeks! Answer the trivia below to win!


Take 'My Wife', Please!

Your Money or Your Wife
(Canada, 75 min.)
Written and directed by Ian Macleod
Starring: Craig Brown, Meredith MacNeill, Annie Valentina, Brian McWarren, Josh Macdonald
Lionel: “We’re like Canadian gentlemen robbers. Have you ever seen the movie Foolproof?”
Annie: “I Love that movie.”
Mike: “That movie’s crap. Canadian movies are garbage.”


Hail, 'Caesar'!

Hail, Caesar!
(USA, 106 min.)
Written and directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Starring: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Alison Pill, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill.
Josh Brolin stars in Hail, Caesar!
Universal Pictures Canada

Joel Coen and Ethan Coen are a curious pair. Two Hollywood outsiders and kids from the indie crowd, they’ve built a canon of singular films while rising in the ranks of critical esteem, festival circuit pedigree, and Oscar-worthy laurels. They might have four Academy Awards to their names, but they haven’t sold out or buckled to Hollywood. (Yes, they’ve done re-writes for films like Unbroken and Bridge of Spies, but everyone needs to eat.) The Coens, if anything, flip the bird to Hollywood the more it embraces them: their comedy gets blacker, their violence gets bloodier, and their philosophy gets denser. Filmmakers achieve a rare level of freedom and anonymity when they’re as consistently good as the Coens are, and their latest film Hail, Caesar! is one wacky comedy that throws pie all over Tinseltown’s face.


New Trailer for Jean-Marc Vallée's 'Demolition'

Jean-Marc Vallée and Jake Gyllenhaal on the set of Demolition.
VVS Films.
A new trailer and images are out for Jean-Marc Vallée’s Demolition! Vallée’s latest film stars Jake Gyllenhaal in an incredible performance as Davis, a man who breaks down and rebuilds his life piece by piece following the unexpected death of his wife (Heather Lind). The film co-stars Naomi Watts as an unconventional ally and Chris Cooper as Davis’s disapproving father in law. The film makes its US Premiere at SXSW next month before opening in theatres April 8 from VVS Films.

Contest! Win '99 Homes' on Blu-ray! (Contest Closed)

Catch one of 2015’s best performances when Michael Shannon’s intense turn in 99 Homes comes to home vid. After earning Best Supporting Actor nominations from the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild, and Critics Choice Awards, plus a win from the LA Film Critics, readers have another chance to catch this powerhouse performance. (With great work by co-stars Andrew Garfield and Laura Dern as the cherry on top.) 99 Homes comes to Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital on Tuesday, February 9 from VVS Films, and lucky readers have a chance to win a copy of the film on Blu-ray. Answer the trivia below for your chance to win 99 Homes!


Contest: Win Tickets to the Canadian Premiere of 'Race' in Toronto! (CONTEST CLOSED)

The race is on! Stephan James (Home Again) stars as in Race, the incredible true story of runner Jesse Owens who defied Hitler and became an icon by winning four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics. Race opens in theatres February 19 from eOne Films, but lucky readers in Toronto may win tickets to the Canadian Premiere with stars Stephan James, Jason Sudeikis, and other special guests in attendance! Answer the trivia below to win!


Oscar-Nominated Live Shorts Programme a Downer

Ave Maria
This year’s Oscar-nominated Live Action Shorts are a bit of a downer. They’re heavy films. Grouped together, they make for a rather dreary film experience. The films all bring worthy subject matter, though, which helps one differentiate from the current of sameness that runs throughout some of these five nominees. There’s no clear standout, but there’s much to admire… even if the shorts are more to be admired than enjoyed.