12/31/2017

The Finest Actor in the World?

All the Money in the World
(USA, 132 min.)
Dir. Ridley Scott, Writ. David Scarpa
Starring: Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Walhberg, Charlie Plummer, Romain Duris
j paul getty plummer money
I’ve often said that Christopher Plummer is Canada’s greatest actor. However, he might lay claim to being the finest actor in the world given his most recent performance. Plummer proves himself a consummate professional with his eleventh hour tour-de-force as billionaire tycoon J. Paul Getty in Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World. Plummer, who was the original choice for the role, replaced Kevin Spacey in a much-publicized switcheroo to supplant the disgraced actor when serious allegations of sexual misconduct towards minors made it impossible to release the film with Spacey as the villain—in a performance that many insiders speculated was a strong Oscar contender. The speculation hints at both the lunacy and validity of early award season soothsaying because All the Money in the World should land a Best Supporting Actor nomination, and maybe a win if it’s not too late. Plummer gives one of his best performances while proving himself one of Hollywood’s true class acts.

12/29/2017

2017 in Review: The Best Films of the Year

Wonderstruck; Step; Kedi; I, Tonya; The Shape of Water; Dunkirk; Don't Talk to Irene; The Post; Faces Places
Thank goodness for the movies. 2017 wasn’t good to many of us, so it was sweet relief to enjoy the escape of a dark theatre and some popcorn. A lot has been written about the timeliness of many of the best films of the year evoking parables of Trump-era America, and the many of the best films of 2017 were tales of true heroes, great leaders, and of communities united—all a great contrast to the toxicity and divisiveness that define the year. It was a particularly strong year for documentaries, too, with non-fiction filmmakers illuminating more corners of the world with fearless eyes for telling the truth and for highlighting diverse voices. And in some cases, filmmakers turned over new corners of the art form to play with perceptions of the truth—very timely for the age of #FakeNews.


12/28/2017

'Get Out' Leads Online Film Critics Society Award Winners

Catherine Keener and Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out
Jordan Peele's subversive horror flick Get Out led the winners for the annual Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) awards announced earlier today. The OFCS, established in 1997, is the largest and longest running group of film critics promoting the strength of writing and criticism in the online sphere. OFCS members shared the wealth with other films like Dunkirk, The Shape of Water, Darkest Hour, Lady Bird and Call Me By Your Name winning additional awards apiece.


12/27/2017

2017 in Review: The Best Performances of the Year

Margot Robbie, Gary Oldman, Allison Janney, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett,
and Frances McDorman give 2017's best performances
We continue to reflect on the year in movies. The third segment of “2017 in Review” salutes the actresses and actors who stood tallest this year. The choices in the list reflect a very strong year for substantial roles for women in film—a notable improvement over recent years—and probably the most competitive field yet for the top ten lead performances. On the other hand, this year marks the first instance in the seven years this blog has been running that a list failed to include a performance from a Canadian film. That’s disappointing, although there are a few in the honorable mentions, but let’s appreciate the cream of the crop in acting talent this year:

12/21/2017

2017 in Review: The Best Canadian Films of the Year

Don't Talk to Irene, Rumble, Dim the Fluorescents, Long Time Running,
Adventures in Public School
and Hochelaga are the year's best Canadian films.

It’s been a quietly respectable year for Canadian film. I realise that statement might not read like a compliment, but I’m still caught off guard by how hard it was to see Canadian movies this year. In the seven years that I’ve been writing this blog and covering the Canadian film beat, or at least trying my best to do so, 2017 posed the biggest struggle for finding Canadian content. It just wasn’t out there as much as it’s been in previous years, or, if it was, it was far less visible.

12/20/2017

Incident Report: Margot Robbie, Craig Gillespie and Sebastian Stan Talk 'I, Tonya'

Sebastian Stan and Margot Robbie star as Jeff Gillooly and Tonya Harding in I, Tonya
VVS Films

“She’s an incredible athlete and I think that’s one of the tragedies of this whole situation,” says Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad, Z for Zachariah), speaking about her I, Tonya character at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this year. “‘The Incident’ totally overshadowed her athletic abilities and what a phenomenal achievement it was to do the triple axel.”

12/18/2017

'The Shape of Water' Leads Online Film Critics Society Nominations

Sally Hawkins stars in The Shape of Water
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Guillermo del Toro's mesmerizing fantasy romance The Shape of Water leads the 2017 nominations for the Online Film Critics Society Awards. The film starring Sally Hawkins as a mute cleaning woman who falls in love with an amphibian man has eight nominations including Best Picture, Best Director for del Toro, and Best Actress for Hawkins. Coming in second with six nominations apiece are Luca Guadagnino's Call Me By Your Name, Jordan Peele's Get Out, and Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird.


12/16/2017

'The Post': Not a 'Steven Spielberg Film' but a 'Meryl Streep Movie'

The Post
(USA, 115 min.)
Dir. Steven Spielberg, Writ. Liz Hannah and Josh Singer
Starring: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Sarah Paulson, Bruce Greenwood, Carrie Coon
Meryl Streep stars as Katharine Graham in The Post
20th Century Fox
There’s a great argument with Karina Longworth’s book Meryl Streep: Anatomy of an Actor that suggests Meryl Streep is in many ways the true author of films in which she stars. However, the long running, if increasingly unfashionable, “auteur theory” pioneered by Cahiers du Cinéma types posits the director as a film’s unwavering beacon of artistic vision. Every choice in a film, they say, is a creative one made, summoned, or encouraged by the director. The theory, peddled mostly by male writers about male directors, arguably bears a direct responsibility for the gender imbalances in film that continue today. When a star like Meryl Streep is cranking out 100-million dollar hits, building a base of young fans, and hitting a career-high while in approaching the age of 70, that hierarchy needs to be re-evaluated.


Mildred Hayes: Badass of 2017


Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
(UK/USA, 115 min.)
Written and directed by Martin McDonagh
Starring: Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Peter Dinklage, Jon Hawkes, Lucas Hedges, Caleb Landry Jones, Clark Peters, Abbie Cornish
Fox Searchlight Pictures
John Wayne is dead. Ditto Gary Cooper. These old gunslingers are nothing but bones. Long after these movie stars departed, the iconic heroes they inhabited also rode off into the sunset. The small town hero of the Midwest is an old myth long dispelled from a country with no room for old men.

12/14/2017

2017 in Review: The Worst Films of the Year

mother!, Split, If You Saw His Heart, Suburbicon, Despicable Me 3 and Infinity Baby are some of 2017's worst
Thank goodness 2017 is nearly over.

 It’s ending up a fairly good year for movies, but once again there were so many bad ones that weren’t even worth writing about. Boring remakes, stupid sequels, and pointless reboots. Even a lot of the indie stuff wasn’t as good as it usually is and a fair bit of sub-par stuff was pushed quite aggressively for reasons that I honestly can’t still understand. When there are far too many movies being released nowadays, why invest in a lame horse?


12/12/2017

Oldman's Finest Hour

Darkest Hour
(UK, 125 min.)
Dir. Joe Wright, Writ. Anthony McCarten
Starring: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Ben Mendelsohn, Stephen Dillane, Ronald Pickup
Focus Features
Give Gary Oldman every award on the planet for Darkest Hour. His turn as late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill is a titanic performance. This latest film from director Joe Wright (Anna Karenina) offers a fine companion piece to Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk with its deftly plotted and time sensitive dramatization of Britain’s war efforts, specifically with the evacuation of Dunkirk, and a rousing parable of great leadership. But where Dunkirk excels as a true ensemble piece, Darkest Hour succeeds as a star vehicle. It’s Oldman’s finest hour.

12/10/2017

Notes from the Screener Pile: 2017.4

So many movies, so little time.

Get Out        
(USA, 104 min.)
Written and directed Jordan Peele
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Lakeith Stanfield, Betty Gabriel, LilRey Howrey
Sink into the floor and fall into the wild, strange world of Get Out. This brilliant and spectacularly entertaining film from writer/director Jordan Peele offers a visionary entry into the world of horror. Get Out is a chillingly satirical commentary on race relations in America as young Black man Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) goes away to meet the parents of his seemingly sweet white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams). Chris worries that Rose’s parents don’t know their daughter is bringing a Black man—gasp, her first!—home for the weekend, and nervously considers the tense two days ahead.


12/09/2017

Oscar Predictions: Round 2 - Golden Globes and SAG Predictions

Clockwise from top: Dunkirk, The Post, The Shape of Water, Lady Bird, Three Billboards, Get Out
Is it Golden Globes time already? The year for movies really picked up steam and is coming to a strong finish, so the Globe nominations are a tough call. Top contenders like The Post, Phantom Thread, and The Greatest Showman are only just showing their legs—the latter is still the big question mark...and probably not a contender beyond the Globes' musical categories and the crafts branches at the Oscars if the film isn't being trucked out much yet—and the few critics’ prizes doled out so far are more reflective of advocacy than anything else. The early favourites—Call Me By Your Name, Dunkirk, The Shape of Water, and Three Billboards—are still leading the pack unless something really picks up heat from the Globes, which will most likely be The Post.


12/04/2017

Notes from the Screener Pile: 2017.3

The award-season catch-up continues! Missed many goodies this year including the following:

Lucky
(USA, 88 min.)
Dir. John Carroll Lynch, Writ. Drago Sumonja, Logan Sparks
Starring: Harry Dean Stanton, David Lynch, Ron Livingston, Beth Grant
Harry Dean Stanton stars in Lucky.
Magnolia Pictures
Could Harry Dean Stanton have found a better swan song than Lucky? This offbeat indie isn’t the late character actor’s final film (that would be the upcoming Frank & Ava), but Lucky gives Stanton the great lead performance that eluded him throughout his career. He will forever endure as a legend among character actors for his small but memorable turns as oddballs, weirdos, and creeps, particularly in the filmography of David Lynch, and John Carroll Lynch’s extremely Lynchian Lucky is smartly tailored to Stanton’s wiry frame and zen-like strangeness. It’s a perfect marriage between actor and character, and an even better endnote to a long career.

12/03/2017

Notes from the Screener Pile: 2017.2


More binge-watching!

In the Fade (Aus dem Nichts)
(Germany/France, 106 min.)
Written and directed by Fatih Akin
Starring: Diane Kruger
Magnolia Pictures
Diane Kruger gives an exceptional performance as Katja, the grieving mother on a quest for vengeance, justice, and peace in In the Fade. She elevates this relatively run-of-the-mill procedural, which features some of the most implausible courtroom testimony outside of prime time TV, and absolutely deserves the Best Actress prize she picked up at Cannes earlier this year. It’s a career performance and surprisingly the first the first role of Kruger’s filmography to let her active in her native German. This latest film from Faith Akin tackles racism and xenophobia in Germany in the age of Brexit and tightly-guarded borders, and it pits Kruger’s Katja on a delicate journey akin to that of the tortured souls in The Edge of Heaven, another of the director’s works that deals with grief and loss against a backdrop of migration and global change.