Talking 'Blindspotting' with Daveed Diggs

two guys in a convenience store
Daveed Diggs (right) stars in Blindspotting with Rafael Casal
VVS Films
New interview! Pick up a copy of BeatRoute if you’re in the Vancouver area this month to read a funchat with Daveed Diggs, the star and co-writer of the new urban drama Blindspotting. Diggs, who won a Tony and a Grammy for his work in the Broadway game-changer Hamilton, stars as Collin, an Oakland native who returns emerges from prison to see his city transformed in a state of rapid gentrification. It’s an urgent film, as Collin witnesses a police shooting of an unarmed Black man and navigates the deeply entrenched systems of inequality while trying to find middle ground between justice for his fallen brother and safety for his own life. With the beat of the city and the pulse of true poetry, Blindspotting is not to be missed.


Xavier Dolan Steals TIFF's Canadian Conference (Again)

Jacob Tremblay in Xavier Dolan's The Death and Life of John F. Donovan
Jacob Tremblay in Xavier Dolan's The Death and Life of John F. Donovan Courtesy of TIFF
I tip my hat to Xavier Dolan! The Québécois wunderkind stole the TIFF Canadian press conference two years in a row with the same movie. TIFF Artistic Director Cameron Bailey pulled a rabbit out of his hat by making the surprise announcement that Dolan’s long-awaited English-language debut The Death and Life of John F. Donovan would World Premiere as a Special Presentation. The news was confirmed by the festival press office via a release sent immediately following the announcement.

TIFF Unveils CanCon for 2018: Arcand, Sweeney, Giroux headline dramatic front

Bruce Sweeney's Kingsway is among the notable Canadian premieres
The TIFF Canadian line-up is and it’s…a bit underwhelming. There’s some good stuff, to be sure, like the documentaries including the World Premieres of Rob Stewart’s Sharkwater: Extinction and Igor Drljaca’s The Stone Speakers. (Readmore about the docs at POV.) But, beyond those titles, TIFF might have been smart to reserve some of the four Canadian films announced last week, like Patricia Rozema’s Moutpiece and Don McKellar’s Through Black Spruce for today. They’re doing the media line, anyways, and are bound to dominate the coverage.


Filling Meryl's Muumuu

Shock and Awe
(USA, 89 min.)
Dir. Rob Reiner, Writ. Joey Hartstone
Starring: Woody Harrelson, James Marsden, Rob Reiner, Tommy Lee Jones, Jessica Biel, Milla Jovovich, Luke Tennie
News editor at his desk
Rob Reiner stars in Shock and Awe
Rob Reiner really should have worn a caftan during his rousing “yay, journalism!” moment in Shock and Awe. The director and star of Shock and Awe has a big golden muumuu to fill coming to theatres on the heels of The Post. Reiner simply proves that when it comes to acting, he’s no Meryl Streep and when it comes to directing, he’s no Steven Spielberg.


Taking the First Step

Mary Goes Round
(Canada, 84 min.)
Written and directed by Molly McGlynn
Starring: Aya Cash, John Ralston, Sara Waisglass, Melanie Nicholls-King
Girl in a toque on a merry go round
Her name is Mary and she’s an alcoholic.


Having Their Cake and Eating It Too

The Death (and Life) of Carl Naardlinger
(Canada, 92 min.)
Written and directed by Katherine Schlemmer
Starring: Matt Baram, Grace Lynn Kung, Mark Forward 
Unhappy couple eating dinner
This week’s quirky microbudget Canadian dramedy opening at the Carlton is The Death (and Life) of Carl Naardlinger. Not to be confused with Xavier Dolan’s always-in-the-works The Death and Life of John F. Donovan starring Kit Harrington, Natalie Portman, Jessica Chastain, and Susan Sarandon, this offbeat little oddity is as far away from the visual panache of the Dolan world as one can get. Writer/director Katherine Schlemmer concentrates on the characters and “what if” scenarios of connection and chance that her slightly speculative film develops. Most of the budget probably went to catering, but to Naardlinger’s credit, this is a rare Canadian film in which the actors actually eat their spring mix instead of just pushing it around their plates.


"I'm No Spring Chicken"

Where is Kyra?
(USA, 98 min.)
Written and directed by Andrew Dosunmu
Starring: Michelle Pfeiffer, Kiefer Sutherland 
Catwoman ages gracefully
“I’m no spring chicken!” quips Kyra late in this film. She struggles to get work two years after losing her job, at which she was supposedly quite successful, and now she toils the demoralizing grind of unemployment. Few people, unfortunately, want an overqualified woman with wrinkles on the payroll. Pfeiffer dives deeply into this character study that demands every inch of her maturity as an actress. It’s a quietly powerful and immersive performance—one of Pfeiffer’s most surprisingly turns and arguably one of her strongest.


Chatting 'Sorry to Bother You' with Boots Riley

New interview! Chatting Sorry to Bother You with director Boots Riley over at BeatRoute. You can catch this zany comedy in theatres starting Friday.



2018 in Review: The Best Films of the Year so Far

Won't You Be My Neighbor?, Isle of Dogs, Fake Tattoos, Meditation Park, American Animals,
and Sweet Country rank as some of the year's best films so far.
2018 slept in, but what started as a slow year for movies has become a strong one. I’ll admit that I’m still not covering as many films as I’d like to here, but there are a lot of films worth championing that I’ve let slip through the cracks and want to take the time to spotlight.


A Tale of Two Genre Films

Aden Young in The Unseen and Oluniké Adeliyi in Darken
Canadians make a lot of special effects driven movies, but they’re often for Hollywood producers. Genre films made with Canadian dollar aren’t particularly rare, either, but good ones often are. The works of David Cronenberg, Splice, Enemy, Pontypool, and most recently Les affamés, which must be the contemporary hallmark for great Canadian horror, are standouts. These titles are arguably auteur-driven films rather than genre pieces, and few of the films in between aren’t memorable. But they shouldn’t be the exception to the rule.


'Marlina' Cooks Up Bloody Good Revenge

Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts
(Indonesia/Malaysia/France, 93 min.)
Dir. Mouly Surya; Writ. Mouly Surya, Garin Nugroho, Rama Adi
Starring: Marsha Timothy, Egy Fedly, Dea Panendra
A woman sits around the table as men lie on the floor
They say revenge is a dish best served cold. A tepid lunch honestly doesn’t benefit anyone and revenge, like cooking, is best served piping hot with fiery gusto. That’s how Marlina cooks up a four-course meal of wrathful revenge. Let the last meal for any man who wrongs her be a heaping portion of incendiary, tongue-burning rage. 


Interview: Chatting 'American Animals' with Bart Layton for the TFCA

Catch one of the best films of the year so far when American Animals hits theatres starting this week. It's a lively heist hybrid movie, a fascinating slice of true crime from director Bart Layton, whose The Imposter has to be one of the wildest films I've seen at Hot Docs. I had the pleasure of interviewing  Layton for the Toronto Film Critics Association and we chatted about hybrids, heist films, and going beyond the sentimental cheap shot of "true" stories.

Millennials and Marriage

Paper Year
(Canada, 90 min.)
Written and directed by Rebecca Addelman
Starring: Eve Hewson, Avan Jogia, Andie MacDowell, Hamish Linklater, Grace Glowicki
Pacific Northwest Pictures
The traditional gift for one’s first anniversary is paper. Maybe a card, a certificate, or a photograph might find its way into some wrappings as newlyweds celebrate their first year of marriage. Franny (Eve Hewson, Enough Said) and Dan (Avan Jogia, Ghost Wars) gift themselves an ironic piece of paper when Paper Year takes stock at their first year of marriage. This dramedy from Ottawa-born filmmaker Rebecca Addelman illustrates with bittersweet humour how the best gifts are often paper—and by that, I mean receipts.


'Prodigals': Keeping It Real in the Soo

(Canada, 108 min.)
Dir. Michelle Ouellet, Writ. Nicholas Carella
Starring: David Alpay, Sara Canning, Kaniehtiio Horn, Andrew Francis, David Kaye, Nicholas Carella, Jameson Parker, Brian Markinson 
Prodigas directed by Michelle Ouellet
David Alpay and Sara Canning star in Prodigals
Prodigals is a new stage to screen production featuring a complicated legal trial and an even trickier romantic triangle. While the courtroom scenes might reveal the film’s theatrical origins, director Michelle Ouellet and writer Nicholas Carella open up the material remarkably. Who knew the quiet steel town of Sault Ste. Marie could be a backdrop for bigger drama? The Soo once again gets a starring role after its breakout turn in Edwin Boyd and its bargain bin appearance in Compulsion. Ouellet gives the Soo a crisp sense of place with Prodigals, particularly in the spicy Italian attitude that gives provides the city’s best flavours. Whatever one makes of the courtroom drama or the love story, one must admire the authentic character of the surroundings.


Interview: Talking with 'Beast' Director Michael Pearce at Beatroute

 A favourite from TIFF, which I caught while covering the Platform competition, Beast hits theatres June 15. Film about a girl in love with a potential predator has an extra bite playing post-Weinstein!

Had a chance to speak with Pearce recently for BeatRoute to discuss the film and his process. Pick up a copy if you're in Vancouver!

Read it online here.


Documentary-like Realism

Fail to Appear
(Canada, 68 min.)
Written and directed by Antoine Bourges
Starring: Deragh Campbell, Nathan Roder

At what point does drama end and documentary begin? Writer/director Antoine Bourges tightrope walks the line between fiction and non-fiction in Fail to Appear, but he isn’t aiming for hybrid hijinks. This intriguing film mines the aesthetics of documentary filmmaking through the lens of neorealism and the result is a unique work of docu-ish-fiction: a film that is, for all purposes, narrative dramatic fiction, but seems as authentic as life itself.


'Les affamés' Leads Quebec's Prix Iris Winners

Zombie girl and her mother stand in front of a pile of junk
Les affamés
Emmanuel Crombez / Les Films Séville
It was a zombie apocalypse last night in Quebec! The Prix Iris, Quebec's equivalent to the Canadian Screen Awards and Oscars, were gobbled up by Robin Aubert and his team for Les affamés. The chilling ensemble drama stars Marc-André Grondin, Monia Chokri, and Brigitte Poupart as a group of rural Quebeckers as the lone survivors of a zombie outbreak. The film scored eight awards in total between last nights honours and the artistic and technical awards handed out earlier in the week. Les affamés scored wins in top categories including Best Film, Best Director for Aubert, Best Supporting Actress for Brigitte Poupart, and the annual honour of being the most acclaimed film outside Quebec.


Tris and Finn Ride the Love Boat

(USA, 95 min.)
Dir. Baltasar Kormákur; Writ. Aaron Kandell, Jordan Kandell, David Branson Smith
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Sam Claflin
Man and woman in a boat in stormy weather
Sam Claflin and Shailene Woodley star in Adrift
VVS Films
Adrift will inevitably headline Netflix’s playlist “Movies with a Strong Female Lead,” but this film really needs to be seen in a theatre. It’s a gripping romantic adventure on the high seas—Johnny Depp free!—as two young lovers combat the elements and struggle to survive on open water. The film sees YA franchises collide as Divergent’s Shailene Woodley teams up with The Hunger Games’ Sam Claflin to play Tami Oldman and to Richard Sharp. Tami and Richard are real-world adventurers basking in the sunsets of the Pacific Ocean on an ill-fated voyage home. A terrible storm leaves their ship ruined and adrift in the water as they cling to life against the elements. Their love story ensures that audiences will never let go while holding on to Adrift’s adventure.


Schrader Reformed

First Reformed
(USA, 113 min.)
Written and directed by Paul Schrader
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Amanda Seyfried, Philip Ettinger, Cedric Kyles, Victoria Hill
Paul Schrader's First Reformed
Preach, Paul Schrader, preach! Schrader returns with his best film yet as a director. First Reformed is a dark, brooding, and suspenseful masterwork of tone, character, and real world urgency. After the disaster of The Canyons, which I actually sorta liked despite its flaws and awful lead performance by James Deen, Schrader seemed relegated to B-level obscurity. He’s back, stronger than ever, and ready to make those who doubted him say a few rosaries.


"May You Live a Long Life."

(UK/USA, 115 min.)
Dir. Sebastián Lelio; Writ. Sebastián Lelio, Rebecca Lenkiewicz
Starring: Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, Alessandro Nivola, Allan Cordunier
Sebastian Lelio Disobedience
Courtesy Mongrel Media
“May you live a long life.” One could possibly make a drinking game with how often this sentence appears in Disobedience. The saying is one of mourning, unique to Anglophone Jewish communities (according to the Internet) that carries different weights and meanings depending on the context and sincerity with which one says it. On the surface, it signals a celebration of life to someone who has lost a loved one.


'Kayak to Klemtu': Where Roots Run Deep

Kayak to Klemtu
(Canada, 90 min.)
Dir. Zoe Hopkins; Writ. Zoe. Hopkins, Michael Sparaga, Scooter Corkle
Starring: Ta’Kaiya Blaney, Lorne Cardinal, Sonja Bennett, Evan Adams, Jared Ager-Foster
Courtesy Mongrel Media
Many documentaries chronicle the impact of the oil trade on BC’s oceans and coastal communities. Few dramas, however, invite audiences to build relationships and emotional connections with inhabitants of the land who struggle with this conflict. Oddly enough, writer/director Zoe Hopkins makes her feature debut with Kayak to Klemtu, which draws inspiration from the filmmaker’s effort to document stories from her community of Bella Bella as residents testified to the impact of oil tanker traffic in the Inside Passage. This serpentine waterway is far too congested—an accident waiting to happen in one of the most beautiful landscapes in Canada. Hopkins instead offers a hopeful and accessible story that shares with audiences a deep connection to the land and waters worth preserving.


Mommy Issues Haunt 'The Child Remains'

The Child Remains
(Canada, 107 min.)
Written and directed by Michael Melski
Starring: Suzanne Clément, Allan Hawco, Shelley Thompson
Allan Hawco and Suzanne Clément in The Child Remains
Suzanne Clément checks into the East Coast branch of the Bates’ Motel in The Child Remains. The Mommy star encounters mommy issues at a creepy B&B in Nova Scotia, but they’re more of the Gus Van Sant variety than the Alfred Hitchcock pedigree. Despite an eerie setting and an earnest attempt to provide old-school horror on a shoestring budget, The Child Remains struggles to chill. Yelp reviews are often more terrifying.

Cannes Review: 'The Gentle Indifference of the World'

The Gentle Indifference of the World
(Kazakhstan/France, 100 min.)
Dir. Adilkhan Yerzhanov, Writ. Adilkhan Yerzhanov, Roelof Jan Minneboo
Starring: Dinara Baktybayeva, Kuandyk Dyussembayev  
Adilkhan Yerzhanov, Dinara Baktybayeva, Kuandyk Dyussembayev
Courtesy Cannes
As if that blind rage had washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself…I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again.
-Albert Camus, The Stranger


Hot Docs Coverage at POV!

Apologies for the radio silence! We've been busy with Hot Docs preparations at POV including the new issue, which features a snazzy redesign and...baby's first cover story! Pick up a copy to read about new Hot Docs features like Grant Baldwin's This Mountain Life and Shasha Nakhai's Take Light, as well as picks for the hottest films from the first 25 years of Hot Docs.


-Food for Thought: Maya Gallus's The Heat - Chatting with the director of Hot Docs' opening night film about female chefs breaking through a male-dominated field.

-A Song of Reconciliation: The Power of Gurrumul - Director Paul Williams and producer Shannon Swan discuss their film about the late Australian singer.

-"Rocky Mountain High: Grant Baldwin's The Mountain Life" - Be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the mountains in this visually stunning trek with a mother-daughter duo.

-"Ain't that America: The Films of Barbara Kopple" - a look at the career of Barbara Kopple, this year's Outstanding Achievement Retrospective subject at Hot Docs. She's easily my favourite documentary filmmaker. Harlan County, USA is my pick for the best doc ever made.

-"An Acadian Tragedy: Samara Chadwick's 1999": chatted with director Samara Chadwick about her haunting film that returns to her high school in Moncton, New Brunswick, which saw a wave of suicides at the eve of the new Millennium.

- "Tube Stakes: Michael Sparaga's United We Fan": Director Michael Sparaga discusses his film about passionate TV fans who campaign to save their favourite shows.

-The American Meme
-Andy Irons: Kissed by God
-Anote's Ark
-Bathtubs Over Broadway
-Call Her Ganda
-Constructing Albert  
-Don't Be Nice
-Eternity Never Surrendered
-Harvest Moon
-The Heat
-I Used to Be Normal: A Boyband Fangirl Story
-Letter from Masanjia
-Love, Gilda 
-On Her Shoulders
-Pick of the Litter
-Playing Hard
-The Reckoning: Hollywood's Worst Kept Secret
-Shorts: Prince's Tale and Turning Tables
-The Strange Sound of Happiness
-Witkin & Witkin


'Boost': Between the Tiles of the Mosaic

(Canada, 95 min.)
Written and directed by Darren Curtis
Starring: Nabil Rajo, Jahmil French, Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine, Oluniké Adeliyi, Fanny Mallette, Brent Skagford, Théo Pellerin
Boost Darren Curtis
Screenie winner Nabil Rajo stars as Hakeem
One of my guilty pleasure when it comes to cheap Canadian cinema nobody’s heard of is Darren Curtis and Pat Kiely’s cracked-out and ridiculous comedy Who is KK Downey? A wonderful discovery at the 2008 Kingston Canadian Film Festival that some of my friends still cite as a reason why they won’t see Canadian films with me, KK Downey is a riotously silly parody of faux-author JT LeRoy who gained fame by penning a bestseller allegedly based on a previous life as a truck stop hustler. It’s a hoot largely due to its madcap direction and to Curtis’s fearlessly looney performance as the privileged white guy who crafts a story of oppression to sell his shitty book.


Doggy Style

Isle of Dogs
(USA, 101 min.)
Written and directed by Wes Anderson
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Koyu Rankin, Liev Schreiber, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Balaban, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Courtney B. Vance, F. Murray Abraham, Yoko Ono
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Give Wes Anderson a bone! His latest film Isle of Dogs is pooch perfection. Even a die-hard cat person will fall head over heels in love with this movie and leave the theatre doing little back flips whilst yapping for joy.


Canadian Screen Award Film Winners (In Progress)

Sally Hawkins stars in Maudie
Mongrel Media
Maudie leads this year's Canadian Screen Awards haul with seven honours. The Canadian-Irish co-production scooped the Best Picture prize along with honours for UK-based director Aisling Walsh. Brit Sally Hawkins won a well-deserved Best Actress award for her astonishing transformation as folk painter Maud Lewis, who suffered from crippling arthritis. Hawkins' impeccable performance added to a great contribution to Canadian film by the actress, who starred in this year's Best Picture Oscar winner The Shape of Water, which was shot in Toronto and Hamilton. Maudie also scored an acting gong for Ethan Hawke, who really should have won last year too for his performance as Chet Baker in the biopic Born to Be Blue.

Canadian Screen Awards Preview: Picks and Foolish Predictions

Brigitte Poupart in Les affamés - the only Best Picture nominee that's truly excellent
Emmanuel Crombez / Les Films Séville
The Canadian Screen Awards are tonight and it’s an evening to quietly celebrate a so-so year in Canadian film. The roster of nominees indicates that the nomination committees went out of their way to find a diverse group of contenders and unearthed some buried nuggets, but few of these films screened theatrically and some of them barely made a peep on the festival circuit. A lot of the best Canadian work was short changed. The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it qualifying runs don’t help much either when it comes to giving audiences a chance to see the films. Canadian television seems to be picking up steam with Schitt's Creek and Alias Grace expanding their wow factors beyond the land of the maple leaf, but our films are struggling.


Doesn't Stir the Heart

The Heart is What Dies Last (C’est le cœur qui meurt en dernier)
(Canada, 105 min.)
Dir. Alexis Durand-Brault, Writ. Gabriel Sabourin
Starring: Gabriel Sabourin, Denise Filiatrault, Paul Doucet, Geneviève Rioux, Céline Bonnier, Sophie Lorain
Denise Filiatrault in The Heart is What Dies Last
Les Films Séville
This year’s totally random Canadian Screen Award nominee for Best Picture is The Heart is What Dies Last. It’s titled less awkwardly as C’est le coeur quit meurt en dernier in its native français, but presenters probably won’t be stumbling over syntax while ripping open the envelopes. It’s a fine, decently acted drama, but nothing to make the heart stir.


Henderson Doesn't Miss a Beat

Never Steady, Never Still
(Canada, 112 min.)
Written and directed by Kathleen Hepburn
Starring: Shirley Henderson, Théodore Pellerin, Mary Galloway, Nicholas Campbell, Jared Abrahamson, Lorne Cardinal
Kathleen Hepburn Never Steady Never Still
Shirley Henderson stars as Judy in Never Steady, Never Still
Shirley Henderson, the actress with the squeaky voice, is a tremendous force in Never Steady, Never Still. This debut feature from Kathleen Hepburn gives the British actress an outstanding lead role as Judy, a woman living in oil country, BC, who experiences a tragic illness because of contamination from the fields. Judy suffers from crippling tremors having lived with Parkinson’s disease for twenty years and Henderson finds in the character the same empathy and strength that Sally Hawkins brought to her performance as severely arthritic painter Maud Lewis in Maudie. The physical power of this performance is incredible, but the emotional might is even greater.


Safe, but Sound: Thoughts on Last Night's Oscars

“This is a really long show,” said Jimmy Kimmel while introducing last night’s Academy Awards broadcast. Kimmel started on the wrong note. The Oscars never seemed to end, but the duration wasn’t the problem. The monotony was. I could barely hear much of the show at the Oscar party I attended, and after a while, that wasn’t a bad thing because the banter in the room was often much livelier than the telecast. There wasn’t any big hiccup in the show, yet Kimmel kept apologizing and asking folks to move it along when he had no reason to say sorry. The absence of Envelopegate 2 stressed a big takeaway from the evening: safe doesn’t make for great TV.


Oscar Party: Menu and Playlist

The ballots are printed, the predictions are set, and the red carpet is ready! A laid back atmosphere can make or break any good Oscar party as friends become rivals when battle lines are drawn between Three Billboards, Lady Bird, and Get Out. (Anyone without a stake in the race should take a bathroom break during Best Original Screenplay.) Help create a cozy and convivial mood with some themed Oscar noms for this year’s contenders. Draw out the finer points of the films over bubbly and have a good laugh: tonight’s for celebrating.


Oscar Predictions: Final Round - Will Win/Should Win

Billboards, Lady Bird, Darkest Hour, The Post, The Shape of Water, and I, Tonya
For every ‘yup’ there’s a ‘but.’ This year’s Best Picture race is an unlikely field. Some major stat looks to be broken since all the contenders have a bit of baggage that decreases the odds of a confident win. Get ready for the Oscars to break the Internet on Sunday night! Awards season ends its six-month grind of toxic mudslinging on March 4th when either Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri or The Shape of Water takes Best Picture. It’s a tight race with Get Out, Dunkirk, and Lady Bird having adoring fans, and after last year’s crazy finale, the memory of #OscarsSoWhite, the shadow of Harvey Weinstein, the stench of Donald Trump, and the energy of #TimesUp, it feels as if there are many factors percolating with the usual stats and precursors. With an open mind, let’s look at who will win and should win in the top categories!


'Les affamés' is the Best Canadian Horror Film in Years

Les affamés (The Ravenous)
(Canada, 96 min.)
Written and directed by Robin Aubert
Starring: Marc-André Grondin, Monia Chokri, Charlotte St-Martin, Micheline Lanctôt, Brigitte Poupart, Marie-Ginette Guay, Robert Brouillette
Robin Aubert's Les affames (The Ravenous)
Marc-André Grondin in Les affamés
Emmanuel Crombez / Les Films Séville
Some call it home and others call it cottage country, but what often draws one to the rural regions of Canada is the silence. The quiet and leafy countryside can be an idyllic reminder of a way of life that seems forgotten in the fast-paced and impersonal cities to which everyone flocks. There’s something truly beautiful, however, about sitting back and watching the sunset over grassy plains rather than through tightly packed condos, smelling pine-scented air rather than carcinogenic smog, or being in a neighbourhood where people wave rather than accuse randomly you of offending them. The sound of silence rather than the din of traffic. This image of “Canada” doesn’t really fit the cultural imagination anymore, but it hasn’t died away.


The Family that Slays Together

Mom and Dad
(USA, 83 min.)
Written and directed by Brian Taylor
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Selma Blair, Anne Winters, Zackary Arthur, Robert Cunningham  
Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair star in Mom and Dad
VVS Films
Why would anyone have kids? They whine. They’re messy. They’re expensive. They’re noisy. They completely consume one’s life and one’s identity. These points could all be positives provided one’s the paternal/maternal type and/or up for a challenge. If not, kids might be one-way tickets to crazy town. Having just raised a kitten, I don’t know how or why people do it when it comes to human children.


Memo to the Academy: For Your Consideration

Oscar voters should consider Margot Robbie, Dunkirk, Christopher Plummer,
The Post, On Body and Soul, and The Breadwinner

Oscar ballots are in the mail! February 20th marks the beginning of the final round of voting for this year’s Academy Awards race. Best Picture still looks to be a nail-biter with The Shape of Water and Three Billboards going neck-and-neck and their distributor Fox Searchlight laughing all the way to the bank, while the four acting categories look locked for Gary Oldman, Frances McDormand, Allison Janney, and Sam Rockwell. But last year’s upset proves that no frontrunner is secure, so let’s send the annual memo to the Academy with cases to be made for some of this year’s most worthy contenders:


TIFF Next Wave Review: 'Fake Tattoos'

Fake Tattoos (Les faux tatouages)
(Canada, 87 min.)
Written and directed by Pascale Plante
Starring: Anthony Therrien, Rose-Marie Perrault                            
Courtesy of TIFF
Fake Tattoos is the real deal. This raw and intimate film from Pascale Plante deserves to be in the spotlight. It’s easily the best feature dramatic debut from the Canadian circuit in 2017 and director Pascale Plante shows the most overall finesse in fusing the authenticity of style with storytelling. This rugged and easygoing love story is Once meets Nuit #1 for the indie rock crowd. It’s Sleeping Giant for people who came of age in grungy concerts or in their bedrooms listening to music on late summer nights instead of getting to bask in the sunlight of cottage country. Find love and lose it in the freeing summers of youth with this bittersweet number that pulses with passion, adrenaline, and pain.


In Between: Lives of Girls and Women in Tel Aviv

In Between (Bar Bahar)
(Israel/France, 103 min.)
Written and directed by Maysaloun Hamoud
Starring: Mouna Hawa, Sana Jammelieh, Shaden Kanboura, Henry Andrawes, Mahmud Shalaby
Discover a voice in writer/director Maysaloun Hamoud. Her feature debut In Between is a welcome drama about Arab women negotiating love and independence within a male-dominated society. Set in the Arab quarters of Israel, In Between presents three women who are outsiders among outsiders in a world wrestling with change. It’s a bold and funny tale of female friendship and women’s rights.


TIFF Next Wave Review: 'High Fantasy'

High Fantasy
(South Africa/Luxembourg, 71 min.)
Dir. Jenna Bass
Starring: Qondiswa James, Nala Khumalo, Francesca Varrie Michel, Liza Scholtz
Qondiswa James, Nala Khumalo, Francesca Varrie Michel, Liza Scholtz
Courtesy of TIFF
The concept of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes is getting a bit worn in the heel. Why not try something bigger, like wearing someone else’s pants, (clean) undies, or skin?  


Blu-Ray Review: 'All I See Is You'

All I See Is You
(USA, 109 min.)
Dir. Marc Forster, Writ.
Starring: Blake Lively, Jason Clarke, Ahna O’Reilly, Miquel Fernández, Danny Houston, Wes Chatham
Blake Lively and Jason Clarke star in All I See Is You
VVS Films
Jason Clarke is a sad sight in All I See Is You. One has to hand it to an actor for letting his mug be the face of disappointment as James, the pathetic and controlling husband in this new drama from Marc Forster (World War Z). Just look at the blank reaction of James’s wife, Gina (Blake Lively), when she regains her sight for the first time in their marriage. The film introduces Gina as she makes love to James, whom she imagines as a hunky Latin lover delighting her amidst a CGI orgy of bodies writhing in a kaleidoscopic field of fantasies. Then, when she opens her eyes and sees her husband for the first time, Gina wears a vague expression that reads, “I married this?”


Oscar Live Action Shorts: Not a Stinker in the Bunch

My Nephew Emmett
Courtesy of TIFF
It often happens that the five Oscar nominees for Best Animated Short are significantly stronger than their live action counterparts are. Such is not the case this year. While there is an air of familiarity to the quintet of nominees for Best Live Action Short, this year’s Oscar contenders are a solid group. There isn’t a stinker in the bunch.

Oscar Animated Shorts: 'Negative Space' for Gold!

Negative Space
What a delightful crop of films one finds among this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Animated Short! These five films illustrate a spectrum of animation techniques and styles, so picking a winner is no easy feat and, to some extent, simply a matter of taste. From hand-drawn sketches of life to a 3D gong show and from a personal stop-motion fable to a dark reimagining of nursery rhymes, there’s something for everyone in this field of contenders. Add the novelty of the phrase “Academy Award nominee Kobe Bryant,” and a ticket for the programme is money well spent.


'Permission': On the Town

(USA, 96 min.)
Written and directed by Brian Crano
Starring: Rebecca Hall, Dan Stevens, Morgan Spector, David Joseph Craig, François Arnaud, Gina Gershon, Jason Sudeikis
Dan Stevens Rebecca Hall
Dan Stevens and Rebecca Hall in Permission
Pacific Northwest Pictures
There’s a Curb Your Enthusiasm episode somewhere to which Anna (Rebecca Hall) and Will (Dan Stevens) could have been referred. That episode sees Cheryl give Larry an odd birthday present in the form of her permission to sleep with another woman. Anyone with a subscription to HBO could draw from Larry’s experience and tell Anna and/or Will a four-word relationship survival guide: just don’t do it.


Talking 'Entanglement' with Director Jason James

Did an interview with month with director Jason James (That Burning Feeling) on the new Vancouver-shot dramedy Entanglement. Read a chat in Beatroute (or pick up a copy if you're in Vancouver!) to learn more about James's approach to research, creating the worlds of his characters, and finding the right pieces of the city to bring the film to life.


The New Almódovar?

A Fantastic Woman (Una mujer fantástica)
(Chile/Germany/Spain/USA, 104 min.)
Dir. Sebastían Lelio, Writ. Sebastían Lelio, Gonzalo Maza
Starring: Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes, Luis Genecco, Aline Küppenheim, Nicholás Saavedra
una mujer fantastica daniela vega
Daniela Vega in A Fantastic Woman
Is Sebastían Lelio the new Pedro Almódovar? The Chilean director already met the Spanish auteur by giving praise to older women in 2013’s festival hit Gloria, but he matches the master filmmaker’s intoxicating visual sense and sensitivity to queer stories with the outstanding new drama A Fantastic Woman. The film, produced by various hands behind Jackie, Spotlight and Toni Erdmann, is a worthy nominee for Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Oscars and its Almódovar-esque passion is bound to satiate film buffs hungry for another hit from the Spanish director. The film proves Lelio to be one of international art cinema’s next auteurs.


'The Insult' Navigates a Minefield

The Insult (L’insulte)
(Lebanon/France, 112 min.)
Written and directed by Ziad Doueiri
Starring: Abdel Karam, Kamel El Basha, Camille Salamé, Christine Choueiri
Cohen Media Group
The Insult is a nominee for Best Foreign Language Film this year and come March 4th it could be the winner. Lebanon’s contender The Insult is a thrilling, gripping, and thought-provoking essay on collective trauma and letting go. The film is both a riveting courtroom drama and a powerful moral fable as writer/director Ziad Doueiri constructs a taut grudge match packed tight like a bomb. There are shards of hate and prejudice wedged deeply within the explosive that threatens to go off at any moment, and this volatile thriller dexterously defuses the bomb. Breathe a sigh of relief and let old wounds heal.


A Heaping Plate of WTF

All You Can Eat Buddha
(Canada, 88 min.)
Written and directed by Ian Lagarde
Starring: Sylvio Arriola, Ludovic Berthillot, Yaite Ruiz, David La Haye, Alexander Guerrero
Ian Lagarde serves a heaping plate of WTF in All You Can Eat Buddha. The film marks Lagarde’s first feature as a director after helming a handful of shorts and serving as cinematographer on a variety of projects including Denis Côté’s Vic + Flo Saw a Bear. All You Can Eat Buddha fits the context of Lagarde’s greater filmography since it’s staged and delivered with the sparsity and economy of a short work with dense and rich visuals. This strange beast needs a while to digest.


The Good, the Bad, and the 'Jane' Snub: Thoughts on the Oscar Nominations

The Shape of Water leads the nominations
There was a little something for everyone as Oscar voters shared the wealth today. Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water led the nominations with 13 citations including Best Picture. The top category had nine spots this year and once again fell short of filling out the potential tenth Best Picture berths. If it didn’t happen this year, it’s probably never going to be a full house. The other films that landed with The Shape of Water in the Best Picture race were Dunkirk (woohoo!), Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri, Darkest Hour, Call Me By Your Name, Lady Bird, Get Out, Phantom Thread, and the film that had me on edge throughout the nominations, The Post.


Oscar Predictions: Round 3 - Five Categories with Women to Watch

Clockwise from top: On Body and Soul; I, Tonya; Unrest, Mudbound, First They Killed My Father, The Beguiled
What a year, what a year. A lot had happened since we last checked in on the Oscars. And I mean, a lot.


Canadian Screen Award Film Nominations: Ava, Never Steady, Hochelaga Lead

The Canadian Screen Award nominations are out! Ava, Never Steady Never Still and Hochelaga, Land of Souls lead the field with 8 nominations each. However, in a rare snub, Canada's Oscar big Hochelaga was shut out of all major categories and only received technical noms. Oscar contender The Breadwinner did much better landing a Best Film nomination, as did the Sally Hawkins vehicle Maudie

The full list of feature-length film nominees is:


Canada's Top Ten Review: 'Ava'

(Iran/Canada/Qatar, 103 min.)
Written and directed by Sadaf Foroughi
Starring: Manhour Jabbari, Bahar Nouhian, Leili Rashidi, Vahid Aghapour
Courtesy of TIFF
Sarah Foroughi is undoubtedly a talent to watch. The deep and insightful screenplay for her first feature Ava gives a strong voice and agency to its young protagonist struggling against patriarchal society in Tehran. Ava is a bold a necessary film that gives hope for young girls and women as our parents’ generation becomes more progressive and learns to offer daughters the same opportunities and respect afforded to sons.


See the North in Short Glances at Canada's Top Ten

The Crying Conch
The shorts on display at this year’s Canada’s Top Ten festival are, overall, a respectable bunch. Like the feature selections, the shorts selected by the TIFF team are carefully calibrated to ensure a wide range of representation and to move the spotlight outside the Toronto bubble. And, like the features, there are many stronger titles that didn’t make the list, like Caroline Monnet’s hypnotic Creatura Dada, Molly Parker’s haunting Bird, Andrew Moir’s effective Babe, I Hate to Go, Sol Friedman’s hilarious An Imagined Conversation: Kanye West & Stephen Hawking, Chintis Lundgren’s funny Manivald, Michelle Latimer’s potent Nuuca, and Philippe David Gagné and Jean-Marc E. Roy’s Cannes debut Crème de menthe to name a few. There are nevertheless three genuinely great films in the mix, plus others that show much promise and/or bring voices from traditionally underrepresented communities to the conversation. Might as well #SeeTheNorth even at a short glance.


The Bumps Make the Ride

The Commuter
(USA, 104 min.)
Dir. Jaume Collet-Saura, Writ. Byron Willinger, Philip de Blasi, Ryan Engle
Starring: Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Sam Neill, Jonathan Banks, Elizabeth McGovern
Vera Farmiga and Liam Neeson in The Commuter
VVS Films
Toot! Toot! The Commuter offers oodles of metaphors for Liam Neeson’s career with its story of a man miscast in the hero role and a train that flies off the rails in its final act. The film is the latest entry in old man Neeson’s most lamentable decline into geriatric action flicks, which has created a sort of parodic sub-genre for aging stars in the decade following the original Taken. The element of novelty is still there even if this self-serious crazy train is one that Neeson’s ridden before. The Commuter is the first class car of the Neeson train, but hardly the caboose.


Toronto Film Critics Name 'Werewolf' Best Canadian Film

Ashley McKenzie’s Werewolf was this year’s winner of the Best Canadian Feature prize from the Toronto Film Critics Association. Werewolf, McKenzie’s debut feature, offers the raw verité-style story of two meth addicts struggling to go clean in their sparse Cape Breton community. The film scooped a cash prize of $100,000 to go along with the honours.


Reviewing 'Molly's Game' and 'Hostiles' in BeatRoute

Vancouver! Pick up a copy of YVR's indie arts mag BeatRoute on your way to the movies this week for reviews of Molly's Game and Hostiles! (Or have a read below!)


Golden Globes Preview: Will Win/Should Win

Clockwise from top left: The Shape of Water, Lady Bird, Dunkirk, The Post, Darkest Hour, I, Tonya
Donald Tr*mp tweeted that he plans to announce "THE MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA AWARDS OF THE YEAR" [his caps] on Monday, but I don’t think he got the memo that the Golden Globes are actually Sunday night. Yes, it’s been a year since Meryl Streep famously slammed the First Idiot at Hollywood’s second biggest award show and there could be round two of Meryl vs. Trump. It’s really fun, and odd, to see a voting body as openly corrupt as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association become a beacon for free speech and sanity, but in an award season where anything goes and presumably anybody could win, Sunday’s Golden Globes are a must see.