5/20/2019

Cardinal Takes the Lead

Falls Around Her
(Canada, 100 min.)
Written and directed by Darlene Naponse
Starring: Tantoo Cardinal, Tina Keeper, Gail Maurice, Rob Stewart, Johnny Issaluk
Tantoo Cardinal actress
Tantoo Cardinal is one of Canada’s great character actors and she finally gets her due with Falls Around Her. She has over 100 credits to her name in a career that’s spanned forty years and featured an Oscar winner for Best Picture that remains one of the defining films of the 1990s. While Dances with Wolves remains the biggest entry of Cardinal’s résumé, too few of Cardinal’s roles have offered much by way of screen time or narrative arcs, but they’re always memorable highlights of the films in which she appears. It’s astounding that her performance as Mary in Falls Around Her is the first lead role of her career. It’s the cherry on top of a recent hot streak that includes small but notable roles in films like Wind River, Through Black Spruce, and The Grizzlies.


5/12/2019

'Diane': Why Am I Here?

Diane
(USA, 95 min.)
Written and directed by Kent Jones
Starring: Mary Kay Place, Jake Lacy, Estelle Parsons, Andrea Martin, Deirdre O’Connell, Phyllis Somerville
woman in car
Diane might not be the best film to see with your mom on Mother’s Day. Sure, it’s a well-intentioned portrait of a devoted mother who indefatigably does all she can for her son and family, but it’s a bleak reminder that your mom will soon be buried under flowers rather than receiving them. Film critic turned director Kent Jones (Hitchcock/Truffaut) makes his feature dramatic debut with Diane and while he scores a respectable performance from Mary Kay Place, his film is a lethargic misfire. One depressing scene follows another while tinkling piano music strains on the soundtrack and Place sits sullenly with a beleaguered look on her face. The film’s existential questions ultimately inspire one to sit up in the movie theatre and wonder, “Why am I here?”

5/10/2019

'Ordinary Days' and the Rule of Three

Ordinary Days
(Canada, 82 min.)
Dir. Kris Booth, Jordan Canning, Renuka Jeyapalan; Writ. Ramona Barckert
Starring: Jacqueline Byers, Michael Xavier, Torri Higginson, Richard Clarkin, Joris Jarsky, Mena Massoud
Higginson Clarkin

The Rashômon school of filmmaking gets a new angle in Ordinary Days. This intriguing and suspenseful film plays with perspectives and narratives as three points of view come together in a fractured narrative that sees one story through the eyes of three characters. There is an extra layer to the level of interpretation since a unique director realizes each character’s story. The entirety of the script comes from the mind of a single screenwriter, Ramona Barckert, so the film poses an intriguing exercise in authorship as the directors, like the bandit, the bride, and the woodcutter, interpret a single event differently. What results is a puzzle whose pieces are assorted shades and styles, yet mostly fit together.


5/09/2019

'Non-Fiction' and High Art

Non-Fiction (Doubles vies)
(France, 108 min.)
Written and directed by Olivier Assayas
Starring: Guillaume Canet, Juliette Binoche, Vincent Macaigne, Nora Hamzawi, Christa Théret 
man and woman at a table
Courtesy of TIFF
Once, when I was taking a course on literary modernism, the professor asked the class a pressing question. “What is the line between high art and low art?” he queried, leaving a group of theory-versed undergraduate students surprisingly tongue-tied. The book under discussion was Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca and, when unfortunately called upon by the professor, I sidestepped the answer by offering an anecdote. I said that being a thrifty student, I bought my books second-hand at various bookstores and while everything else on the reading list—Faulkner, Joyce, Woolf, etc.—appeared on the “literature” shelves, poor Rebecca and her front cover worthy of a Harlequin romance, was relegated to the general “Fiction” section. However, it was the one book on the list that got the cashier really excited. “My Cousin Rachel’s even better, dear,” was her reply.


4/19/2019

'The Grizzlies': A Film that Roars

The Grizzlies
(Canada, 104 min.)
Dir. Miranda de Pencier; Writ. Moria Walley-Beckett, Graham Yosy
Starring: Ben Schnetzer, Paul Nutarariaq, Emerald MacDonald, Anna Lambe, Fred Bailey, Tantoo Cardinal, Booboo Stewart, Will Sasso
Inuit lacrosse team
Photo by Shane Mahood
Mongrel Media

The fearless and inspiring The Grizzlies gives Canadian film the great sports drama that has long eluded it. As The Grizzlies gives its excellent young cast a chance to shine, roar, and spotlight their community, the film provides a significant call to action for the suicide crisis up North and an effective portrait of the complexity of north/south and Indigenous/settler relationships. The film begins with a heartbreaking image of an Inuit youth walking on the tundra, alone save for his faithful dog, as he takes his life. The image returns more than once in The Grizzlies as the film introduces audiences to a community in which literally everyone has lost a friend or family member to suicide.


4/10/2019

Nocturnal Animals: 'Fausto' Re-Imagines Man and Myth

Fausto
(Canada/Mexico, 70 min.)
Written and directed by Andrea Bussmann
Starring: Alberto Núñez, Victor Pueyo, Gabino Rodríguez, Fernando Renjifo, Ziad Chakaroun
If Andrea Bussmann’s previous feature was a tale for those who dreamt, her latest work is a dream realized in its most cinematic form. Bussmann’s Fausto transports the Faust myth to beaches of Oaxaca, Mexico for a loose, free-flowing, and hypnotic meditation. It’s a fleeting film that ebbs and flows in elliptical pauses. Demanding, frustrating, fascinating, and rewarding, Fausto is a richly dense exercise in active viewing. Much like a dream that only makes sense when unpacked and savoured as a metaphorical whole, it’s also a beautifully evocative film that washes over you and enriches the mind.


4/02/2019

Interview: Chatting with 'New Homeland' Director Barbara Kopple

It was an absolute thrill to get to chat with Barbara Kopple, the two-time Oscar winning director, who just happens to be my favourite filmmaker working in documentary thanks to films like Harlan County, USA, Miss Sharon Jones!, Shut Up and Sing, American Dream, and more. Over at POV, I got a chance to talk with Kopple about her latest film, New Homeland, which follows five boys--a mix of Syrian and Iraqi refugees--as they experience the Canadian wilderness for the first time. The doc is a thoughtful study about the need to open arms rather than put up walls.


3/29/2019

Interview: Chatting 'Hotel Mumbai' with Director Anthony Maras and Actors Anupam Kher, Nazanin Boniadi, and Jason Isaacs

Anupam Kher stars as Chef Oberoi in Hotel Mumbai
VVS Films
More on Hotel Mumbai! After last week's chat with Armie Hammer comes more insight on the film from director Anthony Maras and actors Anupam Kher, Nazanin Boniadi, and Jason Isaacs. The cast and director discuss their exceptionally powerful film and honouring the true heroes behind their characters and seeing the tragedy of the attacks in Mumbai as a call for unity in divisive times.


3/26/2019

"Something from the belly": Philippe Lesage's 'Genesis'

Genesis (Genèse)
(Canada, 129 min.)
Written and directed by Philippe Lesage
Starring: Théodore Pellerin, Noée Abita, Jules Roy Sicotte, Emilie Bierre, Édouard Tremblay-Grenier, Paul Ahmarani
brother sister in a car
Genesis is arguably the one truly great dramatic film in this year’s Canada’s Top Ten. It is an excitingly unfortunate reminder that the best of Canadian cinema remains largely invisible. See it if and whenever you can. Lesage jokes that it could be a sequel to his 2015 film The Demons, but he says there’s no point making a sequel to a movie that nobody saw. It’s a shame that there isn’t wider recognition for Lesage’s work in the Canadian circuit, so hopefully his new film Genesis will mobilize cinephiles to champion one of the emerging filmmakers in Canada doing new and exciting things with film form.


3/15/2019

Interview: Chatting with 'Level 16' Director Danishka Esterhazy

Sara Canning in Daniska Esterhazy's Level 16
New interview! Chatting about Level 16, feminist dystopia, fandom, Handmaid's Tale, femme fatales and Sara Canning's great Veronica Lake look with director Danishka Esterhazy at That Shelf. The film is now playing in Toronto!

3/14/2019

Vives les fantômes!

Ghost Town Anthology (Répertoire des villes disparues)
(Canada, 97 min.)
Written and directed by Denis Côté
Starring: Robert Naylor, Larissa Corriveau, Josée Deschênes, Diane Lavallée, Jocelyne Zucco, Normand Carrière, Hubert Proulx, Rachel Graton
Snow drifts are scary, but nobody has quite captured the foreboding nature of snow billowing across the road like Denis Côté does in Ghost Town Anthology. The new and (expectedly) peculiar film from Côté’s mind proves the director to be one of the most distinct voices in Canadian film today, although that trait was already proved with A Skin so Soft, Bestiaire, Carcasses, and Vic + Flo Sawa Bear. Whatever goes on inside his head is the stuff that psychologists dream about, but for those of us who prefer to probe the mind while sitting in a darkened movie theatre, Côté’s movies never cease to fascinate. Ghost Town Anthology might be Côté’s best film yet, and I say this as a passionate fan. It’s a stripped down horror flick that sends shivers to the bone like a winter chill on a February day.


Interview: Chatting with 'Hotel Mumbai' Star Armie Hammer!

Armie Hammer in Hotel Mumbai
VVS Films
I'm very excited to make my debut at Sharp with an interview with Armie Hammer! I got to chat with Hammer at the Toronto International Film Festival in September where we looked at his excellent new film Hotel Mumbai, and touched upon his first time playing a father, his bromance with Timothée Chalamet, and the challenges of bringing such an intense story to the screen.


3/07/2019

Interview: Chatting with 'Through Black Spruce' Star Tanaya Beatty

The TIFF coverage keeps on coming!

First up in this month's coverage to drop is a chat with Tanaya Beatty, who gives a powerful breakout performance as Annie Bird in the adaptation of Through Black Spruce. (She really should have landed a Screenie nom, IMO.) The film hits theatres March 29. Pick up a copy of BeatRoute in BC and Alberta to read!

 


3/01/2019

Contest! Win Tickets to See 'Gloria Bell'!

Put the gin in the freezer and get out your heels, Gloria Bell is ready to hit the dance floor! Julianne Moore brings new life to the title role of Gloria Bell playing a woman discovering the thrill and comfort of enjoying independence in the prime of her life. The film, a hit at last year's Toronto International Film Festival (read the TIFF review here) casts Moore in an English-language remake of Sebastián Lelio's acclaimed film Gloria with the Oscar winning director back at the helm. Gloria Bell opens on Friday, March 15 from VVS Films and Cinemablographer has a tickets to give away for sneak peeks in Toronto and Vancouver. Answer the trivia below to win!

2/25/2019

Oscars Recap: 'Favourite' Moments of the Night


Last night’s Oscars felt dead on arrival when Queen opened the show with a performance that was so lifeless and awkwardly shot one might have mistaken it for a clip from Bohemian Rhapsody. Fortunately, though, the ever-reliable trio of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Maya Rudolph brought the energy back to the room. In the absence of the usual opening monologue, the trio offered a funny bit that ripped on the many gaffes the Academy made en route to this year’s Oscars, including losing host Kevin Hart and backtracking on its decision to award several categories during the commercial breaks and present edited clips later in the show. This year’s Oscar broadcast might have been the swiftest one yet since it didn’t have a host to pad the evening with jokes and filler. The Oscars didn’t suffer much without a host, but like the show could have used a bit more pizzazz. One can hardly fault the Academy because they ultimately listened to viewers and delivered a show that focused largely on the nominees and winners.

2/22/2019

Oscar Predictions: Final Round - Will Win/Should Win

A Star is Born Oscars
Clockwise from top left: Roma, BlacKkKlansman, Black Panther, A Star is Born, The Favourite, Green Book
Another year, another utterly toxic Oscar season in the can. I don't know if this year was as brutal as the last one, but jeez - don’t you remember when the Oscars were fun? Don’t you remember when you could champion a movie because you loved it, because it moved you, or because it wowed you unlike anything you’d seen before? I mean, could you even imagine Titanic winning Best Picture in 2018? If The Boy Who Cried Woke thinks its classist to say “You’ve gotta see Roma in a theatre!” then Titanic would have gotten killed because Rose, the rich girl, survived the shipwreck and Jack, the magical boy from Steerage, died. An iceberg would be the least of Titanic's problems.

2/15/2019

Five Films to See at TIFF Next Wave

kids with skateboards
Catch must-see Oscar nominee Minding the Gap at TIFF Next Wave
Courtesy of TIFF.
Forget Max Ophüls, the archival 35mm print you need to see this week is But I’m a Cheerleader! TIFF’s Next Wave Film Festival returns this week offering youth-oriented programming with films both old and new selected by young movie buffs. Jamie Babbit’s campy and hilarious cult hit is just one of the retrospective highlights of the film that should attract moviegoers eager to explore films that didn’t make the cut at TIFF’s recent 1999 series. (Still waiting on that Thomas Crown Affair spotlight, dear Lightbox!)

2/11/2019

Watch Oscar Nominee 'Animal Behaviour'

gorilla and dog in therapy
Animal Behaviour
NFB
FYI, you can watch Canada's Oscar nominee Animal Behaviour now that is available for free from the NFB. This delightfully hilarious film from Alison Snowden and David Fine marks the NFB's 75th Oscar nomination and is well deserved. (Snowden and Fine previously won for the short Bob's Birthday, which inspired the hit series Bob and Margaret.) It's my personal favourite in a very strong crop of animated short films. Have a watch, enjoy a laugh, and add your vote to the ballot!

2/07/2019

Oscar-Nominated Live Action Shorts are Sadistic Hell

Fauve
Wowee, the short film branch of the Academy is a sadistic bunch. I love the five films they nominated for Best Animated Short, but the programme for Best Live Action Short is simply intolerable. With the exception of one contender, the nominees are relentlessly bleak, exhausting, and, at times, excruciating films. Oscar completists must tread lightly in this scenario, for it might better to fill out the ballot than endure the miserable hell of a screening. At the very least, find out the screening order of the films and plan bathroom breaks or walk out times accordingly.


2/06/2019

Canadian Talent Dominates Oscar-Nominated Animated Shorts

Animal Behaviour
NFB
I might have a bone to pick with Oscar voters for their choices in the insufferably bleak live action and documentary shorts, but the animation team delivered one of the few truly great sets of nominees this year. The five Oscar-nominated animated short films represent the best of the field and deliver the full spectrum of the art form by storytellers from around the world. The cherry on top is that Canadians hold the majority of slots in the category with one NFB production and two films by Canuck directors landing on the ballot—and the three films are honestly the best of the bunch.

2/03/2019

'Giant Little Ones' Embraces Fluidity

Giant Little Ones
(Canada, 93 min.)
Written and directed by Keith Behrman
Starring: Josh Wiggins, Maria Bello, Darren Mann, Taylor Hickson, Kyle MacLachlan, Peter Outerbridge
queer questioning boy
Josh Wiggins stars in Giant Little Ones
Mongrel Media

Love stories often contain fireworks. Either literal or figurative, sometimes both, these bright bursts offer convenient metaphors for sparks that fly between connected souls. In Giant Little Ones, the long-awaited sophomore feature of Keith Behrman following his 2002 debut Flower & Garnet, the story offers no fireworks, but it does shoot off a few flare guns. The image of best friends Franky (Josh Wiggins) and Ballas (Darren Mann) sending little rockets into the air offers a touching, understated image of sexual awakening. The flares that fly upwards into the night don’t travel a straight path—they sail in unconventional arcs before erupting into bright, glowing euphoric bursts of red light that warm the heart. Handsomely shot and driven by an upbeat indie soundtrack, Giant Little Ones is at its best when it speaks for the characters without saying anything. These explosions in the sky are warmly reassuring gestures in an intimate coming of age story.

1/31/2019

Dale Luminous in 'Light'

Into Invisible Light
(Canada, 102 min)
Dir. Shelagh Carter, Writ. Shelagh Carter, Jennifer Dale
Starring: Jennifer Dale, Peter Keleghan, Jaydee-Lynn McDougall, Kari Matchett, Kristen Harris, Stuart Hughes
woman at a window
Robert Lantos may have produced In Praise of Older Women in 1978, but actor Jennifer Dale, Lantos's ex-wife, gives audiences a woman to celebrate in 2019. Dale is simply luminous in Into Invisible Light. Playing Helena, a recently widowed housewife and socialist with a newfound spark of passion, Dale creates an intriguing, full-bodied, and richly realized character. It’s one of those nicely fleshed-out and three-dimensional performances that mature actresses too rarely get to give in the movies.

1/22/2019

Nice Guys Finish Last: Thoughts on the Oscar Nominations

The Academy's documentary branch blows it again and snubs Mr. Rogers
Pardon the late commentary but it’s been a crazy day and I don’t simply mean because of the Oscar nominations. This morning’s spectacularly pleasing and infuriating announcement of the Academy Award nominations yielded a mix of outrageous snubs and wonderful surprises. It’s hard to be mad about what went down with the list of contenders rhymed off by announcers Kumail Nanjiani and Tracee Ellis Ross, but it’s tough to be completely satisfied. Any way one looks at it though, this morning’s live stream had about one upset per category, yielded myriad formulae for possible outcomes, and made a case that every category emphatically deserves to be in the ceremony broadcast. We need to see every win if the Oscars are going to be as engagingly unpredictable as their early morning nomination announcement. Every category matters.

1/19/2019

Oscar Predictions: Final Round - Four and One More

The Oscar nominations come out this Tuesday and what a year it has been. It’s been so wild and so up and down that the Spike Lee movie that likens the sitting President of the USA to the leader of the KKK is stirring up the least controversy this season. Yikes.

1/18/2019

Contest! Win a 'Beautiful Boy' Prize Pack!

The Oscar nominations come out next Tuesday and you can expect Timothée Chalamet to be heading back to the ceremony this year. The Beautiful Boy star already has nominations under his belt from the Golden Globes, SAG Awards, and Critics Choice Awards for his powerful performance as Nic Sheff, a young man who shares the story of his battle with, and recovery from, drug addiction. (One of this blog’s picks for the top ten performances of 2018!) The film adapts Sheff’s memoir Tweak along with his father’s side of the story, Beautiful Boy, to show two perspectives on the devastating impact that addiction has on a family. Beautiful Boy comes to Blu-ray on Tuesday, January 22 from VVS Films and Cinemablographer has a prize pack to give away to celebrate Chalamet’s extraordinary performance!

1/17/2019

Stan and Ollie: A Silver Screen Bromance

Stan & Ollie
(UK, 97 min.)
Dir. Jon S. Baird, Writ. Jeff Pope
Starring: John C. Reilly, Steve Coogan, Shirley Henderson, Nina Arianda, Danny Huston
Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy with a camera
John C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy and Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel in Stan & Ollie, an Entertainment One release.
Photo: Aimee Spinks.

The comedic spirits of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are alive and well in the duo of Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly. The actors are a delightful screen team in this fun bromance. With straight-laced Coogan playing Laurel and the jolly Reilly playing Hardy, the actors give some of their best performances while paying tribute to the famous tag team of stage and screen. One doesn’t need to be a fan of classic cinema to have a good laugh with Stan & Ollie as the film revisits the final chapter of their career together with some of their best gags revisited, and in some cases reinterpreted, to bring their laughs to life.


1/04/2019

Golden Globes: Will Win/Should Win (and Oscar update)

Will A Star is Born claim the lead at Sunday's Golden Globes?
Is it Golden Globes weekend already? How time flies! Award season is still all over the map as it nears the end of the advocacy stage of the critics’ groups. At this point last year, the Globes basically signalled the end for Laurie Metcalf and Willem Dafoe when their hot streaks on the critical circuit were interrupted by Allison Janney and Sam Rockwell, who went on to claim all major prizes from the Globes onward. Right now, Roma is on top in terms of Best Picture wins, but it is ineligible for the same prize at the Golden Globes on Sunday night, so we’ll at least have a better sense of who the bigger rivals are. Overall, I still feel that this is the big night for A Star is Born to take a confident lead, especially as it stands as one of only four films to score a Globe nomination for Best Picture along with top nominations from the Producers Guild and Screen Actors Guild. (Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody and BlacKkKlansman are the others.)