'Rhymes for Young Ghouls' Beats 'True Detective' to the Punch

Still from Ep. 3 of True Detective and the poster for Rhymes for Young Ghouls
People have been going crazy the past few days over that wild, chilling final shot from episode 3 of True Detective. In short, the HBO series starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey (perhaps the best step in the recent McConnaissance), ended with McConaughey’s detective and/or mad prophet Rust Cohle getting to the part in his story where his investigation leads to a monster at the end of the road. In short, the episode ends with a potential murder suspect emerging from the swamp wearing nothing but his tighty whities and a gas mask while carrying a machete. (Check here for a full recap.) It’s a truly haunting image and a great example for why True Detective is turning out to be one of the best things on television, but it’s not without precedent. For anyone who attended last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, we know that Jeff Barnaby’s Rhymes for Young Ghouls beat HBO to the punch. (Full TIFF review here.)


Contest: Win Tickets to 'Vampire Academy' in Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Vancouver, and Winnipeg! (Contest Closed)

Remember all those mean girls in high school that seemed dead on the inside? Well, it turns out that they were vampires! Means Girls director Mark Waters drives a stake through the heart of the horrific high school years in the upcoming vampire flick Vampire Academy, starring Zoey Deutch, Lucy Fry, Danila Kozlovsky. If you want to attend a sneak peek of Vampire Academy in Ottawa, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, or Halifax, answer the trivia below for your chance to win tickets!

A Most Dickensian Love Story

The Invisible Woman
(UK, 111 min.)
Dir. Ralph Fiennes, Writ Abi Morgan
Starring: Felicity Jones, Ralph Fiennes, Kristin Scott Thomas, Joanna Scanlan, Tom Hollander
Felicity Jones as Nelly Ternan and Ralph Fiennes as Charles Dickens.
Photo by David Appleby, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

It was first William Shakespeare, now it’s Charles Dickens. Ralph Fiennes sure is becoming a literary filmmaker, eh? The Victorian-era scribe fares a bit better than the Bard did thanks to Fiennes’ sophomore feature film The Invisible Woman. The Invisible Woman shows an impressive step up for Mr. Fiennes as far as the technical prowess of making a movie is concerned. (Chaotic cinematography and an off-kilter tempo were key faults in 2011's Coriolanus.) Fiennes still has a bit of work to do before he establishes himself an auteur in addition to being a very fine actor, but the back-to-back successes of Coriolanus and The Invisible Woman are steps in the right direction. All Mr. Fiennes needs to do is show as much improvement on film number three as he does with film number two and he could be the next great actor-director. The Ben Affleck of literary types, perhaps?

'Louis Cyr', 'Gabrielle' Lead Quebec Jutra Nominations

The nominations were announced today for Quebec’s Jutra Awards (Les prix Jutras), which honour the best in Québécois cinema. Louis Cyr dominated the competition with ten nominations and a prize for top box office, while Gabrielle, Canada’s submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards, received an impressive nine nominations. Particularly notable is the Jutra committee’s acknowledgement of Archambault in the categories for Best Director and Best Screenplay, as the Gabrielle director was egregiously snubbed in both categories in the Canadian Screen Awards nominations released earlier this month. Also scoring considerably better here than at the Canadian Screen Awards is Denis Côté’s acclaimed art house hit Vic + Flo Saw a Bear, which earned five Jutra nominations after being shut out altogether by the CSAs. (I’m especially thrilled by that Best Supporting Actress nomination for Marie Brassard, who made my list of the Top Ten Performances of 2013.) Also sitting strong are CSA nominated short films The End of Pinky and Gloria Victoria, which are competiting in a sturdy selection of animated films. Notably absent from the list, however, is festival favourite Sarah Prefers to Run, which now has a pair of goose eggs after being equally passed over by the Screenies. Sarah star Sophie Desmarais, however, was nominated for her performance in Le démantèlement, which is a top competitor at both award shows.


Sins of The Past

The Past
(Iran/France, 130 min.)
Written and directed by Asghar Farhadi
Starring: Bérénice Bejo, Tahar Rahim, Ali Mosaffa, Pauline Burlet, Sabrina Ouazani
Bérénice Bejo as Marie
Photo by Carole Bethuel © 2013 Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

2014 is barely a month old, but there is already a clear frontrunner for the title of “Most Disappointing Film of the Year”. That film, surprisingly, is Asghar Farhadi’s The Past. Folks were all a twitter when the Iranian film was left off the Academy’s shortlist for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar; however, the voters on the loony foreign film committees made the right choice. The Past isn’t a bad film by any means, but it never achieves the greatness or gravitas of Farhadi’s revelatory A Separation, which scooped the Academy Award two years ago. The Past is more of the same from Farhadi. It just lacks the punch and style that made A Separation a five-star masterwork.


The Road Home

My Prairie Home
(Canada, 77 min.)
Dir. Chelsea McMullan
Featuring: Rae Spoon
Rae Spoon. Photo by Colin Smith, courtesy of the NFB.

There’s this brilliant shot in Chelsea McMullan’s musical documentary My Prairie Home (a Canadian Screen Awards nominee for Best Documentary Feature) that frames the two bathrooms of a Greyhound bus station as the film’s subject, Rae Spoon, talks in voiceover. There’s a men’s room on one side of the frame and a ladies’ room on the other. Both doors are open and inviting (as inviting as a bus stop bathroom can be). In centre of the frame is another door, closed and locked, and Rae’s bags occupy the in-between space that spans from the men’s to the ladies’ room. From which door will Rae exit?

My Prairie Home, with this subtle eye for place and space, asks a question that Rae has been conveying all along in their songs and stories. Rae, a transgendered musician, prefers the gender-neutral pronoun “they”. As Rae takes McMullan on a bus ride across the Canadian Prairies and tells their story to Chelsea, they speak of how conventional society doesn’t really make space for people who identify outside the conventional definitions. A bathroom at the bus stop might seem like the most mundane thing on Earth, but as the shot holds on the bathroom doors and Rae talks about their life, My Prairie Home offers a poignant visual complement for Rae’s story and for those who don’t fit into arbitrary social constructs. (Oh, and Rae merges from the ladies’ room, but then switches it up by stepping out of a men’s room later on in their travels.)


I, January Release

I, Frankenstein
(USA/Australia, 93 min.)
Dir. Stuart Beattie, Writ. Stuart Beattie, Kevin Grevioux
Starring: Adam Eckhart, Yvonne Strahovski, Miranda Otto, Bill Nighy, Jai Courtney, Kevin Grevioux
Aaron Eckhart (as Adam) stars in eOne Films' I, Frankenstein.

I, Frankenstein opens in theatres today and it is every bit the steaming pile of January release we hoped it would be! This film based on the graphic novel by Kevin Grevioux probably has Mary Shelley spinning in her grave, but audiences in search of cheesy special effects fare might enjoy the so-bad-it’s-good camp of this silly adventure. Herewith, to make the folly of I, Frankenstein far more enjoyable, are the rules for the I, Frankenstein Drinking Game. Pop on your 3D glasses and here we go!

Rules of the I, Frankenstein Drinking Game:


Piers Handling, TIFF Director and CEO, Receives Order of Ontario

Piers Handling, Director and CEO of TIFF
Congratulations are in order for Piers Handling the Director and CEO of the Toronto International Film Festival! Handling received the Order of Ontario—the province’s highest honour—today for his significant contribution to the Canadian film industry. In a ceremony that also included Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg among the honorees, Handling received the distinction that “recognizes any current or former long-time resident of Ontario who has demonstrated a high level of individual excellence and achievement in any field benefiting the people of Ontario or anywhere in the world.”

Handling has been with the Toronto International FilmFestival since 1982 and has enjoyed the role of Director and CEO since 1994. The festival has strengthened the profiles for Canadian films and world cinema alike under Handling’s guidance. Handling also expanded TIFF’s reach and impact with the development of the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto, which turns the festival’s mission to transform the way people see the world through film into a year-long celebration of cinema.

Watch the Sudance Selection (and Canadian Screen Award Nominee) 'My Prairie Home'

Fret not if you can't be in Utah for Sundance, for the NFB is bringing Sundance to you! The National Film Board of Canada will be streaming the Sundance selection My Prairie Home January 26-27 for users to watch freely. My Prairie Home, directed by Chelsea McMullan, is a playful, meditative and at times melancholic journey through indie singer Rae Spoon’s queer and musical coming of age. (Check back soon for a review!) Before screening at Sundance, My Prairie Home received a Canadian Screen Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature, as well as the Vancouver Film Critics Circle prize for Best Canadian Documentary. (Don't neglect your CSA checklist whilst catching all the Oscar nominees!) My Prairie Home will be available on the NFB website and it will also be available below. Watch the trailer to get a sneak peek and then come back here to watch the film on the 26th!


Bright Nights Ahead for Ottawa Filmgoers

There are bright nights ahead for Ottawa moviegoers. If the Polar Vortex makes skating on the Rideau Canal a chilly endeavour during Winterlude, then the Canadian Film Institute’s Bright Nights Baltic-Nordic Film Festival offers just the ticket for folks looking to warm up and enjoy a movie during the city’s annual winter celebration. CFI Executive Director Tom McSorley playfully referenced the 1965 Canadian film Winter Kept Us Warm during the festival’s launch earlier today, saying the festival would do just that as a respite from the frosty temperatures. 2014 marks the fourth edition of the CFI’s Bright Nights Film Festival, which is held in collaboration with the Embassies of the Baltic-Nordic nations and in partnership with Winterlude. The film festival runs February 1st to 12th during the January 31st to February 17th celebration of Winterlude.


Revolution Square

The Square
(Egypt/USA, 108 min.)
Dir. Jehane Noujaim
Feat. Ahmed Hassan, Khalid Abdalla, Dina Abdulla, Magdy Abomazen, Aida Elkashef,
“As long as there is a camera, the revolution will continue,” says Ahmed Hassan, the chief revolutionary through whom the audience sees the citizen revolution in Jehane Noujaim’s documentary The Square. The Square, which received an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature after nabbing the People’s Choice Award for Documentary at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, is documentary filmmaking in top form. Ahmed champions the importance of the camera because he and his fellow revolutionaries including actor Khalid Abdalla of The Kite Runner fame, know that it is up to the citizens fighting for change to tell the story. The revolution sees the ousting of both Egyptian President Hosni Murubak and his successor Mohamed Morsi, but the citizens at the front lines keep a diary of the events as they unfold so that those responsible can be held accountable when order is restored. The Square is digital democracy at its finest.


Violence as Punchline

Big Bad Wolves
(Israel, 110 min.)
Written and directed by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado
Starring: Lior Ashkenazi, Rotem Keinan, Tzahi Grad
It’s a testament to Quentin Tarantino’s influence on the culture of cinephilia that Big Bad Wolves is garnering as much attention as it is. The film geek director dubbed this Israeli dark comedy the best film of 2013 during an appearance at the Busan International Film Festival last fall and Big Bad Wolves has ever since been a point of anticipation for cinephiles that have been reared on the school of Tarantino. Big Bad Wolves is another decent example of a piece of world cinema finding its way into the spotlight thanks to Tarantino’s encouragement, but one can’t help but wish that the director endorsed a better film. Big Bad Wolves is, likely many a film by Tarantino himself, stylish and ultra-violent. Big Bad Wolves, however, never really uses said violence to make a compelling point. This film by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado huffs and puffs, but it will hardly blow your movie house down.


Truth and Meta-Fiction

The Act of Killing
(Denmark/UK/Norway/Finland, 115 min.)
Dir. Joshua Oppenheimer, Co-Dir: Cristine Cynn, Anonymous
Photo courtesy Films We Like.

The Act of Killing is an extraordinary balancing act of truth and meta-fiction. Director Joshua Oppenheimer reconstructs an era of history by inviting Indonesian death squad leaders to re-enact the war crimes and mass killings for which they were responsible in the 1960s. The Act of Killing introduces viewers to Anwar Congo, a proud leader of the atrocities that resulted in a million deaths, and it lets him play the role of John Wayne, Marlon Brando, and other rugged leading men whom he idolized while cleaning up the country in a brutal performance.

Saturday SAGs

Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker in Lee Daniels The Butler
Oops, so I completely forgot that the Screen Actors Guild Awards are tonight. They don’t air in Canada until Sunday, but the awards will be dished out tonight at 5 pm PT on TNT and TBS. (Hopefully there will be a live stream.) Anyways, tonight is especially exciting because the awards will truly show if American Hustle is the frontrunner. Hustle didn’t do too well with the actors as far as a nomination tally is concerned, as it received a scant two nominations (Best Ensemble and Best Support Actress for Jennifer Lawrence), which is especially notable since it wasn't competing with the "comedy" The Wolf of Wall Street since the Scorsese pic wasn't ready for SAG voters. The actors showed a bit more favour for other Oscar contenders by giving four nominations to 12 Years a Slave and three nominations to fellow Best Ensemble contenders August: Osage County, Dallas Buyers Club, and Lee Daniels The Butler. I personally don't believe that the actors equate Best Ensemble with a Best Picture prize, so any of these films could conceivably win. American Hustle is the likely winner in spite of having the lowest tally of the ensemble films: the film wouldn't work at all without the cast, and the whole might be better than the sum of its parts. Wouldn’t the night take a fun turn if August, Dallas, or, better yet, Oscar snubee The Butler won the whole thing? I'm rooting for Oprah even though Thursday's Oscar nominations give a pretty good hint for how the race should pan out.

Jack Ryan: Shoddy Reboot

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
(USA/Russia, 105 min.)
Dir. Kenneth Branagh, Writ. Adam Cozad, David Koepp
Starring: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh
Russia probably has enough political nightmares to deal with in the days leading up to the Olympic Games in Sochi. Anti-gay laws, a Draconian President, and Pussy Riot are enough causes for controversy, but the unfortunate timing of the release of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit—it was pushed back when Paramount was stuck playing post-production ping pong with The Wolf ofWall Streetcouldn’t be more awkward. Bruce Willis might as well yell, “Yippee-Ki-Yay, Mother Russia!” This generic rehash of the popular character Jack Ryan, now played by Chris Pine (aka Captain Kirk), is a relic of Cold War-era conflict cut-and-paste into a world of post-9/11 paranoia. Everything feels old and cold in this lumbering, xenophobic rehash. Jack Ryan is a shoddy reboot.


Oscar Nominations: The Good, The Bad (But Mostly Good)

Meryl Streep and Juliette Lewis in August: Osage County
Can we get an Amen? Well, that was a good day to start the morning! Meryl Streep is in the race after all. Amy Adams is, too, which means everyone is happy. It’s a bit of a surprise to see both actresses find room in the race while Emma Thompson was snubbed for Saving Mr. Banks despite receiving multiple love from virtually every major precursor and being a consensus point of admiration even among folks who didn’t like the film itself. It was mostly good news, though, as far as the surprises of the nominations went.


Ingrid Veninger Announces pUNK Films Femmes Lab

From left: Sophie Deraspe, Danishka Esterhazy, Michelle Latimer, Ingrid Veninger,
Mars Horodyski, Anais Granofsky. Photo: John Gundy
Ingrid Veninger is once again proving herself to be a maverick among the Canadian independent film scene. Veninger, whose film The Animal Project was recently announced among the titles for TIFF’s digital release partnership with Vimeo, is turning art into activism by making opportunities for more Canadian female filmmakers to take creative risks. Veninger announced today the launch of the pUNK Films Femmes Lab Screenwriting Intensive, which features six Canadian participants and support from Oscar-winning actress Melissa Leo (Francine, Prisoners).

Oscar Nominations: Final Predictions - Time for a 'Hail Meryl'?

Meryl Steep in August: Osage County
My confidence in the award predictions game is shot after the bombshell of this week’s Canadian Screen Awards nominations. If directors like Louise Archambault (Gabrielle) and Jeff Barnaby (Rhymes for Young Ghouls) aren’t safe, then who is? If the Canadian field of awards feels competitive, though, then the Academy Awards race seems especially tight. It’s so jam-packed that esteemed veterans like Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, both performing at the top of their games in August: Osage County and All is Lost, respectively, might be squeezed out of the race. Factor in campaigning and the Oscar race of 2013-2014 is especially cutthroat. It might be time to say a “Hail, Meryl”!


Best Adapted Screenplay: No Longer a Novel Affair?

Jason Retiman's Labor Day, based on the novel by Joyce Maynard.
Photo courtesy Paramount Pictures
I noticed an intriguing tidbit of trivia while finalizing my predictions for Thursday’s Academy Award nominations. As I was taking stock of Best Adapted Screenplay, my favourite category in the race, I referred to several precursors and contenders and took stock of a surprising fact: this year’s race for Best Adapted Screenplay will likely not include a single film based on a novel. This would be the first time for page-to-screen fiction to be shut out of the race since the very first year of the Academy Awards.


'Enemy' Leads Canadian Screen Awards Nominations

Jake Gyllenhaal and Melanie Laurent in Enemy
The nominations for the second annual Canadian Screen Awards were announced today via live stream. Orphan Black leads the television awards with fourteen nominations, followed by Less than Kind with twelve. Enemy scores ten nominations and leads the awards, followed by Tom at the Farm with eight. Major snubs were Rhymes for Young Ghouls, which managed only one nomination (Best Actress) despite the fact that it was one of the most acclaimed, original, and significant Canadian films of 2013. Canada's Oscar pick Gabrielle did respectably with six nominations, although director/screenwriter Louise Archambault was bizarrely passed over. This year's nominations are somewhat surprising, since most of the leading contenders--Enemy, Tom at the Farm, The F-Word, Triptych, The Grand Seduction, and Maina--have not yet had a theatrical release. This means that fans and the like have had no opportunity to see the film unless they attended a festival, nor are they likely to be able to see many of these films in the weeks leading up to the awards. Some of 2013's most acclaimed films, which were noted by critics and the audiences who saw them, were shut out entirely: Vic + Flo Saw a Bear, Sarah Prefers to Run, The Manor, and TIFF winner When Jews Were Funny. It's an odd mix, but a sign that there could be a lot to look forward to in the months ahead.

The full list of film nominees is as follows:

Contest: Win Run of Engagement Passes for 'Lone Survivor'! (Contest Closed)

Mark Wahlberg and Lone Survivor took the box office by storm this weekend. The Peter Berg-directed film scored the #1 spot by grossing an impressive $38.5 million. Were you among the crowds that turned up to see Lone Survivor over the weekend? If yes, Cinemablographer salutes you. If not, you are in luck! Click below to win run of engagement to see Lone Survivor, courtesy of eOne Films!

Golden Globes: I Declare Emma Thompson the Winner!

Emma Thompson: the real winner of the Golden Globes
She might not have won any hardware at the Golden Globes, but I'll call Emma Thompson the winner of Sunday night's festivities. The Saving Mr. Banks star and Best Actress nominee pretty much stole the show from hosts Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, plus the hoard of flustered winners who were mostly booted from the stage by hasty musical cues. Thompson was the spirit of the Golden Globes at its finest: a rambunctious and boozy star-fuelled evening of open bar awards show folly. Thompson seemed genuinely happy for virtually everyone at the show, cheering and clapping whenever the camera cut to her during the ceremony. She was pure class all the way, getting on her feet for Philomena Lee (at the show to present the film of which she is a subject, Philomena), and she was easily the best presenter of the night, as she arrived onstage with a martini in one and and her heels (covered in her blood, she  jested) in the other whilst prepping the award for Best Screenplay. (Video after the jump.) Thompson then tossed the shoes, shoved her martini at Sosie Bacon (proving Miss Golden Globe to be nothing but a glorified waitress), thanked the "Voice of God" narrator (who then shut up for the evening), and gave the show the jolt it needed. Thompson made up for the absence of comedic performances acknowledged throughout the programme. 


A Review by Samantha

(USA, 126 min.)
Written and directed by Spike Jonze
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara
Spike Jonze’s acclaimed film Her finally opened in theatres this weekend after months of hype and praise following its premiere at the New York Film Festival last fall. I don’t know what to make of this latest endeavour from the original mind of Mr. Jonze. In order to wrap my head my disappointment, I turned to the source of all reliable information, my smartphone, and asked my trusty new app, Samantha. What follows is a transcript of our conversation:


Strength of Character

Louis Cyr: The Strongest Man in the World
(Canada, 131 min.)
Dir. Daniel Roby, Writ. Sylvain Guy
Starring: Antoine Bertrand, Rose-Maïté Erkoreka, Guillaume, Gilbert Sicotte, Gil Bellows, Elaine Gagnon.
Louis Cyr earned the title of “strongest man in the world” in during his impressive feats of the late 1800s and many of his records have yet to be broken. He was a man of burly brawn and Louis Cyr, the Canuck biopic that tells his story, leaves little doubt of his unparalleled strength. It’s not the strongest film in the world, but Louis Cyr is nevertheless a grand, stately heritage pic that is built as solidly as the man whose life it dramatizes.


Golden Globes Preview: Picks and Predictions

Amy Adams in American Hustle
Award season’s biggest party is this Sunday! Yes, it’s the wonderfully silly these-matter-because-they’re-on-TV event of the Golden Globes! Luckily, though, the Globes are bound to put on a good show this year with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler returning as hosts. This week’s Globes are also bound to be ten times more exciting than last year’s awards were for two big reasons: 1) the Oscar nominations haven’t been announced yet (remember last year’s prediction game of “Spot the Oscar Nominee”?) and 2) most categories are an open race. It’s the latter point for which the Golden Globes will always be important. They might be voted upon by eighty-odd journalists from obscure publications, but they’re the first and biggest offering of face time for anyone putting a campaign in motion before the Oscar nominations are announced next week. They’re also the one awards show where Hollywood’s finest get sauced.

Here’s a rundown of how the Globes could (or should) turn:

Win Tickets (plus Prizes) to see 'I, Frankenstein' in Ottawa! (Contest Closed)

Frankenstein’s monster returns in I, Frankenstein! This time, though, he’s bringing his 3D glasses so that you can experience him like never before! He’s also bringing free tickets and swag back from the dead! If you want to attend an Ottawa sneak peek of eOne Films’ upcoming action thriller I, Frankenstein and receive a swanky I, Frankenstein notebook, you are in luck! Click below to enter to win tickets and I, Frankenstein swag:


Toronto Film Critics, Vancouver Film Critics Name Canadian Award Winners

It was a big night for Canadian Film last night as both the Toronto Film Critics Association and the Vancouver Film Critics Circle announced their award winners. Watermark and The Dirties were the big winners of the night, with the former winning a grand prize of $100 000 for the Rogers Best Canadian Film Award. Watermark, directed by Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky, scored the prize over nominees Gabrielle and The Dirties, both of which received $5000 as runners-up and were also honoured by the Vancouver critics. The list of Canadian winners from the critics is as follows:


Canadian Screen Awards 2014: Preview and Predictions

Jake Gyllenhaal in Enemy
Last year’s inaugural Canadian Screen Awards, which rebranded by combining the Genie Awards for film and the Gemini Awards for television and added awards for digital work, certainly offered a step in the right direction for generating excitement and exposure for the films honoured during the show. The nominations for this year's awards are set to be announced a week from today. I always feel like I’m a hypocrite for not giving the Canadian Screen Awards as much attention as I do the Academy Awards, but Canada just doesn’t have the same awards culture full of precursor awards and campaigning to stretch coverage across several months. Let’s concentrate on the campaign to get more of these films into theatres first, shall we?

Contest: Win Tickets to see 'Lone Survivor' in Ottawa! (Contest Closed)

Lone Survival starts the year off with an adrenaline-pumping bang. (Review here.) This brutal yet inspiring true story starring Mark Wahlberg opens in Ottawa this Friday. If you want to attend a sneak peek before Lone Survivor hits theatres on January 10th, click below for your chance to enter!


Film School

The Dirties
(Canada, 80 min.)
Dir. Matt Johnson, Writ. Matt Johnson, Evan Morgan, Josh Boles (story)
Starring: Matt Johnson, Owen Williams, Krista Madison, Jay McCarrol
What are the most tired tales and conventions when it comes to teen-set cinema? I might have said bullying, school shootings, and found footage films, but then I saw The Dirties. The Dirties, Matt Johnson’s flat-out brilliant feature debut, shows that everything old can be new again in the conversational medium of cinema.

Contest: Win Run of Engagement Passes for 'American Hustle'! (Contest Closed)

Award season is underway and business is a boomin’ for American Hustle. David O. Russell’s con flick is probably the most fun you’ll have while completing your Oscar checklist this Oscar season. (Review here.) Thanks to its stylish escapism and excellent all-star cast (including a scene-stealing Jennifer Lawrence, who made Cinemablographer’s list of the best performances of 2013), American Hustle is a front-runner going in to this week’s Golden Globe awards and next week’s Academy Award nominations. If you still need to check American Hustle off your Oscar checklist, you are in luck! Check below to enter to win Run of Engagement passes to see American Hustle in theatres!

Watch the Oscar-shortlisted Animated Films 'Hollow Land', 'Gloria Victoria' and 'Subconscious Password'

Hollow Land. Photo courtesy of the NFB.
The short films usually make for the most elusive aspect of Oscar watching, but luckily for us, the National Film Board of Canada has posted the animated film Hollow Land, which is one of several Canadian films on the Oscar shortlist for Best Animated Film. (Other Canadian films on the shortlist are the NFB's Gloria Victoria; Subconscious Password, which you can catch at TIFF's Canada's Top Ten; the George Takei narrated The Missing Scarf; and Requiem for Romance, which cannot be embedded here, but is available on Vimeo here.) I caught Hollow Land when it screened at the Ottawa International Animation Festival earlier this year and quite enjoyed its strange dystopian darkness, toilet plunger hats and all. New fashion trend for the Red Carpet?

Video after the jump:


Boo Hoo, Adventure.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
(USA, 114 min.)
Dir. Ben Stiller, Writ. Steve Conrad
Starring: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Shirley MacLaine, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn, Sean Penn
Why do so many films and stories treat travel as a metaphor for personal growth? It’s an easy symbol, for one, to show a man evolve as he treks from Point A to Point B. Uncharted terrain, unknown waters, and foreign lands all present handy metaphors for taking a leap of faith. Ben Stiller’s adaptation of the short story The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, though, offers an unfortunate reminder that life can sometimes be better spent at home. This loud, schmaltzy, and inconsistent film rejoices in the thrill of escapism, but it’s hardly worth leaving the house to see on the big screen.

'Ho, Ho, Ho. It's Magic!'

The Magic Ferret
(Canada, 11 min.)
Dir. Alison Parker, Writ. Scott and Paula Merrow
Starring: Jacob Tremblay, Beverley Elliott, Fred Ewaniuk, Lisa Durupt, Falcor the Ferret
Everyone’s raved about Ulysses the cat and Uggie the dog, so when will ferrets get their due credit? They look like furry little bandits, which might explain why they’ve given the spotlight to cuddly cats and slobbery dogs. The most memorable film ferret folks will have probably seen wasn’t even referred to by its proper name: remember that scene in the Coen Brothers’ The Big Lebowski where the German nihilists invade The Dude’s home and throw a marmot in the bathtub? Said marmot is actually a ferret. The Dudes who created Ulysses with such care didn’t give the waterlogged ferret the same love. (California laws also prevent folks from keeping ferrets as pets.)


Anticipated Films of 2014

Aaron Paul, Toni Collette, Imogen Poots & Pierce Brosnan in A Long Way Down
2014 has a high bar to live up to after the films of 2013, but the year ahead looks promising. Several of Cinemablographer’s most anticipated films for 2014 are actually films that were listed among the most anticipated films of 2013, so the waiting game continues as we pause in hope for new Malick, more Meryl, Maps to the Stars, and that ever “in progress” A Long Way Down, which still tops my list of most anticipated films. I’ve already included it on such a list not once but twice, so I’ve left it off here for fear of jinxing it again. (A Long Way Down has been slated to premiere at Berlin and has scored Mongrel Media for Canadian distribution, so there was no reason to jump off a building this New Year’s Eve.) This isn’t meant to be an all-encompassing list (feel free to add your own), nor is it presented in any particular order. Here are ten or so reasons why the film forecast for 2014 is looking brighter: