Canadian film fans in the National Capital will want to check out Lost Dominion’ Screening Collective’s screening of The Luck of Ginger Coffey when it screens tomorrow night at The ByTowne in a rare 35mm presentation of a hidden gem. Ginger Coffey holds a place in Canadian film history as the 1964 winner for Best Feature at the Canadian Film Awards and as one of the most significant early works to start the conversation of what constitutes a “Canadian film” given its Canadian source material, production company, and setting along with its American director (Irvin Kershner, who went on to direct The Empire Strike Back) and foreign stars, most significantly Robert Shaw.
|Lol, Furious 7 at the Oscars?|
Song of the Sea
(Ireland/Luxembourg/Belgium/France/Denmark, 93 min.)
Dir. Tomm Moore, Writ. Will Collins
Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Fionnula Flanagan, David Rawle, Pat Shrott, Jon Kenny
Come explore the world of Cartoon Saloon when the breathtaking animated feature Song of the Sea has its Ottawa premiere today at Irish Film Festival Ottawa. The film carries a nomination from this year’s Oscars, but it would have been a worthy winner. Song is Cartoon Saloon’s latest animated feature following 2010’s equally beautiful The Secret of Kells, and if the animation world worries about a dearth of classically-composed animation given the uncertain forecast of Studio Ghibli, then Song of the Sea shows that this Irish animation house could be the future of the art form. It’s simply one of the enjoyable and most visually striking animated films in some time.
(Canada, 71 min.)
Written and directed by Michael Kainer
Various interviewees in the documentary Patron Saint refer to subject Dr. Janusz Dukszta as “vain.” Other interviewees call him “eccentric,” “narcissistic,” “a force,” "a patron of the arts," and “a closet altruist.” A man such as Dr. Dukszta embodies the facets of all these characteristics: when one has almost one hundred portraits of oneself painted over fifty years, one needs to be a little bit crazy, a little bit vain, and a little bit passionate about supporting the arts.
Life goes by so fast! Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) returns with While We’re Young, starring Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts, in mature portrait of youth and marriage. The film opens beginning April 3rd from Elevation Pictures, but if you want to attend a sneak peek in Toronto or Vancouver, you are in luck! Answer the trivia below to win tickets!
Cartoonists: Footsoldiers of Democracy? (Caricaturists, fantassins de la démocraties?)
(France, 106 min.)
Dir. Stéphanie Valloatto, Writ. Radu Mihaileanu, Stéphanie Valloatto
The January 2015 murder of satirical cartoonist Stéphane ‘Charb’ Charbonnier arguably makes Cartoonists: Footsoldiers of Democracy? more relevant to audiences than it was when it premiered at Cannes back in 2014. #JeSuisCharlie might not be trending anymore now that the masses have turned their attention to the latest cause, One Direction, but the outcry over Charbonnier’s death and the deaths of his colleagues at the Charlie Hebdo headquarters makes this documentary an urgent essay for anyone who cares about free speech.
Queen & Country
(Ireland/France/Romania, 115 min.)
Written and directed by John Boorman
Starring: Callum Turner, Caleb Landry Jones, David Thewlis, Richard E. Grant, Tamsin Egerton, Brian F. O’Byrne.
Shortly after watching Queen & Country, I hit up the Google to see the year in which Queen Elizabeth II became as Britain’s sovereign. By some fortunate timing, the folks at The Telegraph had just posted a lengthy essay debating whether England should through a roaring party to commemorate the Queen. It turns out that this year marks a landmark for the Queen, for Liz seems poised to become the longest reigning monarch in the nation’s history. Odds are she’ll make it since she’s in excellent health.
|Song of the Sea|
Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery
(Germany, 93 min.)
Dir. Arne Birkenstock
“You don’t have to be a genius to do a painting like that,” says painter Wolfgang Beltracchi as he observes one of his own beautiful canvasses hanging on his studio wall. Beltracchi is a virtuoso with his paintbrush, but he also happens to be a master forger. Anyone can paint a Max Ernst, he implies as he looks upon the “Max Ernst” painting of his own creation. As for whether Beltracchi is a painterly genius or a true artist is another matter, though, as Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery paints an ingenious portrait of the way we perceive art. Beltracchi opens Toronto’s Reel Artists Film Festival on Thursday, and it’s bound to stimulate a healthy debate over what constitutes “real art.” The film provocatively asks if artistic genius resides in technique or in inspiration.
An unlikely pair changes history in the true story of Woman in Gold, which is the latest film from director Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn). Woman in Gold makes its own kind of history as it stars the unlikely pair of Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds as elderly Jewish refugee Maria Altmann and her keen young lawyer, Randy Schoneberg. Woman in Gold opens in theatres on April 3 from +eOne Films, but if you want to attend a sneak peek across Canada, you are in luck! Answer the trivia below for your chance to win tickets!
|Stories We Tell, Incendies, Mommy, and Barney's Version are some of Canada's best films.|
The second year of CineCoup is underway! CineCoup, the latest variation on crowdsourcing, draws audiences into the filmmaking process from the beginning by inviting them to judge the films they’d most like to see in theatres. The contest puts filmmakers through the gamut of the film biz by challenging them to pre-production missions that pitch their projects to the public. The winner gets up to one million in production financing and a release in Cineplex theatres, and the added bonus of a ready-made audience eager to see the film.
|Feast, winner of the Oscar for Best Animated Short|
(Spain/UK/France 115 min.)
Dir. Pierre Morel, Writ. Don MacPherson, Pete Travis, Sean Penn
Starring: Sean Penn, Idris Elba, Ray Winstone, Mark Rylance, Jasmine Trinca, and Javier Bardem.
Sean Penn wades into Liam Neeson territory in the ultraviolent new humanitarian revenge thriller and The Gunman. The humanitarian revenge thriller is a strange genre. A do-gooder with a sniper and sweet biceps works on wells as his day job and pumps lead into the machete-wielding and corporate suits by night? That’s weird. A lack of genetic compatibility offers a least one reason for which Craig Kielburger and Arnold Schwarzenegger will never have a child.
The Divergent Series: Insurgent
(USA, 119 min.)
Dir. Robert Schwentke, Writ. Brian Duffield, Akiva Goldsman, Mark Bomback
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Ansel Elgort, Miles Teller, Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer.
It’s once more unto the breach for Young Adult fiction. The Divergent series continues with Insurgent, which is a mostly satisfying second instalment of the series based on the books by Veronica Roth. This film sometimes improves on its predecessor now that all the exposition is out of the way—Divergent lays a lot of groundwork—but the fast-paced Insurgent requires full knowledge of the film that came before it. Brush up on why Tris (Shailene Woodley) and company live in a world divided into Factions—Candor, Erudite, Dauntless, Amity, and Abnegation—and you’ll be fine. Tris, a renegade Divergent who embodies the qualities of multiple Factions, is poised to lead the revolution against the oppressive forces of social determination.
(USA, 105 min.)
Dir. Kenneth Branagh, Writ. Chris Weitz
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Lily James, Richard Madden, Helena Bonham Carter, Derek Jacobi, Sophie McShera, Holliday Grainger, Nonso Anozie
You know the story. Poor little rich girl meets prince. Prince likes commoner. Pumpkin, mice, Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo, glass slipper, and all that. Chaos ensues. And they live happily ever after.
|Martin Chartrand in Finding Macpherson. |
Caroline Hayeur, courtesy of the NFB.
The docs are in! The docs are in! Hot Docs has announced the full line-up for the 2015 edition of the festival and it includes a whopping 210 films from 45 countries. The festival opens with the International Premiere of Tig by Kristina Goolsby and Ashley York (way to support female filmmakers, Hot Docs!), which chronicles comedian Tig Notaro, who made headlines in 2012 after she opened an act with the line, “Good evening, I have cancer” which went viral just as her life was heading into a tailspin. Other notable Hot Docs highlights include a conversation with filmmaker Frederick Wiseman (National Gallery) and the addition of a new “Screen on Screen” programme that offers docs about the filmmaking process. (How much does everyone want to see Chuck Norris Vs. Communism?)This series sounds like a great film buff’s side dish to the “Next” programme (my favourite at the fest) that highlights arts and entertainment and includes the latest film from 20 Feet from Stardom director Morgan Neville. Hot Docs 2015 also includes a strong Canadian front with films like OIAF winner Seth’sDominion and Sunday’s Jutra winner Finding Macpherson repping the local scene along with new docs from William D. MacGillivray and John Zaritsky. (Keep an eye on the upcoming Hot Docs issue of POV for coverage on Seth’s Dominion, Finding Macpherson and A Different Drummer!)
Al Pacino returns in Danny Collins, a story of second chances from the writer of Last Vegas and Crazy, Stupid, Love. Danny Collins opens in theatres on March 27 from +Elevation Pictures, but if you want to attend a sneak peek across Canada, you are in luck! Answer the trivia below for your chance to win tickets!
The Narrow Frame of Midnight
(Morocco/UK/France, 93 min.)
Written and directed by Tala Hadid
Starring: Khalid Abdalla, Marie-Josée Croze
The Narrow Frame of Midnight comes to the screen with considerable pedigree and pre-production laurels—writer/director Tala Hadid’s breakout short Your Dark Hair Ihsan triumphed at Berlin and won a student Oscar—and it has an air of visual poetry, but it doesn’t quite deliver on its potential. It’s a beautiful film to look at and some of the performances are fine, so The Narrow Frame of Midnight doesn’t disappoint entirely as a feature dramatic debut from a filmmaker of obvious talent. It’s a stunning and stirring film, and obscure and frustrating one as well.
The Price We Pay
(Canada, 92 min.)
Dir. Harold Crooks
Docs about the plight of the ninety-nine present occupy ample programming slots within the doc contingent of film festivals these days. It's no wonder, since the Occupy Movement arguably provides the strongest cultural and ideological undertaking of this generation. The range of stories, theses, and arguments put forth in this class of documentaries is proof alone how much the plight of the ninety-nine engages the world.
|The Look of Silence|
Is Sean Penn the next Liam Neeson? Penn teams up with Taken director Pierre Morel for the upcoming political action-thriller The Gunman, and the Oscar winner wants you to come along for the ride! The Gunman opens in theatres March 20 from +Elevation Pictures , but if you want to attend a sneak peek across Canada, you are in luck! Answer the trivia below for your chance to win tickets!
|Kristofer Hivju and Johannes Bah Kuhnke in Force MAjeure, |
a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
(UK/USA, 122 min.)
Dir. John Madden, Writ. Ol Parker
Starring: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup, Tina Desai, Diana Hardcastle, Lillete Dubey, Tamsin Greig, Shaza Latif with David Strathairn and Richard Gere.
|Judi Dench as Evelyn
Greenslade in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. |
Laurie Sparham / Fox Searchlight Pictures
Enjoy another trip to Jaipur as the unlikeliest of sleeper hits returns in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. It’s hard to imagine that a film with an average age of 63 amongst its stars could be a major sequel to one of the biggest box office surprises in recent years, but the second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel proves that even box office clout applies to late bloomers. This delightful return to the Marigold Hotel mostly lives up to the high bar set by its predecessor: like a trip back to a favourite getaway, this holiday is only really missing the sparkly sense of surprise that makes the first Marigold such a winner. These old dogs can certainly teach the fledging teen-targeted franchises some new tricks.
|Analogue People in a Digital Age|
Murder in Pacot (Meurtre à Pacot)
(Haiti/France/Norway, 130 min.)
Dir. Raoul Peck, Writ. Raoul Peck, Lyonel Trouillot, Pascal Bonitzer
Starring: Alex Descas, Joy Olasunmibo Ogunmakin, Thibault Vinçon, Lovely Kermonde Fifi.
Here we have a garden. A lush ground surrounds a posh house, but the setting isn’t Paradise; it’s some time after the fall as a man and a woman repair what’s left of their lives after the dust settles. He could be Adam and she could be Eve—the audience never learns their names. Their home, nestled in the posh Haitian neighbourhood of Pacot, barely stands in the aftermath of the thunderous earthquake that shook the nation. Tension lingers, though, as if Murder in Pacot drops viewers into the eye of the storm and knows that the worst is yet to come.
(Ireland, 79 min.)
Written and directed by Rob Burke and Ronan Burke
Starring: Brian Gleeson, Jessica Paré
Congrats to Megan Draper on landing that leading role! Canada’s Mad Men star Jessica Paré does her best singing since seducing all of Madison Avenue with her smoky rendition of “Zou Bisou Bisou” as she takes the stage in the charming Irish ditty Standby. Standby, which opens the Toronto Irish Film Festival on Friday, March 6, takes audiences through a whirlwind one-nighter right in the heart of Dublin. Paré stars as Alice, the long lost love of Irishman Alan (Brian Gleeson, son of Brendan Gleeson), who sees her waltz back into his life while he’s working the information desk at the Dublin airport on a ho-hum Valentine’s Day. Alice is on standby—both literally and figuratively—as she waits to return home to America, and the night offers the best chance to revisit one connection before making another.
Are you ready to defy reality, Divergent fans? The Divergent series continues with Insurgent as Shailene Woodley returns to the role of Tris in this exciting continuation of the franchise. Insurgent opens in theatres March 20 from eOne Films, but if you want a chance to catch a sneak peek, you are in luck! Answer the trivia below for your chance to win tickets!
The Valley Below
(Canada, 87 min.)
Written and directed by Kyle Thomas
Starring: Stephen Bogaert, Kris Demeanor, Mikaela Cochrane, Alejandro Rae, Joe Perry
Well, here’s an interesting recipe. Take one film and divide it into four roughly equal parts. Give each story a unique lead, but let the characters blend together while mixing in different narratives of love and loss. Let it marinate in the dry room temperature atmosphere of the Alberta badlands and season each of the respective works with its own composer. Not any composer, mind you, but a musician whose talent and voice is synonymous with the terrain that the dinosaurs once roamed. Let it simmer.
|Xavier Dolan poses with two of his four Canadian Screen Awards for Mommy.|