SAG Awards Tonight: The Race's Decisive Moment?

The cast of Spotlight
eOne Films

The Screen Actors Guild Awards are tonight and they could prove to be a decisive moment in this year's Oscar race. The top prize for Outstanding Cast is arguably a two-way race between The Big Short and Spotlight given that they're the only two Best Picture nominees--and the only two SAG nominees that didn't inspire a collective Whaaaat? when the contender for Outstanding Cast were read and left The Martian, Brooklyn, Steve Jobs, The Hateful Eight, Carol and other superior ensembles unsung.


Screenie Shorts: 'World Famous Gopher Hole Museum', 'Quiet Zone', 'In Deep Waters'

World Famous Gopher Hole Museum
This second round of Screenie shorts offers a trio of documentaries. The non-fiction front of the Canadian Screen Awards nominees is strong on both the short and feature-length ends of the spectrum. Bacon and God’s Wrath is a tough one to top, but there’s at least one worthy contender in this group!


Screenie Shorts: 'BAM!', 'Carface', 'Roberta' and 'Blue Thunder'

Photo courtesy of the NFB.
This shorts nominees at this year’s Canadian Screen Awards include several films that thrive with vibrant musical energy. These films sing with jazzy beats, soulful numbers, cracked-out vibes, and hilarious ditties. They’re a terrifically original bunch of films.


'Corbo', 'Passion of Augustine' Lead Quebec's Jutra Nominations

Les films Séville
The nominations are out for Les prix Jutras. Honouring the best in Quebecois cinema, the Jutras exclusively honour Quebec-made films released theatrically in the province this year. The Passion of Augustine and Corbo lead the nominations with 10 nods, respectively, while Canada's Oscar submission Felix and Meira grabs five. Notably absent in many major categories is Philippe Falardeau's My Internship in Canada, while Elephant Song gets a bunch of below the line nominations plus a nod for lead Xavier Dolan.

Les nominations!


'The Daughter' is Unnervingly Powerful

The Daughter
(Australia, 96 min.)
Written and directed by Simon Stone
Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Paul Schneider, Ewen Leslie, Miranda Otto, Anna Torv, Odessa Young, Sam Neill
A hidden gem from last year’s festival circuit rises to the surface. The Daughter is a superbly acted drama that leaves a viewer guessing long after its final image cuts to black. In the vein of Ray Lawrence’s Lantana, this atmospheric tragedy is a tightly structured film about secrets and lies that devastate a family. This haunting feature directorial debut from Simon Stone, who previously appeared in Eye of the Storm and the terrific Jindabyne, is another example of the sharp and substantial filmmaking coming out of Australia these days. Stone’s tense chamber piece simmers with a minimalist’s ingenuity.


'Dirty Grandpa' Parties Like It's 1965

Dirty Grandpa
(USA, 102 min.)
Dir. Dan Mazer, Writ. John Phillips
Starring: Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Zoey Deutch, Aubrey Plaza, Jason Mantzoukas, Julianne Hough, Dermot Mulroney
Photo courtesy of VVS Films.

It’s so freezing this winter that the old folks are getting a little stiff! The tabloids have yet to tell us if Robert De Niro needs the little blue pill to bring the heat, but the veteran actor sure seems excited in his latest film Dirty Grandpa. Dirty Grandpa takes the hijinks of Last Vegas and amps it up a notch as De Niro plays horny old man Dick Kelly who decides to head south when his wife dies and leaves him single for the first time in decades. When Dick hits spring break, Dirty Grandpa parties like it’s 1965.


Contest: Win Tickets to See 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies' Across Canada! (CONTEST CLOSED)

Jane Austen comes back from the dead in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies! Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is the outrageous adaptation of the zombie apocalyptic reinvention of Jane Austen’s beloved novel. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies opens in theatres February 5 from eOne Films, but lucky readers across Canada may win tickets to a sneak peek! Answer the trivia below and use your braaaaaaaaains to win!

Listen to the Canadian Screen Award Nominees for Original Song

Noah Reid and Ashley Leggat in People Hold On
Here are the songs nominated at this year’s Canadian Screen Awards. The award for Achievement in Music – Original Song, sponsored by Slaight Music, boast five respectable nominees this year from a quintet of under the radar films. Three are nice and mellow acoustic-y songs while the other two are among the most unusual contenders the Screenies have seen/heard. 88, directed by April Mullen (no relation), offers a lyrical and slightly emo ditty with “Where the Light Used to Be” while Songs She Wrote About People She Knows, which screened at festivals last year and in limited theatrical release this year, has the funny and jazzy tune “Asshole Dave.” Scratch: a hip-opera, the other notably unique song, might have the first Screenie nominee for a French rap song in “C’est aujourd’hui que je sors,” which I’ll admit that I can barely understand.


Room Leads Canadian Screen Award Nominations

Here's a first: there are ten Best Picture nominees at this year's Canadian Screen Awards and I've already seen all of them! Room leads the film side of the Canadian Screen Award nominations with eleven nods, including Best Actress frontrunner Brie Larson and actors Jacob Tremblay and Joan Allen. Canada's Oscar submission Felix and Meira finds lots of love this morning too. Ditto Anne Émond's wonderful Les êtres chers and festival hit Sleeping Giant. Also among the Best Picture nominees are Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson's The Forbidden Room and Philippe Falardeau's My Internship in Canada, which missed some major nominations like Best Director, while Internship's Patrick Huard and Suzanne Clément both missed out on acting nods. (Huard should have won.) In fairness to the nominating committees, as mentioned in the CSA preview, The Forbidden Room isn't something for everyone, so it's Best Picture nomination is still pretty admirable. And a first for Maddin!


Canada's Top Ten Review: 'The Demons'

The Demons (Les démons)
(Canada, 118 min.)
Written and directed by Phillipe Lesage
Starring: Édouard Tremblay-Grenier, Pier-Luc Funk, Pascale Bussières, Laurent Lucas, Vassili Schneider, Sarah Mottet, Victoria Diamond
Photo courtesy of TIFF.

The Demons offers this year’s big surprise for Canada’s Top Ten. Director Phillippe Lesage isn’t a household name and his movie is one of Quebec’s most critically-lauded flops of 2015, but those factors help make the director one of the top Canadian talents to watch from 2015. The Demons adds to the strength of Sleeping Giant, Les êtres chers, and Closet Monster to make this year’s Canada’s Top Ten festival a celebration of up-and-coming Canadian talent.


Contest! Win 'Learning to Drive' on DVD!

Buckle up! Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley take audiences on a fun, leisurely drive in the warm comedy Learning to Drive. Learning to Drive comes to DVD on Tuesday, Jan. 19 from Pacific Northwest Pictures and Search Engine Films, and lucky readers have a chance to win a copy. Fasten your seatbelt, put your foot on the gas, and answer the trivia below to win!


Canadian Screen Awards Preview and Predictions

Joan Allen as Grandma, William H. Macy as Grandpa and Brie Larson as Ma in Room.
Photo by Caitlin Cronenberg, courtesy of Elevation Pictures

The Canadian Screen Awards always seem to mirror the Oscars in some way. This year’s doubling comes in one easy fact: it’s an open race with no sure frontrunner. The obvious money probably goes to Room, but it isn’t as hugely successful at the Canadian b.o. as some hoped it would be, whereas Brooklyn most recently pulled in a per-theatre average that was five times higher than Room’s on eight times as many screens for a weekly take of over $400 000. That’s impressive for a Canadian film in Canada. The Best Picture Oscar nominees are likely to be top contenders in next week’s Screenie nominations—if industry peers embrace these co-productions as “Canadian,” which I think the do/should/will. Overall, though, this year has one of the stronger fields.


Canada's Top Ten Review: 'Les êtres chers'

Les êtres chers (Our Loved Ones)
(Canada, 102 min.)
Written and directed by Anne Émond
Starring: Maxim Gaudette, Karelle Tremblay, Valérie Cadieux
Karelle Tremblay in Les êtres chers
Les Films Séville

Writer/director Anne Émond offers a valuable lesson in forgiveness and of letting go of the past with her wonderful sophomore feature Les êtres chers. (The film is known internationally as Our Loved Ones, but theatres here still bill it by its French title.) The film marks Émond’s follow-up project to her provocative 2011 debut Nuit #1, which has quite a following of fans but isn’t one for the prudish. Even the few cinephiles who aren’t major fans of Nuit #1 are bound to sing the praises of this up-and-coming director. Émond once again brings a sparse and intimate film that intuitively uses space, place, and, especially, time to envelope the audience in the world of her characters. This decades-spanning family drama is a lovely, subtle, and poignant film.

Oscar Nominations: Good Day for Canada!

Brooklyn - Film is one of few Canadian Best Picture nominees
A bittersweet morning with these Oscar nominations. Carol misses the Best Picture race and Jane Fonda does too. Some big surprises in the screenplay categories with The Hateful Eight and Golden Globe winner Steve Jobs not making the cut. But the list has some pleasant surprises, including What Happened, Miss Simone? in a very strong quintet of documentary nominees. (I'll have a review of Winter on Fire up soon.) It's also a very good day for Canada, as we have our second and third Best Picture nominees since Atlantic City got a nom for 1981. Those Best Picture nominees are Brooklyn and Room, the latter of which came on strong with an unexpected Best Director nomination for Irish director Lenny Abrahamson, who squeezed out The Martian's Ridley Scott, whom many pundits favoured to win! Denis Villeneuve's Sicario also has a bunch of nominations, although he and the film missed the top categories. Canadian nominees also include Emma Donoghue's screenplay for Room, short doc Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah, and Rachel McAdams for Spotlight, who offers a silver lining to the Jane Fonda snub.


Oscar Predictions: Round 5 (ish) - Many Hungry Films, But Who Gets the Noms?

Leo, hungry for Oscar noms.

There are so many hungry films, but only a few of them can have the noms. This hugely competitive field has few stinkers in the bunch, so the films are attacking this season like wolves upon a deer. A movie gets a guild nom here, another gets a critic nom there, but only The Big Short, Spotlight, Mad Max, The Martian, and now The Revenant are getting big meaty pieces. Those five films are the Directors' Guild of America nominees, which makes them the five most obvious frontrunners as they add the industry support to their nominations from the Producers and Writers Guilds, with smatterings of encouragement from the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, and SAGs. But how do all the wolves shape up to lead the pack for votes now that the larger (and more mainstream) voting bodies have spoken?


Canada's Top Ten Review: 'Into the Forest'

Into the Forest
(Canada, 101 min.)
Written and directed by Patricia Rozema
Starring: Ellen Page, Evan Rachel Wood
Photo courtesy of TIFF

Sisters Nell (Ellen Page) and Eva (Evan Rachel Wood) are going wild. They aren’t going into the wild, mind you, for they’re already there. The sisters hole up in their family’s beautiful cottage that sits tucked kilometres away from civilization in the Vancouver woods. Things are dire, but Into the Forest doesn’t tell the audience why. It just gives impressions, feelings, as the sisters restlessly pursue their studies with the creature comforts of light, music, and electricity. Then all goes black.


Canada's Top Ten Review: 'Closet Monster'

Closet Monster
(Canada, 90 min.)
Written and directed by Stephen Dunn
Starring: Connor Jessup, Aaron Abrams, Isabella Rossellini, Joanne Kelly, Aliocha Schneider, Sofia Banzhaf, Mary Walsh, Igor Pugdog
Photo courtesy of TIFF.

We wanted more from Stephen Dunn and now we have it. The up-and-coming Canadian director builds on the confidence he already established in short films like We Wanted More, Life Doesn’t Frighten Me, and others with his feature debut Closet Monster. Closet Monster, which won the prize for Best Canadian Film at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, shows Dunn’s originality on a bigger, bolder canvas, especially for the washes of colour that fill the screen and the fully layered soundtrack that makes the film so intense. Monster is a beauty and a beast.


Grisly, Man

The Revenant
(USA, 156 min.)
Dir. Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Writ. Mark L. Smith, Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter, Forrest Goodluck
Leonardo DiCaprio stars in The Revenant.
20th Century Fox

There’s a scene in Werner Herzog’s 2005 documentary Grizzly Man where the eccentric director listens to an audio recording of adventurer Timothy Treadwell being mauled to death by a grizzly bear. Herzog withholds the audio from the film, lets the audience watch his pale and stoic reaction, and then advises a woman never to listen to the recording. It’s one scene among many that helps Grizzly Man re-write documentary form by interpreting a life with cinematic inquisitiveness.

Golden Globes Preview: Will Win/Should Win

Carol leads the Golden Globes nominations.
Photo courtesy of eOne Films
Sunday looks to be an unpredictable night! This year's Golden Globe race offers more question marks than answers in the widest and most inconsistent award season yet. Last year's Oscar race seemed competitive, but in retrospect, several winners (Julianne Moore, JK Simmons, and Patricia Arquette) were forgone conclusions before the year was out. This year, however, has yet to see any real pattern--aside from the fact that no film is hitting all the critical gongs and industry guilds--and the effects of campaigning are so obvious (cough, cough Trumbo) that one has a hard time taking the precursors seriously. There's also a range of work that invites voters to mix and match ballots and spread the wealth. Simply put: every nominee in the Best Film categories at the Golden Globes is missing something major, even in the categories at this very show. Carol, for example, leads the nominations with five bids, but none of them are for its true star, its screenplay.


'Room' Leads Vancouver Film Critics' Canadian Film Winners

Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay star in Room.
Elevation Pictures.
Canuck co-pro Room tops the list of Canadian film winners at this year’s Vancouver Film Critics Circle prizes. The Vancouverites are the only critics’ group that hands out a full slate of awards to Canadian films in addition to gongs for international works. (Spotlight topped the previously announced VFCC international winners.) Room nabs four honours including Best Film and acting awards for Brie Larson and Canuck nine-year-old scene-stealer Jacob Tremblay. (The latter beat out octogenarian Christopher Plummer for the prize--and deservedly so!) Larson is a frontrunner for Best Actress leading up to next week’s Oscar nominations, while Tremblay’s a dark horse for Best Supporting Actor. (US distrib A24 is campaigning him as a supporting player even though he has more screen time than Larson.) Canuck critical darling Sleeping Giant also stands tall with VFCC with three wins while Charles Wilkinson’s documentary Haida Gwaii grabs two awards.

The full list of Canuck winners:


Toronto Film Critics Name 'The Forbidden Room' Best Canadian Film of 2015

The Forbidden Room
Mongrel Media
The Toronto Film Critics Association (TFCA) gave its prize for Best Canadian Film of 2015 to Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson's wild, crazy, and wonderful The Forbidden Room. I couldn't agree more. It's the best Canadian film of the year. The award carries a cash prize of $100 000 sponsored by Rogers.

A Professor Sat on a Bench Reflecting on Existence

Diary of an Old Man (Le journal d’un vieil homme)
(Canada, 82 min.)
Written and directed by Bernard Émond
Starring: Paul Savoie, Marie-Ève Pelletier, Marie-Thérèrse Fortin, Ariane Legault, Patrick Drelot
Les Films Séville

Don’t confuse the slice-of-life Canadian drama Diary of an Old Man with the soon to be released R-rated comedy Dirty Grandpa. Diary of an Old Man has a co-ed or two in its story of a wise old professor ruminating on the end of his life, but, unlike the raunchy Robert De Niro flick, this drama doesn’t have any randy old men. This sedate drama from Québécois grand maître Bernard Émond (All That You Possess) rewards with its contemplative and introspective portrait of a life (un)lived as illustrious and terminally ill academic Nicholas (Paul Savoie) wonders if his everything was worth it as he approaches the end. Call it A Professor Sat on a Bench Reflecting on Existence.

Contest! Win Tickets to See 'Dirty Grandpa' Across Canada! (CONTEST CLOSED)

Pop some blue pills and get ready to party! Dirty Grandpa is hitting the town so you’d better be super excited! Zac Efron and Robert De Niro star in this raunchy comedy about a square named Jason and his grandpa named Dick. Sounds like fun for the whole family! Dirty Grandpa comes to theatres January 22nd from VVS Films, but lucky readers across Canada may win tickets to sneak peeks. Answer the trivia below for your chance to win tickets! Show us if #YouDontKnowDick!


'The Saver' Has Good Intentions

The Saver
(Canada, 88 min.)
Written and directed by Wiebke von Carolsfeld
Starring: Imajyn Cardinal, Pascale Bussières, Hamidou Savadogo, Alexandre Landry, Paul Spence, Monia Chokri
Canadian film gets a notable step forward in the representation of Aboriginals onscreen with The Saver. The film, adapted by a YA novel by Edeet Ravel, tells the story of a young girl named Fern (played by Imajyn Cardinal, daughter of actress Michelle Thrush of Blackstone and Jimmy P.), but The Saver could easily be the story of any teenager in Canada. This new offering from writer/director Wiebke von Carolsfeld (Marion Bridge) and the producers of Canuck landmark Rhymes for Young Ghouls offers a story that is both specific and universal as Fern perseveres in the face of adversity. With the aid of a few allies, a high-spirited uncle, and some cranky white people, The Saver situates Fern’s story within an inclusive and diverse Montreal.


'Viva' is Wonderfully Alive

(Ireland, 100 min.)
Dir. Paddy Breathnach, Writ. Mark O’Halloran
Starring: Héctor Medina, Jorge Perugorría, Luis Alberto García, Laura Alamán
Irish film finds a Spanish flavour in the remarkable coming-of-age film Viva. This Cuban-shot Spanish-language production, which credits Benicio Del Toro as an Executive Producer, is Ireland’s bid in the Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film and one of only nine films still in contention after December’s shortlist announcement. It might be a dark horse against frontrunner Son of Saul and festival favourite Mustang, but Viva is another great example for how the foreign film Oscar race spotlights world cinema during the gong show of award season. Viva brings a story of a young man named Jesus (Héctor Medina) who finds his independence as a drag performer named Viva. This moving film puts a new spin on a familiar narrative of fathers and sons as Jesus befriends and forgives his long lost father, Angel (Jorge Perugorría). As Viva comes into her own under Angel’s discomfort with his son’s sexuality, Viva adds to the canon of notable queer films breaking through the indie scene of late.

New Year, New Method: No More Star Ratings

The sky isn't falling, but there won't be any more stars at Cinemablographer. I'm going to try to do something new this year by omitting star ratings from reviews. This choice comes partly as an influence from my ongoing work with POV, which doesn't use star ratings in its assessment of films. I find the clear skies allow for more openness and flexibility. Similarly, star ratings have value when they enthusiastically endorse a film or offer an obvious warning sign, but they can also overwhelm a review and prevent, say, a 3.5 star rating from acknowledging the strengths of a film. It makes more sense to encourage dialogue, whether it's in the comments or on social media, rather than cap a review with a few stars that act as a full stop.

Here's to starry skies in 2016 with a more open and inclusive review system!

Do you like this forecast, or do you prefer star ratings at the end of reviews?


The Big, Bold Joke of American Capitalism

The Big Short
(USA, 130 min.)
Dir. Adam McKay, Writ. Adam McKay, Charles Randolph
Starring: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Rafe Spall, Hamish Linklater, Jeremy Strong, Marisa Tomei, Melissa Leo.
Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling star in The Big Short

The difference between The Big Short and The Wolf of Wall Street is the distinction between a metteur en scène and an auteur. Both films tackle the world of high finance with a snap and a swagger, but only the latter film by Martin Scorsese does so with a distinctly artistic panache. There’s a higher meaning to the style and excess of the Scorsese film and while Adam McKay’s comparably loony The Big Short doesn’t carry the same level of finesse, but it’s still great entertainment.