All the Money in the World
(USA, 132 min.)
Dir. Ridley Scott, Writ. David Scarpa
Starring: Michelle Williams, Christopher Plummer, Mark Walhberg, Charlie Plummer, Romain Duris
I’ve often said that Christopher Plummer is Canada’s greatest actor. However, he might lay claim to being the finest actor in the world given his most recent performance. Plummer proves himself a consummate professional with his eleventh hour tour-de-force as billionaire tycoon J. Paul Getty in Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World. Plummer, who was the original choice for the role, replaced Kevin Spacey in a much-publicized switcheroo to supplant the disgraced actor when serious allegations of sexual misconduct towards minors made it impossible to release the film with Spacey as the villain—in a performance that many insiders speculated was a strong Oscar contender. The speculation hints at both the lunacy and validity of early award season soothsaying because All the Money in the World should land a Best Supporting Actor nomination, and maybe a win if it’s not too late. Plummer gives one of his best performances while proving himself one of Hollywood’s true class acts.
|Wonderstruck; Step; Kedi; I, Tonya; The Shape of Water; Dunkirk; Don't Talk to Irene; The Post; Faces Places|
Thank goodness for the movies. 2017 wasn’t good to many of us, so it was sweet relief to enjoy the escape of a dark theatre and some popcorn. A lot has been written about the timeliness of many of the best films of the year evoking parables of Trump-era America, and the many of the best films of 2017 were tales of true heroes, great leaders, and of communities united—all a great contrast to the toxicity and divisiveness that define the year. It was a particularly strong year for documentaries, too, with non-fiction filmmakers illuminating more corners of the world with fearless eyes for telling the truth and for highlighting diverse voices. And in some cases, filmmakers turned over new corners of the art form to play with perceptions of the truth—very timely for the age of #FakeNews.
|Catherine Keener and Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out|
|Margot Robbie, Gary Oldman, Allison Janney, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, |
and Frances McDorman give 2017's best performances
We continue to reflect on the year in movies. The third segment of “2017 in Review” salutes the actresses and actors who stood tallest this year. The choices in the list reflect a very strong year for substantial roles for women in film—a notable improvement over recent years—and probably the most competitive field yet for the top ten lead performances. On the other hand, this year marks the first instance in the seven years this blog has been running that a list failed to include a performance from a Canadian film. That’s disappointing, although there are a few in the honorable mentions, but let’s appreciate the cream of the crop in acting talent this year:
|Don't Talk to Irene, Rumble, Dim the Fluorescents, Long Time Running, |
Adventures in Public School and Hochelaga are the year's best Canadian films.
It’s been a quietly respectable year for Canadian film. I realise that statement might not read like a compliment, but I’m still caught off guard by how hard it was to see Canadian movies this year. In the seven years that I’ve been writing this blog and covering the Canadian film beat, or at least trying my best to do so, 2017 posed the biggest struggle for finding Canadian content. It just wasn’t out there as much as it’s been in previous years, or, if it was, it was far less visible.
|Sebastian Stan and Margot Robbie star as Jeff Gillooly and Tonya Harding in I, Tonya|
“She’s an incredible athlete and I think that’s one of the tragedies of this whole situation,” says Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad, Z for Zachariah), speaking about her I, Tonya character at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this year. “‘The Incident’ totally overshadowed her athletic abilities and what a phenomenal achievement it was to do the triple axel.”
|Sally Hawkins stars in The Shape of Water|
Fox Searchlight Pictures
(USA, 115 min.)
Dir. Steven Spielberg, Writ. Liz Hannah and Josh Singer
Starring: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Sarah Paulson, Bruce Greenwood, Carrie Coon
There’s a great argument with Karina Longworth’s book Meryl Streep: Anatomy of an Actor that suggests Meryl Streep is in many ways the true author of films in which she stars. However, the long running, if increasingly unfashionable, “auteur theory” pioneered by Cahiers du Cinéma types posits the director as a film’s unwavering beacon of artistic vision. Every choice in a film, they say, is a creative one made, summoned, or encouraged by the director. The theory, peddled mostly by male writers about male directors, arguably bears a direct responsibility for the gender imbalances in film that continue today. When a star like Meryl Streep is cranking out 100-million dollar hits, building a base of young fans, and hitting a career-high while in approaching the age of 70, that hierarchy needs to be re-evaluated.
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
(UK/USA, 115 min.)
Written and directed by Martin McDonagh
Starring: Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Peter Dinklage, Jon Hawkes, Lucas Hedges, Caleb Landry Jones, Clark Peters, Abbie Cornish
|Fox Searchlight Pictures|
John Wayne is dead. Ditto Gary Cooper. These old gunslingers are nothing but bones. Long after these movie stars departed, the iconic heroes they inhabited also rode off into the sunset. The small town hero of the Midwest is an old myth long dispelled from a country with no room for old men.
|mother!, Split, If You Saw His Heart, Suburbicon, Despicable Me 3 and Infinity Baby are some of 2017's worst|
Thank goodness 2017 is nearly over.
It’s ending up a fairly good year for movies, but once again there were so many bad ones that weren’t even worth writing about. Boring remakes, stupid sequels, and pointless reboots. Even a lot of the indie stuff wasn’t as good as it usually is and a fair bit of sub-par stuff was pushed quite aggressively for reasons that I honestly can’t still understand. When there are far too many movies being released nowadays, why invest in a lame horse?
(UK, 125 min.)
Dir. Joe Wright, Writ. Anthony McCarten
Starring: Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lily James, Ben Mendelsohn, Stephen Dillane, Ronald Pickup
Give Gary Oldman every award on the planet for Darkest Hour. His turn as late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill is a titanic performance. This latest film from director Joe Wright (Anna Karenina) offers a fine companion piece to Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk with its deftly plotted and time sensitive dramatization of Britain’s war efforts, specifically with the evacuation of Dunkirk, and a rousing parable of great leadership. But where Dunkirk excels as a true ensemble piece, Darkest Hour succeeds as a star vehicle. It’s Oldman’s finest hour.
So many movies, so little time.
(USA, 104 min.)
Written and directed Jordan Peele
Starring: Daniel Kaluuya, Allison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Lakeith Stanfield, Betty Gabriel, LilRey Howrey
Sink into the floor and fall into the wild, strange world of Get Out. This brilliant and spectacularly entertaining film from writer/director Jordan Peele offers a visionary entry into the world of horror. Get Out is a chillingly satirical commentary on race relations in America as young Black man Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) goes away to meet the parents of his seemingly sweet white girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams). Chris worries that Rose’s parents don’t know their daughter is bringing a Black man—gasp, her first!—home for the weekend, and nervously considers the tense two days ahead.
|Clockwise from top: Dunkirk, The Post, The Shape of Water, Lady Bird, Three Billboards, Get Out|
Is it Golden Globes time already? The year for movies really picked up steam and is coming to a strong finish, so the Globe nominations are a tough call. Top contenders like The Post, Phantom Thread, and The Greatest Showman are only just showing their legs—the latter is still the big question mark...and probably not a contender beyond the Globes' musical categories and the crafts branches at the Oscars if the film isn't being trucked out much yet—and the few critics’ prizes doled out so far are more reflective of advocacy than anything else. The early favourites—Call Me By Your Name, Dunkirk, The Shape of Water, and Three Billboards—are still leading the pack unless something really picks up heat from the Globes, which will most likely be The Post.
The award-season catch-up continues! Missed many goodies this year including the following:
(USA, 88 min.)
Dir. John Carroll Lynch, Writ. Drago Sumonja, Logan Sparks
Starring: Harry Dean Stanton, David Lynch, Ron Livingston, Beth Grant
Could Harry Dean Stanton have found a better swan song than Lucky? This offbeat indie isn’t the late character actor’s final film (that would be the upcoming Frank & Ava), but Lucky gives Stanton the great lead performance that eluded him throughout his career. He will forever endure as a legend among character actors for his small but memorable turns as oddballs, weirdos, and creeps, particularly in the filmography of David Lynch, and John Carroll Lynch’s extremely Lynchian Lucky is smartly tailored to Stanton’s wiry frame and zen-like strangeness. It’s a perfect marriage between actor and character, and an even better endnote to a long career.
In the Fade (Aus dem Nichts)
(Germany/France, 106 min.)
Written and directed by Fatih Akin
Starring: Diane Kruger
Diane Kruger gives an exceptional performance as Katja, the grieving mother on a quest for vengeance, justice, and peace in In the Fade. She elevates this relatively run-of-the-mill procedural, which features some of the most implausible courtroom testimony outside of prime time TV, and absolutely deserves the Best Actress prize she picked up at Cannes earlier this year. It’s a career performance and surprisingly the first the first role of Kruger’s filmography to let her active in her native German. This latest film from Faith Akin tackles racism and xenophobia in Germany in the age of Brexit and tightly-guarded borders, and it pits Kruger’s Katja on a delicate journey akin to that of the tortured souls in The Edge of Heaven, another of the director’s works that deals with grief and loss against a backdrop of migration and global change.
Notes from the screener pile are back! I am way, way, way behind on movies this year, particularly anything that came out between March and June since work was like a forest fire this year. The screener pile is thankfully stacking up with goodies and oddities—a fun mix of the typical Oscary prestige and left field contenders to help get back on track. I’ll still try to review in full when possible, but in the spirit of catching up, some notes from the screener pile:
Small Talk (Ri Chang Dui Hua)
(Taiwan, 80 min.)
Dir. Hui-chen Huang
How much better is silence? It’s not better at all if one were to ask director Hui-chen Huang. Huang, after spending years in an impersonal and distant relationship with her mother, Anu, finally decides to speak. She turns the camera on herself in Small Talk, a profoundly intimate documentary and Taiwan’s no-frills submission in the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar race. Huang describes the relationship she has when the film begins—and maintains arguably throughout most of the production—in which she and her mother share an apartment, but experience none of the love or closeness that a parent and child might feel after living together for so long. Anu gets up every morning, goes to work, stays out late, comes home, and goes to bed. They define their relationship by silence.
Last Flag Flying
(USA, 124 min.)
Dir. Richard Linklater, Writ. Richard Linklater, Darryl Ponicsan
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell, Laurence Fishburne
American independent filmmaker Richard Linklater returns to the dramatic element of time: how it shapes us, defines us, divides us, and unites us. After the 12-years-in-the-making Boyhood and the rollercoaster ride through love and marriage in the Before trilogy, Linklater tries something different with his approach to time: following up a story that is not his own. He’s sort of done this thing before with the random remake of The Bad News Bears, but his latest film Last Flag Flying offers a spiritual sequel four decades in the making to the 1973 Jack Nicholson classic The Last Detail. Last Flag Flying loosely adapts Darryl Ponicsan’s book about navy buddies reuniting and remembering the ghosts of their time together in Vietnam, and this smart and meditative film reflects upon America’s attitude to war across the ages.
The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales (Le Grand Méchant Renard et autres contes...)
(France/Belgium, 80 min.)
Dir. Patrick Rimbert, Benjamin Renner; Writ. Benjamin Renner, Jean Regnaud
Starring: Céline Ronté, Boris Rehlinger, Guillaume Bouchede, Guillaume Darnault, Magali Rosenzweig, Elise Noiraud, Jules Bienvenu
My family was never really big on movies when I was growing up. (Strange, I know!) But I distinctly remember a well-worn VHS tape of this cartoon Farm Frolics. The film, a 1941 Warner Bros. animation, featured a bunch of gags with animals on the farm, like pigs watching a clock, a hen who gets her eggs stolen, and a lazy dog. Fond and simple nostalgia, Farm Frolics is.
(Canada/Ireland/Luxembourg, 93 min.)
Dir. Nora Twomey, Writ. Anita Doron
Starring: Saara Chaudry, Soma Chhaya, Laara Sadiq, Shaista Latif, Ali Badshah
It’s so exciting to see The Breadwinner open on the heels of Window Horses. 2017 is a great year for putting Canadian feature animation on the map. Like the poetic Persian epiphany of Rosie Ming in Ann Marie Fleming’s animated work of art, The Breadwinner is a visually striking fable with a grand international scope that tackles complex subjects of family, identity, and belonging.
(Norway/Sweden/France/Denmark, 116 min.)
Dir. Joachim Trier, Writ. Joachim Trier, Eskil Vogt
Starring: Eili Harboe, Kaya Wilkins, Henrik Rafaelsen, Ellen Dorrit Petersen
While The Killing of a Sacred Deer might have the most inaccurate title since Vic + Flo Saw a Bear, Joachim Trier’s Thelma puts a blessed Bambi in the crosshairs in its opening scene for anyone who needs a cut of venison and another child in peril. The scene sees a father (Henrik Rafaelsen) out with his young daughter hunting deer in the forest. A prized catch comes trotting through the snow and the hunter raises his rifle, sets his sights, and takes aim. He pauses. He hesitates. And then he moves his aim to his own little fawn.
(USA, 93 min.)
Written and directed by Greta Gerwig
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalfe, Tracy Letts, Beanie Feldstein, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet
Is Lady Bird the Pretty in Pink for millennials? This beautiful coming of age story by Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha, Jackie) is a down to earth depiction of the growing pains of adolescence and all the pleasures and (mostly) awkwardness it brings. Gerwig makes her first solo debut as director (she previously directed Nights and Weekends with Joe Swanberg) and Lady Bird radiates the warm and offbeat charm one has come to love in Gerwig’s performances and screenplays. Lady Bird unabashedly gives a tale of girlhood with its angst-ridden and infectiously funny search for the meaning of life that one often struggles to grasp in adolescence. It’s a buoyant and joyously feel-good film.
Saint George (São Jorge)
(Portugal/France, 112 min.)
Dir. Marco Martins, Writ. Marco Martines, Ricardo Adolfo
Starring : Nuno Lopes, Mariana Nunes, David Semedo
Stories of economic crises take different forms. The traders and insiders of The Big Short, for example, give a satirical (and believable) look at the wheeling and dealing that fuelled America’s mortgage meltdown. The Queen of Versailles gives a documentary perspective on one member of the 1% who lost everything. 99 Homes dramatizes the dirty business of evicting homeowners.
(USA, 70 min.)
Dir. Bob Byington, Writ. Onur Tukel
Starring: Kieran Culkin, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Martin Starr, Kevin Corrigan, Noël Wells, Stephen Root, Trieste Kelly Dunn
Infinity Baby might have been a hip and edgy indie film in 1995. The dated black and white cinematography, slow pacing, spiteful characters, and talky, dialogue-heavy scenes are the kind of things that peppered the early microbudget film scene. Between Sundance kids and mumblecore brats, however, the outburst of digital DIY filmmaking produced an overwhelming mountain of garbage. Infinity Baby is near the top of the pile. It’s been said before and it needs to be said again: just because everyone can make a movie doesn’t mean everyone should.
The Divine Order (Die göttliche Ordnung)
(Switzerland, 96 min.)
Written and directed by Petra Volpe
Starring: Marie Leuenberger, Maximilian Simonischek, Rachel Braunschweig, Sibylle Brunner, Marta Zoffoli
The women of The Divine Order sure know how to get the votes. This charming Swiss comedy from writer/director Petra Volpe is a fun addition to the canon of films about the women’s movement. Coming out and hitting the campaign trail as Switzerland’s Best Foreign Language Film Oscar bid in an industry championing similar urgency for more women in key creative roles, Volpe’s timely comedy offers an open and engaging discussion about equality, opportunity, and respect.
(Sweden, 150 min.)
Written and directed by Ruben Östlund
Starring: Claes Bang, Elisabeth Moss, Dominic West, Terry Notary
|Elisabeth Moss and Claes Bang in The Square. |
My favourite moment of The Square wasn’t something that happened in the action on screen. It transpired in the theatre.
God’s Own Country
(UK, 104 min.)
Written and directed by Francis Lee
Starring: Josh O’Connor, Alec Secareanu, Gemma Jones, Ian Hart
|Pacific Northwest Pictures|
I don’t know if “ramming” is a thing, but let’s use it as a verb since there’s a whole lotta rough play with sheep and men in God’s Own Country. There’s ample ramming between Johnny (Josh O’Connor) and Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) in the muddy and ragged Yorkshire countryside during one week of unexpected love and profound revelations. Quick fucks and tough love ensue in this restrained and thoughtful love story as God’s Own Country gives an unsentimental yet moving tale of desire. This film by writer/director Francis Lee takes place in the quiet grey farmland of Yorkshire, and it owes a debt to Brokeback Mountain with its rugged portrayal of newfound love between two men.
|Clockwise from top: Dunkirk; I, Tonya; The Shape of Water; |
Darkest Hour; Three Billboards; The Florida Project
(USA, 117 min.)
Dir. Todd Haynes, Writ. Brian Selznick
Starring: Oakes Fegley, Millicent Simmonds, Julianne Moore, Jaden Michael, Michelle Williams
|Jaden Michael, Oakes Fegley and Julianne Moore star in Wonderstruck |
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at stars.”
(Indonesia, 79 min.)
Written and directed by Wicaksono Wisnu Legowo
Starring: Ubaidillah, Slamet Ambari, Yono Daryono, Rudi Iteng, Narti Diono
The title for the Indonesian film Turah roughly translates to Leftovers, but the characters depicted in the film are more akin to refuse or discarded scraps. “Leftovers” implies saving something for later, like extra bits of turkey dinner that one reheats and enjoys after Thanksgiving. Scraps, on the other hand, are the straggling bits of unwanted food that one pushes off the plate and into the compost. Scraps are set aside, discarded, and forgotten.
Amerika Square (Plateia Amerikis)
(Greece/UK/Germany, 86 min.)
Dir. Yannis Sakaridis, Writ. Yannis Tsirbas, Vangelis Mourikis, Yannis Sakaridis
Starring: Makis Papadimitriou, Yannis Stankoglou, Vassilis Kukalani, Ksenia Dania, Alexandros Logothetis, Rea Pediaditaki, Themis Bazaka, Errikos Litsis
There are many sad stories in the global migration crisis: deaths, rootlessness, hopelessness, and families torn apart. However, there are few narratives as distressing as those of people who refuse to accept change and hold the gates to freedom shut. Borders are closing and fences are going up to clamp the human flow. The rampant xenophobia inherent in the era is not humankind’s finest hour.
Blade Runner 2049
(USA, 164 min.)
Dir. Denis Villeneuve, Writ. Hampton Francher, Michael Green
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Robin Wright, Sylvia Hoeks, Jared Leto, Mackenzie Davis
|Ana de Armas and Ryan Gosling star in Blade Runner 2049|
Here’s the thing with updates: they can be a redundant waste of time, but, when they work, they can improve things by ironing out bugs and improving early drafts into a finely tuned revisions. Windows 10, for example, might be the best contemporary example of an utterly pointless remake. It adds nothing to the original except more kinks, headaches, and bad karma. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Blade Runner 2049, Denis Villeneuve’s outstanding revision of Ridley Scott’s 1982 cult hit that improves upon the original film. The measured Blade Runner 2049 might seem as slow as Windows 10, but in this case the massive update is worth the patience. This return to the world of the runners is deep and thoughtful sci-fi thanks to Villeneuve’s uncompromising vision.
BPM (Beats Per Minute) (120 battements par minute)
(France, 140 min.)
Dir. Robin Campillo, Writ. Robin Campillo, Philippe Mangeot
Starring: Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, Arnaud Valois, Adèle Haenel, Antoine Reinartz, Ariel Borenstein, Mehdi Touré
Expect your heart to skip a beat during BPM. It’s impossible to avoid feeling a stirring pitter-patter of the chest in this invigorating and rewarding drama about courageous AIDS activists. BPM (Beats Per Minute) dramatizes the story of the Paris faction of ACT UP, a committed band of activists from the LGBTQ community fighting to make the French government and big pharma be quicker to respond to the growing AIDS crisis. The film, which won four prizes at Cannes including the Grand Prix and is France’s bid in the Best Foreign Language Film race, is a stirring tale of a community asserting its voice in the face of adversity. Director Robin Campillo presents a group of individuals united by their lust for life and their hunger to see another tomorrow, and the vibrant pulse of BPM is truly life affirming.
(UK/China/USA, 114 min.)
Dir. Martin Campbell, Writ. David Marconi
Starring: Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan, Katie Leung, Charlie Murphy, Orla Brady
|Courtesy VVS Films|
Liam Neeson, Denzel Washington, and Bruce Willis are sitting around a table. It’s 4:15 PM and the actors are partway through the seniors’ special at Denny’s. They nibble their chicken wings, lick their greasy spoons, and sip their decaf coffees while trading war stories of action films of the past.
In walks Jackie Chan.
Goodbye Christopher Robin
(UK, 107 min.)
Dir. Simon Curtis, Writ. Frank Cottrell Boyce, Simon Vaughan
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, Kelly Macdonald, Will Tilston
|Domhnall Gleeson and Will Tilston star in Goodbye Christopher Robin|
Photo by David Appleby / Fox Searchlight Pictures
Do you remember Winnie-the-Pooh? That little golden bear who lived in the Hundred Acre Woods with Piglet and Eeyore? That cuddly teddy who was friends with Christopher Robin and, in turn, a friend to all of us who cherished his adventures during story time?
But really, did any of us ever forget Pooh Bear?
The Limehouse Golem
(UK, 109 min.)
Dir. Juan Carlos Medina, Writ. Jane Goldman
Starring: Bill Nighy, Olivia Cooke, Eddie Marsan, Douglas Boothe, Sam Reid
There are two or three great movies somewhere in The Limehouse Golem, but, holy crap, do they ever get lost in this nonsensical nightmare. Plot the first is a Jack the Ripper-ish bloodbath in which Scotland Yard inspector John Kildare (Bill Nighy) investigates a string of grisly murders committed in a dark corner of London. The deeds are so heinous and gruesome that people believe that only a monster could have committed them.
Our Souls at Night
(USA, 103 min.)
Dir. Ritesh Batra, Writ. Scott Neustadter, Michael Webb
Starring: Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, Matthias Schoenaerts, Phyllis Somerville, Bruce Dern
|Jane Fonda and Robert Redford star in Our Souls at Night|
Our Souls at Night lets Netflix hit its stride with an original production that benefits from the smaller screens on which most audiences will see it. After the so-so Beasts of No Nation and the excellent First They Killed My Father, which really demand the grandeur of a theatrical screen for optimal effect, this sparse and delicately restrained adaptation of Kent Haruf’s equally simplistic posthumous novel fits the scale of the streaming site handsomely. It helps, too, that director Ritesh Batra (The Lunchbox) knows what prizes he has in veteran actors Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. A film like Our Souls at Night doesn’t need any dressings when the core of the film—its stars and its script—is so rich and substantial.
Don’t Talk to Irene
(Canada, 82 min.)
Written and directed by Pat Mills
Starring: Michelle McLeod, Bruce Gray, Anastasia Phillips, Scott Thompson, Geena Davis
|Michelle McLeod stars in Don't Talk to Irene|
Remember back in the 90s’ when Dishwalla sang about God being a woman? They must have been referring to Geena Davis. Not Thelma & Louise Geena Davis, mind you. A League of Her Own Geena Davis.
|Francois Girard's Hochelage, Land of Souls|
It's official! Canada is sending Francois Girard's Hochelaga, Land of Souls to the Oscars as its official submission in the race for Best Foreign Language Film. The decision was announced this afternoon by Telefilm Canada's Carolle Brabant via Livestream. Hochelaga was selected by the Pan-Canadian committee of representatives from across the Canadian film industry. Although chaired by Telefilm, the body itself does not get a vote in the submission.
|Nikita Diakur's Ugly is OIAF's top winner|
The Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF) has announced the winners for its 2017 edition of the festival. Germany's Nikita Diakur won the festival's top honour, the Nelvana Grand Prize for Independent Short Animation, for Ugly. This breathtaking film offers a deconstructed palette of pinks and blues to find beauty in a dystopian world. As the winner of the Grand Prize, Ugly is now eligible for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.
Battle of the Sexes
(USA, 121 min.)
Dir. Valerie Faris & Jonathan Dayton, Writ. Simon Beaufoy
Starring: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough, Sarah Silverman, Elisabeth Shue, Bill Pullman, Alan Cumming, Austin Stowell
It’s only a year after the mother of all showdowns in the battle of the sexes, but long before Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump threw mud on prime time television, a sportier grudge match hit the airwaves. It’s hard not to see the 1973 showdown between tennis champs Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs as a well-timed parable for Hillary and the Donald lobbing backhanded zingers in a rally between progressive sensibility and male chauvinism. Thankfully, the tennis match had a better outcome than the election did, but one can’t overlook how little things have changed in the 44 years since the game played on the court.
|Possible Canuck Oscar contenders are A Bag of Marbles, Hochelaga, Maligutit, Old Stone |
and Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves
The submissions for the Best Foreign Language Film race are trickling in! Canada announces its contender on Monday, September 25 and whatever film we send joins a growing field that already includes some formidable frontrunners. Cannes winners The Square (Sweden), Loveless (Russia) and 120 Beats Per Minute (France) are leading the pack, but don’t count out Berlin winner On Body and Soul (Hungary) and fall festival breakouts like Razzia (Morocco), A Fantastic Woman (Chile), and Angelina Jolie’s First They Killed My Father (Cambodia). Other submissions include Happy End (Austria), Racer and the Jailbird (Belgium), and The Fixer (Romania). With these and other submissions in place, what are the films that Canada might consider?
|Austin Abrams and Ben Stiller star in Brad's Status.|
“Uh, sure?” Austin Abrams laughs nervously.
“He said he told you that you could do whatever you want so long as you finished medical school.”
“That’s a joke,” the younger actor inserts before turning to the members of the press seated ’round the table. “They’re very supportive of what I’m doing.”
(Italy/Belgium/France, 95 min.)
Dir. Andrea Pallaoro, Writ. Andrea Pallaoro, Orlando Tirado
Starring: Charlotte Rampling
Programme: Contemporary World Cinema (North American Premiere)
|Courtesy of TIFF|
Charlotte Rampling gives a performance of devastating subtlety in Hannah. This masterful turn, which earned Ramping Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival, shows the veteran actress at the top of her game playing a woman whose life falls into a tailspin when her husband goes to prison. It’s useful to consider Hannah as a European companion piece to the American indie Who We Are Now starring Julianne Nicholson as an ex-con struggling to shake her past, which also played the festival. Both films are intimate character studies about the unshakable stigma that crime places upon the individual. Sins of the past and guilt by association are different crimes in each film, but both actresses give powerfully introspective performances as women desperate to save their lives from the burden of their crimes. Rampling, like Nicholson, gives one of the best performances of the year in a hidden gem worth finding.
|Sweet Country - My pick for 'Best of the Fest'|
TIFF might have scaled back its programming by 20-ish percent, but the Festival of Festivals still felt as big and loud as ever. The movies were good if one was willing to look for them, but anyone who complained about 2017 being an off-year for the programming didn’t stray beyond the Galas and Special Presentations or was too concerned about premiere status. There really were some hidden gems and discoveries. Out of the 50 feature films I saw before and during the festival, about 43 of them were good to great. A pretty good average, I think.
Who We Are Now
(USA, 95 min.)
Written and directed by Matthew Newton
Starring: Julianne Nicholson, Emma Roberts, Zachary Quito, Jimmy Smits
Programme: Special Presentations (World Premiere)
|Courtesy of TIFF|
Julianne Nicholson is always good, but nobody’s ever given her the chance to show her full potential. Nicholson is a reliable supporting player after turning in good work as, say, the tirelessly devoted Ivy alongside Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts in August: Osage County, the straight-laced skating coach in I, Tonya, and the connective tissue to family drama in Tully. The actress gets her first true lead role in the movies with Who We Are Now and she doesn’t skimp on the opportunity to inhabit her character as fully as she can. What a treat it is to see a character actor find a great a lead role and dive into it.
On Body and Soul
(Hungary, 116 min.)
Written and directed by Ildikó Enyedi
Starring: Alexandra Borbély, Géza Morcsányi, Réka Tenki
Programme: Contemporary World Cinema (North American Premiere)
|Courtesy of TIFF|
If a deer is your spirit animal, then On Body and Soul is the film for you. A pair of deer, one doe and one stag, steal the show from their human co-stars in this peculiar meditation on life and love. Pardon the pun, but it’s a film worth fawning over.