In Contention

We’re getting into the heart of awards season, and I’m forgetting which movies I’ve seen and which I haven’t. But I’ve (mostly) broken down my Top Ten for the year and I’m filing my TFCA ballot tonight, which will put an end to the constant deliberations and reprioritizing in my head. It’s been exhausting.

Meanwhile, here’s this week’s stuff!

All Governments Lie: Truth, Deception and the Spirit of I.F. Stone: Fred Peabody’s documentary examines the way the corporate media consistently fails to serve the public interest. Susan found it a little US-centric, but I thought that was the whole point.

Jackie: Natalie Portman plays the enigmatic First Lady in Pablo Larraín’s impressionistic biopic, which focuses on the window of time immediately after the assassination of JFK. Susan liked it a bit more than I did — Portman’s great, and so is Peter Sarsgaard as a grieving RFK, but the movie around them is a little mannered.

Lion: Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman do great things with thin material, and Glenn is willing to give Garth Davis’ inspirational true story a pass on the basis of its emotional impact … but I was too distracted by its mechanics to ever invest in the story. 

Miss Sloane: Jessica Chastain is terrific as a Washington lobbyist who shocks the system when she applies her remorseless tradecraft to a noble cause, but John Madden’s mediocre movie never rises to her level.

Office Christmas Party: All-star corporate mayhem, duuuuuude! It is what it is. Rad’s review will be online later today.

Sadie’s Last Days on Earth: Michael Seater’s YA dramedy has some good ideas and solid performances, and that’s enough to carry it over some of the rougher stuff.

Sugar Mountain: A hoax spins dangerously out of control in Richard Gray’s wintry thriller, opening for a run at the Kingsway with very little fanfare.

Tampopo: Juzo Itami’s  noodle Western returns in a new digital restoration, remains both insane and delightful — though perhaps not as daring as it was back in 1985.

That’s everything, I think. Now, back to my ballot. Keep an eye on the TFCA’s Twitter account Sunday afternoon for news of the awards!

Wind, Sand and Stars

Well, it finally happened. Someone picked Lawrence of Arabia for an episode of Someone Else’s Movie … and it was Raoul Bhaneja, who’s been in all sorts of stuff and this week appears in Miss Sloane.

The result is a very good conversation about one of my absolute favourite movies — and one of the very best films ever made — viewed through a personal and professional perspective that I think you’ll find really interesting. Although I guess I always think that.

You can get the  show by subscribing on  iTunesGoogle Play and Stitcher, or download it directly from the web; whatever feels most comfortable. This episode runs a little longer than most, but of course with a movie as expansive as Lawrence that’s kind of inevitable.

Welcome to the Party, Pals

Look, it’s been a godawful year by any measure, so tonight I’m demanding we all take an evening and have a good time.

Specifically, by coming down to The Royal for this month’s NOW’s Free Flick Monday extravaganza: John McTiernan’s Die Hard, the greatest action movie ever made and arguably the greatest Christmas movie ever made, too.

Doors at 6:30pm. Show starts at 7:30 pm. Free popcorn to the first 100 guests. Yippee-ki-yay, monkeyfudgers.

December Creeps In

other-halfThe weekend after American Thanksgiving tends to be pretty quiet, but smaller distributors are stepping up with some very strong films. Well, mostly.

Antibirth: I think Danny Perez’ weird-ass horror movie tries a little too hard to be weird-ass, but there are moments when Natasha Lyonne finds something really moving in the material. Also, if you see it stoned you’ll probably love it.

The Apology: Susan was a big booster of Tiffany Hsiung’s scathing exploration of Japan’s atrocious “comfort women” scandal at Hot Docs; now that it’s opening commercially, make sure you don’t miss it.

Lovesick: Winnipeg filmmaker Tyson Caron creates the strangest Trotsky reunion ever, with Jacob Tierney as a mopey artist still pining over his ex (Jessica Paré) even as she prepares to marry another man (Jay Baruchel). Bland and uninventive, but I will watch that cast do just about anything.

The Other Half: Tatiana Maslany and Tom Cullen are simply terrific in Joey Klein’s two-hander about broken people finding solace in one another. Also, Joey is this week’s SEMcast guest, so check that out too.

Theater of Life: Peter Svatek’s heartening documentary follows Massimo Bottura as he opens a soup kitchen in the middle of Milan’s 2015 world expo.

Things to Come: The other great Isabelle Huppert performance of the year is packaged in Mia Hansen-Love’s subtle drama about an aging academic facing a life changes. Fun fact: Huppert’s character is at least a decade older than the one she plays in Elle. No makeup required; she just does it.

There! Go see something!

A Friend in the Dark

This week’s episode of Someone Else’s Movie is a little on the grim side, as Joey Klein — writer-director of the powerful two-hander The Other Half — brings Josh Mond’s regrettably overlooked 2015 drama James White to the show.

It’s a serious movie, and the conversation is serious as well; we discuss movies about characters in crisis, the importance of going all the way with a story and the challenge of the white-people-problems subgenre. But it’s also about a movie we both found really moving.

You can find it at all the usual spots — iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher — or download it straight from the web. And please go see The Other Half when it opens theatrically in Toronto and Vancouver this Friday. It’s a movie that really benefits from the cinematic experience.

Trouble Man

Well, the big studio pictures may have opened Wednesday, but the indie distributors still respect the basic Friday release. Here’s what we’re getting:

Anatomy of Violence: Deepa Mehta explores the social and political context of the 2012 gang rape and murder of a young woman in Delhi. Susan liked it a lot more than I did — it’s interesting, in an actor’s-workshop sort of way, but nowhere near as powerful as Mehta clearly intends it to be.

Celtic Soul: Michael McNamara follows Jay Baruchel and Eion O’Callaghan to Ireland and Scotland to watch football, talk to people and investigate Baruchel’s ancestry. Slight, but awfully charming.

Manchester By the Sea: Kenneth Lonergan’s first film in a decade (yup, Margaret was shot in 2006) casts Casey Affleck and Kyle Chandler as brothers dealing with fatherhood and mortality. I will say no more, though Susan does.

Quebec: My Country, Mon Pays: If you missed John Walker’s very personal documentary — about Quebec’s struggle to define itself in the modern age — now is the perfect time to catch up to it.

Wait Till Helen Comes: This supernatural thriller — starring Maria Bello and Sophie Nelisse — opens in Toronto less than two weeks after premiering on Lifetime in the US. Which may explain why eOne didn’t bother with press screenings.

Enjoy the weekend. I’m stuffed, myself.

Bring on the Turkey

In this week’s NOW, I have some thoughts about the shocking irrelevance of Warren Beatty’s new movie, and take looks at the Regent Park and Blood in the Snow film festivals. There’s plenty of good stuff to be found in both.

And now, Kate and I are off to New York for the long weekend, because that’s our tradition and we’re not going to let some howling yam golem ruin it.

Happy Thanksgiving, America! Please don’t let it be your last.

Holidays Underway

marion-cotillard-brad-pitt-allied-zoom-baa720dc-1d30-4bc2-a6f3-e1a4a2e679ceIt’s American Thanksgiving tomorrow, and tradition dictates the studios roll out their holiday-weekend contenders today. And NOW is on top of them!

Allied: Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard do their best to bring Robert Zemeckis’ latest digital construction to life, wind up making it reasonably watchable … if never exactly gripping.

Bad Santa 2: I really did not like the first one, and a sequel thirteen years later seems utterly pointless. So we sent Phil instead. Poor Phil.

Moana: Disney’s latest animated adventure is a joyous, knowing embrace of the studio’s formula from John Musker and Ron Clements, who perfected it with The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. And Lin-Manuel Miranda delivers the best songs since Ashman and Menken.

Rules Don’t Apply: Warren Beatty’s first film in almost two decades is also the worst thing he’s ever done. Like, ever. Fox is obliged to make an Oscar push for this, but don’t fall for it. Please.

That’s it for today, but there’s more coming tomorrow. Stay tuned …

My other other gig.