All posts by Norm Wilner

Norman Wilner is a film critic who lives in Toronto.

Love and Other Underwater Delights

This is the Toronto Film Critics Association’s voting weekend, so I’ve been gorging on awards contenders between meeting various deadlines. It’s been a rough week.

Yes, I know, I could actually have to work for a living. But I’m still exhausted. What’s opening today, you wonder?

Chavela: Five years after her death, Catherine Gund and Daresha Kyi give Chavela Vargas — whom they consider the Edith Piaf of Mexico — her artistic due with this affectionate documentary. Susan loved it.

Darkest Hour: Gary Oldman’s naturalistic take on Churchill is pretty great, and stands in stark contrast to Joe Wright’s overweening bombast. So that’s nice.

Dim the Fluorescents: I’ve been campaigning for Daniel Warth’s idiosyncratic mash-up of workplace comedy and psychodrama — starring Claire Armstrong and Naomi Skwarna as codependent corporate seminartists — since I saw it a year ago. Now you can find out why.

The Other Side of Hope: I’m guessing some critics will hold the warm familarity of Aki Kaurismaki’s latest movie against him, and yeah, it’s pretty much just Le Havre again. But it’s a message worth repeating, you know?

Pyewacket: An angry teenager impulsively curses her mother — and damns them both — in Adam Macdonald’s slow-burn horror movie. And yeah, it stumbles at the finish line, but Nicole Munoz is still terrific as the troubled lead.

The Shape of Water: Guillermo Del Toro’s swooning monster movie was one of my favorite movies at TIFF; a few months later, I’m calling it one of the year’s best. Why? Just go see it.

Wonder Wheel: Don’t look at me, I reviewed the last Woody Allen picture. And Susan has no time for this one.

Also, I took a look at the Jayu Human Rights film festival, which takes over the Hot Docs Cinema this weekend because why not cram one more festival into the calendar before the holidays.

At Last, Completion

I’ve been looking forward to releasing this week’s episode of Someone Else’s Movie for quite some time now; Claire Armstrong recorded it early last winter, the same week as Daniel Warth and Naomi Skwarna, and that was fifty episodes ago, before they took Dim the Fluorescents to its world premiere at the Slamdance Film Festival, where it won a richly deserved audience award.

(The film finally opens in Toronto this Friday, and you should go see it; it’s great.)

The other reason I’ve been itching to release this episode is that Claire picked Never Let Me Go, Mark Romanek’s deceptively placid drama in which Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield (among others, as you’ll notice in the photo) play lifelong friends raised for a purpose they must never fully understand. It’s a mood piece that’s as chilling as it is heartbreaking, and we get into that from any number of angles. Give it a listen, but only after you’ve seen the movie. Spoilers abound, obviously.

Subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play or Stitcher, or download this week’s episode directly from the web. And if you’re feeling supportive and want to leave a review up on the podfetcher of your choice … well, that would be very much appreciated.

Christmas On My Terms

It’s the first Monday of December, and you know what that means: Time for another NOW Free Flick at The Royal!

Tonight we’re offering The Night Before, a charming, chaotic Christmas pub crawl that reunites Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt with their 50/50 director Jonathan Levine and throws in  Anthony Mackie, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, Lizzy Caplan, Mindy Kaling, Nathan Fielder, James Franco and Michael goddamn Shannon for good measure.

It’s a delight! Come join us! Here’s my NOW review in case you need further convincing. You should still be able to book a ticket at NOW’s event page, but if that’s closed you can take your chances and just come down to The Royal when the doors open at 6:30 pm.

The first hundred guests get free popcorn, I take the stage at 7:30 pm with the usual trivia questions and good-natured babble, and everybody gets a free movie. See you there? ‘Tis the season, after all.

Oh Hai, December

You know how the week after Thanksgiving usually means there’s not much going on, movie-wise? Well, somebody decided 2017 was going to be different, and the result is a great selection of proper cinema … and another WolfCop movie.

Another WolfCop: Hey, remember that cheesy retro action movie that came out a few years ago? Well, here’s the sequel! As much as I enjoyed the action-horror wave of the ’80s, I just don’t see the point of slavish re-creations that don’t inform or comment on the original. Neither does Rad, as it turns out.

Big Time: Paging all Bjorke Ingels fans! The architectural superstar is the subject of a new documentary from Kaspar Astrup Schroder, and good for both of them. Glenn found it slow but charming.

The Disaster Artist: Speaking of re-creations that do inform and comment on the original, James Franco’s hall-of-mirrors Hollywood comedy offers a novel perspective on the making of one of the worst movies of all time, and a number of terrific performances (including his own). Stay for the end credits, ha ha haaaa.

Radius: Diego Klattenhoff plays an amnesiac who wakes up after an accident to discover that anyone who comes within fifty feet of him drops dead … until one woman (Charlotte Sullivan) doesn’t. Neat idea, huh? Well, about that …

Suck It Up: Jordan Canning follows her debut feature We Were Wolves with another small, focused film about grief and self-examination, this one featuring great work from Erin Carter and Grace Glowicki. You should see it! It’s very good!

Sweet Virginia: Jamie M. Dagg’s second feature trades the breathlessness of River for a more considered study of people on a collision course with one another in a small Alaska town. And Jon Bernthal is better in this than he is in The Punisher, so there.

Wexford PlazaRad appreciates the authenticity of Joyce Wong’s Scarborough-set first feature, even if it never quite got beyond that for him.

And that’s everything! Isn’t that nice? Go see Suck It Up or The Disaster Artist, they’re both really good. You’re welcome.

Oh Hai, Cover Story

So James Franco’s The Disaster Artist is finally opening, and my oral history about its production is the cover story in this week’s NOW.

This was one of the weirdest and most ambitious things I’ve ever pitched to the paper — and, perhaps not surprisingly, a lot of work to pull together — and guess what, I’m really happy with how it came out.

So, to borrow a phrase from that Tommy guy, go read it and have a fun. And then go see The Disaster Artist, which is so much better than it might have been. And maybe also listen to Jason Connery’s episode of Someone Else’s Movie where we talked about The Room; we had a fun there, too.

Milestones are Meaningless

… well, not entirely meaningless, since Someone Else’s Movie drops its 150th episode today, not even two and a half years after its launch. That’s several entire days of listening content dropped into people’s ear-holes! Nuts, right?

Well, this week’s episode is the shortest one I’ve yet released, thanks to the seat-of-the-pants nature of grabbing Paul Scheer during his TIFF stop for The Disaster Artist (which opens Friday, and more about that real soon).

But you know what they say about quality and quantity, and Paul was all in for Bowfinger, Steve Martin and Frank Oz’ charming — and almost forgotten — 1999 satire about Hollywood hangers-on, guerilla cinema and, um, Scientology. It’s a quick listen, but a sharp one. Do check it out.

You can download the episode straight from the web, but it’d be really appreciated if you subscribed to the show on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play or Stitcher. It would help the show immensely, which is something I need now that some jerk from Atlanta is stealing my concept (and my guests) and doing a terrible job of it.

Please and thank you? C’mon. You get 150 episodes of content, most of which are pretty great if I do say so myself.


I am posting this from Manhattan, where I lhave briefly roused myself from my food coma after last night’s magnificent dinner at The Dutch. Every family has its holiday traditions, and ours is to eat turkey made by a dear friend in SoHo. It is a good tradition.

Aaanyway. It’s Friday, movies are opening, here you go.

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story: She dazzled Hollywood and helped invent WiFi. Talk about a life well lived. No room for a review, but you should absolutely check this out while it’s at the Hot Docs Cinema this weekend.

The Breadwinner: Nora Twomey’s animated drama — produced by Angelina Jolie and based on a novel by Deborah Ellis — has been accruing raves since TIFF. Rad loved it then, and loves it still.

Last Flag Flying: Richard Linklater, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne and Steve Carell revisit The Last Detail, sort of. It’s an interesting experiment that never quite manages to become its own thing.

The Man Who Invented Christmas: Did you know Charles Dickens wrote his classic tale of Yuletide redemption in a kind of fugue state, interacting with the characters and generally being twinkly? Me neither, but that’s how you get Dan Stevens’ Dickens and Christopher Plummer’s Scrooge in the same frame. Rad was not enchanted.

You’re Soaking in It: Scott Harper’s look at the history of mass-media advertising — and its insidious future — is a little on the superficial side. But hey, it’s short. Just like advertising!

Okay, you’re set. Go see Coco. I have to lie down again.