Friday, December 31, 2010

10 Films to Look for in 2011

10 Films to Look for in 2011

While reflecting on all the films I saw in 2010, I came across several good films that still have not received wide distribution in North America. Here are ten films that you should keep an eye out for in theatres, or on DVD, in the 2011.

10) Crikus Columbia – After fleeing his country many years earlier due to communist rule, a man returns home with his new girlfriend and a fancy new German car. Needless to say, this does not sit well the man’s wife or his son who have been waiting patiently for his return.

9) Machete Maidens Unleashed – This humorous documentary explores how the likes of Roger Corman and other B-Movie/exploitation genre directors made some of their most outrageous movies in the cheap, but politically turbulent, Philippines. (Full review coming soon)

8) I Saw the Devil - Sure revenge flicks are becoming all too common in Korean cinema. Still, that should not stop you from seeing this bloody good film…and I do mean bloody.

7) Even the Rain – Gael García Bernal stars as a director who is determined to finish his film despite the unstable political climate of Cochabana, Bolivia. (Full review coming soon)

6) The Mountain Thief – A fictionalized story that documents a way of life that is all too real in the Philippines.

5) The High Cost of Living – Picture the love story from The Town but done ten times better. Zach Braff plays a drug dealer who falls for the pregnant woman he knocks down in a hit and run accident. (Full review coming soon)

4) Super – Let the debate begin over which average Joe superhero tale is better! For the record, I enjoyed this one far more than I did Kick-Ass.

3) Balada Triste de Trompeta (The Last Circus) – What happens when you take Tim Burton’s aesthetics and mix them with Quentin Tarantino’s flair for violence? The answer is this entertaining, and extremely dark, comedy about two competing clowns in love with the same woman. (Full review coming soon)

2) Rubber – Easily the best, and most bizarre, festival going experience I had in 2010. Who would have thought that a story about a killer tire could be such a smart commentary on the state of Hollywood movies and their audiences?

1) Beautiful Boy – Michael Sheen and Maria Bello are outstanding as a couple who must come to terms with their son committing a mass school shooting, and then taking his own life. Look for both Sheen and Bello to be in the mix at next winter’s award race.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Which is Better?

Which is Better?

70's Al Pacino


70's Dustin Hoffman

Which one do you prefer?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

TRON’s Legacy is a Forgettable One

TRON: Legacy

Despite my overall issues with the unoriginal plot, in my opinion Avatar has set the bar for 3D films. There have been very few 3D films; since Avatar’s release, that have managed to balance visual flair with a decent story. Most of the films have not even warranted the 3D treatment in the first place. Like several films released before it, Disney’s latest 3D adventure TRON: Legacy, boast impressive visuals but is ultimately undermined by the silly plot.

Set 20 years after the disappearance of Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), the innovative software engineer from the original film, Legacy focuses on how his son Sam (Garret Hedlund) struggles to cope with his father’s disappearance. Sam is now the head of his father’s company, but cares little about seeing it strive. One night Sam is informed about a message sent from his father’s abandoned arcade. In the arcade, Sam discovers a portal that sends him into a digital world known as The Grid. Formerly a place of endless possibilities, The Grid is now a cold world ruled by Clu (Jeff Bridges), a computerized clone of Flynn. Clu is determined to expand his empire into the real world but needs Flynn’s memory disk in order to succeed. Sam, along with the help of Quorra (Olivia Wilde), must race to get his father out of The Grid before Clu can bring his plans into fruition.

As I mentioned earlier, TRON: Legacy is truly a visual treat especially in IMAX. However, there were times when the lighting from the suits would create a blurry effect on the IMAX screens. This was minor blip in an otherwise great job from a technical standpoint. The rendering of Clu is one of the most realistic computer generated characters I have seen in quite a while. Clu’s facial expressions and movements felt more natural than the ones featured in films such as Beowulf and The Polar Express. Another sight to behold is the world of The Grid. The set designs and costumes provided an innovative futuristic look while still acknowledging the original TRON film. I particularly liked the brief moment where Sam steals his father’s famous motorcycle from the first film. It should also be noted that the score by Daft Punk, who make a cameo in the film, also helps to bring The Grid to life. While not the feverish dance beats usually associated with Daft Punk’s work, their minimalist approach for the film works perfectly with TRON: Legacy. 

Despite all of the elements in the film’s favour, TRON: Legacy stumbles in its plot which often feels like a hybrid of Batman Begins and Star Wars. There are events that occur in the film at random moments with no real logic at all. For example, Kevin’s Jedi-like powers only appear when it is convenient to advance the plot. Which leads to audience to question if Kevin had this ability all along then why did he not use it sooner? The film is so bogged down with filling the gaps between the original TRON and the new version that it is practically devoid of action. Minus the sequences at the beginning and end of the film, TRON: Legacy is actually a rather boring film. In many ways TRON: Legacy would have worked better as a television series. It would allow for better development of all the various plot points that the film sloppily tries to cram into two hours. Worst of all, the dialogue in the film is both predictable and laughably bad. This is most evident in the forced romantic moments between Sam and Quorra.

Since TRON: Legacy’s plot and dialogue are so weak, the actors try their best with the material they are given. Jeff Bridges is at his best in the film when he is playing Clu. He offers a nice break from the same yet-again-recycled Lebowski character, last seen in The Men Who Stares at Goats, which he brings to the role of Kevin. While Bridges has his moments, the real highlight from an acting standpoint is Michael Sheen. He brings much need energy to the film in his role of the shady Castor. Sheen is the only one who actually seems to be having fun in the picture. Not only that but he makes a strong case for himself playing The Riddler in a future Batman film.

Unfortunately both Sheen’s work and the stellar visuals cannot save TRON: Legacy from its ridiculous plot. No matter how far the technology has advanced, at the end of the day it is the plot that will separate the good films from the average ones.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 CAST Awards Announced

The Cinema Appreciation Society of Toronto (CAST), of which I am a part of, has complied their list of Top 25 films of 2010. Created by James McNally of Toronto Screen Shots, the group is made up of Toronto movie bloggers and cinephiles. Each member submitted a list of the Top 25 films they saw on a theatre screen somewhere in Toronto in 2010. This included films screened at various film festivals that may still not have received wide distribution. 224 films were nominated and the final ballot was eventually was cut down to a 100 films. The Top 25 films for the inaugural CAST awards, as well as a full introduction to the CAST awards can be found on the Toronto Screen Shots website.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sharing the Blogging Love: Bereavement Leave Edition

I will be boarding a plane this weekend to attend my grandmother’s funeral so there will be no new post on this site for about a week or so. Upon my return I will unveil my own lists of the best and worst films of 2010. Until then, I have designed a reading list to meet all your film related needs. 

Here is Your Reading Schedule for Next Week:

Anomalous Material
Between the Seats
The Simon and Jo Film Show
Action Flick Chick
Unflinching Eye
Life of a Cinephile and Bibliophile
Film Intel
Radiator Heaven
Work on you Natalie Portman submissions for The LAMB

Movie Moxie
Toronto Screen Shots
Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind
The Dark of the Matinee
Toronto J-film Pow Wow
Row Three
Toronto Film Scene
Black Sheep Reviews

The Final Girl Project
Scare Sarah
Silver Emulsion
The Movie 411
The Playlist
Film Forager
Barks on Film
Dan the Man’s Movie Reviews

You Talking to Me?
Encore’s World of Film & TV
Movies and Other Things...
Surrender to the Void
“Let’s Not Talk About Movies”
Random Ramblings of a Demented Doorknob
Movies Kick Ass Blog
A Life in Equinox: A Movie Lover’s Journal

Cut the Crap Movie Reviews
Bad Ronald
Cinema Viewfinder
Bonjour Tristesse
Ric’s Reviews
The List
Blog Cabins

Saturday (Christmas Day)
Spend time with your family.
Think of material for your next, or first ever, Pitch the LAMB submission.
Above the Line
The Angry Movie Lurker
His Eyes Were Watching Movies
Four of Them
Foolish Blatherings
Live For Films

Insight Into Entertainment
I’m in a Jess Franco State of Mind
The King Bulletin
Movie Mobsters
Moon in the Gutter
Kid in the Front Row
Buzz Turning
Porkhead’s Horror Review Hole

Repeat list as often as needed until my return. Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Winter’s Bone Chilling Code of Silence.

Winter’s Bone

Recently a co-worker and I were discussing the state of movies in 2010. My co-worker was commenting on what a poor year it has been for cinema. The summer box-office numbers were used as validation of this point. While I agree the summer movie season was less than desirable, I firmly believe that 2010 has been an excellent year for quality films. Far better than the last year’s crop of films. One of the films that really blew me away this year was Debra Granik’s latest film Winter’s Bone.

Set in a rural community where the local industry is brewing Crystal Meth, Winter’s Bone looks at the lengths to which a young girl will go to in order to keep her family together. Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) is a 17 year-old who must take care of her two younger siblings as well as her mother who is ill. Cash is tight, and food is slim, but somehow Ree manages to maintain a resemblance of a somewhat stable home. Unfortunately Ree’s hard work is about to go up in smoke when she learns that her father has put the house up as collateral for his bail. If he does not show up for his court hearing, the entire family will be homeless. Despite stern warnings from her father’s brother, Teardrop (John Hawkes), and others in the community Ree is determined to track down her father at all cost. Yet the more Ree inquires about her father’s whereabouts, the more danger she puts herself and her family in.

Winter’s Bone is not a flashy movie but its simplicity is what makes it so captivating. Setting the film in the confines of a small community allows the film to evoke an eerie tone that only amplifies the gripping script. The one thing that is immediately noticeable is how the area in which Ree lives has its own set of unwritten laws and hierarchy. These rules supersede anything that the government institutes. Even local officers, such as Sheriff Baskin (Garret Dillahun), know that they are mere pawns in the grand scheme of things.

This is a region where the men set the standards and the women are meant to follow obediently. Those who go against the code, regardless of age or sex, will be dealt with in a cruel manner. This is why Ree is such a fascinating character. Despite her youth, she carries the determination and wisdom of a woman far beyond her years. The independence that she has gained from having to raise her family has opened her eyes to the follies of the area in which she lives. Unlike most, Ree believes that family is more important than any code. This is a lesson that Teardrop and others in her family have forgotten.

Although the town in which Winter’s Bone takes place is run by men, it is women who make this film such a success. Whether it is Granik’s subtle nuances with her use of colour, or the way she interjects moments of calm (such as the musical birthday celebration) amongst all the grim tension. Granik is clearly a director who I am looking forward to seeing more from in the future. I also cannot forget the phenomenal performances from both Jennifer Lawrence and Dale Dickey. Jennifer Lawrence gives one of the best performances of the year in this film. She conveys a maturity and understanding of her craft few actresses show so earlier in their careers. Winter’s Bone lives and dies on the believability of Ree’s character, and Lawrence successfully rises to the challenge. While Dale Dickey only has a small role in the film, she manages to bring a complex mix of menacing anger and compassion to the role of Merab. Bounded by the code, Merab does not initially want to inflict pain on Ree, yet she will not hesitate for a minute if she is called to do so. Is Merab a villain or merely a victim of circumstance? This is the question that the audience will be wrestling with long after the screening is over.

Winter’s Bone is garnering a lot of notice on the award circuit and rightfully so. It is one of the best films you will see this year. While it may not have the flashiness of The Social Network, or the star power of Inception, it is a film that should not be missed. Go out and rent this film as soon as possible.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Town is Like Any Other Town

The Town

Can anyone name a member of the National Board of Review? Who are they? And why do so many film lovers, myself included, go into hysterics once they release their annual best of the year list? Despite not knowing who actually comprises the NBR, their annual best of list marks the official start of the three month long award season. Though I normally agree with their selections, there have been times when the NBR has unjustly raised my hopes for a film. Such was the case with the cops and robbers caper, The Town. As The Town made NBR’s top ten list this year, I was expecting the film to have something truly magical. That special moment which made The Town standout above the other 250 films that the NBR screened this year. Instead, The Town ended up being a standard crime film with a few well shot action sequences.

Set in the Charlestown section of Boston, notoriously known for the high percentage of criminals it produces, The Town follows a group of friends as they try to elude the FBI while going after one final score. Ring leader Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) is starting to tire of the criminal lifestyle. Although good at what he does, he knows that if he stays in Charlestown he will end up behind bars like his father, Stephen (Chris Cooper). Doug envisions a better life for himself after meeting Claire (Rebecca Hall), who happens to be the manager of a bank MacRay’s team has robbed. While Doug longs for a life outside of Charlestown, his best friend James (Jeremy Renner) wants the team to continue their streak of bank robberies. With FBI Agent Frawley (John Hamm) closing in on the gang, Doug must decide where is loyalties truly lie.

The Town is a decent, if not predictable, crime movie. What makes the film work for the most part are the performances from the cast. Not to mention the skilled direction of Ben Affleck. Affleck proved with his directorial debut, and vastly superior film, Gone Baby Gone, that he knows how to get strong performances out of his cast. I especially enjoyed the work of Pete Postlethwaite and Chris Cooper in their very brief cameos. I also like how Affleck orchestrates his action sequences. The heist scenes, particularly the one that evolves into a brilliant car chase scene with the gang evading the cops in a minivan. These are easily the most tenses moments in the entire film.

So why did this film not “wow” me the way it did the NBR? I just could not get past its predictability. Not to mention that The Town has too many loose ends which are never fully realized. The two most interesting aspects of the story are Doug’s relationship with his father, and the father’s past with Fergus (Postlethwaite). Unfortunately we only get a small snippet of the father/son arc. The audience must rely on Fergus to shed further light into Stephen’s defeated state. Yet Fergus is introduced far too late in the picture. The Town spends so much time building up both the love story and the Doug/Agent Frawley angle that the sudden appearance of Fergus towards the end seems rather out of place. Either introduce Fergus sooner, and cut down on the pointless Krista (Blake Lively) plotline, or leave both him and Stephan out of the picture completely.

As heist films go, The Town is enjoyable as it often feels like a lighter version of Michael Mann’s Heat. The film works best if you temper your expectations. If you go in expecting anything more you will be greatly disappointed. Many are calling The Town one of the year’s best films, but it is ultimately nothing more than a competent crime film that may keep you entertained for a few hours. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Another Light Blows Out

I recently received news that my grandmother has passed away. While she lived a full life, her death is another reminder of how important family is in our lives. So instead of dissecting the latest blockbuster, or debating the latest award nominations, I think I am just going to take time to reflect today. I might pop in Old School, Dr. Strangelove, or Amelie as they always bring a smile to my face when I am feeling down. So my question for you this week is:

Which films do you watch when you need a feel good pick me up?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Movie Marketing Monday

Kill the Irishman

Ray Stevenson as the Irishman who just will not die! This mafia flick looks to be influenced more by seventies exploitation films than it is by the Godfather, Goodfellas, etc. Kill the Irishman gets bonus points in my books for the hilarious moustache that Stevenson is rocking in this film.


So after two films this year featured talking owls, Hollywood has moved on to macaws. Sadly pigeons continue to get the shaft. Keep the hope alive Goodfeathers, your day will come.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sharing the Blogging Love

Wondering what bloggers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading Schedule for Today:

10 am: Episode 193 of Row Three’s Cinecast show is now up.

11 am: Trevor explores the evolution of the Tron franchise .

12 pm: Rick takes a second helping of Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige and comes away with a different outlook on the film.

1 pm: Branden managed to find a flick that is comparable to Chinese water torture

2 pm: Technically Catherine’s post on the top 20 movie posters of 2010 was released last week, but somehow I forgot to include in the previous edition of this column.

3 pm: Emma reviews Screamers as part of a Philip K. Dick blogathon.

4 pm: Dylan highlights the top five wordless gags from The Big Lebowski.

5 pm: Scare Sarah looks at what lurks behind The Quatermass Experiment.

6 pm: Aiden feels that I Love You Phillip Morris is one of the funniest films of the year.

Thursday, December 09, 2010



I had an awful case of insomnia last night, hence the shorter than usual post today. Normally, when I have problems sleeping, there is usually some cheesy flick on television that helps me get back to sleep (e.g. House of Wax, 12 Rounds, etc). Unfortunately there was no such movie last night. Still, this got me wondering:

Which movies have put you to sleep in recent years?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Free Japanese Film Screenings at the Bloor Cinema, December 9 – 12

“Free” and “Screening” are the two sweetest words to a film lovers ears. For all the folks in Toronto, here is a wonderful chance to experience a little Japanese cinema absolutely free! The fun starts tomorrow night.

The Japan Foundation’s annual free film festival at the Bloor Cinema gives Canadians the opportunity to see critically-acclaimed, contemporary Japanese films that have not received a wide release in North America.

Ranging from The Battery, a youth baseball drama from Academy Award-winner Yojiro Takita (winner, Best Foreign Language Film in 2009 for Departures) to courtroom drama I Just Didn’t Do It, the heartwarming smash hit Always-Sunset on 3rd Street, and the surreal, darkly comic Memories of Matsuko, this festival offers a diverse sampling of Japanese popular cinema.

All films are screened in Japanese with English subtitles.

Thursday, December 9, 6:30 pm

I Just Didn’t Do It (Soredemo boku wa yattenai)
Dir. Masayuki Suo (Shall We Dance) 2006, 143 min, 14A
Starring: Ryo Kase, Asaka Seto, Kôji Yakusho
11 Japanese Academy Award nominations, 3 wins
Entry for Foreign Film Oscar

A young man, Teppei Kaneko, has been accused of groping a woman on a crowded train in Tokyo. He is arrested and forced to sign a false confession. If he chooses to fight the charges, he will be held for three weeks just for the investigation. If he is prosecuted, the case will take up to a year in court. An indictment of Japan’s troublingly labyrinthine legal system, in which defendants are often coerced into signing confessions and criminal cases go on for years, this film was Japan’s official 2007 submission for Best Foreign Language Film for the Academy Awards

Friday, December 10, 6:30 pm

Memories of Matsuko (Kiraware Matsuko no issho)
Dir. Tetsuya Nakashima (Kamikaze Girls) 2006, 130 min, 14A
Starring: Miki Nakatani , Eita, Yûsuke Iseya, Mikako Ichikawa
9 Japanese Academy Award nominations, 3 wins (Best Actress, Editing, Score)

While cleaning up the apartment of his deceased aunt Matsuko, Sho Kawajiri encounters many people and things that make him think about her strange, sad and, according to his father, meaningless life. Director Nakashima has created a visually stunning and colorful world filled with music and dance. However, this is not the utopia that musicals usually promise. Instead, Nakashima pursues the themes that he has often explored in his earlier films: the need, in a tragic and disappointing world, to dream, and the problems that such dreams can create

Saturday, December 11, 6:30 pm

Always- Sunset on Third St. (Always san-chome no yuhi)
Dir. Takashi Yamazaki, 2005, 133 min, PG
Starring: Hidetaka Yoshioka, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Koyuki
14 JAA nominations, 12 wins

The year is 1958. The government had declared in 1955 that the “postwar” period is over and Japan is starting a period of tremendous growth. Tokyo Tower is being built as a symbol of a recovered Japan, and not far from it, in the working-class area called shitamachi, people are trying their best to improve their lives. Based on a comic by Saigan Ryohei that began publication in 1974, Always rode the wave of a nostalgia boom for 1950s Japan and became a box-office hit.

Sunday, December 12, 4:00 pm

The Battery (Batteri)
Dir. Yojiro Takita (Departures) 2007, 118 min, PG
Starring: Kento Hayashi, Misako Renbutsu, Kenta Yamada, Akihiro Yarita

Takumi is a star pitcher of a junior baseball team, but his younger brother Seiha’s illness forces the family to go live with their grandfather. His grandfather, a legendary coach, refuses to teach Takumi how to pitch a curve ball, so Takumi trains by himself at a local shrine, where he is befriended by other baseball players. However, Takumi’s arrogance threatens his relationships with friends and family, as well as his promising baseball career. Director Yojiro Takita was the first Japanese director to win the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, for 2008’s Departures.

All screenings are at the Bloor Cinema , 506 Bloor St. W., Toronto (Nearest TTC Station: Bathurst)
Free admission
No reservations required
Inquiries: or (416) 966-1600 x230

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

In Tyler We Trust?

In Tyler We Trust?

Over the weekend, after watching I Can Do Bad All by Myself, my sister-in-law remarked that “Tyler Perry is always one step away from making a really good movie” to which I countered that it is more like two or three steps…and that is being generous. Still I could see what she was trying to get at. Every one of his films has the potential to be great, yet Perry’s knack for over stating the obvious does him in every single time. Truth be told, I have yet to see a Tyler Perry directed movie that I have liked. Despite this I think Hollywood needs more directors like Perry.

Now you may be wondering why would I want more Tyler Perry’s in the film industry when I cannot stand the one we current have? This is a question I have struggled with myself on several occasions. Unfortunately the answer is not that simple. On one hand I am constantly annoyed by the same formula that occurs in the majority of his films. There is always a woman who is in relationship with a man that the entire world can see is bad. How bad is he? Well Perry usually makes him an adulterer, wife beater, rapist, drunk, or some combination of these traits. The woman is often the victim until she realizes her self-worth and fights back. Usually this realization is achieved through the aide of a good looking blue collar guy who the woman cannot stand at first but eventually falls in love with. Also, let’s not forget there is always the influence of a few spiritual gurus.

As overdone as this formula is, Tyler Perry’s films consistently make a huge profit at the box-office. Perry continues to taps into a market that Hollywood routinely, and foolishly, neglects…the African-American female demographic. Tyler Perry is one of the few, I would even argue, the only, commercial male director working today who places African-American women at the forefront of his film. If you look at the current crop of actors and actresses headlining movies nowadays, how many lead black actresses can you name besides Halle Berry? Angela Bassett? She has not headlined a major film in years. How about Kerry Washington? Zoe Saldana? Taraji P. Henson? Thandie Newton? All of whom are talented actresses but can you name a major non-animated film that they were the lead in? It is far easier to list off the numerous films that featured the likes of Charlize Theron, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston, and even newcomers like Carey Mulligan in the lead. Most of, if not all of, there films play to large audiences worldwide.

African-American actresses, heck actresses in general, have gotten the short end of the stick for years in the film industry. This is why we need more guys like Tyler Perry in Hollywood. Directors who are interested in telling stories that not only feature African-American actresses in prominent roles; but are accessible to all demographics. Preferably ones who are far better filmmakers than Perry, but you get the point. This is by no means a plea for affirmative action in film, it is merely an observation as to why Tyler Perry is able to turn out films faster than Woody Allen these days.

When watching a Tyler Perry film, I am constantly reminded about how the first Sex and the City movie was underestimated by the Hollywood pundits. Once that film made a huge splash at the box-office, Hollywood was more than happy to fast track films and television shows that appealed to the modern single woman. The same can be said for the whole Twilight phenomenon. Now studios are itching to find the next big thing that teenage girls will go crazy for. Yet the large number of women who are pouring billions into Tyler Perry’s pockets are still being underserved by Hollywood. Why is this? Love him or hate him, Tyler Perry is the only one who has tapped into a lucrative market that few directors have even considered to touch.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Movie Marketing Monday

The Beaver

Try to put aside Mel’s personal issues for a moment. In any other year, a film starring Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster and Anton Yelchin would be one that most people would be itching to see.

Frankie and Alice

Halle Berry is one of those actresses that need the right director to help them maximize their full potential. So far it looks like she might have found one with Frankie and Alice.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Sharing the Blogging Love

Lebron James returned to Cleveland last night, but that was not the only thing bloggers have been chatting about this week...

Here is Your Reading Schedule for Today:

10 am: Since the first one was such a huge success, Castor has decided to start up another round of the Hollywood Fantasy Draft. Be sure to sign up today.

11 am: James reviews Landscape No. 2, which he recently saw at the European Film Festival.

12 pm: Simon & Jo are divided over Biutiful. They explain why in their podcast.

1 pm: Jose takes a look at Winter Bone, a film high on my “to see” list.

2 pm: Matte Havoc highlights the Live Action Short Film Candidates for the 2011 Oscars.

3 pm: Bob sees an odd commonality between the films ”Antichrist” and “Heartbeats”.

4 pm: Andrew looks at who may be fighting for the best supporting actor award at the upcoming Oscars.

5 pm: Tony reviews Black Swan.

6 pm: Kai has an interesting article on why going to the movies suck.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World An Unfair Fight

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Hyped by diehard fans of the comics, heralded by critics, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a film that many expected to be a huge box-office hit. Yet upon release Pilgrim was considered a “bomb” by Hollywood analyst as the film barely cracked the top five. Many critics, marketing insiders, and blogger are still scratching their heads wondering where it all went wrong! The answer is actually clear if you really look at the film objectively. Scott Pilgrim, in its current incarnation, is too much of a niche film. It does not have, nor will it ever have the crossover appeal to hit it big with mainstream audiences.

Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a musician in his twenties that has had a rather large “love them and leave them” track record with ladies. Scott is dating Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), a girl who is still in high school. Things between Scott and Knives seemingly go well until Scott meets a delivery girl, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstad), who takes his breath away. Convinced that Ramona is his soul mate, Scott sets out to win her over while trying to figure out how to break it off with Knives. Scott’s life is further complicated when he discovers that he will need to defeat her seven evil exes (including Jason Schwartzman, Brandon Routh, Chris Evans, Keita Saito, and Shota Saito) in order to have a normal life with Ramona.

As I mentioned earlier, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is really made for fans of the comic. Though this does not mean you have to run out and get the books before seeing the movie. I was thoroughly entertained by the film despite having not read the series. Its fast paced energy and hilarious pop culture references made this film one of the more pleasant surprises of the year. However, it must be noted that the kinetic pacing of the film will not appeal to everyone.

The film intentionally plays out like a video game on crack. At times the film is almost too self-aware for its own good. There are jokes in the film that require multiple viewings before you catch all the references. For example, Broken Social Scene’s bittersweet song “Anthem for a Seventeen Year-old Girl” plays in the background while a broken-hearted Knives plots revenge; or when Scott enters his apartment, ala Kramer from Seinfeld, to a brief sound of an audience laugh track.

While the film features a plethora of talented young actors in supporting role (including Anna Kendrick, Kieran Culkin, Alison Pill and Mark Webber), and some inspired cameos (Thomas Jane, Clifton Collins Jr.), the real star of the film is director Edgar Wright. Through Scott Pilgrim Wright succeeds in doing what the Wachowski siblings failed to with Speed Racer, and that is to make a truly engaging live action Manga style film. Pilgrim, at times, is an overload to the senses. There are so many visual treats that you will spend half of the film figuring out how Wright achieved all the different nuances.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a film that will please fans of the source material and, in my case, cause a whole new group of folks to seek out the comics. Sure the film will not appeal to the masses, but that is fine. Those who “get” the film will be treated to an immensely entertaining ride that you will want to take multiple times. 

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Expendables Always Fired First

The Expendables

There was a time back in the 1980s when action movies where mainly about the action. There was very little social commentary; there were no “scrawny” everyman thrusted into a tough situation, etc. The action starts of the 80’s were buff men, and women, who would shoot first and ask questions later. Sure many of the films where packed with mindless violence, but they still provided a level of escapist fare that audience craved. It was a time when things were clear cut, the good guys were good and the bad guy ended up dead. It is this testosterone filled era that Sylvester Stallone wants to recapture in his film The Expendables.

Directed by Stallone, The Expendables (Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Randy Couture, Dolph Lundgren, and Terry Crews) are a group of elite mercenaries who are hired to assassinate a corrupt military General, Gaza (David Zayas). While doing recon for the mission Barney Ross (Stallone) and Lee Christmas (Statham) happen upon the general’s daughter, Sandra (Giselle Itié), who is involved in the rebel movement to overthrow her father. At first, Barney and Lee do not want to get involved with the political issues of the South American country. Yet when the American, James Munroe (Eric Roberts), funding General Gaza’s coup abducts Sandra, Barney and the rest of The Expendables attempt a rescue mission that they might just cost them their lives. 

Featuring an abundance of new and former action starts, The Expendables is a film that delivers on the testosterone. The picture features enough explosions and fight scenes to entertain even the most casual of action fans. This is thanks in part to two well choreographed fight sequences. The first is the David versus Goliath battle between Li and Lundgren. While the other is the all out brawl between Stallone and Steve Austin’s aptly named character Paine. Still, even with these action-packed moments it is tough not to leave the film a bit disappointed.

The primary reason for this is that the overall balance of power is uneven. All of the “big name” action stars are all on one team. The only villains capable of matching them, from a physical standpoint, are Steve Austin and, to a lesser extent, Gary Daniels. Eric Roberts and David Zayas are merely there to bring a little credibility to the film’s acting credentials. While it is widely known that Jean Claude Van Damme turned down a role in the film, there are still a slew of other action starts that could have filled out the villain side nicely. Guys like Billy Blanks, Sammo Hung, and Steven Segal, etc. Frankly they could have made Mickey Rouke a villain as his character really does not do much in the film.

The increased muscle on the villain side would have saved the film, and audiences, from having to endure the Austin/Couture fight scene. Randy Couture has no scene presence in his battle with Steve Austin. It is not only dull, but it also takes the shine off of the fun Stallone/Austin encounter that happens ten minutes earlier. It is not even like this type of film can be redeemed by its acting. The performances are subpar, but what else would you expect from this type of film? The only character that really stood out was Dolph Lundgren’s Gunner Jensen. Lundgren brings the right mix of testosterone and over-the-top acting to keep the first half of the film moving. Although The Expendables barely achieves its goal of being a mindless action flick, I am hoping Stallone makes a sequel to this film. The Expendables really need fight villains their own size in order for the film to truly be the action extravaganza Stallone wants it to be.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Kids Are All Right So Stop Asking

The Kids Are All Right

As a newlywed the one question I always get is “so how is married life treating you?” To which I usually respond “good so far, just taking it one day at a time.” The latter part of my response always seems to evoke a peculiar look from the person who initially asked the question. I guess they expect me to be wearing the same rose colour glasses that many wear just after the “big day”. Yet that has never been my style, I have always taken a more realistic approach to relationships. I am fully aware that relationships take a lot to maintain and it only gets harder as the years go by.

It is this understanding that makes Lisa Cholodenko’s film, The Kids Are All Right, flow so well. Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore) have been in a committed relationship for 18 years. Living with their two teenage children, Joni (Mia Wasikowska) Laser (Josh Hutcherson), the couple appear to have the perfect life. The cracks in their relationships only begin to surface when their kids decide to seek out their biological father, Paul (Mark Ruffalo). The presence of Paul comes as a huge shock to Nic and Jules, and forces them to re-evaluate the dynamics of their relationship.

The Kids Are All Right examines how easily people fall into particular roles in relationships. These roles often become a prison of sorts as they inadvertently serve as the thing that defines them most in their relationships. Nic has always been the assertive one in the union. She is the bread winner who strives for excellence. These traits have been passed down to Joni, who Nic gave birth to. Jules on the other hand is the free spirit who never follows through with things. Her passions are often fleeting which makes it hard to for Nic to truly get behind Jules’ latest plan to start a landscaping business.

In many ways, Paul represents the sides of Nic and Jules that they have lost during their lengthy relationship. Paul has managed to turn his lack of formal education into a successful restaurant business, while still maintaining that passion for the finer things in life. In Paul’s case this includes music, wine and women. This is why Nic and Jules find themselves in such a tailspin around Paul. Jules sees everything she fell in love with about Nic in Paul. Paul also serves as a reminder to Nic of what her life was before everything became so serious.

Although there are several levels at play, Cholodenko’s film is able to express them all well through her wonderfully written script. While Bening, Moore, and Ruffalo will receive praise for their great performances, and rightfully so, it is the screenplay that makes this film a must-see in my opinion. Similar to her work in both High Art and Laural Canyon, Lisa Cholodenko has a way with words that is not appreciated the way it should be. There is rarely a moment where the plot or the situation feels forced. There are many moments in The Kids Are All Right where you can identify with the elements of their relationships. The excellent script coupled with the great performances allows The Kids Are All Right to standout above other recent films that have tried to show just how complicated relationships really are.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Movie Marketing Monday

Cars 2

Behind A Bug’s Life, Cars was my second least favourite of the Pixar canon of films. Cars 2 on the other hand looks like it might actually be a vast improvement on its predecessor. I really like the James Bond angle of the trailer. Sure the spy stuff was already done in The Incredibles, but hopefully Cars 2 will bring something new to the genre.

The Mechanic

I like that Ben Foster is in this film. Foster is one of the best young actors working today in my opinion. Plus, Jason Statham has proven many times that he can deliver on the action front.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sharing the Blogging Love

Wondering what bloggers have been chatting about this week?

Here is Your Reading Schedule for Today:

10 am: The 11th episode of Milfcast (the Man, I Love Film podcast) is now up.

11 am: Ripley shares her thoughts on Save the Green Planet.

12 pm: Unflinching Eye takes a moment to remember horror icon Ingrid Pitt who passed away this week.

1 pm: Rory recommends Down to the Bone, a Vera Farmiga film that somehow passed me by.

2 pm: Angie and Chantale suffer from catatonic woman déjà vu.

3 pm: While I am not a huge fan of Tony Scott’s films, Mike’s praise of Unstoppable has me intrigued about Scott’s latest adrenaline rush.

4 pm: Jump_Raven looks at The Cook The Thief His Wife & Her Lover, a cinematic gem in my opinion.

5 pm: French Toast Sunday lists The Top 10 Films That Made Them Cry

6 pm: The Evening Class highlights an interesting sounding documentary called Marwencol.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Here's the Pitch...

Here's the Pitch...

Depending on your personal view, giving a verbal six minute presentation can either be excruciatingly long, or ridiculously quick. This is what crossed my mind while observing the So You Think You Can Pitch competition at the Reel Asian Film Festival last week. Although the competition was designed to provide filmmakers a chance to garner funding for their next project, it also severed as a great way for industry folks to meet the filmmakers and do a little networking. As the event was open to the public as well I could not pass up the opportunity to observe a real life pitch session.

As much as I may occasionally crumble about having to produce online content on days when I have been put through the wringer at work, the life of a blogger is ridiculously easy compared to the life of a filmmaker. For all the criticism, commentary, and debates, movie bloggers have, at the end of the day, we are just talking about the end product of someone else’s journey. It is always easier to critique than it is to actually create. This is one of the reasons why I found the pitch competition so intriguing.

With only two cash prizes available, and a total of five filmmakers competing, it was not enough to just have a good film idea, but also to ensure that the jury and the live audience had the exact same movie playing in their heads. By time the pitch sessions ended the crowd was abuzz about which two film each person wanted to win. What made the two winners standout to the most in the eyes of the jury? To be honest, it all came down to the little things. Below are the simple things that I observed which anyone who is seriously thinking about pitching a film idea needs to do:

1. Know Your Story.
Regardless of whether you wrote the script, are an actor in the film, or are serving as a producer, ensure you know the story well enough that you can recite the plot in your sleep. Sounds simple I know. Yet when it comes to public speaking, or presenting in a meeting setting, nerves often tend to make people rely heavily on notes. There was a pitch in which the story, which focused on a struggling Asian actress, was interesting but the director’s reliance on his cuecards ended up be rather distracting.

2. Have Something Physically Ready To Submit.
Concept is nice in theory, but at the end of the day it often comes down to the script. Even if you do not have a full script ready be sure to have enough pages, including a detailed outline, to give the reader a good sense of both the plot and tone of the film. 

3. Visual Aids: Nice Touch.
One of the winning pitches was a documentary about the how English and Spanish colonialism led to the demises of the sugarcane industry in a particular section of the Philippines. As the director shared her vision for the film, her director of photography displayed images of the region in question on the screen. This helped to give gravity to the overall tone of the film. The same can be said for the animated film pitch about two inner city girls playing with their imaginary friend. As the story unfolds it is revealed that the imaginary friend is really the chalk outline of their dead friend. The two creators had rough sketches, and 3D scales, of both the characters and the playground environment.

4. Visual Aids: Nice But Not Needed.
Before you start scratching your head and referring back to the previous point, let me explain. While visual aids help to get your message across, they can also hurt you. One of the common traps many of the filmmakers fell into was simply regurgitating what was being shown on the screen.

5. What is the Cost?
This could easily be in the number two slot as money is always at the bottom line. Although every filmmaker had to submit a budget estimate, the jury was quick to raise the point that some of the filmmaker’s visions seem larger than budget. Investors always want the biggest return on the smallest investments so it is important to always be on the search for additional funding. This is why it is important to ensure that you apply for as many of the local grants, that most cities allot to the Arts, as possible. Local funding is a great help for first-time filmmakers, the interesting this is that most people do not realize that these type of grants even exist. 

6. Who Are You Pissing Off?
This is more in regards to the folks who are making documentaries, especially ones in foreign countries, who may need permission to film in particular areas. Sure you can try and go the guerrilla filmmaking route, but it is tough to finish your film while you are sitting in prison.

7. What Will Your Film Look Like?
Will you use minimal tones of Soderbergh? Or will your film be glossy similar to Spielberg? While you may consider this a minor detail, it is important to remember that we live in a world obsessed with comparison. Sometimes people need to associate your vision with something they are somewhat familiar with.

While the pitch session is merely one of the early stages in the overall filmmaking process, it is an important one that can derail an entire project. As a result, it needs to be taken as seriously as the other elements in filmmaking.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Terror Not So Chilling

The Terror

The Terror is a film that promises thrills and chills but in reality its only real selling point is that it features horror icon Boris Karloff. Yet even fans of Karloff will find little to cheer about in this schlock fest of a film. Instead of instilling fear, The Terror offers up unintentional laughs and a plot twist that are silly even by Roger Corman standards.

Set in the 18th Century a young French lieutenant in Napoleon’s army, Andre Duvalier (Jack Nicholson), gets separated from his regiment. While searching for his troops Andre encounters a beautiful woman, Helene (Sandra Knight), who he watches walk into the sea and disappear. Andre attempt to go after the woman but is overcome by the rough tide. When Andre awakes in the home of an old woman, Katrina (Dorothy Neumann), he is told that Helene is merely a figment of his imagination. Believing that what he saw was real, Andre is determined to find Helene at all costs. Andre eventually receives a tip that the answers he seeks are within the walls of a castle owned by the reclusive Baron Von Leppe (Boris Karloff). Andre uses his army clout to get inside the castle, yet he soon realizes that the truth he seeks is far more terrifying than he could ever imagine.

The Terror relies heavily on the audience suspending their disbelief on pretty much every single aspect of the film. It is hard to believe that Andre would be so infatuated with Helene based on one mere encounter. Especially in regards to the lengths at which he goes about finding information is just ridiculous. He uses his status in Napoleon’s army as a means of doing whatever he wants in the Baron’s home.

The problem with giving Andre so much free reign is that it takes away from other character development. This film is suppose to be the Boris Karloff show, but he does nothing more than mourn a former love for the majority of the film. The fact that the Baron is so underdeveloped hinders Andre’s character as well. Jack Nicholson is essentially asked to carry the film yet he plays everything so straight. Nicholson does not even attempt to somewhat try and make himself seem French. In his scenes with Karloff, it is clear that Nicholson does not want to upstage Karloff at all; which results in their scenes together being rather uneventful.

Even the campy Roger Corman horror and action sequences were not enough to raise this film up to a mild recommendation. The opening credits are the most chills that Corman offers until you reach the final couple of frames. While the ending “scare” is good, it is not worth sitting through the entire movie for. Frankly Corman, Karloff, and Nicholson have all done better work than The Terror.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The American Retirement Plan In Italy To Die For

The American

I have noticed a fair bit of George Clooney backlash on the internet over the past year. I am not sure what the root of it is as Clooney has developed into a really good actor within the last ten years. Instead of opting for the easy paycheck, George Clooney has been rather consistent in selecting works that are both challenging and layered. A perfect example of this can be found in his work in Anton Corbijn’s The American.

In the film George Clooney plays Jack, an American assassin who specializes in weapons making. After his latest assignment goes horribly wrong, Jack informs his liaison, Pavel (Johan Leysen), that he plans to retire after his next mission. Jack’s final assignment takes him to the Italian countryside where he is commissioned to build a light sniper rifle for a client, Mathilde (Thelka Reuten). While in Italy, Jack befriends a local priest (Paolo Bonacelli) and begins a romance with a local prostitute, Clara (Violante Placido). Jack also discovers that someone has placed a bounty on his head. As Jack tries to figure out who is out to get him, he is forced to consider the possibility that it could be an old enemy or one of his new acquaintances. 

The American unfolds at a slow measured pace for which even the big action moments are treated with soft subtle tone. While the pacing will annoy some viewers, The American is a film that rewards viewers for their patience. Director Anton Corbijn shows how easily the paranoia can build in Jack’s line of work. This leads to several tense moments where even the simplest conversations, such as the ones Jack has with Clara, take on a whole other meaning for Jack. Corbijn’s film implies that, even in retirement, Jack will never truly be at rest.

George Clooney does a terrific job of conveying Jack’s weariness. After years of killing and living a solitary life, Jack is no longer as sharp as he once was. The passion for companionship has taking over his passion for the kill. Jack’s greatest weakness is his love of women. Despite the events that occurred with his last relationship, Jack still falls into the same trappings with Clara.

While engaging, the Jack and Clara romantic arc is rather predictable. In fact, this is the biggest flaw with The American on the whole. The film has a level of predictability that is hard to ignore. Still, like the stylish films of the seventies which serve as Anton Corbijn’s inspiration, even though the ride maybe familiar you still enjoy taking it nonetheless. The American is one of the better film to hit theatres this year.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Movie Marketing Monday

Your Highness

If Dungeons and Dragons had a baby with Robin Hood: Men in Tights the result would be this film.

Source Code

What would you do if you only had 8 minutes to live?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dear Doctor, The Drugs Don’t Work

Dear Doctor

The surprising thing about Dear Doctor is how subtle and effective its overall impact is. It is a film that leads you in one direction only to reveal itself as something else completely.

Dear Doctor focuses on a police investigation surrounding the disappearance of Dr. Osamu Ino (Tsurube Shofukutei). Loved by the residents of the rural village in which he worked and admired by his colleagues, nurse Akemi Otake (Kimiko Yo) and medical intern Keisuke Soma (Eita), Dr. Ino seem to have it all. Yet as the police dig deeper, it becomes apparent that Dr. Ino may not be the man he appears to be. As questions begin to arise about Dr. Ino’s disappearance, so do questions surrounding his treatment of patients, especially widower Torikai-san (Kaoru Yachigusa).

At first, Dear Doctor takes the tone of a light-hearted rural comedy. The story initially appears to be about Keisuke adapting to the rural way of life and Dr. Ino’s slightly unorthodox methods. Yet director Miwa Nishikawa slowly peels away the layers to reveal a rather complex tale that questions whether there is such thing as an honourable lie? Nishikawa also ponders to what extent has modern medical care failed its patients?

Despite his questionable background and ethics, Dr. Osamu Ino is still viewed as a savior by many of the villagers. In many ways, the fact that Dr. Ino’s treated his patient like human beings had a far more lasting impact than the quick assessments that most people receive in the city. The patients were more than just a number to Osamu and this is evident in his tender scenes with Torikai-san.

The relationship between Osamu and Torikai-san allows the film to provide food for thought for both sides of the debate. On one hand, you have the cops’ point of view in regards to ethical lines being crossed. The officers are constantly trying to remind Torikai-san that a crime has been committed. Yet Torikai-san is never fully willing to believe this. In her eyes, sometimes it is alright to break the rules if you truly care about someone.

Dear Doctor is a film which offers much fodder for discussion. My only real complaint with the film is that Miwa Nishikawa drags out the ending a bit too long. At times it feels like the film has four different endings, three of which are unnecessary. Still, Dear Doctor is a film that shows just how blurred the lines between right and wrong can be.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

One Big Hapa Family A Large Animated Bunch

One Big Hapa Family

The question of identity is one that everyone encounters in some form or another in their lifetime. Depending on your ethnicity, this may be a topic that you have to confront on a daily basis. Even in a multicultural country like Canada, the question of “what are you?” is one that pops up more often than people are willing to admit. The inherent need to associate people with categories is a topic explored in Jeff Chiba Stearns wonderful documentary, One Big Hapa Family.

Jeff Chiba Stearns, the product of an interracial marriage between his Japanese mother and white Canadian father, noticed at a fairly recent family reunion that everyone in his large family was of mixed race. Having had problems answering the question “what are you?” for most of his life, Jeff decided to explore why such a high percentage of Japanese Canadians marry outside of their race.

What starts out as a search to understand his own identity leads to the discovery of some startling facts that date back to the Second World War. Streans looks back to a time when Canada was not so accepting of other cultures as it appears to be now. The war brought out the worst in Canada in regards to racism toward people of Japanese ancestry. It even created a divide between the “hometown Japanese”, who were barely accepted by the communities they lived in for years, and the “coastal Japanese” who were seen as the villains of the war.

Stearns research shows that the need to assimilate with the white Canadians opened up the door to interracial marriages. Part of the appeal had to do with the offspring of these unions, the future generations would look whiter and would not have to deal with the same level of racism that their parents endured. Stearns’ documentary examines how these views have shifted over the years. He also looks at how the younger generations now, more than ever, want to identify with their Japanese roots.

While a well researched and constructed film, the element that really makes this film special is its use of animation. Stearns, an animator by profession, enlisted a slew of animators to give the film its unique look. Every artist received a different segment of the film to work on and designed it in the style they preferred. The film is really a visual treat to watch. One of the highlights is the chalkboard sequence that Stearns himself creates. It serves as a great way to digest all the historical information is woven into the film.

Uplifting without being preachy, One Big Hapa Family reaffirms it is the ones we love who truly define us and not our individual ethnicities. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Toilet Key to Cleansing the System


The problem with family is that you cannot choose them; you have to deal with the hand that life deals you. Japanese director Naoko Ogigami explores this theme in her comedy about a dysfunctional family trying to bridge cultural and generational gaps.

After the death of his mother, Ray (Alex House) finds himself back in the family home with anxiety stricken brother, Maury (David Rendall) and his judgmental sister, Lisa (Tatiana Mazurani). If trying to live with each other was not stressful enough, the siblings also have to adjust to sharing the house with their baa-chan (aka. Grandmother) who they hardly know. To complicate matters baa-chan (Masako Motai) does not speak a word of English, and often lets out a heavy sigh whenever she leaves the washroom. Ray’s desire to get away from his family, and his concerns of whether baa-chan is actually related to them, leads to a discovery that will ultimately alter his perception regarding the importance of family.

Judging by how packed the theatre was at the screening, Toilet was one of the most anticipated films at the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival. I think this was due to the fact that the comedy, and themes, in the film have broad appeal. The story in Toilet is one that is common in dysfunctional family films, I would even go as far to say that the plot is rather predictable. Yet, that does not mean Toilet is not worth seeing. In fact Toilet, while not groundbreaking, tells its story very well. The script is extremely well written and the quirky humour never misses a beat. 

The cast is the real hidden gem of this film. They help to ensure that, despite their individual quirks, the audience is always able to identify with the characters. I was really impressed with the performances of the three leads and their chemistry with the non-English speaking Motai. It is easy to forget that they are actors and not a real family, which is always a wonderful thing to achieve in film. Even supporting characters such as Ray’s co-worker Agni (Gabe Grey) and Lisa’s love interest Billy (Steven Yaffee) make an impact in their brief time on screen.

Naoko Ogigami also deserves much praise for highlighting the subtle beauty of the streets of Toronto. While the film does not overtly show its Toronto roots, as the film is suppose to takes place in an unnamed US city, it is nice to see the Toronto landscape captured in such a unique way. The acting coupled with Ogigami’s experienced direction really makes Toilet a feel good crowd-pleaser which is something we all need every now and then.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Reel Asian Announces Audience Award Winner

The Reel Asian Film Festival announced the winner of the Reel Asian Audience Award today. Here is the full list of award winners:


All feature films at the festival were eligible for this prize. The favourite feature film was chosen by the audience by secret ballot. ($500 cash prize)

The Reel Asian Audience Award goes to Naoko Ogigami for TOILET.

An independent jury comprised of distinguished members of the media arts community selected this year’s award winners. The Features Jury consisted of Jari Osborne, Marina Di Pancrazio, Darcy Murphy.

All feature works were eligible for this prize. ($1,000 cash prize)

"This story of a beloved country doctor disguises itself as a gentle comedy before revealing itself as a provocative argument for the morality of an honorable lie." – Jari Osborne

The Astral’s Harold Greenberg Fund Best Feature Film Award goes to Miwa Nishikawa for DEAR DOCTOR (Japan, 2009)

The Shorts Jury consisted of Randall Okita, Paul Wong, and Mishann Lau.

All Canadian works were eligible for this prize. ($2,500 production budget prize towards the development of winner's next project)

“The award goes out to an extraordinary work that combines home-movies, history and first person accounts. it is a journey of self-discovery that includes the voices of 4 generations of a Canadian family. Written, directed and edited by the filmmaker, he has taken the particular and has made it universal in both form and content.” – Paul Wong

The NFB Best Canadian Award goes to Jeff Chiba Stearns for ONE BIG HAPA FAMILY

All films made by female GTA-based artists were eligible for this prize. ($1,200 programming pass, one-year membership and mentorship from WIFT-T and $1,000 rental credit at Videoscope.)

“This award goes to a feminist story that takes the viewer on an emotional and honest journey in which the filmmaker confronts her motherʼs veiled past.” ¬– Mishann Lau¬

THE WIFT-T AWARD goes to Jane Kim for SEEING THROUGH THE SPIDERʼS WEB (Canada, 2009)

All videos made by GTA-based artists are eligible for this prize. ($650 in TSV membership dues and services, $100 cash prize upon completion of new work made at Trinity Square Video.)

“This award goes to an important, timely work that freshly illuminated historical, political and personal struggles and brought a brilliant combination of research and innovation into the process of reclaiming our history.” ¬ – Randall Okita

The TSV Visionary award goes to Lesley Loksi Chan for REDRESS REMIX (Canada, 2010)

All animated films and videos were eligible for this prize. The award was innitiated by director/animator Ann Marie Fleming, and is continues to grow as animators and animation lovers across the country make contributions to the growth and future of the award. ($500 cash prize)

“Combining multiple techniques, this filmmakerʼs first film has a strong and original approach both technically and conceptually, tackling a complex issue with the lightness of freshly fallen Snow.” – Mishann Lau

The ANIMASION AWARD goes to Su-An Ng for NATURE ON ITʼS COURSE (Canada, 2009)

All films made by GTA-based artists were eligible for this prize. ($280 in LIFT membership dues and services, $500 credit towards LIFT equipment and facility rentals, workshops and courses, 5 rolls of Fuji 16mm film.)

“This award goes to a wonderfully rendered love letter to familial sacrifice and the struggle of new Canadian families.” – Randall Okita

The LIFT and Fuji best film award goes to Gloria Kim for THE AUCTION

All short films are eligible. ($300 cash prize and opportunity for broadcast on Movieola.)

“The award goes to a crash-bang distillation of pop genres. It is a seamless mash-up of live-action, drama, anime and manga that tells a classic story of revenge and poetic justice in which violence is deftly handled.” – Paul Wong

The Movieola Best Short Award goes to director Sol Friedman for JUNKOʼS SHAMISEN


This year’s pitch competition was a public event hosted by local artist Keith Cole. An audience of over 100 watched as 7 teams competed for more than $28,000 in services from Charles Street Video. The winners were chosen by the panel of jurors: Nobu Adilman, Eileen Arandiga, and Lila Karim.

The award winners receive $1,500 (cash), and a $5,000 production package from Charles Street Video (equivalent to $18,000 at industry rental rates).

The Pitch Professional Artist Award goes to Tricia Lee (Director), Ryan Reaney (Producer) for SEARCHING FOR WONDER

Synopsis: When a 12-year-old child prodigy, who lives in an adult world, discovers magic, he experiences a feeling of wonder which he has never felt before and goes on a journey to find what is missing in his life.

The award winners receive $1,500 (cash), and a $3,000 production package from Charles Street Video (equivalent to $10,000 at Industry rental rates).

The Pitch EMERGING ARTIST AWARD goes to Shahrzad Nakhai (Producer/Director) for SUGAR BOWL

Sypnosis: Sugar Bowl is a poetic portrayal of Negros Island, Philippines. Through a chorus of voices we hear the tragic story of its sugar cane industry through eras of Spanish and American colonization. Sugar Bowl crafts an eerie story of people living in the past and struggling to keep things as they once were.