Skip to content

Nominations for the 95th Academy Awards

January 24, 2023

By John Corrado

The nominations for the 95th Academy Awards were announced this morning, with A24’s beloved Everything Everywhere All at Once – which maxed out with a total of eleven nominations – leading the charge. The Best Picture lineup is rounded out by All Quiet on the Western Front, Avatar: The Way of Water, The Banshees of Inisherin, Elvis, Everything Everywhere All at Once, The Fabelmans, TÁR, Top Gun: Maverick, Triangle of Sadness, and Women Talking.

From Top Gun: Maverick in Adapted Screenplay and Ruben Östlund (Triangle of Sadness) in Director, to Judd Hirsch (The Fabelmans) and Brian Tyree Henry (Causeway) in Supporting Actor and Andrea Riseborough (To Leslie) in Best Actress, this was kind of a wild morning in terms of both surprises and snubs.

Both Danielle Deadwyler (Till) and Viola Davis (The Woman King) missing in Best Actress is pretty shocking, since I really thought at least one would get in. Riseborough making the cut instead for the little seen indie film To Leslie has to be the biggest surprise of the morning, and will forever change awards campaigning, with the actress getting in off of a grassroots last minute push from her industry pals that included hosting screenings and posting on social media.

This is also the first year since 1934 that the Best Actor lineup is made up entirely of first time nominees, including Austin Butler (Elvis), Colin Farrell (The Banshees of Inisherin), Brendan Fraser (The Whale) and Bill Nighy (Living), with the fifth slot going to Irish actor Paul Mescal, on a much deserved lone nomination for critic’s darling Aftersun. It’s one heck of a good lineup.

Park Chan-wook’s Decision to Leave was notably and undeservedly snubbed in International Film. I’m also genuinely shocked that Top Gun: Maverick didn’t get in Cinematography, but it is cool to see both Bardo and TÁR recognized in that category. Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale missing Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay is not great, though I am very pleased that Fraser (my own personal frontrunner) and Hong Chau both got nominated.

It’s genuinely cool to see box office smash Top Gun: Maverick as a Best Picture nominee, and I think it’s safe to say that Everything Everywhere All at Once is now officially the Best Picture frontrunner (if it wasn’t already). The film got in basically everywhere it needed to, including four acting nominees (with an all but guaranteed Supporting Actor winner in Ke Huy Quan) as well as surprising in Score and Song, maxing out with the most nominations of any film today. So, yeah, it feels like the one to beat, and will honestly be a pretty cool winner.

The winners will be announced on March 12th at 8PM. The full list of nominees is below. Read more…

#Sundance2023 Review: Iron Butterflies

January 23, 2023

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

Directed by Ukrainian filmmaker Roman Liubiy, Iron Butterflies is a documentary that sets itself up as an investigation into the downing of Malaysian airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, which was accidentally shot down by a Russian anti-aircraft missile in 2014, killing all 298 people on board. But Liubiy’s film unfolds more as a somewhat experimental video essay culled together from a variety of sources.

Named for the butterfly-shaped piece of shrapnel that got lodged in the pilot’s body, Iron Butterflies unfolds through a mix of different multimedia sequences, including old military propaganda videos being shown on reels of film, news clips from Russian television offering changing reports, intercepted audio from Russian soldiers, and scenes of Dutch investigators piecing together the strewn debris of the plane to create a 3D model. They are somewhat loosely connected together by more abstract moments, such as a child’s hands playing with bits of iron shrapnel, and staged musical and interpretive dance performances in Ukrainian fields that are presented in black-and-white.

The Russian forces responsible for downing MH17 subsequently covered up their involvement and never faced prosecution for what amounted to a war crime, with the film ending in tribute to the victims. The material itself is important (especially with the ongoing war in Ukraine), and there are some interesting moments including personal testimonies, but the film as a whole is a bit too expressionistic and lacking in overall focus to offer a ton in the way of new insight. But if you are looking for more of an art project than a standard investigative documentary, you’ll probably find something of value here.

The 2023 Sundance Film Festival runs from January 19th to 29th in Park City, Utah, with in-person and online screenings. More information on tickets and showtimes can be found right here.

#Sundance2023 Review: Slow

January 22, 2023

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Slow, a very good drama from Lithuanian writer-director Marija Kavtaradze, begins with what feels like it could be a classic meet-cute. Elena (Greta Grineviciute) is a contemporary dancer hopping between sexual partners, and Dovydas (Kestutis Cicenas) is a sign language interpreter. They meet when she is teaching a class for Deaf teens, and he comes to translate. The two start spending more time together, and Elena expresses interest in him to her friends. But she is naturally promiscuous, and he soon informs her that he is asexual.

While Dovydas explains to her that he doesn’t desire people sexually, he is still interested in having a relationship, and they tentatively start to pursue one. What works so well about Slow is that Kavtaradze allows the relationship between Elena and Dovydas to develop naturally and believably. The film unfolds as a classic romantic drama, but the character’s asexuality adds an interesting texture to it, as the two try to find a balance between their individual desires that allows them to be together. The totally naturalistic performances by Grineviciute and Cicenas keep us fully engaged.

The two leads share chemistry and tension together, a tender, deftly handled balance that is further complimented by the softness of the film’s 16mm cinematography. While Slow is largely presented from Elena’s perspective, Dovydas’s sexuality is handled in a respectful way, and not as something that he can or should change. At heart, Slow is mainly a film about what constitutes a “normal” relationship, and it’s both refreshing and interesting to see a romantic drama explored from this angle, as Kavtaradze builds to an emotionally resonant ending.

The 2023 Sundance Film Festival runs from January 19th to 29th in Park City, Utah, with in-person and online screenings. More information on tickets and showtimes can be found right here.

#Sundance2023 Review: When It Melts

January 21, 2023

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

The directorial debut of Belgian actress Veerle Baetens (The Broken Circle Breakdown), When It Melts is an adaptation of author Lize Spit’s book Het Smelt that explores childhood trauma through the eyes of a young woman finally confronting her past. Beatens takes an unflinching and provocative approach to bringing the challenging material to the screen, with mostly engaging but also somewhat mixed results.

Eva (played by Charlotte De Bruyne) is a young woman in Belgium who is still struggling to move past the events of the summer when she was thirteen and things spiralled out of control. The film starts with her loading a big block of ice into the back of her car, and driving back to her hometown. We then switch back and forth between present day scenes and flashbacks to that fateful summer, slowly revealing how Eva (played as a child by Rosa Marchant) got sucked into playing an ongoing and highly inappropriate game with her male friends involving local girls and a hard to solve riddle.

With the block of ice as metaphor, When It Melts is somewhat of a slow-burn. It unfolds as a very dark mix of coming-of-age drama that has elements of a revenge thriller, with a bit of a central mystery to it. The film does have a pretty good hook, and Baetens (who also co-wrote the adapted screenplay) does a decent job of keeping us engaged for a good chunk of the running time as more details are revealed and the sense of dread ratchets up. But the bleakness of the material, and the uncompromising depiction of some genuinely disturbing moments involving children, makes it an incredibly tough film to watch.

While in this case depiction very obviously does not equal endorsement, When It Melts also makes the cardinal mistake of showing too much, with one gruelling flashback scene in particular that goes on way longer than it needs to. It was filmed with a therapist on set, but still borders on feeling exploitative. The film features good performances, with Marchant especially leaving her mark in a difficult role, and has a decent sense of tension running through it. But this is an emotionally draining exploration of childhood trauma that also feels like it tips a balance after a certain point and never quite comes back from it, as hard to shake as parts of it are.

The 2023 Sundance Film Festival runs from January 19th to 29th in Park City, Utah, with in-person and online screenings. More information on tickets and showtimes can be found right here.

#Sundance2023 Review: The Amazing Maurice

January 21, 2023

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

A madcap reimagining of the Pied Piper story centred around a swindler cat and his band of talking rats, the European animated film The Amazing Maurice – playing in the Kids section at Sundance – serves as a colourful and often amusing adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s award-winning 2001 book The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents.

Maurice (voiced by High Laurie) is an intelligent orange cat who runs a grift involving a group of (very cute) magical talking rats who go around pretending to infest villages, so they will pay his human friend Keith (Himesh Patel) to play the role of pied piper and lead them out of town. But they get more than they bargained for when they stumble upon a town completely devoid of rats, where all of the food has been mysteriously disappearing. It’s here that they meet Malicia (Emilia Clarke), a story-obsessed girl who also serves as the film’s narrator, breaking the fourth wall to talk about narrative structure.

The hyperactive pace and budget animation make this one seem geared more towards kids, but there’s also a clever, meta bent to The Amazing Maurice that keeps it fairly enjoyable to watch for older viewers as well. The screenplay by Terry Rossio (one of the writers on Shrek) also has some more subversive elements that feel true to Pratchett’s work, such as the rats being guided by their quasi-religious belief in the Beatrix Potter-like stories of Mr. Bunsy, promising an island paradise where animals live side by side with humans and there are no traps or poisons.

The result is a wacky adventure that is cheerfully all over the place, deconstructing storytelling tropes and borrowing from a variety of fairy tales one moment, and confronting death the next (including run-ins with the Grim Squeeker). It’s an entertaining fractured fairy tale that is brought to life through some lively and appealing voice work, including strong turns from David Thewlis, Gemma Arterton and David Tennant as some of the main rodents.

The 2023 Sundance Film Festival runs from January 19th to 29th in Park City, Utah, with in-person and online screenings. More information on tickets and showtimes can be found right here.

New This Week (01/20/2023): Living, The Son, Saint Omer, & More!

January 20, 2023

By John Corrado

New releases for the week of January 20th, 2023.

Theatrical Releases:

Living (Limited Release): A remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 classic Ikiru starring Bill Nighy and written by novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, Living is a really lovely and beautifully crafted old school drama that works to compliment the original. It’s a tender and deeply emotional film that is especially worth seeing for the wonderful, remarkably poignant work of Nighy, who seems poised to receive his first ever Oscar nomination for it next week. (Full Review)

The Son (Limited Release): Writer-director Florian Zeller’s much anticipated follow up to his Oscar-winning 2020 film The Father, The Son was sadly one of the most disappointing films to come out of last year’s TIFF. Hugh Jackman (whose early Oscar buzz has precipitously faded into oblivion) stars as a New York businessman who agrees to take in his troubled son (Zen McGrath). The result is a melodrama about teenage depression that falls surprisingly flat with its bland, soapy execution, and is a major step down from Zeller’s absolutely stellar The Father. (TIFF 2022 Review)

Saint Omer (TIFF Bell Lightbox): Documentary filmmaker Alice Diop’s narrative debut Saint Omer, a French legal drama and France’s official International Feature Oscar submission, didn’t really work for me despite the acclaim it has largely received. The film, which was inspired by a real 2016 court case, centres around a novelist (Kayije Kagame) who is watching the trial of a young mother (Guslagie Malanda) accused of killing her own daughter. Diop’s direction feels far too sterile and detached for a true story about a mother on trial for infanticide, and the performances are understated to the point of feeling flat. (Full Review)

More Releases: Missing (Wide), You People (Limited), Turn Every Page: The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb (Limited), Ever Deadly (Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema), Make Me Famous (Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema)

Streaming Releases:

Idina Menzel: Which Way to the Stage? (Disney+): This documentary from director Anne McCabe follows singer, Tony Award-winning Broadway performer and Frozen star Idina Menzel as she goes on a sixteen show national tour, and prepares to realize her dream of performing at New York’s Madison Square Garden. A good choice on Disney Plus.

More Releases: Mission Majnu (Netflix)

Review: Saint Omer

January 20, 2023

By John Corrado

★★ (out of 4)

The narrative feature debut of documentary filmmaker Alice Diop, Saint Omer (France’s official Oscar submission for Best International Feature) is an extremely understated and slow-moving legal drama that unfolds almost entirely within a French courtroom.

The film centres around Rama (Kayije Kagame), a professor and novelist who travels from Paris to Saint-Omer to watch the trial of Laurence Coly (Guslagie Malanda), a Senegalese immigrant who is accused of murdering her fifteen-month-old daughter by leaving the child on the beach to be swept away by the rising tide.

Rama is there because she plans to write a novel about the case, by turning it into a modern retelling of Medea. But questions remain as to why a mother would do such a heinous thing, something that Rama is trying to understand. Laurence speaks calmly on the stand and openly admits to her crime, though also appears paranoid and claims that evil spirits and curses were at work.

The film is based on a real court case that Diop watched unfold; that of Fabienne Kabou, who was convicted in 2016 of killing her daughter, and the screenplay draws from actual court transcripts. This knowledge lands an uncomfortable quality to the extremely detached style with which it is presented on screen. The courtroom scenes are stripped of emotion to the point that we start to wonder if the film is trying to present a sympathetic reason for Laurence’s crime due to her stated feelings of isolation as an African immigrant and new mother.

Diop’s film is a courtroom drama in the literal sense. Structurally, it basically unfolds through a series of overly drawn out extended scenes in court as Laurence is cross-examined on the stand. In this way, Diop takes an almost documentary-like approach to her fiction debut. But these blandly framed, mostly static shots of the trial don’t always make for compelling drama, and often feel overly stagey. Diop’s direction in general feels far too sterile and detached for a true story about a mother on trial for infanticide, and the performances themselves are understated to the point of feeling flat.

There are connecting scenes showing Rama, a Black woman who is pregnant herself, trying to process the proceedings outside the courtroom alone in her hotel, including flashbacks to her own mother. But Rama feels somewhat underdeveloped as a character, a vague stand-in for the director who is mostly shown blankly watching the trial. A prologue, including part of one of her lectures, barely fleshes out her character.

Malanda’s performance is cold, her monotone line deliveries flat and precise. Diop doesn’t so much grapple with the shocking nature of Laurence’s crime, but instead tries to prop her up as a dark mirror for motherhood and the immigrant experience. The trouble is that the nature of her crime – and the fact that the film is rooted in a real case – makes it hard to sympathize with her. The film is meant to become a study in body language, but the performances are too withdrawn to read much into them.

The unusually staid cinematography by Claire Mathon (Spencer, Portrait of a Lady on Fire) keeps us at a respectful distance, with the film’s sparse visual style adding to the overall coldness. We are meant to simply observe the proceedings, and it’s an approach that will work better for some, but I found Saint Omer a bit too ambiguous, and the film’s inherent narrative and moral vagueness keeps it from fully connecting as a deeper character study. It leaves us only with the uncomfortable question of whether Diop intends for us to sympathize with a mother who killed her own child.

Saint Omer is now playing in limited release at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto.

Review: Living

January 19, 2023

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

Bill Nighy’s performance in Living, a remarkably tender remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 film Ikiru written by novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, is a thing of quiet beauty. Nighy stars as Mr. Williams, a worker drone in 1950s London whose job as a civil servant at the public works department has consumed much of his life.

When Williams, a widower somewhat estranged from his adult son (Barney Fishwick), receives a terminal cancer diagnosis and six months to live, he decides to spend his remaining time living the life he never pursued. The film balances this perspective through the eyes of a young man, Peter Wakeling (Alex Sharp), who has just started working in the department, and is left to interpret Williams’ changes in temperament and demeanour.

Ishiguro, who is already recognized as one of our finest novelists from The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go to his most recent book Klara and the Sun, does a beautiful job of adapting Kurosawa’s original screenplay. While this is technically a remake of Ikiru, Living is also a new interpretation of the material that makes some changes while leaving the core structure and themes intact in a way that compliments the original.

The film is directed by Oliver Hermanus, who previously made the very good South African military drama Moffie, and he has gone to great lengths to craft a film that embodies its time period, including newsreel footage of London in the 1950s to first bring us into this world. Sandy Powell’s authentic, lived in costumes showcase the business attire of the era, while Jamie Ramsay’s cinematography finds stately compositions within the boxy aspect ratio that highlight the performances. It’s all complimented by composer Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch’s lovely musical score.

What makes Living so moving to watch is the way that Nighy captures the feeling of waking up from having sleepwalked through much of your life, and trying to make the most of whatever time you have left. There is a great tenderness to his presence here, especially in scenes that he shares with Aimee Lou Wood, who gives a wonderfully sensitive performance as younger co-worker Margaret, who becomes both friend and confidante. Tom Burke, best known for The Souvenir, also impresses in his few scenes as a drunken playwright who shows Mr. Williams how to have a night on the town, a sequence that ends with a moment of remarkable pathos involving singing in a bar.

This is a story about finding meaning in the simple act of living, and there is a wonderful, elegiac quality to the entire film in its quiet but grand portrayal of a character recognizing wasted opportunity and the things that finally wake him up to it. This is a remake that works thanks to Hermanus’ artfully restrained direction and Ishiguro’s sharp, powerful writing, coupled with Nighy’s wonderful, remarkably poignant performance. The result is a really lovely and beautifully crafted old school drama that offers a profound emotional impact by the end.

Living opens in limited release on January 20th. It’s being distributed in Canada by Mongrel Media.

4K Ultra HD Review: Cloverfield: 15th Anniversary – Limited Edition SteelBook

January 18, 2023

By John Corrado

It’s been fifteen years since director Matt Reeves and producer J.J. Abrams first unleashed their found footage monster movie Cloverfield in theatres on January 18th, 2008. Paramount is honouring the milestone by re-releasing the film on 4K Ultra HD this week, in a very nice new limited edition SteelBook set.

The film centres around a group of friends having a going away party who end up capturing first-hand footage of Manhattan coming under attack by a gigantic monster, as they try desperately to flee a ravaged New York City.

Steeped in post-9/11 allegories, Reeves’ debut film serves as an entertaining thriller that uses its shaky camerawork and narrow focus to enhance the chaotic, anxiety-inducing feeling of living through a hellish event. Watching it again now, Cloverfield both feels like a product of its time and has held up pretty well as a solid Godzilla tribute that packs a lot into a short, effectively tense little package (it’s under eighty minutes to credits).

The film’s digital camerawork holds up surprisingly well in 4K, offering an image that is surprisingly clear and sharp considering the source. The SteelBook set also boasts terrific new artwork (which the press release touts as “reviewed and approved by both Abrams and Reeves”), with a plastic slipcover featuring a camera lens design on the front that slips off to reveal a full view of the monster-ravaged city that extends around to the back cover. On the inside, we get an image of the carnage seen on a digital camera screen.

Made on a limited budget of $25 million, the film became a box office hit thanks to clever marketing (again, from the press release, it grossed over $172 million worldwide), and also sparked two loosely connected sequels in the so-called CloverVerse; the very different (but in my opinion superior) 2016 film 10 Cloverfield Lane, and the inferior The Cloverfield Paradox. With the 4K disc, bundled Blu-ray, and nifty new SteelBook packaging, this is a solid set for fans.

Bonus Features (4K Ultra HD):

The 4K disc includes a commentary track, and the set comes with a regular Blu-ray disc that contains a number of legacy bonus features. A code for a digital copy is also included in the package.

4K and Blu-ray:

Commentary by Director Matt Reeves

Blu-ray Only:

Special Investigation Mode

Document: 01.18.08: The Making of Cloverfield (28 minutes, 22 seconds)

Cloverfield Visual Effects (22 minutes, 32 seconds)

I Saw It! It’s Alive! It’s Huge! (5 minutes, 53 seconds)

Clover Fun (3 minutes, 56 seconds)

Deleted Scenes (Play All – 3 minutes, 25 seconds): Presented with optional commentary by Reeves.

Congrats Rob (22 seconds)

When You’re in Japan (1 minute, 23 seconds)

I Call That a Date (44 seconds)

It’s Going to Hurt (56 seconds)

Alternate Endings (Play All – 4 minutes, 29 seconds): Presented with optional commentary by Reeves.

Alternate Ending 1 (2 minutes, 6 seconds)

Alternate Ending 2 (2 minutes, 22 seconds)

Cloverfield: 15th Anniversary – Limited Edition SteelBook is a Paramount Home Entertainment release. It’s 84 minutes and rated 14A.

Street Date: January 17th, 2023

Blu-ray Review: Ticket to Paradise (Collector’s Edition)

January 17, 2023

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

George Clooney and Julia Roberts reunite onscreen in Ticket to Paradise, a romantic comedy that serves as an exercise in they don’t make ‘em like this anymore cinema. The film is a throwback to 1990s or early-2000s rom-coms that follows the formula to a tee, but gets by on its star-power.

Clooney and Roberts star in the film as David and Georgia, a bitter former couple who got divorced 25 years earlier, and try to avoid each other as much as possible. But they are forced to reunite when their daughter Lily (Kaitlin Dever, nicely holding her own) graduates from law school.

To celebrate, Lily goes off to Bali with her best friend Wren (Billie Lourd), but she throws her parents for a loop when she informs them that she plans to marry Gede (Maxime Bouttier), the handsome seaweed farmer that she has just met on the island. David and Georgia fly to Bali with the joint plan of trying to stop the wedding, out of a sincere fear that she is repeating the same mistake they made over two decades earlier.

Directed by Ol Parker (Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again), who also co-wrote the screenplay, Ticket to Paradise serves as a picturesque romp through unresolved marital tensions that seems to model itself after old screwball comedies. The expected hijinks ensue as David and Georgia try in their own ways to sabotage their daughter’s wedding, all while being forced to spend more time together than they have in years. Of course, things are further complicated by the presence of Georgia’s new boyfriend; a younger pilot named Paul (Lucas Bravo).

Sure, the film is predictable almost to a fault, and there is a bit of a meanness to it at times that doesn’t always land. But it simply feels good to see two classic movie stars and their mega-wattage smiles back together again. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, or even come close to it, but Ticket to Paradise is still a breezy and enjoyable rom-com that does a nice job of passing the time, buoyed along by the undeniable chemistry of its two likeable leads.

Bonus Features (Blu-ray):

The Blu-ray includes a selection of four decent featurettes on the production. A regular DVD is also included in the package, which ships with a slipcover.

Return of the Dynamic Duo (4 minutes, 36 seconds): Real life friends Clooney and Roberts talk about reuniting on screen and playing characters the age they are now.

Destination Wedding (3 minutes, 38 seconds): Cast and crew talk about filming the wedding scene, and working with cultural supervisor Agung Pindha, who also plays Gede’s father in the film, to ensure it was accurate.

Production in Paradise (3 minutes, 44 seconds): A look at filming in Australia, believably standing in for Bali.

Keep a Straight Face (2 minutes, 35 seconds): Real life friends Dever and Lourd talk about how much fun they had filming together and playing besties.

Ticket to Paradise is a Universal Picture Home Entertainment release. It’s 104 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: January 17th, 2023

%d bloggers like this: